States that Might Let You Write Off Home Office Expenses

There are several tax reforms coming into effect this year affecting people who work from home. Many people will no longer be able to claim tax deductions to write off home office expenses. This is a huge concern now that more people are working remotely under quarantine. Spending more time at home means expenses will undoubtedly rise. If you had planned to claim those deductions on your next tax return, you should make sure you are still eligible for reimbursement.

Tax Cut and Jobs Act

The tax reforms recently passed in Congress will have a huge impact on the work force. This is especially relevant since many of us now work remotely. Furthermore, an online survey reported that nearly a third of respondents said they would like to continue doing so once restrictions are lifted. This means your average worker is spending more money towards business expenses each month.

In the past, you could itemize and deduct many of these expenses on your federal tax return. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has limited who is eligible. Now, only self-employed works can claim the deduction to receive the tax break. Those who are employed by someone else are no longer considered eligible for this reimbursement.

State Deductions for Home Office Expenses

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act went into effect 2018, meaning these changes will affect your 2020 tax return. The most substantial change is that only self-employed tax payers can claim the tax write-offs for their home office. In addition, it also eliminates you from claiming “miscellaneous itemized deductions.”

The good news is that some states have not adopted the same guidelines for state tax returns. If you live in California, New York, Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Minnesota or Pennsylvania, you may still receive some reimbursement. These states allow you to claim employee business expenses as a state tax deduction. While you may not receive a full reimbursement, at least some of these states are allowing some compensation.

What Qualifies for Home Office Tax Write-Offs

According to the IRS, you can deduct any cost associated with your home workspace. However, your home office must be exclusively and regularly used for business purposes. The tax code does not explicitly state what this covers, so self-employed workers operate on the honor system. Keep in mind you will have to justify these deductions if the IRS decides to audit you.

Some of the most common deductions deal with the space itself. This includes rent or mortgage interest, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and home depreciation. In addition, you can include a percentage of your utility bills each month. For example, if your office occupies 10% of your home, then you can claim 10% of your annual utilities costs. Also remember to add the cost for any computer equipment, home repairs, or furniture specifically associated with your home office.

Important Note

If you plan to write off home office expenses, there are a few things to remember. This deduction will only benefit you if you exceed the standard deduction for itemized deductions. This threshold varies state by state, so you will need to check your local tax laws to determine the amount. If you find these changes in the tax codes complicated and confusing, you are not alone. Contact a professional tax preparer with any questions to determine how these changes will affect you.

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How to Sell a Home Without a Realtor

In today’s market, some homeowners are opting to sell a home without a realtor. Since listing agents usually take 3% commission, choosing to do it on your own can save you a lot of money. If you decide to sell without a listing agent, it is what realtors call ‘for sale by owner,’ or ‘FSBO’ for short. Thanks to numerous listing platforms, it is now easier than ever to get a good price without using a realtor to sell your home. Here’s what you need to know if you will be acting as your own agent.

1. Prepare It for Potential Buyers

Before you allow anyone into your home, you should take some time to de-clutter and remove personal elements. Take those family photos and personal items out of view so buyers can see themselves in the space. This is also a great time to get rid of items you don’t use or need anymore.

Once you have organized your belongings, it is time to scrub the house from top to bottom and make necessary repairs. You may also want to ask for a second opinion from someone with real estate experience. And don’t forget the exterior curb appeal. The more inviting your home is, the better your chances for a quick sale.

2. Do Your Research

Once your home is ready for the market, look at the listing prices of homes in your neighborhood. A quick comparison will give you an idea of a realistic asking price. Look for homes with similar finished square footage, number of bed and baths, and lot size. If you are still uncertain what your home is worth, this handy tool can help you. The HPI calculator from the Federal Housing Finance Agency can give you a better estimate to get the most out of your home.

3. Post Your Listing

The next step is to compile all the information you will need to create your listing. Include quantitative data that is pertinent to buyers. Be sure to list the year your home was built, finished and total square footage, lot size, number of bed and baths, and relative details that make it more appealing to buyers.

In addition to the home data, take photos of every room and exterior areas. You want to emphasize natural light and sweeping views of the spaces. For the best results, use editing software for higher quality pictures. Finally, add an enticing description to grab potential buyers’ attention. Once you have gathered all the data, you are ready to post your listing.

4. Advertise Everywhere

The best way to sell a home without a realtor is to get the word out. There are dozens of ways to reach homebuyers, especially in the age of the internet. Multiple listing services (MLS) offer an extensive database that connects brokers, homebuyers, and sellers. It is an easy and cost-effective way to get widespread exposure. You should also consider other real estate sites such as, Zillow, and Trulia where you can post listings for little to no cost.

Another option is to use local classifieds like Craigslist and Nextdoor which receive tons of internet traffic. For a more personal touch, you can create a virtual walk through with YouTube, or host a dedicated website. Don’t forget to advertise locally in papers and around your neighborhood. Never underestimate the power of social media, mass emails, and flyers to create a buzz and get people interested in your home.

5. Host an Open House

Once your home hits the market, an open house is an excellent way to attract a large number of people and competition. Before you set the date, visit other open houses and take notes of what people respond to. Then, create a sales sheet for homebuyers to take with them and review later.

Try to schedule it on weekends when more people are available. The late morning or early afternoon are usually the best times to hold an open house. Make sure both you and your home look their best. You want to make a good impression and be the perfect host to help you sell a home without a realtor.

6. Show Your Home

While you are selling your home, you must be ready for walk-throughs. Agents will contact you and usually ask that you are out of the house so as not to make potential buyers uncomfortable. You will usually have enough time to ensure you can have your home spotless for their visit. It is also a good idea to prepare spare keys in a lockbox with a basic multi-code lock for agents. Attention to details makes walk-throughs less disruptive and problematic.

7. Field and Negotiate Offers

It is also a good idea to brush up on negotiation strategies and skills. Since you are not using a realtor to sell your home, it will be up to you to handle all offers. However, you are not obliged to respond to insincere or extremely low offers. If time allows, be patient and wait for the right homebuyer to come along.

8. Hire a Professional to Close the Deal

After you have accepted an offer, the final steps require signatures and paperwork. At the very least, you will need an escrow agent to facilitate the process. Real estate laws vary between states, but your agent may be a real estate attorney or title company representative. Your agent will be the main point of contact during the closing process.

Although it is an escrow’s agent job to ensure you are in compliance, you can do your own research. It does not hurt to know the local and state laws governing real estate transactions. If you are still having doubts, consider hiring fee only broker to make sure paperwork is in order. They are significantly cheaper than using a realtor and help prevent anything from jeopardizing or delaying the deal.

Final Thoughts

Selling your home will be one of the largest and most complex financial transactions in your life. If you choose to sell a home without a realtor, you will save a lot of money. However, you will also be giving up many conveniences and sacrificing a lot of your time. Make sure you understand the complexities of selling your home and that you are up for the challenge.  It may be a huge commitment, but your dedication could be rewarded with huge payouts.

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