April 29, 2014

Before you Sign that Lease…

Renters play a more prominent role in the real estate market following the burst of the real estate bubble. According to the U.S. Census, three million households have become renters since this time. In the past four years alone, the number of renters has increased two percent to 33.6%.

Renters have more rights than they used to. Each state (except Arkansas and Colorado) has passed a law requiring landlords to provide "a fit and habitable place to live," allowing renters to withhold rent or deduct repairs from their rent. Unfortunately, few people are aware of these rights. Many are recent or first-time renters. Regardless, it's important to rent from landlords with acceptable policies. The best way to determine this is to preform research and ask questions.

First, research the condition of the home according to your own personal walk-through(s). Take your time when you walk through a rental home. Note every imperfection and test everything you can: lights, stoves, toilets, hot water, water pressure, air conditioners and heating units, etc. Still, many things are not readily apparent when walking through a home. When in doubt, ask:

Recent home maintenance. How recently was the property renovated? Has mold been an issue? How recently have the windows been insulated?

Pest control. Is it included in the rent? How often is your unit serviced? Who is responsible for infestation (i.e, who has to foot the bill)?

Service providers. Does your landlord employ vendors to repair major appliances, or does he have a go-to handyman? Ask about your landlord’s service plan, including the process you must take to submit complaints and the average response time.

Incidentals. Be sure you are fully aware of parking arrangements (where can your quests park?), pet policies, laundry facilities (including method of payment, if applicable) and natural disaster preparation and damage control. We may not have to worry about hurricanes in Central Ohio, but tornados pose a very real concern. Is there a safe storm shelter? Finally, know what is included in your rent. Some landlords include bills in their rent, such as water, waste removal, electricity, cable & Internet, and gas bills. 

April 24, 2014

Time to Downsize?

Americans tend to think that “bigger is better.” However, this is not always the case. Downsizing has many benefits, such as minimal maintenance (which frees up your time and money!). Many people decide to downsize once their children move out of the family home. It’s common for adults 55+ to move out of single-family homes in the suburbs and into downtown condos and lofts. Downtown is appealing because many of the neighborhoods are within walking distance to shops, work, restaurants, and nightlife. Condos and lofts are attractive because they are low-maintenance and more eco-friendly. Still, downsizing is hard, because often we hold onto fond memories of living in a certain home.

There are a number of factors to consider before you decide to downsize. First of all, how important is home size? Do you really need his-and-her offices, or could you be perfectly happy with one home office? This is simply a matter of personal preference and needs.  It’s important that downsizing feels like a step forward. If it doesn’t, perhaps downsizing is not for you. Nonetheless it’s best to be prepared for a trade-off. You might get less space and sacrifice a few of the luxuries of a bigger home in exchange for a lawn that takes less time to mow and a home that is less expensive and easier to clean. Downsizing is all about prioritizing yours wants and needs and weighing the pros and cons of your options.

Also consider how future scenarios may affect your lifestyle. Is it possible one of your kids will move back in? Do you sometimes host guests that would require a separate quest bedroom or an in-law suite?

It’s essential to consider costs. Downsizing will save you money because you are buying a smaller home and likely selling a bigger, more expensive home. It will also save you money through smaller mortgage payments, less property taxes, and reduced utility bills. Still, moving always costs money.  You may need to buy smaller furniture: large furniture suffocates small spaces. Consider selling your too-big furniture and unneeded possessions at a yard sale or on EBay or Craigslist. You also may need to rent a storage unit, if your new home cannot properly store all of your family heirlooms.

Finally, ask yourself what type of property you are looking for when you downsize. I have mentioned that lofts and condos (“attached homes”) need the least amount of maintenance. However, expect to pay monthly Home Owners Association (HOA) fees, which go toward maintaining the building. Sometimes, buildings with HAOs impose rules on their residences. On the bright side, many come with amenities, such as a gym and/or pool. Some people may prefer a single family, detached home. This option is most attractive to people who want a larger yard, more garage space, and other features that condo living falls short on. For people who have spent a long amount of time in a rather large home, it may be too much of a sacrifice to move into a condo that will likely be much smaller. Either way, pay attention to the neighborhood or area you want to be in. Do you want to be close to downtown? Is it important to live in a walkable, bike-friendly neighborhood? Do you prefer to live in a neighborhood with fewer children—maybe a development removed from schools?

Once you decide what you are looking for in your new home, go ahead and hire a realtor to help you in your search. I have experience with clients who are downsizing; contact me to see how I can help.

If you are building a home, seek out builders who specialize in smaller homes. HGTV recommends building a ranch or bungalow for optimal low-key living. 

April 15, 2014

The Importance of Having a Realtor

With mobile apps and Internet sites such as Realtor.com, it's easy for house hunters to form an idea about what type of home they want and how much they want to spend. But that doesn't mean that Realtors are no longer necessary! Following is a list of reasons why it's critical to have a Realtor when buying, selling or leasing a property.

