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Monday, February 20, 2012

 

Mulling a kitchen remodel but want to keep costs low? You’re au courant with today’s trends that emphasize options and high-tech wizardry at affordable prices.

Trend #1: Remodeling scales back

A new focus on moderation and value has entered the remodeling mind-set. Trends that are likely to show up in your kitchen next year include:

You’ll repair your existing appliances instead of replacing them, extending their life with good maintenance and care. If you’re replacing cabinets, you’re likely to build around your current appliances rather than choosing new models.

You’re scaling back your cabinetry purchases, with an increased emphasis on kitchen storage and functionality over elaborate decoration. For example, rather than stacked crown moldings throughout the kitchen, you’ll put your money into practical roll-out trays and drawer organizers.

Small-scale kitchen projects are big news. Changing out cabinet hardware, replacing a faucet, and refacing your cabinets upgrades your kitchen without major expense.

Trend #2: Simpler, warmer styles dominate

Fussiness and excess have faded away in favor of pared-back looks that present a more timeless, value-conscious style.

Cabinet decoration continues to streamline. For example, massive corbels, once fashionable as undercounter supports, will give way to sleeker countertop supports and cantelivered countertop edges. Stacked moldings will pare back or disappear entirely. Elaborately glazed finishes will yield to simpler paints and stains.

Kitchen finishes will continue to get warmer and darker, and feature natural and stained woods. Walnut especially is growing in popularity.

Laminate countertops will continue to surge in popularity, especially in contemporary design. The latest European-inspired laminates offer more textured and naturalistic finishes than ever before. While exotic wood kitchen cabinets are out of reach for most home owners, glossy, look-alike laminate versions can be had for about one-third the price.

Trend #3: Technology expands its kitchen presence

Many of the techno products and trends that relate to your smartphones and tablets have just started making their way into your local showrooms and home centers.

Appliances will be equipped with USB ports and digital screens so you can display your family photographs and kids’ artwork.

Smart, induction built-in cooktops ($500-$3,000) remember your temperature settings as you move your pans across their entire surface.

One light finger touch is all it takes to open the electronically controlled sliding doors of your kitchen cabinets — a boon to people with limited mobilities. You’ll pay 40% to 70% more for cabinets with electronically controlled doors than standard models.

You’ll be able to use your smart phones and tablets to control lights and appliance settings from anywhere you have a wi-fi connection, as well as to shop for appliances from major manufacturers.

You’ll be opting for LEDs for your recessed lights, under-cabinet task lighting and color-changing accent lighting. You’ll see more LED-powered pendants and chandeliers from major manufacturers as inefficient incandescent bulbs continue their march toward extinction.

A wide selection of affordable microwave ovens with convection and even steam features gives owners of smaller kitchen spaces more high-end cooking power.

For more information on the latest home trends or suggestions that will help sell you house quickly, call the real estate experts at Bristol Properties International. In Boca Raton call 561-347-1303 or in Naples call 239-352-6400.

By: Jamie Goldberg - January 10, 2012

Comments: 1

Monday, February 20, 2012

From toilets that double as sound systems to water-conserving spa experiences, here’s what’s trendy for bathroom improvements for 2012.

 

All around the country, water reserves are stressed. In response, regional governments are implementing conservation measures. As a result, there are likely to be new regulations that’ll affect your construction or remodeling plans. Here’s what to watch for:

Your new toilet will have a lower flush-per-gallon rating than the one that’s in there now. Consider a dual-flush version, or any low-flow toilet coming on the market that meets your style preferences. At the very least, your next commode is likely to feature a 1.28 gallon-per-flush rating — better than even the most-recent 1.6 GPF offerings.You’ll find them at home improvement centers from $100 to luxury showroom models for thousands more.

The WaterSense label, launched in 2006 by the Environmental Protection Agency to promote water conservation by plumbing manufacturers and home owners, will become as well-known as Energy Star. You’ll be shopping for low-flow shower heads and faucets with the WaterSense symbol on the box. Just as with Energy Star appliances, there is no cost premium associated with WaterSense savings — there are faucets in every price range. WaterSense shower heads are newer on the market, with a more limited selection today — mostly at more affordable prices.

