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Wallpaper - It’s Back!

by The Hat Team

Wallpaper has been out for a long time, but as most trends do, it is making its way back into homes everywhere.  Wallpaper designs have changed a lot and unlike the dark floral prints of the 80s and 90s, new wallpaper looks more like murals or custom wall art.  So, if you’re thinking about a new look for a room (or several rooms) in your house, you may want to consider using wallpaper instead of paint.  Here are some current popular wallpaper trends to choose from:

  • Eastern Influence - Think Japanese and Indian designs with hand finished patterns; the perfect backdrop for classic decorative designs and geometric prints.


Photo Credit: pinterest.com

  • New Retro - Everything old is new again! Geometric patterns such as chevron, honeycomb, and zigzags are back in vogue in retro colors like orange, teal, and mustard.  Use as the backdrop for your funky mid-century modern furnishings.


Photo Credit: wordpress.com

  • Traditional Florals - Florals inspired by watercolors and oil paintings have been given a more modern look with oversized prints. Plain linens and lush velvets create a beautiful contrast to floral prints.


Photo Credit: archiexpo.com

  • Modern Rustic - Influenced by mother nature, modern rustic wall décor is a beautiful collection of faux textures. Cover your walls with paper that represents the natural beauty of the untamed wilderness and features raised patterns that mimic elements like brick, bamboo, limestone, cork, rock, and wood.


Photo Credit: blackforestdecor.com

  • Quiet Patterns - Create a peaceful, calming landscape with nature-inspired prints in the modern-country style featuring layered designs in a color palette that includes pale tints of gray, taupe, pink, and blue.


Photo Credit: pinterest.com

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

by The Hat Team


The holidays are winding down and the new year is upon us. Chances are you are thinking about some personal goals you would like to achieve in 2019, but if you are a homeowner, you might want to add some resolutions to your list regarding your home.  Here are some homeowner resolutions for you to consider in 2019:

  1. Do a HOME INVENTORY and put together a DISASTER KIT for your home.  You never know when disaster may strike, and while it’s no fun to think about, it’s important to be prepared.  Include your home inventory and financial documents in your disaster kit so that you will be ready should the unthinkable happen.  Make sure that your kit is stored in a fireproof, safe place that will be easily accessible if you need it.
     
  2. Think about getting a HOME WARRANTY.  If your appliances are nearing the end of their life cycles, a home warranty could possibly help prevent high costs for replacements.  Just be sure you do your research and read customer reviews regarding different home warranty options.  And always read the fine print so that you don’t get blindsided by exclusions.
     
  3. Thoroughly examine your HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE You likely got a standard homeowner’s insurance policy to satisfy the lender when you purchased the home, but that does not assure that you are adequately covered. Each policy has unique coverage options and exclusions that you may not be aware of.  Look it over and find out what it does and does not cover and then decide if it is adequate for you or if you need to purchase a different one.
     
  4. Make saving for an emergency a priority.  Sometimes homeowners are blindsided by unforeseen expenses.  An EMERGENCY SAVINGS FUND can be a life saver when that happens!  Think of it as a safety net for your home.  An idea emergency fund will be able to cover several months of expenses.  Don’t let that overwhelm you.   You have to start somewhere.  Just start setting aside a small portion of your income each month and before you know it, you will have a sizeable savings for emergencies.
     
  5. Start building your equity. If you financed your home mortgage, it will be years before you own your home outright.  But there are ways to BUILD EQUITY  faster, which will enable you to enjoy the benefits of homeownership sooner.  Home equity is a valuable asset that can be used to pay for things like home improvements or student loans. 6 Ways to Build Home Equity (and Savings) Faster

If you are not a homeowner yet, but would like to become one in 2019, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals help you find the perfect home!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: success.com

Refinance Now and Save!

by The Hat Team



Sadly, one of the best mortgage programs in our country will cease to exist at the end of December, 2018.  An extremely generous government refinance program called HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) is in its final days. It was launched by the US Government during the Obama administration in an effort to assist middle class home owners by offering lucrative access to lower interest rates and reduced payments amidst the Great Recession. Through HARP, you can not only get a lower interest rate, but you can also get a shorter loan term, or change from an adjustable to a fixed-rate mortgage. And guess what?  There is NO minimum credit score required!  

