Entries in real estate (30)

Wednesday
Jan202016

Storage Ideas for Your Garage

Garage Organization Ideas for Under $50

By: Jan Soults Walker

If clutter trumps cars in your garage, get organized (and make room for your vehicles) with these smart garage storage solutions, each costing less than $50.

 

Bikes, Skates, and Other Wheels

Bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and rollerblades -- wheeled belongings can get underfoot and land you on your assets or bang up the car. Protect your paint job (not to mention your backside) with these wily storage solutions for your garage.

  • Hoist bicycles to the rafters with a rope-and-pulley system (starting around $40) that makes it easy to raise the bike and lock safely in place. When you’re ready to ride, release the lock and lower your bike to the garage floor. You’ll need an hour or two and basic tools to secure the pair of pulleys to ceiling joists and thread the ropes. (Similar hoists are available for kayaks or small boats; starting around $25.)
  • Avoid unintentional skateboard “tricks” with a specially designed wall rack that makes it easy for kids to hang up helmets and skateboards together; starting around $20. Secure this one to wall joists in less than an hour.
  • Keep scooters and bikes out of the way with tool hooks installed on a length of 1-by-6-inch lumber. You’ll pay $3 for each pair of vinyl-coated screw-in tool hooks and $1 per foot for lumber. You’ll need only an hour or two to secure the lumber to wall joists and screw the hooks into place along the board.

Sporting Goods

Active pursuits require a lot of gear that ends up in the garage. These organizers help tidy up all those sports balls, rackets, bats, gloves, clubs, fishing rods, and other outdoor fun-related goodies.

  • Bring together balls and bats on a convenient wire rack equipped with hangers that hold gloves too; starting around $35. 
  • To keep your garage organization from going downhill, stash two pairs of snow skis, poles, and boots in one handy steel ski rack; $45. Securing this rack to wall studs helps it hold the weight of the equipment. If you can’t position it on studs, use wall anchors for a secure installation. You can do the task with or without anchors in an hour or two.
  • Make a port for your fishing rods by suspending two wire shelves from your garage ceiling about 5 feet apart, then threading the rods through the openings. Use shelves left over from a project or purchase a 4-foot-by-16-inch vinyl-coated wire shelf for less than $9, and saw it in half crosswise (or clip with bolt cutters) to make two 2-foot shelves. Snip additional wires where you need wider slots to accept pole handles or reels.

Tools

With a little imagination, you won’t need specially designed storage to organize your tools.

  • Conveniently hang wrenches and bungee cords using an ordinary vinyl-coated wire tie-and-belt rack, available at big box stores; $8.
  • Metal tools cling to a magnetized rail, keeping items in view and easy to retrieve; starting around $30. Simply screw the rail to wall studs to safely hold the weight of the tools (it’s an idea you may be drawn to.)
  • Cushion and protect tools by padding your toolbox drawers with a soft, non-slip liner. The open-weave design keeps moisture away and prevents tools from rolling around. Enough material to line eight average-size drawers is $15. Just cut the liner to length to fit and slip it into the drawer.
  • Organize small items -- such as pencils, box cutters, and tape measures -- by stashing them in electrical junction boxes; about $2 each (free if you have spares). Purchase a variety of sizes and shapes and secure them to studs or pegboard.

Yard and Garden Gear

Rakes, ladders, clippers, shovels, and sprays — a host of supplies keep your yard and garden looking lush and well-cared-for, but your garage? Not so much. Keep your garden and landscaping tools organized with these novel storage solutions.

  • Transform an old cabinet into a nifty garage storage unit on wheels. Hunt down an old four-drawer filing cabinet for a few dollars at a garage sale. Remove the drawers, turn it on its backside, and use a couple afternoons to apply paint and pegboard sides. Less than $25.
  • Hold heavy tools, long-handled implements, ladders, and more. Long steel rails with extruded holes mount high on the garage wall and secure to studs. Arrange a series of hooks and pegs on the rail to hang big tools. Two 48-inch rails sell for $22.
  • Secure a wooden pallet to wall studs to create a pocket for holding long-handled garden tools. To find free wooden pallets, check with local businesses as well as online classifieds, such as Craigslist. Cost: Free.
  • Keep bottles of fertilizers, repellants, and lubricants upright and easy to retrieve. A can rack ($15) prevents cans and bottles from tumbling off shelves.



