BLOG -The Rambling Realtor

Hello there,

Thanks so much for visiting. I am a Realtor for Century 21 Freedom Realty in Alaska. I use this blog to offer up interesting articles, knowledge, and advice for buyers and sellers who have interest in Alaska real estate or already own property in Alaska.

Mar 27, 2017

How to Prepare Yourself for Becoming a Landlord

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

By Ryan Tyson Posted on Mar 22 2017 - 10:37am by Housecall

 
 
rental property

If you own some property that you are not actively living in, you might be thinking about renting the property out and becoming a landlord. Renting usable property is a great way to make some extra money,           but if not done carefully, it can turn into a disaster. Here is a list of some of the most important things to learn before taking the plunge.

Study Local Laws

Since shelter is a basic human need, a large body of legal rules and regulations apply to the process. Rental laws vary a great deal from state to state, so you’ll need to find a good resource for researching these laws, unless you are already a lawyer yourself. While looking around online is a good start, you’ll probably also need to consult a legal professional, or at least some books on the subject. Your local library is an excellent resource to find any of the information without spending an arm and a leg.

Set Up Your Maintenance Team

As the rental owner, for the most part, you will be legally liable for keeping up the property in terms of basic maintenance. Between electrical, gas, water, HVAC, and other systems, a home is a bundle of potential maintenance issues waiting to explode in your face. Hiring good people to keep everything working properly is important to staying ahead of the curve, especially if you are renting out multiple properties; the more locations you are leasing, the more maintenance hours you will log. Of course, sometimes the problems will go beyond what a maintenance team can cover. For those cases, you’ll want a working relationship with a good local contractor.

Get the Proper Insurance

However many steps you go through in your tenant screening process, the fact remains that problems still can and will occur. Whether from unruly and careless tenants, freak accidents that cause serious damage, or simply from regular wear and tear, your property is at risk when you rent it out. You can protect your investment by making sure you are covered by the best home insurance possible, so you can recover against any losses. Protect your home further with a home warranty that can keep your pricey appliances covered in case of expensive damages.

Set Up Your Lease Properly

With all the knowledge you’ve acquired in the previous steps, you should be well prepared to put together a strong lease at this point. This document is hugely important to beginning your time as a landlord right, since it outlines the rights and responsibilities of both you and your tenant. As such, it protects both people in the relationship from problems, intentional and otherwise. You’ll definitely want to get a lawyer involved in at least one draft of the document, and ask him or her how to make sure you aren’t put in a dubious legal position.

Whether you are renting out a single property or operating multiple rental properties, the basic requirements for success are fundamentally the same. With a little work, you can turn that property into money in your pocket.

Feb 27, 2017

Rent or Buy?

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Should you buy or rent this year? For many first time Home Buyers this is a question they are facing now. And for most of us will at some point, likely face in our lives, whether buying a house makes more financial sense than renting a home. There is a way to understand the financial impact of buying vs. renting. The realtor.com® rent vs. buy calculator can help you calculate the net cost of buying a home versus the cost of renting over time. 

Net costs compare the total amount of money you would be spending over time, minus the potential value you might receive if you someday sell the property. View the interactive graph and see what this looks like at different times, and how it compares if you were instead paying rent. From the tool, you'll see that the amount of time you plan on keeping the home has a major impact. To get more personal, you can customize the advanced options to crunch more specific numbers and evaluate more specific scenarios. But keep in mind that a financial comparison is just one of many factors when deciding whether to rent or buy.

Rent vs. Buy Calculator

This calculator compares the total cost over time of renting with the total cost of buying. It includes the most common expenses of buying and renting and takes into account how these expenses are changed over time by applying the rate of inflation, home price and rent appreciation rates, and the rate of return on the investments.

It also takes into account something known as lost opportunity costs, which is the return you could have earned by investing your money instead of spending it initially for costs like down payment or yearly. The calculator accounts the lost opportunity costs for all parts of the buying and renting scenarios.

For Alaska you will want to take a look at the downpayment. They automatically calculate the down payment to be 20% down. Many of our loan programs offer a much smaller down payment. It is interesting to look at what lowering the down payment does to the calculations though. To start when you are not sure about some of the numbers you can use the following as a base until you can get more concrete numbers from your lender and from the specific property you are looking at. 

Property Taxes: $1500 / Insurance: $120 / Utilities: $200 / Buying closing costs: 3% of purchase price ($200,000 x 3%= $6,000) / 

To calculate the cost of renting, we start with the monthly rent and add renter's insurance and a refundable security deposit. To calculate the cost of buying, we start with the purchase price and the initial down payment and buyer closing costs; the monthly mortgage payment and other recurring costs like maintenance, property taxes, and insurance; income tax deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes; and the final mortgage payment, sales proceeds, and seller closing costs. We provide initial baseline assumptions that we encourage you to tailor to your personal situation.

Check it out by clicking on the link below!

http://www.realtor.com/mortgage/tools/rent-or-buy-calculator/#iid=contentpromo_rentvsbuy_calc

 

Credit for article to: Realtor.com and Jonathan Smoke 

Feb 18, 2017

The Early Bird's Guide to Buying a Home

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

This is a great article talking in general about the benefits of Buying in the Springtime. In Alaska we are not far off from having the snow melt away and the longer days to arrive for summer! If you are wanting to Buy this year, now is a great time because the sellers who have their home on the market now are motivated and serious about getting their property sold. Read the article and feel free to reach out to me @ 907-830-1069 or to my Buyer’s Agent Chris Van Slyke @ 907-252-1011.

And Happy Shopping! 

 | Feb 15, 2017

Planning to buy a home this spring? Then right now—yes, during these last days of winter—is the time to get rolling.

“Spring is peak home-buying season, which means you’re going to have a ton of competition from other buyers,” says Peggy Yee, supervising broker at Frankly Realtors in Vienna, VA. Hence, winter is the ideal time to get ahead of the curve, but how? Follow these steps and you’ll be way ahead of the pack once the spring home-buying season heats up.

Step No. 1: Find a buyer’s agent

Teaming up with a buyer’s agent during the winter offers several advantages. For starters, because business is slow, an agent can take the time to help you identify what type of home you want and educate you on the local market so that you’ll have realistic expectations of what you’ll be able to find in a few months.

Also, “your agent may hear of properties that are going to come on the market in the spring, which could enable you to get a sneak peek at homes before other buyers,” Yee says.

To find a real estate agent, you can ask friends or family for referrals, or use a reputable real estate agent database.

Step No. 2: Get your financing squared away

Before you even lay eyes on a house, you should be looking at lenders. Why? Because lenders will help you get real about how much house you can afford. They will determine how much money they’re willing to lend you by checking out your financial details, from your income to your credit score and more. Plus, if your finances are less than perfect, you’ll be able to find out in plenty of time to make amends.

“Depending on what shape your credit is in, it may take a couple of months to raise your score,” says Richard Redmond, mortgage broker at All California Mortgage in Larkspur and author of “Mortgages: The Insider’s Guide.”

There’s no magic spell to banish poor credit; the strategy will depend on your financial situation.

“For some people, it might make sense to pay off their credit card balances over the next couple of months, but that might not be the right move if you’re going to need the money for closing costs,” Redmond explains. Thus, it’s beneficial to get credit advice from a mortgage professional at least two to three months before you plan to buy.

If your credit score is strong (760 and above will qualify you for the best interest rates), getting pre-approved for a home loan now makes sense.

“Pre-approval is usually only good for 90 days,” says Redmond, “but it’s easy to renew it if the borrower’s financial picture doesn’t change. And when interest rates are trending upward, which they currently are, it’s better to lock in your rate sooner rather than later.”

Step No. 3: Start previewing homes

You’ll probably do an initial consultation with your agent to identify what type of home you want to buy. However, you won’t really know what type of home you’re looking for until you actually step inside some homes, says Lisa Cahill, co-owner of Evolve Real Estate in St. Petersburg, FL.

“Your criteria can change when you start to look at properties,” says Cahill. For example, you might think you need a home with 2,500 square feet of living space, but that number could change when you start seeing homes in person. Your real estate agent can alert you to open houses to attend during the winter months.

Step No. 4: Scrutinize prospective neighborhoods

Have your sights set on a particular neighborhood? Winter is a good time to see whether the community is going to be a good fit.

“You can tell whether an area has good schools on paper, but there are a lot of things you can’t judge unless you go there in person,” says Cahill.

For instance, online research won’t show you what the noise level is during rush hour or what the neighbors are like (e.g., is it more for young families or older residents?). Those are things that you need to assess with your own eyes. Concerned about traffic? “Go and test-drive your commute,” says Yee.

Step No. 5: Don’t rule out buying early

Even if you had originally planned to buy later in the spring, what if you find a home you absolutely love earlier? If you’re willing and able to move earlier, then keep an open mind with respect to buying a home during the winter. Granted, there are fewer homes to choose from, but there’s also less competition.

“You’re less likely to encounter a multiple offer situation,” says Yee. Translation: Don’t hesitate to make an offer in February or March if you find the perfect house.

Planning to sell the home you’re currently in this spring as well? Tune in tomorrow for the early bird’s guide to selling your home.

Daniel Bortz is a Realtor in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, who has written for Money magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, CNNMoney, and more.

 

Jan 27, 2017

Easy Home Decor Ideas for Under $5—or Free!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

 

Decorating your home shouldn’t require cashing in a 401(k). In fact, many of the items you need to jazz up your oh-so-humble abode may already be in your home, or bought for a few bucks at your local yard sale. From there, all it takes is some creativity and a willingness to take a few risks, says Myquillyn Smith—aka the “The Nester” and author of “The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful.”

Here are a few of her budget-friendly ideas to get your own gears turning.

Duct tape wallpaper

Here’s some unorthodox use of white duct tape to decorate the wall. It’s like instant wallpaper without all the fuss!

Duct tape can make great wall decor, really!
Thought you knew everything that duct tape could do? Think again.

The Nesting Place

Tree stumps turned into tables

Dried out stumps can make great tables, painted or left as is (top sanded, of course). Before bringing them into your home, try to make sure all the bugs are out first by storing them for a few months in a dry place such as your garage.

You’ll be stumped by these fantastic (and free) tables.

The Nesting Place

Instant drapes

Want drapes in a flash without too much fuss (or cash)? Fold and place raw fabric into drapery clip rings, which hang on a curtain rod—no sewing required.

No-fuss drapes
No-fuss drapes

The Nesting Place

Fur-lined ottoman

Take one yard-sale ottoman, then add a swath of fake fur. Adhere them together with hot glue, and you’ve got one sassy footstool!

Ottomon pre-makeover
Ottoman before the makeover

The Nesting Place

Ottoman after the makeover

The Nesting Place

Mix-and-match furniture

This small nightstand and tall mirror were bought at two different stores. Paint them the same color, and they go great together.

Nightstand and mirror before the makeover

The Nesting Place

Chest and mirror post-makeover.
Nightstand and mirror after the makeover

The Nesting Place

From books to party garlands

This book page garland was created as a temporary party decoration, but it became such a favorite it stayed up for two years.

This party garland made out of the pages in an old book.
Pages from an old book make up this party garland.

The Nesting Place

 

Judy Dutton is a senior editor at realtor.com covering news and advice about home buying, selling, decorating, and everything in between (judy.dutton@move.com). Follow on twitter @judy_dutton

Jan 18, 2017

The Renovations That Will Pay Off the Most for Your Home in 2017

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

New year, new home improvement projects? Whether you’re dying to update your kitchen, add a half-bath, or kick back on a brand-new deck, it pays off big-time knowing just what kind of return on investment your dream renovation might deliver. And you’re in luck, because Remodeling magazine has just released its annual Cost vs. Value report, which analyzes what you’ll pay for various upgrades—and how much you’ll recoup on that investment when you sell your home.

