Category Archives: Uncategorized

Is it Time to Update Your Bathroom?

A bathroom should be a place of comfort — the optimal environment for a relaxing soak or getting ready efficiently during a harried morning.

“You’re going to spend time in there every day,” says Sarah Hurd, part of the mother-daughter team behind Short Story Renovations, a Baltimore-area design, rehab, and staging company. “You should not hate your bathroom.”

If a bad layout, poor lighting, and leaky fixtures are getting in the way, it might be time for some changes.

Here are nine signs that your bathroom could use a little work.

Not photogenic

“It’s weird how you can see in a picture what you can’t see anymore with your own eyes,” says Angela Hurd of Short Story Renovations.

She and her daughter, Sarah, recommend that clients take a photograph of their bathroom to get a better sense of what they might not otherwise notice. People can become blind to the discord — from a mismatched color palette to accumulated junk on the vanity counter, she says.

Outdated colors

Funky hues can be one of the most noticeable signs that a bathroom is out of date. White, gray, and black palettes will lend an element of ageless beauty to any space, says Michael Merschat, an architect with high-end residential design-build firm Wentworth Inc. of Chevy Chase, MD.

Courtesy of Jeremy Locke.
Courtesy of Jeremy Locke.

People are coming back to “that white, timeless look, be it a very modern-style white or something with a little more traditional flare,” he says.

Bad layout

Awkward bathroom layout is another indication that it’s time for an update.Odd arrangements, such as a toilet directly next to the bathtub, are typical in bungalows and houses built in the 1920s, ’30s, and ‘40s, when plumbing was a new phenomenon.

Installing a separate water closet can be a winning move, Merschat says. “It gives a nice bit of refinement to the room when the toilet isn’t sitting out in the middle of the space.”

Smells like a bathroom

Replacing a toilet’s wax seal, fixing a persistent sink leak that is causing mold, or adding better ventilation to a windowless bathroom can all be sure fixes for a fresher-smelling experience, says Sarah Hurd.

“With some bathrooms, you walk in and they just have an old bathroom smell,” she remarks. It’s another indication that it’s time for a renovation.


When brown water stains appear on the ceiling below the bathroom, it’s definitely time to make repairs and update. Take the opportunity to put in modern fixtures that conserve water and speak to your style, Merschat advises.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Poor lighting

“If you’re either blinded by the lights that are overhead or it’s so dim you can barely see yourself in the mirror, that’s a problem,” says Sarah Hurd. Better light fixtures and brighter light bulbs may be the first step on your path to a bathroom redo.

Stylistic relics

If you have wallpaper or popcorn ceilings still hanging around from decades past, your bathroom is due for an update.

Wallpaper is making a comeback, so think about using it in a new way. “We’ve actually redone powder rooms where we’ve put wallpaper on the ceiling to give it a different pop,” Merschat says.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Low on storage

Can’t store all the things you need in the bathroom? This calls for action.

Install a larger vanity or add shelves above the toilet. You could even knock out a wall and steal a little space from another room to create a linen closet.

Time to sell

If you’re not interested in fixing up your bathroom for yourself, do it for your home’s next tenants. A fancy new washroom can add just the right panache to spur potential buyers to action.

“Redoing a bathroom that’s just an eyesore within the house might make a huge difference,” Merschat says.

If you’re ready to renovate, start thinking about the look you want for your new bathroom. At Short Story Renovations, the Hurds use Pinterest to share ideas with their clients.

“[We] start a board that all of us can put stuff on,” Angela Hurd explains. “That way [our clients aren’t] in the dark about what we’re trying to do.” This practice helps everyone involved get a feel for one look and stick with it.



Simple Changes for a Greener Home

If the phrase “sustainable home” intimidates you, don’t let it. Incorporating green practices in your home is simpler than you might think. We’re not talking installing solar panels or adding car-charging stations in your garage (at least, not yet).

