As real estate values have fallen and foreclosures have swamped the market, increasing numbers of would-be sellers are deciding to lease their properties instead of selling. These new and reluctant landlords often miss out on massive tax deductions available for investment properties, which can save thousands of dollars in taxes. In an economy where every penny counts, make sure you take advantage of these ten real estate tax write-offs, some of which are exclusive to real estate investors and landlords.

1. Mortgage Interest

Even homeowners can write off mortgage interest, so this deduction is widely known and understood, but mortgage interest can add up to many thousands of dollars each year; not a deduction to miss.

2. Hazard Insurance

If you were a reluctant landlord, you can rejoice over this one: homeowners can't write off their homeowner's insurance, but landlords and real estate investors can write off their hazard insurance premium as a deductible expense. Be sure to save a copy of your insurance premium invoice, and give it to your accountant.

3. Property Taxes

As intuitive as it sounds, thousands of property owners forget to list their real estate property taxes as deductible expenses every year, and end up effectively paying those taxes twice.

4. Property Depreciation

Real estate depreciation is not well understood, but it adds up to a substantial sum each year. Basically, the government allows real estate investors to take a "paper loss" of value on a mathematical model that assumes that properties will steadily decline in value over 27.5 years, from their purchase price to a value of $0. This means you can deduct a depreciation loss of 2/55 of the purchase price, for the first 27 years you own a property. Depreciation can become complicated however, so make sure you discuss this one with your accountant.

5. Legal Counsel & Landlord Forms

Most of the legal bills, including the cost of landlord forms and real estate legal contracts, are tax deductible for your investment property. Important exception: eviction costs, which generally cannot be deducted, but speak with your accountant for further details on exactly which expenses can and cannot be deducted.

6. Property Management Costs

If you've hired a property management company to oversee your tenants, leases, and properties, their costs are tax-deductible, so be sure to add up their fees and write them off (and remember that you'll owe the property manager a 1099 if the total fees were over $600).

7. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

If you have a high mortgage relative to your property's value (and right now, who doesn't), chances are you pay an extra charge each month for private mortgage insurance along with your mortgage payment. These charges, while annoying, can at least be deducted from your taxable income.

8. Maintenance & Repairs

While homeowners can't write off their home improvements, landlords and real estate investors can! There are some exceptions (so touch base with your accountant), but in general any repairs that are required for habitability and safety are tax-deductible.

9. Advertising & Tenant Screening

When landlords have vacant properties, they can write off the costs associated with filling them, such as advertising the rental property, pulling credit reports, obtaining criminal background checks, etc.

10. Settlement Costs

If you're one of the rare and lucky people actually buying investment properties right now, some of the settlement costs you pay can be deducted, such as mortgage lender fees and government recordation costs. Not every settlement charge is tax-deductible, however, so be sure to send a copy of your HUD-1 settlement statement to your accountant so they can comb through it and find all of the deductible costs.

As a final note, remember that your accountant's bill is deductible as well, on next year's tax return, so be sure to include last year's accounting bill among this year's tax deductions, and good luck saving money on taxes!

Spring is all about rebirth. About letting the sunlight back in. About trying something new. Now’s your chance to do something drastic in just a few small steps. Create a space that screams “spring” with these 10 easy designer tips.

1. Pack up dark tones and try new colors

Lighter tones for spring

“When we start seeing more sunlight, I pack up the dark tones and heavy accessories and rearrange everything to increase openness and air circulation,” says Jennifer Adams, an interior designer from Scottsdale, AZ.

Swap in lighter or neutral tones to give your home an open, airy feel. Spring is a great time to bring new colors into your home, especially if you’ve already got white or neutral walls. Adams recommends trying “fresh colors” such as mints, lighter greens, blush pinks, and grays. Combine colors with warm metals (think rose and antique golds) to create a cozy, fresh space.

Introduce new colors
Not sure where to integrate these changes? Think small: throw pillows, blankets, and bookshelf accessories. If you’re feeling brave, consider painting a whole wall—as long as you’re willing to paint again if you grow tired of it.

2. Update your entryway

A spring-y welcome mat
If your entryway looks like the way to Winterfell, now’s the time to give it a seasonal makeover.

