To increase the odds of a quick, well-priced sale, make the effort to get your home viewer ready.  It is important when selling a home you do a few minor improvements that can be extremely persuasive when it comes to appealing to buyers.  Buyers need to envision the homes as his or hers, not yours.  You want to try to make your home look less like you and more like a new house.  Doing the simple and inexpensive things can speed the sale of your home and ensure a fair selling price.


1.  DO A THOROUGH CLEANING:  It should go without saying, dust bunnies and dirty windows are going to be turnoffs to most buyers.  They are looking to buy a “new” house, so any signs lack of upkeep will be viewed negative.  It’s worth hiring a service to clean carpeting and remove stains from upholstery.

2.  UPDATE THE BATH:  If your toilet seat is worn, stained or dated, put in a new one (the cost is about $30 and the job takes less than 10 minutes).  Replace the shower curtain and liner.  Re-caulk around the tub, when this job is done right it will score lots of points with prospective buyers.

3.  IMPROVE THE LIGHT:  Everyone loves light, so make sure draperies are open and replace missing or dim light bulbs.  If your compact fluorescent lights have dimmed over time, replace them.  When showing the home turn on all lights and open all windows, even in the middle of the day.

4.  CLEAR OUT CLUTTER:  Get serious about throwing out or donating stuff you don’t need.  Closets, and cabinets should have space and not be packed full.  Remove unnecessary and unused furniture from rooms to help make rooms look larger.  You are getting ready to move so start packing all of the knickknacks and personal items.

5.  PAINT OVER RISKY COLOR CHOICES:  If your bedroom is purple or your living room is orange, cover it up with a nice light beige.  Even if your house is already painted in neutral colors, consider repainting rooms where the walls and ceilings are stained or faded.  Nothing makes rooms look new like a fresh coat of paint and it’s one of the most affordable ways to update your space.


All of these examples are from homes using the same furniture they already had.

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before after 6Contact the Cross Group for help on getting your home ready to sell….


If you are like most couples, your home is one of your most valuable assets.  It is important to know what your options are and how to protect yourself.  I specialize in helping couples decide what is best for their unique situation.  It is important to contact a Realtor to help guide you through the process.



1.  Do I have to sell to divide equity?

Not necessarily.  The equity in the house can be shared in a number of ways.  Selling is one option, but a buyout could also be possible.  If you opt for a buyout, it is important to remember that removing one spouse from the deed does not relieve them from the liabilities and responsibilities of the mortgage loan.

2.  Who is responsible for paying the home mortgage?

A separation or divorce agreement may specify that one spouse make the mortgage payments but if both spouses’ names are on the mortgage, both are liable if the paying spouse defaults on the loan.  The only way to protect yourself from being liable for the mortgage debt is if the other spouse qualifies and resonances the loan into only their name.

3. What if we owe more than the home is worth?

If you owe more money on your mortgage than the home is worth and it is not likely that either spouse will be able to pay for the home, a short sale might be the best option for you.  In a short sale, the mortgage lender agrees to allow the home to be sold for less than is owed on the mortgage.


Contact me for all you real estate related questions.

Kari Cross – Intero Real Estate





If you, or someone you know, purchased a home with a FHA or low down payment loan, you are probably paying a monthly mortgage insurance premium fee.   With home values on the rise you may have enough equity in your home to now remove the mortgage insurance fee.  Contact me at kcross@interodb.com for more information.

Information provided by:


In our homes we are always looking for extra space.  Consider using the area under your stairs to fill a need you might have in your home.  Below are 15 stair storage ideas to inspire you to find the best fit for your home.


























13.  DAY BED






What is under your stairs?

Provided by:

  • Kari Cross
  • Intero Real Estate Services
  • 925-584-1640
  • kcross@interodb.com


Prices in many real estate markets may be close to bottoming out….we hope.  So the old adage about buying low may be something to consider if you have a kid who will soon be heading off to college.  The idea is to buy a condo or small home for the kid to live in while attending school.  That way, you’ll avoid paying huge dorm room or apartment prices with no hope of any profit.  And….if you buy a small home with some extra space, you can rent it out to your kid’s friends and offset some of the ownership costs.

Lots of parents have made good money by following this strategy for the four or five years their kids spent in college and then selling the home after graduation.  Of course, the longer you can hold onto the property, the better the odds of cashing out for a profit.  The other key factor to consider is the tax benefits.  Here’s what you need to know…..