You can have an eco-conscious home without building one from the ground up. From switching to LED light bulbs to installing a toilet that wastes less water, there are a number of ways to make your home a little greener.

Read on to learn how you can work toward making your current home a bit more environmentally friendly.

Light bulbs and beyond

“Using LED light bulbs is the easiest thing to do that will change your electric bill,” says Anthony Maschmedt, founder and owner of design-build firm Dwell Development. “And high-performance windows are crucial to having a comfortable home.” He recommends triple-pane windows for maximum energy efficiency.

You may also want to rethink your current heating and cooling system. The Dwell Development team suggests using ductless mini-split systems throughout a home. You can mount them right on your wall, and they’re run by a remote control.

Maschmedt says these ductless heating and cooling systems are 300 percent more efficient than most systems out there. Other benefits to ductless mini-split systems include their small size, easy installation, and ability to blend into the existing interior design of a room. These systems will soon become the new normal, according to Maschmedt.

Repurposed materials

Try repurposing old materials and turning them into treasured statement pieces in your home. From countertops to flooring, look locally for materials you can repurpose.

Courtesy of Groundswell Design Group LLC.

Repurposed boards make a striking headboard. Courtesy of Groundswell Design Group LLC.

If you’re thinking about replacing your countertops, try recycled steel or reclaimed wood. Bamboo wood, for example, works quite well as a kitchen countertop option; it’s both durable and resistant to bacteria and mold.

Environmentally friendly flooring options are also not difficult to find. Flooring made from cork, linoleum, and bamboo are not only renewable materials, but also assist in home insulation efforts. Linoleum, in particular, is known for its lengthy lifespan.

Water conservation

Selecting the right fixtures can save thousands of gallons of water a year. Maschmedt recommends investing in Stealth System toilets, which use less than one gallon of water per flush. An average toilet uses three gallons per flush. “For an average three-bedroom house, you’ll save 6,000 to 9,000 gallons annually by using these toilets,” he says.

In addition to easy fixes like new toilets, look for other fixtures and appliances that conserve water. Purchasing tankless water heaters is another good place to start. Tankless water heaters skip the inefficient (and wasteful) process of reheating hot water in a tank. Instead, they heat on-demand, so no energy is wasted keeping water hot.

You’ll save money on operating costs, and save on water usage given you’re no longer running water while waiting for it to heat reports that for homes using 41 gallons or less of hot water daily, “demand water heaters can be 24 percent to 34 percent more energy efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters.”

Additionally, you can collect and repurpose rainwater on your property to irrigate your garden and landscaping. Place rain barrels or cisterns beneath your downspout, and install rain chains, which drain water from your gutter and hang from the downspout hole.


This easy DIY rain collection practice provides an alternative supply that won’t increase your water usage — or your water bill. But before you go out to get your own rain barrels and rain chains, look into your state’s rainwater harvesting laws.

From rethinking your heating and cooling system to water conservation efforts, the key to turning your home into a more environmentally conscious space is making one change at a time.

You don’t need to build a green home from the ground up to incorporate sustainable home practices. Choose a few small changes you can enact in the near future, and you’re well on your way to a green-living oasis of your own.





We all want our homes to be updated and inclusive of the latest trends. But not all of them are right for everyone. We cautioned last year against open shelving in the kitchen and a few other trends that might not be right for everyone. We’ve added a few more this year.

Vanity with no storage

The hottest look in bathrooms right now is the pedestal sink with an industrial metal base. The look is upscale, hotel spa-like, simple. But the function leaves a little to be desired. If you need more storage than the ZERO shelves, drawers, and cabinets this bathroom vanity provides, this might not be the look for you.


Marble countertops

For us, few things are as alluring as an all-marble kitchen. A huge countertop sheathed in Carrara or Calacatta is better than…well, lots of things. But there goes that function issue again. Marble requires diligence. If you’re not meticulously clean and constantly attentive to things like your kid’s juice cup or your wine glass, you could end up wishing you’d gone with quartz.

