East Coast Properties, LLC

Posted by East Coast Properties, LLC on 1/30/2017

Many new homeowners are eager to begin renovations on their home to make it fit the beautiful picture they have in their mind. Unfortunately the aesthetic improvements, while important, are often prioritized over important structural and functional repairs that should be made first. The key to making smart financial decisions for renovating your home is to have a good budget and to stick to it. Home improvements are one of the few expenses that people often forget to budget for, alongside car repairs and emergency medical expenses. If done properly, however, a budget will help you prioritize your repairs so you'll spend your time and money wisely. In this article, we'll explain how to budget for home repairs in a way that works for you and your family.

Understanding your money

To budget for home improvements, you first need to budget for other things in your life. Use an app or website like Mint or You Need a Budget to get a better understanding of how you spend your money. For some, budgeting for home improvements may mean cutting back on other spending areas. Fortunately, these apps break down all of your purchases by categories and help you spend less each month.

Ranking your renovations

If you're dying to update the bathroom but the roof needs to be redone, you should call the roofers first. Some home improvements are a ticking time bomb: deteriorating roofs, poor insulation, HVAC issues, water damage, and safety concerns like fire hazards are all problems that need to be addressed first on your budget. Some will save you money, others could save your life, but all of them are more important than adding closet space in your bathroom.

Estimating costs

Do your research when it comes to the the cost of repairs and home improvements. Once you have a ballpark figure, add it into your budgeting app as a new item on your budget. There is a general rule, when budgeting for home repairs, that you should set aside 1% of the cost of your home for maintenance and repairs each year. However, there are many other factors involved in how much it will cost to upkeep your home like the age of the house, the weather in your area, and how well-maintained the home was before you bought it.

Sticking to your budget

Everyone starts with good intentions, but keeping a budget isn't easy. Thankfully, it has been made much more manageable with the help of apps and websites that link right to your bank accounts. To stick to your home repair budget, make sure you sign up for reminders on your spending and progress. If you're keeping a budget the old fashioned way (pen and paper), put reminders on your calendar each month to check if you're spending too much on home repairs. Another key to successful budgeting it to make sure everyone in the house is on the same page. If your significant other plays a role in home repairs, go over your budget together. This will help you keep one another accountable and set priorities that work for everyone.

Posted by East Coast Properties, LLC on 3/21/2016

White distilled vinegar is effective for killing most mold, bacteria and germs due to it's high level of acidity. Vinegar is a weak form of acetic acid that is made from the fermentation of sugars and starches. White vinegar has so many different uses in the home; it is considered the “miracle cleaner”. It is pocketbook friendly, all natural, safe for pets and nontoxic. Why would you use anything else? It is a good idea to purchase two empty spray bottles, keep one full with pure white vinegar and the other with half water and half vinegar. This just makes it easier to dispense and have on hand at all times. A person can work wonders cleaning their home naturally just armed with vinegar and water. There are so many different uses for white vinegar in your home. Here are just a few ideas. Vinegar mixed with water is an excellent cleaner for all kitchen surfaces like counter tops, refrigerators and stove tops. To shine chrome fixtures simply make a paste of 2 tablespoons salt and 1 teaspoon white vinegar. To clean wooden cutting boards simply just wipe with vinegar. Clean refrigerator shelves with a solution of ˝ white vinegar and water. Did you know that soaking fruit and vegetables in 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water can remove up to 98% bacteria? Soak fruit and vegetables for at least 10 minutes then rinse to get best results. Vinegar is also useful in the laundry. To decrease lint in laundry add ˝ cup straight white vinegar to rinse cycle. To make your bright’s brighter add ˝ cup vinegar to the rinse cycle. If you have pets white vinegar is a good solution to have in house. If your dog has the mishap of getting sprayed by a skunk, use dilution of vinegar and water, rub dog’s fur then rinse with warm water. Repeat a couple times. To keep dogs from scratching their ears rub them with a cloth diluted with vinegar and water. Vinegar is so versatile in the home. You do not have to worry about the vinegar smell remaining after you use it because the smell dissipates after it dries. So, for people who believe in living green and healthy, white vinegar is a must have in the pantry closet.

Posted by East Coast Properties, LLC on 1/18/2016

It is great to have a room renovation every once in a while but painting and changing the look of a room can be costly and time consuming. Here are three quick and simple ways to change the look of your room without busting the budget.

  1. Window Treatments are one of the quickest, simplest and most affordable ways to change the whole look and feel of a room. If you prefer to take the focus away from the windows, choose neutral colors, and a simple style. If you would like to create a dramatic look and emphasize the view, choose more color or a bolder style in the window treatments. A layered look with sheers or a top treatment will also do the trick.
  2. Lighting can definitely add color. A simple solution would be to add colored bulbs to some of your light fixtures. Incandescent lighting can also add more warmth, and accent lighting can highlight an area of the room. Transform a room’s mood with dimmers, uplights, and sheer textile lampshades. Wall sconces, floor lamps and even candles can also change the look of a room.
  3. Artwork can change the look without busting the budget. Artwork can be from a local gallery, children’s drawings or just what you already have hanging around the house. Choose pieces that showcase intense colors but also work well with the existing pieces in your room. Try moving your current artwork around. Photos, vases, and other collectibles can give new life to a room. Group them in sets of three or five for an instant eye-catching display.
The possibilities are endless. You can infuse a lot of color into any room without once having to pry open a paint can or spend a fortune. Have fun!  

