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Illinois First-Time Homebuyer Programs of 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Buying your first home can be both exciting and scary. You’re ready to stop renting and start building equity, but the process — and the costs involved — can be overwhelming. If your goal is to build a life in Illinois, however, you do have one thing working in your favor: you may qualify for some help. The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) offers a wide range of programs that can help you purchase a home with better terms, provided you meet their guidelines. While some programs provide down payment assistance, others offer loans that may be forgivable under certain circumstances.

We created this guide to help consumers learn about the first-time homebuyer programs available in Illinois in 2019. If you’re eager to purchase a home this year, yet you need some assistance, keep reading to learn more.

Illinois first-time homebuyer programs

The Illinois Housing Development Authority is the state agency helping consumers find affordable housing in the state. Its stated goal is “financing the creation and preservation of affordable housing in Illinois,” and it achieves this goal through a variety of programs geared toward potential homeowners who may not be able to purchase a home without help.

The IHDA offers programs that help Illinois residents purchase a home, receive financial counseling or pay for much-needed upgrades and repairs. Its I-Refi program also helps homeowners refinance their current mortgage when they owe more than their home is worth.

Eligibility for Illinois assistance

Consumers who wish to apply for an Illinois homeowner program need to reside in the state. You also need a minimum credit score of 640 to qualify for an IHDA loan. If your credit score isn’t high enough to qualify, the agency offers counselors who can offer guidance and tips to improve your credit rating over time.

It’s important to note that you’ll also need to meet income requirements for IHDA loans, though they vary by county and household size. Generally speaking, income limits range between $77,900 and $114,840, depending on the county you live in, how many adults live with you, and other factors.

There are also loan limits that determine how much you can borrow. For a single-unit residence, these limits vary between $271,164.60 and $336,706.20, depending on the county the home is located in.

Keep reading to learn more about each program available in the state, how they work and what it takes to qualify.

IHDAcess Deferred

The IHDAccess Deferred program offers Illinois residents who qualify a 30-year mortgage with competitive interest rates, as well as an interest-free loan you can use toward your down payment and closing costs. This program is available to first-time and repeat buyers in the state.

Features

The IHDAccess Deferred program features

  • Up to $7,500 in assistance toward your down payment and closing costs, with a cap of 5% of the loan amount
  • A 30-year mortgage with a fixed interest rate that is competitive
  • The ability to use this program with several mortgage types, including FHA loans, VA loans, USDA loans and more
  • You don’t need to repay your loan assistance until you sell your home, refinance or pay off your mortgage

Eligibility

To qualify for this program, you must

  • Be able to contribute $1,000 or 1% of the purchase price (whichever is greater) toward your home
  • Meet income and purchase price guidelines that vary based on county and household size
  • Purchase an existing home or new construction
  • Have a credit score of 640 or higher
  • Plan to live in the home as your primary residence
  • Be willing to complete homeownership counseling before you close on the loan (either in person or online)

How it works

If you’re interested in this program and feel you meet the requirements, your first step is to speak with an IHDA lender. The lender will take a close look at your financial situation to help you determine if this program is right for your needs. Once you begin working with an IHDA lender, the IHDA steps aside and lets the process move forward.

Learn more

IHDAccess Forgivable

The IHDAccess Forgivable program combines a 30-year mortgage with down payment and closing cost assistance. However, the assistance component does not need to be repaid if you live in the home for at least 10 years. This program is available to first-time homebuyers as well as repeat buyers.

Features

The IHDAcess Forgivable program offers

  • A fixed-rate mortgage with a competitive interest rate
  • Closing cost and down payment assistance up to $6,000 or 4% of the purchase price of your home
  • The ability to use this program with several mortgage types, including FHA loans, VA loans, USDA loans and more

Eligibility

To qualify, you must

  • Be willing to contribute up to $1,000 or 1% of the purchase price, whichever is greater
  • Meet income and purchase price requirements based on household size and county
  • Have a credit score of 640 or higher
  • Plan to live in the home as your primary residence
  • Complete homeownership counseling before you close on the loan (either in person or online)
  • Purchase an existing home or new construction

How it works

Like other IHDA loan programs, the housing authority isn’t actually involved in the loan process. Instead, it urges you to connect with a lender that offer IHDA loans.

Once you find a lender in your area, the lender will go over your financial details and help you determine if you qualify.

