Hello March

Spring is on the way, even if it may not feel like it quite yet! We’re all ready for the warmer weather to get rolling. But amongst all this winter, your goals of homeownership might be the last thing on your mind, no matter where you live! But there’s no better time to get this ball rolling than this March!

If you’re looking to sell this spring, this is the time to start the process. Sales pick up as the weather improves, and now that the holiday season has passed it is the perfect time to lay the groundwork for your property. The same goes if you’re looking to buy—typically, competition increases during the warmer months as more people head out to find their new home-sweet-home. Sellers may be more willing to negotiate this time of year than in a month or so. It’s a great month to hit the ground running, no matter what your goals include!

So while you wade through the final snows of winter, give me a call today! Spring is about to have sprung, and I am standing by to help you buy or sell your home in this dynamic market.

Trend Alert: The Bathroom Vanity Conversion

It's one of Houzz's deign trends, and it gives you a chance to express your style, add a character piece to your home, and maybe even save some money at the same time. It's the bathroom vanity conversion, and it just might inspire you to make a change for the better.

"If you're having trouble finding the right pre-manufactured vanity for your home, try thinking outside the cabinet box," said Houzz. "Many savvy homeowners are finding chests of drawers, old file cabinets, vintage consoles and more, and converting them into one-of-a-kind vanities.

This vintage dresser brings some richness to this bathroom, and it didn't even need a vanity top. A drop-in sink, a mirror in a similar tone, and some fancy light fixtures finishes the look.

Looking to DIY this project? Get step-by-step instructions here.

"Thinking outside the square can turn up a one-of-a-kind vanity with character and function to boot," said Forbes. A garage sale discard can be turned into something spectacular with a little ingenuity and elbow grease, plus a scrap piece of marble cut to size.

A simple sink placed on top of this antique table allows all the character of the piece to stand out.

Or, you can make the sink a focal point. This commercial version brings the right amount of contrast to the rustic table and helps show off all the antique touches in the space.

The idea works just as beautifully with a more modern piece. "This mirrored console table was beautiful as a dining room accent, but it's absolutely stunning when recycled for the bath," said DIY Network. "The top was sealed with polyurethane - an important step when repurposing furniture to accommodate plumbing - and the square vessel sinks were sealed with caulk around their edges. Hardware was added in varying shades of brown and a mix of finishes to preserve the vintage vibe."

The piece you're converting doesn't even have to have a pristine finish. A coat of paint makes any bathroom vanity look fresh while still imparting a distinct feel.

Mid-century modern has been hot for the past few years, and repurposing a piece that has been passed down, or one that you're lucky enough to find at a flea market or antique store, can completely transform your bathroom. "The project required cutting out holes for items such as the marble countertop, sink and faucet, and switching out drawers," said DIY Network.

Copyright © 2019 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Selling Your Home? Make it a Summer Dream Home for Buyers

Selling your home in the summertime can be a great opportunity to attract buyers. Having your home "summer-ready" can increase the chances of it selling faster.

Searching for homes often increases just as schools let out and families have some extra time to begin the hunt prior to the next school year beginning.

As a seller, there are a few things you can do to create a summer-ready home that influences your buyers to step inside and stay a bit. The longer they stay when previewing your home, the greater likelihood that they're considering making an offer.

Make sure your winter decorations are put away and stored. I know this sounds basic and maybe even amusing but there have been instances when lingering holiday decor still adorns some areas of the home. This may be charming to the homeowners but rest assured it's not to prospective buyers. It'll simply look like clutter.

Pull the heavy-duty winter rugs up. If you have beautiful flooring like hardwood, go bare for the summer months. Revealing well-kept floors can be a big plus. Rugs that lined the floors in the winter months can be packed up when you're listing your home for sale in the summer months.

Make the home look like the season and match the neighborhood. If it's bright and cheerful outside, invite that into your home by opening up the windows and letting natural light flow through. If there is one, let a cool breeze blow in or keep the air conditioner on so that it's a comfortable temperature to tour your home. Nothing is worse than entering a home to preview and finding that you can hardly stay inside because it's stuffy and blazing hot.

Tidy up the backyard. Sometimes a lot of attention is given to the interior of the home and the outside area gets overlooked. Remember, in the summertime especially, homeowners will be sure to check out your yard. Make sure that it hasn't become a dumping ground or storage for all the stuff you're trying to get rid of before you move. Instead, create a pleasant vision for your prospective buyers by setting up the backyard with cute outdoor furniture. If you have gardens, make sure that you keep tending them. Don't let them get overgrown. The charm of a lovely outdoor space, large or even petite, will be appealing to most buyers, especially if they're starting with one that's already designed and maintained.

Clean your fans and vents and change the heating/air conditioning filters. If you're not using or living in the home, the fans and filters can collect a lot of dust. Be sure not to overlook cleaning these things as a dirty ceiling fan can whirl off a lot of dust and debris when it's turned on. It's not a good way to start a showing by flipping a switch and having handfuls of dust flutter about the room. Cleaning and changing air conditioning filters takes only a few minutes, but the return is huge.

A few simple things can help you "summer-ize" your home so that the prospective buyers can't wait to move into the home and enjoy the rest of the summer.

Copyright © 2019 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Simple DIY Projects To Boost Home Value

Looking to boost the value of your home without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars? You can! Making changes in certain rooms, like the kitchen and bathroom, is more beneficial than in others. These simple DIY projects will help increase your home's value the most.

