Rethinking Spaces – Under the Stairs

I’m sure that all of you have thought at least once “What a waste of space!” when looking at that blank wall under your stairs. Here are a few ideas so you can turn that wasted space into something that makes you smile.

Drawers for Shoes (or other items)

drawers

Playroom for the Kids (big or small)

playroom

Bookcase or Shelves

bookcase

Closet or Mudroom

closet

Office

office

Dog Kennel

dog kennel

Reading Nook

reading

And if you’re stairs happen to be enclosed like this one:

104_0476

And you’re able to access the wall behind you can have a great storage area like this

Pantry.

Pantry

We would love to hear any ideas you have on how to reclaim that lost space under the stairs.

 

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How to Pick a Dog

bella

You’ve purchased that perfect new home and have gotten all settled in. Everything has been unpacked. All the pictures have been hung on the walls. The kids are settled in their new school. But something is still missing. Maybe it’s time for a dog?

Getting a new pet is a large step. Be sure to plan ahead. Ask a lot of questions from your local veterinarian and do plenty of research. Most importantly be certain that everyone in the family is on board with the idea of having a new furry family member.

Here is a questionnaire from PEDIGREE® Brand to help you find the right breed for you.

Find Your Perfect Breed

Be sure to check out your local shelters & rescues for your new best friend.  And stay tuned for some exciting news from the Team George Weeks family about a new Team member coming soon!

Potential Buyer Turnoffs

By Zac Bogen via RE/MAX Choice Properties

Family room 700 - Potential Buyer TurnoffsWhile all real estate markets are unique and every buyer has there own set of criteria in mind while looking for a new home. There are some universal turn offs for many potential home buyers. As the house hunting season is reaching full swing here are some of the most common pitfalls committed by home sellers that might lead a potential buyer to look elsewhere.

Outdated Kitchen Appliances 

If your home’s kitchen  is rocking some appliances from the 1970’s maybe it time to consider an update. Many buyers are looking for a home that is move-in ready. Looking at an outdated kitchen can just look like work for a buyer and might cost you a potential offer. If this sounds like your kitchen then maybe it’s time to ditch the lime-green oven for something a little more contemporary.

Evidence of Indoor Pets

Yes, your pet is adorable, everyone on the web thinks so, but your potential buyer might not share the same views. Putting away pet toys, food bowls, and beds in the garage might be the better play. Some home buyers equate indoor pets with funky smells, dirt, and saliva and this might scare them away. Removing these items nip this in the bud.

Cigarettes, Ashtrays, and a Deep Clean

The smell of smoke can be a major obstacle when trying to sell your home. The smell can be absorbed into your carpet, drapes, and your walls. This can require a new coat of paint on your walls and replacing those smoke cured decorations. Consider taking the smoking outdoors when you’re house is listed.

Pools; In-ground and Above Ground

This is a region specific issue. Most would assume that this is a selling point, but some buyers might just see them as maintenance issue and potential insurance liability. If you live in a climate where having a pool is less common you might want to think twice before you take the plunge into installing a pool in your backyard. If you’re in your home for the long-haul then consider this issue on a case by case basis.

Carpeted Hardwood Floors

Before you lay that carpet over your hardwood floors consider that many potential home buyers prefer hardwood to carpet. It’s seen as easier to maintain, more aesthetically pleasing, and doesn’t have the allergies issues that carpet can carry. Letting the buyer decide if they want carpet is easier than trying to get a potential buyer to see past it if they have don’t like it.

Converted Garages

Before you covert your garage into the newest part of your home take into account that many potential buyers might prefer having the traditional garage. This is especially true if your home is short on parking. The garage serves as a place to store their car, as extra storage space, and place to store lawn care equipment. Converting this multi-use room might leave a buyer looking elsewhere.

6 Must Have House Hunting Apps

By Zac Bogen via RE/MAX Choice Properties

The house hunting season has arrived! Step into the information age with our list of must have apps for house hunters. Let us give you the rundown on the latest and greatest real estate tools to help you while you are on the prowl for your new home this season.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfgangkuhnle/4163909778/

Lovely

They know from personal experience just how painful it can be to rent an apartment, and we think it should be faster, easier, and more transparent. So they created Lovely, a real rental marketplace that helps renters find the homes they want and helps property owners and managers find the renters they want.

Homesnap

Homesnap is an amazing real estate app that works on iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Using Homesnap, you can snap a photo of any home to find out all about it. Homesnap draws on our massive homes database to show you how much the home is worth, when it last sold, interior features details, local school ratings, similar listings, nearby sales and more.

