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Buying a Home in 2019 - Tips for Success

by The Hat Team


Are you planning to become a home owner in 2019?  If so, it’s important that you educate yourself about the real estate market so that you know what steps to take to successfully find and purchase the right home for you.

With the continued shortage of homes for sale, buyers need to be prepared for competition with other home buyers as homes will likely get many offers.  That being the case, it is vital that serious buyers put their best foot forward from the very start.  Their first offer will need to be their best one in a situation where there are likely to be multiple offers, because they may not have an opportunity to negotiate.  Unless you intend to pay cash, the best thing you can do is to get Pre-approved for a Mortgage Loan before you start shopping for your new home.  This will let buyers know that you are serious and that you can afford the purchase price.  Remember that in a seller’s market, homeowners are calling the shots and it’s not a time to take risks.  It’s also worth mentioning that the best offer might not be the offer of the most money.  Sellers will take into account the financing and likelihood of a successful closing. The more cash in the offer, the more likely the loan will close.

As a buyer in this market it benefits you to be flexible when it comes to a closing date. The best strategy is to have your Realtor find out from the sellers when they would like to close.  If they need to close by a certain date, they may pass on an offer if those buyers can’t close by that date.  Being flexible about when you want to take possession of the house will help you stand out to sellers as well. Sometimes sellers might need a little extra time to move out and if you can work with them, they might accept your offer over someone who needs to move in right away.

Be ready to make an offer right away. When a house comes on the market that you would like to bid on, have your pre-approval letter ready.  Take a look at the home as soon as possible and if it’s right for you, have your Realtor make an offer as soon as possible. This is not a time for a low-ball offer. A Realtor who is very familiar with the market can help you decide on the right amount to offer. In fact, one of the most important things you need to do to prepare to buy a home is to hire a professional, experienced Realtor like Sandra Nickel to assist you in the home buying process.

Finally, don’t wait!  Home prices are rising, as are interest rates. So, if you’re planning on becoming a home owner this year, now is the time to start your home search! 2019 National Housing Forecast

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!

Smart Home 101: A Guide for Beginners

by The Hat Team


I remember watching The Jetsons when I was a kid and being fascinated by the idea of being able to actually see somebody when talking to them on the phone. And a robot maid? Who wouldn’t want one of those?!  I had no idea that in my lifetime, the things I saw on that cartoon fantasy would become a reality.  FaceTime and Skype allow us to see our loved ones no matter how far away they are. And while we may not have live-in robot maids (yet), things like Roomba have made house cleaning a breeze.  Technology moves fast and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the options available to make life easier and safer.  If you’ve been thinking about turning your house into a “smart home”, but you don’t know where to begin, here are the basics to get you started:

    - Create your command center with a voice-controlled smart speaker.  Smart speakers come equipped with smart assistants and they usually come with an app that will be a hub for all your smart-home devices.  The speaker allows you to control them all with voice commands without having to log in to different apps.  You want to be sure that you use the right type of speaker based on the other technology services you use. For example, if you use an Apple HomePod, it will only work with Siri and iTunes and is only compatible with other iOS smart products. The Best Smart Speakers for 2019

    - If you feel like setting up your smart home is going to be too expensive to do all at once, then smart lighting is a good place to start.  It’s relatively inexpensive and is one of the best applications for voice control.  By using Smart Bulbs not only will help save energy, they can create a more secure home because you will be able to control your lighting remotely.  You can also turn basic light switch into a dimmer…think romantic ambiance!  Once you make the one-time purchase of a small hub that is plugged in and connected to your router via Ethernet, all you have to do is replace your current bulbs with smart bulbs.  The whole process just takes a few minutes, and since the hub can accommodate up to 50 bulbs, you will only need one.  When purchasing the smart bulbs, make sure they are compatible with the smart assistant you are using in addition to making sure you are buying them in the correct size to replace the ones you have.  Some brands, like Philips Hue offers starter kits that are compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.

    - Invest in smart plugs. They will make almost everything easier! Smart plugs are adapters that turn simple appliances into smart appliances.  With a smart plug you can control many of your devices from anywhere by simply using an app. 

    - Smart home-security devices are a little more challenging to install, but are worth it for the security they provide. A smart doorbell is a good place to start. It lets you monitor who is coming to your door whether you are home or somewhere else.  It uses a camera and an in-app calling feature that utilizes two-way audio and one-way video.  The Best Smart Home Security Systems 2019

    - A larger expense comes into play when you desire large smart appliances such as washers, dryers and refrigerators.  Smart plugs cannot be used to control them.  So, that means replacing current large appliances with new smart ones. And as you can imagine, that can be very costly.

    - Set up an IFTTT app.  IFTTT stands for “If This, Then That”, and it adds an extra layer to your smart home.  Available on the App Store, Google Play and in a desk top version at IFTTT.com, this app will help you connect your smart home features in creative ways based on your personal needs.  35 Amazingly Useful IFTTT Recipes to Simplify Your Life

Keep in mind that this is a simple guide to begin the process of turning your house into a smart home. There are a lot of products available, so do your research and find the one that is the best fit for you and your family!

