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Decorate your Home for Halloween – Cheap and Quick!!

Here’s 5 quick, creative, and cheap ideas to decorate your home for Halloween.  Halloween comes next week and here are a few tips to help you get your home ready in a jiffy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ideas for decorating for Halloween

1. Lighting change – Replace your home’s outdoor lights with orange light bulbs for a festive Halloween look. You can also buy some orange ot purple  Halloween string lights to hang near or around your front door.   Check out some of the local stores for creative lights like bats or cats to string up in the trees like you would do for the holiday season.  Lights are also great around your windows or porch to let the children know you are ready for them.

2. Use old Halloween costumes by creating a few festive scarecrows by stuffing past year’s Halloween costumes with straw and prop up in your yard or pose in a chair. Stuff an old pillowcase with straw to create the head and draw a face with marker or paint.   You can also use them inside windows to look as though they are peaking out and looking to frighten the trick and treaters!

3. Use pumpkins & gourds – If you are not up for the time and mess of pumpkin carving, buy an assortment of pumpkins and gourds and draw faces on them with markers or craft paint. It’s a great craft for young kids too. There is always multiple uses for these at Thanksgiving so add some straw bales and/or some cornstalks that can take you through the fall and Thanksgiving season.

4. Give masks new life – Use masks from Halloweens past as decorations for your front door or entryway windows. Back-light them to make them extra spooky.   Old sheets can be stuffed and made into ghosts or you can use smaller white garbage bags and stuff the head, put a string around the neck and hang them from a leafless tree!

5. Light your walkway – Use clean, gallon milk jugs to create ghost lights by using a black marker to draw a ghost face on each jug. Fill each jug about halfway with white Christmas lights, which can be strung between the jugs.  You can also use the luminaries for Christmas and change up the lights to orange and purple to give them a different effect and using them for another season of fun.

Remember to keep everything well lit and safe going up to your doorway especially with groups of children so they do not stumble or fall.  Give the walkway and the door landing as much opoen space as possible. Let your imagination go and remember what you enjoyed as a kid!

5 Things Home Buyers Do That Turn Sellers Off (and Kill Deals)

On today’s market, every savvy seller wants to know what turns buyers off, so they can get their homes sold as quickly as possible, for as much as possible.  But buyers, take note – there is a minefield of seller turn-offs you can trigger that hold the potential to keep you from getting the home you want at the best price and terms, or to unnecessarily complicate dealings with your home’s seller.

If you think all of today’s sellers are under the gun and will just put up with whatever behavior buyers dish out, be aware that there are still many multiple offer situations in which buyers have to compete with each other to get a home – buyers who trigger these turnoffs tend to lose in those scenarios.  Also, avoiding these seller turnoffs can create a transactional environment of cooperation and avoid things turning adversarial.  That, in turn, can empower you to score a better price, get extra items you want thrown into the deal, and even negotiate more flexibility around your escrow and move-in timelines – all perks that can make your life easier and your budget go further.

For sellers, these turnoffs pose the potential of irritating you out of an otherwise good deal – maybe even the only deal you have!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a few of the most common buyer-perpetuated seller turnoffs, with tips for sellers on how to keep an emotional (and economic) even keel, even if your home’s buyer makes some of these waves:

1. Trash-talking. Trash-talkers are the home buyers who think they’re going to negotiate the list price down by slamming the house, telling the sellers how little it is really worth, how the house across the street sold for nothing, why the school on the corner should make them desperate to give the place away, etc. This strategy never works; in fact, when you attack a seller and their home, you only cause them to be defensive, and think up all the reasons that (a) their home is not what you say it is, and (b) they shouldn’t sell their home to you!

Sometimes this happens with buyers who actually love a house and just walk around it fantasizing about all the ways they would customize it to their tastes while a seller is there.  Sellers: avoid being at home while your home is being shown.  Buyers: save your commentary for your agent; if you do encounter the seller in person keep your conversation respectful and avoid critiquing the house or the list price.

2. Being unqualified for mortgage financing. When a seller signs a buyer’s offer, most often the seller agrees to effectively pull the home off the market, forgoing other buyers who might be interested.  As such, the only thing worse than getting no offers on your home is getting an offer, getting into contract, then having the whole thing fall apart when the buyer’s loan falls through – especially if that could have been predicted or avoided up front.

Sellers: Work with your agent to vet your home’s buyers’ qualifications, including their loan approval, down payment and earnest money deposit – before you sign a contract.  It’s not overkill for your agent to call the buyers’ mortgage pro before you sign the contract and get a level of comfort for how robust their qualifications are.  Buyers: Get pre-approved.  Seriously.  And make sure that you don’t buy a car, quit your job, deposit lottery winnings or do any other financial twitchery between the time you get loan approval and the time you close escrow on your home.

