Tax Breaks for First Time Home Buyers

Buying a home can sound like an intimidating undertaking if you’ve never done it before. The thought of relocating and the sheer level of financial investment gives many people anxiety. Luckily, the government wants to make the process easier and less scary, with a range of tax breaks for first time home buyers.

To get the most out of your purchase, don’t settle for the standard deductions and write-offs. Instead, make sure you take advantage of the many tax breaks available to you. So, what exactly is tax deductible when buying a house for the first time?

Mortgage Interest Deductions

Mortgage interest is the second half of your monthly mortgage payment—the rest goes toward the principal balance. Though interest rates are hovering near historic lows, they can still be a financial burden unless you take advantage of the option to deduct mortgage interest on up to $1 million of debt.

Claiming this tax break is easy. Each year, your lender will send you Form 1098 listing the interest you paid during the previous year. Simply enter this number on Form 1040 Schedule A—under itemized deductions—and claim your tax break. 

Mortgage Points Deduction

Beyond the typical interest deduction, you’re eligible for a tax break based on mortgage points—prepaid interest that represents 1 percent of your total mortgage. You are allowed to deduct Discount Points, or the fees paid directly to the lender in exchange for a reduced interest rate. This is also called “buying down the rate.”

Mortgage Credit Certificate Program

A tax credit for buying a house is more valuable than a deduction because it cuts back on your taxes owed, dollar-for-dollar. For low-income home buyers, the Mortgage Credit Certificate program gives back 20% to 30% of the interest you pay every year as money back in your pocket.

You will need to qualify for the Mortgage Credit Certificate program before purchasing your home to claim this credit.

Real Estate Taxes

Each year, you can deduct your local property taxes on Form 1040 Schedule A. To find the amount you can deduct, check Form 1098 if you pay through an escrow account or check your records if you pay directly to the municipality.

Additionally, for the first year in your home, you should earn an even bigger tax reduction. If you reimbursed the seller for their prepaid real estate taxes, you can take those as itemized deductions as well.

IRA Payouts

If increased investment opportunity is one of the reasons for buying a home, then you’ll appreciate this benefit for your IRA. If you pull from your IRA to cover your down payment and other purchasing costs, first time home buyers do not have to pay the $10 penalty fee for early withdrawals.

Additional First Time Home Buyer Advantages

  • Home Improvements: If you purchase a fixer-upper, all improvements you make to your home from landscaping to new doors and windows can be deducted when you sell your home.
  • Energy Efficiency: Upgrading your home with energy-efficient appliances and home improvements—such as an insulation system—can offer an energy tax credit of up to $500.
  • Home Sale Profit: If you own and live in your home for at least two years before selling, much of the profit you make is tax-free. Up to $250,000 for single returns and up to $500,000 for married, joint returns. 
  • Mortgage Insurance Premiums: This tax deduction ended in 2016 but is currently under legislative review for renewal. It offers a write-off for the premium paid if your down payment was less than 20% of the home’s cost.

The First-Time Homebuyer Credit is no longer available. It ended in 2010 and has not been renewed.

Now that you know the many tax breaks for first time home buyers, visit your local real estate agent at Coldwell Banker to learn how to take advantage of all the perks of being a first time home buyer.

When Was the Last Time You Cleaned These 20 Items in Your Home?

Did you know there are 10 MILLION bacteria per square inch of a kitchen sponge? ( What about the fact that your pillow is as germy as a TOILET SEAT! (NY Post) Those are just two of the mind-blowing (and scary) facts about common household items that are probably not getting cleaned as regularly as they should be. With that said (or rather written) here are 20 items that you should give a little extra TLC to this weekend!

Remote Control

Good Housekeeping spilled the dirty truth on the Today Show by reminding us that while we know remotes are often the dirtiest item in a hotel room, the same holds true for our homes. You should clean this, and game controllers, once a month with some rubbing alcohol and a q-tip for those hard to reach spots.

Portrait of handsome young black man watching tv at home.

Stove Knobs

Cleaning stove knobs can be a pain but it is an important part of keeping your kitchen free of icky germs we spread from handling food. For a quick clean simply pull off the knobs and soak them in a bowl of white vinegar.

