Monthly Archives: February 2014

12 Decorating Do’s and Don’ts

Decorating Tips“Tired of living with white walls and the same decor that you’ve had for years?  Want to spruce things up a bit, but not sure how, or where to start?  Read these great tips from some of the best in the business.”

DC Metro Realty Team – Denise Buck & Ed Johnson 


No rules – but timeless, unforgettable advice. Twelve designers share their favorite words of wisdom.

Don’t: Use White Decor If You Have Kids or Pets
“If you have pets or children, white rugs and upholstery are just not in the cards. People love the way they look but never realize that you have to hermetically seal your household to keep them clean.” –Markham Roberts

Do: Find Inspiration in Your Travels
“Travel as much as you can, and stay on the alert for inspiration wherever you go – you could find a great floor plan in a museum’s period room, or a color in a painting. And don’t just rely on your camera. If you draw something, you’ll really absorb the detail.” –DD Allen

Don’t: Forget About Seating
“Today everyone likes rooms sparse, but for a living room, you need the sorts of chairs people can pull up together, so that they want to come into the room and sit down and chat.” –Paula Perlini

Do: Use Dramatic Color in a Small Space
“Color is best used in small spaces that you pass through. A dramatic color in a room where you’re going to be spending a lot of time might feel too heavy or dark, but if you use it in a foyer or pantry, it makes the whole house feel colorful. It also makes the house feel bigger, because it turns a space you might not notice into one that catches your attention.” –John Barman

Don’t: Be Afraid to Splurge on Great Pieces
“Invest in one great-quality piece. It sometimes hurts in the beginning, but you end up having that piece forever, and it can really carry a room, or even an entire house.” –David Kaihoi

Do: Test Paint Colors in a Big Way
“When you test paint colors in a room, make big patches so that you can really see if you need to go darker or lighter. I make mine 3 feet by 3 feet.” –Mary Douglas Drysdale

Don’t: Ignore Architectural Details
“Respect the architecture of a space. That’s not to say you can’t be surprising – I might use period furniture in a modern room, but I’ll make sure the lines and silhouettes are appropriate. The whole room has to hang together.” –Mariette Himes Gomez

Do: Trust Your Instincts
“The late, great Antony Childs once said to me, ‘Be true to yourself, and trust your instincts.’ We all have different points of view – that’s what makes each of us special – and our rooms should be a reflection of that.” –David Mitchell

Don’t: Make a Room Too Formulaic
“Start a room with a classic furniture layout that’s functional, then add in funky pieces to loosen it up, relax it, and keep it from feeling too formulaic.” –Thom Filicia

Do: Draw the Eye With an Interesting Piece
“A photographer I worked with taught me the importance of the axial view. When you’re looking down a corridor, you want a wonderful object at the end of it to draw you forward – a sculpture, a chandelier, anything to define the space and pull you in.” –Nancy Braithwaite

Don’t: Go Overboard
“One of my mentors always said, ‘Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.’ Great projects are the ones that show a little restraint.” –Heather Hilliard

Do: Pay Attention to Doors and Entrances
“Spend the money to make openings between rooms as high as possible – anything to get away from the standard, squat 7-foot-tall door. It really creates a sense of openness, lightness, and grandeur in a space.” –Suzanne Lovell

Originally published on Yahoo! Shine 

How to Pay Off a 30 Year Mortgage Sooner

mortgagehome-front-offlead“It’s not as hard as you might think to pay off your 30 Mortgage in 25-26 years.  This article explains some simple ways that you can do it, as well as alternatives to paying an extra Mortgage Payment each year.”

DC Metro Realty Team – Denise Buck & Ed Johnson 

For homeowners, one of the most burdensome financial albatrosses is mortgage debt, especially during retirement.

Your mortgage is likely your largest expense. Aside from hoarding money in an IRA or a 401(k), paying off your mortgage prior to retirement is critical. Once you enter retirement, healthcare costs are bound to increase, leaving less room to fit a mortgage payment into your retirement budget.

An effective way to cross the debt-free finish line faster is paying one additional mortgage payment per year. Aside from reducing the life of the loan, you’ll save money in interest expenses.

If you can’t afford making an extra mortgage payment at the end of the year in a lump sum, consider making mortgage payments every two weeks throughout the year, which amounts to 26 payments and accomplishes the same goal as a lump sum.

When you apply for a loan, you’ll have access to an amortization schedule, which shows how your monthly payment is allocated, either towards interest or principal. Your initial payments tackle interest, while later payments deeper into the life of the loan take care of principal. Making an extra mortgage payment expedites this process.

