Kicking Clutter to the Curb: Transform Your Home with These 4 Decluttering Tips

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We’ve all been there. One day, you look around your house, and there’s just So. Much. Stuff. Stuff in boxes, stuff on the walls, stuff in the corners—just…stuff. If you’re gearing up to sell your home, you’re going to have to deal with all that accumulated clutter eventually. Luckily, there are plenty of simple strategies for getting the job done! 

Arm yourself for the Crusade Against the Clutter, and use these top tips to transform your home before selling.

Start Early

A to-do list.

If you aren’t prepared, things can quickly get overwhelming. After all, you’re not only getting your home ready to sell, but you’re also packing things up, finding a new home, and dealing with your finances. It makes sense that decluttering your home isn’t first on your list, but it’s one of the most important steps! 

Before you list your home, you want the space to be ready to wow buyers from the second they walk through the door. If you kick off your decluttering months in advance, you’ll be in much better shape come listing time. 

Expand Your Storage

An organized silverware drawer.

For many people, clutter accumulates simply because they don’t know what they actually have. An easy way to fix this issue and make your home more organized is by coming up with an intentional storage solution

Hit the store and pick up some sliding storage and plastic tubs, then label each unit and keep it stored anyway until needed. That way, you’ll know exactly what you have and where it is. Never worry about misplaced holiday decorations or a surplus of school supplies ever again! Plus, a lot of your stuff will already be neatly packed away come moving time.

Take It Little by Little

A man and woman carrying boxes.

Decluttering can be a long process, filling up nights and weekends and free time—especially if you put it off until the last minute. Luckily, if you start ahead of time, you’ll have the luxury of taking it little by little. And not just one room at a time—we mean really little, like an hour or two hours spent on just the kitchen cabinets or bedroom closets. 

You can even make it fun! Get everybody in the house together and play a game of 12-12-12. The rules are simple: walk through the house and find 12 items you want to keep, 12 items you want to get rid of, and 12 items you want to sell/donate. You’d be surprised how quickly you can reduce your clutter after a few rounds, and it only takes a couple of minutes!

Make it FAST

Clutter.

For the last tip, we’ve gotten the inside scoop from professional organizer, Peter Walsh. Walsh says that decluttering is as simple as remembering this short acronym:

Fix a time. Plan ahead, and find a time that works for everyone in the house—and make attendance mandatory!

Anything not used in twelve months. If you haven’t used it in a year, then you probably don’t need it. Ask yourself a few questions: Do I need it? Is it valuable to me? Is it worth the space it’s taking up? If no, then kick it to the curb. 

Someone else’s stuff. Still have that borrowed tupperware? Give it back. Holding onto things that family members have left behind? Send it their way. If it’s not yours, find a new home for it!

Trash. It’s easy to get sentimental and hold onto things that are well past their expiration date (metaphorically speaking). Don’t be afraid to take the plunge—and maybe even go overboard—and trash some of your older belongings. If you don’t want to go full in and trash it, then you can always donate it to a good cause. 

Get Your Home Ready to Sell

Decluttering is just one small step in the selling journey—albeit a fairly time-consuming one. Luckily, we’re here to help you carry the load! Give us a call to learn a few more tips for getting rid of your clutter and staging your home for success.

In the meantime, feel free to explore our additional selling resources, like our neighborhood sold report and Comparative Market Analysis, and let us know when you’re ready to get started!



Mortgage 101: What To Know Before You Apply

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Everybody loves talking about mortgages. They’re fun, easy to understand, and a great icebreaker, right?….Wrong. Thanks to their lengthy process, technical jargon, and confusing options, mortgages have a bit of an intimidating reputation—but it doesn’t have to be that way!

If you’re in the process of buying a new home and dreading the mortgage application process, here’s what you need to know to keep things running smoothly. 

Know How Much You Can Spend

A person holding up money.

If you’re feeling antsy about getting started and want a general idea of how much loan you might qualify for, consider the 28/36 rule, or the Debt-to-Income ratio—AKA what most lenders use to help calculate your mortgage. 

Essentially, the 28/36 rule means that your monthly mortgage payment shouldn’t be more than 28% of your gross income. Additionally, your outstanding debts—like mortgage, car loans, student loans—shouldn’t account for more than 36% of your gross income.

Get Your Finances in Order

Statistics on a laptop.

Not seeing the numbers you were hoping for after calculating your Debt-to-Income ratio? Then, hopefully, you’ve given yourself a little time to shift things in your favor. Paying off loans, improving your credit score, avoiding big purchases—these will all help you change those numbers. 

Of course, completing those tasks is a little harder to do in practice than in theory, so you may have to take a look at your budget and see where you can cut out some extras—at least temporarily!

What You’ll Need to Apply

Paperwork.

In the weeks before you plan on applying for a mortgage, you should start collecting all of the documents you need. Since a lender will be telling you exactly how much money they’re willing to loan, they’ll need a comprehensive understanding of your finances beforehand. Start gathering things like:

  • W2s/tax returns
  • Photo ID
  • Your two most recent pay stubs
  • Current and prior addresses
  • Asset information (retirement funds, 401(k), stocks and bonds, other investments) 
  • Gift letters

Depending on the lender you choose, you may need additional documents, so consider calling in to double-check beforehand. 