Zillow Mortgages

The Zillow Mortgages App is an essential tool for homeowners and shoppers alike. Enjoy easy-to-use calculators, shop customized quotes and more, right on your mobile device.

Smarter Agent

Smarter Agent is a mobile application pioneer that has created the first scalable mobile cascading Platform as a Service (PaaS) that enables widespread content distribution to consumers through native and HTML.5 apps. Smarter Agent’s BREEZE Mobile technology can transform any single global app suite into thousands of mobile solutions personalized for each of your sales people.

Redfin

See every new home for sale, just minutes after it’s listed, with the Redfin Real Estate App. Get access to the same information real estate agents use for a faster, smarter home search on the go.

Bankrate.com

Whether you’re buying a new home or considering a refinance, the Bankrate Mortgage Calculator & Mortgage Rates app helps you make smart decisions about your personal finances. This easy-to-use app allows you to calculate monthly mortgage payments, get real-time mortgage rate quotes from lenders and find homeowners insurance all in one place so you can shop for your next mortgage right from your iPhone or iPad!

Most common mortgage pitfalls when purchasing a new home

By Shawn Kaplan via The Murfreesboro Post

full 38490 - Most common mortgage pitfalls when purchasing a new homeThere is definitely no denying mortgage loans are more difficult to get these days than years past.  If we solely based it on some of the major publications we read these days you might even think it is nearly impossible to acquire a loan to buy a home. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Indeed the days of “low documentation” and “stated income” loans are gone and lending has gone back to common sense parameters.  However for many who can prove income and have managed their credit and debts properly, the lending world is still freely allowing individuals to borrow for a home mortgage.  Below are three of the most common pitfalls I have seen clients make when purchasing a new home.

#1 Failure To Examine/Repair Credit Problems Prior To Loan Application.
99.9% of potential new homeowners and borrowers have no idea what type of credit they have or how to repair any adverse credit which may exist. They fail to realize that credit is one of the key factors in acquiring a mortgage or
refinancing a current mortgage. Credit problems not only slow down the process of getting a home loan, but can damage your ability to make numerous other purchases.  In addition lenders may require higher premiums, rates, or costs for lower tiered scores due to risk factors involved.  Review your credit report at least on a yearly basis.

Establishing a relationship with a long term lending professional will allow them to give you free advice each year on how to maximize your credit potential and score.   Many lenders will even provide the report for you or your spouse free of charge.

#2 Looking for a home before you look for a mortgage.    
Take the necessary time to go and sit down with your lending professional prior to hitting the market.  The clients with the best overall experiences get pre-approved for a mortgage and then go looking for a home that the mortgage can buy. Some real estate agents won’t even take you house hunting until they see your letter of approval. Getting pre-approved means a lender will check your credit history and may ask for pay stubs or other documentation on savings accounts, retirement accounts and other investments. You’ll be pre-approved to borrow a specific amount of money. When you couple that amount with the down payment you plan to make, you will know how much house you can afford. Don’t bother getting pre-qualified. There is a difference, and getting pre-qualified is virtually useless. There is no real credit-checking involved in pre-qualification, just conversation, and no money is loaned until the checking is done.  Meeting with your lender and getting fully pre-approved will bring clarity to the purchase process, eliminate paperwork hassle for you and your agent, maximize your negotiating on your new home purchase, and avoid missing out on the best possible package deal.

#3 Failure to Find a Reputable and Experienced Mortgage Lender to Help Finance the Home.
First and foremost choose a local lender.  The days of getting a mortgage loan over the phone or internet are history.  We have seen where that has gotten us in the past.  You need a face to face professional to do business with.

Associating yourself with an honest, high quality and service-oriented mortgage banker is probably the most important
ingredient in finding home financing. This is an important decision in your life – it is probably one of the largest financial transactions you will make. It’s not something you want to treat lightly. Dealing with the right professional can mean the difference between having your loan application approved or rejected.  It can also cost you thousands of dollars in immediate or long term costs.

So, how do I find the ideal person to handle my loan? This shouldn’t be too difficult. There are still many reputable, knowledgeable professionals. Just be sure to ask a few good questions before choosing one. I recommend asking:

• Can you provide any references? If they do, then, call!

• How long have you been in business?

• Are you a direct lender or a mortgage broker?

• How – and when – can I get in touch with you? Your loan officer should be available through many channels (phone, fax, pager, e-mail) at times that are convenient for you.

• Do you offer any guarantees on interest rate, payment, or closing cost figures for your clients?

Overall purchasing a home should be a fun and exciting time in your life…and it most certainly can be!  The decision is actually entirely up to you and how you decide to go about the process, so choose wisely.

Deciding the right team of a real estate and mortgage professionals to help guide you is the key element to smooth sailing!

