New Year, New House

It’s already the New Year people and it’s time for big ideas and big changes. There is the one thing that has been on your mind for a while now but can’t seem to get started. Now is the time. Those homes you have been eyeballing secretly, following the buyer’s apps, and drooling over those historic district houses, well now is the time to act.

Make your New Year’s resolution to treat yourself
to a well deserved new home.
You’ve survived through 2017 so you’ve earned it.


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Why is the New Year a good time to buy? Tax Deductions. Start this year off right with huge tax deductions that are ready to be taken advantage of. Next year you will thank yourself while filing in February. I know it seems like a long way off now but so did the end of 2017, am I right?


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In addition to the usual perks of buying, the holidays and New Year make everyone a little more jolly. The freshness of the New Year may make people nicer as you start your journey into purchasing. Your real estate agent will be more attentive due to slow traffic; the seller may be easier to negotiate with in the spirit of the season. YOU will be less stressed and more easy-going in light of the exciting prospects of ownership.


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Not many people shop for houses this season so many sit on the market for a long time. This will save you money by getting a great deal in a slow market. Sellers will be thrilled to negotiate and sell to you after waiting a spell on a bid.


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It’s better than renting. On rentals you are essentially burning your money each month. Buying is an investment that will eventually make you money if you ever decide to sell your home.

Make your New Year work for you, make your new year’s resolution to own.

 


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Stage the Scene

One of the most important items to check off the list when selling a home is to stage the home. Not many people realize this or would even know how or where to start. You want the buyer to see the home as you once saw it. Somewhere they can hang their hat and relax on the couch with Netflix after work. A place in which they can host dinner parties and drink wine with old friends. Professional stagers can get expensive and add extra costs to an already large project. These are some DIY tips for doing it without dipping into the funds too much.


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The goal is to give the buyer an idea of what the home would look like if it were theirs and not yours. Pack away all personal items and store them. The upside to this is that it gives you a chance to begin packing and stage the house. Two birds, one stone. Family photos and pet products can make it distracting to the potential buyer so they won’t be able to imagine living there. Clear any clutter from the counters as well as children’s toys. Decluttering the home increases the buyer’s interest because they aren’t focused on your interests. Orderly stack your boxes in a corner of the garage to minimalize clutter and unsightliness. This is an extremely cheap way to stage your home without extra effort or costs.


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If the home hasn’t had a good clean paint job in years then its time to break out the can and brush. This will give a new feel to your walls and also create a new home smell. Go with a neutral color like white, off white, or beige. It sounds outdated but it is actually sound advice. Not everybody will enjoy your guacamole colored bathroom as much as you did.


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Clean the house. I know, I know. You lead a busy life so it is hard to keep it pristine. The fact is buyers don’t want to smell little Billy’s stinky baseball cleats or your precious Taffy cat’s litter box. Get rid of any potentially off putting odors. Temporarily hide or put outside the litter box and spray some Febreeze. Even better bake cookies or place some cloves and cinnamon sticks in a crock-pot with water. Either have the house professionally cleaned or take a day off to really get down and dirty. That includes carpets, baseboards, and ceiling fans. Then when you think you’re done, do it again.

Now that you are a semi-professional home stager, you can charge your friends to stage theirs while selling your own. Best of buyers to you.

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The benefits of downsizing are many, but can come at cost!

Hidden cost No. 1: Taxes

Depending on how long you’ve lived in your home, when you sell the place, a large portion of your equity may go straight to federal and state capital-gains taxes. Many folksdownplay or underestimate this heavy lift. You can exclude up to $500,000 of profit from the sale of your home if you’re a married couple filing jointly, or $250,000 if you’re single. (Your profit is the sale price minus its selling expenses and “tax basis”—that is, what you paid when you originally purchased it, plus the cost of any improvements you’ve made to the property.)

The IRS offers some guidelines on how to calculate capital gains, but you’ll still want to consult a tax adviser to find out how much you’re going to walk away with when you sell your home, says Rae Wayne, a Realtor® with the Bizzy Blondes team in Los Angeles.

