Maryland Homeowner’s Property Tax Credit Program

Did you know there is a Maryland Homeowners’ Property Tax Credit Program? The State of Maryland has developed a program which allows credits against the homeowner’s property tax bill if the property taxes exceed a fixed percentage of the person’s gross income. In other words, it sets a limit on the amount of property taxes any homeowner must pay based upon his or her income. This not based on the age of the applicant – just the income. However, an application must be filed each year that a credit is requested.

2021 Home Organization: The Pantry

Most of us start each year with a resolution or two (or more) and this year Is no exception for me. Besides the annual resolutions to walk more and weigh less, I resolved this year to tackle one part of my home each month and declutter and clean it.

This resolve came in part from my daughter being home for five weeks at the end of the year because the University of Chicago Business School shut down with COVID. Since she is used to apartment living with roommates and limited cupboard space for food, she complained that I had too much food in the pantry.

I know there was a lot of stuff in the pantry – partly because I had stockpiled canned goods and flour for COVID and partly because I had bought things that I thought I needed but already had. I didn’t feel too bad about the COVID stockpile. My son has 10 cans of Progresso chicken noodle soup sitting on his kitchen counter in his coop in New York City. After I got past the multiple cans of beans and tuna, I still had a lot of duplicates. The only problem was that I couldn’t see the extras because of all the stuff shoved into the pantry. I doubt I will use up two bottles of Lyle’s Golden Syrup since I still haven’t made the sticky toffee pudding that I bought the syrup for in the first place – or the macaroons that I keep buying shredded coconut for.

I decided that my daughter was right about the clutter. It was time to address it! I martialed my forces and ordered a bunch of storage containers from Amazon to organize my pantry. The containers seemed to help. They let me stack smaller containers, consolidate bags of flour and save space. Plus I felt more organized – and more motivated to keep going. The more I sorted and organized, the more duplicates I found. I took some canned goods to a food drive and felt virtuous! Not only was I cleaning my pantry but I was also making a social contribution!

I found a stash of cans of condensed milk and evaporated milk . I use the condensed milk to make Spanish flan but I haven’t made flan in at least five years. I decided to make flan during the Christmas holidays – it would be a good way to use up at least one can. Condensed milk should be a pale creamy color but when I opened the first can it was a solid brown – more like coffee with a dash of cream. Two more cans were the same color. Turns out that condensed milk that is ten years old is not very appealing. Fortunately I found a newer can so I could finish making the flan.

After that experience, I looked at the Internet to find out about how long canned food will last and this is what I discovered.

Canned foods that are kept in good condition are actually safe to eat indefinitely, according to the USDA. However, there are several factors that may affect their shelf life, such as can corrosion and rusting, high temperatures, and other container problems. Over the years, many canned foods will experience taste and texture changes, and may eventually lose their nutritional value — which is why it is recommended to consume different types of canned products by a certain time for the best quality. (Accordingly, the dates that are often printed on cans are for quality, not safety.)

I felt better reading that the condensed milk was probably okay to use – but since it looked so strange, I decided to use a newer can from my stockpile.

The end result is encouraging. My pantry is less cluttered. I can find things more easily and I now know that I have two jars of jalapeno slices and three jars of barbecue sauce – in addition to a few other things that I only need once every two years! Most important of all though – I have a lot more sympathy for the sellers that I encourage to declutter and clean! It isn’t easy to tackle big jobs like that.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by clutter and you want to get rid of those multiple cans of beans, soup, tuna or even condensed milk that you stockpiled last March, you might be ready to get rid of them by donating them to a good cause. The Capital Area Food Bank is a great place to donate. Local shelters like My Sister’s Place are also grateful for non-persishables. If you can’t get out or don’t feel comfortable doing so, give me a call. I will be glad to come to you, collect your donation from your front door step and make sure it gets into good hands. It would give me a chance to wave hello!

Hope you are doing well in all this craziness. With the roll out of the vaccines, I feel like we are at the beginning of the end – or at least the end of the beginning – but at least we are here!

Presidential Homes You Can Visit in a Day (or Two) from Washington DC

In honor of the upcoming Presidential Inauguration, I would like to share with you some wonderful day trips from Washington focusing on Presidential homes. There are lots of homes to choose from, some just a few miles from each other. I have started this list with Virginia’s Presidential homes and then gone further afield to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina. There are a number of Presidential homes in Ohio and New York, but those rank as more than a day trip!

