Monday, November 29, 2010

Winter buyers are serious. Give them a treat and don’t over decorate during the holidays.

Using some restraint in holiday decorating goes a long way to selling your home now.

Celebrating the holidays and selling your home can go hand-in-hand if you use a little restraint in the decorating department. Keep in mind that buyers who look at homes during the winter are serious; with interest rates low and a wide variety of housing to choose from you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to sell because of overwhelming decorations.

Beginning on the outside, curb appeal is even more important during the winter because of the lack of grass and trees. Making potential buyers feel welcome is a great start in the sales process. Hanging a beautiful, real wreath on the door is a good start. Use fresh greens rather artificial so visitors enter your home with the pleasing scent of pine.

If you are an outdoor lights aficionado, go ahead but keep it simple. The inflatable Santa that is your family tradition–keep it packed up for your next home, but do add lights around your door and along the walkway. Generally non-twinkling white lights are preferable because they do light the way for prospective buyers and reduce potential falls in the evening hours.

Decorating for the holiday season follows the same rules as other times…declutter, keep it simple, keep it impersonal and show off your home’s best points. Yes, you can have a Christmas tree this year and sell your home at the same time! When choosing that tree, pick a slender one rather than a bushy behemoth. And before you bring the tree in, take a few pieces of furniture out of the room. Offering a view of a cramped, cluttering room is not a holiday treat for buyers. They need to see the true strengths of your home and imagine themselves celebrating the holidays here next year.

As with the refreshing pine scent from your door wreath, tempting your buyer’s senses inside increases the chance of a sale. If you have an open house during the holidays, offer mulled cider and bake some Christmas cookies instead of using artificial, chemical imitations. Buyers know the real thing and will respond.

Inside decorations should be low-key and subtle. Unpack only a few prized, but impersonal things. Small table decorations, some holiday flowers, a few pine cones and some simple greens over the fireplace will do the trick.

Once the holiday cheer dies down, remove all your decorations directly after New Years. Buyers want to know you’ve taken care of their potential home and attending to such details shows you care about selling.

Despite having to show some restraint with your holiday decorating, just remember you can do what you want next year in your new home.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fireplaces Draw Potential Buyers to Your Home

With a few furniture changes and a good cleaning, your fireplace will welcome buyers and make them feel at home

As the temperatures drop and our attention turns inward, having a cheery fireplace as the focal point of a room is a soothing experience. And, if you are selling your home during the winter months, the fireplace adds value and interest if staged properly.

Before you begin using your fireplace, have a certified chimney sweep clean and inspect it. You want your winter to be safe. Small cracks in the firebox and chimney coatings can cause problems if sparks land there and smolder long after you thought the fire was out.

Cleaning makes a big difference too. Removing ashes from the firebox once a week during winter months is the rule, and more often if potential buyers are viewing your house. Like the rest of the home, cleanliness in your fireplace means attention to detail and good maintenance. Scoop the ashes out into a container and dispose of them in the trash. Never use a vacuum cleaner; latent coals may still be burning.

Don’t hide your fireplace behind furniture. Show it off with a welcoming seating arrangement that begs you to sit down and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. Switch out the worn fireplace screen and invest in a new one. To keep your fireplace the center of attention, de-clutter the mantel and surrounding area. While you enjoy seeing a mantel full of family photos, this is a distraction for the winter buyer. Simplicity is the key here and you may also enjoy admiring your fireplace’s architectural details.

Enhance your fireplace with a few decorative touches. In this case odd numbers are in. Use one, three or five objects that are in proportion to your fireplace. For instance, a painting too small or too large will detract from your fireplace’s impact.

Whether your fireplace is sleek and ultra-modern or Tuscan brick, use it to welcome potential buyers who will say, “Ahhh, this is home!”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Non-business Energy Property Credit

Use it before it is gone: A 30 percent credit of what a homeowner spends on eligible energy-saving improvements, up to a maximum tax credit of $1,500 for the combined 2009 and 2010 tax years. The cost of certain high-efficiency heating and air conditioning systems, water heaters and stoves that burn biomass all qualify, along with labor costs for installing these items. In addition, the cost of energy-efficient windows and skylights, energy-efficient doors, qualifying insulation and certain roofs also qualify for the credit, though the cost of installing these items does not count.

By spending as little as $5,000 before the end of the year, on eligible energy-saving improvements, you can save as much as $1,500 on their 2010 federal income tax return, if you did not use the credit in 2009.

