Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction Under Attack

Homeowners, beware! As part of the budget deal, your mortgage interest may no longer be a deduction for you to take on your 2011 tax form.

Congress and the White House are discussing putting a cap on the mortgage interest deduction (MID) and eliminating it altogether for home equity loans and second homes. A similar proposal was made last year, but the housing industry, Realtors and lenders opposed it.

The current cap for mortgage debt is $1 million, and the interest on home equity loans and second homes is also deductible. Housing industry leaders fear that lowering the cap and cutting out the second home and home equity loans will hurt the slow market even more.

If you would like to sell or buy a house in the Greater Houston area, or if you have any questions regarding Houston Real Estate please contact Irena Gorski 281-610-4524, http://IrenaGorski.com

Monday, July 25, 2011

Why Home Staging is Important?

Home Staging® is the process of preparing your home for sale. The purpose of Staging® is to make your home look like a model home, appealing to as many buyers as possible. It is simply a redesign that will show off your home's best features and minimize any flaws. Staging® is becoming very common these days and a variety of articles can be found in The New York Times, Washington Post, and Money Magazine. Even HGTV and TLC have homes shows dedicated to Staging® with "Designed to Sell" and "Sell This House".

Staging Criteria
By Barb Schwarz, The Creator of Home Staging®, the author of the boook
"Home Staging - The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money"

Things to keep in mind:

1. Buyers only know what they see, not how it's going to be
2. You can't sell it if you can't see it
3. You can't sell it if you can smell it
4. The way you live in your home and the way we market and sell your
house are two very different things.

When you get ready to place a home on the market for sale it becomes a product, just like any product on the shelves at your local store it has features and benefits, pluses and minuses and there are other products to compete with. To gain an edge in your marketplace you must be priced right and look better than the competition. Sometimes it's difficult to think of a home as a mere product, but it helps to think that way so that you can get top dollar for your property and sell it in a reasonable amount of time.
When you sell your home you're going to have to move. When you move you're going to have to pack. Most of the principles of Staging just mean that you're going to pack up some of your things early. It's a little bit of work, but you're going to have to do it anyway, so let's do it now so you can get top dollar for your property in your marketplace.

General Comments:

In every room...stand at the doorway and look at the room through the eyes of a buyer. What do you see? Be tough on yourself: What can you live without while your home is on the market?

Most carpets need to be cleaned. Have them professionally cleaned before coming on the market.

Check all light fixtures. Are they working properly? replace all burned out light bulbs. Look for dark hallways and corners and increase the wattage of bulbs in those areas. Make sure there are lamps with adequate bulbs in dark corners that are turned on for showings.
Repair and repaint cracks on all walls and ceilings.
Repair or replace broken light switches and switch plates. Clean any dirty areas around them.
Keep all curtains and blinds open during the day to let light and Check all light fixtures. Are they working properly? replace all burned out light bulbs. Look for dark hallways and corners and increase the wattage of bulbs in those areas.
Make sure there are lamps with adequate bulbs in dark corners that are turned on for showings.
Repair and repaint cracks on all walls and ceilings.
Repair or replace broken light switches and switch plates. Clean any dirty areas around them.
Keep all curtains and blinds open during the day to let light and views.
The extra cost of additional heating or air conditioning is a necessary cost of selling.
Reduce the number of pillows on couches to zero or two. Remove all afghans and blankets.

Pack up all valuable items to protect them. If necessary, take them to a safe deposit box.
Take a hard look at those beloved houseplants. In most cases they need to be pruned and/or the number of plants reduced to create more space. If plants don't look healthy and are just barely clinging to life give them away.
Fireplaces need to be cleaned out. Glass doors should be cleaned. Mantels and hearths need to be cleared off except for a very few necessary items.
To create more space you may want to remove a chair, a loveseat or other pieces of furniture.(Remember the model home!)
Pack up all collections (You're going to need to pack them up sooner or later). They become a distraction for buyers from the desired focal point...your home.
Reduce the number of books on bookshelves. Pack up extra books early!
Reduce the number of family pictures on shelves, pianos, and tables.
Reduce the number of wall hung photos and paintings in every room to one large piece on a wall or a small group of three. Make sure they are hung at eye level.
Keep soft music playing at all times for showings. Easy-listening or light jazz, not hard rock or funeral music.
Be sensitive to odors, because your buyers are! Excessive cooking or smoking odors, dog or cat odors, baby, laundry and mildew odors will turn off buyers. If there is a challenge with odors in your home use room deodorants or disinfectant sprays and keep windows cracked open for ventilation even in very hot or cold weather. (There are great products in pet stores for pet odors, and many professional carpet cleaners have special ozone machines that can really help with difficult odors.) You can't sell it if you can smell it!
Wash all windows and make sure they operate freely. If the seal is broken on a double-pane window, replace it now.
Repair items that are broken. This will show that your home is well-taken-care-of. In most cases, buyers will ask for them to be repaired anyway, so do it now.
Don't be afraid to move furniture from room to room. That extra chair from the living room or dining room may just look great in the master bedroom.
In general pack up the little things. Little things create clutter and they need to be packed up anyway, so pack them up now.

