Monday, February 29, 2016

Why Home Buying Is (or Isn't) Like Dating

Why Home Buying Is (or Isn’t) Like Dating

real estate is like dating
kukurikov/iStock; S-S-S/iStock
There’s something desperately missing in your life. You decide to do something about it now, and so you sign up for one of a slew of websites that aim to help yearning hearts like yours find a match. You flip through profiles late at night, and certain phrases or well-lit photos make your heart skip a beat. And when you think you may have found “The One,” you figure it’s time to make an assessment in person.
Dating? Or house hunting?
It could be either.
Neither buying your dream home nor finding true love comes without effort. But just how deep does the comparison go? To find out, we pulled together some data about both—the emotional highs and devastating lows that people experience on their journeys. You be the judge.
Before you even begin to look for homes, you’ve probably heard all about rising home prices, bidding wars, stringent mortgage standards, and other rough-and-tumble tales (especially if you’re a regular reader of®!). If you feel a little disheartened, you’re not alone. A little over half of home buyers (52%) believe they will find their dream home in their price range, while 48% say it’s impossible, according to a 2014 survey by BMO Harris Bank.
People are way more optimistic when it comes to love. A 2011 Marist pollshowed that 73% of Americans believe that they are destined to find their soul mate.
But while some say that positive thinking is the key to success, thinking alone won’t get you there. It’s all about the numbers, baby! Which leads us to…
Life would be so much simpler if the first house you ever visited, or the first person you ever kissed, was The One—but you don’t live in a fairy tale. (Do you? If so, please contact us!)
Home buyers, be prepared for the long haul: Buyers typically search for 10 weeks and look at 10 homes before purchasing, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Love doesn’t come easily, either. According to a British study, an average adult woman will have five relationships, four disaster dates, 15 kisses with different men, and two heartbreaks before meeting The one.
What about the guys? The “player” stereotype doesn’t really hold up: The average man will have six relationships and be stood up twice before finding his perfect half.
The Internet has made finding a home much easier than ever. The NAR report shows 92% of home buyers use the Internet at some point during their search. Online websites (such as, ahem, are deemed a very useful information source by 82% of buyers, while not quite as many (but still a high number: 78%) say the same about their flesh-and-blood real estate agent.
Although there’s been a sea change in the way that people view online dating (the idea of finding love on the Internet once fell somewhere on the scale between dubious and pathetic), people aren’t quite as quick to jump online to seek a mate as they are to look for a house.
A 2013 Pew Research Center survey showed 38% of Americans who were single and actively looking for a partner had used online dating sites or mobile dating apps. But among those who have, the majority say dating sites and apps help people find a better romantic match because of the wide range of potential partners they can access.
The first few minutes home buyers spend at an open house go a long way in influencing their decisions. Three-quarters (77%) of home buyers say they’ll know immediately when they’ve found their ideal house, says the BMO Harris Bank survey.
About half (52%) of Americans say they believe in love at first sight, reveals a Gallup poll. Another study shows it takes only 12 minutes for people on a first date to decide if they’re interested in the other person. As soon as people sit down, they will be immediately judged on their smile (64%), whether they make eye contact (58%), and their tone of voice (25%).
Just like the sexy-hot European sports car you bought which turns out to get 4.5 miles per gallon and not even have room for a suitcase in its trunk, the house that you spend months buying may turn out to be a bummer. About 80% of home buyers have at least one major regret about their new home, says an survey. Some top complaints include being too small, not having enough storage space, neighbors, and school system. 

The reality, of course, is that neither homes nor relationships are ever truly
perfect. But if you really work at understanding what you want and what you need, and taking the time to assess a variety of options, you’re likely to find a pretty good fit. Maybe even one that will improve with time.What about people? Well, the person that you pledge to share your life with can also turn out to be Mr. (or Mrs.) Wrong. A whopping 72% of married women have considered leaving their husband at some point, and more than half (57%) sometimes regret marrying him, according to a poll by Woman’s Day and AOL Living. Relax, that doesn’t mean all of them are getting a divorce. Despite the regrets, 71% still expect to be married to their spouse for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

8 Things Realtors* Do Behind Your Back.

8 Things Realtors Do to Earn Their Keep

Geri Lavrov/Getty Images
Have you ever wondered what on Earth your real estate agent is doing behind your back?
No, we don’t mean anything underhanded, naughty, or downright felonious—far from it, in fact. So relax. What we’re talking about is a mystery: In the sometimes confusing, occasionally hectic, and always stressful world of buying and selling, what are your agents really doing behind the scenes?
We’re here to shed some light! For every hour an agent spends in your presence, he or she will spend an average of nine hours out of eyesight working on your behalf. Why? Because agents don’t get paid if they don’t close the deal! Unlike lawyers who bill by the hour, agents won’t receive a penny until (or unless) a sale comes through. It’s all a gamble, in which they could shoot snake eyes and come away empty-handed. This is the business.
So if you’re wondering what agents do to earn their paycheck, we’ve compiled a list of things they do when you’re not watching (or should be doing—if they’re not, maybe you need a different agent!).