The tax rules generally prevent you from deducting losses incurred from owning and renting out a residence that’s used more than a little bit by you or a member of your immediate family.  However, a favorable exception applies when you rent at market rates to a family member who uses the property as his or her principal home.  In this case, you can deduct tax losses from the rental activity (subject to the passive loss rules, which I’ll explain later).  This beneficial loophole is open for you if you buy a condo and rent it out to your college-going child (and roomies, if any) at market rates.

You can deduct the mortgage interest and real-estate taxes.  If you pay mortgage points, you can amortize them over the term of the loan.  You can also write off all the other operating expenses -like utilities, insurance, association fees, repairs and maintenance, and so forth.  As a bonus, you can depreciate the cost of the building (not the land) over 27.5 years, even while it is (we hope) increasing in value.

So where will your poverty-stricken son or daughter get the money to pay you market rent for the home?  The same place he or she would get the cash to pay for a dorm room.  In other words, from you!  You can give your kid up to $13,000 annually without any adverse federal tax consequences.  If you’re married, you and your spouse can together give up to $26,000.  Your child can use that money to write you monthly rent checks.  Just make sure he or she actually sends the checks and make sure they say they are for rent.  Also, it’s best if you open up a separate checking account to handle the rental income and expenses.  Taking these simple steps will help keep the IRS off your back if you ever get audited.


If the home throws off annual tax losses (which it probably will after counting depreciation deductions), the passive activity loss (PAL) rules generally apply.  The fundamental PAL concept goes like this:  you can only deduct passive losses to the extent you have passive income from other sources -like positive taxable income from other rental properties you own or gains from selling them.  fortunately, a special exception says you can deduct up to $25,000 of annual passive losses from rental real estate provided (1) your annual adjusted gross income (before the real estate loss) is under $100,000 and (2)you “actively participate” in the rental activity.  Active participation means being energetic enough to at least make management decisions like approving tenants, signing leases, and authorizing repairs.  You don’t have top mop the floor or snake out the drains.

If you qualify for this exception, you won’t need any passive income from other sources to claim a deductible rental loss of up to $25,000 annually (your loss probably won’t be that big). Unfortunately, however, if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is between $100,000 and $150,000, the special exception gets proportionately phased out.  So at AGI of $125,000, you can deduct no more than $12,500 of passive rental real estate losses each year (half the normal $25,000 maximum).  If your AGI exceeds $150,000 and you have no passive income, you can’t currently deduct any rental real estate losses.  However, any disallowed losses are carried forward to future tax years, and you’ll be able to deduct them when you sell the home.  All in all, this is not a bad tax outcome.


When you sell rental real estate that you’ve owned for over a year, the profit (the difference between sales proceeds and the tax basis of the property after subtracting depreciation) is long-term capital gain.  However, part of the gain (the amount equal to your cumulative depreciation write-offs) can be taxed at a maximum federal rate of 25%.  The rest of the gain will be taxed at a maximum federal rate of no more that 15% under the current rules (which I hope will be extended to post 2012 years)

Remember those carryover passive losses that we talked about earlier? You get to use them to offset any gain from selling the home.

*Information provided is for reference only, consult your tax advisor for information on your person situation, different states and counties have different rules.


Below is a property tax guide for you along with this friendly reminder that the delinquent deadline is approaching on April 10th.  We all put off paying those property tax bills as long as we can….but the deadline is quickly approaching.

  • February 1st – 2nd installment due
  • April 10th – 2nd Installment Delinquent
  • Last week of October – Tax Bill Mailed
  • November 1st – 1st Installment Due
  • December 10th – 1st installment Delinquent

Sorry to be the one to deliver the bad news!

I know I have people reading this that are not on our property tax schedule, make sure you know what your deadlines are as well.



Most people forget what a valuable tool your local Real Estate Agent can be…..not just when you are looking to buy or sell a home.

Realtors have a huge amount of community knowledge.  If you need to know about the local schools, community events, plumbers, inspectors, landscapers, florists, cleaning services, etc.   During the process of helping buyers and sellers a Realtor has to wear many hats and are sometimes considered neighborhood specialists.

When you are thinking of buying or selling a home, you are looking for someone with an impeccable track record and a master negotiator that is well-respected.  But you also want to look for someone who cares about your well-being that will continue to help you after the sale is completed.  A great Realtor is someone who will assist you with the little things when they are no longer being paid for the service.  I have clients that call me months or years after a transaction to ask for help with local questions.  I love being able to assist my clients and friends with continued parts of their lives.