You’ll start seeing more shower heads — especially rain shower models — using Venturi principles that deliver strong water pressure by adding air, not water, to the mix. They’re available in every price range, from ultra-affordable standard heads to luxury rain showers.

 

You may not think of your bathroom as a high-tech space, but that’s about to change. Here are some of the trends that can benefit your home:

You’ll be able to create a custom showering experience more affordably than ever. For $300 for simple controllers to $3,500 or more for a complete luxury installation, programmable showers let you digitally set your preferred water temperature, volume, and even massage settings before you step in. To achieve a personalized showering experience, you’ll need a 120-volt power source, and a thermostatic valve and controller in addition to your standard shower head or heads. Luxury models may include a steam system, a wi-fi source for music, multiple body spray outlets, tankless water heater, and a secondary controller to start the system from another room.

Dock your iPhone or MP3 player directly with your speaker-equipped, high-tech toilet so you can entertain yourself on the commode. While you’re not likely to invest $4,000 to $6,000 for a Kohler Numi toilet using this technology today, start looking for competitive models later in the year with lower prices.

Catch up on news and weather while you brush your teeth. Television screens are being integrated into medicine cabinets and vanity mirrors. Cost? Early entries to the market command a premium $2,200 to $2,400 price tag.

Plug your smart phone or MP3 player into your medicine cabinet so you won’t miss a call or song while getting ready for work or bed. A built-in jack keeps your unit charged (and away from wet countertops) and linked into a built-in speaker system.

 

It’s not just high-tech that’s bringing an "experience" to the bathroom. Trends in universal design features add comfort, convenience, and safety. But that doesn’t mean your bathroom has to look institutional. Here are some universal design innovations that can factor helpfully (and stylishly) into your 2012 bath remodeling plans:

Sleek, low-profile linear drains are ideal for creating safe, zero-threshold shower designs. Unlike standard round drain covers that are typically mounted near the front end of a shower, these long, straight drains can be installed in different locations to minimize the slope of the shower floor. One popular location is at the outside edge of the shower, creating a wheelchair-friendly curbless shower. More offerings in more finishes — including nearly invisible tile-in channel models that are largely covered by shower floor tile — are becoming the standard for upscale spaces. You’ll spend $500 to $900 for a quality linear drain.

The rapidly-expanding selection of porcelain, glass, and ceramic tiles makes it easy to find slip-resistant, low-maintenance floors that don’t skimp on style. Expect to see faux wood, linen, and uniquely-textured looks for tiled bathroom floors and walls in 2012. The texture adds both visual impact and better traction for wet feet.

The accessible tub is no longer limited to the high-walled, narrow-door format that dominated the market in the last decade. Newer models, such as Kohler’s Elevance ($5,100), employ rising panels in front that give more of a traditional tub look with easier entry and exit. Others use standard hinged, sealed doors, but are increasing door width by several inches for better accessibility and appearance.

For more information on the latest home trends or suggestions that will help sell you house quickly, call the real estate experts at Bristol Properties International. In Boca Raton call 561-347-1303 or in Naples call 239-352-6400.

 

Trend #3: Aging demographics emphasize safety

 

Trend #2: Technology advances

 

Trend #1: Conservation rules

By: Jamie Goldberg - Published: January 09, 2012

Comments: 1

Friday, February 17, 2012

 

Make your home warm and inviting to boost your home’s value and speed up the sale process. Warm, neutral-colored paint is key when staging your home. The first step to getting buyers to make an offer on your home is to impress them with its appearance so they begin to envision themselves living there. Here are seven tips for making your home look bigger, brighter, and more desirable.

 

Before you can worry about where to place furniture and which wall hanging should go where, each room in your home must be spotless. Do a thorough cleaning right down to the nitpicky details like wiping down light switch covers. Deep clean and deodorize carpets and window coverings.

