The 5 Most Important Things to Do After Buying a Home

So, you bought a house. First of all, congratulations! The search is over, no more weekends filled with open houses and showings, and you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Phew.

But your work isn’t quite done yet. Once you buy a house, there are a few things that need to happen before and after move-in day. Check out our list of to-dos, and get prepared for what comes after closing—trust us, your future self will thank you.

Do a Deep Clean

A vacuum.

When you first buy your home, there won’t be any heavy dressers blocking off corners, couches and beds to clean under, or stacks of boxes covered in cobwebs in the attic. Your house will never be this empty again—well, until you sell it, that is—so take advantage of the wide-open space.

Whether you want to hire professional cleaners or DIY, you should pour some serious TLC into your new house. Dust, vacuum, mop, scrub, polish—look up a few cleaning checklists for inspiration—and put in some elbow grease.

Change Your Address

A painted mailbox.

This process will be a little tedious, but it has to be done. First, you should fill out a change of address form from your post office, so any mail sent to your old address will get forwarded to your new one—although these days you can even complete the process online!

Next, get in touch with credit card companies, your cell phone provider, and anyone else who will need to continue sending you bills. Big fan of online shopping? The last thing you want is for your package to get dropped off at your old house, so be sure to update your Amazon info, as well.

Set Up Utilities & Security

A door with various locks.

Running water, electricity, internet…all things you probably want working when you move in, right? If you already have a provider, you’ll need to communicate the change address to them, stop service to your old address, and set up a date for service to continue at your new address.

While you’re getting things installed, you should also consider setting up a security system. These days you’ll have plenty of affordable and high-tech options, so be sure to browse what’s available. At the very least, consider changing your locks, since old copies of the keys from the past owners could still be floating around.

Keep Your Documents Organized

Once you’ve closed on your home, you’re going to have a lot of important documents to keep track of, and moving is going throw everything into chaos (although hopefully organized chaos) for a bit. As soon as you’ve closed and before you move in, collect all of the documents you used for your mortgage loan, as well as any copies of closing papers.

You never know when you might need some of them again, so invest in a secure storage system to keep them organized and around at all times.

Say Hi to the Neighbors

People talking in a group outside of a home.

Even if you’re a little shy, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the neighbors once you move in. After all, close neighbors can help with anything from lending you an extra cup of sugar to watching your pets while you’re out of town.

You don’t have to organize a mixer or bake cookies for everyone, but just saying hello while you’re out and about can go a long way in establishing those important relationships.

Ready to Buy Your Dream Home?

Now that you know what to do after you’ve closed, let’s get started with your home search! From guiding you around the area to helping you navigate your mortgage options, our team is here to help you reach your real estate goals—and answer all of your questions along the way.

If you’re ready to get started or have a few questions, just give us a call today!

The Top Tax Deductions & Credits for Homeowners in 2019

Taxes are confusing, which is why many people in the U.S. choose to hire an expert to do their taxes for them. After all, there are so many numbers to know, forms to have ready, records of income and expenses, W-4s, 1099s, 380-Ts—we could’ve just made that last one up, and there’s no way of knowing!

Even though taxes might be complicated, they (sometimes) have a few perks. And if you own a home, those perks could mean a major bonus on your return. If you’re thinking of buying a home before next year’s taxes are due, here’s everything you need to know about how making a home purchase can affect your returns.

A calculator app on an iPhone.

Deductions vs. Credit

Before we kick off the fun stuff, it’s important to know a little jargon—namely, the difference between a deduction and a credit.

When it comes to credits, think of them like tax-related coupons that reduce your dollar-for-dollar total. A few major tax credits include child tax credits, adoption credits, education or retirement credits, or credits for energy efficient homes and cars. Depending on the credits you qualify for, you could get anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars taken off of your tax liability.

Deductions are a little different: they reduce your taxable income, which can then adjust the total that you owe. Claiming certain deductions means that that part of your income is exempt from being taxed. Knowing which deductions to claim is key when filing, especially for homeowners.

Tax Benefits for Homeowners

Buying a home is expensive, but when it comes to tax time, here are the ways you can make some of that money back.

Various tax documents.

Mortgage Interest

One of the reasons that taxes for homeowners are so confusing is because they tend to change based on federal standards. Over the past few years, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act pretty drastically altered the tax benefits for home ownership.

The most important change to know this year has to do with mortgage-related deductions. Previously, the tax deduction for home mortgages was limited to interest paid on $1 million debt for jointly filing married couples and single filers and $500,000 for married couples filing separately. Now, the numbers look more like $750,000 for the former and $500,000 for the latter. Additionally, interest paid during closing can also be counted towards this number.