Learn more

IHDAccess Repayable

If you qualify for this program, you’ll receive a 30-year mortgage with a competitive interest rate, as well as up to $10,000 (or 10% of your loan amount) in assistance toward closing costs and your down payment.

The assistance component comes in the form of an interest-free loan that is repaid over 10 years. Like other loans on this list, this program is available to new homeowners as well as repeat buyers. It can be used for existing homes or new construction.

Features

The IHDAccess Repayable program offers

  • An interest-free loan of up to $10,000 or 10% of the purchase price of your home to use toward your down payment or closing costs
  • A 30-year fixed rate mortgage with a competitive APR
  • The ability to use this program with several mortgage types, including FHA loans, VA loans, USDA loans and more

Eligibility

Illinois residents may qualify if they

  • Meet income and purchase price requirements based on their household size and the county where the home is located
  • Have a credit score of 640
  • Are willing to contribute up to 1% of the purchase price or $1,000 (whichever is greater)
  • Live in the home as their primary residence
  • Are willing to complete homeownership counseling before they close on their loan (in-person or online)
  • Purchase an existing home or new construction

How it works

The application process for this type of loan works similarly to other IHDA programs. The agency asks you to contact an IHDA-approved lender, who will take a look at your finances and help you determine your best course of action. The IHDA does not handle loans directly.

Learn more

1stHomeIllinois

The 1stHomeIllinois program combines a down payment assistance grant with a long-term fixed-rate loan. This program is available to first-time homebuyers, military veterans, and individuals who haven’t owned a home in the last three years.

Features

With the 1stHomeIllinois program, you can

  • Receive up to $7,500 in down payment and closing cost assistance
  • Get a 30-year mortgage with a fixed interest rate
  • Use this program with several mortgage types, including FHA loans, VA loans, USDA loans and more

Eligibility

To qualify, you must:

  • Purchase a one- or two-unit property in the following Illinois counties: Cook, Marion, St. Clair or Winnebago
  • Be a military veteran, a first-time homeowner or someone who hasn’t owned a home for at least three years
  • Purchase an existing home (new construction is not allowed)
  • Live in the home as a primary residence
  • Have a credit score of 640 or higher
  • Be willing to complete in-person or online homeownership counseling before the loan closes
  • Be able to contribute up to $1,000 or 1% of the purchase price of the home, whichever is greater
  • Meet income and purchase price guidelines based on county of residence and household size

How it works

Illinois residents interested in this program should start the process by looking for an IHDA lender. Once you meet with a lender and provide them with your financial information and personal details, they can gauge your eligibility for the 1stHomeIllinois program or help you find a IHDA loan program that might work better for you.

Learn more

National first-time homebuyer programs

While the programs above can be extremely helpful for Illinois residents who can qualify, keep in mind that there are plenty of other home loans to consider. You may also want to look into FHA loans or USDA loans, or even VA loans if you’re a qualified veteran.

The LendingTree guide to first-time homebuyer programs can also introduce you to additional programs that may fit your needs. With enough research and preparation, you could be in your dream home in no time.

This article contains links to LendingTree, our parent company.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson |

Holly Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Holly here

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Cradle-to-Grave Guide to Common Tax Credits and Deductions

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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It’s true what they say — nothing in life is guaranteed except death and taxes. However, there are a number of tax deductions and credits you can take advantage of throughout your lifetime to free up extra cash.

We outlined the most common deductions and credits you may be able to qualify for once you reach life’s biggest milestones, like completing higher education, getting married or buying a home.

Tax credits vs. tax deductions

Before we dive in, however, it’s crucial for you to understand the difference between tax credits and tax deductions:

  • A tax credit reduces the amount of tax you owe
  • A tax deduction reduces your taxable income

Tax credits have a much greater impact on reducing your tax load since they are deducted directly off your tax bill. For example, a $2,000 tax credit will result in you owing $2,000 less in taxes this year.

Tax deductions, however, can still help you save money in several ways, including lowering your taxable income so more of your income is taxed at a lower rate.

Your cradle-to-grave tax guide

While you should speak to an accountant to determine which overall tax strategy will work best for your income and circumstances, one of the best ways to save is by making sure you take all the tax deductions and credits that are available to you.

