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    5 Home Remodeling Tips from the Pros Pasadena Weekendr – Pasadena Now - June 10, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    With the extra time many Americans have spent at home over the past few months, there have been plenty of opportunities to think about how that living space could be improved.

    While this may not be the ideal time to tackle a full gut and renovate project, it may still be possible to do some smaller scale remodeling projects that update and improve your home. For example, simple cosmetic repairs like painting and replacing vanities can make a noticeable difference with minimal work or investment. Or if youre hesitant about bringing contractors into the house, outdoor projects like replacing fencing, adding paver stones or constructing outdoor living spaces may be a benefit for your family.

    Before you take on a project, consider these tips from Robi Kirsic, MCKBR, UDCP, chairman of the board of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and co-CEO of TimeLine Renovation & Design.

    Define the Purpose

    The first consideration whether youre making changes for yourself or for future resale is the purpose of your project. This determines everything from the budget to the materials you select. Remember projects in the kitchen and bathroom typically bring the greatest return on investment.

    Its also a good idea to plan how youll use the renovated area. When possible, incorporate elements of universal design that dont change how the space looks but will change how it works. For example, in the bathroom, install a curbless shower, taller toilet and block in walls to allow future installation of grab bars.

    Stick to a Budget

    Another early decision is your budget. Its fruitless to spend time looking at materials and making design decisions based on products that exceed your budget or, conversely, fall below the quality level you prefer. Having a professional involved can help keep you from overspending and identify areas you may want to splurge or pull back.

    Select a Remodeler

    Friends and family can be great resources when it comes to choosing a remodeling contractor since theyre likely to give detailed and candid opinions about their experiences. When you begin interviewing companies yourself, verify theyre licensed and insured, and ask what they offer above those minimum requirements. Are they certified or accredited? Do they specialize in the type of work youre considering? Also be sure to request and check references and search online for reviews.

    Conduct Virtual Meetings

    While some projects may require an in-person assessment, many planning sessions can be conducted virtually. You can even shop products to be used in your project virtually since online catalogs typically show a variety of colors and finishes along with prices. For items you need to see or feel to choose, like flooring, request samples to test in your home. To make your virtual meetings most productive, prepare by providing a detailed scope of work and be ready to provide measurements and show the space cleared of clutter.

    Keep it Safe

    For some families, sticking to outdoor projects may be more comfortable in the short term. For those who are ready to bring contractors inside, there are numerous steps you can take to create a safer working environment. Examples include asking everyone involved to wear face masks and gloves and using plastic at doorways to keep the work area separate from the living area. Regular disinfecting and a thorough cleaning at the end of the project are also important preventive steps.

    Find more remodeling resources, including certified contractors in your community, at

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    5 Home Remodeling Tips from the Pros Pasadena Weekendr - Pasadena Now

    Ready to remodel but stymied by pandemic? Here’s what you can prepare now – Minneapolis Star Tribune - June 10, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Like everyone else, you've been spending lots of time at home during the past several weeks. And you've probably become more acquainted with all the flaws in your home: the outdated kitchen cabinets, the frayed carpeting in the family room that needs to be replaced by hardwood, the spare bedroom that needs to be converted into a dedicated office.

    Maybe the thought of a renovation has crossed your mind. But this couldn't possibly be the right time for one, could it? Well, it depends.

    Amid the coronavirus pandemic, home construction - including remodeling - had been deemed an essential business under the original stay-at-home orders in some states. But whether a specific project is considered appropriate is a matter largely determined by homeowners and contractors.

    "Putting a roof back on is essential," said David Merrick, president of Merrick Design and Build in Kensington, Maryland.

    Merrick, who also serves as chairman of the government affairs committee for the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), said contractors are more likely to take on outside rather than inside projects. In the case of a customer seeking to renovate the basement of her Washington, D.C., rowhouse, the decision was made to wait until the late spring or early summer when everyone would feel more comfortable.

    Not surprisingly, home construction activity nationwide has fallen significantly since the covid-19 outbreak, according to the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, and is not expected to recover until well into 2021.

    The slump in activity may work to your advantage, experts say. Because work has dried up, some contractors may be more willing to give you a better deal on the pricing than they would have several months ago when demand for their services was high.

    If you opt to wait until the pandemic eases, experts say, you can still use this downtime to plan your project and get on your contractor's radar.

    "If you have a four to five month timeline, you can talk to friends on who they used and look at Angie's List reviews on their performance," said Kermit Baker, project director at the Harvard remodeling program. "You can do your due diligence as you prepare to get the project ready."

    Once you decide on what work needs to be done and when to do it, be sure to put your order in right away. "If you wait until September to place your order, 1/8contractors will3/8 have five months of orders in front of you," Merrick said. Then, it will "be hard time to get the contractor to return your phone call."

    Here are some other factors you can consider ahead of time during this lull:

    Budgeting and financing

    Probably the best thing you can do is not get too caught up in the aesthetics but to invest considerable time concentrating on the logistics.

    "Every home improvement project will cost more than you think it will and will take more time than you planned," Bob Harkson, chief financial planner at Phase2 Wealth Advisors in Gig Harbor, Wash., told The Post in May 2019. Harkson said the biggest problem he sees with his financial-planning clients is that they haven't budgeted enough.

    The tricky thing about home improvement is maximizing your return on investment. You want to spend money that will yield a return when you sell your home, but not overspend way beyond what a buyer would be willing to pay you. So how do you find the sweet spot?

