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About Real Estate: Now is the time to save some ‘green’ on gardening tools, plants

Question: My husband and I really enjoy the shopping tips you give out each month for home-related items. What are your best buys for April?

Answer: Some great bargains can be found this month for personal items that most property owners use, whether it’s in the kitchen or outside the house.

With spring getting into full swing, you’ll save lots of “green” by focusing on your lawn or garden. Deals on new lawnmowers typically peak in April, says Regina Novickis of bargain-hunting website Slickdeals.net, with discounts of more than 30 percent off their typical price.

You’ll also find some of the steepest discounts of the year on many other gas- or electric-powered gardening tools, such as hedge trimmers, as well as small hand tools like spades and shovels.

Retailers typically mark down their vacuum cleaners at least 20 percent or 25 percent this time of year, experts at deal-savvy CreditDonkey.com say, to help with your spring-cleaning chores and to clear store space for the new models that will debut in June. Most stores also put their cleaning supplies on sale, too, and you can save even more if you keep an eye out for coupons in this newspaper or in supermarket mailers.

You’ll also find discounts of 25 percent or even more than 30 percent this month on most small kitchen appliances, from coffeemakers and slow cookers to blenders and bread machines. That’s because both graduation and the peak wedding seasons are just around the corner, and retailers are competing for customers who want to buy a nice gift without breaking the bank.

Real estate trivia: The Biltmore Estate in Ashville, N.C., is believed to be the largest privately owned house in America. Built by an heir of the wealthy Vanderbilt family in 1895, the French Chateau-style mansion has 250 rooms spread out over nearly 179,000 square feet of space.

Q: We are about to retire and plan to buy a recreational vehicle to tour the country. Is it true that an RV is considered a tax-deductible second home?

A: In most cases, yes. The Internal Revenue Service lets most taxpayers deduct some or all of their finance charges on an RV, camper, trailer or even a boat as long as it has sleeping, cooking and bathroom facilities. The finance charges are essentially considered mortgage interest, just as you’d pay for a loan on a traditional second or vacation home.

The primary catch is that the total amount of debt on both your primary residence and the RV cannot exceed a combined $1.1 million.

Talk to an accountant or other tax expert for details. Also get a free copy of IRS Publication 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction, by calling the agency at 800-829-3676 or by downloading it from www.irs.gov.

Q: We’re getting ready to list our home for sale. Our agent says that we must replace all of our double-cylinder locks because they could pose a danger in case of an emergency. Is this really necessary? It’s an expense that we’d rather avoid!

A: Double-cylinder dead-bolt locks need a key to open, whether you’re inside or out. Many homeowners prefer them, in part because a burglar can’t simply break a door’s window pane and then reach in to unlock it.

Some cities and counties, though, have outlawed double-cylinder locks. They point out that the dual-keyed system can make it harder for a homeowner to get out if there’s a fire, or for fireman or paramedics to get in if there’s an emergency.

Call your local building or fire department to see if there’s such a ban in your area. And even if you can keep the locks, always be sure to keep a spare key within arm’s reach of the interior lock in case you have to make a hasty exit.

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