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.


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


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!



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 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.


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!


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!


Maximize Your Ad…Maximize Your Results!!

Unlike in days of old when you could tease your buyers with a few photos and, if intrigued, they would come and view your home in person, modern day online shoppers want to walk entirely through your home visually before they take their time to do so physically. You have one chance at a first impression. Here are a few tips to help you maximize on your advertising to effectively intrigue the most potential buyers.

  • Your photos will either encourage your discourage prospective buyers. If you take mediocre photos, consider having them done professionally (offered with both BuyOwner Elite and Premium ads). The reality is, if someone doesn’t like your photos, they aren’t reading your description. They’re moving on to the next home.
  • If you have a 4 bedroom home, unless not possible due to clutter you can’t clear, show all 4 bedrooms. If you only show one, buyers are creating their own reasons why you’re choosing not to show the others ie: too small, bad closet, damaged walls or floors, etc…..none of that may be true…except in the buyer’s mind. Next!
  • Take your time when taking your photos. It’s not ok that the laundry is laying on the floor next to the bed or that dishes are in the sink or you can’t see the daylight through the dirt on your window.  Your friends might not care but if your home looks messy and unkempt in your photo, prospects are probably thinking how much worse it must be behind the refrigerator. Next!
  • Consider eye distractions.  Those pretty towels hanging on the door of your oven look attractive in person BUT in a photo, they’re an ‘eye distraction’. What that means is that when the photo opens, your buyer’s eyes are drawn to the towels instead of your Kitchen.  Unless you’re selling your home fully furnished, your goal is to showcase your spaces, not your stuff. An easy test to know if you need to remove something is to stand in the doorway, turn around and then quickly turn back to your room. If your eye sees something instead of the room, that’s what needs to come out before you take your photo.
  • Capitalize on natural light. Nothing is more enticing than sunlight wafting across a hardwood floor and nothing is harsher than a photo discolored or filtered by the glow from a lamp or overhead light. Abundant natural light is typically a very positive draw with buyers so capitalize on that feature if offered by your home.  Tip: Recessed lighting typically enhances a photo while illuminated lamps do not. Tip: Shoot photos on a partly sunny day so your photos are clear and not hazed over from too much sunshine coming in through the windows.
  • When writing your description, be direct and to the point. The days of cozy, charming cottages and fluff filled adjectives is for the most part, gone. In our fast paced world of short attention spans, people want facts instead of fiction. That doesn’t mean cold and industrial. You can be ‘warm’ without being wordy.
  • Put the buyer in the ad and take yourself out. Ex: “We’ve loved having our whole neighborhood and family over for Thanksgiving  dinners”  vs “You’ll enjoy hosting holiday dinners and parties in your spacious, formal Dining Room.”
  • Choose your words wisely:  Ex: Use the word ‘home’ instead of ‘house’. Though on the surface this might seem minimal, a house is a building,  a home is the place where you want to relax at the end of the day and raise your family.           Ex2: Instead of detailing every upgrade in your Master Bath try “Luxurious en-suite Bath”.  When you’re writing, say the words out loud and you’ll ‘feel’ the difference.  Fact is, unless a buyer is an investor, more homes are purchased emotionally than pragmatically.

When your prospective buyers are looking at your ad, they are asking themselves one main question, “Why should I pay this price, for this home in this location?” The job of your ad is to answer with “this is why, this is why, this is why.” If your home ‘makes sense’ to them they’re coming for a closer look!


Organize Your “Little Clutter”

Sometimes one of the most difficult de-cluttering challenges is what to do with all those ‘little’ items that just seem to accumulate and create a mess. Try some of these ideas and use them as a stepping off point of thinking up some of your own creative solutions.

* Pick a drawer or cabinet/closet shelf and use one or more of these options to hold thumbtacks, paper clips, rubber bands, buttons, spare birthday candles, salt & pepper and sugar/sweetener packets, etc.

