Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New 3.8% Tax from Health Care Bill on Home Sale

In March when the highly controversial Obama Health Care Plan was passed there were many people throughout the country and elected officials that truly didn't quite understand all that was in this new plan. With a book size break-down of the plan and what it meant to the tax paying citizens many have been left learning about the upcoming changes this plan will impact us on as its materializing.

One of the clauses in this plan has caused a tremendous amount of concern and has many home owners upset! What is it? Here is what has caused the stir:

March 28, 2010 in Opinion
Health law’s heavy impact
Paul Guppy Special to The Spokesman-Review
In the days leading up to the dramatic late-night vote on President Barack Obama’s health plan, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it …” Now that ObamaCare has passed, it is slowly dawning on people what the new law means for the country and for Washington state.

ObamaCare sweeps away a host of state regulations and permanently alters our state’s insurance market. From now on, the federal government will manage the health care of all Washingtonians. The 2,700-page law contains a complex web of mandates, directives, price controls, tax increases and subsidies.

Federal officials will now decide what kind of insurance people in Washington must have, what medicines will be covered, what treatments are allowed and which are not. Early reports indicate, however, that President Obama, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, senior members of Congress and leadership staff are exempt.

The new law falls well short of universal coverage. ObamaCare will leave about 6 percent of Washington residents without coverage. The measure is conservatively expected to cost $2.4 trillion in its first full decade. Thousands of older Washingtonians will lose their Medicare Advantage coverage, and the state’s 120,000 Health Savings Account holders may need to buy new policies or face stiff penalties.

Washington residents will begin paying ObamaCare taxes this year, while most benefits don’t start until 2014. The law includes some 19 new taxes. Here’s a rundown of what Washingtonians can expect in the coming years.

Penalties on individuals. Individuals will pay a yearly penalty of $695, or up to 2.5 percent of their annual income, if they cannot show they have purchased a government-approved health policy.
Penalties on families. Families will pay a yearly penalty of $347 per child, up to $2,250 per family, if parents cannot show they have purchased a government- approved policy.

Penalties on employers. Business owners with more than 50 employees must buy government- acceptable health coverage or pay a yearly penalty of $2,000 per employee if at least one employee receives a tax credit.

Tax on investment income. ObamaCare imposes a 3.8 percent annual tax on investment income of individuals making $200,000 or more and on families making $250,000 or more. The new tax is not indexed to inflation, so more people will fall under it each year. Seniors on fixed incomes and people with IRAs and 401(k) plans will be hit particularly hard.

Tax on “Cadillac” health plans. Starting in 2018, imposes a 40 percent annual tax on health care plans valued at $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families.

Medicare tax increase. Requires single people earning $200,000 or more and couples earning $250,000 or more to pay an additional 0.9 percent in Medicare taxes.

Tax on Home Sales. Imposes a 3.8 percent tax on home sales and other real estate transactions. Middle-income people must pay the full tax even if they are “rich” for only one day – the day they sell their house and buy a new one.

Tax on medical aid devices. Creates a new 2.9 percent tax on medical aid devices. Certain items intended for personal use are exempt.

Tax on tanning. Imposes a 10 percent tax on services at tanning salons. Business owners will collect the tax from customers and send it to the federal government. This appears to be the first federal sales tax in the United States.

ObamaCare will be enforced by the Internal Revenue Service. The tax agency plans to hire 16,500 new auditors, agents and investigators, and to increase enforcement audits. The IRS can confiscate tax refunds, place liens on property and seek jail time if health-related penalties and taxes are not paid.

President Obama had said people could keep their coverage if they want, yet the Congressional Budget Office estimates that under ObamaCare 8 million to 9 million people will lose their employer-provided coverage.

The ObamaCare law passed over bipartisan opposition in Congress. Republicans say they will run on a “repeal and replace” platform this fall, and Washington has joined 12 other states in a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s power to force state residents to buy a product – insurance – from private companies. The long-term prospects of ObamaCare are unclear. In the meantime, Washingtonians should prepare for major changes in their tax burden.

Now I did a little looking into this as its important to educate my clients on what types of expenses they may want to plan for when selling their homes. Afterall, isn't the real estate market been hit hard enough in recent years and any additional tax for home-owners would be tough to accept from the goverment.

Well the good news is that for most of us, we won't be affected by the tax. The scenarios for those to qualify for this additional 3.8% tax is as follows:

The truth is that only a tiny percentage of home sellers will pay the tax. First of all, only those with incomes over $200,000 a year ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly) will be subject to it. And even for those who have such high incomes, the tax still won’t apply to the first $250,000 on profits from the sale of a personal residence — or to the first $500,000 in the case of a married couple selling their home.