Find the Right Mortgage

Three women pointing at a laptop.

Once it’s time to start thinking more concretely about applying for a mortgage, you have several options to consider. While all the mortgage options out there could easily fill a whole blog post on their own, here’s a quick rundown to give you a general idea:

  • Conventional/Fixed-rate:  The interest rate of a fixed-rate loan won’t change over time, making it a popular choice for its predictability. Conventional loans typically require a 20% down payment or mortgage insurance for smaller down payments.
  • Adjustable-rate: The interest rate of adjustable-rate mortgage will fluctuate over time, sometimes lower than fixed-rate, sometimes higher. There is a cap in place so the rate doesn’t get too out of control, but ARMs are typically more popular with those who plan to refinance.
  • FHA: If you are struggling to come up with a down payment, you may have options with an FHA mortgage. Provided by the Federal Housing Administration, these loans come with a low down payment requirement and built-in mortgage insurance.
  • USDA: Live in a rural area? Then check out your USDA eligibility! A surprising amount of areas qualify for USDA loans, even if you aren’t living in the countryside. Plus, USDA loans don’t require a down payment and offer lower insurance premiums.

These aren’t the only options you’ll have, just the most common. If none of these sound right or you aren’t sure which to choose, just ask your lender!

Choose the Right Lender

When it comes time to decide who to work with, you’ll have to do your research. Each lender is different, meaning they’ll likely offer you different rates, charges, and loan options. 

Luckily, we’ve been working in real estate around the area for years, so we know exactly which lenders are right for which buyers. If you need a few suggestions before you kick off your search, just let us know! 

Still Have Questions?

That’s okay—we get it. Applying for mortgage is confusing and challenging, especially if it’s your first time. If you have any questions about the process, we’re here to help. 

Ready to start looking at a few homes in your price range? We can help with that, too! Check out our specialized search tool to narrow down your options, and give us a call to start seeing a few in person!



The 5 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home

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If you’re gearing up to sell your home, you’ve probably read tons of articles all about what you should be doing…but what about what you shouldn’t be doing? After all, selling your home is a huge financial decision, and a misstep could mean losing out on your hard-earned profit. 

Don’t let something as easy to fix as not staging or pricing incorrectly throw off the success of your sale! Here are the top five mistakes to avoid when selling your home. 

Setting an Unrealistic Price

A man looking at his laptop.

It might come as a surprise, but pricing a home is tricky. Not only do you have to take into account what homes around yours have recently sold for (or, in other words, what buyers are willing to pay), but you also need to know how to value any updates and improvements you’ve made. Plus, you want your home to be priced so that it pops up in as many online searches as possible. When it comes to finding that magic number, sellers’ emotions often cloud the ability to accurately price a home. 

So you’ll just use an automatic estimator, and that’ll take care of things, right? Well, only if you’re okay with using outdated data and not taking into account any upgrades you’ve made. The best way to get a price that guarantees you’ll maximize your investment? Enlisting the help of an experienced local agent. 

Ignoring Major Repairs (or Making the Wrong Ones)

A man fixing a sink.

During the inspection process, your home will be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb. Any things you’ve been avoiding, like leaky faucets, outdated water heaters, or water damage in the ceilings, will be noted and shared with buyers. Additionally, if there are any major necessary repairs that you didn’t disclose ahead of time, you could find yourself in serious legal trouble—or with a cancelled sale on your hands.

Limiting Showings & Failing to Stage

An iPad sitting on a coffee table in a living room.

You’re selling your home, but you want to sell it on your terms. You don’t want to have showings every weekend or on short notice, and you don’t want to have to rearrange furniture or remove decor for staging. While changing your home or lifestyle to accommodate buyers might seem like a major hassle, being inflexible is only going to hurt you in the long run.

Buyers are going to want to see your home, sometimes more than once, and it needs to be looking its best if you want to get serious (and competitive) offers. In fact, staged homes have been shown to sell almost 90% faster and for a 20% higher profit than non-staged homes!

Letting Your Emotions Get in the Way

A woman and a child playing on a tablet.

You’ve made a lot of memories in your home, and the space likely holds indescribable value to you. So hearing people walk through the house and point out all of the flaws—then not make an offer—can be draining. A good rule of thumb for selling? Think of the process as a business transaction, and think of yourself as a salesperson, not a homeowner. Creating that divide will not only improve your emotional state, but it’ll also help you see exactly how your home can be better than it is.

Not Hiring an Agent

People meeting at a table.

Thinking of listing For Sale by Owner to avoid agent commission fees? In reality, selling FSBO can actually COST you money in the long run;. according to a 2016 study by the National Association of Realtors®, the average price for a FSBO home was around $185,000—which is $60,000 less than the average price of a home listed by an agent ($245,000). 

