Your Guide to Claiming a Legit Home Office Tax Deduction

I’d bet that on just about every city block or long country road, someone is operating a business from their residence. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, about 50 percent of businesses are home-based, with a larger percentage (60 percent) working as solopreneurs with no employees.

Having a home-based business is one of the easiest and least risky ways to become an entrepreneur, test your business ideas, and increase your income. No matter if you run a business full-time or as a side gig, claiming the home office deduction can significantly reduce your taxes.

No matter if you run a business full-time or as a side gig, claiming the home office deduction can significantly reduce your taxes.

I received an email from John, who says, “My New Year's resolution is to earn more money working during my off-hours and on weekends. Since the work will likely entail making deliveries for different mobile apps, I’m not sure if it qualifies me for the home office tax deduction. Can you explain more about it?”

Thanks for your great question, John! In this post, I’ll give an overview of the home office deduction. You’ll learn who qualifies, which expenses are deductible, and how to legitimately claim this money-saving tax break no matter what type of business you have.

Who can claim the home office tax deduction

If you work for yourself in any type of trade or business, either full- or part-time, and your primary office location is your home, you have a home business. The designation applies no matter whether you sell goods and services, are a freelancer, consultant, designer, inventor, Uber driver, or dog-walker.

If you work for yourself in any type of trade or business, either full- or part-time, and your primary office location is your home, you have a home business. 

You can have a home-based business even if you’re like John and mostly earn income away from home. This is common for many trades and solopreneurs, such as musicians, sales reps, and those working in the gig economy. If you’re self-employed and do administrative work like scheduling, invoicing, communication, and recordkeeping at home, you have a home business.

Note that employees who work from home can’t claim a home office deduction. W-2 workers used to be allowed to include certain expenses if they itemized deductions. But tax reform took away that benefit starting with the 2018 tax year.

The home office deduction is available for any self-employed person no matter whether you own or rent your home, with the following two requirements:

  1. Your home office space is used regularly and exclusively for business
  2. Your home office is the principal place used for business

You must regularly use part of your home exclusively for conducting business. For example, if you use a guest room in your house or a nook in your studio apartment to run your business, you can take a home office deduction for the space.

You don’t need walls to separate your office, but it should be a distinct area within your home. The only exception to this “exclusive use” rule is when you use part of your home for business storage or as a daycare. In these situations, you can consider the entire space an office for tax purposes.

Additionally, your home must be the primary place you conduct business, even if it’s just the administrative work you do. For example, if you meet with clients or do work for customers away from home, you can still consider the area of your home used exclusively for business as your home office.

Your home doesn’t have to be the only place you work to qualify for the deduction. You might also work at a coffee shop or a co-working space from time to time.

You could also consider a separate structure at your home, such as a garage or studio, your home office if you use it regularly for business. Also, note that your home doesn’t have to be the only place you work to qualify for the deduction. You might also work at a coffee shop or a co-working space from time to time.

RELATED: How to Cut Taxes When You Work From Home

Expenses that are eligible for the home office tax deduction

If you run a business from home, two types of expenses are eligible for the home office deduction: direct expenses and indirect expenses.

Direct expenses are the costs to set up and maintain your office. For instance, if you work in a spare bedroom, you might decide to install carpet and window treatments. These expenses are 100 percent deductible, no matter the size of the office.  

Indirect expenses are costs related to your office that affect your entire home. They’re partially deductible based on the size of your office as a percentage of your home. 

For renters, your rent, renters insurance, and utilities are examples of indirect expenses. You’d have these expenses even if you didn’t have a home office.

For homeowners, you can't deduct the principal portion of your mortgage payment, which is the amount borrowed for the home. Instead, you’re allowed to recover a part of the cost each year through depreciation deductions, using formulas created by the IRS.

Other indirect expenses typically include mortgage interest, property taxes, home insurance, utilities, and maintenance. Allowable indirect expenses actually turn some of your personal expenses into home office business deductions, which is fantastic!

Allowable indirect expenses actually turn some of your personal expenses into home office business deductions, which is fantastic!

However, expenses that are entirely unrelated to your home office, such as remodeling in other parts of your home or gardening, are never deductible. So, your ability to deduct an expense when you’re self-employed depends on whether it benefits just your office (such as carpeting and wall paint) or your entire home (such as power and water).

Also, remember that business expenses unrelated to your home office—such as marketing, equipment, software, office supplies, and business insurance—are fully deductible no matter where you work.

How to claim the home office tax deduction

If you qualify for the home office deduction, there are two ways you can calculate it: the standard method or the simplified method.

The standard method requires you to determine the percentage of your home used for business. You divide the square footage of the area used for business by the square footage of your entire home.

