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10 Tax Mistakes to Avoid Courtesy of Pensacola Real Estate Professionals

It is time to start thinking about and preparing your 2013 tax returns, which the IRS will begin accepting at the end of this month.

No one enjoys doing taxes, but it’s an important financial task. As you sit down to do it this year, Pensacola Real Estate Professionals wants you to be sure to avoid these common tax mistakes.tax time

1.) Using a pen and paper. It’s amazing that in 2013, some 20 percent of filers still fill out their returns the old fashioned way: by hand. Doing so makes you much more likely to introduce math errors or simple mistakes – like forgetting to sign and date a form – that a computer (yours, or your tax preparer’s)  would catch. In addition, e-filers get their returns more quickly and less likely to be victims of ID theft.

2.) Choosing the wrong tax preparer. Software like Turbo Tax is fine if you are comfortable doing your taxes solo. If you decide to bring in professional help, remember that there’s no licensing requirement for someone to call himself a tax preparer. To be safe, look for someone who’s either a certified public accountant (CPA) or an enrolled agent (EA); both must take ongoing exams to prove their knowledge of the tax code.

3.) Waiting to long to get started. Missing the April 15 deadline would obviously be a huge mistake, but experts say you should start preparing your documents well before the end of March. Early filers get their refunds more quickly than laggards; plus, starting early gives you a time cushion if you discover missing documents or need to verify information.

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4.) Selecting the incorrect filing status. It’s not uncommon for filers to opt for the wrong filing status. Particularly for single parents, filing as ‘head of household’ instead of single will give you a higher standard deduction and lower your taxes. If you’re married, divorced or had a child in the past year, don’t forget to update your status as well.

5.) Assuming you shouldn’t itemize. Often mortgage-free homeowners or renters assume that since they don’t have a home loan, it’s not worth itemizing. Simply taking the standard deduction, however, can be a costly mistake. Before making that your default, tally up potential deductions such as state and local taxes, charitable contributions, and medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your income to see if they’re worth more than that deduction. There might be some rare cases where itemizing wouldn’t be the best move, but for most people, it’s better to itemize.

6.) Failing to double-check your work. Computer programs are great at catching math errors, but they won’t know if you’ve transposed the digits on your Social Security number or incorrectly transferred numbers from your W-2. Print out your returns before pressing the “send” button and double-check all of your numbers for human error.

7.) Not properly safeguarding your private information. ID thieves love tax season, and tax-related identity theft is a growing problem. In the first half of the year the IRS reported that identity theft affected 1.6 million taxpayers, more than the number affected in all of 2012. Protect yourself by avoiding shared computers for filing; not emailing your returns to anyone, including your preparer; and filing as early as possible.tax id theft

8.) Forgetting to keep a copy of your returns. If you’ve lost your copies, the IRS will send one to you for $50, so it’s worth holding onto your own copy. You’ll need to keep one on hand for at least three years in case of an audit, but you may also have to produce a copy to a potential mortgage lender or someone else examining your financials. Plus, having last year’s returns on hand makes it much easier to prepare your taxes the following year. Looking at old returns may jog your memory about an account that you closed this year, or deductions you might be missing.

9.) Keeping inadequate records throughout the year. It’s a lot harder to reconstruct deductible expenses at the end of the year than it is to organize your receipts on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Plus, you’ll need documentation supporting any deductions if the IRS ever decides to audit your returns. Mobile apps like Expensify can make keeping receipts a paperless breeze. In addition to business and medical expenses, keep detailed records of any charitable donations you make. Any donations worth more than $250 requires a letter from the organization that includes a description of the item or the amount of cash, and whether you received anything in return for the contribution. (If you did receive a gift or service, you’ll need to subtract its value from the amount you contributed.) The IRS really focuses on these, so you definitely want to have that documentation in order.tax time 2

10.) Leaving money on the table at work. Not all important tax decisions get made at filing time.  It’s equally important to make sure that you’re withholding the proper amount of taxes at the office, and fully taking advantage of any tax-advantaged benefits, such as 401(k) contributions and flexible spending accounts (for health care, transportation and dependents). Properly using such benefits can lower your taxable income, save you money, and – in some cases – even move you into a lower tax bracket.

Saltmarsh Cleaveland and Gund CPAs and Consultants, Lambert Lanza CPAs and Brown Thornton Pacenta  & Company, P.A. are just a few local companies that you may wish to contact, if you are interested in having a professional prepare your tax returns.

Please contact me here or directly at 850-393-7106, if I can help guide you to a local tax expert.