For this much-read report (which, by the way, is celebrating its 30th anniversary), researchers scrutinized 29 popular home improvements in 99 markets nationwide, polling contractors on how much they charge for these jobs as well as real estate agents on how much they think these features boost a home’s market price. From there, they divided each project’s upfront cost by the home’s resale value; the resulting percentage gives you a sense of how well each particular reno “investment” pays off.

There wasn’t a lot of change between the 2017 report and its 2016 predecessor, with most projects retaining their value.

But what is noteworthy is that the value of pricier projects rose significantly over last year, says Craig Webb, editor of Remodeling. He believes this indicates that the housing market is healthier and more bullish than ever.

“When the market is hot, Realtors® are more likely to give value to more expensive renovation projects, because they expect that the market will stay hot and people will pay the price,” he explains. “When the market is cool, Realtors tend to put less value on those big-dollar projects, because they have concerns about whether the house will get sold in any state.”

Still, the perennial chart toppers for ROI are the cheapest to pull off. This year (as last), the No.1 finisher was installing loose-fill fiberglass insulation in the attic. Not exactly sexy, but boy, is it cost-effective! In fact, this is the only project that regularly pays back more than you invest, with an average 107.7% ROI.

Next up is replacing a run-of-the-mill entry door with an attractive yet tough steel replacement at 90.7%, followed by manufactured stone veneer at 89.4%. Glamorous, no. Valuable, very.

Yet homeowners all need to come to grips with the fact that most renovations won’t pay them back in full. On average, in 2017, you can expect to get back 64% on every dollar you plow into home improvements (same as last year).

Plus, your returns will vary widely by project—and sorry to bring your expectations down another notch, but the payoff on big, alluring, “HGTV-ready” renovations isn’t so great. Adding a bathroom, for instance, will bring only a 53.9% ROI when you sell; a master suite, 64.8%.

Top renovation trends nationwide

Remodeling’s report also points to broader renovation trends that seem to be catching on nationwide. One definitely worth watching is energy efficiency—including simple jobs like adding insulation.

“We added [the category of] attic insulation only last year, and we were surprised at how well it did,” Webb says. Similar projects are installing better-insulated windows and doors.

One new category this year speaks to another hot trend: universal design, which ensures that a home’s features can be used just as easily by the elderly and disabled as anyone else. That means things like grip bars in showers, lever-style doorknobs, and wider, wheelchair-friendly doors. A universally designed bathroom, for instance, reaps a respectable 68.4% ROI.

“This is the first year we’ve included universal design, and it’s truly a rising category,” says Webb. “It’s based on a growing desire to age in place and a greater awareness of people with disabilities.”

Last but not least, the 2017 data suggest that “curb appeal” projects (such as new doors and exterior siding) generate higher returns than improvements done on a home’s interior. In other words, it really isn’t what’s on the inside that counts. If you’re trying to sell, pretty up the outside and it’ll pay off in spades.

How to decide if you need to renovate

So if you’re now sitting there scratching your head wondering which upgrades to make, take a step back and ask yourself this question first: How long do you plan to live in your home?

“If you see yourself keeping the house for at least five years, you shouldn’t worry about value at all,” Webb says. The reason: Housing trends and fads can change dramatically in this amount of time, so what’s hot today could be passé all too soon. So if you plan to stay put, renovate however will make you happy, period.

If, on the other hand, you’re planning to sell in less than five years, “then looking at the return makes sense,” says Webb. Just keep in mind that tastes vary widely by location, so it’s important to pinpoint what’s hot in your area (which is why Remodeling breaks down its data into nine U.S. regions). For instance, composite decks may be big in the Midwest, whereas the South is gaga over new garage doors. As Webb points out, “Every one of the 29 projects had at least one market where the payback was over 100%. So every project got love somewhere.”

Check out this chart below to get a sense of how much various midlevel renovations will cost, and pay you back down the road.

Judy Dutton is a senior editor at realtor.com covering news and advice about home buying, selling, decorating, and everything in between (judy.dutton@move.com). Follow @judy_dutton

 

Jan 18, 2016

Kitchen Magic: 5 Must-Have Features

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

C21_Jan_B1_Blog-Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where you prepare meals for your family, and where you all come together to share those meals. So shouldn’t your kitchen portray that same warmth that you feel? Having a dream kitchen is a goal for many home owners, and while not everything is as easy as waving a wand, there are a few things you can implement that may make your kitchen more beautiful and more practical.

Double Oven

For those who love to cook, a double oven might just be a necessity. Can you imagine how much easier cooking holiday dinners would be if you had two separate ovens? Reduce cooking time with the ability to prepare two dishes at the same time, on different temperatures. Cook potatoes in one oven while roasting your turkey in the other, and you’ll no longer have to start cooking dinner so early.

Kitchen Island

One of the most important things in a perfect kitchen is ample counter space. What better way to get that than with a large island in the center of your kitchen? You might never have to fight for space again when you cook with family or friends. Not to mention, an island can double as a great eating space with the addition of a few bar stools.

China Cabinet

An instant way you can increase style in your kitchen is to install a china cabinet. This piece can allow you to display your glassware and china in a beautiful way, as opposed to hiding them in the back of drawers. If you’re working with a smaller kitchen, you can create the same effect by installing glass panels into your current kitchen cabinets.

High Neck Faucets and Deep Sinks

A larger sink helps you avoid splashing water when you do the dishes. A deep sink fits more dishes, and also gives you more room for washing vegetables or fruits. Add a high neck faucet and it may be even easier to fill pots, pans, and bottles. In addition, these items can make your kitchen look chic and modern.

Hidden Outlets

Have you ever been cooking in a crock pot or using a blender and wishing that you didn’t have to move your tools around the kitchen looking for an outlet? Hidden outlets are one great solution that can make your kitchen both classy and accessible. Have outlets installed under your cabinets, or inside drawers to ensure that you can plug anything in, wherever you’re standing.

With just one of the items on your must-have list, you can move one step closer to the perfect kitchen. What other features would you want to have?

by CENTURY 21 

Oct 17, 2015

Halloween Safety Tips

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Everyone loves a good scare on Halloween, but not when it comes to child safety.  Here are tips to keep your Halloween holiday on the safe side!

  • Walk safely- Cross the street at corners and make sure to look left, right, and left again before crossing the street. 
  • Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars
  • Trick or treat with an Adult- children under the age of 12 should not be alone without adult supervision.  Enjoy this chance to celebrate this fun holiday with your child
  • Keep costumes both creative and safe – decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and don’t forget to carry glow sticks or flashlights to help you be seen by drivers
  • Drive extra safe on Halloween – Slow doesn and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods.  Take the extra time to look for kids at intersections and near driveways.

Sep 23, 2015

Ways to Use Pinterest

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Great Ways of Using Pinterest!

Use the Pinterest social media site to help make your life easier and get great ideas for around your home and your life.  Pinterest is image based and is an easy way of saving points of inspirations for future use.  Use Pinterest to plan meals. work-outs, home renovations, special events, and much more.  Here are some more great ways that you can use Pinterest!

  • Look for a DIY project Pinterest is full of DIY ideas from refurbishing a dresser to creating your own Christmas ornaments.  Get fantastic ideas from other Pinterest users that you can incorporate in your own home.  
  • Find Workout tips and inspiration Head to the Health and Fitness Board to find great ideas on new routines, health tips, and dieting ideas.  Plan your workouts for the week and find new mantras to get you moving.
  • Plan events Use Pinterest to help plan any event in your life ranging from your wedding to your next dinner party.  Pinning can help you find ideas for decorations, themes, recipes, games and so much more.  Make it an event your guests are sure to remember!
  • Get design inspiration for a home renovation Pinterest is a great way to search online for design tips and inspirations for around your home.  Create your own ideabook and save design photos or bookmark articles to reference at a later date.
  • Plan your family’s meals for the week Need some new ideas for spicing up the menu at your home?  Look no further than Pinterest!  Find new recipes and new twists on old favorites.  Look for something healthy or something to help you give in to a sweet craving.  Find recipes for snacks, smoothies, salads, entrees and so much more!

Sep 1, 2015

Fall Cleaning Checklist

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

It is starting to be that time of year to think about getting your home ready for winter.  Below is a list of cleaning ideas to get your home prepared both inside and out!

Inside Your House

  • Wash all windows- use glass cleaner, or one squirt of dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle filled with water.  Pick a cloudy day so you can see the streaks better
  • Vacuum dusty canvas, cotton, and treated fabric blinds – Use a low setting on your vacume with a brush attachment.
  • Clean the walls- dust, wash, rinse, and dry painted or wood-paneled walls
  • Clean ceiling-mounted light fixtures
  • Vacuum and spot-clean upholstered furniture and cushions
  • Wipe down the kitchen cupbards
  • Dust off your refridgerator condenser coil
  • Do the carpets
  • Spruce up your computer
  • Straighten the closets
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Replace the furnace filter
  • Sweep the chimneys
  • Declutter and clean the attic or garage

Outside Your House

  • Check weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows
  • Check and clean the gutters
  • Clean the patio furniture
  • Drain and store garden hoses
  • Check the exterior paint

Aug 23, 2015

End of Summer Gardening Tips

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

We are coming to an end of the summer season in Alaska.  Time to think about getting your garden ready for the upcoming months.  Frost may be arriving by the end of the month, so the rush is on to to harvest and process your garden’s bounty.  You also need to think about protecting tender plants from light but killing frosts. While you are doing these or any of your other chores, it is a good time to figure out what went wrong in your garden and keep notes so you don't repeat the mistakes next year.

Tomato Tips. Slice off the top six inches off your tomato plants and pinch off the blossoms around the first weekend of August, to force the fruit into ripening. If your plants have more foliage than tomatoes, you probably applied too much nitrogen to your soil earlier in the summer.

Hanging Basket Care. You can enjoy your hanging baskets into September if you bring them inside at night to protect them frost.

Woeful Weeds. Prevent weed problems by pulling out weeds before they set seed. Weeds compete with your plants for food, water, and sunlight and can compromise yields.

Pull Those Potatoes. Pull out some baby potatoes by either digging up an entire plant or sneaking in at the side and grabbing a few. Harvest a few leeks--the thin ones are sweet and tender enough to be cut up and tossed into salads. If you have not hilled your leeks and potatoes all summer, go out and do it as soon as you read this.

Watch Your Crops. Draw a map of you garden or photograph it, so that you can remember what was planted where next year.

Hope these hints see you through the end of August!

 

Aug 12, 2015

Upcoming Events on the Kenai Peninsula

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Summer is coming to an end but there is still time to get out and enjoy some of the last few local events!  

   Have you visited one of the farmers markets in the area yet?  Both Kenai and Soldotna have their own markets where you can buy fresh, local produce, sample some yummy goodies, and see crafts from local artists.  Markets in Soldotna are held on Tuesday and Wednesday and the one in Kenai is held on Saturdays.

   Don’t forget about the upcoming Kenai Peninsula Fair.  This year the fair is taking place on Friday, August 21st through Sunday, Sunday August 23rd.  The fair is a great opportunity for have fun with the whole family.

  There are still a few Music in the Park left to enjoy!  On Wednesdays in Soldotna Creek Park you can enjoy live music and have your choice of tastey treats.  

   Trivia Night at Odie’s Deli can be a lot of fun with friends.  This event takes place year round, so if you haven’t checked it out yet you still have some time!

  For a complete list of local happenings you can visit the local Soldotna Chamber page at http://directory.soldotnachamber.com/events

Get out there and have fun!