They shop property online

Don’t we all? And yet, their real estate research goes beyond oohing andahhing over a few photos on a Saturday night. Darbi McGlone, a Realtor® with Jim Talbot Realty in Baton Rouge, LA, estimates she spends about two hours each day researching potential properties.

Plus, listings come and go fast in the real estate world, so agents need to check their multiple listing service database constantly, or else they’ll miss out. Sometimes the process of matching up properties with clients can take a very long time.
“This could include looking up flood zones, previewing the homes for out-of-state clients, or any number of specific things,” she says.
“I have a client who wants a Mid-Century Modern house in Carlsbad, but there aren’t many there,” says Rachel Collins Friedman, a Realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty in San Diego, CA. That means that she’s been searching the database regularly for that particular kind of property for three years (here’s hoping all that patience pays off).

They go prospecting

Of course, there’s nothing like seeing a house in all its brick-and-mortar glory, which is why most Realtors worth their salt spend tons of time driving around checking out new listings. In Friedman’s San Diego area, they call it “caravan day.”
“It’s a good way to preview properties, and it’s a good time to network with other agents and talk up your listing,” she says.

They attend pitch sessions

Agents don’t spend all their time sizing up homes. According to Friedman, they also spend tons of face time with other pros at pitch sessions—gatherings of local agents at cafes where they swap listing info in order to spread the word about your property if you’re selling, or to find the house that checks every box on your wish list if you’re buying.

They spend their own money on marketing

In addition to not getting paid until a deal is done, selling agents also spend their own money on marketing: magazine and newspaper ads, fliers, hiring a photographer, glossy prints, and premium placements on listing sites.
“Agents can spend thousands marketing a property,” says Friedman.

They write up offers and counteroffers

Offers and counteroffers are an extremely important part of the transaction, as they can save or net you thousands of dollars on a sale. Yet getting to the right price requires written offers and counteroffers every step of the way.
“It’s time-consuming to be writing them up, explaining to the client how to counteroffer and the ways to do so, and just keeping track of it all,” Friedman says.

They stick around for inspections

You might not be present when it’s inspection time, but a good agent will be. This gives the agent an immediate knowledge of what’s going on. Anything from termites to an iffy foundation can be relayed to the buyer immediately, according to Friedman. McGlone estimates inspections take roughly two hours.

They smooth bumps in the road

Not every sale goes smoothly—buyers and sellers get difficult all the time—but good agents try to shield their clients from the high drama unless there’s a reason to fill them in.
“It’s called putting out fires,” says McGlone. “It’s just fixing issues that a lot of times buyers and sellers never needed to be made aware of.”

They keep you calm when the pressure’s on

Good agents don’t just hand you a house. They can also act as a therapist, making your sale much less stressful.
“People get emotional. You have to be a problem-solver and keep a positive approach and come up with a positive solution,” Friedman says. “It might not take a lot of time, but it takes emotional energy.”
Tell that to your therapist.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Don't Miss These Home Tax Deductions