Property & State Taxes

Did you know that the amount you pay in property taxes, state income taxes, and local sales tax is also deductible? If you pay property taxes through escrow, your lender will need to get the amount for you on your 1098 form, otherwise you should be able to find it in your personal records. The latest tax laws have instituted a cap at $10,000, but every little bit counts!

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Believe it or not, tax deductions on PMI are a hotly contested subject. Until recently, buyers were able to deduct the payments they made on Private Mortgage Insurance, but as of 2017, that ability expired. If you did buy your home before 2017, then your yearly income will determine how much you can deduct.

There’s no timeline on when deductions for PMI could return, but, unfortunately, if you’re a more recent home-buyer with these payments, those perks aren’t currently available.

Credits

We talked a little bit earlier about the difference between deductions and credits, so what sort of credits can you get as a homeowner? One of the biggest tax credits that homeowners can cash in on is having energy-efficient homes. In fact, if you installed geothermal heat or solar energy, you could be entitled to credit for up to 30% of the installation fee.

Other energy-efficient features, like storm doors and added insulation, can net you a few hundred dollars in credit, as well.

A person holding several one hundred dollar bills.

Tax-Free Profits

While many parts of the tax law have changed in the past few years, one aspect has stayed the same: tax-free profits. Selling your home not only means a big profit after the sale, but a large portion of the money you make won’t even get taxed—meaning you get to pocket more.

Married homeowners who sell their homes won’t have to pay capital gain taxes on up to $500,000 from the sale, while single filers can keep half of that as non-taxable income.

While there are some guidelines—like the home must have been a primary residence for at least two of the past five years—it’s a big plus when it comes to selling.

Want to Explore More of the Benefits of Home-Owning?

Believe it or not, there are a lot more benefits to owning a home than tax deductions. If you need help navigating the ins and outs of the home-buying and home-owning process, our team is here to help. With years of local experience and real estate know-how, we have the skills and resources necessary for home-buying and selling success.

Ready to learn more? Just give us a call.

Protesting your Property Taxes in Texas

Protesting Your Real Estate Taxes

You should be getting your property tax assessment about now. 

Protesting is what keeps your taxes low.

You can protest yourself or you can hire a company to do it for you. 

If you do it yourself you will need to provide comparatives for your home and try and make a case of why your property value should be lower.  Pictures and any material evidence will help your case be stronger. 

Encourage your neighbors to do the same as it helps everyone. The tax entity will look into the values around your home, this is why we want more people doing it.

A few of the many companies you can hire to help with the process are:

You will need comparatives for your home in order to do it yourself. Feel free to ask me for those I will be happy to provide them.

The deadline to protest in May 15th.

These are a few of the companies that will do the protesting on your behalf.

https://www.poconnor.com/

https://texasprotax.com/

http://www.republicpropertytax.com/

Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about the process. 

Up Your Home’s Resale Value with These 5 Outdoor DIY Projects

Spring is here, and summer is closer than ever. That makes it a great time to get outside and spruce up your home’s exterior!

If you’re planning on selling your home soon, a little outdoor maintenance can go a long way. In fact, here are five outdoor projects you can do yourself that are sure to add resale value to your home.

Install a Fire Pit

Fire burning in a backyard fire pit.

Imagine spending a warm summer evening out back with your friends, sipping cool drinks and roasting marshmallows over an open fire. The truth is, installing a fire pit is easier than you might think!

A fire pit is made out of fireproof materials and should sit on a flat surface at least 15 feet away from your home and any trees. Here’s a how-to guide for building a backyard fire pit.

Remember, check your local building codes before beginning any type of construction!

Don’t have a yard for a fire pit? Turn your balcony into a cozy dining area instead!

Add Some Outdoor Lighting

Transform your backyard space for summer with lights that add both ambience and security. You can safely add low-voltage lighting to your front or backyard by yourself, even if you don’t have extensive electrical experience.

Whether you opt for motion-activated LED lights or hanging fairy lights, you have some great options to consider for your yard!

Have a nice back deck or balcony? Add some lights to make it a great place to gather any time, day or night.

Fix the Front Door

A front door with a key in the lock.

Your front door should be clean, bright, and welcoming! After all, it’s the first thing potential buyers will see when they enter your home.

There are a couple of different options to freshen up your front door. If it’s very old or damaged, you could replace it altogether. Other options for sprucing up your door include painting it a different color,touching up the paint job, or replacing the doorknob or knocker.