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10 tips for “Refreshing” The Interior Look of Your Home in 2014 Courtesy of Pensacola Real Estate Professionals

Pensacola Real Estate Professionals would like to share 10 tips with you to “refresh” the interior look of your home in this bright, shiny new year!

For those into home projects, now is the time to change things up with new fabrics, paints, decor and design. All it takes is a little creativity and determination to create a new space that you will be happy with, whether you are planning an entire overhaul or a few minor tweaks here and there.

Here are 10 Room “Refreshment” Tips to get you started:

pillows lamps rugs 11.) Three ingredients to a beautiful room that can be cost effective: pillows, lamps and rugs. Notice how the accent pieces in this photograph really liven up the space, while at the same time making it appear comfortable and inviting.The blue fabric of the wing chairs add another layer of flavor to this very cozy room. The neutral color palette of the walls and the sofas allow you to mix in any accent colors that are personally appealing to you. Let your imagination take over. Skies the limit. You can blend complimentary shades of color and design elements to your hearts content. Think outside the box. Select a rug pattern that has elements specific to where you live for example, or if you like clean, geometric designs bring that element into the room by the area rug you select.

2.) Paint the ceiling or add a new ceiling light fixture. A trey ceiling already draws the eye, but when it is highlighted with a splash of color or even two colors, the impact to the room is instantaneous!

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This beautiful room makes a statement from the ceiling to floor windows, to the painted ceiling and elegant lighting fixture.

Remember that darker colors will make rooms appear smaller, while softer colors will open up spaces making them appear larger than their true dimensions.

over size wall art3.) Over-scaled art can make a big impact on a small budget. You can find these anywhere from a local estate sale to an antique store. Many retail shops offer these types of items for sale, too.

Check out places like Bed, Bath and Beyond, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Pier 1 Imports, T.J. Maxx, Target or Bealls.

There are many other specialty shops that also feature unique art that may be just the thing to add that “wow” factor to the room that you are decorating. Or search the web for artists that sell their wares on-line. You may be able to acquire a real “find”.

4.) Take everything out of a room, and then put it back using a different layout. You will be pleasantly surprised at how different the room will feel, just by doing this simple little trick.

Try swapping out different pieces of furniture from different rooms to really change things up, while saving room in your budget for other purchases that you may need to make. Keep in mind that you can blend different styles to really make a signature statement.

5.) Mixing furniture styles for an “eclectic” blend is seen in this photograph.eclectic blend 2

See how charming this room looks. Try using different chair or table styles in any given room to add instant pizzazz!

You can’t make a mistake. Experiment to see what appeals to your eye. Make it a family event by getting input as to what they like.

Getting the children involved will be a great educational tool.

one focal wall

6.) Wallpaper or paint one focal wall in the room.

Using a palette of soft gray with a blue accent wall, as seen in this room, is just an example of the calming effect paint colors can impart. The one wall focal point provides a splash of designer flair.

If you are more adventurous, you may elect to use purples, reds or pinks, which lend a romantic mood to room settings.

Using yellows and oranges will make rooms seem cheery. Like bringing a little ray of sunshine indoors!

7.) Adding lamps is a terrific way to change the mood of a room and add interest when several different heights and styles are used. This home entryway shows a nice example of two different styles of lamps used to give this space a unique elegance. The large mirror is a point of interest and is functional for that last minute check as you head out the door.

different lighting

8.) Trendy fabrics can be used on pieces such as pillows and chairs to suit a season or look, then changed every few seasons for a brand new feel.trendy accent pieces 1

9.) Choose a neutral base color for costly items like sofas and draperies that will work with many different accent colors.

10.) Remove old items to make way for new items.

Transforming the look of the rooms in your house doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Take one room at a time, remembering to keep a consistent design in mind, and before you know it, you will have a whole house that seems new again.

However, if you have decided it is time to move on or move up, contact me, Lisa Burns, Broker Pensacola Real Estate Professionals, here, or call me directly at 850-393-7106. I will be happy to help you take the necessary steps to buy or build a new home.

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What to Buy and Not to Buy in December Courtesy of Pensacola Real Estate Professinals

Shopping for the holidays is in full swing, so we, at Pensacola Real Estate Professionals, thought you might be curious to know what to buy and not to buy in December.

Even though it seems like everything is on sale, it doesn’t mean this is the moment to purchase certain items. What then should you buy in December?

