Tax Helpers for Last-Minute Filers

Posted by at 11:22 am

With tax time just a week away, there’s about a one-in-five chance you are one of the 40 million American taxpayers who haven’t yet filed. Never fear! Just like last 2017, 2018 contains some calendar quirks that give you a little extra time. Tax Day is April 17 in 2018 instead of April 15. Why? April 15 falls on a Sunday, and the Washington, D.C. holiday Emancipation Day is celebrated Monday, April 16, so the Internal Revenue Service’s main offices get that day off, too. That means everyone gets two extra days. If more time isn’t enough, The IRS has tax help, publications and information at www.irs.gov to help last-minute filers, including instructions on how to request an automatic six-month filing extension. Here’s another helper: You may not be aware, but the IRS website also provides free copies of your past returns. That’s great...
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All the dirt on rinsing recyclables

Posted by at 12:02 pm

Are you scraping and rinsing and otherwise scrubbing to get the last of the peanut butter out of the jar, just so it’s fit for the recycling bin? Doing the same for your applesauce, yogurt, pet food and chili? Technology still hasn’t developed packaging (with the possible exception of Go-gurt) that allows you to actually EAT all the remaining food product. So, isn’t expecting you to wash out bottles, tubs and cans a little bit like adding insult to injury? How much recycling prep is enough? And how clean is clean? And what about water waste? True environmentalists know a kitchen sink can use up to 5 gallons of usable water a minute. Isn’t that worse than putting a dirty peanut butter jar in the landfill? These are all good questions, but let’s start with the simplest answer: It depends...
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Interactive sites help Millennials make moves

Posted by at 2:34 pm

Trying to appeal to the potential homebuyer in today’s Millennial? Better promise them more than great customer service – they prefer solutions over promises. During their initial home search, chances are they won’t return your call or call a customer service department. As with every problem or need, they’ll first turn to Google. Millennials feel better about your business when you make it easy to do things online, by themselves, on their schedule. Millennial home shoppers are not only tech-savvy, they’re tech-bred. They use mobile devices for everything – from planning vacations to researching stocks to checking the Twitter status of celebs. It’s not a stretch to say these folks probably couldn’t conduct home buying or other personal financial management without the aid of a digital device, even if they wanted to. Already the largest and fastest-growing cohort among home-buyers, they’ll soon be claiming complete...
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January 23rd, 2018

Autonomous cars driving housing’s future?

Posted by at 11:29 am

The idea of self-driven cars may evoke diabolical visions of the “rise of machines,” – the first step to robots becoming humanity’s overlords. Try to look deeper. Imagine a morning commute where there’s no one on cellphones, or applying makeup, or otherwise swerving wildly while they operate deadly machinery. The human element is confined – stress free – to passenger status, free to prep for meetings, nap, watch TV, or do whatever, without lousing up traffic with imperfect decision making. Free from reactive thinking, studies show just a few robotic cars help improve traffic flow. While it’s difficult to quantify the overall impact before automated cars actually arrive, there’s little doubt that these computerized rides – capable of billions of calculations a second – will be superior drivers to their all-too-human counterparts. Besides the obvious effects on traffic, there is...
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December 5th, 2017

Millennials heading for the ‘burbs

Posted by at 10:26 am

Decades ago, city dwellers had to weigh the high cost of “moving to the country” – a.k.a. pulling up roots to head for rural communities that required long, often inconvenient commutes. As cities pushed outward, and the automobile dominated American transit, the script flipped. Suburban development drew the working population to the country en masse. In the developing suburbs, larger homes on larger lots brought the promise of better living, and made the longer commutes worthwhile. Downtowns either languished or were transformed into trendy havens for the wealthy. A decade ago, many analysts wondered if the Millennial generation –  born roughly from 1985 to 2000 – was bringing the downtown-dwelling notion back into vogue. This generation seemed satisfied to rent high-cost apartment and condos just to be close to the action – and their jobs. But now, Millennials are growing...
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November 13th, 2017

Unused garages causing parking issues

Posted by at 10:15 am

Almost as long as there have been cars, there have been garages, and by the late 1950s, the attached garage had almost completely replaced the outbuilding model. At first, garages were actually reserved for cars, keeping the car dry and warm and protecting the paint job with no need for morning defrosts in cold weather. But somewhere around 1980 – no one is exactly sure –  garages turned another corner. They pretty much stopped being for cars. People had always stored a few items in garages, but over time they had become full-fledged storage rooms (sometimes full of junk). Slowly, the car got pushed out. According to a 2001 UCLA study, only about 25 percent of American homeowners still parked their cars inside. In the meantime, homes with three or more vehicles shot up 872% between 1969 and 2001. With...
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Mismatched marketplace

Posted by at 11:26 am

The record-low supply of homes for sale continues to be a nationwide trend, due mostly to a mismatch with buyer demand. Sales inventory tumbled 8.9 percent nationally between 2016 and 2017, and as of Q2 2017, had fallen for  nine consecutive quarters. Bidding wars are to be expected with most offers, especially in larger metropolitan areas and their suburbs. However, the competition is mostly born out of a lack of homes at the low end of the market, where there is most demand. After the housing crisis, investors bought up a huge percentage of the existing starting home inventory, perhaps thinking of “flipping” the homes when prices recovered. But today, those investors are collecting high rents on those homes, leaving little incentive to sell. The remaining starter homes are in huge demand. New construction isn’t filling the void. While homes priced between $200,000 and $250,000...
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A flood of insurance

Posted by at 10:28 am

Following the record damages from hurricanes Irma and Harvey, insurers are sounding the alarm bells – development across the country has turned many areas into potential flood zones.   It’s not entirely surprising. While areas like Coastal Florida require all homeowners to have flood insurance because of the high risk, most U.S. homeowners don’t live in areas prone to heavy flooding – or so they thought. Residential development eats up absorbent grasslands in and around cities, and also leads to the addition of more non-porous structures like roads and foundations, which can block the natural flow of stormwater runoff. Unless you live on a hilltop, insurers recommend at least some flood insurance. Administered by the federal National Flood Insurance Program and available through many insurances agencies, a flood policy costs about $500 a year for $250,000 of coverage. For a lot of families, an extra $500...
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Exploding home values mean refis, remodels

Posted by at 11:25 am

The low supply of houses on the market in the home stretch of 2017 continues to ramp up demand, jolting home prices “through the roof.” Most current homeowners can count on rising values for the foreseeable future! Cash-out refinances and other home equity loans are ways to pay for repairs or remodels that can push home values even higher. Updates and improvements can be used to enhance personal comfort, maintain property value – or even increase the chance of getting top dollar when an owner does decide to sell! Many of today’s first-time home buyers go smaller or older by necessity – just to get a foot in the door. They can build their dreams with the help of home equity! For homes built before 1940, updates to roofing, gutters and HVAC trend high on the list, along with abatement of toxic...
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September 14th, 2017

Plan to maintain financial control

Posted by at 10:38 am

Sometimes the pressure of monthly bills can make you feel like you’re losing control of your personal financial situation. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently released a comprehensive list of strategies and advice to help prevent catastrophic financial breakdown. Start with a plan. Make a list of all bills and due dates to help assess financial obligations. To help get a total picture of monthly bills, set up a calendar to identify the weeks you have the most money due. The CFPB has a template you can use. Use the calendar to weigh the risks of falling behind on each different bill. While not ideal, this may prevent you from losing your car or house, having utilities shut off, or getting into serious default on a loan. Try calling your creditors if you think you’re going to miss a payment...
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