By

Bring the Beauty of Winter Inside for the Holidays!

There’s nothing quite like an evergreen blanketed in fresh, sparkling snow or ruby-red berries produced from a bare branch. This holiday season, show your appreciation of outdoor beauty by re-creating it indoors! Acknowledging nature inside your walls is a fashionable trend this year. Buy dry or fake outdoor accents from a store or scavenge for the real items outside! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Accent an elegant chandelier or noticeable light fixture with a strand of leaves or berries. If you want it homemade, all you need is thread and a pile of leaves or berries!
  • Create a table centerpiece with a bowl of outdoor décor. Fill a wicker basket or a glass bowl with pine cones, nuts, acorns, berries, pine needles and feathers!
  • Mold a wreath together using anything you want! Use rosemary to create a scented wreath, or string crabapple berries and leaves together for a colorful selection!
  • Collect a handful of evergreens into a vase or a bowl and place it on any table, mantel or shelf. Evergreens exhibit a vibrant color and are best used in subtle, neutral-colored rooms.
  • Incorporate magnolia leaves into golden fixtures or wall hangings. Magnolias have a long life span and accentuate subtle colors well.
  • Spread a thick layer of cotton over a windowsill or a mantel, or place it underneath a holiday decoration. Sprinkle glitter atop the cotton and it will appear as sparkly and fresh as the snow outside!
  • Fill a vase or a glass halfway with sugar or salt and place a pine cone or pine needles inside. This will confine the snowy scene outdoors into a tiny object inside!
  • Weave ivy through a wicker basket, through the ribbon on a wrapped present or through holiday decorations. Ivy can add natural appeal to an object that already exists.
  • Decorate any corner of any room with flowers that are remarkably in blossom during these winter months! Fill a basket or colored vase with hydrangea blossoms, white roses, topiaries or narcissus plants for a vibrant contrast in colors!
  • Light candles and surround them with greenery or glittery “snow” cotton. The peaceful candlelight will illuminate these natural wonders.
  • Hang greenery around windows and hang mistletoe from doorways. We all know what mistletoe leads to!
  • Instead of spending money on new ornaments, boost your tree’s appeal by hanging pine cones or pomegranates from the branches!

By decorating the indoors with outdoor attractions, you can still enjoy the beauty of nature while relaxing in your warm, cozy home. Use your imagination to recreate a wild, winter wonderland for a festive atmosphere!

By

Traveling This Summer? Some Great Home Security Tips!!

Often during the summer, even though your home is on the market, you still do a lot of traveling to weddings, reunions, family picnics and family vacations.  You might only be gone over a weekend or perhaps a week or two.  So what can you do to ensure that your home is secure while you’re away from home? Here’s a few tips.

  • It’s great to put your lights on timers but it’s a mistake to use one that illuminates the same lights at the same times every day. A better choice is using timers that can be set for different times each day and to not all go on at that same time. You want it to appear that you are randomly moving from room to room throughout the day and evening.
  • There are numerous systems with apps now that you can purchase that allow you to control your lights from wherever you are. If you travel a lot, this may be the best way to provide yourself with a stress free trip.
  • Consider a Ring or similar type doorbell/security system. You can keep a constant watch via the camera view in your app and alert the police if you see any suspicious activity around your home. These systems are fairly inexpensive, easy to install and provide priceless sense of peace while gone.
  • Join a neighborhood online group like Nextdoor or Neighbors, an app that is tied into the Ring system so that you will be aware of anything that is happening in your neighborhood while you’re gone. Sometime it can be your neighbors camera that will keep you aware of any issues at or around your home.
  • If you’re road tripping in your own vehicle, see if a neighbor, friend or family member can stop by at different times while you’re gone and pick up your mail or just hang out for short periods of time so there are cars in your driveway while you’re gone. If the live nearby and can leave their car in your driveway overnight once in a while even better!
  • In the past it’s been suggested that you have your mail delivery stopped while you’re gone. This can be an ok idea but keep in mind that you are letting people in the local post office with whom you’re not acquainted know that no one is home. Better to have someone pick up your mail or if it drops through your mail slot, just gather it up when you get home.
  • This may be the most important tip. DO NOT POST on social media that you are heading out to your reunion or someone’s wedding or that you’re anxious to hop on that cruise…..WAIT and when you return you can post that you just got back and what a great time you had. Still get to share but do so wisely!
  • Don’t be afraid to let your local police department know that you’ll be gone and ask if they can periodically patrol your street and keep an eye on your home. They really don’t mind doing so.

With a few well thought out plans, you can enjoy your summer journeys while still marketing your home and feel safe and secure all the while!

