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Wrapping up Christmas - Holiday Storage Hacks

by Desi Sowers

I know you probably just finished pulling out all your holiday decorations, but it’s not too early to start thinking about how you’re going to put it all away. If you’re like me, every year you tell yourself “this year I will be super organized when I put my Christmas decorations away!” Also, if you’re like me, by the time the holidays are over you are exhausted and just want to get the stuff put away as quickly as possible.  Then you go to pull it out the following year and you say, ”this year…I will organize it all this year.”  Sigh.  Part of the problem is figuring out how to organize everything.  There are lots of Christmas storage containers and bags and bins and boxes for sale out there, but that can get expensive!  And let’s face it, just after Christmas the last thing you want to do is spend more money.  But it is possible to organize your holiday decorations without spending a fortune.  Here are some holiday storage hacks to help you get organized this year:

 - Do you eat eggs?  That may seem like more of an Easter question, but stay with me here. It’s not the eggs you need, it’s the cartons they come in.  They are perfect for storing small, round ornaments. 
 

- Keep strings of lights from tangling with this easy hack - wrap them around cardboard before storing them.  You can use shoe boxes or any of the many boxes that were likely delivered to your house before December 25 to cut pieces to size for your light strings. Then place them all together in a bin where they will remain safely untangled until next year!

- Hang your wreaths year around.  Keep your holiday wreaths in pristine condition by hanging them rather than putting them in a storage bin, where they are likely to get crushed. If you don’t have room in a closet, you can use an inexpensive portable coat rack.  Cover the wreaths with plastic trash bags (garment back style) and hang them on the rack. 

- Turn bins you already have into ornament storage bins with this easy and inexpensive hack.  Three words. Red. Solo. Cups.  They aren’t just for parties!  With cardboard, a glue gun and cups you can create a DIY ornament storage bin.  Just glue the cups to cardboard pieces cut to fit and place them in the bin and, voila!  You have the perfect place to safely keep your holiday treasures!

- Shiny beads make a beautiful garland for your tree, but when they are all tangled up in a box you may decide it’s not even worth it to try to untangle them.  This year, save up your plastic water bottles and use them to store your garland.  They will stay untangled and be easy to pull our when you’re ready to put them on the tree again.

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/A-Home-for-the-Holidays-5-Reasons-to-Buy-Now

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Making-Holiday-Guests-Feel-at-Home

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/How-to-Prevent-Electrical-Hazards-in-Your-Home

Making Holiday Guests Feel at Home

by Desi Sowers

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  A time for friends and family to come together to celebrate the holidays.  Many of you will be hosting guests in your homes over the next few weeks and while you are surely delighted to spend time with your loved ones, it can be a stressful time as well.  If you are opening your doors to family members or friends this holiday season, here are some ideas for prepping your home so that you’ll be ready to welcome them with open arms.

Tidy up the house.  Use this as motivation to thoroughly clean your house. Get rid of clutter, make small house repairs and complete that decorating project you’ve been putting off.

Stock up on food and drinks. Make sure you have different types of beverages and snacks that your guests enjoy. It’s nice for them to be able to easily grab a quick snack whenever they want.

Have activities planned for your guests. Depending on how long they are staying, you may want to plan some special events or activities for your guests.  Whether it’s a shopping excursion, a day at a museum, a holiday concert or just a nice dinner out, your visitors will appreciate your thoughtfulness in keeping them entertained. Click here for a list of fun events happening in the New River Valley area this holiday season: Holiday Events

Be mindful of the little ones. If your guests include children, be sure to plan for them as well.  If you don’t have children, you may want to pick up a game or some arts and crafts to have around for them.  Find out their food preferences prior to their arrival so that you are prepared to accommodate them at meals. 

Provide comfortable sleeping spaces. Be sure to have nice, clean sheets, pillows and extra blankets.  If you have a guest bedroom that has not been used in a while, strip the bed and wash the bed linens so that they are fresh for your guests.  Prepping a Room for Holiday Guests

Provide toiletries.  The guest bathroom should have soap/body wash, shampoo, conditioner and lotion available for guests.  5 Tips for Preparing Bathroom for Guests

Give instructions for electronics. If the guest room has a television, leave written instructions for how to use the remote.

By following these tips and prepping your home ahead of time, you will be able to offer a warm welcome to your guests and enjoy the time you have with them!