We can understand how this misconception got started. The law itself is couched in highly technical language that only a qualified tax expert can fully grasp. (This provision begins on page 33 of the reconciliation bill that was passed and signed into law.) And it does say the tax falls on "net gain … attributable to the disposition of property." That would include the sale of a home. But the bill also says the tax falls only on that portion of any gain that is "taken into account in computing taxable income" under the existing tax code. And the fact is, the first $250,000 in profit on the sale of a primary residence (or $500,000 in the case of a married couple) is excluded from taxable income already. (That exclusion doesn’t apply to vacation homes or rental properties.)

The Joint Committee on Taxation, the group of nonpartisan tax experts that Congress relies on to analyze tax proposals, underscores this in a footnote on page 135 of its report on the bill. The note states: "Gross income does not include … excluded gain from the sale of a principal residence."

And just to be sure, we checked with William Ahern, director of policy and communications for the nonprofit, pro-business Tax Foundation. "Some home sales would see a tax increase under this bill," Ahern told us, "but it would have to be a second home or a principal residence generating [a gain of] more than $250,000 ($500,000 for a couple)."

So hopefully this not only educates you on the tax but for most also alleviates any concern if it will affect you. I think we can all agree that only time will tell what type of impact this new Health Care will have on us all, but one this is for certain and that only a small few really know all that was approved and that to me is pretty scary!

Hope that you have enjoyed today's post and please be sure to pass this on to anyone else you know that may benefit from weekly updates as they related to life and real estate!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Want to Own a Home? Take the 1st Step....

Today I'm going to just share my thoughts on a common occurance that takes place routinely here in my office and hope to help any would be buyers take the first step towards home ownership!

Here in my office, we receive requests weekly from a number of families and singles throughout the area that look for our assistance. We receive emails, take phone calls and sometimes have clients walk into our office to discuss selling their home, buying a home or renting a home. We wear many hats and assist nearly any client in the real estate spectrum as a full service brokerage.

For those that currently rent, the idea of owning a home is often a goal. For some, its a very attainable goal right now, and for others it may take improving their credit or saving some money to afford a down payment. In either scenario for the buyer that is ready or hopes to be ready, in order to take the appropriate next steps in making this goal of home ownership happen, wouldn't it be wise to know where you currently stand? Meaning, if you believe you can now afford a home you should know how much you can actually afford correct? If you don't feel you can purchase yet, how far off are you and unless you have spoken with a professional are you sure you're not ready?

Educating buyers when it comes to purchasing a home and educating sellers is my job. I am a real estate broker with a tremendous amount of experience in this business. I have assisted hundreds of clients and one thing never changes with many.......Fear of the unknown and speaking with a lender! Before you can purchase a home the most important step is to know your options and this is done by speaking with a mortgage lender.

Do you want to know your credit and be pre-approved for a loan? Wouldn't it be nice to know what you can comfortably afford before you spend time looking at homes? Wouldn't it be nice to know that if you can not currently purchase a home, that by paying down that one credit card could raise your credit score to the minimum to qualify for a loan? These are all easily accomplished by having a no obligation, 10 minute conversation with a professional lender.

If you don't have one that you trust, contact me. I work with a couple of the very best in the industry and they will gladly assist you in any way that they can. Being pre-approved is free of charge and easy with the right lender and many are amazed at how easy it is to turn your rent money into a mortgage of your own. Now more than ever, home prices are so low that if your renting you should seriously consider buying and knowledge about where you stand is vital.

For help in finding a great lender please feel free to contact me, I am glad to assist. I only refer my clients to people that I would feel comfortable using for my own needs.

Thanks for reading today's blog and happy house hunting!

Friday, September 24, 2010

New Home Sales Down

The economy as we all know is one that is fighting a daily and monthly struggle to regain strength and consumer confidence throughout the country. Today we are reminded that we are far from the glory days when homes were being built at a record pace as many buyers were purchasing in many cases not for themselves but as speculative purchases based on what they felt the home would appreciate to.

August home sales are the second slowest on record and this signals that the housing market will remain a drag on the economy for some time to come.