As a Realtor we use several different contractors during a real estate transaction and we know who has the best deals, who gets the job done quickly, or who is reliable….we also know which ones are not.  We speak with many clients and know what community areas and events they like and dislike.  Realtors share information with each other which can prove to be a valuable tool for you.

So the next time you want to find a cheap roofer or a great preschool…. don’t forget to ask your Realtor.


If ever a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is it for me…..  I am sure I could just post this picture and it would start a wide-spread debate, but of course I have to give my two cents along with it…..

A few months back my daughter stayed with us while her husband was in boot camp and I had this debate with her….

On two different occasions I sat down to find side A and quickly changed it to side B.  The third time I sat down to the side A roll I thought it was time to have the discussion.  “Now that you have a home of your own you have to know the correct way to put on a roll of TP….I can’t believe I never taught you the correct way!…….. don’t you know better?……”  She of course had no idea what I was talking about.

Her take was “You are out of toilet paper, you put on a new roll….Period!”

Having three children (4 if you count my husband…love you Honey!)  It is always a good thing just to have the roll on the wall and not sitting on the counter next to the toilet so I shouldn’t be picky about which way it rolls.  9 times out of 10 I can go into the bathroom to find only 1 square on the roll or an empty roll on the wall and a half used roll sitting on the counter.  How many times did the family pick up the roll from the counter to use it and put it back on the counter instead of putting it on the wall?  Really?

I think I like side B because it reminds me of when I was a little girl and my family would stay in a hotel.  I remember how the end of the toilet paper was always folded into a point and looked so fancy.  Although I don’t fold my toilet paper into a point, I do always make sure it is pointed the “Right Way”…… B



When your family is home, it is important to have peace of mind in knowing that your loved ones are as safe as they can be.   It is easy to be comfortable in our home and forget some simple things that can help keep your family safe.

1.  Make sure your exterior house numbers are easy to read from the street so emergency crews can find your home.

2. With everyone using cell phones for 99% of calls, it is important to make sure that children know calling 991 from a home phone will provide a faster response than calling from a cell phone.

3.  Check smoke alarms every month and replace batteries once a year.  I know this is really easy and everyone knows to do this, but it is also very easy to forget.

4.  Make sure you also have a Carbon Monoxide detector outside all sleeping areas.  Where I live, this is now a law but it is a good idea for everyone.  Carbon Monoxide is hard to detect until it is too late.

5.  Clean out the dryer vent regularly.  Many home fires are a result of dirty dryer vents.

6.  Make sure you block inappropriate content on the internet to protect your children.  This includes the computer, cable television, Xbox, Playstation, etc. Remind your kids not to talk to strangers online.

7.  Be discreet on your facebook, twitter, etc.  Don’t give out personal information such as your home address, when you will be out-of-town, etc.  This is important to remind your children when they are telling their friends what they are doing.  Teach your children to only post things that they have already done so people don’t always know were they are.

8.  Also remember to lock all doors and windows and to keep some lights on a timer to detour unwanted guests.


People have many questions about today’s real estate market…..and how it will affect their personal situation.  If you are behind on your house payments, looking for an investment property, looking for a rental, currently renting, or buying your first home, I have something for everyone.

SHORT SALE / FORECLOSURE:   If you are currently behind on your house payment, or thinking of letting your home go, make sure you call me asap to review your options.  I can help you short sale your home for FREE and I can explain your personal benefits.  It is important to know all your options in this crazy real estate market.

FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS:  With all the short sales and bank owned homes on the market, it is the perfect time to purchase a great deal.  Interest rates are the lowest in history so it is important to take advantage of all the buyer benefits.

RENTERS:  If you are loosing your home and looking for a rental, I can help you at no charge.  If you have been renting, now may be the time to buy.  Call me to find out if you qualify to purchase a home.

INVESTORS:  Why invest your money in the stock market when you can purchase a home at a rock bottom price.  Many investors are buying great real estate deals.  You can purchase a home and use the rent to cover the monthly mortgage payment, find out if it can work for you.

BUYING / SELLERS:  The real estate market is always changing and it is important to have all your information before you decide to buy or sell.  Call or email so I can help you understand what is happening today.

If you know someone who could benefit from my real estate knowledge or needs a little guidance, please forward my information to them or let me know.