Aside from pricing, there’s a lot more that an agent can help you with. They’ll come up with a marketing plan for your home, suggest personalized staging strategies, conduct open houses and showings for you, and guide you through any problems or roadblocks along the way, all of which will take a load of work and stress off of your shoulders. 

Ready to List Your Home?

Feeling a little intimidated by the home-selling process? Don’t worry—we’re here to help! Not only can we give you a few more pointers on what you should and shouldn’t do, but we’ll also be around to guide you through every aspect of the sale, from listing to showings to closing. 

Ready to learn a little more about what it takes to sell for top dollar? Just give our team a call to get started! 



The Four Most Common Red Flags to Look for During Your Walkthrough

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A new home is a big financial investment. Not only will you likely be pouring a lot of your savings into the purchase, but you’ll also be choosing a place to call home for years to come. The last thing you want is to spend all of that time and money only to discover a costly maintenance or structural issue.

Even though you’ll get a professional inspection done, there are certain red flags that you should specifically be looking out for during the first walkthrough. By recognizing these problem areas right away, you can put emphasis on them during the inspection. Save yourself time, money,  and stress, and know these major home-buying warning signs.

Foundational Flaws

A vase of flowers in front of a cracked window.

It’s not like you can pull the house up from the ground and get a closer look at the foundation, so how do you tell if there are any issues? A few surefire signs of a faulty foundation include sloping floors, swinging and sticking doors, visible cracks above window frames, and cabinets separating from the walls.

Faulty foundations can go on to cause major damage in the home, and like most problems, the longer it goes unrepaired, the worse it will get. Minor cracks will only cost around $500, while major repairs could total up to $10,000. These are expenses you don’t want—and shouldn’t have—to get saddled with, so keep an eye out during the walkthrough and get a professional opinion from the inspection.

Signs of Amateur Repairs

A man patching up a wall.

Lots of homeowners choose to DIY repairs for a variety of reasons, from budget issues to scheduling conflicts. If they know what they’re doing (or the project is something relatively simple), then there shouldn’t be any issues. But if they, say, looked up a video tutorial on how to wire electricity to a new outlet—having never done electrical work before—then you might have some problems down the road. 

Even small things that seem unimportant, like light switches wired to the wrong lights, leaky faucets, or shoddy tiling work, can be signs of larger problems elsewhere in the home. If you run into things like this, then you might ask your home inspector to take a deeper look into other areas of the house that have been recently repaired.

Concealed Damage

A half-painted wall.

Speaking of amateur repairs, some problems might seem a little too big (or expensive) to fix. That’s when homeowners might try to cover it up instead of paying for repairs. For example: a fresh coat of paint is to be expected in many homes on the market. But if the paint only covers a small section of the wall or is dotted around the ceiling, that could mean the owner is trying to hide water damage. Depending on how extensive the damage is, it will cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to repair. And if it sneaks past the inspection, it could be on your dime. 

In the same vein, things like candles and air fresheners are also expected during showings. But if you notice that the scents are a little too strong, then the sellers could be trying to cover up mold or mildew odors, smelly pets, or damage from smoking. A home is a huge investment, so don’t be afraid to really look into that dry wall and make sure it’s mold-free.

Roofs in Disrepair

The roof of a house.

Remember those spots of fresh paint? If you notice those in a house, then there’s a pretty good chance that the water is coming from the roof. Other major signs of a damaged roof include curling or missing shingles, signs of buckling, discoloration or stains, and leaning or loose chimneys and gutters. 

While a home inspector will likely check the roof, if you notice any of the above signs, you may want to ask for an extra in-depth look. After all, roof repairs can cost anywhere from $200 to several thousand dollars, so even though the roof is out of sight, always keep it in mind. 

Need Some Help Searching?

Buying a home is a huge investment, and you want to make sure you’re spending your money wisely. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the walk through process, don’t worry—we’re here to help. Not only can we point out any issues we see with the home right away, but we can also recommend top inspectors and help with negotiations for repairs.

Explore a few more of the home-buying resources we have to offer, and give us a call when you’re ready to see a few homes!



A New Kind of Home Buyer: Tips for Marketing Your Home to Millennials

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A young millennial couple standing in front of the home they've just purchased.

Millennials get a lot of flack, but they’re an important part of the real estate market. In fact, they make up the largest generational percentage of home buyers right now!

So, if you’re planning on selling your home soon, it’s important to keep the average millennial home buyer in mind. This generation is unlike any that’s come before it, and the way they buy everything (from laundry detergent to life insurance) is unique.

When it comes to catching the eye of the discerning millennial home buyer, here’s what you need to do:

Create a Strong Internet Presence

It goes without saying that millennials rely on the Internet for, well, everything. This isn’t unusual: the Internet makes every kind of shopping easier and more accessible.

As such, giving your home an effective online presence is key. It needs to be easy to find via the most popular home-buying networks, and it has to look great no matter the screen size. After all, more home buyers than ever before are using their smartphones to find their dream home.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Professional Listing Photos

A beautiful modern kitchen.

Because millennials rely on the Internet to search homes for sale, your home’s photos have to stand out in a big way. After all, with the right photographer even the smallest home can look like a palace.