Shared via The Murfreesboro Post

Making a house look its best is key to quick sale

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Realtors suggest allowing as much natural light to come into the house as possible. / John Partipilo / The Tennessean

By Bill Lewis via The Tennessean

When Terry Morgan-Grant and her husband Charles Grant decided to move from their Nashville home, they asked their Realtors for guidance about how to sell it for the best price possible.

The adviceicon1 - Making a house look its best is key to quick sale was a bit surprising, she said.

“They took away all the plastic plants, and there’s no knit cover on the toilet. You don’t see that in beautiful hotel rooms. That’s so dated,” said Morgan-Grant.

By now everyone’s heard tales about how hot the Nashville real estate market is and how a lot of homes are sellingicon1 - Making a house look its best is key to quick sale for full price after just a few days or weeks on the market. What’s missing from those stories, however, is the work that went into getting those homes ready for sale.

Even in today’s market, where buyers are making multiple offers and competing for homes in the most desirable neighborhoods, real estate is still a price war and a beauty contest. To sell, homes must be reasonably priced and have to put their best foot forward.

“We all know the old saying ‘location, location, location.’ But the real truth is location, condition and price,” said Re/Max Choice Properties Realtor Melissa Allen. She and her husband, Jim, represent Terry Morgan-Grant and Charles Grant.

Their house, at 5112 Stone Mountain Court, is in the desirable South Nashville area between Cool Springs and Green Hills. With 3,756 square feet and a downstairs master, it’s expected to sell quickly. But the Allens left nothing to chance and advised the couple to declutter. Then, home stager Kristie Barnett (thedecorologist.com) added professional design touches.

“It looks so clean and open, like a breath of fresh air,” Morgan-Grant said of her house.

‘Perfect and shining’

Staging is so important that the Allens provide it at their own expense for every client.

Statistics show that a staged home sells in just one-third the time and for up to 17 percent more than a non-staged house, said Jim Allen.

“We want the home perfect and shining when it hits the market. The first few weeks on the market are crucial,” he said.

Kari Thirsk discovered that there is just one potential downside to following your Realtor’s advice.

“My home has never looked better. I don’t want to sell it,” she said.

She and her husband, Russ Thirsk, are moving out of state and selling their home at 6763 Cold Stream Drive in Bellevue. They lived there for seven years after moving from Chicago and won’t be surprised if it is purchased by someone else new to the city.

“Nashville has gotten so hot in the last year, in part because of the TV show (ABC’s ‘Nashville’) and all the great press,” said Keri Thirsk.

Even so, their real estate agent, Crye-Leike Realtor Sarah Milligan, offered advice about how to make sure the home puts its best foot forward. A stager rearranged furniture, and the house was decluttered.

“All extras need to go,” said Milligan. “Anything smaller than a basketball is a knickknack and needs to be packed up for your move. More space equals more money.”

Removing emotion

Milligan also recommends that sellersicon1 - Making a house look its best is key to quick sale pay special attention to what she calls the “money rooms.”

“Buyers are willing to pay top dollar for kitchens, living areas and master bedrooms and baths. Make sure these three areas are in top-notch shape and will appeal to modern taste,” she said.

While they are getting the house ready, sellers also have to get themselves ready to let go of a home where they may have lived for years.

“You need to remove emotion from the equation. Think of your house as a marketable commodity. Your goalicon1 - Making a house look its best is key to quick sale is for others to see it as their potential home, not yours,” said Milligan.

A Realtor can help a sellericon1 - Making a house look its best is key to quick sale avoid costly mistakes, like having unrealistic expectations about a home’s value or failing to do little things that can make it more appealing, said Lauren Sullivan, a Realtor with Parks Realty — Historic Franklin.

Even with a shortage of desirable homes on the market, every house for sale has to make a good impression.

“We’re not in such a shortage that you don’t have to do anything,” said Sullivan.

Shared from The Tennessean

Own a Home? You May Be Entitled to Tax Breaks

Taxes 7e5c07 300x195 - Own a Home? You May Be Entitled to Tax Breaks

By Mary Boone via Zillow Blog

U.S. tax season officially runs from Jan. 31 to April 15. While several energy-efficient home improvement tax credits recently expired, there are still many tax breaks available to homeowners.

Whether you own a single-family home, condo, co-op apartment or mobile home, you may qualify — just be aware that, in most cases, you’ll need to itemize your taxes in order to take advantage of these deductions and credits. Here are a few of the tax breaks you’ll want to check out.

