6 Worth-the-Price Fix-Ups

Simple and affordable do-it-yourself projects can greatly increase a home’s resale value, according to HomeGain’s annual home improvement and staging survey.

The marketing company surveyed nearly 600 real estate professionals to discover which DIY home improvement projects give sellers the biggest return for their buck. Here are six projects under $1,000 (amounts are estimated) that made the list.
  1. Cleaning and decluttering.  Remove any personal items, unclutter countertops, organize closets and shelves, and make the home sparkling clean.
    • $290 Cost
    • $1,990 Return
  2. Brightening.  Clean all windows inside and out, replace old curtains, update lighting fixtures, and remove anything that blocks light from the windows.
    • $375 Cost
    • $1,550 Return
  3. Smart staging.  Rearrange furniture, bring in new accessories and furnishings to enhance rooms, incorporate artwork, and play soft music in the background.
    • $550 Cost
    • $2,194 Return
  4. Landscaping enhancements.  Punch up the home’s curb appeal in the front and back yards by adding bark mulch, bushes, and flowers and ensuring current plants and grass are well-cared for and manicured.
    • $540 Cost
    • $1,932 return
  5. Repairing electrical or plumbing.  Fix leaks under the sinks, remove any mildew stains, and ensure all plumbing is in good working condition. Update the home’s electrical with new wiring for modern appliances, fix any lights or outlets that don’t work, and replace old plug points with new safety fixtures.
    • $535 Cost
    • $1,505 Return
  6. Replacing or shampooing dirty carpets.  Steam-clean carpets, replace any worn carpets, and repair any floor creaks.
    • $647 Cost
    • $1,739 Return

Excerpted from HomeGain’s 2011 Home Sale Maximizer Survey: www.homesalemaximizer.com

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IRS’s Top 10 Tax Tips for Home Sellers

The Internal Revenue Service has some important information to share with
individuals who have sold or are about to sell their home. If you have a gain
from the sale of your main home, you may qualify to exclude all or part of that
gain from your income. Here are ten tips from the IRS to keep in mind when
selling your home.

  1. In general, you are eligible to exclude the gain from income if you have
    owned and used your home as your main home for two years out of the five years prior to the date of its sale.
  2. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to
    exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases).
  3. You are not eligible for the exclusion if you excluded the gain from the
    sale of another home during the two-year period prior to the sale of your home.
  4. If you can exclude all of the gain, you do not need to report the sale on
    your tax return.
  5. If you have a gain that cannot be excluded, it is taxable. You must report it on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.
  6. You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your main home.
  7. Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you figure the adjusted basis of the home you sold, the gain (or loss) on the sale, and the gain that you can exclude.
  8. If you have more than one home, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your main home. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home. If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is ordinarily the one you live in most of the time.
  9. If you received the first-time homebuyer credit and within 36 months of the date of purchase, the property is no longer used as your principal residence, you are required to repay the credit. Repayment of the full credit is due with the income tax return for the year the home ceased to be your principal residence, using Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit. The full amount of the credit is reflected as additional tax on that year’s tax return.
  10. When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure you receive refunds or correspondence from the IRS. Use Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS of your address change.

For more information about selling your home, see IRS Publication 523,
Selling Your Home. This publication is available at www.irs.gov or by calling
800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Links:

  • Publication 523, Selling Your Home ( PDF)
  • Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit ( PDF)
  • Form 8822, Change of Address ( PDF)

 

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Determining Your Net

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Getting to Your Bottom Line When You Sell

