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Robert English's Blog

By ROBERT ENGLISH, President | Agent in 78723
  • Avoiding Unexpected Expenses

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Austin, Home Ownership in Austin  |  September 25, 2014 4:39 AM  |  6 views  |  No comments

    It's common for sellers to consider offering and buyers might find it an incentive, but a growing number of homeowners are purchasing the home warranties themselves to limit the unexpected expenses of repairs and replacements.

    A home protection plan is a renewable service contract that covers the repair or replacement of many of the components in a home. Some homeowners especially like the convenience that it organizes a qualified service provider as well as the cost of the items.

    There are a variety of companies that offer home warranties and the coverage may differ but the majority of things will include heating, air conditioning most built-in and some free-standing appliances, as well as other specific items. Additional specific coverage may be available for other things like pool and spa equipment.

    Some investors are even placing this coverage on their rental properties to limit the amount of maintenance repairs during the year. It is a viable alternative to managing the financial risk and the stress dealing with unexpected expenses.

    If you're interested in home warranties, I'll be happy to send you more information.

  • Annual Maintenance

    Posted Under: Property Q&A in Austin, Home Ownership in Austin  |  September 25, 2014 4:38 AM  |  9 views  |  No comments

    houseoftoolsA common expectation of homeowners is to want the components and systems in their home to work when they need them. Periodic maintenance is just as important as having a trusted service provider to make necessary repairs.

    Victims of Murphy’s Law can attest that their air conditioner goes out on the hottest day of the year or the water heater fails when you have out of town visitors.

    If the convenience of having things work doesn’t justify maintaining your home’s systems, consider that it can be less expensive than the results of neglect causing repairs or replacement.

    • Replace burned-out, dim or missing bulbs in light fixtures and lamps. Consider switching to LED bulbs.
    • Dryer exhaust vents build up lint even though you may be cleaning the filter regularly.
    • Fire extinguishers need to be recharged or replaced after expiration date.
    • Establish a recurring appointment on your calendar to change filters in your HVAC.
    • Replace missing or damaged caulk around sinks, bathtubs, showers, windows and other areas.
    • Clean gutters.
    • Schedule an inspection with a pest control a minimum of once a year unless you have a service contract.
    • Schedule a chimney cleaning prior to using the fireplace for the first time in the season.
    • Keep all tree branches and shrubs trimmed away from the home.
    • Pressure wash exterior, deck, patio, sidewalks and driveway.
    • Keep levels of insulation in the attic above your ceiling joists.
    • Check appliances with water lines for leaks or worn hoses. 
      • ice maker  • washing machine   • dishwasher   • others
    • Test all GFI breakers and reset.
    • Inspect all electrical outlets for broken receptacles, fire hazards or loose fitting plugs.
    • Have furnace and air conditioner serviced annually.
    • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change batteries.

    The early fall is a great time to take care of these items before the weather becomes harsh.

  • Don't Leave Home Without...

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Austin, Crime & Safety in Austin, Home Ownership in Austin  |  June 20, 2014 9:31 AM  |  136 views  |  No comments

    alarmyourselfPlanning a summer trip is usually focused on what you’ll do, see and experience.  Enjoy it even more by spending a little time before you leave to make sure your home is safe while you're gone.

    Consider these suggestions along with your other normal efforts:

    • Tell your neighbors you’ll be out of town and to be aware of any unusual activity.
    • Notify your alarm company .
    • Discontinue your postal delivery.
    • Use timers on interior lights to make it appear you’re home as usual.
    • Don’t make it easy for burglars by leaving messages on voice mail or posting on social networks.
    • Post on social networks about your vacation after you’ve returned.
    • Remove the hidden spare keys and give one to a trusted neighbor or friend.
    • Lock everything, double-check and set the alarm.
    • Take pictures of your belongings in case you need them.
    • Disconnect TVs and other equipment in case of unexpected power surges.
    • Adjust your thermostat.
    • Arrange for lawn care.
    • Consider disconnecting the garage door opener.
    • Put irreplaceable valuables in a safety deposit box.

     It’s nice to go out of town on a well-deserved trip and it’s always nice to get back home…especially when it is just the way you left it.

  • Record Improvements

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Austin, Home Ownership in Austin  |  June 19, 2014 3:28 PM  |  82 views  |  No comments

    recordimprovementsThere is a significant difference in how the money you spend on your home is treated for income tax purposes. Repairs to maintain your home’s condition are not deductible unlike rental property owners who can deduct repairs as an operating expense.

