Your Paycheck Gets Bigger When You Buy a Home!

Amazing, but true. Buying a home adds to your “take home” income – possibly by several hundred dollars or more – simply by increasing the number of federal income tax withholding allowances on Form W-4.

Here’s how it works.
New home buyers generally find that their pre-purchase withholding rate will result in overpayment of taxes, if they don’t adjust their withholding allowances. That’s because they haven’t reduced their withholding to compensate for reduced taxes caused by deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes – items that are currently deductible at income tax filing time.
See for yourself.
A first-year homeowner who paid $9,000 in interest and real estate taxes, and who itemized deductions in a 28% tax bracket, would have overwithheld and would get a large refund next year. In this case, $2,520.
Enjoy your bigger paycheck.
Increasing the number of withholding allowances, on the other hand, reduces the amount withheld to pay future taxes – which puts your tax refund in your paycheck today, not at the end of the year. With the additional cash in your hands instead of in the government’s, you’ll have more cash to meet payments and live on.
Be sure to check the tax rules.
The rules for claiming allowances are simple. Working couples filing jointly figure withholding allowances on combined wage income and may allocate them between employers. On separate returns, the allowances must be figured separately. And if you work for two or more employers at the same time, you may claim withholding allowances from only one employer.
Please e-mail or call us with questions about your specific real estate situation.

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Buying the Most Home for Your Money!

You’re neither rich nor poor, and you’re ready to buy your first home. You look around. All those homes on the market! All seemingly priced out of reach!

Cheer up. You’re not alone. With some solid real estate counseling and some help from your lender and/or sellers and others, you can not only get your toe in the door, but you can own the house too. It just takes some creativity, a few inside tips and a bit of homework.

For starters:
Examine your goals
How ironclad are your dreams? Can your ideal of a formal dining room or a hot tub on a redwood deck be postponed? Must you have a two-car garage? Lowering your expectations and starting out modestly (in decent housing that meets your needs) can lead to owning those dreams — in time.

Start saving
Get your priorities straight. Without taking all the fun out of life, what’s more important to you, weekends on the road and dinners out or stashing away at least part of your down payment? (Most lenders want to see that some of the money you invest is your own.)

Keep your credit record clean
When you go mortgage shopping, lenders will be looking over your payment records. Don’t let a late-payment habit rise to haunt you. (Reformed late-payers can request creditors to erase the blots on their records — for a small fee.)

Look for financial assistance
Your parents and other relatives may be able and willing to give you gifts that will get you over the down payment hurdle. (Loans from relatives will be counted as debts and will lower the amount of mortgage payments your lender will allow you to carry.)

Get some co-signers
Parents, relatives (and unrelated investors) can either co-sign a loan or share the ownership of your home. With shared ownership, you’ll be the resident but your co-investor may share specified expenses (plus tax advantages and equity accrual), and will share in your profit on sale.

Shop for mortgage loans
Qualifying for a mortgage can be managed in several ways to fit your down payment and monthly-payment abilities. FHA and VA loans come with low down payment requirements, and lenders offer ARMs (adjustable-rate mortgages) at initially low interest rates. (Look for an ARM that can be converted to a fixed rate should rates drop.)

Consider creative financing
Also, new-home builders and other sellers may offer buy-downs that lower your interest rate in the first few years of a mortgage, thereby making a home more affordable. Balloon loans (if they have at least a 7-year term) can often bridge gaps and give you time to accumulate equity and/or cash to pay them off. Home sellers can sometimes help you financially — with a lease-purchase arrangement or a take-back loan. Lenders and sellers are constantly creating new ways to help buyers buy homes. We can help you check them out.

Look at starter homes
Once freed of the vision of “instant dream home,” you can look for housing that will start you on the equity-building path to realizing your dream. Condominiums and townhouses are often much less expensive than detached houses and buying one now can serve well as a stepping stone.

Search for bargains
If you’re handy with tools, a fixer-upper home gives you the opportunity to buy inexpensively, fix up and, in a few years, trade up. And if you’re adventurous, auctioned properties in suitable neighborhoods can also be good values. If you don’t mind a longer commute to work, outlying areas frequently offer homes at lower prices than those found close to town.

Whatever route you choose toward buying your first home, keep cool. It may take time to find the right combination of elements, but there is a home out there for you and a way to obtain it. We’ll be most happy to help you create your path to its door.

Call or e-mail us for more information on buying your first home.

Seven High-cost Mistakes to Avoid (when selling your upscale home)!

If you are selling an above-average-price property in an upscale neighborhood, you know your home is unique. You expect an upscale property to be marketed with the same professionalism you demand in every aspect of your life. That’s where our experience selling homes like yours really pays off.
Keep in mind, buyers who can afford your home lead busy lives like you and look for a hassle-free sale. Move-up buyers don’t need to buy now, so they wait and watch for that just-right home. It might be yours.

Unfortunately, even sophisticated homeowners sometimes make mistakes when they go to sell their upscale homes, netting less than the top-dollar price it’s worth. Or worse, the home just doesn’t sell at all.

Here are seven common pitfalls to avoid:

1. Underestimating The Competition
Even though your property may be one-of-a-kind, there are other homes on the market being shown to the same potential buyers. Before you list your home, we’ll give you an “armchair tour” of comparable properties listed for sale in your price range. We’ll share our inside observations on how each home compares to yours and what special features stand out.

2. Overestimating The Value
When we tour the competition, you’ll notice how similar homes are priced. Features of interest to today’s buyers include location, house design and size, privacy afforded by the lot and acreage, special amenities, type of community, and quality of local schools and facilities. Together, we’ll help position your home at the right price. By avoiding the over-pricing trap — which often results in repeated price reductions making the property seem distressed — we’ll save time and net the full value of your home.