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Tuesday
Jan192016

7 Things Every Home Buyer Should Check For Themselves

Where Does The Info On That House Come From?

Even though this article references a specific area in North Carolina, the information is certainly valid for any market in the country. If you have questions about the market in New Jersey, contact me! I can help you with any of your needs.

Home buyers looking online on either big real estate portals like Realtor.com, Zillow or local real estate agents websites are able to see lots of information about the homes that suite their needs. The price, neighborhood, number of bedrooms are all included in the description of the home. The other details about the home such as school district, city limits and utilities can be part of the descriptors as well. So where does all this information come from?

7 Things Every Home Buyer Should Check For Themselves

Check the schools before you buy a house.

There is a lot going on when you are buying a house and your buyers agent should handle a lot of it, but home buyers need to take responsibility for anything that is very important to them. The 7 things every home buyer should check for themselves is a jumping off point, if’s it important to you, find out.

In the case of homes for sale in Clayton, NC that are entered in the Triangle MLS that information is entered by the listing agent. The price, subdivision, number of bedrooms are hard to get wrong ( not impossible though) the schools, city limits, utilities can sometimes be a gray area and as such should always be checked by the home buyer with the help of their buyers agent to confirm they are correct.

We are all human and prone to making mistakes and it’s very easy to make a mistake when entering information about a home which is why it is so important for home buyers to check the information that is important to them and not rely on what they see. There are some systems to check some of the information but not all and what may be the overriding factor in choosing a home for some buyers is definitely worth checking.

How does a home buyer check the information on Zillow or a sales flyer? This is where your buyers agent should be able to help and some of the information is fairly easy to find once you know what you are looking for. Much of it is available online and if not there should be a person at the city or county, school or utility company that can help. Simply asking the neighbors to confirm something is the easiest way to find out…but confirm if it’s important to you.

 1. Schools

As a Clayton, NC real estate agent you get to know what subdivisions are in each school district and having two children in local schools I certainly know those schools, and the subdivisions that go there. Having said that things change and we are experiencing tremendous growth in the area and the schools are having to adapt, so I still check. There are a couple of ways to check, you can get a boundary map from the Johnston County Schools website or you can use the Johnston County GIS map to search by address. It is advised that you also call the JCS Transportation Services for homes that might be right on the border between schools. Recently there was a case where the listing agent had the wrong high school listed for the property and the buyers agent did not catch it and those people had to sell the house they just bought.

  2. Taxes

How much are the property taxes going to be on your new house? While our taxes are fairly low here in Johnston County compared with other parts of the country, it’s good to know what the rate is and who you’re paying taxes to. The tax rates for the different municipalities can be found on the tax office website and vary accordingly. It’s a good idea to find out from the municipality what you get for your taxes which in larger towns can be quite a lot.

3. City Limits

There is a big difference between a mailing address and actually being inside the city limits. With regards to Clayton, NC which is the largest town in Johnston County and growing because it has such a large mailing address there are many homes that have a Clayton mailing address but are not in the city limits. In fact many homes have a Clayton mailing address but are actually in a different towns limit, Archer Lodge and Wilson Mills are a couple of examples. It is very important to know what municipality your new home will be in for a number of reasons. The taxes we discussed above are different but also the code enforcement and city ordinances are different and may exclude something you plan to do with your property.  If the house you are buying is in the  Clayton ETJ then that is what governs where you go for permits for any additions, pools or fences. Clayton has two zip codes 27520 and 27527

4. Utilities

7 Things Every Home Buyer Should Check For Themselves

Where do we get the power?

City or county, well and septic, electricity, natural gas, cable TV , fiber optic high speed Internet. Most larger subdivisions or planned developments are easy to figure out where you get your utilities from. Some even provide a list of who you should call to get set up. When you start looking at smaller neighborhoods and individual lots or older homes then it’s important to know who provides what. The fact that there is a well in the front yard does not necessarily mean the house hasn’t been hooked up to county water, so if you’d rather not get a water bill every month, it’s worth it to make sure. A home inspector will be able to confirm the water source and you can also call the county. Natural gas is very popular with some home buyers for both cooking and the energy efficiency it provides and not all neighborhoods have it. A gas log fireplace is often fueled by a propane tank which you’ll need to find out if the home owners lease or own it.