    Experts say that kitchen and bathroom renovations are among the projects that provide homeowners the best yields. According to Remodeling magazine, kitchens recouped 62.1% and bathrooms 67.2%. Others include: 70.8% for windows; 75.6% for siding; 68.2% for roof; and 75.6% for deck.

    Dan DiClerico, a smart-home expert for HomeAdvisor, a New York-based home improvement platform, offered this rule of thumb: "You should spend about 5 to 15 percent of your home value on kitchen renovation," DiClerico told The Post in May 2019. "So, if your home is worth $300,000, you should spend $15,000 to $45,000 on the kitchen. A bathroom renovation should cost about 3 to 7 percent of your home value."

    If you're into analytics, HomeAdvisor's State of Home Spending offers data and charts to help you determine whether your budget is in line with what other homeowners pursuing similar projects paid. Another useful source is the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, which offers searchable databases to compare renovation costs by Zip code.

    "The more thorough you are in the planning stages, the more likely you are to come in on budget for your project," DiClerico said.

    A major component of planning involves accounting for surprises. Sonu Mittal, head of retail mortgage lending for Citizens Bank in Plano, Texas, said you should budget an extra 10% for unforeseen expenses.

    So how do you pay for a home improvement project? There is no shortage of methods. Here are a few:

    Savings: This is the easiest because it doesn't require getting approval or paying fees and interest.

    A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) 203(k) or Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation loan: "An FHA 203(k) loan offers flexibility because you can finance up to 97.75% of the improved home value," Catherine Holtman, operations support manager for Embrace Home Loans in Middletown, R.I., told The Post in May 2019. "There's a streamlined version for improvements up to $35,000 that are nonstructural and a standard version for major renovations including structural changes."

    Home equity line of credit (HELOC): This provides homeowners flexibility in that they only pay interest on the line of credit they use, and the closing costs are minimal.

    Cash-out refinance: Borrowers should keep in mind that closing costs for cash-out refinancing is higher than a HELOC, but interest rates are lower.

    Personal loan: A personal loan is best for borrowing smaller amounts because it has to be paid back sooner and have higher interest rates than a HELOC.

    401(k) loan: The loans have a low interest rate. Financial advisers discourage these type of loans because they must be paid back immediately if the borrower leaves their company.

    Credit card: This is a simple way to pay for a project. However, they come with high interest rates.

    Undertaking a major project

    Before embarking on a major renovation, you should take some time to determine the best approach given your budget, timeline, patience and willingness and ability to do some of the work yourself. Here are seven methods:

    Design-build firm: These firms, which include designers and architects, can manage the project from beginning to end and oversee all the subcontractors. The downside is that they can be costly.

    Kitchen designer: These firms specialize in kitchens and can often provide a more custom look for your project.

    General contractor: A general contractor is best for people who know what they want but need someone to manage the project. Because of their relationships with vendors, general contractors often can get discounts on supplies.

    Specialty kitchen store: These retailers offer discounts on kitchen components and fixtures and custom services.

    High-end design firm: This is for homeowners who want the best of the best, and don't mind paying for it.

    Big-box store: Stores such as Home Depot and Ikea can often get special discounts on labor and can generally offer their services at prices lower than general contractors.

    DIY: For people who would like to save a ton of money, and are also handy.

    If you're pursuing a bathroom renovation, for example, keep in mind that 50% to 75% of the project's cost will be labor. So it's important to educate yourself on how to negotiate labor costs or hire a contractor who can do so.

    Working with limited dollars

    If you're looking to start off small to get your feet wet, Zillow offers some suggestions on lower-cost projects that can give you a bigger bang for your buck. For instance, Zillow says spending $3,000 on outdoor "curb appeal" projects such as paint and landscaping can yield $3,500 when selling.

    Zillow also recommends that when renovating to sell that you try to incorporate the latest design trends into your home.

    When trying to prioritize limited dollars, Zillow recommends that you simply ignore the basement. Basement projects, according to Zillow, yield only 50 cents on the dollar even when a bathroom is added.

    Justin Pierce, a real estate investor and real estate agent, suggests that homeowners opting to manage their own projects should use a construction journal to stay on top of the project and to give them a record with contractors when something goes awry.

    "Keeping a journal has really helped me," Pierce wrote in a Washington Post column in July. "If things go badly, it can be useful in court or arbitration. Contractors, especially shady contractors, are good at complicating the issue or adding doubt in your mind. They blame delays and increased costs on the weather, additional work, inspectors and the client. You may be shocked to receive $10,000 in change orders at the final accounting. This is impossible to unravel six weeks down the road. It's best to note things as they happen and share milestones and your understanding of them with the contractor."

    Pierce said the journal should include the start date, major milestones, inspection dates, subcontractor work schedule and change orders.

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    Ready to remodel but stymied by pandemic? Here's what you can prepare now - Minneapolis Star Tribune

    How IBW cellular coverage solution providers adapted and grew during COVID-19 with Cel-Fi products – RCR Wireless News - June 10, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Like other essential businesses, installers of Cel-Fi in-building cellular coverage solutions have had to adjust to the unprecedented changes in the business world amid the pandemic.

    After shelter-in-place orders were given, some commercial buildings were emptied and locked, while others remained open. Many commercial in-building system installations long planned were put on hold.

    But as things became clearer on how to keep essential workers safe and reduce population contagion, private and public entities also recognized that with buildings empty, it was a good time to resolve any problems existing in facilities prior to the shutdown. This way, construction or much needed upgrades and repairs would be complete when employees, students, and customers returned.

