THE 5 HUGE BENEFITS OF FILING YOUR TAXES EARLY

SagepicMar19-optWith nearly three out of four taxpayers receiving an income tax refund each year, around $2,800 on average according to the IRS, we can’t think of any reason you’d want to delay filing your taxes.

But, as awesome as it is to have more cash in your pocket, that’s not the only benefit of early filing. Here are a few more reasons to get your act together early this tax season:

Early filers average larger refunds

IRS data shows that taxpayers who file by late-February get significantly larger refunds than those who file later—around $300 on average. Obviously, if you know you’re getting a refund, you’re more likely to file sooner, and that could be part of the reason early filers enjoy larger refunds.

But another reason is that the sooner you start on your taxes, the more opportunity you have to make sure you’re claiming all the deductions you’re eligible for. The IRS reports that 66% of taxpayers choose to claim the standard deduction on their tax forms. Millions of taxpayers could get larger refunds by itemizing their deductions, which takes more time and requires more documentation than claiming the standard deduction. According to the Government Accountability Office, it’s a shortcut that could cost taxpayers $1 billion each year.

Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to cut corners in order to meet the tax-filing deadline. Start working with a tax pro early so you have time to get the job done right.

Early filers can protect their refunds from identity thieves

Filing early may not eliminate the threat of identity theft, but it can protect your refund. If thieves file a return using your Social Security number before you do, the IRS will kick out your return since their records show you’ve already been paid. It can take months to clear up the mess with the IRS and finally receive your refund.

Remember that even though you may feel like you’re in a race to get your forms filed, don’t rush through the process. That’s how mistakes get made. And when it comes to taxes, those mistakes come with dollar signs!

Early filers eliminate tax deadline stress

Any time you face an unpleasant task, it’s best to get it out of the way as soon as possible. Income taxes are no different. You must fill out the forms and you have to file them, so just grit your teeth and get it over with. Give yourself a fake deadline—well ahead of the April deadline—to get your taxes taken care of. Once your return is filed, give yourself a small reward for being so efficient and responsible. Then relax while everyone else stresses out about getting their taxes done on time.

Early filers with a tax bill have time to make a plan

When you’re facing an income tax bill instead of a refund, it’s natural to put off filing as long as possible. But if you go ahead and fill out your tax forms and file them, you’ll know exactly how much you must pay—and you won’t have to pay in full until the April filing deadline.

The more time you have to come up with the money, the less likely you are to bust your budget or drain your emergency fund. So, don’t spend the first part of the year with your head in the sand. Get the facts about what you owe, make your plan, and get that tax bill out of the way.

Early filers face less competition for access to their tax professional.

By mid-March of the 2018 tax season, nearly 78 million people had already filed their income taxes. That left the remaining 68 million people just one month to file theirs by the deadline. If you were one of those procrastinators, you found out the hard way that it’s tough to get on a good tax pro’s schedule during crunch time. In fact, if you haven’t set an appointment with a pro by the middle of March, you’ll probably have to file an extension.

On top of that, most tax pros will charge more to complete your taxes as the filing deadline approaches. The best way to avoid all that hassle is to get an appointment with your advisor as soon as possible.

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THE LONG & SHORT OF SHORT SALES

ShortSalePAGEMar19-optThey’re a fact of life… here’s what potential homeowners should know before making an offer.

What is a Short Sale?

Short sales are sales of real estate where proceeds from selling the property fall short of the balance of debts secured by a lien (hold) against the property.  The property owner cannot afford to repay its full amount, so the lien holders agree to release their hold on the real estate and accept less than the amount owed on the debt.

Any unpaid balance owed to the creditors is known as a deficiency.  Short sale agreements do not necessarily release borrowers from their obligations to repay any deficiencies of the loans unless specifically agreed to between the parties.

A short sale is often used as an alternative to foreclosure because it mitigates additional fees and costs to both the creditor and the borrower; however, both will often result in a negative credit report against the property owner.

Common mistakes to avoid:

Don’t Assume You’ll Pay the List Price

Some agents use below-market sale prices strictly as bait.  Banks will then request appraisals to determine price.  The lender may decide that it’s more beneficial to pursue other avenues, such as foreclosure, or wait for a better offer.

Don’t Assume You Have Enough Documentation

A lender must still study credit history, length of time on the job, debt ratios and more.  The most successful short-sale buyers submit a loan prequalification letter – or better yet, a loan pre-approval letter – with the offer.

Don’t Assume You’ll Close in a Few Weeks

It actually can take three to six months.  Lenders may have a backlog of short sales and foreclosures and limited staff trained to handle these.  The process could take longer if two loans are secured to the property.

Don’t Assume That Inspections Are Not Required

Even though most short sale properties are sold “as is,” you must still determine what problems may exist with pests, the roof, the sewers, the septic tanks, the chimney or fireplace. As with other purchases, your offer should be contingent on the results of the inspection.  While sellers are not obligated to fix problems, buyers must still know what they’re getting into.

Don’t Assume that the Contract Will Not Change

With new law passing on a regular basis, the lender can reserve the right to change the terms.

HOW TO HIRE A REAL ESTATE ALL-STAR

REAllStarMar19-optYou wouldn’t walk into a courtroom without a skilled attorney by your side.

Why enter into what could be the biggest financial transaction of your life without the right real estate representation?  An experienced, market-savvy agent can help you buy or sell a home quicker and at a preferred price.

In many areas, highly competitive seller’s markets – low housing inventory and appreciating home prices coupled with continued low interest rates – mean that house hunters and sellers alike need expert guidance, an all-star agent who can be counted on to knock one out of the park.