“You’ll get that 30 year mortgage reduced to 24 or 25 years with an additional yearly payment, since the amount calculated for principal and interest is based on the new principal balance,” says Dani Babb, founder and CEO of The Babb Group.

If it’s more financially viable to make bi-monthly payments, rather than a single lump sum, be sure to alert your bank ahead of time. The first of the two monthly payments will not be enough to cover the mortgage and the bank may not know what to do with the payment. Your lender could apply this money towards interest or even deem your payment as insufficient, in which you would be behind on your mortgage from the bank’s point of view.

“Tell the lender you’ll be making payments every two weeks, as opposed to once per month and ask them to allocate this money to what’s known as unapplied funds,” Babb adds. This way, you ensure your extra payments are actually applied towards your mortgage’s principal.

If bi-monthly payments are a stretch, consider adding just $50 a month towards the principal of the mortgage. Given how mortgages are amortized, with the interest at the front end, even small increases in the amount you pay per month can make a difference in paying off the mortgage sooner.

There are cases in which speedily paying off a mortgage lacks financial sense. If you have high-interest credit card debt, this should be your priority, since the credit card debt is likely at a higher interest rate than your mortgage.

Also, it may be more cost effective to refinance to a 15-year mortgage, where your rate is one or two percentage points lower than a 30-year mortgage, Babb says.

“Diverting additional money towards your mortgage isn’t always the best investment in terms of what you can do the money elsewhere, but it’s good for people who want to retire early or this is their only debt,” he says.

– Written by Scott Gamm for MainStreet. Gamm is author of MORE MONEY, PLEASE

15 Painting Mistakes to Avoid in Your Home

Painting Tips“There is not a cheaper way to transform a room, and give it a different feeling than changing the paint color.  When done right, everyone notices the difference.  The only problem is that when done wrong, everyone notices as well.  Following these simple tips and tricks, your new painting project will be noticed for the ‘Right’ reasons.”


DC Metro Realty Team – Denise Buck & Ed Johnson

Taking on your next painting project? For a flawless finish, avoid these painting mistakes.

1. Skipping the Tape

Do you have the skills to get straight lines around the woodwork, windowsills and doorframes? Grab the painter’s tape and get the nice, clean edges you want.

2. Painting Without Primer
Primer gives paint a good surface to adhere to and brings out the true color of the shade you’ve chosen. Going without it can lead to poor results.

3. Impatience
You took the time to fix every imperfection with patching compound. Wait. Make sure it’s completely dry before you sand and prime. Otherwise, all that patching was a waste of time.

4. Paint Buildup on Pad Edge
When using edge pads around ceiling edges and corners, make sure to wipe off excess paint frequently to avoid marking the surface.

5. Brushing When You Should be Rolling
For a large interior area, a roller will do a better job in less time. Select the right nap roller for your sheen of paint and try to avoid pushing the roller into the wall when you paint.

6. Underestimating How Much Paint Needed
The pros say you need one gallon for every 400 square feet. Plan ahead and you can avoid running back and forth to the store with a paint swatch in your hand.

7. Assuming Walls are Clean
Paint looks much better when it has a good, clean surface to stick to. Wash your walls before painting and get professional results you can be proud of.

8. Painting When the Humidity is High

When the air is full of moisture, water-based paint takes longer to dry. If the weather winds up more humid than expected, take the day off and wait for a dry day.

9. Skipping the Surface Prep

Your new paint won’t stick to glossy, dirty walls that are in bad condition. Take the time to prep, or you’re bound to have problems down the road.

10. Paintbrush Abuse

When using latex paint, wet your brush bristles with water and shake the brush dry before you dip it in the paint. The brush will hold more paint and deliver better results.

11. Buying Any Paintbrush
When you’re choosing paintbrushes to use with latex-based paint, nylon/polyester blends produce the best results. Turns out polyester is good for something besides sport shirts.

12. Painting with Furniture in the Room
Getting paint off your furniture is a lot of work. If you can’t move it out of the room, at least make sure it’s completely covered with a drop cloth.

13. Failure to Protect the Floor
Paint has the amazing ability to go all the places you’d least expect it to. Before you pop the can open, make sure you have a drop cloth over everything and the edges are taped.

14. Polka-Dot Doorknobs
Unless you like the look of splattered paint, we recommend that you slip plastic bags over your doorknobs and tape the edge to avoid unsightly paint splatter.

15. Painting the Wall Plates
Want professional-looking results? Take five minutes to remove the wall plates and tape around your light switches and electrical outlets.


