English: Male House sparrow in a birdbath in Makawao, Maui (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you think you’d enjoy watching a playful bunch of colorful, melodious guests frolic in your yard, why not install a birdbath? Here are some tips to attract and protect birds;
- Birds prefer a shallow pool of about 3 inches or less. If you already have a birdbath that may be too deep, you can simply add decorative rocks to the deepest areas.
- The sound of flowing water is alluring to birds, so baths that have a fountain can dramatically increase the number of visitors.
- Another important factor to keep in mind is the safety of the birds. If they feel threatened, they’ll avoid your bath. Be careful not to place the bath close to where a predator – like a pet cat – is likely to be lurking. When birds are wet, their ability to fly away quickly is impaired, so they need to be able to spot predators well in advance to feel safe. Placing the bath under a few low-lying branches will make it easy for the birds to flutter up into a tree if danger is spotted.
- And to make cleaning simpler for you, place the birdbath within easy reach of a hose. You also will want to separate your birdfeeder and the birdbath so the seeds and droppings can’t dirty the water. Finally, change the water every few days to prevent algae growth and to keep your feathered friends happy.
Making exterior improvements to your home before putting it on the market will draw more potential buyers once it is listed. This is known as improving your home’s ‘curb appeal’, and because first impressions are important, it may help ensure a quick sale. But the first thing you need to do is decide how much time and money you are willing to invest in presale improvements.
You can go as far as resurfacing the driveway or applying a fresh coat of paint. The good news is that you should be able to recover the cost of these larger improvements in the sale.
If you’d rather not invest so much time and money, smaller improvements can also do a lot to improve the curb appeal. Try adding colorful flowers to your landscaping or simply adding potted flowers to your doorway. Painting the front door an inviting new color may attract potential buyers. Even polishing your doorknob and putting out a new doormat can help make a favorable first impression.
Credit Cards (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)
If you’re wondering where all your money goes, you’re not alone. Financial services company along with credit card management advisors surveyed more than 1,300 working people on their spending habits during the summer of 2012. Here’s some of what they discovered:
Rent/mortgage payments were cited by 83% of men and women as one of their top three monthly expenses. (Homeownership is also the single largest source of wealth for most Americans.) Credit card debt was a major expenditure as well, named by 28% of men and women. Car payments, on the other hand, weren’t in the top three lists of either males or females.
Only 38% of participants in the survey said they follow a monthly budget. Less than half said they didn’t know how much money they have available each month for discretionary spending. Among those who could name a figure, men tended to have more discretionary cash than women: $1,180 per month for men and $631 for women.
If you are carrying mortgage insurance on your home loan, you may be wondering how long you will need to maintain this policy. Although you have some say in the matter, typically your lender determines how long you will be required to carry this coverage.
Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is designed to protect lenders in case borrowers default on their loan. Borrowers who put less than 20% down on the loan are generally required to carry this coverage.
If you are carrying PMI, there are some precautions you can take to avoid paying premiums beyond the necessary time. The must obvious thing is to ask your lender what will be required before you can drop the coverage. Some lenders require the insurance for a specific amount of time, such as five years. Others, however, require that you reach a certain amount of equity.
Make sure you know the value of your home. Appreciation alone can account for some increase in equity. You also should keep track of your payment schedule and your mortgage balance. Even if you discount the appreciation of your home, equity is likely being built with each payment.
If you have any questions about this or any other real estate matter, contact me . I am here to assist you with all your real estate needs.
Tile is a durable, versatile addition to any home. But even the toughest tile can get spots and stains from time to time. Here are some ways to clean your tile:
- Remove mildew and make tiles sparkle by sponging with a solution of ammonia and water.
- For stubborn stains, apply a paste of scouring powder and water, and let it sit for five minutes. Scrub with a nylon scrubbing pad, rinse and wipe dry. Avoid using a brush with stiff bristles, which could scratch the surface of the tiles.
- to keep the grout joints on tile clean longer, wash with a solution of 1 to 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach in one quart of water. Dry thoroughly, and then apply an acrylic sealer or three coats of lemon oil. Let dry one hour between coats.
- If tiles have a dull film, wash them with a solution of vinegar and water. Polish with a towel.
Creating a household budget is hardly a fun exercise, but it is a necessity, especially in these tough economic times. Determining where monthly paychecks go can help rein in bad spending habits and create new, fiscally friendly ones.
To start, financial planners suggest you gather a year’s worth of bills and loan payments to create a complete picture of your expenses. Make a list and assign each to a category, such as groceries, utilities, mortgage, auto and entertainment. Be sure to note when your spending increases throughout the year, such as around holidays or annual vacations.
