Helpful Real Estate Tax Hints

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Here are some helpful tips the IRS recently released. REMEMBER TO ALWAYS CONSULT A TAX PROFESSIONAL!

1. You may be eligible to exclude the gain from income on your property if you have owned and used your home as your main home for at least two years out of the five years prior to the date of  the sale of your home.

2. If you have a profited from the sale of your primary residence, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases).

3.  BUT you may not be eligible for the exclusion if you excluded the gain from the sale of  a different home during the two-year period prior to the sale of your home.

4. If you can exclude all of the gain, you are not required to report the sale on your tax returns.

5. If you have a gain that cannot be excluded, it is taxable. You must report it on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.

6. You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your primary residence. This is important when considering a short sale.

7. Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you calculate the adjusted basis of the home you sold, the gain (or loss) on the sale, and the gain that you can exclude from your tax returns.

8. If you own more than one residence, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your primary residence. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other properties. (If you own two homes and live in both of them, your primary residence is the  the one you live in most of the time).

9. If you received the first-time homebuyer credit and within 36 months of the date of purchase the property is no longer used as your principal residence, you are required to repay the credit. Repayment of the full credit is due with the income tax return for the year the home ceased to be your principal residence, using Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit. The full amount of the credit is reflected as additional tax on that year’s tax return.

10. Always be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure you receive refunds or correspondence from the IRS. Use Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS of your address change.

For more information about selling your home, see IRS Publication 523, Selling Your Home.

THE INFORMATION ABOVE IS SUGGESTIVE ONLY. ALWAYS CONSULT A TAX PROFESSIONAL. 

Collect a Security Deposit to Protect Your Property

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The security deposit is one of the ways landlords are able to protect themselves financially from tenants who are careless or rough on property. Requiring a security deposit at least equal to a month’s rent can also protect landlords from tenants who are financially unstable or who move out without giving notice. Note that security deposits are separate from first and last month’s rent and must be held in an escrow account. Legally, it’s the tenant’s money, unless the landlord needs to use to repair damages made by the tenant.

In California, deposits for furnished units may be up to three times the monthly rent; for unfurnished units, deposits may be up to twice the monthly rent. The deposit must be returned to the tenant within 21 days of the end of the lease. If the landlord is going to keep some or all of the deposit, the tenant must be provided with an itemized invoice and receipts explaining the work necessary.

Problems with returning security deposits can be avoided by carefully documenting the state of the unit before the tenant takes occupancy. Take photographs or a video. Provide the tenant with access to the documentation so there is no confusion. Before tenants move out, the landlord may inform them of their right to request an “initial inspection”. Both the landlord and tenants are present for the inspection. This may turn up any issues and give tenants a chance to correct them before moving out.

To learn more about the legal issues with security deposits and get ideas for how to handle deposits fairly, click here to go to the California Department of Consumer Affairs webpage on the subject. A Santa Cruz Property Management company will be familiar with the laws governing security deposits and can help you deal fairly with them.

7 Reasons to Hire a Property Manager

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If you have a Santa Cruz property you’re considering renting, there are several important decisions to make. The first is whether to handle all the landlord responsibilities yourself or hire a property manager. Many people are afraid of the costs of a management company. You don’t need to be. Here are seven reasons that property management is a good use of your money.

1. A management company will actually help you to maximize your profits. When you hire a property manager, you have someone whose job it is to fix any issues that come up. They won’t have to wait for you to have time.

2. You’ll get better tenants. Blue Sky Property Management uses an online database of information about possible renters,a to make sure they don’t have a history of skipping leases or a lot of outstanding debt.

3. You’ll save time. Why reinvent the wheel? Our easy online bill pay systems make paying the bills, keeping track of rents, and making repairs a cinch.

4. Stay organized. Our system is set up to keep all financial documents in one, easy-to-access place. This makes accounting for taxes much less stressful.

5. How well do you know the laws governing landlords? At Blue Sky, we’ve been in this business for years. We know the law inside and out and will make sure you’re in compliance. No need to worry about costly fines.

6. Hire a property manager so a professional is dealing with tenants. You don’t want to get too personally involved with your renters. This can result in being too lenient with issues or defensive about complaints. A property manager doesn’t have the emotional investment in the property and so can keep things on a strictly business level.

7. You’ll have peace of mind. With a good property manager, you are able to trust that your property is in the right hands, with the expertise to take care of issues promptly.

How Santa Cruz Property Management Will Save You Time

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Owning a rental property in a city like Santa Cruz can easily be quite lucrative. However, the duties of a landlord can also be time consuming. Hiring a Santa Cruz property management company can end up saving you both time and money.

The advantages of having a property management company start with setting the monthly rent. Blue Sky has an online system that easily compares rents on comparable properties. When you list with Blue Sky, tenant screening is also quick and simple. Prospective renters apply in an online form embedded in the advertisement. These two tasks can be extremely time-consuming if you don’t have good systems in place.

Santa Cruz property management also streamlines the process of collecting rents and taking care of necessary repairs. Tenants are able to pay their rent online and report problems all in one centralized place. We have relationships with local companies that will fix issues promptly and competently.

