Don’t Overlook These 2020 Tax Deductions

Don’t Overlook these 2020 Tax Deductions. Last year brought lots of changes in the way we do things and especially how we work and care for our families. Stephanie Bateman has ‘Grouped’ a list of some of the deductions you may want to review before filing in 2020. Be sure to consult a tax professional to see if you qualify. Why not turn a tough year into tax savings?!

#1 Home Office Deductions

The biggest question when filing 2020 taxes may be, “Can I write off a home office due to work from home orders?”

Stephanie Bateman Group

Because of COVID-19, millions of people no longer go to the office but work from home instead, where they’ve had to set up workstations with desks, printers, high-speed internet and other pricey items — often paid for out of their own pockets. Can they deduct those expenses on their taxes?

COVID-19 has changed everything this year for American workers. Some changes have been good on the pocketbook, such as reduced expenses on commuting, lower auto insurance premiums and less money going toward work clothes and lunches. Others have presented some new financial challenges: things like higher utility expenses, buying a faster internet plan with a new Wi-Fi router to handle the upsized bandwidth, office furniture and equipment and anything else to enable your remote working. After the challenging year, it would be nice to know whether these expenses can at least be deducted on your tax return.

In short, your eligibility to claim these expenses as deductions largely comes down to one question: Are you an employee or an independent contractor? Sadly, for employees now forced to work from home, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated deductible expenses tied to maintaining a home office. On the other hand, independent contractors are in luck. 

Employees Miss Out

After tax reform became law at the end of 2017, employees lost the ability to deduct expenses related to maintaining a home office. Previously, employees could claim an itemized deduction for unreimbursed business expenses that exceeded 2% of their adjusted gross income. This included any work-related expenses for business you conduct at home. For employees, those deductions are now gone.

Despite this unfavorable rule change, employees still need supplies and equipment to function effectively in their jobs at home. In a standard work environment, the employer provides these necessities. Now, many employees working from home will need to procure these items for themselves. If you find yourself in this situation, you face one of three outcomes with respect to the financial and related tax implications: 

  1. Your employer purchases the items and provides them to you.
  2. You purchase items and receive reimbursement from your employer.
  3. You purchase items and do not receive reimbursement.

In the first situation, these items would qualify as an employer-owned supply and thus would be a deductible expense on their tax return. Assuming the employer provides these supplies and equipment for noncompensatory business reasons, employees will not need to pay taxes on these items. This includes items that employees may also have available for personal use, such as a cellphone or computer, because the IRS deems these as “de minimis fringe benefits.” 

The second situation is similar. If the expenses count as “ordinary and necessary,” or those which your industry considers commonly accepted for conducting your trade or business, these reimbursements will not count as taxable income to the employee. To avoid having employees count these expenses as taxable income, employers should lay out an “accountable plan,” or a set of policies that state what qualifies for reimbursement when employees need to purchase supplies and equipment at home.

In the final situation, employees purchase the needed supplies and equipment but have no expectation of receiving reimbursement from their employers. Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, if these expenses exceeded 2% of employees’ adjusted gross income, they could claim these deductions on their tax return. This would offset some of the expense picked up by employees. Unfortunately, that’s no longer true. No federal tax benefits exist at the moment. 

Independent Contractors Get a Break

For independent contractors who buy home office equipment and supplies without being reimbursed, the tax picture is brighter. Independent contractors often have no expectation of reimbursement from their contracting company. As a result, people working in this capacity have access to self-employment tax deductions to lower their taxable income. They can also claim expenses such as depreciation on certain types of property, utilities, insurance and more. 

In the event a company provides equipment to the independent contractor or reimburses expenses, these items would fall under the first and second situations above, respectively. This allows the company to claim these expenses as deductions on their business tax return, not the contractor.

Making a Home Office Deduction

The IRS has established a strict set of rules on home office deductions and too many taxpayers try to flaunt them. So unless you have a perverse love of audits, rein in your creativity on this one.

According to the IRS, a portion of following expenses may be deducted for a qualifying home office:

  • Real estate taxes
  • Mortgage interest
  • Utilities (electricity, heat, water, gas, Internet service, telephone service, etc.)
  • Insurance
  • Painting and repairs
  • Depreciation

Instead of itemizing, you can opt for taking a standard deduction of $5 per square foot of home office space, up to 300 square feet.

Again, the IRS is a stickler on this one. A qualifying home office is a part of the home that is used “exclusively and regularly” as the principle place of business [source: IRS]. Ideally, it’s a separate structure from the living quarters of the house. If not, then it needs to be a place set aside exclusively for business purposes. People get into trouble when their bedroom doubles as their graphic design studio, or they work from home a couple days a week because the commute is too long [source: Turbotax].

If you already have a portion of your home set aside exclusively for business purpose, then you have the right to take as many deductions as you deserve. For example, if you regularly meet clients or customers in your home office, you can deduct the cost of repairs and maintenance — even landscaping — to the home that make it more presentable. Source TurboTax

#2 Relocating to Pocket Tax Savings

Many workers have temporarily (or maybe permanently) fled expensive big cities for cheaper, more remote locations, often sporting lower taxes. What does that mean for their tax returns?

Given the fact that many people can work from anywhere these days, it might not be news that many people have decided to relocate from higher cost of living areas to cheaper areas. Doing so might allow you to keep more of what you make through lower costs or tax savings. 

In the event you’ve decided to relocate permanently to a locale different from the one you started in 2020, you might face a complex tax situation come 2021.

If you’ve made a permanent move, you will need to file a tax return in both states this coming year. Going forward, you will only need to file a tax return in your new state as you would in any event where you move across state lines permanently. My wife and I relocated permanently prior to the pandemic, reasoning we stood to have a better quality of life elsewhere. In 2019, we paid state income taxes in Louisiana and California on account of living in both states a roughly equal amount of time during the year (we moved in mid-June 2019).

If you stay away longer than six months on a temporary relocation, you will likely face a tax obligation in your home state as well as your temporary location. That means you may be required to file tax returns in both states. You may want to consider consulting with a tax professional to understand the tax ramifications fully. 