Making Room in Your Rooms

Retain Remove“Look around your home.  How much ‘stuff’ do you have?  You can simplify your life, and reduce the effort it takes to maintain your home, just by taking stock of what you have from time to time.  This becomes even more important if you are considering selling your home in the near future.  Having less ‘stuff’ in your home will allow it to show better and make it easier for you to pack when you are ready to move.  The following article provides some basic points on how to get started and what to do on a regular basis to help manage the clutter.”

DC Metro Realty Team – Denise Buck & Ed Johnson

The more things you have, the more you have to take care of. And in this case, the more that you have to store that gets in the way of finding the things that you actually use. Periodically, you need to go through every closet, drawer, cabinet and storage area to get rid of the things that are just taking up space in your home and your life.

Every item requires the decision to retain or remove. Consider these questions as you examine each item:

• When was the last time you used it?
• Do you believe you’ll use it again?
• Is there a sentimental reason to keep it?

You have four options for the things that you’re not going to keep.

1) If you know someone who needs it or will appreciate it, you can give it to them.

2) You can sell it in a garage sale or on Craig’s List

3) You can donate it to a charity and receive a tax deduction

4) You can discard it to the trash.

Start with your closet. If you haven’t worn something in five years, get rid of it. Then, go through the things again and if you haven’t worn it in two years, ask yourself the real probability that you’ll wear it again.

Another way to do it is to move it from your active closet to another closet. If a year goes by in the other closet, the next time you go through this exercise, those clothes are on their way out.

You can follow the same process in linen closets, cabinets and the garage.

If the items taking up space are financial records and receipts, the solution may be to scan them and store them in the cloud. There are plenty of sites that will offer you several gigabytes of free space and it may cost as little as $10 a month for 100 GB at Dropbox to get the additional space you need. It will certainly be cheaper than the mini-storage building.

Smart Alternatives to putting 20% Down

Home Loan

“With all the changes in recent years it’s hard to know what the options are on getting a loan. Many people think that you have to have 20% down to even get started.  The truth might just surprise you.  These days when we first start talking to buyers we make sure they know all the options available to them by having them talk to one of our recommended lenders.

The following article might give you some new ideas as you begin to think about buying”

DC Metro Realty Team – Denise Buck & Ed Johnson

When you started researching what it takes to buy a home, you probably came face-to-face with one number over and over again: 20 percent. Traditionally, that’s how much was needed to buy a home.

These days, there are a number of alternatives to the 20 percent down payment, with some options requiring down payments of 3 to 5 percent, while others offer loans with 0 percent down.

Keep reading to learn more about these alternatives…

Alternative #1 – FHA Loan

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, consider a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan. It’s a type of federal assistance loan that allows lower-income Americans to borrow money to purchase a home they could not otherwise afford.

Buyers can get an FHA loan with a down payment as low as 3.5 percent of the purchase price, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“The FHA loan is designed to protect buyers from buying more house than they can afford,” says Paula Pant, founder of Afford Anything, a website that helps people reach their financial goals. “It limits buyers to spending no more than 31 percent of their gross monthly income on their total house payment. In other words, it protects buyers against making risky decisions.”

However, Pant says there is one drawback: Buyers will need to pay mortgage insurance as a result of not furnishing a 20 percent down payment.

“The cost of this insurance counts towards the total house payment, which is capped at 31 percent of a buyer’s gross monthly income. So, for example, if they earn $1,000 per month (gross), they can’t pay more than $310 per month towards all mortgage expenses, including the principal, interest, taxes and insurance, including PMI.”

Alternative #2 – Down Payment Assistance through City and Federal Programs

In many cities, the local or federal government offers assistance programs to revitalize areas hit hard by natural disasters or recessions. In these cases, homeowners are often able to get a helping hand if they know where to look.

“A program called Invest Atlanta, spearheaded by the city of Atlanta, gave me $15,000 toward the purchase of my first home because I was buying a foreclosed home within the Atlanta city limits,” says Lauren Bowling, founder of the personal finance website, L Bee and the Money Tree.

“These city and state programs are out there, but you have to do your research in order to find them. If you have a particularly good mortgage broker that you are working with, they should be able to point you in the right direction.”

Alternative #3 – Get a Veteran Affairs (VA) Loan

“VA loans are granted to military veterans and qualified buyers can get a home loan for no money down,” says Pant.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, a VA loan can help you purchase or refinance a home at a low interest rate, and often doesn’t require a down payment. To qualify for this loan, potential homebuyers must meet specific service requirements and have:

• Good credit score
• Sufficient income
• Certificate of Eligibility (COE)

“As an added bonus, the buyers are not required to pay mortgage insurance. Furthermore, federal regulations limit the amount of closing costs, appraisal costs and loan origination fees, meaning that people who take out VA loans will not have to pay an egregious amount of fees,” adds Pant.