5. Restrictive Covenants

Its very important for every home buyer to get a copy of the restrictive covenants and read through them to make sure what is allowed and what is not. Every subdivision while not required to have a HOA will have some form of restrictive covenants and you’ll want to see the latest one. Older subdivisions around Clayton can have a few pages covering the basics while the trend in newer subdivisions is to have very detailed covenants that may impact your decision to buy a home there. A fairly common question I get asked is what subdivisions in Clayton allow chickens in the backyard, many do not. Number of pets and type of dog can also be listed in the covenants. Commercial vehicles is another, if you drive a truck for work you may have to park it in the garage, pretty important if it won’t fit! Keeping boats or RV’s is sometimes frowned upon in the restrictive covenants of some neighborhoods while perfectly acceptable in others.

6. HOA Rules/Assesments

7 Things Every Home Buyer Should Check For Themselves

Rules & Regulations

Now this is one every new home buyer needs to read if only to discover what the neighborhood is going to be like. Some HOA rules can seem restrictive to some people while others like the conformity and rules that apply in certain neighborhoods. There will likely be a HOA company that collects the dues and makes sure everyone is complying with the rules. Monthly HOA dues can vary depending on what sort of amenities are available and the size of the neighborhood. Some neighborhoods have two fees, one that covers for example the entrance sign and another that covers the pool. So be sure and find out what is included with the HOA dues and what the rules and regulations are.

7. Lot Lines

Paying for a survey is often the last thing a new home owner wants to pony up for and I understand. After all it rarely become an issue…until it becomes an issue! If you drive around a new neighborhood you might see wooden stakes with pink ribbons and writing like Lot 42 on one side and Lot 43 on the other. This means that Lot 42 should be in between the wooden stakes that have 42 on them. This can often give you a feel for the width or depth of the lot, as long as nobody has moved the stakes which happens a lot.  The corners of the lot should have a metal stake buried in the ground and this is a more accurate indication of the lot lines but even then the only way to be absolutely sure is to hire a surveyor to survey the lot for you. With an older home the wooden stakes are long gone and so it’s often a fence line or a row of trees or shrubs that the homeowner or the neighbors installed and who’s to say they didn’t move the line over  a bit. A survey will also revel any easements that may not be obvious.

To recap, the 7 things every home buyer should check for themselves

We are all human and prone to making mistakes and it’s very easy to make a mistake when entering information about a home which is why it is so important for home buyers to check the information that is important to them and not rely on what they see. There are some systems to check some of the information but not all and what may be the overriding factor in choosing a home for some buyers is definitely worth checking.

How does a home buyer check the information on Zillow or a sales flyer? This is where your buyers agent should be able to help and some of the information is fairly easy to find once you know what you are looking for. Much of it is available online and if not there should be a person at the city or county, school or utility company that can help. Simply asking the neighbors to confirm something is the easiest way to find out…but confirm if it’s important to you.

For more informative articles about the home buying process and what to look for, check out these articles from industry experts.

BY  

How To Buy A House In Five Easy Steps by Ryan Fitzgerald

Questions to Expect To Be Asked When Buying A home by Kyle Hiscock

What To Know About Shared Driveways by Bill Gassett

How To Buy A House From Start To Finish by Greg Knox

Things Every Buyer Should Know About Todays Home Seller by Debbie Drummond

10 Most Common Home Buyer Questions by Andrew Fortune

Friday
Jan152016

Trends That'll Influence Homes in 2016

 

Design changes, as does architecture. Trends don’t emerge as rapidly here as they do in say, food or fashion, but the economy, the environment, and demographics all spur shifts in the choices of materials, designs, layouts, and construction methods for single- and multifamily dwellings.

These 12 trends reflect ways to cope with environmental challenges, incorporate new building materials and methods, and alter the looks and functionality of our homes. Hear top designers and architects explain why these emerging trends are important and how they’ll influence real estate choices in the near future.

1. More Resilient, Sustainable Homes

Why it’s important: Mounting climate change pressures mean buildings need to better withstand natural disasters. Similarly, because our natural resources are dwindling, it’s increasingly important that structures be designed and built sustainably. Industry professionals are finding materials and construction techniques to meet both challenges. The Fortified Home Certification standard—created by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety and Architectural Testing Inc.—represents engineering and building levels that provide sturdier structural envelopes that are more resilient against the worst weather conditions than those found in most current building codes. And the trends of making better use of natural resources and generating energy on site—for a double win of more energy and less money spent—will continue into 2016.