By

Create Front and Back Curb Appeal

Image result for Homes with Spring LandscapeSome homeowners exert tremendous time, effort and money creating a wonderful first impression for buyers to view as they pull up to their home. That is a good thing. What is not so good, is using your entire budget and effort in the front while ignoring the side and back portions of your home. You may draw them in with your beautiful front yard, flowers and swing under your covered front porch BUT if they walk out your back door to a moldy deck, trash cans, overgrown weeds and a yard that looks like the NFL just practiced there; well, the front yard is no longer at the forefront of their minds.

It is important to create all around curb appeal so that no matter where they are looking, they are excited about what they see. You wouldn’t think of just painting the front of your Image result for Homes with Spring Landscapehome and leaving the sides and back chipped and revealing rotting wood, would you? (Ok, now I know some of you said yes to this, but that would be the wrong answer so please continue on).

Before you head to the garden center or big box store, develop a plan on paper that includes cleaning, painting and planting needs for all exterior portions of your home. If you are not an avid gardener (as many of us are not) ask questions and learn which plants will offer the longest blooming life, most vibrant colors and require the least maintenance (this is at the top of my list!). If you don’t have a lot of yard, create potted plantings. You often see beautifully detailed flower pots on either side of a home’s front entry. Do the same at your side and back entry doors, too.  A simple thing that will yield great rewards!  See your home as a total exterior package and use your budget to maximize the entire picture.

Don’t like to garden or too overwhelmed to attempt it on your own? (I am so with you here) Have a “Curb Appeal Party”. Invite your friends over one Saturday, hand them a hoe, garden shovel, flat of flowers and a hug to say thanks for coming. (Of course they’re going to want food and beverages to go along with that hug!) I guarantee you know a man who would jump at the chance to power wash your deck! (Yes, ladies they do consider that a power tool!) Or, hey, feel the power yourself….it’s not difficult and you see instant results! Very gratifying.  (ps: this should NOT be a surprise curb appeal party….ask so your friends can gracefully bow out if they are not in any way interested….and if they’re not make sure they know that it’s completely ok!)

End the day with a relaxing barbecue sitting on your clean deck amidst your beautiful plantings.  Everyone will feel refreshed and satisfied with the results of their efforts.  Now, here is the key.  Make sure and be ready to reciprocate when they schedule a Curb Appeal Party of their own!

By

It’s Not Closed Until It’s Closed!

You’ve been shopping for weeks or maybe just a few days and you believe you have absolutely found the home of your dreams. Then, sadly, you discover the property has a pending contract. Before you walk away completely deflated, remember these important words, “It’s not sold til it’s closed!” BUT does that mean you can still make an offer on it?

Typically, once a home has a pending sale, you won’t be able to place your bid because both seller and buyer have agreed on the terms of the sale and signed the contract. But real estate deals have been know to fall apart for multiple reasons. Again, until it’s closed, it’s not a done deal!

Though you can’t submit an offer, you absolutely can contact the listing agent or if the home is being sold by owner, the seller, and make them aware of your interest and ask to be notified in the event something happens and the home is going to go back on the market. This way, you have the possibility of putting your offer in before others even know the home is once again available.

Now, it’s important not to get your hopes up that the deal will fall through or tell yourself this is the only home for you. Keep shopping with an open mind and heart. You may discover that not getting that home was a blessing in disguise as you step forward into a different home that makes you even happier!

An important note: If the other deal does fall through, before you jump in gleefully and with reckless abandon, keep in mind, there might have been a reason it fell through that might cause you to want to run away from it too!

By

CREATIVE STORAGE SAVES SPACE, TIME & MONEY!

Ever wish you had more room to put your cleaning supplies, extra bags, etc? Look no further than the back of your linen closet or                           laundry closet door. Purchase an inexpensive over the door plastic shoe bag and start filling it up. Not only does everything stay                   neater, they are more easily accessible when you need  them and can be completely hidden away by simply closing the door.                        Storage doesn’t have to be expensive, free standing or shelving units. Be creative and re-purpose items to fit your needs.

By

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

By

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!

By

PLAN YOUR MOVE – REDUCE YOUR STRESS!

Moving and all that entails: choosing a mover, getting quotes, insurance, packing, over-packing, etc. can create a stress level that is anything but fun and exciting.  In our heads we create this fabulous experience yet without some solid planning and due diligence, the result will most likely be “I will never move again!!” Let’s look at a few things you can do to help create the fun move fantasy that lives in your head.

