Cook’s Corner: New Year, New Listings, and More!

by Steve CookJanuary 17, 2017

When is the best time to list my house in the new year?

Because of the Internet, selling a home is not as seasonal as it once was. For generations, real estate professionals urged their clients to list their homes in the early spring when the weather warmed up. Buyers could visit homes easily and get a good feel for the neighborhood in all of its springtime glory. With today’s virtual tours, though, potential buyers can view the highlights of a listing wherever they and whenever they want to house hunt.

Despite the easy access that the internet offers, there are still some good reasons to list in the spring. Families want to start looking early to find and close on a new home and be ready to enter their kids in their new school by fall. In fact, all buyers generally want to be settled before the cold weather arrives. One disadvantage to listing in the spring is that it can be competitive because that’s when everyone else is also putting their houses up for sale.

Can I deduct the amount I spend on mortgage insurance premiums from my income taxes?

Yes, you can still deduct mortgage insurance premiums you paid in 2016 when you file your 2016 taxes. However, the future of this tax benefit is in doubt. Congress has been extending the mortgage insurance tax break on an annual basis but failed to do so by the end of 2016. Housing interests like the National Association of Realtors and the USMI, the trade association for mortgage insurers, are still lobbying to continue it but the outlook for 2017 and beyond is bleak.

How much value does a working fireplace add to a home?

The value of adding a fireplace to your home varies by locale. Obviously, a cheery hearth in the winter adds more to a home in Vermont than in Florida.

A recent Angie’s List survey of more than 100 real estate agents across the U.S. found that more than 68 percent believe having a fireplace in a home increases its value. The vast majority of real estate agents – more than 83 percent – see fireplaces adding between $1,000 and $4,999 to the home’s value, according to the survey. 54 percent think that a gas-burning fireplace increases the home’s value most, though a survey of 2,000 homeowners and homebuyers showed 58 percent prefer to have a wood-burning fireplace at home. According to a 2007 National Association of Realtors survey, 46 percent of home buyers would pay more for a home with at least one fireplace. The median additional price buyers were willing to pay was $1,220, but fireplaces can boost a home’s value by as much as $12,000 in some locations. What seems clear is that having a fireplace of some kind is a positive for your home value.

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About The Author
Steve Cook
Steve Cook is editor and co-publisher of Real Estate Economy Watch. He is a member of the board of the National Association of Real Estate Editors and writes for several leading Web sites, including Inman News. From 1999 to 2007 he was vice president for public affairs at the National Association of Realtors.

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