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How to Host a Fantastic Game Day Party!

by The Hat Team


Football season is here and whether you are cheering for Alabama or Auburn, that means party time!  Gathering with friends and family to watch your favorite team will be all the more fun with these game-day party tips!

GUEST LIST: Make sure to invite people well in advance so that you know how many to plan for.  If you are a die-hard football fan, you may want to consider only inviting other die-hard fans, but if you are just using the game as an excuse to have a party, invite anyone and everyone you enjoy socializing with. The more the merrier!  You also might want to make it an adult only affair. A day of watching tv and eating junk food might not be the best idea for little ones, especially if there isn’t a lot of space for them to run around and burn off energy. 

PARTY LOCATION: If you live in a tiny apartment with one small couch, you are going to want to either limit how many people you invite to just a few or you might want to totally steer clear of hosting a party at your home.  The optimal setting for a football watching party is a large room with lots of seating and a casual atmosphere.  Oh…and don’t forget…a BIG television!

WHAT TO SERVE: As far as drinks go, make sure to have a variety. Remember that some people don’t drink alcohol, so you should have non-alcoholic beverages available.  Now, for the most important aspect of a game day party…THE FOOD!  Creating a game day menu is one time when you can be a junk food junkie and feel good about it!  Think finger foods that are easily consumed while sitting on a couch watching the game. You can’t go wrong with chips, dips and nachos, but if you want something a little more substantial, great options are wings, ribs and chili.  You want to stick with foods that can be prepared ahead of time and served up easily so that you don’t have to miss any of the game.  Have some sweets on hand for dessert. They should be portable and easy to eat - like cake pops, cupcakes and brownies.  If you really want to impress your guests, make some football shaped food.  Whether you keep it simple, or go all out in terms of presentation, just make sure you have enough for everyone! 8 Football-Shaped Foods for Your Game Day Party

USE TEAM COLORS FOR YOUR THEME: Make things festive by adding decorations in your favorite team’s colors.  Think streamers, paper plates, napkins, and cups. Decorating can be the difference between a gathering and a true PARTY!

If you love to host parties and relish the idea of going all out, then go for it!  But if you just want to kick back with people to watch the game, keep it simple and don’t stress.  Most importantly, enjoy the time spent with friends and family!

If you are in the market to buy or sell 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: mydish.com

2230 Mckinley Ave: Spacious Bungalow!

by The Hat Team

2230 Mckinley Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama 36107 

MLS# 460958

3 Bedrooms | 2 Bathrooms | 1,605 sqft | Capitol Heights

This cute Capitol Heights bungalow has surprising space! You will have plenty of room to spread out in the open living and dining room combination that includes room that was once a porch, now included as bonus living space. The eat-in kitchen has lots of counter space and a place for a breakfast table. Large den/family room off the kitchen could double as a master suite, as there is a "hidden" bathroom and laundry behind a paneled door on the far end of the room. Relax out back under the big covered patio, and don't miss the large attached storage room at the back right of the house. Shady back yard, too! And, at this price, this would make a great income producing investment property. 

Creating a Colorful Fall Garden

by The Hat Team

Fall gardens bring to mind vivid, jewel toned colors such as scarlet, deep purples and gold.  Planning for a fall garden needs to start early so that plants are established. Even if they bloom late in the season, they will be hardier and bloom best if they’ve been in the garden longer.  Before planting, research what kind of flowers and plants will do best in your area.  To help, here is a list of some that thrive in hardiness zone 8 (Montgomery, AL): Alabama USDA Hardiness Zone Map

Chrysanthemums:  Commonly called “mums”, these richly hued plants are true sign of fall. When buying mums, look for ones labeled “hardy mums” or “garden mums” for the best chance of having them thrive throughout the season.  Plant them as soon as you buy them.  Given the opportunity to develop a strong root system, they will last longer. Chrysanthemums: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Mums

Helenium: Part of the daisy family, this cheery flower blooms in yellow, orange and red bringing a vibrant ambiance to your garden. These tough, easy-to-grow perennials bloom late in the season and last a long time.

