March 25, 2015

Lists to Keep When Selling Your Home

Preparing your home to sell is no easy task, and prospective buyers often have many questions when viewing a home. One of your first tasks is to find a Realtor. Contact me if you are interested in buying or selling a home in Central Ohio! After you've secured a Realtor, help keep track of important information by using the following lists:

Basic information. This list should include facts such as square footage, year built, number of bedrooms & bathrooms, property taxes and school district. Most of this information will accompany your online listing; however, it's good to keep this information on hand. 

Best features. One good way to develop this list is to name what you will miss most about your old home and neighborhood, such as the nearby walking and bike paths, sun room, private backyard or eat-in kitchen. Best features go beyond basic information and really "sell" your home.

Updates and improvements. Not only are updates and improvements important to buyers, but also they affect your home's appraisal value. Make sure to keep track of home improvements and replacements, including when they occurred and how much they cost, for at least the previous three years. If you haven't made upgrades for a little while, considering revamping your kitchen and/or bathrooms. Other projects with a high ROI include replacing your front door and garage doors to enhance curb appeal and adding a back deck.

Things to do before you sell. This list is more for you than for prospective buyers. Have you been meaning to repaint a wall? Call a cleaning or landscape service? Research moving companies and change your address? Perhaps your biggest task will be de-cluttering and depersonalizing your home--both of which make your home more attractive to buyers. Whatever it is, right it down here before you forget! For a more comprehensive checklist to prepare your home to sell, see the image below:


March 18, 2015

Tax Breaks for Homebuyers

Buying a home this year has many benefits, such as persistently low interest rates. Additionally, Realtor.com recently published an article outlining some of the best tax benefits for new homeowners. To get the best value, consider taking advantage of the following tax breaks:

  • Buy Deductible Points. Deductible points are common tax breaks, and now is the perfect time to buy them. With historically low interest rates under 4 percent, extra points can further reduce the rate you receive. A point costs approximately 1 percent of your loan amount and usually lowers your interest rate by about .25 percent. For example, if you buy two points off a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $350,000 with an interest rate of 3.8 percent for $7,000, your interest rate would fall to 3.3 percent. Even if points don’t significantly reduce your monthly payments, you can still receive a tax benefit because points are considered a form of interest and are tax-deductible in the same year for most first-home purchases

  • Use Energy Credits. Energy saving systems permit you to write off 30% of the cost as part of the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit until the end of 2016. The many eligible items include geothermal heat pumps, solar panels and water heaters, fuel cell property, and wind turbines. There are no maximum credit limits for qualifying items (except for fuel cell property, at $500 per kilowatt). If the amount of your tax credit is greater than your tax liability (that is, if you can deduct more than you owe in taxes in 2015), you can roll the credit over to your 2016 taxes.

  • Stop Renting! Renting is becoming increasingly common among young adults, but it’s not getting any less expensive: the Wall Street Journal reports that rent has increased by 15.2 percent since 2009. While it makes sense to fulfill short-term housing needs, you are not building any equity when you rent and your monthly payments can therefore be seen as sunk costs. Renters do not benefit from tax breaks the way homeowners do. Not sure whether renting or buying is more cost effective? Use Realtor.com's Rent or Buy calculator to find out. Your most trusted resource when searching for a home is an experienced REALTOR who is a good communicator and knows the market well. If you or someone you know is thinking about buying a home in Central Ohio, visit my website and contact me to see how I can help. 


March 11, 2015

Warren Buffett Still Lives in the Omaha, Nebraska Home he Bought in 1958 for a Modest $31,500

Warren Buffett is the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and is worth an estimated $68 billion according The Motley Fool. Time Magazine named him one of the most influential people worldwide. Despite being one of the wealthiest people in the world, he still lives in the Omaha, Nebraska home that he purchased in 1958. The house was in the same area where Buffett grew up. He paid $31,500 for the house, which is just over $250,000 today. Buffett refers to it as his third best investment after only wedding rings, as his family has enjoyed over 50 years of memories in the home with more to come. Buffett did not buy the home as a financially motivated investment.

In its current state, the stucco home has five bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, with a total of approximately 6,000 square feet. The home is only five minutes away from the headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett genuinely loves life in Omaha, telling the Associated Press "If I had to live some other place I'd be fine doing it, but I can't think of a better place to live than Omaha" and "In some places it's easy to lose perspective...It's very easy to think clearly here. You're undisturbed by irrelevant factors and the noise generally of business investments." Still modest for a billionaire, it was last appraised for $700,000 in 2003.

Buffett’s Omaha home was not his only residence. Forbes Magazine reports that the billionaire also owned a vacation home in Laguna Beach, California, which he bought in 1996 for $1.1 million and sold in 2005 for $5.45 million.


March 4, 2015

Where to Find Affordable Furniture

Furnishing a home can be incredibly expensive. Shop at the below stores to keep your costs as low as possible:

Target and Walmart. Both Target and Walmart are great places to go when searching for affordable furniture. The benefit of these stores lies not only in their prices, but also in their prevalence throughout the U.S. This allows customers to see furniture first hand before buying it. It also makes for more convenient returns should one be necessary. Note that you will likely have to assemble furniture you buy from these stores.

