Blog :: 02-2014

Your Quick Guide to the Home Energy Tax Credit

If you're looking for ways to save money this year, then investing in energy efficient equipment may be the answer you're looking for.  Installing energy efficient products into your home is a great way for you to lower your energy bills and protect the environment. An added benefit is that there are many renewable energy equipment come with tax credits. Below is a brief guide on how you can take full advantage of these tax credits.

Tax Payer Relief Act of 2012

The American Taxpayer Relief act was renewed and came into effect on January 1st 2012 and expired December 31st 2013. If you installed any of the qualifying equipment (see below) you are eligible for this tax credit, which can save you up to 30% on eligible equipment.

What Products Qualify?

Wind Turbine, Solar Water Heater, and Geothermal Heat Pump Tax Credit

This credit is also known as Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit. Energy prices across the US have been slowly rising, and are projected to rise over the coming years.  Installing a residential wind turbine or a geothermal heat pump is a wise investment and can significantly lower you energy bill. If you installed one of the following systems mentioned above, you are entitled to a 30% credit of the cost equipment and installation.

Non-Business Energy Property Tax Credit

Is that old water heater acting up again? Well, maybe now is a good time to remove that old appliance. Certain energy efficient home energy products are eligible to receive a credit worth 10%. However, the maximum you can claim is capped at $500.  Below is a list of some of the qualifying products. For additional information you can visit the Energy Star website.

  • Biomass stoves
  • Central air conditioning
  • Natural gas, propane or oil furnace
  • Insulation such as batts, rolls, blow-in fibers, expanding spray, and pour-in place
  • Conventional or tankless water heaters

How to Apply

If you place one or more of the products mentioned abouve in your home during 2013, then you need to file the 2013 version of IRS form 5695. On the 1040 form, you need to enter the from the form 5695 form to line 52 on the 1040 form.  Be sure to attach the 5695 forms when you file your 2013 taxes.

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Best Real Estate Apps

Today's world is a digital world, and as a result of that is a shift from paper to smart phones. Because of the shift in times, companies including real estate companies are becoming digital. Any successful real estate company today has an app for your smart phone. It's becoming more and more popular to see people at open houses on their iPhone or Android looking at various apps to figuring out information crucial to buying a home. The best real estate apps allow consumers to view nearby amenities, calculate their mortgage, and more. Here's a list of some of the best real estate apps:

Trulia:

Available for iPhone, iPads, and Androids, this app is great for both renters and buyers. Trulia allows you to view any nearby amenity including, schools, gyms, and stores. The app also displays flood zones and crime rates. Trulia is very user friendly and allows the user to search homes from any type of search including price range and date built. When ready to buy users can search for current or upcoming open houses, and even get in contact with a real estate agent.

Lovely:

Available for iPhone and iPads. This modern design real estate app is easy to use for viewing nearby stores and amenities. This app has features such as saving a home, searching for pet friendly homes, and high definition photos that makes it a great app when house hunting.

Homesnap:

Available for iPhone, iPads, and Androids. This app is a very cool app to have, especially if you're unsure of a home's address. Take a photo of a home and Homesnap will know what home it is and will give the user the house's information. This app is the Shazam of the real estate apps.

Zillow:

Available for iPhone, iPads, and Androids. Zillow's app was awarded the Best "Search Tools" App of the Year, Appy Awards 2013. The app allows you to search millions of homes and rentals across the country. Zillow also has a "Zestimate" feature that gives users estimates on homes and rental prices. This app gives users the option to track homes, and send homes via Facebook and email.

Be sure to let us know your favorite spots on real estate apps by commenting on our Facebook! For more information on real estate apps, feel free to message our Rental Agents directly at our rentals Facebook page, Charles Rentals.

Sources: The Street Trulia Lovely Homesnap Zillow

This Week's Featured Neighborhood: Back Bay

Centerpiece for Victorian Brownstone Homes and Famous Boston Landmarks

One of Boston's most desirable neighborhoods, the Back Bay is home to trendy Victorian brownstone homes, unique shops, and trendy restaurants and bars. The Back Bay is home to The Charles Realty (located at 257 Newbury Street) and many other companies and shops. Numerous boutiques line Newbury Street making it the shopping mecca of Boston.

