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Does Empty Nest = Downsize?

Do you find yourself questioning your own thought process as you move into empty nesting? Now that the kids are gone and you are “free”, you may decide to build a new and maybe even bigger home than you currently have. The “experts” say this is the time to downsize. Your family and friends think they’re being helpful by looking at you like you’re nuts for wanting to upsize or go through the process of building. Of course, they all say, now is the time to get that condo on the water, or downsize to a townhome or move into an Active Adult Community. And after you hear that enough, you may start to question your own decision making and planning. DON’T! This is time for you to do what you want to do and live how you want to live. If that means building a home with a huge Great Room and plenty of beds and baths so you can always have enough space for your existing or future grandkids to visit or to entertain like you’ve always wanted to or maybe you just want to have your own spaces plus great combined living areas, then DO IT!

Unless you’re in a job that requires you to retire at a specific age, if you decide you want to work into your 80s because you love what you do, then DO IT! If you’ve worked your entire life and saved to live the retirement of YOUR dreams then, DO IT!  Don’t let anyone (including your children) make you feel guilty for not saving to give your kids a bigger inheritance or to save every penny “just in case” something happens. Of course, be responsible but you can choose to be carefree too! You’ve earned it. You raised your children. You’ve helped them move into their next life step. Empty nesting means you are free to move into the life journey that you may have been wanting, planning for and hoping to enjoy as you step into this new phase of your life. Be brave. Be strong. Be your own decision maker. And then, whatever you decide, DO IT!

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Winter Selling Can Be An Opportunity for Success!!

Depending on where you’re located, winter might seem like the worst time to put your home up for sale. The air is cold, the ground is covered with snow and daylight hours are shorter. But selling your home during the winter doesn’t have to be an impossible task and in actuality can be the best time to find Your Best Buyer. People who shop for homes in cold, snowy weather are deadly serious buyers who have a strong reason to buy NOW. Perhaps a job change, end of a lease and not wanting to sign on for another year, family necessities,etc. You can use this season as an opportunity to set your home apart from all the others. As an added plus, lots of people take their homes off the market through the winter and holidays so there is also less competition if you do choose to offer your home through this season. Here are a few ideas to help you achieve success!

Create a Safe Environment Free from the Weather

Make sure that walkways and driveways are salted and snow is shoveled. Nothing makes for a worse first impression for potential buyers than if they slip on the ice and injure themselves. They’ll be sure to remember your home, but probably not in the way you want them to. Also keep these areas well lit!

Minimize Your Holiday Decor

For most people, winter is a time for holiday decorations. But while your home should look festive, you will want to keep your decor attractive without becoming christmaslightswithout becoming overwhelming. A few well-placed lights will accentuate your home’s natural curb appeal, but maybe you should save the giant blowup doll for next year.

Cleanliness is Crucial

Winter is a difficult time to really show off the exterior of your home, so you should instead concentrate on accentuating the interior. Winter visitors are more likely to notice dirt and clutter because they are not distracted by the exterior of the home, so make sure it is absolutely spotless inside. Kids and adults coming in and out during this time can create messy floors and closets so try to keep a strong focus on those items.

 

Illuminate

To counter the dreary winter weather,  make your home as bright and airy as possible. Open curtains and blinds to let in natural light, and keep the lights on throughout your entire home (including closets and basement) when showing it to potential buyers. This creates an inviting atmosphere while also highlighting the great features of your home.

Cozy & Comfy

Raising the thermostavisual-interestt a couple notches will set a warm, welcoming atmosphere and provide a great first impression. Serve hot chocolate, hot cider or tea and coffee with holiday cookies if it’s close to Christmas.  A fire burning in the fireplace says, “Ahhh”. You can even play some soft background music to set the mood.

Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words

Displaying either individually or in an album, spring, summer and autumn photos will allow prospective buyers to see the home’s full potential and to visualize themselves living in the home beyond this season. Create a takeaway brochure of photos from all 4 seasons so the buyer will remember your home and all it offers once they have left and are considering all the homes they’ve seen.

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The Truth About Capital Gains

Capital Gains sounds like a scary inevitable cost when selling your home at a profit. BUT once you understand how it’s computed and who qualifies for exclusions you’ll see you can most likely breathe easy. Most people DO qualify for the exemption which allows for up to $250,000 per individual or $500,000 per couple.

What are Capital Gains?