Take advantage of this fantastic program now, before it’s too late…and here is why: the savings you will gain from participating in this program could rival your best investment. Talk about a great deal! Here are some numbers for you: if you are younger than 50, you are restricted to $18,500 in annual 401K contributions.  A contribution in that amount would yield around $2775 in tax relief for the average American.  But HARP could save you $2400 per year - which would leave you with more cash to invest in your 401K.

This program is geared toward America’s middle class.  Only mortgages under $625,000 qualify.  But if you want to take advantage of it you must apply immediately before time runs out.  Reach out to lenders and find out if you qualify by just answering a few questions. The LendingTree platform will allow you to receive quotes from multiple lenders.

Give yourself the gift of extra cash in your pocket this holiday season!  Check out HARP today! 

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: Zillow.com

On the 12 Days of Christmas My Realtor Gave to Me

by The Hat Team

On the first day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Buyers: if you’re looking to buy your first home, now is the time! There might be less inventory now, but there is also less competition and more highly motivated sellers. 5 Reasons to Buy a Home This Fall

On the second day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Sellers: if your home is for sale during the holiday season, feel free to decorate, but don’t go overboard.  You want your home to look its best while still enjoying your personal touch.  Avoid large decorations that can be overwhelming or distracting.  Remember that potential buyers want be able to envision your home as their own.

On the third day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Buyers: take advantage of less competition from other buyers during the holiday season. Less competition might mean you'll be able to negotiate a favorable price for a home you want to purchase. Homes are often priced to sell this time of year. Although there is so much going on during the holidays, it might be worth it to go house hunting if it means a better price for you!

On the fourth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Sellers: make your home feel inviting. If it’s cold outside, make it warm and cozy inside. Play soft, classical music and offer homemade holiday treats. If potential buyers are comfortable, they will spend more time in your home and will have more time to appreciate all its best features.

On the fifth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Buyers: consider possible tax advantages.  If you itemize your taxes, you can deduct any points you paid upon closing, as well as property taxes and mortgage interest. Whether it is to your advantage to buy before or after year’s end depends on factors such as how many other deductions you have this year and expect to have next year.

It is best to consult with a tax professional before purchase. Even though you do not want to decide on a home purchase strictly for tax reasons, it could be to your benefit to close before the end of the year. Buying a Home: The Tax Impact of Your New Home

On the sixth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Sellers: there will be motivated buyers this time of year. If people are house hunting during the holidays, they probably have a good reason for doing so. For example, they may be relocating for a job or investing for a tax deduction.  If they are on a deadline, they will be highly driven to find a home quickly.  It may be worth it to do the extra work involved in showing your home during the holiday season.

On the seventh day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Buyers: you may find that there are better interest rates this time of year. Generally, there is often a cyclical trend of lower interest rates during the holidays due to limited demand forcing greater competition among lenders.

On the eighth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Sellers: price your home to sell.  A home that is reasonably priced for the market will make buyers feel merry and bright.  Many real estate agents advise sellers to initially price their home to sell rather than making small price reductions over time.

On the ninth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Buyers: you may get a faster closing on your new home since all parties involved have incentive to complete the transaction before the end of the year. Lenders want to close their books; realtors want to receive their commissions and buyers and sellers want to settle into their new homes. Since all parties are motivated and there are fewer transactions taking place during this time, in many circumstances, it should be easier to put everything in place for a smooth and rapid closing.

On the tenth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Sellers: provide photos that show your home year-round.  Yards and landscaping aren’t always at their best during the winter months.  Make sure that potential buyers see the beauty of your home during other times of year when the grass is greener and trees and flowers are in bloom.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Buyers: motivated sellers may mean a better deal for you. People who are selling their homes over the holidays often have a need to sell fast. If a house has already been on the market for a while, that need is even greater. It may be advantageous for you to buy now. You can negotiate fairly but firmly with the sellers for a lower price and/or other concessions such as having them pay closing costs.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Sellers: create a video tour for the web. You might get less foot traffic during the holidays due to the business of the season.  By posting a video tour, you may attract house hunters who don’t have time to go to your home in person.

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

A Handy Guide to Hosting Guests During the Holidays

by The Hat Team

It’s that time of year again.  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 two months 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. Check with your guests to see if they have any food allergies or dietary needs so that you can provide safe and healthy choices for them.

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 Montgomery 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. 15 Tips for Turning Your Guest Bedroom into a Retreat

Provide toiletries.  The guest bathroom should have soap/body wash, shampoo, conditioner and lotion available 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!