Modernize Fixtures

Replacing outlet covers can cost less than a dollar each, but if they have paint or other things on it, it's a good change. While you're at it, consider updating the outlets themselves. For about $25-$30 you can buy an outlet that also includes two USB charging ports. With all the smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices lying around, just a few of those, well-placed, can make a big difference. Think about the rooms in your home that don't have enough outlets and the rooms that are most used for charging.

A less expensive upgrade? Doorknobs. Mismatched, broken, and dingy doorknobs can be a major deterrent. For a small amount of money per knob, you can update the look and make the whole house more visually appealing.

Lighten It Up

The more light you can add to your home, the better. Freshening up or removing curtains can brighten your home and make it more inviting.

Replacing windows is also a great way to add value to your home, particularly true if you live in an older home that has a lot of windows that stick or that let in the heat or cold. Installing energy efficient windows can also get you a nice tax break. However, poorly-installed windows can let in water, which can lead to mold and cracked foundations, so this isn't for everyone.

Old light fixtures, or light fixtures that are dim or unappealing should be replaced to brighten the house.

Makeover the Bathroom

Bathrooms consistently get a high return on the investment. If you have a small budget and you're DIYing, start small. A new vanity. New sink. A nice ceiling light. A spa-like shower head. A nice towel bar. None of these things have to cost over $100, but they all add value to your home by freshening it up, providing simple conveniences, and making it nicer. Who doesn't want one of those fancy shower heads?

If your bathroom floor is falling apart, suffering from water damage or is just outdated, you can restore it yourself pretty inexpensively. Many home improvement stores offer a class so you can learn what you don't know, which might enable you to choose a more expensive flooring. Stick with a neutral shade to add the most value.

Freshen Up the Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the biggest things that will turn potential buyers on or off to a house. It's also one of the places where you can get the most money back for your investment. What's the single best DIY change to make in the kitchen? A fresh coat of white paint on the cabinets. Go ahead and change out the knobs, too.

Storage is another change to consider. Add more shelves, possibly with space underneath to hang coffee mugs. Kitchen islands are in demand now and building one with storage will add value.

Keeping Up on Maintenance

A home in good repair is always going to be more valuable than one with a leaky roof. If the siding is old or falling apart, replace it. Consider getting a home warranty, to ensure the value of your appliances. Also make sure to maintain the appearance outside, sweep up the leaves, trim the bushes, and keep fences in good repair.

Adding value to your home doesn't have to be expensive or difficult. Sometimes, the simplest DIY can be the best place to start. Start by considering your budget and your home's most pressing needs, and update from there.

Copyright © 2019 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Remodeling to Sell? Think Curb Appeal!

With home prices up in some areas, the return on remodeling investments at resale can be good. Making little changes can have big impacts when it comes to remodeling your home to sell.

Some updates will return as much as they cost in hotter markets, but unless your home is in a rapidly inflating city, you may not get enough bang for your buck.

But the lesson isn't to avoid remodeling your home. It's to rethink your expectations. Do you want to enjoy your updates for a few years? Or do you want to make your home more immediately appealing to homebuyers?

If you're remodeling for your own household, updating a home has a legitimate purpose that is unquantifiable. When you add square footage, update systems and fixtures, or rearrange traffic flow, you improve the functionality of your home. Refreshing wall colors, window coverings, and flooring adds to the beauty and enjoyment of your home. Many would consider that money better spent, and if you decide to sell in a few years, you'll be ahead of the game in terms of updates that will appeal to homebuyers.

But if you're remodeling strictly for the next buyer, there's some risk. Will you choose the right elements to appeal to the next buyer? What if they don't share your taste or appreciate the areas where you allocated your remodeling budget?

Start with what absolutely has to be done, whether you plan to stay in your home or not. You may be tempted to put off replacing the roof for an average of nearly $20,000, because Remodeling Magazine says it will only return approximately 72 percent of costs. But a new roof could make the difference in whether or not an FHA or VA buyer can buy your home and pass government inspection.

Otherwise, stick to smaller updates that can yield big impacts in terms of curb appeal, safety and building integrity. The top five cost-to-value projects that netted the most return are:

  1. Replacing the front door with a 20-guage steel door - 102 percent.

  2. Manufactured stone veneer -- 92. 2 percent

  3. Fiber-cement siding -- 84.3 percent.

  4. Garage door replacement -- 82.5 percent

  5. Wood window replacement -- 78 percent.

As you can see, the most lucrative projects for resale were all about curb appeal. Seal the deal with a new welcome mat, new sconces to complement the new steel door, and potted plants for color. Wow your buyers on the outside and they'll be more likely to choose your home over the competition.

Copyright © 2019 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

How Color Helps Sell Your Home

Yes! Just like curb appeal matters, the colors of your home can and will influence buyers. With that in mind, we explore which colors tend to appeal to the masses.

The color scheme of your home, from the outside in, sets the tone. It's like going to see a theatre play and seeing an intricately crafted and appropriately painted set for the production. It can immediately intrigue you–before the play has begun and even if you know few details about the play.

When it comes to color, be sure to consider the location. A peach-pink home in a retirement community might be okay, but that same color in an upscale, urban city may be unappealing to younger city dwellers.

The outside of your home is one of the largest areas potential buyers will see. So make your decision carefully and be sure to have a professional paint job done. If you choose white for the exterior, your home is likely to appeal to the masses, according to one study that indicated upwards of 40 percent of people liked white homes.

