Capital Gains Taxes 101

Buying a home is one of the biggest and most useful investments that you’ll make in your lifetime. One thing you should understand when you’re making big improvements to a home or doing any kind of high return renovations is that of the Capital Gains Tax. This tax can take away from the return on your investment, especially under the right circumstances. Even with minimal improvements to a home, if an area has seen an upswing in popularity, you could end up paying the price when you go to sell. 

Taxpayer Relief Act

The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 can help many people to hang on to the returns they see from the sale of their home. 

Previously, homeowners could qualify for a one-time tax exemption of up to $125,000 on the sale of a home. They also could combine the earnings in on the purchase of another home. Currently, there are a few ways that you can save on the Capital Gains Tax thanks to the TRA. 

House Flippers And Homeowners Aren’t Equal


Not all home sales receive an equal tax treatment. If you are flipping houses, you’re out of luck when it comes to receiving profit-friendly tax breaks. You need to have lived in a home as your primary residence for two out of five years of owning a home in order to qualify for tax breaks. If this isn’t the case, you’ll end up paying a Capital Gains Tax on the sale of the property. If you’re a professional house flipper, your homes are considered inventory and taxed as income. The tax on this can vary from 15% to 20%, depending upon the tax bracket you fall into.

The Type Of Property Matters When It Comes To Taxes

Whether the property is a primary place of residence, a vacation home, or a rental property, the gains are all taxed differently. If you own a second home that you’re interested in selling, it’s not treated the same as a primary residence for tax purposes. You’ll be taxed based on the amount of time that you owned the property, or the amount of time that the property was used as a second home. The taxes are based on a prorated amount of time.

The Price Of The Home Doesn’t Matter


You may think that higher priced homes are taxed more heavily than less expensive homes. This would be the case when it comes to property taxes, but it isn’t so when we’re talking about Capital Gains Taxes. These taxes are based on how much profit is made from the sale of the home. If a loss was taken, or the homeowner “broke even,” they may not owe as many taxes. A smaller home that had significant improvements made could be taxed a bit more than a home that was sold at a higher price with fewer upgrades.

Will Applying for a Mortgage Hurt My Credit Score?

Preparing to buy a home is a long and stressful process for many. You’ve spent months, or even years, saving for a down payment, planning your future, and building your credit to ensure you get the best possible interest rate on your loan.

Then you find out, when getting preapproved for a mortgage, that your credit score dropped by a few points. So, what gives?

There’s a lot to understand about how credit scores affect mortgages and vice versa. In today’s post, I’m going to attempt to cover everything you need to know about how applying for a mortgage can affect your credit score so you’ll be prepared when it comes time to buy a home.

Prequalification, preapproval, and credit checks

There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be preapproved or prequalified for a loan. Some of it is due to the jargon that is used in real estate transactions, and some of it is just a marketing technique on the part of lenders.

So, what does it mean to be prequalified and preapproved?

The short version is that getting prequalified is a quick and easy process to determine whether you’re eligible to lend to and how much you’re likely to receive. It involves a quick review of your finances, and often includes either a self-reported or soft credit inquiry.

A “soft inquiry” is the type of credit check that employers typically use for a background check. It doesn’t affect your credit score, as you are not applying to open a new line of credit. In fact, many lenders’ process for prequalification is a simple online form that doesn’t even require a credit check. We’ll talk more about the difference between soft inquiries and hard inquiries later.

The simplicity of prequalification makes it a simple and easy way to get started. But, it isn’t always accurate in how well it predicts the type of mortgage and loan amount you can receive. That’s where preapproval comes in.

When you get preapproved for a loan you fill out an official application (you often have to pay for these). This will request documentation for your finances and assets, and will ask your approval to run a detailed credit report.

These credit reports are considered “hard inquiries” and are a vital step in getting approved or preapproved for a mortgage. However, they also, at least temporarily, lower your credit score.

Why hard inquiries lower your credit score

When any creditor, be it a bank or credit card company, is determining whether to lend to you, they want to know that you are a safe investment. To determine this, they want to know how frequently you pay your bills on time, how much you owe to other creditors, and how financially stable you are right now.

When you make multiple inquiries in a short period of time, it’s a red flag to lenders that you might be in trouble financially. Thus, hard inquiries will lower your credit score for 1 to 2 months.

Applying to multiple lenders: the silver lining

When borrowers apply for a mortgage, they often shop around and apply to multiple lenders. While it may seem that all of these hard inquiries will add up and drastically lower their credit score, this isn’t the case.

Credit bureaus take into account the source of the inquiries. If they realize that you are applying for mortgages, they will typically recognize this as rate shopping and group these applications together on your credit report, counting them only as a single inquiry. This means your score shouldn’t drop multiple times for multiple mortgage preapprovals that were made within a small time frame.

Now that you know more about how mortgage applications affect your credit score, you can confidently shop around for the best mortgage for you and your family.