The shops on Newbury Street, the Prudential Center, and other spots in the Back Bay draw in shoppers from all over the world. The Back Bay is also a notable Boston neighborhood for its boasting landmarks such as, Copley Square, the Trinity Church, and the Public Library. The two tallest Boston skylines, the Prudential Center and the John Hancock Tower add to the Back Bay's beautiful scenery.

Some restaurants include: Top of the Hub (American): 800 Boylston Street Stephanie's on Newbury (American): 190 Newbury Street Atlantic Fish (Seafood): 761 Boylston Street Abe & Louie's (Steak): 793 Boylston Street L'Espalier (French): 774 Boylston Street Sorellina (Italian): 1 Huntington Avenue

Some shopping stores include: The Shops at the Prudential Center: 800 Boylston Street Newbury Street Shops: Newbury Street

Some bars & pubs include: McGreevy's: 911 Boylston Street Champion's Sports Bar: 110 Huntington Avenue Met Back Bay: 279 Dartmouth Street

Be sure to let us know your favorite spots in the Back Bay by commenting on our Facebook! For more information on the Back Bay, feel free to message our Rental Agents directly at our new rentals Facebook page, Charles Rentals.

For Back Bay listings please visit our website http://www.thecharlesrealty.com/.

Sources: Boston.com Cityofboston.gov

Your Credit Score: What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You

How would you feel if everyone in your neighborhood knew something about you that you didn't know? Uncomfortable? At a disadvantage? Well, if you don't know what your credit scores are, you're sort of in the same boat - because every creditor you apply for financing with knows your score, and so do most insurers and many employers. Why would you give them that much power?

You shouldn't.

At the Dealership

Imagine that you're at an auto dealership, drooling over your next car. Everything's done but the paperwork. Surprise! The finance manager is standing there, looking uncomfortable. Your credit score (also called a FICO score) won't qualify you for a car loan. Why? You assumed your credit was okay, and now you see that the boat loan you co-signed for your husband's deadbeat cousin hasn't been paid in months. You slink out of the dealership, mortified. Had you looked at your credit report in advance, you'd have avoided some embarrassment (and perhaps fixed the problem before it got out of hand).

Meanwhile, your neighbor is at the car lot across town. He marches in with an advertisement for zero percent financing and orders a new convertible. He's livid when the salesperson informs him that the zero percent loan is only for buyers with FICO scores of 760 and over, and his is a measly 748. However, the salesperson says they can finance him at six percent. Frustrated, he accepts the dealer's offer. Had your neighbor checked his scores, he'd have been able to negotiate a better interest rate. Here's why.

The Many faces of FICO

Most people don't know that the credit reports they see and the scores they purchase aren't usually the same ones that lenders get. In fact, there are about 50 different FICO scores, geared to different applications and sold by the major credit bureaus - Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. So a mortgage lending score might be different than an automotive FICO or an insurance FICO. And Equifax's automotive FICO might assign you a lower score than TransUnion's. If a lender tells you that you'll have to pay a higher interest rate because your score is 748, and you have a report showing that your score is 765, that's a powerful negotiating tool. You can demand the rate you deserve or take your business to a dealership or mortgage lender that uses a different (better) scoring model.

Mortgage Rates

For most conventional (non-government) home loans, your credit score determines your mortgage rate. In fact, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the companies that buy and sell most mortgages in the US, have very specific pricing adjustments that depend on credit scores. These pricing systems divide applicants into 20-point credit scoring tiers, for example FICOs from 600-619, 620-639, and so on. When you improve your credit and jump up a tier, you're offered a better mortgage rate. Conversely, if your score drops a single point, say from 660 to 659, it could cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Knowing your score and the tiers (click here for Fannie Mae's matrix) can help you position yourself to pay less, either by boosting your score a few points before applying for a loan, or by dealing with mortgage lenders that use a friendlier scoring system.

Dirtbags Everywhere!

Finally, arguably the most compelling reason for keeping tabs on your credit history and credit scores is identity theft. Unless you relish the thought of some creepy couple sailing around the world after emptying your bank account and wrecking your credit rating, taking a periodic peek at your credit is a wise move.

