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June 30, 2017

Here’s What Real Estate And Independence Day Have In Common



What's the first thing you think of when you think 4th of July?

Probably fireworks, right?

Okay, maybe you think about barbecues, pool parties, or parades first.

The point is, the first thought for most people isn't about the nitty-gritty that we're actually celebrating — our independence as a nation.

Deep down, we all know that's what it's all about. And we respect it. But, we're also human. Who can blame us for enjoying our freedom watching fireworks, without giving all that much thought about everything our founding fathers did to get us here?

So it is in real estate...

There's a lot of focus on the "fireworks" in real estate. The big, glorious, flashy, exciting moments. Like...

  • The moment your house first hits the market.
  • Seeing the pictures of your house all over the Internet.
  • Throngs of people walking through your first open house.
  • Receiving offers from buyers...maybe even multiple offers.
  • Going under contract.
  • Walking into "the" house, and falling in love with it.
  • Making an offer on the house you love, and having it accepted.
  • Closing on the sale or purchase of your home.

All really exciting "firework" moments.

But they're not the full story. There's a lot of stuff behind the scenes in order to get to those fun, celebratory moments. A lot of thought, knowledge, skill, and work... Not necessarily fun, or sexy stuff. But it's all important. It's all necessary to get to those exciting "fireworks" moments.

Not that the behind the scenes stuff should be something you think about. As a consumer, you should enjoy the glorious moments. Leave the nitty-gritty to your agent.

Just know that there's more to it than the "fireworks" you want to see when you buy or sell a house.

June 28, 2017

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Real Estate Agent

 

 

Let’s be clear on one thing: by nature, real estate agents are not fragile beings. We've heard it all. And for the most part, we have a great sense of humor about things. In other words, you can tell us virtually anything — in fact, you should if it’s pertinent to buying or selling your home. It’s just that there’s a handful of things clients say that can rub us the wrong way. These things aren’t offensive, per se’, and you probably mean no harm when saying them. But we need to discuss these things. Thus, this list. Let’s file it under “edutainment” — important enough to warrant a dialogue, but light enough for you to realize it’s not the end of the world if you’ve said these things to an agent in the past. Here they are.

1. “I want to buy a home, but I don't want to commit to one agent.”

Loyalty is a two-way street. If you want an agent's help, understand that he or she will spend a considerable amount of time, money, and effort shuttling you from house to house, scheduling home viewings, and previewing listings on your behalf. The tradeoff for this hard work is to sign a buyer's agency agreement, allowing them to formally represent you as a client (versus merely a customer). There are major differences between the two. Learn more about agency relationships here.

2. “Don't show my home unless I'm available.”

Look down. See a hole in your shoe? That’s because you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Real estate agents are busy. Therefore, if you want to maximize your home’s exposure, you’re gonna have to be flexible (i.e., as "hands off" as possible). I get it, though. You cringe at the thought of muddy shoes dragging across your beige carpet (or whatever else your concern may be). You naturally want to be present to keep an eye on things, but try to control that urge. Buyers get uncomfortable with sellers standing over them while they view a home -- and that’s if you’re lucky enough to draw the buyer inside in the first place, considering all the hoops created by stipulating that other people’s schedules must align with yours.

3. “But Zillow said…”

Stop listening to Zillow. Relying on Zillow to determine your home’s value is, at best, a crapshoot. Zillow itself even encourages buyers, sellers and homeowners to conduct other research such as “getting a comparative market analysis (CMA) from a real estate agent” and “getting an appraisal from a professional appraiser.” Sure, Zillow’s Zestimates® are quick, easy, and free… but so is dating advice from your thrice-divorced Uncle Larry. The point? Just let a local real estate professional (who will actually see your home’s unique features in person) determine its fair market value.

4. “I'll get pre-approved for a mortgage later.”

This puts you at a huge disadvantage right out of the starting block. First, an agent worth his or her salt won’t agree to invest countless hours showing homes to someone who isn’t approved for a loan. Secondly, it’s an unfair burden on the seller to bring tire-kickers into their home (which is how you’ll be perceived). Therefore, listing agents and sellers will often require a pre-approval letter alongside your offer. This letter strengthens your offer by instilling confidence in all parties that you’re financially capable of purchasing the home.

5. "I don't want to bother my Realtor®. Can you just show me the house?"

Not just no, but heck no. To be clear, you’re more than welcome to view it, but there’s a protocol in play here. Contrary to what you think, asking your agent to see a home is not “bothering” them. It’s their job. It’s how they get paid. It’s what they love doing. If there are extenuating circumstances preventing your agent from showing you a home, let him or her call the listing agent directly. Don’t worry, you’ll get to view the home one way or another. But if you’re already represented, then going straight to the listing agent is considered is a faux pas in this industry (and a bit of a slap in the face to your agent). Just don’t do it.