For example, if your home office is 12 feet by 10 feet, that’s 120 square feet. If your entire home is 1,200 square feet, then diving 120 by 1,200 gives you a home office space that’s 10 percent of your home. That means 10 percent of the qualifying expenses of your home can be attributed to business use, and the remaining 90 percent is personal use. If your monthly power bill is $100 and 10 percent of your home qualifies for business use, you can consider $10 of the bill a business expense.

To claim the standard deduction, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, to figure out the expenses you can deduct and then file it with Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business.

The simplified method allows you to claim $5 per square foot of your office area, up to a maximum of 300 square feet. So, that caps your deduction at $1,500 (300 square feet x $5) per year.

The simplified method truly is simple because you don’t have to do any record-keeping, just measure the space and include it on Schedule C. It works best for small home offices, while the standard method is better when your office is larger than 300 square feet. You can choose the method that gives you the biggest tax break for any year.

But no matter which method you choose to calculate a home office tax deduction, you can’t deduct more than your business’ net profit. However, you can carry them forward into future tax years.

As you can see, claiming tax deductions for your home office can be complicated. I recommend that everyone who’s self-employed use a qualified tax accountant to maximize both home office and business tax deductions.

Yes, professional advice costs money. But it’s well worth it, and it usually saves money in the long run when you know how to take advantage of every legit tax deduction.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

When Should you Drop Full Coverage on your Car?

Full coverage car insurance covers you for most eventualities, but it is also expensive. You get what you pay for, and in this case, what you pay for is liability coverage, collision coverage, and comprehensive coverage.

The question is, how essential are all of these coverage options and at what point do they become surplus to requirements?

Your insurance coverage is never set in stone. You can increase your coverage as needed and drop coverage when it is no longer needed. Staying on top of everything is just a case of making the right choices at the right time.

What is Full Coverage Auto Insurance?

There are several different types of auto insurance, each covering you for something different. The most important cover is something known as liability insurance, which spans bodily injury and property damage and covers you when you injure another driver or their property.

Liability insurance is required in nearly all states and there are minimum coverage limits in all of them. To make sure you are legal, you need to meet these limits. If you want additional liability cover to protect your personal assets, you can pay more and aim higher.

Collision coverage and comprehensive coverage are also required if you want full coverage car insurance. With collision insurance, you are protected against damage caused to your own property, whether that damage is the result of a road traffic accident or a collision with a wall or guardrail. As for comprehensive insurance, it protects you against vandalism, theft, weather damage, and most of the things not covered by collision insurance.

A full coverage policy should also include some personal injury protection (PIP) cover, whether in the form of medical payments coverage or personal injury protection coverage. Both are designed to help you with medical bills and other expenses resulting from personal injury, while PIP goes one step further and covers you for transportation costs, childcare expenses, and loss of work.

All of these options are part of a full coverage insurance policy. There are also many additional coverage options and add-ons, but these aren’t necessarily part of a full coverage policy and, in most cases, need to be added for an extra cost. These options include:

  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Minimum cover car insurance won’t protect you if you are hit by an uninsured driver. It has been estimated that as many as 13% of all drivers on US roads are not insured and, in some states, this climbs as high as 25%. With uninsured motorist coverage, you will be protected for such eventualities.
  • Gap Insurance: When you purchase a brand new car on finance, the lender will often insist on gap insurance. A car depreciates rapidly and if that depreciation drops the value below the balance of the loan, the lender stands to lose out. Gap insurance protects them against such an outcome and covers the difference to make sure they get their money back if the car is written off.
  • New Car Replacement: A new car replacement policy will do exactly what the name suggests, providing you with a new vehicle in the event your current one is written off. Depending on the insurer, there will be limits concerning the age of the vehicle and the number of miles on the clock.
  • Roadside Assistance: With roadside assistance, you will be covered for essential services if you break down by the side of the road. It typically includes tire changes, fuel delivery, towing, lost key replacement, and more.
  • Pet Injury: What happens when your pet gets injured during a road traffic accident? If you have pet insurance, they will be covered through that. If not, many providers will give you a pet injury insurance add-on.
  • Rental Car Reimbursement: If your car is stolen or getting repaired, rental car reimbursement coverage will help you to cover the costs of a short term rental. This insurance option is often fixed at a daily sum of between $50 and $100 and lasts for no more than 30 days.
  • Accidental Death: A type of life insurance that focuses on accidents, paying a death benefit to a beneficiary when a loved one dies in an accident.

When to Drop Full Car Insurance Coverage

The value of the car you drive, along with your insurance rates and your driving record, will impact whether or not you should drop full coverage auto insurance. Take a look at the following examples to discover when this might be the right option for you:

1. Your Insurance Premiums are too High

If your car insurance rates are higher than the size of a payout following an accident, it might be time to trim the fat. Insurance is a gamble, a form of protection. You pay a small sum of money in the knowledge that you’ll be covered for a large sum if something untoward happens. But if you reach a point when your premiums begin to exceed the potential payout, it’s no longer useful.