Asters: Available in a variety of hues in shades of pink, purple, blue and white, these perennials bloom from mid to late fall.  Loved by bees, butterflies and other pollinators, they provide a late feeding opportunity for them.   Plant them as soon as they are available in early fall so that they can establish a strong root system.

Pansies: One of the most popular cool weather annuals, pansies are favorites for fall flowerbeds. They are very hardy and can continue to bloom through winter and into spring, thereby adding lively color to your garden almost year ‘round! All About Pansies

Sedum (Stonecrop): Robust, carefree, pretty, and long-lasting, sedum is about as close to perfect as you can get for a fall flower.  Sedums comes in many various sizes and colors, including mat forming, creeping, and upright varieties. Easy to grow, they are great for beds, borders, or even a rock garden.  How to Grow Sedum

If you are thinking about selling your home this autumn, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with getting it on the market and sold for the best possible price!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

A Guide to Homeowner’s Insurance

by The Hat Team


Becoming a homeowner for the first time can seem like a daunting task. There are so many details and many first-time homebuyers don’t know all the ins and outs of homeownership. It’s important to educate yourself and be prepared for what’s to come.  One aspect of being a homeowner is paying homeowner’s insurance. 

To understand how you pay for homeowner’s insurance, you need to understand your monthly mortgage payment and how it breaks down.  There are four parts to you mortgage payment: PITI. This stands for principal, interest, taxes and insurance.  The insurance part of your payment can vary depending upon your loan type.  There are some insurances that are required when you obtain a mortgage, and others that are not.  It’s up to you to decide what you need and to do so, you need to understand what they cover.

Mortgage insurance (MI) will usually be required if you are putting down less that 20% on your home purchase.  But not all loans require MI.  For example, a VA loan does not require the borrower to pay MI. It is replaced by an upfront VA funding fee. Even if you are required to purchase MI, once you have 20% equity in your home, it can be dropped. A Closer Look at the VA Funding Fee

Homeowners insurance is another requirement of getting a mortgage loan.  This is the insurance that protects your home in the event of fire, theft, or damage.  Depending on the insurance you choose, you may be covered for things like stolen jewelry and stolen or damaged electronics and/or furniture.  You must be able to provide proof of insurance to your lender before closing on your home.  This insurance not only protects you as the homeowner, but it also protects the lender in case of foreclosure or in the event of a disaster.  It is common for the lender to require you have at least enough insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding the home.

Another requirement is that you purchase title insurance. This insurance protects you by providing proof of legal ownership should someone else try to claim ownership of the property.  Should a title dispute arise resulting from a sale, the title insurance may be responsible for paying specific legal damages, depending on the policy you have. Title Insurance

There are additional insurances that are not required by your lender, but you may want to consider them for more protection.  Personal property insurance may cover personal belongings that your homeowner’s insurance does not cover, like art, collectibles, and firearms.  A home warranty is not insurance, but does offer further protection should something break. For example, you might want a home warranty for your HVAC system to cover the cost of service should it need repairs.  Purchasing additional insurance or a home warranty is a personal choice. You can talk to your mortgage banker and insurance agent regarding your options.

If you are thinking about selling your home this autumn, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with getting it on the market and sold for the best possible price!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: aisinsurance.com

How to Stay Active When You Hate Exercising

by The Hat Team


Do you hate exercising?  Do you want to be healthier and more fit, but the thought of going to a gym fills you with anxiety?  Well, I am here to tell you that there are numerous ways to “exercise” that you will enjoy so much, you won’t even realize you’re exercising!