    During this time, Cel-Fi system integrators have been busy in office buildings, multi-tenant residences, medical facilities, grocery and retail stores, and at warehouses and schools installing cellular coverage solutions to help keep everyone connected once communities emerge from lockdown.

    How Solution Providers Adapted

    Steve Klingensmith, owner of VAST Signal Booster Solutions based in North Carolina, explains, As there are fewer people working in buildings, now is the time to run the cable infrastructure and get things installed because its less of a business disruption to tenants. Many buildings are moving forward with their installations if they had money budgeted for it prior to the shutdown.

    VAST recently completed installing a Cel-Fi QUATRA Active DAS Hybrid solution for a tenant who is remodeling their office space in a multi-tenant building in Maryland while their employees are working from home. The client is remodeling two-thirds of one floor of the five-story building, while the other third of the floor is occupied by another tenant with employees physically occupying the premises.

    We had to do a daily COVID-19 jobsite certification checklist, attesting all our crew members were free from any symptoms. We had to do social distancing, we all had to wear masks and the tenants did too, Klingensmith says. It was a little slower process. We were limited to four people in an elevator, three people in the LAN room, two people in a bathroom, and we kept spread out. Overall, it took about 20 percent more time than normal to do the job, but as it is so fast to install Cel-Fi QUATRA, we were able to get in and out within two days.

    Cel-Fi Solutions: Not Only Better Quality, But More Cost Effective

    VAST also recently completed installing Cel-Fi QUATRA in a 650,000 sq. ft. distribution center in Arizona. There are approximately 100 employees still working in the facility, spread throughout the warehouse and office space, who were having trouble placing or receiving cellular calls. With the inability to call one another, a manager would have to walk out to the employees location in the warehouse, consuming as much as 20 minutes to deliver a communication or get an answer, instead of taking just 20 to 30 seconds on a phone call.

    The distribution center wanted to rapidly install a cellular coverage system at the lowest possible cost. After VAST conducted an extensive walk test showing the areas of strong and weak coverage, they proposed Cel-Fi QUATRA as the solution that would provide the best coverage for the lowest cost per square foot.

    If we had installed a wide band passive DAS solution with all the antennas, amplifiers, and cabling that would be needed for a facility this size the cost on labor alone would have been more than the entire Cel-Fi QUATRA solution, Klingensmith says. QUATRA gives a very strong, consistent signal, the best on the market, which is also a major factor in the lower cost per square foot on the installation.

    Healthcare: An Increased Priority for Cellular Coverage Solutions

    Hospitals have also moved forward with cellular coverage solution installations during the pandemic. Mercy Hospital has a 228K sq. ft. facility currently under construction in Oklahoma City. The Mercy Hospital general contractor asked AT&T to recommend a system integrator who could provide the cellular coverage solution needed at the new facility and was referred to RF Design Services.

    Jerry Bickle, President of RF Design Services based in Oklahoma, has resolved cellular coverage issues in several hospitals. He explains, Doctors at hospitals are having trouble getting texts from nurses about patients that need their attention. All the doctors and nurses are using their cell phones now to help with patient care. Mercy Hospital knew there would be a problem at their new facility in Oklahoma City so wanted to install a solution before the facility opens.

    Bickle says he proposed Cel-Fi QUATRA for the new facility for multiple reasons. QUATRA is already carrier approved for installation by professional installers as it wont cause network interference, which has been a problem with every other in-building solution. And any time you have to get carrier approval, it adds complexity and a lot of time to the project as much as eight to nine months.

    Cel-Fi Solutions: Not Only Better Performance, But the Fastest to Install

    Cel-Fi QUATRA uses Cat 5e cable so it is faster and cheaper to install, with the same signal propagation throughout the building as it is less lossy than coax cable. Category cable also takes a lot less time to install. With all the factors combined, the cost of an installed QUATRA solution is about a third of an active DAS. QUATRA even costs less to operate than an active DAS as it doesnt generate the heat, electrical, or air conditioning loads of that bigger equipment, Bickle explains.

    During the installation, RF Design Services had to put special safety procedures in place for COVID-19 mitigation in addition to wearing face masks, staff temperatures were checked every day and they were given a wrist band or sticker for their safety helmets to show they were cleared. And sometimes the elevators were out of service for construction or social distancing reasons. But these restrictions werent much greater than the scrubs and masks that the team had to use when they installed Cel-Fi in a surgical room this past December before the pandemic.

    While the pandemic continues to define the new normal, in-building cellular connectivity remains as essential as ever. Cel-Fi system integrators are effectively working with carriers, building owners, and IT staff to deploy solutions within mitigation guidelines to provide better cellular coverage for safer facilities and more efficient operations.

    For more information on Nextivitys comprehensive product line that fits virtually every in-building cellular coverage use case, download The Ultimate Buyers Guide to Solving Cellular Coverage Issues.

    About the Author

    Dean Richmond is the Senior Director of Marketing at Nextivity. Over the span of his career, he has developed strategies and launched products across the information technology and wireless product spectrum. Dean has built strategic partnerships between channel partners, operators, broadband providers, and brands such as Microsoft, Google, Intel, Sony, and Toshiba to grow business units successfully. For more information, contacthello@cel-fi.comor visitwww.cel-fi-com

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    How IBW cellular coverage solution providers adapted and grew during COVID-19 with Cel-Fi products - RCR Wireless News

    Petri Plumbing & Heating offers HVAC advice to owners of older homes as temperatures rise – Salamanca Press - June 10, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    NEW YORK, June 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ --Petri Plumbing & Heating, a family-owned home service company that has served Brooklyn and Manhattan for over a century, offers owners of vintage homes in the city guidelines for proper HVAC maintenance and tips for recognizing when it's time to replace your system.