3. Relying On Location
Homes in the higher price ranges need to look magazine-perfect when shown to potential buyers. Today’s market demands that everything — doors to floors, fixtures to walls — be sparkling clean. Even minor faults loom large in what is expected to be a perfect home. In short, fix up, repair and polish like never before.

4. Over-Improving
Also, avoid over-individualizing the house or grounds. People tend to buy homes they see as an image of themselves. A home that’s too individualized with strong, personalized decorating won’t sell quickly. Avoid dramatic custom flourishes that may not suit many other people. Some buyers will mentally calculate the cost of removing the customization and deduct the cost from their offer.
Although you want your home to look its best, spending thousands of dollars to redecorate will not likely help it sell at a higher price — it may sell more quickly, though.

5. Making Your Own Marketing Decisions
The marketing plan for your home needs to reach out to the right potential buyers. We offer a first-class marketing campaign that requires careful advance planning to allow time for reserving appropriate advertising space, top-notch photography, brochure production, even special events, such as a top-broker open house.
Many homeowners overestimate the value of one-shot marketing such as newspaper or TV spot ads. What typically works better is advertising with a longer “shelf life,” in upscale publications, for example, where ads are directed at an ideal niche.

Let us help you decide whether your house could benefit from an open house or would be better shown by appointment only. Yours is not a home for curious, unqualified walk-ins.

6. Playing Hard To Get
No home sells sight unseen. Working together, we can create a plan to show the house to qualified prospects without disturbing your schedule. Details, such as the security system or guard dogs, may need to be worked out.
Rest assured, all buyers will be financially qualified, perhaps requiring an approval letter from an attorney or banker, before we will bring them to see your property.

7. Being Inflexible
You have a unique home, and you’re looking for a unique buyer. Chances are that buyer will have special needs and concerns. The most likely buyer will probably need to sell a current home to buy yours. Flexible terms, possibly including some extra time to settle on the old home, will help sell your home quickly at the right price.

To Remodel or Sell Your Home?

Do the walls seem to be closing in on you? Are your cupboards and closets overflowing with stuff? Can you see more toys than flooring at your feet? If so, you need more space. And your choices are remodel your home, move to a larger one, or move to a home that you want to remodel.
How can you decide which approach is best for you? Start by considering your priorities. If you are basically happy with your current location, the relative cost of your options is likely to make the decision for you.

Wish List
Take an inventory of your current house to determine whether remodeling will work for you. Look at each room. Do all of them need help? If so, remodeling may be too expensive and a move might be your only practical choice. If just one area of the house needs work that can be accomplished by bumping out a wall or adding on, then remodeling may be the correct move for you. Consider what you would have to do to the basic structure of your house to arrive at your dream home.
Cost
How much money can you afford to spend? Would you need a construction loan to remodel, or would you take money out of your home’s equity? If you must borrow money to remodel, will the cost of the loan, combined with your existing mortgage payment, be more than the monthly payments for a new home with the space and amenities you want? Moving may be easier and less expensive.
Calculate how much it would cost you to replace your current home with one that meets your needs. What improvements could you make to your current home for the same investment? Will a new addition of, say, a master bedroom suite, be enough to satisfy your desire for a new look and more space? Or do you need more living space all over the house?

Is your desire for newer amenities the driving force for a new home? If you’re looking to modernize wiring and plumbing or increase hi-tech capabilities, it might be better to move into a house that already has these features.

Payback
Most homeowners start remodeling with the kitchen or a bathroom, both of which can cost a fair amount of money to upgrade but also show better-than average payback at sale time. Will it be a worthwhile investment? The answer depends on the type of payoff you’re looking for.
If you decide to remodel, don’t expect to recoup the funds spent on home improvements when you eventually sell the property. Some remodeling projects are likely to be far more financially rewarding than others, yet few yield a 100% return. If you can keep costs down, however, perhaps by doing some of the work yourself, your project might pay you back in full at sale time, maybe even show a profit. Remember, though, the primary reason for remodeling is to meet your living needs, not to make your house worth more.

The point of some projects is simply to bring a house up-to-date. Remodeling a 1960s-era kitchen would make your home more competitive (at sale time) with 21st Century homes. A new kitchen would almost certainly increase your home’s value compared with neighborhood homes that haven’t been upgraded.

Recognizing Limits
Don’t make the expensive mistake of remodeling your house just to sell it faster or at a higher price. You’ll waste your money, frustrating your ability to move into a home that better meets your own needs. Put your current home on the market in clean, well-cared-for condition, but save your money to redesign or decorate your next, more-spacious house.
Also, be careful when remodeling or expanding your home that you don’t over-improve. Remember, your home’s value reflects (and is limited by) the value of homes in your immediate neighborhood.

House Or Community?
For some homeowners, the community or lifestyle they enjoy in their current home is a great reason to stay put. You can’t buy a sense of community — it’s something you develop over the years. If you are unwilling to trade familiarity, friends and neighborhood for a larger home in another area, then remodeling could be the best solution.
As you consider remodeling, however, be sure your current neighborhood can carry the evolved house. If yours is the only house in the community that has been bumped out or up, it may be difficult to sell eventually, and you’re not likely to recoup much of your remodeling investment.

Don’t forget to check local zoning laws and homeowner association limitations if you intend to add on to the dwelling. If your house already takes up a large portion of the lot, local zoning may limit how much more house you can build.

As you consider improvements to your home, keep in mind that landscaping and exterior appearance will attract buyers to your home. Once they get inside, they’ll be looking for functionality, durability and convenience.

Before taking on remodeling projects or major additions to your home, give us a call to see if we can help you find an existing home that meet your needs.