Given the substantial drops seen in tax revenues across the nation, states will be keeping a close eye out for people trying to game the system by claiming to have moved to a lower-tax state permanently or have chosen to make it their primary residence when they really haven’t.  States look for definitive links connecting the state and the resident. Such examples could include individuals establishing residency, owning or leasing residential property assets that produced incomemaking money from a job, or engaging in some other financial arrangement tied to a location. Saying you have permanently relocated will require you to prove your change of scenery comes as more than just a transitory decision. Most locations will require you to document this change by living in your new location for at least 183 days. You can back this up by officially changing items like your voter registration and driver’s license. 

Bottom line, because states will be keen to review any relocations, you will want to take extra precautions when it comes to legitimizing your relocation in the name of saving on taxes. 

Now, if only employees could deduct those moving costs alongside their work-from-home related expenses. Sadly, tax reform put an end to claiming both as an employee.

Deducting Moving Expenses

The IRS applies two basic “tests” to determine if you can deduct moving expenses: distance and time. First, the distance test: If you move for a new job — or even to find a new job — the new location must be at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) farther than the distance of your old commute [source: IRS]. So if you used to drive 30 miles (48 kilometers) to work, the new location must be at least 80 miles (129 kilometers) from your old home. If you’re self-employed and work from home, then you only have to move 50 miles away, which can be as close as the neighboring city or town.

Now the time test: Once you move into your new location, you must be employed full time for at least 39 weeks of the next 12 months. What’s great about this is that you don’t have to work for the same company that brought you out to the new location. Even if you quit that job or get canned, you can still deduct the moving expenses if you get another job in the same geographical area that keeps you employed for the minimum 39 weeks. Note that if you’re self-employed, the time rule is more strict; you must remain employed full time for at least 78 weeks of the next 24 months after the move [source: IRS].

What exactly does the IRS let you deduct as moving expenses?

  • Packing and shipping costs (moving company, for example)
  • Up to 30 days of storage
  • Travel to the new home including gas at $0.17 a mile
  • Hotel rooms, but not meals
  • Disconnecting utilities at the old home and connecting new ones [source: Turbotax].

The cool thing about moving expense deductions is that they’re an “above the line” deduction, meaning you don’t have to itemize deductions to claim them [source: Bischoff]. Now let’s look at some ways to get creative with education expenses.

#3 Charitable Causes

If you donate money to your church or another tax-exempt organization, you are allowed to deduct those cash donations from your taxable income. The same is true for non-cash donations like used items donated to Goodwill. But did you also know that you can deduct expenses incurred from volunteer work or other charitable activities? Thanks again, IRS!

Let’s say you mentor a kid across town as part of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. You drive 20 miles (32 kilometers) every week to meet him at his apartment. You buy reading and math workbooks to complete together. Every month, you take him to the museum or the zoo or a children’s music concert. You have kids of your own, and sometimes you pay a baby sitter to watch your own children while you mentor.

All of these out-of-pocket expenses support a volunteer activity with a tax-exempt charitable organization. So all of these expenses are deductible, including:

  • Mileage to and from the mentoring appointments
  • Books and other tutoring materials
  • Tickets to museums, zoos and educational events
  • Childcare expenses while you volunteer [source: Williams Accounting & Consulting].

Don’t let your charitable nature cheat you out of well-deserved tax deductions. If you really want to get creative, you can even deduct the expenses of the flour and sugar you buy to make cookies for the school or church bake sale fundraiser.

#4 Teacher Expenses | PPE

If you’re an eligible educator, you can deduct up to $250 ($500 if married filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators, but not more than $250 each) of unreimbursed trade or business expenses. Qualified expenses are amounts you paid or incurred for participation in professional development courses, books, supplies, computer equipment (including related software and services), other equipment, and supplementary materials that you use in the classroom. For courses in health or physical education, the expenses for supplies must be for athletic supplies. Qualified expenses also include the amounts you paid or incurred after March 12, 2020, for personal protective equipment, disinfectant, and other supplies used for the prevention of the spread of coronavirus. This deduction is for expenses paid or incurred during the tax year. You claim the deduction on Form 1040Form 1040-SR, or Form 1040-NR (attach Schedule 1 (Form 1040) PDF).

You’re an eligible educator if, for the tax year you’re a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or aide for at least 900 hours a school year in a school that provides elementary or secondary education as determined under state law.

#5 Stimulus Checks

Because of the severity of the national crisis, the government gave eligible Americans their tax credit early; the amount was based on their latest tax return filed or their federal benefits profile. 

The IRS sent out about 160 million Economic Impact Payments, otherwise known as stimulus checks, last year.

For both the first and second stimulus checks, your adjusted gross income (AGI) determines the exact amount of your payment. Single filers with an AGI below $75,000 or single parents (heads of household) with an AGI below $112,500 are eligible for the full payment. Married couples who file jointly and have an AGI below $150,000 are eligible for the full payment.

Economic Relief Payments due to COVID 2020 phase out at a rate of $5 for each $100 over the AGI threshold. For the first round of checks, payments cease at an AGI of:

  • $99,000 for single filers
  • $136,500 for heads of household
  • $198,000 for joint filers.

For the second round, payments cease at:

  • $87,000 for single filers
  • $124,500 for heads of household
  • $174,000 for joint filers

Option 1, You Didn’t Get One

Some Americans inevitably fell through the cracks. If you didn’t get a first-round or second-round payment and should have, or received less money than you were entitled to, you will be able claim it on your 2020 taxes.

You can think of the payments already delivered as an estimate, based on the information available to the IRS at the time from your 2018 or 2019 tax return. Remember, they wanted to get the money into Americans’ accounts as quickly as possible.

Now you’ll be able to settle the score, as it were, by reporting your 2020 income and claiming the payments that you’re eligible for. The amount will lower your tax bill and may result in a cash refund

Option 2, How to claim your stimulus check on your 2020 taxes

When you prepare your tax return, you’ll be asked to report the total Economic Impact Payment received to date.

There will be a separate worksheet on your tax return with instructions for calculating any outstanding amount owed to you, if anything. If you file your taxes using online software, the provider will prompt you to enter the required information and do the calculations for you.

The IRS advises filers to only fill out this portion of their return if they received less than the maximum payment amount. Anyone who received a first or second payment should have also received a letter in the mail — Notice 1444 — stating the exact amount. 