It's not even expensive or difficult. By law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three bureaus once a year. That means every four months, all you need to do is go to www.annualcreditreport.com (the government's hassle-free and no-cost site) and request a report from one bureau. For a small charge, you can also purchase your credit scores. And remember - any time you are turned down for credit, you're also entitled to a free look at your credit history.

Knowing what's on your report helps you dodge embarrassment, negotiate better terms, and thwart identity thieves. The link is RIGHT in this article. You might as well click it now and make sure your house is in order.

Where to Spend Valentine's Day in Boston (For Couples and Singles)

Whether you like it or not Valentine's Day is here. If you're in a relationship or single, there's plenty to do in the Boston area. Ideas for places to go out to eat in Boston, or the perfect place to spend Valentine's Day for singles can be found on this blog. Take a look at some Valentine's Day ideas:

Couples - There's an abundance of places to spend Valentine's Day in Boston, but figuring out the least busy and most romantic spot is a challenge. Despite the challenge, there are still perfect spots and tips to make this Valentine's Day the most romantic one. Tips such as: Going out for a romantic lunch, and having dinner at home will help make the perfect Valentine's Day. Try taking your loved one out to one of these spots:

Gaslight 560 Harrison Ave, Boston This Parisian-style brasserie in the South End features hors d'oeuvres, entrees, and desserts in a romantic ambiance.

Lumiere 1293 Washington Street, Newton $80 per person, optional $35 wine pairings (TBD) Lumiere celebrates Valentine's Day with three courses of bistro-inspired, sustainably-focused cuisine. Guests are invited to choose from dishes like Oysters Escabeche, Red Fire Farm Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Dry-Aged Grass-Fed Rain Crow Ranch Beef Rib Steak, and Rose Champagne Sorbe.

Home Your address Try impressing your loved one with a candlelit dinner. This option saves you the trouble of traveling, making reservations, and high expenses. A peaceful dinner at home can amount for a perfect Valentine's Day.

Singles - Forget about the pressures and marketing of Valentine's Day and relax at one of these places:

Area Four's Cupid is Stupid Party 500 Technology Square, Cambridge According to a press release, Area Four's Cupid is Stupid Party will feature, "a heated menu filled with spite and spice and everything not-so nice, a sad soundtrack and a roster of films that prove love sucks for the beautiful people, too."

Ducali's Anti-Valentine's Day Party 289 Causeway St, Boston Pizza, beer, and watching sports. A perfect party for single Boston sports fans to relax, meet other singles, and forget about Valentine's Day.

A bar Bar's location Try going to the place where no couple will be, and mingle with other singles.

Be sure to let us know your favorite spots on Valentine's Day by commenting on our Facebook! For more information on Valentine's Day ideas, feel free to message our Rental Agents directly at our rentals Facebook page, Newbury Rentals.

Sources:

BostInno Examiner.com Massvacation.com

Moving To A Big City: What You Need To Know

Big cities are expansive concrete jungles brimming with culture, distinctive districts, and prominent landmarks. Moving to such a bustling metropolis can be an intimidating task as it imposes its own unique set of acclimatization challenges for newcomers. Yet, with proper preparation and familiarization, the daunting urban sprawl can feel like home very quickly. The following tips will help you adjust to your new setting whether you're moving to Boston on the east coast or San Francisco on the west coast.

Thoroughly Explore Your New Surroundings

I'm not just referring to a quick drive around all the main streets; I'm talking about launching a full-on expedition to intimately familiarize yourself with the area. Buy a detailed map and make it your goal to explore every inch of it. It'll also help you figure out ideal driving routes and potential ways to avoid rush hour traffic. The sooner you know have the area mapped out in your head, the sooner it'll begin to feel like home.

In terms of tourist attractions, feel free to frequent them, but just be wary that locals tend to steer clear of such areas and that there's so much more to explore in the city.

Manage Your Money Wisely

Except for very rare cases, the unstated rules of modern civilization dictate that cities will always be more expensive to live in when compared to the costs of their surrounding areas. This is primarily due to the fact cities are generally the epicenters of culture and commerce for a region, and therefore command the highest price tags. Proper budget development is essential if you want your bank account to survive the expensive perils of your new city life.  As an extra financial safety measure, create a weekly, monthly, and annual budget to ensure you've covered all your necessary expenses and allocated purpose for the remaining funds. Don't let expensive city life bleed your wallet dry.