How this will impact real estate: Increased durability means more lives and buildings will be saved, costs to rebuild will be pared, and insurance premiums will be lowered. The trend is happening nationwide, not just in hurricane-prone locales like Florida, says Jacqueline Nunez, founder of WonderGroup LLC in Boston. Her Allendale Residences project, designed by Merge Architects in Boston, will be among the first residential developments in New England to be receive Net-Zero and LEED Platinum certifications. It will include 16 townhomes and four condos on a two-acre site in West Roxbury, Mass. “It’s responsible to build environmentally correct,” Nunez says. Such projects have the potential to change real estate offerings as home buyers ask professionals not just about square footage and amenities but also about materials and methods, especially in areas where climate change is most destructive— “where sea levels are rising and strong hurricane winds are blowing,” Nunez says.

2. Classics, Made More Affordable

Why it’s important: More home owners want quality, luxurious materials, but the finest choices aren’t always in the budget, says architect Michael Prifti, principal with BLT Architects in Philadelphia. “Home owners seem to prefer stone, for example, over brick, over clapboard, and over vinyl, but not everyone can afford stone,” he says. With construction and material costs increasing, the need has emerged for less expensive options that still look luxe and hold up well. For example, instead of solid stone facades, architects may opt for stone veneer on studs and drywall instead of plaster inside. Or, rather than go with terra-cotta, a timeless but expensive material, they can select a handsome thin terra-cotta veneer applied to manufactured panels, Prifti says. Both examples are less costly and reflect modern building methods, particularly for constructing multiunit developments.

How this will impact real estate: Smart real estate professionals should explain to cost-conscious fixer-upper clients that there are new materials out there that might better fit a tight budget. After all, architects and builders are constantly being challenged to find value for clients in both residential and commercial development, says Prifti. “We research to find new products and new ways to use existing materials, so they’re durable, affordable, and offer more colors and textures,” he says. According to colleague and BLT Senior Project Architect Jennifer Burnside, “Many of the new products, materials, and methods lend themselves to fabrication in large modular configurations in weather-controlled factories, are shipped on trucks to a site, and are erected with a crane, which saves time and labor.” Working this way also saves your clients money.

3. Drought Awareness

Why it’s important: Droughts continue to affect large areas of the U.S., making water more expensive and decreasing its availability, especially in the Southwest and California. Water-saving fixtures such as low-flow toilets and showerheads have become standard—even mandated—in many areas, but architect Gita Nandan, with architectural firm thread collective in Brooklyn, N.Y., says buyers are looking for more. In the backyard and rooftop of a four-unit Brooklyn building her firm designed, there’s a rainwater harvesting system with modular vertical tanks connected to a drain from the rooftop. The rainwater is used to irrigate the roof gardens and the yard. The building also features low-flow fixtures. Since these features were added, the building has seen a 30 percent drop in water consumption.

How this will impact real estate: Water conservation will become as important as energy conservation, and homes that collect as much water as they consume will be as popular with buyers as Net-Zero–energy homes now are, Nandan predicts. She expects that real estate professionals will see more demand for water-saving measures such as water-smart irrigation sensors, composting toilets, gray-water recycling systems, and rainwater harvesting.

4. Digitized Manufacturing

Why it’s important: Sustainable materials such as glass, in conjunction with new manufacturing technologies, are expanding the choice of colors, textures, and sizes of materials available for home design. At the same time, 3-D manufacturing, what some call the third industrial revolution, has created a new panoply of readily available, prefabricated materials as an alternative to more expensive custom choices, says architect Cecil Baker, founding partner of Cecil Baker + Partners in Philadelphia. One example Baker cites is a new manufactured technology for glass, which makes it possible to incorporate patterns and etched surfaces directly into the glass. This new process means that glass can also be manufactured with LED lighting built in, which adds sophistication and also illumination, a double win, Baker says.

How this will impact real estate: The glass-and-LED combination is just one new technique that can result in a product that incorporates a sustainable material into a sturdy, practical, energy-efficient, and glamorous new surface for kitchen and bathroom countertops. Such choices greatly personalize rooms much more than another granite, laminate, or Corian top might do, and help to distinguish listings in a crowded market.