Despite all the doom-and-gloom reporting, not every homeowner in the U.S. has negative equity right now. And with interest rates still hovering near record lows, those with equity are likely asking themselves whether it’s a good time to refinance. Well, is it? Let’s take a look:

Average interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 4.51% a week ago (according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s latest survey), the lowest level since last fall.

The average outstanding home loan carries an interest rate of about 6% (Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist Frank Nothaft told The New York Times last week).

So if you took advantage of low rates last fall or in 2009, you probably won’t see much savings by refinancing now. But if you haven’t yet refinanced since 2008, you might want to check in and see what kind of savings refinancing might afford you.

Cashing out: What’s enough equity?

Refinancing used to almost always mean the owner was taking some cash out in the process. That’s because values had climbed pretty steadily (and steeply in many areas) for several years in a row – so most homeowners could afford to cash out to maybe send their kid to college, work on a new addition to the house or remodel. But today, the story is much different.

Even if you have equity, it may not have climbed enough for cashing out to make sense. In fact, the NYT reports that some owners are even putting cash in to up the equity on their homes.

So what’s enough equity by today’s standards? Times have changed and 20% is once again a magic number. Many lenders aren’t even going to allow you to cash out if it means dipping below that.

Refinance options for the equity starved….. OK, but what if  you have less than that? Can you still refinance to take advantage of low rates?

The good news is that there are some programs out there that may make this possible. If you have little or no equity, you can ask your lender about the Home Affordable Refinance Program. If you have an FHA loan, you can check out FHA Streamline Finance, which may make sense for you.

So even if your equity is pretty low, there are options. Point is, with rates this low, it’s a good time to sit down and discuss whether refinancing would improve your loan situation. We all know that rates are fleeting and what’s here today may be gone tomorrow.

As a Realtor we can help you find a lender that can help you make the best decision for you!


Baby boomers approaching retirement with a mortgage balance and financial assets are faced with the question of whether or not they should liquidate assets to pay off the mortgage.

With income declining at retirement, the mortgage payment becomes more of a strain. Yet liquidating assets to repay the mortgage reduces the income being generated by the assets, and leaves the borrower with less to liquidate later on when needs may be even greater. We don’t know how much money we will need to support our lifestyle in retirement because we don’t know how long we will live, and not everyone can accumulate more wealth than we can possibly outlive.

 The case for paying down, or off, the mortgage for seniors often revolves around the fact that their mortgage rate is greater than their rate of return on their assets. Basically they earn less on their money than they pay on their mortgage: paying off a 5% mortgage with money earning 2% makes sense. If you’re a senior and your rate is more than 5% and you haven’t refinanced in the last 2 to 3 years, you will want to check current rates – you’ll be surprised.  It makes good sense to refinance your mortgage to a lower rate rather than pay it off if the senior either needs the income from their assets to live on. If mortgage repayment earns the higher return before-tax, it also earns the higher return after-tax. If income on the alternative investment is not taxable, however, returns should be compared after-tax. Again it is important you sit down with either your Lendor or CPA or financial planner to figure out what is best for you and your family.

I can help you find the right person to answer all your questions!


March 20th was the first day of Spring and at my house it was heavily raining and it felt more like the middle of Winter.  The sun has now arrived and it is starting to feel more like Spring.  With the sun arriving, it is important to remember to care for our lawns, gardens, plants, etc. 

With more families planting gardens to save money at the grocery store I thought I would share some fun trick and facts about gardening:

  • Check with your local nursery for discarded planting trays, used disposable pots, etc.  You can recycle them and use them in your own garden.
  • When you buy produce in little baskets (like berries, cherry tomatoes, etc.), save the baskets & use them for organizing around the house or garden, or even for seed starting planters.
  • Use small laundry baskets for harvesting your produce. Poke a few small drain holes in the bottom of the basket, and you can hose off the produce outside. Let them drain in the baskets, and save yourself from having to do the clean-up in the kitchen!
  • Have plants that need extra irrigation?  Save your milk cartons.  Poke drainage holes in it, and bury it near a plant (or between plants) that need extra watering.  When making your watering rounds, fill the container with water.  Water then slowly leaks out directly into the soil at the level of the roots.  Using this method, you don’t lose so much water to evaporation, as if you were watering on the ground surface level.
  • Keep your melons from rotting as they ripen by placing a flat stone (or concrete) beneath the fruit.
  • Save that old empty parmesan cheese shaker – and fill it with a mixture of fine seeds and sand.  Then simply shake to spread the seeds as you’re planting.
  • When should you transplant trees and shrubs?  Any month that has a “R” in it….September, October, November, December, January, February, March and April.  Never May, June, July or August.
  • When your hands are badly stained from gardening, add a teaspoon of sugar to the soapy water the wash them.
  • Plant a few sprigs of dill near your tomato plants to prevent tomato worms on your plants.
  • Onions, apples and potatoes all have the same taste.  The difference in flavor is caused by their smell.  Pinch your nose and try it – they will all taste sweet.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower are the only vegetables that are also flowers.