Your School Years

American opportunity tax credit (AOTC)

The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is worth up to $2,500 per year and can be used for qualified education expenses incurred during the first four years of college by an eligible student. This credit covers the first $2,000 in qualified education expenses for each eligible student, along with 25% of the next $2,000 you paid ($500) for the same student within a calendar year. If the credit reduces your tax bill to zero, you can have up to 40% of the remaining amount (up to $1,000) refunded to you.

To qualify for the full credit, you must have a MAGI (modified adjusted gross income) of $80,000 or less for singles or $160,000 or less if you’re married filing jointly. Credits are phased out for incomes between $80,000 and $90,000 for single filers and $160,000 to $180,000 for those married filing jointly. You cannot claim the credit for incomes over those amounts.

Students must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be pursuing a degree or education credential
  • Be enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period of the year
  • Not have finished four years of college at the beginning of the year
  • You can’t claim the AOTC or the former Hope credit for more than four tax years
  • No felony drug convictions at the end of the tax year

Lifetime Learning Credit

The Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) can cover qualified tuition and higher education expenses undertaken by eligible students pursuing higher education in a qualified educational institution. This credit is for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students and is worth up to $2,000 per tax return. Even better, there is no limit on the number of years you can claim this credit.

To qualify, you must

  • Pay for qualified expenses for higher education at an eligible educational institution
  • Be pursuing higher education yourself or have a spouse or dependent pursuing higher education on your tax return
  • Be enrolled in at least one academic period at the beginning of the tax year
  • Have a MAGI below $67,000 for single filers in 2018 and $134,000 if you’re married filing jointly

Note that this credit phases out between $57,000 and $67,000 MAGI for single filers and $114,000 and $134,000 for those married filing jointly. Anyone with incomes over those limits cannot claim this credit.

Student loan interest deduction

If you, your spouse or a dependent on your tax return pays interest on a qualified student loan in 2018, you may be able to deduct the lesser of $2,500 or the amount of interest you paid. This deduction is available for individuals with a MAGI below $80,000 (or $160,000 if married filing jointly). You can also claim this deduction even if you do not itemize on your taxes.

Business deduction for work-related higher education

If you work for someone else or you’re self-employed and you itemize when you file taxes, you may be able to deduct expenses for work-related education. The deduction is worth an “amount by which your qualifying work-related education expenses plus other job and certain miscellaneous expenses is greater than 2% of your adjusted gross income,” notes the IRS.

To qualify for this deduction, you must be a working individual, itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040 or 1040NR) if you’re an employee, file Schedule C, Schedule C-EZ, or Schedule F if you’re self-employed, and have qualifying work-related education expenses.

Major Life Moment: Getting Married

While getting married can make a drastic impact on how much you pay in taxes each year, the changes may be more nuanced than it seems. For the most part, your marital taxes will depend on your combined income and tax bracket as well as whether you file separate tax returns or married filing jointly.

A few deductions that can impact your tax load once you get married include:

Increased standard deduction

For the 2018 tax year, the standard tax deduction has been increased to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. These amounts are nearly double what they were in 2017 ($6,350 for singles and $12,700 for married couples filing jointly).

Charitable contributions

If you itemize your taxes and donate money to charity each year, you may be able to deduct some or all of your donations. Your donation must be to a qualified charitable organization as defined by the IRS, and you must keep a written or printed record of the transaction.

Contributions to individuals are never deductible. You can donate items instead of cash (such as a donation of clothing or furniture to a Goodwill Store), but you can only deduct fair market value. If you plan to make a donation of noncash property worth more than $5,000, you’ll need to have a qualified appraisal of the property first and fill out Form 8283, Section B on your tax return.

In 2018, taxpayers can deduct the full amount of their cash donations to charity provided the deduction does not exceed 60% of their adjusted gross income (AGI). If you donate more than 60% of your AGI in a single tax year, you may also be able to carry over amounts to the next five years. This IRS quiz can help you determine if you’re eligible and how much you can deduct in charitable contributions this year.

Your Working Years

Deductions for contributions to qualified retirement accounts

For the 2018 tax year, you can deduct up to $5,500 in contributions to an IRA ($6,500 if you’re ages 55 and older) provided you meet income requirements. Your deduction may be limited if you or your spouse have a retirement plan at work, or if your income exceeds maximums outlined by the IRS.