Oven knobs


Sometimes we forget to clean the things that clean đź™‚ Add cleaning this appliance at least once a month to your to-do list. Here is how to do it.

Smiling man using dishwasher.

Light Switches

“When cleaning your house, keep one thing in mind: If hands touch it, it needs cleaning,” says Karen Gibbs of TODAY. So, how often should you actually clean switches? The answer is weekly! Learn the best way to clean them here.

Baby hand touching a panel with five light switches


Door Knobs

I think we are all guilty of forgetting this one…especially the doorknobs outside! Cleaning professionals recommend wiping down doorknobs with a household cleaner or disinfecting wipe about once a week.

Children hand open door handle

Garbage Cans

Sure you take the trash out when the bag is full but when was the last time you actually scrubbed the inside of the can? And how about the can(s) outside?

Open trash can in empty room with wood flooring, blue wainscoting and a power outlet.


You may change your sheets every week (or every other week) but when was the last time you cleaned your comforter? The experts at Good Housekeeping suggest cleaning it once a season.

Teddy bear on bed


Dust mites, pet hair and dead skin…oh my. Gross, right? Yes, I agree. But sadly, all of these things might be living in and on the place where you lay your head to sleep each night. Interior design expert Robin Wilson recommends washing your pillow cover every three weeks in the washing machine. Then, wash the pillow itself every three months. (Huffington Post)

Unmade bed with white pillow and messy

Keurig/Coffee Maker

Is your morning cup of Joe contaminated? We hope not. To be sure, experts recommend that a Keurig be cleaned (and descaled) every 3-6 months. Wondering how to clean it? Here you go.

coffee maker

Dish Sponge

Did you know that a kitchen sponge is actually 200,000 times DIRTIER than a toilet seat?  ( If your sponge is over a month old then toss it.

Hand with sponge above kitchen sink

Drying Rack

Anything that has standing water in it tends to be…well…stinky. Be sure you scrub down that drying rack every few days to avoid a slimy mess.

Dish rack on kitchen countertop

Top of the Fan

Cleaning a ceiling fan can be a dirty and dusty job if you let it go too long. Real Simple suggests cleaning fans every other month if you use the fan year-round. Here are some helpful tips for getting it clean.

A spinning ceiling fan -- but it's not in a home, it's in a rural barn -- that's why you can see wooden rafters and a steel roof, and lots of dirt, dust, and cobwebs if you zoom in.

Pet Toys

If your house is anything like mine then there are more toys than your little fur baby could possibly ever need. It is important to give their toys some cleaning TLC regularly as they often end up in their mouths. 

Brown sleeping dog with paw on pink monkey cuddly toy

Lint Trap

This is a super important one not only to keep your home clean but also safe! “The U.S. Fire Administration (part of FEMA) cites that there are 2900 home clothes dryer fires every year resulting in an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss. And the leading cause: failure to clean them.” (

Dryer vent in a home being cleaned out with a round brush. There is a large pile of lint that has been removed from the vent on a white tiled floor. The walls and baseboards are white. The lint is gray. Taken with a Canon 5D Mark 3 camera. rm

Dryer vent in a home being cleaned out with a round brush.

Washing Machine

Washing machines are pretty clean since you often use hot water to clean your clothes, but they still need attention about once a month. To clean your washer, just run an empty load with hot water and bleach.

Shot of a young family having fun while doing laundry

Toothbrush Holder

According to NSF International, this is one of the germiest items in a home. Pretty gross considering it holds the item you clean your mouth with.

Single toothbrush in white beveled cup against blue tile



According to, you should be cleaning your sofa with a vacuum every 2 weeks and it should get a deep clean once a year. Hey, the silver-lining is you may find some spare change while you are flipping those couch cushions over!

Cleaning Sofa Pillow

Toilet Bowl Handle

Think outside of the box bowl. Use a disinfectant wipe and make sure to close the lid to avoid airborne germs!

All done!

Ice Trays

Does your ice taste funny? There is a chance that may be from the ice tray being dirty and not actually your water. Here is a quick way to clean it.

