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Embrace Minimalism This Holiday Season

by The Hat Team


Ahh…Christmas.  A time for happiness and good cheer.  And shopping. And cooking. And wrapping. And decorating. And baking.  Are you tired yet? I am…just from typing this list of things we all do during the holiday season.  Don’t despair!  It doesn’t have to be this way.  You can experience the magic of the holidays without exhausting yourself to the point that you can’t even enjoy it.  Embrace minimalism this holiday season and you will breathe a sigh of relief as you savor the joy of the season. Here are some tips to help:

  • The Three Gift Rule - If maxing out your credit cards and spending hours wrapping gifts doesn’t sound like fun, you may want to consider the “Three Gift Rule”. With the Three Gift Rule each person gets one thing they need, one thing they want, and one surprise.  Turn the focus from quantity to quality while saving yourself time, energy and a little money. The Three Gift Christmas Rule - How and Why to Do It
     
  • Keep Your Tree Simple - Unless every single ornament you own is super meaningful to you, you don’t have to use them all.  If you are overwhelmed thinking about how much time it takes to decorate your Christmas tree, then consider toning it down this year.  If you have three bins of ornaments, just use one this year.  Next year you can use another one.  When it comes to your Christmas tree, there is beauty in simplicity. If you decorate it so much that you can’t even see any of the actual tree…you are probably doing too much!
     
  • Don’t be “Extra” - You may have heard kids using this term lately.  It refers to someone trying too hard or being over the top.  We can all get caught up in trying to outdo our friends, neighbors, social media acquaintances, and/or family members during the holidays. But do you need all the additional stuff at Christmas?  Stick to the basics…a lovely Christmas tree, a few special gifts and a wreath on the door…and you can still have a magical holiday!
     
  • Give Homemade Edible Gifts - We all have SO. MUCH. STUFF.  When thinking about what gifts to give to neighbors, friends and family, consider making and/or baking edible gifts.  Not only will your time and thoughtfulness be appreciated, but the food will be enjoyed and won’t add to the collection of stuff taking up space in our homes.
     
  • Go Easy on the Stockings - If you fill a stocking so full that you can’t leave it hanging because it’s too heavy, you have put too much in it!  Use Christmas stockings to hold small items like candy, lip balm and socks.
     
  • Secret Santa - If you are part of a large extended family or a large friend group, it can be stressful and expensive trying to find the perfect gift for every person in the group.  Avoid that stress (and expense) by suggesting that you all do a “Secret Santa Gift Exchange”. This way, each of you will only have to buy for one other person. You will not only save money; you will be able to focus on finding a special gift that your chosen person will love! 38 Creative Secret Santa Gifts Under $25 That Beat Your Go-To Gift Card
     
  • Give the Gift of Experiences - When the holidays are over, many people find themselves with a bunch of things they will never use again.  But if you give the gift of a future experience…think tickets to a show or movie, gift card to a restaurant or spa experience…not only will there be less “stuff” to put away, but there will be things to look forward to as the holiday season draws to a close.
     
  • Only Decorate the Room You Spend the Most Time In - You don’t have to decorate your whole house. Skip the Christmas shower curtain in the bathroom and focus on decorating where you and your family spend the most time.  Some people enjoy decorating their entire home, but if you don’t, it’s ok.  Do what brings you joy and skip the rest!

The bottom line is that the holiday season should be a time of peace and happiness.  Do what works for you and your loved ones so that you can truly experience the joy of the season!

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: lakesideohio.com

Fun for Kids This Holiday Season

by The Hat Team


Holiday break.  It sounds like fun. It should be fun. You start the break with images of snuggling up to read stories, making hot cocoa and going for adventures outdoors.  But sometimes it can be challenging for parents to figure out how to fill the hours of free time kids have over the holiday break. Before you know it, you are in survival mode – just trying to get through the break with your sanity intact.  That is why it is a prudent idea to start the break with a plan in mind. It certainly can’t hurt to have a few activities planned to fall back on to keep your kids entertained and engaged.  Here are five budget friendly ideas to keep your kids busy during the holiday break.

1. Creative Coloring 

A box of crayons and some paper can keep toddlers occupied, but as children grow, they may need a few more creative ideas for how to use those crayons to stay busy. Here are some creative coloring options:

  • Coloring wrapping paper. Who doesn’t need more wrapping paper for the holidays? This is a twofold activity. You get your wrapping paper at a low price, and you keep your kids busy awhile. Just buy rolls of cheap, plain-colored wrapping paper. (The cheap kind is thin, so darker colors work best.) Roll it out a few feet at a time on a table or a hard floor, and let the kids go to town.
     
  • Upside down coloring. Turn coloring on its head – literally – with this easy activity. Just tape coloring sheets to the bottom of a table, and turn your child into a tiny Michelangelo. This is a great way to keep them busy and build upper arm strength.
     