“How do you live? Are you the type of homeowner who picks up after yourself after each use in the kitchen? Or are you a busy on-the-go homeowner, where a kitchen counter wouldn’t get wiped down until the next morning?,” asked Houzz. “Acid from substances such as red wine, marinara sauce, blueberries and even lemons can tarnish the look of the marble if left to sit overnight.”

Precision Stone Services
Busy, graphic wallpaper

It’s beautiful, it’s bold, and it’s bound to be out of style and/or irritating the heck out of you (and/or causing seizures, depending on the strobing effect of the geometric pattern you chose) in short order. Yes, we love a good graphic pattern. On the walls even, if done right. But a choice that’s so bold can end up haunting you. Unlike paint, wallpaper isn’t a quick fix that can be changed in a couple of hours. If you’ve never spent days tearing away little pieces of paper from a wall that doesn’t want to let it go, just trust us: It’s. No. Fun.

Walls Surround You
Brass fixtures

Are brass fixtures chic and new (again) after years of chrome domination? Yes. Does that mean they will be embraced by the greater public and dominate the fixture market again? Who knows. If you’re looking to add a little sparkle to your kitchen or bathroom and don’t mind spending a little money on something that may only be a permanent change, go for it! If your goal is to make smart updates so you can list your home for sale, this might not be the place to spend the money- especially if you’re in a more conservative or traditional real estate market.

Centsational Girl
Written by Jaymi Naciri


Tracy Tkac
Evers & Co. 

Get Your Own Agent!

Should You Use the Listing Agent When Purchasing a Home? No- Get Your Own Agent!


First-time home buyers aren’t typically versed in the intricacies of agency disclosure, nor do they understand the concepts of a buyer’s agent and seller’s agent. They only know that the person they meet at an open house or email about a listing is an “agent.”

It may seem easiest to go with the agent who already knows the home, but not having a buyer’s agent represent you could be a mistake.

When they start getting more serious and want to inquire about a property, its price, condition or history, they typically direct their questions to the seller’s agent — which presents an immediate conflict of interest.

So what’s a buyer to do? It helps to understand the concept of agency before this happens.

A real estate agent’s loyalties and responsibilities change depending on the transaction. Here’s a quick rundown of the different roles an agent can play in any one transaction.

The listing agent

The listing agent or seller’s agent works for the seller and represents their interests in the sale. The seller hires their agent, typically in writing, to market and sell their home.

The listing agent’s responsibility is to get the seller the highest amount of money in the shortest period. Their fiduciary goals and loyalty should be with the seller at all times.

The buyer’s agent

Purchasing a home can be emotionally draining, not to mention financially stressful. Many consumers seek independent counsel from a buyer’s agent.

A buyer’s agent works with them for as long as it takes to make a purchase. They teach the buyers the market, show them lots of homes, and eventually advise when it comes time to make an offer and negotiate with the seller. An invaluable resource, a buyer’s agent stands by the buyer’s side for the duration of their home search.

The dual agent

Sometimes a buyer forgoes independent representation and chooses to work directly with the listing agent. This situation isn’t allowed in some states because of the conflict of interest. Where it is allowed, a dual agent represents both sides of the transaction at the same time.

In the case of a dual agent, it’s impossible for the agent to be completely loyal to either party. Both parties must agree to dual agency in writing, in advance.

Who pays for the agent?

The seller pays the real estate agent’s commission when the deal closes. The two agents then split the commission. In the case of the dual agent, the agent takes home the entire commission.

Should you use the listing agent as a dual agent?

Unless you are an experienced real estate investor, it’s best to stick with a buyer’s agent. There’s no cost, and a good buyer’s agent will provide an invaluable amount of advice and support in what can end up being a very stressful period.

The home search can involve many twists and turns, so having a loyal adviser along the way will help you make an informed decision on what is likely the largest purchase of your life.Mother father and children washing dog labrador retriever outsid


Tracy Tkac
Evers & Co.