 

It’s harder for buyers to picture themselves in your home when they’re looking at your family photos, collectibles, and knickknacks. Pack up all your personal decorations. However, don’t make spaces like mantles and coffee and end tables barren. Leave three items of varying heights on each surface, suggests Barb Schwarz of www.StagedHomes.com in Concord, Pa. For example, place a lamp, a small plant, and a book on an end table.

 

When a room is packed with furniture, it looks smaller, which will make buyers think your home is less valuable than it is. Make sure buyers appreciate the size of each room by removing one or two pieces of furniture. If you have an eat-in dining area, using a small table and chair set makes the area seem bigger.

 

Highlight the flow of your rooms by arranging the furniture to guide buyers from one room to another. In each room, create a focal point on the farthest wall from the doorway and arrange the other pieces of furniture in a triangle around the focal point, advises Schwarz. In the bedroom, the bed should be the focal point. In the living room, it may be the fireplace, and your couch and sofa can form the triangle in front of it.

 

Brush on a fresh coat of warm, neutral-color paint in each room. Ask your real estate agent for help choosing the right shade. Then accessorize. Adding a vibrant afghan, throw, or accent pillows for the couch will jazz up a muted living room, as will a healthy plant or a bright vase on your mantle. High-wattage bulbs in your light fixtures will also brighten up rooms and basements.

 

Lay logs in the fireplace, and set your dining room table with dishes and a centerpiece of fresh fruit or flowers. Create other vignettes throughout the home—such as a chess game in progress—to help buyers envision living there. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones that let in more light.

Make your bathrooms feel luxurious by adding a new shower curtain, towels, and fancy guest soaps (after you put all your personal toiletry items are out of sight). Judiciously add subtle potpourri, scented candles, or boil water with a bit of vanilla mixed in. If you have pets, clean bedding frequently and spray an odor remover before each showing.

 

Mow your lawn and trim your hedges, and turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before showings to make your lawn sparkle. If flowers or plants don’t surround your home’s entrance, add a pot of bright flowers. Top it all off by buying a new doormat and adding a seasonal wreath to your front door.

March 19, 2010 By: G. M. Filisko

 

For more information about how to stage your home for a successful, quick sale call the selling experts at Bristol Properties International. In Boca Raton call 561-347-1303 or in Naples call 239-352-6400.

7. Make the entrance grand

6. Set the scene

5. Add color to brighten your rooms

4. Rethink your furniture placement

3. Scale back on your furniture

2. Stow away your clutter

1. Start with a clean slate

Comments: 1

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

 

If you can’t afford your mortgage and know you’re going to eventually have to sell your home via short sale, you might want to get going on that sooner rather than later. If you complete your short sale in 2012, you won’t owe federal taxes on the transaction. If you wait until 2013, you could owe a hefty federal tax.

In a short sale, the lender lets you sell your house for less than what you owe on the mortgage.

For example:

* You have $200,000 left on your mortgage.

* You can sell your house for $150,000.

* Your lender agrees to let you sell the house and takes $150,000 instead of the $200,000 you owe.

* Your lender forgives the $50,000 difference between the $200,000 you owe and the $150,000 you sold your house for.

If you did the short sale in this example this year, you wouldn’t owe taxes on the $50,000 the lender forgave. That’s because in 2007 and again in 2008, Congress told the IRS to stop collecting taxes on forgiven debt until 2013.

Before the 2007 law passed, you had to pay federal income tax on forgiven debt. If your lender forgave $50,000, the IRS said that $50,000 was income. If you were in a 28% tax bracket you’d owe $14,000 (.28 x $50,000) in federal income taxes.

Here we are 12 months away from the deadline, and it’s anybody’s guess whether Congress will renew that no-taxes-on-forgiven-debt rule. It’s just one of literally trillions of dollars of tax benefits expiring at the end of this year, and there’s no signal yet as to what, if anything, Congress will do about any of them.