A VEGETABLE is an edible part of a plant……The root (beet), the leaf (spinach), or the flower (broccoli)

A FRUIT is the edible ripened ovary of a seed-bearing plant

Sometimes your produce might be a fruit AND a vegetable…..for example, a tomato and a watermelon are both edible parts of a plant and they are also a ripened ovaries which contains seeds. Therefore they are a fruit AND a vegetable.

Tomatoes are the world’s most popular produce, more than 60 million tons are produced every year, more than banana’s.  There are at least 10,000 varieties of tomatoes, from small cherry ones to Ponderosa (which can weigh over three pounds)

Watermelons are very healthy, contain no fat or cholesterol and are high in fiber content, potassium and vitamins A and C.  The world record-holding watermelon was more than 260 lbs.


While we’re deciding whether or not to initiate that big home remodeling project, we think about many things…cost, timeframe, and inconvenience.  Many times we forget about the safety and happiness of our pets during a home renovation.  Our pets cannot protect themselves the way we can, so we must remember to look out for them.

It will definitely make a difference if you are doing the remodel yourself or having outside contractors do the job.  If you are not going to board your animals during a remodel it is important to remember to take care of and protect them during the process.

Many pets are uncomfortable when strangers are in the home and some pets become very protective and territorial of their family.  Along with the fear of a stranger in the home, they will no doubt be making some noises that might frighten your animals.

It is a good idea to restrict the pet from the area of your home that will be remodeled well before construction begins.  If the construction will be in your pet normal feeding area, begin training them to look for their food in another place in advance.

Once construction begins make sure to seal off the construction area so your pet will not be able to enter it and risk injury. A pet can be injured by stepping on sharp objects or by accidentally causing construction materials to fall. The safest thing for your pet is to ensure that it cannot enter the construction area.  Alert your contractor and the workers if your pet will be on the premises during the remodel. Particularly if your pet tends to be curious or territorial, they will then know they need to be careful about leaving anything around that could harm your pet.

Make sure that doors and windows will not be exposed for long periods of time.  While they are open your pet will need to be secured to prevent wondering.

If you expect workers to access the backyard you may want to restrict your pets access to the yard.  The pet will then need to be walked throughout the day.

Ensure that the workers remove or elevate all electrical wires, nails, staples, tacks or anything sharp.  Remind the workers to fully clean all areas at the end of each day and stabilize all loose items to avoid falling or choking.

Be mindful of your pets and help provide a “safe haven” for them during the renovations.  If your pet has a decreased appetite, urinary issues, hair loss, chewing or barking issues, or any unusual behavior, consult your vet immediately.


If you are like me…. you don’t often look in the back of your cabinets and pantries.  How long will those open items stay good for?  It is a guessing game that can be very dangerous.  You never want to eat something unless you are sure it is still good.  How do we know?   The other day I found a can in the back I forgot I had.  It was way past the expiration date and it was money thrown in the garbage.  Don’t waste your money on un-used food items or items that go bad.  Make sure when things are getting close to their expiration date you use them before they have to be thrown away.  I challenge you to use some of the items in the back of your pantry… this will save you money.  Below is a guideline of the life expectancy of various foods after they have been opened.  I was surprised by some of these dates……I guess I will be cleaning out my frig and pantry this week.  Items may vary, but this can help you keep your pantry up to date.