    "Brownstones and other historic homes have a lot of charm, but the older construction can make it difficult to efficiently regulate the temperature and air quality," said Michael Petri, owner of Petri Plumbing & Heating. "Since June is National Homeowners Month, we want to help New Yorkers know when it's time to consider an HVAC upgrade."

    Most air conditioning failures happen in early summer, when the HVAC system is strained by climbing temperatures. The risk of failure increases if the system hasn't had a professional spring tune-up. Today's modern Energy Star-certified HVAC models, however, are more efficient than older systems and offer better performance with less energy and lower costs. In addition, ductless systems, programmable thermostats and zoned HVAC technology can be used to create custom solutions for most homeowners.

    Petri Plumbing & Heating advises homeowners to keep these facts in mind when considering whether to repair or replace their HVAC:

    Petri stresses the importance of professional consultation and installation.

    "A professional will know when to recommend supplemental heating and cooling like ductless mini-splits or zoned HVAC technology to ensure whole-home comfort," he said.

    As an essential business, Petri Plumbing & Heating is committed to keeping customers and employees safe while providing exceptional service. The company is practicing social distancing and ensuring technicians sanitize their equipment and work spaces as well as wearing personal protective equipment. Petri Plumbing & Heating also offers Zero Contact Service to reduce the risk of disease.

    For more information about Petri Plumbing & Heating, or to schedule a service call, visit or call (718) 748-1254.

    About Petri Plumbing & Heating, Inc. Petri Plumbing & Heating, Inc. is a family owned and operated business serving Brooklyn and the New York City area. Founded in 1906, the company offers a 100 percent guarantee on all services, upfront pricing, and friendly and knowledgeable Service Experts for all kinds of home and business plumbing and heating needs. Services offered include water and gas pipe leak repair and installation, fixture installations, inspections, boiler repair, water heater installation, complete bathroom, kitchen, laundry & utility room remodeling and more. Petri is also licensed and certified by Green Plumbers USA, the first in New York City to receive this designation. For more information, please visit or call 718-748-1254.

    MEDIA CONTACT: Heather RipleyRipley PR(865)

    Petri Plumbing & Heating offers HVAC advice to owners of older homes as temperatures rise - Salamanca Press

    ‘Good Bones’ Season 5 Episode 1: Mina and Karen turn their most expensive investment yet into a gorgeous home – MEAWW - June 10, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    The hosts of HGTV's famed lifestyle series 'Good Bones', Mina Starsiak Hawk, and Karen E Laine are back. Mina, a real estate agent and Karen, a former defense attorney, began remodeling house in their free time in the Fountain Square and Bates-Hendricks neighborhood of their hometown, Indianapolis. In 2008, they decided to open a home rehab business, 'Two Chicks and a Hammer, Inc.' Their mission is to redefine Indianapolis one house at a time, by buying old dilapidated homes and rehabbing them into stunning, modern, urban remodels. The mother-daughter duo best known for fixing and renovating houses work on their most expensive investment, to date, in the season five premiere of the show.

    Mina and Karen have had their eye on a charming little bungalow on Woodlawn, in Indianapolis' trendy Fountain Square neighborhood. They brought it from homeowners George and Paula, the former having grown up there. The two had started dating when they were teenagers and lived in the house for most of their lives. The house initially belonged to George's parents, who owned the house for 50 years or so. Although the couple could have easily sold the house to a developer, they knew it would most likely be torn down and new infrastructure would take its place. However, they didn't want that and instead sold the property to Mina and Karen because they were certain that the duo would respect it and its history.

    Fountain Square is the most stable area for purchasing a house, said Mina and she was very happy that she had invested in George's home, but it did cost her a pretty penny. She bought the house for a whopping $130,000, which is their most expensive investment since they began 'Two Chicks and a Hammer Inc.' Once it is remodeled and refurnished into a modern, urban home that will attract prospective buyers, Mina hopes to list and sell it for $300,000. The inside of the house, however old and charming, is pretty much falling apart and both Mina and Karen know they have a lot of work ahead of them and will have to stretch their budget to a new extreme for renovations. The current infrastructure is 1,375 square feet and houses three bedrooms, two living rooms, a dining room, a kitchen and only one bath. After a quick and extensive scope of the house, Mina and Karen conclude that they will be working with at least a $100,000 budget.

    It seems that floors of the house incorporate hardwood in a gorgeous mahogany shade and has been well-preserved thanks to the carpet that has lain over it for presumably the whole time George's family lived there. They decide to keep the existing hardwood floors, and simply scrub and refinish them, rather than hide them underneath a carpet. For the interiors, they turn one of the larger living rooms into a master bedroom, while another smaller bedroom that adjoins a slightly larger bedroom becomes a walking closet and en-suite bathroom. The basement needs some work too, they realize, as a toppling chimney has been responsible for major cracks on the living room walls. In addition, the house has too many narrow doors and a small rounded space for a kitchen, which seems too tight. They decided to do away with the doors and create an open floor plan, beginning all the way from the hallway at the front door, through the family living room, dining room and the kitchen.

