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Earn fat tax deductions by donating household goods

Question: We have a couple of sinks, doors and some other items that we replaced when we remodeled our home earlier this spring. They’re all in fairly good shape, so we don’t want to just take them to the dump. Are there any charitable organizations that will accept this kind of stuff?

Answer: Sure. One of the largest is Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which sells new and gently used building materials, furniture, tools, home accessories and appliances to the public at a fraction of their retail price. Each ReStore is owned and operated by local Habitat for Humanity affiliates, and proceeds from their sales are used to fund the respected nonprofit group’s efforts to build affordable housing for those in need.

I donated some kitchen cabinets, a couple of doors, a bathroom vanity and several other items to my local ReStore when I did a major remodel myself about two years ago. They came out and picked up my stuff for free, which saved me more than $200 in haul-away expenses and landfill fees. I felt good knowing that the items would be re-used rather than help to fill-up precious space at the garbage dump, and that the resale proceeds would help to fund quality new housing for people who need it most.

As a bonus, I also got a big tax-deduction for the value of the items that I donated because Habitat for Humanity and its ReStore affiliate are charitable organizations recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.

You can locate the nearest ReStore by calling Habitat at 1-800-422-4828, or by visiting www.habitat.org/restore. Other major charities that sometimes accept housing-related items include American Red Cross, Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries.

Real estate trivia: Walk-in closets in the master bedroom are the most sought-after feature in new housing projects this year, according to a new survey by the National Association of Home Builders. They’re followed by individual laundry rooms, low-energy windows and “great rooms” that can be used as a kitchen, family room or living room -- or for all three purposes.

Q: We paid a lot of money for a top-of-the line refrigerator about three years ago. The fridge is still working great, but it doesn’t match the rest of the kitchen now that we recently put up new wallpaper and cabinets. Can refrigerators be repainted?

A: Sure, but you have to be selective about the type of paint you use. Home-repair expert and author Josh Garskof suggests you use either Krylon’s epoxy appliance paint or stainless-steel paint, available at Home Depot and most other large home-improvement stores.

Start by lightly sanding the surface so that the fresh paint will adhere. Next, cover the handles and hinges with masking tape.

Finally, evenly spray on one coat of paint, let it dry, and then apply a second coat. You’ll likely need three or four cans, Garskof says, at a total cost of $20 or $30.

You also can paint your dishwasher. But don’t paint your stove: It gets too hot when in use, which can cause the paint to flake or bubble, and could even result in a fire or the release of toxic fumes.

Q: I was shopping for a new home-insurance policy a few weeks back, and was surprised when two of the insurers I contacted asked me to sign a form allowing them to get a copy of my credit report and credit score. Both companies then rejected my application because I have had some financial problems lately and my credit score has dropped. Is it legal for an insurer to reject an application for a policy simply because a homeowner’s score has declined?

A: Yes, it’s legal.

A growing number of homeowner’s and automobile insurers insist on getting a copy of an applicant’s credit report and credit score before issuing a new policy. That’s because several studies have shown that folks with low credit ratings and scores are much more likely to file multiple claims than those with better credit histories are, in part because low-rated applicants are often hurting for cash and thus are more willing to ask their insurer for reimbursement even when the slightest mishap occurs.

In some cases, cash-strapped homeowners have even purchased a new insurance policy and then purposely set their house on fire in order to collect the insurance proceeds.

Not all insurers demand that new applicants agree to furnish their credit report or score. Keep shopping around; I’m sure that you’ll find a company that’s willing to insure you, and perhaps even give you a discount if you haven’t filed a claim in the past few years.

David M. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate, Inc.

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