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

Kitchens in 2016: What's Hot and What's Not

September 26, 2016 2:24 am


The kitchen can be the highest selling point of a home, considerably contributing to its value. The hottest trends in kitchen design now, according to a recent Zillow Digs® forecast, are on-target for homebuyers in the marketplace today—and are worth considering if you’re planning to sell soon.

“Homeowners today want an open and thoughtfully designed kitchen that blends seamlessly with the rest of the home's design aesthetic,” says Kerrie Kelly, Zillow Digs home design expert. “From hidden appliances to beautifully painted cabinets in complementing colors, homeowners want their kitchen to be stylish enough for entertaining, yet welcoming and functional for everyday use.”

The Zillow Digs forecast pegs the hottest trends:

Hidden Appliances – More and more homeowners are tucking away appliances, integrating them seamlessly visually with surrounding cabinetry—think covered refrigerators or behind-closed-door microwaves.

Tuxedo Cabinetry – Tuxedo cabinets are two-toned—the top and bottom rows are painted in complementary colors, often white and black (like a tuxedo!) or white and soft gray, creating an open, yet grounded space.

Wood Paneling – The farmhouse aesthetic is as popular as ever, wood elements included. Wood paneling, especially shiplap painted white, has become more commonplace on backsplashes or ceilings.

What’s not hot? The Zillow Digs forecast reports:

Dark Colors – Dark wall paint and rich woods (like cherry cabinets) can make a kitchen feel cramped, even if the square footage says otherwise. Count on dark colors fading out in the next year or two.

Short Cabinetry– Cabinets that stop just short of the ceiling are on their way out, and cabinets flush with the ceiling are on their way in—the latter adding height and openness.

Speckled Granite – Granite countertops were once the mainstay, but with more, low-maintenance options now available (like butcher block, marble and quartz), granite (specifically speckled) will be retired soon.

Source: Zillow Digs®
 

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Saving $1,000 in Just 6 Steps

September 22, 2016 2:21 am


Whether you’re new to the working world or have been employed without a budget, the first $1,000 you save may be the most important money you ever sock away. It’s the cushion you need against unexpected expenses, and the cornerstone for building a savings habit. From The Motley Fool come six simple steps to get there:

“Snowball” Your Debt – Attack your debt with gusto, paying as much as you can on your highest interest credit cards, moving on to the next-highest as you go. As your debt decreases, you will naturally have more cash to stow away.

Renegotiate Rates – Most credit card providers will lower your rate if you ask (and have a good payment record). If one provider won’t lower your rate, move the balance to a lower-cost provider.

Cut Spending on Stuff You Won’t Miss – Whether it’s a gym membership you aren’t using, a magazine or cable TV subscription or more cell phone data than you need, rein in what you’re spending each month and redirect that cash to savings.

Find Lower-Cost Alternatives – Fast food coffee can taste as good as high-priced options, and you may decide to brown-bag your lunch four days a week and eat out only on Fridays. Look for savings pathways you can live with.

Sell Stuff You Don’t Use – Try Craigslist, eBay, or an old-fashioned garage sale to sell the stuff you no longer want. Use the cash to speed up your debt snowball, or stash it away in the bank.

Work a Little More – Put in overtime. Take on an extra shift. Find a part-time second job, or use your talent to create and sell your goods or services online or at local craft fairs. Working more leaves less time to spend, and the extra income will help you build that first nest egg of $1,000.
 

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Foundation to Roof: Energy-Efficiency from the Ground Up

September 22, 2016 2:21 am


“I start construction with precast concrete wall panels and then add an insulated basement slab to give my homes a head start on their high performance energy efficiency package. I'm building homes that are more than twice as efficient as a standard home built to ‘code.’”

So says Shawn Jessup, owner of S.D. Jessup Construction, Inc. in North Carolina. Jessup and builders like him are making strides in the energy efficiency arena, constructing new homes with energy-saving features from the foundation to the roof.

The foundation, Jessup notes, sets the “energy tone” for the entire home, calling for add-ons like extra insulation, foam-backed siding or structural insulated panels.

Entry points outfitted with ENERGY STAR®-qualified products also contribute to a home’s overall energy efficiency, adds Jeffery Nofziger, president of Haas Door.