Live in a condo with an interior front door? You can still spruce up your entryway with a nice welcome mat and some potted flowers.

Power Wash the Exterior

Dirty siding on your home can make it look old and neglected, which can be a major turn-off for buyers! A simple solution to get your home’s exterior looking like new is to rent a power washer to take care of any dirt. We recommend renting a heavy-duty, gas-powered pressure washer, as these are the most efficient.

Depending on your home’s specific material (vinyl, stucco, brick, etc.), you will need to obtain a specific type of detergent to power wash your home. Be sure to opt for an environmentally friendly version!

Refresh Your Landscaping

The front exterior of a home that's been manicured with trimmed shrubs and flower beds.

Taking the time to properly maintain your landscaping—and adding a few new features here and there—can both increase your home’s resale value and attract more buyers. After all, real estate is all about the curb appeal!

Installing an attractive stone walkway, mulching your flowerbeds, planting new flowers or shrubbery, and planting trees are all great ways to improve your home’s landscaping.

Don’t have a yard? You can still spruce up your entryway and outdoor areas with potted flowers or hanging planters.

Looking for More Home-Selling Strategies?

We can help you increase your home’s value and get it sold fast. Contact our team today to learn more.

My #1 place in Sugar Land for Arts and Crafts.

Me with my mosaic I did that day.

A place to relax, create, and enjoy quality time with yourself and others.

Do you like arts and crafts? I LOVE them!

The Artsy Soul pottery and art studio was a major discovery for me. I have always loved crafts and I used to spend a lot of time doing them with my children when they were little. As they got older and our lives got busier, we have forgotten to make time for this. I also know people who hate to have a mess at home or simply don’t want to deal with having to clean up after your craft. 

Thanks to The Artsy Soul you don’t have to worry about anything! They have ceramic painting, mosaics of two different kinds, candle making and painted tiles among a few other things they have planed for the future. They have amazing staff who’s there to help you and guide you through the different projects you can do; and if you’re hosting apart they’re there to help you and your friends. 

We all have crazy lives and we make little to no time to enjoy and engage in an activity that gives you peace and allows you to create. It’s amazing what creativity can do for you.

“The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity” Brene Brown

Last Sunday I took all my family, including my mom, to try The Artsy Soul. We spent about 2 hours there, this time we all did mosaic, but we already have plans to come back and do candles, tiles and whatever else we can get our hands on. The staff was super helpful and nice. the space is clean, inviting and big enough to not feel cramped. They do have a separate room for private parties and offer all kinds of different options if you would  like to host a party or just invite your friends over to have some calm quality time while maybe sipping some wine. 

I can’t wait to host my own party here with friends and clients. Be ready for the date as who knows, maybe you get invited. 

https://www.theartsysoul.com/

Saving up for a New Home? Here Are All the Costs You Need to Know

Once you’ve found the perfect home and secured the loan, all that’s left to do is start chipping away at those mortgage payments…right? In actuality, there are a handful of other, often-overlooked expenses that come with buying a home, but as long as you know what you’re getting into, they’re plenty manageable.

Take a look at our comprehensive list of all the costs of buying a home.

One-Time Payments & Closing Costs

A person holding up keys to a house.

Closing Costs

For buyers, closing costs are typically low and range from 2-5% of your purchase price. A lot of these costs are one-time expenses, and totals can vary from state-to-state.

If you want a better idea of what closing costs could be for you, check out this helpful guide on the average payments for each state.

Miscellaneous Fees

There are quite a bit of one-time fees bundled into your closing costs, but most of them are pretty inexpensive. Some of the most common expenses include the home inspection, appraisal, credit report, deed recording, land survey, notary fees, title insurance, and document prep fees.

Recurring Payments

A woman and a child counting coins.

Mortgage Payments

Mortgage payments are the most obvious cost when buying a home. These are your predictable, monthly payments decided by both the final price of your home and your down payment—in addition to a few other bundled costs. A larger down payment means a smaller mortgage payment, and it’s a good idea to pay this off quickly, since it will accumulate interest.

Property Taxes

Property tax payments don’t go towards just one thing—they actually cover quite a bit, like road construction, community maintenance, public works, and local government salaries. The exact amount you’ll pay in property tax is calculated by the county based on your home’s value, and the rates tend to rise and fall over time. Many buyers pay their property taxes through an escrow account set up by the lender.

Homeowner’s Insurance

It’s better to have insurance and not need it than need insurance and not have it, so homeowner’s insurance is pretty crucial to home owning. While it’s almost always required when you get a mortgage and then bundled into your monthly payments, be sure to double-check that you’re covered.

