Category Archives: Home Tips

What is an MLS?

Odds are you’ve spent a little time online searching for homes. After all, most home searches begin online. You may have even used a broker’s website or a site like Trulia or Zillow to help you browse listings.

But where does listing information come from?

Way back in the day, prior to the Information Age revolution, brokers used to gather and exchange information about their properties. The idea was fairly straightforward: I’ll help you sell your properties if you help me sell mine. It’s a “private offer of cooperation and compensation.” Cooperation meant the real estate industry could thrive and buyers and sellers could enjoy smoother transactions.

This spirit of cooperation gave rise to Multiple Listing Service(s) (MLS). By consolidating information about housing inventory in an MLS, listing brokers and buyers’ brokers can easily share up-to-date information about homes on the market. Though an MLS is typically a private database available to brokers, much of the information is syndicated to outside sites in the interest of casting wider net for buyers and sellers.

As an MLS is the primary source of information about a property, it tends to be the most accurate. It may also contain private information for use by brokers only, such as times the home is available for showings and seller contact information.

There are upwards of 850 MLS databases in the U.S. alone, and to a certain extent, there is market pressure to centralize these into a national MLS database. We’re sure to see changes in how Multiple Listing Services are used in the future, but the core benefits to home sellers and buyers is sure to remain.

Ready to put the power of an MLS to work for you? Search with me today for homes on the market right now. I’d be happy to help you find your next home:

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Retirement strategy? Relocate!

Unlike earlier generations of retirees who paid off their mortgages and retired in their family home, today’s Baby Boomers are looking to capitalize on home equity to enhance their retirement savings. If you’re thinking how relocating might stretch your retirement dollar, below are a few points you should consider before relocating, downsizing, or trading up:

 

  1. Speak with your spouse or partner first, even if you think you’re both of the same mind. Don’t assume that you’re in agreement. When the moment to make the leap comes, feelings may change.

 

  1. Consider the cost-of-living in a different part of the country. There’s a pretty big swing between rural Florida and urban San Francisco, for example. This might also mean factoring fuel costs if you’re moving into an area where you’re likely to spend more time driving.

 

  1. Consider whether your plans are realistic. For example, could you really live in a 1-bedroom condo after spreading out for years in your present 4-bed/3-bath?

 

  1. How much will the ease and pleasure of retirement depend on family and friends? What are the pros/cons of moving nearer/farther away? Conversely: Are there any detriments to moving closer to younger family members? (I.e. are you ready to open a free grandkid-sitting service?)

 

  1. Consider the potential impact of capital gains if you have substantial equity in your home— speak with a tax professional. This is especially true if you’re downshifting from ownership into a rental market.

 

Relocating to a more affordable area as well as to a smaller home is a strong strategy. But real estate values and property taxes can vary immensely by locale, even within the same state. Research thoroughly. Also, you want to spend significant time in the location to make sure its compatible with your lifestyle, pace, and interests.

 

If you’re thinking about relocating or know someone who would like to speak to a local agent about relocation plans, please pass along my information. I would be honored to serve your friends and family:

Is it Time to Upgrade?

Sometimes a perfectly nice home in fine shape simply won’t sell. Fresh paint, fine curb appeal, a solid neighborhood… and no offers. Sellers are baffled and irritated. “But I’ve been living in this home ten years! There’s nothing wrong with it!”

Often the culprit is “functional obsolescence.”

Never heard of it? You’re not alone. Investopedia defines it this way: “A reduction in the usefulness or desirability of an object because of an outdated design feature, usually one that cannot be easily changed. The term is commonly used in real estate, but has a wide application.”

Functional obsolescence can creep up on a home owner, as when a built-in technological feature is no longer useful. Some homes in the 1970s and 80s had old solid-state intercom systems for communicating between rooms. What was cutting edge then is a retro eyesore now. Built-in entertainment center kiosks or furniture are also a good example of this.

Home owners can introduce functional obsolescence with poor renovation choices. Renovations should always be made with an eye on the possibility that a home will be sold down the line, but occasionally an owner will ignore this. Take, for example, the massive kitchen renovation which takes an unreasonable bite out of the living room.

Inconveniences an owner has put up with over the years can be classified as functional obsolescence as well. If you have a second floor without bathrooms or a bedroom which must be accessed by walking through another bedroom? That’s a design flaw that can bite you when it’s time to sell.

Neighborhoods can introduce a degree of functional obsolescence as well. When an smaller, older home on a large lot is dwarfed by modern homes with more space, the home itself may lose appeal or value in buyers’ eyes.

If you’re thinking of selling or buying, you should be familiar with the idea of functional obsolescence. Either you’ll want to eliminate the problem or you’ll need to realize the problem will be an issue for you should you choose to sell one day.

I can help buyers and sellers see homes with an objective perspective. If you’re curious about where your home fits in this market, contact me today:

5 Questions to Ask Before You Renovate

Over time, almost any home could use an upgrade. Not only is wear and tear an issue, but our needs change as we do. Birth, death, marriage, the kids going off to college… all can have a profound impact on the utility of our home and the pleasure we take in it. Home renovation can be an excellent way to improve your quality of life, but is it always the best choice? By asking yourself these five essential renovation questions, you can gain real insight into the right decision.

1. What are your renovation priorities?
Yes, if you could do it all, it would be great. But odds are you won’t be able to do it all. So brainstorm all of your renovation desires and write them down. Next, rank them by order of importance. Some will be large and some will be small. Consider your budget. Would you be happier with one large revision, or would several small ones be better? Prioritize to clarify!