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Thanksgiving-is-a-VERB

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Putting-Your-House-on-the-Market-During-the-Holidays

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/New-Home-New-Traditions

Decluttering 101

by Desi Sowers

Having a cluttered house makes life more challenging than it has to be.  The emotional toll of clutter can be surprisingly draining.  Take these steps to declutter your house and before you know it you will start to experience the positive effects of a clutter-free life!

  1. Stop the flow of stuff coming in. Some people have a rule that if you buy something, you must get rid of something. That is all fine and well if your house isn’t already cluttered.  But, if you have too much stuff you are going to need to get rid of things and NOT replace them with other things.
     
  2. Declutter at least one item a day. You don’t have to do it all at once.  You likely feel overwhelmed by the thought of trying to declutter.  Take it one small step at a time.  Some days you might get a lot accomplished, others you may not. But try to declutter at least one item a day. 
     
  3. Declutter the easy stuff first.  If there are things that you know are going to be difficult to part with, don’t start with them.  Start with the easiest things.  Ease your way into the process. 
     
  4. Have a disposal plan in place. Do your research. Find out where you can donate or sell items.  After all, your trash might be someone else’s treasure. Websites like Freecycle and Ebay, as well as local thrift stores, are good disposal options.
     
  5. Decide not to keep things out of guilt or obligation. If you love it, keep it. If you use it, keep it.  But if it is meaningless to you and simply taking up space, get rid of it!
     
  6. Don’t be afraid to let go.  If you are hanging on to something because you might use it someday, don’t.  Be realistic.  If you haven’t used it in years, chances are you will never use it.  Let. It. Go.
     
  7. Only declutter what is yours.  All family members should participate and go through their own belongings to decide what to keep and what to dispose of.
     
  8. Do not waste your life on clutter! Clutter drains your energy.  It’s a physical manifestation of chaos that can often make you feel like you are not in control.  Take that first step and start enjoying life without clutter!

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Autumn-Home-Maintenance-Must-Do-List

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Lunch-Logistics-Organizing-Your-Kitchen-for-Back-to-School-Lunches

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Packing-it-Up-and-Moving-it-Out

Majestic Fall Flowers

by Desi Sowers

If you’re lucky enough to live near the mountains in VA, you know that fall foliage provides a natural, extraordinary backdrop of color during the autumn months.  But if you would like to add some of the glorious autumn colors to your home’s landscaping, now is the time to start planning and planting.  Whether you are partial to yellows and golds, burnt oranges and rusts, or deep reds and burgundies (or if you like to mix it up with a variety of hues), there is something for everyone when it comes to fall flowers.  Here are some favorites:

Chrysanthemums -  These popular flowers come in a variety of sizes. With seasonal, festive shades of yellow, red and orange they provide a perfect backdrop for all your outdoor fall décor.  Learn how to plant and grow chrysanthemums here.

Pansies - Found in just about every shade of the rainbow, these versatile flowers create a majestic ground cover and look equally amazing in hanging baskets.  If planted in fall, pansies can last up to eight months, so you definitely get your money’s worth of beauty with these hardy plants!

Celosia - These lovelies are durable and easy to care for.  They provide bright yellow, warm orange, crimson red, and rich burgundy accents to your container gardens.  You can also add celosia to your landscape beds and borders.  Their flame-like plumes add a whimsical look to any fall garden.

Croton - An ideal plant for autumn, this plant has brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow and purple.  It works as a houseplant in cold-weather regions or as a shrub in frost-free areas.  It also can be grown outdoors as an annual. Be on the lookout for different varieties to find the best crotons to complement your fall garden.

Black-Eyed Susan - These golden-yellow stunners bring to mind happy daisies.  Bees and butterflies love them and they brighten up any landscape or container garden. Learn how to plant and care for black-eyed Susan and create a blanket of color for fall!

Helenium - Also known as “sneezeweed” (don’t worry, it doesn’t make you sneeze…the name comes from when they used to make snuff out of their dried leaves) they look like small, copper hued coneflowers.  They can grow quite tall and add a burst of warm cheer to your fall garden.  Get planting and maintenance tips for Helenium here.

Take advantage of what’s left of late summer and start your fall garden while the days are still longer and the temperatures are still mild.  Before you know it, you will be enjoying the glory of Autumn!

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Autumn-Home-Maintenance-Must-Do-List

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Ten-Décor-Trends-to-Avoid-in-2017

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Creative-raised-bed-and-planter-gardening

 

Autumn Home Maintenance Must-Do List

by Desi Sowers

Summer is winding down and Autumn is just around the corner.  Take advantage of the longer days and warmer weather and get started on your Fall home maintenance to-do list now!