Next, determine fixed and variable expenses. Fixed expenses have little to no change each month, such as mortgage, car payments or cable bills. Variable expenses change monthly – groceries, gas or personal expenses such as morning coffee runs.
Once you’ve sorted your expenses and calculated a monthly average, figure out your monthly income by checking your pay stubs and other sources of income. Ideally, your expenses should not be greater than your income. Your ultimate goal is to create a “zero-dollar budget” to see exactly where each dollar of your income goes. The money left over should be put into a savings account or used to pay down credit card debts.
When you’re through with this exercise, look for ways to build an emergency fund. Consider putting aside enough for three to six months’ living expenses. If this number to too daunting, set a goal for smaller amounts, like $1,000 to $3,000.
079 Capitol Hill United States Congress 1993 (Photo credit: David Holt London)
Congress reached a settlement in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. As a result, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act has been extended for another year. The measure will continue to exempt from taxation mortgage debt that is forgiven when homeowners and their mortgage lenders negotiate a short sale, loan modification (including any principal reduction) or foreclosure.
C.A.R. would like to thank the 26,296 California REALTORS® who sent messages to their members of Congress and made 1,862 calls in response to C.A.R.’s Call-for-Action.
Also under the agreement, so called “Pease Limitations” that reduce the value of itemized deductions are permanently repealed for most taxpayers but will be reinstituted for high income filers. These limitations will only apply to individuals earning more than $250,000 and joint filers earning above $300,000. The thresholds have been increased and are indexed for inflation so will rise over time. Under the formula, filers gradually lose the value of their total itemized deductions up to a total of a 20% reduction.
The reinstitution of these limits has far less impact on the mortgage interest deduction (MID) than a hard dollar deduction cap, percentage deduction cap, or reduction of the amount of MID that can be claimed.
Capital gains rates on the sale of principal residences will remain unchanged and continues to exclude the first $250,000 for single taxpayers and $500,000 for married couples.
from CAR website newsupdate
Pantries come in all shapes and sizes, from walk-in pantries to slide-out drawers under your counters. Some homes feature a built-in pantry, but for those that don’t, creating one can be easier than you think.
For a makeshift pantry, consider converting a kitchen closet or cabinet into a pantry by adding shelves throughout the space. If you have an empty wall in or just outside the kitchen, consider hiring professionals to break through the wall and install shelves and a door.
Once you’ve figured out where the new pantry will go, organization is the key to making it useful and efficient. Start by thinking about your cooking habits, and place frequently used items on an eye-level shelf for easy access. Always making cookies? Put flour, sugar and mixing equipment on this shelf. If you entertain often, consider installing a wine rack on a side of the pantry with party necessities, such as a corkscrew, bottle stopper and rows of wine glasses.
Store dry items, such as rice, noodles or cereal, in labeled glass jars to keep them dry and easily visible. Other goods, such as flour or sugar, can go into large tubs with lids that can be stored either on the floor or o a shelf. For snacks, such as chips or popcorn, consider hanging a shoe rack on the outside of the panty door and putting the bags in the holders.
Selling your home during the holidays is tricky for several reasons. It’s not a popular home-buying time; homeowners often host out-of-town guests, which make it difficult to schedule showings; and agents and would-be buyers are busier than usual. But it is possible to make a sale during the holidays. Here are a few tips;
Keep decorations to a minimum. No matter your religious affiliation, it’s best not to show it off to potential buyers, who may not share the same views. If you have wrapped presents, consider putting them in a corner, away from view. If you must deck the halls, give in to your decorating urges with more neutral wintry pieces. Consider pinecones or snowflakes instead of garlands and colored lights.
Try not to plan open houses on or around Hanukah, Christmas or New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. When you do host an open house, make your home feel warm and inviting: Consider placing cookies and holiday-neutral drinks, such as hot chocolate or apple cider, out on a table for guests to take.
1. If you’ve owned and lived in your home for two of the five years prior to selling, you can generally exclude up to $250,000. of the gain from your income ($500,000. on a joint return, in most cases).
2. You are not eligible for this exclusion if you sold another principal residence within the past two years and excluded the allowable gain from your income.
3. If you can exlude ALL of the gain from the sale of your primary residence, you don’t need to reort the sale on your tax return.
4. If you have a gain on your principal residence that exceeds the allowable deduction, it is taxable.
5. You can’t deduct a loss from the sale of your primary residence.
6. Special rules may apply when you sell a home for which you’ve received the first-time home buyer credit. (see IRS publication 523, “selling you home” for details)
from CAR.org website