Home Staging Guidlines Inside The House

Living Room

Clear off all coffee tables and end tables to just 2 or 3 magazines and one nice vase or statuary.
Remove all ashtrays.

Family Room, Den, Bonus Room, or Rec Room

Same as Living Room

Dining Room

Clear off dining room table except for one nice centerpiece.
Remove tablecloths from table.
Remove extra leaves from the table to make the room look bigger.
Remove extra dining room chairs if they crowd the table or fill up the corners of the room. Four or six chairs are plenty. It will make the room look bigger and you can put the extra chairs in the garage or a storage unit.
See the Living Room section above concerning removing or reducing the number of items, valuable items, and collections. It all applies here too, especially in a buffet.


The main question in the kitchen is...What can you live without? Clear off counters leaving only a very few items that you have to use on a daily basis. Everything else should be kept off the counters to create space. Most homes have far too many small appliances and other items out that should be stored out of sight. Leave out a few large decorative items like a bowl of fruit or a basket with bread in it.

Repair any tile or Formica counter tops and edges that have been damaged or come unglued.
Clean tile grout with bleach if it is stained.
Remove all magnets, photos, children's drawings, etc., from the front of the refridgerator. If there are a couple of truly necessary items put them on the side of the refridgerator.
Clean the stove top and oven. Replace old burner pans if they are badly stained. Clean all exhaust fans, filters, and hoods.
Clean the kitchen floor and keep it clean for showings.
Keep the kitchen sink clean and empty on a daily basis.
Make sure the kitchen faucet is working smoothly without drips and that it is clean.
Clear everything off the window ledge above the kitchen sink.
remember to pack up the collections in the kitchen too. Pack up your antique plate collection or whatever will distract buyers and take up space.
Some kitchens have too many scatter rugs in them. Too many rugs make a room look smaller. If space allows, one large Oriental rug in the middle of the kitchen looks great.
Empty the garbage regularly to prevent kitchen odors.
Move dog and cat dishes so that they don't interfere with buyers walking around the room

Master Bedroom

Make the bed every day.
Invest in a new bedspread if necessary.
Clear off bedside tables and chest of drawers except for a very few necessary items.(see Living Room coffee and end tables)
Store extra books and magazines underneath the bed.
Keep closet doors closed. If you have a walk-in closet keep the floor clean and free of laundry and clutter items, and collections. It all applies here too, especially in a buffet.
If you have a clock radio keep it playing soft music during showings.
Reduce the number of photos on tables and chest of drawers to a minimum.


Remove plastic runners on carpet or hardwood floors.

Additional Bedrooms

In children's rooms take down all the posters except for one favorite over the bed. Repair nail holes and paint walls. (See Master Bedroom guideline)

Laundry Room

Put soaps & cleaners in a cupboard or reduce the number & organize them neatly on one shelf.
Just like in the kitchen, keep counters and sinks clean and empty.
Get rid of excess hangers and hanging laundry. If you have a drying area replace all those miscellaneous hangers with one style of white plastic hangers.
Make sure that light bulbs are working and have adequate wattage. Many laundry rooms are too dark and need to be brighter.


