5 HOME IMPROVEMENTS TO BOOST YOUR CHANCES OF SELLING

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.

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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.

A FEW EXAMPLES OF DE-CLUTTERING, RE-ARRANGING, CLEANING, PAINTING, AND LIGHT…..

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….

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DIVORCE AND REAL ESTATE

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.

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TOP THREE MOST ASKED QUESTIONS FROM COUPLES GOING THROUGH A DIVORCE

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.

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Contact me for all you real estate related questions.

Kari Cross – Intero Real Estate

kcross@interodb.com

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SAVING MONEY ON YOUR CURRENT MONTHLY MORTGAGE

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:

15 STORAGE IDEAS UNDER THE STAIRS

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.

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1.  HOME OFFICE

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2.  PLAY HOUSE

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3. WINE CELLAR

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4.  SHOE STORAGE

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5.  DOG KENNEL

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6.  LIBRARY

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7.  READING NOOK

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8.  COMPUTER CENTER

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9.  DRAWERS

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10.  HANGING SHELVES

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11.  TOY ROOM

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12.  DOG HOUSE

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13.  DAY BED

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14.  KIDS ACTIVITY CENTER

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15.  DISPLAY CASE

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What is under your stairs?

Provided by:

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

SKIP THE DORM, BUY YOUR KID A HOME

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…..

DEDUCTING COLLEGE HOME OWNERSHIP EXPENSES:

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.

PASSIVE LOSS RULES MAY POSTPONE TAX LOSSES:

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.

FAVORABLE TAX RULES WHEN YOU SELL:

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.

DON’T FORGET TO PAY YOUR PROPERTY TAXES

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.

 

ASK A REALTOR……

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.