2. You Have an Old Car

The lower your car’s value, the less you need full coverage car insurance. If you’re driving around in a car that costs less than $1,000 and you’re paying $2,000 for the pleasure, you may as well be throwing your money down a wishing well.

In the event of an accident, you’ll have a deductible to pay and that deductible could be near the value of the car. In such cases, it will nearly always make more sense to stick with minimum insurance and to just scrap your car if anything serious happens.

3. You Have a Large Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is a sum of money you keep to one side to cover you for emergencies, including job issues, medical bills, broken appliances, and car troubles. If you have such a fund available, you have a few more options at your disposal and can consider dropping full coverage.

It will save you money in the long term and if anything happens in the short term, you still have options and won’t be completely financially destitute.

Bottom Line: When It’s Needed

While there are times when full coverage is unnecessary and excessive, there are also times when it is essential. If you have a new car, for instance, you should get all of the cover you can afford, otherwise, you could be seriously out of pocket following an accident or theft.

 

When Should you Drop Full Coverage on your Car? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What Is Uninsured Motorist Insurance?

What is Uninsured Motorist Insurance?

If you buy or lease a car, you’ll need to arrange for insurance coverage. Not only is it the law in most states, it will also protect your bank account in the event of an accident. However, if you’re involved in an accident and the other driver doesn’t have car insurance, you could run into problems. That’s the thinking behind uninsured motorist insurance. 

Compare checking accounts here. 

Uninsured Motorist Insurance Basics

If two people who both have car insurance get in a car crash, they exchange insurance information. The other driver’s insurance company generally pays your expenses if you’re in a crash. So what happens if the other driver doesn’t have insurance? There’s no one to pay you, cover your car repair or replacement or foot your medical bills if you’re injured. Your own car insurance may cover those costs, but it depends on the plan.

That’s where uninsured motorist insurance comes in. Uninsured motorist insurance policies offer protection against property damage or personal injury resulting from a run-in with an uninsured driver. There are a lot of bad drivers out there, and plenty of people who drive regularly but can’t afford car insurance. Have a run-in with one of them and you could end up covering your own medical and car repair bills.

In 22 states and the District of Columbia, drivers are required to have uninsured motorist insurance, so if you have vehicle insurance you’re covered in the event of a crash with an uninsured driver. But if you live in a state that doesn’t require uninsured motorist coverage, your regular car insurance policy may not protect you from bills if you’re in a crash with a driver who doesn’t have car insurance.

Check out our budget calculator.

Is Uninsured Motorist Insurance Necessary?

What is Uninsured Motorist Insurance?

If you live in a state that requires uninsured motorist coverage as part of the minimum coverage requirement for all auto insurance policies, you have at least some protection from uninsured drivers. You can always call your insurance company to check on the kind of coverage you have and discuss your coverage options.

If you live in a state that doesn’t require uninsured motorist coverage, the question becomes: Should you buy uninsured motorist insurance as an add-on policy to your regular car insurance? Before you decide, it’s worth pricing it out.

First, you can call your car insurance provider and check what level of coverage you already have against uninsured motorists. Your existing plan may provide some level of protection against medical bills and/or car repair bills resulting from a crash with an uninsured motorist.

If you don’t have any coverage or if you think your coverage levels are insufficient, you can ask your insurance provider how much it would cost you to add uninsured motorist insurance to your coverage package. You can also get quotes from other car insurance companies and opt for the policy that provides the best coverage for the lowest price.

Uninsured motorist insurance can give you some extra protections, too, such as coverage in the event that a hit-and-run driver crashes into your car or in the event that you’re struck by a vehicle as a pedestrian. So even those with built-in protection against uninsured motorists through their regular car insurance may be tempted to add extra coverage.

Related Article: All About Car Loan Amortization

Bottom Line

What is Uninsured Motorist Insurance?

Just because you have car insurance that you’re paying for every month doesn’t mean you’re protected in all eventualities. If reading this article has made you nervous that you might not have enough – or any – protection against uninsured motorists, this could be a good time to get your insurance company on the phone, particularly if you live in a state with a high percentage of uninsured drivers.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/bowdenimages, Â©iStock.com/bowdenimages, Â©iStock.com/vm

The post What Is Uninsured Motorist Insurance? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

The Safest Place in Your Apartment During a Tornado

Tornadoes are no joke. With winds that can top 250 miles per hour, these storms can clear a path a mile wide and 50 miles long. Emerging from afternoon thunderstorms, tornadoes usually include hail and high winds. This is why you need to take cover when the warning siren goes off.