1 Week – 2 Weeks

  • Bread – Potato Chips
  • Refrigerate after opening:  Canned Frosting – Olives – Ground Coffee

1 Month

  • Pasta – Egg Noodles
  • Refrigerate after opening:  Gravey Mix – Salsa

3 Months – 4 Months

  • frosting mixes – Peanut Butter – Dry Cereal – Pudding Mix – Dried Mushrooms
  • Refrigerate after opening:  Mayonnaise – Pickles – Salad Dressing – Instant Coffee -Barbeque Sauce – Horseradish

6 Months – 8 Months

  • White Flour – Baking Powder – Baking Soda – Molasses – Brown Rice – Bread Crumbs – Oil – Ground Spices
  • Refrigerate after opening:  Whole Wheat Flour – Ketchup – Cocktail Sauce – Chili Sauce – Jam – Jelly – Marmalade – Maple Syrup – Relish

1 Year

  • Cocoa Mixes – Dry Pasta w/out eggs – Dry Herbs – Honey – White Rice – Vanilla – Whole Spices
  • Refrigerate after opening:  Cornmeal – Mustard – Worcestershire Sauce

18 Months – 2 Years

  • Cornstarch – Sugar Substitutes

3 Years

  • Vinegar


  • Brown Sugar – Granulated White Sugar – Salt

Make sure you go through your cabinets and check the Best If Used Before dates on your boxed and canned foods.  Try to used foods that are getting close to their expiration dates.


Do your shopping during peak sales times.  Below is a rough guide of when traditional items may go on sale throughout the year.  If you have been wanting to make a purchase and you are not sure when to do so…..this may help.



Post-holiday sales for cards, gift wrap and decorations * White sales for bedding and linens * Sports and weight-loss equipment * Computers * Winter clothes and accessories * Organizers, storage containers and shelving


Candy, chocolates * Jewelry * Flooring and carpet * Housewares * Furniture * Electronics


Spring clothes and accessories * Gardening equipment, mowers and supplies * Luggage and travel accessories * Frozen food


Spring clothes and accessories * End of season on coats and winter accessories * Men’s suits * Paint and wallpaper


Spring cleaning supplies * Linens and towels * Auto maintenance supplies and tires * Memorial Day sales on picnic foods


Pianos * Televisions, stereos and radios * Home improvement materials and hardware * Cheese and dairy


Fans and air conditioners * Summer sports gear and sportswear * Art and craft supplies * 4th of July picnic sales * Used cars


Linens and towels * BBQ and patio furniture * Back-to-school supplies and clothes * Bathing suits


Gardening supplies, perennials, trees and spring bulbs  *Housewares like carpets, lamps and dinnerware * Bicycles * Seasonal car maintenance * Canned foods


Cars * Fishing and hunting gear * Crystal, silver and glassware * Spring bulbs


Winter clothes and accessories * Quilts, comforters, and blankets * Space heaters * Turkey’s and Thanksgiving preparation


Toys * Gifts * Post-holiday sales * Party foods and baking goods

Although some items are on sale during certain seasons…..I can help you decide if it is the right time for you to purchase a home.



Staying on top of home maintenance throughout the year can be a big job and many people don’t know where to start.  It is best to break it down from annual chores, monthly, weekly and daily.  Below is some monthly maintenance ideas that can be broken down into weekly chores.

Staying on top of daily, monthly, and annual chores around your home is a big job. Maintenance and repair jobs are constants. To save time and money, plan for the seasonal needs of your home, yard, and garden.


  • Do end of year accounting.  Set up file folders for current year’s taxes.  Organize receipts and paperwork.
  • De-clutter a closet.  Pick one and empty it.  Sort things to save, donate, sell and toss.  Organize the stuff that belongs in that closet and put it back.
  • Replace drawer liners and shelf papers.
  • Wander the house with a screwdriver and a note pad.  Tighten screws on drawers, doors and furniture.  Make a list of broken electrical face plates, missing pulls or knobs, locks that need lubrication, and spots that need caulking around sinks and tubs.  Make little repairs all at once.
  • Call the utility company to do an energy audit. 


  • Make a list of major indoor projects that need to be done.  Prioritize them and set appointments on the calender to do them.
  • Check and clean grout between tiles in your kitchen and bath.  Re-grout if necessary and add a sealer.
  • Check flooring and carpet.  If it needs repair or replacement, take advantage of the sales this time of year.
  • Plant seeds.  Many seeds need to be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost.
  • Prune roses – 18 inches.
  • Reorganize the pantry.  Make meal plans that use up canned foods and freezer stocks.  Frozen foods are often on sale in march, so it’s a good time to stock up if you have room.
  • Organize the laundry area.  Clear everything out and sort, toss and organize the shelves.