Stacked ice cube trays in a freezer

Makeup Brushes

Brushing bacteria onto your face may not be your first thought you have as you apply powder, blush or eyeshadow to your face, but if you aren’t cleaning them regularly it is exactly what you are doing. Make sure to clean all of your brushes once a month.

brushes on eye shadows palette

10 Surprising Ways to Find More Space in Your Home

How are you doing with your 2018 New Year's Resolutions? Most people dust off the running shoes or sign up for a gym membership to tackle their new goals. However, how are we supposed to eat healthier if our pantries are overflowing, or be inspired to hit the pavement every morning if we are looking at piles of clothes? To lead a more organized and inspired life in 2018, the clutter around you must be cleared. It’s simple– if your home is organized, your mindset will be too.

A clean and balanced home is actually a launching pad for all of your other resolutions. So, if you are already starting to fail at your self-resolutions, try this home resolution: find more space in your home by clearing out the clutter. Follow these ten tips and I promise it will inspire you to complete your other resolutions and lead you to a more organized, happier year!

1The pantry. Create room by removing the large and awkward food packaging. Purchase clear, air-tight containers, take the box of your food item, and cut out the product name, nutritional facts and expiration date. Tape them to the inside of your clear container and then seal the food.

2. The pantry shelves. Arrange the food on your shelves to help keep your resolutions. Make “first choice” shelves for the food that you want to stay on that diet. Make shelves that are for the kids snacks or foods that you’re just not going to have on a regular basis anymore… You get the idea. Some shelves are just for the once a week treat. Some are for every day.

3. The pantry. If you like to buy in bulk, put the bulk of your paper goods in another location, perhaps a closet or the garage, and place only what you need in your pantry— restock as needed.

4. The kitchen. When storing pots, pans and other durable items, stack them on their sides like files. This simple step not only creates more room, it also allows you to see exactly what you need. Caddies or sorters from a shelf or container store are great tools for vertical organizing

5. The dresser. Place clothing in drawers vertically (not the traditional horizontal piles) because it not only maximizes space, it allows you to find items more quickly. You can purchase wooden planks or plastic planks to use as dividers. This way you can see all of your clothes at once when you open the drawer.

6. The closet. If your shoes don’t have a place, they end up in a pile taking up valuable space. Place shoes and accessories in clear plastic containers so you can see everything and tape their photo to the inside of their container with photo facing out. This little step gives you triple duty: more space, you can find it easily and better yet, you can put it away in the exact same spot for next time that hot date rolls around…

7. Use color to keep it straight. Organize your closet and drawers dark to light. It can be great way to find out that you really have way too many black blouses… and you can keep your resolution of being a kinder, gentler you by donating the extras!

8. The kids’ rooms. Purchase bed raisers for under-the-bed storage. You can store everything from shoes, laundry basket, books and any bulky items that might otherwise clutter their room.

9. The baby’s closet. Is there room to add another bar? Take advantage of the fact that baby clothing is smaller and if you can, add an additional bar to hang the clothing to maximize space. You can purchase premade closet organizers that you can customize to make the most out of baby’s closet.

10. The best trick to more space in your home, less is more! So, if you find you have extra things laying around, throw a reverse housewarming party! You will be starting a new party trend. Set aside your unwanted items and instead of having your friends bring a housewarming gift, they are to pick one of your items and take it home with them. This is a great way to reunite with friends, find your unwanted things a good home, and de-clutter all at the same time!

Now that the clutter around you is cleared your mind will be clearer to meet all those 2018 goals!

How to Hide Unsightly Blemishes Around Your Home

What makes a house a home? It’s a hard question to answer, but a large part of it is the years of memories you’ve made in it. Oftentimes that includes the blemishes, flaws and dents on the walls and furniture that serve as lasting impressions of cherished moments and fun times. However, whether you’re selling your home or just making it presentable for guests, there are times you’ll want to camouflage them up. Read on for 10 clever ways to disguise your home’s flaws.


Create a Gallery Wall

Put your inner art connoisseur to work to blend random light switches or bulky thermostats into your design. Strategically place similarly sized artwork around switch plates, outlet covers and wall gadgets to distract the eye. If you want to cover it entirely, mount a canvas painting over it or hang art from a swing arm so you can reach behind it when necessary.