Private Mortgage Insurance

If you can’t afford a 20% down payment on your home, you’ll have to pay PMI as a way to ensure that the lender won’t go under if you default on your loan. You don’t have to pay PMI forever—it ends once you pay off 78% or more of the principal amount—but until then, expect to pay up to 2% of your loan amount annually.

HOA Fees

Moving to a neighborhood with an HOA? Your dues can range anywhere from under a hundred dollars to over a thousand, but they come with perks like landscaping and exterior maintenance, and some even include added benefits like swimming pools and fitness centers. Not all neighborhoods have an HOA, but your agent can tell you what your payments will be if yours does.

Utilities

Lastly, utility fees can come as a surprise to new homeowners who are used to renting. Depending on the size of your home, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars per month for water, electricity, heating and cooling, and trash services. If you’re curious what your utility bills might look like, just ask your agent, and they can likely secure a few statements from the past owners.

Ready to Make an Offer?

A man and a woman sitting on a couch with a dog and a cat.

When it comes to buying a home, the most important thing you can do is be prepared. While there are a handful of costs to keep in mind, the satisfaction of calling a place your own is well-worth it in the end.

Are you ready to get started on your home-buying journey? With years of professional and local experience, our team knows all about navigating the expenses that come with buying. Give us a call today to get a better idea of your costs, and let’s get started!

Where to have coffee in Richmond TX

Fort Bend Rosters

I hate Starbucks. Oops, did I just write that down? Yes I did. I used to be a Starbucks junkie until I got fed up with paying a ridiculous amount of money for coffee done really bad. I used to buy 2 or 3 a day!; and every time I threw a fit! This is not what I ordered! Lucky for me, in the last year other coffee places have popped up in our area and I am SO HAPPY about this. 

I found Fort Bend Rosters on my feed one day and immediately jumped in my car to go check them out. They’re on the very back of a strip center along 99, so they are not easy to spot from the road and this is why I wanted to give them a huge shoutout.

Why I like it

I love the ambiance of the place, it’s nicely decorated and has a very peaceful atmosphere. I love the way the place is set up. The people that work there know their stuff as they should. They can tell you all about the different varieties of coffee they have, and the different roasts they do for them. I enjoyed having a chat with Sergio about coffee just the other day. We talked about the different types of roast and what I liked and why. 

They have both single origin and blends, along with different roast options. Your typical coffee drinks like late, cappuccino, espresso, iced coffee and then pour-over, cold brew, etc. and a few non caffeinated drinks which of course includes a verity of teas as well.

It’s a nice place to have a business meeting, like I did, or just sit down to work on your computer.

They have a few options of pastries to choose from in case you get hungry.

So, if you’re looking for a new place to have amazing coffee in or around Richmond Tx or northwest Sugar Land stop by and give Fort Bend Rosters a try, you won’t regret it.

My #1 Everything Garden Place in Richmond Tx.

Enchanted Nurseries

Do you like plants, flowers, trees? How about spending time outside surrounded by beautiful everything. Do you have a place where you can go and spend hours just looking? A beautiful place filled with color, life, wonderful smells and some of the most amazing plants? Yes, that would be Enchanted Nurseries. They have two locations, Enchanted Forest and Enchanted Gardens, both in Richmond Tx. I’ve had the pleasure of going to both, and I have a hard time choosing which one to go to, so now I just alternate. Both these places are what I would call paradise on earth for gardening. It’s just beautiful and so peaceful to walk around these places. 

They do the most amazing pots with different colors and varieties of plants. They have a fairy garden that is the cutest thing I have seen! They also have them in small pots.

Do you like to grow your own veggies?

As far as planting, they have everything I need and want and then some. Lettuce, cilantro, bell peppers, chili peppers, every variety of tomatoes you can think of, and colors, and shapes; herbs, and of course all the plants, flowers and trees you can think of. Did I tell you I am not huge on plants or flowers? I love to see them, but I find very little interest in taking care of them. 

Enchanted Nurseries also carries all kinds of soil, fertilizers, and pest control products, both organic and regular. They also offer lots of yard decorations that are just all beautiful. They change it all during each of the 4 seasons and they do an amazing job, and you alway get a different experience. I will try to post a picture of each one this year so you can enjoy them as much as I do. This is the spring one. Do you love that truck or what? I just love this picture so much! 

Did I mention I also buy raw honey from them? Yes they always have local raw honey. And ladybugs, yes ladybugs to beat those horrible aphids. 