Apart from my job as a real estate broker, I'm also the proud son of my father whom has been feeling the pain quite possibly more directly than most due to this slowdown in building. My parents own and operate lumber yards and hardware stores. This family owned business has seen better days as my father has recently announced and proceeded with the closing of his second of 4 of his yards. The business had the market not turned would almost certainly be sold and my father and mother enjoying a retirement that after 40 plus years of marriage together they deserve. Like many however and by no means are they an exception, the plan for retirement has not only been put on hold, has faded into the back-burner as all energy is now focused on keeping the final lumber yards up and running. The relationships and employees who have felt the pain of these locations closing also adds to the difficulty of where we stand today in this market as these decisions have left my parents sharing this unfortunate market collapse. Their faith remains strong however and they have strong resolve and I believe they will as the rest of the country will bounce back. The biggest question however is when will things improve?

Builders are competing with millions of foreclosures throughout the country and distressed properties. Until we see a significant decline in those numbers its not likely we will see much of a rise in new construction. The risks for builders is just too high with the credit crunch and the number of capable buyers.

The economists at Bank of America & Merrll Lynch (yahoofinance) predict that spending on building and remodeling homes will decline in the 3rd quarter and actually subtract .07% points from overall economic activity. As a whole we see that home construction is off 74% from its peak in 2006.

What has caused some of the slowdown? Well a few reasons are the high umemployment, tight credit and a huge uncertainty about home prices. Goverment tax credits gave us an unsustainable bump in activity earlier in the year but as we suspect that wouldn't last. Normally its the building industry that powers the economy and we must all hope this industry gains momentum and strength moving forward. Did you know that for every one home built, they say its worth 3 full time jobs for atleast a year?

Thanks as always for reading my post and please be sure to pass this along to anyone that you feel may benefit from the most up to date and useful information regarding real estate, tips, and overall life!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

De-Clutter! Tips for a Successful Garage Sale

Fall is now upon us and if your like many, you may have acquired a few more "goodies" throughout the summer that are now replacing past "treasures" that could be sold or given away to goodwill or a church perhaps.

Well for those of you that choose the route that can put a little money in your pocket and decide that a garage sale is your answer, I've found some great tips from past experts on the subject that I felt should be shared. Make no mistake, I'm not speaking on personal experience here as I am no garage sale guru, but de-cluttering a home is part of its appeal and helping you make the most of your home is my business so I felt this could be a useful blog today to share :)

To start, upon reading some suggestions and noticing that within my own subdivision it holds true, a group sale is often better than one alone. If you can coordinate neighbors and others to help draw a crowd, you'll tend to find better success!

Here are the Tips!

  1. BE PREPARED - Get the cash a day or two prior to the sale with a role of quarters, a stack of no less than twenty five $1 bills, a few $5 dollar bills and some $10's. During the actual sale, keep the money on you and avoid a cash box. This prevents theft when you least expect it.

  2. PURPOSE OF SALE - Do you need to make money or are you simply trying to get rid of some things? This will help you determine how flexible you want to be when a buyer shows interest and how willing to negotiate you are. If your goal is to make top dollar, it may be better for you to use Craigslist of Ebay.

  3. STAGING - Have things ready the night before and stage the area outside if possible. People will be more apt to stop when things are out on the drive-way or lawn. Many are reluctant to go into a dark garage, so you want to make the area inviting to browse and make sure to put your best items closest to the road for all to see and lure them in!

  4. THINK LIKE A CUSTOMER - Once you think you are ready, walk up to your sale and walk around. Is it easy for one to see all the items? Are prices clearly marked? Are your books on the ground or in boxes and if so, it may be wiser to use a bookshelf or table.

  5. BE FRIENDLY - When someone approaches your sale, for goodness sakes welcome them and be friendly! Chat with them and they will be more likely to purchase and strike up a conversation on those items they are interested in.

  6. DISPLAY ITEMS PROPERLY - Example, if you have a set of lawn chairs leaning up against the garage, unfold them and place them in the yard, you'll see them sell much quicker! Displaying books rather than throwing them in a box can also lead to much better sales!

  7. SET THE MOOD - Play some background music, it may make the area a bit more comfortable rather that complete silence in the yard or driveway. Now thats not a green light for loud and obnoxious music mind you but something like Johnny Cash could be the trick!

  8. ELECTRONIC ITEMS - If your selling electronic items, make it easy for someone to test that they actually work. They won't want to take your word that the tv or stereo works and will want to have you show them.

  9. PROMOTE EXPENSIVE ITEMS - Big Tickets items can be tough to sell, but with a little effort it can be done. For example, you have a digital camera...If you can lay out all parts of it and maybe find some information online to print along with the item, it can go a long way in making it more appealing to a buyer.

