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A Great Place to Live

by Andrew Bird

About a year and half ago my dad and stepmom came to Hattiesburg for two weeks to visit my brother and me. It was the first time they had made the trip to Mississippi, and I wanted it to be a good one. And though my parents did not come for any other reason except to see us, I wanted to try to show them around the area and point out some of the highlights of Hattiesburg that I have come to learn and discover in my tenure here. But the truth is that Hattiesburg is not a great place to visit just for the sake of visiting. Sure, we went the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby, The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel and Leatha’s Bar-Be-Que, but otherwise Hattiesburg just did not have a lot to offer in the way of tourist attractions. It was their first real visit to Mississippi and I wanted to show them the charm of living in the Deep South. What I came to realize is that Hattiesburg is a great place to live, even if it is not a great place to visit.
I had always known this about Hattiesburg, buy my parents’ visit made it more apparent. Recently, though, I had an opportunity to point out what a great livable community Hattiesburg really is. Two weeks ago I was asked to give a tour of Hattiesburg to a candidate for a teaching position at USM. The head of the Hiring Committee who asked me to show the candidate around said, “sell them on Hattiesburg; make them want to move here.” With that charge I felt almost at a loss as to what to show this person in only a few hours, especially without knowing anything about the candidate. I did know that everyone likes a good cup of coffee, though, and that would be a good place to start.
I met the candidate (we’ll refer to this person as John) on campus and drove him over to T-Bones Record and Coffee shop for one of their signature Cold Brew coffees. Not only is T-Bones a great place for refreshments and music, it has a great atmosphere that lends itself well to being a local hangout. This also gave me a chance for John to talk about his interests and the interests of his family, where he was from, and what his priorities were in finding a community to call home. This allowed me to help tailor a tour of Hattiesburg that pointed to the things he and his family would be able to appreciate such as a good coffee shop, a walkable neighborhood, a good place to go hear live music, an arts scene, an area with charm, and plenty of places of worship to choose from.
The fact is that Hattiesburg has much to offer. We are a great destination for retirees because of affordable living and a good medical establishment. If you are a young couple with several children and want a good school and a safe neighborhood with a vibrant faith community, we have that. If you are a young professional wanting more of a chill nightlife with good music, food and coffee, we have that. Those are just a few of some very general profiles of people living in and moving to Hattiesburg, and we are unique in Mississippi, and maybe even in the US, for being more than just a college town, and for having so much to offer to so many diverse interests.

