7 Carpet Cleaning Hacks You Haven’t Tried Yet

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Carpet Cleaning Hacks For Your Apartment | DIY Carpet Cleaning Tips

While hardwood and wood-style flooring continue to gain popularity in the world of apartment rentals, plenty of landlords and property management companies continue to use wall-to-wall carpeting in their rentals.  No matter what your preference, there are, in fact, some benefits that come with carpeted flooring.  From sound dampening to comfort for bare feet, carpet still has a lot to offer and is much easier to maintain with minimal wear & tear with a few great cleaning hacks.  Whether you live with wall-to-wall carpeting or choose to cozy things up with rugs, check out our carpet cleaning hacks to help keep them looking their best.

Use a lint roller to help extract small debris

Sometimes, suction from a regular household cleaner is just not enough to help you get rid of all the dirt, crumbs, pet hair, spills (i.e. flour, sugar, rice or etc), or the many other tiny particles nested in the fiber of your carpeting.

Truth is, that’s normal. The experts at Fantastic Cleaners say that regular steam (or dry chem) cleaning at least once every 6 months is a mandatory chore for any conscientious homeowner or renter. High-end steam cleaners and dry compound solutions remove up to 95% of the unsanitary agents in both carpets and rugs, unlike regular vacuums.

A great way to extract pesky particles DIY is by using an almighty lint roller! The one downside of using one to further extract fiber-stuck dirt is the need of some manpower. On average, you’ll need anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes to cover a fully carpeted room.

Use a squeegee to remove pet hair from carpets

Have you ever seen what happens to a carpet in a house full of cats? How about dogs? Either way, you can surely imagine the excessive amount of hair pets leave behind as they shed.  What doesn’t stick to furnishing and upholstery will inevitably end up on the carpet.

Bear in mind: This works best for short-haired carpets and rugs.

Squeegees might be meant for cleaning your windows but their efficiency with hair removal is a know-how must for pet-owners! All you have to do is rinse the squeegee so it’s moist enough for pet hair to stick. To maintain a clean carpet when living with pets can be a hefty task, but some know-how, discipline, and persistence is the one sure way to success.  

Apply heat to help remove stubborn stains

Although there are some stains that are not susceptible to removal via heat, most are. The challenge of removing a stubborn smear has pushed human creativity and ingenuity to the maximum.

You can find many different recipes for removing stains via ironing but the one we have comes in 5 simple steps:

  • Remove all dirt possible vie regular vacuum cleaning;
  • Mix water and vinegar 3:1 and pre-treat all stubborn stains;
  • Leave the mixture to set in and work. 5 to 10 minutes should be enough;
  • Use a towel or a rag to cover the stain;
  • Gently iron the area, being mindful to move quickly to avoid damaging the carpet fiber.

The combined forces of water, vinegar, pressure, and heat causes most stains to “relocate” from your carpet to the rag or towel.

Blot a stain rather than rubbing it

We rub one too many things in our daily life – washing silver and dinnerware, brushing our teeth, washing our face in the morning, all the way to wiping smudges off your shoes and etc. Rubbing something to clean it is an instinctual reaction, but when it comes to cleaning a carpet – rubbing is a huge no-no.

Here’s why: When applying pressure to your carpet will only worsen the situation. The more you rub the deeper a stain will set in. Once fiber and dirt spots bound for good – cleaning could render impossible.

Always mind what direction you blot at:

  • Start at the outer edges of the stain, working your way in toward the center.  Working outward could further spread the stain.
  • Mind the arrangement of fibers. You would not want to blot the opposite way, for it could further damage the piece.

Deep clean using safe and effective DIY solutions

The market is oversaturated with products meant for people who own gear for deep cleaning a carpet, but unfortunately, most detergents are heavy on chemicals and pose health hazard risks to you and your family.

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly and nature-safe solution for your steam cleaner, here’s a green recipe you should definitely try:

What you’ll need:

  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • White vinegar
  • Essential oils
  • Dish soap
  • A regular fabric softener
  • Hot water

Directions:

  • Pour about 3/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide in a cup;
  • Add ¼ cup of white vinegar;
  • Add 2 tablespoons of dish soap;
  • Add 2 tbsp of fabric softener;
  • Dilute in a gallon of hot water.
  • Optional: add a few drops of your favorite (colorless) essential oil, such as lavender, to help neutralize the vinegar scent

Although not always as powerful as off-the-shelf carpet shampooers, this DIY deep cleaning solution is relatively inexpensive and harmless when diluted in this way.