The great thing about a white home is you have plenty of options to make the home stand out by using an accent color for the trim. The downside is that white gets dirty very fast and shows it more than other colors. So before you list your home, make sure that you have a fresh coat of paint applied or pressure wash the exterior to bring back that newly painted look.

Also take into consideration the color of other homes on the block. Typically, white will not look out of place. However, if you had a purple home on a block where the homes are mostly beige and neutral colors, you'll get noticed but won't likely get the kind of attention you want.

Beige with neutral-colored trim is another popular color scheme. Both beige and white are safe exterior colors. They don't turn buyers off.

There's also been a trend to paint just the front door a deep, rich color like red. This may not be appealing to all. However, buyers would tend to overlook it because it's a simple change as well as one that can easily and cheaply be changed to the new buyer’s choice. As long as the colors look good together, this wouldn't necessarily turn buyers away.

The paint inside your home is equally important. In fact, one good tip for sellers is that if they can do nothing else, they should get some fresh paint up on the walls. The new paint helps showcase the home and gives it a new-home feel.

There are a wide variety of interior colors. Don't feel like you have to go with only beige. You can be a little more daring, using bold accent colors. Just make sure the paint colors you choose don't give a dark, closed-in feeling. Aim to create comfort, a sense of calmness, relaxation, and a place where family can unwind. Earth-tone colors convey this very well.

For a more chic and sophisticated look, interior designers often choose from the grey palette. A dark grey color can create a bold statement and attract the eye to a particular area.

Whatever colors you choose, remember that your aim is to appeal to the masses. Test the colors out first. Get opinions from the experts.

Your real estate agent has likely been in hundreds of homes and can offer you some very good guidance.

Copyright © 2019 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Set S.M.A.R.T Goals To Buy A Home

Saving for a down payment can seem like an overwhelming task if you're on a tight budget. It's just plain not easy to make a plan, stay on that plan no matter what, stay motivated even when your plan goes temporarily awry, and - finally - achieve your desired result. So how do you get from "Broke wannabe homebuyer" to "Gimme those keys!"? It's simple. Just set a goal.

"The idea of goal setting involves establishing specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-targeted (S.M.A.R.Tgoals," said Wikipedia. "On a personal level, setting goals helps people work towards their own objectives."

So how does that relate to your down payment? It's no different than setting a goal to lose weight or get a college degree or excel at your job. They all take determination. But when it comes to buying a home and getting together the money required, there are tricks and tips you can use to make it easier and make that goal achievable.

1. Make a plan and write it down

Get out a piece of paper or type into your phone/computer a definitive statement that encapsulates your down payment goal - as long as it's in a place you can easily access it. Then break down that goal by the amount you need to save weekly or monthly and a goal date for being able to buy that house. The simple act of putting your plan down on paper (or on screen) makes it real. Take out the piece of paper or pull up the email you wrote to yourself whenever you need a pick-me-up.

Huffington Post recommends writing goals down in a brand-new notebook or keeping them "in Evernote (download on your desktop and the app for your phone and tablet) so that you can reference them weekly."

2. Make some budget cuts

It may not be easy. But saving for something as important as a new home is worth it. Look over your monthly bank statements for areas to cut back. Take out any set monthly expenses—rent or existing house payment, car payment, and anything else that can't change.

Then look at car insurance, health insurance, and anything else that could change if you made changes to your coverage.

Then consider things like cell phone bills, cable, internet service. If you're not using all your data on your cell phone plan, that may be a place to trim. Perhaps you don't need such fast DSL service. Every little bit helps.

And here's one that really hurts: cutting out your daily Starbucks latte. I know. We're crying with you.

Can't go cold turkey? Cut back from five lattes a week to two. You just saved over $500 in a year.

3. Let someone else make some cuts

If you've gone through your budget carefully and don't see any (or many) easy places to cut, let a best friend or close family member take a look at your budget. They might see some things you don't, or might be able to ask some hard questions you aren't willing to ask yourself (maybe you don't need EVERY SINGLE MOVIE CHANNEL DISH OFFERS?!).

Cutting back on your cable or satellite TV doesn't seem like much. But paying $30 less per month less could save you $360 in a year. And you can always go to their house to watch Game of Thrones while you're in savings mode.

4. Know how to bounce back

So you went out to lunch with a friend and the next thing you know, you're at the mall dropping a couple hundred dollars on clothes. Or you went to the sporting goods store to buy a gift and walked out with $200 in non-returnable camping equipment.

Oops.

Go ahead and feel the pain of the buyer's remorse. Slap yourself on the hand. And then tell your bad-influence friend they aren't allowed to come around again until you're a homeowner. After all, you need somewhere to place the blame. And now you can move on and get back on your plan.

5. Look for ways to make extra money

Do you have skills you could use to bring in a few bucks? Perhaps you can put your Spanish fluency to good use and tutor high school kids. Maybe you can take that piece of furniture you refinished and turn it into a weekend business, hitting early-morning garage sales on weekends and selling your pieces on Craigslist.

6. Cook your dinner

Eat out five nights a week now? Cut back to two. If you're not a fan of cooking, sub in easy-to-make or already-made meals on the other three nights. Grab a roasted chicken from the supermarket plus a bagged salad, or a ready-to-nuke meal from a specialty market like Trader Joe's or Costco.

7. Not ready to give up your restaurant habit?

Those coupon packs that come in the mail actually have some useful stuff inside, including restaurant discounts. If you can save 20 percent off your bill a couple times a week, you won't feel so guilty for dining out.