Blue Sky has been working with rental properties in the area for years. We know the housing regulations and property laws for landlords. We take care of keeping your property in compliance with the law. We’ll also make sure that the day to day management of your property runs along smoothly. Santa Cruz property management is a great way to maximize your real estate investment and leave you plenty of time to enjoy your life.

Readying Your Property for Santa Cruz Home Leasing

If you are considering getting into the Santa Cruz home leasing market, you need to get your property ready. A property in top shape is key to attracting the best tenants. This starts with the property’s exterior. Real estate agents often talk about ‘curb appeal’. If you passed your property in a car or walking and saw the ‘for lease’ sign, would you want to stop and find out more? Nice landscaping, free from weeds, fresh paint or a power wash will all help to make your property appealing.

Once inside, is the property sparkling clean? This is the kind of thing that will make the photographs of your property stand out from others online. Santa Cruz home leasing searches often begin online. We recommend our clients hire a cleaning service that specializes in vacancy cleaning. A bright, clean rental says to tenants that you care about your property, so they probably will, too.

Finally, make sure everything is working properly. Do all the light bulbs work? Are the drawer pulls and cabinet handles in place? Are the blinds in good shape? How about the baseboards and the switch plates over light switches and outlets? These are all fairly minor, but they can make a big difference for tenants who are looking a lot of properties.

Contact Blue Sky Santa Cruz Real Estate and Property Management when you’re ready to put your property on the rental market. We can walk you through the process and help you get the best tenants possible.

How to Handle a Pet Deposit as a Landlord

One of the questions you’ll have to decide as a landlord is whether to allow pets. Many landlords explicitly prohibit animals because of the potential for damage to their Santa Cruz property. Because of this, allowing pets can expand your pool of eligible applicants. Pet owners who rent are more likely to stay in a unit where they can keep their pet, which decreases turnover. If you decide to allow pets, consider how you want to handle the security deposit. California law prohibits charging a specific pet deposit. This means you would have to charge a larger security deposit for all tenants, regardless of whether they had pets. This eliminates the perceived unfairness of a pet deposit. If the deposit gets to be too large, it might also shrink the number of people who are eligible to rent your property.

Keep in mind that just because you allow some animals, you don’t have to allow huge breeds or those with a reputation for destruction. A very clear pet policy, detailing the number of pets allowed, their size, and species is critical. You might also consider putting a clause in the lease agreement stating that all pets are subject to landlord approval. This might save the headache of repairing damage done by a poorly-behaved animal. Be sure to consult with your Santa Cruz property management company about the wording of a pets clause. You need to maintain fairness, stay within the law, and protect your property.

Make Fair Housing a Priority in Online Listings

When it comes to fair housing, California has stringent laws against discrimination. This means it’s very important for landlords to be careful of their language in any official communication, including websites. In fact, because many rental searches begin online, it’s doubly important for landlords to ensure their language can’t be construed as discriminatory. It’s a good idea to put up a nondiscrimination statement on all your written materials.

For example, if your Santa Cruz property happens to be near a nice park with a playground, it’s a great idea to mention that fact in online and paper listings. You don’t want to say your property is “ideal for families”. This may give the impression that you favor families or discriminate against single people. Keep in mind that families with children are a protected class under federal law. If your property is close to downtown nightlife, don’t say it’s “perfect for singles or young couples”. This may sound like you are unfavorable toward families with children.

While it’s important to keep your listings updated, sometimes you might forget. For this reason, don’t be specific about exactly how many apartments you have open. This may open you up to a discrimination complaint if you aren’t diligent about changing your listings. A family that calls several times about an apartment you rented a few months ago might think you just don’t want them and file a complaint.

Keeping on the right side of California’s anti-discrimination laws is a challenge. A Santa Cruz property management company knows these laws. Blue Sky has been in the rental business for years. We’re committed to fair housing and to making sure our landlords are in compliance with the laws.

When to Hire a Santa Cruz County Property Management Company

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Despite ups and downs in the market, real estate continues to be one of the most stable investments you can make. Santa Cruz is historically a great investment market, because of the high demand in the rental market. Some property owners balk at the expense, but there are many situations in which it makes a lot of sense to hire a Santa Cruz County property management company.

A good property management company will take care of finding and screening tenants, collecting rent, dealing with repairs, and even pursuing eviction, if necessary. A company will also bring a lot of experience to the job, giving the owner peace of mind that all necessary details are in competent hands.

Landlords who own many units or who live far away from their units are both groups that will benefit greatly from having a company to manage their properties. A company has systems already in place for taking care of all the issues that come up in rental properties.

Landlords who do not have the inclination or the time to deal with the day to day care of their properties should probably hire a property management company. There are many details involved in rental properties that need prompt attention.

A resident manager can be a less expensive option than a company. However, the landlord will also be an employer in that situation, which comes with a number of legal considerations. A management company is an independent contractor and so saves a landlord the hassle of being an employer.

If you’re ready to hire a property management company, call Blue Sky Santa Cruz. We know the Santa Cruz real estate market and will take care of your property as if it were our own.