Shampoo your carpet with shaving cream

Bright and light colored carpets are vulnerable to signs of wear and tear.  Naturally neutral colors can easily become a victim of accidents, mud marks, and kid and pet stains.

An efficient yet lesser known cleaning solution is the hack of using regular shaving cream! It’s budget friendly and can work wonders. It not only helps with aged stains but rejuvenates and freshens the entire fabric of your carpet!

Some call shaving cream “the anti-aging solution”. It not only leaves a pleasant aroma but softens the fabric itself.

Make a DIY carpet deodorizer

Deodorizing your carpet on a regular basis can help maintain a pleasant smelling apartment and is rather simple to do. Simply mix a tablespoon or two of Borax with a few drops of your essential oil of your choice, then add the mixture to a cup or two of baking soda and your DIY deodorizer is good to go.  Simply sprinkle liberally and evenly on your carpet and let the mixture sit for at least 10 minutes and up to an hour or two, then vacuum it all up and take a deep breath!  Take care to keep any children or pets out of the room while the mixture works its magic – while these ingredients are relatively safe and natural, you want to avoid ingestion and the spreading of the mixture beyond the intended treatment area. 

Carpets are simply a must but cleaning can be a hefty burden. Surrounded by numerous chemical-rich products, we often ask for eco-friendly cleaning hacks to do so. Use these handy carpet cleaning hacks to handle stains and dirt-mark spots in an efficient, cost-effective and eco-friendly way!

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Source: blog.apartminty.com

How Do Apartments Verify Income?

Blond girl at computer with phone, looking up how apartments verify rentYou’ve scoured the internet to find the perfect apartment, wowed the socks off your future landlord, and picked the perfect color to accent the cabinets in your new kitchen. All that’s standing in your way is navigating the rental application and all the details it demands, including your income. Many leases, especially with larger apartment complexes, have some sort of income requirement (likely 2 to 3 times your rent). But how do landlords actually verify your income during this crucial process?

In addition to your credit score, renter’s history, and a few other variables, your income is a key component of your candidacy for an apartment. A good rule of thumb is to search for an apartment that costs about 30% of your income. Be careful though – some leases require more than this, or a higher security deposit.

The first thing you can do is be prepared with 3 to 6 months of current pay stubs and/or bank statements. For freelancers, bringing along a few years’ of IRS-approved tax returns is recommended in addition to bank statements. Students should bring their loan disbursement schedule.

Landlords will probably ask you to list your employer’s contact information so they can verify your income and date of hire. They might also run a credit check to gain insight into your financial health. Some landlords work with outside organizations to run employment checks and verify income.

Bottom line? Be honest. Don’t waste you or the landlord’s time if you don’t meet the income requirements up front. Some may be willing to work with you if you don’t, but avoid getting attached to a place if you don’t think you’ll be able to afford it. Tell him or her up front to establish a trusting relationship with your potential future landlord.

Now that you’re in-the-know, you can prepare your information ahead of time to speed up the apartment application and approval process. Find your next apartment on ApartmentSearch.com to get started today!

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

Your Home Tax Deduction Checklist: Did You Get Them All?

Welcome to your home tax deduction checklist! For homeowners, this kind of guidance is essential in the wake of all the changes ushered in by the new tax plan, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, that are still rolling in.

The biggest change for 2020? The standard deduction jumped a couple of hundred dollars for taxpayers—to $12,400 for individuals, $18,650 for heads of household, and $24,800 for married couples filing jointly. And this higher number means you need to dig in to all of your home expenses to see if their total sum tops the standard deduction, depending on your filing status. (If the total doesn’t surpass it, then you’ll just take the standard deduction on your taxes when you file.)

To help, here’s a list of all the tax breaks for homeowners.

Mortgage interest

In the past, you could deduct the interest from up to $1 million in mortgage debt (or $500,000 if you filed singly).

“But for loans taken out from Dec. 15, 2017, onward, only the interest on the first $750,000 of mortgage debt is deductible,” says William L. Hughes, a certified public accountant in Stuart, FL.

Mortgages are structured so that you start off paying more interest than principal. For example, in the first year of a $300,000, 30-year loan at a fixed 4% interest rate, you’d be deducting $10,920. (To find out how much you paid—or will pay—in mortgage interest any year, punch your numbers into our online mortgage calculator.)