  • Color the windows. Kids love being able to use crayons on surfaces that are usually off-limits. Crayola makes some crayons specifically for coloring on windows. Grab a pack of these, and let kids decorate the windows for the holidays. Window Crayons
     
  • Try complex coloring sheets. Older kids may think freestyle coloring is boring. Try printing off complicated geometric coloring sheets. Kids can create gorgeous designs, and the challenge keeps them engaged longer. (Note: They may need colored pencils and a good sharpener to be able to tackle these detailed designs.) Complex Geometric Coloring Pages

2. Indoor Games

It can be especially challenging during the holidays when the weather doesn’t cooperate and kids can’t play outside. And you probably don’t have a gym like your kid’s school does where they can release their pent-up energy. Luckily, with some creativity and basic supplies, you can create your own indoor gross motor games to burn off that extra energy.

  • Obstacle courses. Obstacle courses are surprisingly easy to create, and you can customize them for kids of any age – even elementary-aged kids would love a superhero obstacle course. These can be heavy on the prep work, but one course could keep your kids busy the entire day. (Worth it!) This Indoor Obstacle Course is simple. This String Laser Maze is great for older kids, as well.
     
  • Hopscotch. What better way to burn off energy than with hopscotch? Crafty parents can put together this adorable Indoor Hopscotch Mat to use again and again, or you can just make a DIY Indoor Hopscotch Game With Tape.
     
  • Scavenger hunts. You may think scavenger hunts are just for outside play, but you’d be surprised. You can put together some fun indoor scavenger hunts. These are a great way to get kids to play independently or in teams while you get other stuff done. (Or just relax with a cup of coffee for 20 minutes!) This Indoor Bug Safari is great for little kids, or try a Christmas Themed Scavenger Hunt. You can come up with any number of scavenger hunts tailored to your kids’ ages and interests.
     
  • Tossing games. Throwing balls in the house is usually off-limits. But indoor tossing games turn that rule on its head. These Indoor Ball Games are great for practicing hand-eye coordination in a safe way.

3. Arts and Crafts 

Before the holiday break starts, plan some crafts for your kids to do. Then, hit your local craft store sans kids, and pick up the supplies you need. Stick supplies for each craft into a gallon-sized bag, and write the name of the craft and any necessary instructions on it with a marker. This may seem over the top, but when your kids are in the throes of boredom two days into break, you’ll be glad you have an activity to pull out and run with. Here are a couple of craft ideas to try:

  • Holiday gifts. Kids love to make things to give to others, and if you have a lot of people on your list, you can keep them busy all break long making DIY gifts for the holidays. Hand-painted ornaments are always a great option, and these Finger Print & Hand Print ones especially cute. Grab some canvas aprons, and let the kids decorate them with fabric paint as gifts. Older kids can also DIY No Sew Blankets & Pillows without much supervision. 45 Gorgeous Gifts Kids Can Make
     
  • Winter crafts. Kids of all ages will love to make and play with this Snow Clay, which you could use to make ornaments for gifts. This adorable Luminary Jar Ornament would be great for older kids, or try this Snowman Slam Game , which you can make and then play with. And, of course, kids of all ages love to make Paper Snowflakes!

4. Service Projects 

This is the time of year when many of us are trying to find ways to give back. Why not involve your kids in giving back this year? Some ideas include raking leaves for older neighbors or baking cookies for local police officers or firefighters. Another option is to make cozy No Sew Fleece Scarves for a local hospital or nursing home. Older kids can even plan, shop for and make a meal for ill or elderly neighbors, or the couple down the street with a new baby and no time to cook.

5. Sensory Bins

Finally, crawlers to elementary-age kids love sensory bins. (They can be surprisingly fun for parents, too!) Yes, these can get a little messy. The best trick is to set up a sensory bin on an old-fitted sheet. Weigh down the elastic corners with books, and you’ll create a little valley to catch most of the mess. Here are some sensory bin ideas for the holiday season:

  • Dried Corn Sensory Bin  - This one includes popcorn seeds, Indian corn, mini pumpkins, silk fall leaves and cookie cutters in fall shapes. You’ll want to include some cups and scoops in this and all your other sensory bins, too.
     
  • Apple Pie Bin -  This simple sensory bin is just dough (flour and oil), a pie plate and some measuring cups. You could add in cinnamon for apple pie smells, and include red gems to look like apples.
     
  • Apple Cinnamon Scented Sensory Rice Bin - Making colored, scented rice is simple. And it’s a great way to theme your sensory bins. This apple cinnamon scented rice would pair well with play apples, cookie cutters, measuring tools or fall leaves.
     
  • Cotton Ball Snow Bin -  For a less messy sensory bin, fill up a tub with cotton balls. Add in some measuring cups and winter-themed toys, and you have your very own (not-so-messy) snow-scape.
     