If you are covered by a retirement plan at work, you can take the full deduction for IRA contributions if you’re single and your MAGI is below $63,000; married filing jointly or a qualifying widower with a MAGI of $101,000 or less, or married filing separately with a MAGI of $10,000 or less. The credit is phased out for single filers with a MAGI between $63,000 and $73,000 and those married filing jointly or qualifying widowers with a MAGI between $101,000 and $121,000. If you’re married filing separately with a MAGI over $10,000 you do not qualify for this deduction.

If you do not have a retirement plan at work, deductions for IRA contributions are limited to:

  • Single, head of household, or qualifying widower: Take the full deduction up to the amount of your contribution limit.
  • Married filing jointly or separately with a spouse who is not covered by a plan at work: Take the full deduction up to the amount of your contribution limit.
  • Married filing jointly with a spouse who does have a retirement plan at work: Take a full deduction if your MAGI is $189,000 or less, a partial deduction if your MAGI is between $189,000 and $199,000, and no deduction if you MAGI is $199,000 or more.
  • Married filing separately with a spouse that is covered with a plan at work: Take a partial deduction if your MAGI is less than $10,000 and no deduction if your MAGI is higher than that.

If you have a 401(k), SEP IRA, Solo 401(k), or another type of employment-based retirement plan, you can deduct amounts you contribute on your taxes up to certain limits. Those limits are as follows for 2018 (and 2019):

 2018 tax year2019 tax year
401(k)$18,500$19,000
403(b)$18,500$19,000
SEP IRA25% of employee compensation up to $55,000 in 201825% of employee compensation up to $56,000 in 2019
Simple IRA$12,500$13,000
SARSEP Plans (Simplified Employee Pension)25% of employee compensation up to $55,000 in 201825% of employee compensation up to $56,000 in 2019
One participant 401(k) plans, including Solo 401(k)$18,500 or $24,500 if age 50 and older, but a self-employed business owner can also contribute another 25% of compensation as defined by the plan up to $55,000 total$19,000 or $25,000 if age 50 and older, but a self-employed business owner can also contribute another 25% of compensation as defined by the plan up to $56,000 total

Individuals age 50 and older may also contribute an additional $6,000 per year to their retirement account if they have a 401(k), 403(b), SARSEP or governmental 457(b). Catch-up contributions for Simple IRA or Simple 401(k) plans are limited to $3,000 through 2019. As mentioned already, individuals age 50 and older can also contribute an additional $1,000 toward an IRA as a catch-up contribution.

Earned income tax credit

While the earned income tax credit (EITC) is available to all workers who qualify, the effect is more notable for those who have children. This credit is available to people who work for themselves or someone else who meet certain income requirements, and the amount of the credit increases when you claim more children as dependents.

In 2018, the EITC is limited to:

  • $6,431 with three or more qualifying children
  • $5,716 with two qualifying children
  • $3,461 with one qualifying child
  • $519 with no qualifying children

Income limits to qualify for the credit are as follows:

 No childrenOne childTwo childrenThree or more children
Single, Head of Household, or Widowed$15,270$40,320$45,802$49,194
Married Filing Jointly$20,950$46,010$51,492$54,884

You must also have $3,500 or less in investment income per year to qualify for this credit.

Qualified transportation fringe benefit

Employees who work for an employer who offers qualified transportation fringe benefits may receive up to $260 per month for transit vouchers or commuter highway vehicle fares and another $260 per month for work-related parking fees.

Saver’s credit

For the 2018 tax year, you may be eligible for the Saver’s credit if your income is below certain limits and you contribute to a qualifying retirement account such as an IRA or employer-sponsored account. You may be eligible if you’re age 18 or older, not a student and not a dependent on anyone’s tax returns.

The credit can be worth 50%, 20%, or 10% of your retirement plan contributions depending on your income, with a maximum credit amount of $2,000 (or $4,000 if you are married and filing jointly).

To receive the 50% credit return for the 2018 tax year, your AGI must not be more than $38,000 if you’re married filing jointly, $28,500 if you’re head of household, or $19,000 for all other filers. In 2019, those income limits change to $38,500, $28,875 and $19,250 respectively.

State and Local Taxes Deduction (SALT)

The SALT tax deduction allows individuals to deduct state and local taxes (including property taxes) from the income they report on their federal taxes. The value of the SALT deduction is capped at $10,000 as of 2018. Also note that this deduction is only available to people who itemize.