Note that taking this deduction under the new tax law does require itemizing deductions, but it may be worth the hassle, especially for new homeowners.

Mortgage points

If you bought a home and paid points, then you can still deduct those from your taxes. They must be “true,” or discount, points, not origination points. After all, points are essentially mortgage interest that you prepay, so it makes sense that they’d be treated like the rest of your mortgage interest. Each point is 1% of the loan amount, so if you paid 2 points on that $300,000 loan, you can deduct $6,000.

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Watch: 5 Pet-Related Tax Deductions We Bet You Didn’t Know Of

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Private mortgage insurance

For now at least, Congress has renewed this deduction.

If you can’t make a 20% down payment on your home, most lenders require that you pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI. The upside: It’s tax-deductible as long as your adjusted gross income is less than $100,000. (For each $1,000 you make after that, you can deduct 10% less of your PMI, up to $109,000.) PMI is generally between 0.3% and 1.5% of the loan amount annually, so on a $300,000 loan, you’d be deducting between and $900 and $4,500.

Home equity debt interest

Homeowners often take out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit in order to tap into some quick cash—for college, weddings, home improvements, or otherwise—using their home as collateral. And up until 2017, homeowners could deduct the interest on home equity debts up to $100,000 for married joint filers.

Now? “Home equity debt interest deductions have been eliminated,” says Eric Bronnenkant, a certified public accountant and financial planner, and head of tax at Betterment. That is, unless you spend the money on one thing only: home improvements.

So if you’re eager to renovate that kitchen, this deduction still stands. But if you have to foot the bill for your daughter’s wedding, the IRS will no longer pitch in, explains Amy Jucoski, a certified financial planner and national planning manager at Abbot Downing.

And unlike mortgage interest deductions, the new rules on home equity debt apply to all loans regardless of when they were taken. And to reap the benefit, your total debt—meaning your mortgage plus your home equity loan—can’t be more than the new $750,000 cap.

Property taxes

In the good ol’ days of 2017, your property taxes were fully tax-deductible.

This tax season, there’s a $10,000 cap on the combined amount of your property taxes, state and local income taxes, and (for states without income tax) deductible sales tax.

One bright side for landlords and those with vacation homes: “You can take deductions for all the properties you own, plus add your state income tax,” says Steven Weil, president of RMS Accounting, in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Energy-efficient upgrades

Did you add solar panels or a solar-powered water heater last year? That means you can help yourself to a tax credit.

According to Bishop L. Toups, a taxation attorney in Venice, FL, qualifying solar electric panels and solar water heaters are good for a credit of 26% of the cost of the equipment and installation. For a $30,000 green investment, that’s a cool $7,800 back!

To qualify, the solar panels have to generate at least half of the energy used by the home, they have to be installed in your primary residence, and they can’t be used to heat a pool or hot tub. (Sorry!)

The credit will drop to 22% until the end of 2021 and then go away.

Home office deduction

The home office tax deduction disappeared for all W-2 employees who have an office elsewhere that they could use if they wanted to. The only people who can continue taking this deduction are those who truly run their own business from home, says Joshua Hanover, a senior manager at Marks Paneth.

Using the simplified home office deduction, self-employed people can take $5 for every square foot of office space, up to a maximum of 300 square feet. For a 200-square-foot home office, you’re looking at a nice $1,000 deduction. Just don’t try any funny stuff—it has to be a dedicated home office, used only for work. Here’s more on the home office tax deduction.

For more smart financial news and advice, head over to MarketWatch.

Source: realtor.com

Tips for Getting an Apartment When You’re Self-Employed

Girl holding while dog in front of computer while applying for apartmentsMore and more Americans are choosing to work freelance, be self-employed, or join the gig economy. This has caused the typical rental application process to shift dramatically from even five years ago. If you’re one of the more than 15 million self-employed people in the U.S., you may have noticed that it can be particularly difficult to get your apartment application through the approval process. Why is this and what can you do to make sure you get the apartment of your dreams?

We’ve covered finding an apartment when unemployed and now it’s time give our post a facelift in light of the ever-changing renter’s landscape. Here are some NEW top tips to help you rent an apartment when you’re self-employed.

Choose your landlord wisely.