  10. KEEP A LEDGER - Jot down a description of each item and how much you sold it for.

Keep in mind that running a garage is NOT ROCKET SCIENCE! However if you put a little effort into creating a successful garage sale then your going to find that your able to move many more items and make more money! Best of luck and I hope this Blog was useful for your upcoming sale.

As always, please share this blog with any friends or family that may benefit from it or that you want to encourage has a sale to move some junk....oops I mean treasures :-)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Advantage Realty Group Blog: Economists...."Recession is Over!"

Advantage Realty Group Blog: Economists...."Recession is Over!": "So there you have it.....It's over! The National Bureau of Economic Research declares today that their non-profit research has determined th..."

Economists...."Recession is Over!"

So there you have it.....It's over! The National Bureau of Economic Research declares today that their non-profit research has determined that the recession that officially began in December of 2007 officially came to an end in June of 2009, marking the longest standing recession since the World War II.

The above is based off the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) which measures economic activity, which reached its low point in the second quarter of 2009 and showed significant growth in the third quarter ruling out that the recession went beyond this date.

So what does this mean? Well folks as much as its always better to receive uplifting and positive news, this by no means disguises the harsh reality of where we remain in this market.

From a real estate standpoint, August marked one of the largest months in history of home foreclosure filings. Additionally, with the housing market still depressed and nearly 1 in 10 people out of a job, economists are concerned about the economy lapsing into another recession.

Trickle down effect of this market is widespread. Like many hit by this recession its been a long and often bumpy road to recovery. I'm in real estate as you know and the average earnings for those reporting agents dropped nearly 50% as compared with recent years.

How about those in the trades? Its a large trickle down effect with many builders now doing any side jobs that they can as new home sales have nearly dissappeared with some exceptions. When the builder or general contractor is looking for work what about their plumbers, excavators, electricians and more? You got it, all fighting to put food on the table as well.

I will say however that the will of the American people is STRONG and we will bounce back. This country has seen better days and this country has seen worse. While this article that prompted this blog today was uplifting, we need more positive news and more perserverance for the typical american to continue to feel good about this country and our near future. I'm an optimistic glass is always half full type and I'm as hopeful as anyone that we can soon see more jobs, smaller unemployment, a healthy economy and a stronger united country and given time I'm confident we can all bounce back!

Hang in their America better days are coming!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Advantage Realty Group Blog: Underwater Mortgages, New Options?

Advantage Realty Group Blog: Underwater Mortgages, New Options?: "Below I wanted to share an article that I read today addressing the widespread foreclosures that have devastated this entire country. While ..."

Underwater Mortgages, New Options?

Below I wanted to share an article that I read today addressing the widespread foreclosures that have devastated this entire country. While everyone that reads this will have their own personal views on whether this administration has done a good job of managing this crisis, its important to understand your options for your family or others that you may know that may be facing this dilemna.

For many, the route of being under-water on a mortgage which is a simple way to say that you owe much more than the home is worth has been enough reason to walk away from their home. The path leads to foreclosure and a major hit to ones credit. The other answer for many has been to consider the path of a short sale by working with the bank on a reduced settlement in lieu of foreclosure through a home sale for a balance less than what the bank is owed. The problem again here lies in the fact that homeowners damage their credit by being forced into missing payments for no less than three months before you could even be considered for this.

The following could be a more pro-active solution for some, please read and share any thoughts and comments. As always, thanks for visiting my blog and please share with friends and family!

After months of criticism that it hasn't done enough to prevent foreclosures, the Obama administration is announcing a plan to reduce the amount some troubled borrowers owe on their home loans.

The effort will let people who owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth get new loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, a government agency that insures home loans against default. That would be funded by $14 billion from the administration's existing $75 billion foreclosure-prevention program. In addition, the homeowner's existing mortgage company will get incentives to lower the principal balances on underwater loans.

The plan, announced Friday, would also enable the borrowers' existing mortgage companies to receive incentives to lower their principal balances. To be eligible for the FHA refinancing program, borrowers who owe more than the value of their homes, known as being "under water," must not have fallen behind on their existing mortgage payments. Separately, the program also would reduce monthly payments for unemployed homeowners for up to six months.

The administration cautioned that the plan isn't intended to stop all foreclosures or assist all troubled homeowners. "There's no intention here of tackling what may be 10 to 12 million foreclosures over the course of the next three years," said Diana Farrell, a White House economic adviser. Instead, officials said, the goal is to make it more likely the administration will meet its original target, announced last year, of assisting 3 million to 4 million struggling homeowners.
That would be "enough to provide help to those for whom help is worthwhile ... and to provide some kind of stability in the market."