Home office deduction

If you work out of an office in your home, you may be able to deduct some of your qualified business expenses. This deduction can be used by homeowners and renters alike, and it applies to all types of homes. You must report regular and exclusive use to use this credit, however, and your home must be the primary location where your business is run.

Generally speaking, deductions for a home office are based on the percentage of the home you use for business purposes. And while the IRS offers a standard method for computing the deduction, busy small-business owners may want to consider the simplified option.

Major Life Moment: Buying a Home

Mortgage interest tax deduction

If you itemize when you file your taxes, you may be able to deduct interest you pay on your home mortgage. For the 2018 tax year, however, the limit on home loans you can deduct interest on has been reduced. You can now deduct the mortgage interest on up to $750,000 of debt for home loans, or $375,000 if you’re married but filing a separate return.

According to the IRS, this deduction can also apply to home equity loans and HELOCs provided the funds you borrow are used to “buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan.”

Tax savings for points

If you paid “points” to your lender when you took out a home mortgage to reduce your interest percentage, you may be able to deduct the amount spent on your taxes as part of your mortgage interest tax deduction in the year you pay them. This deduction is usually available provided the loan is secured by your home, the amount of points you pay is typical for where you live, and the cash you paid at closing in your down payment equals the points.

Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit

You may be able to take a special tax credit when you make energy efficient improvements to your home. To qualify, you must have lived in the home for the year and it must be your primary residence.

According to the IRS, this tax credit is currently offered on “qualified solar electric property, solar water heating property, small wind energy property, geothermal heat pump property, and fuel cell property.” This also includes labor costs and money spent on wiring or piping needed to connect the device to your home. The credit is for up to 30% of your costs. For qualified fuel cell property, the credit is limited to $500 “for each one-half kilowatt of capacity of the property.”

Property tax deduction

Homeowners who itemize their tax returns can deduct up to $10,000 per year in state and local income taxes (SALT) as we mentioned above, and this includes property taxes. This deduction is good for property taxes you pay starting on the date you purchased your home. However, it is not applicable to seller’s delinquent property taxes from the prior year at the time you close on the sale of your home.

Keep in mind, however, that you can only deduct property taxes themselves on your return, and that this amount may be different than amounts withheld for property taxes and homeowners insurance in your mortgage escrow account.

Your Caregiving Years

Child tax credit

The tax credit for having a dependant child goes up to $2,000 per child in 2018 for dependents under the age of 17. The MAGI income threshold for this credit is $400,000 for couples filing jointly and $200,000 for individual filers. Taxpayers with incomes over those amounts are subject to a phase out of the credit.

According to the IRS, up to $1,400 of the credit can be refundable for each qualifying child, meaning you could receive a refund even if you don’t owe any taxes.

Also note that you may be able to receive a tax credit for other dependents. This credit is a non-refundable tax credit of up to $500 for qualifying dependants that are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or a U.S. resident alien.

Child and dependant care credit

You may be able to deduct some of your child care expenses if paying for dependent care allowed you to work and earn an income. The limit on the child and dependant care credit is $3,000 for one qualifying individual or $6,000 for two or more qualifying individuals. You are not eligible to take this credit if you are married filing separately.

Also note that noncustodial parents that claim a child as a dependent may not be able to claim the child and dependent care credit since the children of divorced parents may be treated as a qualifying individual for the custodial parent.

Adoption credit

For adoptions finalized in 2018, adoptive parents may be able to deduct up to $13,810 per child. This credit is nonrefundable, meaning you won’t receive this amount if you don’t owe any tax. However, parents can carryover any unused credit from one year to the next.

An eligible child is any child you adopted under the age of 18, and the credit applies to any adoption-related expenses parents incur. However, income limits apply and reduce the number of people who can qualify for this credit. In 2018, those with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) over $247,140 cannot claim the credit. Those with a MAGI between $207,140 and $247,140 can claim a partial credit.

Child and dependant care credit

This credit applies to both care for a child or care for an aging parent that is your dependent, and it hinges on whether or not you paid someone for help. For example, If you did pay for elderly care for a dependent parent during the tax year, you may be able to qualify for up to $3,000 in tax credits.