It might be best to shy away from super large complexes run by nationally-owned businesses. These companies usually have corporate leasing policies in place that are difficult to budge. Stick to small and privately-run rental properties where you can meet the landlord face-to-face. Ask friends for referrals so that on top of finding an awesome landlord, you or your friend may get a discount or referral bonus.

Know where your money’s been and where it’s going.

You can expect to be asked to show proof of income through bank statements and tax returns when you’re self-employed. Make sure to bring at least six months’ worth of bank statements along with IRS-approved copies of the past 2-3 years’ annual tax returns. If you have big, recurring clients, you might want to bring copies of their contracts or invoices that can demonstrate some sort of regularity. Show your landlord that you are responsible with your finances. The more information you can provide, the better!

Also, save up a big ol’ chunk of cash. As a bargaining chip, you might be able to pay above and beyond a typical deposit, such as two or three months’ rent, up front.

Know your network.

Make sure you have good references from former landlords, especially those who leased you an apartment while you were self-employed. Written recommendations with contact info are ideal.

BONUS TIP: Take it a step further and create a “renter’s resume” detailing your past rental history: dates you lived there, landlord contact info, the reason why you moved, how much you paid in rent, etc. You can include employment history, references, even an objective!

Have a great “interview” on the day you tour!

Dress appropriately when meeting the landlord. Make sure you are polished and put-together. You don’t have to look like you’re going to a job interview, but don’t come in anything your mother wouldn’t approve of. Comb your hair, brush your teeth, don’t bring any funky smells with you. Act respectfully, ask insightful questions and keep a level head.

Other possible bargaining chips?

  • Try to think of other features that might make you a model tenant. Maybe you don’t have a car so you won’t need a parking space. Or maybe you don’t have any kids or pets. Every point counts here!
  • Consider hiring a real estate/leasing agent to help with the search. There are agents who specialize in finding rental properties. He or she might be able to find properties you don’t know about!
  • Co-signers are another great option if you have someone that trusts you to not mess up their financial future. Co-signers don’t live at the property but are fiscally responsible if you can’t make a rent payment.

With these tips in hand, it’s time to put in an application for your perfect apartment. Search apartments for rent on ApartmentSearch today! Once you’ve signed your lease, let us know and you could get a $200 reward.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

6 Clever Hacks for Landing Your Dream Apartment

Outsmart the rental-search woes with these techy tips and tricks.

Finding a new apartment is a time-consuming process. It takes an average of 2 ½ months and includes plenty of paperwork, research and calls. In fact, according to a 2016 study, 82 percent of adults say moving is somewhat stressful or very stressful — more stressful than getting a root canal, being trapped in an elevator or doing taxes.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Savvy renters are finding inventive ways to automate the most onerous parts of their apartment search — from outsourcing listing research to setting up automatic new-listing notifications.

Here are six easy ways to streamline your next apartment search.

1. Create notifications

Timing is everything — especially when it comes to landing your dream apartment. Zillow’s listing database is updated daily, so save your search, and sign up for real-time notifications or daily emails whenever new listings match your criteria.

In addition to timely Zillow notifications, this IFTTT recipe will text you whenever a new Craigslist post matches your search.

2. Organize your search with Trello

Apartment hunting involves many moving parts, and Trello is an easy-to-use tool that will help streamline your search and track your progress.

You add information to “cards,” which you can move to different columns, share with family or friends, and even automate. Here’s a house-hunting Trello board, and this one helps you organize moving tasks after you sign your lease.

If you’re feeling extra ambitious, this IFTTT recipe automatically adds relevant Craigslist listings to your Trello board.

3. Delegate to a virtual assistant

Every apartment search requires hours of researching, scheduling and calling. But many hands make light work, and Fancy Hands can help you do the heavy lifting. This affordable virtual assistant service works by “request” — essentially, tasks that take up to 20 minutes to complete.

Here are three tasks you can outsource immediately to your new assistant: Find listings that match your criteria, research potential neighborhoods and schedule apartment tours.

Plus, Fancy Hands integrates with Trello, so you can delegate new tasks and share information right from your board.

4. Hire out on-the-ground research

While Fancy Hands has the Googling, typing, calling and emailing handled, don’t underestimate the value of analog research.

If you’ve got your heart set on a particular neighborhood (or a handful of them), it’s worth hitting the pavement to spot the for-rent signs that aren’t online yet. Thanks to TaskRabbit, you can hire someone do this research for you.