5. Reclaimed Wood Floors

Why they’re important: Many home owners crave authenticity, no matter how durable, affordable, and convincing the imitations may be. A case in point: the increased demand for reclaimed wood boards, which wear well, show the patina of age, and reveal visual character, says Jamie Hammel whose The Hudson Co. custom mills and finishes flooring, paneling, and beams at its mill in Pine Plains, N.Y. “People like knowing the history of their materials and products — the provenance — and these materials tell a story,” Hammel says. He adds that consumers are drawn to the sustainability of reuse as well as the health benefits of choosing older materials that don’t off-gas. “There’s a parallel with what’s happening in the food industry,” Hammel says.

How this will impact real estate: The type of wood flooring found in many homes will take on greater importance for many segments of the homebuying population, and it may be that soon not just any wood will do. The crème de la crème of wood flooring —reclaimed boards—may become the equivalent of once sought after granite and now quartz or marble. You may also see more home owners favor this option when they replace existing floors. Finally, be aware that the latest generation of reclaimed boards displays a lighter, Scandinavian matte finish that looks better with contemporary furnishings that are becoming more in vogue than traditional furniture.

6. Softening Modern Severity

Why it’s important: With so many home owners now favoring modern design, yet not wanting a harsh, laboratory look, designers search for alternatives. Architects Ada I. Corral and Camille Jobe, of Jobe Corral Architects in Austin, Texas, are among those with a solution: Select materials that offer a handcrafted, warmer style rather than an “off-the-shelf,” cold, mass-produced look for their modern settings. “We’re trying to bring craftsmanship back while maintaining a clean, crisp overall look,” Corral says. One favorite choice is burnt wood, a Japanese technique that works well with cypress and cedar and makes the wood look older, yet also strengthens its resilience against rot, pests, and fire. Another favorite is metal that’s shaped into thin, elegant veneers for shelving, beams, drawer handles, around doorframes.

How this will impact real estate: Keep this trend in mind while staging modern-styled properties or alerting buyers and sellers to new decor ideas. These types of materials and new applications add surprising touches and warmth in modern dwellings — a feeling of a more lived-in, loved setting. And their appeal will only grow, pundits predict. “So many people have tired of having their houses look like spare hotels. These choices differentiate — and warm — rooms and homes,” Jobe says.

7. The Tiny House Movement on Wheels

Why it’s important: Downsizing is big, reflected in part by the growth of the tiny house movement. But flexibility and mobility are also sought after, and many desire a hipper method of attaining this than RVs can offer. Enter the “Escape Sport”, an 8 1/2-foot-by-20-foot, 170-square-foot house on wheels that meets these challenges and more. It can comfortably sleep up to four people and can withstand bad weather with its steel frame, aluminum siding, and weather-resistant wood. It’s also environmentally friendly with a solar power system, composting feature, incinerating toilet, gray water irrigation hook-up, rainwater integration, advanced electric fireplace, and energy-efficient induction cooktop. And its toilet and sink are full sized, which is not always the case with RVs. Developer Dan Dobrowolski says this option will appeal to home owners who want to travel in smaller spaces, but don’t want to feel claustrophobic or give up the comforts of a bigger home.

How this will impact real estate: The design profession keeps looking for options beyond traditional, stick-built houses, hence the uptick in prefabricated, manufactured housing. This brand-new example offers shelter to those who are keen on smaller houses, but don’t like the idea of always staying put, Dobrowolski says. It also offers other possibilities for the real estate industry. It allows some home owners to “test drive” small-scale living. And if the trend continues to expand, landowners may find empty lots in vacation areas to be the perfect spot to rent out to these home owners on wheels.

8. Walk-In, Universal Design Pantries

Why it’s important: Currently there are 78 million baby boomers and the aging population is increasing — in fact, it’s expected to rise by 50 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to Aging in Place, a state survey of livability policies and practices. A deep, wide walk-in pantry allows a walker or wheelchair to maneuver through easily. If the pantry also has a flexible shelving system that can be lowered through special hardware that’s another boon for home owners seeking to remain independent, says Rosemarie Rossetti, an expert in universal design who constructed a demonstration home and garden with her husband in Columbus, Ohio, after she had a spinal cord injury at age 44, 11 years ago. “A pantry with proper shelving has a lot of benefits for seniors lacking mobility and not able to open folding doors or reach high items,” she says.