Jul 14, 2015

10 Reasons Why You Should Use a Realtor

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

~Here is some great info on why using a real estate agent is beneficial!

 

Why Hire A Real Estate Agent?  Here Are 10 Reasons

 

I have noticed some Sellers insist on selling their property on their own.  When they were asked why they wanted to sell without being represented by an agent, there were several different reasons from saving money on commission to having done it before.

 

So what are the top 10 reasons to hire a real estate agent to sell your property?  Real estate agents . . . .

 

1.   . . . have the education and the experience.  Real estate agents must take classes and pass an exam before being licensed.  They also must continue taking classes in order to renew their licenses.  Each transaction is different.  Having real estate experience helps to be knowledgeable. 

 

2.  . . . knowledge about the neighborhood and their niche.    Having the knowledge about their neighborhood and/or niche helps greatly with pricing, area market, area recreation, stores, etc. 

 

3.  . . . network professionally.      Networking is a big part of buying/selling properties.  By networking, agents find reputable service people that can help in the real estate business.

 

4.  . . . handle tons of paperwork, knowing what papers are required.    As we all know, business involves paperwork.  Agents know what paperwork is required for each situation.

 

5.  . . . develop relationships for future business.    The more people the agents know, the better chance of finding that buyer or that property.   

 

6.  . . . are buffers.   Agents make sure qualified Buyers are able to see the properties so no one's time is wasted.

 

7.  . . . give guidance on pricing real estate.    Agents are aware of current area market conditions and are able to advise market value for your home.

 

8.  . . .  have information on the current market conditions.    Real estate agents have access to current market conditions.

 

9.  . . . have negotiation skills and confidentiality.    Top producing agents are good negotiators and will get you the best price for your property.  They will keep confidential the information that is not to be disclosed.

 

10. . . . answer questions and are there for you during the whole process.    The agent will be there for you to take you through the whole home buying/selling process, educating you along the way so that you do not enter the transaction blindly. 

 

As you can see, there are great advantages to having a real estate agent represent you.  We are there for you to look out after your best interests using our knowledge and experience.

 

 

 

 

 

POSTED BY

Brigita McKelvie is a REALTOR®  (Pennsylvania License #RS297130) with Cindy Stys Equestrian & Country Properties, specializing in rural and horse properties and farms in Eastern Pennsylvania.  She has an e-Pro® (Certified Internet Expert) certification and a GRI (Graduate, REALTOR® Institute) designation.  

Brigita McKelvie, REALTOR

Pennsylvania License #RS297130

Rural and Horse Properties and Farms

Jul 2, 2015

Investment Properties for Beginners - The Ideal Way

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

~ Here is some great infomation for beginners looking to get into investment properties!

An FHA-Financed Duplex is an Ideal First Investment Property: Here’s Why

BY  ON 

 

The hardest part of getting into real estate investing is where to start. I’ve been there, and it’s stressful because it’s a big decision. I made a lot of rookie mistakes just like most new investors do.

So what’s the best way to start if you aren’t rich, want to generate income right away and want to be able to buy more properties over the next few years? I propose buying a duplex using an FHA owner occupied loan. Let’s learn why.

What You Need to Know About Financing

Most people wanting to get into investing start by buying a house with an owner occupied loan (FHA, VA Conventional). Owner occupied loans are cheaper because they have lower interest rates and much lower down payments than investment loans. It’s also the most affordable way to go when you have little cash. Keep in mind, you have to occupy the home for at least a year with an owner occupied loan, or you’ll be committing fraud.

Related: Your First Investment: How to Use Future Rental Income to Qualify for a Duplex Loan

After a year of living in the home, you can legally move out and rent the property. There are no laws against doing this. However, unless you own 30% of the property at the time you rent it out, you will not be able to get another loan until you have two years of landlord experience with that home on your taxes. Going this route means you will have to wait 3 years to buy the second property. Most new investors don’t know this going in and find out too late.

There is a way to speed this process up, get rental income right away and avoid the biggest mistakes most new investors make.

Buy a Duplex With an FHA Loan

First things first, duplexes are almost always cheaper and bring in more rental income than single family homes of the same size. If you plan on investing, it’s a good idea to start with a duplex anyway.

FHA is the only owner occupied loan you can get for a duplex that will allow a low down payment (3.5% as of March 2015), that doesn’t require landlord experience and that will count the future rental income from the other half of the duplex to help you qualify for a loan. Yes, you will be able to buy more than you can afford because you can rent the other side. How awesome is that?

Not only will you be able to buy more going this route, you will also gain the 2 years landlord experience needed to buy the next property. The reason you need two years experience renting that house is because they need to see how much you get in rent to be able to use that as income when you want to buy another house. Less than two years experience, and they won’t count your rent as income, and you’ll have to qualify for both homes at the same time to buy the second property.

When you do decide to move out after two years, all you need to do is get a lease on the half you are moving out of and turn that in to the lender. You will then be able to use 75% of the total rental income to qualify for the next loan.

Example: Your mortgage is $1,500 a month and you receive $1,000 a month from the rented side of the duplex while living in the other side. After 2 years you move out and get a signed lease on the side you were living in for another $1,000 a month, bringing your total rental income $2,000 a month. The lender will credit you 75% of that as income (25% is estimated to go to vacancies and repair costs). In the lender’s eyes you are now have a $1,500/month mortgage debt and a $1,500/month rental credit. You break even.

If there were a surplus, the extra would be added to your income and help you buy the next property. If it’s a deficit, they will take that amount away from your total income and it would hurt you when buying the next property.

That brings us to the 25% rule. You want to try to make 25% more than the mortgage every month so the house doesn’t count against you when you when you get the next loan.

Lenders also require you have at least 6 months’ mortgage payment saved up as a safety net before you buy the next place. That’s a good idea anyway.

Related: How to Buy a Duplex: The Ultimate Step by Step Guide

Conclusion

If you buy a single family home, you won’t be able to count the rental income until you have lived there for a year (owner occupied requirement) and then rented the entire place for two more years to get the required experience as a landlord.

If you buy a duplex with an FHA loan, you can buy more houses, use rental income from the other side when you buy it and after two years of living there, you meet the owner occupied requirement and the two years’ experience. If the rental income after you move out is 25% more than the mortgage, you will be in a much better position for buying the next one.

 

 

Jun 15, 2015

6 Remodeling Projects That Can Add to Your Resale Value

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Great information and ideas for adding to your resale value from Patti Stern, PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating!

Home remodeling has become more popular than ever to attract buyers, thanks to an improving economy, strong job growth, higher disposable income, more home sales, low interest rates, and a more competitive housing market. Home owners looking to sell their home this year may want to complete a few upgrades and renovations that will help make their home get noticed among the competition.

The following are the remodeling trends recommended by both PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating as well as Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report:

1. Curb appeal. According to Remodeling Magazine’s report, the key improvements with the highest ROI include the front door and garage door replacements, manufactured stone veneer front steps or foundations, vinyl siding, and replacing windows. Each of these upgrades will boost both buyer interest as well as the value of a home.

deck

 

2. Deck addition. At a fraction of the price of an indoor addition, a new deck both enhances the landscaping of a yard as well as offers additional living space for al fresco dining, relaxing and entertaining. Most people use their decks for at least six months out of the year so it’s a worthwhile investment.

kitchen

3. Kitchen remodel. Without having to completely gut the kitchen, replacing cabinet doors and drawer fronts, new appliances, countertops and flooring continues to rank as one of the top renovations for the last 10 years.

bathroom

4. Bathroom remodel. Buyers are looking for a bathroom that doesn’t feel outdated. Even the smallest bathrooms can look more attractive with the right finishing touches. The key features that will sell a bathroom are updated vanities, wall color, tile, sink, faucets, toilet, and lighting fixtures.

bedroom

5. Reinventing an existing room. Buyers and home owners want as much space as they can get. Remodeling an attic into a master or guest bedroom or converting a basement into a playroom, home theater, or exercise room are popular and profitable ways to add usable space to an older home as opposed to the bigger expense of an addition.

kitchen2

6. Painting and removing outdated wallpaper. Finally, if you don’t have time or money to invest in a remodel, one of the simplest and most affordable solutions is to remove dated wallpaper and add a trendy wall color. Don’t go too bold, though. Painting walls a neutral color will also bring out the home’s best features. This simple update provides a boost with instant universal appeal to buyers who want to envision living in the space.

 

By Patti Stern, PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Posted in Remodeling Adviser, by  on June 1, 2015

 

May 18, 2015

7 Lawn Care Tips

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

 Tired of your neighbor having a greener lawn? Try out these 7 tips! 

Green and abundant lawns serve as a great backdrop for picnics, cookouts, parties and other summer activities. To keep your lawn looking great, here are seven lawn care tips that will help you maintain a great, beautiful and healthy lawn all summer long. 

Lawn Care Tip 1 - One-Third Rule 
Removing more than 1/3 of the grass blade will stress out your lawn. If you cut or take out too much of the grass blade, your lawn will have a difficult time thriving and will instead look burnt out.

Lawn Care Tip 2 - Highest Acceptable Height
When you have long grass blades, your roots will grow deeper. Grass that has deeper roots will withstand drought and oppose pests and diseases.

Lawn Care Tip 3 - Sharp Mower Blades 
Your lawn's appearance is enhanced by sharp mower blades. Cleaner cuts of grass are provided by sharp blades. Grass will be able to recover from mowing faster when it is cut by sharp blades. 

Lawn Care Tip 4 - Apply Fertilizer 
Use fertilizer to get a healthy, green lawn. You have to apply fertilizer at the right time to get the best results. Consult with your local Weed Man professional for options.

Lawn Care Tip 5 - Deal with weeds, Insects and Diseases
Brown circles or dry areas around your lawn means that you might have a problem. As problems travel under the soil, big circles called brownouts caused by fungal disease or insects leave a line of traceable dead grass. Your Weed Man professional can help identify the exact problem and recommend treatment.

Lawn Care Tip 6 - Deep Watering
Deep (rather than shallow) lawn watering is encouraged to grow deeper roots. One inch of water to 12 inches of soil is the preferred ratio for watering actively growing grass. Watering your lawn every three days is better than watering a few minutes every day. 

Lawn Care Tip 7 - Check Your Irrigation System
For proper turf watering, test your irrigation system. One suggestion is to place five straight-sided pans around your lawn. When you turn your irrigation system on, take note of how long it takes for one inch of water to accumulate. Check to see if all the pans get the same amount of water. You might need to adjust the amount or distance of your lawn's sprinkler heads.
 

Copyright © 2015 Weed Man

Apr 20, 2015

~Home Staging Tips For Spring~

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Home Staging Tips To Sell Your Home 

Check out these helpful tips for staging your home!
 