The plan won't assist investors and speculators or "Americans living in million dollar homes or defaulters on vacation homes," an administration fact sheet said. Some homeowners will not be able to afford to stay in their homes because they bought more than they could afford, officials said. To help borrowers who have been hurt by falling home prices, the government also will require mortgage servicers to consider cutting a loan's principal if it is up to 15% more than the home is worth, officials said. The principal would be reduced over three years as long as the borrower stays current on payments.

In addition, servicers will get more incentives — double the amount the government now pays to lenders — if they reduce the unpaid balance of second loans. The changes reflect a new attack by the Obama administration to address the foreclosure crisis, which at first was driven by subprime mortgages going delinquent, and now is being fueled by unemployment. The current program provides modified mortgages to homeowners who show proof of income.

"The cost is going to depend on the participation rate. In terms of the cost to taxpayers, the cost of not doing something is greater than doing something," says Scott Talbott, senior vice president for government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable. "Up to now, there was no government program to help the unemployed, and that was the biggest problem."
The federal program, known as the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), is aimed at helping up to 4 million Americans avoid foreclosure. So far, about 170,000 homeowners have been granted permanent modifications with lower monthly payments through the plan.
Also Thursday, the Treasury Department announced new measures that buy time for some borrowers to avoid losing their homes to foreclosure.

Lenders soon will be unable to start foreclosures unless they've determined borrowers aren't eligible for a modification. Other changes announced Thursday will provide other protections for troubled homeowners.

They include:
•Ensuring servicers intervene once two or more mortgage payments are missed and actively solicit borrowers for the federal program.
•Setting a 30-day deadline for lenders to decide applications for trial modifications.
•Requiring servicers to consider borrowers who file for bankruptcy-court protection for the HAMP program if the borrower, their lawyer or bankruptcy trustee make a request.
The four big holders of second mortgages —Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase — have now joined the government's program to modify second mortgages. That program was delayed for months but with Citi on board, the major players in the industry are now participating.

Critics have complained that the Obama administration has done little until now to encourage banks to cut borrowers' principal balances on their primary loans. Nearly one in every three homeowners with a mortgage are "under water" — they owe more than their property is worth — according to Moody's

Contributing: Stephanie Armour and David Jackson of USA TODAY; Associated Press

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

House Buying Quiz

Sometimes its fun to take part in a quiz when we're well finished from our days of school and college and into our grown up lives isnt' it? Well here is a link to a fun little quiz that I found which is a HOUSE BUYING QUIZ..

Lets see how much you know of the steps necessary prior to buying a home!

Click here:

Hope you enjoyed the quiz, have a great day!!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

What is a REIT & Why might you consider one?

What is a REIT and why should I consider one? If you want to get into the real estate market but flipping homes or dealing with tenants and being a landlord is more of a hassle than you'd like then you may want to consider this investment vehicle.

A REIT is a Real Estate Investment Trust. They simply put, do the investing of real estate for you. Managed by experts, they buy properties, manage them, buy mortgages, and hold them for extended periods of time. Like a stock, the price of a REIT goes up and down as the value of their holdings change. You can purchase a REIT through a stockbroker paying normal commissions or if you are an active trader can do so yourself through online sites (ie..Scottrade).

With real estate holdings and values lower today than they have been for many years, now may be the time for some to consider this approach. While I am not suggesting to go out and buy stock in REITs, I'm simply implying that in a buyers market, if you can find an aggressive and financially sound REIT, they like investors may be buying some great properties during this down market which over time could lead to a profit when the market rebounds.

There are many types but your best bet for one to offer steady growth over the long term and dividends would be Equity REITS. They buy apartment buildings, hotels, shopping centers and office buildings. Some specialize in certain parts of the country while others are very diversified. Some invest in developers deals, and others buy and develop and manage properties themselves. In general, those that do their own developing and managing are usually the most profitable.

Over short term most will behave like stocks, rising and falling with the market. Over the long term however they usually trend towards following what the real estate market is doing. So if long term values rise, REITS should as well.

To find out more about a REIT, get the companys annual report. Find out how its doing, what its been investing in and its investing philosophy. What is the stocks history and what type of dividend pay outs do they offer? Are the dividends growing? Most importantly is the dividend being covered by cash from the operations of the business or more investors buying the stock, or selling properties? In general, you should stick with some of the larger more accomplished and actively traded REITS that are listed on the major exchanges. This can be done by doing some research or contacting a trusted financial advisor or broker that may have experience with the stock market.