So, don’t skimp on this expense! Great photos could be the difference between a home selling within hours, and a home languishing on the market for months.

Show How Your Home Will Improve their Lifestyle

Millennials are looking for homes that will improve their lifestyles and be close to wherever they need to be during the week. As you market your home online, be sure you’re highlighting both its features and location in your listing description.

Tell an exciting story of how much better their life will be once they buy your home! Craft your listing description to carefully touch on all the best parts of your home and its surroundings, and let buyers know exactly why they need to buy it.

Know What Millennials are Looking for in a Home

A pair of hands typing on a smart phone.

So, what are millennials looking for anyway? Market research finds that millennial buyers are attracted to affordable homes with eco-friendly and smart features. If your home has any green features or environmentally friendly add-ons, you’ll definitely want to highlight them.

In addition, if you’ve outfitted your home to accommodate any smart features that use technology—like a Nest thermostat or other Smart Home appliances—be sure to mention that in your listing description and social media promotion.

Use a Pro to Market Your Home

The easiest way to market your home to millennials? Work with a real estate specialist who understands this unique market—and how to best target real estate’s next generation of buyers.

Give us a call today for more information about selling your home to millennials!



The Best Smart Home Technology for Upping Your Home’s Value

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Repainting the walls, updating the kitchen and bathroom, replacing the hot water heater—there are ways to increase your home’s value that stand the test of time. But as the market and the priorities of buyers change, there are newer, more popular ways to get a high return on your investment!

Smart home technology is becoming a bigger factor for buyers, and it’s not hard to see why. Things like smart appliances, high-efficiency lighting, and programmable thermostats aren’t only convenient, but they also save you money on utility bills! Lucky for sellers, smart home technology is pretty affordable compared to other value-boosting projects and can increase your home’s resale value by a few percentage points.

Whether you’re selling your home soon and looking to get top dollar or just curious about your options, take a look at our guide to the top smart home technology to install in 2019.

Smart Appliances

A new kitchen with new appliances.

Pretty much every appliance in your home has a “smart” option—refrigerators, washers and dryers, faucets, ovens, you name it. Smart fridges can self-adjust the temperature and create grocery lists, smart ovens allow you to check how much time is left from your phone and preprogam recipes, and smart washers will run during the most cost-effective time of day.

As far as what to install, you don’t have to replace every appliance with a smart version, but think of what’s most practical. Since kitchens and bathrooms are priorities for buyers, consider replacing the fridge, oven, or faucets.

Smart Security System & Locks

A smart lock on a door.

Installing a smart security system is one of the most popular smart improvements you can make. According to T3 Sixty’s recent survey of buyers interested in smart home technology, the largest amount of interest was shown for smart security systems.

The security includes anything from cameras that upload footage to a virtual database to locks enabled by wifi. Some companies, like Nest, Ring, and SimpliSafe, offer bundle packages with alarms, cameras, and smart doorbells. Since security is such a high priority for buyers, these systems will likely show one of the highest returns on your investment.

Smart Lighting

A lightbulb sitting in grass.

You know those lights that turn on when you clap? This is the next level. Not only can smart lighting be controlled via apps, but it can also be set to trigger under certain conditions, like when you walk by or when you leave for work. Forget to switch the lights off before leaving? No problem—you can just turn them off from your phone!

It’s recommended to buy a starter pack, since those come with light bulbs and other supplies you’ll need for setup. Once that’s all installed, most systems are compatible with smart speakers like the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Smart Thermostats

A smart thermostat.

Buying a home is a big investment, so if you can show potential buyers how your home can help save them money, it’s going to make your property that much more desirable. According to studies conducted by major smart thermostat providers like Ecobee and Nest, homeowners saved 23% in heating and cooling costs (Ecobee) and around $150 annually (Nest). You can even estimate what the savings in your home might look like with an energy calculator!

The most popular smart home thermostats are Ecobee and Nest, which will run you around $200 – $300. If you’re interested in a budget option that will still look flashy to buyers, check out Honeywell. Of course, each system offers different features, so be sure to do a little research beforehand.

Smart Blinds

Blinds.

Smart blinds are a little more of a cosmetic perk for buyers, but they do have their money-saving benefits. You can set the shades to open or close based on peak sunlight times or the temperature of your home, which saves a few extra dollars on heating and cooling here and there. They also add an extra layer of security and convenience to the home, both of which are big selling points for today’s buyers.

Depending on the model you get, you can control your smart shades through an app, a smart hub, or even just your voice. You can even coordinate them with other smart features in your home, like the lighting or smoke detectors!

Check out options like the Serena smart shade by Lutron, the Pella Insynctive line, or Ikea’s upcoming August line.

Getting Ready to List Your Home?

While smart home technology might be one of the most popular ways to up your home’s value right now, there are plenty of other options. Give us a call, and we’ll be more than happy to walk through your home and recommend a few value-boosting improvements!

Already ready to list? Let us know, and we’ll help you find the best listing price for your home—with all of your recent upgrades taken into account.