How this will impact real estate: Walk-in pantries and pocket doors, which are easier to open and close than traditional doors and save 10 square feet of floor space, are just two of many universal design features becoming more desired and even edging into the mainstream. “Children and those who are shorter also will be able to reach shelves easier, and when outfitted with better lighting, pantries are safer,” Rossetti says. Homes that have universal design features will be in greater demand by both the senior market and younger informed home buyers, says Joseph Mezera, a Seniors Real Estate Specialist who focuses on this niche through his Seniors First Realty in Columbus, Ohio. “Some may not want big doorways and high toilets that they associate with nursing homes, but those who are smart will listen to trained salespeople explain that it’s better to take preventive measures.”

9. Better Integration of Indoors and Outdoors

Why it’s important: Screened porches once were the prime quasi-outdoor space in a home that could protect occupants from bad weather yet offer a feeling of the outdoors. But many porches block daylight and views, and they can only be used part of the year in some climates. Now, well-designed, large-scale door panels that fold up like garage doors or open into a home’s walls via big pocket doors are becoming more readily available at affordable prices, says architect Elizabeth Demetriades of Demetriades + Walker in Lakeville, Conn. Some have highly functional, retractable insect screens, too.

How this will impact real estate: These new bigger openings permit better views of the outdoors, greater enjoyment, and easier access between indoors and outdoors. “Blurring the distinction seems to be a leitmotif for many of our clients these days,” says Demetriades. And the trend may further increase interest in landscape design since the greater connection will make yards more a part of homes rather than separate entities, only to be enjoyed in prime weather.

10. Softer, Layered Color Palettes

Why they’re important: Color trendsetter Pantone typically debuts only one superstar color of the year. But in 2016, two are taking center stage: “rose quartz” and “serenity.” Both reflect the rise of softer colors, along with the continued use of whites and creams. Some designers think this color direction and its layered palettes lead to a more personalized, sophisticated design. Cheryl Kees Clendenon of In Detail Interiors in Pensacola, Fla., is a fan. “I like the layered approach since it evokes a more emotional response and doesn’t read as a single, stark color,” she says. Clendenon attributes the situation to current affairs as much as to design. “When people get more nervous, which many are because of what’s happening in the world and [it being] an election year, they want colors that aren’t wild and crazy but calming, which these are,” she says. Time will tell if a non-election year and fewer terrorism threats may inspire a return to bolder hues.

How this will impact real estate: These new colors are already turning up inside homes in countertops and backsplashes, as seen by Prexury by Cosentino’s “rose quartz,” a durable, easy-maintenance manmade aggregate of semi-precious stones. Elsewhere in homes, the more complex color palettes will inspire buyers and sellers when making selections for everything from paint to fabrics and furnishings. But pairings are key. Clendenon suggests using Prexury’s rose quartz with off-white or cream cabinets. Along with this approach will come more textures and patterns, but again in subtle combinations, she says.

11. Copper Chic Surges (Even More)

Why it’s important: The old standby of copper—think of those pots your parents, grandparents, or Julia Child used—started its re-emergence last year. And the reason that it’s becoming a more widespread alternative to stainless steel, wood, and other materials isn’t all surface. Yes, copper can add sheen, sparkle, and a 1940s Hollywood glamour. But an equally big impetus is that it reduces more than 99.9 percent of bacteria in between routine cleanings, important because antibiotic-resistant superbugs are on the rise, according to The Copper Development Association, based in New York.

How this will impact real estate: This shiny, goldlike hue will become more prevalent in homes as concern grows about buying healthy houses without mold, toxins, and bacteria. To help, U.S. manufacturers are producing more options in copper than just refrigerator, oven, and other appliance fronts, the developments that initially helped revive the trend. Throughout homes, buyers can add copper sinks, door handles, light switches, and trim. To enhance its appeal, manufacturers are also expanding the types of hues available. Already, there’s a copper-penny color, brushed nickel, yellow brassiness, and bronze on the market.

12. Enhancing Entertainment Space With Niches and “Back Kitchens”

Why it’s important: Living keeps getting more casual, and this is certainly the case in the kitchen. “Everything happens in the kitchen, and people don’t want to be closed away from interaction with their families,” says Chicago kitchen designer Mick De Giulio of de Giulio Kitchen Design, author of Kitchen(Pointed Leaf Press, 2015). Consequently, they’re willing to put more into their kitchens — more space (500 square feet is not uncommon, he says), bigger budgets, better design, more windows and light, and the types of detailing, like moldings and beams, once reserved for more formal spaces.