If you do qualify for additional stimulus money, you won’t get it immediately. It will first be applied to your outstanding tax bill. If your bill is reduced to $0, the rest of the money will be added to your refund. The IRS delivers most refunds within three weeks.

# 6 Missed Work Due to Quarantine or Closed Schools

In 2020, if you:

  • Missed work to take care of kids because schools or daycare were closed
  • Missed work to care for someone sick or quarantined
  • Missed work because you were sick or quarantined due to COVID-19
  • You’re self-employed

The IRS has a tax credit for you. You’ll need Form 7202, it’s for self-employed individuals to claim COVID sick and family leave tax credits under the FFRCA, Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

There are instructions on how to calculate the sick leave or family leave amount, but both the sick leave and family leave credits to start with a basic question: What is the number of days you were unable to perform services.

We advocate for more support for caregivers and more leave and this IRS tax credit is a version of that. We need to be able to recognize that financial loss when they’re self-employed and need to do some caregiving,”

Lisa Riegel, AARP NC Manager of Advocacy.

AARP estimated there are 1.3 million people who are caregivers for a family member and get no pay for it. AARP totaled up their estimated caregiving time to $13 billion in wages if they did get paid.

#7 Refinance Deductions

If you refinanced in 2020 to take advantage of historically low mortgage rates be sure to read this. The housing and mortgage markets have been the rare bright spots in an otherwise fragile economy brought forth by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Mortgage origination volume this year is on track to be the highest in more than 15 years, led by a strong wave of refinances.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 changed many of the rules for mortgage and refinance deductions. Understanding the new tax rules can help you minimize your tax burden after you refinance. We’ll talk about some of the deductions you can claim on your federal taxes after a refinance, and how long you can claim them.

The IRS doesn’t consider the cash from a cash-out refinance as income. Instead, they consider it to be a debt restructuring. This means that you don’t need to report any cash you take out of your home equity as income. The rules are a little different if you opt for a cash-out refinance. You may deduct the interest on your original loan balance no matter how much equity you take out of your home. However, you may do this only if you use the money to make capital improvements.

Mortgage Interest

Your mortgage lender will send you a document called Form 1098 at the beginning of each new tax year. This is your Mortgage Interest Statement, and it tells you exactly how much you paid in interest. You don’t need to include a copy of your Form 1098 with your tax return, but your lender is responsible for forwarding the IRS a copy. If you don’t receive a Form 1098 by mail or you have questions about the balance on your statement, contact your lender.

You can deduct any interest paid on your refinanced loan if all of the following conditions apply: 

  • The loan is for your primary residence or a second home that you don’t rent out.
  • The lender that finances your home has a lien on your property. That means that if you fall behind on your payments, your lender can seize your property or put your loan into foreclosure.
  • You itemize your tax return – we’ll go over more about what that means in a bit.

Discount Points

You may have the option to buy discount points when you close on your loan. Discount points reduce your interest rate. Each point costs 1% of your total loan value. For example, if you refinance a loan with a $150,000 principal, each point costs $1,500. You might hear a lender refer to this as “buying down” your interest rate.

Discount points are fully deductible, no matter which type of property you’re refinancing. You can also deduct discount points on both regular and cash-out refinances.

Closing Costs On A Rental Property

You cannot deduct settlement fees and other closing costs on a primary or secondary home. However, different rules apply for rental properties. The IRS sees the money you earn from renting out a home or condo as taxable income.

You have a lot more leeway when deducting closing costs and other upkeep expenses for a refinance on a rental property. Some expenses you can claim as deductions on a rental property include:

  • Attorneys’ fees
  • State-required inspection fees
  • Refinance application fees
  • Legal and recording fees
  • Appraisal fees

In addition, you can also deduct insurance and repair expenses related to a rental property.

Mortgage Tax Deduction Restrictions

Keep in mind that most deductions only apply for homeowners who itemize their deductions. This means adding up all the individual deductions you qualify for and deducting them from your taxable income. You may choose to itemize your deductions or take the standard deduction. The standard deduction is a single deduction that anyone can claim, no questions asked. The standard deductions for 2019 are as follows:

  • $12,200 for single filers
  • $24,400 for married couples filing jointly

You cannot deduct things like interest and mortgage points if you take the standard deduction. This rule applies for both primary residence refinances as well as investment property deductions.


A deduction is a subtraction you can claim on your federal taxes that reduces your tax burden. There are a number of tax deductions that you can take advantage of if you refinance a mortgage loan. You can deduct the full amount of interest you pay on your loan in the last year if you did a standard refinance on a primary or secondary residence. You can only deduct 100% of your interest if you take a cash-out refinance, particularly if you use the money for a capital home improvement. Otherwise, you can only deduct the percentage of interest you paid on your original loan balance.

You can also deduct your discount points and any closing costs you pay toward a refinance on an investment property. You must spread these costs over the total term of your refinance and can only deduct these expenses if you itemize your deductions.

Top 10 home trends for 2021: Ways to make it easier to work, exercise, study and relax

Top 10 home trends for 2021 — a permanent home office and resort-style living, indoors and out — are directly connected to needs we discovered while staying put during the coronavirus pandemic.

Researchers at the real estate marketplace Zillow came up with 10 home updates people want to make it easier to continue to work, exercise, study and relax at home.

Original List and Article Published – By Janet Eastman | The Oregonian/OregonLive Read Here

“From Zoom rooms to smart-home technology, these trends will make homes more functional, comfortable and safe for the whole family, and in some cases, even add value,”

Accorind to a Zillow News Release

Stephanie Bateman Group has highlited the top 10 trends for 2021 as predicted by Zillow and a Portland-area home for sale with that feature and the author of the snippet above.

HomeCation Amenities

With nowhere to vacation, home shoppers moved “pool” to the top Zillow keyword search term in 2020. “Waterfront” and “dock” were also frequently sought.

Zoom Room

Being able to have a dedicated home office was the number one reason Americans working from home say they would consider a move, according to a Zillow survey. Employers who will allow telecommuting to continue after the pandemic is under control will make the desire for a Zoom room permanent.

InterGenerational Living

Homes with a self-contained apartment in the lower level or in the backyard were used to shelter several generations of a family, especially when elderly members left retirement communities and young adults moved back home when colleges switched to virtual instructions and businesses closed due to the pandemic.