By Diana Lundin

What’s the cost of selling your home? As a seller, you’re bound to face a parade of taxes, fees, commissions and miscellaneous that can whittle away up to 4 to 7 percent of your home’s sale price. So how do you know what you’ll walk away with? Once you receive an offer, or maybe even when you sign your listing
agreement, your real estate agent should give you a Seller’s Estimated Net Proceeds worksheet, which gives you an idea of all the costs that will be deducted when you close.  Costs vary state to state but in
general here are some of the fees your may encounter.
Mortgage Payoff Balance
Deductions from the sale price include your own home loan, second mortgages and home equity lines of credit.
Loan Payoff Fee
 Some lenders may charge you an administrative fee to pay off your loan.
Lien Release Document
If you owe money to either a contractor, court judgments or for property taxes, a lien may have been placed on your property and you must pay that money before the sale can close.
Prepayment Penalty
Find out from your lender if you have a prepayment penalty
clause if you pay off your loan early.
Recording fees
If you owe money on the property, you’ll need to pay this fee to show your debts have been fully paid.
Commissions for Listing and Selling Agents
This is the price you pay to the agents for making the sale of your house. Usually the fee is 6 percent, with half going to your agent’s brokerage and the rest going to the buyer’s agent’s brokerage. The agents get paid from their respective brokerages.
Notary Fees
Fee charged by a notary to verify your identity and to make sure the documents are executed properly.
Escrow Fees
The escrow company is the intermediary between you and the buyer ensuring that the money is handled properly. Escrow agents receive money from the lender, pay off your mortgage and closing costs, collect deposits, and give the proceeds to the lender. You may be able to split these costs with the buyer.
Title Search Fees
It’s not really insurance per se but title insurance is saying that you have the legal right to sell your home. Title companies search through public records to come up with a title insurance commitment. That commitment says you own the home and details anything else that may affect the title, such as mortgages, liens, easements, restrictions and homeowner association declarations.
Seller Concession
You and the buyer might agree to the price of a house but the buyer asks for a 3 percent closing cost concession. That concession is added on to the price of house and you give back that 3 percent to the seller to pay for closing costs.
Repairs
You may be required to pay for repairs, either by negotiation with the buyer or by a condition of the lender.
Home Warranty
Sometimes a seller will agree to foot the bill for a home warranty that offers a protection plan for the buyer’s first year in the home.
Termite Letter
This document may be required in certain parts of the country. There may be other costs associated
with selling your home so you’ll want to speak with your Realtor about them early on in the process. You don’t want to be surprised when you sit down at closing.

 

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The Top Seven Home Staging Mistakes

Here they are: the Big Seven Home Staging Mistakes.
  • Don’t forget your closets. Storage is a major selling point, but cluttered storage can kill a sale. Be sure to maximize all the storage spaces in your house. Either sell or use a storage unit to clear out the clutter to make your closets appear as spacious as possible. Buy some inexpensive shelving to organize your closets. And don’t forget the kitchen cabinets. Make sure that they are neat and tidy.
  • Don’t forget the pantry. The pantry is a specialized storage space for food. Make sure it is organized and that all items are grouped in a meaningful way. If a potential buyer looks in your pantry and sees a jumbled mess of food and paper goods, they will think that the pantry storage in your house is obviously not adequate.
  • Don’t forget the garage. I have never understood having a two-car garage packed so full of stuff that the cars have to stay in the driveway. Most two-car garages are at least 400 square feet. Maximize that space as much as you can. Clear it out, have a garage sale, give a bunch of stuff away, donate it to charity, but just get it out of the garage. Arrange necessities neatly by using a pegboard or other similar system. Make sure that you can get both cars in the garage.
  • Don’t forget the laundry room. The laundry room is often a no-man’s land of hidden and hiding socks, half empty bottles of cleaner, shoe polish and all the other odds and ends that you can’t find another place for. It’s a laundry room, people. It’s used for doing laundry. Go through everything in your laundry room and get rid of anything that doesn’t pertain to laundry. Everything that’s left should be arranged neatly.
  • Don’t forget the pictures. Most staging books will tell you to hide or store your personal family photos. This is fantastic advice. You want to make sure that your house is as “person-neutral” as possible, so it is very important that you depersonalize by getting rid of wedding pictures, family portraits and school pictures. If, however, that is all you have up on your walls, do invest in some inexpensive, generic pieces of art to hang on the walls so they don’t look too bare.
  • Don’t forget the refrigerator. Most people use their refrigerators as big metal advertising kiosks. What do they advertise? Your entire life: doctors’ appointments, snapshots, the school newsletter, your children’s artwork, coupons, the honey-do list–it’s all up there. Take it all down and put the honey-do list in your honey’s sock drawer.
  • Don’t forget the knick-knacks. Everyone has them–the coconut monkey head that you got on vacation to Hawaii, the collection of shotglasses from around the world, the toothpick holder collection. There is no need to show off your obsessive compulsive tendancies by showcasing 200 Pez dispensers. Seriously edit your collections to the ones that will appeal to the broadest range of potential buyers. Of those, limit the display to five pieces, maximum. The rest of what makes the house your home needs to get packed away awaiting a place of honor in your next home.
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HOW TO HOLD A SUCCESSFUL YARD SALE

Garage sales can be a great way to get rid of clutter — and earn a little extra cash — before you sell your home. But make sure the timing is right. Garage sales can take on a life of their own, and it might not be the best use of your energy right before putting your home on the market. Follow these tips for a successful sale.