Don't Miss These Home Tax Deductions

by Dona DeZube,

Owning a home can pay off at tax time. Take advantage of these homeownership-related tax deductions and strategies to lower your tax bill:
Mortgage Interest Deduction
One of the neatest deductions itemizing homeowners can take advantage of is the mortgage interest deduction, which you claim on Schedule A. To get the mortgage interest deduction, your mortgage must be secured by your home — and your home can be a house, trailer, or boat, as long as you can sleep in it, cook in it, and it has a toilet.
Interest you pay on a mortgage of up to $1 million — or $500,000 if you’re married filing separately — is deductible when you use the loan to buy, build, or improve your home.
If you take on another mortgage (including a second mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit) to improve your home or to buy or build a second home, that counts towards the $1 million limit.
If you use loans secured by your home for other things — like sending your kid to college — you can still deduct the interest on loans up $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately) because your home secures the loan.
PMI and FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums
You can deduct the cost of private mortgage insurance (PMI) as mortgage interest on Schedule A if you itemize your return. The change only applies to loans taken out in 2007 or later.
By the way, the 2014 tax season is the last for which you can claim this deduction unless Congress renews it for 2015, which may happen, but is uncertain.
What’s PMI? If you have a mortgage but didn’t put down a fairly good-sized downpayment (usually 20%), the lender requires the mortgage be insured. The premium on that insurance can be deducted, so long as your income is less than $100,000 (or $50,000 for married filing separately).
If your adjusted gross income is more than $100,000, your deduction is reduced by 10% for each $1,000 ($500 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return) that your adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000 ($50,000 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return). So, if you make $110,000 or more, you can’t claim the deduction (10% x 10 = 100%).
Besides private mortgage insurance, there’s government insurance from FHA, VA, and the Rural Housing Service. Some of those premiums are paid at closing, and deducting them is complicated. A tax adviser or tax software program can help you calculate this deduction. Also, the rules vary between the agencies.
Prepaid Interest Deduction
Prepaid interest (or points) you paid when you took out your mortgage is generally 100% deductible in the year you paid it along with other mortgage interest.
If you refinance your mortgage and use that money for home improvements, any points you pay are also deductible in the same year.
But if you refinance to get a better rate or shorten the length of your mortgage, or to use the money for something other than home improvements, such as college tuition, you’ll need to deduct the points over the life of your mortgage. Say you refi into a 10-year mortgage and pay $3,000 in points. You can deduct $300 per year for 10 years.
So what happens if you refi again down the road?
Example: Three years after your first refi, you refinance again. Using the $3,000 in points scenario above, you’ll have deducted $900 ($300 x 3 years) so far. That leaves $2,400, which you can deduct in full the year you complete your second refi. If you paid points for the new loan, the process starts again; you can deduct the points over the life of the loan.
Home mortgage interest and points are reported on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040.
Your lender will send you a Form 1098 that lists the points you paid. If not, you should be able to find the amount listed on the HUD-1 settlement sheet you got when you closed the purchase of your home or your refinance closing.
Property Tax Deduction
You can deduct on Schedule A the real estate property taxes you pay. If you have a mortgage with an escrow account, the amount of real estate property taxes you paid shows up on your annual escrow statement.
If you bought a house this year, check your HUD-1 settlement statement to see if you paid any property taxes when you closed the purchase of your house. Those taxes are deductible on Schedule A, too.
Energy-Efficiency Upgrades
If you made your home more energy efficient in 2014, you might qualify for the residential energy tax credit.
Tax credits are especially valuable because they let you offset what you owe the IRS dollar for dollar for up to 10% of the amount you spent on certain home energy-efficiency upgrades.
The credit carries a lifetime cap of $500 (less for some products), so if you’ve used it in years past, you’ll have to subtract prior tax credits from that $500 limit. Lucky for you, there’s no cap on how much you’ll save on utility bills thanks to your energy-efficiency upgrades.
Among the upgrades that might qualify for the credit:
Biomass stoves
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
Roofs (metal and asphalt)
Water heaters (non-solar)
Windows, doors, and skylights
To claim the credit, file IRS Form 5695 with your return.
Homebuyer Tax Credit
This isn’t a deduction, but it’s important to keep track of if you claimed it in 2008. There were federal first-time homebuyer tax credits in 2008, 2009, and 2010. If you claimed the homebuyer tax credit for a purchase made after April 8, 2008, and before Jan. 1, 2009, you must repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years, with no interest.
The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe each year until it’s paid off. Or if the home stops being your main home, you may need to add the remaining unpaid credit amount to your income tax on your next tax return.
Generally, you don’t have to pay back the credit if you bought your home in 2009, 2010, or early 2011. The exception: You have to repay the full credit amount if you sold your house or stopped using it as primary residence within 36 months of the purchase date. Then you must repay it with your tax return for the year the home stopped being your principal residence.
The repayment rules are less rigorous for uniformed service members, Foreign Service workers, and intelligence community workers who got sent on extended duty at least 50 miles from their principal residence.
This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice; tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

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The All-Star Team, REALTORS®
Bringing you home...again and again!
4 Willow Bend, Suite 2A
Hattiesburg MS 39402

The All-Star Team, REALTORS brings you over 200 years of accumulated experience along with the most innovative marketing strategies in the real estate industry. We specialize in the real estate properties located in Hattiesburg, Oak Grove, Petal, Sumrall, Purvis, Columbia, and the entire Pine Belt region. Put The All-Star Team, REALTORS® to work for you as you consider your next home sale or purchase. Experience the team approach to real estate and make us your REALTOR® for life! See how The All-Star Team, REALTORS® really is bringing the Pine Belt home again and again.