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7 Things To Do In December If You Want to Buy or Sell a home in 2013

True Confession: I set a handful of New Year’s Resolutions every single year. Why? They work for me – I’ve got probably a 75 percent success rate. Some of this is in the science of setting the Resolution the right way in the first place, including the preparation.

Here’s my secret: I always get started in December. I like to use my holiday down-time to plan things out, gather up the resources or do the research I need, figure out what my challenges are likely to be and make a plan to deactivate them, set appointments with any professional I need to get on board to make my goals happen and even get some momentum built up with my new eating program, workout plan, financial goals or career endeavors.

I aim to be like that old Marines commercial – by January 1, I’ve already done more than most Resolution-setters do all year!

moving lady
And I’d like to help you do the same. Let’s boost the chances that your home buying or selling goals for 2013 will be successful by devoting a little time in December to getting things lined up and in motion. Here is my short list of tasks I would put on my December to-do list if I wanted to buy or sell a home next year:

1. Handle your credit horrors. Maybe you don’t have any credit horrors – kudos to you! But let’s get real, this year will be a year in which many post-foreclosure, post-bankruptcy, post-layoff Americans will find themselves sufficiently recovered, post-recession, to get back into the real estate market and buy a home. If you count yourself among the number of 2013 wanna-be buyers who experienced a financial glitch of any degree during the recession, December is the right time to start pulling your credit reports and doing a damage assessement and control campaign.

  • Visit AnnualCreditReport.com (the only website through which you can access your government-mandated free reports) and order your own credit reports from all three reporting bureaus.
  • Review them all, line-by-line, checking for errors and discrepancies. It is extremely common for paid-off accounts to still be reporting as delinquent, for foreclosed mortgages to still be listed as open and past-due and for bills that were settled in collection to be reported as behind. Follow the instructions to dispute any such errors you see.
  • When you talk with your mortgage broker (see #4), go over the reports with them again, getting a read on precisely when your foreclosure, bankruptcy, delinquencies, gaps in employment or other credit woes will be sufficiently “seasoned” (i.e., long ago) to allow you to qualify for another loan, and get their advice on any action items, like paying a particular debt or set of credit cards down to $X amount will be important for you to complete before you try for a legitimate pre-approval next year.

In fact, this last point applies to everyone – whether or not you think you have any dings on your credit report. It’s essential to get clear on any of the work you’ll need to do to optimize your credit standing now, as the payoffs, disputes and other credit work that can move the needle on your score may take some time.

2. Purge. It’s time. Time to get rid of all that things you know qualify as clutter – all of the stuff you know buyers won’t want to see when they tour your home, and all the stuff that you won’t want to move to your next place. If you donate your junk before the end of the year, you might be able to get a receipt and deduction for the taxes you file in 2013. And tax break or not, getting all that stuff out of your attic, your closets, your shelves and your rooms will clear up loads of mental space and energy, minimize some of the overwhelm latent in the prospect of moving – and might even surface a few things you can sell to boost your down payment savings or your home staging budget.

Clutter clearing gets overwhelming when you simply lack the time, in the face of everyday urgencies, to invest a few hours or days to go deep, pull out all the minutae and memory-laden How better to spend those wintry days between Christmas and New Year’s than to clear out the clutter in your home – and your mind?

3. Plan your prep. If you’re thinking of selling your home in 2013, now is a great time to start organizing your list (or spreadsheet, or Evernote file) of home preparation tasks that need to get done before you put the place on the market. Things like painting, carpeting, landscaping and other preparation tasks can be less taxing and less disruptive to your life if you have plenty of time to collect bids, sock away the cash to cover the costs and arrange projects at your family’s convenience or during off-seasons, when contractors might be wiling to charge a bit less.

Talk with your agent before you put a plan in place; they can help you make good decisions which projects to do (and which to forego), as well as choosing finish materials and colors that will appeal to the broadest segment of buyers – to boot, they often can refer you to the most cost-effective contractors in your area for these sorts of pre-listing projects.

3. Save. More. There’s no such thing as saving too much cash up for your down payment. If you have a home to sell, you have no idea how much you’ll take away from that transaction until it closes. And even if you’re currently renting, having maximum savings set aside allows you maximum flexibility in terms of selecting homes, competing with other buyers, covering closing costs (which can run as high as 3-4% on average for an FHA loan) and even handling post-closing repairs, appliances and property personalization.

4. Collect your gift money. Buyers who get gift money from a relative to apply toward their down payments are often subject to seemingly strange and definitely invasive documentation requirements – the most onerous of which is to produce copies of the gift GIVER’s bank accounts proving the source of the funds. If you know Mom, Dad, Granny or Aunt Bernie is going to chip in some cash toward your down payment in the Spring, consider asking them to go ahead and give it to you now, so you can put it in your own accounts and begin “seasoning” it as yours, which will help you avoid all those documentation demands.

Your benefactor should check with their financial and tax advisors to be sure the gift is structured so as to avoid any tax implications, before they give it.