  • Decorate a Tree - This is a genius idea that may keep some of the sensory bin materials more contained. Instead of measuring and pouring, this decorate-a-tree activity lets kids carefully place decorations on their own tree.
     
  • Sparkly Snow Bin - This sensory bin features sparkly snow made from Epsom salt, iridescent flakes and tinsel garland. Add in some winter-themed plastic animals, and you’re good to go.

So, if your kids are bickering or complaining that they are bored, save the day with these fun, inexpensive activities and enjoy the holiday break!

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: rvshare.com

Kitchen Remodel 101

by The Hat Team


Have you been thinking about remodeling your kitchen, but you’re not sure where to start?  Kitchens are important to resale value, so if you’re going to invest money in a remodel, you want to be sure that you end up with a kitchen that will stand the test of time. So, instead of following fads that are currently popular, stick with classic features that will not only bring you joy, but will entice buyers should you ever sell your home.  Here are some tips for creating a kitchen that is timeless and functional:

  1. Brighten up your kitchen using white as the dominant color. White is the most marketable color and never goes out of style. It is associated with happiness and new beginnings.  It makes small spaces look bigger.  And best of all, it’s easy on the budget due to its availability. The Best White Paint for Your Kitchen
     
  2. Install hardwood flooring. Hardwood floors are popular among buyers of any age; both male and female.  Hardwood adds warmth and coziness to a home.  It’s great for open floor plans because it flows beautifully from one room to another. It’s durable and long-lasting. And if “going green” is important to you, hardwood is echo-friendly.  It’s considered a “green” building material when it has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and comes from sustainably managed forests.
     
  3. Choose cabinets that have clean lines, like Shaker Kitchen Cabinets.  The clean lines of these cabinets will be in style forever. Their beauty is in their simplicity.  They help limit the “busyness” of the kitchen, creating a soothing, peaceful vibe.  They also transition easily should the next homeowner want a change of style.  Whether you want a traditional or contemporary look, these cabinets will work for both.
     
  4. Go with marble countertops; specifically, Carrara marble. Carrara marble has been used in homes for centuries.  It looks fantastic in a white kitchen, but also with other colors. It’s affordable and readily available and will last for generations.  You will find some critics who will tell you that it stains easily, but that can be avoided with proper sealing. If you want a truly timeless look, Carrara marble is the way to go. Carrara Marble Kitchens
     
  5. Include smart storage.  If you currently store many of your kitchen supplies in other areas of the home due to lack of storage space, now is the time to change that!  Cabinets that are being made today feature a plethora of storage options including shelves and compartments that unfold, extend, slide and turn.  Have fun and be creative when designing kitchen storage.

You will love your new kitchen and future potential buyers will find it irresistible!

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: pinterest.com

Tips for Keeping Your Children Safe on Halloween

by The Hat Team


When caught up in the fun and excitement of Halloween festivities, it’s easy to overlook safety issues. There may be ghosts, vampires and witches on every corner, but what is truly frightening is the number of preventable accidents that occur each year on this night. You will enjoy this spooky holiday more if you know your children are safe. Here are 5 safety tips for Halloween:

  1. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should not cross streets alone before they are ten years old. Maturity, danger awareness, and traffic savvy are all required for navigating street crossings and research cautions that even some ten-year-olds might not be ready for that.  In a Wall Street Journal article, author Andrea Peterson stated, “Research has found that young children walking to school often don’t look for traffic to stop at the curb before stepping into the street.”  And the AAP's Policy Statement on this topic is that parents “are likely to overestimate their children’s ability to safely cross the street.”  So, if your little princess or superhero is under ten, make sure there is a trusted adult with them to guide them across streets.  Teach them that looking left, then right, then left again is the best way to be sure no cars are coming.  Remind them to listen for traffic as well. If your children are trick or treating in a city with busy streets, always use designated cross walks for crossing.
     
  2. Avoid visual impairments, like masks.  Face paints are a great alternative for masks for trick or treaters.  Incorporate bright colors into the face paint to make your child more visible in the dark. It’s also a good idea to add some reflector tape to dark costumes so that your child can be seen in the dark.
     
  3. When trick or treating in an area that does not have sidewalks and you must walk on roads, be sure to walk FACING oncoming traffic.  This makes it easier for you to spot cars coming and for drivers to spot you.  It’s a good idea to carry a flashlight and point it forward and down. It will not only give you more visibility, it will make you more visible.
     
  4. Nothing says Halloween like a candlelit jack o’ lantern, but unfortunately, it’s also a fire hazard. Long capes and costumes with trailing material on crowded doorsteps are disaster waiting to happen when exposed to an open flame.  Be sure to purchase flame-retardant apparel for your little ones.  And to be extra safe, go over the "Stop, Drop, and Roll" procedure with them.
     