1. Choose your mover wisely.

Yes, there are moving scams so beware and be diligent. Again, remember the cheapest price is rarely the “Best” deal! Moving can be very costly so take the time to do your homework and review both details listed on websites AND random reviews. Check out the name of the company you’re considering on Ripoffreport.com. Not only can you see negative reviews & complaints, but how well the company handled the complaints thru the Better Business Bureau. You can also research your state transportation regulator and the U.S. Department of Transportation to see if your company has been flagged for complaints and misdeeds. Any of your friends, family or co-workers moved recently? Find out who they used and what kind of experience they had.  If they rave, take note and get a quote. If they say, it was ‘ok’ or less than satisfactory, you’ll know what companies to cross off your list hence not wasting your time.

2. Comparison shop and review quotes carefully checking out every ounce of small print or exceptions.

When hiring a moving company, one of the first indicators of their price to value is their willingness to come out to your home and provide you with a professional detailed estimate and not quote you over the phone based on your inexperienced information. Unless you have done this several times before or are in the industry, there are many factors that you just won’t be cognizant of so educate yourself by choosing a company that will walk you fully through the process, pricing and incidental factors that can arise and increase your bottom line dramatically. If they won’t come, tell them no thanks!  Just like any major purchase, it’s best to get multiple quotes and compare not just their price, but how they treated you, advised you and were willing to take time to answer all your questions. An attention to detail at this starting point will usually reflect an attention to detail throughout the process. As nice as the company rep or owner might be and all the extras they say “they’ll throw in”, say thank you and then GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING!! Note: If this is a short  move, you might want to compare the costs and headaches of hiring professional movers with doing the job yourself with the help of some wonderful friends and family. Always good to do those old fashioned pros and cons list to determine if this is a feasible option.

3. Schedule your move as early as possible.

Getting quotes and choose a moving company can take time when you do it right, so make sure and leave yourself enough time and do it far enough ahead of when you will be moving so that you don’t get stuck having to use an inferior company simply because they’re the only ones available. Companies with great reputations and minimal complaints will book up quickly so get them out, choose the one you want to use and get on their schedule. Even if it’s months ahead of your actual move, when push comes to shove, this is one thing you won’t have to worry about.

4. Pack with ease and cost in mind.

Do you really need to move baby clothes that your children have outgrown or your grown children don’t want for their children. I get the sentiment…right there with you and this is a tough one but remember each box added to the moving truck adds considerable cost to your bottom line. That goes for nik naks, boxed up ‘treasures’ that you haven’t looked at since you moved them from your last home to this home, books you never plan to read again (this one can really pay off because books make for very heavy boxes), clothes you haven’t worn in over a year, pans you never cook with, etc etc etc.  This is a great time to purge and start fresh in your new home. Go through your bins, boxes, closets and shelves and make piles: Toss….Give away to a friend or family member who will appreciate what you’re sharing with them….Give to charity…..Sell at a garage sale. Sometimes it is very hard to let go but if you’re going to have to pay for a storage place at your new home to accommodate all your ‘extra stuff’, or load up your basement or garage the day you move in, think of the word “Edit” and begin the journey to a less cluttered, less cumbersome and more free lifestyle in your new home!

5. Start packing from the moment you decide to move!

Packing is fun for around the first few hours. After that, well, let’s just say your mood will be less than happy and excited! You can reduce the stress of packing by starting immediately and doing it in small increments of time instead of all at once. Go room by room with a clipboard and make a list of items that can be packed ahead of time and stacked and ready to go…ie: off season clothing, linens, blankets, holiday decor, etc. Remember the most important step, LABEL ALL YOUR BOXES AND BINS not  only with what room they go in but a breakdown of what’s in there. This will be very helpful at the other end so you know which boxes or bins to open first or set aside for later. This will allow you to settle in gracefully instead of pulling out your hair trying to find your utensils or mugs and coffee maker which you want right away.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!!!

We all have those friends and family that will be more than willing to assist us when we need help. It will be much kinder and easier to get them to help if you are doing your packing in spurts. A couple of hours on a Saturday, Sunday or evening here and there is much more palatable than asking someone to give up their entire weekend because you dropped the ball  with planning.

REMEMBER THE ADAGE, IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN YOU PLAN TO FAIL.  This is so true when it comes to something as huge and significant as moving.

By

HOA Pros and Cons

Homeowner’s Associations have grown in number especially with homes built within the last 10 years. Some think that’s great and others have discovered the downfalls of living under the thumb of their HOA. So let’s address the possible pros and cons. Then decide whether you want to live with the extra cost and rules.

Pro: Because of the rules established by your Homeowner’s Association, you can be pretty assured that your neighborhood will be well maintained. Some typical items under the HOA’s control are: Keeping your lawn manicured; Garbage cans must be put out after a certain time and brought back in within x number of hours after pickup; Restrictions on street parking or leaving boats/trucks in the driveway; Limitations on exterior home paint colors creating a uniformity within the neighborhood.