5. Connect with an agent and a mortgage broker – stat. Don’t wait until the month before you want to buy or sell to ring up your trusty agent and initiate the conversation. Pick up the phone and {give me a call} ask questions like:

  • Whether your market is a buyer’s market or seller’s market, and how that translates into what you can and should expect when you plan to buy or sell next year
  • Whether there are any area-specific timing issues you should factor in as you map out your timeline
  • What – given the specifics of your financials, your savings, any past credit or other issues you have – you should be doing now in terms of paying bills down, settting savings targets, and such
  • What changes, if any, you should plan on making to your property before listing it
  • What sort of property you can get for your money in the areas you’re targeting as a buyer, and what kind of money you can expect to command for your property in your local market (this, obviously, will change over time – even over the few months or so between now and the time you list your home, but it still helps to have a general ides of the current market values).

6. Go Open House hunting. If you’re selling next year, it’s essential to get a real-life read on what the competition’s like, everything from what sorts of houses in your area are listed at various price points to what your target buyers are going to be seeing on their way into or out of your house. There’s no reality check on your own home’s preparation and staging – its overall readiness for listing – like putting on a buyer’s shoes and taking a tour through similar homes in your area. And there’s no time for this reality check like right now: when Open Houses are still a-plenty, you have more time to attend them, and you still have plenty of time to process your takeaways and incorporate them into your own property preparations.

Open House hunting is also helpful for those who have home buying on their 2013 to-do lists. It’s the only way you can start understanding how to decipher the listings you see online into a reality-based set of expectations about a property. It’s also the best way to get indoctrinated deeply into the realities of what you get on your local market at various price points, and it’s the most impactful strategy for starting the process of negotiating compromises with your co-buyers.

7. Think hard about your deductions, if you’re self-employed. In the wake of the recession, most mortgage guidelines for self-employed borrowers changed, so that your income for purposes of qualifying is assumed to be the average of your last two years’ Adjusted Gross Income, as reported on your federal income tax returns. That means lenders calculate your income after all your business-related and other deductions, not before.

So, yes, this does mean that maximizing your deductions may impact your ability to qualify for a home loan in 2013. But them’s the breaks – better to know this before you file your tax return, in the event it might change something about how you file. Loop your tax advisor, business bookkeeper and mortgage broker into your decision-making process about your 2012 taxes before filing, if you’re self-employed and plan to buy or refinance your home next year.

 

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Complete dinner recipes: Baby Back Ribs, Sweet Potato Casserole, and more

Ugh… sorry Raleigh NC. Your Real Estate Wonder Woman has been slacking!! Between getting deals done (which is always a good thing), messing around with these kids, and Halloween; I haven’t had the chance to update the blog. Which I KNOW has made you miserable! Yeah, ok, well maybe not that far but still, an apology is warranted in this case.

So you made it through Halloween. (I will post pics of my crazy kids) Now we are officially in November! Woo-Hoo. Thanksgiving  aka Turkey Day. What a treat… unless you are like myself and the only one cooking for a giant amount of people… then it becomes less of a treat and more of a pain. I’ve always said I would start posting recipes on here ( I love cooking)m so in honor of it being the first day of November, I will add my first dinner recipe post. I’m actually keeping it simple and posting exactly what I’m making for dinner tonight :) I know. Ingenius!!

On tonight’s dinner recipe menu we have : Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs, Corn, Honey Roasted Red Potatoes, Spinich, and for dessert; Sweet Potato Casserole. Yes I am bringing out the big guns tonight!

Now this may be bit difficult to follow only because I usually don’t use exact measurements. I cook from the soul so I sprinkle till it feels right lol. But I’ll try my best to make it easy to follow :)

Slow Cooker Baby back Ribs: Serves 8

Ingredients: 4 lbs of pork baby back ribs; Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Apple Juice, Water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the meat off then set in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle seasonings over the meat on both sides. After seasoning stick the meat in the oven. Leave in for 15min then flip the meat and leave it in for another 15min. When the meat is done put it in the slow cooker (on High) and add half apple juice and half water. Add enough to cover a little more than half of the meat. Take your Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce and pour about half the bottle in the slow cooker. Put on the lid and cook for about 5-6hours. To thicken the sauce during last 30min ajar the lid slightly. Also when the ribs are done in the slow cooker you can stick them in the oven and broil for a few minutes to carmelize the sauce and brown the ribs.

Corn: Can of Green Giant white and yellow corn; sugar; butter

Drain the can of corn. Pour the corn in a small pot on the stove. Add a 1/4 tablespoon of butter, and sprinkle maybe 2 tablespoons of sugar. ( I never measure it out). Stir and cook on medium heat. It comes out fantastic.

Honey Roasted Potatoes: About 6-8 medium red potatoes; 2 tbs diced onion, 2tbs melted butter; 3 tbs honey, 1 teaspoon dry mustard; salt; pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pam your 11×7 baking dish. Quarter the potatoes and then cut them again ( to make sure they are bite size). Place potatoes in a single layer in prepared dish, and top with onion. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, honey, mustard, salt and pepper; drizzle over potatoes and onion. Bake in the preheated 375 degrees F oven for 35 minutes or until tender, stirring halfway through the cooking time.

