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Should You Do Home Upgrades Now ... or Right Before You Sell?

by Amy McLeod Group


Home sellers are often told to make upgrades to their house before they sell ... but when is the best time to get those home improvements underway, in terms of scoring the best ROI?

It's a tough balance to strike. After all, the sooner you remodel your kitchen or retile the bathroom, the more you'll get to enjoy it all yourself. But if you make those improvements too long before you sell, you risk them looking run-down and outdated by the time you want to market your home. So, when's the right time to give the green light?

If you're agonizing over such questions, we can end your misery now—in a good way! Here’s how far in advance of listing your home you should do certain home improvements, so they'll still look fresh enough to fetch top dollar.

7 to 10 years out

Well, you’re quite a planner, aren’t you? That’s cool … we’ll play the long game with you. Here are upgrades you can safely undertake when you still have significant time until your sale.

1. Redo your landscaping

This is truly one of the few housing projects that gets better with age, since shrubs and trees only improve as they mature. And, bonus: It's likely that it will never look dated, says Lisa Shiroff of Leafy Green Landscaping in Buena, NJ. However, she cautions, think twice about unique or difficult-to-maintain items if you are concerned with resale value—we’re talking elements like a meditation nook, bocce ball court, or koi pond.

“Most people are not willing to invest the time, energy, or finances to maintain those areas, so keep your additions relatively mainstream and user-friendly,” Shiroff says.

2. Update the garage door

Believe it or not, updating your garage door is the top upgrade you can make in terms of return on investment.

“Curb appeal is key when you’re getting ready to sell your home, and garage doors can dramatically improve the look of your home,” says Matt Edstrom of GoodLife Home Loans in Laguna Hills, CA. Since garage doors can last for up to 40 years, this is an update you can enjoy right now, without worrying about taking a depreciation hit.

3. Replace your roof

If your roof is more than 20 years old and you plan on selling, you may want to replace it, suggests Taylor Willson, owner of Willson Home Inspection Inc. in Tampa, FL. For one thing, you may receive immediate savings from your insurance company, he says, and beyond that, “A newer roof is a great selling point.” Choose a hardy material, like concrete tiles or asphalt shingles, that have a long useful life.

4. Keep up on repairs

Repairs should have a permanent spot on your “to do” list. If it’s broke, then, yes, please fix it.

“Don’t put off repairs while you wait for the optimum time,” says Cristina Miguélez, remodeling specialist at Fixr.com. “They help your home retain value and can keep a small problem from becoming exponentially bigger.”

5 years out

This is a good time to start thinking about big-ticket items that will affect your resale and that you won’t want to pay for all at once. Here are some to consider.

1. Replace major systems

We’re talking HVAC systems, plumbing … anything whose average life expectancy is relatively long, and where you want your listing to showcase that these key systems are less than five years old. Replacing them now allows you to enjoy the improved operation and potential energy savings, while avoiding a concession in the sale price when the time comes, Willson says.

2. Check on anything with a warranty

This is also a good time to do a check on any items that have a current warranty—such as windows and appliances—while they are still covered, suggests Frances Dawson, with Re/Max Executive at the Lake in Cornelius, NC.

3. Switch out your front door

Another important element of “curb appeal,” your front door can really make your house pop, says Edstrom, as well as potentially increase your energy efficiency. Front doors can last for decades, but they are also exposed to the elements, so this is a good time frame to allow you to enjoy the aesthetics and energy savings, without running the risk that it will look too weathered come sales time.

2 years out

Two years is nothing in a home’s history, so it’s time to really start getting serious. Here’s what to do to start prepping for a relatively imminent sale.

 1. Reno the kitchen or bathroom

This can be subjective, but you’re probably safe doing an overhaul in this time frame if you are hoping to get some personal enjoyment out of your updates. Miguélez suggests, however, that you pick your decor carefully to avoid being stuck with an upgrade that’s already dated.

"A ‘trend’ is something that’s predicted to last roughly 10 years, so your safest best is to find a look that’s been on the upswing for roughly two to three years," Miguélez explains. "That means it will look relevant for a while, rather than something that is already five years old and potentially nearing its expiration date.”

Dawson recommends seeking the opinion of a local real estate agent, who can steer you to cost-effective updates that will increase the value of your home without over-improving it. And, she says, beware of DIY.

“If you don't have extensive prior experience, hiring a professional is going to be cheaper in the long run, because the DIY look is unappealing to your potential buyer.”

2. Get to organizing

This is also a good time to start cleaning out storage areas, closets, cabinets, the garage, the attic—anyplace you have an accumulation of stuff, Dawson says. Your future self will thank you for getting this time-consuming project out of the way now.

3. Have a home inspection

Very few sellers do this, but it’s smart to have your home professionally inspected right about now, so you won’t run into any nasty surprises when selling time rolls around.

“It is always less expensive to repair items before you get into negotiations with a buyer,” Dawson points out.

1 year or less

It’s crunch time, and now is the time to attend to all the high-traffic areas, as well as make improvements that will freshen up your listing.

1. Redo flooring

Pets and kids can scratch up your floors quickly, so wait as long as you can before refinishing floors. Replace carpet, too, if it’s dingy, and especially if it has pet odors.