6. "Real-a-tor"

The correct pronunciation is Real-tor. No need to throw that extra syllable in there.

7. "Oh, you sell real estate? You must make good money."

Hold your horses… not necessarily. According to NAR (National Association of REALTORS®), the median gross income of REALTORS® was $42,500 in 2016, and that’s before expenses like MLS fees, marketing, insurance and everything else. Also, keep in mind that commissions are split between the brokerages representing the buyer and seller. In other words, of that X% you paid your agent to sell your home, he or she saw only a tiny fraction of that.

8. "I’m planning to sell my home by owner. I just want to know how to do it."

We all know that time is money, but so is knowledge. It’s not always free, and it certainly can’t be passed from one brain to another through osmosis -- especially not how to sell a home. So if you ask this question to an agent, don’t be offended if you don’t get the answer you were seeking. It’s not that agents want you to fail… it’s just that advising you how to sell a home isn’t as easy as, say, forwarding a recipe for chocolate pound cake. I should know. Many people tried to replicate my grandmother’s chocolate pound cake. They even had the recipe. But they all failed miserably, every time. Bottom line? If you want to benefit from experience, be willing to pay for it (especially when it comes to real estate).

9. “I’ll only sell my home to a buyer who is (insert race, gender, religion, etc. here)”

This is a big no-no, and one that’s liable to get you sued (unless, of course, you list with a real estate professional who’d certainly know better than to discriminate). Federal equal housing laws were passed in 1968 in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, and they prohibit renters and home sellers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of race, sex, religion and other factors. So in a nutshell: focus on getting your home sold, and forget about to whom.

10. "I'd love to get paid to look at pretty houses all day, every day."

So would agents. “Looking at pretty houses” is only one of about 184 things real estate agents do for their client

June 18, 2017

Maintaining Your Home

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.

Copyright 2017 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

March 21, 2017

Are Mortgage Points Tax Deductible?

Are Mortgage Points Tax Deductible?

By: Dona DeZube

Published: August 15, 2016

 

When you took out a mortgage to buy your home, did you pay points? You may be able to deduct that prepaid interest on your federal tax return -- but only if you meet a long list of rules.

The points you paid when you signed a mortgage to buy your home may help cut your federal tax bill. With points, sometimes called loan origination points or discount points, you make an upfront payment to get a particular rate from the lender.

Since mortgage interest is deductible, your points may be, too.

If you itemize your deductions on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040, you may be able to deduct all your points in the year you pay them.

Some high-income taxpayers have their total itemized deductions limited, including points. You can read more about that in the instructions for Schedule A.

Lucky for you, the IRS doesn’t care whether you or the homesellers paid the points. Either way, those points are your deduction, not the sellers’.

Tip: Tax law treats home purchase mortgage points differently from refinance mortgage points. Refinance loan points get deducted over the life of your loan. So if you paid $1,000 in points for a 10-year refinance, you’re entitled to deduct $100 per year on your Schedule A.

The Fine Print for Deducting Points

The IRS rules for deducting purchase mortgage points are straightforward, but lengthy. You must meet each of these seven tests to deduct the points in the year you pay them.

1. Your mortgage must be used to buy or build your primary residence, and the loan must be secured by that residence. Your primary home is the one you live in most of the time. As long as it has cooking equipment, a toilet, and you can sleep in it, your main residence can be a house, a trailer, or a boat.

Points paid on a second home have to be deducted over the life of your loan.

2. Paying points must be a customary business practice in your area. And the amount can’t exceed the percentage normally charged. If most people in your area pay one or two points, you can’t pay 10 points and then deduct them.

3. Your points have to be legitimate. You can’t have your lender label other things on your settlement statement, like appraisal fees, inspection fees, title fees, attorney fees, service fees, or property taxes as “points” and deduct them.

4. You have to use the cash method of accounting. That’s when you report your income to the IRS as it comes in and report your expenses when you pay them. Almost everybody uses this method for tax accounting.

5. You must pay the points directly. That is, you can’t have borrowed the funds from your lender to pay them. Any points paid by the seller are treated as being paid directly by you.

In addition, monies you pay, such as a downpayment or earnest money deposit, are considered monies out of your pocket that cover the points so long as they’re equal to or more than points.  Say you put $10,000 down and pay $1,000 in points. The downpayment exceeds the points, so your points are covered and therefore you can deduct them if you itemize. If you were to put nothing down but you paid one point, that $1,000 wouldn’t be deductible.