Make Your Home Say ‘Spring’

Spring blooms!

Make Your Home Say ‘Spring’

Was that a flower bud you saw when you left the house for work this morning? A yellow tulip daring to grow? Is it—no way—actually, finally spring? Make Your Home Say ‘Spring’ by cleaning out and making lighter and brighter.

If your living room is still full of the furry pillows and emerald velvet throws that felt so glam yet cozy in the winter months, then get your act together and dress your home for the new season!  Create a space that screams “spring” with these 10 easy designer tips.

1. Pack up dark tones and try new colors

Lighter tones for spring

Arnt Haug/Getty Images

Lighter tones for spring

If you’re looking for an easy way to transition your home for warm weather, here it is.

“When we start seeing more sunlight, I pack up the dark tones and heavy accessories and rearrange everything to increase openness and air circulation,” says Jennifer Adams, an interior designer from Scottsdale, AZ.

Swap in lighter or neutral tones to give your home an open, airy feel. Spring is a great time to bring new colors into your home, especially if you’ve already got white or neutral walls. Adams recommends trying “fresh colors” such as mints, lighter greens, blush pinks, and grays. Combine colors with warm metals (think rose and antique golds) to create a cozy, fresh space.

Introduce new colors


Introduce new colors

Not sure where to integrate these changes? Think small: throw pillows, blankets, and bookshelf accessories. If you’re feeling brave, consider painting a whole wall—as long as you’re willing to paint again if you grow tired of it.

2. Update your entryway

A spring-y welcome mat


A spring-y welcome mat

If your entryway looks like the way to Winterfell, now’s the time to give it a seasonal makeover.

Your front door is the first thing visitors see—so you’ll want to make it pop. DeAnna Radaj, an eco-shui design consultant from Charlotte, NC, recommends changing your welcome mat, door wreath, and porch accessories each season.

That doesn’t mean they have to be covered in pastels and Easter eggs, but a timeless spring look can go a long way.

Don’t forget to clean, too: Remove the layers of snow-tracked dirt and silt built up on your porch and give your patio furniture a thorough wipe-down.

3. Switch to sheers

Sheer drapes give an airier look.

Kelvin Murray/Getty Images

Sheer drapes give an airier look

As a general rule, you should build your drapery in layers, with heavy panels on the top and light sheers against the windows. Now that spring’s here, it’s an excellent time to take down those dark, heavy panels for a thorough cleaning.

Doing so creates a “spare, open feel,” Adams says, allowing light to filter through the gauzy fabric to illuminate your entire room in a soft glow. While you’re at it, swap out any textural or embellished fabrics or pillows for lighter fabrics such as linen, she says.

One caveat: If your room gets direct sunlight during a part of the day—like sunbeams hitting your breakfast nook right at 7:30—don’t feel like you have to suffer the high beams just for the sake of an “airy” feel. Consider swapping in neutral-colored panels to protect your eyes.

4. Go minimal

Declutter with a more minimal look.


Declutter with a more minimal look

You need fewer accessories in spring. With nothing much to see outside in winter, it’s worth building visual interest with various knickknacks. But now that you’re letting in more light—and tracking the progress of those buds—it’s time to declutter.

“Change out heavy, solid accessories—like vases—for taller, slender ones—like beautiful candlesticks,” Adams says.

On your walls, she recommends selecting lighter-colored frames for your art and mirrors—think antique gold or silver instead of dark woods.


5. Clean the windows, inside and out

You already know: Spring-cleaning is so refreshing, it feels great once you actually do it, blah, blah, blah. But here’s an important step in the whole process that many people forget: Clean the exteriors of your window, too.

“Who wants to see all the dirt from rain, snow, and wind?” Adams asks.

6. Buy seasonal bedding

Seasonal bedding


Seasonal bedding

Don’t just clean your bedding for spring. Consider getting an all-new set to bring new life to your bedroom for the season—something bright, light, and airy.