    For the exterior, the house needs a new siding, while the brickwork requires repairing. With the estimated renovation costs, the investment totaled up to $230,000 and their possible listing will leave them with a $70,000 profit. That set, the demo of the interiors began and the team faced a couple of roadblocks and budget problems throughout the renovation process but persevered anyway. The duo's main aim was to give the house their signature eclectic Cali feel, combining its original features with some modern reinforcements. Karen saved some old pieces from the house, that she still thinks has potential if refurbished and put back in place like the chandeliers and cabinet handles, while Mina added all the modern touches that the house needs to look chic, inviting and urban. Karen scraped out the wallpaper, to find a gorgeous teal wallpaper beneath, that has distressed over time. She decides she wants to adds a rustic look to the house, but further distressing it, artistically and then adding polyurethane to it.

    They add subtle and bold details to the house, include a fake wainscotting for the living room, black countertops for the kitchen, myriad shades of green as wall paint, patterned Herringbone tiled walls with gold accents to add sophistication and soft green paint to go on the exterior of the house. As planned they scrub the hardwood floor themselves and put the original refurbished elements, which adds a sense of coziness and comfort to the overall style of the house. Once the house was finished, with interiors completed and the furniture moved in, Mina and Karen invited the former homeowners George and Paula to take a look at their newly remodeled home. The couple was taken aback and awestruck by the renovations but were nevertheless swept away by the sentimentality of having preserved the character and original framework of the home. In the end, the renovation costs had exceeded the duo's initial budget by $50,000 bringing the total to $150,000. Their total investment on the house amounted to $280,000, prompting Mina to list it for $315,000. The house was sold to a young couple for $310,000, leaving the team with a profit of $30,000.

    Continued here:
    'Good Bones' Season 5 Episode 1: Mina and Karen turn their most expensive investment yet into a gorgeous home - MEAWW

    Why It Pays to Keep Track of Home Improvements – - May 27, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    I have used many of my previous columns to help accountants and other tax professionals alert their clients to perfectly legal, easy-to-understand strategies that save taxes. Im going to devote this column and two subsequent ones to the selection and implementation of strategies that help homeowners.

    Long-standing rules authorize valuable tax breaks for owners who itemize their deductions on Form 1040s Schedule A. Theyre able to claim annual write-offs, within limits, for payments of mortgage interest and property taxes.

    Owners cant claim current deductions for money spent improvements that add to the value of their homes, prolong their useful lives, or adapt them to new uses. The law requires them to add the money to their homes cost basisthe figure used to determine gains or losses when they sell their homes. Consequently, improvements decrease any taxable gains on eventual sales.

    Big breaks for sellers with big profits:The law permits sellers to exclude, meaning they escape, federal and state income taxes on sizable portions of their profits from sales of their principal residences.

    The profit exclusions are as much as $500,000 for married couples filing joint returns. They drop to $250,000 for single persons or married couples filing separate returns.

    How do things work out when sellers reap gains greater than $500,000 or $250,000? Theyre liable for taxes on the excess.

    IRS audits (or examinations, as the agency prefers to call them):In the event the IRS questions how seller Sarah determined her gain, the audit will be less traumatic and less expensive if she has kept meticulous records that track the dwellings basis.

    Those records should include what she originally paid for her home, plus certain settlement or closing costs, such as title insurance and legal fees. They should also include what she subsequently shells out for improvements, as opposed to repairs.

    Improvements, both big and small, boost basis:Qualifying improvements can be big projects, as when Sarah puts a recreation room in her unfinished basement, adds another bedroom or bathroom, puts up a fence, or paves her driveway. Or they can be small projects, as when she upgrades closets, or installs built-in bookcases, new faucets, towel racks, or medicine cabinets.

    Repairs dont boost basis:An adamant IRS insists that Sarah cant count routine repairs or maintenance that add nothing to the places value. They just maintain it. Some examples: Sarah repaints her home inside or outside, fixes her gutters or floors, repairs leaks or plastering, and replaces broken window panes.

    Bundle ordinary repairs into bigger jobs:It might pay for Sarah to postpone repair projects until she can do them in connection with an extensive remodeling or restoration project. Adding the smaller job into bigger jobs may allow Sarah to include some items that would otherwise be considered repairs, such as the cost of painting rooms.

    In two subsequent columns, Ill discuss more strategies to impart to your home-owning clients.

    Additionalarticles.A reminder for accountants who would welcome advice on how to alert clients to tactics that trim taxes for this year and even give a head start for next year: Delve into thearchive of my articles(more than 350 and counting).

    More here:
    Why It Pays to Keep Track of Home Improvements -

    Mississippians struggling with unemployment claims. Payments on hold after more than two months – Clarion Ledger - May 27, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Here's why there's a backlog of claims for unemployment and why it's only getting worse. USA TODAY

    Joshua Sinko can see the jobless benefits sitting in his online account. But he can't access them.

    Joshua Sinko has cooked in high-end restaurants, fished oncommercial boats, sold bicyclesand built houses.

    For the past eight years, the 43-year-old established himself in Columbus as a remodeling and restoration expert the guy you call if you need a bathroom overhauled,or a deck rebuilt. He's made a career oflong hours and a versatileskill set.

    "I've never asked for anything, because it seems like when times are rough,you just go out and put your nose to the grindstone, and make it happen," Sinko said this week."Youdon't expect handouts."

    Once, in 2016, Sinko broke two bones inhis back after falling through a ceiling and was back on the job five days later. But when the first coronavirus cases struck Mississippi in mid-March, he knew he was out of options.The remodeling work "just dried up," and no onewas hiring for other jobs.