About one in six Americans currently live in multigenerational households…

Generation United

To See InterGenerational Living Options and Homes in Houston, TX

Gourmet Kitchen

A Zillow survey found 41% of people value a well-equipped kitchen more after stay-at-home orders closed restaurants. Most plan to continue to exhibit their culinary skills in the future, and home shoppers are looking for kitchens with bigger cabinets and an island.

Outdoor Kitchen

People see the value of having a large outdoor space after feeling cooped up during stay-at-home orders and wanting to entertain friends and family outdoors while socially distancing, according to a Zillow survey and Harris Poll.

Homes with a fire pit mentioned in the listing sold for 2.8% more than similar homes and those with an outdoor kitchen sold for 4.5% more, Zillow found. Smart sprinkler systems and outdoor lighting are other features that help a home sell up to 15 days faster than expected.

Smart and Safe Homes

Builders, designers and real estate agents report that coronavirus-inspired home projects, big and small, include installing easy-to-clean materials and surfaces; touch-less features, especially at the kitchen sink; self-cleaning, wall-mounted toilets; and improved fresh air systems such as heat recovery ventilators.

People are also preferring voice-activated faucets, robotic vacuums and electronic-assistant controlled lights to make life easier, says Zillow.

A Zillow analysis found homes with a smart light mentioned in the listing description sold seven days faster than expected, and listings mentioning a smart thermostat sold six days faster than expected.

Small City Living

Since telework reduces the need to be close to urban job centers, shoppers in 2021 may opt for wide open spaces and smaller, more affordable communities, say real estate experts.

Newly pending sales for small cities, with a population between 54,000 and 137,000, has increased 34.3% since last year, says Zillow.

Health and Wellness

When gyms closed, people recognized the need to have exercise equipment at home. When social activities stopped along with seeing loved ones to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the feeling of isolation set in. Some people who use reflection and meditation to stay mentally fit spend time at home in a soothing, meditation space.

In November, 4.1% of for-sale listings on Zillow mentioned health and wellness areas in the home as lockdown orders resumed and daylight hours for outdoor activities shrank.

Pet Friendly

The flexibility of remote work and being home all day allowed more people to care for pets. A 2020 Zillow analysis found for-sale listings mentioning a pet shower or dog wash sold for 5.1% more than similar homes, while listings mentioning a fenced backyard sold 6.8 days faster than expected.

New Construction

Interest in new homes has increased significantly on Zillow, up 82% in the third quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter a year ago.

A 2020 Zillow survey found more than a quarter of buyers who bought a new construction home did so to customize home features, while 37% chose to be the first owner because everything in the home was new and never used.

Search All Houston, TX New Construction Here

How can we help?

Have questions? Want to discuss your current home? Looking for a new home? Give us a call! Our real estate services are client focused with one-on-one support. We have teamed up with top brands in photography, web hosting, property search & management to offer you the best in real estate services, all in one place.

Stephanie Bateman Group

Houston, Texas
(713) 383 – 8672


Monday – Friday: 8am – 6pm
Saturday – Sunday: By Appointment

How much Americans have saved in 401(k)s by Age

Want to know how much Americans have saved in 401(ks)s at Every Age? Me too!

Stephanie Bateman, Associate Broker

See how much American have saved in 401(k)s in Every Age Group. Nadine El-Bawab MSN Money

While younger people just entering the workforce may think that they do not need to worry about retirement savings until later in life, the sooner you start saving for retirement, the better.

stephanie bateman group

If your company offers a 401(k) plan, it can be an easy way to start saving for the future, even if you start small. Not only are contributions your 401(k) excluded from your taxable income, but if your company offers a match, then you are essentially getting free money as well.

For many Americans, 2020 was a tough year financially. Between March 2020 and January 2021, around 1.6 million individuals took out savings from their 401(k) plans under the CARES Act, which allowed those affected by the pandemic to withdraw up to $100,000 without incurring the usual early withdrawal penalty, according to retirement-plan provider Fidelity. That represents 6.3% of eligible individuals using Fidelity’s workplace savings platform.

But despite the volume of withdrawals from 401(k) accounts under the CARES Act, a third of 401(k) savers increased their savings rate in 2020. Fidelity also saw record contributions from women in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The overall average 401(k) balance came to $121,500 as of the fourth quarter of 2020, according to Fidelity.

How much money Americans have saved in every age group

Fidelity also provided CNBC Make It with a look at how much money Americans have in their 401(k)s at every age.

Below, check out the average amount of money Americans have saved in their Fidelity accounts as of the fourth quarter of 2020, as well as how much their contributions are in relation to their salaries.

How much you should you save for retirement

You should think of planning for retirement as something you do throughout your career, not just when you have a large salary.

“The most important thing is to start saving as early as possible and consistently over time because that is really what ends up building up your balance at retirement,” says Eliza Badeau, vice president of thought leadership at Fidelity.

Although retirement may seem far away, it’s better to start saving early because it allows you to ride out the highs and lows of the market, says Badeau.

Fidelity recommends having 10 times your salary socked away by the time you retire. To get there, the company recommends aiming to consistently save 15% of your income, including both your employee contribution and the employer match.

“Start saving what you can from your paycheck and at least, if you do get a matching contribution, contribute enough to get that match so you are not leaving any money on the table,” says Badeau.

Even if you start small, try to increase your contribution by small increments as you can to work your way up to 15% of your salary, Badeau says.

How much emergency cash to have on hand

In addition to saving for retirement, it’s also important to get your finances stable from a short-term perspective so you do not have to dip back into money that you have put away for the long-term, Badeau says.

Aim to save three to six months worth of living expenses in a liquid cash account. You should think of that as an emergency fund to keep you afloat if you were to lose your job, Badeau says.

It may seem overwhelming to try and save so much at one time, but it’s OK to start small. Set achievable goals by saving one month at a time, and eventually work your way up to your desired balance.

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How can we help?

Have questions? Want to discuss your current home? Looking for a new home? Give us a call! Our real estate services are client focused with one-on-one support. We have teamed up with top brands in photography, web hosting, property search & management to offer you the best in real estate services, all in one place.