6. Your points have to be calculated as a percentage of your mortgage. One point is 1% of your mortgage amount, so one point on a $100,000 mortgage is $1,000.

7. The points have to show up on your settlement disclosure statement as “points.” They might be listed as loan origination points or discount points.

Tip: You can also fully deduct points you pay (for the year paid) on a loan to improve your main home if you meet tests one through five above.

Where to Deduct Points

Figured out that your points are deductible? Here’s how you deduct them:

Your lender will send you a Form 1098. Look in Box 2 to find the points paid for your loan. 

If you don’t get a Form 1098, look on the settlement disclosure you received at closing. The points will show up on that form in the sections detailing your costs or the sellers’ costs, depending on who paid the points.

Report your points on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040.

There are Two Things Related to Points You Can’t Deduct:

1.  Interest buy-downs your builder paid

Some builders put money in an escrow account (as a buyer incentive) that the lender taps each month to supplement your mortgage payment. Those aren’t considered points even though the money is used for an interest payment and it’s prepaid. You can’t deduct the money the builder put into that escrow account.

2.  Interest payments from government programs

You can’t deduct points paid by a federal, state, or local program, such as the federal Hardest Hit Fund, to help you if you’re experiencing financial trouble.

Related: More Homeownership Deductions You Don’t Want to Miss

source: Houselogic.com

March 7, 2017

4 Reasons You Should Hire Your Friend Or Family Member As Your Real Estate Agent

Should you work with a real estate agent who’s your friend or a family member? This is such a common question. And it can be a touchy, awkward subject when you know a real estate agent and are planning to buy or sell a house. Part of you probably wants to ignore the topic. Maybe hire another real estate agent, sell your house, or buy a house, and hope your friend or family member just doesn’t notice or find out. They will. And it will be more awkward if you do that. So, you should address this head on. It probably feels like a no-win situation as far as you’re concerned. If you don’t work with your friend or family member, feelings will be hurt, and the relationship will be affected forever. On the other hand, if you do work with them and something goes wrong...feelings will be hurt, and the relationship will be affected forever. No, the agent shouldn’t let it affect your relationship...not because they’re supposed to be superhuman saints...but they are human and it does hurt. And not working with the agent you’re friends with, or are related to will most likely affect your relationship on some level. Sounds miserable. And, beyond your gut feelings and concerns, there seems to be so much information on the Internet, and in conversation, that points to it making sense not to work with someone you know... 

  • What if the agent doesn’t do a good job? Will you feel fine firing him or her? Or just have to grin and bear it?
  • What if you decide not to buy or sell, and waste their time? You would feel bad…
  • What if you simply don’t want your friend or family member to “know your business” or finances…

OK, fine. All valid concerns and reasons. People use these excuses. And it can make sense for you to avoid dealing with a friend or family member...if you have solid reason not to. But those types of reasons are easy to find elsewhere. You can feel validated and “right” by all the stuff you see online, or hear out of the mouth of some random random real estate agent who’s trying to convince you to work with him, instead of your friend or family member. Now that we have your concerns out in the open, let’s focus on why you should hire your friend or family member. Because there’s a lack of articles pointing out why it should make total sense for you to work with a real estate agent you are friends with, or are related to. Here are some valid reasons for listing with your friend or family member: 

  • TRUST - The entire basis of the relationship between a real estate agent and their clients is that it’s a “fiduciary relationship”. Simply put...it’s a “trusting relationship”. You really ought to be able to trust a friend or family member, above and beyond someone you don’t even know. If you can’t, well, then you shouldn’t hire the person even if they’re your friend or are related to you.
  • ABILITY - If your friend or family member is a great agent, and is as good of a choice, if not a better choice than someone else who simply fits the bill because they aren’t your friend or family member...hire your friend or family member. Hiring some random, lesser skilled agent doesn’t do you any good, other than to avoid awkwardness.
  • APPRECIATION - This is such a loaded subject. Real estate agents hate this issue more than you do...more than you could ever imagine. They’re constantly bracing themselves to have to deal with it at some point. If you simply talk openly about this subject with the agent you know, and show that you understand their dilemma, and feel for them, you will get some crazy appreciation from the agent. And that crazy appreciation can translate into some awesome care and service.
  • COMPASSION - This is something most agents don’t want to openly say much about…so, let me say it for them. The agent you know probably really needs your support and for you (and everyone else they know) to hire them. This is a tough business. It’s highly competitive, and it’s hard to make money...not even lots of money. We’re talking just-surviving-in-the-business type of money. So when someone an agent knows uses someone else just to avoid any weirdness, it hurts. It hurts their heart, and their bank account. (And just because an agent isn’t getting filthy rich in this business, and needs as much business as possible, does not mean they aren’t a great agent who will do an awesome job for you!) So, have some compassion and help the agent you know, instead of some random agent you don’t really care about.