2. Roll on a fresh coat of paint

Walls get dinged up constantly, so painting right before putting your house on the market can really make it sparkle. It’s also a quick job that you can get done in a week or two.

3. Replace all your accessory items

These are things like bedding, throw pillows, chair cushions, patio furniture, shower curtains, plumbing fixtures, cabinet pulls—all the embellishments that provide the “lipstick” for the foundational elements.  Shop those sales and switch out everything you can, Dawson recommends.

“You want the house to shine like a new penny, not appear to be well-loved," she says.

Thinking about selling your home? Contact The McLeod Group Network to find out how much your current home is worth! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Cathie Ericson


I don't know about you, but once the thermometer ticks past 70 degrees, a lightbulb goes off in my head: Is this the year, I ask myself, that I can finally build the outdoor space I deserve?

Of course I can! And so can you. With a little work, you'll soon be grilling in your outdoor kitchen or reading in a hammock on your sunny patio.

But don't drop the ball: There are some elements commonly forgotten during an outdoor renovation that can ruin it all. Go through this list before breaking ground, to ensure your backyard space is up to snuff. And get ready to enjoy the summer!

1. Proper lighting


Photo by Native Son Design Studio 

You'd think being able to see at night would be an important patio requirement, but you'd be surprised how often lighting systems are skipped.

"Many homeowners spend time and money creating an outdoor space but forget about this key element," says Joe Raboine, the director of residential hardscapes at Belgard.

Consider first how you intend to use the patio. If you're hoping guests might linger over long conversations, provide low lighting around your seating nooks. And if your backyard BBQ plans involve lots of late-night drinking games (because, why not?), illuminate the entire space with string lights.

2. Electricity

Nothing is worse than planning your perfect patio layout—complete with a keg cooler, botanical garden-worthy lighting, and a show-stopping Christmas display your neighbors will never top—only to realize you forgot one essential element: electricity.

"Be sure to install a few electrical outlets for supplemental holiday lighting or just working on a laptop," says architect and interior designer Leslie Saul.

And no, you can't just add one outlet and be done with it. Will you want speakers? A fridge? A TV? Make sure everything has juice.

3. The position of the sun

Photo by Prime Design Tasmania Pty Ltd 

You can't bask in the sun if there is no sun. Before constructing the patio of your dreams, pay close attention to the trajectory of that big ball in the sky.

"The location of the sun relative to an outdoor area is one of the most important elements to consider when designing an outdoor living space," says Shaun Gotterbarn, an architect with Alisberg Parker. "Understanding the sun’s path throughout the day and studying the shadows cast by trees and neighboring buildings allows you to make sure you have your seating area in the perfect place."

4. Outdoor storage


Photo by Harrison's Landscaping 

Once temperatures dip, it'll be time to store away all the things that made your outdoor space an enviable destination to begin with. But unless you factored in storage space from the jump, you might find yourself shoving patio cushions into your kids' closets and gardening tools into your pantry.

"Lots of water-resistant outdoor storage allows for a beautiful, clean outdoor space," says patio designer and blogger Eric Clark. "You need multiple easily accessible areas to store outdoor cushions and throw pillows and protect them from rain and mildew."

Or, build your storage into your patio design. If you're adding an outdoor kitchen, leave plenty of cabinet space for your outdoor must-haves, or construct custom cabinetry that blends seamlessly with your siding.

5. Drainage

Here's a shocking secret: Your patio is outside. Where it rains. And rain loves to wreak havoc.

"When rainwater pools on your foundation, you’ll find yourself not only dealing with a safety hazard, but also eventually, you’ll need to redo the entire groundwork," says Robert Himmaugh, manager of Acadian Windows & Siding.

Prevent damage by installing a gutter around your patio roof—if it has a roof, of course—and by paying attention to drainage. Your patio should slope away from your home's foundation, and the ground should slope away from your patio base, as well.

6. Privacy and noise


Photo by Wolf Design Studio 

Plan on throwing raucous parties in your new outdoor space? Good for you—unless you've built it right next to your neighbor's backyard.

Alternatively, maybe your neighbor is the one throwing the ultra-loud parties. Consider building your outdoor living space on the opposite side of the property, allowing you to enjoy your evenings quietly reading, not growling about the sixth keg stand (so far).

Of course, in a tiny backyard, you might not have many options. Get clever about your construction to add privacy and reduce sound.

"Vertical gardens can double as fences, and water features can mask noises," Raboine says.

And Saul recommends adding trellises, on which you can grow beautiful climbers, like clematis. That's a two-for-one deal: privacy and style.

7. Utilities

Adding utilities, like gas lines for BBQs and water lines for your wet bar, can be a pain. But installation is significantly easier if done during construction.

"Think about their location before you start construction," Gotterbarn says. Even if you're not building a kitchen now, you might want to later, so make sure all necessary utilities are easily accessible.

8. That winter view

Sure, your patio offers a fantastic summer view. But what will you be staring at come winter?

"For those of us who live in northern climates, our patio may be shut down for half the year, although we will be looking at it all year long," Clark says. "Often we're staring at ugly furniture covers protecting mini-mountains of clustered furniture, half covered with snow."