3. Making unjustified lowball offers. No one likes to feel like they are being taken advantage of.  And sellers generally know the ballpark amount that their home is worth, as well as what they need to sell it for to get their mortgage paid off.  Yes – the price you pay for a home should be driven by its fair market value, rather than the seller’s financial needs, and deals are more available in a market like the current one, in which supply so vastly outpaces demand. But just throwing uber-lowball offers out at sellers hoping one will hit the spot is not generally a successful strategy, especially if you really, really want a given property.

Sellers: Don’t get overly emotional about receiving a lowball offer; counter at the price you and your agent decide makes sense based on the total circumstances, including your motivation level, recent comps and the interest/activity level your listing is receiving. Buyers: Work through the similar, nearby homes that have recently sold (a/k/a comparables) before you make an offer to factor the home’s fair market value into your offer price – also factor in how much you want the place, too.  Don’t be amazed if you make an offer far below asking, and don’t get a response.

4. Renegotiating mid-stream. Sellers plan their finances, moves and  – to some extent – their lives around the purchase price a buyer agrees to pay for their home.  If you get into contract to buy a home, find out during inspections that costly repairs need to be made, then propose a lower sale price, repair credit or even actual repairs to the seller, that’s sensible and fair.  But if you were aware that the property needed a lot of work before you made an offer on it, then you come back asking for beaucoup bucks’ worth of credit or price reductions midstream, expect the seller to cry foul.  And holding the seller up two weeks into the transaction because you caught a case of buyer’s remorse? Not cool, and not likely to foster the spirit of cooperation you may need to get your deal closed.

Sellers: avoid mid-stream price renegotiations by having a full set of inspection reports and repair bids at hand when you list your home. Buyers: try to avoid renegotiating the entire deal unless you get some major surprises at your inspections or inflating small repairs to try to justify a major price cut.

5. Misleading or setting the seller up. Remember when we talked about buyer turn-offs?  Being misled by listing photos or very fluffy property descriptions was high on the list.  The same goes for sellers.Offering way over asking with the plan to hammer the seller for a reduction when the house doesn’t appraise at the purchase price?  #LAME  Making an as-is offer planning the whole time to come back and ask for every penny ante repair called out by the inspectors?  Lame squared.

Sellers:
If you get multiple offers and are tempted to take a sky-high one or one that claims to be all cash, consider requesting proof that the buyer has sufficient funds to make up the difference between what you think the home will appraise for and the actual sale price, and statements showing the cash truly exists.  Buyers: Don’t be lame. I’m not saying you have to tell the seller exactly what your top dollar is, but making offers with terms designed to intentionally mislead is really, really bad form – and can result in losing the home entirely if and when your bluff gets called.

P.S. – You should follow Trulia and Tara on Facebook, too!

4 Ways Distressed Homeowners Can Start Fresh

 Clearly, thankfully, the market is looking up. Way up, actually.

In many markets, tales of multiple offers and a dearth of homes vis-à-vis the numbers of buyers who want them are becoming commonplace. Now, many analysts point to the banks’ intentional decision to keep many foreclosures off the market as artificially driving this demand.  But if you’re a seller on today’s market, the dynamics underlying the demand are much less important than the fact that your chances of getting your home sold at a good price are better than they have been in a long, long time.

The news for buyers is not all bad, either: For the first time in a long while, buyers are not faced with the double-edged sword prospect of buying into a declining market; appraisals are coming in at the agreed-upon purchase price; and mortgage rates are still uber-low (fingers-crossed).

Sell your Home!

 

 

But with all this fresh market optimism, there is an ugly elephant in our collective room, which is that many, many homeowners and former homeowners are still dealing with the lingering remnants of the subprime market mess and the real estate recession. Many are still upside down, still struggling to make the too-high payments on loans left over from the last peak of the market or trying to recover financially from a recession-era foreclosure or short sale.

Here are four routes to a fresh slate:

1. Sell. Fact is, the vast majority of underwater homeowners who could stay put did. Walking away was very much the exception and not the rule. The result? There are hundreds of thousands of homeowners out there with homes that lost value during the recession who are still holding on to subprime loans that have long since reset. While these loans’ rates tend to be low, if you had a short-term, interest-only, adjustable-rate mortgage in 2005 or 2006, chances are good that your payment actually increased steeply when you were required to begin paying the principal.

For sellers who have scrimped and saved, taken on second jobs, rented out rooms or allowed important expenses like property taxes or other bills to go unpaid in order to make a too-high mortgage payment, the current market dynamics may present a good opportunity to divest of an unsustainable mortgage obligation by selling or even short-selling the place.  Buyers are out en masse and prices are on the rise, meaning that you might not be as upside down as you were last year or the year before. Banks are moving short sales through much more quickly and efficiently than in years’ past

The income tax exemption on debt forgiven through a short sale is still valid through the end of this year (an extension is probable, but by no means guaranteed).  If you know or believe that your current home is simply too expensive for you to afford with financial integrity, and there is no end in sight, talk with a local agent and a tax professional about how you might be able to get a clean slate by selling the home.

