Home Base

A publication of
the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance and the American Homeowners Foundation


, 2012

In this issue of Home Base:

How to Reduce Tax-Time Stress 
Tax Policy Fight to be Armageddon
Spring may be a good time to Buy or Sell
Loss of moderates is damaging Congress
9 Unconventional Ways to Improve Your Home

How to Reduce Tax-Time Stress 

Tax preparation doesn't need to give you a headache.

There are several ways to make it easier on yourself and reduce errors. The IRS offers tips to help make your tax-filing experience easier and also has social media tools that can help you do your taxes. To reduce errors make sure you check these eight common mistakes before you file.

Review these six tips before you get started:

1. Don’t procrastinate.
Resist the temptation to put off your taxes until the very last minute. Rushing to meet the filing deadline may cause you to overlook potential sources of tax savings and will likely increase your risk of making an error.

2. Visit the IRS website.
More than 322 million visits were made to
www.irs.gov in 2011. Make “1040 Central” your first stop to check for the latest news and find answers to your questions about tax filing.

3. Use Free File.
Let Free File do the hard work with brand-name tax software or online fillable forms. It's available exclusively at
www.irs.gov. Everyone can find an option to prepare their tax return and e-file it for free. If you made $57,000 or less, you qualify for free tax software that is offered through a private-public partnership with manufacturers. If you made more than $57,000 and/or are comfortable preparing your own tax return, there's Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Visit www.irs.gov/freefile for options.

4. Try IRS e-file.
  Last year, 79 percent of taxpayers - 106 million people - used IRS e-file, which is the safest, easiest and most common way to file a tax return. If you owe taxes, you can file immediately and pay later (by this year’s April 17 tax deadline). Best of all, when you combine e-file with direct deposit the IRS can generally issue your refund in as few as 10 days.

5. Don’t panic if you can’t pay. 
If you can’t pay the full amount of taxes you owe by the mid-April deadline, you should still file your return by the deadline and pay as much as you can to avoid penalties and interest. More than 75 percent of taxpayers eligible for an Installment Agreement can apply using the web-based Online Payment Agreement application available at
www.irs.gov. To find out more about this simple and convenient process, type “Online Payment Agreement” in the search box at www.irs.gov.  You can also contact the IRS to discuss your payment options.

6. Request an extension of time to file – but pay on time.
  If the deadline clock is ticking, you can get an automatic six-month extension through Oct. 15. However, this extension of time to file, which must be filed or postmarked by the April 17 deadline, does not give you more time to pay any taxes due. If you have not paid at least 90 percent of the total tax due by the April deadline you may also be subject to an estimated tax penalty. You can obtain an extension through Free File at
www.irs.gov/freefile. Or, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, available for downloading at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to have a paper form mailed to you. Allow at least 10 days for mailed forms and publications.


Online Payment Agreement
Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return

Let these social media tools from IRS help you navigate last-minute tax-time tasks.

1. IRS2Go The IRS's smartphone application can help you get your refund status and tax updates. IRS2Go is available for the iPhone or iTouch and the Android.

2. YouTube
The IRS offers video tax tips on a variety of topics in English, Spanish and American Sign Language at

3. Twitter
IRS tweets from @IRSnews include tax-related announcements and daily tax tips. Other IRS Twitter accounts tailor information for tax professionals and Spanish speaking taxpayers - @IRStaxpros tweets IRS news and guidance for tax professionals and @IRSenEspanol tweets IRS news and information in Spanish.

4. Podcasts
These short audio recordings offer one tax-related topic per podcast. They are available on iTunes or through the Multimedia Center on
www.irs.gov (along with transcripts).

5. Widgets
These tools, which others can place on websites, blogs or social media networks, direct users to the relevant page on the IRS website. The 2012 widgets feature often overlooked tax credits, Free File services, common tax transactions and the popular deadline countdown widget. Marketing Express hosts the IRS widgets.

So far this tax season, more than 1 million taxpayers have viewed the IRS's popular YouTube video tax tips, about 500,000 have downloaded the IRS phone app and more than 188,000 have viewed the IRS widgets. More than 23,000 Twitter followers get daily tax tips and IRS news at their fingertips. You can too.

Remember: The IRS uses these tools to share information with you. Do not post confidential information on any website or through social media channels, especially your Social Security number. The IRS will not be able to answer personal tax or account questions through any of these services.