If you haven’t made it to either of their locations and you are into gardening, even if its just a little, I say get in your car and go. If you love plants you’ll love this place as much as I do.

https://www.myenchanted.com/

House of Tiny Treasures

What do they do?

SEARCH’s House of Tiny Treasures is a nationally accredited early childhood education program dedicated to serving children ages 2 – 5 whose families are experiencing homelessness and intense poverty. Their amazing facility was built in 2017 out of recycled materials. It has a super cozy feeling, but at the same time the children have a big place to play and be safe at the same time while they learn through Reggio Emilia curriculum. Its full-day, year-round program includes art, speech, and play therapy, healthy meals, transportation, and more. The place is beautiful, colorful and peaceful. I wanted to stay there, the place was so inviting. While I visited the kids were taking a nap. They all get a cot and a quilt that they get (this quits are hand made by individuals who donate them one or each child) to take home when they graduate. 

HTT services also allow SEARCH’s adult clients to work and attend school while their children are benefiting from compassionate care and preparing for success in kindergarten and beyond. 

They also offer case managers that help their clients with work, education, housing and any other needs they might have. They serve both parents and children to try to give as much opportunity as they can.

This kids and their families need our help. This people are part of our community and they deserve a chance just like anyone else does. 

If you would like to know more about House of Tiny Treasures follow the link below or let me know and I can put you in touch with the amazing Molly who is my contact at SERACH homeless services. Be on the look out in the future as we will be helping them out as much as we can! I can’t wait to share more about this amazing institution and what they do to help end homelessness in Houston. 

Do you want to help?

WE NEED DIAPERS SIZE 4 AND WIPES PLEASE!

Spring into the Selling Season with These Pro Cleaning Tips

In just a few short days, we’ll turn the corner into warmer weather. There’ll be no more cold mornings, flowers will bloom, trees will grow, birds will sing, and it will officially be spring. Okay, maybe the changing of seasons doesn’t work quite so suddenly, but spring does mark the beginning of a notoriously busy home-buying season.

Since buyers are so active during spring, there’s no better time to list your home. But if you want to stand out in the crowded market, you’re going to have to dig deep into some spring cleaning beforehand.

Here are a few things you can do to kickstart your home-selling, spring cleanup process!

Make a Plan

You don’t have to get all of your cleaning done in one day—or even one weekend. All you need is a solid plan, even if it takes you a few weeks to complete. Take a look at what areas in your house need the most work, and get down to planning out nitty-gritty details.

Coordinate your plan by room and move along space by space, leaving nothing but sparkling clean surfaces in your wake.

Get out Stubborn Stains

A pair of boots sitting on a white carpet.

Maybe you’ve been avoiding cleaning because you know your home has some serious problem areas. Whether it’s getting a years-old stain out of the carpet or returning grungy bathrooms and appliances to their former glory, it’s possible to get out even the worst of stains.

Vinegar, dish soap, warm water, baking soda—these simple household items can get rid of anything from wine stains to mud tracks to coffee spills. All it takes is a little time and some elbow grease!

Try Some Value-Adding Projects

A man rolling a paint roller in a tin of yellow paint.

Since you’re already devoting some time and energy to making your home look its best, why not try a few DIY fixes, too? There are tons of small updates that’ll only take up a few hours of your time, but are worth your while when it comes to selling.

From putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls to power washing your siding, all it takes is a quick trip to your local hardware store to make your home look 10/10.

Dig into the Kitchen & Bathroom

A kitchen sink with the water turned on.

It’s no secret that the kitchen and bathroom are the two most important areas to a buyer. So when you’re making your spring cleaning plan, put some extra time and thought into how you can improve these spaces.

In the kitchen, focus on scrubbing every surface—floors, cabinets, countertops, etc.—cleaning out your drain, and polishing up the appliances. For the bathroom, get rid of any mildew or grime discoloration, and put some elbow grease into cleaning the cracks and crevices in the room.

Think Green

A closeup of blades of grass.

Cleaning can introduce a lot of dangerous chemicals into both your home and the area around your home, but using them can sometimes seem unavoidable. If you’re worried about storing and using hazardous materials around your home, there are plenty of safer ways to make your own cleaning products.

In fact, vinegar, dish soap, baking soda, and water can get most of the jobs you need done, and done well. You can also find a few eco-friendly cleaning products at your local grocery store.

Sell Your Home this Spring

Spring is one of the best seasons to sell your home, so don’t miss out on all of the potential buyers browsing the market. If you’re thinking of selling this spring, now is the time to get started.

Contact us to learn more about what you need to do to get your home in top shape for spring selling, and let’s get started with your real estate journey today!