2. Settle old seconds and HELOCs. If you lost a home to foreclosure in a nonrecourse state and you had a second mortgage or home equity line of credit, it’s entirely possible that your second is still a lingering debt. (Your first mortgage can foreclose and repossess the home, leaving the second mortgagor holding nothing but paper.) Many second-mortgage holders are not actively collecting on these loans, but they simply stay on your credit reports and eventually rear their ugly heads when the time comes for you to try to qualify for a car or a mortgage.

Some recommend bankruptcy as an expedient way of extinguishing these loans for little or nothing, but the blemish bankruptcy leaves on your credit may defeat the purpose of getting rid of the old loan in the first place. Talking with some of these banks and servicers, and many of the banks will settle these unsecured second mortgages or home equity lines of credit for as low as 10 or 20 percent of the outstanding balance.

Contact the servicer of your former home’s second or HELOC to discuss a settlement. Again, the taxes you would normally pay on the forgiven debt will be exempt through the end of this year, for most borrowers, so if you can settle this soon, it’s in your best interest to do so. If you don’t know what bank or servicer even manages this loan (many are sold and resold), check your credit report and seeing who is reporting the debt, if anyone, or take out your old documents with the loan number and researching the trail starting with your original servicer.

3. Check your credit reports and dispute expired derogatories. It might be hard to believe, but the first foreclosures from the last real estate recession began happening circa 2005-2006, so they are set to be timing off of credit reports right about now. If you had an early-recession foreclosure or short sale, check your credit reports now to ensure that they are being reported correctly, or not at all, if the seven-year expiration time frame has run. In fact, even if your short sale or foreclosure was not that early, it may make sense to pull your credit reports and understand how things are being reported and the impact these items are having on your credit score. You might be surprised, in one direction or the other.

4. Refinance and lock in low rates. If you lost value in your home during the recession, it might have been nearly impossible to refinance it to take advantage of lower rates and bring your payment down. With sales prices on the upswing and rates still low, though, you may have a new opportunity to refinance a “bad” loan and lock it in a today’s uber-low rates.

 

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of “The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook” and “Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions.” Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website, www.rethinkrealestate.com.

http://www.inman.com/buyers-sellers/columnists/taranichollenelson/4-ways-distressed-homeowners-can-start-fresh

Mood of the Market

TARA-NICHOLLE NELSON, MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2012.

Inman News®

 

 

The difference between Modern and Contemporary in Denver Homes

 

What is the difference between a “modern” Denver home and a “contemporary” Denver home?  It is a question that comes up and one that  buyers ask whenever they are looking for a modern or contemporary Denver home.  There is a lot of confusion between the real meanings of these terms and it can certainly be confusing when looking for your next house.  In searching for a good answer to this question, here is great article in Realty Times.

According to the article, the label “modern” in architecture and design indicates an exact time period in our design history during the 20th century. Modern design came into its own in the 1920’s and 30’s and strongly reflects the emergence of new technology and advances in engineering. It means that relies heavily on mechanized design. Modern design plays heavily on vertical and horizontal lines. The frilly and ornamental nature of previous styles was pushed aside for the clean lines and new utilitarian aesthetic. 

Here are some examples of modern Denver homes that are sometimes called California ranches like in the Virginia Vale neighborhood.  A lot of buyers like the open feeling of these homes vs. the box type rooms you find in the Craftsman homes in Park Hill and Sunnyside.

What’s important to remember is that modern style doesn’t change. What was once modern, is always “modern.” Contemporary, on the other hand, is an ever changing term. It is used to define what is trendy and in style now. Of course … 20 years from now, something entirely different will be contemporary.  What is architecture doing in the present moment? That is contemporary. Today’s trends see many builder focusing on green designs, with larger projects seeking LEED certification.  Here are some examples of Denver contemporary architecture. 

 

 A lot of the modern architecture is found in Lodo or using infill housing in some of the cities most historic neighborhoods like LoHi, Highlands, Sloans Lake and even Washington Park.  Much of the newer construction around Cherry Creek North has this feel.  Some neighborhood groups feel this detracts from the historic feel of the neighborhoods.

How do you feel about the Modern home?  What will it look like years from now or will it stand the test of time?  Check around some of these neighborhoods and see what you think.  Saturdays and Sundays are always a great time to check out neighborhoods and see if you could see yourself living in one.

 

 

Must Do’s After you’ve Paid Off Your Mortgage!

Must-do’s after mortgage is paid off

How to handle deed-of-trust release, automatic payments

BY BENNY KASS, TUESDAY, MARCH 15, 2011.

