Clean your rain gutters at least twice a year. Otherwise, debris like leaves and twigs can clog up your gutter system, causing potential harm to your house and landscaping — not to mention the gutters themselves. Here’s how to identify and fix a clogged gutter.
Is My Gutter Clogged?
When it rains, here are the telltale signs of a clogged gutter:
- Water spills over the edges of a gutter.
- Water sprays like a fountain from gutter seams and elbow joints.
- Water doesn’t flow out the bottom of downspout extensions.
- If it’s not raining, look for these telltale signs:
- Eroded earth directly below a gutter.
- Peeling paint on siding and fascia.
- Wet, moist, or dirty siding beneath the gutter.
- Gutters pulling away from the fascia (likely caused by excessive weight).
Where’s the Gutter Clogged?
The downspout cage, a wire strainer designed to trap debris while allowing water to flow through, is located where the downspout intersects the gutter. Often, this item is bent or out of place.
Gutter hangers and spikes often slip free from the fascia, landing in the gutter. These obstructions catch leaves and twigs, causing clogs.
Downspout elbows and seams are likely spots for clogs, too. Working your way down from the gutter, tap the outside of the downspout with a screwdriver and listen for a dull thud (as opposed to hollow ring). This will indicate the location of the clog.
If you still haven’t identified the location of the clog — and you have downspouts that descend below ground level — then the clog likely is in an underground pipe.
How to Unclog a Gutter
If the clog occurs at the downspout cage:
1. Remove and clean it.
2. Remove all the accumulated debris in the gutter.
3. If the cage is in good shape, firmly re-seat it into the downspout hole.
4. If the cage is damaged or missing, replacement screens cost just a few bucks.
If the clog is caused by loose hangers or spikes:
1. Clean debris from clogs.
2. Reposition or repair the gutter supports.
If the clog occurs at an elbow or seam — and you can reach it from above:
1. Try to free the obstruction with a stick, plumbing snake, or pressure washer outfitted with a telescoping wand.
2. If you can’t reach it, simply disassemble the downspout and remove the clog.
If the clog is below-grade, it’s the most difficult to clear, and may require excavation. But before that:
1. Remove the downspout where it enters the ground and try to clear the clog using a plumbing snake.
2. Turn on a garden hose and force it into the underground portion of the line; the water pressure may dislodge the clog.
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Keeping track of the cost of capital improvements to your home can really pay off on your tax return when it comes time to sell.
The tax break doesn’t come into play for everyone. Most home owners are exempted from paying taxes on the first $250,000 of profit for single filers ($500,000 for joint filers). If you move frequently, maybe it’s not worth the effort to track capital improvement expenses. But if you plan to live in your house a long time or make lots of upgrades, saving receipts is a smart move.
What counts as a capital improvement?
While you may consider all the work you do to your home an improvement, the IRS looks at things differently. A rule of thumb: A capital improvement increases your home’s value, while a non-eligible repair just returns something to its original condition. According to the IRS, capital improvements have to last for more than one year and add value to your home, prolong its life, or adapt it to new uses.
Capital improvements can include everything from a new bathroom or deck to a new water heater or furnace. Page 9 of IRS Publication 523 has a list of eligible improvements. There are limitations. The improvements must still be evident when you sell. So if you put in wall-to-wall carpeting 10 years ago and then replaced it with hardwood floors five years ago, you can’t count the carpeting as a capital improvement. Repairs, like painting your house or fixing sagging gutters, don’t count. The IRS describes repairs as things that are done to maintain a home’s good condition without adding value or prolonging its life.
There can be a fine line between a capital improvement and a repair, says Erik Lammert, tax research specialist at the National Association of Tax Professionals. For instance, if you replace a few shingles on your roof, it’s a repair. If you replace the entire roof, it’s a capital improvement. Same goes for windows. If you replace a broken window pane, repair. Put in a new window, capital improvement. One exception: If your home is damaged in a fire or natural disaster, everything you do to restore your home to its pre-loss condition counts as a capital improvement.
How capital improvements affect your gain?
To figure out how improvements affect your tax bill, you first have to know your cost basis. The cost basis is the amount of money you spent to buy or build your home including all the costs you paid at the closing: fees to lawyers, survey charges, transfer taxes, and home inspection, to name a few. You should be able to find all those costs on the settlement statement you received at your closing.
Next, you’ll need to account for any subsequent capital improvements you made to your home. Let’s say you bought your home for $200,000 including all closing costs. That’s the initial cost basis. You then spent $25,000 to remodel your kitchen. Add those together and you get an adjusted cost basis of $225,000.
Now, suppose you’ve lived in your home as your main residence for at least two out of the last five years. Any profit you make on the sale will be taxed as a long-term capital gain. You sell your home for $475,000. That means you have a capital gain of $250,000 (the $475,000 sale price minus the $225,000 cost basis). You’re single, so you get an automatic exemption for the $250,000 profit. End of story.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Had you not factored in the money you spent on the kitchen remodel, you’d be facing a tax bill for that $25,000 gain that exceeded the automatic exemption. By keeping receipts and adjusting your basis, you’ve saved about $5,000 in taxes based on the 15% tax rate on capital gains. Well worth taking an hour a month to organize your home-improvement receipts, don’t you think?