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: frugalandthriving.com.au

How to Pack Like a Pro!

by The Hat Team

Congratulations!  You have successfully sold your home!  What a relief, right?  Now comes the hard part. Moving.  Moving is one of the 10 Most Stressful Life Events along with job loss, death of a loved one, divorce and major illness. Sounds fun, huh?  That’s why it is important to go about moving in a thoughtful and organized manner.  The more prepared you are, the less stress.  Packing up your house can be overwhelming, but you can make it easier by spreading it out over several weeks rather than trying to do it all right before you move.  Here is a general timeline for packing that you can use as a guide:

FOUR WEEKS BEFORE MOVING DAY: PRE-PACKING - Hopefully when you sell your house, you won’t have to immediately vacate.  About a month before moving you can begin to pre-pack items that you won’t need or use before you move.  Out of season clothing, tools and small appliances, and collectibles/knick knacks are items that you won’t miss. Hint: if your house is still on the market you can take this step as well, and it will help with staging your home for prospective buyers.

THREE WEEKS BEFORE MOVING DAY: NON-ESSENTIALS - Among the items that you didn’t pre-pack, choose those that you know you likely won’t need before moving.  Books, extra linens, and kitchen items can be packed up because you likely won’t be doing much reading, and you only need enough linens, plates, and utensils for the number of people living in the home.  CDs and DVDs can go as well.

TWO WEEKS BEFORE MOVING DAY: THE SERIOUS PACKING BEGINS - Yes…now it is time to start paring down the amount of “stuff” still in your home. If you have children, allow them to choose a few toys/games to keep out, and box up the rest. If you have a home office, clean it out and pack what you plan to take with you.  Any jewelry and shoes that you don’t wear daily can go as well.  You may feel that two weeks is a long time to go without these items, but trust me, before you know it you will be unpacking them in your new abode! 5 Ways Children Can Help During a Move

ONE WEEK BEFORE MOVING DAY: SEVEN DAYS AND COUNTING - Now it is time to pack up all but the few things you will need to get through the last few days at your current home.  The rest of your clothes and kitchen items can go (leaving yourself what you will need until the move, of course).  Go through your medicine cabinet and toss any expired medications. Pack the rest except for the ones you take daily.

TWO DAYS BEFORE MOVING DAY: IT’S GETTING REAL YA’LL - At this point your stress level may be peaking, but if you have been following the time-line and packing a bit each week, you should be almost finished!  Box up your electronics (in their original packaging when possible), bathroom items, and any miscellaneous items that are left.  Keep a box for essential items that you will keep with you as you are moving.

MOVING DAY: IT’S HERE! -  All that should be left is furniture and appliances.  Whether you have hired movers to load the large items or you are doing it yourself, it will be so much more manageable with everything else already boxed up and ready to go.

IMPORTANT TIP - Label every box.  You can either write what is in the box or what room the box should go to.  Or both.  You will be glad you did when you are unpacking!

Remember that this is simply a general guideline.  You should do what is right for you and your family when it comes to packing and moving. But hopefully this will make what can be a trying and overwhelming time a little less stressful.

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Creating a Fabulous Fall Landscape!

by The Hat Team

First impressions are crucial to successfully selling your home.  The first thing potential buyers notice when they drive past your house is your lawn and landscaping.  If you’re putting your house on the market this Fall, here are some tips for sprucing up your yard to make a fantastic first impression!

  • Rake, rake, rake.  Fall foliage is beautiful and can serve to make your property more attractive to buyers, but a lawn covered in leaves looks sloppy.  Keep up with raking so people notice the beautiful leaves ON the trees, not the dying leaves on the ground.
  • Plant Fall flowers.  A fall garden filled with vibrant color is a great way to add beauty to your yard. Planning a Fall Garden
  • Create a lush lawn by aerating so that water and nutrients can reach the roots. Importance of Fall Lawn Fertilization and Aeration
  • When you do your last mow of the season, make sure to trim grass short.  Shorter grass helps prevent disease.  In addition, fall leaves will blow across your lawn if they have nothing to cling to.
  • Trim ugly limbs.  There is nothing pretty about cracked, diseased or dead limbs. 
  • Get rid of annuals that have lost their luster.  Trim tired perennial foliage down to the ground.  This will prepare them for their next season and will tidy up your flower beds for a neater look.
  • Lay fresh mulch for cooler weather curb appeal.  Choose mulch that is aesthetically pleasing while also providing the benefits that keep your flower beds looking their best.