And it’s not just aesthetic: A lighter-weight duvet helps prevent the night sweats as the temperature rises.

“Bedding, accent throws, and pillows should all be changed for the seasons and temperature changes,” Radaj says. “It’s relatively inexpensive and easy to store when out of season.”

7. Add mirrors and sparkle

Brighten up a room with some well-placed mirrors.


Brighten up a room with some well-placed mirrors

No, we’re not going for full-on glitz and glamour, here—no one wants to relive New Year’s Eve in the spring. But adding reflective elements (e.g., mirrors on the wall or crystal accents) can bring sunlight into hard-to-reach spaces—making even the darkest room feel bright and fresh.

8. Welcome the outdoors

Bring the outdoors in.


Bring the outdoors in

Sure, you can head to the backyard if you’re eager for sunlight and greenery (look at all those gorgeous blooms, finally sprouted!), but why not bring the outside in?

In addition to flowers and plants that can survive indoors, Radaj suggests using natural fibers such as jute and seagrass. You can also get your green on by framing artwork and photos of natural landscapes.

9. Update your gallery walls

Looking for a simple fix to make your space feel brand new? Look at your walls—how long has the artwork been in that exact arrangement?

Try something new.

You don’t have to change every bit of artwork you own, but taking the time to rearrange one of your gallery walls—or even move it to a brand-new spot—can make a huge difference in the aura of the room.

10. Get an HVAC checkup

This last one isn’t about your home design. But after all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?

Before switching on your air conditioner for the first time since last August, make sure your HVAC system is up to snuff after a long winter of heating.

“Your lungs will thank you,” Radaj says.

At the very least, replace your filter. It’s also a good idea to get a full checkup for the system to make sure everything is working properly. Not only will this make the air feel fresher, it also can save you money on your energy bills—and we knowthat will put a spring in your step.

Jamie Wiebe,
Tracy Tkac
Evers & Co.

Get Ready To Sell



Get Ready To Sell- in The Spring Real Estate Market

With spring being the busiest time for real estate, homeowners planning to put their homes on the market shouldn’t wait for flowers to bloom before getting ready to sell. Having a few months to prepare and getting ready, can translate into more money in your pocket.

Here are some things you can do now to get ready for a spring sale:

Clear Away the Clutter

Once your home is on the market you’ll need to keep it as neat as possible. One way to make that easier is to reduce the amount of clutter you have on your shelves and surfaces. Put away items that are regularly on your kitchen sink  and completely clear off your kitchen counter-top . Clean off your refrigerator completely and remove all but a handful of family photos,  in this case- less is more.  Pack away your collections, they may detract attention from buyers looking at your house- you want them to focus on what may be their new home . Pack away most of your books. Go through your closet and pack away or throw away or donate clothes you don’t need, making your closet look bigger and more attractive to potential buyers. While everyone has clutter, buyers want to see a fantasy version of your house, in which they can envision living.

Start Packing

It may seem premature to start packing months in advance of your move, but since you’ll eventually need to do this anyway, you might as well get organized now. You can sort through your storage closets, attic, basement or garage to determine what you want to keep, what to give away and what to sell. Also, now is the time to throw away old furniture that you don’t want to move to your new home. Boxing up items will make your space look larger and neater when it’s time to show your home. You can also get an idea of whether you need to rent a storage facility while your home is on the market.

Freshen up

While you don’t necessarily want to do a major, expensive renovation project before you sell, you can make minor repairs and improvements that will make your home look fresher to buyers. Try things such as replacing the caulk and grout in your bathroom, updating old or rusted ceiling fans and light fixtures, and changing switch plates, doorknobs and other hardware for a clean and neat appearance. Consider painting your front door and trim even if your rooms don’t need new paint. Clean your carpet and hire a professional cleaner to start a baseline and make upkeep easier.