For 2013, the top rate for most home sellers remains 15%. For sellers in the new income tax bracket of 39.6%, the cap gains rate is 20%.
Watch out for these basis-busters
Some situations can lower your basis, thus increasing your risk of facing a tax bill when you sell. Consult a tax adviser. One common one: If you take depreciation on a home office, you have to subtract those deductions from your basis. Any depreciation taken if you rented your house works the same way. You also have to subtract subsidies from utility companies for making energy-related home improvements or energy-efficiency tax credits you’ve received. If you bought your home using the federal tax credit for first-time home buyers, you’ll have to deduct that from your basis too, says Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Services.
This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice.
Real estate is an intensely personal experience for many buyers and sellers. After all, a home, at its core, is a personal expression of a homeowner’s entire life wrapped inside four small (okay, sometimes not so small) walls.
And while, ultimately, buyers should be more focused on the bones of the home—the things that will stay after the current owner has vacated—staging can often be the difference between a buyer bonanza and a dearth of hot offers. Don’t let your sellers suffer at the hands of poor staging. It may be challenging, but a little tough love now, will make for a love fest post-sale—after the big offers come flying in. Here are 8 of the biggest staging sins sellers make and how agents can help their sellers avoid these pitfalls before it costs them a sweet deal.
1. Collection Overload.
It is very difficult for almost any collection to look orderly and neutral, two high-level aims of home staging. Unless the homeowner has attractive, high-end built-in cases to house the collections and the target buyers share a similar affinity for the objects, even the coolest collection can come off as a pile of space-consuming clutter. When it comes to shockingly bad staging decisions, the choice to give a taxidermy or gun collection a starring role in a home’s staging is high in the oh-so-bad rankings. For some buyers, these collections can trigger ethical and sanitation and can distract from the strengths and features the property has to offer.
2. Echo-Chamber Staging.
In an echo chamber, sounds are amplified because they simply bounce around in that closed space. When left alone, the same thing can happen to sellers if they do not have outside input. And unfortunately, it seems to be the bad staging ideas that get amplified, more than the good ones. Echo chamber staging happens when the sum total of a staging team, well, one person. That bold wallpaper in the bathroom may seem like a good idea, but a little perspective—and another opinion—may prove otherwise.
3. Failure to edit.
You’ve heard thirty-somethings who still live at home diagnosed with failure to launch? Well, failure to edit is a close cousin of this syndrome. As the New York Times recently put it, “the job of stagers is to reverse the accumulated creep of hundreds of small and misguided design decisions, and to erase any hints of the messiness of daily life.” Your client might have a fantastic rug, a beautiful sofa, amazing tchotchkes and the highest-end personal effects, but chances are good that their cumulative first impression to a buyer viewing the home will still fall short of the “one broad stroke of gorgeousness” the Times piece correctly says home sellers should aim for, with their staging.
The failure to edit is a generalized syndrome which can manifest in all sorts of specific staging woes, from garden variety clutter to disastrous decor style mash-ups.
4. Silly scenarios.
The difference between staging and interior design is simple: staging is cost-and-time efficient design undertaken with the specific objective of showing a home off to its best advantage, playing up its features and helping prospective buyers visualize the best lives they could possibly live in the home, should they choose it. Unfortunately, this has led some well-intentioned sellers and stagers to believe they should stage one bedroom as a Parisian boulevard (Eiffel tower mural included), another with a full-blown butterfly theme and the third as the beach—complete with umbrella, towels on the wall and sunscreen bottles on the nightstand. I saw this house, folks. With my own two eyes.
5. The ‘lived-in’ look.
When a home is being shown for sale, it must be immaculate, every single time it’s being shown. It should look like no one lives there: no toothbrushes, curling irons, protein shake mixes or paperwork allowed. Is this difficult to keep up? Absolutely. But you’d be surprised at how bad an impression just a few personal toiletries or dishes can make.
6. Closet cramming.
Out of sight is not out of mind. Home buyers today are desperate for storage space and will undoubtedly open those same, crammed-tight doors in an effort to evaluate how the home ranks for storage. Beautifully organized closets with ample room create an impression in the buyer’s mind that they, too, can have an orderly life in the home.
7. Failing to stage for all the senses.
A house that smells like pet mayhem or smoke or has a noisily defective heater is a tough house to sell, no matter how beautifully it is staged. Unfortunately, smells and sounds are very easy to get acclimated to, when you live with them. Buyers, though, will detect them the second they walk in—and the moment they do is the moment we in the business call “turn-off time.”
8. Not to.
Ultimately, the most shockingly bad of all staging decisions is the surprisingly frequent decision not to bother staging the home at all. This explains homes like the one I once viewed which had residents still sound asleep in their beds, in the dining room, as the listing agent walked myself and my mortified buyer clients through the property. On the less bizarre end of the non-staged spectrum, this is how lovely homes with vast potential end up selling at a discount, as cosmetic fixers at a discount. This is a particular tragedy in cases where the owners could have painted, spruced, moved loads of things out and a few newer things in and made much, much more money on their homes.
Information Provided By: Trulia.com