You are hiring somebody’s friend or family member anyway. Go ahead and ask any real estate agent you don’t know if you should work with a friend or family member. But if they even sniff that you’re thinking of buying or selling, and they have a shot at business, they’ll probably give you so many reasons not to. Of course they will. But that’s a double edged sword. Be leery of a real estate agent who pushes that angle too much, because that agent is someone’s friend or family member, and rest assured, they don’t have that same perspective when it comes to their own friends and family. Use your own head, and your own heart to make the decision. Make it as much of a business decision as possible, but do take into consideration that there’s some amount of being a kind human that needs to be considered. Before you hire someone else, at least sit and chat with your friend and family member who’s a real estate agent. Better yet...sit with them now, before you’re actually buying or selling, and chat about real estate. More specifically, chat about their career. Get to know how they work, and are as an agent. So you can not only hire them when the time comes, but also so you can refer them as much business as possible starting now. They’ll surely appreciate it! And, if you can’t possibly see yourself working with the agent you’re friends with, or are related to, at least ask them to refer you to another agent, before you just go finding a random one on your own.

If you're ready to hire a Realtor to buyer your first, second or even third home or sell a home, CONTACT ME to help you with your real estate needs.

Feb. 28, 2017

Fan the Flames Safely - Fireplace Safety

 Fan the Flames Safely - Fireplace Safety
An inviting fire has long been the focal point of gatherings with family and friends, whether it's inside around the fireplace or outside by the fire pit.

With that comes a host of safety requirements. Make sure you adhere to these dos and don'ts to ensure you're lighting up responsibly.

Do:
  • Have your fireplace professionally cleaned (swept). How often? At least once a year, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). However, this will vary depending upon how often you light a fire. CSIA recommends that open masonry fireplaces be swept once they accumulate a 1/8-in of sooty build-up - enough fuel to cause a chimney fire. How about your fire pit? According to experts, if residue build-up becomes an issue, masonry fire pits may be cleaned using a solution of one part muriatic acid to nine parts water to scrub the interior. Once clean, rinse with water and allow it to dry for 48 - 72 hours before using.
  • Dispose of ashes properly. Place ashes in a metal container away from your home or other structures. Shovel ashes out of your fire pit regularly.
  • Make sure your smoke detector is functional. According to CSIA, detectors should be tested once a month to ensure they're working properly.
  • Keep your fire manageable. Whether inside or out, too large of a fire can lead to excessive smoke and wayward embers that could ignite rugs and furniture inside, or trees and dried brush outside.
  • Have a container of water and/or working hose nearby when lighting an outdoor fire.
  • Have the right tools on hand, including an ash scoop, a long poker, and tongs for repositioning logs.

Don't:

  • Store ashes inside the house or within five feet of your home or other structures outside.
  • Burn the wrong kind of materials, such as trash, pressure-treated or green wood, which could release harmful toxins. Stick to dry, split wood and use leaves and sticks for kindling.
  • Forget to check the forecast before lighting an outdoor fire. Avoid windy conditions that can blow embers. Extremely windy conditions can also create problems for your indoor fireplace, forcing air down the chimney and smoke into your home.
  • Improperly position the logs in your fireplace. Logs should be placed toward the back of your fireplace and not be leaning toward the screen. This could cause smoke to filter into your home as opposed to up the chimney.
  • Wait to call the fire department if you suspect a chimney fire. If you notice embers falling down the chimney into your fire and/or hear a loud, rushing sound, you could have a chimney fire. Call 911 immediately, and follow your emergency fire plan.
Feb. 24, 2017

The Impact of Homeownership on Family Health

The Impact of Homeownership on Family Health

The Impact of Homeownership on Family Health | MyKCM

The National Association of Realtors recently released a study titled 'Social Benefits of Homeownership and Stable Housing.’ The study confirmed a long-standing belief of most Americans:

“Owning a home embodies the promise of individual autonomy and is the aspiration of most American households. Homeownership allows households to accumulate wealth and social status, and is the basis for a number of positive social, economic, family and civic outcomes.”