  •  "If you can't see it, you can't sell it," Schwarz says. "We can't get them into your house if you don't stage the putside of your house." To that end Schwarz recommends that you look at your house as a product, so go across the street. That's where potential buyers pull up, so from there you can see it from their viewpoint. "The front gets cluttered with plants and trees, with the humidity and growth of summer, so how much of your house can you really see? If you can only see the front door and garage doors, it looks like you are selling doors. You can cut the bottom branches so people can see it. Trees trim from the bottom up, plants from the top down. In the summer it gets buried with limbs -- and also check the front and back of the house."
  •  All the excessive plant growth keeps light from coming into the house, and no one wants a dark house. Trim plants just below the level of the window so they aren't protruding above. Rounding plants off softens the look of any house and makes a home look more valuable. If it looks like chaos outside, they wont even get out of the car.
  •  No hanging plants all over the front porch. Schwarz warns, "You want the eye to go to the features of the house and not the plants."
  •  Stage the backyard as an outdoor living room for the summer months -- it's like adding more living space. "Thing is, in creating this living room most people add too much. You want a nice table, chairs and umbrella, and set the table with place mats and dishes -- but only a few," Schwarz advises. "Also, take pictures of this scene in the summer, so if you decide to sell in the snow of winter you can show the pictures to buyers and let them know what a great space it is in the summer. You can also take photos in winter and fall if you have great foliage or something. Make a nice photo album. People can't imagine things, so show them!"
  •  You might also want to consider doing a little home staging on your lawn. "In the summer, when a dog's made a brown spot on your lawn, you can just buy Sherwin-Williams paint called Emerald Green and it's green again! It will stay green for about 6 to 8 weeks."
  • If you do have pets then be sure the lawn is clean from bones, toys, and potty spots.
  •  Keep outdoor toys organized in one area.
  • Decorate your home for the correct season and or holiday if there is one approaching soon. 
  • Leave a window cracked if it is a nice day to let some air into the home. 

Leah Gillis l Jul 20th 2010 5:18PM

 

Apr 6, 2015

Six Must- Do's Before Buying

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

You may think you're ready to be a homebuyer, but have you done your homework? Do you know about credit score requirements? Are you familiar with the different mortgage options that could be available to you?

Have a checklist

Whether you are a first-time buyer or an experienced owner, buying a house requires a "preflight check," in the words of Barry Zigas, director of housing policy for the Consumer Federation of America.

Higher Scores Wanted

One old rule still applies: The higher your credit score, the lower your monthly payments.

"Below 660 or 680, you're either going to have to pay sizable fees or a higher down payment," Zigas says. And that's pretty much the cutoff score for getting a mortgage, he says.

Vicki Bott, a former official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, says that her office noticed much the same thing. "While there are many qualified borrowers in the 580 range, the market today is probably (looking for) 640 to 660, at a minimum," Bott says.

On the other end, a score of 700 to 720 will get you a good deal, and 750 and above will garner the best rates on the market.

Improve your chances by: pulling your credit reports and ensuring you're not being unfairly penalized for old, paid or settled debts, Zigas says.

Stop applying for new credit a year before you apply for financing. And keep the moratorium in place until after you close on your home, Ulzheimer says.

The buyer's mantra: Get a home that's financially comfortable.

There are various rules of thumb that will help you get an idea of how much home you can afford. If you're using FHA financing, as almost one-fifth of buyers get FHA-insured loans, your home payment can't exceed 31 percent of your monthly income. But with some mitigating factors, FHA will let you go higher.

Realistic debt-to-income ratio

For conventional loans, a safe formula is that home expenses should not exceed 28 percent of your gross monthly income, says Susan Tiffany, director of personal finance information for adults for the Credit Union National Association.

For a rough assessment of how much house you can afford, check out Bankrate's new house calculator.

Improve your chances by: trying on that financial obligation long before you sign the mortgage papers, says Tiffany. Before you home shop, calculate the mortgage payments for the home in your intended price range, along with the increased expenses (such as taxes, insurance and utilities). Then bank the difference between that and what you're paying now.

Not only does it allow you to build a nice nest egg, but "you can back away from it," or scale back, if the payments start to pinch, she says.

Save for a down payment

Depending on your credit and financing, you'll typically need to save enough money for a down payment -- somewhere between 3 percent and 20 percent of the home's price.

If you're using FHA financing, then you need a credit score of 580 or higher.

One exception: Veterans Affairs loans, which require no down payment.

Don't forget loan fees

Another cash expense: closing costs. Whatever your loan source, you'll also need money to pay closing costs. For a $200,000 mortgage, closing costs run (depending on where you live) from $2,300 to $4,000. Get the average closing costs in your state at Bankrate's closing costs map.

Improve your chances by: banking your own money and seeking down payment assistance, Tiffany says. Often it's location-based or tagged to a certain type of buyer, like first-timers, she says. Search online with the city name, then the county name, along with word combinations such as "down payment assistance," "first-time homebuyers" and "homebuyer's assistance."

In a buyer's market, you can also negotiate to have the seller pay a portion of the closing costs.

Build a Savings

Building your savings is something you should do over and above saving money for the down payment and closing. Your lender wants to see that you're not living paycheck to paycheck. If you have three to five months' worth of mortgage payments set aside, that makes you a much better loan candidate. And some lenders and backers, like the FHA, will give you a little more latitude on other factors if they see that you have a cash cushion.

That money will also help cover maintenance and repair issues that come up when you own a home. While repairs are sporadic, items such as a new roof, water heater or other big-ticket items can hit suddenly and hard.

Improve your chances by: setting aside money every month. A good rule of thumb: On average, you'll spend 2.5 percent to 3 percent of your home's value annually on upkeep, repairs and maintenance, says Joseph Gyourko, professor of real estate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. If you're buying a $250,000 home, aim to save $520 to $625 per month.

For serious home shoppers, "the No. 1 thing is they better have everything in order," says Dick Gaylord, broker with Re/Max Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, California, and former president of the National Association of Realtors. That means that, before the real home shopping begins, you want to get financing in place, he says.

And the preapproval process is "much more extensive" than it was a few years ago, he says.

Bott agrees. "That documentation around income and assets is very essential, more so than in the last five years," she says.

Improve your chances by: getting financing in place "before you walk through the first house," Gaylord says. Otherwise, he asks, "How do you know how much you can afford?"

Be sure you love the home

If you're buying today for yourself and your family, you want a home that will make you happy for the next few years.

Gone are the days when you could count on a quick sale, Tiffany says. And depending on how much you put down, and how much you have to shell out to sell and relocate, short-term ownership can be a pretty expensive proposition.

Improve your chances by: stepping back, Gyourko says, and making certain "you like the house."

Bankrate.com's editorial, corrections policy
Updated: March 30, 2015
 



 

Mar 25, 2015

It’s the Time of the Season for Selling a House—or Is It?

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

♦ With the warmer weather, more daylight, and the impetus to get a new house in order before the next school calendar begins, buyers are more likely to shop during this time of year, with home buying peaking in June. ♦

The Pros and Cons of Spring

Pro: Bigger sale price

Unlike other markets, where more inventory means lower prices, the housing market works the opposite way: Prices are highest in the prime season, when the most homes are listed.

“It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s a function of demand being very seasonal, driven by weather and school year,” said our chief economist, Jonathan Smoke. There are also more buyers in spring and summer, as this is the most convenient time for most people to move. So relative to demand, the supply of homes is actually tighter in spring and summer than in fall and winter.

Pro: Better valuations

When your house is being valued, the appraiser will look into data for comparable homes sold in your neighborhood. But if the most recent data is from a home that sold for cheap in the winter, it can hurt your valuation. Having only bits of comparable housing data “kind of holds you hostage,” said Dana Hill, vice president of Buyer’s Edge Realty in Bethesda, MD.

With more homes selling in the on-season, the comparable data (or “comps”) are more accurate. Hill recommends waiting to be the second or third person in your neighborhood to put your house up for sale to take advantage of those comparable sales. While you’re at it, be sure your appraiser knows your neighborhood. If a home recently sold for $600,000 but it was a tear-down, while normally prices are $1.2 million, you’ll want an appraiser who understands that, said Hill.

Either way, the more data the better—and the prime season is when the data are most robust.

Pro: Homes look better, days are longer

There’s no doubt spring is when properties shine. The flowers are in bloom and buyers are out. Daylight saving time also gives buyers more time to look at houses, which means your property can be seen by more buyers during the day, said Hill. That means a bigger chance for more interested buyers.

Con: Buyers are pickier

With more houses on the market, buyers can afford a bigger wish list. If your home needs repairs, buyers might simply pass. Add in the fact most buyers aren’t shopping under pressure (as they might be during the off-season), and you have a pool of selective shoppers.

“Buyers aren’t as pressured [during the on-season], so there’s no reason they would take a house that takes $15,000 to $20,000 worth of work. I think the time factor plays a big role in necessity,” said Gregory Gronbacher, a Realtor® with Keller Williams Realty in the Grand Rapids, MI, area.

Pro: Sellers can be picky, too

With more buyers come more options for potential new owners. Don’t want your childhood home razed to the ground for a new McMansion? You have a better chance of finding a loving couple looking to start a family during the on-season.

Pro: Bidding wars

Bidding wars are a headache for buyers but a big plus for sellers. Smoke said you want to “put your home on the market pretty near when inventory is at a high. There’s more chance for bidders and multiple offers.”

Bidding wars mean more money in your pocket. They also usually mean buyers are less likely to make repair requests or other demands. Additionally, cash buyers are some of the more aggressive bidders, so you might find a buyer with a fistful of dollars with a fast lane to closing day.

The off-season: Fall and winter

Con: Thrift shoppers

If you have to put your home up for sale in the off-season, it’s probably because of an extraneous factor—such as a death in the family, layoff, or short sale—and you can get buyers looking for a good deal above all else.

“You get a different sort of buyer, someone who is more sensitive to price, who is intentionally buying at that time of the year,” said Smoke. Investors looking to buy property at a discount do so around this time, he notes.

You may have to accommodate buyers’ wants, like making certain repairs or eating some closing costs in order to sell your home quickly, if that’s a motivating factor.

Pro: The motivated buyer

While you may have to field lowball offers from thrifty home shoppers, that doesn’t mean the motivated buyer is an endangered species in the off-season.

Gronbacher has found that “off-season buyers are more focused and serious about finding the right home in a short amount of time. In many cases, they are involved in a relocation or facing a situation that is requiring them to move.”

Adam Kruse, a Realtor with the Hermann London Real Estate Group in St. Louis, MO, agrees.

“If a buyer is out looking at houses the day before Thanksgiving in six inches of snow, you know they are serious,” he said.

Con: Less curb appeal

If you’re selling in winter, especially in snowy areas, your house will have less of that colorful “pop” it might have in spring.

“There is no real curb appeal as there is in the spring. We miss the beauty of green lawns, flowers, and in-ground pools,” said Linda Mossman, a Realtor with Realty Executives Boston West in Boston.

To offset the blandness of winter, Mossman said to keep the driveways and sidewalks as clear as possible, and provide your agent with pictures of your home in the spring for reference.

Con: Homes sell for less 

When there are fewer houses on the market, it means homes will sell for less.

You may, however, be able to negate this con by raising your price. It’s a common tactic, said Hill. She calls it “winter pricing,” which makes it easier for the seller to accommodate a lower offer.

Verdict: The on-season is better

OK, so conventional wisdom does get it right, according to our experts: Sellers who have a choice in the matter wait until the prime season starts so they can reap the benefits.


Article By: Craig Donofrio

 

Mar 19, 2015

Credit Do's and Dont's During The Loan Process

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

 

   ~Good credit is critical when it comes to obtaining the best interest rates and terms on a mortgage~

 

 

 

  • Do stay current on existing accounts
  • Do continue to use your credit as normal 
  • Do call a mortgage professional before making any changes 
  • Don’t Apply For New Credit Everytime you have your credit pulled by a potential creditor or lender you can lose points from your credit score, this includes co signing. 
  • Don’t Max Out Credit Cards Try to keep your credit card balances 30% below their limit during loan process. If you pay down balances, do it across the board. 
  • Don’t Consolidate Your Debt When you consolidate all of your debt onto one or two credit cards, it will appear that you are “maxed out” on that card and you will be penelized. 
  • Don’t Close Credit Accounts If you close a credit card account, it may appear that your debt ratio has gone up. Closing a card will affect other factors in the score, including credit history. 
  • Don’t Pay Off Collections or “Charge- Offs” If you want to pay off old accounts, do it through escrow. Request a “letter of deletion” from the creditor. 

