Tax Breaks For Accessibility Remodeling

For those of you preparing your Virginia state tax returns, or planning remodeling and looking to maximize tax credits for next year – – here’s how to get up to $5,000 back if you do accessibility remodeling to accommodate aging in place or other physical challenges. Sadly, the federal bill referenced in this blog, originally posted last September, died before coming to a vote. But, Virginians, you’re good.

Read on . . .

With advances in medical care and increased awareness and implementation of healthy lifestyle choices, aging is a lot more fun than it used to be. Here’s another advantage for 21st-century seniors: tax breaks for fixing up your home so you can stay comfortably as you age.

Virginia offers homeowners a Livable Home Tax Credit equal to 50% of what they spend to retrofit a home to add accessibility features (like ramps, grab bars, and widened doorways), with a $5000 cap.

Alternatively, Virginia homeowners can receive as much as $5000 in credits if they purchase or build a home with accessibility features.

While there is no age limit on who can use the tax credit in Virginia, seniors wanting to make their homes aging-in-place-friendly are one of the largest groups that will find this credit useful.

Maryland considered an accessibility tax credit this year but it was ultimately rejected.

A proposal for a similar credit for federal income tax payers is wending its way through Congress now. House Ways & Means is considering a bipartisan-sponsored bill – – H.R. 5254, The Senior Accessible Housing Act – – to provide up to a $30,000 tax credit over a senior’s lifetime for expenses incurred in making aging in place modifications.  Unlike Virginia’s tax credit, the proposed federal credit would be limited to persons 60 years and older. The federal bill is in the early stages but, if it passes, it could be a real boost to the home improvement industry and a great help to seniors.

For more information about state tax credits for accessibility modifications, see this August 24, 2016, article by Jenni Bergal for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

For details about the federal Senior Accessible Housing Act, see this Sept. 20, 2016, article from National Review.

Wise homeowners consider all financial consequences before remodeling or relocating. Now, go forth and age frugally – – in place if you want to!

Image courtesy of “hywards” at

Seven Tips for the Perfect Paint Job

Pantone, the self-described “world-renowned authority on color”, has declared “Greenery” 2017’s Color of the Year.  Paint companies, however, are not so sure, touting everything from sedate taupe to mysterious charcoal black this year. For more about the paint companies’ recommended colors, and which paints provide the best value, check out Consumer Reports.

Once you have your colors chosen, follow these tips from HomeWise to ensure that your painting project turns out its best:

Choosing paint colors and finishes and achieving a professional-looking result doesn’t have to be a chore. Here are seven tips to make sure you do it right:

  • Know Your Purpose: If you are painting your home in anticipation of living there for several years, go crazy with orange, purple, or fuschia. However, if you’re intending to sell anytime soon, keep the walls neutral (white, off-white, soft beiges or grays) so buyers won’t be overwhelmed by your color choices but, instead, can imagine putting their own stamp on the place.
  • Know Your Finishes: From lowest to highest sheen, you have flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss. The shinier, the more scrubbable, so a little sheen is good for kitchens, bathrooms and kids’ rooms. Reserve semi- and high-gloss for moldings, windows and doors. Satin can be good on trim, too, or in high-traffic or high-moisture areas like hallways, kitchens and baths. Eggshell is the most popular finish for walls in other rooms.
  • Prep is Key: Remember, the higher the sheen, the more it will show imperfections. Take time to spackle and sand for a smooth finish before painting.
  • Tape, Tape, Tape: This is the only way to guarantee clean edges. The time you spend taping is nothing compared to the time you’ll spend cleaning up/touching up if you try to freehand it.
  • Choose Room Contents Before Choosing Paint Color: It’s a lot easier to match paint to a few key pieces or accessories than it is to purchase a room full of furnishings to match your paint. Paint comes in such a vast array of colors and shades, and can be customized to coordinate with almost anything, so pick your paint color based on the other pieces you’ve already chosen.
  • Set the Mood: If you’re going for serenity (in the bedroom, for example), choose cool shades like blue and green. Warmer colors like orange and red evoke energy and excitement (hmmm . . . could be good for the bedroom too; your choice).
  • Transition Color Room to Room: You don’t need all the walls in your home to be the same, but be aware of how colors will blend (or clash) among rooms that adjoin one another. Consider, for example, furnishings, window treatments or accessories in one room that contain colors on the adjoining rooms’ walls, especially in the “public” areas (kitchen, living, dining, family, other non-bedroom spaces.)

Most licensed painters are happy to provide free color consultation. Remember, they’ve seen lots more walls, and considered how colors and finishes work together a lot more often, than you have. We’re happy to refer you to the right professional for your painting project if you decide not to DIY.

Use Environmental Home Design to Help Reach Your Goals

It’s March already. How are you doing on those 2017 New Year’s Resolutions?

As you keep striving, don’t underestimate the power of your environment to help or hurt your goal achievement. Sure, there are things you can’t control, like the weather, but you have almost complete control over the environment in your home.