Hang Long Drapes

Window treatments are generally used for, you guessed it, windows, but they certainly aren’t restricted to other uses. Drape big and breezy curtains above to disguise unsightly wall features or awkward off-center windows. Off-white and cream shades are perfect to use during all seasons, such as the one seen in this Swedish bedroom that cleverly conceals the radiator and window when pulled closed.



Paint the Wall

This is probably one of the most obvious solutions to drywall chips and paint scratches, but here are some guidelines to help you get it right. Stick to one matte color for the walls, ceiling and trim to downplay the lines between and blend them together. Remember, the glossier the paint finish is, the more it will highlight imperfections.

Consider chalkboard paint for a non-glossy texture and an ever-changing wall feature. You can create your own design and erase it as your style evolves or use it to jot down lists and reminders.

Add wallpaper. Use wallpaper to inject personality and fun into any space. Choose from subtle designs to a dramatic mural or anywhere in between. Keep optical illusions in mind when picking patterns. For example, a striped design can make a small space look taller or wider.



Cover it With Clothes

If you have a scratch on your bedroom wall that just won’t go away, play fashionista and move a shop-style clothing rack in front. Showcase some of your most stylish garments or everyday staples on the rack to lighten your closet’s load.



Lay Down a Rug

Roll out a gorgeous area rug over all the nicks and notches on your floor from moving furniture or dropping heavy items. Especially great for renters, rugs come in a variety of styles, colors and price points to fit your personal preferences without committing to a permanent change.



Rethink the Fifth Wall

This is a bit of a heavier project to take on, but perhaps most rewarding for those left with an infamous popcorn ceiling. Upgrade overhead stucco for a beautiful new feature with paint or paneling. Try white beadboard or wood slats for irresistible rustic charm.



Work Around Wall Vents

Air vents are necessary for cooling, heating and any other home circulation systems, but can be quite unattractive. Conceal them with slotted laser-cut screens that add texture and visual interest. In this D.C. living room, the revamped air return works double duty as a display shelf.



Choose Your Switches Wisely

Light switches and power outlets are must-haves in every home and there’s often no easy way around them. Wherever possible, especially in the kitchen and bathroom, group your electrical outlets together and shop for new switch plates that complement the existing wall. You can blend them into an existing pattern, as seen here, or make them a fun feature with vibrant colors and textured materials.

Embrace imperfections. After all, they’re what makes your house so special. You can capitalize on the look and help them blend in by investing in distressed furnishings, such as rustic coffee tables or stained wood floors. You won’t have to worry too much about future drops or spills and they instantly add built-in age and character to any space.

Speedy Home Sales: Top 5 Things Buyers Were Looking for in 2017

Are you curious to know what it takes for your community to see speedy home sales in 2018? In order to determine what makes home sales happen quickly, as agents, we look at the patterns. We compile the data and compare it, year over year. So if you are wondering what it takes to sell your home quickly in 2018 or “What did the homes that sold in 2017 in 30 days or fewer have in common?” we can tell you that.


Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top five things buyers were looking for in the last year.

1. Square Footage

On average, the homes that sold in less than 30 days were built at around 1,500 square feet. Median square footage was 1,470 square feet. About half of the homes had basements (not included in the square footage measurements).


According to an article by the National Association of Home Builders, the NAHB, national averages in new builds have been around 2,600 square feet since 2016 and on a steady increase.


The article stated that: “The post-recession increase in single-family home size is consistent with the historical pattern coming out of recessions. Typical new home size falls prior to and during a recession as some home buyers tighten budgets, and then sizes rise as high-end home buyers, who face fewer credit constraints, return to the housing market in relatively greater proportions.”


2. Bedrooms and Bathrooms


According to the National Association of Home Builders, homes are most often built to include 2.56 bathrooms and 3.38 bedrooms. These figures coincide with what buyers were looking for in 2017. The vast majority of homes that sold were 3 bedroom, 2 bath homes. These homes are usually preferable because they can accommodate growing families, guests, or retirees all the same.