Inman News™

DEAR BENNY: Because savings interest rates are so low, I’ve decided to accelerate paying off my home mortgage. But after I pay off the mortgage, then what? What else do I need to do, or make sure is done by the bank/mortgage company? For instance, changing the home insurance beneficiary from the bank to me. Are there any other things I need to do? –Nelson

DEAR NELSON: That’s an excellent question. My standard and perhaps somewhat glib response is: “Don’t burn the mortgage.”

When you first obtained your mortgage loan, you signed two documents: a promissory note and a mortgage document (usually called a deed of trust). The trust was recorded among the land records in the county where your property is located. You must make sure that the deed of trust is formally released from land records. This is accomplished by filing a release — often called a “certificate of satisfaction” — on those same land records.

Lenders treat this in different ways. Some actually will arrange to have the release recorded, and will charge you a nominal fee for this service. Other lenders, however, will just send you the promissory note, marked “paid and canceled” and you have to record the release. If your lender is a private individual, make sure that you get the note back simultaneously when you make the final payment.

You should also (1) advise your insurance carrier in writing that you no longer have a mortgage; (2) advise the real estate taxing authorities in your jurisdiction to start sending you the original tax bills, assuming that you have been escrowing for taxes and insurance; and (3) don’t forget to stop any automatic payments that you have with your bank.

Then — and only then — enjoy your free-and-clear house.

DEAR BENNY: I purchased a new home from a large developer nine months ago. Prior to the purchase, I had the home inspected and the inspector noted in one corner of the unfinished basement some moisture around the metal tabs that connect the poured concrete forms. The inspector said it was probably the downspout, but I should confirm that with the builder.

The builder adjusted the downspout, ran some water at that corner for 20 minutes, and showed no water had seeped through. I closed on the house a few days later.

Every time it rains, moisture has come through that area and new areas are popping up each month. During this past winter, it did not happen; however, in two upper corners there was frost. The builder came out, used some kind of monitor, which showed heat was being lost there, and sprayed some additional foam insulation, which corrected that problem.

This weekend I had a basement waterproofing company come out to tell me why my basement continues to leak through these tabs that the builder had caulked and painted over. The technician said the builder used too little waterproofing material on the outside walls.

I sent an e-mail to the builder asking what will they do about it. I haven’t heard back from them. What do you suggest I do at this point? –Denise

DEAR DENISE: What kind of warranty did the builder give you? Review all of the various documents you received from the builder, including any promotional information about the house. Also, ask a lawyer if there are any laws in your state regarding new-home warranties.

You may also find this information on the Internet, by searching “builder warranties in (state name).” Additionally, your state attorney general’s office may have relevant information that may assist you.

I also suggest that you hire a structural engineer to give you a written report as to the cause of the problem and any proposed solutions.

Once you are armed with all this ammunition, I would send a strong letter to the builder, with a copy to your state’s attorney general. That should get the attention of your builder. Give him two weeks to respond.

If he does not answer or is otherwise unresponsive, you have to decide whether it makes sense to hire a lawyer and possibly file a lawsuit. This is always a difficult decision, and the amount to fix the problem should assist you in making that decision. Clearly, you do not want to spend more money on legal fees than it will cost to fix the problem.

I often tell my clients with similar situations that they should just “bite the bullet” and pay for the corrections. Keep in mind that litigation is time consuming, expensive and always uncertain.

DEAR BENNY: I would like to know if it is possible to add my name to the title on my mother’s house. She is 89 and I am 69, and we want the house to go to my grandson when we both pass away. Meanwhile, she wants my name on the house. Can this be done without complications? –Maria

DEAR MARIA: It’s very easy to add your name on title with your mother, but there may be tax complications. In order to determine capital gains tax, we use the concept of “tax basis,” which means the original price of the property. If you have made major improvements over the years, that is called the “adjusted tax basis.”

Let me give you this example. Your mother and father bought the house many years ago for $50,000. Assume for this discussion that no improvements were made. Your parents’ tax basis was $25,000 each. Let’s say your father died when the house was worth $100,000. Your mother received a “step-up” in basis on your father’s half of the property, which means that her basis is now $75,000 (i.e., $25,000 for her half and now $50,000 for her husband’s half).

If your mother puts you on title to the house, that is considered a gift. And the basis of the person giving a gift becomes the basis of the gift receiver. So if she gives you half of the house, your basis will now be $37,500.

Let’s further assume that the house will be worth $500,000 on your mother’s death. Once again, you get the stepped-up basis, or $250,000 on her half of the property. Add that to your basis and your tax basis is now $287,500.