*Tip* You can use foil as a liner to help with clean up. Also be sure to sprinkle enough salt and pepper to cover all the potatoes ( not a ton) Just a soft sprinkle over the tops then mix. And make sure you stir halfway through so that the tops don’t get dry.

Spinich: Easy. Can of spinich. Pour in a pot, add seasoning salt, pepper, garlic, cayenne and onion powder. (Sprinkle to taste) Heat over medium heat.

Sweet Potato Casserole: 3 large sweet potatoes baked, cubed; 1/4 cup white sugar; 2 eggs, beaten; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg; 4 tablespoons butter, softened; 1/2 cup evap.milk; ½ teaspoon vanilla extract; 1/2 cup packed brown sugar; 1/3 cup all-purpose flour; 3 tablespoons butter, softened; 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375. Bake Sweet Potatoes for about 1-1.5 hours. When you remove them cut in half and they should fall out of its skin. If not scoop out the insides. In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, white sugar, eggs, salt, butter, milk and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish. In medium bowl, mix the brown sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mixture. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown.

** Tip** Depending on the size of S.P you use you may need to reduce the milk. You don’t want the dish to be too runny.

 

Well Raleigh NC that is it. Those are my dinner plans for tonight :) My kids and fiancee better love me, because I don’t cook like this for just anybody! Hope you enjoy and let me know how your’s comes out!

 

 

 

 

Free family fun in Raleigh :)

Raleigh/Durham, I don’t know if you’ve realized this, but October is almost over! It feels like it just started :/ We are that much closer to the end of the world (if you believe in that whole Mayan calendar thing), and I haven’t even taken my brood  to enjoy any fun fall activities (aside from the fair). Hay rides, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, haunted houses, all of it just sitting there, waiting for me to visit. With the month almost gone I decided to do a little research to see exactly what kind of  family fun I could find in Raleigh. I found a few neat things, but then I decided I wanted to find all the free things and share them with you. I mean who doesn’t like free. My daughter has known that was one of my favorite words in the dictionary since she was 4. I don’t care who you are, where you are, or how much you have; Everyone likes the word “Free” :) So Raleigh here’s my Free family fun list. If you know of anything else please add it below in the comments.

FREE FAMILY FUN IN RALEIGH

Zoe halloween costume

Scary skeleton girl 2010

  • Howling Halloween Fun– Oct 30th. At East Regional Library in Knightdale. – Dress in your favortite costume for trick or treating, stories and crafts. starts at 6:30pm. Check out the library website
  • Youth Fall Fest– Oct 27th. Kids with inflammatory bowel disease can enjoy activities while their parents talk to medical staff and other parents. Hosted by Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Registration is required. From 9-11:30am at UNC hospital, NC Cancer Hospital conference rooms 1 and 4. See their website for more info.
  • Halloween at Western Wake Farmers Market- Oct 27th. Kids can wear a costume and enjoy a Halloween treasure hunt. 8am-noon. Morrisville Halloween
  • Creepy Crabtree- Oct 26th. Learn about bats, snakes, and spiders. Make crafts and listen to ghost stories. Tour the park after dark. 4-8pm. See more

*** Honorable Mention***Marbles Kids Museum, in Raleigh, is hosting a Kooky Spooky Halloween Party, a chance to play and be creative, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday. You’re invited to attend dressed in costume to join in on the night’s spooky activities, which include wrapping mom or dad like a mummy, a Monster Mash dance party, and mad scientist glow-in-the-dark lab experiments. Pre-purchase tickets for the event at the museum’s welcome desk or online for $8 for museum members and $10 for non-members. Tickets may also be bought on-site the day of the event for $10 for members and $12 for non-members. For more information, visit www.marbleskidsmuseum.org. It’s not free but it is cheap, and fun for the family.

So I meant for the list to go in chronological order. But I started writing before I started thinking I guess lol. So consider it as a brain exercise. Start at the bottom for events that are coming up soon. The higher the event on the list, the more time you have to plan. I think I will try my hardest to get over to the Fall Fest at the NC Art Museum. I mean. Food Trucks. One location. What more can you ask for?!

Last day of the State Fair in Raleigh NC

The North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh North Carolina has come once again. And in case you’ve been living under a rock and didn’t know the dates, it was from Oct 14- Oct 21. If you haven’t been to the fair yet, I suggest getting a move on. I personally have been avoiding it like the plague. Long lines, horse poop, pig races… It just hasn’t done it for me. I will admit though as a city girl, the idea of seeing pig races is one that is intriguing, but it hasn’t been enough to make me want to get up and drive the (1mi) distance to the fair. I’ve put it off long enough though. If I don’t make it today I will be in deep pig poop because my 8 year old will be on me like white on rice. The 2 year old could care less ( I like that kid :) but Zoe, O she’s another story. Not to mention I managed to finagle my way out of it last year. I am absolutely positive once I get there we will have a blast. It’s just getting that motivation to go is the hard part. I’ve got exactly 2 hours before we head out so wish me luck :) I plan on eating as much deep fried nasty as my body can handle :) If you’ve gone to the fair you should post some pics. I know I will as soon as I get back.

So if you see your Raleigh Real Estate Wonder Woman walking around… be sure to say “Hi” and point me in the direction of a great food stand.