  • Check for peeling paint on the exterior of your home.  Don’t ignore it!  If paint is peeling or blistering, it’s a sign that it is no longer providing a protective covering for your siding, which can leave it vulnerable to damage that will cost you dearly in the future.  This doesn’t mean you have to repaint the entire house though.  You can repair the damaged areas and save yourself a lot of grief and money.
  • Clean your gutters.  Clogged gutters are a major source of wood rot problems and pest infestations.  Make sure downspouts are clear and joints and brackets are in good working order.  If they are damaged, replace them
  • Make sure windows and doors are sealed properly. Caulking and sealing is an inexpensive way to protect you home from the elements.  It also saves you money by preventing heat from escaping during the colder seasons.  Check your weather stripping as well. Replace it if it is damaged.
  • Take a good look at your roof.  Make sure there are no missing or loose shingles. Avoid having to deal with a leaky roof during the first snow by preemptively repairing any problems
  • Get your fireplace and/or wood stove ready.  If you have a wood burning fireplace, have a professional come out to clean your chimney. Making sure your fireplace/woodstove are in good working order is crucial for home safety.

Check these home maintenance projects off your list now and you can enjoy your Fall weekends in your cozy, warm house!

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/To-Renovate-or-Not-to-Renovate-Should-You-Fix-Up-Your-Home-or-Sell-it-As-Is

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/4-DIY-projects-for-your-first-home

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Upcycle-your-summer-treasures-with-these-5-DIY-tips

What Women Want - She Sheds!

by Desi Sowers

The she shed trend has arrived and it looks like it’s here to stay. And really, what took so long?  Men have had their “caves” for years.  Women should have their own space to get away and unwind too!  Whether a she shed is used for relaxation and contemplation, watching chick flicks, or as a space for hobbies, it is a long overdue oasis for hardworking women who deserve a peaceful space to call their own.  If you’re ready to create your own she shed, here are some ideas for you:

If you already have a backyard shed, you are going to need to clean it out.  Completely.  You will want a blank slate for designing your perfect environment.  Find new storage options for the items you are keeping and give away the rest.  If you don’t have a shed, you can build one with an  easy-to-build kit purchased online or from a local home improvement store.

Show off your one-of-kind sense of style by giving your she shed a fresh coat of paint.  Choose colors that you love.  Do you want a rustic look, or do you dream of a storybook cottage?    The ideas for designing your personal retreat are endless.  Remember, it’s all about YOU!

Think about what you want the purpose of your shed to be.  Will you use it as a peaceful sanctuary where you can curl up with a good book?  Perhaps you might set up an easel and use it as your art studio.  Whatever your intent, be sure to keep it in mind while coming up with your design. 

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to furnish and decorate your she shed.  Search antique stores and flea markets for unique pieces.  The idea is to make it feel relaxed and cozy.  You might already have everything you need, but just needed a special place for it all. 

Choose a spot in the yard that takes you away from your day to day grind and makes you feel surrounded by nature.  Lush plants and window boxes full of flowers will give you a tranquil ambiance that will provide the calm environment needed for quiet serenity.

The most important thing is to make your she shed a reflection of yourself.  And remember…it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, so as your interests and hobbies shift, your shed can transform with you and always be there to fulfill your needs and desires.

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Heavenly-Homes-Churches-Converted-to-Residential-Living-Spaces

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Ten-Décor-Trends-to-Avoid-in-2017

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Bedand-Breakfast

Paint Colors that Sell!

by Desi Sowers

If you’re thinking about painting the rooms in your house, why not think about resale value while you’re at it?  Of course, you will want to choose colors that appeal to you personally, but at the same time you may want to consider how those colors might affect potential buyers in the future.  Looks aren’t everything, but they are important when making an impression on people who may possibly purchase your home.  Here is a palette you may want to consider if you want to make more money when you sell:

According to Zillow kitchens painted in light blue to soft gray-blue tones brought in $1,809 more than other colors while kitchens painted yellow saw resale value drop by about $820. 

Bathrooms painted light blue or periwinkle can bring in $5,440 more on average, while bathrooms painted in varied shades of white reduced home sale prices by about $4,035.

When it comes to your bedroom, the blues win again!  A pink one can cost you about a $200 loss in resale value, while a light cerulean or cadet blue bedroom can bring you an extra $1,856.


Blues seem to be the colors of choice for most rooms in the house when it comes to resale value, but one room where that is not the case is the living room. Zillow found that a light beige, pale taupe and oatmeal color tends to add $1,809 to home sales, while living rooms painted in varied shades of blue, silver and gray lose out on approximately $820.