To find links to all of IRS’s social media tools, visit
www.irs.gov and click on “Social Media.” 

If you make a mistake on your tax return, it can take longer to process, which in turn, may delay your refund. After you’re computed your taxes and before you file check to make sure you haven’t made one of these eight common errors.

1. Incorrect or missing Social Security numbers. When entering SSNs for anyone listed on your tax return, be sure to enter them exactly as they appear on the Social Security cards.

2. Incorrect or misspelling of dependent’s last name. When entering a dependent’s last name on your tax return, make sure to enter it exactly as it appears on their Social Security card.

3. Filing status errors. Choose the correct filing status for your situation. There are five filing statuses: Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household and Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child. See Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information, to determine the filing status that best fits your situation.

4. Math errors. When preparing paper returns, review all math for accuracy. Or file electronically; the software does the math for you!

5. Computation errors. Take your time. Many taxpayers make mistakes when figuring their taxable income, withholding and estimated tax payments, Earned Income Tax Credit, Standard Deduction for age 65 or over or blind, the taxable amount of Social Security benefits and the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

6. Incorrect bank account numbers for direct deposit. Double check your bank routing and account numbers if you are using direct deposit for your refund.

7. Forgetting to sign and date the return. An unsigned tax return is like an unsigned check – it is invalid. Also, both spouses must sign a joint return.

8. Incorrect adjusted gross income. If you file electronically, you must sign the return electronically using a Personal Identification Number. To verify your identity, the software will prompt you to enter your AGI from your originally filed 2010 federal income tax return or last year's PIN if you e-filed.

Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deductions and Filing Information  


Tax Policy Fight to be Armageddon

$100 billion mortgage interest deduction may be in play.

A battle of epic proportions is brewing as part of the federal budget process. Pressures to reverse the rapid growth of the federal budget deficit have implications for both spending programs that affect housing as well as current tax laws. A recent congressional report from the Congressional Research Service, a research arm of Congress, has broken down the value of major tax breaks, which total more than $1 trillion a year. This is about the size of the annual federal budget deficit. Current tax breaks benefit almost all segments of the population, including homeowners.

At almost $100 billion a year, the mortgage interest deduction accounts for 8.1% of all federal tax deductions, behind employer-provided health insurance, $164.2 billion a year and the exclusion for employer-provided pensions, second largest at $162.7 billion. Exclusions for Medicare and Social Security benefits rank fourth at $76 billion annually and 6.1%.

A number of leading economists and advisory groups are recommending that the mortgage interest deduction be restructured, but that the net tax incentives remain at $100 million a year. Latest to join the call to modify the deduction into a tax credit is Yale Economist Dr. Robert Schiller, who is widely recognized for his work on the history of stocks as well as housing prices. As part of a comprehensive package that would lead to substantial deficit reduction, both President Obama’s Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission and the Debt Reduction Task Force of the Bipartisan Policy Center have recommended the replacement of the current mortgage interest deduction with a flat mortgage interest tax credit.

All three have recognized that the current mortgage interest deduction has become very inefficient. It offers little or no incentive to most first time buyers, who end up paying the same amount of tax whether they take the standard deduction or itemize the mortgage interest and taxes.

First time buyers are key to restoring liquidity to the housing market. Low mortgage interest rates haven’t been sufficient to persuade them to risk losing money by purchasing a home that may be worth thousands of dollars less next year. The home ownership tax incentive for potential moderate income first time home buyers has largely evaporated over time.

A couple who currently rents typically takes the “standard” federal income tax deduction ($11,600 in 2011) because it is much greater that the amounts they could deduct if they itemized their deductions instead. That’s about the same as the mortgage interest and real estate tax payments on a $130,000 mortgage, which they could itemize if they buy a home. Most renters have relatively small amounts of other itemizable deductions. Most of them are also in a low income tax bracket, so the relatively small total increase in itemized deductions they might get from buying a home isn’t worth much after taxes.

Our research suggests that the net tax savings for many potential first time home buyers under the current mortgage interest deduction formula is only worth $25-$50 a month. Obviously a potential tax savings of $300 - $600 a year doesn’t provide much incentive to risk buying a home that could drop $3,000 - $5,000 in value over the next year.