For more details and information on VA Loans

Alternative #4 – Get a USDA Loan

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) insures low-down-payment loans to low-income borrowers who want to buy houses in rural areas, Pant explains.

“Buyers can qualify for this loan if their income is no greater than 115 percent of the median income for the area. The USDA approves qualified houses based on the location of the home. Buyers can put zero money down, but they are still required to pay mortgage insurance,” she adds.

She adds that loan amounts vary considerably depending on a number of factors, including:

• The part of the country the house is located in
• Whether it’s in an “eligible area”
• If the income of the family buying the home fits within certain limits relative to the median incomes within that particular area

“The family’s income will determine how large of a loan the family can qualify to receive,” she says. “The USDA limits them from spending more than 29 percent of their income on their mortgage, and they cannot spend more than 41 percent of their income on all debt payments combined, including student loans, credit card minimums, etc.”

Pant says the USDA offers this program in order to assist low-income and moderate-income people who live in rural areas to become homeowners.

“In other words, they’re trying to encourage homeownership.”

Determined to Save 20 Percent? Consider these Tips…

If you still have your mind set on saving a 20 percent down payment, here are some smart ways to get you there faster.

The Bank of Mom and Dad: “While this certainly isn’t a new angle, many parents who can afford to gift are now able to do so,” says Bowling. “And it’s not just parents who can give. In fact, each individual, regardless of relation, can gift up to $14,000 per recipient without triggering a gift tax. So, for example, if my parents wanted to give me and my future spouse a gift, they could each give $28,000 to each of us, for a total of $56,000.”

Tap into your Roth IRA: Bowling says she took $1000 out of her Roth IRA to help pay for the down payment on her house. “Since I can take out up to $10,000 of this money for a home purchase penalty-free, I thought it would be best to use the IRA money for the down payment, and then use my own savings for the repairs and renovation on the home.

Take money out of your 401K: Tapping into your retirement fund to pay off your mortgage is another option to come up with a down payment. However, before going this route, you’ll want to ensure that the rate of return on your mortgage is greater than the return on your 401K investments. Talk to your financial adviser or lender to figure out which option is best for you.

Create Sub-Savings Accounts: Pant says that by making saving more personal, you may find it easier to save. “I’m a huge fan of creating multiple sub-savings accounts and nicknaming each sub-account with your savings goal, such as ‘Our first home’ or ‘Trip to Paris.'”

Here’s how it works: You open one savings account with a bank like SmartyPig. This is technically only one savings account, but the bank’s website allows you to create mini “sub-accounts” underneath it, so instead of mixing all of your money into one giant pool, you can split up your savings between these various sub-accounts. Pant says that you can then nickname each sub-account, which may motivate you to stay on-course.

This article was originally published on Yahoo! Homes 

5 Things to Know About Home Equity Loans

refinance Refinance“Very often we are asked by homeowners if the time is right to Refinance their home.  Our answer is usually “It depends”.  How long to you plan to live in your current home?  What is your current Interest rate?  What are you trying to achieve by refinancing?  For some good information on today’s options on refinancing, please read the following article.”


DC Metro Realty Team – Denise Buck & Ed Johnson

Home equity lending is making something of a comeback. After being nearly shut down with the collapse of housing prices during the Great Recession, lenders are once again opening up their wallets and allowing people to borrow against the value of their homes.

Newly originated home equity loans and lines of credit rose by nearly a third during the first nine months of 2013, compared to the same period 12 months earlier, according to industry publication Inside Mortgage Finance.

While still only a fraction of its pre-crash levels — total 2013 home equity lending is estimated at $60 billion, compared to a peak of $430 billion in 2006 — rising home values in recent years are putting more equity in borrowers’ hands, while a gradually stabilizing economy is giving lenders more confidence to lend.

So the fact that they’re making a comeback is one thing to know about home equity loans. If you’re thinking about pursuing one, here are four other things you’ll need to know.

1. You’ll Need Equity

Equity, of course, is the share of your home that you actually own, versus that which you still owe to the bank. So if your home is valued at $250,000 and you still owe $200,000 on your mortgage, you have $50,000 in equity, or 20%.

That’s more commonly described in terms of a loan-to-value ratio – that is, the remaining balance on your loan compared to the value of the property – which in this case would be 80% ($200,000 being 80% of $250,000).

Generally speaking, lenders are going to want you to have at least an 80% loan-to-value ratio remaining after the home equity loan. That means you’ll need to own more than 20% of your home before you can even qualify. So if you have a $250,000 home, you’d need at least 30% equity – a loan balance of no more than $175,000 – in order to qualify for a $25,000 home equity loan or line of credit.