Another great way to save when eating out is by timing it to nights when restaurants have specials, like kids' eat free nights. Googling "kids eat free" should yield list of participating restaurants in your area.

8. Don't become a hermit

Cutting back doesn't have to mean locking yourself in your house, never using any gas, never going to any movies or seeing your friends socially.

But make sure your friends and family know about your plan so they can support you while you're saving. And you can involve them in your plan by enlisting their help to plan fun and free (or cheap) get-togethers.

9. Channel Stuart Smiley

You don't have to stand in the mirror and repeat "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me" over and over (but it would be hilarious  if you did). By simply staying positive, you can keep on keeping on. If you believe at all in the power of positive thinking, this is the time to act on it. And if you don't, fake it!

10. Keep your eye on the prize

When everyone runs off to the Caribbean for their summer vacation, you're probably going to want to chuck it all. But remember that the Caribbean isn't going anywhere. You can luxuriate on an island with turquoise water lapping at your feet while you drink something frothy out of a pineapple next year - after you've closed escrow.

And it'll taste so much better with the jangle of a new set of house keys in your pocket.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Tips For A More Modern Living Room

1. Paint

We say it so much because it's true: nothing transforms a room easier, more completely, and more affordably than a fresh new paint color. In a small space, use an airy modern color like Revere Pewter from Benjamin Moore. See more hot paint colors here.

2. Swap out those accessories

A simple update of a few knickknacks around the room can breathe new life into a space. It's also a good place to try out new trends, since accessories tend to be some of the least expensive items in your space and are easy to move around - and move out when you tire of them.

3. Go seasonal

It's easy to keep your home up to date all year long by going with seasonal décor. In your living room, introduce some beach chic for summer with a bowl full of shells and a sand-colored rug or a unique DIY vignette.

In the fall, bring in autumnal colors with candles and throw pillows; for winter, a ruddy throw and some holiday-inspired décor can grace your mantle. In the spring, citrus colors reign.

4. Don't sweep it under the rug

Whether your rug is dingy and dirty, super outdated, or just plain blah, a new one can liven up a space with little effort and little cost.

For as little as $100-200 (try IKEA, Target, World Market, or Costco), you can transform the look of the room, introduce a new color, and take a boring room and make it more colorful and interesting.

5. Ditch the dusty frames

If your sofa table looks like a picture frame display at a home goods store, it's time to pare it down. Pick a few key faves or create a gallery wall to free up space on flat surfaces for more updated arrangements of cherished treasures, accessories, and fresh flowers.

6. Paper it

It wasn't all that long ago that we were covering every surface in wallpaper (we still have nightmares of a velvet flocked hallway!). Over the last few years, it's seen an resurgence, and today's patterns and textures offer a great opportunity to make an impact. If you're afraid of taking the leap, do one key wall or a small space.

Still timid? Try a product like Target's Devine Wallpaper, which is repositional, so when you're over it, you just peel it off and toss it.

7. Hang some drapes

Not only will they inject some style into the room, but they'll also help diffuse light and keep a room cooler depending on the material you choose.

8. Throw a pillow at it

Pillows are the other easy fix we like to harp on. They're easy to find and easy on the budget, they allow you to layer multiple colors, patterns, and textures, and you can change them out on a whim. Plus, the right pillows can help a nice couch like nicer or deflect attention away from a tired one (we're lookin' at you, big brown sectional in a certain living room).

9. Light it up

A dim room can be romantic, yes, but for those times when you actually want to see, good lighting is key. If you already have an overhead fixture, you can bounce light around the room with table lamps and wall sconces.

Not keen to deal with wiring to hang something on the wall? Try a battery-operated sconce like this LED version from Home Depot.

10. Rearrange it

Sometimes, freshening up your space is as easy as moving stuff around. You may be surprised how much better your room can look with a new furniture arrangement. The keys are creating balance in the space and setting up areas for conversation. Get some more tips here.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved. sur

Big Reasons Your Home Isn't Selling

Ever wonder why some homes sell and others don't? There is no magical fairy dust that can turn a loser of a house into a palace. And, in fact, if there were such a think as magical fairy dust, sprinkling it in your home would make a big mess, and that's a big no-no if you want to sell.

Getting your home sold is not all that hard if you stick to the basics. But if you've got some of the problems below, you may just be sitting on that unsellable home for a while.

Problem No. 1: Because your home is ugly

Yes, your home is ugly. If your Realtor didn't tell you that, let us go ahead and say what he should have. And just so we're clear, "ugly" can also stand in for:

• Cluttered
• Outdated
• Dirty
• Messy
• Tacky

Very few people - investors looking for a deal aside - can walk into an untidy mess of a house and see the potential. If you're not willing to clean it up, clean it out, and maybe make a few overdue updates, you may not get it sold. That goes double for over-personalization that is so in your face buyers can't see past it.

"Everybody's taste is different, so less is more when it comes to decor at sale time. Loud patterns and bold colors can be big distractions," said MSN.

Solution:

You need to de-ugly-fy that house but quick. Pretty places around you are selling. If you have similar plans, similar features, similar lots and they're selling while you're sitting, it's not hard to figure out why.

Take a good long look. If you don't see anything wrong, bring in a few friends for their opinions. But only the ones who might actually tell you the truth.

Problem No. 2. Because your price is unrealistic

This is the No. 1 most common problem with homes that are not selling, says MSN. "If you're guilty of having "a 'what the heck are they thinking?' price tag," they say, you can expect to sit on the market for a while.