Research Your Market

If you plan to buy another home, an important decision to make is whether to sell your home first or make an offer on a new home before putting yours on the market. A knowledgeable REALTOR can help you evaluate how fast homes are selling in your market and help you estimate how long it will take you to find a home. This decision also depends on your financing, so you may want to consult with a lender to see how you can finance the transition from one home to another if you choose not to sell your home first. Go over the listing paperwork now so you will be able negotiate commission and listing time frames.

Check out your closing cost, from Federal Title-

If you spend the winter months preparing for spring, you’ll find yourself ready to move fast when buyers come out of hibernation.

Tracy Tkac
Evers & Co.



Getting Ready To Sell

Getting Ready To Sell

A home sale typically comes as a result of a life change or a major decision. These decisions don’t usually happen overnight, providing homeowners with years to plan for a successful home sale. By using your time wisely, you will maximize your home’s value when you want to list and sell. Here are some thoughts to consider when you get ready to sell.

On your way to this point, you should be open to spending money in getting ready to sell. Investing in strategic home improvements will help facilitate a quicker and more profitable sale.

Selling a home is a large financial and emotional transaction — likely the largest in a lifetime. This makes strategic planning and counsel vital. Here are some steps you should take a year or more before you plan to list your home.

Connect with a local real estate agent

Real estate agents shouldn’t just show up, list a home, hold an open house and move on. Instead, they should be valuable assets to you years before listing. Connecting with a local agent and developing a relationship well in advance allows you to start learning the market and transitioning from the mindset of a homeowner to that of a seller.

A good agent will provide helpful information, advice and assistance on an ongoing basis, in hopes of working with you on the eventual sale. Work with an agent who can connect you to local resources like inspectors, painters and other service providers.

An agent can also assess your home’s condition and suggest small to medium-sized improvements that will help boost your home’s value. Prioritize these projects for the months or years leading up to the sale.

Tracy Tkac

Have a formal property inspection

For a few hundred dollars, you can have a licensed property inspector assess the home’s major systems and components. You can take this step up to two years before you will list your home.

Why would you want to have someone come and point out your home’s flaws before selling? Because it’s better to know about any issues upfront so you can address them before your potential buyer discovers them.

Additionally, you can put a financial plan in place to pay for any needed fixes. Dry rot on your back deck could cost $500 to remedy now, but you’d be better off handling it now than having a buyer see it as a major decking/structural issue and request $5,000 when you are weeks away from closing and your back’s against the wall.home_disclosure-300x195Contact a licensed inspector

Make improvements

A year before you will list, spend the extra time and money ensuring that your home both appeals to mainstream buyers and passes a potential buyer’s property inspection.

If your agent suggests cosmetic fixes like laying new carpet, painting cabinets or cleaning the yellow grout in the bathroom, put a plan in place to tackle each of the projects. Waiting to the last minute will be too stressful, plus you won’t get the enjoyment out of the cosmetic fixes.

If you know your roof is at the end of its life, it might be more economical to replace it so that you can advertise a new roof. Today’s buyers want homes that are move-in ready. They don’t have the time or resources to take on projects. The more issues you can resolve for them, the more successful your sale.GetMedia-88Remodeled bathroom

Get a home warranty

A home warranty is like a one-year insurance policy that addresses your major (and minor) appliances and most systems. If something breaks, you can call the home warranty company, not the appliance repair technician or plumber. For a small co-pay, they will come out and repair or replace the item swiftly.

If your home has some issues, a home warranty is a great way to address them without having to spend weeks or months shopping around, getting bids for work and seeing through each repair. A warranty works well when you list the home and are too busy to call around getting bids when you are getting ready to sell.

Moving is tough, in and of itself. Add prepping a home for sale and your move becomes more emotional and stressful. Planning ahead can help you address issues in advance.

Don’t wait until the last minute, or you risk leaving money on the table. Meet with an agent early on and put a timeline in place to get the most of your home’s sale — fast.