If you decide to sell — and have not owned and lived in the property for two years out of the five years before the sale, you will have to pay capital gains tax. Even if you sell it for $500,000, ignoring selling costs such as real estate commissions, you will have made a profit of $212,500 ($500,000 minus $287,500). The current federal tax rate for capital gains is 15 percent, so you will have to pay $31,875.

But if you inherited the property on your mother’s death, and sold it for the value at the time she died, you would not have to pay any tax at all. In other words, your tax basis is increased by the “step-up” concept — i.e., the value of the property on the date of death.

In your case, because you want the property to go to your grandson, why not just have a last will and testament drawn up for your mother, whereby she specifically designates him to inherit the property?

I see no value in adding your name to title; it merely complicates matters. Talk with an attorney to get specific information relating to your own state laws.

DEAR BENNY: If a person owns a duplex titled in his and his wife’s name and two other duplexes titled in a corporation’s name, would he come under the fair housing rules on the duplex titled in husband and wife’s name? –Jean

DEAR JEAN: To try to find an answer to your question, I went to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website, as that agency is the primary enforcer of the act. But typical of government agencies, they did not give a direct response. Here’s what it says:

“The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.”

Oversimplified, that act requires property owners to make reasonable accommodations for consumers who have special needs, such as having a guide dog when the house rules permit no pets, or (in one case I had) having a hot tub for medicinal purposes when the bylaws specifically prohibited that.

Although I have been involved in a number of Fair Housing Act issues, they generally involved condominium associations, which clearly are covered under the act.

As I don’t have a clear answer to offer, I welcome input from readers on this matter.

Benny L. Kass is a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. No legal relationship is created by this column. Questions for this column can be submitted to benny@inman.com.

* * * * * *

Must-do’s after mortgage is paid off

How to handle deed-of-trust release, automatic payments

BY BENNY KASS, TUESDAY, MARCH 15, 2011.

Inman News™

DEAR BENNY: Because savings interest rates are so low, I’ve decided to accelerate paying off my home mortgage. But after I pay off the mortgage, then what? What else do I need to do, or make sure is done by the bank/mortgage company? For instance, changing the home insurance beneficiary from the bank to me. Are there any other things I need to do? –Nelson

DEAR NELSON: That’s an excellent question. My standard and perhaps somewhat glib response is: “Don’t burn the mortgage.”

When you first obtained your mortgage loan, you signed two documents: a promissory note and a mortgage document (usually called a deed of trust). The trust was recorded among the land records in the county where your property is located. You must make sure that the deed of trust is formally released from land records. This is accomplished by filing a release — often called a “certificate of satisfaction” — on those same land records.

Lenders treat this in different ways. Some actually will arrange to have the release recorded, and will charge you a nominal fee for this service. Other lenders, however, will just send you the promissory note, marked “paid and canceled” and you have to record the release. If your lender is a private individual, make sure that you get the note back simultaneously when you make the final payment.

You should also (1) advise your insurance carrier in writing that you no longer have a mortgage; (2) advise the real estate taxing authorities in your jurisdiction to start sending you the original tax bills, assuming that you have been escrowing for taxes and insurance; and (3) don’t forget to stop any automatic payments that you have with your bank.

Then — and only then — enjoy your free-and-clear house.

DEAR BENNY: I purchased a new home from a large developer nine months ago. Prior to the purchase, I had the home inspected and the inspector noted in one corner of the unfinished basement some moisture around the metal tabs that connect the poured concrete forms. The inspector said it was probably the downspout, but I should confirm that with the builder.

The builder adjusted the downspout, ran some water at that corner for 20 minutes, and showed no water had seeped through. I closed on the house a few days later.

Every time it rains, moisture has come through that area and new areas are popping up each month. During this past winter, it did not happen; however, in two upper corners there was frost. The builder came out, used some kind of monitor, which showed heat was being lost there, and sprayed some additional foam insulation, which corrected that problem.

This weekend I had a basement waterproofing company come out to tell me why my basement continues to leak through these tabs that the builder had caulked and painted over. The technician said the builder used too little waterproofing material on the outside walls.

I sent an e-mail to the builder asking what will they do about it. I haven’t heard back from them. What do you suggest I do at this point? –Denise

DEAR DENISE: What kind of warranty did the builder give you? Review all of the various documents you received from the builder, including any promotional information about the house. Also, ask a lawyer if there are any laws in your state regarding new-home warranties.

You may also find this information on the Internet, by searching “builder warranties in (state name).” Additionally, your state attorney general’s office may have relevant information that may assist you.

I also suggest that you hire a structural engineer to give you a written report as to the cause of the problem and any proposed solutions.

Once you are armed with all this ammunition, I would send a strong letter to the builder, with a copy to your state’s attorney general. That should get the attention of your builder. Give him two weeks to respond.