How this will impact real estate: As open plans that incorporate more important kitchen space become commonplace, finding ways to keep the workspace neat becomes key, too. This may mean more niches and elements that hide small appliances built into the main kitchen. Home owners with more room and a bigger budget might consider adding a “back kitchen,” where preparations take place and small appliances like toasters and coffee makers are stored. To maintain the interflowing social feel, the spaces remain open to one another. A growing number of home buyers may be willing to forgo a dining room, says De Giulio.

JANUARY 2016 | BY BARBARA BALLINGER

Wednesday
Dec302015

Tax and Home Records Checklist: What to Keep and For How Long?

Want to rest assured you have all the documents you need when you need them, but not be awash in paper? Read on.

Unless you’re living in the 123-room Spelling Manor, you probably don’t have space to store massive amounts of tax and insurance paperwork, warranties, and repair receipts related to your home. But you’ll definitely want your paperwork at hand if you have to prove you deserved a tax deduction, file an insurance claim, or figure out if your busted oven is still under warranty.

Except for tax paperwork, there’s no official guideline governing exactly how long you have to keep most home-related documents. Lucky for you, we considered the situations in which you might need documents and came up with a handy “How Long to Keep It” home records checklist.

First, a little background on IRS rules, which informed some of our charts:

  • The IRS says you should keep tax returns and the paperwork supporting them for at least three years after you file the return — the amount of time the IRS has to audit you. So that’s how long we advise in our charts.
  • Check with your state about state income tax, though. Some make you keep tax records a really long time: In Ohio, it’s 10 years.
  • The IRS can also ask for records up to six years after a filing if they suspect someone failed to report 25% or more of his gross income. And the agency never closes the door on an audit if it suspects fraud. Just sayin’.
HOME SALE RECORDS
Document How Long to Keep It
Home sale closing documents, including HUD-1 settlement sheet As long as you own the property + 3 years                         
Deed to the house As long as you own the property
Builder’s warranty or service contract for new home Until the warranty period ends
Community/condo association covenants, codes, restrictions (CC&Rs) As long as you own the property
Receipts for capital improvements As long as you own the property + 3 years
Section 1031 (like-kind exchange) sale records for both your old and new properties, including HUD-1 settlement sheet As long as you own the property + 3 years
Mortgage payoff statements (certificate of satisfaction or lien release) Forever, just in case a lender says, “Hey, you still owe money.”

Why you need these docs: You use home sale closing documents, receipts for capital improvements, and like-kind exchange records to calculate and document your profit (gain) when you sell your home. Your deed and mortgage payoff statements prove you own your home and have paid off your mortgage, respectively. Your builder’s warranty or contract is important if you file a claim. And sooner or later you’ll need to check the CC&R rules in your condo or community association.

ANNUAL TAX DEDUCTIONS
Document How Long to Keep It
Property tax payment (tax bill + canceled check or bank statement showing check was cashed) 3 years after the due date of the return showing the deduction
Year-end mortgage statements 3 years after the due date of the return showing the deduction
PMI payment (monthly bills + canceled check or bank statements showing check was cashed) 3 years after the due date of the return showing the deduction
Residential energy tax credit* receipts 3 years after the due date of the return on which the credit is claimed (including carryforwards**)

Why you need these docs: To document you’re eligible for a deduction or tax credit.

*Energy tax credits for alternative energy sources; credit expires at the end of 2016.

**Tax credits that you carry forward from one year to a future year, such as when you don’t have enough tax liability to offset the entire amount of the credit. (You can’t deduct more than you earn.) Only certain tax credits can be carried forward. Check with your tax pro about your particular circumstances.

INSURANCE AND WARRANTIES
Document How Long to Keep It
Home repair receipts Until warranty expires
Inventory of household possessions Forever (Remember to make updates.)
Homeowners insurance policies Until you receive the next year’s policy
Service contracts and warranties As long as you have the item being warrantied

Why you need these docs: To file a claim or see what your policy or warranty covers.