You can determine the capital gain on your home by subtracting applicable costs of selling your home (ie: commissions, advertising) plus the cost of any qualifying home improvements (you can find specific details on the IRS website) from the original purchase price of your home.

Ex: Original Purchase Price = $200,000 + $25000 Costs = Cost Basis of $225,000 Selling Price = $325,000 – $6500 Commission (You saved by selling BuyOwner!) so you receive $318,500 – $225,000 = $93,000 in Capital Gains. You will not pay tax on this gain if you meet the exemption requirements noted below.

Qualifications for Capital Gains Exemption?

The following requirements must be met in order to qualify for the capital gain exclusion when selling your home:

  • You must have owned your home for at least 2 years.
  • The home must have served as your main personal residence for at least 2 years.
  • During the 2 year period ending on the date of sale (Note: If you’re close to this date, negotiate your closing to ensure it occurs after the 2 yr qualification has been met), you didn’t exclude gains from the sale of any other home.

YAY: You can use the capital gain exclusion over and over again as long as you meet the requirements.

BOO: If you take a loss from your home sale, you do NOT get to take the loss as a tax deduction.

NOTE: To Always ensure that you are receiving max tax benefits, consult your tax accountant or review thoroughly the applicable information on IRS.gov

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We Honor & Thank our Veterans on this 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day!

First, let me state that, on this Veterans Day, the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, we at BuyOwner.com,  are grateful for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and appreciate and thank our active military and veterans for your service. There are home ownership and rental benefits for both active military, veterans and the families of those who were lost in battle. When you’re ready to get started with your BuyOwner.com advertising, we will gratefully provide you with a Military usaflagdiscount! To help you on your journey to home ownership or leasing options, below you’ll find valuable information that will make your home search more manageable, less stressful and lead you to your new home!

One of the first places to check for eligibility, benefits and assistance is the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Some of their offerings include $0 down payment mortgages, housing grants for disabled veterans (with service related disabilities) and even have help if you’re choosing to rent instead of own. So let’s get started so you can move into your well earned lifestyle!

VA MORTGAGE GUARANTY PROGRAM

Veterans and service members can use this mortgage program if they are wanting to buy a home with no down payment. VA mortgages generally do cost less and provide for more flexible qualification requirements than traditional conventional mortgages.

BENEFIT FOR SERVICE RELATED DISABLED VETS – ADAPTIVE HOUSING GRANTS

If you are a veteran suffering with service related disabilities, you are eligible to receive assistance with the costs of altering your existing home or with building a new home. Visit the VA website to review details regarding 3 possible programs designed to help you live as independently as possible. They are: Special Housing Adaptation, Specially Adapted Housing and Temporary Residence Adaptation.

FORECLOSURE PREVENTION

Already own a home but suffering from some financial challenges; before you give up and walk away (which will incur more challenges in the future) contact your local VA office or the VA website to speak with counselors specifically focused on helping you avoid foreclosure. You can take advantage of this help even if your mortgage is not a VA loan.

ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE THROUGH YOUR HOME STATE

Active duty personnel and veterans can access state assistance with housing related benefits such as the Military Housing Assistance Fund. This provides help with closing costs related to your new mortgage. If you’re disabled, you may qualify for partial or full exemption from property taxes (may not be available in all states).

EMERGENCY AID FOR HOMELESS VETERANS

Several local agencies work in tandem with the VA to provide housing vouchers and subsidized rents for vets who are already or in danger of becoming homeless. If you need this help now or fear you may need it in the future, contact your local VA Medical Center via: 877-424-3838. You can also access information and assistance by going to va.gov/homeless.

Again, we at BuyOwner.com, appreciate your service and hope to assist you to the best of our ability with your home ownership/leasing goals!

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Is Your Home’s ‘Story’ Costing You the Big Bucks?!

One thing that everyone has experienced in our high tech world is the reality that people’s attention spans are very short…if they don’t like what they see within the first minute or two, they are moving on. This is especially true when shopping online. So, your home has to tell a great story via pictures and details to catch their attention and Keep it longer than 3 minutes. So what is the story your home is telling prospective buyers? Is it bringing you top dollar or costing you a bundle? What is your home’s story?

CLUTTER SAYS:  There’s not a lot of room in this home and very little storage. Keep in mind that what you see as “collectible” others see as clutter. Purge BEFORE you put your home on the market so you don’t lose valuable time fixing this issue too late. Fill and store Clutter-is-OUTbins with the off season clothing, boots, big blankets…whatever you can remove that will make your closets look roomier and storage appear ample.

