Maintaining Your Home

Making Improvements to Your Montclair Home? Save Your Receipts!

I just came across this article the other day and wanted to share it. Clients (past, present and future) regularly consult with me on how much value they may see in a home improvement project when they go to sell their home. The answer is often a double-edged sword, as I remind them that improvements that increase the value of a home can also increase the owner's tax liability.  Your capital gains tax liability (based on how much more your sale price is than your buying price was) is complex, but can often be offset by the cost of the improvements you made to your home while you owned it. My advice -- always -- is, whatever you do, save receipts.

I love when a reputable news source like the New York Times runs a piece like this, mostly because the information is so comprehensive - containing valuable links and answering almost every question that may come up.

For example, simply the listing of what we can deduct is very helpful: "...decks and patios; landscaping, including sprinkler systems; pools; a new roof or siding; insulation; and kitchen remodeling. Some smaller and perhaps surprising things are there, too: installation of utility services, which could include any fiber charges from Verizon for FiOS or money you paid to the person who hard-wired your Apple TV to your cable modem. Each additional electrical outlet should count, too. Also, you can add in many legal, title and recording fees (plus transfer and certain other taxes) from your closing."

I especially like the suggestion to photocopy "thermal receipts," as they can fade over time.

I'm always happy to answer questions about improvements, so please feel free to call upon me -- for all your real estate needs! 973-809-5277

Fallen Branches in Montclair, NJ - Who Pays?

Driving around town this past week, I've seen a huge number of Montclair homes that were hit hard by the snowstorm of October 29. Drooping power lines and downed trees are unfortunately a common sight these days. Power lines are obviously a matter for PSE&G to deal with; trees, however, may be your responsibility.

If one of your trees falls on your own property, it is your responsibility to get it to the curb; the town of Montclair will then remove it for you. Any damage to your home is also your responsibility--call your insurance company.

But what if a neighbor's tree falls on your property? In an article on the website,  DC-area author Ann Cochran explains that you should still contact your own insurance company.  The cost of removing it is your neighbor's responsibility only if you can prove that he knew that the tree was at risk of falling (due to disease, e.g.) and did nothing about it. In the case of a freak snowstorm, this is unlikely.

The same logic applies if one of your trees falls onto your neighbor's property. Cochran recommends doing nothing until you hear from your neighbor's insurance company. Removing the tree is your responsibility only if your neighbor can prove that you knew it was a hazard and did nothing about it.  Having said that, it's always neighborly to offer to remove the branches - even if legally, it's not your responsibility.

Property damage is very upsetting. Knowing your rights and responsibilities as a homeowner is a good way to prevent it from escalating into a neighborhood dispute.