Major Life Moment: Moving

Deduction for moving expenses

You may be able to deduct moving expenses on your taxes provided you moved for a business-related reason (such as changing jobs), your move date is close to the date your work situation changes, you’re moving at least 50 miles further than your old job was from your old place of employment and you have worked 39 weeks at your new job after your arrival in the new area. However, you don’t have to satisfy the distance or time tests if you’re a member of the Armed Forces.

This quiz from the IRS can help you determine whether you’re eligible to deduct moving expenses and if so, how much. Also note that you cannot deduct moving expenses reimbursed by your employer if they are excluded from your income.

Capital gains exclusion from a home sale

If you lived in your primary residence for at least two of the last five years and decide to sell, you may be able to exclude $250,000 of profits earned from the sale (for individuals) or $500,000 of profits earned from the sale (for couples married filing jointly).

Bonus: Medical expenses

Medical expenses tax deduction

If you wound up with considerable medical expenses during 2018, the IRS allows you to deduct any that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Starting in 2019, however, taxpayers can only deduct the amount of the total unreimbursed expenses that exceed 10% of their AGI.

These expenses can include preventative care, psychiatric treatment, surgeries, dental care, prescription medications, and other qualified medical expenses like glasses, contacts, hearing aids and dentures. To claim this deduction, you have to itemize when you file your taxes.

Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled

If you are age 65 or older or retired on permanent and total disability, you receive taxable disability income within the tax year, and you have an income below certain limits, you could qualify for the tax credit for the elderly or the disabled.

Income limits for this credit depend on whether your spouse is living or lived part of the year, your age, and whether you are on permanent and total disability, but they are generally low. If, for example, you are single, head of household, or a qualifying widower, you can’t have an AGI over $17,500 and the total of your nontaxable social security and other nontaxable pension(s), annuities, or disability income cannot be more than $5,000.

Healthcare premium tax credits

When you buy a health insurance plan in the Health Insurance Marketplace at Healthcare.gov (or in your state exchange if they have one), you may qualify for healthcare premium tax credits depending on your income and other factors. This credit is refundable, meaning you can receive it back even if you don’t owe tax. However, the size of your credit is offered on a sliding scale based on income and varies depending on the price of healthcare plans in your state or municipality.

You must report a MAGI of more than 100% and less than 400% of the federal poverty limit for your family size to qualify for this credit. Those whose incomes fall within this range will receive all or part of the tax credit depending on their income, their family size, and other factors. While the total amount of these credits can vary, bigger credits tend to go to those with the lowest incomes.

As an example, a family of four with a MAGI of $100,400 in 2018 would be ineligible for a premium tax credit since their income is 400% of the Federal Poverty Limit (FPL) that year.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson |

Holly Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Holly here

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Mortgage

Stylish Ways to Babyproof Your Home

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Planning for your first child can feel like a part-time job. Not only do you need to consider the many, many financial aspects of having children, but you need to figure out what your baby needs and how to acquire these items. This often means setting up a registry at your favorite baby store, figuring out if you can borrow any baby gear from friends or purchasing it cheaply yourself, and shopping for adorable baby clothes you may or may not need. Preparing for a new baby may seem like a labor of love, but one thing is for sure. All these tasks can eat up your energy and resources — at a time when you wish you could relax.

Fortunately, there’s one parenting chore that can wait awhile — even several months after your baby comes home. Babyproofing is definitely a “must,” but it shouldn’t be your top priority since your baby will be mostly immobile for the first few months of their life.

What is babyproofing?

Before we dive into the best ways to babyproof in a stylish way, it’s important to underscore what babyproofing is and why it’s so important.

Babyproofing, which is also called “childproofing” sometimes, is the act of altering your residence to prevent babies and children from hurting themselves at home.

While you may believe that babyproofing isn’t necessary or that it’s an act undertaken only by “helicopter parents,” you may be surprised to find out just how common household injuries are in young children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), injuries are the leading cause of death for children ages 19 and younger. Some of these injuries are the result of traffic accidents, playground accidents, and sports, but many others can and do happen at home.

What are the most important things to babyproof?

While you should check your home for all potential hazards that could lead to the injury of your child, there are some babyproofing tips that apply to almost every home. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services offers a “childproofing checklist” that includes the most important components of your residence that need to be updated or altered to prevent injury.