    For the first time, he would be forced to collect unemployment.

    Unemployment claims are soaring as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down businesses.(Photo: USA Today file photo)

    But more than two months after applying, Sinkostill hasn't received benefits. He sees the money sitting online in his Mississippi Department of Employment Security account, but can't get his hands on it. Over a recent two weeks, he spent 27 hours on hold with the agency and got fewsolid answers.

    The several thousand dollars Sinko saved up "for a rainy day" quickly evaporated. His bank accounts are now totally emptyone overdrafted by 67 cents and remodeling jobs are likely still days or weeks off.

    "I'm at my breaking point and on the verge of being homeless here," Sinko wrote to the Clarion Ledger earlier this month.

    Sinko is far from alone.

    More than two months into the coronavirus crisis, and in every corner of the state, Mississippians are strugglingto apply for and obtain unemploymentbenefits. They face an overwhelmed and glitchy computer and phone system, and an agency with dozens of new employees still learning the nuances of the state's unemployment laws.

    State leaders are aware of the problem. MDES Executive Director Jackie Turner has discussed the agency's issues several times publicly, including before state legislators earlier this month.

    Turner has said the department brought on hundreds of new staff and volunteers, including from other agencies, to help field calls. It's sought to quickly train them on how to answer questions and resolve problems, she said, and taken other steps to streamline the claims process.

    RELATED:'It's madness': They lost their jobs to coronavirus. Now they can't file for unemployment

    Gov. Tate Reeves ordered certain requirements relaxed for those seeking assistance during the coronavirus, such as temporarily eliminating the one-week waiting period, and nixing the work-search mandate.

    But the agency is sometimes sending mixed messages on these changes. Despite Reeves' order, it hassent letters to recipients stating theystill need to prove they are searching for a job. Online questionnaires that unemployed or furloughed people must fill out weekly to keep receiving assistance include confusing language, with some instructionsunclear.

    And the phone line problems persist: Applicants report waiting on hold for hours, or a constant busy signal, or reaching a person only for the line to go dead. Even whenthey are approved, many complain of waiting weeks before the money shows up in their bank accounts or on a state-issued debit card.

    Meanwhile, a wave of new unemployment claims continues to arrive each week, even as Reeves slowly reopens the economy. More than 270,000 unemployment claims have been reported by the state since the crisis began in mid-March, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

    Last week,another 23,697 Mississippians applied for unemployment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In a normal week, before the pandemic, the number was below 1,000.

    Stories of Mississippians fed up with the state's unemployment systemaren't hard to come by.

    In Corinth, Angie Sorrell was forced home from her fast food job in mid-March after feeling sick she's still unsure if it was coronavirus and applied for unemployment shortly after. Her claim was placed under investigation, however, and was only approved about two months lateraftershe said she threatened to call the mayor and media about the delays.

    Angie Sorrell was forced home from her fast food job in March due to the coronavirus. She still hasn't received her first unemployment benefit payment.(Photo: Courtesy)

    Sorrellsaid the wait was so long she's already returned to work at Wendy's part-time. The 40-year-oldstill hasn't received her first benefit check, and she already missed two rent payments due to the lost income. Her landlord says if she misses another, she has to leave.

    Im scared of being kicked out on the streets," said Sorrell, who added her boyfriend has faced similar delays receiving benefits.

    RELATED: Does your small businesses qualify for $300M COVID-19 relief money? What you need to know

    In Oxford, Sara Hill was recently down to 52 cents in her bank account after losing her server job at Ajax Diner. The 22-year-oldfiled her claim April 5, and there appearedto be money in her unemployment account but she hadn't received it, and could not reach anyone on the phone for help. She enlisted family members to call, too. No one could get through.

    Sara Hill lost her restaurant server job in March, and couldn't get through the state unemployment office's overwhelmed phone lines for help.(Photo: Courtesy)

    Last week, more than a month after she applied,her first payment "just kind of showed up." She never did talk to anyone at MDES.She's still waiting for Ajax to reopen.

    "I'm a 22-year-old from a middle class family, but what about people with children?" Hill said, adding the long wait for funds and leaning on her parents for help took a toll on her mental health.

    In Biloxi, James Murphy is caughtin limbo between unemployment agencies in Mississippi and Florida, where he recently lived, and he has yet to receive assistance from either state after being laid off in late March.

    Mississippi says it can't help, given his last full-time jobwas in Florida. But Florida hasn't processed his claim, or transferred the necessary funds to Mississippi, and he can't get through to figure out why. He's turned to family and friends for financial help while he waits.

    I'm not even sure where were going to go from here, said Murphy, 48, who had recently moved to Mississippi hoping to land a casino job."You're at the mercy of the state, or at the mercy of the federal government, to pass the next rule."

    Many reportthey are struggling to pay bills or buy food. One man wrote to the Clarion Ledger that he was no longerable to afford rent, adding he planned to live "in the wild by means I'm not yet sure of."

    Sinko sees about $5,000 in benefits in his online account that he still can't access. MDEStexts him frequently saying his claim has been processed butno money comes through.

    He first signed up to receive the money through direct deposit. When that didn't work, he called MDES and talked to an employee who said he wasn't allowed to change to the debit card form of paymentthat he must stick with the form of payment he already signed up for.

    That's not true, however, and Sinko said another employee later clarified he could switchto the debit card, so he did. But now he's not being paid on the debit card, either, and the debit card vendor MDES told him to speak with didn't have his information on file.