Written by Joan Campbell, CPA

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1st Time Home Buyer Tips

Pending home sales are up for the second month in a row
First-time homebuyers can make the purchase rewarding with careful planning and financial honesty

A glimmer of positive movement surfaced in the real estate market this week–¬pending home sales increased for the second straight month. Low interest rates make purchasing a home very attractive now.

For first-time homebuyers, the process can be intimidating, but breaking down the steps brings the experience into perspective. Here are some hints to make your home purchase as smooth as possible.

Determine a budget–Be honest about how much you can spend. Factor in expenses not directly included in the actual purchase price, such as closing costs, inspections, repairs and mortgage insurance. Also think about long-term expenses–in addition to the mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, small and large disasters and maintenance can eat up a large chunk of your monthly income.

Just because you’ve been pre-approved for a $200,000 loan at $2,000 a month doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to spend that much. By pushing your financial limits, you could be “house rich and cash poor” or even houseless should your income be severely diminished.

Find a reliable lender–This is important and will avoid unpleasant surprises down the line. For starters, discuss your potential mortgage with a loan officer at your bank and get some basic figures. Ask your real estate agent for referrals. Loan officers who have a good working relationship with real estate agents will be fair and get the loan closed on time. (By the way, there are no referral fees; that’s illegal and a good agent would never do that.)

Be competitive and fair–In a slow moving market, some homebuyers feel that sellers are so desperate to sell their home that they will take any lowball offer just to move on. That can be very insulting to a seller, who may not wish to deal with you. Of course you want the best price possible, but the process entails mutual respect, a reasonable starting bid, and fair market value.

Choose your agent carefully–Not only should professionalism and a great sales record be a choice for an agent, but personality plays a part too. Interview several agents and, all being equal at the end, decide which agent you would best work with on a personal level.

Plotting a methodical, sensible course to home buying with your dream house as the prize at the end will make the process less stressful and more rewarding.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A recent IRS phishing scam: Receiving e-mails with the subject line and content something like:

Subject: LAST NOTICE: Your Federal Tax Payment ID: 010363221 has been rejected.
Your Federal Tax Payment ID: 010375163 has been rejected.
Return Reason Code R21 - The identification number used in the Company Identification Field is not valid. Please, check the information and refer to Code R21 to get details about your company payment in transaction contacts section: In other way forward information to your accountant adviser.

Please remember:

1. First, the IRS does not initiate communication through e-mail
2. Second, do not reply, do not open attachments, do not click on any links
3. Last, report suspicious e-mails to

Written by Joan Campbell CPA

Monday, November 1, 2010

Selling your home during the fall season requires patience

Sprucing up your home’s exterior and curb appeal will go a long way toward welcoming a buyer

Buyers and sellers should not be deterred just because fall and early winter are considered slower for real estate sales. People do buy homes now and astute buyers know this is the time to purchase very special deals. Fall home sellers can make a favorable impression by enhancing curb appeal and making appealing to the buyer’s senses. Fall selling tips include:

Keeping your lawn in shape. Summer may be recent history, but buyers want to see your lawn’s potential. Re-seed bare spots, rake fallen leaves and replace faded summer flowers with colorful fall plantings, such as mums and pansies that have been hybridized for fall and early winter blooms.

Exterior street appearance is vital. We are a bit past the brilliant autumn foliage so your home becomes more exposed and the exterior appearance is extremely important. Cleaning gutters and downspouts shows potential buyers that you are serious about home maintenance. Chipped exterior paint and discolored siding will be more apparent; a good power washing is in order with some paint touch up. Also, make sure outdoor lighting is bright and shiny–you may be showing your home in the dark and the potential buyer should feel safe.

Pictures say it all. If your home was originally put on the market in the spring or summer, take new fall shots for your real estate agent’s website. You don’t to seem dated or indifferent to a sale.

Bring the natural light in. Buyers want a sense of openness, cleanliness and space. Wash all your windows and open the drapes for maximum exposure to the outdoors. A gloomy inside just doesn’t make the buyer feel inspired. Add a few fall decorations too, but hold back on those fake plants and leaves.

Understand the buyer’s mindset. You may encounter homebuyers who will come in with an unacceptably low bid because they think fall sellers are eager to sell. Depending on what you need, deal with these potential buyers accordingly and work to find a mutually agreeable price if that is possible.

Flexibility is the key. Selling a home this time of the year means a certain amount of flexibility. Working with your buyers will help with a sale. Be prepared to show your home at any reasonable time and hold open houses. Also consider paying closing costs and pitching in with minor repairs.

While fall isn’t the easiest time of the year to sell, with some flexibility and negotiation, both the seller and buyer can experience a positive sale.