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Friday, February 25, 2011

Should I Sell Now?

We have all heard the saying, "Buy low and sell high." However, with home sales in the dump these last couple of years it is hard to follow that advice if you really have to sell your home. However, National Association of Realtors just published this article today that states that existing home sales are up for the third month in a row and we are now above sales levels from a year ago. It may not be back exactly to where we would want them to be but three months of improvement sure does make me feel a bit better.

Deciding to sell your home can be a tough decision and there are lots of things you should consider. HGTV's Frontdoor (HGTV's very own website that allows you to search homes for sale!) put out an article that you can find here and it addresses many different things to think about when you  are pondering putting your home for sale. One of my favorite things in this article is the fact that a lot of people most likely forget to consider ALL the costs that go into selling a home and they list out a TON of them. For example, in today's market did you know that you may possibly need to look into making your home more green?! A lot more home buyers today are concerned with how energy efficient a home is and how much money "being green" will save them. Bet you didn't think of that....I definitely didn't!!!

So you have now read the article and are ready to put your home for sale. Have you thought about how the house should follow the five senses when showing? Wait, what's that you say?! Yes, a home that shows well is a home that appeals to all five senses. Let me give you a few tips on how to appeal to the potential home buyer on a very basal level.

  • Sight: Make the home as bright as you possibly can! Open up all the blinds, turn on all the lights and make sure even the darkest corners get some love. It will make the home feel more open and larger. In this picture, all the lights are on and they even lit the pantry!



  • Smell: You want the house to smell like it just had the deepest cleaning ever. The clean smell elicits thoughts that the house has been taken care of and the new home buyer will not have a major cleaning chore on their hands, thus not wanting to buy the home. Many real estate agents have also said to me that any home that smelled like you just baked some sort of sweet goodness has a tendency of selling faster. We all love sweets!! If you don't have time, you can always get a scented candle that makes it smell like you had all the time in the world.


  • Hearing: Studies have shown that classical music can help when you are studying because it gets the brain active. I can't really explain the science behind it but they do know it helps with retention. You TOTALLY want a potential home buyer to remember your home right?!! Throw on the classical music station in the major rooms of the home and get those brain cells going. 

  • Touch: We all know that home buyers are going to open cabinets, sit on couches, lean on counter tops and probably do more that we don't want to admit to. So, make sure all surfaces are clean and smooth, the couches are not covered in little crumbs from the kids crackers, and the floors are swept for those that like to take their shoes off. 


And finally, Taste. Ok, so this sense may not be used when walking through a home. (At least you hope not...that would be a little awkward!) But you can utilize this sense by actually making that cake or those cookies and leaving them for those potential home buyers. They will love them and will definitely remember your house for the nice walk through snack!








Sunday, February 13, 2011

All Stagers Are NOT Created Equally

If you are shopping for a home stager, you should be sure to view their work and not just shop based upon price.  Yes, price does play a part in any shopping expedition but when you are looking to transform your largest investment (your house), do you go to Wal Mart?  I don't.  But I don't go to Neiman Marcus either (no disrespect for either Wally World or Neiman's - both have a place in our shopping society).  

Today's curb appeal starts on line and if you look worse than (or even "just like") the competition, you will lose priority to the listings with photos that merchandises itself to create EMOTION.  After all, pricing will attract buyers but staging will attract offers.

So back to my department store analogy.  Personally, my favorite department store is Nordstrom.  Their service is amazing and their product is excellent while not being grossly overpriced.  And their merchandising of their product is extraordinary - I want to take home everything I see.  I want to BE that mannequin wearing the amazing boots and trendy sweater (I'd also like to be her size but that isn't going to happen, I enjoy eating way too much).

I DIGRESS...let's get back on point.   Here are photos of what I'm referring to as the Wal Mart level of staging:
Adult Art on display?

Pillows in the center of the floor do not count as a substitute for a sofa.

*** REMOVED ***
Is that wall supposed to signify the stations of the cross as I make a pilgrimage to the refrigerator?

Big room?  Or big red rug?  I get the need for some color in the space but I'm getting DIZZY.

(Above photos are from Uglyhousephotos.com)
Now I am not claiming that we know everything there is about staging or that we are perfect in any way.  But I do believe that a picture is worth a thousand words.  So check out the gallery or portfolio of the firm you're looking to enlist.  If you see any of the photos above featured on their website, just know you're shopping at Wal Mart and you'll get what you pay for.  

And for comparative purposes, THIS is our version of a traditional home's "Nordstrom" level staging:


If you want to shop Nordie's and not Wally World, please feel free to contact us for pricing.  
We are at your service.

Oh, and if you want to see more amazing transformations, check out our YouTube channel, Facebook page and of course, our website.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

Create Office Bliss


Do you walk into your office, whether it be in your home or in an office building, and instantly feel overwhelmed with clutter and mess?! 

Are you constantly searching for something and using up precious time??!!

 Are you tired of feeling like nothing gets done because there is so much stacked up in piles on your desk?!!!!!! 

Well folks, have no fear. For just one LOW LOW price of $19.95 YOU TOO can have an organized desk with the Desk Mate 3000.... 