So, if you’re looking for a low-cost way to upgrade your home, break out the paint brushes and make sure to choose the right colors to get more bang for your buck when you sell!

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/To-Renovate-or-Not-to-Renovate-Should-You-Fix-Up-Your-Home-or-Sell-it-As-Is

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Ten-Décor-Trends-to-Avoid-in-2017

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/The-Best-Chance-For-Selling-Your-New-River-Valley-VA-Home

If you are preparing to list your house for sale, you may be wondering if the financial reward will be worth the time, effort and money to fix up things that are in disrepair or that are dated.  The answer to that question depends on a myriad of circumstances such as the current real estate market, the condition of competing inventory and whether or not the renovations that need to be made generally provide a return on investment.

Some home buyers are looking to purchase a "fixer upper".  They are looking for properties priced to sell, perhaps because they don’t qualify for more expensive homes or maybe because they want to make a profit by fixing the home up themselves.  Most fixer buyers want to do simple repairs such as painting walls, replacing light fixtures and putting in new carpet. Only a few want to take a house down to the studs and completely redo it.  These potential buyers will want a price for the home that will allow for all the repairs, the inconvenience of doing the work, and often a bit more.  For example, if a home is worth $200,000 fixed up but needs a new roof, and the roof costs approximately $10,000, a buyer most likely will not offer $190,000 for this home.  The reason is that they can probably find a similar house that already has a new roof for $200,000 and save themselves the headache of replacing it themselves.  A buyer in this situation might offer $175,000 or less, in which case it would make more sense for the seller to replace the roof and sell it for $200,000.

It’s important to note that many buyers are looking for "turn-key" homes.  They fear having to make major repairs because they might be more costly than anticipated or other problems might be revealed.  Even if the price is right, homes listed for sale in “as is” condition might not attract as many buyers.

However, before doing major renovations, there are many things to consider.  Smart sellers will research what their home’s market value will be once improvements are made and compare it to the cost of the renovations. If an upgrade won’t provide return on the investment, it probably doesn’t make sense to do it.  Knowing the condition of your competition is helpful.  For example, if other homes for sale in your neighborhood all have modern kitchens, it might make sense to update yours.  This doesn’t mean you should tear it down and start from scratch.  Often a minor kitchen remodel will suffice.  Also, keep in mind that kitchen and bathroom remodels are known to bring the best return on investment.

Start by making a list of the things in your home that are dated or in disrepair and then prioritize.  Here is a list of 10 minimum improvements to make before putting your house on the market:

  • Patch all holes and cracks in walls and ceilings.
  • Fix all appliances and HVAC systems.
  • Repair leaky faucets.
  • Replace worn carpeting.
  • Repaint dark or marred walls in neutral colors (not white).
  • Replace broken windows.
  • Repair the roof.
  • Change dated light fixtures/ceiling fans.
  • Replace old linens/window coverings.
  • Fix any code violations.

If your real estate market is a seller’s market and homes are moving quickly, you can get by with fewer fix ups, however a home that needs repairs will still deliver a lower price.  If it’s a buyer’s market, people might not even be willing to look at homes that need repairs.  Desi  Sowers can help you understand the current market in The New River Valley so that you can make informed decisions about whether to sell your house “as is” or not. 

Ten Décor Trends to Avoid in 2017

by Desi Sowers

If you are looking to update your home décor, whether to sell your house or just to give it a refreshing new look, here are ten décor trends to avoid in 2017.

Brass

While this metal can bring a shiny appeal, overuse of it may be, well, overwhelming.  If you love this look, try mixing metals and/or using them as small accent pieces.

Edison Bulbs

It seems that designers have become bored with the industrial décor theme, and old fashioned hanging bulbs are out. Instead, try retro lighting that appeals to you and fits with your home décor.

All White Rooms

2017 will leave all white rooms behind in favor of rooms in bold colors such as navy blue.  Navy is the new face of modern design and adds warmth and freshness to previously pristine, yet clinical feeling rooms.

Indigo Needs to Go

This hue has been everywhere the past few years and has worn out its welcome.  If you like this color, try using a variation of blue tones instead.

Sharp Edges

A boxy item here and there is ok, but in 2017 rounded edges and circular furniture will be making a comeback.  It’s time to “take the edge off” and create calm and comfortable spaces.

DIY Everything

If you are a crafty, creative person, there is nothing better than spending a rainy afternoon on a DIY project. But if everything in your home décor is DIY, it’s time to make a change. In 2017 easy and quick crafts are out and artisanal works that require a high skill level are in.