IKEA. IKEA offers services that you won't find at Target or Walmart, such as delivery (starting at $59) and assembly (starting at $79), without charging substantially-high base prices. Also, its furniture selection is greater than Target's and Walmart's. 

Amazon.com. Amazon makes it easy to compare furniture based on price and customer reviews. Combine this with the free and quick shipping offered by Amazon Prime, and Amazon is definitely one of your most convenient options. 

Overstock.com and Wayfair.com Overstock.com and Wayfair.com have extensive online inventories, making these your go-to sites if you want to exhaust your options. They also have home decor, bed and bath products, and kitchenware. Frequently offering coupons and free shipping on top of already affordable prices, both sites are attractive options. 

Best Buy. Best Buy offers competitive prices on home essentials such as televisions, and often runs sales that make its prices better than those found online. Best Buy show rooms let you try out different electronics for yourself. The company also offers Geek Squad Protection Plans for some products (for an added expense) that covers your devise if something were to happen to it. College students are eligible for exclusive deals simply by entering their email addresses.

Home Goods. Home Goods sells furniture and home decor, and is able to offer low prices because it mostly sells items with minor defects (often unnoticeable). The store can be compared to Pottery Barn but for a fraction of the price! One perk of buying furniture from Home Goods is that is comes pre-assembled.

Finally, you can find great deals on used furniture on Craiglsist. Craigslist is especially useful for big ticket items such as sofas and dining room tables, which will be fairly expensive new even at the lowest-priced stores.



February 18, 2015

What it Costs to Move

When buying a home, it's easy to get caught up on a home's listing price and overlook some of the smaller expenses, such as closing costs and moving fees. Unfortunately, these charges can add up.

Moving Expenses. Moving is time consuming, exhausting work, which is reflected in the cost of packing, moving and storage services. The average move of household goods in 2012 cost $12,459, according to Worldwide ERC. Naturally, costs vary based on a number of factors. The primary factor that movers consider is distance. Other variables affecting price include the size of the home and the weight of the contents of the home. Make sure that the movers inspect your home prior to moving day and provide you with a weight estimate of your belongings. Calculate an estimate of your moving fees, here.

How to minimize moving expenses: The best way to keep moving costs low is to do as much of the packing and moving yourself. If you don't have access to a truck, consider renting a moving truck. U-Haul has trucks of all difference sizes that you can rent from one location and return at another. For a small extra fee, you can also rent protective mats to put furniture on. It's best to schedule ahead of time to ensure that the truck you need is available. If you are moving for work, you can request that your company cover relocation expenses, ideally before you accept the position or plans are finalized.




February 11, 2015

What it Costs to Close

Closing costs typically amount to 2-5 percent of the purchase price of the home, to be paid at the time the buyer closes on his or her mortgage. A recent survey reports that the average closing fee amounts to $3,700. While lenders are required by law to provide borrowers with good faith estimates of closing costs within three days of when they apply for a loan, many of the fees factored into this "estimate" can change by up to 10% and thus must not be interpreted as a firm calculation. Closing costs consider expenses such as attorney fees, a fee for running a buyer's credit report, an appraisal fee, a survey fee, title insurance and search fees, and an underwriting fee, among others. Estimate your closing costs and see how closing costs vary by state.

How to reduce closing costs: Although the buyer typically pays the closing fee, some homeowners negotiate this with the seller, who may agree to assume part or all of closing costs on behalf of the buyer. Borrows can also seek a no-closing cost mortgage. With this, a buyer pays no closing costs upfront but will likely be charged a higher interest rate, meaning the buyer is not saving that much money in the end.

At the end of the day, these fees may only be a fraction of the price you are paying for a home, but they still amount to thousands of dollars. Make sure that you plan for such expenses so that your home buying process goes as smoothly as possible!


February 4, 2015

What Millennials Want / The Millennial Mindset

As the housing market prepares to accommodate the next wave of homebuyers, real estate agents should be attuned to the Millennial mindset. Bank of America Merrill Lynch conducted a survey of 1000 adults aged 20-34 across various U.S. cities to determine what Millennials (those born after 1980 through the mid/late 1990s) want.

  • Home ownership is highly valued. 73% of survey respondents report that owning a home is either very important (56%) or important (17%) to them, signifying that Millennials possess a strong desire to own their own home, even if they do not own one yet.

  • When purchasing a home, Millennials most value 1) price, 2) commute time to work, and 3) home size. The importance placed on other factors vary across demographics. For example, married Millennials value school district over restaurants and entertainment whereas the opposite is true for single Millennials. 


  • Millennials prefer the suburbs over the city. 48% of respondents report that they currently live in a suburb and want to live there in the future or live in a city and want to move to a suburb in the future. Contrarily, only 31% of respondents said that they currently live in a city and wish to live in a city in the future or currently live in a suburb but want to move to city. 

  • Millennials are minimally concerned about flexibility. While some may argue that a strong rental market means that people highly value the flexibility to move among cities, the majority (69%)  of survey respondents claimed that it was either not very important or only somewhat important to them. This flexibility is more important to single Millennials than married ones, with 35% and 25% citing flexibility as important or very important, respectively.