Tracy Tkac
Evers & Co.


home design trends

2016’s top home design trends

1. Art deco-inspired patterns and shapes

art deco

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Art deco will make a bold new comeback in 2016. Look for the style’s trademark geometric patterns and honeycomb shapes to weave their way into everything from wallpaper to artwork, adding elegance and dimension to any space. Experts also predict gold statement lighting fixtures will become more popular.

2. Nubby wool rugs

Nubby wool or other natural fibers will be the go-to texture for 2016, especially for area rugs. Their neutral hues create the perfect indoor/outdoor vibe, while softening bolder colors and dramatic statement pieces.

3. Encaustic tiles


Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

These intricate patterned tiles get their coloring from different types of clay rather than glaze, and can be used to create a beautiful, natural-looking focal point. Expect to see encaustic tiles pop up in a variety of rooms throughout the house in 2016, including kitchen backsplashes, bathroom shower tiles, accent walls and even fireplace mantles.

4. Artisan accent pieces

Travel souvenirs, unique artisan pieces and flea market finds will take center stage in home design as more homeowners gravitate toward decorating with unique art pieces that tell a story. Look for a rise in partnerships between big box stores and global artisans to accommodate the increased demand for one-of-a-kind or handmade items.

3 fads to ditch from 2015

1. Mason jars

Mason Jar

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

The mason jar trend is exhausted, and will finally make its exit in 2016. After using them to invoke a rustic chic feeling everywhere from wedding decor to restaurants, experts and homeowners alike are finally ready to move on.

2. Chalkboard paint


Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Chalkboards smudge easily, and unless decorated with perfect handwriting, are usually not the best way to label household items. This trend is not built to last in 2016.

3. Burlap details


Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Burlap is too harsh for indoor use, and is far overplayed for another year in the spotlight. Instead, homeowners will gravitate toward softer natural fibers that are more suitable for throw blankets, pillows and rugs.

Want to learn more about 2016’s hottest home design trends? Check out more photos of the top trends on Zillow Digs!

Classic Christmas tree bill has goodies for ordinary homeowners – The Washington Post

Bill has goodies for ordinary homeowners – The Washington Post


Homeowners and mortgage borrowers got early Christmas gifts from Congress in the form of tax benefits. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Classic Christmas tree bill has goodies for ordinary homeowners

Homeowners and mortgage borrowers got early Christmas gifts from Congress in the form of tax benefits. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)
By Kenneth R. Harney December 23
It’s a classic Christmas tree bill, loaded with year-end giveaways for dozens of special-interest groups and easy to mock. The $620 billion “extenders” legislative package passed by the House and Senate before the holiday recess hands out generous tax presents to all sorts of niche pleaders, from racehorse owners, motor-sports track operators, rum makers in Puerto Rico, TV and film producers and a wide assortment of others.

But don’t forget: Homeowners and mortgage borrowers also count as special interests on Capitol Hill, and this year’s Christmas tree is sprinkled with tax benefits for them as well. Some could even lower your next tax bill.

Take home improvements you made during the past year that conserve energy, such as putting in new insulation, more efficient windows or an exterior door. You may be eligible for a 10 percent tax credit on their cost, up to a maximum credit of $500. Tax credits come directly off your bottom-line federal tax bill, so a $500 credit is more valuable than a $500 deduction, which is tied to your marginal tax bracket.

The energy-efficiency credits expired at the end of 2014, but the new bill retroactively authorizes them for all of 2015 and through 2016. Industry estimates predict that homeowners will save nearly $700 million in taxes this year and next, thanks to the extension.

The federal budget bill that Congress passed along with the extenders legislation also reauthorized the biggest home energy-efficiency tax subsidy of all: the 30 percent credit for installing “renewable energy” improvements such as solar panels and wind and geothermal equipment. There is no dollar limit on what you can claim as a credit on these improvements, but the equipment must be purchased by you outright and installed on your principal residence. If you don’t own the solar panels on your roof, you don’t qualify for the credit.