Get Involved

It's incredibly clichéd, but undeniably true. Cities offer a diverse array of activities, organizations, and opportunities that serve as a great way to get to know people and spend time doing something you care about. And with the power of the internet it's easier than ever to learn and partake in these experiences. While it goes without saying, it's also a great way to make new friends who share your same interests.

In Summary

Moving to a big city is an intimidating undertaking, but it's easy to acclimatize if you go about it the right way. Immerse yourself in your new environment by learning the area and participating in activities. Be wary of inflated prices and modify your budget accordingly to accommodate them. If you implement these tactics, the big city will feel like home in no time.

This Week's Featured Neighborhood: The South End

Home to Beautiful Brick Row Houses on Cobblestone Streets

Located in between the Back Bay, Chinatown, Roxbury, and South Boston, this neighborhood stands out as one of Boston's most popular areas. Along with scenic views of Boston's skyline, Victorian brownstone buildings and homes along Tremont Street, Columbus Avenue, and Massachusetts Avenue make the South End one of Boston's most desirable neighborhoods to live in. Restaurants, galleries, shops, and bars in the South End are often the places to see and be seen around in Boston. Nestled on the cobblestone streets are various boutiques, cafés, salons, and pubs.

From May to October, the SoWa Open Market is one of Boston's most popular markets for seeing local supplies from craftspeople, local farmers, and artisans. In addition, the SoWa Open Market features a variety of Boston's finest food trucks. Not far away, is the Boston Center for the Arts located 539 Tremont Street. The Boston Center for the Arts, dedicated to supporting both the visual and performing arts, has theaters, galleries, and rehearsal spaces for the city's most prominent arts organizations.

Because most parking is designated for residents, public transportation is generaly the easiest means of travel to the South End. Taking the Orange Line to the Back Bay/South End stop or the Silver Lines 4 or 5 all arrive in the South End area. If driving, the South End is easily accessible off Interstate 93. From 93 South, take exit 20B, and bear left onto Albany Street.

Some restaurants include:

Stella Restaurant: (Italian) 1525 Washington Street

Toro Restaurant: (Spanish) 1704 Washington Street

Douzo: (Japanese) 131 Dartmouth Street

Union Bar & Grill: (Grill) 1357 Washington Street

Some shopping stores include:

SoWa Open Market: 460 Harrison Avenue

Flour Bakery: 1595 Washington Street

Some bars & pubs include:

The Gallows: 1395 Washington Street

The Beehive: 541 Tremont Street

Be sure to let us know your favorite spots in the South End by commenting on our Facebook! For more information on the South End, feel free to message our Rental Agents directly at our new rentals Facebook page, Newbury Rentals.

For South End listings please visit our website http://www.thecharlesrealty.com/.

Sources:

Boston.about.com

Cityofboston.gov

south-end-boston.com

If Boston Competed in Real Estate Olympics

February 7, 2014 marks the beginning of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where 88 nations will compete in the foremost sports competition. To get in the Olympic spirit this blog is a hypothetical look if were an Olympics where all American cities competed in real estate related events. Boston's placing are as followed:

City Where to Invest: (15th Place) According to Forbes, Boston places 15th among cities to invest in. This is a strong placing considering how many cities are below Boston. Medaling in this event was, Fort Worth, Dallas, and Charlotte.

Area Where Renters Should Buy: (Gold) Considered the best city to make the investment move from renting to buying, Boston received a gold in this category.

Housing Market Index: (6th Place) Although Boston did not medal in this category, they still received a positive Housing Market Index of 7.43.

Education: (Gold) With top notch universities and a strong school system, Boston is above all in education.

Foreclosures: (Did Not Place) A category that cities do not want to place in, Boston is at the bottom when it comes to foreclosures.

Coziness: (Gold) Boston was recently announced the coziest city in American, allowing them to take home the gold in this category.

Be sure to let us know what you think by commenting on our Facebook! For more information on Boston, feel free to message our Rental Agents directly at our rentals Facebook page, Newbury Rentals.

Sources:

Zillow

MSN Real Estate

Huffington Post

Forbes

WBUR