Hope you find this article helpful and as always, please forward to anyone that may benefit from it as well. I look forward to any comments, questions or thoughts on the above!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Advantage Realty Group Blog: Tips for Flipping a House

Advantage Realty Group Blog: Tips for Flipping a House: "So you want to get into the game of flipping homes and you don't know where to start or are worried you don't have the knowledge to be succe..."

Tips for Flipping a House

So you want to get into the game of flipping homes and you don't know where to start or are worried you don't have the knowledge to be successful despite your time watching numerous "flip this house" episodes on television? Don't fear, your real estate expert is here! :) Okay that a bit much I know, but in all seriousness I have a list of tips that can help. I have flipped homes and have experience in this. While its often made out to be glamorous and a sure fire way to make money, its often not broadcast to the public when someone gets in over their head and makes what could have been a successful flip a money losing nightmare! Follow these tips and you'll have a better chance at being successful!

1)Know Your Market
- Working backwards, what is the market value for the home your looking at when its finished? A clear idea of ARV (after repair value) is necessary to make an educated offer on a property. Taking a guess that you'll sell it for 25K more than what you put into it is dangerous. YOU don't decide what the home is worth, the market does and knowing this in advance is a must. Once you know the ARV, subtract from this all the costs you have, including price, repair costs, holding costs, buying costs and costs of selling. Now subtract the profit you want, and you have the highest price you should pay. Start with an offer lower than this number and then go for it. If done properly your on your way to a good start!

2) Timeline - Its vital that you have a schedule in mind for start-up and completion of the work. More than a handful of house flipping projects have gone wrong due to falling behind schedule. For example, if you think you can get the electrician/plumber in the first week and they don't make it for a month so you can close up walls, everything else can be thrown off. Meanwhile your spending 2000 per month on holding costs like loan payments, utilities, property taxes and insurance. So be sure prior to finalizing the offer that you know how long it will take to have all necessary work and contractors jobs performed. Also, as a tip be sure to have all contractors sign a completion date expectation form as part of their contract with you prior to starting.

3) Necessities First - On a "house flip" show a couple is running over budget by about 10 thousand dollars on their first fixer upper investment and are also behind schedule! Yikes, not a great start right? They run out of money and put the home on the market AS-IS with a yard that could use a face lift and some unfinished painting on a few walls. Of course buyers are going to see these things first and the home is making a bad first impression. Avoid this mistake by taking care of those things that are most important first, with an emphasis on items that lead to first impressions like curb appeal and paint, flooring etc..Then if you run out of money or time, you've already done some of those key items that will help the home sell. If not done properly, buyers see an unfinished product and a lower offer is expected or it will sit longer, adding to your loss.

4) Know your ROI on Improvements - Your return on investments for all improvements should not be a guessing game. The ROI for each possible improvement should help you determine what you do to the home. You may guess a little at times but the principle is that you do only those things that have a direct correlation to the value of your home increasing. What ROI improvement vary based on each home and area but often include flooring, paint, landscaping and sometimes finishing unfinished space. With a small house, new carpet, paint, landscaping could run less than 7K and add as much as 14K as an example.

5) Know Your Buyers - You should know pretty typically what your end buyer is like. If your in a senior neighborhood, don't expect you'll be selling your home to first time home buyers that are young! Know what type of buyers are likely to want the home (and neighborhood)before you start. Then, after improving it with those buyers in mind, market it appropriately. You or your agent should identify and advertise the benefits that matter to your buyers, whether this includes "close to shopping/stores", "country living" or transportation etc.

6) Price - Ah yes, the very vital question..."what do I price the home at when its finished?" Selling fast means you save holding costs and have cash in hand to do your next project quickly or you may have other projects waiting on that money. Either way, price your home aggressively. If the typical home in that area sells for 150K, price it a few thousand below that. While you may feel like your giving up 3 or 4K of potential profit, you'll probably save atleast that in carrying costs and lost opportunity costs. Purchase the home right and use the other suggestions here and there should be plenty of money left for you!

Hope the above offers you some insight to the game and life of house flipping. As always, please feel free to forward this blog to anyone you know and chime in with your own thoughts and ideas on any of my blogs. Thanks for viewing and have a great day!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fall Home To Do's List!