The 5 Most Important Things to Do After Buying a Home

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So, you bought a house. First of all, congratulations! The search is over, no more weekends filled with open houses and showings, and you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Phew.

But your work isn’t quite done yet. Once you buy a house, there are a few things that need to happen before and after move-in day. Check out our list of to-dos, and get prepared for what comes after closing—trust us, your future self will thank you.

Do a Deep Clean

A vacuum.

When you first buy your home, there won’t be any heavy dressers blocking off corners, couches and beds to clean under, or stacks of boxes covered in cobwebs in the attic. Your house will never be this empty again—well, until you sell it, that is—so take advantage of the wide-open space.

Whether you want to hire professional cleaners or DIY, you should pour some serious TLC into your new house. Dust, vacuum, mop, scrub, polish—look up a few cleaning checklists for inspiration—and put in some elbow grease.

Change Your Address

A painted mailbox.

This process will be a little tedious, but it has to be done. First, you should fill out a change of address form from your post office, so any mail sent to your old address will get forwarded to your new one—although these days you can even complete the process online!

Next, get in touch with credit card companies, your cell phone provider, and anyone else who will need to continue sending you bills. Big fan of online shopping? The last thing you want is for your package to get dropped off at your old house, so be sure to update your Amazon info, as well.

Set Up Utilities & Security

A door with various locks.

Running water, electricity, internet…all things you probably want working when you move in, right? If you already have a provider, you’ll need to communicate the change address to them, stop service to your old address, and set up a date for service to continue at your new address.

While you’re getting things installed, you should also consider setting up a security system. These days you’ll have plenty of affordable and high-tech options, so be sure to browse what’s available. At the very least, consider changing your locks, since old copies of the keys from the past owners could still be floating around.

Keep Your Documents Organized

Once you’ve closed on your home, you’re going to have a lot of important documents to keep track of, and moving is going throw everything into chaos (although hopefully organized chaos) for a bit. As soon as you’ve closed and before you move in, collect all of the documents you used for your mortgage loan, as well as any copies of closing papers.

You never know when you might need some of them again, so invest in a secure storage system to keep them organized and around at all times.

Say Hi to the Neighbors

People talking in a group outside of a home.

Even if you’re a little shy, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the neighbors once you move in. After all, close neighbors can help with anything from lending you an extra cup of sugar to watching your pets while you’re out of town.

You don’t have to organize a mixer or bake cookies for everyone, but just saying hello while you’re out and about can go a long way in establishing those important relationships.

Ready to Buy Your Dream Home?

Now that you know what to do after you’ve closed, let’s get started with your home search! From guiding you around the area to helping you navigate your mortgage options, our team is here to help you reach your real estate goals—and answer all of your questions along the way.

If you’re ready to get started or have a few questions, just give us a call today!



The Top Tax Deductions & Credits for Homeowners in 2019

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Taxes are confusing, which is why many people in the U.S. choose to hire an expert to do their taxes for them. After all, there are so many numbers to know, forms to have ready, records of income and expenses, W-4s, 1099s, 380-Ts—we could’ve just made that last one up, and there’s no way of knowing!

Even though taxes might be complicated, they (sometimes) have a few perks. And if you own a home, those perks could mean a major bonus on your return. If you’re thinking of buying a home before next year’s taxes are due, here’s everything you need to know about how making a home purchase can affect your returns.

A calculator app on an iPhone.

Deductions vs. Credit

Before we kick off the fun stuff, it’s important to know a little jargon—namely, the difference between a deduction and a credit.

When it comes to credits, think of them like tax-related coupons that reduce your dollar-for-dollar total. A few major tax credits include child tax credits, adoption credits, education or retirement credits, or credits for energy efficient homes and cars. Depending on the credits you qualify for, you could get anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars taken off of your tax liability.

Deductions are a little different: they reduce your taxable income, which can then adjust the total that you owe. Claiming certain deductions means that that part of your income is exempt from being taxed. Knowing which deductions to claim is key when filing, especially for homeowners.

Tax Benefits for Homeowners

Buying a home is expensive, but when it comes to tax time, here are the ways you can make some of that money back.

Various tax documents.

Mortgage Interest

One of the reasons that taxes for homeowners are so confusing is because they tend to change based on federal standards. Over the past few years, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act pretty drastically altered the tax benefits for home ownership.

The most important change to know this year has to do with mortgage-related deductions. Previously, the tax deduction for home mortgages was limited to interest paid on $1 million debt for jointly filing married couples and single filers and $500,000 for married couples filing separately. Now, the numbers look more like $750,000 for the former and $500,000 for the latter. Additionally, interest paid during closing can also be counted towards this number.

Property & State Taxes

Did you know that the amount you pay in property taxes, state income taxes, and local sales tax is also deductible? If you pay property taxes through escrow, your lender will need to get the amount for you on your 1098 form, otherwise you should be able to find it in your personal records. The latest tax laws have instituted a cap at $10,000, but every little bit counts!

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Believe it or not, tax deductions on PMI are a hotly contested subject. Until recently, buyers were able to deduct the payments they made on Private Mortgage Insurance, but as of 2017, that ability expired. If you did buy your home before 2017, then your yearly income will determine how much you can deduct.