Nationally speaking, master bedrooms trend at making up 12% of the square footage space. Second and third bedrooms account for nearly 17% of the home space. Lastly, bathrooms account for approximately 12% of the square footage. Most of the floorplans are dedicated to living spaces, family rooms, dining, and kitchens — totaling nearly 40%. The remaining square footage is dedicated to spaces such as foyers, closets, pantries, laundry, and garages.


3. Financing


When it comes to how homes are selling quickly, financing accounts for 37% of home sales. While most homes sold for cash (16 homes or 59%) the remainder of sales were done through a mortgage (10 homes or 37%). One home sold on a land contract.


Of the 27 homes sold within 30 days in 2017, the average sale price was $260,063. It is important to note that the highest sale price was $1,000,000 and the lowest was $60,000. Because there is such a disparity between the highest and the lowest sale price, knowing the median sale price is more indicative of the trend. The median sale price was $175,000, with the majority of homes (15) selling under $200,000.


Finally, the average price per square foot was $173, and the median price per square foot was $152.


4. Garages


It appears that if you want to see a speedy home sale, you should make sure you have a garage. Nearly all homes sold (with the exception of two) had at least a one-car garage and on average a two-car garage. It’s no wonder residents want garages; with our harsh winters, it only makes sense to have a safe place to house a car. So if you don’t have one already, you may want to consider adding on a garage. It may help with a quicker sale, and it is also likely to increase your home’s value too. In fact, the data shows, that of homes sold in the same neighborhood with much of the same features, the 2 homes with garages sold at substantially higher prices than those without.


5. Stick-Built


Of all of the criteria that helped contribute to speedy home sales in 2017, having a “stick-built” home seemed to be on trend; 23 of the 27 homes were built on the site where they reside.


“Stick-built” or “site-built” homes tend to hold their value at a much better rate than manufactured homes. This is because the materials used for “site-built” homes tends to be of higher quality, making them more desirable. This fact coincides with the next, that site-built homes look better in the eyes of lenders. If an investment holds its value longer, simply put, it is the better investment.


Of all the things that helped to push faster sales in 2017, it should be noted that location, correct pricing, and marketing are also factors that can contribute. Because each home is unique, it is important to get a professional market analysis from a real estate agent who knows your market area. Perhaps there are some things you can work on to help your home sell such as staging or small repairs, but you won’t know until you get a professional opinion. Call an agent today.

Say Hello to Mother Nature This Winter

Many of our gardens have withered, frozen over and turned barren for the season. We’ll be cuddling up indoors for the next couple months, but it’s essential to bring life and light indoors to help combat the winter blues. Research has shown that exercising your green thumb this month can help boost your mood and health. Here are seven easy ways to get started.


Add houseplants. Houseplants are incredibly versatile and welcome in every room of the house. Even for the most novice gardener, succulents and cacti are very low-maintenance options to start with. Think about proportion, form and texture when choosing plants to complement your existing style and bring it to life.

Start With These Top 10 Houseplants


Buy freshly cut flowers. If you’re looking for a shorter commitment and a burst of color this winter, look no further than your local farmer’s market or grocery store. Roses, lilies and tulips are beautiful in-season options and add a lovely fragrance indoors. Shop for decorative vases for an even brighter display and don’t forget to water them daily. The entryway, dining table and nightstand are great places to showcase their beauty.


Bring in reclaimed or live-edge wood. Add tree bark indoors for a naturalistic look and rustic vibe. Live-edge wood maintains the natural shape of the tree, which results in one-of-a-kind shelves, tables and even countertops. This New York home takes on a stylish and unique approach by implementing a live-edge sliding barn door. You can also incorporate reclaimed wood in your design with furniture or wall and floor treatments.


Stock up on firewood. ‘Tis the season of long nights spent cozying up around the fire. Capitalize on your fire feature by keeping wooden logs nearby, stacked up in the corner of a room or stored in baskets. If you have a non-functional fireplace, you can still fill it with firewood to create visual interest.


Paint the walls green. If your walls are in need of a revitalizing refresh, choose Mother Nature’s neutral. We’re not talking about bright lime or neon green here, but rather a soothing shade of pale green or deeper olive hues. These shades exhibit calming properties, making them excellent color candidates for any room in the house. Not sure where to start? A Houzz study shows that green is a popular choice for kitchen walls and backsplashes.