2. One of Two Types

There are two main types of home equity loans. The first is the standard home equity loan, where you borrow a single lump sum. The second is a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, where the lender authorizes you to borrow smaller sums as needed, up to a certain fixed amount. The type you choose depends on why you need the money.

If you’re looking at a single, major expense – such as replacing the roof on your home – a standard home equity loan is usually the best way to go. You can get these as either a fixed- or adjustable-rate loan, to be repaid over a predetermined length of time, up to 30 years. You’ll need to pay closing costs, though they’re much less than you would see on a full mortgage.

If you need to access various amounts of money over time – such as if you’re doing a home improvement project over a few months, for example, or to support a small business you’re starting – a home equity line of credit may be more suitable to your needs.

With a HELOC, you’re given a predetermined limit you’re allowed to borrow against as you wish. You only pay interest on what you actually borrow and you don’t have to begin repaying the loan until a certain period of time, known as the draw (typically 10 years), has elapsed.  There are usually no closing costs, though you may have to pay an annual fee. The interest rates are adjustable, meaning you don’t get the predictability offered by a fixed-rate standard home equity loan, though you can often convert a HELOC to a fixed rate once the draw period ends.

3. Think Big

There’s one thing about home equity loans – they’re not particularly useful for borrowing small amounts of money. Lenders typically don’t want to be bothered with making small loans – $10,000 is about the smallest you can get. Bank of America, for example, has a minimum of $25,000 on its home equity loans, while Wells Fargo won’t go below $20,000. Discover offers home equity loans in the range of $25,000 to $100,000.

If you don’t need quite that much, you can opt for a HELOC and only borrow what you need. Remember though, that you still may be charged an annual fee for the duration of the draw period.

Even if you plan to use only a fraction of your line of credit, say $5,000 out of a $20,000 HELOC, you’ll still need to have enough equity in your home to cover the full amount. So if the smallest home equity loan or line of credit your lender will allow is $20,000, you’ll need to have at least $20,000 in home equity over and above the 20% equity you’ll need left after taking out the loan.

4. It’s Still a Mortgage

It’s easy to forget sometimes, but a home equity loan or line of credit is a type of mortgage, just like the primary home loan you used to fund the purchase of your home. And as a mortgage, it offers certain advantages and disadvantages.

One of the advantages is that the interest you pay is usually tax-deductible for those who itemize deductions, the same as regular mortgage interest. Federal tax law allows you to deduct mortgage interest on up to $100,000 in home equity debt ($50,000 apiece for married persons filing separately). There are certain limitations though, so check with a tax adviser to determine your own eligibility.

Second, because it is a mortgage secured by your home, the rates tend to be lower than you’d pay on credit cards or other unsecured loans. They do tend to be somewhat higher than what you’d currently pay for a full mortgage, however.

On the downside, because the debt is secured by your home, your property is at risk if you fail to make the payments. You can be foreclosed on and lose your home if you’re delinquent on a home equity loan, the same as on your primary mortgage. The difference is that in a foreclosure, the primary mortgage lender is paid off first, and then the home equity lender is paid off out of whatever is left.

So you want to treat a home equity loan with the same seriousness you would a regular mortgage.  That’s the most important thing of all to know.

This article was originally published on Yahoo! Finance

Mortgage Rates Projected to Rise in 2014

Arrow Up“We keep reading and hearing more and more about this.  It does look as though there are changes coming.  If you’ve been on the fence and you’re in the position to possible make the decision to buy, now is a good time.  Read this article for a good insight as to what is happening in the Market and what is possibly coming”

DC Metro Realty Team, Denise Buck & Ed Johnson

It is projected that if the Fed continues to cut back on bond purchases that long term mortgage rates would start to climb. Many experts felt that Janet Yellen, who replaced Ben Bernanke as Fed Chair, was going to be less inclined to continue tapering bond purchases at the level established.

However, in her testimony in front of the Financial Services Committee last week, Yellen made it quite clear that she will in fact continue the current pace of tapering:

“In December, the Committee judged that the cumulative progress toward maximum employment and the improvement in the outlook for labor market conditions warranted a modest reduction in the pace of purchases, from $45 billion to $40 billion per month of longer-term Treasury securities and from $40 billion to $35 billion per month of agency mortgage-backed securities. At its January meeting, the Committee decided to make additional reductions of the same magnitude. If incoming information broadly supports the Committee’s expectation of ongoing improvement in labor market conditions and inflation moving back toward its longer-run objective, the Committee will likely reduce the pace of asset purchases in further measured steps at future meetings.”