This is not to suggest that the mortgage interest deduction formula does not provide a significant tax incentive for home ownership for most people. A high income taxpayer with a million dollar mortgage can save tens of thousands of dollars in taxes every year because of the mortgage interest deduction. In the current market he may have trouble selling that home because the person that might by his home is stranded for lack of a buyer of his own home. This liquidity challenge problem extends down the home ownership food chain to the first time buyer, who usually liberates 2-3 upstream transactions.

One way to increase the number of first time buyers would be to make the home ownership tax incentive equally beneficial to them as it is to wealthy home buyers who have large mortgages.  A flat mortgage interest tax credit that was the same rate for all homeowners regardless of their tax bracket or the size of their mortgage, would give first time and returning buyers a substantial tax incentive to buy a home. Tax credits are subtracted from tax liability after deductions are taken on your federal income tax forms, so first time or returning buyers could still take the standard deduction. As a result they would realize all the home ownership tax benefits of a tax credit. A flat mortgage interest tax credit would be proportionate to the size of the mortgage, so it would be much more fair that the current formula. The tax benefits on the mortgage interest paid on a $1 million dollar mortgage would be ten times the tax benefits on the mortgage interest paid on a $100,000 mortgage.  

Many first time or returning buyers would find they could save $100 - $200 per month on their federal taxes with a mortgage interest tax credit versus only $25-$50 a month under the current mortgage interest deduction formula. As a result home ownership would then become substantially less expensive than renting for many potential first time or returning buyers. While this approach would be somewhat less generous than the current formula to homeowners in higher tax brackets with large mortgages, the home ownership tax incentives for wealthier homeowners would still remain very substantial. For the average homeowner the net effect would be the same as today. If the tax credit is set at a level that is neutral with respect to federal tax revenues (i.e. the same impact as the current mortgage interest deduction) home ownership tax benefits over a typical homeowner’s lifetime would remain the same as they are today. The benefits would simply become more front loaded with this approach,  making home ownership far more attractive to first time and returning home buyers.

These are the folks we need to attract to home ownership if we are to restore health to the housing sector. We also need to help the many homeowners who are currently threatened with foreclosure. Many of them are in lower tax brackets due to job losses or cutbacks in working hours. For them the current mortgage interest deduction formula produces little tax savings. Many would be able to get by if their cash flow increased by another $100 - $200 per month and a flat mortgage interest tax credit would improve their cash flow by that amount.

There are additional reasons to restructure the mortgage interest incentive as well. Homeowners enter retirement with more savings than renters at the same income levels, mainly due to their accumulated home equity. Homeowners are thus less likely to become dependent on needs-based federal programs such as Medicaid later in life, and their accumulating equity is also a buffer against financial challenges throughout their career. Policymakers recognize that we need to reduce the costs of many federal social programs as part of our deficit reduction efforts. One way to do that is to encourage more renters to become homeowners, and to do so earlier in their careers, by replacing the mortgage interest deduction with a mortgage interest tax credit.

The housing sector remains weak, so there’s little chance that Congress will cut back on the current $100 billion in annual home ownership incentives. There’s also little chance that the amount will be increased given current budget realities. However the housing recovery will receive a significant boost if Congress simply replaces the current deduction with a tax credit that has the same overall tax impact.

Because of widespread support the other top four tax incentives (employer-provided health insurance, the exclusion for employer-provided pensions, and exclusions for Medicare and Social Security benefits are relatively unlikely to see substantial modification as part of the budget process. This will make it difficult for House Republicans to include them as part of an unspecified array of tax breaks to be eliminated in order to offset the costs of lowering top tax rates for both corporations and individuals to 25%, from the current 35%, as they proposed in a budget unveiled in late March.

There is far less public support for maintaining the current preferential rate for capital gains, which ranks fifth in terms of annual revenue losses at $71 billion and 5.8% of federal tax deductions. After that things get harder. Other tax deductions further down the list account for smaller amounts of tax savings, and many are very popular (the earned-income and child credits, deductions for state and local taxes, and charitable deductions).

The Congressional Research Service report, noted that "it may prove difficult to gain more than $100 billion to $150 billion in additional tax revenues" by eliminating tax breaks. Even that amount seems optimistic, so it is difficult to imagine where the necessary revenues to fund the Republican corporate and personal rate cuts would come from.