Pro: Many of your upkeep costs are shared by all members of the HOA ie: Common lawn areas and entries of the subdivision; Community snow removal which can definitely be a plus after big snowfalls guaranteeing that your streets will be plowed and you can get out and to work or the kids to school; Upkeep of community amenities like pools, fitness center, clubhouse party rooms, social areas, trails, boat docks, playgrounds, parks, etc; Newsletter distribution with updates, announcements and community events; some even offer 24 hour emergency maintenance!

Pro: Community Amenities might be included in your fee providing activities for your family that you might otherwise have to pay seasonal fees or costs to take advantage of ie: Pool, Clubhouse, Fitness Center, Social Activities like game nights, cards, billiards, tennis courts, etc.; Parks, Trails, Kid’s pools and playgrounds; Manned and unmanned gated entry to the subdivision and in some cases Security Patrol as well.

Pro: By participating in the HOA ( by joining the board or participating in community sponsored events) you have the opportunity to meet and get to know more of your neighbors, which can be a real plus if you’re new to the area.

Pro:  In the event you and your neighbor find yourself disagreeing about something that pertains to your properties, you can ask your association to mediate by filing a grievance with your HOA Board or your Management company.

Con: HOA Dues. When determining how much home you can afford, you will need to definitely factor in your monthly dues + any reserve funds required in the event there are major repairs necessary in the neighborhood. You DO NOT want to get behind on your HOA fees as they have the ability to put a lien on your home and even foreclose in spite of the fact that your mortgage is current.

Con: If you purchase a home and then decide you want to expand on it say with a screened patio, or a deck or even in some cases planting flowers, you may have to get permission from your board to do so and they very often say no so even though you own your home, you don’t own what you do with it.

Con:  If your HOA is poorly managed and gets into financial problems, it could bring down the values of all the properties in the subdivision and even affect your ability to get a loan on your home if you’re trying to refinance your mortgage or take out an equity loan.

Con:  You have to follow the rules even if you don’t agree with them. You can petition to try and get the rule changed but will have to live with the result even if it’s not in your favor.

The point is, HOAs can be very very good BUT they can also be very very bad. Before you purchase a home, condo, townhome that lives within an HOA, take the time (and it will take time) to read the entire bylaws. It will be time well spent so you can make an educated decision on your true dream home!

By

And They Lived Happily Ever After!

So you’re moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone but want to find a home in a neighborhood that suits your personality, lifestyle and family needs. How do you find your perfect home?

  • Family Friendly:  If you have children and are hoping to find a neighborhood where there are other children close in age and schools that are ranked for excellence then spend some time driving through areas you’re considering on a Saturday or Sunday.  Look for people with strollers, kids on trikes or bikes, parks where kids are playing sports, etc. Also research school districts online. All  pertinent information regarding recognition, class size, or problems are readily available via multiple websites. If you really want your kids to be able to walk to school, remember to do a walk from the home you’re considering to elementary, middle and high school.
  • Community Involvement: If you’re seeking an area where block parties are  common, community parades, events and social activities are the norm then        pumpkincheck out the city’s website. They will have details of recent and upcoming events plus typically include a photo gallery to let you know how much fun it is to live there. If you don’t see any of that on the city’s website, you might want to reconsider your location.
  • Singles Amenities: Check out the area on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Are you seeing active night life in restaurants, bars or clubs? Maybe you want to partylive near a sports stadium…ie: Wrigleyville in Chicago offers night time games, lots of bars and restaurants and lots of into the night activities. So, if that’s what you seek, check it out in the evening or late night. If you’re looking for a quiet night neighborhood, you’ll know this isn’t the place for you even if you like the homes available.
  • Automobile Friendly:  If you’re looking into urban areas and you own a car, you might want to check out included garage or deeded parking spaces. If there’s permit street parking that could be good for you but could be a problem if you like to entertain. Check out accessibility to highways and public transportation if commuting is going to be a factor in your decision.
  • Access to Shopping: Do you want to be able to run to the grocery store in under 5 minutes? Then a rural area is probably not a good fit for you and both suburban and urban areas might offer their own challenges so if you find a neighborhood you like, take the extra time to explore how close you are to stores and malls. Too close because you don’t want the added retail traffic? Or too far because you don’t want to have to run 20 minutes away for some needed milk or bread.
  • Crime: There are numerous sites online where you can simply put in an address with crime rating and you will be able to learn a lot.
  • Walking Score: Typically this is more specific to urban areas and includes neighborhoods agreeable to both families and singles.

Urban vs suburb vs rural vs acreage…..Sit down before you even begin looking and decide what type of area(s) fit you and suit your wants, needs and don’t forget…your budget. Take your time to research both online and in person. Make an educated vs emotional decision and you can live your happily ever after!