5. Draft an email template

Mixmax is a Gmail add-on that allows you to create email templates for communicating with landlords and property managers. It also lets you track who opens your emails and when so you know when to follow up.

And don’t worry — Mixmax will do the follow-up outreach for you too. You can create sequences of emails that trigger follow-up emails after a set number of days.

Bonus: Mixmax integrates with Dropbox, so you can share your application materials right there in the body of your email.

6. Store application materials in Dropbox

In addition to creating your Zillow renter profile, which helps you share your qualifications with potential landlords with just one click, try storing your application materials in Dropbox.

With all your application materials in one place, you can quickly and easily share your qualifications with a Dropbox link. Include copies of credit reports, pay stubs, your driver’s license and at least one reference letter.

Top featured image from Offset.

Related:

Source: zillow.com

4 Things to Know Before Renting an Income-Restricted Apartment

Family sitting on couch in stylish income restricted apartmentThere’s no doubt about it: Like pretty much everything else in life, the cost to rent an apartment in the U.S. is going up.

Median monthly rent for U.S. apartments rose by 15 percent from 2000 to 2016, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. During that time, the median monthly rent went from $850 to $980.

To reduce the cost of an apartment, some renters turn to something called income-restricted housing. At complexes that offer income-restricted apartments, the monthly rental amount takes into account the renter’s income.

How does all of this work? Here are four things you should know before renting an income-restricted apartment.

1. Income-restricted apartments are designed to be affordable.

Income-restricted apartments are meant to help lower-income people afford a place to live. If you qualify for an income-restricted apartment, the savings can be significant.

To be approved for an income-restricted apartment, a household’s gross annual income must be at least 50 or 60 percent less than the median income of the area where you’re looking for an apartment. This percentage depends on the landlord and the type of unit you’re considering. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sets the income guidelines each year.

Here’s an example of how income-restricted housing works.

As of April 2018, a single person making 60 percent of the median income in Phoenix would pay $777 for a one-bedroom apartment or $933 for a two-bedroom apartment in Phoenix, according to the Arizona Department of Housing.

By comparison, the average April 2018 rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Phoenix was around $860 and around $1,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.

The rent for an income-restricted apartment doesn’t go up or down based on your income.

So, if you pay $777 a month for a one-bedroom, income-restricted apartment that’s identical to the one-bedroom, income-restricted apartment next door, your monthly rent also is $777. It doesn’t matter that your neighbor’s take-home pay is slightly more than your pay, as long as both of you meet the income guidelines.

2. The landlord of an income-restricted property will check your background.

As apartment landlords usually do, the landlord of an income-restricted property will make sure you can afford the rent by verifying your employment and income. This also allows the landlord to confirm that your income matches what’s required for an income-restricted apartment.

In addition, the landlord normally will look at your credit record, rental history, and criminal background before approving your rental application.

By the way, don’t lie about income or anything else on your application. If the landlord discovers the lie before you sign a lease, your application could be rejected. Or if the lie is uncovered after you’ve signed a lease, you could be evicted.

3. Income-restricted apartments aren’t public housing.

Income-restricted apartments are owned and operated by private landlords.

But if you live in public housing, a government-run housing authority owns your building and is your landlord, according to the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. In a few cases, a private company manages the property but the housing authority still owns it.

Typically, rent in public housing is based on a percentage of a renter’s annual income, so one renter might pay a lot less than a neighbor does for an identical apartment. This is known as income-based housing. Most residents of public housing pay 30 percent of their adjusted gross income, which is gross income minus tax deductions.

4. Income-restricted apartments often look like more expensive apartments.

In many cases, you can’t tell the difference between an income-restricted property and a traditional property, since they often appear a lot alike both inside and outside.

Here’s a description of an income-restricted apartment community in Texas:

“Beautifully landscaped grounds contain a swimming pool, picnic area, and a playground. We provide a fantastic clubroom with full kitchen, a fitness center, and an on-site laundry facility. Our apartments offer walk-in closets, large patios, fully equipped kitchens, and full-size washer/dryer connections.”

Sounds pretty great, right? Income restricted rental programs may be more common than you realize. Rental companies will often offer conventional and income restricted apartments side by side. You just have to know where to look and ask! Even if you’re not eligible for such apartments in your area, you can still find affordable apartments on ApartmentSearch. Search for apartments by price and once you sign your lease, get paid $200 in rewards.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

What is a Property Management Company?