    "I'm not getting rich out here," Sinko said of his remodeling job. "I'vehave never asked for anything. The one time you ask for something in life ... it's frustrating."

    When he's not calling MDES, Sinko said he's mowed a local preacher's yard, tried his hand at woodturning, and tested new recipes though the cooking is less ambitious now that money is running low.

    He also has a few leads on remodeling jobs. But he isn't sure how he'll pay for thematerials upfront when his bank accounts are empty, noting "you have to have money to make money."

    "My gas light's on in my truck, I'm 67 cents in the hole, and I'm just frustrated," Sinko said. "I'm gonna call again, and get no answers."

    Contact Luke Ramseth at 601-317-7476or Follow @lramseth on Twitter.

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    Mississippians struggling with unemployment claims. Payments on hold after more than two months - Clarion Ledger

    Americore Construction Inc. Is Becoming One of the Premier Services for Interior Design and Renovation – Virtual-Strategy Magazine - May 24, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Effective and stunning interior design services require the assistance of professionals with a lot of experience. Remodeling and construction project management is a task that involves a wide array of responsibilities. This is why many homeowners and businesses choose to contact professional contractors for this purpose.

    Americore Construction Inc. is one such business situated in the WA State. They are among the few constructors who use the aid of 3DRenderings to showcase their ideas. With the assistance of computer aided artists and architects, they are able to bring their clients bathroom remodeling ideas to life.

    The businesses innovative way of thinking comes from the owner, Jimia Cain. She is an exceptional business woman whose guidance has made Americore Construction Inc. into what it is today. Under her leadership, Americore Construction Inc. has steadily grown into a premier name for all of ones bathroom and kitchen remodeling needs.

    Jimia Cain believes in offering her clientele with a perfected service. This is why her team uses 3D renderings, as these allow them to picture exactly what their clients require. Jimia also ensures that they create the blueprints and assemble the correct team for the job prior to beginning any project. Through this, she is able to make sure that her clients visions can be turned into a reality.

    Americore Construction Inc. is a renowned construction management service provider. Covering every aspect of development and renovation, their team looks into every intricacy so that their clients can remain worry-free. With Jimia Cains innovative approaches and customer-focused methodologies, the business has become a renowned name in the WA State.

    Moving forward, they plan on delivering on the same high standards their customers expect of them. This means that they will continue to ensure that the cost, strategy, scope and schedule is all up to their customers needs and requirements.

    About Americore Construction Inc.:

    Americore Construction Inc. is a construction project management and renovation service provider. They focus on providing clients with a personalized and effective approach. This is one of their main focuses on all the projects they work on. By using 3D Renderings, they easily allow the visualizations in their clients minds to come to life. Under the leadership and guidance of Jimia Cain, the business has grown and become one of the most renowned names for construction and renovation. As a result, they cater to a wide array of clients and customers.

    For more information:

    Media ContactCompany Name: Americore Construction IncContact Person: Jimia CainEmail: Send EmailCity: Kennewick State: WACountry: United StatesWebsite:

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    Americore Construction Inc. Is Becoming One of the Premier Services for Interior Design and Renovation - Virtual-Strategy Magazine

    Family Is Asking the Community for Help – - May 24, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Many of you know Charles Sykes when he worked for the Sweetwater County Health Department and retired due to health issues. On March 20, 2020, a medical-related issue caused him to be taken by life flight to the University of Utah where he is being treated for brain trauma. At this time it is unknown what all areas of the brain have been affected.

    Once he is medically stable he will be assessed to return home. In order to return home, the house will be required to have facilities and safety measures that need to be met. To meet requirements, remodeling must take place to provide a bedroom, bathroom and handicapped facilities on the main floor to address safety needs. The requirement of the remodel and medical expenses that fell upon the family cause the family to ask for assistance.

    If you would like more information or an update on his medical condition, please feel free to call a family member. An account for donations has been created at Wells Fargo Bank, in Charles Sykes name.

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    Pretty Litter Review: Keeping Tabs on Your Cat’s Health | WIRED – WIRED - May 24, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    An animal's inability to tell you when they aren't feeling well is one of the hardest parts of pet parenthood. Even when they're showing symptoms, you can't just ask them what's wrong. (Well, you canjust don't expect an answer.) Pretty Litter is a subscription-based litter service that wants to help when it comes to cats.

    A litter box is a necessary part of coexisting with a cat, and Pretty Litter claims its crystals change color when your cat might have an illness, making it easy to tell when something might be wrong. The company's founder, Daniel Rotman, lost a beloved cat that showed no obvious signs of sickness. This litter is his solution to help monitor a cat's health at home, to hopefully prevent what happened to him from happening to other pet owners.

    Iwith the help of my two cats, Huxley and Eely-Rueput Pretty Litter's crystals to the test for several weeks. I also spoke to veterinarians, cat behaviorists, and Pretty Litter customers to figure out whether the crystals accurately do their job. One thing I need to say before jumping into my experience is that Pretty Litter should be used only in addition to regular vet checkups. It is not a replacement for veterinary care.

    Color Coded

    Pretty Litter's crystals change color based on the pH level of your cat's urine. Normal pH urine will turn the crystals a yellow or olive green; a high pH, which could mean a urinary tract infection (UTI), makes the crystals turn blue; and low urinary pH turns them dark orange, and it could mean metabolic acidosis and kidney tubular acidosis, which can lead to kidney stones. Blood in the urine shows up as red, as expected, and could mean bladder inflammation, bladder stones, or a UTI.