Stop renting and enjoy the American dream of home ownership. While home ownership costs rose 37% in the last decade, rent increases were 50%. Your first home is the key to your financial security. The time to buy is now! 

These tips are brought to you by a local lender: Contact Natalia for more information 907-830-1069

Mar 12, 2015

It's Clean Up Season

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

March is notoriously unpredictable. Shrubs can be crusty with snow on the first of the month, and then, a couple of weeks later, temperatures can warm up enough for flower and leaf buds to show signs of life. Get a head start on spring cleaning!

 Some early spring cleanup tasks are sure things this time of year. So go ahead and remove burlap from trees and shrubs as the weather warms. Prune away winter-killed branches to make room for new growth. Cut back spent perennials and pull up old annuals if you didn't get around to it last fall. Then look around. "March is a good time to take stock of your yard and see if it's time to thin out crowded beds and do some transplanting to fill in bare spots," says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook.

Here, a checklist to tackle now to give your green patch a clean start. 

1. Prune away dead and damaged branches. 
Where tree or shrub branches have been damaged by cold, snow, and wind, prune back to live stems; use a handsaw for any larger than ½inch in diameter. Shaping hedges with hand pruners, rather than electric shears, prevents a thick outer layer of growth that prohibits sunlight and air from reaching the shrub's center. At right, Roger neatens up a yew by pruning wayward shoots back to an intersecting branch. Prune summer-flowering shrubs, such as Rose of Sharon, before buds swell, but wait to prune spring bloomers, like forsythia, until after they flower.
2. Clean Up Around Plants.
Rake out fallen leaves and dead foliage (which can smother plants and foster disease), pull up spent annuals, and toss in a wheelbarrow with other organic yard waste. Once the threat of frost has passed, Roger also removes existing mulch to set the stage for a new layer once spring planting is done. Push heaved plants back into flower beds and borders, tamping them down around the base with your foot, or use a shovel to replant them. Now is a good time to spread a pelletized fertilizer tailored to existing plantings on the soil's surface so that spring rains can carry it to the roots. Add a 5-10-10 fertilizer around bulbs as soon as they flower to maximize bloom time and feed next season's growth. Use pins to fasten drip irrigation lines that have come loose and a square-head shovel to give beds a clean edge and keep turf grass from growing into them.
3. Prep Damaged Lawn Areas for Spring Seeding.
In colder climates grass starts growing in April, but early spring is a good time to test the soil's pH so that you can assemble the right amendments. Remove turf damaged by salt, plows, or disease to prepare for the seeding that should follow in a few weeks. Work in a ½-inch layer of compost to keep the new seed moist, increasing the germination rate. Begin seeding once forsythia starts blooming in your area.  
 
Save yourself some work by starting early! These tips are sure to help spruce up your yard after a cold winter!
 
 

Feb 26, 2015

Spring Is In The Air!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Spring is right around the corner, and there is no better time then to sell! Read this great blog on four great tips to remember when you are going to list your home. 

If you want to sell your home this spring, prepare for pent-up buyer demand. Spring might be an even livelier home-selling season this year because homebuyers want to act before interest rates or home prices rise. 

  1. Studies show that a potentional buyer decides within 60 seconds of seeing a home wether they want to consider buying it. Keep the front of your home tidy and clean. Gill recommends trimming trees and bushes so buyers can see the house, and pressure-washing the driveway, front walk, house and patio. He suggests cleaning and painting the front door because buyers must linger at the door while they wait for the agent to open the lockbox. He also proposes adding colorful flowers to sell your home this spring and cleaning the windows so they sparkle inside and out. 
  2. Sellers need to go through all of their furniture and closets with a discerning eye to eliminate clutter and then go back again.   "If you have 17 sweaters, you need to pare it down to two, so your closets look bigger," Findlay says. "If you have dark corners in the house, get rid of clutter in those areas, paint them a light color and reflect the color with lighting," she says. "If you have a pet, clean the carpets and open the windows to air out the house. Clean or get rid of your drapes if they carry a pet odor."

  3. If you know a home inspector is going to find something wrong with your house, go ahead and fix it first. If you haven't maintained your home, you may want to hire your own home inspector before your home goes on the market so that you can make appropriate repairs before you try to sell it.Gill says, "Most sellers know if something is broken. It makes more sense to do the repairs ahead of time rather than wait for a buyer to request it. Buyers may end up asking you to spend $300 on what should cost $100 just to make sure it's done right."

    4.The majority of buyers start their home search online. To sell a home this spring, hire a Realtor who will make sure that professional photos, a virtual tour and a vibrant description are widely available on multiple websites, advises Findlay. She says more buyers are using mobile phones and tablets to search for homes, so marketing materials should be easy to navigate from those devices, too.

    Blog written by: By Michele Lerner • Bankrate.com


     

Feb 5, 2015

Taxes with Rental Properties!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Hey! Check out this great article on how home rental taxes work!  

A rental property can generate “taxable losses” that can be used to reduce your normal salary income, hence the federal income taxes you pay. It’s difficult for most people to understand how taxes work, and even more confusing once we get into the realm of rental properties and taxes. Note that understanding how taxes impact personal residences are a completely different topic, as those are governed by totally separate tax codes and go elsewhere on your 1040 form. Below are some of the basics to understanding rental properties and federal income taxes. Often I hear people saying that they want to buy some real estate to save money on income taxes. However, depending on your tax situation, owning real estate might not save you a dime on taxes. It wholly depends on your specific tax picture and the IRS rules about Passive Activity Loss Limitations.

First and foremost you should never make real estate investment decisions based solely on tax considerations. The first order of business is do your due diligence and determine if an investment makes sense based on cash flows, cash on cash returns, renovation costs, rental income, financing, and the risk of any particular property. Once you believe it makes sense in every other sense, then you can contemplate the tax effects. Important note: Always have a CPA, attorney or licensed tax professional guide you through your individual tax picture — this article is an illustration of one scenario but your scenario can be very different based on your financial picture. To better understand, let’s first quickly discuss the IRS 1040 form.

The 1040 form you fill out each year does two things: Calculates the amount of federal income taxes you owe for the year based on how much you earned in salary, income, wages, profits and distributions — LESS all the deductions (tax “shields”/subtractions) to those totals in the form of losses, deductions and exemptions to get to your Taxable income on Line 43. Then, look at the IRS Tax Tables and determine how much you owe in taxes based on your tax filing status (Single, Married Filing Jointly, etc.) and your Taxable Income. Second, it reconciles the amount you owe from #1 above against the amount you have already paid during the year. This is commonly called “withholdings” from your salary, or if you are self-employed, you probably paid quarterly estimated income tax amounts to the IRS during the year. If you paid more in #2 than you owe in #1, you get a tax refund! If you paid less in #2 than you owe in #1, you write the IRS an additional check!

Rental properties generally show taxable losses for the first many years. That taxable loss is essentially another “deduction” that lowers your taxable income — noted in #1 above — and hence lowers your income taxes. This chart below shows an example of how a loss would be calculated. For example, this property might show a ($7,500) loss. 

 

That loss would filter through your IRS 1040 form, reducing your taxable income, and hence reducing your taxes. This is how you might save money on taxes by owning rental properties — using losses on your rental real estate to reduce your taxable income, which allows you to pay less in federal income taxes. How much it reduces your taxes depends on your income and filing status. It is a little complicated and can get very complicated depending on your situation. There are also limits on how much of a loss on rental property any particular taxpayer can use to “shield” their income. These limits are called Passive Activity Loss Limitations. If your losses are over $25,000 and/or your Adjusted Gross Income is over $100,000, you may not be able to use all of the losses. You may have losses, but you are not allowed to reduce your income with them based on the IRS rules. Consult a professional.     Article Credit: Leonard Baron

Jan 8, 2015

Big Changes in the New Year

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Big Changes in the New Year!

I am writing today to let those of you who did not know that the kenai office where I am currently located is closing. I have transferred to the Soldotna office location this week. Posted a pic of my new space My email and cell phone number will NOT change but the office number has. My new office number is 262-1770. I am still serving the entire Kenai Peninsula so if you are wanting to buy or sell real estate on the Kenai - I am your Realtor! 

Many of you may be asking why we have closed the Century 21 Freedom realty location in Kenai and it is because the broker in charge of the office, Fred Braun, has decided to branch out and open his own office. We wish him the best and look forward to a successful year in real estate for all our competitors.

For me personally 2014 was a Fabulous year as my business grew leaps and bounds. I love being part of Century 21 and all it has to offer. I am not sure if you are aware but as a company we received the JD Power and Associates awards for real estate in all 4 categories. A feat that has NEVER been accomplished by any other real estate company till now!! The 4 categories were : Highest Satisfaction for First time Home Buyers, Highest Satisfaction in Repeat Home Buyers, Highest Satisfaction for First time Home Sellers, and Highest Satisfaction in Repeat Home Sellers. Here is a link to learn more: http://www.century21.com/pressRelease.c21?id=169

It is so amazing to know that Century 21 Freedom Realty is a part of all of this. So as I close out this post I wanted to THANK the clients I helped this past year, for choosing me as your Realtor of choice. I look forward to helping you, & your friends and family with any of your real estate needs in 2015. And please don't hesitate to contact me if you know of anyone who is looking to buy or sell real estate today.

Here is to a Successful 2015!!!

Dec 18, 2014

8 Benefits of Buying a House at Year’s End

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

 

As we get closer to Christmas it is always a busy time of year, but it is also when you get some time off of work to explore and research things you normally don't when working all the time. So take a few moments and read about some of the benefits if you are looking to buy now and in the new year!

Summer may be real estate’s busy season, but winter offers great opportunities for buying a house, especially for renters looking to become homeowners, growing families trading up to larger houses and baby boomers seeking homes to fit their evolving lifestyles.

The benefits to buying a house at the end of the year include the following:

1. Tax savings

If you close by December 31, you can deduct mortgage interest, property taxes, points on your loan and interest costs. These deductions are significant, especially in the early years of your loan when you’re paying off a lot of interest.

2. Motivated sellers

Many sellers want to enjoy tax savings on the next home they purchase. They may accept lower bids in order to meet Uncle Sam’s deadlines. However, if you’re in a strong seller’s market, you’ll want to be conservative and heed advice from your real estate professional.

3. Builder incentives

If you’re buying a house that is brand new, there’s a good chance builders may push to close the books on their year—and meet quotas. They may offer upgrades or little extrasto sell houses before the calendar turns.

4. Available movers

Many moving companies are booked six weeks or more in advance during the busy summer months. In the fall and winter, it’s normally easier to secure the services of amoving company or rental equipment on shorter notice.

5. Paying toward something you own

If you’re renting, your monthly check goes toward something that will last you a month: You’ll never see any return on that money. When you buy a house, your monthly mortgage payment goes toward an investment—and ultimately a roof that’s yours.

6. Consistent payments

Landlords can increase your rent. Once you secure a mortgage, you can rely on consistent payments if you have a fixed-rate loan.

7. Freedom to renovate

Modernize your kitchen, paint your home’s exterior neon orange, change your fixtures orreplace your carpeting; whatever inspires you, no one can tell you, “No!”

8. Gaining equity

In the beginning, most of your payment goes toward interest. But gradually more will go toward paying off your principal, meaning you build up equity—or savings—in your home. Another factor in equity is appreciation: As home values rise, so does your rate of equity.

Dec 8, 2014

Money Matters: How to Decrease Your Energy Bill this Winter

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Well for us in Alaska the snow is on the ground and winter is here! Keeping your home warm during the winter months is essential, but your heating bills can add up quickly. You may think there is no hope when it comes to decreasing heating bills—you have to stay warm, so what are the alternatives? Think again and use these tips for helping to decrease your energy bill during the cold, winter months. 

