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Home Front Finance
Setting the Stage for a Successful Home Sale
June 13, 2013


Styling your home to make it look its best when it’s on the market, also known as staging, can be more complicated than you would think. But you don’t have to rush out and empty the local Williams-Sonoma [and your wallet] to show the potential of your property. Here are some tips for showcasing your home.
The walk-through. Have a critical eye as you move from the curb to the front door. Look for areas that need cleaning and clearing out. Imagine what buyers will be looking for rather than imposing your sense of style on the house. Focus on the highlights of each room and note ways to play those features up.
Clean, clean, clean. If buyers aren’t fond of clutter, they’ll be even less fond of dust bunnies in corners, dirty footprints across the linoleum, and fingerprints on the stainless steel.
Clear the way. Getting things off the closet floors is the ideal when showing your home, but if you can’t manage to put everything away, at least invest in some inexpensive storage bins or baskets to keep the home looking tidy. This goes for garden tools in the shed, toys, and items in the kitchen and bathrooms as well.
Add a pop of color. In a sparse room, buyers can picture their own belongings much better, but you still want the home to have warmth. A couple of bright throw pillows on a bed or couch will foster a cozy feeling.
Be gender neutral. In the master bedroom and bath, strip out any indications of gender. Crisp white linens, a clear dresser top, and a neutral quilt will appeal to everyone. Aim for a bedroom that is serene, calming, and peaceful.
Do up the dining room. A formal dining room can look cold and overly… formal. Set the table with the dishes you’d use for favorite, frequent guests rather than a formal dinner party.
Rearrange the furniture. It might not be how you chose to set up your rooms, but pulling furniture into conversation areas is appealing to most people.
Make every space count. The guest room should be obviously a guest room; the same goes for the office. Ambiguity in a room’s purpose can be confusing to homeshoppers. Make it clear what each room is for. If you have an oddly shaped landing, or a little nook in the living room, don’t ignore it: show its potential.
It’s important that you’re thinking about what buyers may want in your home, rather than what you wanted and how you used your space. These easy staging tips, coupled with the advice of your real estate agent, should have your home under contract in no time!

Posted in Home Front Finance

Creative Ways to Use Your Tax Return
May 15, 2013


By now many people have received or are looking forward to a chunk of cash in the form of a tax return. If you’re one of those people, let this be the year you make your tax return work for you, rather than just parking the money in your savings. Here are some creative ideas for using your tax refund:
Down payment on a house. This might seem obvious; or it might seem like it doesn’t apply to you. But with historically low interest rates, it’s a great time to buy, and as home prices are slowly inching up and availability is slowly scaling down, making a move now is a smart decision. And remember, we’re not only talking about a primary home; a rental or second home can be a great investment.
Make an extra mortgage payment. We’ve mentioned this before, and it’s not right for everyone, but an extra payment can actually end up saving you hundreds of dollars in the long run, especially if your mortgage is only a few years old.
Make money-saving improvements. If you’ve been in your home for a while, you may be considering giving it a facelift with your tax return, such as a new coat of paint or refinishing the hardwood floors. Why not invest in your home and make some improvements that will save you money in the long run? Low flow toilets, faucets, shower heads, and even sprinkler systems can make a dent in your bills. Energy Star appliances can earn you tax credits while they improve your home’s efficiency and help you keep costs down. And when it’s time to sell your home, you will have increased its value to boot.
Pay down debt. Credit cards have extremely high interest rates. When you don’t pay off your bill each month, you’re incurring more debt, often at a 15 or 18 percent interest rate — for some folks, even higher. Pay off your credit card bills and keep more of your money for yourself!
Go solar. The cost of solar energy has fallen in recent years and the efficiency and available financing have improved, while utility bills keep rising. You can get a full system installed with no money down and effectively freeze your electricity bill for the next 10 or 20 years. You can even lease a system, which lets you off the hook for repairs and upkeep while still allowing you to reduce your utility costs.
Of course, you always have the option to make a “stress-relieving investment” and splurge on yourself: take a class, learn a skill, hire a personal trainer, take a dream vacation. With so many options to truly get your tax refund working for you, it’s a great time to really maximize your money and make the most of this year’s return. Enjoy!
*We are not a tax advisory firm. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and may not reflect current tax year rules and regulations. Consult your tax advisor or the IRS for current tax year rules, restrictions and regulations.

Posted in Home Front Finance

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