"Price is usually the overriding factor in any home that doesn't sell. Whatever its problem, it can usually be rectified by adjusting the price."

Adds U.S. News: "Without question, the No. 1 reason a home doesn't sell is price. Sellers have an emotional attachment to their homes and tend not to be objective about the true value."

Solution:

If it is an emotional attachment that's getting in the way, take the emotion out of the equation and think of it simply as a business transaction. Many times the issue is a seller owes more than the home is worth or simply wants a higher price. But it's the market that sets the price. And if it's telling you your price is too high, it's probably best to listen.

When all else fails, listen to your agent, who should have provided you with comparables that spell out recent sales and market trends. (Also SeeIt's The Price That Sells a Home)

Problem No. 3: Because it's a 'project' house

Maybe you've made the decision to sell and you just don't want to put any money into a house that's no longer going to be yours. But a house that looks like it's going to take too much work - or too much money - to fix up is a turnoff.

"If a home looks as if it's going to cost half as much to repair or renovate as it does to purchase, it's going to take a long time to move," said MSN. "Today's buyer is a lot more reluctant to take on a 'project,' especially if there are houses around it that don't need as much work. Ditto for homes that have strong pet or mold smells."

The Solution:

"Fix it, or prepare to lop a large amount off the price," said MSN.

Problem No. 4: Because you're not cooperating

This is also the No. 1 reason houses end up overpriced. Uncooperative sellers also tend to ignore other advice from their agent, about keeping the home tidy (see No. 1), being available when needed, being open to price reductions, being able to make the house available for open houses, and agreeing to terms when there is a contract discussion.

"No offense, but maybe you aren't showing your house off enough? If you aren't using a real estate agent and work away from your home, your time might be limited, of course. But you should try to make your house as accessible and available as possible for a Realtor and a potential homebuyer to easily drop by and take a tour (which means having the place clean, too)," said U.S. News. "Having your home be shown only by appointment or only at designated times will severely cut down on the number of showings you get, and if the house isn't getting shown, it isn't going to get sold."

The Solution:

Get in or get out. Or get in to get out. You have to commit yourself to a process that, quite frankly, can be inconvenient and a hassle in order to get your home sold, especially in more competitive markets. Being agreeable and available, however painful, for this finite amount of time, will pay off in the end.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

8 Strategies To Avoid Going House Poor

The only thing worse than not being able to buy a home when you want to is owning a home and not being able to do anything but sit inside because after your house payment, HOA fee, taxes, and household bills, there's nothing left.

A few smart strategies can help you avoid becoming house poor.

Think hard about that preapproval amount

Just because the bank tells you that you can buy a $400,000 home doesn't mean you have to spend all $400,000. It might be that you're not comfortable with a payment that high if it means you won't have a cushion and can't continue to contribute to your savings.

Things you'll want to consider:

Can you continue to invest the way you want to?

Will you be able to keep up (or build) your emergency fund - "A savings account stuffed with six months expenses or more is a vital part of financial stability," said Money Under 30.

Are you going to have enough money left over to establish a bank account buffer? "Whether you're 15, 25 or 65, if you're having trouble with your money and want to improve, the very first step you should take is to build a bank account buffer," said Money Under 30. "A bank account buffer is my name for what other people may call a cash cushion, mini emergency fund, rainy day fund or back-up savings. When you have a bank account buffer in place, you don't have to worry that a poorly timed Starbucks break you charged to your debit card will overdraw your account and trigger a $35 overdraft fee."

Calculate your ENTIRE payment

Principle and interest will only tell you part of the story. Same with principle, interest, taxes, and insurance. If you're not also taking into account any Private Mortgage Insurance you need to pay, your Homeowner's Association fee, and any special assessments, you're not looking at the whole picture.

Budget for additional expenses

This is not the place for that buffer referenced above, but, rather, a way to make sure you can really handle the home you want without living paycheck to paycheck or, even worse, going into even more debt just so you don't sink. If you don't currently have a yard or are renting, you may not be accustomed to paying landscaping fees. If your new home has a pool, don't forget to budget for that pool cleaner. If you're moving to a larger home, you may also have an increase in costs for your house cleaning service and utilities, and if your commute is longer, you may be paying more in gas and tolls. They are the little things that can creep up and affect your bottom line.

Don't do improvements right away

You might want to wait a few months to see how your expenses pan out before you empty your savings on a new kitchen. Ditto for buying a houseful of new furniture. The desire to fix up the house to your standards or pack it with all-new everything is strong. But a little patience can go a long way. Spreading out your purchases while you increase your savings and waiting for sales and zero interest credit offers can help keep your budget in check.

Be careful with an equity line

Having equity in your home is great if it means you made a smart investment. But using it irresponsibly can quickly make your budget spin out of control. The good news is that, according to CoreLogic's MarketPulse, the number of homeowners who are under water is dropping - now about a third of the 2010 total. The bad news is that equity can be tempting, and stripping your home of it—and making not-so-smart decisions with the money - can create an underwater situation. If you take out a line with the intent on doing some updates or renovations, you'll want to make sure that you can comfortably afford the new payment and that the renovations you're making will provide a return on investment.

Get a home warranty

Experts are on the fence about this—some say you absolutely have to have one while others find it a waste of money. But if you're the type for whom coming up with thousands of dollars to replace the faulty air conditioner that's no longer conditioning anything or a refrigerator that's stopped refrigerating will be a hardship, the minimal monthly output is far outweighed by the peace of mind of knowing most of your large repairs will be covered.