As you start babyproofing your home to protect your little one, check these items off your list first:

  • Choking hazards such as small home decor items, magnets and toys should be kept out of reach.
  • Cords should be covered or made inaccessible to children to prevent strangulation.
  • Dangerous chemicals and medications should be stored in higher cabinets or closets.
  • Electrical devices like alarm clocks, hair curling irons and clothing irons must be kept away from water.
  • Electrical outlets need to be fitted with child-safe covers when not in use.
  • Furniture should meet standards set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and be free of openings that could entrap a child’s head, arm or leg. Furniture should also not have components that can pinch or crush, sharp corners, protruding nails or components, rusty parts, strangulation hazards and any other potential problems.
  • Furniture should be secured so it cannot tip over on children.
  • Items that cause injury such as plastic bags, lighters and candles should be kept away from children.
  • Hot pipes and other heating components of your home should have the appropriate protective coverings (like a radiator cover) or out of reach of children.
  • Outdoor play areas should be fenced in or otherwise enclosed.
  • Sharp corners inside or outside your home should be padded or removed.
  • Tripping hazards should be corrected.
  • Windows should be childproofed so they cannot be opened.

This is not an all-inclusive list and you may need to babyproof additional components of your home. Because each home is different, experts suggest you walk through each room of your house to look for potential hazards that could cause injury or death. Not only that, but you should get on the floor and crawl around to see what your baby might be able to reach once they start crawling and walking. What you find at a small child’s eye level may surprise you.

How can I babyproof stylishly?

One of the biggest worries of new parents is how to protect their child without ruining their home’s aesthetic. This is especially true for parents who love decorating their home stylishly and hate the idea of having bulky padding all over the place.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to childproof stylishly — or without altering the look of your space at all. If you’re looking for ways to babyproof without turning your living areas into boring and featureless padded rooms, consider these expert tips:

Be choosy with cabinet locks.

Bill Brooner, an Advanced Certified Professional Childproofer and the founder of Baby Proofing Montgomery, said you can avoid changing the look of your kitchen and bathrooms by installing cabinet and drawer locks that operate discreetly on the inside. Fortunately, you can find plenty of door and cabinet locks that fit the bill in big box baby stores and online.

Heather Schisler, a mother of three and the blogger behind PassionforSavings.com, said that she and her husband swear by magnetic door locks that go inside the cabinets and can’t be seen from the outside. “These are easy to open and they can be turned off as your kids get older,” she said. “Best of all, they can’t be seen from the outside so they don’t take away from the beauty of your home.”

Use matching padding.

No matter the color of your furniture and the interior details of your home, Brooner said you can purchase padding to match. This typically means buying coordinating padding materials to protect furniture with sharp corners (coffee tables, end tables, etc.), fireplaces, and rough room transitions in your home. You can find bumper pads and furniture padding in all colors online or in baby supply stores.

Purchase cordless blinds.

If you’re in the market for miniblinds, consider buying cordless blinds that provide shade and a contemporary look while eliminating the choking hazards that come with cords. Some cordless miniblinds operate with a remote while others allow you to open and close the blinds with a wand instead.

Use plexiglass.

Brooner said that you can hire a professional to custom cut and provide plexiglass products to provide safety barriers on staircases, decks, and balconies where railings have wide spaces that can pose a hazard. “These materials are transparent, so you can see through them and they do not impede on the view,” he said.

Use baby gates that coordinate with your home.

The cheapest baby gates are often made of bright white or tan plastic that doesn’t coordinate with any home, but you can get a more stylish look if you purchase gates that match your woodwork or trim. Brooner said that a childproofing professional can also paint your gate mounts to match your gates and your interior decor.

Choose furniture with children in mind.

While it may be too late to plan the interior of your home around kids, Schisler said buying furniture that isn’t a natural hazard for little ones can make a lot of sense. For example, you could choose coffee and end tables with rounded corners instead of sharp edges.

Schisler said she and her husband learned this lesson the hard way when they purchased a mirrored glass end table several years ago.

“It only lasted in our home about two weeks before my 18-month-old pulled up on it and flipped it over and glass shattered everywhere,” she said. Obviously, they went with something more kid-friendly the second time around so they could prevent injury.

“Keeping kids in mind as you make purchasing decisions helps make a home that you can live in and still love,” said Schisler.

Select stylish door guards.