There’s no timeline on when deductions for PMI could return, but, unfortunately, if you’re a more recent home-buyer with these payments, those perks aren’t currently available.

Credits

We talked a little bit earlier about the difference between deductions and credits, so what sort of credits can you get as a homeowner? One of the biggest tax credits that homeowners can cash in on is having energy-efficient homes. In fact, if you installed geothermal heat or solar energy, you could be entitled to credit for up to 30% of the installation fee.

Other energy-efficient features, like storm doors and added insulation, can net you a few hundred dollars in credit, as well.

A person holding several one hundred dollar bills.

Tax-Free Profits

While many parts of the tax law have changed in the past few years, one aspect has stayed the same: tax-free profits. Selling your home not only means a big profit after the sale, but a large portion of the money you make won’t even get taxed—meaning you get to pocket more.

Married homeowners who sell their homes won’t have to pay capital gain taxes on up to $500,000 from the sale, while single filers can keep half of that as non-taxable income.

While there are some guidelines—like the home must have been a primary residence for at least two of the past five years—it’s a big plus when it comes to selling.

Want to Explore More of the Benefits of Home-Owning?

Believe it or not, there are a lot more benefits to owning a home than tax deductions. If you need help navigating the ins and outs of the home-buying and home-owning process, our team is here to help. With years of local experience and real estate know-how, we have the skills and resources necessary for home-buying and selling success.

Ready to learn more? Just give us a call.



Sea Turtles – Hilton Head Island 2019

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Friday August 9, 2017

Dear Friends of Sea Turtles,

Good Morning from Hilton Head Island!  Here is a nest greeting the day:

What a season!  As of yesterday, we are up to a record setting 445 nests on the ocean-facing beaches of Hilton Head Island!  There are another 17 that have been laid during the season on Mitchelville Beach and Dolphin Head Point on the Port Royal Sound side of the island.  There is some speculation that the higher number this year is because there were lots of sea turtle mothers who were on cycle to nest last year but didn’t because of the cold winter (lessened their food source so they could not reproduce.)  They might have joined in the nesting group this year – we will know for sure after the DNA testing is complete.  Whatever the reason, we are enjoying a great season for sea turtles. 

Our green sea turtle nest is still incubating nicely, waiting to hatch in a few weeks.

Speaking of green sea turtles, quite a few of our adopters have been sharing their experiences with green sea turtles in Hawaii.  There, the turtles come ashore and hang out – it is really amazing!   Not like the greens that we have which nest and leave!  Hawaiian green sea turtles basking in the sun: 

    This is me with the greens!

Many of you have asked about your nest hatch results.  Three days after a nest hatches, the Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Patrol does an inventory of the nest.  (Lots of nest inventories are happening on the beach – if you are out VERY early in the morning, watch for the vehicle and observe the action!)  They record and report all the nest egg count and hatch details to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources which controls the data.  I will then pass the details of your particular nest on to you.

Lots of season left – stay tuned!!

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org


July 17, 2019

Dear Nest Adopters,

The Hilton Head Island beach is a busy place right now:  During the day, tourists and locals fill the sand and water with fun, noise and laughter.  But in the night, there are still a few mother sea turtles coming ashore to nest – and a lot of hatchlings leaving the nest, racing to the ocean.  Everyone on the island is working hard to educate our beach goers with simple instructions:  leave the beach at the end of the day as you found it!  Fill in the holes, flatten the sand castles and pick up the trash.  This is sea turtle territory!!

We now have more than 430 nests that have appeared on our island – and 24 of them have already hatched.  No one really knows when a nest will hatch – it can be any time between 45 and 65 days after it was laid.  But we do know that hatchlings prefer to come out in the night – it is cooler, quieter and safer for them.

Here is how it happens:  more than 100 eggs have been developing under the sand for almost two months.  Gradually, the hatchlings start to break out of their shells – still under the sand.  You can tell that this is happening when you see a depression in the sand that looks like a bowling ball was dropped on it – like this:

The hatchlings don’t just come out one at a time…..they wait until a whole bunch of them are ready to make a run for it – and lots exit the nest at the same time.  This is called a “boil”.  In the Coastal Discovery Museum, there is a model of what a nest looks like under the ground during the hatching.   Stop in and see it:

The hatchlings climb all over each other to get out:

and then race for the nearest light – which is supposed to be the ocean.  (If people have on lights in their beach front houses, the hatchlings will go that way and never make it to the ocean….very sad!) 

After a nest has hatched, there are the unmistakable signs of a hole where the depression was, and lots of beautiful baby turtle tracks coming out of it. 

If you happen to see a nest hatching, you are very lucky – but PLEASE keep a distance away, do not take any pictures, and use only a red turtle safe flashlight.  We want to protect every one of those babies!

Hatching will be happening until 60 days after the last sea turtle nest is laid – we still have a long season ahead!