FULL MIRROR WALL/WASHED OAK CABINETS/BRIGHT BRASS FIXTURES/PSYCHEDELIC WALLPAPER/POPCORN CEILINGS, etc SAY: This home hasn’t been updated for a very long time and so you should get a great deal on the price. These items can actually be updated at reasonable costs so consider doing so BEFORE you hit the market. Disclaimer: If your decor deliberately displays Retro decor, embrace it fully and sell as such which will bring you a great price with the Retro seeking buyer…and they are out there!

DIRTY BASEBOARDS/TRIM/WINDOWSILLS/MESSY ROOMS SAY: If you think this is dirty, wait until you pull out the refrigerator and stove! Even if you are comfortable living in a less than pristine environment, it’s important to market your home to the masses who most often are seeking to not find hidden schmutz after they move in. You can typically hire a cleaning crew to do a “Spring Cleaning” for $250-300. This will be money highly multiplied in its return when you sell.

Keep in mind that you are marketing your home to your buyers not to yourself. If necessary, have a good friend that you trust to be honest help you evaluate what you should consider doing before selling and then do what you can afford prioritizing the items by what will maximize your profit. Then fix and sell!!

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Contingencies….Pro or Con?

What is a contingency? Basically, what you’re saying with a contingency is, “As long as you do these things or this happens, I will pay you this much for your home.”

Common contingencies:

Financing:  This offer is contingent on you securing your financing.

Inspection:  This offer is contingent on the home passing an inspection typically covering items such as roof, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, foundation, walls, appliances and chimney if you have a working fireplace. Some areas also require inspections for termites and radon. If major issues ensue due to the inspection, you may be asked to negotiate on your price or complete the repairs in order for the buyer to proceed.

Appraisal:  This offer is contingent on whether the appraised value is close to, at or above what’s being offered. This is most typical when a mortgage company is part of the process. With cash deals, the buyer may choose to waive an appraisal if they feel confident of their offer and your price.

These are the most common contingencies that you’ll experience as both a buyer and seller. There can be others so if you receive an offer and your potential buyer includes several contingencies or is asking for a lot of concessions on your part, you may want to hire a real estate lawyer to ensure that when you walk away from closing you are doing so with exactly what you expect.

NOTE: As a buyer, if you’re in a bidding war for a home that you absolutely want to call your own, consider shortening your contingency time frame or eliminate them altogether. If you’re buying in a very popular and quick selling area, it will definitely serve you well to secure your mortgage approval prior to making your offer so you can eliminate that contingency which will most likely give you an edge on other buyers who didn’t do so.

 

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Upgrading with Panel Molding and Wainscoting

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Looking for a more elegant finish to your hallway, staircase or formal Living or Dining Rooms? Panel Molding (sometimes called picture frame molding) creates an elegant design. You can go to extremes and find some beautiful options that you will want to have professionally done. Or, you can create a lovely finished look by using Picture Frames with no glass (easily purchased at places like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby). Or you can purchase fancy or plain quarter rounds, miter the edges (Home Depot or other big box stores will miter them for you) and then simply install them on your wall above and below a chair rail (also easy to install). Or perhaps put only below the chair rail and enhance the wall above with an elegant textured finish (ie: Venetian plaster) or wallpaper.

Wainscoting can be effectively used under a chair rail to enhance your decor while maintaining a more casual or country feel. Great places for wainscoting are: Breakfast Nooks, Enhance your Kitchen Island, Dining Rooms, Bathrooms, Hallways, Dens and even the ceiling of your porch. This can be purchased in sheets making installation very doable for even a novice decorator. Image result for Wainscoting Beadboard CeilingImage result for Wainscoting Kitchen Ideas

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Let Your Buyers Walk In w/A Great Feeling!

Buying a Home can be a daunting experience. “Did we make the right choice?” “Will our family be happy here?” “What if something goes wrong with something?” You can help your buyers feel confident that buying your home was their best decision by leaving a few simple things to greet them when they arrive.