Schisler said that, when her kids were little, she was worried they would escape their home and end up in the road or the yard. As a result, she purchased door guards — but not the ugly childproofed door knob covers that most people buy. Schisler opted for metal door guards that matched the interior of her home while making it impossible for children to open doors from the inside. (Door guards are those metal, interior latches you find on the inside of hotel rooms. When closed, door guards only allow you to open doors a few inches.)

Use matching plug covers.

Buying electrical outlet plugs that match your outlets can ensure they blend in and don’t stand out. You can also purchase “self-closing” outlet covers that close automatically when nothing is plugged in to protect against electrical hazards for children and pets. These protect children against electrical hazards while maintaining the look of a regular electrical outlet.

Mount your television to the wall and use cord covers to protect the cords.

Today’s modern flat screen televisions can be top heavy and dangerous if placed on the top of a television stand, but you can easily mount your television on the wall where it won’t tip over. However, you should still use professional cord covers that hide cords from your television, cable box, and DVD player so your child can’t reach them. Fortunately, you can buy wooden cord organizers that can match the decor of your home.

Tether heavy furniture to the wall.

You don’t have to rearrange your room or move heavy furniture out of common areas where your baby plays to protect them against tipping furniture. Instead, anchor your furniture to wooden studs in your wall so it cannot be pulled over no matter what. You can do this with professional furniture mounting supplies and furniture wall straps.

Anchoring your furniture will protect your baby without changing the look of your home at all.

How much is all this going to cost?

Like most purchases related to kids, babyproofing can cost a little or a lot. According to the experts, how much you’ll pay depends on a wide range of factors, including:

  • How much of your home you plan to babyproof
  • The size of your home
  • Your home’s design
  • Your furniture and decor choices

A home with several staircases may come with considerably higher costs to babyproof since you would likely want to place gates at each one, for example. Likewise, a home without stairs wouldn’t require any gates or any associated costs to babyproof staircase railings or landings.

Arvey Levinsohn, a Certified Professional Childproofer who works for A&H Childproofers in the Chicago area, said that cost also depends on the parents and their personal preferences. For example, some parents may want their entire home protected just in case, while others may only want to childproof a few bedrooms and living areas where their child spends the most time.

Levinsohn said that confining your child to certain areas of your home is one of the best ways to save money on babyproofing. “That way, you can keep an eye on them and you’re not overspending to babyproof rooms you may not actually use.”

If you want to come up with an estimate on the costs of babyproofing your home, there are two ways to go about it, the first of which is the do-it-yourself method. Walk through each room of your home and make a list of items that need protection including furniture, staircases, electrical outlets, cords and more. Also note how many baby gates you’ll need, since they are often one of the most expensive components of any babyproofing strategy.

From there, you can shop around for pricing. Tally up everything you need to buy from outlet covers to furniture anchors, taking into account your personal style preferences and your favorite brands.

Should you hire a professional?

While the do-it-yourself method for childproofing will inevitably save you money, it will also require an investment of time. Obviously, it could take days or even weeks to figure out which babyproofing supplies you need, shop around for materials that match your personal style, then install it all yourself.

If you feel like you need some help, you do have the option of hiring a professional childproofer. These companies will come out to your home and inspect your property for potential hazards you should eliminate. They will also provide you with a list of childproofing “musts” for your home, along with an estimate of how much it would cost for professional childproofing. Many childproofing companies will even do an estimate for free, and some who do charge for an estimate will deduct the estimate cost from your bill if you wind up using their services.

If you’re wondering how much a professional babyproofing company will charge for their services, it’s difficult to come up with a concrete estimate. What you’ll pay depends on your needs, how much of your home you want protected, and the unique characteristics of your property. As a result, service costs vary widely, and what’s affordable for you will depend on your budget.

Professional childproofer Peter Kerin of Foresight Childproofing in Minnesota said pricing can also depend on the fixtures you select. “There are wonderful gates that are $200, but you can get the same quality for $50,” he said. “How much you’ll pay depends on your style as much as anything else.”

The bottom line

Childproofing your home is the best way to protect your infant or toddler from injuries that are likely preventable. Preparing your home in this way may not come cheap, but it’s possible it could save you from a lifetime of regret.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to babyproof your home in a way that’s both helpful and stylish. And if all else fails, call in the professionals to help.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson |

Holly Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Holly here

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