2. How disruptive will the renovation be to living in your home?
Understanding your appetite for disruption is important. Some renovation projects are minor and may take a day or two. Others could drag on for months and months. What are you willing to tolerate?

3. How will the renovation impact the home’s balance?
Major renovation projects can throw a home’s feel, flow, or look out of line. If you put a commercial-grade, ultramodern kitchen, will the nearby living room look shabby or antiquated? What if you add a bedroom but you only have one bathroom?

4. How long will you enjoy the renovation?
People typically renovate when they’re planning on staying in their home. Which direction is your neighborhood heading? Are you planning to downsize in a couple of years? A renovation may be overkill if you don’t think you’ll stick around long.

5. Will you recoup your investment?
Happiness with your home should be your top priority, but before you renovate you should understand that a major renovation isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get your money out when it’s time to sell. This may or may not be a factor for you.

I’m perfectly happy to walk through these questions with you. Renovating may be the right choice, but sometimes only a move will do. Either way, I’m here to help:

Attention investors: New rules for deducting home improvements

Investment property owners and landlords know that tax deductions are a crucial component of making sure they maximize their returns. In January of 2014 the IRS in the U.S. implemented a somewhat complex distinction as to what constitutes a repair versus improvement.

Why does it matter? Well, repairs can be deducted in a single year. So if you have a $1,000 qualifying repair, you can deduct it at one time. If it’s an improvement, however, the $1,000 worth of work may need to be depreciated over several years. (In some cases, more than 27 years!)

One useful test for understanding if a deduction can be taken in a single year is whether or not it falls outside of the “Betterment, Adaptation, or Restoration” assessment. If the work falls under these categories, they’ll need to be depreciated, not deducted in a lump sum.

There are some subtle considerations for each case. For a detailed look at what constitutes a betterment, adaptation, or restoration, take a look at this handy article:

Repairs vs. Improvements: Complicated New IRS Rules
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/repairs-vs-improvements-how-tax-deductions-differ-landlords.html

Granted, this blog post shouldn’t be taken in lieu of the advice of a trained tax professional, but I hope you find it helpful as it pertains to your investments.

Looking for a new investment property? I can be of great assistance when it comes to identifying overlooked opportunities in the market. Get in touch today and let’s discuss what might fit your criteria:

Invest in Your Dream

Which do you think is more dangerous? A lack of knowledge, or mistaken knowledge?

Daniel J. Boorstin, the historian, professor, writer, and former U.S. Librarian of Congress once wrote, “The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.”

Some of the world’s most important revelations have depended on the exploration and adoption of a more complex understanding of our universe. A round planet? The sun at the center of our galaxy? Heresy, once upon a time. But science eventually told the true story.

A lack of knowledge leaves the search open to us all. When we admit what we don’t know, we can at least seek answers. But what about when we think we know? What happens when we are certain in our misunderstanding?

Many people I talk to believe they can’t afford to buy a home, that now is the wrong time to sell, or they won’t be able to secure a mortgage. Many of these beliefs are assumptions based on past experiences, generalized market information which doesn’t look at trends in specific neighborhoods, and media headlines about tight lending conditions.

Unfortunately, many people are held back from their dream of homeownership because they haven’t investigated the possibility for themselves recently. If you’ve put buying or selling out of your mind, I urge you to contact me at any of the methods below to explore your options. Much has changed recently, and I’d be happy to investigate the facts of the market as they pertain to your situation. At the very least, I can help you plan for your future.

How to protect your plants this winter

When the colder months settle in, there’s no reason to sacrifice all of your plants. Depending on the type of plants you have and the severity of your winter, there are ways to help ensure your favorite decorative greenery sees another spring.

Before it’s too late, take the time now to plan your plant protection strategy. These tips selected from gardening experts from around the web should help many of your most beloved shrubs, bushes, trees, and potted wonders make it through the harsh weather.

Move potted plants off concrete and onto the earth. Protecting the roots of a plant can be key to its survival. The top of a plant can often endure more trauma than the roots. Concrete can warm considerably in the sun, and then become very cold at night. This heat/cool cycle and the rapid swings in temperature it brings can damage roots.

Plant in big pots. Soil is insulation for root systems. In a 10-gallon pot you’ll have ten times the protection a 1-gallon pot provides. It can also be useful to buy a pot with a thickness greater than one inch as a means of helping further shield the roots.

During winter, water at the warmest point in the day. When temperatures climb above freezing, water your plants. Water is often used as a defense against freezing temperatures, in part because when water freezes it releases heat. Also, wet soil does a better job protecting from invasive cold than dry soil (which contains air pockets).

Position plants where temperature swings are lower. Often southern exposures will experience the greatest temperature fluctuations, so consider northern or eastern positions around the house.

Group plants defensively. Gather your plants together, placing the “weakest” of the bunch in the center and the heartiest selection on the outside, forming a border. You can also create a barrier around the group to help shield the plants from excessive wind.

Mulch for additional insulation. Mulch can help create a blanket of protection. Hay or a thick layer of leaves can also work.

Consider bringing some plants indoors. Certain potted plants might have the best defense inside. But if you do bring them indoors, bring them in before it gets too cold. The shock of moving from a chilly autumn night to a heated home can be dangerous.

With a little planning and luck, you can extend the life of your plants and the beauty of your home.