  • Realtors have an up-to-date, high level of knowledge about the real estate market. This is important because real estate transactions are often the biggest investments of one's life.
  • Realtors can help determine how much you can afford to spend, as well as how much you should spend.
  • Realtors can refer to you to the best qualified lenders. They can also find qualified home inspectors to generate written reports. 
  • Realtors have access to exclusive resources, such as the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). This may show available homes that are not openly advertised. For example, Realtors know from the MLS  and from fellow Realtors when new homes are listed before the general public knows.
  • Realtors can provide information and evaluation when viewing homes, and can also offer objective input. Realtors are especially helpful for local community information, including utilities, zoning, and school districts. 
  • Relators are expert negotiators, working to get you the best possible price. 
  • Realtors serve as marketing coordinators and distributors to other agents and networks. They can host marketing campaigns such as open houses.
  • More then 50% of real estate sales are cooperative sales, meaning a real estate agent other than yours brings in the buyer. This proves how important it is to take advantage of the connections real estate agents have with one another. 
  • Finally, Realtors can guide you through the closing process, helping you understand and work through the legalities and paperwork involved.

Looking for a Realtor? I work with buyers, sellers, and renters. I encourage you to read my client testimonials and contact me!

April 11, 2014

Tax Advantages of Home Ownership

Owning a home is expensive, but don't forget about the silver lining: tax benefits. Tax advantages accompany home ownership at every stage of the process, according to an article published by Realtor.com. When you first buy your home, in most cases, loan discount points and origination fees are tax deductible to the buyer, regardless of who pays them. Tax benefits accompany the purchase of many different types of homes, including single family homes, condos, apartments, town homes, and even motor homes and houseboats--so long as there are cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities. 

When financing your home, you can deduct mortgage interest used to acquire or improve your principal residence in the year that it is paid (although the IRS does limit the amount you can deduct if your loan exceeds $1 million). This is especially meaningful during the early years of a home loan, in which interest accounts for a large portion of monthly payments. For people in the 28% federal tax bracket, this can cut borrowing costs by nearly one-third. Furthermore, you can deduct interest on an additional $100,000 of mortgage debt at any time, to be used for any purpose. Mortgage interest on a second home is also fully deductible--just be sure that the IRS cannot declare the home a residential rental property, which is not eligible for the same tax deductions. According at an article published by Bankrate.com, you must vacation at least 14 days at your second property or spend there more than 10 percent of the number of days that you rent it out--whichever is longer--in order to be eligible for mortgage interest tax deductions.

Finally, selling your home also provides significant tax benefits. If you have owned and ouccipied your principal residence for at least two of the past five years, you can earn up to $500,000 for a married couple and $250,000 for a single person on the sale of that house and pay no federal income tax. 

For information about the tax deductions associated with investment property, click below:

April 8, 2014

Preparing Your Home for Spring

As the ground begins to thaw and the temperature starts to rise, it’s time to think about what you can do to prepare your house for spring, which involves both indoor and outdoor maintenance.

Test your air conditioning system. If this summer is nearly as hot as last summer’s, you may have to wait a long time for a repair crew to come in and fix a broken AC unit during the year’s hottest months. Preforming repairs now will save you time and hassle.

Preform routine tasks that you haven’t done in the past six months or so. This includes testing smoke and fire alarms, cleaning out your fridge and freezer, flipping mattresses, and deep cleaning carpets. The Apron Blog by The Home Depot advises buying your own steam cleaner, especially if you have pets or children.

If you have had problems with pests in the past, now is a good time to undergo preventative treatment.

Use an all-purpose cleaner to clean ceiling fans (even if you used them during the winter).

Clean and store any humidifiers you used during the winter.


Before you get out your outdoor furniture, wipe each piece down and pressure wash the deck.

Seal cracks in the cement of your driveway or sidewalk. Replace loose bricks and pavers.

Clean outdoor light fixtures and replace burnt-out lights with energy-efficient bulbs.

Inspect your roof for damaged or missing shingles. Clean gutters and downspouts, ensuring they direct water away from your home.

To prevent future damages, trim tree limbs and bushes that grow within five feet of your home. While you are working on your lawn, you can also plant bushes and flowers, and spread fresh mulch around trees and shrubs.

This is only a short list of ways to get a jump on spring-cleaning, but it’s a great place to start! The more tasks you preform in the spring, the more time you will have to relax and enjoy the nice summer weather that is soon to come!

For information on how to prepare your garden for spring, watch the video below:

April 4, 2014

Going Mobile: Real Estate Apps for iPhones, Androids, and iPads

In the real estate market, demand continues to trump supply. Homes in Central Ohio are changing hands quicker and, on average, sitting on the market for less than three months. That’s why it’s so important that you have easily accessible tools to help you stay up-to-date in your home search. For 
those of you who have used Realtor.com in your home search, good news—Realtor.com also has apps for iPhones, Androids, and iPads.

iPhone Users: Realtor.com’s iPhone app is free to download and has many of the same capabilities as the website itself. You can customize price range, size, age of home, and even school district among other things. The app also has a feature for open houses and foreclosures. If you’re renting a home, no problem. Realtor.com’s Rentals app allows you to take photos and notes while touring a rental.  It also notifies you when you’re near a rental you’ve saved.

Android Users: Similar to the iPhone apps, Realtor.com has Android apps that serve both buyers and renters. The apps have many of the same features, such as a price change alerts on saved listings and the ability to highlight the area in which you want to search. The Rentals app allows you to tailor your search based on what is most important to you, such as pet and parking policies. It too allows user to take and share their personal pictures and notes.

iPad Users: Realtor.com’s iPad app gives you access to the largest and most frequently updated set of real estate listings available. It offers even more search criteria as well as larger images.

Of course, nothing compares to the guidance you receive when you work with an agent one-on-one. I would love to have the opportunity to earn your business; contact me to see how I can be of help!

Watch a brief tutorial of Realtor.com's iPhone app, above.