1.  Don’t wait until the last minute. You don’t want to be scrambling to hold a garage sale the week before an open house. Depending on how long you’ve lived in the home and how much stuff you have to sell, planning
a garage sale can demand a lot of time and energy.

2.  Get a permit. Most municipalities will require you to obtain a
special permit or license in order to hold a garage sale. The permits are often
free or very inexpensive, but still require you to register with the city.

3.  See if neighbors want to join in. You can turn your garage sale into a block-wide event and lure more shoppers if you team up with neighbors. However, a permit may be necessary for each home owner, even if it’s
a group event.

4.  Schedule the sale. Sales on Saturdays and Sundays will generate the
most traffic, especially if the weather cooperates. Start the sale early, 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. is best, and be prepared for early birds.

5.  Advertise. Place an ad in free classified papers and Web sites, and in your local newspapers. Include the dates, time, and address. Let the public know if certain types of items will be sold, such as baby clothes, furniture, or weightlifting equipment. On the day of the sale, balloons and signs with
prominent arrows will help to grab the attention of passersby.

6.  Price your goods. Lay out everything that you plan to sell, and attach
prices with removable stickers. Remember, garage sales are supposed to be
bargains, so try to be objective as you set prices. Assign simple prices to
your goods: 50 cents, 3 for $1, $5, $10, etc.

7.  If it’s really junk, don’t sell it. Decide what’s worth selling and what’s not. If it’s really garbage, then throw it away.  Broken appliances, for example, should be tossed. (Know where a nearby electrical outlet is, in case a customer wants to make sure something works.)

8.  Check for mistakes. Make sure that items you want to keep don’t accidentally end up in the garage sale pile.

9.  Create an organized display. Lay out your items by category, and display neatly so customers don’t have to dig through boxes.

10.  Stock up on bags and newspapers. People who buy many small items will appreciate a bag to carry their goods. Newspapers are handy for wrapping fragile items.

11.  Manage your money. Make a trip to the bank to get ample change for
your cashbox. Throughout the sale, keep a close eye on your cash; never leave
the cashbox unattended. It’s smart to have one person who manages the money throughout the day, keeping a tally of what was purchased and for how much. Keep a calculator nearby.

12.  Prepare for your home sale. Donate the remaining stuff or sell it to a resale shop. Now that all of your clutter is cleared out, it’s time to focus on preparing your house for a successful sale!

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ENSURE YOUR PET’S SAFETY WHEN MOVING