The average alert time for a tornado is 13 minutes, but there are environmental clues one is on its way. The sky transforms into a dark, greenish mass and begins to roar like an oncoming train.

Tornadoes can happen anywhere

Tornadoes occur all over the world, but, “In terms of absolute tornado counts, the United States leads the list, with an average of over 1,000 tornadoes recorded each year,” according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

The U.S. experiences tornadoes all over the country, but one particular area gets hit the hardest. Known as Tornado Alley, the area covers South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Northern Texas and Eastern Colorado.

tornado alley map

Source: Accuweather

Whether you live in an area where tornadoes are common or not, it’s important to know how to stay safe in your apartment. Just as you create a plan for many emergency situations, know where to go in your apartment during these destructive storms.

Staying safe in an apartment building

On average, tornadoes move at speeds of about 10-20 miles per hour. They rarely travel more than six miles, which means they can damage a whole section of town. For that reason, if a tornado is in your area, seek shelter.

Basement

While basements are not an option in all apartment buildings, get low if you can during a tornado. Heading to the basement or even the sub-level of a parking garage offers the most insulation against the weather.

If your building doesn’t have a basement, try to get to the lowest floor if you can, regardless of whether or not it’s underground.

Interior rooms

The next safest option during a tornado is any area fully-inside the building. This means no outside walls. Under a stairwell, an interior hallway or even a room within your apartment can work. Make sure there are no windows.

Crouch down as low as you can get with your face down. Cover your head with your hands for extra protection or bring in a bike helmet to wear during the storm. Because of your location, there’s still a chance for debris to fall, so protecting your head is important.

Bathroom

Even if they have an exterior wall or windows, bathrooms are safe because the thick pipes inside the walls insulate you during a tornado. Climb into the bathtub if you have one and bring in your bed’s mattress to serve as a cover.

Closet

These are usually interior rooms by design, making closets a good choice to ride out a tornado. Pull your clothes off their hangers and grab any bedding from the shelves to insulate yourself. Don’t forget to close the closet door for even more protection.

tornado

Avoid dangerous areas

Tornadoes kill about 80 people each year, according to John Roach at AccuWeather. There was a decrease in tornado fatalities in 2018, with only 10 Americans dying. This is the lowest number since record-keeping started in 1875.

Yet, people still lose their lives to these dangerous storms. While knowing the safest places to be in your apartment during a tornado, you should also know what areas to avoid.

Windows

With gusting winds strong enough to shatter glass, windows become dangerous during a tornado. Even worse, once a window breaks, all kinds of debris can blow inside.

If you can’t stay completely clear from windows during a tornado, do your best to block them and protect yourself. If you can, duct tape a blanket over the window or slide a big piece of furniture in front to keep glass out of your apartment.

Heavy objects

While it may seem like a good idea to slide under your bed or inch behind a heavy dresser for protection during a tornado, it’s not. These pieces of furniture can shift during a storm or even fall through the floor. You don’t want to get pinned under or against something so heavy you can’t move.

Preparing for a tornado

If you live in an area where tornado warnings are common, consider creating a tornado evacuation kit to have on hand. These can include items you’d need to safely and easily exit your apartment after a tornado passes, such as:

  • Portable radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Cell phone charger
  • Bottled water
  • Spare set of car and apartment keys
  • Photocopy of your driver’s license
  • Cash

Having these items ready can make it easier to evacuate your building after the storm.

Remaining safe after the tornado passes

Being safe doesn’t stop once a tornado passes. Dealing with the aftermath of this type of storm includes new dangers. Make sure to watch out for fallen or exposed utility lines, downed trees or limbs and debris.

Exercise extreme caution when leaving your apartment building. If enough damage occurs, you may have to stay out of your apartment. You may not see the dangers, so it’s important to wait for an official word before reentering. When you can, take pictures of any damage to your own property since you’ll most likely have to file an insurance claim.

Preparing for the unexpected such as weather, fire or even flood means having the right supplies and the best information on how to stay safe.

The post The Safest Place in Your Apartment During a Tornado appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

How Long Does It Take To Buy A House?

How long does it take to buy a house? The answer is: it depends. You can buy a house in a matter of weeks or it can take you anywhere from 4 to 6 months. The question is how ready are you? It can take a long time, and that’s just learning about various mortgage options or improving your credit score.

So understanding the various factors involved in buying a house can give you an estimate of how long it will take you to buy the house

Check out now: 5 Signs You Are Not Ready To Buy A House

How long does it take to buy a house? A step-by-step guide.

It can take a homebuyer a few weeks to several months to complete the home buying process. But when determining how long it will take you to buy a house, you first have to find out if you will be pre-approved for a mortgage. There is no sense of shopping for a house to then realize you can’t afford it.