If he does not answer or is otherwise unresponsive, you have to decide whether it makes sense to hire a lawyer and possibly file a lawsuit. This is always a difficult decision, and the amount to fix the problem should assist you in making that decision. Clearly, you do not want to spend more money on legal fees than it will cost to fix the problem.

I often tell my clients with similar situations that they should just “bite the bullet” and pay for the corrections. Keep in mind that litigation is time consuming, expensive and always uncertain.

DEAR BENNY: I would like to know if it is possible to add my name to the title on my mother’s house. She is 89 and I am 69, and we want the house to go to my grandson when we both pass away. Meanwhile, she wants my name on the house. Can this be done without complications? –Maria

DEAR MARIA: It’s very easy to add your name on title with your mother, but there may be tax complications. In order to determine capital gains tax, we use the concept of “tax basis,” which means the original price of the property. If you have made major improvements over the years, that is called the “adjusted tax basis.”

Let me give you this example. Your mother and father bought the house many years ago for $50,000. Assume for this discussion that no improvements were made. Your parents’ tax basis was $25,000 each. Let’s say your father died when the house was worth $100,000. Your mother received a “step-up” in basis on your father’s half of the property, which means that her basis is now $75,000 (i.e., $25,000 for her half and now $50,000 for her husband’s half).

If your mother puts you on title to the house, that is considered a gift. And the basis of the person giving a gift becomes the basis of the gift receiver. So if she gives you half of the house, your basis will now be $37,500.

Let’s further assume that the house will be worth $500,000 on your mother’s death. Once again, you get the stepped-up basis, or $250,000 on her half of the property. Add that to your basis and your tax basis is now $287,500.

If you decide to sell — and have not owned and lived in the property for two years out of the five years before the sale, you will have to pay capital gains tax. Even if you sell it for $500,000, ignoring selling costs such as real estate commissions, you will have made a profit of $212,500 ($500,000 minus $287,500). The current federal tax rate for capital gains is 15 percent, so you will have to pay $31,875.

But if you inherited the property on your mother’s death, and sold it for the value at the time she died, you would not have to pay any tax at all. In other words, your tax basis is increased by the “step-up” concept — i.e., the value of the property on the date of death.

In your case, because you want the property to go to your grandson, why not just have a last will and testament drawn up for your mother, whereby she specifically designates him to inherit the property?

I see no value in adding your name to title; it merely complicates matters. Talk with an attorney to get specific information relating to your own state laws.

DEAR BENNY: If a person owns a duplex titled in his and his wife’s name and two other duplexes titled in a corporation’s name, would he come under the fair housing rules on the duplex titled in husband and wife’s name? –Jean

DEAR JEAN: To try to find an answer to your question, I went to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website, as that agency is the primary enforcer of the act. But typical of government agencies, they did not give a direct response. Here’s what it says:

“The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.”

Oversimplified, that act requires property owners to make reasonable accommodations for consumers who have special needs, such as having a guide dog when the house rules permit no pets, or (in one case I had) having a hot tub for medicinal purposes when the bylaws specifically prohibited that.

Although I have been involved in a number of Fair Housing Act issues, they generally involved condominium associations, which clearly are covered under the act.

As I don’t have a clear answer to offer, I welcome input from readers on this matter.

Benny L. Kass is a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. No legal relationship is created by this column. Questions for this column can be submitted to benny@inman.com.

* * * * * *

Let your Realtor and Lender Help with the Paperwork!

As the rules for getting a home loan have tightened, the list of documents that home buyers must bring to their lenders is expanding.  Home buyers and sellers  often bristle with the mere thought of all the paperwork they expect they’ll have to come up with to do their transaction.  this is above and beyond the basic loan application, contract, disclosures and closing docs from the real estate side of the transaction.

The worries start way in advance, before they even start visiting open houses. Some buyers begin to visualize – and even dread  spending hours upon hours in the dark catacombs of  their filing and bill paying systems combing through ancient files going back two maybe even three years.

Too Much Paperwork

Too Much Paperwork

In some respects, this vision of the experience of obtaining a home loan might not be to far off.  Granted there are many hoops through which to jump and occasionally a loan underwriter requests something sort of bizarre. But more commonly, there’s a pretty finite universe of documents you’ll really need to scrounge up to get your home bought – or sold. Here are some of the more commonly asked for documents:

