Jason Van Steenwyk

Freelance Writer & Finance Expert

Jason Van Steenwyk has been writing professionally about personal finance and investments since 1999. He first learned the trade as a staff reporter with Mutual Funds Magazine, part of the FORTUNE Group of magazines at Time, Inc. While there, he also served as managing editor of Investors’ Digest, a monthly compilation of the best in investment newsletter writing, published by the Institute for Econometric Research. He was also a contributing editor to Market Logic, Income Fund Outlook, Mutual Fund Buyers Guide and The Insiders. In addition to his work for Mutual Funds, Jason has published feature articles in many financial consumer and trade publications, including Wealth and Retirement Planner, Registered Representative, Annuity Selling Guide, Bankrate.com, Senior Market Advisor, and many more. Born in Santa Monica, California, Jason was raised mostly on the windward side of Oahu, a suburban and rural area of the Hawaiian Islands. He took an interest in real estate from observing the unique economy and real estate market of Hawaii and the complex interplay of land and power in an island economy. Jason is a full-time freelance writer and editor, an avid guitarist and fiddle player, and a career officer with the Florida Army National Guard. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his cat, Sasha, and an unknown number of musical instruments.

Real estate investors and property flippers need to consider their margin of safety before taking on renovations

It’s been a long dry spell, but it’s looking like significant improvements are providing a better return on investment for real estate investors than they have in years. That’s good news for flippers, because that’s just one more way for a fix-and-flipper to add value. . . .

Read more about Renovations and a Margin of Safety


The IRS has introduced a safe harbor that makes things easier for landlords when it comes to claiming deductions

Here’s a bit of good news for small landlords: The Internal Revenue Service has introduced a “safe harbor” for deducting repairs to investment properties from ordinary income. Normally, the IRS does not allow you to take a full current-year deduction for anything they consider a renovation or improvement. They only allow you to take a first-year deduction on repairs, which the IRS defines as projects that do not materially add to the value of a property . . .

Read more about The Safe Harbor for Landlords


With tax time on the horizon, here are some tips on depreciation for real estate investors

Depreciation is a double-edged sword. It’s a big part of why real estate works so well with leverage as an investment. Taking the depreciation allowance on investment property is a critical part of the attractiveness of real estate investing, from the point of view of the cash-flow investor. But the rules governing depreciation are notoriously baffling, and occasionally trip up even tax professionals. . . .

Read more about Real Estate Depreciation Tips


Certain tax deductions can help real estate flippers manage their businesses

Tax season is here – and as any veteran flipper knows, it ain’t what you have – it’s what you get to keep. In the flipping business, deductions are crucial. Unless you have a handle on your expenses, and can accurately deduct them, the Internal Revenue Service can only tax you on your gross. If your record keeping is slovenly or you aren’t alert to the deductions you can take, even getting 90 percent of your deductions right is enough to murder you. . . .

Read more about Tax Deductions for Flippers

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President Obama indicated last Friday that he will sign the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013, which eases the earlier Biggert-Waters reforms and grants property owners a reprieve from a planned sharp increase in flood insurance premiums.

President Obama indicated last Friday that he will sign the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013, which eases the earlier Biggert-Waters reforms and grants property owners a reprieve from a planned sharp increase in flood insurance premiums. The problem is that politicians have overruled the actuaries for years, setting National Flood Insurance Program premiums far too low. As a result, the NFIP is, well, actuarially insolvent. . . .

Read more about The Flood Insurance Affordability Act


Before purchasing a house to flip, make sure you don

Plumbing can be a flipper’s nightmare, because leaky or corroded pipes can cause problems that are not readily apparent to the eye, but become all to obvious when you start making modifications to the home. You can think you’re replacing some old tile, or redoing some drywall, and encounter a nightmare of leaky pipes, water damage, mildew and wet rot that was invisible when you inspected the property. . . .

Read more about Avoiding a House With Plumbing Problems


The Tax Reform Act of 2014, a new bill recently introduced by Rep. Camp, would slash some tax benefits to homeownership through a series of rollbacks.

Last July, I warned that policymakers in Washington, increasingly desperate for revenue, were beginning to look hungrily at the home mortgage interest deduction. Indeed, I specifically pointed out to readers that Representative Dave Camp, (R-Michigan), and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was holding hearings collecting testimony designed to undermine the case for the home mortgage interest deduction. Camp is making his move. . . .

Read more about The Tax Reform Act of 2014


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has created a data aggregation website with easily accessible mortgage information

Don’t look now, but the federal government seems to have developed a website that actually works! The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – the federal watchdog agency created under the Dodd-Frank financial reforms of 2010, has created a site that aggregates mortgage data nationwide and collects it in a series of well-executed infographics. . . .

Read more about The New Mortgage Data Website


Flipping houses to hipsters and millennials can mean working in areas of gentrification

You can make money flipping to hipsters and millennials – but not to just any hipster or millennial. The key is to get in front of a specific subset of them known as urban Bohemians, or the type of educated, affluent knowledge or creative worker that author David Brooks identified back in 2000 as bourgeois bohemians, or “bobos.” . . .

Read more about Flipping to Hipsters


Homeowners facing a short sale or foreclosure in 2014 could get a higher tax bill now that the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act has expired

Hard as it seems to believe, struggling homeowners have had it easy for the last seven years in at least one way: The Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act gave anyone who got foreclosed on or short-sold their home a substantial tax break. Prior to 2007, the IRS considered forgiven debt as ordinary income to the debtor. The benefit of tax forgiveness was considered to be substantially the same as a cash benefit, and therefore the debtor was charged income tax . . .

Read more about The Expired Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act