Posted by East Coast Properties, LLC on 12/1/2014

It is almost 2015 and now is the time to start thinking about tax planning strategies. Specifically, both the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the "Health Care Act") and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Jobs Creation Act (the "Tax Relief Act") were enacted into law in 2010 and offer certain tax planning opportunities. 1. Maximize your medical expense account A medical expense flexible spending account, or FSA (Flexible Spending Account), allows you to use before-tax earnings to pay for medical or health care expenses not covered by your health insurance. Assuming a 25 percent tax rate, this means that for every $100 you allocate to your health care FSA you will avoid $25 in tax. The Health Care Act limits the maximum contribution to these types of accounts to $2,500 starting in 2013, so 2014 is the last year to use an FSA to pay for orthodonture work or other large medical expenses on a tax favored basis. You should check the specifics of your employer's plan, but using before-tax dollars for medical expenses will maximize your health care dollars. 2. Is it time to sell? The Tax Relief Act maintained the top capital gains and dividends rate of 15 percent for 2011 and 2012. In 2013, the top capital gains rate will increase to 20 percent and the top dividends tax rate will increase to 39.6 percent. The Health Care Act also created a new 3.8 percent tax on investment income that will increase your tax rate by 3.8 percent on investment earnings if you file jointly and make over $250,000. While the threshold is relatively high, it is not indexed for inflation and applies the tax to all investment earnings to the extent modified income exceeds the threshold. As we saw with the Alternative Minimum Tax, what seems like a tax on those with higher income will likely become a broad based tax after some period of time due to the impact of inflation. Given these temporary lower rates, and the looming 3.8 percent tax, you might consider whether it makes sense to sell some capital assets in 2011 or 2012. Of course, tax considerations are only one factor when determining whether to buy, hold or sell an investment. 3. Consider converting retirement assets In 2010 there was a tremendous increase in conversions of traditional retirement assets to Roth 401(k)s or Roth IRAs due to the elimination of income limits on conversion and the one time opportunity to pay the conversion tax liability in 2011 and 2012. However, even without the ability to pay the tax liability over two years, converting to a Roth can still be a very powerful planning strategy. Roth retirement assets provide a tax-free asset that diversifies your retirement portfolio, allows for yearly retirement tax planning, and acts as a hedge against future tax rate increases. Roth IRA assets are also not subject to age 70 1/2 required minimum distributions or RMDs, which further enhances the power of the tax-free Roth growth. 4. Contribute to an IRA Many individuals do not realize that they can contribute to an IRA no matter how much income they make. The income limits for IRA contributions only apply to determine if the contribution to the IRA is deductible from income. If you have earned income and are not at least age 70 1/2, funding an IRA even on an after-tax basis can be a powerful savings strategy and can help to make up for past under saving. And don't wait to fund the IRA when you file your income tax return in April. You can make that contribution now and enjoy extra time to grow your retirement nest egg. 5. Make charitable contributions The Tax Relief Act extended for 2011 only a prior tax law provision permitting individuals age 70 1/2 or older to use up to $100,000 per year of IRA distributions to make charitable contributions and avoid paying income tax on that amount. Absent this provision the individual would have to include the IRA amount in income and then take a charitable deduction. Given the limitations on charitable contributions and itemized deductions under current law, it is very likely that this two step process would result in the individual not receiving a charitable deduction in an amount to offset the income recognition. If you are age 70 1/2 or older and you plan on making charitable contributions, by using your IRA funds you can maximize the tax benefit of that donation.

Categories: Money Saving Tips  

Posted by East Coast Properties, LLC on 2/10/2014

If you are looking for ways save money, cutting back on grocery expenses is often an easy way to reduce your spending. Here are ten tips to master frugal grocery shopping. A little planning can save you some big bucks over the long term. 1. Make a list. Before you head out to the store, prepare a list of everything you need, making sure you have everything needed for your weekly menu. Before you leave, check to make sure you don't have it in your pantry, fridge or freezer. Stick to that list and don't buy anything else. 2. Plan a menu. Plan a weekly menu for each week. This way you will know exactly what to buy. Be sure to plan a leftovers night. 3. Don't shop hungry. When you're hungry, everything looks good. When you shop hungry you'll end up spending a lot more. Eat first and then you will be able to stick to your list. 4. Set a budget. When you go to the store, know exactly how much you can spend. Then try your best to stick within that limit. Keep a running tally as you shop to ensure that you're within your budget. 5. Create a grocery spreadsheet. Keep your grocery receipts, then enter into a spreadsheet. This will be your price and comparison list. Use it so you know when bulk or sale items are a good deal. 6. Cook and freeze. Plan to cook a big amount of food and freeze it for multiple dinners. A great idea is to use one Sunday and cook a week's (or even a month's) worth of dinners. Plan 5-6 freezable dinners and cook them all at once. 7. Shop for specials. Every store has specials. Be sure to look for them in the newspaper, or when you get to the store. Don't buy things you don't use just because they are on sale; make sure you will use the items. 8. Buy store brands. Brand names are often no better than generic, and you're paying for all the advertising they do to have a brand name. Give the store brand a try, and often you won't notice a difference. 9. No "one-item" trips. They waste gas, and almost inevitably, you buy more than that one item. If you plan ahead, make a weekly menu, and shop with a list, this should drastically reduce the number of trips you make for a small number of items. 10. Stock up. Sale items can be a great deal. If it's an item you normally use, buy a bunch of them.