To save your eyes this sadness, Clark recommends choosing decorative outdoor lighting (weather-resistant, of course), landscape rocks, and colorful all-weather chairs to "focus the eye on more interesting views, as you stare at the patio through the window while cooking dinner."

9. Future plans

Chances are, your gorgeous outdoor space is just a fraction of your eventual dream landscape, Saul says.

"It's always good to create a master plan, even if you don't plan to implement it all at once," she says. "Then you'll know what infrastructure to install early, so you'll be ready to go later, without all the mess."

Do you plan to turn your rocky sideyard into a gorgeous grassy expanse? Consider in-ground sprinklers. And if you're dreaming about a koi pond, water pipes can turn that fantasy into reality. You can design around the empty space, leaving it unimpeded for whatever your future brain cooks up.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe

2 Trends Helping Keep Housing Affordable

by Amy McLeod Group


Two positive trends have started to emerge that impact the 2019 Spring Housing Market. Mortgage interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate loan have dropped to new lows, right as reports show that wages have increased at their highest rate in decades!

These two factors have helped keep housing affordable despite low supply of houses for sale driving up prices. First American’s Chief Economist, Mark Fleming, explains the impact,

“Ongoing supply shortages remain the main driver of the performance gap as the housing market continues to face an inventory impasse – you can’t buy what’s not for sale.

 However, an unexpected affordability surge, driven primarily by lower-than-anticipated mortgage rates, rising wages and favorable demographics, has boosted housing demand.”

Mortgage interest rates had been on the rise for most of 2018 before reaching their peak in November at 4.94%. According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, interest rates last week came in at 4.20%.

Average hourly earnings grew at an annual rate of 3.2% in March, up substantially from the 2.3% average pace seen over the last 10 years.

These two factors contributed nearly $6,000 worth of additional house-buying power for median households from February to March 2019, according to First American’s research. Fleming is positive about the prolonged impact of lower rates and higher wages.

“We expect rising wages and lower mortgage rates to continue through the spring, boosting housing demand and spurring home sales.”

Bottom Line

Low mortgage interest rates have kept housing affordable throughout the country. If you plan on purchasing a home this year, act now while rates are still low!

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: KCM Crew


The numbers: 
Existing-home sales ran at a seasonally adjusted annual 5.21 million rate in March, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. That was 4.9% lower than February’s pace and missed the Econoday consensus of a 5.3 million rate.

What happened: Sales of previously-owned homes fell more sharply than expected in March as the usual housing headwinds stalked the market. The surge in February was the strongest in nearly four years, and the Realtor lobby group is attributing the March decline to a return to normalcy after that spike. Still, sales were 5.4% lower than a year ago.

The median price of a home sold in March was $259,400, a 3.8% increase versus a year ago. At the current pace of sales, it would take 3.9 months to exhaust available supply, still well below the long-time average of 6 months. Properties stayed on the market for an average of 36 days in March, down from 44 days in February but a bit longer than the 30 days averaged last year.

According to NAR’s measure of first-time buyers, they accounted for 33% of all transactions in March. But more recent comprehensive research – NAR’s is based on survey data – suggests first-time buyers currently make up about the same share of the market that they have for the past two decades.

Activity was mixed regionally, as always, but all regions saw a decline. In the Northeast, sales were down 2.9%, and in the South they fell 3.4%. In the West, which has suffered for several months, in large part because of the recent tax law changes, sales fell 6%. But the Midwest saw the biggest decline, of 7.9%.

Big picture: The housing market is getting a second wind from the steep decline in mortgage rates over the past few months, although rates may have bottomed out. And there still isn’t enough inventory of the type that’s most needed. “The lower-end market is hot while the upper-end market is not,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

It’s normally the government’s data on newly-constructed homes that are so choppy, not the existing-home market, which accounts for most of the sales activity in housing.

What they’re saying: “March might be the closest approximation we have seen in a while to the true underlying sales pace,” said Amherst Pierpont Securities’ Stephen Stanley after the release. “The 3-month average through February was 5.14 million. The March pace picked up modestly from there but was still short of the 2018 tally of 5.34 million. The National Association of Realtors is optimistic (when are they not?!?) that lower mortgage rates and a better inventory situation will help to propel sales forward during the peak spring season.”

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Andrea Riquier 

5 Strange Things That Can Stop a Home From Ever Selling

by Amy McLeod Group


Ever wonder what could keep a home from selling? Just ask a listing agent. They've seen some doozies.

Listing agents, as the professionals who help prep a home for sale, are often tasked with telling home sellers why their house might not sell in its current condition. It's a tough job, but it sure beats saying nothing and then watching a home sit indefinitely.

While most corrective tweaks are small—say, a fresh coat of paint or a solid decluttering—sometimes the things that stop a home from selling take everyone by surprise. Here are a few that listing agents have dealt with, and the solutions that saved the day.

1. The 'green monster'

Seth Lejeune, real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Collegeville, PA, coined this phrase to describe a "horrendously colored hunter-green carpet” in his home seller's living room. This home had already been listed once with another agent with no offers; Lejeune was quite sure this carpet was the culprit.

“So I told the seller to replace the carpet with something neutral,” Lejeune says. The seller "was surprised, but receptive. I explained the importance of first impressions, and he got it after a few minutes.”