Don’t Miss These Home Tax Deductions Published: December 22, 2014 By: Dona DeZube On : HouseLogic From mortgage interest to property tax deductions, here are the tax tips you need to get a jump on your returns.
If you itemize your deductions, you may get back some of the money you spent on mortgage interest and property taxes. Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic Owning a home can pay off at tax time. Take advantage of these homeownership-related tax deductions and strategies to lower your tax bill: Mortgage Interest Deduction One of the neatest deductions itemizing homeowners can take advantage of is the mortgage interest deduction, which you claim on Schedule A. To get the mortgage interest deduction, your mortgage must be secured by your home — and your home can be a house, trailer, or boat, as long as you can sleep in it, cook in it, and it has a toilet. Interest you pay on a mortgage of up to $1 million — or $500,000 if you’re married filing separately — is deductible when you use the loan to buy, build, or improve your home. If you take on another mortgage (including a second mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit) to improve your home or to buy or build a second home, that counts towards the $1 million limit. If you use loans secured by your home for other things — like sending your kid to college — you can still deduct the interest on loans up $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately) because your home secures the loan. Prepaid Interest Deduction Prepaid interest (or points) you paid when you took out your mortgage is generally 100% deductible in the year you paid it along with other mortgage interest. If you refinance your mortgage and use that money for home improvements, any points you pay are also deductible in the same year. But if you refinance to get a better rate or shorten the length of your mortgage, or to use the money for something other than home improvements, such as college tuition, you’ll need to deduct the points over the life of your mortgage. Say you refi into a 10-year mortgage and pay $3,000 in points. You can deduct $300 per year for 10 years. So what happens if you refi again down the road? Example: Three years after your first refi, you refinance again. Using the $3,000 in points scenario above, you’ll have deducted $900 ($300 x 3 years) so far. That leaves $2,400, which you can deduct in full the year you complete your second refi. If you paid points for the new loan, the process starts again; you can deduct the points over the life of the loan. Home mortgage interest and points are reported on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040. Your lender will send you a Form 1098 that lists the points you paid. If not, you should be able to find the amount listed on the HUD-1 settlement sheet you got when you closed the purchase of your home or your refinance closing. Property Tax Deduction You can deduct on Schedule A the real estate property taxes you pay. If you have a mortgage with an escrow account, the amount of real estate property taxes you paid shows up on your annual escrow statement. If you bought a house this year, check your HUD-1 settlement statement to see if you paid any property taxes when you closed the purchase of your house. Those taxes are deductible on Schedule A, too. PMI and FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums The 2014 tax season was the last for which you could claim the PMI deduction unless Congress renews it for 2015, which may happen. In the last few years, Congress has reauthorized it retroactively. You can deduct the cost of private mortgage insurance (PMI) as mortgage interest on Schedule A if you itemize your return. The change only applies to loans taken out in 2007 or later. What’s PMI? If you have a mortgage but didn’t put down a fairly good-sized down payment (usually 20%), the lender requires the mortgage be insured. The premium on that insurance can be deducted, so long as your income is less than $100,000 (or $50,000 for married filing separately). If your adjusted gross income is more than $100,000, your deduction is reduced by 10% for each $1,000 ($500 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return) that your adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000 ($50,000 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return). So, if you make $110,000 or more, you can’t claim the deduction (10% x 10 = 100%). Besides private mortgage insurance, there’s government insurance from FHA, VA, and the Rural Housing Service. Some of those premiums are paid at closing, and deducting them is complicated. A tax adviser or tax software program can help you calculate this deduction. Also, the rules vary between the agencies. Vacation Home Tax Deductions The rules on tax deductions for vacation homes are complicated. Do yourself a favor and keep good records about how and when you use your vacation home. If you’re the only one using your vacation home (you don’t rent it out for more than 14 days a year), you deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on Schedule A. Rent your vacation home out for more than 14 days and use it yourself fewer than 15 days (or 10% of total rental days, whichever is greater), and it’s treated like a rental property. Your expenses are deducted on Schedule E. Rent your home for part of the year and use it yourself for more than the greater of 14 days or 10% of the days you rent it and you have to keep track of income, expenses, and allocate them based on how often you used and how often you rented the house. Homebuyer Tax Credit This isn’t a deduction, but it’s important to keep track of if you claimed it in 2008. There were federal first-time homebuyer tax credits in 2008, 2009, and 2010. If you claimed the homebuyer tax credit for a purchase made after April 8, 2008, and before Jan. 1, 2009, you must repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years, with no interest. The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe each year until it’s paid off. Or if the home stops being your main home, you may need to add the remaining unpaid credit amount to your income tax on your next tax return. Generally, you don’t have to pay back the credit if you bought your home in 2009, 2010, or early 2011. The exception: You have to repay the full credit amount if you sold your house or stopped using it as primary residence within 36 months of the purchase date. Then you must repay it with your tax return for the year the home stopped being your principal residence. The repayment rules are less rigorous for uniformed service members, Foreign Service workers, and intelligence community workers who got sent on extended duty at least 50 miles from their principal residence. Energy-Efficiency Upgrades The 2014 tax season was the last for which you could claim the residential energy tax credit for making your home more energy efficient — unless Congress renews it for 2015. Tax credits are especially valuable because they let you offset what you owe the IRS dollar for dollar for up to 10% of the amount you spent on certain home energy-efficiency upgrades. The credit carries a lifetime cap of $500 (less for some products), so if you’ve used it in years past, you’ll have to subtract prior tax credits from that $500 limit. Lucky for you, there’s no cap on how much you’ll save on utility bills thanks to your energy-efficiency upgrades. Among the upgrades that might qualify for the credit: Biomass stoves Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning Insulation Roofs (metal and asphalt) Water heaters (non-solar) Windows, doors, and skylights If it’s renewed, file IRS Form 5695 with your return. Related: A Homeowner’s Guide to Taxes This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice; tax laws may vary by jurisdiction. Read more: Follow us: @HouseLogic on Twitter | HouseLogic on Facebook

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

5 Simple Ways to Have a Frugal Valentine's Day

5 Simple Ways to Have a Frugal Valentine's Day

You can celebrate the person you love without spending a lot. 

