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Celebrating 50 Years of the Fair Housing Act

April 11 marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act being signed in to law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This historic act occurred just days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Act reads” It is the policy of the United States to provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the United States”. These few simple sentences paved the way for people to legally be able to choose where they wanted to live and has served as the basis for making many forms of housing discrimination illegal. The original Act, passed in 1968, prohibited discrimination based on race, color religion and national origin. In 1974 it was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sex. Since then, the Act has been expanded to include familial status, handicap, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition to these federally protected classes, Illinois also includes ancestry, age (over 40 specifically), marital status, citizenship status, order of protection status, sexual orientation-gender identity, unfavorable discharge from military service, pregnancy and arrest record. This legislation has made it illegal to discriminate against anyone in a protected class when it comes to housing. This law applies to renting as well as purchasing housing. It is also illegal to refuse to rent to someone because of discrimination and the Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD has very stiff penalties for violations. You can be fined up to $16,000 for a first offense and upwards of $100,000 for additional offenses. These violations are extremely serious and the government has zero tolerance for such discrimination. As a member of the National...

Tax Tips for Homeowners

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year again-tax time! For some people, this may be the last year that you can take advantage of deductions that come with being a homeowner. Since most of the tax law changes don’t take effect until 2018, there are still deductions available to you when filing taxes for 2017. The deduction that has the highest value for most people is the mortgage interest deduction that you can take if you itemize and use a schedule A. You can still deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage up to $500,000 if you file separately or $1,000,000 if you file jointly. Most of us aren’t paying that much in interest but you can deduct what you are paying up to that limit. In some circumstances, interest you pay on a home equity loan or line of credit may also be deductible as long as you don’t exceed the previously mentioned limits. Starting with the 2018 tax year, those limits will change and fewer people will be able to deduct their mortgage interest because of the increase in the standard deduction. Also deductible this year is prepaid interest or points you may have paid when you took out your mortgage or when you refinanced and took out money for improvements to your home. These are typically 100% deductible if you itemize. If you paid points or prepaid interest you should have received a form 1098 from your lender. Another deduction that may be ending this year for some is your property tax deduction. Starting with the 2018 tax year, you can only deduct state and local...

What You Should Know Before An Appraisal

If you are buying or selling a home you will probably need an appraisal if there is a mortgage involved in the purchase. What exactly is an appraisal? The lender that is making the mortgage will order an appraisal to obtain an unbiased report on the value of the property. The buyer will pay for the appraisal as part of their loan costs and usually the seller will not see it. The appraisal is performed by a state licensed appraiser that is selected from a pool of lender approved, licensed appraisers. This prevents any possibility of influence over the appraisal by any of the parties to the transaction. The appraiser will render an opinion of value on the property and that will help insure that the lender and the buyer are not overpaying for a property. The appraiser will make an appointment to view the property in person. They will measure the square footage, confirm the number of bedrooms & baths and check the status of the structure and operating systems. Upgrades, renovations and condition will also be noted at this time. The appraiser will then look for comparables or “comps” which are similar properties in the same area to compare with the subject property. The appraiser will look at current market data to determine what similar properties are on the market now and what similar properties have recently been sold for. Typically an appraiser will only consider properties that have sold within the last three to six months to get an accurate reflection of current market value. The last step is to assemble all this data into a...

Common Mistakes Homeowners Make That Can Really Cost You

Everyone like a bargain and saving money is usually a good thing unless it results in a costly mistake. If you are a homeowner you know that maintaining your home is important to protect your investment. Keeping your home in good repair and up- dating and remodeling are all necessary expenses when you own a home. Sometimes cutting corners on these expenses can actually cost you more in the long run. When you need to call in a professional to make a repair or do some remodeling it is a good idea to get several bids. You want to make sure you aren’t overpaying for the work you need done, but the lowest bid may not always be the best deal. Make sure the bids include both materials and labor, the lowest bid may be a “labor only” bid and could end up being the most expensive once the cost of material is added in. You also want to make sure that you are getting someone that is experienced and knowledgeable about the job they are bidding. Sometimes a more experienced contractor’s bid may seem higher but the job might be done more quickly and with a better quality work which might end up saving you money down the line. Before you begin a remodeling project, do your research. Besides the initial cost to do the job, look at the value it will add to your home. Also give some consideration as to how long you plan on staying in your home. If you have no immediate plans to sell and want to spend $20,000 remodeling your master bath...

What the Proposed Tax Reform Plan Means for Homeowners

Both the House and Senate are currently working on a “Tax Cuts and Job Acts” tax reform plan. The House and the Senate each have a version they are trying to enact and there are many similarities, but also some important differences in these proposals. If you are a homeowner, you should be aware of what is being proposed in these plans. Let’s start with the Senate’s version of tax reform as it relates to homeowners. The proposed legislation retains the current mortgage interest deduction level and doubles the standard deduction. It limits the Capital gains Exemption on the sale of a primary residence and would require a homeowner to live in the property 5 out of 8 years to qualify for the exemption. The current rules only require 2 out of 5 years. This would have a significant impact on anyone who would need to move within 5 years of a purchase. This proposal also would eliminate the interest deduction on home equity loans, all state and local taxes (including property taxes) and moving expenses (unless they are related to the military). The current version of the House’s plan has many things in common with the Senate’s plan: the same change in the Capital Gains Exemption from 2 out of 5 years to 5 out of 8 years, increases the standard deduction, eliminates the deduction for state and local taxes but keeps the property tax deduction limited to $10,000 and eliminates the deduction for moving expenses. In addition, this version seeks to cap the mortgage interest deduction at $500,000 for new mortgages, eliminates the mortgage interest deduction entirely...

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