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A favorite pastime of many buyers scrolling through real estate listings—or walking through an open house—is fantasizing about what life could be like in that home.

You might spot a swanky “Mad Men”–style bar that would be perfect for book club nights. Or maybe you’ll begin planning the feasts you could whip up with that six-burner stove! And what about the garden’s burbling fountain? Ah, that sound would be perfect for falling asleep to every night.

But here’s the thing every buyer should know: When it comes to house hunting, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. Indeed a seller can rightfully haul off some items you may think automatically come with a house you purchase. So here’s a helpful reality check before your imagination runs too wild. (Bonus: We share tips to keeping some of those fixtures you absolutely love.)

What’s included in a home sale?

Precisely what comes with a home is not cut and dried, and each state has its own set of guidelines regarding this issue. But there are some guiding principles.

“If an item is attached, it is considered a fixture and by default should stay with the house,” says Dj Olhausen, an agent with Realty ONE Group in San Diego. “On the other hand, if an item is not attached, it may very well leave with the seller.”

If that still seems vague, “fixture” is a real estate term used to describe items that are physically attached to the house via nails, screws, bolts, glue, cement, or electrical wiring. Standard fixtures inside the home include ceiling fans, blinds, plumbing and heating elements, and built-in appliances. Outside the four walls, items that generally stay put include mailboxes, shutters, backyard office sheds, and in-ground landscaping.

Attachment issues

You might assume a refrigerator that looks built-in stays with the house or that the sellers will take their kid’s swingset with them. That’s where the acronym MARIA can help you identify fixtures:

Just keep in mind there are some common-sense exceptions to the definition of “attached to the property.” For example, let’s say the owners have a dresser that’s bolted to the wall to prevent it from toppling over on a toddler, or they have bookcases attached with earthquake straps to keep them from tipping over. In those cases, the actual furniture isn’t considered a fixture.

What about outside the home?

“In general, any object attached to the ground is considered a fixture, while anything that can be moved freely will be deemed personal property,” says Olhausen.

Still, when you are touring a home, it may not be apparent if something is attached or not.

“So when it comes to deciding if an outdoor item is viewed as a fixture or someone’s property, ask yourself if it can easily be removed without the use of tools,” says Olhausen.

For example, electric vehicles typically require hardwiring and electrical system upgrades for a charging station.

“I have found that some sellers are taking the connector [a portable, plug-in charger], but the electrical setup stays with the property,” says Wendy Gladson, a real estate consultant at Compass in Marina del Ray, CA.

Personal property that will definitely leave on moving day includes items like potted plants, sheds that lay freely on the ground, or any item that can be moved without being disassembled, according to Olhausen.

Everything is negotiable

You may really want that coat and shoe organization unit that fits perfectly in the entry hall or maybe that beer fridge in the man cave. So remember, there is wiggle room when it comes to what stays and what goes in a home sale.

However, the local housing market may dictate how far you get when you try to negotiate. In a cooler market, buyers have more leverage when asking for items. But you might not get the extras you want in a hot seller’s market.

If you’re still confused, don’t worry—you’re not on your own trying to figure out what stays or goes. Your buyer’s agent will know what fixture exclusions are explicitly stated in the multiple listing service, and will also help you negotiate for items you want.

“Just do not assume anything,” says Suzi Dailey an agent with Realty ONE Luxe, in Laguna Niguel, CA. “If you want something, it should be written into the contract.”

Source: Realtor.com, Lisa Marie Conklin

You may be wondering if there are tax deductions when selling a home. And the answer is: You bet!

Sure, you may remember way back to 2018 and its new tax code—aka the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—changed some rules for homeowners. But rest assured that if you sold your home in 2021 (or are planning to in the future), your tax deductions when you file with the IRS can still amount to sizable savings.

Want a full rundown of all the deductions (as well as tax exemptions or other write-offs) at a home seller’s disposal? Check out this list to make sure you don’t miss any of them.

1. Selling costs

These deductions are allowed as long as they are directly tied to the sale of the home, and you lived in the home for at least two of the five years preceding the sale. Another caveat: The home must be a principal residence and not an investment property.

“You can deduct any costs associated with selling the home—including legal fees, escrow fees, advertising costs, and real estate agent commissions,” says Joshua Zimmelman, president of Westwood Tax and Consulting in Rockville Center, NY.

This could also include home staging fees, according to Thomas J. Williams, a tax accountant who operates Your Small Biz Accountant in Kissimmee, FL.

Just remember that you can’t deduct these costs in the same way as, say, mortgage interest. Instead, you subtract them from the sales price of your home, which in turn positively affects your capital gains tax (more on that below).

2. Home improvements and repairs

Score again! If you renovated a few rooms to make your home more marketable (and so you could fetch a higher sales price), you can deduct those upgrade costs as well. This includes painting the house or repairing the roof or water heater.