Seven Fun Ways to Stay Active:

  1. Hiking - Whether you like the solitude of hiking alone or you would rather go with family and friends, you will be surrounded by the beauty of nature and wildlife and you will walk miles before you know it.  There is no shortage of beautiful places to hike in and around Montgomery! Best Trails Near Montgomery, AL
     
  2. Walking - If you don’t have time for a hike, go for a walk instead.  Even a fifteen-minute walk can get your heart pumping.  Walk in your neighborhood, or during your lunch break at work.  One way or another, get those steps in! Our Free Self-Guided Walking Tour of Montgomery, AL
     
  3. Geocaching - For the adventure nerd in all of us…geocaching allows us to be real-life treasure hunters and get a great work out at the same time! Check out this Website for information on geocaching events taking place in Alabama.
     
  4. Dancing - So many types of dance, so little time!  You can try swing dancing, Latin dancing, tap!  The options are limitless!  Try some ballroom dancing lessons at River Region Ballroom or step out for some country line dancing at one of the many Country Line Dance Bars in Montgomery!
     
  5. Martial Arts - Just like with dancing, there are loads of different types of martial arts.  Not only will you learn to defend yourself, but the practice of martial arts can be a stress reliever. Try karate at the Family Karate Center or jiu-jitsu at Montgomery Martial Arts.
     
  6. Clean - I’m shaking my head as I type this, because really?  Who likes cleaning?  But by thinking of it as a great way to get fit, you can kill two birds with one stone (so to speak).  Blast your favorite music at max volume and see how much you can get done during one song. Make it a challenging game and before you know it you will not only have a clean house…but you will have worked up a good sweat too!
     
  7. Play – Get outside and play childhood games with your kids and their friends. Hide and seek, tag, red rover, kick the can.  These games will keep you moving…and probably laughing, while you enjoy quality time with your kids! 30 Unorganized Sports You Should Teach Your Kids This Summer

So, if “exercise” is a bad word in your book, remove it from your vocabulary and replace it with one of these fun and exciting ways to stay fit!

Photo Credit: nationalpost.com

3614 Princess Ann St: Move-In Ready with 4 Bedrooms!

by The Hat Team

3614 Princess Ann Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36109 

MLS# 4589923

4 Bedrooms | 2 Bathrooms | 1,928 sqft | Dalraida

Located in one of Montgomery's most beautiful neighborhoods, this lovingly cared-for home is move-in ready! Living/dining room combo is a great space to entertain and boasts beautiful hardwood floors. Updated kitchen with granite countertops looks into the cozy den/family room. And, this home has a bonus that most of it's neighbors don't...a large fourth bedroom off the family room that also works great as a studio, home office, or in-law room. Situated on a deep shady lot, the back yard offers privacy and lots of wonderful heirloom shrubs, flowers, and plants. Zoned for desirable Dalraida Elementary school district, and convenient to shopping, dining, Interstate, Gunter AFB, and Downtown Montgomery! 

Thinking of Selling Your House? You Don’t Have to Wait!

by The Hat Team


With autumn fast approaching, you may think that you should wait until next spring or summer to sell your house.  While it is true that the warmer months are popular for home sales, that doesn’t mean autumn is a bad time to sell.  Some buyers, such as empty nesters and millennials, prefer shopping for a home when there is less competition from people trying to move before the beginning of the school year.  So, if you would like to sell your house before winter, here are some tips for making it attractive to buyers during autumn:

  1. Keep the exterior of your home neat and clean.  Curb appeal matters…a lot. It doesn’t matter how pristine the interior is if prospective buyers never walk through the front door.  The first impression is made when they first see the property and if it doesn’t look good on the outside, they may not want to look inside.  There are unique challenges to keeping your yard looking nice when the weather is cooler and the days shorter. If you have a lot of trees dropping leaves, raking will be a full-time job.  You want buyers to see your grass!  Any dead or dying plants and flowers need to be removed or cut back.  Use a fall maintenance checklist to make sure you have your property in the best shape possible.  And if you really want to impress, plant some fall flowers in bold hues to add pops of color to your yard. Fall Home Maintenance Checklist
     
