Friday, March 16, 2018

How to Lower Utility Costs for Any Home

Your clients may be able to decrease utility costs with just a few energy upgrades and tweaks. “There are so many small changes people can make to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, and it all adds up to significantly lower energy bills and a smaller environmental footprint,” says Christina Kielich of the U.S. Department of Energy. Kielich and home energy auditor Erlend Kimmich offered the following tips on about how to cut energy costs in a home, including:
Replace lightbulbs. The typical American household spends 5 to 10 percent of its energy budget on lighting alone, according to the DOE. Replace incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs, which on average are 85 percent more energy-efficient. You can shave $100 a year on your energy costs by making the switch.
Unplug. Leaving cellphones, TVs, computers, and other electronic devices plugged in can continue to pull power from the grid. That can add up over time. Unplug devices or plug your electronics into power strips that you can easily turn off whenever they’re not being used.
Use an automatic thermostat. Save up to 10 percent on your annual heating and cooling costs by just dropping the thermostat 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit from its normal setting for eight hours a day. An automatic thermostat, which can be purchased for just $18, can help to more easily adjust the thermostat during the day and cut energy use, too.
Seal your attic and basement. For a more substantial investment, seal and insulate the attic and basement—basically the top and bottom of your home, says Kimmich. “Especially if the house was built before World War II, that’s where you tend to find the most leakage,” Kimmich adds. “Think of your home’s air sealing and insulation like a windbreaker worn over a sweater. If there’s a rip or you leave the windbreaker unbuttoned, it can’t really help. So we fix the sweater by making the insulation more substantial and we improve that air seal anywhere the indoor space is connected to the outdoor space.”
Get more tips from and view the DOE’s instructions for DIY jobs like sealing air leaks with caulk, which could potentially offer energy savings of 10 percent to 20 percent.
Source: “How to Make Your Home Energy Efficient,” (Feb. 23, 2018)

4 Tax Deductions for Sellers

Some tax deductions for home sellers may amount to potentially big savings. As such, homeowners who are selling their home soon or sold it last year will want to educate themselves on the tax deductions available.® recently highlighted some, including:
Selling costs: “You can deduct any costs associated with selling the home—including legal fees, escrow fees, advertising costs, and real estate agent commissions,” says Joshua Zimmelman, president of Westwood Tax and Consulting in Rockville Center, NY.
Home improvements and repairs: Some renovations done to make a home more marketable for resale may be eligible for a tax break. “If you needed to make home improvements in order to sell your home, you can deduct those expenses as selling costs as long as they were made within 90 days of the closing,” says Zimmelman.
Property taxes: You can deduct the amount you paid in property taxes for the time you owned the home. This has been capped at $10,000 in total deductions, starting in 2018, however.
Mortgage interest: You can deduct the interest on your mortgage for the amount of time you owned the home. Starting in 2018, new homeowners and sellers can deduct the interest on up to $750,000 of mortgage debt. Homeowners who had a mortgage prior to Dec. 15, 2017, can continue to deduct up to $1 million under the old law, Zimmelman says.
And don’t forget a tax exclusion still available to home sellers on capital gains. Capital gains are your profits from selling a home. Those profits are taxed as income, but you can exclude up to $250,000 of the capital gains from the sale if you’re single and up to $500,000 if filing as a married couple. To be eligible, you must have lived in your home at least two of the past five years.
Source: “5 Sweet Tax Deductions When Selling a Home: Did You Take Them All?”® (March 8, 2018)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Look at Your Home Through a Buyer’s Eyes: Making Your To-Do List

Selling your home is one of the most tricky parts of owning a home, really. There are always little projects that you meant to get to and didn’t, and things that probably weren’t perfect, but didn’t bother you enough to fix. You can’t possibly do everything to make your house like new before putting it on the market, but there’s a minimum level that most buyers will expect.
How many of those things left on your “to do” list absolutely need to become “to dones?”

Getting Ready to Sell that Home Sweet Home

Before you get too serious about selling, it’s a good idea to have your Realtor over for a quick walkthrough. They can give you a punch list of items they think should be updated, fixed or addressed in some other way before you sell your home. You never know when the right buyer will walk through the door, your house needs to be ready to go from the moment you put it on the market. Putting your best foot forward is key to sales success.
That doesn’t mean you need to completely gut and remodel your home, but you should make sure everything is in proper working order and ready for a new occupant. That can be a lot to wrap your head around, though. If you get overwhelmed, start with the list below.
Entry / Living Room
For most homes, the living room and foyer are a combo unit, but if yours are separate understand that this same advice applies to both. The moment that door opens, and even before it does, your potential buyers are forming an opinion of your home. What the open door reveals had better pack a punch (or at least not terrify them).
Make sure that the windows are very clean to let in as much light as possible, that all your light bulbs are in good working order, the flooring is clean and in good shape, any tile grout is intact and the walls are flawless. A neutral color is always a good idea, but white is kind of a turn-off for a lot of buyers. Blues, light grays, beige and creams are all good choices for paint colors.
Dining Room
Your dining room should follow the same advice as your living room, with one exception. Since there’s probably some amount of eating that happens in this part of the house, you’ll want to check the flooring to ensure there’s no staining or spots under the table.
This is a particular problem if there’s carpet. Do not attempt to cover spots with a rug, this could be considered a “hidden, latent defect.” Basically, it means that you’re hiding damage from a potential buyer. That’s a big fat no go.
Instead, call a professional carpet cleaner (you can meet one in the HomeKeepr community!) or just own it and try not to panic if the buyer asks for the carpet to be replaced or cleaned before closing.
The list of things in your kitchen can be long, but we’ll try to make it reasonable. Check all the items on this list, one at a time:
Appliances that stay with the home
• Are they fully functional?
• Do they have an attractive appearance?
• Do they match one another?
• Are they clean?
Kitchen sink area:
• Is the sink free of damage?
• Does it drain well?
• Does the disposal work?
• Does the sprayer work?
• Is the faucet leaking?
Counters, backsplash and cabinets:
• Do the counters have worn or burned spots?
• Are there grouted areas that are needing regrouted?
• Do the cabinet doors open and close properly?
• Is there water damage anywhere?
• Is everything clean and not tacky to touch?
• Do the cabinets have worn finish?
Bedrooms are by far the hardest, especially if you have kids. If you’re going to have to live in the house until you find a buyer, invest in some storage systems — they’ll pay off in the long run. Organize everything as best you can to give the rooms the appearance of more space, clean the windows, install the lightbulbs, clean the carpets and instruct everyone to keep it tidy. If anything can be moved out to a storage unit, do it.
Bathrooms are much like kitchens, they have a lot of wet, moving parts. That being said, they also have basically the same punch list. The only addition would be the shower or tub units. Check the faucets and showerheads for leakage and make sure there’s no mold on your tub or shower surrounds. Clean that stuff within an inch of its life and if you can’t get rid of the stains, recaulk. It’s an easy way to make that tub or shower look like you’ve never even used it.
There’s not a lot to do in the garage, but do make sure your door opener is functioning properly, that the wheels on the door are lubricated if it’s making a terrible sound when you open it or close it and that you’ve tidied the things inside as best as you can. If you don’t really use your garage, you can dress it up a lot by applying an epoxy coating to the floor. The DIY kits run around $100 and, although they don’t add any value to your home, they’re far more impressive than an old, stained concrete floor.
General Indoors
Overall, it’ll help a lot if you run around your house and make sure that all your lightbulbs are fresh, all the windows are cleaned, you remember to leave the blinds open during the day and that the paint makes each room feel bigger. The key is to bring in more light and then use lighter colors to keep it bouncing around the room. A new coat of white ceiling paint won’t hurt your efforts, either.
Paint is great for a lot of reasons. It can seal in smells you might have never noticed, as well as giving the house the scent of fresh construction. That smell paints a picture for a buyer that says this house has been taken care of and they can trust that it’s in great shape!
General Outdoors
When it comes to the great outdoors, keep your lawn mowed, trim your hedges, clean up any projects that you started and never finished. Landscapers, trash haulers and metal scrappers can help a lot with these tasks. You’ll also want to check out your roof and gutters to make sure they’re in good shape because your potential buyers will be doing the same thing.
The first thing a buyer sees is the view from the street, make sure you run out there during the outdoor prep work to check your look. When you start to wonder if you should actually sell this amazing house at all, you’ve probably got the curb appeal knocked out.