In late March a bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives offered a resolution that called for Congress to use the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission /Debt Reduction Task Force’s recommendations as the models for a Congressional budget that would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion. Since its December 2010 release, the Simpson-Bowles plan has become recognized by many independent budget analysts as the best hope for reducing the deficit and restoring the nation’s economic health.

Unfortunately both conservative republicans and liberal democrats voted against the measure, which was supported by the dwindling number of moderates in the House of Representatives. Instead, the House adopted a conservative Republican budget proposal that has no chance of passing in the U.S. Senate. If the Senate and House eventually compromise and approve a package that reduces the deficit, it will likely look much like the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission /Debt Reduction Task Force’s recommendations. In that scenario the aforementioned changes in mortgage interest incentives for home ownership could become law. Unfortunately it is even more likely that conservative republicans and liberal democrats will be unwilling to compromise in this election year, and that Congress will approve only another stopgap measure that only pushes the resolution of this serious threat to our economy into 2013.


Spring may be a good time to Buy or Sell

Pending home sales were down slightly in February but remain notably above the pattern in the first half of last year, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors®, who said we’re seeing the continuation of an uneven but higher sales pattern. “The spring home buying season looks bright because of an elevated level of contract offers so far this year,” he said. “If activity is sustained near present levels, existing-home sales will see their best performance in five years. Based on all of the factors in the current market, that’s what we’re expecting with sales rising 7 to 10 percent in 2012.”

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) in the Northeast slipped 0.6 percent to 77.7 in February but is 18.4 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index jumped 6.5 percent to 93.8 and is 19.0 percent higher than February 2011. Pending home sales in the South fell 3.0 percent to an index of 105.8 in February but are 7.8 percent above a year ago. In the West the index declined 2.6 percent in February to 99.3 and is 1.8 percent below February 2011. The PHSI is a leading indicator for the housing sector, and is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales.

“This data is encouraging,” noted American Homeowners Foundation President Bruce Hahn. Other segments of the housing sector are also experiencing recent signs of improvement. There is an increasing likelihood that we’re at or near the bottom of the market except for few parts of the country. This should give confidence to more home buyers and home sellers. There’s a lot of pent up demand on both the buying and selling side as a result of the prolonged decline of housing values in most parts of the country.

It is also much easier for home buyers and sellers today to study the market using the many available Internet tools. They can learn enough about housing values and market conditions in their area to make an informed decision without having to consult a real state agent. The return to a healthy housing market will also likely accelerate the trend towards new real estate brokerage models that can greatly reduce the cost of buying and/or selling a home. “Flat-fee” real estate brokers will list your home in the local multiple listing service for a few hundred dollars. This gives it an exposure to the 90% of today’s home buyers who do their home searches on the Internet.

Some real estate brokers also rebate a share of the commissions to home buyers who are willing to do more of the work themselves. Home buyers can also avoid the risks of dual agency by using exclusive buyers’ agents, who only represent home buyers. The American Homeowners Foundation offers a free electronic version of our Home Buyers Guide to Real Estate Representation. To obtain a copy email
AHF@AmericanHomeowners.org and put “free Home Buyers Guide to Real Estate Representation” in the subject line.


Loss of moderates is damaging Congress

Congressional disapproval ratings are at all time highs.

Retiring Congressman Dennis Cardoza recently authored the following analysis of the challenges faced by Congress today. We share his thoughts with you because we believe that they help explain the astounding disapproval rating (nearly 90%) that voters express about Congress today.

By Rep. Dennis A. Cardoza (D-Calif.)

Favorability ratings don’t lie. In politics, when your approval rating is below 50 percent, you’re on shaky ground. When you’re between 4 and 13 percent -- as this Congress consistently is -- you’re in revolution territory! Congress is officially broken due to extreme partisanship on both sides. The real question, however, is who is left to step up and fix it?
Over 40 percent of the voters in the nation identify themselves as “moderates.”  However, less than 10 percent of the current members of Congress would self-identify the same way. Congress was designed to represent a cross section of America. This is no longer the case. 

Lately, the media has made much of the fact that centrists are leaving the Senate in droves, with the departures of Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), and Jim Webb (D-Va.) at the end of this year.

There is rarely any mention that this exodus already happened in the House in 2010 – albeit mostly involuntary – and the resulting gridlock should serve as a warning. Scores of Blue Dogs and moderate Republicans either resigned or lost their elections when the Tea Party took power. This extremism has absolutely devastated the day-to-day operations of the House. With a great many more moderate retirements already announced in 2012, I don’t see any improvement on the horizon.