Replacing the carpet cost only $1,500. “We got four showings within two weeks, and it was the fastest townhome sale of the year,” Lejeune says. In fact, the home buyers mentioned at settlement that they especially loved the living room.

Take-home lesson: Even simple cosmetic flaws, like an ugly shade of carpet, can make some home buyers run. Luckily swapping out carpet is an easy fix.

2. Too many pets

Seattle real estate agent Matt Parker recalls meeting with a landlord who was looking to sell his rental property. The problem? The home had been rented to, as Parker puts it, a couple of “pet enthusiasts.”

“They had about 30 injured birds, squirrels, dogs, cats, lizards, snakes, and dozens of fish in a 910-square-foot house,” he says.

The snakes were in cages and the fish were in bowls, of course, but the rest of the animals roamed free.

“You can imagine what the home smelled like, how stained the floors were, and how many ‘hidden treasure’ land mines there were throughout the house,” Parker says.

The carpet, flooring, subflooring, walls, and exposed wood throughout the house had been permeated with a foul odor, Parker says.

Parker told the home seller that his odds of selling were slim, unless it were a teardown. Thankfully, the seller accepted the news without much drama.

Take-home lesson: We love our furry friends, but that doesn't mean potential buyers want to see our pets (or any of their traces) when looking at a home they're thinking of buying. (Here are tips on how to sell a home with pets.)

3. Noisy neighbors

Homeowners value privacy, but, alas, they don’t always get it.

Courtney Poulos, a broker at ACME Real Estate in Los Angeles, experienced this firsthand with a client who was looking to sell a stylishly remodeled three-bedroom home. Unfortunately, the house “was right next to a large apartment complex,” Poulos says.

“When you were in the backyard, you felt that the occupants of the apartment complex were looking right down on you," she adds.

Poulos agreed to list the house, but remembers a couple of troublesome open houses. During one, a couple living in the apartment building out back “were fighting and you could see them and hear them from the backyard,” she says. At another open house, “one of the neighbors had his TV on so loud that we had to blast music of our own in the open house to try to cover it up."

The fix? “Since we were not getting the offers we wanted after the first couple of weeks, we built a 12-foot fence, incorporated canvas sun shades, installed twinkle lights, and made the outdoor space much more private,” Poulos adds.

The costs tallied up to $3,000, but it was a modest expense considering “this backyard solution ultimately helped sell the property.”

Take-home lesson: No one likes noisy neighbors, especially those who can see right in your house without effort. So, if your home is located adjacent to an apartment building or another home, you’ll want to take steps to provide yourself some privacy.

4. An underground oil tank

“I sold a home earlier this year that an investor had purchased through a foreclosure auction,” says Christopher Pagli, associate broker at William Raveis Legends Realty Group in Tarrytown, NY. But a presale inspection turned up some unwelcome news.

“There was a buried oil tank on the property,” Pagli says. “This came as a surprise, because the home was fueled by natural gas.”

Altogether the testing, removal, and backfill for the oil tank cost the seller about $8,000. The good news? Once the oil tank was removed, the home sold in three weeks.

Take-home lesson: Underground oil tanks are rare, but if you suspect your property has one, you’ll want to have the land tested by an inspector who specializes in oil tank location and decommissioning before putting your house on the market.

5. Mold

No word strikes fear into the hearts of home buyers and sellers more than mold.

“It is a four-letter word, and most definitely has been the issue of greatest magnitude for my home sellers," says Michael Edlen, a real estate agent in Pacific Palisades, CA.

One particularly bad experience sticks out: Before listing a house, Edlen spotted mold in a relatively small area of the garage, but that was just the start.

“[Mold] remediators found that the mold had gotten into the wall framing, so they had to open walls up behind and next to primary areas,” Edlen says. “By the time the work was done, it took two full months and nearly $60,000."

Fortunately, the sellers didn't freak out over the bill—or Edlen.

“One way or another, they would have had to deal with it—and better to fix it upfront than leaving it to later,” he explains.

Take-home lesson: Mold can put a homeowner’s health at risk, which explains why it’s one of the most common fears among home buyers. Make sure you check your house for mold and address any issues before listing it.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz


Mortgage interest rates are a mystery to many of us—whether you're a home buyer in need of a home loan for your first house or your fifth.

After all, what does “interest rate” even mean? Why do rates swing up and down? And, most important, how do you nab the best interest rate—the one that’s going to save you the most money over the life of your mortgage?

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
 

Here, we outline what you need to know about interest rates before applying for a mortgage.

Why does my interest rate matter?

Mortgage lenders don't just loan you money because they’re good guys—they’re there to make a profit. “Interest” is the extra fee you pay your lender for loaning you the cash you need to buy a home.

Your interest payment is calculated as a percentage of your total loan amount. For example, let’s say you get a 30-year, $200,000 loan with a 4% interest rate. Over 30 years, you would end up paying back not only that $200,000, but an extra $143,739 in interest. Month to month, your mortgage payments would amount to about $955. However, your mortgage payments will end up higher or lower depending on the interest rate you get.

Why do interest rates fluctuate?

Mortgage rates can change daily depending on how the U.S. economy is performing, says Jack Guttentag, author of “The Mortgage Encyclopedia.”