Clear off counters. Reduce toiletries down to a decorative few (3-6) and consolidate them on a tray or decorative basket. Put everything else in drawers or cabinets.
Replace that ugly dirty hand soap with a neat bottle of liquid soap.
Coordinate all towels with one or two colors. Fold in thirds and hang neatly every day. New towels can be purchased very inexpensively if the ones you have don't match.
Clear everything out of the shower and tub except for one bottle of liquid soap and one shampoo.
Clean or replace the shower curtain. Keep shower curtains drawn at all times.
One common problem in a lot of bathrooms is cracking or peeling just above the top of the shower tile or tub enclosure where it meets the dry wall or ceiling. Repair using caulking and paint or install wood trim coated in polyurethane.
Get rid of mold and stains throughout bathroom, especially in the shower and bathtub area.
Many tubs and showers need a fresh new bead of silicone caulking around the edges to make them look neat and clean.
Take all cloth toilet lid covers and water closet covers off. Keep toilet lids down every day.
Scatter rugs in front of sink and toilet and shower make the room look small. Use one larger rug in the middle of the room or none at all.
Hide all cleaning supplies and the garbage can under the sink or out of the line of sight.


Make sure you can open the door freely without something falling out on a prospective buyer.

Garage or Carport

Carports have to be completely cleaned out...everything!
Garages should be swept out and organized. If you have to use part or the entire garage for storage that's fine, just keep it neat.
Always keep garage doors down while your home is on the market.
If you're not using the garage for storage, keep cars in the garage and not in the driveway.
Move Boats & RVs to a storage facility or neighbor's home several homes away until your home sells.

Home Staging Guidlines Outside of House

The first impression when a buyer drives up to your home is critical. Walk across the street and look at it through the eyes of a buyer. Be tough on yourself. What do you see?

Trim and House Paint

Take a hard look at the front door and trim. Give special attention to this because this is where buyers will get their first opportunity to make a close inspection of your home. Does it need repainting or staining?
Repainting the doors and trim to help make the house look crisp and in good condition is one of the least expensive things you can do to dress up a home.

Decks, Proches, & Patios

Sweep all decks, walks, porches, and patios and keep them swept.
Remove any moss from all decks, walks, and patios.
Decks should be pressure-washed, stained, or painted if they are in need of it.
Reduce clutter on decks, porches, and patios so that they look bigger.
Get rid of old flowerpots, barbecues, charcoal, planters, toys, construction materials, and excess furniture.
If you have outdoor furniture create one simple 'room setting' of clean furniture that will remind buyers of the usefulness of the space.


Plants are like children...they grow up so fast! First they are little and cute, then they seem just right, and all of a sudden they're so big we hardly know how to take care of them! You can't trim the kids, but you can trim your plants. If they need it, do it now.
Rake and weed flower beds. If possible, spread new mulch such as beauty bark, pine needles, gravel, or lava rock to put a finishing touch on the landscaping.
Remove and, if needed, replace all dead plants.
Mow lawn and keep it mowed on a weekly basis during the growing season.
Trim branches around the roof line to prevent animals, insects, & foliage from getting on the roof.

Front Yard

'Curb appeal' is important. Has your landscaping overgrown the house? Remember..."You can't sell it if you can't see it!" Cut back all shrubs to window height that block light or view from windows. (If you're afraid they won't bloom next year, don't worry...you won't be there!)
Move all children's toys to the back yard.
Clean and sweep paved driveways. Rake, weed, or re-gravel gravel driveways.

Back Yard

Remove any extra items from the yard, such as tools, piles of lumber, or auto parts.
Children's toys should all go in one area in the backyard.
Repair any cracks in the ceilings and walls.
Clear any drains.

Repair broken fences and paint if necessary.


Clean all debris and moss from roof and gutters.

Before All Showings

Set the stage: Lights, Music, Action!

Open all curtains and blinds, unless otherwise advised.
Turn all lights and lamps.
Close garage doors.
Make sure all toilet lids are down.
If it's hot outside, keep your house cool on the inside. If it's cold outside, keep the heat on inside your house even if it's vacant. Buyers won't stay in a house that's too hot or cold.
Allow potential buyers privacy as they view your home. It is best to leave altogether, work in the yard, or take a nice long walk.

Remember, the way you live in a home and the way you market and sell your house are two different things. Try to look at your house through a buyer's eyes, as though you have never seen it before.

If you would like to sell or buy a house in the Greater Houston area, or if you have any questions regarding Houston Real Estate please contact Irena Gorski 281-610-4524, http://irenagorski.com/
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