What does that mean to a prospective purchaser? Currently, Freddie Mac’s 30 year rate is at 4.28%. Here are the projected interest rates for this time next year:

2.18 Visual.2

This article originally posted by Keeping Current Matters. Read more articles like this at

7 Home Buying Mistakes to Avoid

Housing Questions“After helping Home Buyers for over 25 years, we’ve come to know a thing or two about what ‘Not’ to do.  We love this article and it sums up perfectly some of the biggest mistakes that you can make.”

DC Metro Realty Team, Denise Buck & Ed Johnson

For most people, a home is the largest purchase they’ll ever make, so choosing the wrong property can have disastrous implications for their wallets and well-being. Still, many homeowners feel a strong sense of pride in putting their mark on the property, building equity and having a place to truly call their own. Whether you’re a seasoned or first-time buyer, here’s a look at seven homebuying mistakes to avoid.

1. Using the wrong real estate agent. Just because your sister’s college roommate’s friend just got a real estate license doesn’t mean she’s the right agent for you. San Francisco real estate agent Herman Chan suggests vetting agents and looking for someone who does real estate full time and knows the local inventory. “You can lose an offer if you’re not responsive in a couple of hours,” he says. Request the agent’s sales data, and find out how he or she communicates. Chan recommends asking questions like these to gauge the agent’s tech-savyness: “Is it OK if I text you? Is it OK to DocuSign things? If I can’t make an open house on Sunday, can you shoot me a video?” If you prefer to check texts and emails on your phone, you may not want an agent who insists on faxing contracts.

2. Shopping before you get preapproved. Before you get serious about buying real estate, find out how much mortgage you qualify for and get a preapproval letter from your lender. “If you fall in love [with a property], write that offer and then find out you can’t afford it, it’s an emotional roller coaster you can’t afford,” Chan says. Many agents won’t even take buyers to showings until they have a preapproval letter for that very reason.

3. Maxing out your spending power. Qualifying for a half-million dollar mortgage does not mean you should buy a McMansion. Jon Sterling, regional sales manager for Chase International Real Estate in Lake Tahoe, Calif., says he’s seen people, especially first-time buyers, make this mistake. “It’s wiser to be a little more conservative,” he adds. Homeowners have additional expenses such as property taxes, condo fees and maintenance that renters do not, so some first-time buyers fail to budget for these extra costs and assume they can afford a monthly mortgage equivalent to the rent they paid. “If you buy into a [homeowners association], you don’t know what their future plans are,” Sterling says. If, for instance, a storm rips the roof off the clubhouse or the association decides to upgrade the common areas, you may get hit with a special assessment to cover those costs. For these unexpected situations, it’s a good idea to keep a cash reserve on hand. Some dual-income couples choose to qualify based on just one income to give themselves a financial buffer.

4. Taking advice from outsiders. Parents, relatives or friends who haven’t bought property in the local market may not understand local pricing and market conditions. Parents or in-laws who own houses in the suburbs may also have unrealistic expectations about what the equivalent amount of money buys in the city. “Be careful about people that are giving you advice from across the country,” Sterling says. When parents are gifting money for a down payment, their input may be necessary, so Sterling tries to show properties only when “all the decision-makers are in the car.”

5. Skipping the inspection. Home inspections can help alert potential buyers to problems such as structural issues, faulty wiring and other problems a layperson probably wouldn’t spot. But if you’re in a market that moves quickly, you might be tempted to skip an inspection to make the offer more appealing, Sterling says. Insisting on an inspection might slow the process, but as he points out, “any seller that is going to knock you out because of that is probably hiding something anyway. You’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, [so you want] to make sure you’re getting what you think you’re getting.”

6. Overdoing contingencies. While home inspections are recommended, Michael Alderfer, a Washington, D.C., agent with the national real estate brokerage Redfin, says some homebuyers include so many inspection-related contingencies that it can scare off the seller and his or her agent. “Some buyers are nervous, so they’re looking for extra ways to change their mind and walk away,” he says. “You can write a competitive offer without all these extra things and leave yourself a couple of ways to get out.” He suggests talking to your agent before submitting the offer, so you’ll feel confident your interests are protected.

7. Getting too attached to one property. In competitive markets, you may have to put in offers on several properties before one is accepted. Alderfer says some buyers get so infatuated with one property that a rejected offer hits them hard. “It’s OK to feel anxious, but you need to be able to fall in and out of love during a home search,” he says. “If you find a home that you think is perfect for you and you don’t get it, you can’t stay down too long. You have to recognize that wasn’t the house for you.”

Originally published on Yahoo News from US News and World Report

General Home Maintenance Checklist

Home Maintenance Dr

“You’ve just made the largest purchase in your life…it was an investment in your future as well.  Now you need to make sure you protect it and take care of it.  Be sure to read the following article to have a better understanding and appreciation of how to take care of your home.”