Your front door is the first thing visitors see—so you’ll want to make it pop. DeAnna Radaj, an eco-shui design consultant from Charlotte, NC, recommends changing your welcome mat, door wreath, and porch accessories each season.

That doesn’t mean they have to be covered in pastels and Easter eggs, but a timeless spring look can go a long way.

Don’t forget to clean, too: Remove the layers of snow-tracked dirt and silt built up on your porch and give your patio furniture a thorough wipe-down.

3. Switch to sheers

Sheer drapes give an airier look.
As a general rule, you should build your drapery in layers, with heavy panels on the top and light sheers against the windows. Now that spring’s here, it’s an excellent time to take down those dark, heavy panels for a thorough cleaning.

4. Go minimal

Declutter with a more minimal look.
You need fewer accessories in spring. With nothing much to see outside in winter, it’s worth building visual interest with various knickknacks. But now that you’re letting in more light—and tracking the progress of those buds—it’s time to declutter.

5. Clean the windows, inside and out

You already know: Spring-cleaning is so refreshing, it feels great once you actually do it, blah, blah, blah. But here’s an important step in the whole process that many people forget: Clean the exteriors of your window, too.

6. Buy seasonal bedding

Seasonal bedding
Don’t just clean your bedding for spring. Consider getting an all-new set to bring new life to your bedroom for the season—something bright, light, and airy. And it’s not just aesthetic: A lighter-weight duvet helps prevent the night sweats as the temperature rises.

7. Add mirrors and sparkle

Brighten up a room with some well-placed mirrors.
No, we’re not going for full-on glitz and glamour, here—no one wants to relive New Year’s Eve in the spring. But adding reflective elements (e.g., mirrors on the wall or crystal accents) can bring sunlight into hard-to-reach spaces—making even the darkest room feel bright and fresh.
8. Welcome the outdoors

Bring the outdoors in.
Sure, you can head to the backyard if you’re eager for sunlight and greenery (look at all those gorgeous blooms, finally sprouted!), but why not bring the outside in?

In addition to flowers and plants that can survive indoors, Radaj suggests using natural fibers such as jute and seagrass. You can also get your green on by framing artwork and photos of natural landscapes.
9. Update your gallery walls

Looking for a simple fix to make your space feel brand new? Look at your walls—how long has the artwork been in that exact arrangement? Try something new. You don’t have to change every bit of artwork you own, but taking the time to rearrange one of your gallery walls—or even move it to a brand-new spot—can make a huge difference in the aura of the room.


10. Get an HVAC checkup

This last one isn’t about your home design. But after all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?
Before switching on your air conditioner for the first time since last August, make sure your HVAC system is up to snuff after a long winter of heating.

“Your lungs will thank you,” Radaj says.

At the very least, replace your filter. It’s also a good idea to get a full checkup for the system to make sure everything is working properly. Not only will this make the air feel fresher, it also can save you money on your energy bills—and we know that will put a spring in your step.

Mistake No. 1: Renting out your old home badly…

Sure, it seems smart to hold on to your old place just in case. It’s also nice to collect rent! But that’s the best-case scenario; you need to also consider the worst.

“Renting [out] a home can be a great investment, if you know what you’re doing,” says real estate investor Mark Ferguson of “The problem is, many people have no idea how to manage renting a home—like collecting rent and checking on tenants—or [to] anticipate the expenses. Landlords have to account for maintenance and vacancies, not just their mortgage payment, so most houses won’t make money as rentals.”

So make sure you have a plan to manage your home remotely, and that you can afford to keep paying the mortgage in between tenants.

Mistake No. 2: Or selling it prematurely

Robert Palmer, host of the syndicated Saving Thousands Radio Network, talks up the other side of the issue.

“Selling years from now is going to net you more money than selling today, and someone else will have made the [mortgage] payments for you,” he says. “This helps you build wealth.”

The key is the right tenant, like a friend or somebody you know. Bottom line: If your home is in a hot market like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York City, it might be impossible to buy back into the market should you ever decide to return to it. Which happens more than you might think.