1. Change furnace filter: Furnace filters only cost a few dollars and can be installed easily. Over time, furnace filters can become clogged, making your furnace run less efficiently. Unclog the filter to save money. (Investopedia.com)

2. Replace light bulbs: Changing out your halogen or incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs is a great way to decrease costs. Fluorescent bulbs use 75% less energy than others, which won’t make you feel guilty about turning those lights on for the 5 pm sunset.

3. Attic insulation: Make sure that your insulation doesn't just cover attic walls, but the floors as well. Uninsulated floors can cause heat to escape through the roof and make your home feel colder than it actually is.  (Investopedia.com)

4. Adjust thermostat: You can save 10% on your yearly bill if you lower your thermostat 10-15 degrees for 8 hours. It’s best to do this during the day when it’s not as cold.

5. Humidifier: Investing in a humidifier can do wonders for your home. When your thermostat is turned down, a humidifier will keep the air moist and make the temperature feel warmer. (Daily Finance)

6. Use LED holiday lights: Keeping holiday lights running for a significant amount of time can really add up. Switch out regular lights for LED ones since they use 80-90% less energy. If you want to deck your halls for the holiday season, don’t rack up your energy bill in the process (Home Depot light exchange)

7. Raise the shades: The cheapest way to warm up your home? Pull open your blinds and curtains! Letting sunlight into a room is a good way to keep your house warm and energy bills low. (SF Gate)

These ideas are also great to do to your home if you are thinking of putting your home on the market. To learn more about listing your home please visit my website here: Natalia's WebsiteMaking your home more energy efficient can not only save you money and keep your home warm, but it can also reduce your home’s carbon footprint. Why not save money while making your home a better place to live?

Aug 6, 2014

SUMMIT DAY

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

CLIMB FOR KIDS TEAM SUMMITS ONE OF THE WORLDS SEVEN SUMMITS, MT. ELBRUS IN TERSKOL RUSSIA!!!

The journey Continues - Our day began at 1:00 am. After getting dressed and eating some food We departed high camp at 3:00 am to begin our summit attempt. The weather was perfect. Crystal clear skies and then a gorgeous sunrise, giving birth to a bluebird day! Seven hours and twenty minutes later the team reached the summit of the tallest peak on the European Continent. All team members made the summit...a 100% success rate is a rarity in mountaineering, but the team was strong and pushed through the mental and physical barriers ever present on a mountain of this magnitude.

We have met climbers from all around the world including Finland, Spain, Slovenia, Switzerland, Canada, S Korea, Pakistan, Argentina, Dubai, Bangladesh, Singapore, Russia, Ukraine, Sweden, England, USA, Germany and Norway. 

One of the greatest pleasures of the climb was teaming up with Benjamin Breckheimer a wounded warrior and former Staff Sargent in the US Army. Ben is one incredible guy and pushed thru barriers like I've rarely ever seen anyone do. He not only took on the climb but today became only the second wounded warrior to ever summit Mt. Elbrus. A true hero to all who know him and to those of us lucky enough to have climbed with him!

Our goal this year is to raise $100,000 for Easter Seals thru the Climb for Kids. We are not there yet and need your help so we can help children, adults and veterans achieve their own personal summits. Please donate - ever dollar goes directly to Easter Seals to serve the community. Each climber has their own fundraiser page - mine is below. Thank you in advance for your generosity!

The two links below are:

Satellite tracking of our three days on Elbrus. Use the satellite option and you can see where the team climbed as we prepared for a summit attempt and the summit climb today. 

http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0O9L6rnxeM2gdDKPVpC872yy5oKSdk8j1


The second is to our Climb for Kids donation page. 

http://es.easterseals.com/site/TR/Events/NationalSpecialCampaigns9?pxfid=136599&fr_id=3461&pg=fund

Jul 31, 2014

Russia 2014 Trip - Climb for kids!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

 
"The last few days have been pretty wonderful – we have been staying in a tiny ski village named Triscol with daily hikes to help acclimate ourselves to the elevation. The local people here are a little gruff but overall very accommodating. We did have the cook get upset with the few of us that were up around 630-7am asking for hot water for coffee. She was upset as breakfast is not till 8am.  What can I say, we like our coffee and have a hard time waiting. Especially when the guide brought a French Press! The team is really starting to gel together. We have a good mix of people and personalities, so it is always entertaining. So I will go thru real quick who we have. First off is Rick Davidson, the president of Century 21, and the person who invited me on this expedition. Then we have Scott Becker, a real great guy who also works for Century 21 out of the Washington area. Next is Matt Cleaver, a very close friend to Scott. In fact they trained together on weekends for this climb. Though Matt is not working for Century 21, it is great to have him on the team. Then we have our guide, Craig Van Hoy, a guide that Rick Davidson always uses for his climbs. I can see why, very experienced, patient, and sets a really good pace. 
 
Then we have Benjamin Breckenheimer and Karen Grimes who are with their guide Dennis Broadwell. Dennis is best friends with our guide Craig and since his group was so small we have been doing the trip all together. Karen is a bad a#@ chick- lives in San Francisco and just loves to climb. Benjamin is a veteran who lives in Florida. He is doing this climb it seems for several reasons. It is truly an honor to be in his company. Having been injured badly in Iraq it is really cool to see him do this trip. You can tell he loves what climbing has to offer and I am sure it won’t be his last peak. Having him on the trip also reminds me how important life is to live to the fullest.  Next is Dennis, a great guide to have along and it is nice to be able to merge the groups together so well. They all are a great part of our group.
The best part of our addition is Roman, the Russian climbing guide. His English is not perfect but overall really good. He likes to talk about the history of the area and also sets a really good pace. He and his wife LOVE to climb. His wife went on the first day hike with us and always packed us such a wonderful lunch! Always so much that I could not finish it.  They are really nice to have on the team, especially since none of us speak Russian!! 
So the team has been going strong and ready for Mt. Elbrus. Tomorrow is the big day to head up to the hut for the first night. We have a day of getting up to the hut and then a snow skills class, and then our first night at the hut. Our hope is to take the summit the following day, with hopes that we have good weather. Wish us luck!
 
Until the next post! "

Jul 28, 2014

Got Lemons in your Fridge? Check out some uses of them!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Got some spare time?  Check out these great uses for lemon!

Most people are familiar with the traditional uses for lemons to soothe sore throats and add some citrus flavor to our foods. However the diversity of applications for lemons far exceeds general knowledge and once you read the following list, you’ll likely want to stock at least a few lemons in your kitchen 24-7.

1. Freshen the Fridge
Remove refrigerator odors with ease. Dab lemon juice on a cotton ball or sponge and leave it in the fridge for several hours. Make sure to toss out any malodorous items that might be causing the bad smell.

2. High Blood Pressure

Lemon contains potassium which controls high blood pressure and reduces the effect of nausea and dizziness.

3. Prevent Cauliflower From Turning Brown
Cauliflower tend to turn brown with even the slightest cooking. You can make sure the white vegetables stay white by squeezing a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice on them before heating.

4. Mental Health
Lemon water can also prep up your mood and relieve you from depression and stress. Long distance walkers and world travelers as well as explorers look upon the lemon as a Godsend. When fatigue begins, a lemon is sucked through a hole in the top. Quick acting medicine it is, giving almost unbelievable refreshments.

5. Refresh Cutting Boards
No wonder your kitchen cutting board smells! After all, you use it to chop onions, crush garlic, and prepare fish. To get rid of the smell and help sanitize the cutting board, rub it all over with the cut side of half a lemon or wash it in undiluted juice straight from the bottle.

6. Respiratory Problems
Lemon water can reduce phlegm; and can also help you breathe properly and aids a person suffering with asthma.

7. Treating Arthritis and Rheumatism
Lemon is a diuretic – assists in the production of urine which helps you to reduce inflammation by flushing out toxins and bacteria while also giving you relief from arthritis and rheumatism.

8. Prevents Kidney Stones
Regular consumption of the refreshing drink — or even lemon juice mixed with water — may increase the production of urinary citrate, a chemical in the urine that prevents the formation of crystals that may build up into kidney stones.

9. Keep Insects Out of the Kitchen
You don’t need insecticides or ant traps to ant-proof your kitchen. Just give it the lemon treatment. First squirt some lemon juice on door thresholds and windowsills. Then squeeze lemon juice into any holes or cracks where the ants are getting in. Finally, scatter small slices of lemon peel around the outdoor entrance. The ants will get the message that they aren’t welcome. Lemons are also effective against roaches and fleas: Simply mix the juice of 4 lemons (along with the rinds) with 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water and wash your floors with it; then watch the fleas and roaches flee. They hate the smell.

10. Anti-Aging
Lemon water reduces the production of free radicals which are responsible for aging skin and skin damage. Lemon water is calorie free and an antioxidant.

11. Fruit and Vegetable Wash
You never know what kind of pesticides or dirt may be lurking on the skin of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Slice your lemon and squeeze out one tablespoon of lemon juice into your spray bottle. The lemon juice is a natural disinfectant and will leave your fruits and vegetables smelling nice too.

12. Treat Infections
Lemon water can fight throat infections thanks to its antibacterial property. If salt water does not work for you, try lemon and water for gargling.

13. Deodorize Your Garbage 
If your garbage is beginning to smell yucky, here’s an easy way to deodorize it: Save leftover lemon and orange peels and toss them at the base under the bag. To keep it smelling fresh, repeat once every couple of weeks.

14. Keep Guacamole Green
You’ve been making guacamole all day long for the big party, and you don’t want it to turn brown on top before the guests arrive. The solution: Sprinkle a liberal amount of fresh lemon juice over it and it will stay fresh and green. The flavor of the lemon juice is a natural complement to the avocados in the guacamole. Make the fruit salad hours in advance too. Just squeeze some lemon juice onto the apple slices, and they’ll stay snowy white.

15. Purges The Blood
We consume a lot of junk food or food with a lot of preservatives and artificial flavours. This builds up a lot of toxins in the blood and body but daily consumption of lemon water helps to purify the blood.

16. Make Soggy Lettuce Crisp
Don’t toss that soggy lettuce into the garbage. With the help of a little lemon juice you can toss it in a salad instead. Add the juice of half a lemon to a bowl of cold water. Then put the soggy lettuce in it and refrigerate for 1 hour. Make sure to dry the leaves completely before putting them into salads or sandwiches.

17. Oral Health
Lemon juice also stops bleeding gums and reduces toothaches

18. Lighten Age Spots
Why buy expensive creams when you’ve got lemon juice? To lighten liver spots or freckles, try applying lemon juice directly to the area. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then rinse your skin clean. It’s a safe and effective skin-lightening agent.

19. Create Blonde Highlights
For salon-worthy highlights, add 1/4 cup lemon juice to 3/4 cup water and rinse your hair with the mixture. Then, sit in the sun until your hair dries. To maximize the effect, repeat once daily for up to a week.

20. Make a Room Scent/Humidifier
Freshen and moisturize the air in your home on dry winter days. Make your own room scent that also doubles as a humidifier. If you have a wood-burning stove, place an enameled cast-iron pot or bowl on top, fill with water, and add lemon (and/or orange) peels, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and apple skins. No wood-burning stove? Use your stovetop instead and just simmer the water periodically.

21. Clean and Whiten Nails
Pamper your hands without a manicurist. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon to 1 cup warm water and soak your fingertips in the mixture for 5 minutes. After pushing back the cuticles, rub some lemon peel back and forth against the nail.