“Advances in steel and aluminum bring both strong insulation factors and beauty to the garage door offerings for the home,” says Nofziger. “Mother Nature can throw some pretty nasty weather at a home, and a garage door takes the brunt of that weather.”

The roof, too, can be an energy-saver. According to the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC), roofs are exposed to direct sunlight more than any other feature, which can damage certain roofing materials over time. Jessup recommends using a synthetic tile roof to not only help deflect sunlight (and heat) from the home, but also to stave off roof repair or replacement.

For more on building an energy-efficient home from the ground up, visit Energy.gov or EnergyStar.gov.
 
Source: Superior Walls
 

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Buying a New Home? 3 Things Not to Overlook

September 22, 2016 2:21 am


(BPT)—Buying a new home is exciting, but the experience is not without challenges. Finding your dream home requires an eye for detail, expert guidance, and, above all, patience.

Buying a newly built home, specifically, comes with a set of considerations, such as amenities, location and security. Three of the most important are:

The Home Inspection

Never disregard the importance of an impartial home inspection. An inspection can not only help you uncover structural issues within a home, but also help you determine if its electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems are functional and up to code. Be present during the inspection. Discuss your options with your REALTOR®, if negotiations are necessary.

Value-Add Features

Value-add features are another important consideration to make when searching for a newly built home. Make note of these features as you view homes. Ask yourself: What existing features will make me (and my family) feel comfortable, happy and secure, now and in the future?

Safety

No new home’s top-of-the-line amenities can replace a sense of safety. Look for features, such as arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) outlets, an alarm system, carbon monoxide/smoke detectors and secure doors and windows, that will enhance the safety of your new home.

Planning to move to a newly constructed home? Contact a real estate professional today!

Source: Leviton (www.Leviton.com/HomeSafety)

 

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What Taxpayers Can Expect in 2017

September 21, 2016 2:21 am


We’re nearing the close of the year, when most of us will begin year-end tax planning. What, as taxpayers, can we expect in 2017?

Bloomberg BNA recently projected inflation-adjusted tax items for 2017, a handy guide for those of us hoping to get a head start on taxes—and save tax dollars. Though the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has not published information on these items yet, the Bloomberg BNA projection drew from Labor Department data.

The projected income tax rates for 2017, according to Bloomberg BNA:

Married Filing Jointly/Surviving Spouses Earning Taxable Income of:
 
$18,650 or Less - 10 percent of taxable income
Over $18,650 - $75,900 - $1,865, plus 15 percent of excess over $18,650
Over $75,900 - $153,100 - $10,452.50, plus 25 percent of excess over $75,900
Over $153,100 - $233,350 - $29,752.50, plus 28 percent of excess over $153,100
Over $233,250 - $416,700 - $52,222.50, plus 33 percent of excess over $233,250
Over $416,700 - $470,700 - $112,728, plus 35 percent of excess over $416,700
Over $470,700 - $131,628, plus 39.6 percent of excess over $470,700
 
Unmarried Individuals (Other Than Heads of Households) Earning Taxable Income of:
 
$9,325 or Less - 10 percent of taxable income
Over $9,325 - $37,950 - $932.50, plus 15 percent of excess over $9,325
Over $37,950 - $91,900 - $5,226.25, plus 25 percent of excess over $37,950
Over $91,900 - $191,650 - $18,713.75, plus 28 percent of excess over $91,900
Over $191,650 - $416,700 - $46,643.75, plus 33 percent of excess over $191,650
Over $416,700 - $418,400 - $120,910.25, plus 35 percent of excess over $416,700
Over $418,400 - $121,505.25, plus 39.6 percent of excess over $418,400

It’s important to note that taxes due on the same income decrease year to year. Say you and your spouse file jointly and have a taxable income of $233,000. In 2016, you were in the 33 percent bracket and paid $52,303 in taxes; in 2017, you will be in the 28 percent bracket (due to inflation), and pay $52,124.50 in taxes, saving $178.50, according to Bloomberg BNA’s projections.

We have the option to take whichever is higher when calculating deductions: our itemized deductions, or the standard deduction. Bloomberg BNA’s projections for standard deductions in 2017 are:

Married Filing Jointly/Surviving Spouses - $12,700
Heads of Household - $9,350
All Other Taxpayers - $6,350

Keep in mind that the IRS imposes penalties on those of us who do not furnish information on our returns, do not file a return, or do not pay taxes. Congress recently increased some of these penalties, according to Bloomberg BNA, which projects:

• Failure to File Correct Information Returns - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Furnish Identifying Number - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Furnish Copy to Taxpayer - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Retain Copy or List - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Sign Return - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Be Diligent in Determining Eligibility (for American Opportunity Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit or Earned Income Credit) - $510 (Per Violation) / No Limit

“The trend toward tougher penalties continues as Congress passed legislation that may revoke the passports of taxpayers with seriously delinquent tax debt,” says George Farrah, Bloomberg BNA Tax & Accounting editorial director. “For business taxpayers, Congress has provided some degree of certainty by returning to predictable annual increases for the business property expensing limits.”

Source: Bloomberg BNA
 

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5 Property Maintenance Tips for Fall

September 21, 2016 2:21 am


Fall is an often overlooked season when it comes to property maintenance, but it is one the most crucial times of year to care for your landscape—ahead of winter, when the elements make it challenging to take measures for a healthy yard come spring.

“While many homeowners consider spring and summer to be the time for tackling landscaping projects, fall is actually a prime season for lawn care and landscaping,” said Missy Henriksen, vice president of Public Affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), in a recent release. “Being diligent in fall landscaping will allow your lawn and garden to withstand their long winter’s nap, and will certainly pay dividends next spring. In addition, thoughtful planning can allow your outdoor living spaces to be enjoyed throughout the cold weather months.”

The best place to start, according to Henriksen, is to consult with a lawn care professional. A professional can not only advise you as to what steps to take now, but also help you plan next year’s landscape.

Following that consult, the NALP’s tips include:

Mulch – Adding two to three inches of mulch around your trees and on garden beds will protect them from the elements come winter.

Rake – Removing dead leaves, either by composting or mulching with a mower, will give your lawn access to sunlight through winter, as well as stave off diseases.

Seed – Overseeding your lawn will fill in patchy areas at a time when grass grows sans weeds—ideal for healthy root growth. Fertilizing and aerating your lawn is also key.

Inspect – Assessing your trees for signs of damage, disease or stress before winter will help avoid breakage and safety issues in the months ahead. Having a professional on hand to trim or remove damaged trees is vital.

Plant – Planting fall varieties will bring life to your landscape now and next year—asters, black-eyed Susans, Chinese lanterns, goldenrod and snapdragons are all ideal.

Source: National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP)
 

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A Multitude of Tips for Multiple Offer Situations – Pt. 2

September 21, 2016 2:21 am


Multiple offer situations, or cases in which more than one competing offer is placed on a home, can be challenging for a home seller.

Knowledge is half the battle when navigating the multiple bid minefield. Below are insights and tips from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) all sellers should be mindful of:

• In a multiple offer situation, your listing agent will share various negotiating strategies for you to consider—you might accept the “best” offer, for example, or you might inform all potential buyers that other offers are “on the table” and invite them to make their “best” offer. You might instead “counter” one offer while putting the other offers to the side, or “counter” one offer and reject the others.

• Each of the approaches above has advantages and disadvantages, and though your agent will explain them to you, it is ultimately your decision as to which strategy to take. Inviting buyers to make their “best” offer may produce an offer (or offers) better than those “on the table,” or it may discourage buyers who feel they’ve already made a fair offer and cause them to break off negotiations. Bear outcomes like this in mind as you weigh your options.

• A multiple offer situation will inevitably become a one offer situation, leaving other buyers disappointed. Fair and honest treatment throughout the process, as well as prompt, ongoing and open communication, will help buyers—successful or not—walk away without ill will.

Keep in mind, most importantly, that your agent’s guidance is based on experience, and is no guarantee as to how any particular buyer will react. Above all, your best line of defense is an agent seasoned in multiple offer situations.
 

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What to Buy (and Not to Buy) in September

September 20, 2016 2:18 am


The perfect storm of Labor Day, back-to-school and end-of-summer clearance sales make September ideal for bargain-hunters. From consumer watchdog DealNews.com, here’s the scoop on what’s best to buy in September—and what purchases to put on the back burner:

Summer Apparel – No surprise here—retailers ranging from big-box outlets to designers blow out summer styles in September. Pro tip: Buy for your family now and stow it for next year.
 
Grills/Patio Furniture – Like summer apparel, leftover grill and patio furniture inventory goes on sale in September. Look for items stacked at the front of hardware and home stores for the best bargains.
 
Big-Screen TVs – The best big-screen buys in September are on mid-size models (the perfect size for apartments or dorm rooms), but larger sizes are often marked down, as well.
 
Mattresses – Historically, the best times to purchase a new mattress were in April or May—but Labor Day sales are becoming another contender. Pro tip: Double-down on a deal by using coupons on top of sale prices.
 
Laptops – Seventy-five percent of laptops are discounted considerably for back-to-school season. Big-box electronics providers are your best bet for the best deals.
 
Previous-Generation iPhones
– There are appreciable savings to be had on older iPhones in September, when the new model typically rolls out. Rock-bottom bargains on these devices can be found on online auction sites, like eBay.
 
Textbooks – Both buyers and sellers of textbooks can expect deals in September, when need is highest.
 
DealNews.com advises shoppers to hold off on buying washers, dryers and other large appliances, as well as some electronics, in September. While the month brings decent sales on these items, Black Friday sales in November have historically yielded better savings.
 

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National Preparedness Month: Tips for Homeowners

September 20, 2016 2:18 am


Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere, often with no warning. September, National Preparedness Month, is the ideal time to prepare your household for these types of events.

“Your family's safety is top priority when a disaster happens,” says Pete Duncanson of ServiceMaster Restore. “It starts with having plan: Have a ‘go bag’ ready to quickly grab and go during an evacuation, have a meeting place for your family in the event you're displaced, and have an outside contact for your entire family. Plan for emergency food and medications for the entire family, including pets.”

The ‘go bag’ Duncanson refers to should contain three days’ worth of emergency essentials, such as water, non-perishable food, medications and clothing. Other supplies may include flashlights, a radio, your home insurance or utility providers’ contact information, or rain gear.

Make it a habit, Duncanson adds, to review your homeowners insurance policy documents (and any other important papers) a few times each year. Consider making electronic copies of them so that they can be easily accessed if they’re damaged in a disaster—a secured thumb drive is the best method to store them.

Most important when disaster strikes, Duncanson says, is to put safety first—not your possessions. Evacuate immediately if instructed to do so, even if you must leave behind your belongings.

If your home is habitable after a disaster but requires cleanup, avoid approaching the task by yourself, says Duncanson—a DIY effort can make damage worse, causing unnecessary expenses, and be detrimental to your health. Have a restoration professional assess the damage within 48 hours of the disaster to prevent bacteria or mold growth.

“When a disaster occurs in a home or business, response time is critical,” says Duncanson.

Source: ServiceMaster Restore
 

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Safety Tips for Your Household This Fall

September 20, 2016 2:18 am


As a household, transitioning from a summer of spontaneity to a fall full of activities can move safety by the wayside. Still, it’s vital to carve out time in your schedule to prioritize it, says Rebecca Smith, vice president of Marketing for Master Lock.

“During the fall, many families’ schedules are busier than ever, but it’s still important for parents to make safety and security a priority,” says Smith. “Now that school year routines are established, it’s a perfect time to address safety topics with your children, such as guidelines for staying safe at home and on the go.”

Smith and Master Lock recommend the following tips for parents:

Teach your children to note their surroundings. As dusk and darkness creep up earlier each day, remind your children to follow safety precautions, whether walking home or just to a parked car. Instruct them to stick with a friend or in a group, if possible, and to stay in well-lit areas, avoid short cuts and observe traffic rules.

Review bike safety. If your children will be riding their bikes to school or extracurricular activities, review the rules of the road with them—following traffic signals, riding with traffic, stopping at stop signs, etc. Make certain, also, that they’re outfitted with bright-colored clothing and a helmet.

Establish a "home alone" routine. Set guidelines for older children who may be home without supervision, either after school or during activities on weekends. These may include calling to check in, locking the door immediately after entering the house (and not answering the door for strangers) and reviewing emergency phone numbers.

Observe fire safety. Establish a household fire evacuation plan, which involves visiting each room in the home to designate two exits (in each) and ensure they open. Determine a safe meeting place outside of the home, as well, and practice the evacuation periodically.

Putting these tips into practice will set safe habits for your children, now and beyond the season. For safety and security products for your home, visit MasterLock.com.

Source: Master Lock
 

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