Archives for December 2011

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Plan Your Taxes

PLAN YOUR TAXES
Small business owners are due to meet with their advisors to plan out business and personal taxes before the end of the calendar year. Some important points to talk about this year include:

  • Tax and jobs bills passed in 2010 increased the ability for small business owners to deduct new and used equipment purchases under U.S. Tax Code section 179. Small companies are allowed to deduct the full amount of the purchases upfront, rather than depreciate the cost over many years. The deductions apply to tangible equipment and personal property purchased and used in 2011, including computers, furniture, telephone systems, certain vehicles and software, machinery used for manufacturing, and leased equipment.
  • A supplement to section 179 allows for “bonus” depreciation for companies that buy more than $500,000 in qualified equipment in 2011. It allows for 100 percent depreciation, up from 50 percent last year, and applies only to new equipment, unlike section 179. Typically, bonus depreciation would be taken after companies reach their $500,000 limit under section 179.
  • If your company’s financial situation warrants, you can talk to your CPA about accelerating deductions and deferring income into next year, but don’t use this audit-risky strategy if it doesn’t make sense.
  • On the personal side, end-of-year charitable donations and Roth IRA conversions would be items to think about before the end of the year. And as always make sure you are not going to be in a position to attract unwanted IRS scrutiny on your personal or business returns.

Last-Minute Tips for a Successful Open House

Realtor Deb Staley has seen it a million times. She pulls up to an open house at a fabulous property, in a great neighborhood, at the right price, only to find an overgrown lawn, a leaf-strewn front porch and a front door covered in spiderwebs. In fact, it’s not uncommon for potential buyers to be so turned off by an initial view that they refuse to even exit the car. “I have been a real estate broker for 22 years, and I am still amazed every time I show a house that is not ready for the market, says Staley, who’s based in Searcy, Ark.
We never get a second chance to make a first impression, and for motivated sellers a first impression of their home can often make or break a
deal. Realtors know that a potential sale starts in the moment that a buyer pulls into the driveway. That’s why they take extra care to prep and ready the homes they represent just prior to an open house — and we mean minutes before.
Whether you’re helping out your Realtor or handling the sale yourself, here’s how to make the most of an open house.
1. Lighten up

Nothing helps a house like natural light, so in the moments before an open house pull back the drapes, open the blinds and let the sunlight in, says Sean Shallis, senior real estate strategist for The Shallis Group. As you’re completing your walk-through, turn on the lights in every room (including bathrooms and closets). That will allow potential buyers to see clearly and it creates a welcoming, open feel to the home.
2. Clean up

Spotlessis the word to remember. It sounds simple, but many people forget that even the smallest mess can throw off a potential buyer. Do a quick walk-through before the open house and make sure that kitchen and bathroom counters are cleared and wiped. Toss any extra clutter lying around. Dirty laundry? Purses? Books? Toys? Throw them under the bed or in a dedicated space in the garage. Just keep clutter away from buyers’ eyes.
3. Enhance curb appeal

Never underestimate the power of curb appeal. That means making sure that the front of the house is bright and welcoming. For Staley, it’s as simple as a last-minute sweep of the front porch and driveway, and a quick look for spiderwebs or dirt at any windows that flank the entrance. “As a Realtor, it is such a pleasure to walk in the front door of a home that says, ‘Welcome! Come on in!’ as soon as you walk up the sidewalk,” she adds.
4. Set the scene

Even an immaculate home can up its “wow” factor with small touches in the minutes before an open house. Soft music and a well-set dining room table can warm up the house and help buyers picture themselves living there. Something that won’t? Pets. Staley, a self-proclaimed animal-lover, is quick to remind her clients that not everyone feels the same way. Make sure pets are securely locked away or, even better, out for a long walk.
5. Get out of the house

If you’re working with a Realtor, almost every agent will tell you the same thing: It’s never a good idea for the seller to be home during an open house. So find a way to leave the house before buyers arrive. If you’re selling your home yourself, be aware of what you say to potential buyers during a showing. There’s no need to spew every detail about the house unless the buyers ask. In fact, Shallis suggests, have a friend or family member show the home. “As the owner, it’s almost impossible not to oversell your home,” he says.
Though they may seem basic, it’s little details in the eleventh hour that can make a difference in the speed of the sale and, ultimately, the final selling price. “Dirty, dark, cluttered homes can sell,” says Staley. “But if they are brightened, lightened, cleaned, and decluttered with some sense of pride of ownership displayed, they will sell for so much more.”
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14 tips for furnace and fireplace safetyBeware of the ‘silent killer’

By Bill and Kevin Burnett
Inman News™
Q: Our house was built around 1940; the fireplace is original; and we installed forced-air gas heating about 10 years ago. We haven’t had the fireplace or furnace inspected. What do you guys recommend to get the fireplace and the furnace ready for winter?

A: Regular inspection and servicing of fireplaces and furnaces adds to comfort, makes them more economical, and most important, keeps them safe. Regular inspections can prevent a deadly house fire or the introduction of a silent killer: carbon monoxide.

Here’s our checklist to keep you cozy and safe during the winter months:

Wood-burning fireplaces

1. Inspection by a certified chimney sweep is a must. For heavy use, the chimney should be inspected and cleaned annually. Go up to five years if the fireplace is used only occasionally. The sweep should inspect for proper operation of the damper and for cracks in the flue liner, as well as sweeping the flue to remove creosote and other combustion byproducts.

2. Close the damper when the fireplace isn’t in use.

3. Install a chimney cap if you don’t already have one. You don’t want creatures building their nest in your flue.

4. When starting a fire, “prime” the flue by holding lighted newspaper at the back wall of the firebox to start the warm air rising.

5. Burn aged, dry hardwood if possible. Fir or pine burns hot and deposits creosote in the chimney. Don’t burn construction debris. It may contain toxic chemicals that will vaporize in the fire and could enter the living space.

6. Do not clean out the fireplace when the ashes are still hot. And dispose of the ashes in a place where wayward embers won’t start a fire.

Fireplace with gas starter

1. If the flame goes out, wait at least five minutes before attempting to relight the fireplace. This allows time to clear the fireplace of gas.

2. Be alert for unusual odors or odd-colored flames, which are often a sign that the fireplace is not operating properly. In such cases, contact your dealer or licensed technician for servicing. Contact the gas company if you smell gas when the unit is off.

Gas furnace maintenance

1. An annual maintenance check of a gas furnace extends the life of the appliance and ferrets out any hidden problems. A qualified heating contractor should vacuum out the unit, inspect the blower motor, inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, check the electronics and perform a multipoint checklist to make sure the furnace is operating properly.

2. Clean or replace the furnace filter frequently during the heating season. This ensures that air returning from the inside of the house is unobstructed and clean when entering the combustion chamber.

3. Keep vents, space heaters and baseboards clear of furniture, rugs and drapes to allow free air movement.

4. Ensure there is free airflow around your furnace and make sure there are no storage items obstructing airflow.

5. Do not store or use combustible materials, such as chemicals, paint, rags, clothing, draperies, paper, cleaning products, gasoline, or flammable vapors and liquids in the vicinity of the furnace.

6. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and lethal gas that can occur any time there is incomplete combustion or poor venting. Any home that contains fuel-burning appliances, such as a fireplace or furnace, should have a carbon monoxide alarm installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

http://worksmartbesmart.com/2099/

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