Claim a homestead exemption

In some states, you can file a homestead exemption to lower your property taxes. Savings can add up to hundreds of dollars per year or more. You can get more information and learn who's eligible here.

Change your tax withholding

One of the great benefits of homeownership is the tax writeoff. If you leave your withholdings alone, you may expect to get a big chunk of money back at the end of the year, as long as nothing else has changed. But by adjusting your withholdings, you can hold on to more of your money every month to help offset higher expenses.

After you buy a home, "payroll withholdings should also be reexamined and, perhaps, reduced to account for the reduction in net tax liability," said HGTV. "Talk to your tax preparer or use the IRS withholding calculator, to get the numbers right."

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

How To Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

Your home is your place to rest, play, and spend time with your family. It should be a place of comfort, and this comfort need not come at a high cost. Many homes, however, waste a lot of energy in ways that can be prevented. Here are five ways to make your home more energy-efficient.

Replace or Weatherize All Windows

Windows are one of the biggest sources of heat gain and heat loss in a home. Both heat gain and heat loss rob you of comfort and keep your energy bills higher than they have to be, whether during the summer or winter months.

Windows rank high on the list because of air leakage around the frame and the heat that transfers through windowpanes. Old single-pane windows provide little protection against heat transference. If you replace these windows with energy-efficient windows you should see immediate savings and improved climate control in your home.

When choosing windows, consider the frame and not just glass. Frame material and frame design matters. Hinged windows allow less air leakage than sliding, single-hung or double-hung do. Avoid metal because these conduct heat. Choose insulated vinyl frames or insulated fiberglass frames for the most efficiency and durability.

Pay attention to glass efficiency ratings such as the U-factor and the solar heat gain coefficient. The right windows to choose depend largely upon regional climate. If you live in an area with hot summers and mild winters, you want glass that blocks out as much solar heat gain as possible.

Low-emissivity coatings on windowpanes reduce heat conduction through the glass, which benefits you by keeping hot air inside in winter and hot air outside in summer. There are other coatings and tints available, but you should still look for the Energy Star label. Only products that have met strict requirements by the EPA qualify for this special certification.

Seal the Home's Thermal Envelope

Air leakage through your home's exterior is another source of energy waste. Air infiltration makes your heating and cooling system work harder to maintain climate control. In order to find all of the hidden leaks, schedule an energy audit with an HVAC company. Until you do, seal the noticeable leaks. These can usually be found in the following areas:

  • • Around window frames and doors

  • • Beneath baseboards

  • • Around flues and chimneys

When sealing leaks in most areas, you can use caulk, weather-stripping or expandable spray foam insulation. Another method to control air leaks is to replace poorly fitting doors or other features and to use hardware with a type that creates a better seal. One example is barn door hardware. This kind of hardware can create a better air seal in some cases because the door slides into place instead of swinging open. This creates fewer opportunities for gaps between the door and the frame.

Upgrade Your Home HVAC System

If your home's HVAC system is older than ten years, consider replacing it with a new energy-efficient system that is Energy Star certified. Improvements in design make these systems far more energy-efficient than any in the past. If they are sized correctly and installed correctly, you should see lower bills and improved comfort and improved air quality.

Upgrade Insulation

Most homes have only the minimum required insulation. Older homes might even fall far short of the minimum simply because the insulation has become too wet, or it has become compressed or it has shifted.

Adding insulation to the attic will have the largest effects. It doesn't matter which kind of insulation you use as much as it matters that it is properly installed, with no gaps, and that you use the recommended quantity for your region.

Adding insulation to exterior walls doesn't have to be a big remodeling project. Much of the time, it can be blown into walls by a contractor.

Use a Programmable Thermostat

These thermostats make a home more energy efficient in the following ways:

  • You won't have to remember to set the temperature lower or higher before you run out of the house each the morning, because you can program the thermostat to do it for you each day.

  • You can program different energy-saving temperature settings for special occasions, such as vacations, and you can still come home to a comfortable house.

  • Some new thermostats even allow you to check them remotely, sparing you from worrying about whether the home is getting too hot or cold while you are away.

By implementing these ideas, you have little to lose and a lot to gain in terms of comfort and savings. If it feels overwhelming or it is hard on your budget to make all of these changes at once, try to do them in steps. Each time you take even one step towards more energy efficiency, you will start saving money on energy bills.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Six Ways to Make Yourself Happier at Home

Your home is your haven. Or, at least, it should be. But is it really making you happy or are there aspects of your place that are bringing you down? Little fixes can turn it all around.

Get some houseplants

Put your green thumb to good use and surround yourself with houseplants. Not only will they add a fresh element to your décor (literally!), but they can also make your home healthier, and improve your mood.

“Houseplants are good for your health—and not just for their visual beauty,” said NBC News. “Why? They essentially do the opposite of what we do when we breathe: release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. This not only freshens up the air, but also eliminates harmful toxins. Extensive research by NASA has revealed that houseplants can remove up to 87 per cent of air toxin in 24 hours. Studies have also proven that indoor plants improve concentration and productivity (by up to 15 percent!), reduce stress levels and boost your mood.”