If you are interested in comparing the best mortgage rates through LendingTree click here. It’s completely free.

I. How long does it take to get a pre-approved mortgage letter in order to buy a house?

If you’re serious about buying a house, it’s important to get pre-approved for a mortgage. So when it’s time to make an offer, the seller will know you’re serious. If you don’t have one handy, the seller will likely move to the next buyer.

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage in order to buy a house can take longer. That is because you have to make sure your financial situation is in shape. For example, your income-to-debt ratio, your down payment, and your credit score must be good. That’s exactly what a mortgage lender will look at.

Even when these things are in order, shopping and comparing mortgage rates and fees can take several weeks.

Let’s take a look on how long it will take you to get these things in shape before buying a house.

Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. It’s completely FREE.

A. How good is your credit score?

A low credit score can make buying a house take longer, because it can take months to a year to improve a bad credit score.

A conventional loan will usually require a 640+ credit score.

In fact, your credit score is the number 1 item mortgage lenders look at to decide whether to offer you a mortgage. And if it is not where it’s supposed to be, you might get rejected.

Luckily for you there are other ways to get a loan with much lower credit score: FHA loans.

FHA loans only require a credit score of 580 with 3.5% down payment. You may get qualified with a 500 credit score, but you’ll have to come with a 10% down payment.

So before you get into the fun part of shopping for a mortgage or visiting homes, it’s best to know what your credit score is and take steps to improve it.

You can get a free credit score at Credit Sesame.

B. Fix errors on your credit report.

Fixing errors on your credit report in order to get pre-approved for a loan in order to buy a house can take 30 days.

According to Transunion, “most investigations are completed within 2 weeks, but some may take up 30 days.”

Again, we recommend you get a free credit report at Credit Sesame. A credit report will give you a detail analysis of your credit history, how much debt you owe, and how creditworthy you are, etc. If there are any errors or inaccuracies, fix them immediately so there’s no surprise when you’re actually applying for a mortgage.

The best way to do that is by filing a Transunion dispute or Equifax dispute.

C. Do you have a down payment for the house?

How long it will take you to buy a house will also depend on whether or not you already have money saved up for a down payment.

Unless you’re going to buy the house with outright cash, you’ll need a down payment. And saving for a down payment can take a long time. Depending on your income and expenses, saving for a down payment on a house can take years.

Assuming, for example, you want to buy a house that will cost you $450,000, and you’re using a conventional loan to finance the house. With a 20% down payment, you will need to come up with $90,000.

Let’s say again, because of other monthly expenses, you can only save $1500 a month for the down payment.

You see how long it will take you to save for a down payment to buy the house? 5 years. And that doesn’t even take into account other upfront costs of buying a house, such as closing cost.

While it’s possible to get a mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5% of the home purchase price, it’s advisable to put at least 20% down. The reason is because you will avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects the lenders in case you default on your mortgage.

Home buyers with a down payment below 20% are usually charged with PMI.

Another reason for a larger down payment is that it reduces the cost of the mortgage, grows equity much faster, and saves you on interest over the life of the loan.

As you can see, it can take you as much as 5 years from the time you’re thinking about buying the house to the time you’re actually ready to start the process.

But once you have taken care the things above, buying a house can go a lot faster.

II. How long does it take to find a real estate agent?

Average time: 1 day to a month

Once you have been pre-approved for a mortgage, the next step is to find an experienced real estate agent. Finding a good real estate agent can take a day to a month. Websites such as Zillow and Redfin list real estate agents you can use.

III. Shopping for a home.

Average time: a few weeks to a few months

With the help of a real estate agent and your own due diligence, finding a home can can go faster or take longer depending on available homes, the season and your desired location.

But experts say on average it can take a minimum of three weeks to a few months.

IV. Making an offer, negotiation, and inspection.

Average time: 1 to 10 days

Once you have found the home of your dream, the next step is to make an offer. You and the seller can go back and forth negotiating the price.

Once your offer has been accepted, you and the seller sign something called a purchase agreement. Then, the next step is to hire a professional to inspect the home for defects. Depending on your state, a home inspection must be completed within 10 days. And if the inspection finds some defects in the house, that could delay the process.

V. How long does it take to close on a house?

Average time: 30 to 45 days.

Once the inspection is done, your lender will need to officially approve you for the loan. And depending on the lender, it can also affect how long it takes to buy a house. You may need to provide additional documents. But the lender will need to assess the home for its value. And depending on the program (whether it’s conventional loan or FHA loan) it can take anywhere from 30 to 45 days to close on a home.