And if that’s not confusing enough, states have their own tax laws on debt forgiveness that you have to consider, too.

 

If you end up having to short sale in 2013, you may be able to escape taxes another way. If what you owe all your creditors exceeds the value of everyting you own, you may not owe tax. Read about the insolvency rule in Publication 4681. (Note: The IRS includes all your assets in determining if you’re insolvent before the short sale.)

Despite its name, a short sale often takes a long time to complete. To ensure you have short sale success before the tax rule changes, work with a real estate agent who has done short sales, promptly give your lender any paperwork it asks for, and pray for patience. You’ll need it.

Did you buy or sell in a short sale? How long did your transaction take?

January 18, 2012 - By: Dona DeZube

 

Learn more about the tax rules effecting short sales by contacting a Bristol Properties International real estate expert today. In Boca Raton call 561-347-1303, or in Naples call 239-352-6400.

Silver tax lining for 2013?

Tax rules that let you escape paying federal income tax after a short sale expire this year.

Comments: 0

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Working to get your home ship-shape for showings will increase its value and shorten your sales time. Here are five ways to get your house ready to sell.

Many buyers today want move-in-ready homes and will quickly eliminate an otherwise great home by focusing on a few visible flaws. Unless your home shines, you may endure showing after showing and open house after open house—and end up with a lower sales price. Before the first prospect walks through your door, consider some smart options for casting your home in its best light.

 

 

Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. For $250 to $400, an inspector will warn you about troubles that could make potential buyers balk. Make repairs before putting your home on the market. In some states, you may have to disclose what the inspection turns up.

 

 

If your home inspection uncovers necessary repairs you can’t fund, get estimates for the work. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home and the repairs. Also hunt down warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for your furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items you expect to remain with the house.

 

 

Not every repair costs a bundle. Fix as many small problems—sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, dripping faucets—as you can. These may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression your house isn’t well maintained.

 

 

Clear your kitchen counters of just about everything. Clean your closets by packing up little-used items like out-of-season clothes and old toys. Install closet organizers to maximize space. Put at least one-third of your furniture in storage, especially large pieces, such as entertainment centers and big televisions. Pack up family photos, knickknacks, and wall hangings to depersonalize your home. Store the items you’ve packed offsite or in boxes neatly arranged in your garage or basement.

 

 

A clean house makes a strong first impression that your home has been well cared for. If you can afford it, consider hiring a cleaning service. If not, wash windows and leave them open to air out your rooms. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate cooking odors, smoke, and pet smells. Wash light fixtures and baseboards, mop and wax floors, and give your stove and refrigerator a thorough once-over. Pay attention to details, too. Wash fingerprints from light switch plates, clean inside the cabinets, and polish doorknobs. Don’t forget to clean your garage, too.

 

 

For more information on how to efficiently and effectively prepare your house for sale, call one of the real estate experts at Bristol Properties International. In Boca Raton, call 561-347-1303 or in Naples, call 239-352-6400.

 

5. Do a thorough cleaning

 

4. Clear the clutter

 

3. Make minor repairs

 

2. Get replacement estimates

 

1. Have a home inspection

February 10, 2010 By: G. M. Filisko

Comments: 0

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

When you buy a fixer-upper house, you can save a ton of money, or get yourself in a financial fix. Make sure you have the time, skills, and desire to embark on home improvement projects before buying a fixer-upper house.

Trying to decide whether to buy a fixer-upper house? Follow these seven steps, and you’ll know how much you can afford, how much to offer, and whether a fixer-upper house is right for you.

1. Decide what you can do yourself

TV remodeling shows make home improvement work look like a snap. In the real world, attempting a difficult remodeling job that you don’t know how to do will take longer than you think and can lead to less-than-professional results that won’t increase the value of your fixer-upper house.

- Do you really have the skills to do it? Some tasks, like stripping wallpaper and painting, are relatively easy. Others, like electrical work, can be dangerous when done by amateurs.

- Do you really have the time and desire to do it? Can you take time off work to renovate your fixer-upper house? If not, will you be stressed out by living in a work zone for months while you complete projects on the weekends?