  • ID (e.g., driver’s license, state-issued ID, passport). Who must produce it?  Buyers and sellers.   Lender wants to know that you are who you say you are.  Also, buyers and the title insurance company wants to make sure you don’t have any outstanding leins or unpaid taxes.  Sellers need to prove that you actually have the right to sell the home.  This commonly goes unrequested until you get to the closing table, when you are requested to show it before signing.  Most mortgage brokers and even some real estate brokers and agents may ask to see it earlier on.
  • Paycheck Stubs.  Who must produce it?  A buyer financing their purchase with a mortgage. Buyers’ purchase price ranges are determined, in part, by their income and assets.   Sellers usually only need to produce this in the case of a short sale and also have to prove an economic hardship.
  • Two months’ bank account statements. Who must produce it?  Buyers getting financing or sellers selling short. Buyers’ lenders now require proof of regular income and proof that the down payment money is your own or properly document with something like a gift letter from a relative.   Short sellers?  It’s all about the hardship.
  • Two years’ W-2 forms or tax returns. Who must produce it?  Mortgage-seeking buyers and short selling sellers. Why? Banks want to see a stable, long-term income. They also limit you to claiming as income the amount on which you pay taxes (attn: all business owners!). And in short sales, again, they want documentation of every single facet of your finances.
  • Updated everything. Who must produce it? Buyers who are mortgage applicants.  These things change and because the time period between the first loan application and closing can be many months  on today’s market. During the time between contract and closing it’s not at all unusual for underwriters to demand buyers produce updated mortgage statements and checks stubs.   It is also quite common for them to call your office the day before closing to request a last minute verification of employment!
  • Quitclaim deed. Who must produce it?  Married buyers purchasing homes they plan to own as separate property.  Married sellers selling homes that they own separately or joint owners selling their interests separately.   With the Quit Claim Deed, the other spouse or owner signs any and all interests they even might have had in the property over the the selling owner, making it possible for the title insurer to guarantee a clear and undisputed title is being transferred in the sale.
  • Divorce decree.  Who must produce it? Buyers and sellers who need to document their solo status or the property-splitting terms of their divorce.  This ensues that the seller has the right to sell.  Recently single buyers might need to prove that they shouldn’t be held to account for their ex’s separate debts or credit report dings.
  • Gift letters.  Who must produce it? Buyers using gift money toward their down payment.  The bank wants to be sure the gift came from a relative and is their own money to give.  They also want the relative to confirm in writing that it’s a gift, not a loan since a loan would need to be factored into your debt load.
  • Mortgage statements. Who must produce it?  Any seller with a mortgage.  Since the title company will need to use them to order the payoff figurea from any mortgage holder who has to get paid before the property’s title can be transferred.

By no means is this an exhaustive list.  Call your lender or give me a call if you are wondering what and when you will need to produce the documentation referred to above.  Nancy Mikoda at 720-331-2444.

Denver Building Permits Can Protect You!

Residential Improvement Reminder from City of Denver

When work is done without permits, it comes to light at the time a property is sold, refinanced or when a contractor or neighbor notices a problem and reports it to the City.  This applies to many of the metro area suburbs too!  FHA appraisers may look at this when it comes to appraising your home.  If you do not have a permit for the work in a finished basement, those bedrooms, baths etc. may not count into your appraisal.

Be sure and check with your local permitting office to see what you need.  Each county and city may vary and the laws also change from time to time.  Before you start to work on your home, check out the building and permitting office just to make sure you are in compliance.  Below are some good tips to follow.

 

Protect Yourself with Building Permits

·        Permits protect your safety.

·        Permits protect the resale of your home and are required by lending institutions.

·        Unpermitted work can void insurance coverage and violate local Zoning and Building Codes.

·        Permits add value to your project and require that inspections be performed to verify that work was done correctly.

·        Have your contractor pull a permit because the permit holder is responsible for compliance with the Building Code.

Denver Townhomes

Denver Townhomes

Common Projects That Do Not Require a Permit

Replacing an electrical fixture with a like fixture

Replacing a plumbing fixture with a like fixture

Painting

Carpeting

Floor tile

 

Projects That Require a Permit

·        Most decks

·        Additions

·        Bay windows

·        Patio Covers

·        Garages

·        Car Ports

·        Basement Remodels

 

Utilizing Contractors

·        Seek at least three bids.

·        Verify that your contractor is licensed.

·        Check web sites like the National Association of Home Builders for helpful tips.

·        Have a written contract de­tailing that the contractor will pull a permit and outlining the work to be performed, cost associated with each task and time frame with estimated start and finish dates.

·        Always get a receipt for payments made to contractors.

·        Make payments beyond a de­posit to your contractor only when you get something in return, such as materials delivered to your address.

·        For large projects, before each payment, ask for a walk through with the contractor explaining the work done so far and what will happen next.

·        Never pay in full until the job is complete, has been inspected and the build­ing permit has been closed.

 

Learn more at www.DenverGov.Org

 

Procrastination a problem? Get started Now in 2014!

Is there a project you’ve stalled on, something you’re procrastinating on, or a part of your business you’ve been avoiding but know needs attention? You’re not alone. My garage was a mess after the holiday months.  I went in to organize and found a dozen boxes of tissue, 6 boxes of zip lock bags, and 3 boxes of garbage bags!  I can never find anything so I keep buying more.  Procrastination is unfortunately an easy path to take when our lives are busy and demands on our time are high. The problem with procrastination is that it simply puts off until later something that still needs to be completed.