The answer: toys, select electronics, select home goods, some Christmas goods, wedding dresses, and….wait for it…..REAL ESTATE!!!! Although you may be in a splurging state of mind, don’t get sucked into deals on gym memberships, jewelry or watches.

Toys

toysToys may be  on sale right now, but rushing out to buy all the goodies that will go under the Christmas tree doesn’t make sense, until the two weeks leading up to Christmas. It is then, that you will see the deepest toy discounts.

Electronics

Electronics – digital cameras, tablets, laptops, TVs and the like are a big holiday purchase for many folks, but unfortunately not the best deals in December. The best deals historically are in November on Black Friday and then again in January when the new models debut and the previous year’s models get marked down.electronics

That said, December is the best time to buy HDTV’s – especially less well-known brands (although some top brands also come with deep discounts). Blu-ray movies and DVD’s are also reduced this month.

Home Goods

Planning to spend a lot of time in the kitchen this month? You’re in luck! Kitchen items are good to buy in December because they’re typically marked way down. If you don’t plan to cook much this season, a mixer makes a good gift for your mother-in-law.

Shopping for the man on your list? Now is the time to buy tools, particularly wrench, screw driver and drill sets. These will make the perfect gifts under the tree for the DIY-er in your life.

home goodsLinens, on the other hand, are  not the best home goods to buy in December. Stores host their annual “white sales” in January, so that’s the best time to buy linens and towels.

Furniture is also a no-no in December. Again, wait  until January when retailers are anxious to clear out the showroom for new products that are released in February.

Winter Wear and Gear

As a general rule of thumb, most items are discounted when they go out of season. winter wear and gearDecember begins the winter season and items like skis, snow blowers, and winter gear are tagged at close to full price. Put off buying these items until February, or even April , when demand is down and retailers are eager to unload inventory.

Holiday Goods

Christmas is December 25th, making December 26th the start of the best time to buy Christmas decor for next year. And if you haven’t had enough Christmas candy by then, this is another item to buy in late December.

With the New Year right around the corner, champagne drinkers have much to cheer about. This is the best time to stock up on cheap champagne even though December is the season of high demand. Contrary to the general rules of supply and demand, vendors are vying for all that celebratory business, which means lower than normal prices on the bubbly stuff.holiday goods

One end-of-the-year item you don’t want to buy in December is a new wall calendar. Retailers are well aware that old calendars cannot be re-purposed , so discounts are few and far between. You’ll get better deals on a wall calendar in January or February.

Big-Ticket Items

Surprisingly, some big-ticket items are good buys in December. With the wedding season at a near standstill this month, wedding dress dealers are looking to make a sale, any sale, so discounts abound. If you’re in the market for a new home, #3551 front exterior elevationplan to buy one in DECEMBER! Many sellers take properties off the market for the holidays and those who don’t are truly motivated, which means more negotiating leverage for buyers. Cars are also a good buy in December. With the year coming to an end car dealerships are ready to cut deals.

Purchases of jewelry and watches should be put on hold in December, ditto for a gym membership. The first two are popular holiday gifts so jewelers aren’t hurting for business right now. And with many people making New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, gyms have no incentive to discount memberships.

Seasonal Produce

When it comes to stocking up the refrigerator, don’t be fooled by the  cold temperatures. Many fruits and vegetables are in season and cheap, so buy them in December. Try adorning your holiday table with the likes of beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage,seasonal producecarrots, leeks, onions, potatoes, radishes, sweet potatoes, turnips, and winter squash. Seasonal fruits include clementines, grapefruit, kiwis, lemons,  limes, mandarins, oranges, pears, and tangerines.

Wishing you a very joyous holiday season! If you are ready to build or buy a new  home and would like any information about what steps you need to take to make that happen, contact me here or call me direct at 850-393-7106. It would be my pleasure, to help you in any way I can, to realize your dream of home ownership!

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Pensacola Real Estate Professionals Shares 6 Annual Cool-Weather Home Maintenance Tips

We, at Pensacola Real Estate Professionals, wanted to remind you that an ounce of prevention can save you big bucks on the maintenance of your home! Because what may be a small, inexpensive problem now could be a huge, costly problem later! Neglecting to clear a leaf-chocked gutter could result in wood rot and the spread of mildew. A poorly maintained heating system may eventually spew toxic fumes or stop working entirely on a cold day. And cracks in walls and windows (besides creating nasty drafts) are an open invitation to pests and water.