DC Metro Realty Team, Denise Buck & Ed Johnson

Your home is like your body. If you don’t take care of it, you can run into problems.

Take plumbing, for instance. It can clog up, just like your arteries.

By regularly checking your home’s inner and outer workings, you can avoid major problems down the road. But if you’re a new homeowner, what should you be doing? And when?

Steve Hessil, owner of Dr. Plumber, a plumbing firm in Franklin, said work should start as soon as you buy a house (having a home inspection first is a good idea). You’ll want to have an electrician and a plumber come in to make sure everything’s in order and up to code. If you need help with the basics, they can help you figure out how to shut off your gas and make sure your water shut-off valve works properly.

There are some areas of the home that should be inspected roughly once a year; others more often. Some home features should be checked at specific times of the year; others are less urgent and can wait until you have time.

Experts agree that furnaces and AC units are among the most important things to check in a home.

Wayne Abendschein, a comfort specialist at 1st Choice Heating and Cooling in Waukesha, said he’s seeing furnace problems now — in some cases due to neglect.

“For people who haven’t had their furnaces tuned up or looked at…they’re breaking down at this time of year because of the long run cycles we’re having with the weather conditions.”

How often a furnace needs servicing depends on its age, said Kurt Dodge, owner, D & M Heating, Milwaukee.

“Furnaces are like people,” Dodge said. “When you’re young and in good shape, you can get by a little longer before seeing a doctor. A furnace is kind of the same. For the first 10 years, (maintenance) every couple of years is good. As it gets older, things can deteriorate quickly, just like us.” Then they should be checked yearly.

Randy Miller, owner of Allrite Home and Remodeling and S & E Insulation, Milwaukee, said these systems, as well as insulation, should be checked well before you need them.

“Contractors have a tendency to get busy (at certain times of the year) because everyone thinks about these things at the last minute,” he said.

David Pekel, owner of Pekel Construction & Remodeling Inc., Wauwatosa, said that in some cases homeowners can make repairs themselves, but that common sense should prevail.

For electrical issues, “contact a master electrician,” said Pekel, the 2014 president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). “There’s very little homeowners can or should do relative to electricity.”

With furnaces, there’s a bit more leeway. “Just like changing the oil on your car, changing your furnace filter is relatively easy to do,” Pekel said. “Beyond that, rely on a professional.”

He added that homeowners should know their limitations in terms of ability and equipment. While they may be able to tell when their gutters are clogged, that doesn’t mean they have the right equipment and ability to unclog them.

Here’s a checklist of some home maintenance tips from our pros. If a specific timetable isn’t noted, maintenance can be checked any time of the year. Staff at the NARI website,, contributed to the list.

Air conditioning: In spring, or when temperatures reach at least 70 degrees, have it tuned up. This can be done every one to two years depending on the unit’s age. Also, clean off the outdoor condenser by spraying it at a 30-degree angle with your garden hose. Clean again in fall.

In summer, clear away shrubbery, grass or debris so you have at least 18 inches of clearance around the unit and 2 feet above it for good air flow. Check and replace air filters throughout the summer and look for ice forming on the refrigerant lines. That indicates a problem.

Caulking and grout: Regularly inspect caulking and grout around tubs, showers and sinks and reapply as needed.

Chimney and fireplace: In summer, have them both checked for soot and creosote buildup. Also check the cap on your chimney, the brickwork and the flashing about every three years.

Exhaust fans: Periodically clean the grill and fan blades.

Fire extinguishers: Once a year, check to make sure they’re fully charged, and recharge or replace them if necessary. Put one on every floor and one very near your kitchen.

Furnace: In spring, summer or early fall, have it tuned up and have a safety inspection. This can be done yearly or every two years, depending on its age. It should also be vacuumed out yearly, and filters in forced air systems should be changed monthly to yearly depending on the system. For boiler heat, bleed radiators in late summer or early fall.

In winter, for high-efficiency furnaces, be sure there’s no snow or ice buildup around the exhaust pipe outside. A blocked pipe could cause your furnace to fail or result in carbon monoxide in your home.

Garbage disposal: Flush with hot water and baking soda.

Gutters: In fall, check to see if they’re clogged. Do this two to three times a year if you have a lot of trees nearby. Put a hose in the gutters and run water to be sure it’s pitched properly for drainage and that downspouts aren’t clogged. Also, make sure downspouts and extensions are in good shape.

Humidity: A few times a year, check moisture with a gauge. Levels should be down, especially in winter when houses sealed up tight.