With social distancing, masks and general quarantining, I have discovered the joys of road trips. My husband and I can spend a day exploring a new part of the mid-Atlantic with a lunch packed at home and our poodle in the back seat. Even if we can’t go in to some of these places now, we can walk the grounds, absorb a bit of American history and enjoy some fresh air. If you are home schooling your children, this list will be certainly qualify as things to do with kids in DC. I heartily recommend these places to you too!

The first two places to visit are right in Washington – certainly qualifying as a day trip.

How to Entertain Yourselves this Thanksgiving!

This year’s Thanksgiving may look a little different than last year–smaller gatherings, eating dinner over Zoom, etc. Nevertheless, we imagine most people are still celebrating in some form or another, whether that means having only immediate family or quarantining before seeing relatives. Whatever your plan, you will hopefully have some downtime after the meal to spend with family. For many, there is no better way to relax than with a good movie or no better way to bond with family than over a good board game.

In that spirit, we bring you our top three Thanksgiving themed movies, in addition to Merriam-Webster’s top 10 words that can help you win at Scrabble. If you have any Thanksgiving movie recommendations or rare words that can lead to Scrabble dominance, we’d love to hear from you!

16 Pumpkin Spice Flavored Items that I am Avoiding!

Fall is here and with the change in season comes pumpkin spice flavoring in EVERYTHING! Pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin beers, and all the pumpkin baked goods you can scarf down before retiring the flavor for another year. Pumpkin spice products definitely have their own cult following! I am not going to argue with you about pumpkin muffins or pumpkin pie – which I love almost as much as sweet potato pie, but I am not even a fan of Starbuck’s pumpkin spice latte – too much chemical flavoring. Will you agree with me that some people have taken the pumpkin spice craze too far. These 16 absurd pumpkin flavored and scented items, ranging fromridiculous to down-right unacceptable, will make you agree that even pumpkin spice should have its limits.

Tips for Maintaining Your Marble Countertop

With marble countertops being all the rage, it’s time we talk about how to care for this stunning surface. While it lends a timeless and elegant look to your kitchen and bathrooms, truth be told, the beloved stone can be rather high maintenance. Take the proper measures, however, and it’s totally worth it for a classic look that isn’t going out of style any time soon.

Here are a few tips to keep your marble countertops looking as new as the day you got them.

Recent FHFA Changes and How They’ll Impact You!

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) recently announced that effective September 1 there would be an Adverse Market Refinance Fee, which applies to all mortgage refinances serviced by government entities. The so-called “Adverse Market Refinance Fee” (Fannie is also calling it a “Loan-Level Price Adjustment,” while Freddie’s alternative label is a “Market Condition Credit Fee in Price”) would assess a 50-basis point fee for both no cash-out refinance mortgages and cash-out refinance mortgages. This means lenders will pay an extra 0.5 percent of the loan amount as a one-time charge. This would add as much as $1400 to refinances. That was the bad news.

The better news is that on Tuesday, August 25, the FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would delay the implementation of the controversial Adverse Market Refinance Fee. The fee will now be applied starting December 1 rather than September 1. Along with this news, the FHFA said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will exempt refinance loans with balances below $125,000 along with Home Ready and Home Possible products. Mortgage Bankers Association President and CEO Robert Broeksmit said, “We welcome today’s announcement from the FHFAamending the recently announced Adverse Market Refinance Fee from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Extending the effective date will permit lenders to close refinance loans that are in their pipelines and honor the rate lock commitments they made to their borrowers, ensuring that economic relief in the form of record low interest rates will continue to flow to consumers.”

If you are thinking of refinancing to take advantage of the truly historic low rates we are seeing right now, then please give me a call. I can recommend a good lender – either one we work with constantly – or one who works for your current bank. I want to make sure that you get the best rates and best service possible and I am happy to share my contacts with you to make that happen!

Can You Buy a House With a High Income and Low Credit Score?

A mortgage lender looks at several factors when deciding whether to approve a loan application. A lending institution wants to know that a borrower has both the ability and the will to repay debts. If you have a high income and a low credit score, a lender may have reservations about approving your mortgage application.

All About the Second Mortgage – Good Idea?

If you need money for home improvements, to pay college tuition or another purpose, you might be able to secure funds with favorable terms through a second mortgage. Before you do so, it’s important to make sure you understand the terms and potential risks.

Useful Insights for a First Time Home Buyer

As a First Time Home Buyer, you may be confused about how to make that home purchase happen. We all know it takes more than just the desire to buy a home in this day and age. It takes planning too. Here are some insights to keep in mind when working toward owning a home.