Brushed Metal

With the overall industrial décor trend going by the wayside, it’s time to say goodbye to burnished metals.  Warmer, shinier metals like bronze and gold will take their place.

Smooth and Sleek Rooms

The simplicity of a smooth and sleek room is going to be a thing of the past as we move into 2017.  This year you will want to transform your room with texture adding warmth and charm to previously “flat” rooms.

Oversized Furniture

Oversized furniture will exit in 2017 as space becomes more important in home décor. Space efficient furniture will take its place.

Chevron

Designers are now avoiding the zig zag pattern of Chevron, especially prints that have only two to three colors, which can sometimes look cheap and two-dimensional.

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Top-10-Remodeling-Projects-for-Adding-Value-to-Your-Home

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Paint-to-Live-vs-Paint-to-Sell

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Get-unhinged-3-ways-to-create-visually-striking-doors-in-your-home

Lucky Number 7 for First-Time Homeowners

by Desi Sowers

With the tax code constantly changing, first-time homebuyers need to educate themselves to understand year-to-year changes.  As an incentive to buy homes, the government provides tax breaks to existing and new homeowners.  Homeowners receive multiple tax deductions, tax credits and other breaks that aren’t available to those who rent.  If you bought your first home in 2016, it is smart to familiarize yourself with current homeowner tax breaks so you can take advantage of them and save some money.

  1. HOME MORTGAGE INTEREST DEDUCTION

The mortgage interest deduction is one of the largest home tax breaks and is a significant new homeowner tax credit.  It covers interest paid on loans of up to $1 million, or $500,000 if you’re married but filing a separate return. This deduction can especially benefit borrowers with new loans because interest changes on mortgages are typically steeper in the early years of the mortgage’s term. Don’t miss out on this money saving tax credit.  Your loan provider should send you a form 1098 which will show how much interest you paid the previous year.

Instructions For Home Mortgage Interest Deduction

 

  1. MORTGAGE INTEREST CREDIT

The federal government's mortgage interest credit provides another chance for first-time homebuyers to claim a tax break for the mortgage interest they paid. Unlike the mortgage interest deduction,             which reduces your taxable income, this mortgage interest credit directly counts against your tax bill, lowering what you owe.  To be eligible for this strategic tax break, a state or local government must have issued you a MORTGAGE CREDIT CERTIFICATE.  Typically, this certificate is issued when you originate your mortgage.  It tells you how much interest you can claim as a credit.  If you also claim a    mortgage interest deduction when you file your taxes, you must reduce the credit by that amount.   Mortgage Interest Credit Form

 

  1. MORTGAGE POINTS DEDUCTION

You can also deduct what you pay in points to obtain the mortgage loan in the first place. Mortgage points are prepaid interest that can help a borrower qualify for a lower interest rate over the life of the loan. How to Deduct Mortgage Points on Your Tax Return

 

  1. TAX FREE IRA WITHDRAWALS

Saving money for a down payment and closing costs is something many people have to do when buying a home. The IRS says you can pull funds from your IRA to help. You can take up to $10,000 from your IRA without penalty to buy a home, although you'll still need to pay taxes on the money. Your 401k plan does not qualify for the exception to the 10 percent penalty. How to Tap an IRA for a Home Purchase

 

  1. PROPERTY TAX DEDUCTION

Property taxes are one of the many advantageous tax breaks for first-time homebuyers. You can deduct property taxes paid during the year for which you're filing. If you purchase a home midway through the tax year, you can claim all taxes paid from the date of sale onward.  How to Claim Property Taxes

 

  1. HOME IMPROVEMENT TAX BREAKS

Improvements you make to a home can qualify for a tax break. If you use a home equity loan or other loan secured by your home to finance improvements, the loan will qualify for the same mortgage interest deductions as your main mortgage.  Home Improvements that are Tax Deductible

 

  1. HOME ENERGY TAX BREAKS

Unfortunately, two property-related home improvement tax credits have been eliminated as of Jan. 1, 2017. That means both credits will no longer apply beginning with the 2017 tax year.  They are: the Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit and the Residential Energy Property Tax Credit.  However, you can still claim these credits if you made qualifying improvements to your home during the 2016 tax year. Keep all receipts and contracts from the home improvements and use Form 5695 to file for this credit.

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Real-Estate-Myths-Dont-Let-Them-Fool-You

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Mortgage-Information

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Top-10-Remodeling-Projects-for-Adding-Value-to-Your-Home

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