Yearly fall maintenance is more than convenience; it’s also a smart investment strategy. Many homeowners get their homes professionally inspected in the fall, so they can keep a running record. Everyone should have a history of their home, and when you go to sell, having one could make or break the deal. It helps perspective buyers see evidence of the repairs you’ve made over the years. Every time you make repairs or renovations, it’s a good idea to take a video or photo of the results and save the details to your computer.

Although you should really call a specialist for certain jobs, here are some jobs you can do yourself.

Clean Gutters and Drainage Spouts.

gutter cleaningProtect yourself first by always wearing gloves – animals or insects can hide in gutters. A gutter scoop is a convenient tool for removing leaves and other debris. Then place the garden hose in the downspout to flush it out.

Inspect Your Roof.

Look for signs of deterioration (loose shingles, rotting wood, cracks, etc.) Carefully trim heavy branches that are hanging over your roof. ( A falling branch could hurt someone, cause a blackout or damage your roof. Ifroof maintenance you’re using your chimney, flying sparks could possibly ignite overhanging branches.) If the branches are near power line, call a professional tree-trimming company to do the trimming; they may need to contact your power company to temporarily disconnect your power before they start working.

Check All Windows and Doors.

window caulkingRemove summer screens and install storm windows and doors. Inspect and repair any loose or damaged windows or door frames. Install weather stripping or caulking around windows and doors to reduce drafts, too. If you discover signs of deterioration, such as moisture on surrounding walls or dry-rot damage, call a certified home inspector or restoration specialist immediately.

Clean Your Heating System.

Replace the filters in your furnace. You should do this monthly if you or any one in your family has allergies. Check for air leakage around the joints. And consider having an air conditioning and heating specialist checkcleaning heating system 1 your entire system before winter sets in. If you don’t already have one, install a carbon monoxide detector near all appliances that burn fossil fuel, but be sure you install it in an area where you’ll hear the alarm if it is triggered.

Check the Smoke Detector.

checking smoke detectorSome people wait until they reset their clocks during Daylight Savings Time to inspect their smoke detectors, but if you missed it in the spring, don’t wait another month – check them now. Press the button to make sure it beeps and replace batteries if necessary. Most smoke detectors signal with an automatic beep when the battery gets low, but it’s always good to check on an annual basis. Smoke detectors should be replaced every six months.

Secure the Cracks.

From skunks to insects to other critters, your home can fall prey to unwanted invaders. Before they start seeking shelter from the cold,secure exterior cracks inspect the perimeter of your home for cracks or holes where they could enter and then seal them well. Clean and lubricate the garage-door hinges, rollers and tracks to make sure the door closes securely. If you detect evidence of animal activity, such as urine odors, unexplained gnaw marks, feces or footprints, consult an exterminator.

If I can help direct you to a local professional inspector. Please contact me here or directly at 850-393-7106.

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Double-Duty Room Design and Furnishings Are All the Rage

Today, more than ever, double-duty or multi-tasking is pretty much the norm!  Busy individuals are demanding more from each room in their house. Real Estate spaces that serve multiple uses are popping up all over in floor plans, magazine spreads, such as in Better Homes and Gardens and home decor programming.

washer and dryer in bedroom closet

Strategically planning out what works best for each individual varies, but rest assured, that if there is a need to do laundry in a bedroom or send an email from a laundry room, a good home builder can design these rooms to facilitate those needs. It isn’t unheard of to see a seating area, desks and charging stations in a laundry room. Or for that matter, to see a washer and dryer housed in a bedroom closet. People store their clothes there, so why not wash and dry them there as well.

Furniture manufacturers are trying to help make every square inch count, too. Modern pieces include coffee tables with adjustable heights to accommodate working at a computer or eating, end tables that double as file cabinets and chests with docking stations for electronics.

Because of the portability of lap top computers and other mobile devices, a home office no longer requires a dedicated space. Working from home can take place in any room.

Furnishings are being designed to keep clutter to a minimum and to help people stay connected and  organized. A console table with hinges works well, for instance in a recreational area of the home, for television viewing or crafts. It can easily become a dining spot for 6 people by extending the leaves. Varied sizes of Stacking or nesting tables increase room functionality, too, and  those on wheels can easily be moved from place to place.

Hideaway furniture is another way to design a room for multiple functions. murphy bedMurphy beds, that are stored vertically in a cabinet along a wall, such as those that may be found at Alpha Murphy Beds, which services Northwest Florida  or Murphy desks which slide out from bookshelves are just a few examples of how one can use specialty furniture to mask a room’s dual function.

From young urban professionals to retirees, everyone can appreciate a double-duty world, where we all want to  maximize our living space.

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