Put your stuff away

“A lived-in home is a loved home, right? But when your stuff starts to take over, it can create chaos—in your home, and your mind. “Pursuing a state of harmony between yourself and your home…confers a range of psychological benefits for reasons that are rooted in science,” said Thrive Global. “Studies have identified a direct link between the stress hormone cortisol and clutter. Cortisol is not just linked to stress. At elevated levels, it also causes depression.” In addition, decluttering “leads to eating better” and improves air quality.”
Paint something

Choose a wall, an old piece of furniture, or an entire room. It’s a manageable project you can do yourself and one that can totally change the energy of a space. Or, buy a canvas and create an art piece you can then hang in your home. “Creating art teaches you to be attuned with aesthetic of the visual world around you and makes you appreciate the beauty in and of life,” said Health Fitness Revolution. “You gain a new appreciation for the texture of a tree’s bark or the fur of a dog, of the various highlights and shadows playing on even the more bare of white walls. Embracing the beauty around you gives you a more positive outlook of the world and can even decrease the risk of mental illness.”

Make those little fixes

The burned-out light bulb 20 feet up in the living room. The broken drawer pull in the kitchen. All those little annoyances are stealing your happy. Pick a Sunday and attack them one by one or make a list and check it twice for your handyman so you can replace the long sighs with wide smiles.

Invest in a house cleaner

All that time taking care of your home leaves you little time to enjoy your home. If you can swing it, finding someone to help you with housework can be liberating in more ways than one. Not only will it free up some of your time, but a good, solid deep cleaning can make your home healthier, too.

Build a garden

Wouldn’t it be nice to grow your own veggies, or at least fresh herbs? Perhaps the best news about gardening is how it can make you feel, and not just when you’re eating what you have managed to grow. “Getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levels—contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain according to research,” said Djanbung Gardens. “Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system.”

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Happy February!

Happy February!

Roses are red, and violets are blue. Whether you want to buy or sell, I’m here to help you! Now that Punxsutawney Phil was not able to find his shadow and we are in for an earlier spring (yay!), you might find yourself looking around your current home and hungry for a change. Whether you’re looking to buy or sell, I’m here to guide you on your journey to new homeownership. 

Here’s some good news to help alleviate your post-holiday blues: mortgage rates are continuing to fall nationwide. For once, this is glad tidings for both buyers and sellers. Lower rates mean properties have become more affordable for buyers to purchase as monthly payments will be a little bit lower. It also means that buyers may be more motivated to act quickly and take advantage of these lower rates before they start to rise again, so sellers may see their properties stay on the market for a shorter time.

So if you’re looking to buy or sell this February, the market is moving in your favor. And who knows! You might be collecting Valentine’s in a brand-new (or new-to-you!) mailbox sooner than you think.

New Year, New Start!

New Year, New Start,

As 2018 has come to close, you’re no doubt busy drafting up a list of resolutions to get 2019 off to a strong start.  As you’re writing up your goals, plans, and aspirations, you might find yourself looking around your current home and thinking that the time has come to upgrade.  I’m here to help you cross off buying or selling your home from that resolution list!

I’m seeing the trends from earlier in the year continuing on into 2019.  Prices on new construction are continuing to rise, which means buyers are more likely to pursue a pre-existing home.  Earlier this year, as demand outpaced supply, a fiercely competitive market led to rising home prices nationwide.  However, buyers should be experiencing some relief.  From coast to coast, the number of closings has dropped to a four-year low point.  A longer time spent on the market means that sellers will be more willing to negotiate on their list price.  This good news to buyers may sound like bad news for sellers—but have no fear.  I’m here to work with you to set a list price that will keep you happy and bring in the right buyer.

Now that the champagne has been poured and Auld Lang Syne has been sung, give me a call today!   I can help you assess your current standing and get you on the road to homeownership today.

Happy New Year!

New Year's Resolutions For Your Home

Sure, you can make a resolution to start hitting the gym or eating better, but don’t neglect your home! These New Year’s resolutions will help your space look better, which will naturally make you feel better—and there’s no kale or cardio involved!

Declutter!

Not only will it look great to have cleaned-out those closets and cleared-off those counters, but it will feel great, too. “It turns out that your well-being could also become victim to what we might call the ‘clutter effect,’” said Psychology Today.“A collection of recent studies on stress, life satisfaction, physical health, and cognition all speak to the value of streamlining.”

Donate, donate donate

There are so many worthy organizations out there who are desperate for clothes, shoes, linens, and housewares. Let The Pinnacle List help you decide what to let go of. “Employ the 6-month rule,” they said. “It’s undeniably hard to get rid of things you have fond memories of, but if you need to reevaluate your space needs, it’s time to start donating or throwing out some of your stuff. If you have clothing, odds and ends, or even appliances that you haven’t used in the past six months, odds are that’s not going to change out of the blue. If it’s hit the half-year mark and those items are gathering dust, put them in the donation bin.”

Get your credit in check

Do you check your credit report every year? You can do so for free, and keeping up with your credit report frequently will ensure that you can quickly take care of anything that’s incorrect. Make this the year that you also take care of legitimate issues on your credit. Whether you’re already a homeowner and aren’t intending to move anytime soon or are looking to buy this year, getting your credit in order and improving your score can leave you better prepared for anything that pops up.

Clear out the entry

You don’t notice the pile of shoes and tangle of jackets and umbrellas right inside your front door, but everyone who comes through your house does. Take a fresh look at your home this and resolve to streamline that entry. You know what they say about first impressions.

Invest in a good mattress

We don’t want to invoke the selling proposition of mattress companies, because, frankly, that whole seven-year rule (and the reason they say to replace your mattress every seven years) is disgusting. So, we’ll just leave it at this: You deserve to be more comfortable. And, you can do that these days rather inexpensively. Business Insider’s most recommended option is the Leese Sapira Mattress for $1,360, while the much-loved Nectar is just $699.