Stephanie Bateman Group

Houston, Texas
(713) 383 – 8672


Monday – Friday: 8am – 6pm
Saturday – Sunday: By Appointment

Transferring Property Prior to Death

Transferring Property Prior to Death

From Texas Realtors

By Tiffany Dowell Lashmet December 01, 2020

Transferring property prior to death to an heir does not typically involve a real estate agent. Nevertheless, knowing basic scenarios can help you understand options some property owners may be considering.

Property owners often want to know whether it would be better to transfer property to the next generation or an identified heir while the owner is still living or wait until the property owner has passed away. There are pros and cons to transferring property prior to death, and two other options in Texas may allow a property owner to receive the pros and avoid the cons of a transfer prior to death.

Advantages to Deeding Property Prior to One’s Death

First, it is done and the landowner no longer has to worry about it! It can also allow the property owner the enjoyment of watching the next generation take over and start establishing themselves in a home or begin operating the family farm or ranch.

Second, it allows the property to pass without going through the probate process. Even though the probate process in Texas is not nearly as complex as some other states, it is a process that can take time, effort, and money.

Third, this is a way to get property out of the property owner’s name. This may be important for a number of reasons, including qualifying for Medicaid and avoiding the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program. It would ensure that the asset involved would not be part of the owner’s taxable estate when calculating potential federal estate tax liability. It would also decrease certain expenses for the owner, such as property taxes, since the property would no longer be in that person’s name.

If the heir decides to do something with the property that the original owner disapproves of—like selling the land—the landowner has no say over that decision.

Cons of Transferring Property Prior to Death

First, once the property is deeded, the property owner has no more control, and the deed is irrevocable. This means if the property owner gets angry at the heir, the owner cannot take back the transfer. Similarly, if the heir decides to do something with the property that the original owner disapproves of—like selling the land—the owner has no say over that decision because the land is now owned by the heir.

Second, there are tax implications of making this type of lifetime transfer. If property is deeded during a person’s lifetime, that may have gift tax consequences and may affect the landowner’s lifetime exemption with regard to estate taxes. It is critical that a property owner consult with a tax professional before making a decision to gift during his or her lifetime.

Third, there are potential negative consequences regarding capital gains taxes. Generally, if property is passed by will at a person’s death, the heir receives a step up in basis for capital gains tax purposes, thus likely decreasing the capital gains taxes that would be owed if the property is sold. If property is transferred prior to death, the heir will not receive this step up in basis.

Fourth, this type of transfer could cause several issues related to Medicaid. It could trigger the Medicaid Transfer Penalty. When people apply for Medicaid benefits, one question that they will have to answer is whether they have transferred property for less than fair market value within the last five years. If they have, then they may be ineligible to qualify for Medicaid for a certain period of time. Additionally, the value of the property transferred within that five-year period would be counted towards the value of a person’s assets for purposes of determining whether that person qualify for Medicaid.

Fifth, since the land would be in the name of the heir, it could potentially be subject to any creditors or judgment against the heir.

Alternatives to Consider

In Texas, there are two alternative transfer methods that offer many of the benefits and avoid many of the disadvantages of lifetime transfers. As with anything in the law, there is no “one size fits all,” so anyone considering a transfer would be wise to consult an attorney to determine if these options are a good fit.

These alternatives are the Transfer on Death Deed and the Enhanced Life Estate Deed (also known as the Lady Bird Deed). Although they differ in details, these two deeds are very similar in operation. Both allow the property owner to designate who the property will be transferred to, and deeds are completed and filed during the property owner’s lifetime. For a Transfer on Death Deed, the transfer does not actually occur until the death of the grantor. For a Lady Bird Deed, the grantor would retain a life estate in the property and transfer the remainder interest to the identified heirs but would retain a number of enhanced rights, including the right to revoke the Lady Bird Deed and the right to sell or encumber the property without consent from the heirs.

Both of these types of deeds offer the benefits of a lifetime transfer in that the land will not be subject to the probate process and it is out of the landowner’s name for purposes of Medicaid. They also avoid many of the downsides of lifetime transfers.

These deeds are revocable—meaning that if the property owner decides to “take back” the transfer, the owner can do so until death. For example, if a Transfer on Death or Lady Bird Deed is drafted and filed giving the farm to Child A, but later the parents decide they want to give one part of the farm to Child A and another to Child B, they can simply revoke the previously recorded deed or file a new, modified deed to make that change. Similarly, if the parents initially did a Transfer on Death Deed or Lady Bird Deed to a child, but then decided to sell the property rather than leave it to the child, they have the right to do so.

These deeds do not trigger any gift tax liability. Likewise, these deeds will allow the recipient to obtain the stepped-up basis for capital gains taxes.

Second, these deeds do not trigger any gift tax liability. Likewise, these deeds will allow the recipient to obtain the stepped-up basis for capital gains taxes.

Third, these deeds were designed to avoid issues related to Medicaid, so they have the benefit of getting the property out of the owner’s name to allow qualification for Medicaid. These deeds are not considered a transfer to which the Medicaid Transfer Penalty applies. Additionally, since they are not technically part of the grantor’s probate estate, the assets deeded by a Transfer on Death or Lady Bird Deed are not subject to the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program.

Lastly, these transfers will likely protect the property from the heirs’ creditors. For a Transfer on Death Deed, since the transfer technically does not occur until after the death of the grantor, the asset is not subject to claims of the heir since the heir does not technically own the property until the death. For a Lady Bird Deed, were there to be an issue with an heir’s creditor seeking to claim the property, the deed could simply be revoked by the grantor during the grantor’s lifetime.

With estate planning, there are pros and cons to almost every tool. It is important for people to think carefully about the tools that offer the most benefits and the least downsides when making and executing their estate plan. One of the most valuable pieces of advice for anyone considering transferring property to an heir is to work with an attorney to help make the best informed decision from the options available.

Tiffany Dowell Lashmet is associate professor and extension specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension who specializes in agricultural law. She blogs about legal issues related to Texas land at and hosts the Ag Law in the Field Podcast at

What Are Loan Points?

What are loan points and lender credits and how do they work?

Generally, loan points and lender credits let you make tradeoffs in how you pay for your mortgage and closing costs. loan Points, also known as discount points, lower your interest rate in exchange paying for an upfront fee. Lender credits lower your closing costs in exchange for accepting a higher interest rate.