The situation is made worse by the “seniority system.” The most senior members with the safest (most partisan) districts stay the longest, gain the most clout, and become chairmen and leaders. The result is that the partisan skew is magnified. As Congress continues down this ever-increasing path of hyper-partisanship, the pressure on and frustration among sitting moderate members steadily increases until we choose to retire.
There are serious “real world” consequences for the lack of moderates in government, too. Businesses are getting caught up in a vicious tug of war between regulation-happy liberals and live-free-or-die conservatives. The other day I spoke briefly to a group of CEO’s from across the country. One of their biggest complaints was that it takes too long to get anything done these days. I could not agree more. Trivial regulation is clogging America’s economic arteries, stymieing our “can-do” spirit that made this country great. During World War II, a time of great crisis, the Pentagon was built in 18 months. Today, the environmental permits for the parking lots alone would take 10 years.
But that doesn’t mean our government should scrap every safeguard and always say "yes." Our leaders have a duty to protect the public interest, and not every project or program should get approval. In those cases, a swift NO is much more desirable for all concerned than death by a thousand paper cuts or, more correctly, being crushed by reams of environmental documents. Sensible moderates are needed to balance competing interests, so the pendulum of regulation doesn’t swing too far in either direction.
We need a change of heart in how legislating is done.  Leaders – and the voters who elect them – need to recognize that “compromise” isn’t a four-letter word. The purpose of legislating isn’t to grandstand – it is to work out differences and find commonality that is in the best interest of our country.
Members of Congress from both parties must take responsibility for getting things done, or our representative democracy will fail. 

The American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance believes that Rep. Cardoza is absolutely correct. The solution lies in the hands of the 40 percent+ of the voters who are “moderates.” Too often moderates fall for the post-primary pitches of far right or far left candidates who attempt to reposition themselves as more moderate than they actually are during the general election campaign. Moderates all too often simply vote for whichever one they perceive as the lesser of the two evils. 

Moderates need to become more militant. The solution for moderates to vote for neither, and don't contribute to their campaigns of either. Don't contribute to the national committees of either party because both are presently controlled by the far right and far left. Instead support and vote for moderate candidates only. In some cases you'll have to go down the ticket to the level of the local dog catcher before you find a moderate you can vote for. That's ok, because if the dogcatcher gets 50% more votes than the successful right or left wing local mayoral candidate, it will both send a message and help advance the dogcatcher's political career.

Congress will continue to become increasingly dysfunctional until moderate voters recognize the cause of the problem and take matters in their own hands. They need to get involved as volunteers in the campaigns of moderate candidates, whatever their party affiliation, and do everything they can to help spread the word.


9 Unconventional Ways to Improve Your Home

Residential architect Richard Taylor
offers these excellent ideas in the
Zillow blog.

Zillow, http://www.zillow.com/blog/2012-03-16/9-unconventional-ways-to-improve-your-home/, a real estate consumer website which covers real estate news and advice and includes a consumer friendly home search and valuation tools.

Conventional wisdom, as it relates to houses, is often too much convention and not enough wisdom.

Every year, somebody publishes a list of which
conventional home improvements will give you the best (or the worst) return on your remodeling investment.

Remodel a
bathroom. Replace your siding. Don’t build a swimming pool. Paint everything neutral colors.

Sit up straight. Get a haircut. Call your mother.

If “return on investment” (ROI) is why you bought a home, or why you’re remodeling one, you can stop reading now. Because the rest of this article isn’t for you.

Three, two, one…still here?

You invest in your home to improve livability first, not value. If you get more value in the process, consider it a bonus, but don’t make ROI your prime directive.

Otherwise you’ll end up like the potential client that came into my office a few years ago with a three-page single-spaced typewritten (as in made with a “typewriter”) list of things he wanted in his house.

His list included this line: “A large dining room, near the kitchen. Although we don’t need or want a dining room.” Why would he want to build a room he didn’t need?

Because he’s thinking of things to make the house valuable, instead of things to make it livable.

So let me rephrase the remodeling-ROI question this way: what are some cost-effective ways to improve the livability of your house?