It’s not necessarily the same as a landlord.

A property management company is a loose term used to define a company that does — exactly what you might guess they do — manage properties.

Beyond that, a property management company handles much of what an individual landlord may traditionally take care of including collecting rent, tenant maintenance requests, vetting applicants and other similar responsibilities.

Does every rental have a property management company?

Not every rental unit is managed by a property management company. Many detached homes and even apartment communities are managed by the individual or company that actually owns the property.

If you don’t already know this information, you can find out whether an apartment is owned by a property management company or by an individual proprietor by simply asking your landlord or leasing agents.

What makes a property management company different than a landlord?

couple shaking hands with landlordcouple shaking hands with landlord

Property management companies are quite different than landlords. Let’s take a look at some of the major differences.

What a landlord does

  • Both own the building and manage the rental unit(s)
  • Typically involved in general rental operations
  • Oftentimes, directly accessible by tenants

What a property manager does

  • Paid by the property owner to manage rental operations
  • May be located in an off-site office in the same city as the rental or some other city entirely
  • May never interact with tenants

Should you rent from a property management company?

There are certainly pros and cons to renting an apartment from a property management company as opposed to an individual landlord. Having a personal relationship with your landlord can be mutually beneficial, but property management companies are often able to provide higher-end service.

In most cases, you should make a decision based on which unit you prefer instead of who owns it. However, if you find yourself needing to make a critical choice between renting from a landlord or a property management company, be sure to ask as many questions as you can and not commit before you’re fully convinced the unit is right for you.

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Own a Rental Property? Why Filing Your Taxes This Year Rules

My husband and I recently purchased our first rental property. Over the past few months, we’ve repaired and renovated the 1930s-era home, and are starting to look for tenants.

And it turns out, our timing couldn’t be better: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made several changes for rental property owners that portend a more profitable enterprise than it used to be.

“For rental property owners, [the act] will generally benefit you,” says Thomas Castelli, a New York City–based certified public accountant and tax strategist with the Real Estate CPA, a firm focusing on real estate tax.

How exactly the federal tax changes apply to individual property owners can vary, so Castelli recommends seeking out a tax professional well-versed in real estate to help sort things out. But here’s a general overview of some of the new tax rules that will most likely affect rental real estate owners—including me.

The rental house we purchased before the remodel
The rental house we purchased before the remodel

Erica Sweeney

The newly renovated rental, with a new roof, fresh paint, and an opened-up front porch
The newly renovated rental, with a new roof, fresh paint, and an opened-up front porch

Erica Sweeney

Landlords can deduct a big ‘bonus’ the first year

Blame it on wear and tear or just the passage of time, but in the eyes of the IRS, rental property depreciates over time. For landlords, that’s a tax break—typically one that’s spread out over several years.

The good news? During the first year of owning a rental property, landlords can take a “bonus” depreciation deduction. In the past, that deduction maxed out at 50% of the property’s value. But under the new tax act, that deduction doubled, to a max of 100%, which could amount to the entire sum you paid for the place. In other words, it’s a huge chunk of change!

This bonus deduction would be netted against revenue, which, in many cases, would make rental income show a loss, Castelli says.

“So you won’t be paying tax on your rental income,” he says. “I’d say that’s probably the biggest and most important change or most beneficial change to rental real estate investors.”

Keep in mind, though, that your property has to qualify. One, it must be placed in service (meaning available for rent) after Sep. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023. Two, all or part of the property must have a “class life” of less than 20 years. Since most properties typically have a class life of 27.5 years, it would need to be reclassified as a five-, seven-, and 15-year property in order to take advantage of the bonus depreciation. (A CPA can help with this.)

“Let’s say you have a property worth $100,000, and you can get 20% of that reclassified as a five-, seven- and 15-year property,” Castelli says. “That’s a $20,000 deduction.”

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Watch: 5 Pet-Related Tax Deductions We Bet You Didn’t Know Of

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Up to 20% of rental revenue can be tax-free

While rental income is taxed, the tax act could offer landlords a nice tax shelter of sorts where up to 20% of that rental income is tax-free.

“What that means is for every $100 of taxable rental income, it’s possible that you only pay tax on $80 worth of it,” says Amanda Han, a certified public accountant and assistant managing director at Keystone CPA, in Fullerton, CA.