Consumer confidence, reports on employment, fluctuations in home sales (i.e., the law of supply and demand), and other economic factors all influence interest rates.

“During a period of slack economic activity, [the Federal Reserve] will provide more funding and interest rates will go down,” Guttentag explains. Conversely, “when the economy heats up and there’s a fear of inflation, [the Fed] will restrict funding and interest rates will go up.”

How do I lock in my interest rate?

A “rate lock” is a commitment by a lender to give you a home loan at a specific interest rate, provided you close on your home in a certain period of time—typically 30 days from when you're pre-approved for your loan.

A rate lock offers protection against fluctuating interest rates—useful considering that even a quarter of a percentage point can take a huge bite out of your housing budget over time. A rate lock offers borrowers peace of mind: No matter how wildly interest rates fluctuate, once you're "locked in" you know what monthly mortgage payments you'll need to make on your home, enabling you to plan your long-term finances.

Naturally, many home buyers obsess over the best time to lock in a mortgage rate, worried that they'll pull the trigger right before rates sink even lower.

Unfortunately, no lender has a crystal ball that shows where mortgage rates are going. It’s impossible to predict exactly where the economy will move in the future. So, don't get too caught up with minor ups and downs. A bigger question to consider when locking in your interest rate is where you are in the process of finding a home.

Most mortgage experts suggest locking in a rate once you're "under contract" on a home—meaning you've made an offer that's been accepted. Most lenders will offer a 30-day rate lock at no charge to you—and many will extend rate locks to 45 days as a courtesy to keep your business.

Some lenders offer rate locks with a “float-down option,” which allows you to get a lower interest rate if rates go down. However, the terms, conditions, and costs of this option vary from lender to lender.

How do I get the best interest rate?

Mortgage rates vary depending on a borrower’s personal finances. Specifically, these six key factors will affect the rate you qualify for:

  1. Credit score: When you apply for a mortgage to buy a home, lenders want some reassurance you’ll repay them later! One way they assess this is by scrutinizing your credit score—the numerical representation of your track record of paying off your debts, from credit cards to college loans. Lenders use your credit score to predict how reliable you’ll be in paying your home loan, says Bill Hardekopf, a credit expert at LowCards.com. A perfect credit score is 850, a good score is from 700 to 759, and a fair score is from 650 to 699. Generally, borrowers with higher credit scores receive lower interest rates than borrowers with lower credit scores.
     
  2. Loan amount and down payment: If you're willing and able to make a large down payment on a home, lenders assume less risk and will offer you a better rate. If you don’t have enough money to put down 20% on your mortgage, you’ll probably have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, an extra monthly fee meant to mitigate the risk to the lender that you might default on your loan. PMI ranges from about 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan.
     
  3. Home location: The strength of your local housing market can drive interest rates up, or down.
     
  4. Loan type: Your rate will depend on what type of loan you choose. The most common type is a conventional mortgage, aimed at borrowers who have well-established credit, solid assets, and steady income. If your finances aren't in great shape, you may be able to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration loan, a government-backed loan that requires a low down payment of 3.5%. There are also U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loans, available to active or retired military personnel, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loans, available to Americans with low to moderate incomes who want to buy a home in a rural area.
     
  5. Loan term: Typically, shorter-term loans have lower interest rates—and lower overall costs—but they also have larger monthly payments.
     
  6. Type of interest rate: Rates depend on whether you get a fixed-rate mortgage or an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM. "Fixed-rate" means the interest rate you pay remains fixed at the same level throughout the life of your loan. An ARM is a loan that starts out at a fixed, predetermined interest rate, but the rate adjusts after a specified initial period (usually three, five, seven, or 10 years) based on market indexes.

Tap into the right resources

Whether you're looking to buy a home or a homeowner looking to refinance, there are many mortgage tools online to help, including the following:

  • mortgage rate trends tracker lets you follow interest rate changes in your local market.
  • mortgage payment calculator shows an estimate of your mortgage payment based on current mortgage rates and local real estate taxes.
  • Realtor.com's mortgage center, which will help you find a lender who can offer competitive interests rates and help you get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz


​Home cooking is the best ... except when the smell of your curry dinner lingers for days (or weeks?) after you've finished the meal.

The truth is, cooking at home can result in a  potpourri of stubborn odors in your kitchen. After a while, the rich aroma of roasting lamb can curdle into the stale stench of fatty mutton.

So how can you 86 all these lingering cooking smells? For starters, turn on the range hood fan right off the bat, to ventilate your kitchen while you cook. And we highly advise against lighting scented candles, which will just add another heavy layer of odor. Instead, try one of the following methods, which have been proven to banish stinky cooking smells quickly.

1. Slow boil a simmer pot

The head chef of HelloFresh, Claudia Sidoti, combats icky odors after she cooks with a simmer pot of several aromatic blends based around citrus, which cuts through unpleasant smells.

She combines the ingredients—either 1) orange, cinnamon sticks, and cloves; 2) lemon, rosemary, and vanilla beans; or 3) orange, cranberries, and pine twigs—with three cups of water in a pot. She brings it all to a boil and then lowers the pot to a simmer.