    It can be complicated to determine where on the scale the color falls, as it can look like it's somewhere in the middle. To test for high acidity (low urinary pH), I used vinegar. It turned the crystals a yellowish-orange, which could have been the mark of low urinary pH but could also have been the yellowish color of normal urine pH. After looking through my cats' used litter, I saw a similar color and couldn't quite determine its place between normal and low pH. I made an appointment with my vet to have both my cats looked at, just to be safe, and the doctor said they weren't showing any issues.

    In my research, I found several Pretty Litter customers talking about false positives on Reddit. Their cats' litter crystals turned blue, but expensive vet visits concluded there was nothing abnormal. It's not all bad. I spoke to one customer on Twitter who regularly fosters cats and has been using Pretty Litter for around two years. She said when the color changed with a new batch of kittens, she took them to the vet and found they had worms. Another customer said the crystals turned blue, detecting a UTI that was later confirmed by a vet, who was impressed the litter caught it so early.

    But there's also the possibility of false negatives. My friend's sister has a cat with a history of frequent UTIs, but the litter never changed color. When she called the company, a customer representative suggested buying more litter and boxes, a solution that didn't really make sense to her. (She noted that customer service really pushed her to buy more litter when she called to cancel her subscription, too.)

    It's important to know that stress can also cause a change to a cat's urine pH level. And any number of factors could induce stress, like if you recently moved or if you're remodeling your kitchen, for example. Pretty Litter says you should wait 48 hours after seeing a change in color to see if it goes back to normal on its own. If it doesn't, make an appointment with a vet. If the crystals detect blood, make an appointment immediately.

    Dust in the Wind

    On top of the confusing color chart, the dust levels alone are enough to make me avoid using this litter going forward. All the veterinarians I spoke to said crystal litters generally create less dust than clay litters (which is what I usually use)and Pretty Litter claims to be low dust toobut I did not find that to be the case.

    The crystals emitted clouds of dust so intense that I always waited for them to settle before I continued scooping. Other customers on Reddit also noted this. It's not just about my discomfort, either. My cat Huxley loves to scratch at the box for what seems like hours, so he's potentially inhaling these clouds of dust day in and day out, and that makes me nervous.

    Shortly after I switched to Pretty Litter, Huxley started to get watery eyes. The vet and I both assume it's from the dust. For what it's worth, Eely-Rue hasn't had this issue, but I've switched them both back to their clay litter to see if the problem subsides. Dust-free clay litter formulas have come a long way (I typically use Arm and Hammer litter), so it's disappointing to see so much dust with Pretty Litter.

    Crystal Clear

    In my not-so-scientific survey of several cat owners, clumping clay seems to be among the most popular litter types. It's made of highly absorbent natural bentonite clay granules that clump together when liquid is absorbed. It's easy to scoop because everything is ... clumped. Scoop it daily and change out the whole thing about once a month (or more often, if you have several cats). Plus, it's widely available at a variety of price points.

    Crystal litter is made of tiny silica gel beads that are highly absorbent but don't clump. You scoop out feces and mix the urine in so the beads absorb the odor. Pretty Litter recommends scooping and mixing daily, and replacing the box about once a month per cat. Since you aren't scooping away as much, you should be able to use less over time, which means less litter ends up in landfills. But it can get smelly if you aren't diligent.

    You might be thinking, as I did, Isnt silica gel toxic? Thats a common misconception. The packs of silica gel you find in packages are labeled Do Not Eat, but Pretty Litter's founder says that's because it's a choking hazard, not because its toxic. If a cat licks its paws after using Pretty Litter, the silica should safely pass through their body. It's only a problem if ingested in large amounts, but that applies to clay litter, too.

    Marci L. Koski, a feline behaviorist and training consultant, tells me she recommends Pretty Litter to her clients who have cats with a history of urinary issues. But, in general, she prefers fine-grained unscented clumping clay.

    "My experience, and the problem I've run into with people, is they think its a very low-maintenance situation and they tend to forget about it," Koski says. "It leads to a buildup of solids in the litter box. At a certain point, the crystals stop absorbing and get really smelly."

    Changing Your Cat's Litter

    If you want to change the type of litter you're using, you should introduce it to your cat slowly. Vets recommend mixing old and new litter together first.

    Some cats simply don't like the way it feels to walk on crystal litter. If you find your cat's bathroom habits are affected, don't force them. Go back to the litter they were using before. If your cat doesn't like Pretty Litter, or you don't want to be held to a subscription (which starts at $22 per month), you can still be aware of your cat's health at home.

    "Usually by the time cats exhibit signs, it's well past the time to get them to the vet," Koski says. "You want to use a box you can scoop once or twice a day. Take note if the volume of urination has changed or if the frequency has changed. The only way you can note that is by scooping your cat's box every day."

    Some other signs you can look out for, according to experts I spoke with, are:

    I stopped using Pretty Litter due to the dust, but I still think it's worth trying, particularly if your cat has a history of urinary tract infections. (If you have a male cat, they're more prone to urethral blockages.) I suggest mixing it with other litter, as one customer recommended, to try and cut down on dust.

    At the end of the day, there is no miracle litter. Pretty Litter could potentially help, but nothing will replace regular checkups with a vet and your own meticulous parenting.

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    Pretty Litter Review: Keeping Tabs on Your Cat's Health | WIRED - WIRED

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