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: pcmag.com

Building Wealth by Investing in Real Estate

by The Hat Team

 

Investing in real estate is a time-tested way to successfully build wealth.  While there are many ways to invest your savings, investing in real estate is unique in that it offers cash-flow, liquidity, profitability, and tax and diversification benefits that other investments do not.  If you’ve been thinking about how to build wealth for your retirement, you would be smart to consider investing in real estate. Diversification and Real Estate Investing

There are four primary ways to make money in real estate:

  1. Appreciation. When a property increases in value, you have real estate appreciation. Sometimes is happens due to changes in the market and other times it may be due to upgrades made on the property.
  2. Cash flow income (rent). Cash flow income is a nice perk of real estate investment that you don’t have in other types of investments.  It is generated when you purchase a home or apartment building or an office building and rent them out.
  3. Real Estate Income.  This is income earned by people who earn commissions through real estate transactions or buy property managers who oversee the operations of rental properties.
  4. Ancillary Real Estate Income - This can be a huge source of profit.  Things like application fees, vending machines and laundry facilities are money makers that go beyond the monthly rent.  Increase Your Bottom Line - Supplementing Rent with Ancillary Income

While there are certainly Risks of Real Estate Investing, there are a lot of benefits that outweigh the risks:

  1. Real estate is something that people who grew up lower to middle class are familiar with.  They may not have been exposed to things like stocks and bonds, but they likely know the importance of owning a home.  Buying a home is an investment that is reachable for them.
  2. Having an investment that you can see; something that is tangible, is psychologically important.
  3. You have the control in a real estate investment.  You don’t have to worry as much about being defrauded the way you might when entrust your money to someone else to invest for you.
  4. You will reap the benefits of tax advantages.
  5. You can Leverage Your Debt to buy more real estate and increase your net worth.

Whether you are thinking of purchasing a home for yourself and investing in your own future by building equity or you are considering buying property to rent out, investing in real estate is great way to build wealth!

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!

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

Design Trends that Will Make Your House Shine in 2019!

by The Hat Team


With new trends endlessly popping up, it can be challenging to decide what home design projects are worth your time and money.  It will serve you well to research what trends are timeless and what trends have gone by the wayside before investing in updating your home, especially if you are getting ready to put it on the market.  To simplify that process for you, here is a list of five of the hottest home design projects for 2019!

  1. Vintage Lighting - Think less exposed lighting and more pendants and sconces. Brass and copper finishes will also be popular.  Changing light fixtures is a great way to change the whole look and feel of a room.
     
  2. Millennial Pink - Already a hit in the fashion world, this trendy hue is making its way into home décor in unique and creative ways in 2019.  This serene color softens any room and mixes well with other colors and metals.  15 Millennial Pink Accessories for Your Home
     
  3. Copper Accents - Say goodbye to rose gold - popular in 2018, and hello to copper for 2019.  The red and orange tones of copper add an earthy hue to any space. Copper Accents
     
  4. Bucket Sinks - Sometimes called a “trough sink”, the bucket sink is another vintage design trend that designers believe will make a huge comeback in 2019.  Farm-house inspired, these sinks will add a touch of nostalgia and personality to your kitchen and/or bathrooms.
     
  5. 70s Chic - You may have heard the saying “everything old is new again”, and that is so true for 2019!  Along with many other old design trends coming back in style, such as velvet and geometric patterns, the 70s era is going to be well represented in the new year.  Warm palettes, funky textures and abstract silhouettes will make your home feel groovy!

These are just a few of many Home Design Trends that can give your home a whole new aesthetic, and if you’re selling, make it more desirable to buyers in 2019!

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: trenddesignbook.com

It’s a Wrap! Storage Hacks for Your Holiday Treasures

by The Hat Team


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 holiday 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 Holiday Storage Containers and bags and bins and boxes for sale out there, but that can get expensive!  And let’s face it, just after the gift giving season, the last thing you want to do is spend more money.  But it is possible to organize your holiday decorations without breaking the bank.  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! Safe Ornament Storage

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.

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

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

Contemporary or Modern - What’s the Difference?

by The Hat Team

 

So, you think you like modern décor, or is it contemporary?  You may think the two styles are synonymous, but they are quite different.  If you are decorating your home, or if you’ve hired a decorator to do it for you, terminology matters!  It’s important to know the correct words to describe the look you are going for!  Here is how to tell the difference between modern and contemporary home décor styles.

Modern design was developed in the early to mid-twentieth century.  Highly influenced by Scandinavian and German Bauhaus Design, it created a distinct style focused on simple form and function.  Then, Mid-Century Modern  was developed in the 50s and 60s. But for most interior designers, the word “modern” covers both styles.  Modern spaces tend to follow specific style formats that emphasize balance and lean toward natural and warm neutral colors for decorating.

Contemporary design doesn’t refer to any specific time-period. It is dynamic, changing to reflect current popular trends.  It borrows from other styles including modernism, Minimalism and Art Deco. There are many variations in contemporary interior design and color palettes of brown, taupe, cream and white are featured, with splashes of color sometimes found on a single wall, rug or piece of art.

While the main differences between modern and contemporary are significant, there are similarities as well, which is why people often confuse them.  They both embrace simple, clutter free spaces with smooth, clean lines.  Furniture in both styles feature exposed legs, and reflective surfaces such as exposed metals and glass are popular in both. Neither utilizes ornate designs or dramatic elements.

Hopefully this has cleared up some confusion, but if you like elements of both styles, don’t despair.  Mix it up and have fun with it, because at the end of the day, the only style that matters is YOUR style!

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: interiorzine.com                      
Photo Credit: thespruce.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!

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