Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Farnsworth Technicality

As Professor Farnsworth says at the beginning of every episode of Futurama, "Good news, everyone!"  Our tax-credit application has been given the (unofficial) thumbs-up from the Maryland Historic Trust for the full amount-- meaning almost everything we spent on making this house livable (as opposed to the little indulgences like the gas fireplace) qualified for their program, and we'll be getting a whopping $50,000 back from the state. (Holy cow!) We haven't gotten the paperwork back yet, but Renee from MHT told me she just needed one small edit on one page of the form for things to go forward, and I'm totally psyched. I immediately began looking at financing our HELOC, which resets in December, with the hope that the fat fifty-G check we'd be getting in the mail at Thanksgiving could cut the amount in half and give us a way better rate. Alas, I was only half-right: yes, we will be getting the money, but no, it will not be coming anytime soon, and it will also not be coming in the form of a happy, gift-like check.

Rather, we have to file taxes in the Spring and claim the amount as a tax credit. Hmm. So here's the issue now: I planned our finances so we'd be DC residents until December 31, with a switch to Maryland beginning January 1. All DC withholding this year, then a clean break with no need for part-year resident filing, with all MD withholding in 2014. Now we have to file as MD residents for 2013, and I'm stumped. For those of you who know me, this is how stumped I am: I'm going to go to H&R Block and get tax advice. (I know, right?!) But this money is just too much to screw around with, and I'm willing to pay the $150 or whatever they need at the tax place in order to see my mortgage balance decrease by half-a-hundred grand. Now I just have to find some time to get there.

Once we get the official paperwork back from Annapolis (Crownsville, actually) we can then start with the Rockville paperwork--for the county. I already started talking to Josh over at the County Preservation office, letting him know to watch out for our impending application, and it looks like it may be an easy-enough process. The county looks at all the stuff you did to make the house pretty from the outside, as opposed to the state livability standard, so the amount we get back will be much, much less-- 10% of the exterior improvements will still be nothing to shake a stick at, mind you.

But the other reason I contacted Josh was to let him know we finally got the energy audit results back, and decided to go for it. Granted, all that wait (since what, August?!) was for a report that basically told us we had drafts -- in a 115-year-old house -- we liked their remedies, and we don't like how freakin' cold it is in the house. So next Monday and Tuesday, Smart Homes Maryland will be coming by to install seals on all 49 of our windows, new latches on almost half of them (to help close them more tightly than the current latches, some of which are the hook-and-eye kind you'd find at a campsite latrine), and what they describe as an inflatable device inside our chimney that will help divert the heat from the fireplace into the house. That last part makes sense but sounds strange-- but it's also less than $200, so why the heck not?

The whole project's not cheap, but do-able nonetheless.  They originally gave us an estimate in the high $2000s, and I balked at it until I thought about the cost of simply buying 49 windows-worth of that cheap weatherstripping from Home Depot, and how cheesy it'd look. Only problem was that the quote was for white weatherstripping and brass hardware; all of our windows are black. So we went back to their rep, Karim, and asked what it'd take to darken things up. apparently about a thousand dollars. But again, that now involves painting 49 windows-worth of weatherstripping, getting upgraded hardware, and being happy (and warrantied) at the end of the process. For energy savings, it's worth it. The bummer is we haven't been in the house for a winter without it, so we have nothing against which we can compare the cost savings. But I think I can deal, and I'm looking forward to being able to sit at my computer without feeling a cold breeze, to waking up to see something other than "57 degrees" on my bedside thermometer, and to snuggling with Abby under a blanket when we watch tv because we want to-- and not because we're trying to stave off hypothermia. That, combined with a nice big check from Maryland-- even if it's in the form of an income-tax refund check direct-deposited into my account at some point in late March-- will truly be "good news, everyone!"