Moving to a new home can be stressful on your pets, but there are many things you can do to make the process as painless as possible. Experts at The Pet Realty Network in Naples, Fla., offer these helpful tips for easing the transition and keeping pets safe during the move.
1. Update your pet’s tag.
Make sure your pet is wearing a sturdy collar with an identification tag that is labeled with your current contact information. The tag should include your destination location, telephone number, and cell phone number so that you can be reached immediately during the move.
2. Ask for veterinary records.
If you’re moving far enough away that you’ll need a new vet, you should ask for a current copy of your pet’s vaccinations. You also can ask for your pet’s medical history to give to your new vet, although that can normally be faxed directly to the new medical-care provider upon request. Depending on your destination, your pet may need additional vaccinations, medications, and health certificates. Have your current vet’s phone number handy in case of an
emergency, or in case your new vet would like more information about your pet.
3. Keep medications and food on hand.
Keep at least one week’s worth of food and medication with you in case of an emergency. Vets can’t write a prescription without a prior doctor/patient relationship, which can cause delays if you need medication right away. You may want to ask for an extra prescription refill before you move. The same preparation should be taken with special therapeutic foods — purchase an extra supply in case you can’t find the food right away in your new area.
4. Seclude your pet from chaos.
Pets can feel vulnerable on moving day. Keep them in a safe, quiet, well-ventilated place, such as the bathroom, on moving day with a “Do Not Disturb! Pets Inside!” sign posted on the door. There are many light, collapsible travel crates on the market if you choose to buy one.
However, make sure your pet is familiar with the new crate before moving day by gradually introducing him or her to the crate before your trip. Be sure the crate is well-ventilated and sturdy enough for stress-chewers; otherwise, a nervous pet could escape.
5. Prepare a first aid kit.
First aid is not a substitute for emergency veterinary care, but being prepared and knowing basic first aid could save your pet’s life. A few recommended supplies: Your veterinarian’s phone number, gauze to wrap wounds or to muzzle your pet, adhesive tape for bandages, non-stick
bandages, towels, and hydrogen peroxide (3 percent). You can use a door, board, blanket or floor mat as an emergency stretcher and a soft cloth, rope, necktie, leash, or nylon stocking for an emergency muzzle.
6. Play it safe in the car.
It’s best to travel with your dog in a crate; second-best is to use a restraining harness. When it comes to cats, it’s always best for their safety and yours to use a well-ventilated carrier in the car. Secure the crate or carrier with a seat belt and provide your pet with familiar toys. Never keep your pet in the open bed of a truck or the storage area of a moving van. In any season, a pet left alone in a parked vehicle is vulnerable to injury and theft. If you’ll be using overnight lodging, plan ahead by searching for pet-friendly hotels. Have plenty of kitty litter and plastic
bags on hand, and keep your pet on its regular diet and eating schedule.
7. Get ready for takeoff.
When traveling by air, check with the airline about any pet requirements or restrictions to be sure you’ve prepared your pet for a safe trip. Some airlines will allow pets in the cabin, depending on the animal’s size, but you’ll need to purchase a special airline crate that
fits under the seat in front of you. Give yourself plenty of time to work out any arrangements necessary including consulting with your veterinarian and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If traveling is stressful for your pet, consult your veterinarian about ways that might
lessen the stress of travel.
8. Find a new veterinary clinic and emergency hospital.
Before you move, ask your vet to recommend a doctor in your new locale. Talk to other pet owners when visiting the new community, and call the state veterinary medical
association (VMA) for veterinarians in your location. When choosing a new
veterinary hospital, ask for an impromptu tour; kennels should be kept clean at
all times, not just when a client’s expected. You may also want to schedule an
appointment to meet the vets. Now ask yourself: Are the receptionists, doctors,
technicians, and assistants friendly, professional and knowledgeable? Are the
office hours and location convenient? Does the clinic offer emergency or
specialty services or boarding? If the hospital doesn’t meet your criteria, keep
looking until you’re assured that your pet will receive the best possible
care.
9. Prep your new home for pets.
Pets may be frightened and confused in new surroundings. Upon your arrival at your new home, immediately set out all the familiar and necessary things your pet will need: food, water, medications, bed, litter box, toys, etc. Pack these items in a handy spot so they can be unpacked
right away. Keep all external windows and doors closed when your pet is unsupervised, and be cautious of narrow gaps behind or between appliances where
nervous pets may try to hide. If your old home is nearby, your pet may try to
find a way back there. To be safe, give the new home owners or your former
neighbors your phone number and a photo of your pet, and ask them to contact you
if your pet is found nearby.
10. Learn more about your new area.
Once you find a new veterinarian, ask if there are any local health concerns such as heartworm or Lyme disease, or any vaccinations or medications your pet may require. Also, be aware of any unique laws. For example, there are restrictive breed laws in some cities. Homeowner
associations also may have restrictions — perhaps requiring that all dogs are kept
on leashes. If you will be moving to a new country, carry an updated rabies vaccination and health certificate. It is very important to contact the Agriculture Department or embassy of the country or state to which you’re traveling to obtain specific information on special documents, quarantine, or costs to bring the animal into the country.
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Tips for Cleaning Your Deck

Cleaning your deck is a big job. This article offers tips for cleaning your deck and provides a checklist of tools that you’ll need.

Because the surface of your deck is exposed to all of nature’s elements, deterioration will occur. Sun, rain and snow will all have an effect on the wood. Cleaning your deck regularly with a high-quality deck cleaner can remove dirt, algae and mildew from the wood, while lengthening the life of your deck.