“In L.A., it’s not uncommon for rental amounts to be more than the mortgage payments,” says Terra Andersen, director of Internet marketing at apartment-rental company NMS Properties. In that case, it might be more wise to rent out your home, as a revenue stream and a fallback option.

Mistake No. 3: Muddling a mortgage on a new home

If you’re relocating for a new job and want to buy a home before you start working, be sure to structure your employment agreement to avoid issues with lenders. While an executed offer of employment can serve as documentation to qualify for a new mortgage, many lenders will require proof that all the offer contingencies have been met as well, says Mary Catchur, president of Marimark Mortgage.

A solution is to meet with a mortgage loan originator licensed in the state you’re relocating to and develop a plan to fulfill those requirements, “preferably before finalizing the new job offer,” says Catchur.

Mistake No. 4: Storing stuff with plans to move it someday

Tempted to leave behind lots of your possessions to transport months or maybe years after you’re settled? If you’re certain a relocation is permanent, it’s best to move everything right away. The reason: “You can take the moving expenses adjustment on your tax return only for expenses paid in the same tax year as your move,” says Crystal Stranger, president of 1st Tax and the author of “The Small Business Tax Guide.”

Plus, “from a realistic standpoint, it’s easy to forget about an item in storage,” points out Christine Haney, executive vice president of Global Relocation at Elliman Real Estate. “When my father was transferred to Europe, my parents stored their 1970s gold, brown, and green furniture. When they returned eight years later, their now-retro furniture had no place in their new home. It did provide a good laugh for all—or tears, once they discovered how much money they had spent in the long run!”

Mistake No. 5: Expecting your possessions to arrive ASAP

And even if you do pack up and send off everything all at once, don’t push it too close to the day you start a new job or endeavor, expecting all your possessions to arrive at one time.

“It can take a few days, if not a week or two, for all your belongings to arrive at your new home, due to weather or road shutdowns,” says Ryan Carrigan, co-founder of moveBuddha. “Many people end up having to buy new work clothes, school supplies, or basic kitchen items” when they show up at a home well before the moving truck does. Pack a starter kit with whatever essentials you need for a week, and always keep important documents with you.

Mistake No. 6: Not getting schooled on schools

“Some people move into a district without checking out the schools,” says Alina Adams, who works in school admissions in Manhattan. What’s worse, she says, is when people move to a neighborhood with a great school without realizing that it has no more room. So play it safe: Call the school district or private school you want to find out if you can enroll your child.

Mistake No. 7: Trying to arrange your new home exactly like your last

Often relocaters “try to replicate the exact same old living environment in a new area,” says Haney.“As families try to mitigate the impact on the changes that any move can bring, sometimes this can actually add to the stress, especially when the former lifestyle can’t be replicated. Further, it takes away from experiencing new cultures and learning about new areas. The most successful moves I’ve seen is when families embrace the change.” Welcome a new environment to go with your new move. You’ll be glad you did.

We may be on the verge of spring, but housing and economic reports work on a bit of a lag time. We’ve only just gotten the major data reports for January, and it’s giving us a clear-eyed view of how the real estate market is measuring up this year.

And yeah, things are looking good!

Job creation—arguably the most important factor in housing demand—is moving apace. January saw 151,000 jobs created. That level of employment growth is below 2015’s monthly average, but unemployment is now near 10-year lows and is in line with the current macro forecast from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). This level of employment growth should translate into the 3% growth in housing sales we are expecting for the year.

Speaking of sales, January’s existing home sales report did not disappoint. Even though sales are taking longer to close, due to the implementation of new disclosure and closing forms and procedures, the pace grew 0.4% in January from December. Granted, that’s not a lot, but analysts had been expecting a decline. And from January 2015 to January 2016, existing home sales grew a solidly impressive 11%.

The increase in sales is resulting in continued tighter-than-tight supply—measured by NAR to be four months in January. For you non-economists out there, that metric measures the number of months it would take to sell the current inventory of available homes, at the current pace. Got it? Six to seven months’ worth of homes on the market is considered normal; four months is cray-cray.

This is driving prices higher and encouraging consumers who hope to buy this year to get started as soon as possible.