More later –

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org


July 12, 2019

Dear Nest Adopters,

In 2016, a record number of sea turtle nests were laid on Hilton Head Island – 411 of them……. and that record has now been shattered!!  As of this morning, we are up to 417 nests laid on Hilton Head Island beaches – and there is still a month left to go in the season.   One mother even came ashore after sunrise today (they generally nest during the night) and put on a nesting show for the many respectfully distant spectators who happened to be on the beach at the time.  Fantastic year!!

There are still also lots of false crawls – 296 of those so far:

Interestingly, tests are being done on each of our sea turtles – without ever touching the mother!  One egg is taken from every nest; the yolk is put in one test tube and the shell in another.  These samples are sent to a lab in Georgia where the DNA of the mother turtle is tested.  From that information, we then will know where else the mother has nested this season and every season since this record keeping began more than 10 years ago.  Sometimes I am able to provide that information to adopters about their mother sea turtle – will keep you posted on that.

Occasionally, nature needs a little help!  When the mother sea turtle lays her eggs in a place that is too close to the high tide line, the nest is relocated by the Sea Turtle Patrol to a safer spot.  They very carefully remove all the eggs, dig another similar hole on higher ground, and gently place the eggs into the new hole: 

45% of our nests have been relocated this year.  Amazingly, statistics have shown us that relocated nests have a higher percentage of success than ones left in place.  Who knew?!

So much action on our beach this year by this wonderful endangered species!

More news later –

 P.S.  You might have heard the great news that Hilton Head Island has been designated as the Number ONE Island in the continental U.S. for the 4th year in a row!!!  Not just the sea turtles are happy here!

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org


June 16, 2019

Dear Nest Adopters and Sea Turtle Friends,

World Sea Turtle Day is celebrated every year on June 16th   Full focus is on the saving of this endangered species and how we can all help.

And no one can do a better job of telling the story than the people at the World Wildlife Fund.  Here is their list of

        Ten Things you might not have known about Sea Turtles

        (thanks to WWF for sharing this list as directly quoted below)

1.  Turtles don’t have teeth. Instead, their upper and lower jaws have sheaths made of keratin (the same stuff your fingernails are made of) that fit onto the skull like a pair of false teeth.

2.  Turtle shells are made of over 50 bones fused together – so they’re literally wearing their bones on the outside. 

3.The first few years of a marine turtle’s life are often referred to as the ‘lost years’. That’s because the time between when the hatchlings emerge until they return to coastal shallow waters to forage is incredibly difficult to study. The lost years they spend at sea – which can be up to 20 years – largely remain a mystery to humans.  

4. Sea turtle species vary greatly in size. The smallest is the Kemp’s Ridley, while the Leatherbacks can weigh more than 1000 pounds!  (We have had both nest – one time each – on Hilton Head Island.)

5. It’s estimated that as few as 1 in 1,000 sea turtle eggs will survive to adulthood. And if beaches are strewn with litter, it can prevent hatchlings reaching the sea.

6. Female leatherbacks make some interesting noises when they are nesting – some of which sound similar to a human belch.

7. Turtles seem to prefer red, orange and yellow colored food. They appear to investigate these colors more than others when looking for a meal. 

8. Sea turtles can migrate long distances – the known record is a female that swam nearly 13,000 miles over 647 days from Indonesia to the west coast of the United States! 

9. Female sea turtles often return to nest on the same beach from which they hatched. Sea turtles’ amazing ability to navigate comes from their sensitivity to the Earth’s magnetic fields.

10. Even with all these amazing features and adaptations, sea turtles are threatened with extinction!  One major threat to sea turtles is plastic pollution. It is estimated that at leastone sea turtle out of two has ingested plastic often mistaking it for food such as jellyfish.  Luckily, Hilton Head Island has greatly limited by ordinance the use of single-use plastic bags, and many Hilton Head restaurants have stopped offering plastic straws. 

We can all do something – spread the word – Happy Sea Turtle Day!

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org

June 8, 2019

Dear Nest Adopters and Friends,

What a season!!!  Just to give you an idea of the numbers, here is the comparison for numbers of sea turtle nests on Hilton Head Island in past years –

by June 7th:

2014:   28 nests

2015:   106

2016:   120

2017:   105

2018:   47       

2019:  169 NESTS!!!

Wow!  Not only that, but there have been lots of spottings of the mothers on the beach.      

A reminder, if you see a mother sea turtle, keep a good distance away, do not take flash pictures, do not distract or bother her in any way.

Often a sea turtle mother comes ashore and does not nest.  We have had 111 false crawls so far this year – that is a big number!  Sometimes she is scared off,

sometimes she runs an eroded cliff of sand,

and sometime she is stopped by unnecessary “stuff” on the beach. 

Help us by keeping the beach clear at night!! 

More news coming soon –

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org

May 24, 2019

Dear Friends of Sea Turtles,

Nests are being laid on Hilton Head Island like crazy!  Those sea turtle mothers are making up for lost time – and it looks like they might continue at this rate all season!  As of today, we are well beyond 60 nests – a good number considering that in last year, we did not even get our first nest until the middle of May! 

It is great fun to see how and where the mother sea turtles nest.  These two nests are just next to each other – like sisters!  You can even see the mother’s tracks from the nest on the right.

