Homeowners’ top 10 money-savers

Think tax breaks, energy efficiency, physics

Are you ready to save more of your hard-earned cash in 2010? If so, here are 10 tips that can help you cut your homeownership and home maintenance costs in 2010.

1. See if you qualify for a reduction in property taxes
Has your property’s value declined from last year? If so, you may be eligible for a reduction in your property taxes. You could check with a local real estate professional to determine what your current property value is based on recent sales of comparable properties.

And you should review the guidelines for obtaining a property tax reduction. Typically there is a challenge process offered by local governments if you dispute the assessed value of your property.

2. Claim all of your real estate deductions
If you are itemizing deductions, be sure to claim all deductions to which you are entitled. For example, if your state has a homestead exemption for property taxes, have you claimed it? Did you refinance or purchase your primary residence in the last year? If so, you are probably eligible to deduct the points you paid to obtain the loan.

If you remodeled your property, the remodel will generally change your cost basis. It’s important to track this since it will influence how much you can keep from any profits if you elect to sell. Some remodeling projects that improve the energy-efficiency of your home can also qualify for a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of the project, up to $1,500. See your tax professional to see which of these deductions may apply in your case.

3. Get rid of energy-guzzling, old appliances
Do you have that 15-year-old refrigerator in the garage? Are you using an old top-loading washer that uses 60 gallons of water per load as opposed to 17 gallons per load like the new, more efficient, front-loading machines? While it may not be in your budget to replace these items right now, if they do go out in 2010, visit the Energy Star Web site to locate the most efficient appliances and discover which ones actually qualify for a rebate.

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4. Consider purchasing a home warranty policy
Like any insurance policy, it pays off only if there is a problem with one of the systems in your home. If your appliances and the major systems in your home are more than five years old, this may be a smart investment, especially if one of those systems goes out. A typical policy is less than $500 per year. On the other hand, the cost of replacing a water heater can run close to $1,000. Replacing a heating or cooling system can run into the thousands.

5. Install insulation and/or a radiant roof barrier
Generally this type of improvement qualifies for an energy rebate. In our previous home, we did not have a radiant barrier in our attic. The temperature was a good 30 to 40 degrees warmer than the inside of the house. In contrast, our new home has the radiant barrier and the attic temperatures are significantly cooler. This results in lower cooling bills. …CONTINUED

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