With summer winding down and fall just around the corner, it’s a good time to start planning for creating beautiful curb appeal that will have potential buyers lining up to see your home!

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs. Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

Buyer & Seller Guides Fall 2018

by The Hat Team

Selling in the Fall is a Great Idea - Here’s Why!

by The Hat Team

While summer is considered by many to be the hottest time for selling a house (both literally and figuratively), sometimes circumstances require you to sell during a different time of the year.  This fall might be exactly the right time to sell.  Homes are still in demand and there is a good chance you will find a buyer before the end of the year.   Here are some perks to selling in the fall:

- Buyers are seriously looking in the Fall. They want to get settled into a new house before the holiday season begins.  The pressure is on for them to find their new home quickly and this puts you (the seller) in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiations.

- There is less competition in the fall. Many sellers need to close and move before school starts, so fewer houses are for sale.  With less to choose from, buyers can’t afford to be quite as picky.

- You will be dealing with different types of buyers.  Families often move in the summer to accommodate school schedules. Empty Nesters and Millennial Home Buyers are more likely to be looking in the fall. In addition, employers who need to relocate their workers often wait for fall to avoid the hot market during spring and summer.  A speedy closing is the goal of most of these buyers, which means you are more likely to get the best price possible for your house.

- Fall is pretty.  The weather is cooler; the leaves are changing colors and fall décor can make homes look and feel warm and cozy.  This is a great time of year to dress up your house to entice buyers.

So, if you have been thinking about putting your house on the market, don’t wait until spring.

Contact Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professional Realtors at 334-834-1500 and get your house listed and sold this Fall!

Retirement - A Time to Sell

by The Hat Team

With more and more Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, they will be asking themselves if they should sell their homes. This is a time in their lives to finally enjoy the fruits of their labor and the last thing many want is to have to take care of a large home or be tied down to a big mortgage. Today’s housing market has low inventory of starter and trade-up properties, meaning there are a lot of buyers out there competing for homes.  So, the question retirees need to ask themselves is, “should we sell now?”.  Consider these questions to find your answer:

  1. Will you be able to afford your home once you have retired?  It’s important to think long term about the monthly costs of staying in your home.  Even if you have paid off your mortgage, you will still be responsible for Property Taxes, insurance, HOA fees, and utilities.  Then there are home repair costs.  If you are living on a limited monthly income, an unexpected, costly home repair can be devastating. 
  2. How much Equity  do you have in your current home?  If you have a lot of equity built up in your current home, you can use that to purchase a retirement home and have little or no mortgage, freeing up your monthly income for other things. 
  3. Can you keep up with home maintenance? Maybe you are someone who enjoys yard work and other home maintenance tasks, but depending on your age and health, these chores can become more challenging with time.  A condo with an HOA fee might be the way to go so that you can enjoy your golden years with the peace of mind in knowing that you don’t have to do maintenance work yourself.
  4. Do you feel secure in your home?  Criminals prey on the elderly.  It’s a sad, but true fact.  Elderly homeowners are often targets for scams and break-ins.  Home security systems are helpful, but living somewhere that has 24-hour security, such as a manned gate-house and resident only access can provide you the security you need to be able to relax and enjoy retirement.
  5. Is your current home set up property for limited mobility?  As people age, getting around can get more challenging.  People are living longer, more active lives these days, but that doesn’t mean that you will always want to climb the stairs to your bedroom. And what if you must use a wheel chair at some point?  Are your doorways and hallways wide enough? Will you have easy access to a bathroom and shower?  Homes in retirement communities are built with these things in mind and often offer the best of both worlds…activities to keep you busy and entertained and accommodations for any physical needs you might have in the future.
  6. Is your current home in a convenient location?  There are many things to consider about location.  Are you close to a hospital and drug store?  Can you easily get to shopping and entertainment venues?  Are your grandchildren close by?  Maybe you are living in a fantastic school district, which was great when your kids were growing up, but doesn’t really serve you now.  If that’s the case, take advantage of the resale value that will give you and sell so that you can find a home that is more conveniently located for you.

If you are considering selling so that you can find your perfect forever home, contact Sandra Nickel, a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES), and her Hat Team of professional Realtors and let them help you get your house on the market and sold for the best possible price. Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: forbes.com

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