HA! I really was starting to sound like an infomercial there huh? Ok, so I can't sell you a magic machine to organize your office space, but I can help you spend your time wisely to get organized and stay that way.

In my last post I talked about what financial information you should keep and for how long you should hold onto it. I also helped you set up an easy filing system in your cabinet. Now let us tackle the rest of your office. First, let's get three large bins and label them Keep, Trash, and Maybe. We want to keep the Maybe bin pretty empty and reserve only for things we're not sure if we can get rid of or not sure of where to keep it. We will organize that bin last. Also, if you work out of your home, you might want to create a fourth bin labeled, Not Office, for the things that really shouldn't be in your office. We want to create this bin so that you aren't constantly leaving your office during clean up to put these things away and take you away from the task at hand.

Ok, READY??!! Deep breath......let's go!

Sit at your desk and start going through the things that are within reaching distance. Whether it's paperwork, folders, trash, or office supplies, start sorting. Try and not spend too much time on any one item - we want to quickly make the decision which bin it goes into, otherwise this project could take too long, overwhelm you more, and then possibly stop you from finishing. Work your way to the edges of your desk and then to any other open surfaces in your office. We want to get all the visual spaces cleaned off first so you can see the headway you are making and keep you going.

Once you get all the open surfaces cleaned off, make your way to the drawers at your desk. Clean out all those pens that don't work anymore, candy that is a year old, marketing toys that take up space, or that random ketchup packet that looks 10 years old. DON'T try and organize each drawer right now, just continue with the bins. We will go back and organize each drawer when we are done sorting. If you have a drawer with files in it, quickly look at each file, decide whether or not to keep the file as a whole, and then go through the file itself. KEEP SORTING!!!! Make your way to your bookshelf if you have one. Books are always hard to get rid of so let's just worry about any random papers or other items that have been stacked in this space. We don't necessarily have to get rid of any books if you have the space, but we will go back and organize them.

OK.... all visual space and drawers sorted??!!! Now onto part 2!

First, let's go ahead and tackle the trash bin since it is the easiest. Get it OUT OF THERE!!!!! WOW...doesn't that feel good??!! Also, the bin for those of us that work from the house labeled Not Office, go ahead and put that outside your office but don't start putting all of it away, just get it out of your office to clear up floor space. LOOKIE THERE....now you just have two bins to organize!

Second, let's tackle the office supplies. Gather up all your pens, pencils, or any other writing utensil and put them all in one place. It can be a container in a drawer or a holder on your desk. I would also think about getting something that can hold pens and other supplies like paper clips, thumbtacks, staples, rubber bands, scissors, or any other loose supplies you have so that they don't end up in another mess. Containers that hold multiple things are usually better stored in a drawer. PLUS, we want to keep your desk space as open as we can! Also, keep essential items only on your desk. Think about what you use the most and keep it within reaching distance. Place all other office supplies in a drawer or on top of another work space. (This would be a good time to find a home for that random 3 hole punch, stamps and stamp pads, and maybe that hardly ever used pencil sharpener) Pictures are a great thing to have in your office if in moderation, and only in spaces that you don't use for actual work - like the corners of your desk or on a bookshelf in front of rarely used books. Finish organizing your drawers that contain personal items or other non-work related items. Leave the filing drawers for the next step.

Third, and probably the most important - organizing the paperwork. Before we tackle that, let's make some files to keep on your desk to help you stay organized. I'm not a big fan of bins simply because the papers at the bottom end up staying there forever and never get looked at again... well, at least until you muster up the energy to organize again!!! Let's create files that are labeled To Do, File Me, Pending, and Incoming/Unopened. These files will help you stay more organized and keep piles from being created in your workspace. DON'T EVER let these desk files get too full, otherwise you will have to spend more time on each file than what is needed. Also, create files that you know will be used that can hang inside your drawer. For example, someone in sales will create a file(s) for marketing pieces, client(s), or industry related materials.

Ok now, off you go - Sort all that paperwork you kept!!!!!!!!

WOW WEE!!!! Look at you go!!!!

Are you feeling better now? DO YOU SEE all your hard work paying off??!!!! There are only two things left to tackle and that is your bookshelf if you have one, and your Maybe bin. Let's start with the bookshelf. You can go one of two ways. One way - just get books standing up in the shelves and leave it at that, OR you could organize your books according to subject/relevance and/or size. Either way, you will create a better looking bookshelf than what it was before. Any empty space could always be left open for more books or filled with your pictures, awards, or those awesome office trinkets.

Now on to what I think is the hardest part - the Maybe bin. These are the things that you weren't sure whether you should keep or not. My best advice - keep and file the papers that you could see yourself needing in the next 6 months. The rest of the paperwork you could:
 1.) Create a file or a box and keep in drawer or storage space that isn't used in your immediate workspace/office. 
2.) Scan and save it on your computer. 
3.) Trash it. 
This is your preference. As far as the other items that aren't paperwork, use the same six month rule. Keep it if you will need it in the next 6 months and store it appropriately or get rid of it. 