  2. Stage your house for the season, but don’t go overboard.  There are holidays to look forward to during the autumn season.  Potential buyers will enjoy seeing your home decorated accordingly. It will help them picture celebrating the holidays with their own families there. Keep it simple though, because you don’t want to take the focus away from the home itself.  You risk having your house look cluttered if you have too many decorations.  Embrace autumn and the warmth and coziness it exudes.  The smell of a freshly baked apple pie, the crackle of a fire in the fireplace and tasteful autumn décor might be all it takes to seal the deal on a sale!
     
  3. Make sure lighting is sufficient.  There will be prospective buyers who want to see your house after work and with the days being shorter, it might be dark outside when they get there.  You are not going to want them walking into a dark, unlit home.  Turn on the lights inside and out. Exterior walkways and entertainment areas, such as patios and decks, should be well lit.  If you know your house is going to be shown, leave lights on in every room.
     
  4. Price your house appropriately.  It’s important to know what homes are selling for in your area and to price yours accordingly.  Utilize the current market analysis to determine the value of your home.  A professional Realtor can help you set the right price for your home taking into account the season and market in which you are selling.  You don’t want to scare buyers away by overpricing your house. Montgomery Home Prices & Values

If you are thinking about selling your home this autumn, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with getting it on the market and sold for the best possible price!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

2972 Old Farm Road: Easy Living in Midtown

by The Hat Team

2972 Old Farm Road, Montgomery, AL 36111 

MLS# 459084

2 Bedrooms | 2 Bathrooms | 1,500 sqft | Westminster Townhomes

Looking for pristine, low maintenance, lock-it and leave-it living in Midtown...this one's for YOU! Situated on one level for easy access, this two bedroom two bath charmer has smooth surface flooring throughout most of the house (carpet in bedrooms only.) The kitchen has been beautifully updated with gorgeous granite and stainless appliances, and opens to a sunny breakfast room. Good sized living room with fireplace opens to spacious dining room that overlooks a private interior courtyard. Both bathrooms have been nicely updated as well, and master boasts large walk-in shower and two walk in closets! Rear access leads to an attached two car garage with some additional storage space. Convenient to shopping, dining, and I-85 for quick access to Downtown and Maxwell AFB. Call your favorite agent for a personal tour of this lovely single story townhouse! 

Helping Your Parents Move in Their Golden Years

by The Hat Team


There comes a time in everyone’s life when a large family home is no longer needed.  Some people choose to downsize when they reach the empty nest stage, but others stay on until they must move due to circumstances beyond their control. This can be very challenging when it entails moving senior parents out of a home they have lived in for many years.  Even as an adult, it is difficult to see your parents in a vulnerable position of having to leave behind a home filled with memories.  But there are some ways to make it a little easier and less stressful. Here are some tips to help you successfully move your senior parents with as little drama as possible:

  • Focus on one or two mementos to represent your best memories.  When you are packing up your parents’ home, you are likely to come across many items that remind you of your childhood.  It will be tempting to take it all home with you.  Stop and remember that you have likely already gone years without seeing these items.  Create a “keep” pile and after you have sorted through everything, go through that pile and choose a couple of items that are most meaningful to you.  If your parents are downsizing to a much smaller place, help them do the same thing so that the new home will not be overflowing with stuff.
     