These terms can sometimes be used to mean other things. “Points” is a term that mortgage lenders have used for many years. Some lenders may use the word “points” to refer to any upfront fee that is calculated as a percentage of your loan amount, whether or not you receive a lower interest rate. Some lenders may also offer lender credits that are unconnected to the interest rate you pay – for example, as a temporary offer, or to compensate for a problem.

The information below refers to points and lender credits that are connected to your interest rate. If you’re considering paying points or receiving lender credits, always ask lenders to clarify what the impact on your interest rate will be.


Points let you make a tradeoff between your upfront costs and your monthly payment. By paying points, you pay more upfront, but you receive a lower interest rate and therefore pay less over time. Points can be a good choice for someone who knows they will keep the loan for a long time.

Points are calculated in relation to the loan amount. Each point equals one percent of the loan amount. For example, one point on a $100,000 loan would be one percent of the loan amount, or $1,000. Two points would be two percent of the loan amount, or $2,000. Points don’t have to be round numbers – you can pay 1.375 points ($1,375), 0.5 points ($500) or even 0.125 points ($125). The points are paid at closing and increase your closing costs.

Paying points lowers your interest rate relative to the interest rate you could get with a zero-point loan at the same lender. A loan with one point should have a lower interest rate than a loan with zero points, assuming both loans are offered by the same lender and are the same kind of loan.

Where Do I Find Points?

Points are listed on your Loan Estimate and on your Closing Disclosure on page 2, Section A. By law, points listed on your Loan Estimate and on your Closing Disclosure must be connected to a discounted interest rate.

The exact amount that your interest rate is reduced depends on the specific lender, the kind of loan, and the overall mortgage market. Sometimes you may receive a relatively large reduction in your interest rate for each point paid. Other times, the reduction in interest rate for each point paid may be smaller. It depends on the specific lender, the kind of loan, and market conditions.

It’s also important to understand that a loan with one point at one lender may or may not have a lower interest rate than the same kind of loan with zero points at a different lender. Each lender has their own pricing structure, and some lenders may be more or less expensive overall than other lenders – regardless of whether you’re paying points or not. That’s why it pays to shop around for your mortgage. 

Lender credits

Lender credits work the same way as points, but in reverse. You pay a higher interest rate and the lender gives you money to offset your closing costs. When you receive lender credits, you pay less upfront, but you pay more over time with the higher interest rate.

Lender credits are calculated the same way as points, and may appear on lenders’ worksheets as negative points. For example, a lender credit of $1,000 on a $100,000 loan might be described as negative one point (because $1,000 is one percent of $100,000).

That $1,000 will appear as a negative number as part of the Lender Credits line item on page 2, Section J of your Loan Estimate or Closing Disclosure. The lender credit offsets your closing costs and lowers the amount you have to pay at closing.

In exchange for the lender credit, you will pay a higher interest rate than what you would have received with the same lender, for the same kind of loan, without lender credits. The more lender credits you receive, the higher your rate will be.

The exact increase in your interest rate depends on the specific lender, the kind of loan, and the overall mortgage market. Sometimes, you may receive a relatively large lender credit for each 0.125% increase in your interest rate paid. Other times, the lender credit you receive per 0.125% increase in your interest rate may be smaller.

A loan with a one-percent lender credit at one lender may or may not have a higher interest rate than the same kind of loan with no lender credits at a different lender. Each lender has their own pricing structure, and some lenders may be more or less expensive overall than other lenders – regardless of whether or not you’re receiving lender credits. 

See an example

The chart below shows an example of the tradeoffs you can make with points and credits. In the example, you borrow $180,000 and qualify for a 30-year fixed-rate loan at an interest rate of 5.0% with zero points. In the first column, you choose to pay points to reduce your rate. In third column, you choose to receive lender credits to reduce your closing costs. In the middle column, you do neither.

Tip: If you don’t know how long you’ll stay in the home or when you’ll want to refinance and you have enough cash for closing and savings, you might not want to pay points to reduce your interest rate, or take a higher interest rate to receive credits. If you are unsure, ask a loan officer to show you two different options (with and without points or credits) and to calculate the total costs over a few different possible timeframes. Choose the shortest amount of time, the longest amount of time, and the most likely amount of time you can see yourself keeping the loan.

When comparing offers from different lenders, ask for the same amount of points or credits from each lender.

Consumer Finance

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How can we help?

Have questions? Want to discuss your current home? Looking for a new home? Give us a call! Our real estate services are client focused with one-on-one support. We have teamed up with top brands in photography, web hosting, property search & management to offer you the best in real estate services, all in one place.

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Houston, Texas
(713) 383 – 8672


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Saturday – Sunday: By Appointment

Is a REALTOR’s Commission Worth It?

The Breakdown of a Realtor’s 6% Fee

Is a Realtor’s Commission Really Worth It? We used the chart below to understand where your money really goes.

Breakdown of a Realtor's Fee, Stephanie Bateman
Stephanie Bateman Group
The Cooperating [Buyer’s] Broker Gets Half

Off the top, the Buyer’s Broker receives half of the total sales commission due at closing. Don’t forget that nearby sold homes used to arrive at your price and competing homes for sale also paid 3% commission to the Buyer’s Broker. Your market sets that rate, be competitive!

Consultation & Marketing Lay the Path to Success

Stephanie Bateman Group believes that marketing is key.  Any successful brand proves that! Did you know that more than 93% of home buyers search online first?  First impressions are EVERYTHING in real estate. A big chunk of our real estate agent fee goes to critical time and top tools used for consultation on pricing, staging, photography, online advertising, print marketing, branding, online placement at top websites, postcards, email blasts and social media ads.  These tools, when used appropriately, generate interest and showings toward qualified buyers for your home.

That Realtor fee makes your home look like the best, biggest chocolate cupcake in a box of 12 identical pastries. Every kid wants that cupcake. Your agent uses her fee so that every buyer wants your house.

Alexa Collins – HomeLight

Managing buyer leads, proper buyer screening, financing, communication and strong negotiation are also key strengths of Stephanie Bateman Group.

Contracts & Insurance to Closing

Finally, we continue our top notch services by guiding you to closing through contracts, inspections, appraisals, buyer concerns and questions as well as information and coverage for local laws, taxes, ordinances & insurance for errors. One of the biggest reasons to hire a REALTOR is to avoid legal pitfalls and financial errors.