22. Cleanse Your Face
Zap zits naturally by dabbing lemon juice on blackheads to draw them out during the day. You can also wash your face with lemon juice for a natural cleanse and exfoliation. Your skin should improve after several days of treatment. Lemon water is also a cooling agent, best way to beat the heat.

23. Freshen Your Breath
Make an impromptu mouthwash by rinsing with lemon juice straight from the bottle. Swallow for longer-lasting fresh breath. The citric acid in the juice alters the pH level in your mouth, killing bacteria that causes bad breath. Rinse after a few minutes because long-term exposure to the acid in lemons can harm tooth enamel.

24. Treat Flaky Dandruff
If itchy, scaly dandruff has you scratching your head, relief may be no farther away than your refrigerator. Just massage two tablespoons lemon juice into your scalp and rinse with water. Then stir one teaspoon lemon juice into one cup water and rinse your hair with it. Repeat daily until your dandruff disappears.

 

25. Get Rid of Tough Stains on Marble
You probably think of marble as stone, but it is really petrified calcium (also known as old seashells). That explains why it is so porous and easily stained and damaged. Those stains can be hard to remove. If washing won’t remove a stubborn stain, try this: Cut a lemon in half, dip the exposed flesh into some table salt, and rub it vigorously on the stain. But do this only as a last resort; acid can damage marble. Rinse well. Use These Lemons To Clean – Easy and Effective

26. Remove Berry Stains
It sure was fun to pick your own berries, but now your fingers are stained with berry juice that won’t come off no matter how much you scrub with soap and water. Try washing your hands with undiluted lemon juice, then wait a few minutes and wash with warm, soapy water. Repeat until your hands are stain-free.

27. Soften Dry, Scaly Elbows
Itchy elbows are bad enough, but they look terrible too. For better looking (and feeling) elbows, mix baking soda and lemon juice to make an abrasive paste, then rub it into your elbows for a soothing, smoothing, and exfoliating treatment. Rinse your extremities in a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and water, then massage with olive oil and dab dry with a soft cloth.

28. Headaches 
Lemon juice with a few teaspoons of hot tea added is the treatment of a sophisticated New York bartender, for those who suffer with hangover headaches–and from headaches due to many other causes. He converts his customers to this regime, and weans them away from drug remedies completely.

29. Chills and Fevers
Chills and fevers may be due to a variety of causes; never the less the lemon is always a helpful remedy. Spanish physicians regard it as an infallible friend.

30. Diptheria
Skip the vaccine for this disease. Lemon Juice Treatment still proves as one of the most powerful antiseptics and the strong digestive qualities of the fruit are admired around the world. With the juice every hour or two, and at the same time, 1/2 to 1 tsp. should be swallowed. This cuts loose the false membrane in the throat and permits it to come out.

31. Forget The Moth Balls

A charming French custom to keep closets free from moths is to take ripe lemons and stick them with cloves all over the skin. The heavily studded lemons slowly dry with their cloves, leaving a marvelous odor throughout the closets and rooms.

32. Stomach Health
Digestive problems are the most common ailments but warm water and lime juice is the solution to most digestive problems. Lemon juice helps to purify the blood, reduces your chances of indigestion, constipation, eliminates toxins from the body, adds digestion and reduces phlegm.

33. Disinfect Cuts and Scrapes
Stop bleeding and disinfect minor cuts and scraps by pouring a few drops of lemon juice directly on the cut. You can also apply the juice with a cotton ball and hold firmly in place for one minute.

34. Soothe Poison Ivy Rash
You won’t need an ocean of calamine lotion the next time poison ivy comes a-creeping. Just apply lemon juice directly to the affected area to soothe itching and alleviate the rash.

35. Remove Warts
You’ve tried countless remedies to banish warts and nothing seems to work. Next time, apply a dab of lemon juice directly to the wart using a cotton swab. Repeat for several days until the acids in the lemon juice dissolve the wart completely.

36. Bleach Delicate Fabrics
Avoid additional bleach stains by swapping ordinary household chlorine bleach with lemon juice, which is milder but no less effective. Soak your delicates in a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda for at least half an hour before washing.

37. Clean Tarnished Brass and Polish Chrome
Say good-bye to tarnish on brass, copper, or stainless steel. Make a paste of lemon juice and salt (or substitute baking soda or cream of tartar for the salt) and coat the affected area. Let it stay on for 5 minutes. Then wash in warm water, rinse, and polish dry. Use the same mixture to clean metal kitchen sinks too. Apply the paste, scrub gently, and rinse. Get rid of mineral deposits and polish chrome faucets and other tarnished chrome. Simply rub lemon rind over the chrome and watch it shine! Rinse well and dry with a soft cloth.

38. Replace Your Dry Cleaner
Ditch the expensive dry-cleaning bills (and harsh chemicals) with this homegrown trick. Simply scrub the stained area on shirts and blouses with equal parts lemon juice and water. Your “pits” will be good as new, and smell nice too.

39. Boost Laundry Detergent
For more powerful cleaning action, pour 1 cup lemon juice into the washer during the wash cycle. The natural bleaching action of the juice will zap stains and remove rust and mineral discolorations from cotton T-shirts and briefs and will leave your clothes smelling fresh. Your clothes will turn out brighter and also come out smelling lemon-fresh.

40. Rid Clothes of Mildew
Have you ever unpacked clothes you stored all winter and discovered some are stained with mildew? To get rid of it, make a paste of lemon juice and salt and rub it on the affected area, then dry the clothes in sunlight. Repeat the process until the stain is gone.

41. Eliminate Fireplace Odor
There’s nothing cozier on a cold winter night than a warm fire burning in the fireplace unless the fire happens to smell horrible. Next time you have a fire that sends a stench into the room, try throwing a few lemon peels into the flames. Or simply burn some lemon peels along with your firewood as a preventive measure.

42. Neutralize Cat-Box Odor
You don’t have to use an aerosol spray to neutralize foul-smelling cat-box odors or freshen the air in your bathroom. Just cut a couple of lemons in half. Then place them, cut side up, in a dish in the room, and the air will soon smell lemon-fresh.

43. Deodorize a Humidifier
When your humidifier starts to smell funky, deodorize it with ease: Just pour 3 or 4 teaspoons lemon juice into the water. It will not only remove the off odor but will replace it with a lemon-fresh fragrance. Repeat every couple of weeks to keep the odor from returning.

44. Reduce Asthma Symptoms
In addition to a general detoxifying diet, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice before each meal, and before retiring can reduce asthma symptoms.



Read More: http://www.trueactivist.com/45-uses-for-lemons-that-will-blow-your-socks-off/

Jul 27, 2014

Russia 2014 Century 21 Climb for Kids - blog 1

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Day 2 of the Russia adventure -
So if you have been following my trip so far on Facebook you know my travel from anchorage to Moscow was not very smooth. If you haven't - check out my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nataliarealestate?ref=hl. However I am a strong believer in everything happens for a reason. So go to my Facebook page to read about that mini adventure as well as see photos of our tour of Moscow city.
I decided to go on this expedition with Century 21 because 1) I love climbing. There is something about the internal struggle you go thru as you ascend any peak, that with enough will power, you overcome, and when you reach the top an overwhelming sense of calmness, achievement, and power ensue -bringing many climbers to tears. If you have never experienced this it is hard to really explain. But for any climber reading this - you know what I speak of.
2) This trip also is something bigger than achieving the summit - it is part of the Easter Seals "climb for kids" program that the president of Century 21, Rick Davidson, has been doing for the last 4 years. All the climbers are trying to raise as much money as possible to help the kids in the Easter seals programs. All the climbers have paid their own way for this adventure so 100% of all donations go to Easter Seals. To learn more or make a donation click here: http://es.easterseals.com/site/TR?pg=fund&fr_id=3461&pxfid=136599.

We have just left Moscow and flew to mineralnye voyde which is south near the border of Georgia. From the airport we will be taking a car ride to a small town at the base of Mt. Elbrus in the caucasus mountain range and begin acclimatizing to the elevation tomorrow. Mt. Elbrus is 18,510 feet up and once you are above 12,000 ft the air is much thinner and many people have a hard time- not just with breathing, but initially head aches can occur along with dizziness- and if not enough time is given to acclimate correctly more serious issues can occur.
So we will be taking the next 3 days to get used to the thin air. Wish us luck - till the next post! In the meantime you can check our location with the spot link here: http://www.findmespot.com/mylocation/?id=IETEW%2F55.74758N%2F37.58515E

Jul 24, 2014

Great Blog on cleaning up your home for guests in just 20 min!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Have unexpected guests stopping by? Is your home a mess?  Read this cute blog post on how to fake a clean home.  The author has some quick fixes that will trick your guests into thinking your home looks straightened up all the time.  Doesn't hurt that her home is amazingly decorated either!  Enjoy! http://www.thriftyandchic.com/2014/03/how-to-fake-clean-house-for-those-last.html

Jul 21, 2014

Drone picture contest!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Dronestagram and National Geographic have revealed the winners of the 2014 Dronestagram Photo Contest.  It is amazing the shots that can be captured through the use of drones.  Some of these angles I would have never thought of.  Take a look and enjoy! http://www.dronestagr.am/contest/rewards/

Jul 17, 2014

Amazing video on Taking the Perfect Wave Shot

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Check out this amazing video about taking pictures of waves.  What a rush it must be trying to capture these shots!  I would love to have one of these hanging on my wall, especially when winter time rolls around again!  Hope you enjoy!

Jul 14, 2014

Monster Halibut Caught!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Check out this HUGE halibut caught in Southeast Alaska.  It is not considered a world record, but 482 lbs is not too shabby!  Can you imagine having this GIANT on the line?  Talk about a battle.  Makes you want to get out there and try your luck!

Read this story on ADN.com to check out the photo!

http://www.adn.com/article/20140707/no-world-record-482-pound-halibut-caught-southeast-alaska-jaw-dropper 

Jul 7, 2014

De-Clutter Your Life

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Check out this list for some fantastic ideas on how to de-clutter your life.  There are some really great and super easy to-do ideas on here.  Will definitely be applying some of these to my daily routine!

http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/how-to-de-clutter-your-entire-life?sub=2335183_1790786

Jul 3, 2014

Easy Steps to Put a Pond in Your Yard!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Check out this cute web site for easy to follow directions on how to put a small pond in your yard.  What a great idea to add some character to your landscaping!

 http://www.thegardenglove.com/how-to-build-a-pond-easily-cheaply-and-beautifully/

Jun 26, 2014

Go for a Run!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

This upcoming weekend there is an opportunity to choose between two fun-filled races in Anchorage!  On Saturday the 28th, you can decide whether to get colored in cornstarch of caked in mud!   

The city will host both The Color Run, a worldwide for-profit footrace marketed as the "happiest 5K on the planet" and the locally-organized Anchorage Community Mental Health Services Race for Recovery, a race of the same distance but over slippery obstacles and through muddy swamps.

There is an entry fee for both races.  In the case of The Color Run, some of that money goes to a local charity, while the much-smaller Race for Recovery stands to give a lot more. Children can run the Race for Recovery's 2-kilometer dash for $10 and adults can tackle the 5-kilometer trail for $45. Since corporate sponsors and donors cover most of the cost to put on the race in Bicentennial Park -- a price that hovers between $15,000 and $20,000 -- all race entry fees funnel directly to Anchorage Community Mental Health Services. Prices for The Color Run are comparable. Participants pay between $40 and $55, depending on the date of registration and participation as a team or individual, to run (or walk) the loop from the Sullivan Arena to the Delaney Park Strip.  The Boys and Girls Club in Anchorage receives part of The Color Run's proceeds based on its involvement in race promotion and volunteer recruitment.

So which will it be - getting colorful or getting muddy?