Here are some tips for cleaning your deck:

Tools

Cleaning your deck requires certain tools. Here is a deck cleaning checklist to help get you started:

  • Protective Gear – safety mask, goggles or safety glasses and real shoes (no sandals!)
  • Broom
  • Sandpaper
  • Hose
  • Deck Cleaner
  • Applicator – paint roller (with a long handle or an extension), garden sprayer or a stiff-bristled push broom/deck scrubber

Surface Preparation

To begin preparing the surface of the deck for cleaning, remove all of the deck furniture. Then carefully inspect all of the boards. Hammer in any nails that have popped up and, if necessary, sand and replace any scarred, damaged or loose boards.

Finish by sweeping the deck thoroughly with a broom. Don’t forget to clean out the cracks between boards. The more debris you can get off the deck, the better your results will be.

Mixing and Testing the Deck Cleaning Solution

Manufacturers of deck cleaning solutions always include specific mixing and cleaning instructions with their deck cleaners. You should follow these instructions word for word. Any deviation could cause damage to your deck. You should also test an inconspicuous area of the deck before you begin cleaning. Consult the product label for testing instructions. For more information on finding the right deck cleaning solutions for your deck, visit your local hardware store or building supply center.

Cleaning the Deck

Depending on the deck cleaning solution, you may need to wet the deck before getting started. (Consult the product label to know for sure.) To begin, use your applicator to apply the cleaning solution all over your deck. Make sure the application is as even as possible. You don’t want it to puddle up too much in one spot. Once the deck has been coated and scrubbed with the deck cleaner, use a hose to rinse it clean.

General Deck Cleaning Tips

  • If you need to sand any of the wood, 80-grit sandpaper works well on most decks.
  • Never allow the cleaner to dry on your deck; it could damage the wood.
  • Avoid using a power washer. The spray is usually too high-pressured for most decks.
  • Clean you deck regularly. Regular maintenance will lengthen the life of the wood.
  • After your deck is clean, consider using a deck sealant to protect your deck from the elements.
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8 Reasons Why You Should Work With a REALTOR®

Not all real estate practitioners are REALTORS®. The term REALTOR® is a registered trademark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics. Here’s why it pays to work with a REALTOR®.

1. Navigate a complicated process. Buying or selling a home usually requires disclosure forms, inspection reports, mortgage documents, insurance policies, deeds, and multipage settlement statements. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal, and avoid delays or costly mistakes.

2. Information and opinions. REALTORS® can provide local community information on utilities, zoning, schools, and more. They’ll also be able to provide objective information about each property. A professional will be able to help you answer these two important questions: Will the property provide the environment I want for a home or investment? Second, will the property have resale value when I am ready to sell?

3. Help finding the best property out there. Sometimes the property you are seeking is available but not actively advertised in the market, and it will take some investigation by your REALTOR® to find all available properties.

4. Negotiating skills. There are many negotiating factors, including but not limited to price, financing, terms, date of possession, and inclusion or exclusion of repairs, furnishings, or equipment. In addition, the purchase agreement should provide a period of time for you to complete appropriate inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase. Your agent can advise you as to which investigations and inspections are recommended or required.

5. Property marketing power. Real estate doesn’t sell due to advertising alone. In fact, a large share of real estate sales comes as the result of a practitioner’s contacts through previous clients, referrals, friends, and family. When a property is marketed with the help of a REALTOR®, you do not have to allow strangers into your home. Your REALTOR® will generally prescreen and accompany qualified prospects through your property.

6. Someone who speaks the language. If you don’t know a CMA from a PUD, you can understand why it’s important to work with a professional who is immersed in the industry and knows the real estate language.

7. Experience. Most people buy and sell only a few homes in a lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each purchase. Even if you have done it before, laws and regulations change. REALTORS®, on the other hand, handle hundreds of real estate transactions over the course of their career. Having an expert on your side is critical.

8. Objective voice. A home often symbolizes family, rest, and security — it’s not just four walls and a roof. Because of this, homebuying and selling can be an emotional undertaking. And for most people, a home is the biggest purchase they’ll every make. Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you stay focused on both the emotional and financial issues most important to you.

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Tips on Downsizing: Moving from the Family Home

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Organize Your Home Office

Home Office Organization Tips

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