How to Organize Your Bill Payments

Staying organized an on top of your bills is important to not only maintaining your lifestyle but to reducing your stress and working toward your savings goals. There are many ways to get yourself organized and plenty of digital tools to assist you along the way. For those just wrapping their heads around payment organization here are a few basics to get you started.

Know what you owe; know whom you owe.

The first step to managing your bills is knowing what you owe. It’s easy to forget about one of your credit cards or how much your car insurance payment is each month. Start setting yourself up for success by laying out all of your bills and what each monthly payment will be. For credit cards make sure to note your current minimum payments and your goal payment or each month. You can create a basic spreadsheet or use one of the many free or paid online services and phone apps to account for all of your bills.

Know your payment due dates. 

The second step you’ll need to take is knowing your due dates. Take a thorough look at each of your bills and note what dates they are currently due. Do a little more digging to learn if you have any bills that you can control the due date for, just in case the current due date doesn’t work for you when you’re trying to determine a payment plan (more below). It helps to take a look at these dates on a current calendar to see where they fall in relation to your paycheck delivery dates.

Determine payment plans. 

When you know how much you owe, and when your payments are due you can start creating a payment plan. Take a look at your current income sources and the dates you get paid. Are you a single income household? Do you and your partner contribute to your monthly income? Do you get paid the same times or on an opposite schedule? Note all of the income you’ll receive in a given month and the dates each check comes in. Compare your check dates to the bill due dates you noted before and tally up how much you can pay from each check while continuing to buy groceries and other daily necessities. You may realize that you need to rearrange some of the due dates to better balance more substantial payments across multiple checks. Go online or get in touch with your payees and set up your due dates the way you need them. 

You can take further steps and set up automatic billing if you like. Automation may not work for all your bills or be the preference for everyone. Think about how you prefer to make payments and set up a plan that works for you. Maybe you only set up bills you tend to forget for automatic debit or those that are the same amount each month, but you continue to pay variable bills like utilities manually.

Track your payments. 

Tracking your payments will help you catch any bills you haven’t paid before they fall through the cracks. It will help you save on late fees or expedited payment fees. Payment tracking will also help you discover any adjustments you need to make to your payment plan, so you can best rearrange payments and due dates for future months when you see a glitch in your system. If you aren’t the best at spreadsheets or prefer a simple user interface, you can access on your phone investigate the budget tracking applications out there and find the right one to help keep you on top of all your payments and manage each bill. 

Being able to manage your debt and monthly outgo is the first step in managing your finances to build toward your savings goals. Start here, and you’ll be on your way to saving for your home down payment, remodel, vacation or whatever it is you’re dreaming of doing.

Defending Your Home From Common Allergens

According to recent data, allergies affect up to 30% of adults and 40% of children in the United States. Over-the-counter medications can provide some relief, but allergies persist and are a source of discomfort and annoyance for many of us.

One place we can all agree should be a place of comfort and relaxation is our homes. However, allergies are at their fiercest in most homes from dust, pets, pollen, or even mold.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about some common household allergens and how to protect your home against them.

Safeguard your home against mold

Mold is gross at its best and dangerous at its worst. Caused by excess moisture, the most important thing you can do to prevent mold in your home is to identify areas that are at risk.

Bathrooms, basements, and around faucets are all prone to water damage and mold. Usually, the best intervention to take is to provide proper ventilation. A well-ventilated room dries out quicker and prevents mold from growing in the first place.

Many surfaces in your home, such as wood, drywall, paper, and cardboard are all susceptible to mold growth. Use a mold-inhibiting paint to prevent the mold from growing in the first place.

Prevent indoor pollen

Protecting your home from pollen is trickier than you might think. Most of us like to open doors and windows in the summer time to let fresh air in. The problem? We inadvertently let the pollen in as well.

There are a number of ways to decrease pollen inside of your home. Using HEPA complaint filters in your home and vacuum cleaner can help.

Vacuuming often and emptying the vacuum outside can also have an impact on reducing pollen indoors.

Defend against dust mites

Arguably the nastiest item on the list, dust mites feed on dead skin and love warm temperatures and moderate humidity. This makes the interior of your home the perfect place for dust mites to thrive.

Frequently washing your bedding, dusting your home, and vacuuming with a HEPA certified filter are among the best things you can do to help reduce dust mites in the home.

Protecting against pet allergies

The most important thing you can do to prevent pet allergies is to make sure you aren’t allergic to a pet before bringing them into your home. However, if an allergy does arise, it can often be managed with the use of air and vacuum filters and a strict cleaning regimen.

Some people who suffer mild pet allergies are able to cope with them by simply making their bedroom a no-pet zone and keeping up with cleaning.

Finally, keep in mind that outdoor pets can often bring in pollen from outside. So, when letting your pets in the home in the spring and summer time, try to give them a quick brush down.