But there’s a catch, and it all boils down to timing.

“If you needed to make home improvements in order to sell your home, you can deduct those expenses as selling costs as long as they were made within 90 days of the closing,” says Zimmelman.

3. Property taxes

This deduction is capped at $10,000, Zimmelman says. So if you were dutifully paying your property taxes up to the point when you sold your home, you can deduct the amount you paid in property taxes last year up to $10,000.

4. Mortgage interest

As with property taxes, you can deduct the interest on your mortgage for the portion of the year you owned your home.

Just remember that under the 2018 tax code, new homeowners (and home sellers) can deduct the interest on up to only $750,000 of mortgage debt, though homeowners who got their mortgage before Dec. 15, 2017, can continue deducting up to the original amount up to $1 million, according to Zimmelman.

Note that the mortgage interest and property taxes are itemized deductions. This means that for it to work in your favor, all of your itemized deductions need to be greater than the new standard deduction, which the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubled when it went into effect.

To make matters a tad more complicated, those figures changed once again in 2021, increasing to $12,550 for individuals, $18,800 for heads of household, and $25,100 for married couples filing jointly.

5. Capital gains tax for sellers

The capital gains rule isn’t technically a deduction (it’s an exclusion), but you’re still going to like it.

As a reminder, capital gains are your profits from selling your home—whatever cash is left after paying off your expenses, plus any outstanding mortgage debt. And yes, these profits are taxed as income. But here’s the good news: You can exclude up to $250,000 of the capital gains from the sale if you’re single, and $500,000 if married. The only big catch is you must have lived in your home at least two of the past five years.

And remember that capitol gains are calculated on the cost basis of your home, not the original purchase price. What’s cost basis? Say you purchase a home for $400,000, then spend $100,000 on improvements, you would have a cost basis of $500,000. A married couple could then sell for the home for $500,000 (after living there two years) without having to pay any capital gains taxes.

In other words, the higher your cost basis, the smaller your tax bill once you sell. Just remember to keep track of every single home improvement receipt.

Finally, look for the rules of this exemption to possibly change in a future tax bill.

Source: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry

The prices of goods used in residential construction ex-energy climbed 3.6% in January (not seasonally adjusted), according to the latest Producer Price Index (PPI) report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The index was led higher by a 25.4% jump in softwood lumber prices and 9.0% price increases for indoor and outdoor paint.

Building materials prices increased 20.3%, year-over-year, and have risen 28.7% since January 2020. Over the past four months, the index has climbed 8.4%.

The price index of services inputs to residential construction increased 2.9% in January following a 1.3% increase in December 2021. The index declined 13.5% between June and November last year but has increased 4.1% in the two months since.  The index is 8.9% higher than it was a year prior and 24.1% higher than the January 2020 reading.

Softwood Lumber

The PPI for softwood lumber (seasonally adjusted) increased 25.4% in January following 21.3% increase the month prior.  Since reaching its most recent trough in September 2021, prices have increased 73.9%.  According to Random Lengths data, the “mill price” of framing lumber has more than tripled since late August.

The PPI of most durable goods for a given month is largely based on prices paid for goods shipped, not ordered, in the survey month. This can result in lags relative to cash market prices and is why last month’s post indicated that “another sizable increase in the softwood lumber producer price index may be in the [January 2022] PPI report.”

Paint

The PPIs for both exterior as well as interior architectural coatings (i.e., paint) increased 9.0% in January. Year-over-year, the prices of exterior and interior paint have climbed 30.3% and 21.2%, respectively. Prior to 2021, the record 12-month price increase for exterior paint was 8.5% while that for interior paint was 10.1%–each of which was set in March 2019.

Steel Products

Steel mill products prices declined 1.9% in January, the first decrease in nearly a year and a half. Monthly increases in the PPI for steel mill products slowed in each of the five months preceding January 2022.

Even after the decline, however, prices have more than doubled over the past 12 months.

Ready-Mix Concrete

The PPI for ready-mix concrete (RMC) gained 1.4% in January after increasing 0.6% in December.  The index for RMC increased has been relatively volatile since mid-2020 and has climbed 9.1%, year-over-year (YoY). Prior to January 2021, year-over-year price increases had not exceeded 8.0% since December 2006.

Prices have risen an average of 0.6% per month since January 2021—double the 20-year average but lower than the housing boom average (+0.8%).

At the regional level, prices increased in the Northeast (0.4%), Midwest (0.9%), South (1.7%) and West (4.4%).  While RMC prices showed modest increases (year-over-year) in January 2021, the 12-month increases were significantly larger in January 2022 in each region except the Northeast.

 Gypsum Products

In January, the PPI for gypsum products climbed 3.4%–the 11th consecutive monthly increase.  Gypsum prices have decreased just once since August 2020 and have risen 31.4% since then.