Agents can get broader exposure for your property, help you negotiate a better deal, dedicate more time to your sale, and prevent your emotions from sabotaging it. The right agent brings expertise, to a complex transaction with many potential financial and legal pitfalls.

Amy Fontinelle – Investopedia

Why Realtor Fees Are Worth It

Are Realtors fees worth it? Yes! NAR Research has shown that homes sold with a REALTOR can sell for 25% more than those without. In the Houston area, a real estate broker charges a 6% Realtor fee (due at closing) to market your home and negotiate the best deal for you. At the end of the day you should pick an agent because they are compatible with your goals, your schedule, and your area.  Review their profiles online, in person and in the community to confirm they are going to do amazing work for you and your property.

A real estate agent’s commission pays for the marketing & management that gets your home sold. That includes preparation, placement, presentation, negotiation and closing. 

Stephanie Bateman, Broker

Stephanie Bateman Group sources the best in the Houston area for pricing research, buyer profiling, top notch marketing & advertising. Plus, her extensive portfolio maintains area knowledge and professional relationships. 

Houston Sellers who hire Stephanie Bateman as a real estate agent, will automatically benefit from professional interior and aerial photography, ads in top newspapers and online, email campaigns, and open house flyers.  Her professional recommendations are the best guide to success toward your personal and financial needs. 

In reality, a big portion of the costs to sell a home goes right back to the owner.

How can we help?

Have questions? Want to discuss your current home? Looking for a new home? Give us a call! Our real estate services are client focused with one-on-one support. We have teamed up with top brands in photography, web hosting, property search & management to offer you the best in real estate services, all in one place.

Stephanie Bateman Group

Houston, Texas
(713) 383 – 8672


Monday – Friday: 8am – 6pm
Saturday – Sunday: By Appointment

Can I Deduct Closing Costs?

Did you sell your home this year? Thinking of Buying One?

Being able to deduct closing costs is one of the many benefits of real estate.

The only settlement or closing costs you can deduct on your tax return for the year the home was purchased or built are Mortgage Interest and certain Real Estate (property) taxes. These can be deducted in the year you buy your home if you itemize your deductions.

As per IRS publication 530, homebuyers may deduct certain closing costs when they file federal tax returns. These include the points, or loan origination fees, you paid, as well as property taxes and mortgage interest.

closing costs

When you’re filing your taxes, there’s a whole lot to consider. From figuring out who counts as a dependent to organizing your income streams, you may find the process a bit overwhelming. And if you’re a new homeowner tackling mortgage payments, there’s another key question you’ll want to know the answer to this tax season as you try to lower your tax liability: Are closing costs deductible on your recent home purchase? Below, we give you the rundown:

Simple Question: Are Closing Costs Tax-Deductible?

Simple answer: it depends. Homeowner tax deductions can be very difficult to calculate, given all the varying factors that go into the equation. So to find out whether the closing costs on your particular home purchase make the cut, check out what the IRS says in its tax deduction breakdown in Form 1040 and on its website. As with all possible tax deductions, beyond just home-related ones, it is the responsibility of the taxpayer to report each of the taxes and fees related to the purchase as itemized deductions. Also with all possible tax deductions, your first priority is most likely to save money and earn tax advantages. For this purpose, do the groundwork: research whether taking a standard deduction versus deducting your closing costs would save you the most. Then choose accordingly.

Which Particular Closing Costs Can You Deduct?

You can’t completely deduct all the costs of closing on your house. Only a few eligible ones make the cut. The IRS denotes the following as deductible costs:

  • Sales tax issued at closing
  • Real estate taxes charged to you when you closed
  • Mortgage interest paid when cost was settled
  • Real estate taxes that were paid for by the mortgage lender
  • The interest you paid at the house’s purchase
  • Loan origination fees (a.k.a. “points”). These would be written as a percentage of the borrowed money.

Variation exists among these costs, and each house purchase carries different rules. Be sure to double check whether your needs fit with these, and reach out to your lender or advisor if you’re not sure.

Loan Origination Fees

closing costs tax-deductible

When thinking about whether closing costs are tax deductible, it’s important to understand the role of loan origination fees, or points. Lenders charge loan origination fees in return for their underwriting your mortgage. The service includes identity, credit card and paperwork verification and preparation, and it is crucial for closing on the deal. This fee will come out to about 1% of your mortgage.

Loan origination fees are important to consider, because sometimes they can be tax-deductible if you purchased your home within a year of filing the taxes. The IRS will let you deduct these fees but only for certain reasons. Those include if the loan is for your primary place of residence, if you used the loan to buy this primary residence and if you didn’t pay the loan in place of additional fees for appraising the home or paying for an attorney or property taxes.

Which Closing Costs Are Completely Non-Deductible?

Although there are some recognized loopholes—ways to get a tax-deductible status on various costs of closing on your house—there are still many costs that are strictly non-deductible. They are as follows:

  • Pre-move-in utilities charges
  • Fire and flood insurance or certificates
  • Pre-closing rent (if you moved in early)
  • Mortgage refinancing
  • Title fees
  • Real estate commissions
  • Costs of appraisal
  • Home inspections
  • Costs of reporting credit
  • Transfer taxes
  • Attorney fees

These non-deductible attributes are added to the cost of the property. You should note them on your Form 1040. For a complete list, consult the IRS tax policy list, which you can find on the agency’s website. Another important point: The higher your income is, the less you can deduct from your income taxes.

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Tax questions.

If you have a tax question not answered by this publication or How To Get Tax Help section at the end of this publication, go to the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant page at where you can find topics using the search feature or by viewing the categories listed.

Getting tax forms, instructions, and publications.

Visit to download current and prior-year forms, instructions, and publications.

Ordering tax forms, instructions, and publications.

Go to to order current forms, instructions, and publications; call 800-829-3676 to order prior-year forms and instructions. Your order should arrive within 10 business days.

Useful Items – You may want to see:

  • 4681 Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments
  • 523 Selling Your Home
  • 525 Taxable and Nontaxable Income
  • 527 Residential Rental Property
  • 547 Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts
  • 551 Basis of Assets
  • 555 Community Property
  • 587 Business Use of Your Home
  • 936 Home Mortgage Interest Deduction
Form (and Instructions)
  • Schedule A (Form 1040 or 1040-SR) Itemized Deductions
  • 5405 Repayment of the First-Time Homebuyer Credit
  • 5695 Residential Energy Credits
  • 8396 Mortgage Interest Credit
  • 982 Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness (and Section 1082 Basis Adjustment)

See How To Get Tax Help , near the end of this publication, for information about getting publications and forms.