INVESTMENT (LANDLORD) REAL ESTATE DEDUCTIONS
Document How Long to Keep It
Appraisal or valuation used to calculate depreciation As long as you own the property + 3 years
Receipts for capital expenses, such as an addition or improvements As long as you own the property + 3 years
Receipts for repairs and other expenses 3 years after the due date of the return showing the deduction
Landlord’s insurance payment receipt (canceled check or bank statement showing check was cashed) 3 years after the due date showing the deduction
Landlord’s insurance policy Until you receive the next year’s policy
Partnership or LLC agreements for real estate investments As long as the partnership or LLC exists + 7 years
Landlord insurance receipts (canceled check or bank statement showing check was cashed) 3 years after you deduct the expense

Why you need these docs: For the most part, to prove your eligibility to deduct the expense. You’ll also need receipts for capital expenditures to calculate your gain or loss when you sell the property. Landlord’s insurance and partnership agreements are important references.

MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS
Document How Long to Keep It
Wills and property trusts Until updated
Date-of-death home value record for inherited home, and any rules for heirs’ use of home As long as you own the home + 3 years
Original owners’ purchase documents (sales contract, deed) for home given to you as a gift As long as you own the home + 3 year
Divorce decree with home sale clause As long as you or spouse owns the home + 3 years
Employment records for live-in help (W-2s, W-4s, pay and benefits statements) 4 years after you make (or owe) payroll tax payments

Why you need these docs: Most are needed to calculate capital gains when you sell. Employment records help prove deductions. 

Organizing Your Home Records

Because paper, such as receipts, fades with time and takes up space, consider scanning and storing your documents on a flash drive, an external hard drive, or a cloud-based remote server. Even better, save your documents to at least two of these places.  

Digital copies are OK with the IRS as long as they’re identical to the originals and contain all the accurate information that was in the original receipts. You must be able to produce a hard copy if the IRS asks for one.

Tip: Tax season and year’s end are good times to purge files and toss what you no longer need; that’s often when the spirit of organization moves us.    

When you do finally toss out your home-related paperwork, use a shredder. Throwing away intact documents with personal financial information puts you at risk for identity theft.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but isn’t intended to be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice.

 

Saturday
Dec192015

How to do more with less during a redesign

Less is sometimes more...3 Tips for designing a small space.

 


Small rooms can present a real challenge for any would-be interior designer, whether it's a studio apartment or a tiny attic bedroom. Here are a few tricks of the trade for creating the feeling of space - without adding square footage.

Try a fresh coat of paint

One of the simplest yet most effective measures one can take is changing up the color scheme. When choosing a new hue for the walls and/or floor, opt for a lighter shade. Light colors (especially white) create a sense of airiness that contrasts sharply with the cozier feel of darkly-colored rooms, which have a tendency to absorb light.

Giving a ceiling a new coat of paint can be helpful, too. Anything that draws the eye upwards will make a room seem bigger. Wallpaper or a painted design on the ceiling will accomplish that task.

Change up the furniture

 

Although it may seem counterintuitive, decorators actually should not push furniture up against the walls to maximize space. Pulling furniture a little bit away from the walls will make the room appear larger and more open. Similarly, it is a good idea to choose chairs and couches with exposed legs, which also lend the area a sense of openness. The same goes for ottomans, cabinets, dressers and end tables—the leggier the better.

If a standing bookshelf is taking up too much room, ditch it and instead hang shelves near the ceiling, which will both free up space and draw the eye upwards. If the room has hardwood floors, a rug with vertical stripes can elongate the space, in the same way that striped clothing can have a slimming effect on the body. Alternately, using several small rugs to divide the room into sections can also make the space appear larger.

Expansion through decoration

 

Finally, there are many little (or sometimes big) decorations that can be added to a small room to really help to transform it. For example, using an oversized mirror to make a room feel larger is a well-known trick, but sometimes a large piece of wall art can manage the same feat. Using one large, attention-grabbing art piece is preferable to cluttering up a wall with lots of different pieces.

As for other decorations, they should be well-proportioned and used sparingly. In a small room, anything larger than a bread box is likely to stand out, so smaller plants and knickknacks are preferred—unless there is one big “statement piece” to tie the room together. In general, though, clutter is the enemy of spaciousness, and one should exercise appropriate restraint when picking out decorations for a small room.

Just because you have a small room does not mean anyone else has to know. Follow these tips and tricks for making a tiny space feel bigger, and you can effectively hide a cramped room in plain sight.

Article from Edgewood Properties.