Gypsum products prices have gained 23.0%, year-over-year, the largest increase since data became available in 2012 and more than quadruple the 10-year average.

Other Building Materials

The chart below shows the changes in other price indices relevant to the residential construction industry since January 2020.

Source: NAHB, David Logan

Cities are notoriously terrible for providing public restrooms. So a new app partnered with businesses like Home Depot and Texas Roadhouse to highlight available bathrooms.

Cities have a knack for becoming unfriendly, hostile places when you’re away from home and nature calls.ADVERTISEMENT

Public restrooms are vital public infrastructure, yet for decades cities across America have left it to private businesses like Starbucks and McDonald’s to pick up the slack. A new app wants to increase the number of public restrooms across the U.S. by leveraging the massive footprint of those businesses.

We Can’t Wait launched last week with more than 45,000 restroom locations listed around the country. It’s the leading initiative of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s Open Restrooms Movement, which seeks to raise public awareness about the lack of access to public restrooms. Approximately 1.6 million Americans currently suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The app was built with them in mind, but it could also prove useful for people experiencing homelessness, who often end up being further marginalized—and humiliated—for being forced to urinate in public.

We Can’t Wait joins a host of other apps with a similar mission (including Flush, Sit, and Toilet Finder) but it operates on a slightly different model: On top of crowdsourced locations, which can be unreliable, the app has partnered with retail and restaurant establishments like Home Depot, Texas Roadhouse, and Just Salad, putting more than 3,000 verified restroom locations on the map.

Public restrooms have long been neglected, but the pandemic has reaffirmed their importance. In fact, it was in 2020 that Michael Osso, the president and CEO of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, realized the magnitude of the problem. As public buildings closed and restaurants and coffee shops shifted to take-out only, thousands of restrooms became off-limits not only for those who could buy their way into a bathroom with a $4 cortado but also for people experiencing homelessness. “It became obvious there was a dearth of public restrooms in the U.S.,” he says. “It is a challenge broadly and that was exacerbated by COVID-19.”

The app reveals a major urban planning flaw in this country. While city planners often promote public spaces, reliable transit, and parks, they rarely address public restrooms. New York City, for example, has only 1,103 public restrooms for more than 8 million residents (and 63 million tourists every year). Most of them are located in parks or inside subway stations, with little to no regard for safety and comfort, let alone design. By comparison, the Tokyo Toilet project has been commissioning a who’s who of famous architects to design dazzling new public restrooms throughout the city center.

For Osso, one way to bring more restrooms to the public was to ask businesses to open up their own bathrooms. So far, three companies have signed on. With about 2,000 locations across the country, Home Depot is set to make the most impact, followed by Texas Roadhouse, with almost 600 locations in 49 states, and Just Salad, with 36 locations, mostly in New York City.

The map also includes crowdsourced locations, as well as places that are commonly known to have restroom access, like McDonald’s and Starbucks, which together account for more than 20,000 locations across the U.S. (On the map, partners’ business locations are marked with orange stars, while crowdsourced ones appear in yellow.) Osso says that most states have well over 500 locations on the app’s map, but some states are lagging. For example, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming have only 100 restrooms each. Naturally, the app’s success will depend on how many people continue to participate, and how many companies join the cause. To reach critical mass, Osso wants to continue partnering with businesses that have a large footprint.

For all of these companies, opening up their restrooms could be good for business, too. It may not be the point of the partnership, but Osso sees the potential. “You have an orange star and people are increasingly coming into your business,” Osso says. “I suspect you have an increased opportunity to make a sale.”

At the other end of the spectrum, however, is perhaps where the app could do the most good. For the 552,830 unhoused people in the country, 45,000 more restrooms could provide a safe and dignified space, until cities themselves step up to create more.

Source: Fast Company, Elissaveta Brandon

The pandemic-fueled trend of the “Great Resignation” has prompted a lot of people to leave their current jobs in search of new roles. For many people, that very well may be real estate, according to research findings from Google.

Google revealed the search trends of the jobs attracting the most attention on its search engine. The list identifies the top jobs people searched for in the U.S.

The industry has seen a rising number drawn to a real estate career since the pandemic began. The National Association of REALTORS® has seen its membership climb from about 1.4 million in 2019 to about 1.52 million in January 2022, according to the latest member data.

The top 10 jobs that are the most searched-for online in the U.S. (ranked in order), according to the Google study, are:

  1. Real estate agent
  2. Flight attendant
  3. Notary
  4. Therapist
  5. Pilot
  6. Firefighter
  7. Personal trainer
  8. Psychiatrist
  9. Physical therapist
  10. Electrician

The 15 states where searches for real estate careers dominated were California, Washington, Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Vermont.

Source: Realtor Magazine

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