Portrait of affectionate mother and daughter
Are you ready to celebrate the day of love?          
Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Who doesn't like to take a day to show a loved one just how much they mean to them?
The retail industry takes that desire and preaches one message: You must spend money to accomplish it. The National Retail Federation reports Americans spent almost $150 per person for Valentine's Day gifts, totaling nearly $19 billion spent. This amount will make almost any frugal person shudder.
What is the frugal person to do? What if you want to show love to your special Valentine but not give into the retail message of the amount spent equating to more love? Thankfully, there are many possible options. Here are a few to consider.
Don't buy anything:
Retailers like to make us think we need to spend to have an enjoyable Valentine's Day. That's simply not the case. "A great way to save money on Valentine's Day is to plan an experience and not buy things," says personal finance expert Catherine Alford of Budget Blonde. That might seem impossible to do or contrary to the idea of Valentine's Day. It's not. The day should be about spending time with loved ones and sharing memories, not just buying stuff. Alford explains a family can plan a free outing for the day and come home to bake something together. You get to express the same love without the added cost.
Have a potluck:
Dining at a romantic restaurant is a popular Valentine's Day activity. There's nothing wrong with that, though prices are commonly raised, making it an even more expensive night out. Personal finance expert Scott Alan Turner explains a great frugal alternative to the expensive night out. "Get together with a group of friends and have a potluck dinner and a game night to celebrate and have a great time," he says. I know a potluck doesn't scream romance. That's not the point. The point is to share time with those close to you, not give into the idea that you have to spend on a pricey meal out to create memories.
Do something you never do:
Life is busy, and it can be a challenge to schedule time for something special. Valentine's Day is a great way to stop in the middle of the chaos of life and enjoy something you say you want to do but never allow yourself to do. "Do that one thing you never have time for. For some couples that may mean going to a movie, or sleeping in late. Valentine's Day this year is on a Sunday. Sleep in late, or fix breakfast in bed together," says author Becky Blanton. The beauty of this option is you can spend as little or as much as you want, though the point remains the same: Spend time to develop that relationship and create memories. That's what your loved one will remember, not the high-priced gift you bought.
Delay by a few days:
We all know prices on items like flowers (roses specifically) and candy spike right before Valentine's Day. Such a spike makes the traditional celebration even more expensive. "The most unconventional (but possibly most effective), would be to celebrate on the February 15 or 16. Flowers, chocolate and other items are being discounted back to pre-holiday prices, so if you typically buy those items you can definitely save quite a bit of money," says personal finance expert Nate Michaels of Hack Your Budget.
This is something my wife and I have personally done in the past as we typically don't celebrate the traditional holiday. We'll go out for a meal or buy gifts a few days to a week later allowing us to save a fair bit of money. It is important to point out, however, the need to discuss this with your partner prior so as to make sure they're okay with not celebrating on the exact day.
Be creative:
As has been said before, Valentine's Day is about spending time with those you love, not spending an exorbitant amount of money. A great way to celebrate the day without spending a lot requires some creativity. That can mean a lot of things, from buying a different and more reasonably priced flower, to making your own card, to a walk if your weather allows, to cooking a meal together.
All of those options are significantly cheaper, if not free, and communicate the same thing a pricey night out does. Valentine's Day is a fun holiday to celebrate. It can also be quite expensive. Look for other options to create memories that don't carry a hefty price tag.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

When is "Mardi Gras" 2016?

When is Mardi Gras, 2016?  Well, officially "Fat Tuesday" falls on February 9th, 2016, but since this is a much longer celebration with parades almost daily, you may want to head down to New Orleans, LA early!
Check out the "Mardi Gras"" website for info on parade schedules, history events and more. Each year the Mardi Gras season starts on twelfth night (after Christmas) and 47 days before Easter. This is always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.  It is based in Christianity but open to all faiths. If you haven't ever been, you should go. Put this on your "bucket list" to see at least once in your lifetime. Put on your Mardi Gras colors, and get down there! {Purple stands for justice, gold is for power and green is for faith.} It's "WOW"!
Mardi Gras website CLICK HERE.