(1) A 6 or 12 count cupcake/muffin tin…if you want to be able to remove the items in total for use in other areas put cupcake wrappers or silicone inserts into the tincups first. Then you can lift out the entire paper cup, carry it to where you are working and then return it to the cupcake tin when finished.  This will also work for holding rings, chains and bracelets. You can spray paint the tin in whatever color matches your decor and it now becomes more than just a storage bin but adds to your overall look.

(2) Use an egg carton in the same manner as the muffin tin BUT cut out the inserts on one side of the open carton so that you have individual spaces on one side and an open flat surface on the other which can now accommodate scissors, letter openers, straws, nail files, etc.

(3) Apothecary jars, pickle jars, and other clear jars allow you to use various sizes and see what you have in them.

(4) Pick up pretty glasses at yard sales for .05 or .10 cents each and create a lovely visual display for your counter or cabinet when opened.  Another great buy at yard sales (or in your own overstuffed basement) are vases and candle jars in all sizes, shapes and colors that will match your decor….if the candle jars still have pieces of a scented candle in them, take a blunt knife and chop them up. This will reactivate the scent and become pretty and add a lovely aroma to your area.

(5) For less than $1 you can purchase small terra cotta clay pots for starting plants from seeds.  These can hold any number of small items in a very decorative manner and can be used in their natural state or painted with different colors or designs.  Simple, easy and very personalized to your own decor and styles.  You can also use the small size to hold qtips in the bathroom and a medium size to hold cotton balls. Again, they can be painted or decoupaged to match your personal decor giving you a completely finished and synergistic look.

(6) Need stylish office materials but don’t like the high costs in your office supply stores? Find a bathroom set at your favorite dollar store or discount retailer (like Target, Walmart or Kmart) that matches your office colors or adds a decorating splash of design. Use the toothbrush holder as a pen holder and the soap dish to hold staples, paper clips, thumbtacks or rubber bands.  Finish off your look with the matching waste basket. You now have a cohesive look and more money left to be just as creative in another space.

The key to creating a personal and very stylized look for a minimal cost is to think outside the box and use items meant for one thing as something completely different.  It is fun, can be turned into a family project and will be a source of pleasure every time you look at what you have created and realize that you’ve been financially responsible….so important in these economic times!


Budget Friendly Updates

So you want to get your home looking fresh and new but don’t have the big bucks to make major changes?  Here are a few ideas to help you look like you spent more than you did and create a market ready home!

  • Can’t afford new kitchen cabinets? Give them a good cleaning with a product like Cabinet Magic, or even try a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove the daily dirt, grease and splatters. Top with Old English or Murphy’s Oil. Then replace the cabinet knobs with more updated styles. Before you pay full price at a big box store, try shopping at a  “Restore” store which benefits Habitat for Humanity. However you buy them, count all the drawers and cabinet doors to ensure you buy enough to complete the job.
  • To add a custom feel to your base cabinets, add roll out shelves (available at Container Store, big box stores and online). Easy to Install yourself.
  • Can’t afford to repaint the whole kitchen or baths? Wash the walls. (Again a Magic Eraser is great for easily cleaning grease, oils and dirt from painted walls without scrubbing the paint off). Then clean and paint the door and window trim with semi-gloss paint. Just refreshing the edges will create a freshly painted look.
  • Bathroom updates: Do the same cleaning and trim painting as you did in the kitchen. Then replace the faucets, showerheads, hardware, towel racks and toilet paper holders as needed. Make sure they all match to create a customized renovation. Scrub the tub, toilet and sink so they gleam. If they need to be replaced, do so and then promote as “brand new”.  Can’t afford a new tub? You can get one reglazed for a few hundred dollars.  Again, a stop at a Restore location can help you find some high end materials at a fair price and support Habitat at the same time.
  • A new shower curtain will add a fresh look BUT make sure you replace the outdated, rusty shower rod and curtain hooks. Also, put up fresh, clean matching towels with no ragged edges or stains.
  • Update your light fixtures. There are lots of places where you can find updated versions at a not so upscale price. New fanlights, chandeliers and ceiling lights can take your home from outdated to modern with minimal cost and effort.
  • Now this might seem like an obvious notion, but is often overlooked. Take time to go through your home and clean all your switch plates and outlet covers. Hands leave lots of prints and dirt. A clean white switch plate against a freshly washed wall and trim can do wonders. If they’re too far gone, invest in new ones. It will be worth the minimal cost.
  • Wash your windows. Then clean your curtains, draperies and blinds so your buyer sees only the beautiful sunbeams pouring through.
  • Also clean your rugs or carpets. If they are too far gone and you can’t afford to replace them, consider offering a flooring allowance to your buyers. At least then they can look past how worn they are knowing they will be able to replace them once they purchase your home.