Publication 530 – Main Contents

What You Can and Can’t Deduct

To deduct expenses of owning a home, you must file Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, or Form 1040-SR, U.S. Income Tax Return for Seniors, and itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040 or 1040-SR). If you itemize, you can’t take the standard deduction.

This section explains what expenses you can deduct as a homeowner. It also points out expenses that you can’t deduct. There are four primary discussions: state and local real estate taxes, sales taxes, home mortgage interest, and mortgage insurance premiums.

Generally, your real estate taxes and home mortgage interest are included in your house payment.

Your house payment.

If you took out a mortgage (loan) to finance the purchase of your home, you probably have to make monthly house payments. Your house payment may include several costs of owning a home. The only costs you can deduct are state and local real estate taxes actually paid to the taxing authority and interest that qualifies as home mortgage interest, and mortgage insurance premiums. These are discussed in more detail later.

Some nondeductible expenses that may be included in your house payment include:

  • Fire or homeowner’s insurance premiums, and
  • The amount applied to reduce the principal of the mortgage.

Minister’s or military housing allowance.

If you are a minister or a member of the uniformed services and receive a housing allowance that isn’t taxable, you still can deduct your real estate taxes and your home mortgage interest. You don’t have to reduce your deductions by your nontaxable allowance. For more information, see Pub. 517, Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and Religious Workers, and Pub. 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide.

Nondeductible payments.

You can’t deduct any of the following items.

  • Insurance (other than mortgage insurance premiums), including fire and comprehensive coverage, and title insurance.
  • Wages you pay for domestic help.
  • Depreciation.
  • The cost of utilities, such as gas, electricity, or water.
  • Most settlement costs. See Settlement or closing costs under Cost as Basis, later, for more information.
  • Forfeited deposits, down payments, or earnest money.

Hardest Hit Fund and Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Programs

You can use a special method to figure your deduction for mortgage interest and real estate taxes on your main home if you meet the following two conditions.

  1. You received assistance under:
    1. A State Housing Finance Agency (State HFA) Hardest Hit Fund program in which program payments could be used to pay mortgage interest, or
    2. An Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or a state.
  2. You meet the rules to deduct all of the mortgage interest on your loan and all of the real estate taxes on your main home.

If you meet these conditions, then you can deduct all of the payments you actually made during the year to your mortgage servicer, the State HFA, or HUD on the home mortgage (including the amount shown in box 3 of Form 1098-MA, Mortgage Assistance Payments), but not more than the sum of the amounts shown in box 1 (mortgage interest received), box 5 (mortgage insurance premiums), and box 10 (real property taxes) of Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement.

You may first allocate amounts paid to mortgage interest up to the amount shown on Form 1098. You may then use any reasonable method to allocate the remaining balance of the payments to real property taxes. Regardless of how you determine the deductible amount under this special safe harbor method, any amount allocated to state or local property taxes is subject to the limitation on the deduction for state and local taxes. However, you aren’t required to use this special method to figure your deduction for mortgage interest and real estate taxes on your main home.

For additional guidance, see Notice 2018-63, available at

State and Local Real Estate Taxes

Most state and local governments charge an annual tax on the value of real property. This is called a real estate tax. You can deduct the tax if it is assessed uniformly at a like rate on all real property throughout the community. The proceeds must be for general community or governmental purposes and not be a payment for a special privilege granted or special service rendered to you.

The deduction for state and local taxes, including real estate taxes, is limited to $10,000 ($5,000 if married filing separately). See the Instructions for Schedule A (Form 1040 or 1040-SR) for more information.

Deductible Real Estate Taxes

Real estate taxes imposed on you can be deducted closing costs. You must have paid them either at settlement or closing, or to a taxing authority (either directly or through an escrow account) during the year. If you own a cooperative apartment, see Special Rules for Cooperatives , later.

Where to deduct real estate taxes.

Enter the amount of your deductible state and local real estate taxes on Schedule A (Form 1040 or 1040-SR), line 5b.

Real estate taxes paid at settlement or closing.

Real estate taxes are generally divided so that you and the seller each pay taxes for the part of the property tax year you owned the home. Your share of these taxes is fully deductible if you itemize your deductions. You can deduct these closing costs.

Division of real estate taxes.

For federal income tax purposes, the seller is treated as paying the property taxes up to, but not including, the date of sale. You (the buyer) are treated as paying the taxes beginning with the date of sale. This applies regardless of the lien dates under local law. Generally, this information is included on the settlement statement you get at closing.

You and the seller each are considered to have paid your own share of the taxes, even if one or the other paid the entire amount. You each can deduct closing costs of your own share, if you itemize deductions, for the year the property is sold.

Delinquent taxes.

Delinquent taxes are unpaid taxes that were imposed on the seller for an earlier tax year. If you agree to pay delinquent taxes when you buy your home, you can’t deduct those closing costs. You treat them as part of the cost of your home. See Real estate taxes , later, under Basis.

Escrow accounts.

Many monthly house payments include an amount placed in escrow (put in the care of a third party) for real estate taxes. You may not be able to deduct the total you pay into the escrow account. You can deduct only the real estate taxes that the lender actually paid from escrow to the taxing authority. Your real estate tax bill will show this amount.

Refund or rebate of real estate taxes.

If you receive a refund or rebate of real estate taxes this year for amounts you paid this year, you must reduce your real estate tax deduction by the amount refunded to you. If the refund or rebate was for real estate taxes paid for a prior year, you may have to include some or all of the refund in your income. For more information, see Recoveries in Pub. 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income.

Still Not Sure How to Deduct Closing Costs?

How can we help?

Have questions? Want to discuss your current home? Looking for a new home? Give us a call! Our real estate services are client focused with one-on-one support. We have teamed up with top brands in photography, web hosting, property search & management to offer you the best in real estate services, all in one place.

Stephanie Bateman Group

Houston, Texas
(713) 383 – 8672


Monday – Friday: 8am – 6pm
Saturday – Sunday: By Appointment

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