Clean your showerhead

Your shower could be SO. MUCH. BETTER. And don’t you deserve a better shower in 2019? Chances are, the flow is being compromised. Thankfully, the fix is easy. “If the flow from your showerhead is growing weaker, the cause is probably mineral buildup,” said Family Handyman. “Many manufacturers recommend that you remove the showerhead and soak it in a half-and-half mixture of warm water and vinegar (any type). But there’s really no need to remove the head. Just pour the mix into a heavy-duty plastic bag and attach it to the shower arm with a rubber band. The acid in the vinegar dissolves minerals, but prolonged contact can harm some plastics and metal finishes, so remove the bag every 15 minutes and check the shower flow.”

Make your money make money

This is a great time to review your bank accounts and credit cards to see if you’re getting the best yield and interest rates. There are some great high-yield bank accounts offered by online-only banks, while zero-interest credit cards are a great option for those who want to transfer a balance so they can pay it off more quickly.

Pump up your emergency fund

If you already have one, it may be time to up the amount you contribute. If you don’t have one and think you’re too strapped for cash to start putting away money for a rainy day, even the couple bucks you save here and there from skipping Starbucks can help. An “emergency savings fund provides a financial safety net, and your new home is the perfect reason to start one,” said NerdWallet. “Remember, if the furnace quits on a cold night, there’s no landlord to call. Laid off unexpectedly or surprised by major car repairs? Mortgage payments are still expected on time and in full. Without an emergency fund, these expenses could force you into credit card debt or worse. Ideally, your emergency fund should cover several months of expenses, but it’s OK to start small. Set aside a portion of every paycheck with the goal of saving $500 as quickly as possible, and then contribute as much as you can moving forward.”

Take a look at your insurance

Are your homeowner’s insurance and car insurance policies handled by separate companies? You could be missing out on big discounts. Ask friends and family for a referral to an insurance broker who can review your current insurance, make recommendations, and hopefully find you better options. Depending on where you live, you may also want to ask about insurance for things like earthquakes, floods, and fires, which may not be required but would give you greater peace of mind.

Become more water-wise

A few simple changes can reduce the amount of water you use at home and save you money “Our houses are thirsty,” said Houselogic. “The average household uses about 400 gallons of water each day, or almost $700 per year in water and sewer costs. Making a few simple changes, such as installing EPA-certified WaterSense products, could trim up to $200 from your annual water bill. Add to that energy savings from reduced costs to heat water, and your yearly savings could reach $300 or more per year. Replacing your pre-1994, water-guzzling toilet with a low-flow toilet prevents $90 worth of water costs from being flushed away. HE (high-efficiency) toilets use compressed air and electric water pumps to flush with less than 1 gallon of water; older models required up to 8 gallons.” 

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Keeping Up Your Home's Curb Appeal

Homeowners are responsible for the quality of their home with the maintenance and care that they provide for the building throughout the year. Every home requires a specific amount of upkeep to ensure that it maintains its value and has a high level of appeal. To keep your neighbors in awe of your home, there are a few important steps to take to allow it to stand out in the local area.

Install a Fence

The curb appeal of your home is one of the most important features of the property and determines how much it stands out in the neighborhood. A fence can enclose your yard and prevent animals or those passing by from walking on the grass. The fence is also considered to be an extra security measure that can deter intruders from accessing the building if they are planning a break-in.

To enhance the design of your home, choose a cast iron fence to create a contemporary design that looks high-end and increases the value of your home with a regal touch. You can also add a white picket fence that is classic with its style and will look timeless in future years.

Add a New Mailbox

The mailbox is one of the first features of the home that is noticed by your neighbors and should be updated. If your mailbox is worn or the letters have faded, consider installing a new box that has fresh paint and is visible for the mailman to see while passing by your home. Choose a mailbox that matches the style of your house to ensure that it blends in well with the property. You can also install a new mailbox on the front porch to make it easy to access and visible from the outside.

Paint the Exterior

The color of your home will determine the appearance of your property, making it important to paint the exterior with a fresh coat of paint that allows the home to look updated. Consider choosing a neutral color that blends in with the rest of the houses on the block to ensure that it doesn't stand out or look awkward. Using a bold color can cause it to lose its value. The trim or paint on the shutters should complement the main shade of the home.

Purchase the Required Backings

There are many features of your home that may become damaged due to natural disasters or water damage on the property. You can protect your pocketbook by obtaining a home warranty. This will cover the cost of repairs when they're needed. The service contract can replace your wooden floors if pipes burst or appliances that have worn out, to ensure that you save money over time and still maintain the quality of your home.

Remove Clutter

Keeping your yard tidy will allow it to stand out by removing toys, equipment, or lawn decorations that can detract from the appeal of the property. Make it a point to remove clutter that develops during the week, which will create an appealing environment that makes it look like the home is maintained well.

Increase Your Landscaping

The landscaping is the first impression that is made on your guests and neighbors. Knowing this makes it important to mow the lawn every week or two and pull weeds that can damage the yard over time. You can also add extra color to the property with flower pots on and around the porch and shrubs that fill in bare spots near the siding of the home. Add fertilizer to the lawn to increase the color of the grass and water it in longer increments to allow the soil to soak in more moisture, which will penetrate the roots and will allow it to grow more in the spring and summer seasons.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.