Here are some examples of how to exercise that control for maximum impact:

Let’s say your goal is to eat healthier. If you wanted to quit drinking, would you keep beer around the house? Surely not. So, take an hour this weekend and purge ‘fridge and pantry of unhealthy choices then restock with good-for-you meal options and snacks. Now, for the design part. Pull out that beautiful bowl stuck in the back of your cabinet. You know, the one you got for your wedding but never use. Set it out as a design element on the counter, and keep it full of fresh fruit and veggies. Put a pad of paper and pen out too, and write down the healthy foods as you run out of them so you’ll always have a shopping list handy. Finally, grab a book stand from your local kitchen store, and set out a healthy eating cookbook as a design element too, ensuring you’ll always have goal-enhancing recipes at your fingertips.

Maybe you want to read more. Set up a corner just for you and make it cozy so you’ll long to be there daily. Make sure it is in an area free from distractions, not a high-traffic part of the house or near the television. Put your favorite chair there and a bookcase nearby stocked with a wide variety of books you’re itching to dive into. Add good lighting and accessorize with a soft blanket throw, plush pillows, small end table, and a coaster (so you can wet your whistle whilst reading, without leaving a ring.)

If fitness is your top priority this year, good design can help there too. If you leave the house for your workouts, make the exit as easy as possible by creating a place near the door that athletic shoes always live, setting aside space in the bedroom to lay out the morning’s workout clothes before you go to bed, and hanging some hooks or locating a tray near your exit where the dog’s leash (if Fido jogs with you) and your keys will always be found. If caffeine is required to get you going in the morning, give the coffee pot a place of honor in your kitchen, with all necessary supplies and mugs right next to it, and develop the habit of filling it the night before so nothing but a flip of the switch is required in the morning (better yet, invest in a pot with a timer.) If you work out at home, make your exercise room as pleasant as possible. Paint walls, hang motivational pictures, and add a television or radio so you can’t use boredom as an excuse to stay away.

Wise homeowners make their environments consistent with their goals. Now, go forth and achieve!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Take Style Cues From TV Homes

Before you engage in any remodeling or decorating projects this year, take some time to figure out your “style”, those sorts of surroundings that make you feel peaceful, relaxed, and at home.

There are lots of ways to get a handle on your style. Designers recommend perusing magazines, cutting out pictures of photos that spark something in you  – – negative or positive – – noting on each clipping what that something is, and keeping them in a folder to review with your designer or remodeling contractor later. You’ll begin to see patterns emerge to help you define what you’re going for.

Here’s another fun way to go about the same thing: take a critical look at the homes inhabited by your favorite TV characters.

What do you like? Do you tend toward the comfortable, small town, welcoming place with a front porch and a pie cooling on the window sill like the Taylors’ cottage-style home in The Andy Griffith Show? Are you more attracted to a chic suburban aesthetic, with stylish but family-friendly furnishings, like the Petries’ New Rochelle residence in The Dick Van Dyke Show? Maybe you covet a city apartment, with the latest modern touches, like the Drapers’ place in Mad Men.

What do you see in TV homes that you’d like to avoid or escape? What about the hastily-built tract home with walls that might fall over if you lean on them too hard, like the Bluths’ in Arrested Development?  Perhaps you’re tired of living in a hot mess of chaos and deferred maintenance like the Connors in Roseanne or the Hecks in The Middle.

Silly? Yes, but useful too. A lot of time and effort has gone into creating those sets to make you feel as if you could walk right in, sit on the couch, and have a cup of tea (or a martini, if you’re lucky enough to be invited for cocktails with Don and Megan.) Heck, the three different homes in Modern Family represent quite a wide range of styles. No less an authority than Architectural Digest has profiled the care taken by that show’s set designers to make sure that all of the main sets reflect the characters that inhabit them.

Wise homeowners plan before remodeling, starting with the style or feel they are going for. Why not have some fun with it? Now, go forth and couch surf for design ideas!

Image courtesy of jennythip at

Wise Weather Precautions for Your Home in the Spring

Most of us (school children excepted) are grateful for the mild winter we’re having, but don’t forget the one thing we know for sure about the weather: it will change.  Spring can be as hazardous to your home as winter is if you’re not careful.

Here are two spring weather dangers, and what to do about them:

  1. High Winds and Downed Trees

We’ve had such high winds over the past week that Fairfax County had to open schools two hours late one day. Those gusts were unseasonably early, but provided a foretaste of what we know we’re in for in March. To keep you and your home safe next time the wind blows, get overgrown trees trimmed back and have larger trees close to the house removed. Use a certified and licensed tree expert to be sure trimming and removal is done safely (we know the best!) Local authorities recommend, if a tree does fall on your house, that you get everyone out, call 9–1–1, and don’t go back in until dangers due to compromised utilities or structural safety have been identified and fixed. For a fuller list of safety measures when a tree falls on your home, the road, or power lines, see

  1. Heavy Rain

All that water falling from the sky is terrific for your garden, but it could be a real hazard to your basement or roof. Make sure your landscaping is graded away from your home’s foundation to prevent water pooling and flooding your lowest level. If you have any water coming into the basement already, consult an expert about a French drain and/or sump pump system. If you already have a pump, consider a battery backup to keep it running if a storm knocks out your power. Keep gutters free of debris so water doesn’t overflow and get under your roofing material or damage your siding. If your roof is more than 10 years old, or is showing signs of age (shingles curling up at the edges, soft spots or concave areas, stains – no matter how small – on your ceilings), get a licensed roofer out now to repair or replace.

Wise homeowners don’t let the weather get the best of them. Now, go forth and welcome Spring!

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at

Page 2 of 1612345...10...Last »