Here’s my short list:

1. Walk-in pantry instead of kitchen cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are expensive. Half of them are up high on the wall where they’re hard to reach, and the wall space they take up could be better used for windows. A pantry takes up less space, stores a lot more, is much easier to use, and costs less to build.

2. Comfortable shower instead of big bathtub

My firm does a lot of work in late-70s/early-80s neighborhoods that are loaded with huge tubs. We’re taking them all out, one at a time, and replacing them with comfortably-sized showers (not the racquetball-court sized ones you see in home shows) that people actually use every day.

A shower takes up less space, uses less hot water, and is far more sanitary than a big tub.

3. Group windows together facing best views instead of scattering them around the house

Got a great view somewhere? Bring it into the house with lots of glass. Take excess windows from bedrooms and baths and use them to connect the inside of the house with the outside.

We once remodeled a house on the coast of Lake Erie that had one window – one – facing the lake. Hey pal, did ya notice the Great Lake in your back yard?

4. Keep ceiling heights reasonable for the room size

“Volume” ceilings do not automatically make better rooms. They just make taller rooms. Rooms that are harder to decorate and more expensive to heat and cool. Instead, focus attention on a view, a large fireplace, or other element and away from the ceiling height. Use wall trim and multiple paint colors to break up the volume of the room and create the illusion of height.

5. Spend more time planning, and less money building

I toured a client’s existing home before we began designing the new one. “Of course,” she said as we peeked in on the kids’ rooms, “these bedrooms are way too small.” Really? I thought. The smallest was probably 14’ x 15’. But each bedroom had at least one door or one window on each wall.

Pretty, but the design left little room for furniture.

I suggested we more carefully design the new bedrooms – keeping the furniture placement in mind. In the end, we were able to easily accommodate each child’s bedroom furniture comfortably in smaller bedrooms than what they’d had before.

6. Consider the simple elegance of the box form house

Subtlety and restraint used to be virtues in home design. These days, far too often, inexperienced designers attempt to attract attention to their homes by adding more stuff… more gables, more materials, more bays, etc. Others know that proper proportion, scale, and details are what turn heads.

The simple box house is a classic American form that’s survived 150 years of stylistic changes. Greek Revival, American Four-Square, Tidewater Georgian…all simple boxes. Great proportions, great details…done.

And here’s a bonus – the
box form is easier and cheaper to build, and because it encloses a larger volume in less perimeter, it’s less expensive to heat, cool, and maintain.

7. Share part of the master bath

This isn’t for everyone, but it really tightens up the budget and the floor plan. Make the toilet and a sink in the master bath accessible to the rest of the house, instead of building a separate half bath – it won’t be used much by you during the day, and rarely by guests at night.

Why have two baths when one will do?

8. Spend it when you have it, not before

Sure, it’d be great to have those granite countertops now, but your budget’s tight and granite is ten times the cost of laminate tops. So how about putting in nice laminate tops now, and replacing them with granite in five years when you have the cash? You can easily do the same with light fixtures, flooring, window treatments…

9. Compartmentalized bath – two baths in the space of one and a half

Each kid doesn’t need his/her own bath, but they do need privacy and room to share. A compartmentalized bath puts two sinks in one room and the toilet and tub/shower in another – so three kids can use the bath at once and keep a little more harmony in the family home.

I doubt any of these ideas will ever make a magazine’s list of “Best Remodeling ROI” projects. But every one saves you money over a more “conventional” design strategy, and every one increases the livability of your home.

Connect with Richard Taylor at 


Please take the time to contact your legislators and express your views on pending policy issues covered in this month’s Home Base. It's easy - you can reach your legislators by email in a couple of mouse clicks, and you can use the content in Home Base and elsewhere on our website to help you develop your message.

To look up the phone number, email, and/or postal address of your U.S. Representative or your two U.S. Senators, (or your state representative or state senator) click here. You can also look up which legislators represent your zip code if you don’t recall their names.

A personal meeting is a particularly effective way to get their attention and reinforce your message.   Please consider requesting a face-to-face meeting in their home state or home district offices near you when you contact their Washington DC offices on policy issues. 

Is there a policy issue that is particularly important to you which significantly impacts homeowners or home ownership? Any member may propose a position on a policy issue, so please check the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance's 2012 Issue Guide. If it isn't on the list, we invite you to send us an email and tell us why you think the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance should take a position and work on it.


Copyright 2012, American Homeowners Foundation and the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance.