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A Positive First Impression Opens the Door to a Successful Transaction

June 5, 2015 8:40 pm

Creating a positive first impression is the name of the game in today’s competitive market, but you don’t have to break the bank in order to give your home a leg up on the competition. In fact, creating a welcoming environment is often more than enough to help your home stand out, and it all begins with the front door.

If your home has a unique front door that draws attention because it’s painted an untraditional color, prospective buyers will have an easy way to differentiate your home from all the others they’ve seen.

Even if your front door doesn’t pop due to its color, you’ll want to do whatever you can to ensure it’s as attractive as it can be when prospective buyers drop by.

This means making sure it’s clean, that no cracks are apparent and that the paint hasn’t worn too thin. You want the front door to be the first welcome sign of your home, so having it look its best is important.

If you do decide to give the front door a facelift, it’s important to put some thought into your color choice beforehand. While many real estate professionals advise that you stick to the color scheme of the neighborhood, choosing a bold color can go a long way toward attracting younger buyers.

Odds are you’re not going to have to replace the entire door, but it’s a good idea to make sure your front door is not only sturdy, but in good working condition as well. For instance, if your key constantly gets stuck, now’s a good time to invest in a new lock. You’ll also want to make sure the lock goes in place easily. If you’re simply looking to add some pizzazz, a new doorknob is an inexpensive way to get the job done. An antique doorknocker can also add some decorative appeal. And don’t forget the numbers that sit on or above your door. If they’re fading or not clear, get some new ones.

And last but not least, make sure the door itself (whether it’s a storm door or a screen door)—and any windows surrounding the door—are clean.

When buyers walk through the front door, you want them to imagine doing so for the next 20 years, so do what you can to make those first steps memorable.

Contact our office today for more tips on making a good first impression.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Separating Fact from Fiction - What You Need to Know About the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program

June 5, 2015 8:40 pm

This past May, at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo, officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs asked the National Association of REALTORS® for help in debunking common misconceptions regarding the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program.

First established 70 years ago as part of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, the VA loan guaranty is a military benefit available for any individual who has served in active duty in any branch of the U.S. military for a minimum of 90 days. Since its inception, it has helped more than 21 million veterans.

At the meeting, John Bell, the Department of Veterans Affairs assistant director of loan policy and valuation, thanked REALTORS® for their role in helping make sense of the home-buying process.

“I have been so impressed with being able to work with the National Association of REALTORS® and its members on improving our outreach to the community,” said Bell. “You are the front line of defense when it comes to helping veterans understand this program. Without REALTORS®, veterans will not come.”

One common misconception regarding the loan concerns eligibility. While many believe the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program is just for servicemen and servicewomen, non-active duty personnel, such as those in the Army Reserves or National Guard, may also apply for a VA-backed mortgage—provided they have completed six years of service. Additionally, spouses of deceased or missing military members are also eligible if they’ve never remarried.

Another common misconception is the notion that VA-backed loans cost more than traditional loans over the long run, but this could not be further from the truth. In fact, one major advantage of a VA loan is that it doesn’t require a down payment. Another factor that ultimately keeps the cost down is the fact that VA loans don’t come with private mortgage insurance.

A VA loan will, however, require a borrower to pay a one-time funding fee on their purchase, which can be paid up front or financed into the total cost of the loan. The funding fee for regular military members is 2.15 percent of the loan, while reservists pay a fee of 2.40 percent. Bell recommends that REALTORS® remind lenders to request an appraisal early on in the process to make sure a VA-certified appraiser is able to value the property in advance of the closing date.

“People worry that they’re challenging to close or difficult to underwrite, and that the appraisal process drags on too long, yet the facts show that appraisal and closing times are on par with the rest of the industry,” Bell said.

To qualify, borrowers must show enough monthly income after paying personal debts and housing costs to meet “residual income” levels set by the department. A VA loan must be for a primary residence and the limits on the amount someone can get are based on median home prices in the area.

For more information about the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Small Space, Big Impression: Using Space Wisely Key to Making Rooms Appear Larger

June 5, 2015 8:40 pm

The latest report from the National Association of REALTORS® shows that members of the millennial generation are buying smaller homes than their parents did. In fact, for homebuyers 33 and under, 48 percent of all buyers purchased a home with 2,000 square feet or less last year. And for all buyers, the median home size was 1,900 square feet.

While some buyers are purchasing smaller homes due to financial issues, others are opting for less space because of their concern for the environment or the notion that we’re living in a world too fixated on possessions. Whatever the reason, a small space doesn’t have to be a negative thing. With the right design, furniture and color choices, one can leave a big impression in a small space.

There are a number of things homeowners can do to create space in a room and make a small room appear larger than it actually is. One great way to do this is to create a focal point by hanging one large painting in a prominent space. Keep in mind that a number of smaller prints throughout a room will make the space feel crowded because there’s too much commanding attention.

When it comes to choosing furniture that will make a room appear larger, it’s also important to focus on one central object. For example, a master bedroom should be all about the bed, while the dining room should have its focus on the table. Be sure to arrange the rest of the room so the focus is given to one specific area, and keep the décor throughout the rest of the space to a minimum.

Natural light can also make a room seem larger than it actually is, which is why keeping the shades up and curtains open is important for any house showing. Bright colors are also said to do wonders for small rooms. In fact, many home stagers recommend incorporating icy blues and cream colors into small spaces. On the flip side, stay away from heavy, dark colors that absorb light, making a small space seem even smaller.

If your kitchen happens to be a bit on the smaller side, use cabinets to keep things organized so that the counters remain clear. Smaller chairs or stools are good choices for smaller spaces, as are round tables. Again, focusing on natural light and color is a simple way to help the space appear larger.

In the end, remember that just because a room is small doesn’t mean it can’t be attractive and eye-catching.

To learn more about taking advantage of smaller spaces within your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Lawn Care Tips to Get Your Home's Exterior in Tip Top Shape

June 5, 2015 8:40 pm

Now that the warmer weather has arrived, the increase in the amount of prospective buyers looking for their dream home means sellers need to pay more attention to the exterior of their home—especially the lawn.

While real estate professionals across the board stress the importance of curb appeal, staging the deck or patio and adding flowers or shrubbery, more often than not, the lawn itself is overlooked.

For sellers, the simple act of neglecting the lawn can do more harm than good when it comes to attracting prospective buyers. In fact, keeping your grass well-maintained is a simple way to attract buyers, especially if the photos they’re viewing prior to visiting look like they came straight from the pages of a magazine.

Perhaps even more important, grass is considered to be one of nature’s best remedies for removing carbon and other impurities from the atmosphere. Through the process of photosynthesis, grass takes carbon from the air and stores it in the ground.

When it comes to growing grass—and keeping it looking its best—consistent care is key, and failure to invest in long-term turf management can open the window to a host of problems. It’s also important to give your grass the fertilizing lawn care and control treatments it needs depending on the season. For example, your yard has different needs in June than it does during the late summer months and into the fall.

If you want to help your yard stand out even more, you’ll want to be mindful of the way in which you mow the lawn, as it can affect the grass. According to landscape experts, not only should grass be kept high in the spring, you want to avoid cutting more than a third of the total blade height. If you trim too low, you could accidentally chop off the food-producing parts of the grass blade and end up with a brown lawn.

Another important tip you’ll want to keep in mind when mowing has to do with the actual clippings that are left behind by the mower. While many lawnmowers have a bag that picks up grass clippings as they’re mowed, it’s better to leave them on the lawn to help recycle important lawn fertilizing nutrients.

And last but not least, properly watering your lawn is one of the most important components involved in the growing process. Be sure to water your lawn every other day and soak it deeply so that the water drips to at least six inches in depth. If you notice that your lawn is beginning to dull, increase the amount of water.

A healthy, fresh-cut, green lawn is the perfect place for kids to play or adults to stroll, so make sure your turf gives the best impression it can.

To learn more about caring for your lawn, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips to Take the Heat Out of the Summer Selling Season

June 5, 2015 8:40 pm

It’s no secret that the amount of houses on the market increases substantially during the summer months, making it more important than ever that your home is ready for the increased competition.

If you’re looking to avoid some of the common issues that can negatively affect a summer showing, take the following tips into consideration.

1. Keep the Air On. Even if you like a warm house, the last thing you want is for prospective buyers to be uncomfortable. When a potential buyer walks through your home on a hot day, you want them to be greeted with cool air, which will go a long way toward starting the showing on a positive note. Not only will a warm home during the hot summer months cause a level of discomfort, it can also drive someone out of the house before they’ve even had a chance to form a real impression.

2. Offer Refreshments. While you never want to be at the actual showing, you can still create a positive first impression by leaving a pitcher of iced tea or lemonade on the kitchen table with a little note inviting house hunters to cool off with a refreshing drink. Many prospective buyers spend all day in the heat driving from house to house, so this is a great way to create a memorable first impression.

3. Keep the Lawn Manicured. You don’t need to hire a professional landscaper, but at the very least, be sure to keep the lawn mowed and clear of any sticks. It’s also important to make sure there’s nothing in the way that will keep prospective buyers from being able to take a walk around the yard. A yard full of weeds—or one that looks like it hasn’t been taken care of—can quickly turn off a buyer.

4. Let There be Light. Take advantage of the bright sun that summer has to offer and keep your curtains open and your shades up, allowing plenty of natural light to shine through the space. A room with plenty of natural light will get prospective buyers thinking about different color schemes they can incorporate into the space once it’s theirs.

5. Consider Outside Entertainment. Those shopping for a home during the summer months often have visions of outdoor barbeques and fun gatherings with friends and family on their minds. Make sure your patio or deck is organized, giving off a festive atmosphere. Decorate with fun outdoor fixtures and be sure to clean the grill. For those with pools, have the filter on and keep the water sparkling blue to really entice buyers.

For more summer selling tips, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: VA Home Loan Guarantee Program

June 5, 2015 8:40 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines five common issues that can negatively affect a summer showing. Other topics covered this month include simple lawn care tips to get your yard in tip top shape and the importance of creating a positive first impression. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Kitchen Design Goes Global

June 5, 2015 12:55 am

(BPT) – Every great kitchen starts with great design. Whether you favor clean, contemporary lines or err on the side of traditional, trends today draw inspiration from global sources, incorporating cultural influences from around the world while balancing the practical needs of families. To add worldly flair to your kitchen, start by:

Getting Fancy with Flooring

Certain materials establish a regional look because they are widely available in that region. In India, where quarries make natural stones easily affordable, kitchens commonly feature floors of glossy marble or other stone. Ceramic tile is abundant in Spain, and a wide variety of styles are available to create the underpinning for any regionally-inspired kitchen design.

Paving the Way with Walls

Kitchens around the world have signature design elements when it comes to walls. Wood paneling is a hallmark of English country kitchens, while modern Japanese kitchens, which are often limited in space, are made to look larger with walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. And arches and bright tile accents lend themselves to Mexican design.

Opening Up with Cabinetry

The material and color you choose for your cabinets will play a defining role in the overall appearance of your kitchen. Flat white or frosted glass doors can impart a very modern, European flair, while distressed woods in rustic hues create a Tuscan effect.

Coloring Your World

Specific colors are tied to certain world cultures, regions and locations – walls in a soft mandarin paired with burgundy window treatments can build an Asian-inspired backdrop, and Aegean blue and sand backsplash tiles speak of a subtle Mediterranean influence.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Replacing the Roof? Add This Energy-Efficient Feature

June 5, 2015 12:55 am

Did you know a roof replacement can return nearly three-quarters of its cost when the home is sold? Homeowners can reap even more benefits by completing other roof work simultaneously, say the experts at If you’re planning to reroof your home, consider installing new – or replacing existing – skylights. This energy-efficient measure can not only increase natural light inside the home, but lead to serious savings come tax season.

If you have older skylights, the flashing around them may have deteriorated over time, making them susceptible to leaks and less energy-efficient. Modern fresh air skylights can improve indoor air quality through passive ventilation. At the same time, they reduce dependence on expensive artificial light sources and mechanical ventilation.

Adding blinds further increases energy efficiency to reduce power bills. A blackout blind can improve the energy performance rating of the skylight as much as 45 percent, a light filtering blind by as much as 39 percent, and a Venetian blind by as much as 34 percent.

Both products, as well as installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. (Because of this, skylights and blinds with rain sensors and programmable touchpad remote control can be less expensive than an entry-level fixed skylight in some cases.)

Most building codes require that skylights installed out-of-reach utilize laminated glass for safety.

Combining reroofing work with other improvements saves installation or replacement time and allows the synchronization of warranty coverage for all the products. It also assures roofing materials will coordinate with new features.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Beating the "Sunday Night Blues"

June 5, 2015 12:55 am

We’ve all been there – it’s Sunday night, and instead of enjoying the last few hours of the weekend, you’re dreading the start of the workweek. You’re not alone. In fact, more than three-quarters of respondents in a recent poll report having really bad “Sunday night blues.”

Fortunately, there are ways to stave off a case of the Sunday night blues, according to Monster Career Expert Vicki Salemi.

“There are many tactics people can use to reduce Sunday night blues, so they are less stressed and more prepared to conquer the week," says Salemi. “Seeking work-life adjustments, and managing work-flow throughout the week can do a great deal to alleviate the blues, but ultimately it could be a sign that you need to find a job that better suits your goals or lifestyle."

To alleviate the Sunday night blues, Salemi recommends:

Conducting a "Friday Review" – Take 15 minutes at the end of the day on Friday to quickly sort your tasks and build a to-do list for Monday.

Managing Your Management
– Use technology to keep yourself 'in the know' while you're enjoying your weekend, by using smartphone apps like calendar, task, and note-taking software.

Calibrating Your Work-Life Balance Beam – Set aside official "on the beam" and "off the beam" moments to delineate and ensure time for exercise, time with family or time to unwind.

Getting Out the Microscope – Think about what specifically causes your Sunday night blues, identify the triggers, and work on ways to prevent or remove those stressors.

Knowing Your Goals – Look at what you'd like to learn, the job description of the position you want or the career path, and then create a proactive plan. Review and adjust it regularly.

Paying Attention to Positivity - Review your wins and keep a running list of accomplishments, however small, as well as recognition from your colleagues.

Finding Better – Sometimes, it's time to look for something else. If you're truly unhappy in your current position, outline a plan to find a new job with elements that make you happy and productive.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don't Let Tax Records Take a Hit from Hurricanes

June 4, 2015 12:55 am

When hurricanes and other seasonal storms are set to strike, it is important to protect personal documents, including tax records. To ensure your tax records are safe from whatever nature has in store, take the following steps, courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

1. Create an Electronic Set of Records
Taxpayers should keep a duplicate set of records including bank statements, tax returns, identifications and insurance policies in a safe place such as a waterproof container, and away from the original set.

Keeping an additional set of records is easier now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, and much financial information is available on the Internet. Even if the original records are only provided on paper, these can be scanned into an electronic format. This way, taxpayers can save them to the cloud, download them to a storage device such as an external hard drive or USB flash drive, or burn them to a CD or DVD.

2. Document Valuables
Another step a taxpayer can take to prepare for a disaster is to photograph or videotape the contents of his or her home, especially items of higher value. The IRS has a disaster loss workbook (Publication 584) which can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings.

A photographic record can help an individual prove the fair market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. Ideally, photos should be stored with a friend or family member who lives outside the area.

3. Update Emergency Plans
Emergency plans should be reviewed annually. Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes. Make your plans ahead of time and practice them.

4. Check on Fiduciary Bonds
Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if it has a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.

If disaster strikes, an affected taxpayer can call 1-866-562-52271-866-562-5227 FREE (FREE) to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues.


Published with permission from RISMedia.