Bottom line

When asking yourself this question: “how long does it take to buy a house?” The answer is : it depends. If you have your credit score, your down payment, your other finances under control, you can buy your house in two months or less. But if you have to save for a down payment, fix errors on your credit report, raise your credit score, the whole home buying process can take years.

Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. It’s completely FREE

Still wondering how long it takes to buy a house? Read the following articles:

  • 5 Signs You’re Not Ready To Buy A House
  • 10 First Time Home Buyer Mistakes To Avoid
  • 3 Signs You’re Not Ready to Refinance Your Mortgage
  • The Biggest Mistakes Millennials Make When Buying a House
  • 7 Signs You’re Ready To Buy A House

Work with the Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). So, find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post How Long Does It Take To Buy A House? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

How to Buy a Second Home that Pays for Itself

Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that home sales were up more than 17% in June 2020 from the month before, and up more than 13% compared to the year prior. Those who have the means to buy a second home are wise to take on mortgage debt (or reorganize their current debt) in today’s low interest environment.

With low 30-year mortgage rates, owning a rental property that “pays for itself” through monthly rental income is especially lucrative with a significantly lower mortgage payment. If you’re curious about buying a second home and renting it out, keep reading to find out about the major issues you should be aware of, the hidden costs of becoming a landlord, and more. 

Important Factors When Buying a Short-Term Rental

The issues involved in buying a rental home varies dramatically depending on where you plan to purchase. After all, buying a ski lodge in an area with seasonal tourism and attractions might require different considerations than buying a home in a major metropolitan area where tourists visit all year long.

But there are some factors every potential landlord should consider regardless of location. Here are a few of the most important considerations:

  • Location. Consumers rent vacation homes almost anywhere, but you’ll want to make sure you’re looking at homes in an area where short-term rentals are popular and viable. You can do some basic research on AirDNA.co, a short-term rental data and analytics service, or check competing rentals in the area you’re considering.
  • Property Management Fees. If you plan to use a property management company to manage your short-term rental instead of managing it yourself, you should find out how much other owners pay for management. Also, compare listing fees for your second home with a platform like Airbnb or VRBO.
  • Taxes. Property taxes can be higher on second homes since you don’t qualify for a homestead exemption. This means higher fixed costs each month, which could make it more difficult to cover your mortgage with rental income.
  • Competition. Check whether a rental area you’re considering is full of competing rentals that are never full. You can find this information on VRBO or Airbnb by looking at various rentals and checking their booking calendars.
  • Potential Rental Fees. Check rental sites to see how much you might be able to charge for your second home on a nightly, weekly, or monthly basis. 

5 Steps to Rent Your Second Home

Before purchasing a second home, take time to run different scenarios using realistic numbers based on the rental market you’re targeting. From there, the following steps can guide you through preparing your property for the short-term rental market.

1. Research the Market

First, you’ll want to have a general understanding of the rental market you’re entering. How much does the average short-term rental go for each night or each week? What is the average vacancy rate for rentals on an annual basis? 

Research your local rental market, the average price of rentals in your area, various features offered by competing rentals, and more.

Action Item: Dig into these figures by using AirDNA.co. Just enter a zip code or town, and you’ll find out the average nightly rate, occupancy rate, revenue, and more. Although some of the site’s features require a monthly subscription, you can find out basic information about your rental market for free.

2. Know Your Numbers

You need to know an array of real numbers before renting your second home, including the following:

  • Average nightly rate
  • Average occupancy rate
  • Fixed costs, such as your mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance for the rental
  • Property management fees and costs for cleaning between tenants
  • Additional fixed costs for things like trash pickup, internet access, and cable television
  • Costs for marketing your space on a platform like VRBO or Airbnb, which could be a flat fee or 3% of your rental fee depending on the platform

You’ll use these numbers to figure out the average monthly operating cost for your second home, and the potential income you might be able to bring in. Without running these numbers first, you wind up in a situation where your short-term rental doesn’t pay for itself, and where you’re having to supplement operating expenses every month. 

Action Item: Gather every cost involved in operating your specific short-term rental, and then tally everything up with monthly and annual figures that you can plan for.

3. Buy the Right Insurance

If you plan on using your second home as a short-term rental, you’ll need to buy vacation rental insurance. This type of homeowners insurance is different from the type you’d buy for your primary residence. It’s even unique from landlord insurance coverage since you need to have insurance in place for your second home and its contents.

Some vacation rental policies let you pay per use, and they provide the benefits of homeowners insurance (like property coverage, liability, and more) plus special protection when your property is rented to a third party. 

Action Item: Shop around for a homeowners insurance plan that’s geared specifically to vacation rentals. See our top picks for the best homeowners insurance companies out there.

4. Create a Property Management Plan

If you live near your second home, you might want to manage it yourself. There’s nothing wrong with this option, but you should plan on receiving calls and dealing with problems at all hours of the day. 