2. Price the cost of repairs and remodeling before you make an offer

- Get your contractor into the house to do a walk-through, so he can give you a written cost estimate on the tasks he’s going to do.

- If you’re doing the work yourself, price the supplies.

- Either way, tack on 10% to 20% to cover unforeseen problems that often arise with a fixer-upper house.

3. Check permit costs

- Ask local officials if the work you’re going to do requires a permit and how much that permit costs. Doing work without a permit may save money, but it’ll cause problems when you resell your home.

- Decide if you want to get the permits yourself or have the contractor arrange for them. Getting permits can be time-consuming and frustrating. Inspectors may force you to do additional work, or change the way you want to do a project, before they give you the permit.

- Factor the time and aggravation of permits into your plans.

4. Doublecheck pricing on structural work

If your fixer-upper home needs major structural work, hire a structural engineer for $500 to $700 to inspect the home before you put in an offer so you can be confident you’ve uncovered and conservatively budgeted for the full extent of the problems. Get written estimates for repairs before you commit to buying a home with structural issues.

Don’t purchase a home that needs major structural work unless:

- You’re getting it at a steep discount

- You’re sure you’ve uncovered the extent of the problem

- You know the problem can be fixed

- You have a binding written estimate for the repairs

5. Check the cost of financing

Be sure you have enough money for a downpayment, closing costs, and repairs without draining your savings.

If you’re planning to fund the repairs with a home equity or home improvement loan:

- Get yourself pre-approved for both loans before you make an offer.

- Make the deal contingent on getting both the purchase money loan and the renovation money loan, so you’re not forced to close the sale when you have no loan to fix the house.

- Consider the Federal Housing Administration’s Section 203(k) program, which is designed to help home owners who are purchasing or refinancing a home that needs rehabilitation. The program wraps the purchase/refinance and rehabilitation costs into a single mortgage. To qualify for the loan, the total value of the property must fall within the FHA mortgage limit for your area, as with other FHA loans. A streamlined 203(k) program provides an additional amount for rehabilitation, up to $35,000, on top of an existing mortgage. It’s a simpler process than obtaining the standard 203(k).

6. Calculate your fair purchase offer

Take the fair market value of the property (what it would be worth if it were in good condition and remodeled to current tastes) and subtract the upgrade and repair costs. For example: Your target fixer-upper house has a 1960s kitchen, metallic wallpaper, shag carpet, and high levels of radon in the basement.

Your comparison house, in the same subdivision, sold last month for $200,000. That house had a newer kitchen, no wallpaper, was recently recarpeted, and has a radon mitigation system in its basement. The cost to remodel the kitchen, remove the wallpaper, carpet the house, and put in a radon mitigation system is $40,000. Your bid for the house should be $160,000.

Ask your real estate agent if it’s a good idea to share your cost estimates with the sellers, to prove your offer is fair.

7. Include inspection contingencies in your offer

Don’t rely on your friends or your contractor to eyeball your fixer-upper house. Hire pros to do common inspections like:

- Home inspection. This is key in a fixer-upper assessment. The home inspector will uncover hidden issues in need of replacement or repair. You may know you want to replace those 1970s kitchen cabinets, but the home inspector has a meter that will detect the water leak behind them.

- Radon, mold, lead-based paint

- Septic and well

- Pest

Most home inspection contingencies let you go back to the sellers and ask them to do the repairs, or give you cash at closing to pay for the repairs. The seller can also opt to simply back out of the deal, as can you, if the inspection turns up something you don’t want to deal with.

If that happens, this isn’t the right fixer-upper house for you. Go back to the top of this list and start again.

For more information about how to take advantage of the opportunities present in purchasing a fixer-upper house, call the buying experts at Bristol Properties International in the surrounding Boca Raton area at 561-347-1303 or the surrounding Naples area at 239-352-6400.

Published: August 24, 2010 By: G. M. Filisko

Comments: 0

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