January’s new home sales and new home construction remained consistent with the pace of activity of the last several months. Still, the level of new construction still represents solid year-over-year growth, especially in single-family homes. The most encouraging sign: The median price of new homes is finally declining, as a result of the fact that builders are offering more affordable homes.

Finally, the most timely readings we can pass on come from our own observations at that confirm that demand is growing rapidly at the start of the year, resulting in an acceleration in inventory movement that we typically do not see until March or April.

OK, not everything is rainbows and unicorns. The biggest negative trend impacting potential demand relates to the January and February declines in stock values, which have taken a toll on consumer confidence. But, even that negative trend has a silver lining: Mortgage rates are now substantially lower. The average 30-year conforming rate has stabilized at under 3.7%, giving buyers almost 5% more buying power than they had at the end of 2015, and strengthening their ability to meet the debt-to-income ratio requirement for a loan.

Net-net, pent-up demand appears stronger than any weakness caused by the financial markets. And the lower rates are encouraging would-be buyers to act sooner rather than later. With this strong start, 2016 should indeed see growth, but the biggest constraint will be the tight supply.

Having bad or no credit can be a huge obstacle in many situations, perhaps none more difficult than when you’re trying to buy a home. In fact, homeownership can be one of the biggest reasons people set out to build good credit. But, while establishing a strong credit history is the most common route to homeownership, it’s not the only way there.

Like anything else, you can buy a home with cash. In 2015, all-cash transactions made up 30.1% of single-family home and condo purchases (down from a peak of 36.3% in 2012), according to real estate data company RealtyTrac. People may have many reasons for buying a home with cash, but if you have bad or no credit, it’s probably your only option.

Pros and cons of paying cash

“Some people have terrible credit and they’re afraid they won’t qualify for a mortgage,” says Diane Saatchi, a senior broker with Saunders & Associates, a real estate company in the Hamptons, on Long Island, NY. Then there are the cash buyers who don’t want to deal with the credit world. “They don’t want to be subjected to the scrutiny of a bank. … They like to live under the radar.”

Even if you live in a very inexpensive part of the country, buying a home with cash requires saving a lot of money — or making a lot of money.

“If you’re paying $100,000 cash, you’ve either saved for a very long time or you’re coming from some money,” says Doris Phillips, chief operating officer of Lake Homes Realty and a real estate broker in Alabama and Georgia. Oftentimes, people who buy homes with cash are purchasing luxury or secondary homes, she says.

Beyond the fact that buying a home with cash doesn’t require you to have good (or any) credit, it can save time and money.

“A lot of times, with cash deals there’s only one Realtor involved, so you can really negotiate down the commission,” Phillips says.

Closing costs tend to be much lower, as well.

“You don’t have to have mortgage insurance, you’re not paying mortgage tax, you’re not paying lender’s costs and underwriter’s costs,” Phillips says. “You’re not paying points to the lender.”

She says a cash purchase could take about five days from start to finish, rather than the several weeks that a mortgage requires. As far as logistics go, you sign a handful of documents and wire the money from your bank account to the title company.

Cash purchases certainly have disadvantages, though. You can get a tax deduction for paying mortgage interest, and interest rates are very low right now, so borrowing is relatively cheap and allows you to do something else with all that cash. And cash offers aren’t always going to win a bidding war. It really depends on the seller.

“We go up against cash buyers all the time,” says Scott Sheldon, a senior loan officer with Sonoma County Mortgages in California. “And a common theme with those people is that [they think] they’re better than everybody. They tend to be very low-ball-oriented offers that we tend to beat out regularly.”

On the other hand, it’s low risk for the seller. “A cash deal is pretty much a sure deal,” Phillips says. “Mortgages can fall through the crack with one simple thing.”

If you’re not in a position to buy property with cash but still want to be a homeowner, you can focus on building a good credit score while saving for the purchase. Smart credit use, like making payments on time and spending very little of the available credit on your credit cards, will help you improve your credit scores over time. You can learn more about fixing your credit here and track your progress by getting two of your credit scores for free every month on And check your free credit report every year at


This article was written by Christine DiGangi and originally published on