How it works: Section 199A of the IRS code provides some taxpayers with a deduction for qualified business income. In the past, there was much confusion about whether this applied to landlords, but the IRS issued a clarification, providing a safe harbor for a “rental real estate enterprise” to be treated as a business.

“That is helpful for a lot of landlords, and is available as long as it’s rental income,” Han says.

Landlords can deduct more home improvements immediately

In the past, landlords could deduct repairs to a rental property immediately, but home improvements were depreciated over time. This has often caused confusion for landlords.

“What is a repair versus what’s an improvement?” Han asks. “There were always questions about that, because repairs we deduct immediately; improvements we have to depreciate.”

Yet the tax act simplified those rules. Under section 179, the IRS increased the immediate deduction threshold for home improvements to $2,500 per item. In other words, money spent on improvements under $2,500 can be deducted immediately, rather than going through the complicated depreciation process.

One negative: Some landlord losses are now capped

One new aspect that could sting rental owners relates to losses on the property. A loss occurs when a property’s expenses total more than rental income. Previously, owners of rental real estate could take unlimited losses from their rental real estate. The tax act now limits those losses to $250,000 for a single person and $500,000 for married couples, Castelli says.

The upside: Since these limits are quite high, Castelli says this change will not affect most individual rental-property owners.

How to make the tax act work for you

The tax act has been better than expected for rental property owners, Han says. “It’s a great opportunity for real estate investors.”

Good record-keeping is essential for rental owners, and Han recommends property owners keep sales closing disclosures, purchase closing disclosures, refinancing documents, and receipts for anything to do with the home for at least three years.

For more smart financial news and advice, head over to MarketWatch.

Source: realtor.com

What Is A Bad Credit Score? (and What You Can Do To Fix It)

Maybe you already know your credit score is lackluster, or maybe you’re dragging your feet to find out because you don’t want to know just how bad it is.

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Before worrying anymore about that dreaded three-digit number, find out just what is a bad credit score and what your financial options are if you have one. Bonus? We’ll even give you a few tips on how to improve your credit score.

What are the different credit scoring models?

Before you can figure out what exactly a bad credit score is, you need to understand the range of possible credit scores. And that depends on which credit scoring model you use.

FICO

The most popular model is the FICO score, which was created by the Fair Isaac Corporation and is used by the majority of lenders in the U.S.

FICO scores range from a low of 300 to a high of 850. The most influential factors are your payment history and the amount of debt you owe.

Together, these two categories comprise 65% of your FICO credit score. The remaining 35% is spread out amongst the length of your credit history, your credit mix, and new credit/inquiries.

VantageScore

An increasingly popular scoring model is called VantageScore. The older credit scores ranged between 501 and 990, but the latest version, the VantageScore 3.0, scores between 300 and 850 just like FICO.

This makes it easier for consumers and lenders alike to have the same base level understanding of a credit score regardless of which model is used.

For VantageScore, the most influential information is your payment history. The next most important factors are the age and types of credit you have, combined with how much of your credit limit is in use.

The model then takes into account your total balances and debt, followed by recent credit inquiries and your available credit.

Why does your credit score matter?

Your credit score isn’t just some arbitrary number that sits in a file somewhere. It’s constantly changing based on how you handle your finances.

When you pay your bills on time and don’t carry a lot of credit card debt, you should have a good credit score the next time it’s pulled. On the other hand, if one of your accounts has gone to collections, you can expect to see your credit score plummet.

All of this matters because lenders and other creditors use your credit score to determine how likely you are to repay a potential loan. When your credit score is good, a lender determines that you are creditworthy, approves your loan application, and offers you favorable interest rates and terms.

If however, you have a bad credit score, you’ll be offered higher interest rates over longer periods of time, resulting in higher monthly payments and more money spent on interest. Alternatively, with bad credit, you might not even be approved for a loan at all!

But credit scores don’t just matter the next time you need a loan or a credit card. Many other situations in life require a decent credit history. Landlords, for instance, might request your credit score as part of the application process to check if you’re likely to pay your rent on time.

Even employers can pull your credit report if you’re applying for a job that requires you to handle money. When you have bad credit, so many different areas of your life can be negatively impacted, so it’s best to avoid getting yourself into that situation in the first place. If you’re already there, now might be the right time to fix it.

So what is a bad credit score?

Most financial experts define a bad credit score as anything below 600, but each lender has its own standards when reviewing applications. The average American has a credit score of 687, which helps put the range into perspective.