Mortgage interest deduction

In most cases, you can deduct all of your home mortgage interest. How much you can deduct depends on when you took out the mortgage, the amount of the mortgage and how you use mortgage proceeds. You can deduct your home mortgage interest only if your mortgage is a secured debt. Your mortgage is a secured debt if you put your home up as collateral to protect the interests of the lender. You may qualify for a mortgage interest deduction on a loan secured for your primary and second home, even if your second home is a boat or RV with cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities.

The interest you pay on a mortgage for a third, fourth or fifth home may be deductible if the proceeds of the loan were used for business, investment or other deductible purposes; check with a tax accountant for details.

Deduction of points

If you bought a home in 2013 and paid points in order to obtain your home mortgage, these fees are included on the income tax deductions list and can be deducted. If you refinanced your home, these points are still deductible, but it must be done over the life of the mortgage.

Exclusion on sales gains

If you sold a home in 2013, you may qualify for an exclusion on the net sales gain (selling price minus purchase price plus improvements) of up to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for a couple. This exclusion requires that the home was used as your personal residence for two of the past five years. Things become more complicated if you lived in the house, moved out and then moved back in; be sure to consult a tax professional to see if you qualify for a partial exclusion.

Deduction of property taxes

You can deduct your state and local property taxes, as long as they are based on the assessed value of the real property. If you pay your property taxes out-of-pocket, you need to locate your bills to determine how much you paid.

If your money is being held in escrow for the purpose of paying property taxes, you cannot claim this deduction until the money is actually taken out of escrow and paid. If you receive a partial refund of your property tax, the amount of the deduction you can claim will be reduced.

Mortgage insurance deduction

Mortgage insurance provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is commonly known as a funding fee; if provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, it’s referred to as a guarantee fee. The funding fee or guarantee fee can be included in the amount of your home loan or paid in full at the time of closing. These fees can be deducted fully in tax year 2013 if the mortgage insurance contract was issued in 2013.

If you pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), that’s a cost you probably won’t be able to deduct — unless you meet the requirements of a special PMI law that allows deductions of PMI payments on loans originated or refinanced between Jan. 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2013, and that meet certain loan amount limits.

Home office deduction

Beginning in tax year 2013, taxpayers may use a simplified option when figuring the deduction for business use of their home. Both homeowners and renters can take advantage of this deduction, as long as the space serves as your principal place of business and is regularly and exclusively used for business purposes. You’re entitled to a deduction of $5 per square foot of the home used for business, up to 300 square feet.

If the simplified option doesn’t appeal to you, you may still use the regular method (required for tax years 2012 and prior) and determine the actual expenses of your home office: mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs and depreciation. If you use the regular method, deductions for a home office are based on the percentage of your home devoted to business use.

Energy-savings deductions

If you installed a geothermal heat pump, small wind turbine or solar energy system in your home in 2013, you may be able to claim a tax credit for up to 30 percent of the cost of installation. The credit has no upper limit and applies to both existing homes and new construction, but not to rental properties. This credit runs through the end of 2016.

You can also get a credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of residential fuel cells, up to $500 per 0.5 kilowatt of power capacity. This credit also expires Dec. 31, 2016.

Clergy, military housing allowance

Ministers and members of the U.S. armed services who receive a housing allowance that is not taxable can deduct their real estate taxes and home mortgage. Even better news? You don’t have to reduce your deductions by your nontaxable allowance.

Shared from Zillow Blog

Highest Property Taxes in America

By Jeanne Sahadi

131122101416 property tax map btn 620xa - Highest Property Taxes in AmericaIf you don’t want to grind your teeth at night over your property tax bill, steer clear of Manhattan’s New York suburbs and those in northern New Jersey.

They’re home to the three counties that charge the highest average property taxes in the country.

By contrast, a number of counties in Alabama and Louisiana have some of the lowest.

Those are among the findings of a new residentialproperty tax study from the Tax Policy Center, which analyzed data from the American Community Survey.

Across the United States as a whole, between 2007 and 2011, 60% of counties reported average property tax burdens of between $500 and $1,500 a year.

That might cover one month’s tax burden for many homeowners in one of the three most expensive counties: Westchester County, N.Y. ($9,647 a year); Nassau County, N.Y., ($9,080) and Bergen County, N.J. ($8,893).

Another five counties in New Jersey had average annual burdens topping $8,000.

By contrast, of the 24 counties nationwide with annual property taxes below $250 a year, nearly all were in Alabama and Louisiana, the study found.

In some states, property taxes are modest in dollar terms, but rank high when the tax burden is measured as a share of home price.

Related: American dream homes: What you’ll pay in 10 cities

Parts of Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota and Ohio fall into this category. Their property taxes on average well exceed 1% of home prices, whereas in most counties in the nation, the average property taxes fall below the 1% mark.