Another key extension in the tax bill: Deductions for mortgage-insurance premium payments. Millions of home buyers who make down payments of less than 20 percent are charged mortgage insurance premiums or guaranty fees, whether for conventional loans (those eligible for sale to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac) or government-backed Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veterans Affairs (VA) or Rural Housing loans backed by the Agriculture Department.
Until a few years ago, the premiums were not deductible, but the new tax bill will allow you to write off the premium payments made this past year and through 2016. This is of special importance for moderate-income buyers. If your adjusted gross income is $100,000 or less ($50,000 or less if married and filing singly), you can write off all your mortgage-insurance premium payments. Above $100,000 (or $50,000), the amounts you can deduct step down, and they ultimately zero out when your income exceeds $109,000 ($54,900).

For some homeowners, the most important provisions in the extenders bill have nothing to do with credits or deductions. For them, the reauthorization of the mortgage-debt forgiveness exception could save thousands of dollars of potential tax liability, this year and next.

Under the federal tax code, when a lender forgives or cancels a debt obligation you owe, the IRS treats the amount forgiven as ordinary income to you, taxable at the regular marginal rate. In 2007, Congress created a special exception to this rule for homeowners who had mortgage debt canceled as part of a short-sale arrangement with a lender, a foreclosure or a loan modification.

Since then the exception has been reauthorized several times and has been used by an estimated 800,000 financially distressed owners. But it expired last Dec. 31. That lapse left potentially thousands of owners who received debt cancellations during 2015 twisting in the wind, uncertain about whether that transaction might result in tax bills they could not afford. For example, an owner who participated in a short sale and had $100,000 of mortgage debt forgiven, might owe the IRS $28,000 or more.

The new extenders bill removed that uncertainty. On qualified mortgage debt cancellations completed during 2015 and 2016, short sellers and others can be assured that they won’t be hit with big tax bills. How big a deal is this? If you were or are underwater on your home mortgage and a short sale — with some amount of debt forgiveness by the lender — is the only way out, it’s a very big deal.

by Ken Harney- email address is

Washington Post

Tracy Tkac
Evers & Co.

The Right Kitchen Island

The Right Kitchen Island

There are few better workhorses than the right kitchen island. It’s beautiful, simple, and full of storage possibilities. Offering features from scratchproof counters for chopping to hooks, rods, and bins for stowing, the kitchen island is an invaluable addition to any home.

Best of all, there’s an island option for every style and budget. Here are a few of the best.

Sink space

If you’re looking for a creative sink solution, consider installing it in the kitchen island. This setup provides a central spot to wash your hands, drain pasta, scrub dishes or rinse produce.


Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Tucked away

Kitchen islands usually evoke visions of huge, solid, and largely immobile countertops reserved for spacious kitchens. However, tiny islands are slowly gaining momentum and becoming popular for their mobility, slim size, and ease of access.

Take a look at islands on casters, which can be positioned where they’re most needed, then tucked in a corner or underneath a counter when not in use.


Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Sit and stay

Kitchen islands are great for creating an extra sitting area, especially if your kitchen or dining room lacks the space for an actual table.

Choose an extra-long kitchen island with overhang to allow for a few bar stools or tall chairs. Add some festive placemats and a few dining accessories to create a unique tablescape, and clear it all away when you need some extra workspace.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Careful cubbies

One of the best ways kitchen islands add to a space is by providing unique storage options. In a room so full of doors and hardware, adding small baskets, hooks, and rods can be a fun way to stow your utensils, linens, or knickknacks. Even better, you can switch out the textures and finishes to match your favorite seasonal decor.


Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

While kitchen islands are most often used as giant cutting boards, they’ve come full circle in design and function, and have proven to be a great way to add substance and style to any kitchen design. Take a look at your space, define your personal style, and determine your needs to find your perfect island oasis.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.Courtesy of Zillow Digs.


Tracy Tkac
Evers & Co.