Hang a photograph of nature. You can also welcome the outdoors in with a large-scale photograph of your favorite landscape. Blow up a personal picture from your travels or shop for awe-inspiring professional photos. Customize the mood by choosing a sunny field, a dark and mysterious forest or crashing waves on an ocean shore.


Carve out a skylight. Natural light has a plethora of positive effects from improving health to boosting productivity. This tip is especially helpful for those suffering from seasonal affective disorder. Installing a skylight or solar tube may be an ambitious task but will soon pay off in a wide variety of ways. If your roof doesn’t allow this configuration, expansive wall-to-wall or floor-to-ceiling windows are great alternatives.

The 2018 Home Upgrades for New Homeowners

The best way to personalize your space and give it a fresh, polished vibe is to make upgrades—big or small—that let your personality shine. Whether you’re ready to undertake a major remodeling project or only have the budget for a few modern touches, these DIY renovation ideas are a great place to start.

Welcome 2018 with an updated home that’s perfect for new beginnings and a lifetime of memories.

Make Your Kitchen Colorful

Gone is the popularity of a white, monochromatic kitchen. More homeowners are embracing bold accent colors on their countertops, backsplashes and cabinets, from vivid yellow and burnt orange to chic turquoise and dignified navy.

Another popular trend is juxtaposing the stainless steel appliances with warm, vibrant hues that make a space more inviting while keeping that sleek look.

  • Small budget: When repainting, choose a two-toned base. For example, “dark colors offset with lighter or brighter colors…offer visually entertaining and appealing levels of contrast,” advise the contemporary design experts at Interior Zine.
  • Big budget: Replace all appliances with stainless steel; then do the painting.

Upgrade Your Storage Space

Finding enough room to store seasonal decorations, filing papers, hardware tools, keepsake items, cleaning products and office supplies is a common struggle of homeownership. Luckily, there are a number of creative and resourceful hacks for increasing the amount of storage without reconfiguring your entire space.

  • Small budget: You don’t have to find room in your home for more storage—head to the garage first. Take advantage of the walls by hanging DIY peg boards and adjustable wall panels: “With the help of hooks, you have the freedom of hanging your things anywhere and any way you want: in the center, horizontally, vertically, at the bottom, or top,” suggest garage experts. 
  • Big budget: Invest in new furniture pieces that double as decorative and functional, like an old chest that you can keep in the living room or a coffee table with a storage space below.

Give Your Walls More Texture

Textured walls is a fun way to infuse character into any room, whether you’re into exposed brick, wooden shiplap, geometric molding or smooth tile. Walls are a blank canvas for experimentation, so harness your inner designer and play around with different materials or wallpapers that mimic the feel of those materials.

Note that you can combine more than one texture in the same room to create a particularly unique and artistic ambiance. For instance, a “grungy” or “rustic” wall could be adjacent to a “wavy design on the accent wall,” says Kareen Liez, civil engineer and architecture enthusiast.

  • Small budget: If you have unfinished drywall, use this to your advantage, with these ideas from Vintage Revivals or this idea from The Creativity in the Chaos.
  • Big budget: Go in all the way with high-quality wallpaper that creates texture with patterns or invest in the laundry list of materials needed to create your own exposed brick wall, for example. If your budget is flexible, there are many ways to tackle this project.

Re-Do the Garage Flooring

The garage has become an extension of a home’s living space that should be both aesthetic and functional. To take your garage to the next level, and turn it into a space you actually enjoy being in, start with the boring concrete floor—replace it with an epoxy coating.

This material is “noted for its durability and longevity,” according to flooring professionals. They explain: “With epoxy, you’ll enjoy protection against [mold] growth, as it offers a protective layer against moisture damage.” Not to mention, epoxy is also stain resistant and the surface repels chemicals, so if something spills, it won’t seep into your concrete.

  • Small budget: Take the DIY route and lay the epoxy flooring yourself. Use this tutorial from Family Handy Man to navigate through the process.
  • Big budget: Hire an epoxy company to handle the work, which can be done in one weekend.

Make the Space Your Own

A house is an expression of the people who live inside, so give your new home a splash of personality this year. You’ll feel great about the space and excited to show it off to your friends and family.