Many short-term rental owners pay a property management company to communicate with their tenants, manage each rental period, and handle any issues that pop up. Property managers can also set up cleanings between each rental and help with marketing your property. 

Action Item: Create a property management plan and account for any costs. Most property managers charge 25% to 30% of the rental cost on an ongoing basis, so you can’t ignore this component of owning a short-term rental. 

5. Market Your Space

Make sure you appropriately market your space, which typically means paying for professional photos and creating an accurate, inviting listing on your chosen platforms. Your property manager might help you create a marketing plan for your vacation rental, but you can DIY this component of your side business if you’re tech- and media-savvy. 

Action Item: Hire a photographer to take professional photos of your rental, and craft your rental description and listing. 

Risks of Purchasing a Short-Term Rental

Becoming a landlord isn’t for the faint of heart. There’s plenty that can go wrong, but here are the main risks to plan for:

  • Government roadblocks. In destinations from New York City to Barcelona, government officials have been cracking down on short-term rentals and trying to limit their ability to operate. New rules could make running your business more costly, difficult, or even impossible. 
  • Your home could be damaged beyond repair. If you read the Airbnb message boards and other landlord forums, you’ll find an endless supply of nightmare rental stories of houses getting trashed and rentals enduring thousands of dollars in damage. 
  • Housing market crash. If the housing market crashes again like it did in 2008, you might find you owe more than your second home is worth at a time when it’s increasingly difficult to find renters. 
  • Reliance on tourism. As we’ve seen during the pandemic, circumstances beyond our control can bring travel and tourism to a screeching halt. Since short-term rentals typically rely on tourism to stay afloat, decreases in travel can affect the viability of your business, quickly.
  • High ongoing costs and fees. Higher property taxes, property management fees, cleaning fees and maintenance costs can make operating a short-term rental costly in the long-term. If you don’t account for all costs and fees involved, you might wind up losing money on your vacation home instead of having the property “pay for itself”.

The Bottom Line

A short-term rental can be a viable business opportunity, depending on where you want to buy and the specifics of the local rental market. But there are a lot of factors to consider before taking the leap. 

Before investing hundreds of thousands of dollars, think over all of the potential costs and risks involved. You’ll want to ensure that you’ve done comprehensive research and have run the numbers for every possible scenario to make an informed decision.

The post How to Buy a Second Home that Pays for Itself appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a convenient way to store funds specifically for medical expenses. If you qualify for an HSA, you will get to enjoy a few tax advantages as well. While this might sound like an ideal setup, not everyone is eligible for a health savings account. To qualify for a health savings account, you must be enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP). The details of these plans are revised every year by the Internal Service Revenue (IRS), which sets the bar for:

  • The minimum deductible a plan must have to be considered a HDHP.
  • The maximum amount that a customer who purchases a plan is able to spend out-of-pocket.

The benefits of a health savings account

Here are some of the key advantages of having a health savings account:

  • It covers a large variety of medical expenses: There are many different kinds of medical expenses that are eligible, such as medical, dental and mental health services.
  • Pretty much anyone can make contributions: Contributions to your health savings account don’t have to be made by you or your spouse. Employers, relatives, friends or anyone who would like to contribute to your account can do so. There are limits, however. For example, in 2019, the limit for individuals was $3,500 and $7,000 for families.
  • Pre-tax contributions: Since contributions are generally made at your employer pre-taxes, they are not considered to be part of your gross income and are not federally taxed. This is usually the same case when it comes to state level taxes as well.
  • After-tax contributions are tax-deductible: Any contributions made after taxes are deductible from your gross income on your tax return. Doing so minimizes the amount you would owe on taxes for that year.
  • Tax-free withdrawals: You can withdrawal money from your account for approved health care costs without having to worry about federal taxes. Most states do not tax, either.
  • Annual rollover: Any unused HSA funds that are left over by the end of the year get rolled over to the following year.
  • Portability: Even if you change health insurance plans, employers, or retire, the money in your health savings account will continue to be available for qualifying health care expenses.
  • Having a health savings account is convenient: Most of the time, you will receive a debit card that is connected to your health savings account. This way, you can use your debit card to start paying for eligible expenses and prescription drugs on the spot.