There are plenty of experts on productivity and great books on ‘getting things done’ out there to help give us perspective but this simple fact remains: while it might be easy to do that one little task, oftentimes it’s easier notto do it!  I worked with an amazing woman who owns Efficiency by Design and she changed my business life and office!  I try to retake the class every year and pick up new information to help my business and personally.

A simple but effective trick I like to use is to break things down into smaller pieces and tackle each one individually. I worked on organizing my email folders, desktop,  purse, briefcase, car – you name it.  How great it is to know where everything is at and it saves time!

 

Too Much Paperwork

Too Much Paperwork

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at the project or task as a whole might be overwhelming and cause us to avoid it. But breaking it down into manageable parts and then checking each one of those off a list can be enormously rewarding and a source of pride as you begin to see your list disappear.

No matter what the project or task is, break it down into smaller elements. Get one of those done at a time and then move on to the next. Before you know it you’ll be a master of productivity. Remember it doesn’t happen overnight.  One step at a time and this year can turn your life around.  Try 10 minutes a day in any part of your home and office.  Soon you will see the results and make the project a priority!

Stop the Holiday Madness and Relax!

It happens every year: You vow to enjoy the holidays, spend quality time with your friends and family, and maybe even give back to your community. Then, little by little, your stress level increases. Family time becomes filled with anxiety. Holiday parties are another dreaded task on your to-do list. And all that shopping and entertaining causes worry over your budget.

Holiday Stressors

If you find yourself losing the holiday spirit this year, we recommend you stop, take a deep breath, and then follow these tips for getting back to your jolly self.

  • Take a time-out. Even a quick spin around the neighborhood to breathe in the fresh air and admire holiday displays can boost your mood. Try to find at least a few minutes every day for yourself — whether it’s to enjoy a hot cup of tea, or listen music that is uplifting.
  • Learn to say, “no.” If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s OK to skip a party or two. Or put off your volunteer work until the spring. Pick the events and efforts you truly want to be a part of, and let go of the guilt about sending your regrets to the others.
  • Sweat out the stress. It’s easy to let exercise take a back burner during the holidays, but physical activity can work wonders on your outlook.  Maybe you need a change in your workout routine or you can find some frinds to share the experience with.
  • Grab a pal. Sometimes, a good chat with a friend is all you need to get back on track. Or, how about gathering a group for a relaxing at a movie, concert or just enjoying a cup of coffee together.
  • Stay organized. Fight that frazzled feeling by keeping your calendar up-to-date, organizing your space, and planning ahead.

And remember, if you feel overwhelmed or depressed for more than a couple weeks, it might be something more than a case of holiday stress. Speak with your physician or call Mental Health, Behavioral Health, or Member Services in your area to ask about resources that can help y0u.

Five Cheap ways to Improve your Kitchen Now!

 

The good news for homeowners: Consumer Reports’ latest tests yields a tantalizing menu of value-priced kitchen upgrades that cost as little as $1,000. Besides paying off now in improved looks and convenience, these smaller upgrades are likelier to pay bigger dividends later as home prices rebound. Here’s the list:

Add fresh paint

If cabinets are structurally sound but shabby, spruce them up with a coat of paint. Paying a pro costs as little as $50 per door, less if you tackle the prepping and painting yourself. One pick from our tests is the self-priming Behr Premium Plus Ultra Satin Enamel, $33 per gallon at Home Depot.

More from ConsumerReports.org: The best appliances—and what not to buyKitchen planning guide

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on Yahoo!

Improve convenience

For about $200 or less, you can improve cabinet storage with pull-out shelves and retractable trash bins.

Update the countertops

Designers’ views are mixed between granite and quartz (about $40 to $100 per square foot), which mimics granite and other stone. Quartz topped our gauntlet of tests, and it never needs sealing. Want to spend less? Laminate costs just $10 to $40 per square foot and resisted stains and impact even better (but be careful about cuts).

Beautify the backsplash

Durable ceramic-tile starts at about $10 per square foot installed. And even high-maintenance materials like glass are smart options, since they don’t get the wear and tear of a countertop. Whatever you use for the kitchen backsplash, caulking between the backsplash and countertop is a must.

Fix up your flooring

Tile or wood may impress realtors, but some top-rated vinyl and laminate floors also look sharp, resist wear significantly better, and cost far less when the work is done. Examples from our latest tests include the vinyl-tile Congoleum DuraCeramic Sierra Slate SI-74 Golden Greig, $5 per square foot, and the laminate Armstrong Coastal Living L3051 White Wash Walnut, $3.50 per square foot.

Copyright © 2006-2011 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.

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