Yes folks with the passing of Labor Day its officially Fall and you know what that means? Yep, it means its a handful of weeks before that "other" season comes to our wonderful midwest climate and blesses us with things like snow, cold weather, freezing pipes, cars that won't start, icy roads and so much more! So now, is the time to get to work on those projects that need to be done while the weather cooperates to prepare your home and help protect your investment.

1) Your Furnace - Usually for not more than about $100 you can have your heating duct work cleaned and serviced. This is important for the efficiency of your heating system and also good for your health! By having your duct work cleaned, you can be more confident that the air your breathing is cleaner. This is also a good time to check your Humidifier Filter and replace the filter if necessary.

2) Your Roof - Look for damaged shingles, missing shingles or flashing that may need to be replaced or fixed. Damaged shingles, missing or loose flashing can lead to ice and snow finding there way into your home and causing damage once melted. Hire a handyman for small projects that you can't tackle, a roofer for a large project and protect your home from the elements!

3) Your Windows / Doors - Caulk around the windows and doors. If there is a gap bigger than the width of a nickel, experts will tell you to reapply caulk or window glaze putty. Add weatherstripping as needed around doors, making sure you can't see daylight from inside your home.

4) Clean Windows - Purely for aesthetics but with winter around the corner, now is the time to get outside and clean windows that need attention.

5) Gutters - Clean these out! They will be full of leaves and shingle debris and if not cleaned out can cause serious damage to your roof during harsh winters. Ice and snow build-up will have no where to go and creep there way under the roof edge and under the shingles. By cleaning out your gutters your taking preventative steps to insuring your protecting your roof. Services for this shouldn't range more than a couple hundred dollars for a single family home depending on size.

6) Garden Hoses - Disconnect and drain your water hose. If this stays connected, any water within the drain and hose can back up and the water can follow the line back into the home and freeze causing damage to your pipes. Drain your exterior lines and turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.

7) Trim Landscaping - Cut back trees within 5 feet of your home, trim areas within a foot of the home or clear debris. Your going to encourage better growth of the bushes/trees when spring comes by trimming them up and will also avoid damage potentially to your siding from decay.

8) Lawn Irrigation System? - If yes, have this drained professionally. This should run between 50-150 dollars depending on the size and this will help pipes from freezing and leaking come spring.

9) Thermostat - Experts will tell you that a programmable thermostat can save you as much as 180 annual on heating and cooling. For an investment of 50-100 dollars you can find a quality energy star unit with pre-programmed settings.

10) Smoke Detectors / Carbon Minoxide - Check batteries to make sure they are running well

11) Fireplace - Be sure this is clean and ready for action to keep you warm during those chilly evenings this fall and our upcoming winter.

I hope this list of fall to do's is beneficial for you and helpful as you undertake the preparation of the new seasons ahead of us for your home. Have a great day and please feel free to share with your friends and family, thank you!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

10 Tips for Hiring a Home Remodeling Contractor

Looking to have some work done on the home?

With the U.S. economy facing the lowest home sale statistics in fifteen years and home values continuing to slide in many regions, it's not surprising to hear that housing trends point towards a large percentage of American homeowners looking to improve and maximize their existing property investment versus buying a new home. When deciding to undertake a remodeling project however, there are several invaluable tips to keep in mind as you discuss your home make-over with potential contractors.

Through advice and stories shared by both contractors and consumers,, a blogging resource for homeowners, discovered 10 important tips on how to find a trustworthy home remodeling contractor to help ensure the right person or company is hired for your next home improvement project.

Tip #1: Does Your Contractor Have Proof of Insurance?
Ask the contractor to have his insurance company mail or fax a copy of his current contractor insurance card to you. If the contractor can't do this - stay away. Why? If there is an accident at your home, you are then liable. This also applies to any sub-contractor or employee that the contractor may use - those individuals should have active insurance cards faxed or mailed to you as well.

Tip #2: Did You Check References and See Photos?
Ask for at least three references - with two of them being for the same type of project you are planning - and then call the references. Additionally, ask the contractor to provide photos of previous work, especially for the same type of project. If he produces lawn and garden photos and you're planning a bathroom remodel, you may want to check out another contractor.

Tip #3: Does Your Contractor Take Debit or Credit Cards?
Besides your ability to earn a few points, bonus miles, or cash back on your project, a good sign that a contractor is financially savvy and has a bank behind his business is his ability to take debit and credit cards. This doesn't just apply to big contracting companies. Many small, one-man shops will take cards if they have a good relationship with their business bank or credit union.