These should give you some great starting points and may inspire you to think of more things you can do that will cost you more in elbow grease than they do in dollars while producing very positive results toward achieving your home selling goals!


Considering Multiple Offers (or even just one)!

Receiving multiple offers (or even just one) on your home is a problem that every home seller wants to have. Sure, it’s certainly something to celebrate. But before you kick back and pop open the champagne, you have a decision to make. Going for the most money may seem like the obvious choice, but it’s not necessarily that easy. While it’s natural to be attracted to the offer with the highest price, it’s important to realize that the highest offer isn’t always the best offer. You might choose to accept a lower offer from a buyer who is better qualified or an offer with more appealing conditions.There are three important factors to consider when dealing with multiple offers or again just one.

Amount Offered

Of course the amount of the offer is important when deciding which buyer to choose, but you should also look at other aspects involved in the offer price, such as which potential buyer will be putting more money into the down payment. If you had two offers with the exact same price, the cash down payment amount might just be your deciding factor. BUT keep in mind just because someone doesn’t have as much to put down does not necessarily mean they are not as strong a buyer. So considering a few more factors will help you make your best choice.

Buyers’ Financial Status

When doing business with someone it is necessary to know about financial status, and even though selling your home can be a personal, emotional experience, it is also the ultimate business transaction. You have the right to find out if the potential buyers are in good financial standing. Don’t be afraid to put right in your ad that you are only interested in pre-qualified or pre-approved buyers with documentation. In today’s marketplace, particularly if your home is in a high desire area, most serious buyers know this is a valuable tool when negotiating against other competing buyers. It’s also good to decide before you ever put your home out into the marketplace, what types of financing you’ll accept. Of course, accepting all types (Conventional, FHA and VA). The condition of your home may play a factor in that decision since FHA and VA inspections may be more challenging than one with conventional financing. So it’s a good idea to find out if they will be seeking a loan, and, if so, what kind of loan.


The final factor to consider when deciding which offer to accept is whether there are any contingencies involved. Does the buyer need to sell a home in order to close? Maybe there are other issues, such as inspections, that would hold up the sale for an extended period of time. Make sure you have all the information so you can weigh your options.

It may sound simple, but deciding which offer best suits your needs can be complicated. It’s never a bad idea to sit down and actually write out all of the elements involved in the sale and decide what is most important to you. Then create a list using those elements to compare the potential buyers. That way you can look at all of the significant factors involved, including the total amount offered for the property, the amount of the down payment, the closing date, any contingencies involved, the buyers’ financial standing and how much extra money a particular deal may cost you after inspections. (If your home needs a lot of repairs, you might want to sell it As Is with those repair estimates reflected in your asking price.) Creating a comparison list will help give you a straightforward comparison of the potential buyers and will show you their pros and cons.

BEWARE: Don’t get overconfident or underconfident and blow the deal or regret what you’ve accepted after the fact. Take your time (don’t allow buyers or their agents to rush you) and consider each offer seriously. If you don’t feel emotionally able to make the decision on your own, have a trusted friend or your attorney walk through each offer with you. Listen to their opinion and why they are offering it. Then you decide what is best for you. Now, proceed with confidence into the next part of your life journey!