If you have poor credit, you’ve probably had a combination of negative items on your credit report, like missed payments, delinquencies, or maybe even a bankruptcy or foreclosure.

You can always request a free credit report to figure out what exactly is keeping your credit score so low. In fact, we recommend checking your credit report every year.

Federal law allows you access to a free copy of each of your three reports every 12 months, so there’s no reason not to take advantage of this benefit. Just visit AnnualCreditReport.com to request your copies from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Where can I find out my credit score?

When you request a copy of your credit report, you’ll see your financial history listed out over several pages (or more or less, depending on how much history you actually have). However, you won’t get your actual credit score when you order your report.

Lenders look at both pieces of information to determine your loan offer, so it’s essential to know where you stand in terms of both your credit report and credit score. So how can you get your credit score?

Educational Credit Scores

Lots of websites offer free credit scores, although they are known as educational credit scores, or even “FAKOs,” because they’re not your actual FICO score. When it comes time to apply for a loan, you might be surprised to see a wide discrepancy between your free educational credit score and your FICO score.

Real FICO Scores

To find out your real FICO, you can purchase it from the company’s website. You can also sign up for a credit monitoring service if you expect to work on your credit over time and want to view your progress on a regular basis. Just be sure to select a company that does indeed use the real FICO.

You can also check to see if you’re eligible to receive free credit score updates from one of your existing credit cards. Many companies now give this service away as a cardholder benefit. Check out this comprehensive listing of credit cards offering free credit scores and see if yours makes the list.

What credit score do I need for a personal loan?

A lot of different factors go into determining your eligibility for a personal loan. The type of lender you choose also affects whether or not you’ll be approved. Obviously, the better credit score you have, the better your interest rate will be. But it’s important to know that some lenders specialize in offering loans for people with bad credit.

You’ll probably qualify for a smaller loan amount, but it can still be helpful if you need to finance a large purchase that you can’t handle with your normal cash flow.

You might also need to provide collateral for a personal loan since an unsecured loan represents more risk to the lender. Be sure to shop around for the best loan possible before making a final decision.

See also: Best Personal Loans for Bad Credit for 2021

Can I get a mortgage with bad credit?

Most mortgage lenders have strict guidelines they must adhere to. If you don’t meet their eligibility requirements, there’s not much you can do to get a home loan until you improve your credit. But you do have a few mortgage options, even if you have a bad credit score.

A conventional loan typically requires a minimum credit score of 620.

FHA Loans

An FHA loan, however, allows borrowers to have as low as a 580 with just a minimum 3.5% down payment.

Technically, you could still qualify for an FHA loan with less than a 580, but you’d need to put down at least 10% of the home’s sales price.

Of course, you’ll also need to demonstrate other financial capabilities other than your credit score when applying for a mortgage.

For example, your monthly debts should be no more than 43% of your gross monthly income — this formula is known as your debt to income ratio. Lenders also look at your employment and assets.

See also: How to Get a Mortgage with Bad Credit

How can I fix my credit score?

Credit naturally repairs itself over time, usually within around 7 to 10 years. But there are several ways you can help expedite the process while waiting for those items to drop off on their own.

Dispute Inaccuracies

Start by making sure everything listed on your credit report is indeed accurate. If there’s an incorrect item, it’s fairly easy to dispute it with the credit bureaus. The Fair Credit Reporting Act states that any items that can not be verified must be removed from your credit report within 30-45 days.

Having many negative marks on your credit report is one of the main reasons people have bad credit. It may be worthwhile to enlist the help of a professional credit repair service.

Work on Your Credit Utilization Ratio

Another easy idea is to work on paying off your debt to decrease your credit utilization. This helps both your credit score and your overall loan or credit application.

Get a Secured Credit Card

You probably won’t be approved for a regular credit card, but there are some banks and credit unions that offer secured credit cards. These types of credit cards allow you to put down a deposit that is equal to your credit limit. That way, the banks aren’t actually lending you money. You are actually kind of just borrowing from yourself. But, the payments get reported to the credit bureaus.

Bottom Line

With a bad credit score, there are only so many quick fixes you can implement before hitting a wall with your progress. But a credit repair company can help you fully exercise your rights when it comes to removing negative accounts and fixing your bad credit.

Bad credit doesn’t have to make you feel like you’re backed into a corner. You may still have credit options available to you now, and there are also concrete steps you can take to get back on a better financial path.