Tip #4: Manners and Appearance?
If the contractor drove his vehicle to your home to give you an estimate, take a look at the way he keeps the equipment and vehicle. Are things clean? Neatly arranged? If not - that's a big warning. The way a contractor treats his tools is a direct connection to how he'll treat your home. During the initial meeting, does the contractor present himself in a professional way? Do you feel comfortable around him or his employees? They will be working in your home after all.

Tip #5: Clean Up Policy?
Ask about the clean-up policy. For example, if your home improvement is a multi-day project, will the contractor be cleaning up at the end of every day or will he leave the dust, wood chips, and other mess laying there for day #2? The more mess in your home - the more it gets tracked around. Many homeowners find themselves with mouths gaping wide after the contractor has left for the day and their floors and home are dirty and messy around the project area.

Tip #6: Will the Contractor Put It In Writing?
Is your contractor willing to put both his bid and the scope of work in writing? If not - walk away immediately. You'll be surprised how many homeowners have been duped by contractors who verbally tell you what's included in their scope of work, but will then, in the middle of everything, require extra money to finish the remodel, thus holding you hostage with an uncompleted home project.

Tip #7: Availability?
Can the contractor get the job done in your timeline rather than his timeline? There's nothing more frustrating than if a contractor tells you that a job will be done by a certain date and then it isn't . On the flip side, if you can't find a good contractor that's willing to commit to your timeline, your expectations may be too high and you may need to adjust your timeline.

Tip #8: Does Your Contractor Use "Subs?"
Does your contractor plan on doing everything himself? Or will he "sub out" work to the "trades?" For example, if you are remodeling a bathroom, you may need a plumber, electrician, and carpenter. It's okay if the contractor subs work out to these specific trades - it shows he wants the work done right.

Also, it's fair to say that you can expect your contractor to make money off the trades, or other sub-contractors, by marking up those quotes for the project. That is a standard practice to help the general contractor recover costs in the time it takes to manage the schedule. If you don't want to spend the extra money on your contractor marking up the trade quotes, then you should prepare to project manage the remodel yourself, but know this may limit your options on contractors willing to work with you.

Tip #9: Quoting & Billing Procedure?
Ask the contractor about his quoting procedure. Will it contain general information, or will it be specific? For example - most contractors will charge you for a fuel surcharge, material up-charges, waste removal, labor, etc. Some will show you these exact costs in a line item invoice, but others roll it up into one big bill. How much detail do you want? You should clarify that with your contractor upfront.

Also - what is the payment or billing policy? Is money required upfront? If so, go back to #1 and #2 above to make sure you have the contractor's references checked and have a copy of his contractor's insurance.

Tip #10: Did Your Contractor Get the Permits?
Ask your contractor to take care of the permits. Although permits cost you money, the inspection process is meant to protect you from poor workmanship and to make sure that everything is being built to code.

By following these 10 tips for hiring a home contractor, you'll feel more confident that you've found the right contractor for your remodeling job.

Have a fantastic Labor Day Weekend!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Advantage Realty Group Blog: Should I Rent or Buy a Home?

Advantage Realty Group Blog: Should I Rent or Buy a Home?: "Some of you may remember a previous blog that I shared my opinions and views on this age old question. For those of you that may have misse..."

Should I Rent or Buy a Home?

Some of you may remember a previous blog that I shared my opinions and views on this age old question. For those of you that may have missed it, I am a strong advocate of owning your home as I am of owning anything you have that choice over.

To start, whether its your mortgage or your landlords, be assured that you are paying a mortgage now. Wouldn't it be wiser and financially responsible if possible to pay your own? Now its not always that easy as we all know. Sometimes getting a loan isn't in the cards, possibly you need to save more or work on your credit.

No matter what your reason for renting, if owning a home is a goal of yours there are many ways to go about it. Traditionally ranking at the top is to get a loan from a bank / lender, but others will rent to own a home which is also very popular now. Contact me or another industry professional for advice on different ways to set this up if your considering this.

A blanket statement regarding renting vs. owning doesn't always prove that owning is the best option. In some cases based on age, amount paid now for rent, there are exceptions to this rule.

Use the following link to connect to a financial calculator. Enter in your relevant information now as it pertains to what you pay in rent and compare that with various home values for similar properties in your area that you could purchase. A typical mortgage rate that you could plug in would be 6%. Most loans are made for 30 years, and a typical home insurance rate may be $300 to $700 per year for most starter homes priced under 300K.

Here is the link:

Consult a professional and find out today if you qualify for a loan to own a home and follow the above link to determine if financially its a better option for you and your family!