Dripping Dollars

Conserving water to be green while lowering your monthly bill to save green is a beneficial combination. Little things can contribute significantly to a large water bill.

  • faucet.jpgLeaky faucets can waste over 1,000 gallons a year
  • Leaky toilets can waste 7,000 gallons a month
  • A five-minute shower saves more water than a tub bath
  • Water running while you brush your teeth or shave
  • Sprinkler heads need to be adjusted to spray on the yard only
  • Install a rain sensor on sprinkler system
  • Pool equipment can be a hidden source of wasted water

A larger than normal water bill can be your first indication you have a leak. Then, you’ll need to track it down.

  1. Turn off all the water faucets and appliances; don’t forget the ice maker.
  2. Open the water meter, usually located near the sidewalk in the front of the house. You may need a water key that can be purchased from a home improvement store or possibly borrowed from a neighbor.
  3. Locate the dial indicating water usage. It should not be moving since all of the water is off. If it is still moving, verify that you have turned off anything that might be using water.
  4. If it appears to be still, make a mark with a Sharpie and wait 15 minutes. If the flow indicator has moved, you probably have a leak.
  5. Now that you’ve confirmed that you have a leak, you may need help in locating it. A plumber or leak specialist may be able to help you track it down and repair it.

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Single-Family rental demand is outstripping supply

By Nick Timiraos

Demand for single-family rental housing is outstripping the available supply of homes, and some housing markets that have been hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis have seen rental demand jump by more than 25% in the past year, according to a report to be released Tuesday by real-estate firm CoreLogic CLGX +1.16%.

It shouldn’t be surprising that single family rental demand has picked up in recent years: There are many families who have lost their homes to foreclosure or that can’t qualify for mortgages given tighter underwriting standards.

But the magnitude of rental-demand gains is still eye-opening. Markets that include Port St. Lucie, Fla.; Riverside, Calif.; and Tucson, Ariz., have all seen rental demand jump by 25% over the past year, and 22 of 30 markets tracked by CoreLogic have seen year-over-year leasing gains.

The single-family rental market has attracted a glut of institutional investor capital over the past two years, as firms to seek to build scattered-site property management infrastructure for an asset class that has long been the domain of mom-and-pop owners and smaller investors.

Slightly more than half of all rental units in the U.S., or around 21 million units, are single-family homes. Around four in five of those unit owners are individual investors.

Investor demand for rentals shows little signs of weakening, according to the CoreLogic report. Leasing activity was up 7% from one year ago in August and up 12% from the beginning of this year, even though the inventory of homes for rent is down by 11% from one year ago.

As a result, it would take just 2.6 months to rent the available stock of for-lease homes in August, down from 3.2 months of supply last year and over 5 months in 2007. It took just six weeks for a listing to be rented, which was unchanged from one year ago but down from more than eight weeks in 2009.

Single-family rents, which tend to show less volatility in either direction than home prices, rose by 2% last year and have increased by 1% so far this year, after declining in 2009 and 2010. “While those increases are low, rent growth typically lags home price growth by about 12 months,” writes Sam Khater, senior economist at CoreLogic, in the report. He expects rent growth to increase “at a strong clip” late this year and throughout 2013, though not at the same rate as home prices.

The largest rent increases were found in North Port, Fla.; Cape Coral, Fla.; and Honolulu, where rents increased by more than 6%. But rents also rose in cities such as Houston and Raleigh, N.C., where the economy has fared better and the housing market wasn’t as hard hit by the bust. Large rental increases beyond the housing-bust markets “is indicative of the rising tide of demand for single-family rentals,” wrote Mr. Khater.

What’s the Point?

Pre-paid interest, sometimes called “points”, is generally tax deductible when a person pays them in connection with buying, building or improving their principal residence. When points are paid on a refinance, they are not a current deduction but have to be taken pro-rata over the life of the mortgage.percentage.png

For instance, if $3,000 in points were paid on refinancing a 30 year mortgage, deduction of $100 per year is allowed. When the loan is paid off or replaced by refinancing again or the home is sold and the mortgage paid off from the proceeds, the balance of any un-deducted points may be taken in that tax year.

Your tax professional needs to be made aware of any of these situations so that he can accurately reflect the deduction in your return. Currently, the most common situation is where homeowners may be refinancing their home for the second, third or even fourth time. If there are points that have not been completely deducted, they need to be treated in the year of refinancing.

For more information, see points in IRS Publication 936; there is a section on refinancing in this publication. For advice considering your specific situation, contact your tax professional.

Changing the Lock is Key

There are times when you need to change the locks on your home to protect your family and possessions. It should always be considered when you move into a new home; when keys are lost, stolen or unreturned; or a cleaning or other service provider hasn’t returned the key.locks.jpg

Replacing the lockset would give you a totally new mechanism that should work better and if you go back with the same manufacturer, you’ll probably avoid any carpentry. You can order the locks online and have them work with the same key at no extra charge.

Another alternative is to have a locksmith rekey them. The locksmith can easily make all of the locks work with the same key. Compare the cost and decide which would be a better expenditure.

While you’re considering your security, a key safe might be a very convenient addition. Most makers say that it is much easier to break into a home than a key safe. The cost is reasonable and you can attach it to your exterior wall. Generally, they’re combination locks that would allow you access if you or another family member forgot their key. It’s also convenient to give a house keeper the combination and can be easily changed if necessary.

Water Damage – Covered or Not?

A number of things can cause water damage to a home and it’s important to know whether they’re covered by your insurance policy. Some water damage may be covered and other may not be. Generally, you need an incident to invoke coverage rather than something gradual due to lack of maintenance.waterdamage.jpg

However, some incidents are specifically exempt from homeowner policies such as floods. A flood can be described as rising water due to overflow of inland or tidal waters or unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface water from any source.

Homes in designated high-risk flood areas with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders are required to have flood insurance.

Even if you don’t live in a dedicated flood zone, you could be affected by flood damage. Review your policy about water damage and call your insurance agent to get a better understanding. Ask if you need to purchase additional coverage or separate flood insurance along with other questions.

Flood insurance can be purchased for the building and the contents. The average flood insurance policy costs about $600 per year. For more information, see the National Flood Insurance Program.