Today, we want to cover the section of the report that quoted several studies concentrating on the impact homeownership has on the health of family members. Here are some of the major findings on this issue revealed in the report:

  • There is a strong positive relationship between living in poor housing and a range of health problems, including respiratory conditions such as asthma, exposure to toxic substances, injuries and mental health. Homes of owners are generally in better condition than those of renters.
  • Findings reveal that increases in housing wealth were associated with better health outcomes for homeowners.
  • Low-income people who recently became homeowners reported higher life satisfaction, higher self-esteem, and higher perceived control over their lives.
  • Homeowners report higher self-esteem and happiness than renters. For example, homeowners are more likely to believe that they can do things as well as anyone else, and they report higher self-ratings on their physical health even after controlling for age and socioeconomic factors.
  • Renters who become homeowners not only experience a significant increase in housing satisfaction but also obtain a higher satisfaction even in the same home in which they resided as renters.
  • Social mobility variables, such as the family financial situation and housing tenure during childhood and adulthood, impacted one’s self-rated health.
  • Homeowners have a significant health advantage over renters, on average. Homeowners are 2.5 percent more likely to have good health. When adjusting for an array of demographic, socioeconomic, and housing–related characteristics, the homeowner advantage is even larger at 3.1 percent.

Bottom Line

People often talk about the financial benefits of homeownership. As we can see, there are also social benefits of owning your own home.

Feb. 13, 2017

I'm a Matchmaker

Feb. 5, 2017

Anchorage Residential Sales - 2015-2016

Contrary to popular belief, our Anchorage market has shown to be a flat market from 2015-2016. The average sale price for 2015 & 2016 was roughly around $366,000. The number of Anchorage residential units sold, believe it or not, was 246 for BOTH 2015 & 2016 with the average days on market to be 51 days. The forecast for 2017 is predicted to be much of the same, with maybe a slight decrease in average price but should be pretty close to what 2016 has shown. So if you're thinking of Selling this year, now would be a great time to get your home on the market while the market.

 

Feb. 5, 2017

3 Ways To Give Your Kitchen A Mini Makeover

Your kitchen is often the heart and soul of your home. It's where many homeowners spend a significant amount of their time - preparing meals for friends and family, trying out new recipes or just gathering their loved ones for a glass of wine and a conversation. Doesn't it make sense to keep the kitchen as up to date as possible? Here are some tips to make your kitchen the very best it can be:

1. Declutter

The last thing you want in any room is clutter. Having too much stuff - especially stuff that you don't use - can make your kitchen feel overwhelming, not to mention add frustration to the cooking process when you have to spend 15 minutes digging through a mountain of assorted pots, pans, and cutlery to find your pasta strainer. Take a day and go through all the cabinets, drawers and closet space in your kitchen. The goal is to get rid of anything that you don't use on a regular basis; tools that you use weekly should stay readily accessible in the kitchen, tools that you use once in awhile should go into storage and tools that you haven't used since the first "Harry Potter" hit theaters should get boxed up and donated. One you've eliminated the extra clutter in your kitchen, set up an organizational system that makes sense for you. Keep the pots, pans and tools that you use more often towards the front of your shelves so you can easily grab them when you need them. Have separate spaces for different types of kitchen tools (like one drawer for serving utensils, one drawer for everyday eating utensils, and one drawer for special occasion cutlery) so you know exactly where to find things when you need them. Spending time decluttering and organizing your kitchen might take some dedication at first, but the amount of time it will save you in the long run will make up for it a thousand times over.

2. Invest In New Gadgets

If you're a person who really enjoys being in the kitchen, investing in new gadgets can not only make the cooking process more enjoyable for you (and up the quality of your dishes), but it can also save you time and energy while you're preparing meals, leaving you more time to relax and enjoy the people you're cooking for. Functional tools, like a garlic press or a vegetable spiralizer, will save you tons of time on prep. If you're a baker, investing in a stand mixer can make your doughs and batters come together better and give you a much smoother end result. If you don't have a ton of time to cook during the week, a Crock-Pot will allow you to throw a few ingredients in, leave it all day and then come home from work to a hot, home-cooked meal. When you're investing in kitchen gadgets, it's important to spend some time really thinking about what you need and what you'll actually use. A high-tech blender is certainly impressive, but if you're not the kind of person who's making smoothies on a daily basis, it's just going to take up space on your counter and create more clutter. Identify your needs, then invest in gadgets that are going to fill those needs and make your life in the kitchen easier and more enjoyable.

3. Do Some Redecorating

If your kitchen has had the same look for years, a few simple decorating updates can make it feel like a whole new space, which can a) make you want to be in the kitchen more and b) inspire a new energy that you bring to your cooking. When it comes to redecorating, you don't have to do anything drastic like invest in new granite countertops or replace all of your cabinetry. Small changes like a fresh coat of paint, new bar stools for your island or new decorative accents can completely change the look and feel of your kitchen. If you're looking to make some changes to your kitchen, these tips will help you maximize your space and get your kitchen experience on point. So get in there, make some changes and start cooking!