  • Prepare for vacation.  Schedule time off and make reservations and schedule flights for summer months.
  • Fertilize almost everything in the yard.
  • Time to start transplanting cool season veggies in the garden.  Cut back herbs.
  • Organize your papers.  Root out and recycle old magazines, newspapers, and mementos.  Build a new file system or clean out old files that are past being useful.
  • Prepare taxes and have them done.
  • Inspect your basement or crawl space for water and dampness; repair as needed.


  • Check smoke alarms.  Replace batteries.
  • Wash inside windows.
  • Sort winter clothes for tossing, donating, garage sale, or storage.  Get out summer clothing. 
  • Replace winter bedding with summer bedding. 
  • Move appliances and heavy furniture.  Clean underneath and behind.
  • Wash woodwork including moldings, baseboards, and doors.
  • Clean light fixtures and chandeliers.  Put what you can in the dishwasher and clean the rest with warm soapy water and dry.
  • Dust or wash mini-blinds, shades, and fans.
  • Go through bookshelves, videos, DVDs, and music CDs.  Dust shelves, toss damaged, donate unused, and reorganize.
  • Check sprinkler system.


  • Plan a garage sale for May or June.
  • Finish spring cleaning projects.
  • Mother’s Day.  Call your mom, send a card, buy flowers.
  • Check gutters, downspouts, and roof for leaks.  Schedule roofing repairs as needed.
  • Check siding for winter damage.
  • Clean around AC compressor.
  • Wash windows and put in screens.
  • Cut back any trees, branches, or bushes that are touching the siding or roof.
  • Clean and repair patio furniture.


  • Paint exterior if needed.
  • Clean out the frig and freezer.
  • Strawberries are in season.  Make shortcake or jam.
  • Check hoses on washer, refrigerator, and dishwasher.  Replace if any show signs of deterioration.
  • Check decks and docks for wear and deterioration.  Make repairs and replace nails that may be popping up.  Clean and seal decks.
  • Check exterior railings and stairs.  Repair if they are loose or showing signs of wear.
  • Clothes dryer vents should be checked for buildup that may cause a fire.
  • Service furnace or heating system.
  • Make sure attic vents work properly.  Consider installing a whole house fan.
  • Plant more annuals.


  • Do indoor paint projects.  With windows open, July is  a great month to paint.
  • Patch driveway or fill potholes with gravel.
  • Clean the garage and get rid of junk.
  • Organize tools and garden equipment.
  • Check fences.  Repair or replace damaged portions.


  • Check windows and doors to make sure locks work properly.  Clean tracks and lubricate hinges.
  • Repair minor brick and mortar cracks.
  • If you need more attic insulation, add it now.
  • Check gutters.  Clean or add leaf guards that will allow leaves to slide off.
  • Check drains.  Use homemade or store-bought drain cleaner to clean out all the drains in the house. 


  • Drain hot water heater.  Flush and refill.
  • Change furnace filter
  • Wash out garbage cans, disinfect, and rinse thoroughly.
  • Remove plants that are starting to die.
  • Plant late autumn vegetables like cabbage, peas, and spinach.
  • Plant an indoor herb garden in a sunny window.


  • Keep leaves raked to prevent smothering grass.
  • Take window screen out, wash and store.
  • Turn mattresses.
  • Store summer clothing, bedding and towels.
  • Have carpets cleaned.
  • Check smoke detector and replace batteries.
  • Replace all your spices and herbs. 


  • Clean flower and vegetable beds, then work mulch and compost into soil to prepare for next spring.
  • Rake leaves, clean gutters and downspouts.
  • Check the faucets in your kitchen and bathrooms for leaks and other problems that need attention. Repair or replace faucets as needed.
  • Organize gardening supplies and equipment for the winter. 
  • Prepare for holidays either at home or traveling.
  • Put Christmas lights up after Thanksgiving.


  • Mail gifts and Christmas cards.
  • Take your fire extinguishers to a certified inspector to make sure they are charged up properly and are ready for use.
  • Put up decorations.  Purchase new items and donate unused items.
  • Finish shopping and wrap gifts.
  • Get pets groomed. 

Owning a home is a full-time job.  Doing preventative maintenance and finding problems early can save you money.  Although it is hard to remember everything that needs to be done and every home is different, I hope this will be a start in the right direction for your home.  Get your home organized and plan it one month at a time.


If you owe more on your mortgage than you can sell your home for, you’re not alone! 