  • A file folder containing all the warranty information for appliances, furnace, water heater, washer & dryer, etc.
  • A file folder containing all the instruction manual for those same items noted above.
  • Free standing shelves in your storage area that you don’t need for your new home but that can help them in their transition.
  • A detailed list of and directions to: Grocery stores, Specialty Shops, Hospitals, Medical Centers, Animal Hospitals, Restaurants and Special Activities and events available in your area.
  • Now this might sound over the top BUT it is a wonderful gesture that will give your buyers a great and comfortable feeling. Write them a personalized note about all the great times you’ve enjoyed in your home and that you hope they will carry on with their family. Wish them wonderful times and great memory making moments. If they’re moving in on closing day, leave a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine with your note and on the outside envelope put simply “Welcome Home!”

Moving out of your beloved home can be just as emotionally draining as someone else moving in. These simple gestures will make you both feel better about the experience!

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After Autumn Comes Winter….Heating Bills!!** Winterize Now!

Yes, it’s only Autumn BUT winter is right around the corner so now is the time to make the necessary updates and repairs to make your home as energy efficient as possible before the winter heating bills add up. This is especially important if you’ve bought an older home because you love the charm and character but aren’t really sure how energy efficient it is or more importantly…isn’t! If you’re a seller putting your older home on the market, being able to show buyers that they won’t have to worry about exorbitant heating (or cooling for that matter) bills because of the updates you’ve made can make the difference between for sale and sold! And remember, just because your home is ‘newer’ does not mean it was built in the most energy efficient way. So whether your home is new or 100 years old, the following tips may benefit you.

  • Areas to check for leaks:  Of course you have the obvious…windows, doors, attic (rafters & windows), basement windows or concrete blocks but there are some spots you might never think of: electrical outlets on exterior walls, dryer vent, plumbing and ductwork at their point of entry, recessed can lights if the ceiling has attic or roof directly above, whole house fan and even your mail chute if it’s in your door or wall. If you’re in a freezing cold climate, make sure you cover and insulate your exterior water spigots to avoid pipes breaking inside your home. (I speak from experience, this is not a pleasant experience but an easy one to avoid!)
  • No sure if you have a leak? On a windy day, hold a match to the area (with necessary precautions) you’re checking and see if it stays lit or blows out. If it blows out, you have a leak.
  • Once you’ve determined where your leaks are located, simply choose the best method to resolve it: A great product that is easy to use and very effective is Flex Shot. (Again personal experience…I live in one of those 100 year old homes!) It is less messy than caulk, works as well as weather stripping and creates an immediate seal. There are inexpensive foam inserts that fit inside the outlets on your exterior walls that works like insulation to keep out the air.
  • Insulate your attic and basement exterior walls. You can also check and see if there is a shutter seal available for your type of whole house fan.
  • If you can’t afford to replace old windows or you love the charm of the original wavy glass so prevalent in century old homes, again, grab some Flex Shot in either white or clear, whichever will match your trim the best, and seal around the outer edges of the trim and the interior edges around the glass.

If you take the time to do even a fraction of the tips above, you will see your heating bills in the winter and your cooling bills in the summer rival newer homes that don’t have anywhere close to the character of your own!!

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Apply CPR to Your Marketing Plan

Just like a heart that has stopped beating, sometimes you have to jump start…electrify your marketing to bring your listing back to life.  CPR has 3 components: Airway…Breathing…Circulation. Let’s use that same concept to revive your home marketing.

Airway: After your home  has been on the market for awhile, you can feel the air of excitement become blocked by time…other homes that have come on the market at a lower price… your unwillingness to lower your price or accept that the market will not accept your valuation…reduction of showings…and just an overall blockage of results.

Breathing: Breathe new life into your listing by: lowering your price…increasing your marketing… holding a “Fresh to the Market Open House”…being completely available for showings and willing to at least listen to all offers…open to agents showing your home and offer a strong buyer’s agent commission (if you haven’t already done so).

Circulation: Circulate the news that your home price has been lowered, that you’re willing to negotiate, that you are having an amazing Open House (review some great ideas in previous blog posts, etc. Do this via social media such as Facebook and Twitter asking your friends to please share…via flyers on local community boards, in coffee shops and mailed to HR departments of police and fire departments, universities & hospitals…these all bring in new employees all the time who will be looking for housing…bring attention to your sign when other open houses are happening in your neighborhood by adding balloons and attaching flyers.

It’s very easy to become discouraged even fearful when your home is not selling as you’d hoped it would. Take a deep breath, determine a new strategy and perform CPR on your home’s marketing campaign. Then proceed with confidence into your desired future!