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70248499 - lunch and restBuying a fixer-upper? Whether you have a small remodeling job ahead of you or a big one, you’re always much better off with a plan. Here are some tips for coming up with a plan designed to help you succeed:

Decide how much you’re going to spend. Make a plan for exactly what needs to be done on your property and set a budget. Don’t forget that home renovation projects are notorious for going over budget. You’ll want to allow for a cost overrun of 10 to 12 percent, or more if you are purchasing a distressed property on an as-is basis that could have some defects you don’t know about.

Go neutral. If you’re fixing up a home you plan to live in over the long term, by all means select the colors, textures, window coverings and appliances that you like. But if you are going to be selling your property in the near future, you may want to select neutral accents with the most widespread appeal. A Realtor can be a great help with this.

Find good help. Do your homework when hiring contractors. Many people fail to check out a contractor’s licenses and references. Don’t skip this important step.

Negotiate a detailed contract. A contract can make it clear for all parties involved. Include a start-date as well as an estimated completion date, and details about all the services being rendered. Spelling this out at the beginning can keep you and your contractor on the same page and prevent miscommunication.

Think ahead. You could be living with a construction zone for weeks. Try to schedule major work at a time when it will have the least impact on your daily routine.

Speak up. Contractors can produce some amazing work, but they won’t know exactly how you feel about it unless you tell them. If you find something along the way that surprises you, or something that you don’t like, mention it as soon as possible. You don’t want to get to the end of a remodel and have something become permanent that could have easily been fixed before the project was finished. Good luck!

46796187_MEight seconds.

Not much time, right? But that’s how long you have to catch a buyer’s attention when selling a home. So, you’ve got to make those seconds count from the moment a prospective buyer arrives on your property.

It’s not just about selling your home quickly. It’s also about fetching the highest price possible.

Properties that look nice and smell nice inevitably sell for more money than comparable homes with cluttered closets, dishes in the sink and dandelions speckling the front lawn. So, how do you get your home ready for a potential buyer? Here are some tips that will help you make a good first impression.

Let’s start with the outside:

  • Curbside appeal: Believe it or not, the cleanliness of your street and sidewalk matter when it comes to selling a house. Keep the pavement in front of your house free of litter – even if it takes a sweep – and remove any weeds that may be growing up through the cracks of your sidewalk.
  • Fresh paint: Even if you don’t want to spend the money to paint the entire house, there are a couple places that will pay off in dividends if you can afford a few gallons of paint. When it comes to making a good first impression, there’s no better place to start than with the fence. Give it a fresh coat. You should also think about the front door, shutters and even lamp posts to send a message that you care about details.
  • Landscaping: No buyer will be impressed by an overgrown, or weed-infested, lawn. Keep the yard looking nice in the spring and summer by mowing the grass, weeding flower beds and clipping any hedges. Take time to prepare your yard in the fall. And in the winter be sure to keep your driveway and sidewalks clear.

Now for the inside:

  • Lighten up: Make sure your house looks as bright as possible. Light is a proven seller. So keep the windows clean, replace any burned-out light bulbs and even use mirrors to help magnify the feeling of light and space.
  • Color scheme: Although you may enjoy decorating in orange or lime green, avoid those colors when selling. Look for neutral colors that allow buyers to better picture themselves in the home.
  • Clean, clean and de-clutter: Make sure your potential buyer isn’t distracted by a gallon of milk on the counter, dust bunnies beneath the couch or knickknacks piled high on your shelves. Focus on making your home look big, clean and desirable.

Does that help? If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call.

5831173_MReady to buy your first home? Your first step is to visit a mortgage lender to see how much house you can afford. But be prepared for the paperwork that comes with it. Here are the documents you’ll be asked to provide as part of the loan application process:

Rental payment history. If you’re a first-time home buyer, you’ll need to provide proof that you paid your rent on time. Your lender can tell you how to document this payment history.

Tax returns. You will likely be asked for two or three years of tax returns with all the attached schedules and documents.

Paychecks, W-2s and other income documentation. Start with at least a month’s worth of paychecks, plus W-2 forms for you and your spouse. Do you have income from other sources? Include documentation for any freelance work, self-employment income and child support payments as well.

Account information. Your lender will want to see checking and savings account statements for at least one month. You may be asked for any other account statements as well to document your down payment funds and money you have set aside in savings.

Remember, the more quickly you respond to requests for documentation, the more quickly your loan application can be processed!

Poor credit score report with pen and keyboardEver wonder which things can affect your credit score the most when you’re applying for a mortgage loan? Here are some of the top factors that can dramatically lower anyone’s score:

  • You’re 30 days late (or more) paying a bill. You could see a 60- to 110-point drop in your score by being a month late on a financial obligation. Expect more of a drop if you’re 60, 90 or 120 days late.
  • You have gone through foreclosure, a short sale or bankruptcy. A typical drop after a foreclosure is 85 to 160 points. A short sale will result in a substantial drop in credit score, too. A bankruptcy could push down your score by 130 to 240 points.
  • You’re maxed out. Being close to (or over) the credit limit on all your credit cards can definitely hurt your score.

Everyone’s situation is different, and how long these credit-score drops remain in effect vary. The key to rebuilding your credit is to pay your bills on time and avoid using all of the credit that’s available to you.

Although a “perfect” credit score can be over 800, remember that to get the best deal on your next mortgage, you’ll need a score of around 720 to 780. Want to learn more about your credit score? Read this article.

Directly above photograph of a housing rental applicationLandlords take note: Effective this year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has implemented new rules that determine whether upgrades to an investment property can be deducted in a single year on your tax filing or depreciated over many years.

How can you tell the difference? Your accountant or tax adviser likely will take a look at these guidelines:

The BAR test:

Improvements must be depreciated and fall into three general categories – betterment, adaptation and restoration, also known as BAR. Factors to evaluate include the condition of a property before and after damage occurred in a storm or other weather event, and the time period that elapsed between fixes to normal wear and tear.

Betterments include upgrades that address a material condition or defect, those that expand or extend the property, and those that increase the property’s strength or quality.

Adaptations are changes intended to turn the property into a new or different use from when the property was placed into service.

Restorations include replacements of substantial structural parts or major components, like-new rebuilding of property whose economic useful life has ended and conversion of property in disrepair to “ordinarily efficient operating condition”

The Unit of Property test:

The IRS divides properties into nine units of property, also know as UOPs. On one hand, repairs to the entire building and structural components likely will constitute a deduction. On the other hand, repairs to building systems such as plumbing and electricity likely will need to be depreciated. Confused? You aren’t alone. The new rules are creating a lot of confusion. This is definitely one area that you’ll want to consult a tax professional!

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