In fact, that nest is directly behind the dune retention fence.  She came in one side and went out the other! Look closely for the signs of the sea turtle’s nest digging efforts to the right of the orange tape, the the tracks:

This mother found a safe place between a fence and a storage box!

And here are the tracks of a mother who took a v-e-r-y long walk on the beach this week, before she finally settled on a spot near the top of the beach – a long way for her to crawl……and a long way for her babies to go back to the ocean after hatching!

And this morning, a mother left a meandering track as she trudged exhaustedly back to the ocean:

We have some VERY creative sea turtles!  More news later –

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org

Dear Nest Adopters,

WOW!  Lots of huge surprises for Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle watchers:

  1. The first sea turtle nesting of the season on Hilton Head Island was REALLY early in the season – yesterday morning, April 26th, a mother sea turtle crawled ashore to dig a hole in the sand and lay her eggs.   This is the earliest nesting in most people’s memory, and is probably due to the warmer than usual weather recently.
  1. The sea turtle was a Kemp’s Ridley – the rarest and one of the most endangered of the sea turtle species!  Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are much smaller than the loggerhead sea turtles which generally nest on Hilton Head. This is the first time a Kemp’s Ridley has nested on Hilton Head Island and only the fourth in South Carolina since record-keeping began.  (Interestingly, another Kemps Ridley beat out ours by laying a nest on Kiawah Island the evening before.)
  1. This sea turtle mama came ashore in broad daylight!  Loggerhead sea turtle mothers generally come ashore to nest during the night, so spotting one on Hilton Head is a rare treat.  The Kemp’s Ridley is a more of a daytime nesting creature, so this event gave lots of our beach-going locals and tourists an amazing show.  There is a video of the action on the Island Packet website. https://www.islandpacket.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/untamed-lowcountry/article229722764.html

Now the mother has gone back to the ocean, never to visit her nest again. And her eggs will lie undisturbed in the sand for about 60 days.  Hoping for a successful hatch of our first Kemp’s Ridley!

So we are off to a great start!  Will keep you posted as the season unfolds…..

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org



Up Your Home’s Resale Value with These 5 Outdoor DIY Projects

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Spring is here, and summer is closer than ever. That makes it a great time to get outside and spruce up your home’s exterior!

If you’re planning on selling your home soon, a little outdoor maintenance can go a long way. In fact, here are five outdoor projects you can do yourself that are sure to add resale value to your home.

Install a Fire Pit

Fire burning in a backyard fire pit.

Imagine spending a warm summer evening out back with your friends, sipping cool drinks and roasting marshmallows over an open fire. The truth is, installing a fire pit is easier than you might think!

A fire pit is made out of fireproof materials and should sit on a flat surface at least 15 feet away from your home and any trees. Here’s a how-to guide for building a backyard fire pit.

Remember, check your local building codes before beginning any type of construction!

Don’t have a yard for a fire pit? Turn your balcony into a cozy dining area instead!

Add Some Outdoor Lighting

Transform your backyard space for summer with lights that add both ambience and security. You can safely add low-voltage lighting to your front or backyard by yourself, even if you don’t have extensive electrical experience.

Whether you opt for motion-activated LED lights or hanging fairy lights, you have some great options to consider for your yard!

Have a nice back deck or balcony? Add some lights to make it a great place to gather any time, day or night.

Fix the Front Door

A front door with a key in the lock.

Your front door should be clean, bright, and welcoming! After all, it’s the first thing potential buyers will see when they enter your home.

There are a couple of different options to freshen up your front door. If it’s very old or damaged, you could replace it altogether. Other options for sprucing up your door include painting it a different color,touching up the paint job, or replacing the doorknob or knocker.

Live in a condo with an interior front door? You can still spruce up your entryway with a nice welcome mat and some potted flowers.

Power Wash the Exterior

Dirty siding on your home can make it look old and neglected, which can be a major turn-off for buyers! A simple solution to get your home’s exterior looking like new is to rent a power washer to take care of any dirt. We recommend renting a heavy-duty, gas-powered pressure washer, as these are the most efficient.

Depending on your home’s specific material (vinyl, stucco, brick, etc.), you will need to obtain a specific type of detergent to power wash your home. Be sure to opt for an environmentally friendly version!

Refresh Your Landscaping

The front exterior of a home that's been manicured with trimmed shrubs and flower beds.

Taking the time to properly maintain your landscaping—and adding a few new features here and there—can both increase your home’s resale value and attract more buyers. After all, real estate is all about the curb appeal!

Installing an attractive stone walkway, mulching your flowerbeds, planting new flowers or shrubbery, and planting trees are all great ways to improve your home’s landscaping.

Don’t have a yard? You can still spruce up your entryway and outdoor areas with potted flowers or hanging planters.

Looking for More Home-Selling Strategies?

We can help you increase your home’s value and get it sold fast. Contact our team today to learn more.




Copyright © 2019 Hilton Head Real Estate. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: All content on this blog is my own opinion and should not be treated as fact or relied upon when purchasing or selling real estate.
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