  • Use technology to save things.  While it may be emotionally challenging to get rid of items, you don’t have to get rid of them completely. You can take photos of them.  Take pictures of the interior and exterior of the home before you start packing. As you go through boxes, take photos of the many things that have been saved over the years like concert tickets, programs, school reports, children’s artwork, etc.  Then create a photo album that your parent can look at any time. This makes a lot more sense than transferring boxes of treasures from one home to another where they will only be looked at the next time there is a move. 5 Ways Technology is Helping Us Preserve Family Memories
     
  • Don’t seal the boxes until you are done packing up every room.  The best way to make the “move-in” easier is to organize everything during the “move-out”.  For example, pack everything that will go in the new living room into boxes labeled living room. This will obviously include items from the current living room, but it might also include items found in other places in the house.  If you find some photos packed away in the garage that your parent wants to hang in the new living room, you will want to put them in the living room boxes. You don’t want to have to open boxes that have already been taped up and sealed.  So, leave some boxes open until every room has been organized and packed and then when you are sure everything is in the right place, seal them up for the move. A Room-by-Room Guide to Packing Your House for Moving
     
  • Consider trading in the old for the new.  It’s easy to hang on to old furniture that has been in your house forever when you have remained in the same home the whole time, but sometimes it makes more sense to get new things for a new home.  Maybe the old furniture is worn and scratched, or maybe it’s simply too big for the new place. Whatever the reason, a fresh, new look might be just the thing your parent needs to help let go of the past and enjoy a new home where a whole new set of memories will be made.

If you are in the market to buy or sell 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: andrewsmoving.com

What You Need to Know About Selling a Home When Divorcing

by The Hat Team


Moving is one of the top five most stressful life events. Divorce ranks in the top five as well.   Put those two together and you have a meltdown in the making.  If you and your spouse own a home together and you are divorcing, you are going to have to figure out what you’re going to do about the house.  This can be challenging under the most amicable of situations and can be devastating when there is bitterness and fighting.

Since your home is likely the greatest asset that you share, selling it is often necessary when parting ways.  Sentimental value may entice one or the other of you to want to keep the home, but financial implications may keep you from doing so.  Understanding how divorce affects the sale of a home is crucial.  The emotional aspect of splitting up your family can sometimes impair your judgement but making a poor decision regarding your home can have lasting ramifications, long after the divorce is finalized. 

Whether one spouse wants to buy out the other and keep the home or both want to sell and split the equity, selling a house while getting divorced is a rocky road that needs to be navigated intelligently.  When two people are willing to deal with each other in a peaceful, respectful way, it certainly makes the whole process easier. But often this is not the case in these situations.  Division of a home is not simple. 

When each spouse contributed to purchase the home - even if one paid more than the other - you are both going to want your fair share out of it.  Ideally, you will be able to work with an attorney or mediator to come to an agreement out of court, but if you can’t, a judge will decide for you.  This can be a very unpleasant experience for all parties involved.  If both your incomes were factored in the purchase of the house, chances are when you split that in half, neither of you can afford it on your own. If that is the case, the best solution is to sell the home and divide the assets.  There are also tax implications that should be considered when you are trying to decide if you should sell before you divorce or after. Capital Gains Tax and Divorce: How to Preserve Your Biggest Home Sale Tax Break

Should one of you decide to stay in the home, there are a couple of different ways to make that happen.  First, if you have the financial means to do so, you can take over the mortgage by refinancing.  This means you must qualify for the loan and be able to make the monthly payments on your own.  Your ex-spouse will be completely out of the picture.  Another way is to continue co-owning the property.  Perhaps you have children and want to keep them in their home. While this is the least disruptive option, it is precarious and requires a lot of trust.  It would have to be a very civil and friendly divorce for this to work because both parties will be responsible for the mortgage and upkeep of the house.  The bottom line is that if you plan to stay in the home, you better be sure you can afford it.  It would be prudent to work out a budget before you make the decision. 5 Simple Steps to Create a Successful Budget

With all the financial and emotional issues that get wrapped up in the sale of a home during divorce, it’s crucial that you know what you want prior to meeting with your Realtor. It is best for you to meet with your attorneys for them to guide you through the process of deciding how to split the equity. Once you have that done, seek out an experienced Realtor like Sandra Nickel, who will gently guide you through the process with as little stress as possible.

Photo Credit: quickhomeoffers.com

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