Additionally, if you’re buying your next property, you might have to pay more in property taxes depending on where you’re moving. But if this is a retirement move you’re making, you may be in luck: Some cities offer property tax relief to seniors, so find out from your adviser if a discount is available and whether you qualify.

Hidden cost No. 2: Repairs

Depending on how long you’ve lived in your home, you might have plenty of deferred maintenance to deal with. So to get the most value for your house, you’ll need to make repairs before putting your property on the market. You may also have some cosmetic issues that need attention. Maybe lots of ’em.

“A lot of homeowners just let landscaping slip,” says Nancy Newquist-Nolan, a Realtor with Pacific Coast Realty in Santa Barbara, CA, who specializes in downsizing. “Older homeowners in particular just don’t have the energy.”

Is that you? When Jeb Bush was labeled “low energy” during the Republican primaries, did you nod sadly in recognition? Then it’s worth hiring a professional to do basic landscaping, including removing weeds, planting flowers, and pruning hedges and trees. Improving your home’s landscape can raise its value by up to 12%, according to research from Virginia Tech.

Moreover, painting the front door, replacing the mailbox, and updating light fixtures are low-cost upgrades that can boost curb appeal substantially.

Hidden cost No. 3: Moving

Unless you can get friends or family to help you (and at this point in your life, do you really want to?), you’ll probably hire a moving company when you downsize. Just keep this in mind: The average professional move costs a not-at-all-small $12,230, according to Worldwide ERC, an association that tracks mobility costs.

But there are a number of ways you can save.

Timing is crucial. Summer is peak moving season, since most families want to move when their children are out of school. And trust us, surge pricing isn’t unique to Uber. So avoid the priciest periods if possible: You’ll save if you can relocate during the winter. Moreover, a mid-month move will help cut costs, since movers are busiest during the beginning and end of the month when leases turn over, says Scott Michael, president and CEO at American Moving & Storage Association.

Another way to cut costs is simply to comparison shop: Get in-home quotes from at least three companies, Michael advises. Transporting valuables like antiques? Make sure you’re covered if something breaks. Since legal coverage varies by state, look into purchasing “full replacement value” protection from the moving company, says Michael. Also, some homeowners insurance policies cover items when in transit, so check your coverage.

If you’re making a local move, you’ll likely pay by the hour, so make the process as seamless as possible, says Regina Leeds, a professional organizer and author of “Rightsize … Right Now!: The 8-Week Plan to Organize, Declutter, and Make Any Move Stress-Free.”

To conserve time, pack smaller items yourself, label boxes and furniture to indicate their designated room, and supply workers with handwritten instructions the day of the move.

“The less questions movers have to ask you, the faster they’ll go,” and the more you’ll save, says Leeds.

Since long-distance moves are typically priced based on weight, you can shave costs by unloading your “clutter” before moving.

Hidden cost No. 4: Storage

Having trouble parting with some of your possessions? You may be tempted to put them into a storage unit, but Newquist-Nolan says it’s a waste of money.

“When you downsize, you should be able to reduce your possessions to fit your new living space,” she says.

Leeds recommends going room to room and making a list of everything you’re going to get rid of, including furniture, clothing, and canned foods.

“You want to have space in your next home for new mementos,” says Leeds.

Be brutal—you’ll be happy you were. You have three options when paring down your belongings, according to Newquist-Nolan: Give them to family, sell them (either on eBay or in a yard sale), or make a donation and receive a tax write-off. Some organizations (e.g., the Salvation Army) will pick up donations from your house, making it a hassle-free decision. If you’re going to simplify, simplify.

Hidden cost No. 5: Living expenses in your new locale

This one is a big wild card. Some living expenses are fixed, like condo dues or homeowners association fees, and thus easier to budget for; in other cases, your cost of living might go up—sometimes way up—if you’re making a long-distance move.

Online calculators can give you a rough estimate of what you’ll be paying, but you can get a better sense of how much things cost by visiting your prospective town.

“Check out the supermarkets, restaurants, and shopping centers,” says Wayne, “and talk to as many people as possible to get a feel for what it’s like to live there.” After all, small is the new big. Just make sure it’s the right kind of small.