“Buyers are looking for an agent they can trust, someone who knows the neighborhoods intimately, but who also has the relationships and the proactive nature to find homes that aren’t yet listed on the market,” says Mark Kitching, associate partner with Partners Trust, Los Angeles.

For sellers in the most competitive markets, an agent with extensive knowledge of contracts who knows how to attract and handle multiple offers is especially valuable.

“They need a full-time agent with experience in a tough seller’s market,” says J.P. Piccinini, broker/owner of JP and Associates Realtors, Plano, Texas.

More than half (53%) of buyers polled about what they value most when choosing an agent said they wanted someone who could help them locate the right home, and 12% said they wanted an agent who could help them negotiate and close a sale, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

The qualities buyers value: agents who are responsive, knowledgeable, and have a flexible schedule.

“An agent should be able to answer their phone and get back to clients in less than an hour,” says Mark Ferguson, agent with Pro Realty, Greeley, Colorado.  “Knowledge of great lenders, inspectors, and title companies is important.”

Sellers want agents who do more than the traditional 3 Ps, says Riccardo Ravasini, Keller Williams, New York: put a listing into the MLS database, put up a sign, and pray.

“Sellers want someone who will creatively market their unit, including promoting the listing to nearby residents and to targeted media outlets, and who will leverage his or her own network of interested buyers and investors,” says Ravasini.

When offers shower down in a bidding war, a broker’s negotiation skills are key, says Patrick Beringer, RE/MAX Metro Realty, Seattle.  While many consumers think it’s a smart move to negotiate a lower commission rate for an agent, Beringer says, “If an agent is so eager to cut their commission just to get your business, how effectively will he or she negotiate on your behalf?”

Choose an agent carefully.  The right one can swing your sales price 5 to 10% higher; the wrong one can lead to no sale at all, says L.A. agent Mark Kitching.  A poor agent is a costly mistake for both buyer and seller, he points out.  “A seller can be sued by a buyer for poor guidance and failure to disclose things that the agent left out.  A buyer can be left with a home that’s a bad investment,” Kitching says.

Ask family and friends for referrals to agents with whom they were satisfied.  Attend local open houses and meet with agents.  Search online and read agent reviews.  And be prepared to ask plenty of questions.

“Ask how long they’ve been in the business, how many deals they do a year, what areas they specialize in, what kind of negotiator they are and if they have time in their schedule to devote to your needs,” suggests Kitching.  “If you’re a seller, ask what strategy they would implement to sell your house and why.”

AGENTS-1

FEBRUARY 2019 ISSUE

 

7 REASONS YOU’RE RUINING YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

While most would respond with an emphatic “yes” if asked if they would like more love in their lives, I suspect few people welcome the extent of “work” required to achieve that outcome.  Of course, the amount of work involved depends on how far away one feels they are from the level of love they desire.

 

…AND START HAVING SEX

How changing your everyday habits will make you hot for each other all over again.

 

LOVE IS IN THE AIR

Heading into February, Settlers Hospitality has lots of romantic Valentine’s Day specials and events for you to enjoy with your sweetheart.

 

CELEBRATE WINTER IN A BIG WAY

Take the Stourbridge Line train President’s Day Weekend for a special experience each of the three days, celebrating the song Winter Wonderland; the nation’s third president and bald eagles.

 

THE EFFECTS OF ADRENALINE ON HEART RATE

Have you ever fled for your life with your heart rate so fast you could actually hear it?  Or ran down the block when you were late for a meeting with no cab in sight?  Very often, we find that sudden surge of ‘booster energy’.  And you wonder how you, a ‘no-sports’ person, suddenly turned sprinter.

NIGHT AT THE OSCARS

2019MistletoeCom (5)A Night at the OSCARS! The 78th Annual Mistletoe Ball

They’re rolling out the red carpet—literally—at the Wayne Memorial Hospital Auxiliary’s annual Mistletoe Ball. The theme for the January 19th event at Silver Birches in Tafton will be A Night at the Oscars.

“Come experience old and new Hollywood,” says co-chair Nancy Moro, “dress like one of your favorite stars, and maybe you’ll win a prize.”  Moro, who is considering going as Marilyn Monroe, notes that the evening is fun and meaningful. It’s the auxiliary’s biggest fundraiser of the year to help its community hospital.

“The proceeds this year will go towards a fund to purchase the resources—such as equipment and information systems– needed to recruit physicians and other medical talent.  We’re building a state-of-the-art patient tower, and we want to assure it’s equipped and staffed as well as possible.”

The Mistletoe Ball will feature live music and dancing with disc jockey Jumping Jeff Walker from WKRZ and a “fabulous basket raffle” with donations from many local vendors, including Apple Day Spa, Black & Brass Coffee, Rustic Farmworks, Wallenpaupack Brewing, VIP Kids Club and Wayne County Ford.

With more than 200 members, the Wayne Memorial Hospital Auxiliary is one of the strongest in the state of Pennsylvania. Anyone can join, says Mistletoe co-chair Danielle Hedgelon.  “Come to the Mistletoe Ball and find out how much fun we can be while helping our community hospital at the same time.”

Tickets are $85 per person. Call (570) 226-9750 to reserve your spot. Visit wmh.org to find out more about the WMH Auxiliary.

Mistletoe Committee, left to right:

Gary Mesko, Joan Buehl, Marianne McConeghy, Martha Wilson, Carol Sturm, Danielle Hedgelon, Melissa Richard, Kaylee Racht and Michelle Corrigan. Missing from picture is Nancy Moro.