The fresh and slightly sweet scent will cut through other smells and linger pleasantly in the room. But be careful! "Once the water evaporates, the citrus can easily burn," says Sidoti.

2. Break out the essential oils

A great way to neutralize offensive smells is by introducing purifying essential oils in your kitchen. Use a spray bottle filled with water and about eight to 10 drops of either lemon, eucalyptus, or lavender essential oils. Then lightly mist the mixture into the air.

"Or if you want to create a DIY diffuser with what you have on hand in the kitchen, you can soak some cotton swabs in vanilla and place them around your countertop for a quick, pleasant scent," says Dr. John Gilmer, PhD and food/cooking/nutrition expert at ActiveIron.com.

3. Neutralize with vinegar

If a cooking smell really persists, you need to step up your game and clean your kitchen cooking surfaces and countertops with vinegar, a remarkably effective cleaner and deodorizer. "Vinegar is an acid, and acid degrades the other lingering odors," says Abe Navas, general manager of Emily's Maids, a house-cleaning service in Dallas.

Let the vinegar soak into surfaces for 15 minutes, and then clean again with soapy water. Rinse with lots of clean water.

4. Clean up quickly before and after dinner

After you're done cooking, cleaning up immediately is a great way to chase away odor, according to Kealia Reynolds, an editor at HouseMethod.com. "Cleaning up right away prevents smells from aging and becoming more pungent on your kitchen surfaces," she says.

Place all strong-smelling meat and vegetable castoffs, such as onion peels, fish skin, and garlic, into a plastic bag inside a closable trash can. Take the trash outside rather than leave it in the kitchen overnight.

Rinse all cutting boards the moment you're done with them. If you've cut garlic, onions, or other strong-smelling foods on a cutting board, the scent can seep into the surface and last for days if not cleaned properly—and quickly. Stick plastic cutting boards in the dishwasher for a deep clean, and use half of a lemon sprinkled with salt to clean wooden cutting boards.

And after the meal has been served, rinse and wash all the dishes as soon as possible.

5. Absorb strong odors overnight

If you are too exhausted after cooking a huge meal to do a massive kitchen cleanup, let items from your pantry work for you as you snooze.

"Leave a small bowl of white vinegar, coffee grounds, or baking soda out overnight on the counter," says Gilmer. Each of these items are great at absorbing smells.

Another nighttime tip? Be sure to close your bedroom and closet doors before you turn in. "These rooms are full of odor-absorbing fabrics that will cause smells to permeate your home," Gilmer adds.

6. Deep-clean the drain

Many of those displeasing kitchen smells may be coming from your sink, where odors can get trapped. "We recommend freshening your kitchen drain monthly," says Jenn Nicken, founder of The Chef & The Dish, a global marketplace with chefs around the world via Skype. "Simply put about half a cup of baking soda into your kitchen drain, then pour one cup of vinegar into the drain. Let sit for 15 minutes, then run hot tap water for 60 seconds."

7. Manage the microwave

The microwave is guilty of trapping odors, in the form of splattered sauce and hardened food scraps. Be sure to wipe down the inside of your microwave a couple of times a week.

"And if you have lingering smells in your microwave, use a few drops of lemon essential oil and wipe down the interior of the appliance," Reynolds says.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry


If you're a homeowner who takes pride in staying on top of interior design trends, you've no doubt been busy lately. High-end kitchen island? Check. Living wall in the living room? Sure thing! And you've most certainly got a Chip and Joanna Gaines-inspired farmhouse sink or shiplap lurking somewhere, too.

Sorry to break it to you ... but those trends are très passé. The rest of the world has moved on, and they're decking out their homes with way hipper stuff than that.

Relax, your friends at  realtor.com  are here to help! Just feast your eyes on four of the hottest, hippest home trends we've seen lately.

Kitchen islands with beds

Kitchen island with bed

iStock; realtor.com

Kitchen islands have been getting bigger and more souped up than ever. This so-called "hub of the home" can now incorporate sinks, ovens, breakfast bars, charging stations, and far more. But let's be honest here: All that kitchen multitasking can leave home chefs feeling pooped. And alas, if there's one thing kitchen islands lack, it's a place to lay your head, much less your whole body.

But that's about to change with the kitchen island's newest accoutrement: a sleeping bunk!

That's right, thanks to a stowaway mattress incorporated just underneath the counter, now you can take a power nap as you wait for your pasta water to boil. You can lounge longitudinally while you slice and dice onions. Guests who hover around your island can now really kick back with that glass of merlot, or just crash for the night if they've had one too many.

This may explain why this home feature has popped up in the kitchens of party-hard celebs including David Hasselhoff, who says, "In the past, I had to choose between staving off hangovers with sleep or a bacon cheeseburger. But now, I can do both at once!"

Indoor yards

Fun for the whole family!

iStock; realtor.com

For years, we've all been bringing the indoors outside, with outdoor kitchens and fully decked al fresco living spaces. So get ready to flip the script. Are you wishing you could enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of your couch? Well, now you can, by rigging up your home with an indoor yard. In-floor irrigation systems now enable homeowners to go beyond a few potted plants and have wall-to-wall grass beneath their feet—all without the hassles of inclement weather, nosy neighbors, mosquitoes, or other outdoor annoyances.