    On the other hand, capital improvements to a home will increase the basis and affect the gain when you sell which may save taxes.

    Additions to a home or other improvements that have a useful life of more than one year may be considered an increase to basis or cost of the home. Other increases to basis may include special assessments for local improvements like sidewalks or streets and amounts spent after a casualty loss to restore damage that was not covered by insurance.

    Unlike repairs, improvements add to the value of a home, prolong its useful life or adapt it to new uses.

    You can read more about improvements and see examples beginning on the bottom of page 8 of IRS Publication 523. For a form to keep track of money you spend, print this Improvement Register.

  • Every Homeowner Needs One

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Austin, In My Neighborhood in Austin, Home Ownership in Austin  |  June 17, 2014 4:27 PM  |  75 views  |  No comments
    A water meter key is like insurance; buy it before you need it.

    Imagine a pipe has burst and there is water flowing like a river through your home.  There may a cut-off valve to each sink if it works and if that’s where the leak is coming from. Your home may have a master cut-off valve but if you haven't used it before, you might not know where it is. The last resort is to cut off all the water to your house at the meter.
    In most cases, you'll need a key to get into the meter.  With water starting to rise in your home, concern over the damage being done may add to your anxieties.  You don’t have time to call a plumber or even go the store to buy a water meter key.
    Emergencies are handled much better when you plan for them in advance and practice, even though you hope you’ll never need it.
    1. Determine what kind of key you need to open your water meter.
    2. Purchase it at the home improvement or hardware store.
    3. Practice opening the meter to be able to do it quickly and easily.
    4. If your meter key doesn’t have a wrench on one end, you need a wrench to turn the water valve.
    5. Practice turning the water off just to see how it works and feels.
    6. Put the key in an obvious and conspicuous place.
    7. Have the phone number of an emergency plumber, just in case you need it.
    While you’re planning for the unexpected, it might be a good idea to show some of the other family members how it works and where you keep the key.
  • Retirement Home Now?

    Posted Under: General Area in Austin, Home Buying in Austin, Home Ownership in Austin  |  February 7, 2014 1:14 PM  |  241 views  |  2 comments

    Maybe you're not ready to move into it but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't take advantage of the present opportunities to acquire the home you want to live in during retirement. The combination of the low interest rates, reduced prices and lower competition may never be this good again in our lifetimes.

    The rental market is strong and a tenant could pay for your retirement home. The cash flows are attractive and the yield is bound to be stronger than what you're currently earning. Even if you don't retire to this home, it could be a placeholder to control the costs of the home you do move into.

    One thought would be to finance it with a 15 year loan that will have a lower rate than that of a 30 year loan and it will obviously amortize in half the time. Even if you don't have the home paid for by the time you retire, your equity will be larger.

    Ideally, if you sell your current home when your move into this retirement home, you may be able to take up to $500,000 of tax-free gain for a married couple. That profit could be used to fund your retirement.

    With home prices and mortgage rates certain to rise, this may be one of the best decisions you can make. We want to be your personal source of real estate information and we're committed to helping from purchase to sale and all the years in between.

  • Will the Good Life Be Ready When You Are?

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Austin, Investment Properties in Austin, Home Ownership in Austin  |  February 7, 2014 12:03 PM  |  204 views  |  No comments

    The Life of Riley was a TV show from the 50′s starring William Bendix but the title’s origin came from an expression meaning that a person was living the “good life.” Most people envision themselves living the good life by retirement but don’t really have a plan to get there.

    There’s a rough rule of thumb used to estimate how much net worth a person would need by the time they retire to generate a certain income. The target annual income is divided by a safe, conservative yield to determine the investable assets needed.

    A person who wanted $100,000 annual income generated from a 5% investment would need investable assets of $2,000,000. If a person had $500,000 now, they would need to accumulate $1.5 million more by the time they retire. If it was estimated to be 15 years away, they would need to save about $100,000 a year, each year until retirement.

    It is a sobering example that could be depressing without a plan. It might be easy to say, “I should have started sooner” which may be true but there is still hope.  Gradually, over the next several years, accumulate rental property and allow the tenant to retire the debt for you. The equity in each property will grow from the amortization of the loan each time a payment is made. It also grows as the property increases in value due to appreciation.

    Single family homes as rentals offer the investor an opportunity to meet their retirement and financial goals for the following reasons:

    • The ability to borrow large loan-to-value mortgages
    • At fixed interest rates
    • For long terms (easily up to 30 years)
    • On appreciating assets
    • With significant tax advantages
    • And reasonable control not offered by alternative investments.

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