Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS
 
Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS

Jeff's Blog

How to Take the Chill out of Selling Your Home

March 13, 2012 4:18 am

While you may be waiting for the temperature to rise before putting your home on the market, there are many ways to effectively market your home in late winter and early spring. Here are some great cold-weather tips from Florida REALTOR® Melanie Tisdale:
  • Heat it up: If you are planning an open house or have showings scheduled, turn up the thermostat and make the home warm and inviting. A cold home shopper will race through a house and start questioning the windows and insulation.
  • Light it up: For homes with fireplaces, this is the perfect opportunity to show the potential buyer how cozy a fireplace can be. Leave some marshmallows and sticks nearby and invite those seeing the home to test it out.
  • Take care of snow and ice: If the property you’re selling is in a snowy climate, make sure that the walk is clear, the driveway is shoveled and put down salt to control any icy surfaces. If you aren’t currently living in the home that is for sale, make sure to hire someone to clear it for you.
  • Use photographs: If you have a beautiful lawn, stellar landscaping or an outdoor pool or deck, take some eye-catching photos of these amenities during the warm months and display them during a winter showing so buyers can get a better understanding of what the outside truly offers.
  • Schedule open houses: Winter and early spring is a great time to take advantage of less competition. Many serious buyers often come out during the winter months, including corporate clients who usually need to relocate within the first quarter of the year.
  • Emphasize the positives: Does your street get plowed quickly? Is it near public transportation to make it easier to get to work in the snow? Is it within walking distance of stores? Does it have a great hill for the kids to sled down in a safe environment? If so, accentuate these features.
Since a lot of people are waiting until spring to put their home on the market, having your home ready to show now is a great way to beat the rush.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Americans Saving not Spending Refunds

March 13, 2012 4:18 am

According to a new survey from Taxsoftware.com, only 10 percent of American taxpayers plan to spend their anticipated federal and state tax refunds on vacations, down dramatically from 30 percent last year when a similar poll was taken. Most Americans said they will use their refunds to pay off debts (29 percent) or add to their savings or investments (27 percent).

According to Taxsoftware.com, which launched an iPad app for federal tax returns in 2011, the survey results reflect consumer caution and conservatism in the face of a recovering economy.

In comparing results of the two surveys, the new poll found that of the 67 percent of Americans who expect to receive tax refunds this year:
  • Fewer people plan to spend their refunds on savings or investments this year than in 2011 (27 percent vs. 66 percent) or to pay off debts (29 percent v. 59 percent).
  • Fewer individuals plan to make home improvements (8 percent vs. 31 percent), buy products such as cars, electronics, or furniture (8 percent vs. 23 percent) or pay mortgages or education loans (5 percent vs. 19 percent).
  • Fewer people plan to give their refunds to charity (2 percent vs. 15 percent).
  • Those who plan to "do something else" with their refunds dropped to 9 percent from 38 percent in 2011.
The survey was conducted Feb. 12 - 15, 2012 by Ipsos, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent. The survey consisted of a national sample of 1,005 responses by adults 18 years of age or older from Ipsos' U.S. online panel and were interviewed online.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips to Keep Your Credit Cards Secure

March 13, 2012 4:18 am

In today's world of email, text messages and social media, consumers need to be extra diligent to safeguard their personal information. MasterCard suggests taking the following precautions to keep your credit cards secure and prevent fraud:
  • Be skeptical of unsolicited phone calls, email, text messages, or social media messages if they request credit card data or personal information such as passwords, date of birth, social insurance number, etc.
  • Examine links contained within emails or on any email attachments sent by an unknown or un-validated source no matter how harmless or familiar the title appears; instead, delete the message unless you are able to confirm the sender is legitimate.
  • If you followed an email link to a website (or a text message to a voice recording system) and provided card data that later seemed suspicious, contact your credit card issuer immediately so your account can be protected.
  • Guard against compromise by ensuring your home computer(s) have up-to-date anti-malware, anti-spam, and firewall software installed.
  • Keep close track of your credit cards, regularly review statements for unknown purchases/cash advances, and contact your issuer if you see any such unusual transactions.
  • Do not share your credit card and PIN details via email or text message.
  • The vast majority of merchant websites are reputable - though you should leave a suspicious site immediately if you suspect it is not what it claims to be.
If you suspect your credit card has been used fraudulently, contact your credit card firm immediately. Most companies will not hold you responsible for purchases made illegally.

Source: MasterCard Canada

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Retirement or... 'Rehirement'?

March 12, 2012 4:18 am

Thanks to a changing economic landscape and lifestyle desires of 50+ workers, the concept of retiring may one day become a thing of the past.

According to a recent article by Amy Chulik for the Careerbuilder.com blog, “The Hiring Site,” the fading out of traditional retirement may not be so far off the mark. Fifty-seven percent of workers ages 60 and older said in a recent Harris Interactive study that they would look for a new job after retiring from their current company. Some workers are postponing retirement out of economic necessity; they just can’t afford to quit. Others, however, are choosing to continue the nine-to-five routine for a variety of reasons.

The survey, conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder and PrimeCB.com (CareerBuilder’s job site for mature workers and retirees) among 3,023 hiring managers and HR professionals and 878 U.S. workers ages 60 and older, also found that 11 percent of respondents said they don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire.
That said, there were a significant amount of respondents who do see retirement as an option within the next several years:
  • 1-2 years (26 percent)
  • 3-4 years (23 percent)
  • 5-6 years (22 percent)
  • 7-8 years (7 percent)
  • 9-10 years (7 percent)
  • More than 10 years (4 percent)
On the flip side, Chulik reports that many employers are actively seeking older job candidates. According to the survey:
  • 43 percent of employers plan to hire workers ages 50 and older this year.
  • 41 percent said they hired workers ages 50 and older in 2011.
  • 75 percent of the employers surveyed would consider an application from an overqualified worker who is 50 or older, with 59 percent of those employers saying they would do this because mature candidates bring a wealth of knowledge to an organization and can mentor others.
Chulik adds that older workers have been found to have a host of other advantages as well, including quitting less, being absent less, and having better social skills and job performance than their younger counterparts.

As Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, points out, many workers are moving away from a traditional “retirement” concept and instead seeking “rehirement.”

“Whether mature workers are motivated by financial concerns or simply enjoy going to work every day, we’re seeing more people move away from the traditional definition of retirement and seek ‘rehirement,’ Haefner explains in Chulik’s article. “At the same time, employers are seeing the value these mature workers can bring to an organization, from their intellectual capital to their mentoring and training capabilities. In a highly competitive job market, mature workers can use these skills to their advantage.”

Source: thehiringsite.careerbuilder.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Keeping Your Home Safe When Selling

March 12, 2012 4:18 am

Security issues might not be top of mind when you’re knee deep in the process of putting your home on the market, however, home sellers should take certain precautions to keep themselves and their belongings safe.

According to Florida REALTOR® Melanie Tisdale, the home-sale process, which includes open houses, frequent showings, and an influx of strangers into your home, poses certain risks. However, by taking a few safeguards, says Tisdale, you can put your mind at ease.

The easiest solution is to remove valuable jewelry, fine art or collectables beforehand, storing them with a friend or family member. If that’s not an option, Tisdale suggests finding a place to hide valuables within the home—or, consider packing them in a suitcase you pop into the car whenever you leave for a showing.

The same consideration should be taken for personal information and paperwork. Filing cabinets that contain documents with account or social security numbers should be securely locked. And, unfortunately, lock up your medicine cabinet as well, a place where people often steal from, says Tisdale.

When you return to your home after a showing, make sure that all doors and windows are locked. Prospective buyers will often open windows or doors to make sure they work properly or to see another part of the home. Although it may seem far-fetched, Tisdale reports that there have been incidents where people unlock doors when looking at a home and then go back later to steal things.

One unsavory tactic involves two people coming into the home—one who explores rooms and one who distracts the agent. If you’re home is in a high-crime area, consider hiring a security guard or off-duty police officer to keep an eye on your home during the showing.

If your home does not have a security system, now may be the time to install one, Tisdale advises. Adding a security system will not only deter burglars but can also be a strong selling point of the house. Also, if you are selling a home in which you’re not currently living, consider installing motion sensors that will automatically turn on lights when it’s dark. You can also put a few lamps on a timer so it appears someone is home when you’re out.

Lastly, Tisdale recommends that home sellers enlist their neighbors to help keep an eye on their home, and to introduce the neighbors to your REALTOR® so they are not alarmed when he or she is in your home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Boost Your Refund with Home-Related Tax Breaks

March 12, 2012 4:18 am

Homeownership is not only a long-term investment for your family and your future, but an important annual tax benefit. The tax experts at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service® advise homeowners not to overlook the many credits and deductions that can add thousands of dollars to their refund amounts.

Be sure to review the following tax breaks available covering home-related areas, such as:
  • Mortgage Interest: The amount of mortgage interest paid on a principal residence or second home is deductible and generally reported on Form 1098. Taxpayers can also deduct all the points paid to purchase the residence, even if some have been paid by the seller. If certain requirements are met, the points may be deducted in full in the year paid. Otherwise, they may be deducted over the life of the mortgage. Seller-paid points that taxpayers claim as an itemized deduction reduce the cost basis of the home.
  • Buying a Home: Most of the expenses incurred when buying a home are not deductible. However, there are certain closing costs that are added to the basis of your residence. Keeping track of the basis of your home is important because when selling, it is needed to calculate any gain or loss.
  • Property Taxes: Taxpayers may deduct real estate property taxes in the year paid. They may be reported on Form 1098, the annual statement from the financial institution holding your mortgage. Taxpayers may also be able to deduct some of the taxes paid during closing. The taxes must be the responsibility of, and paid by, the taxpayer.
  • Energy Credits: There are energy credits available for making energy efficient changes to a home. For 2011, the credit is limited to 10 percent of the cost of improvements, up to a lifetime total of $500. The credit will be further limited for each category of improvement.
  • Home Improvements: Home improvements are not generally deductible on a tax return. Instead, the cost of improvements is added to the basis of the home and helps keep any gain below the $250,000 ($500,000 if married filing jointly) exclusion amount when the house is sold.
For those who find themselves in the unfortunate position of a foreclosure or short sale on their home, there are tax breaks available as well. Foreclosures and short sales are treated as both a home sale and a canceled debt. When the house is a taxpayer's primary residence, and they have lived in and owned the home for two of the last five years, any gain up to $500,000 on the disposition is tax-exempt. In addition, the canceled debt (mortgage still owed) is excluded from taxable income, as long as it is less than $2 million and is for the taxpayer's principal residence.

Source: www.jacksonhewitt.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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5 Ways to Know When You’re Done

March 9, 2012 4:12 am

If you’re like most people, there just never seems to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on our to-do lists. Worse yet, when we finally do get on a productivity roll, there always seems to be a distraction waiting in the wings to throw us off course. But the reality, says author Jason Womack, is that we could actually accomplish a lot more each day if we can learn to recognize and acknowledge when we’re done.

“One of the biggest time wasters we all face is spending too much time on those things that don’t require it,” says Womack, a workplace performance expert, executive coach, and author of the new book, Your “Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More.” “When we do so, we lose the time we actually should be spending on more difficult or time-intensive tasks. But when you learn to recognize when you’re done with a task, you’ll have valuable minutes and maybe even hours added back into your day.”

Womack offers the following five tips for learning how to recognize when you’re done:
  • Stop majoring in the minors. Many of us spend a lot of time on those projects and tasks that are easy for us. Then, we convince ourselves that we “just didn’t have enough time” to get to the harder stuff. But when it comes to knowing when you’re done and freeing up time during your day, completing these easy tasks quickly and efficiently is essential.
  • Before you start your work day, think about what your high leverage activities are and what your low leverage activities are, says Womack. For the low leverage activities, force yourself to move through them as quickly as possible. With these tasks, often perfection isn’t necessary. When you can accomplish these minor tasks more efficiently, you’ll have the time you need to do those major tasks justice.
  • Don’t overwrite emails. Much of your time each day gets eaten up by email. Make a conscious effort to keep your emails as short and sweet as possible. Get to the point quickly and use action verbs in subject lines so that both you and the recipient know what needs to happen before the email is even opened, advises Womack.
  • Quit over-staying at meetings and on conference calls. Often meetings and conference calls will take as long as you’ve allotted for them. Set an hour for a meeting and you’re sure to go the full hour. Pay close attention to how much of your meeting is actually spent focused on the issues at hand. Know the meeting’s objectives before you begin so that you can get to them right away.
  • Set your own deadlines and stick to them. It’s very easy to get distracted or sidetracked by things you think you should do or things others think you should do. Having a self-imposed deadline will help you ignore those distractions.
  • Know when it’s time to ask for help. Have you ever been stumped by a certain project or task? Did you walk away from it for a while and then come back to it hoping you’d suddenly know what to do? Sometimes knowing when you’re done is knowing when you, specifically, can’t take a project any further. Wasting time on something you’re never going to be able to figure out is much worse than asking for help.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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10 Tips for Refinishing Your Hardwood Floors

March 9, 2012 4:12 am

Gleaming hardwood floors have long been a valuable component of any home. They are susceptible to wear and tear, however, so maintaining and refinishing when necessary is a must. The process doesn’t have to be as daunting or costly as it seems, however. Let the following steps be your guide:

Step 1 - Determine if Your Floor Needs Refinishing
Refinishing hardwood floors is often a better choice than simply replacing the flooring, because it costs less and takes less time. In some cases though, a floor might be damaged beyond repair. Consult a professional to determine whether to opt for a hardwood floor refinishing technique or new flooring.

Step 2 - Determine if Some of the Floor Planks Need Replacing
Sometimes 90 percent of the floor might be in good shape and only a few planks are in need of repair. Be sure to replace those boards before beginning the refinishing process. Since most planks will be connected using a groove-tongue joint, it will be slightly difficult to get one out, but it's not impossible.

Step 3 - Filling the Gaps
It's considered good practice to fill in the gaps at the ends of the floor planks before sanding, but you shouldn't waste time with every little crack. They're unavoidable, as wood tends to expand and contract due to humidity. Unless the gap is big enough that you think it might create problems during the hardwood floor refinishing process, feel free to skip it and save some time and energy.

Step 4 - Getting the Right Equipment
Some of the equipment you'll need for refinishing your floor will need to be bought or rented: sand paper (different weights); a drum sander; a palm sander; an edge sander; claw hammer; a vacuum cleaner; a buffer; a scraper; a brush; safety goggles; a dust mask; protection gloves; and knee pads.

Step 5 - Preparation
Since it usually gets quite messy when you refinish hardwood floors, a little preparation goes a long way. Make sure you turn off all vents that might take dust and sand particles across the house and only use ventilation that connects the room to the outside. It's also a good idea to use some wet sheets across entrances to the room you're working on for the same reasons.

Step 6 - Sanding
Sanding is probably the most important part of the process and you need to put all focus into it if you want your floor to look great at the end.

Step 7 - Cleaning
Use a broom and the vacuum to pick up the dust from the floor; never use any moisture to clean the floor. You'll also have to clean the walls and ceiling.

Step 8 - Buffing

Make sure the floor is clean before you start buffing it. You'll want to choose a screen for the buffer at the rental or hardware store that's around 100 grit, then carefully sweep it across the entire floor.

Step 9 - Staining
Staining is one of the last steps you'll have to take, but it's also the step where many make mistakes. Take extra care and time for this part of the process.

Step 10 - Finishing

If you're sloppy with finishing, all your work thus far is for naught. Take your time with this final step to achieve the best results for your floor.

Source: building-protection-plus.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Consider the Emotional Side of Downsizing your Home

March 9, 2012 4:12 am

You may be confronted with the need to downsize your home for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’re suddenly an “empty-nester,” or maybe you need a smaller home due to a financial hardship. No matter what the reason, Florida REALTOR® Melanie Tisdale offers the following advice as you prepare to downsize.

First focus on how you want to live. Use this as an opportunity to think about any lifestyle changes you’d like to make. Downsizing offers the perfect chance to exchange the costs of maintaining a large property for the luxury of having more leisure time. Make sure your new home helps you take advantage of this new chapter of your life.

Emotional ties to the family home is one of the main barriers to downsizing, but equally, deciding on where to move to, and what style of property will best suit your lifestyle, can be just as daunting a prospect, says Tisdale.

During the downsizing process you may be surprised at how attached you have become to your possessions and how difficult it might seem to part with them. A good tip is to start getting rid of your items a few months before your move, so take the time to donate or recycle items no longer needed. You can even take advantage of eBay to get rid of items you don’t really need. This will make your actual move much easier and your new home will be fresh and uncluttered.

Decorators recommend sketching floor plans for your new home to see where all your current furniture will fit. You shouldn’t wait until you move in to discover that there’s just no room for that armoire or extra stools, Tisdale advises.

Whether it’s by choice or out of necessity, downsizing offers many advantages. Make sure you’re prepared to fully capitalize on the possibilities of a smaller home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Digital Design and Sustainability among Top Hardware Trends

March 8, 2012 4:00 am

The 2012 International Hardware Fair in Cologne, Germany, revealed several major trends that transcended the geographical boundaries of the 50 countries represented, according to the North American Retail Hardware Association (NARHA). Technological innovation, lightweight model design and sustainability appear to be driving research and development in products across the globe for the year ahead.

Whether the economy is forcing consumers to be more efficient with their discretionary dollars or there is greater demand for increased usability and ease, products able to perform a variety of tasks continue to be in demand in 2012, but are now also featuring improved technology.

For example, Little Giant, a U.S. ladder company, is featuring a new industrial ladder that reads out ladder angles on a small digital display to ensure the ladder will not slip or tip over on the user. Other signs of digital advancements on display at the show included angle-controlled hand tools, such as wrenches, and Bluetooth- and USB-enabled products.

NARHA also reported that many exhibitors highlighted ergonomic and lightweight features on their tools. Although consumers today are demanding their products be more aesthetic and practical in design, they are also demanding the same—if not better—power and quality in these products. Anecdotal evidence suggests this trend is motivated by two main demographics: the elderly and the female sector.

Sustainability is also driving product development trends globally, as energy efficiency continues to be a growing concern for consumers across the country. NARHA reports products made with sustainable materials and fewer unneeded parts, to products with the ability to save consumers utility costs.

While traditionally it can take months or even years for European trends to hit the U.S. market, the more than 80 U.S. exhibitors in attendance also had an eye toward these trends, according to NARHA. U.S. consumers can expect to see this innovative product design in stores in the months to come.

Source: North American Retail Hardware Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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