Due to the added privacy, indoor yards have really taken off with celebs, including Angelina Jolie ("It's so natural and earthy") and even Barack Obama, whose Portuguese water dogsSunny and Bo, "were confused at first," he admits. "Although these indoor lawns are rigged with drainage systems so canines can relieve themselves inside, I had to 'house train' them again, only in reverse. They eventually caught on, particularly once I installed a few bushes."

Wall-to-wall wallpaper

Wallpaper wall-to-wall

Getty Images

From florals and metallics to textures, the wallpaper trend is truly taking over. But get ready for the next level.

Although many choose to paper an accent wall, this hot new trend sees paper covering not only the traditional four walls, but also the ceiling, floor, furniture ... sometimes even pets and family members!

Celeb fans include Kim Kardashian West—who might like to bare all when it comes to her wardrobe, but wants her walls completely covered at home. Kicking hubby Kanye’s minimalist style to the curb, the reality star supposedly has designers scrambling to order rolls upon rolls to paper the 15,700-square-foot Los Angeles estate she and Kanye bought for $20 million in 2014. Reportedly, their kids, North, Saint, and Chicago, have pajamas and bedspreads that match the wallpaper in their rooms.

"It can be a bit dizzying sometimes, and it's frankly even hard to find them now," Kardashian West admits. "But it's worth it. Now I never have to ask, 'Does this go with that?' ever again."

Farmhouse furniture straight from the barn

Hay, ya!

iStock; realtor.com

The modern farmhouse style has been all the rage since Chip andJoanna Gaines' show "Fixer Upper" hit the airwaves and developed a devoted following. They have their own home line at Magnolia, Target ... yet some think those aren't quite farmhouse enough.

Enter their newest venture: real farmhouse furniture, straight from the barn to you! Think: hay bale coffee tables. Side table butter churns. Manger beds. Of course, Chip and Jo have incorporated these elements into their own home too. Just ask Chip: "We swapped our regular alarm clocks for a rooster. Since there's no snooze button, he really gets us up!"

So if you love living on the very cutting edge of design, you're probably eager to incorporate these into your home. But before you do that, maybe check the date on this article first.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Liz Alterman

6 Things You'll Love (and Hate) About Selling a Home This Spring

by Amy McLeod Group


For many home sellers, there’s no better time to list than the spring, and for good reason: This is peak home-buying season, folks! Buyers turn out in droves once warmer weather finally arrives, bringing people out of hibernation mode, and bidding wars abound as buyers look for ways to one-up their competition.

The bad news? Selling a home during the spring isn’t free of pitfalls.

Indeed, “Spring home sellers still face challenges that they need to prepare for,” says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis.

Since knowing what to expect can help you nab a great offer, here are six things you’ll love—and hate—about selling a home this spring.

You’ll love: All the demand

While home sales decline in the winter (chalk it up to bad weather and holiday obligations), many home buyers blitz the housing market in spring, says Dossman. To meet that pent-up demand, many sellers list their homes at this time of year. It’s no surprise, then, that the lion's share of  real estate agents  say March, April, and May are the best months to sell a home. With so many buyers competing for homes, sellers may be in a stronger position to spark bidding wars.

You’ll hate: All the competition

Demand is strong, but so is competition among home sellers, says Kimberly Sands, a real estate broker in Carolina Beach, NC. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the four heaviest home-selling months—May, June, July, and August—account for 40% of an average year’s total home-selling volume.

Want to compete with other home sellers and fetch top dollar for your house? Presenting your home in the best light is crucial. This may entail decluttering your house, having your home professionally staged, or making minor repairs so that your property is looking in tip-top shape when you put it on the market.

You’ll love: Selling in warmer weather

Open houses are often more successful during the spring than in the winter, says Dossman, since the nicer weather makes buyers more willing to emerge from the comfort of their homes to shop for houses. Another boon for home sellers: Daylight saving time gives buyers more time to look at houses, which means your property can potentially be seen by more people, says Dana Hill, vice president of Buyer’s Edge Realty in Bethesda, MD.

That said, “Sellers still need to do some prep work before holding an open house,” Dossman adds. To make sure your home is ready to be seen, do a thorough cleaning, remove such personal belongings as family photos and religious artwork, and trim your lawn for maximum curb appeal. Pro tip: Take a hike for a few hours during the open house. Buyers will feel more comfortable asking questions of your agent if you're not hovering in the background.

You’ll hate: Fighting for your agent’s attention

Because this is a busy time for home buyers and sellers, it’s also a busy time for  real estate agents . Unfortunately, some agents may take on more clients than they can handle at one time. That's why it's important to find a listing agent who is going to put the proper level of effort and time into selling your home. “If your agent is distracted, you’re not going to get great service,” Sands warns.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for the maximum number of clients an agent should be working with, but make sure to address this topic when interviewing prospective agents. If your gut says you’re not going to be a priority, continue looking, says Sands.

You’ll love: The higher valuations

When your home’s value is assessed by a home buyer’s appraiser, the appraiser will look at data for comparable homes (or “comps”) that were recently sold in your neighborhood. The good news: With more homes selling in the on-season, the comparable data tend in your favor, Hill says. In other words, your house is more likely to pass the home appraisal, assuming that you're selling it at around its fair market value.