  5. Set some rules for candy consumption.  Don’t allow your child to eat while out trick or treating.  It’s too hard to inspect candy properly in the dark and you want to be sure packaging isn’t punctured or previously opened.  Don’t let them eat anything homemade unless it’s from a friend or neighbor that you know. Wait until you child is home and you can inspect their loot in a well-lit room and set guidelines for how much they may eat and when. Last thing you want is a tummy ache at the end of a spooktacular night…especially if it’s a school night! How to Check Your Kids' Candy for Potential Hazards This Halloween

Follow these tips and use common sense and Halloween night will be festive but not frightening!

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: slate.com

Enjoy the Advantages of Downsizing

by The Hat Team

 

Have you recently become an empty nester with a home spacious enough for a large family?  Maybe it’s time to consider downsizing.  There are numerous perks to downsizing to a smaller home:

  1. SAVING MONEY. You will not only save on your monthly mortgage payment in a smaller home, you will also save money on frivolous living.  One of the advantages of downsizing your home is that you can stop wasting money on furniture and home décor that are used to fill space rather than to fulfill a function.  Filling a smaller space will allow you to prioritize what items are important and necessary for you.
     
  2. LESS STRESS. After working hard all week to pay the bills, it’s no fun to have to spend your weekend doing chores.  A smaller home equals fewer chores and less upkeep. This will free up time to enjoy leisure activities and relaxation.
     
  3. SAVE ENERGY. If you live in a large home, you know that energy costs can be expensive.  Smaller homes will not only save you money on heating, cooling and water costs, it will also allow you to reduce your carbon footprint.
     
  4. FREE TIME FOR TRAVEL. With additional disposable income and less upkeep needed, a smaller home will afford you the time and cash for travel and adventure.  Weekend getaways or even long trips are less of a hassle now that you don’t have to worry about being house-poor.
     
  5. A NEW BEGINNING. Downsizing can be the beginning of a new chapter in your life.  If being an empty nester has you feeling down, a lifestyle change might be just what you need to start focusing on how you want to spend your time, money and energy. 

If you are ready to downsize, let professional Realtor Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team help you sell the house you’re in and find a new home to better suit your needs!  Contact us today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: aarp.org

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

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!

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

Feel Safe at Home with These Security Tips

by The Hat Team


Let’s face it - it can be a scary world.  Your home should be a safe-haven for you and your family.  While safety can never be guaranteed, there are steps you can take to make your home feel secure.  Here are some tips for making your home as safe and secure as possible:

  • Light it up!  While there is no reason to fear darkness itself, it is true that when bad things happen to people, they often happen under the cover of darkness.  So, brightening up your surroundings can help discourage people from lurking around your home.  Install energy-efficient bulbs in your outdoor lights and keep them on when it’s dark, or have motion sensors so that lights come on when there is movement near or around your property.  At night, keep some lights on inside so your house doesn’t appear completely dark.
  • Close window coverings when it gets dark.  You may not be able to see what’s going on outside in the dark, but people outside can clearly see in your house if your windows are exposed.
  • Get to know your neighbors. You certainly won’t feel safe if you are surrounded by strangers!  Knowing your neighbors will provide you with the security of having someone to call on if you are feeling unsafe. 15 Ways to Get to Know Your Neighbors
  • Keep emergency numbers handy.  Many people use mobile phones exclusively these days, so it’s a good idea to create contacts for emergency numbers so all you must do is touch a screen or push a button to call for help.  If you haven’t gotten rid of your landline yet, you may want to consider keeping it for safety reasons.  With a landline call, a 911 operator will receive your location immediately, whereas it might take a bit longer to pinpoint your location with a cell phone.
  • Eliminate hiding spots.  Make sure your shrubs are trimmed and well-spaced so that they don’t provide hiding spots for burglars.
  • Don’t hide a key outside.  I’ve locked myself out enough times to know that it is a good idea to have a spare key somewhere, but people looking to invade your home will find it no matter how well you think you have hidden it.  Instead, leave a spare key with a trusted neighbor.
  • Make sure you have quality locks.  The lock is the weakest part on a door.  You will want a grade 1 or grade 2 dead-bolt lock that penetrates the door frame.  It’s important to have a strike plate that is made of solid metal or brass.  The 9 Best Door Locks of 2019
  • Use signage to scare strangers away.  Whether or not you have a security system (or a big watch dog) you can place signs in your yard or by your doors that say you do.  You can also have a no soliciting sign to discourage salespeople (or someone pretending to be a sales person) from knocking on your door.
  • Invest in a security system.  There are many options for home security systems. Do some research and choose the one that works best for your family.  Many security companies will come out and inspect your home to give you an estimate of what you will need and how much it will cost. Nobody wants an added household expense, but feeling of being safe in your home is priceless!

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: bobvila.com

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