The drawbacks to having a health savings account

While there are many advantages to having a health savings account, there are a few things to consider. For one, in order to qualify for an HSA, you must hold a high-deductible health insurance plan. The tax benefits might entice you to purposely sign up for insurance coverage under one of these health plans but think before doing this. Here are some of the disadvantages to having a health savings account:

  • The High-Deductible Health Plan: These types of health plans can end up being a lot more expensive in the long run, even with an HSA. If you have other options for health insurance that offer lower deductible, definitely consider those and don’t only choose a High-Deductible plan so that you can open an HSA.
  • You need to stay on top of your spending: If you have an HSA, you need to be willing to hold yourself responsible for recordkeeping. Keep track of all of your receipts so that you can prove you spent your HSA funds on eligible expenses.
  • Taxes and penalties: Using money from your HSA on other expenses that do not qualify as eligible health care expenses could result in you owing taxes. If you do this before the age of 65, you will have to pay taxes with a 20% penalty tacked on. If you are 65 or older, you will be responsible for paying taxes, but the penalty gets waived.
  • Fees: Sometimes, health savings accounts will charge additional fees, either per month or per transaction. Check with your HSA institution for more information on extra fees.

How an HSA works

In many cases, if your employer offers high-deductible health plans, they probably offer health savings accounts as well. Talk to your employer to find out what they offer. If your employer doesn’t offer HSAs, then you can sign up for a separate one through a different institution.

You get to decide how much you would like to contribute to your HSA annually, but keep in mind that you cannot exceed the HSA contribution limit. Once you are set up with an account, you will either receive a debit card or a series of checks that are linked to your HSA. Right away, you will be able to use the funds in your account for:

  • Deductibles
  • Copays
  • Coinsurance
  • Other eligible health care expenses that your insurance does not cover.

Generally, you cannot use HSA funds to pay your insurance premiums.  HSAs are not the same as flexible spending accounts, because HSAs rollover. Once you turn 65, you are no longer eligible to make contributions to your account, but you can still use the available funds for eligible out-of-pocket expenses. If you use the funds for non-eligible expenses, you will owe taxes on these amounts.

Investment Opportunities

Another benefit of HSA that you may or may not have heard of is that you can invest the money in mutual funds and stocks. If this is something that you are interested in, seek advice from a financial advisor for more information.

What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Check-In: Expecting Couple Struggling with Debt, But Future Looks Bright

When I first connected with Julia and John, the Queens, NY couple was expecting their first child and grappling with some debt, a lack of savings and income prior to the baby’s arrival. The couple was basically living paycheck to paycheck and in need of some advice to break through that cycle.

We reconnected this month to see how they’ve been doing. Julia is now nearing the end of her third trimester. The baby is due to arrive in two months.

I was hoping that with a baby on the way the couple would have found some ways to chisel away their debt or bulk up savings. Unfortunately, fie months later, they’re more or less still in the same money boat.

But they did act upon a couple of my tips and are benefiting from the goodness of New York and their parents, which has their futures looking brighter.

First, John, who lacks a college degree and was struggling to find full-time work, is going back to school. Not to a college or university, but to a 9-month software boot camp in New York that’s going to give him the skills and network to become a software developer. His potential earnings in the first year in the market could be as much as $75,000 (based on some people I know who’ve gone through similar programs in New York.)

The program will be about $15,000, a fraction of what it would cost to earn a bachelor’s degree. John’s parents have agreed to loan him the money. The couple’s decided to place that $15,000 family loan in savings and, instead, take out a small student loan to pay for John’s school. I agree with that strategy, given that their family is about to increase in size and having some cash on hand will be very important.

Once John completes school and finds work, I’d recommend the couple prioritize the credit card debt by paying at least double the minimums each month. Be most aggressive with the highest interest credit card debt first. Their student loan will likely have a smaller interest rate and can be paid over a 10-year period, making the monthly minimums relatively manageable. Automate those payments as soon as possible and benefit from a 0.25% interest rate reduction when they do.

While they’re taking on more debt, I’m okay with it. Investing in John’s education is one of the best ways this couple can get ahead and better secure their finances in the future – so long as they commit to earning more and paying it down.

Ahead of that program starting, John’s also taken on a side hustle (per my advice). He’s been working a few shifts here and there at Julia’s company, working with special needs patients as a social aide, taking them to community and outdoor events.

Some other good news that’s developed since we last spoke is that New York State has enhanced its Family and Medical Leave Act by implementing Paid Family Leave. In the past, certain employers were only required to provide workers with their jobs back after taking a leave of absence for up to 12 weeks. Now, qualifying private employers must provide paid time off and a continuation of health insurance for 8 weeks in 2018.

This came as a surprise bonus for Julia, who was preparing for zero paid time off from her employer.

It would be my recommendation to use part or all of that extra money to pay down their high-interest credit card debt.

Once Julia returns to work after her maternity leave, her mother-in-law will be the go-to caretaker during the day, another huge help.

They’re fortunate to have free childcare from a trusted, loved one. With that very big expense covered and John’s schooling about to start, I feel confident that the couple’s future is a financially bright one.

The post Check-In: Expecting Couple Struggling with Debt, But Future Looks Bright appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com