You’ll hate: The picky buyers

Naturally, some buyers can afford to be more selective when there are more houses to choose from, says Dossman. For instance, if your home clearly needs major repairs, they might simply pass. Add in the fact that most spring buyers aren’t shopping under pressure (as they might be during the winter), and you can expect to have a larger pool of picky house hunters in the spring than you do during other seasons.

The bottom line

Spring is unequivocally the busiest time of year to be selling a house, and though more demand from buyers can be good news for home sellers, there are still obstacles you need to plan for when selling a home at this time of year.

Contact The McLeod Group Network to find out how much your current home is worth! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz


As you've no doubt heard, the U.S. tax code got a major overhaul with the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. So what does that mean for the return you're filing right about now? It means you may not be able to take some deductions from the old tax code that saved you major bucks in the past. Ouch!

But it's not quite as bad as you might think. Many tax breaks haven't disappeared completely; rather they've just morphed a bit, redefining who qualifies and for how much. To clue you in to these new rules, here's a rundown of five major tax breaks that have changed this filing year, and who still qualifies for them.

 
 
 

1. Home office tax deduction

You may have heard a rumor that the home office tax deduction went the way of the dodo. Yes, the deduction is gone for W-2 employees of companies who work in a home office on the occasional Friday.

"For non-self-employed people, the home office deduction is going away entirely," says Eric Bronnenkant, certified public accountant, certified financial planner, and Betterment's head of tax.

The loophole: If you're self-employed full time, this deduction lives on. Here's more info on how to take a home office tax deduction.

2. Unlimited property tax

One of the biggest changes for homeowners in the new tax bill is the cap on deducting property taxes.

"Before, regardless of the amount, all property taxes were tax-deductible," explains Bronnenkant. Yet this season, "the maximum you can deduct is $10,000, and that includes state and local income tax, property tax, and sales tax."

So if you pay more than $10,000 a year between your state and local income taxes, property tax, and sales tax, anything exceeding that amount is no longer deductible. This is something to keep in mind as homeowners consider tax benefits of their current or future home.

The loophole: "It is worth noting that this limit applies to a taxpayer’s primary, and in some cases secondary, residence," says Bill Abel, tax manager of Sensiba San Filippo in Boulder, CO. "But it may not apply to rental real estate property."

Why? The $10,000 overall tax limit is applied on Schedule A as an itemized deduction, which would have no bearing on the tax deduction for a rental property on Schedule E. So if you're a landlord, your deduction could edge past that $10,000 limit; make sure to max it out!

3. Moving expenses

If you moved in 2017, lucky you: You are the last to take advantage of the ability to deduct your moving expenses.

The loophole: Active members of the armed forces who moved (or move) after 2017 can still take this deduction, according to Patrick Leddy, a tax partner at Farmand, Farmand, and Farmand.

4. Mortgage interest

One major change for homeowners who purchased a house after Dec. 15, 2017, is that they will be allowed to deduct the interest on no more than $750,000 of acquisition debt—that's a loan used to buy, build, or improve a main or secondary home, says Abel. This is in contrast to the $1,000,000 limit on acquisition debt, which still applies to existing loans incurred on or before Dec. 15, 2017.

The loophole: Homeowners who refinance their debt that existed on or before Dec. 15, 2017, are generally allowed to maintain their $1,000,000 limit from the original mortgage.

5. Interest on a home equity loan

A home equity loan is money you borrow using your home as collateral. This "second mortgage" (because it's in addition to your original home loan) often takes the form of a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. Traditionally, the interest on these loans could be deducted up to $100,000 for married joint filers and $50,000 for individuals. And you could use that money to pay for anything—college tuition, a wedding, you name it.

But now, home equity loan interest is deductible only if it's used for one purpose: to "buy, build, or improve" your home, according to the IRS. So if you're dying to update your kitchen or add a half-bath, you'll get a tax break from Uncle Sam. But if you want to tap your home equity to go to grad school, well, that's on you.

More bad news: Unlike the mortgage interest deduction—where loans taken before Dec. 15, 2018, could be grandfathered into the old laws—home equity loans have no such exemption. People with existing HELOC debt take the hit just like homeowners applying for one now.

The loophole: To reclaim this deduction, you could refinance your second mortgage and your first into a new mortgage that lumps together both debts. This essentially turns your HELOC into a regular mortgage, which means that you can deduct that interest. Just remember that refinancing can be costly, and that this new loan will be subject to the new, smaller limits on deducting mortgage interest—$750,000.

Worried about losing all of these deductions? Don't freak out!

Though the new tax plan is drastically changing how most people will file their taxes, it doesn't necessarily mean that you will end up owing more. Deductions may be dropping, but so are the tax rates for most income groups. And the standard deduction grew to $24,000 for a married couple filing jointly. So, it may all balance out.

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com for all your Real Estate needs! 

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry 

 

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The McLeod Group Network
Keller Williams Capital City
1900 Hines St SE #220
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971-208-5093
Fax: 971-599-5229

**Disclaimer: Amy McLeod, and her team, do not initiate, process, or service mortgages.  And provide this information only as a service.  You should confirm information here with your Licensed Mortgage Lender.