When You Can’t Get It All Done

You don’t have an unlimited timeline, that’s completely understandable, but your home should be ready to sell if you want to get top dollar. If you can’t do the work, just call on someone who can. Your HomeKeepr community is full of professionals who can do specific tasks like cleaning your carpets or help with more general things on your list, like ensuring the whole kitchen is in ready-to-show condition.
Log on, search for the home pro you need right now and let them take it from there. You know they’re going to do great work because your Realtor recommended them!

Most Markets Near Peak; No Signs of Bubble

Home prices in most U.S. housing markets are reaching their peak, but there’s no need to fear a repeat housing bust, according to a new joint analysis by Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University. Throughout the majority of the country, home prices have been rising steadily since 2012, and there are signs the runup may be starting to slow.
“Housing markets are slowing, suggesting that we are nearing a peak in housing markets around the U.S.,” says Ken Johnson, a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University. “But this is good news, as we are pulling back from the brink, unlike we did in 2007.”
Researchers at the universities created the Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent Index, which shows that out of 23 metros areas studied, 13 are slightly to moderately in “buy” territory. That means owning a home is more favorable than renting for the majority of residents in that area. On the other hand, 10 metro areas were slightly to moderately in “rent” territory.
“Our data indicates that prices are above their 40-year trend but not significantly so, as they were in 2007,” says Eli Beracha, co-creator of the index and associate professor in the Hollo School of Real Estate at FIU. “Rather than a crash, I anticipate slower growth in prices accompanied by longer marketing times for sellers and increasing inventories, which should bring prices back in conjunction with their 40-year trend.”

3 Smart Strategies for Investors

Investors can see big returns on real estate, but the most successful tend to have a strong understanding of how to evaluate their options before purchasing. recently highlighted some winning strategies for profitable real estate investing:
  1. Focus on potential income, not personal like and dislikes. Purchasing an investment property is different than buying residential real estate. Investments need to center on the numbers—the combination of the purchase price, estimated renovation costs, expected rental income, and market conditions that can support a purchase decision.
  2. Don’t buy on future appreciation. You can’t trust that rents and home values in your area will always increase over time. Buy based on current returns, not what you think the future may hold, according to The best deals are those that can make you money from day one—and where long-term appreciation just happens to be an added bonus.
  3. Set aside extra funds. Several smaller ongoing operating expenses will be inevitable. Investors will want to budget for those, as well as possible bigger items, such as a new roof or HVAC unit. These projects can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Set money aside on a regular basis to cover these expenses as they arise. Also, investors will want to put aside extra money in case there are any vacancies in their rentals.

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The Skanner News - New Law Makes It Easier to Remove Racist Restrictions From Property Deeds: The Skanner News is an award-winning media organization consisting of a printed newspaper and a web site featuring more than 25,000 news stories. We publish original journalism and commentary covering Portland, Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest, as well as news stories from the Associated Press. The Skanner News has served the public with timely information in the Portland, Oregon edition since October 1975 and the Seattle edition since 1990. The publisher is a past two-term president of the West Coast Black Publishers Association as well as a member of the National Newspapers Publishers Association.

How to Lower Utility Costs for Any Home DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 2018 Your clients may be able to decrease utility...