Property taxes are some of the most opaque for taxpayers to figure out.

For one thing, there’s no single formula that every county and state uses to calculate them.

In addition, the “assessed” value of your home on which your property taxes are based can bear little resemblance to your home’s market value.

And there’s no telling from one year’s assessment to another how high your bill will be. “[M]any localities set a revenue target to meet expenditure needs and then vary the tax rate to meet this target, conditional on the tax base,” the study said.

No wonder, then, when asked by Gallup what they considered to be the least fair tax, the percent of Americans who chose the local property tax has nearly doubled, from 24% in 1988 to 42% in 2005.

Of course, counties with higher property taxes tend to spend more on things like education and public services. They may also have higher priced homes. Or they may be higher simply because the local government isn’t bringing in other major sources of revenue, like an income tax.

“In general, localities in states with high property tax burdens tend to have little or no other local taxes,” the Tax Policy Center study noted.

Shared from CNN Money

Should You List Your Home During the Holidays?

By Brendon Desimone

Christmas lights - Should You List Your Home During the Holidays?With the holidays approaching, sellers often wonder if they should keep their properties on the market or take them off? Or if they haven’t listed their homes yet, should they wait until after the first of the year? Maybe hold off until spring?

Conventional wisdom used to be that you shouldn’t even try to sell your home during the busy holiday season. Potential home buyers were too preoccupied with attending parties, cooking meals, buying presents or planning vacations. With all that going on, there just wasn’t time to ride around with a real estate agent, looking at properties.

But with the Internet, smartphones, tablets and our always-on lifestyle, that conventional wisdom isn’t relevant anymore. The reality is, the home buying season is now year-round.

Here’s why you should consider listing your home during the holidays, or even in January.

Today’s buyers never stop looking online

Today, serious buyers are always looking — and the holidays are no exception. They may check out the latest listings in a Zillow Mobile app before bed or while waiting for the kids’ school holiday show to start.

Our hectic lifestyles also play a role. Many serious buyers today work hard. They don’t shift into holiday mode until the last minute. Even during the holiday break, they’re still squeezing in work. There’s no such thing for them as “going off the grid.” So why not continue to monitor real estate listings, too?

The inventory — and the competition — is usually lighter

Despite our always-on lifestyles, many sellers still believe buyers can’t be bothered to look for a home between, say, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. At the same time, sellers who’ve had their homes on the market often take them off during the holidays.

The net effect is that the inventory for good homes often tightens this time of year. So there’s less competition for sellers, at a time when motivated buyers are out there looking — and no doubt wishing there were more properties to see.

If you’ve been considering selling, are motivated, are flexible on timing and have a home that truly sparkles, consider listing right after Thanksgiving. There’s still a window of several weeks to get buyers into your home before the end of the year. And those buyers flipping through listings at their kids’ basketball game will be excited to see something new and awesome hit the market — especially if there’s a lack of good inventory in their area. These buyers will be motivated to see your home, regardless of what the calendar says.

Home not selling? Now’s the time to lower the price or change your strategy

If your property has been on the market for months, most buyers and their agents will see it as stale or overpriced and disregard it no matter how great it is or how light the competition is.

In that case, it’s time to take action, and the year-end holidays can be a great opportunity to shift course. Dramatically reducing the price or overcoming some major obstacle that’s been preventing the sale might be what’s needed to sell your home. If you received lower offers early on but weren’t ready to accept them, or you keep hearing there are issues with how your property shows, this is a good time to show the market you’re listening and are serious about selling. The motivated buyers, desperate for good inventory, will notice you and take a look.

You might even get a sale closed before the end of the year. Before you make any big changes, talk it over with your real estate agent, as always.

Don’t want to be bothered during the holidays? List in January

Admittedly, the thought of keeping the house clean, holding open houses and vacating to accommodate last-minute showings during the holidays is a deal killer for some would-be sellers.

If so, consider listing your property after New Year’s Day. Traditionally, not much inventory comes onto the market in January. It’s cold in most places, the leaves are off the trees and landscaping is dead. Many sellers wait until the spring instead, a more conventional time to sell.

January inventory is still very tight. And yet, each January, buyers call up agents, wanting to get into the market. Often, new buyers — with their fresh New Year’s resolutions to stop wasting money on rent and buy a home — are ready to jump into the market as soon as possible. Some buyers are motivated to search for a home in January because of year-end tax planning.

Whatever the buyers’ motivation, for sellers it means one thing: Demand for homes can increase at a time when inventory is traditionally low. And that means if you’re ready to sell, you’ll have an even more “captive” audience during the holidays, all the way through January.

Shared from Zillow Blog