HOLY COW - LOOK AT YOUR OFFICE!!!!!!!!!!

Doesn't that feel good!! Don't you feel like you can now be more effective with your precious time??!!! I think now would be a great time to dig into that candy you have kept a steady supply of and reward yourself. Sit back, eat your candy, and look around at the wonderfully clean and organized office you just created. 



OH CRAP....that bin of non-office items is still in the hallway....Yeah, that can wait.......  ;-) 




Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Important Things Need Important Places

Well folks, I know you will all be excited and cheer loudly when you hear me say, "It's TAX TIME again!!!"



Wait, what? Why do I only hear the sound of crickets??!! Is it because you dread giving more money to the government or maybe the fact that you have to find all those important documents you need to file your taxes??? AGAIN!

Don't worry, I am not some quirky person with a huge desire to file my taxes every year either. I dread it just as much as everyone, but I do know that I try and make it easier on myself every year by keeping my paperwork filed and organized properly. Do you?


WHAT??? Crickets again??? Well, I am here to help! How about we go through what to keep, where to keep it, and how long to keep all this paperwork. Hopefully this will cut down on some tax time stress!!!

Let's take a look at what paperwork you should keep and how long you need to hang onto it. Take a look at this list found on Bankrate:


Financial records timeline
Type of record
Length of time to keep, and why:
Taxes

Returns

Canceled checks/receipts (alimony, charitable contributions, mortgage interest and retirement plan contributions)

Records for tax deductions taken
Seven years
  •          The IRS has three years from your filing date to audit your return if it suspects good-faith errors.
  •           The three-year deadline also applies if you discover a mistake in your return and decide to file an amended return to claim a refund.
  •           The IRS has six years to challenge your return if it thinks you underreported your gross income by 25 percent or more.
  •           There is no time limit if you failed to file your return or filed a fraudulent return.

IRA contribution records
Permanently
If you made a nondeductible contribution to an IRA, keep the records indefinitely to prove that you already paid tax on this money when the time comes to withdraw.
Retirement/savings plan statements
From one year to permanently
  •           Keep the quarterly statements from your 401(k) or other plans until you receive the annual summary; if everything matches up, then shred the quarterlies.
  •           Keep the annual summaries until you retire or close the account.

Bank records
From one year to permanently
  •           Go through your checks each year and keep those related to your taxes, business expenses, home improvements and mortgage payments.
  •           Shred those that have no long-term importance.

Brokerage statements
Until you sell the securities
You need the purchase or sales slips from your brokerage or mutual fund to prove whether you have capital gains or losses at tax time.
Bills
From one year to permanently
  •           Go through your bills once a year.
  •          In most cases, when the canceled check from a paid bill has been returned, you can shred the bill.
  •           However, bills for big purchases -- such as jewelry, rugs, appliances, antiques, cars, collectibles, furniture, computers, etc. -- should be kept in an insurance file for proof of their value in the event of loss or damage.

Credit card receipts and statements
From 45 days to seven years
  •           Keep your original receipts until you get your monthly statement; shred the receipts if the two match up.
  •           Keep the statements for seven years if tax-related expenses are documented.

Paycheck stubs
One year
  •         When you receive your annual W-2 form from your employer, make sure the information on your stubs matches.
  •         If it does, shred the stubs. If it doesn't, demand a corrected form, known as a W-2c.

House/condominium records
From six years to permanently
  •           Keep all records documenting the purchase price and the cost of all permanent improvements -- such as remodeling, additions and installations.
  •           Keep records of expenses incurred in selling and buying the property, such as legal fees and your real estate agent's commission, for six years after you sell your home.
  •           Holding on to these records is important because any improvements you make on your house, as well as expenses in selling it, are added to the original purchase price or cost basis. This adds up to a greater profit (also known as capital gains) when you sell your house. Therefore, you lower your capital gains tax




WOW - what a comprehensive list!! Now, I suggest that each one of these categories has its own file in a fireproof filing cabinet which can be found at any local office supply store. Organize your cabinet whichever way you like but keep it simple. The more simple it is kept, the easier it will be for you to keep it up all year long. I like to buy hanging file folders that allow for clear tabs all along the top so I can clearly see each file and what contents are inside. You could even get manila folders to sub categorize each hanging file folder. For example, say you had two credit cards: Mastercard and Visa. You could make a manila folder for each and place in the main hanging folder titled "Credit card receipts". It is a personal preference, but the more organized, the easier.

We can take it a step further and organize a small, portable, fireproof box to hold important documents (or copies) in case of a fire or emergency. This should hold things like:

  • Birth/death certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Passports
  • Emergency contact information (Insurance agents, doctors, family)
  • Marriage certificates/divorce decrees
  • Wills
  • Copies of driver's license, green card, or other identification cards
  • Copies of life saving prescriptions (like insulin, asthma inhalers, etc)
  • List of bank account and credit card account numbers
  • Inventory of household goods
Since these documents are pretty darn important, make sure you keep it somewhere it is easily accessed. 

So now that we are getting more organized for tax time, can I get a single "WOO HOO!"????


That's better!