Insulation: In fall, check your basement for areas with lots of cobwebs. This indicates insects are getting in through gaps that should be filled. Also inspect the top of your interior walls for dark streaks that run horizontally near the ceiling. This can indicate a problem with your insulation or ventilation.

In winter, look at your roof after it snows to see if the snow melts faster than on other homes. Check for ice damming in your gutters and excessive icicles on the outer edge of your roof; they can indicate insulation problems. Also look for excessive condensation on interior windows. Open blinds to help eliminate the problem. If windows get very frosty, it may be time for new ones.

Mold: If you have had any water damage, check for mold. In most cases, you’ll need a pro to resolve this problem.

Home exterior: In spring, look for siding panels that are lose, cracked or worn. Also check your foundation for moisture and cracks that are expanding. Check sidewalks for cracks and lifting, and steps that need repair.

Plumbing: In fall, turn off the valve in your basement for the outside faucet. Then open the faucet outside and and let the water drain out. If it doesn’t stop draining, you need a new valve in the basement.

In winter, check pipes in colder areas of your home to be sure they’re well insulated. Also check pipes on exterior walls in very cold weather. Open cabinet doors if possible to keep them warmer, so they don’t freeze.

Once a year, fill sinks to the top, then let the water run out to see how fast it drains. If you have a two-sided sink and one side fills up when the other drains, you have a partially plugged sink. Have it checked before it gets completely plugged. Once a month, run hot water in your kitchen sink for a few minutes to help keep it from clogging.

Regularly check for running toilets, corroded or leaking pipes, dripping faucets and water pressure. If a faucet runs slow, you may have a problem that could get worse over time. Also check ceilings below bathrooms for drywall damage.

Roof: In spring or summer, look for loose or missing shingles, shingles that are curling and granule loss. If you can easily lift the outer edge of a shingle this time of year, that means the sealant is no longer holding and your roof may need attention. Also look for signs of leaks around vents, skylights and chimneys. If you can, check your roof from the second floor of your neighbor’s home for the best view.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Check them in spring and fall when you change your clocks.They should be on each floor of your home, and also near gas furnaces, water heaters and dryers.

Sump pumps: In spring, test your sump pump to be sure it’s working. If it’s noisy, it might need to be replaced.

Water heaters: If it’s more than 12 years old, consider replacing it, because they often fail at this age. Also drain it yearly until the water runs clear, then refill.

Windows and doors: In spring, summer or fall, caulk and clean windows. Make sure insulation isn’t popping out around your windows and that you have tight seals.

Between spring and fall, check your attic access door to be sure there’s insulation above it. Also check locks, lubricate hinges and other moving parts, and install rubber or felt strips at the bottom of doors if needed.

Appliances: Occasionally inspect humidifiers and dehumidifiers for water leakage. Regularly vacuum lint from your clothes dryer, check for obstructed dryer vents, vacuum refrigerator condenser coils and give your oven a thorough cleaning at least once a year.

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t For Sale by Owner

Do-Not-FSBO“If you are considering selling your home, you’re probably also wondering if you could sell it yourself.  All you have to do is put a sign in your yard and advertise on a couple of websites and the Buyers will find you, right?  Sounds simple enough doesn’t?  Well it’s not quite that simple and can get very complicated along the way.  Here is good article to read if you’ve ever thought about trying to sell your home yourself.”

DC Metro Realty Team – Denise Buck & Ed Johnson

Some homeowners consider trying to sell their home on their own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO). We think there are several reasons this might not be a good idea for the vast majority of sellers.

Here are five of our reasons:

1. There Are Too Many People to Negotiate With

Here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to FSBO.

  • The buyer who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
  • The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
  • The home inspection companies which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
  • The appraiser if there is a question of value
  • Your bank in the case of a short sale

2. Exposure to Prospective Purchasers

Recent studies have shown that 92% of buyers search online for a home. That is in comparison to only 28% looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home. Do you?

3. Results Come from the Internet

Where do buyers find the home they actually purchased?

  • 43% on the internet
  • 9% from a yard sign
  • 1% from newspapers

The days of selling your house by just putting up a sign and putting it in the paper are long gone. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.

4. FSBOing has Become More and More Difficult

The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 9% over the last 20+ years.

5. You Net More Money when Using an Agent

Many homeowners believe that they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.

Studies have shown that the typical house sold by the homeowner sells for $184,000 while the typical house sold by an agent sells for $230,000. This doesn’t mean that an agent can get $46,000 more for your home as studies have shown that people are more likely to FSBO in markets with lower price points. However, it does show that selling on your own might not make sense.

Bottom Line

Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, sit with a real estate professional in your marketplace and see what they have to offer.

This article originally posted by Keeping Current Matters. Read more articles like this at