I can help you decide what the best option for you is….Wait it out, Short Sale, foreclosure, etc.  We offer FREE advice and important information needed to decide.  If you are current on your payments, or several months past due, contact me now.


Your mortgage payment is most likely your largest monthly expense.  Even though MONEY DOESN’T GROW ON TREES, there are ways you can decrease your monthly payment and pay off your loan faster.  Below are a few ideas, we will use this mortgage example:

  • $200,000 mortgage
  • 30-year fixed rate mortgage
  • 6% interest rate
  • $1,199 monthly principal and interest payment

Savings will vary based on your actual loan facts and timing of the change.

1. Make an Extra Payment Each Year

If you have the means, the easiest way to save money on your mortgage is by making an extra mortgage payment each year. These extra payments are automatically applied on your principle, not interest. Not only does your remaining balance drop, but you will not have to pay interest each month on that principal for the remainder of the loan term.   Savings: $47,000. By making one extra payment of $1,199 each year and applying it to your principal, you could save over $47,000 in interest and cut 5 years off the life of the loan.

2. Create Bi-Weekly or Bi-Monthly Payments

Bi-Monthly:  You can save money on loan interest by making by-monthly payments. By paying half a payment early you can start the bi-monthly plan.  Pay your normal payment on the 1st of the month.  On the 15th of the month make another half payment.  From then on pay a half payment on the 1st and a half payment on the 15th of each month.  This will help to re-calculate your interest sooner each month and save you money at the term of your loan.  Bi-weekly:  Another way to pay off your loan early is by creating a bi-weekly payment plan.  Put half of your monthly mortgage payment in a savings account every other Friday (or, on your pay day). Each month, pay your mortgage from the account. At the end of the year, you will have made 26 half payments, which is 13 full payments. This will leave with you an extra payment that you can put toward your principal. Most people manage the separate accounts themselves, but there are companies that you can hire to act as an escrow service and manage the payments for you.  Savings: $47,000. Same as extra payment.

3. Cut your PMI

Many people are forced to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) because their down payment is less than 20 percent. If you are in this boat, you can petition your lender to cancel the insurance as soon as your mortgage balance falls below 80 percent of the home’s appraised value. This can happen if your home’s value has gone up or you have repaid some of the principal. This may require a new appraisal but could shave hundreds of dollars off your monthly payment.  Savings: $130 per month. If you only put down 5 percent and had a PMI rate of .78 percent, you could save $130 per month.

4. Fight Your Property Assessment

Property taxes can be thousands of dollars a year. If you think your home’s value has decreased in the last year and it was not properly accounted for in your tax assessment, you can petition your assessor and fight your assessment.   Lowering your tax assessment will lower your yearly taxes.  Savings: Varies. Depends on your local tax rate and home adjustment, but could be hundreds of dollars a year.

5. Recast Your Mortgage

Some lenders are willing to recast (reset) your monthly payment when you make large payments toward the principal of your mortgage. Usually, when you put money toward your balance, your monthly payment stays the same but the term of your loan shortens. When the loan is recast, your monthly principal and interest is recalculated so you end up with a lower monthly payment over the existing term of the loan.  Savings: $120 per month. Putting $20,000 into the loan would reset the payment to $1,079, saving you $120 per month.

6. Loan Modification

If you are late on your payments and are going through a financial hardship, you may be eligible to modify terms of your loan (such as rate, term, or principal balance) to make it more affordable. The goal of these programs is to allow borrowers to stay in their homes and continue making their monthly payments. Not everyone qualifies for these types of programs, but if you do, they can save you a lot of money. Contact us to see if you qualify.  Savings: Varies. It can reduce your interest rate to as low as 2 percent, extend your term to 40 years, or reduce your principal.

7. Refinance Your Mortgage

The most common way to save money is by refinancing your mortgage to a lower interest rate. Reducing your rate can lower your monthly payment and help you save on interest payments. However, there are costs associated with refinancing so you want to be sure you are going to save enough to cover the refinancing fees. We know people that can help you decide what is right for you with no commitment.  You can compare rates, and loan programs, and then calculate if refinancing makes sense. With rates at historic lows, if you can refinance, and you haven’t already, you should.  Savings: $126 per month. By lowering your interest rate to 5 percent, you would have a payment of $1,073 which would save you $126 per month. If the refinance costs $5,000, you would recoup the fees after 40 months.

Hope these tips help you to STOP FLUSHING MONEY DOWN THE TOILET.