Read more hear: http://www.adn.com/2014/06/25/3534391/color-run-returns-to-anchorage.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

Jun 23, 2014

Have a Yard Sale!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Organize a Yard Sale

Garage sale, yard sale, tag sale, estate sale, basement sale, whatever you call it, they’re fun to have and, better yet, have the potential to add substantially to your personal bottom line!  However, as with anything that’s worth having, there are a few steps and guidelines you should follow to five your sale the best possible chance for worthwhile success.

Before the Sale

First you have to pick a date.  The most popular day to hold a garage sale are Thursday through Saturday on a non-holiday weekend.  It’s a great idea to invite your neighbors or friend to join in your sale.  The more stuff you have to sell, the better!

You also need to advertise your sale.  Signs should be big enough to read while driving by – at least 24” by 24” – with short, large text.  But don’t stop with just signs.  Post your sale online on sites such as Craigslist and your Facebook page.  On the day of the sale balloons and large arrows are also helpful to direct costumers to your sale.

When choosing items to sell, a good rule to follow is sell anything you have not used for awhile, or that you don’t foresee ever using again.  Before the sale, be sure to price everything!  Prices should generally be 10-50% of the original price of the item, depending on the condition ad desiability.  Wash dirty items.  People will pay more for something that is clean.

Use permanent markers and removable self-adhesive labels to create the price labels and keep everything in increments of 25 cents for easy change-making.  Anything that you are selling that is damaged or not in working order should be marked “as is.”

The Big Day!

Be sure to sweep and tidy the area and/or make sure your grass has been freshly mowed.  Arrange tables and items so that traffic will flow naturally without bottle necks.  You’ll want to display the sale items in like categories; i.e. Kitchen stuff on one table, toys in one corner; music and videos in one box, etc.

You’ll want to have lots of coins and small bills available to make change.  Don’t leave your money unattended, better yet, wear a fanny pack or a carpenter’s apron to keep it with you.

You’’’ also want to be prepared for buyers who want to bargain.  If it’s early in the morning, or you don’t want to bargain, just say you think it’s worth that price, or that you may lower the price later in the day if it doesn’t sell.  To avoid any hassles later on, post a sign that says “All Sales Final.”

Jun 16, 2014

2014 Solstice Festivals

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Have anything special planned for the longest day of the year?  Here are some great festivals to celebrate Solstice this year!

KENAI PENINSULA 4-H SUMMER SOLSTICE MUSIC FESTIVAL

This festival seeks to raise funding and awareness for 4-H Positive Youth Development programs, the Cooperative Extension Service and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  This fun-filled event is pet-free and takes place at the Diamond M Ranch in Soldotna.  This year the festival promises to be even bigger and better with more vendors, festival cuisine, local musicians and a terrific headliner band, The Alaska String Band!

SELDOVIA, SUMMER SOLTICE MUSIC FESTIVAL

Come to Seldovia to enjoy a Solstice weekend full of great music, good friends, and new memories.  Starts on Thursday, june 19th with the annual ferry jam.  Festival runs through June 22nd and includes opportunities to take in musical concerts and to attend an assortment of music related workshops.  Some fees involved so make sure to check out their webpage for more information.

SUMMER SOLSTICE FESTIVALl IN MOOSE PASS

This pet-free event takes place June 21 & 22nd.  Live music, great food, a beverage garden, bake sale, lots of vendors, auction and raffle on Sunday.  Not to mentions there’s a carnival, t-shirts, mugs and glasses!  Lots of fun for all!  Here is the line up for the music Saturday and Sunday:

Saturday the 21st music line up: JUNE 22ND MUSIC - ELITE 9

Gill Hernandez Noon-12:30 pm; Pretty D*%# Close Band 12:30 -2:00 pm; Melissa Mitchell Band 2:00-4:00 pm; Nellie Clay 4:00 -6:00 pm; Alderbash 6:00 -7:30 pm, Full Tilt 7:30 - 9:30 pm

Jun 14, 2014

Father's Day Ideas!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Happy Father’s Day!

          Just a reminder that Father’s Day is tomorrow, June 15th!  Don’t forget to give dad a call or send a card.  Lucky enough to live near your dad, but stumped on ideas for something to do to celebrate?  Here are some great suggestions for things to do on the Kenai Peninsula!

  • 1.    Catch a Russian River Red Salmon – The first run of Russian River sockeye salmon is in.  Take a trip to Cooper Landing and try to catch one to make a delicious Father’s Day meal!
  • 2.    Take a Hike! – There are lots of places to hike on the Peninsula.  Trails vary from easy to difficult, allowing opportunities for a large range of hiking experience.  Crescent Lake Trail, Mount Marathon Trail, Homer Spit Trail, and Caines Head Trail, are just a few of the many out there!
  • 3.     Go See a Race! – Take dad out one night early and take in a car race.  On Saturday, June 14th the gates open at 4pm at the Circle Track Races at Kenai’s Twin Cities Raceway.4.
  • 4.    Celebrate Solstice Together! – Delay your outing with dad to explore an upcoming Solstice Event.  Check out these fun-filled events to celebrate the longest day of the year in Kenai, Moose Pass, or Seldovia!

*accompanying photo from Jimmy Jack Charters

May 23, 2014

Tips for Hosting a Great Housewarming Party

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Buying a new home is one of the most exciting times in a person's life, and what better way to celebrate that moment than with family, friends and an amazing housewarming party.
 
For many party hosts, this will be their first housewarming party. Here are some tips for planners to keep in mind as they plan their party.
 
  • Plan well ahead of time. Buying a new home requires a lot of work. There is the search, the negotiation, and once the home is purchased, the big move.  Many homeowners feel the need to have their housewarming party as soon as the last box is unpacked, but setting the date for the party a month out allows for more time to plan, which results in a better party and a better atmosphere. Keep these three points in mind:
  • Don't expect presents. Some people may bring gifts, but registering ahead of the event is generally not advised.
  • Provide guests with ample notice. Following proper party protocol is advised for housewarming parties. This includes sending out invitations two to three weeks in advance
  • Don't expect food. Hosts of a housewarming party should plan to provide all necessary food and beverages. Counting on guests for this service could leave the party lacking in offerings.

Above all don't stress!  This is an opportunity to share your excitement about your new home with your friends and family.  Start making great memories in your new home!

Apr 12, 2014

Landscape Design: Mistakes to Avoid this Spring

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Eye-catching and beautiful home landscape design is certainly attainable for do-it-yourselfers, but there are some common "misjudgements" that  that should be avoided if you desire satisfaction with the end-product.  Therefore, below is a list of 20 mistakes to be avoided in home landscape design. The mistakes covered here range from oversights that have practical ramifications to more subtle errors that negatively impact your enjoyment (or even your neighbors' enjoyment) of your home landscape design.

  • Failure to have a plan. Ideally, it's best to start from scratch, draw a plan for the whole yard, and stick to it. Short of that, try at least to sketch a rough plan for one large area of your yard, and put all your energy into implementing that plan this year.
  • Straight walkways and planting beds. A curving walkway provides more visual interest and softens the boxy shape of your home and property. Planting beds with curved borders gently guide the eye around the yard and look more natural and inviting.
  • Having a lawn because you think you should. For those not attracted to the "green carpet" look or who dislike having to mow grass every week, it's important to know that other acceptable options exist, especially for small spaces.
  • Hanging onto scraggly, unhealthy or overgrown plants.  Brown leaves, and sparse foliage do not add beauty to 
    your landscape. Remove offenders and replace with appropriate plantings.  
  • Shrubs and trees blocking passage. Your home will look more inviting and well-maintained if you trim overgrown shrubs.
  • Planting on an eroding hillside. Build a retaining wall first, then do your planting afterwards.
  • Failure to work with what you have. Sometimes you can successfully fight the terrain you inherit in your yard. Other times, instead of fighting it, it's better to go with the flow and work with what you have. The key is to know what you're up against and what options you have.
  • Topping trees. Don't get sold on the erroneous notion that cutting off the tops of trees spurs growth. The fact is, removing all or part of a treetop encourages rapid decay, weakens the branches and makes them susceptible to disease and breakage.
  • No personality. The gardens that have the most sparkle and creative touches express the character of the inhabitants. Display a sculpture piece or ornament, place one or two unusual plants in your yard, or arrange some antique furniture on your front porch. Place yard ornaments, such as bird baths or sundials amongst one or two of 
    the groupings.
     

Apr 1, 2014

Here Are 30 Relatively Simple Things That Will Make Your Home Extremely Awesome.

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

If you want to make your home more efficient (and look better while you’re at it), you don’t necessarily have to break the bank. Sometimes, the simplest changes can make a world of difference. Take these 30 simple home improvement ideas, for example. You wouldn’t think that moving your outlets or adding an end table could change the flow and cool factor of your house, but it can.

And if you follow these tips, it will!

1. Add outlets to drawers to keep clutter off of the table top.
2. Add a half-table to your bathroom for extra storage space.
3. Build a free library for your neighbors.
4. Put heat-sensitive tile in your shower… just because.
5. Make the space your fake drawers take up functional.
6. Fake drawers are also a great spot for extra outlets.
7. Add a shelf to a long hallway for extra storage space.
8. Save space with collapsable drying racks.
9. Install dutch doors so you can watch your kids/pets without baby gates.
10. Add a sun tunnel to rooms you wish had more natural sunlight.
11. Buy a toilet seat where everyone can have their own tab.
12. If your garage is adjacent to your kitchen, add a little door to make unloading groceries easier.
13. Use stainless steel contact paper to make your appliances look more expensive.
14. Decorate the foundation of your home to make it pretty and functional.
15. Use recessed outlets so you can put your furniture against the wall.
16. Install your outlets underneath your cabinets so you don’t ruin your backsplash.
17. Replace your current shower head with this unique one.
18. Use slide-out drawers in the home for spices and pantry items.
19. Open a small tunnel to connect two rooms.
20. Instead of bunk beds, install classy murphy beds for your kids.
21. Add a small cabinet to extra space in the kitchen for cleaning supply storage.
22. Replace your old house numbers with modern fonts.
23. Put a sign on your bathroom so guests know where it is.
24. Add a simple window seat to the landing of your staircase.
25. Make your porch lights fancy with a chandelier.
26. Hide away appliances behind sliding doors.
27. Use kitchen drawers as cutting boards you can hide.
28. Use a slide-away step in your bathroom instead of a stepstool.
29. Stools on hinges save room in the kitchen.
30. Build drawers in the wasted space between studs in the wall.

Share this list with others!

Source: viralnova.com

Mar 7, 2014

Sprucing Up for Spring

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Ready for spring?  How about some creative ideas to cure your cabin fever and spruce up your home just in time for the warm weather?  Here are some DIY ideas that won't break the bank and will revamp your home!

1. Repaint and revitalize. Never underestimate the difference a coat of paint can make in a room or even on one wall.

2. Update your hardware. Replacing the fixtures on dresser drawers, kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities is simple.  Accessories like doorknobs, and even hinges can look dated.  Spice up a space by swapping out the existing hardware and make it your own.

3. Sand and stain.  Don't like your kitchen cabinets but not ready to completely renovate? No problem, as long as they are in good condition, you can paint or stain your existing cabinets.  Be sure to do a test on the inside of a cabinet that won't be seen to make sure you get desired results.

4. Counterculture.  New countertops drastically change a space and are available at most home improvement stores in standard sizes at a reasonable prices.  They are pre-cut and ready to install.

5.  New stream.  Faucets in the kitchen, tub and sinks can be changed.  They should correlate with the rest of the style in the specific room.

6.  Get floored.  Tiles can be inxepensive and can transform a kitchen, bath or mudroom.

7.  Kitchen views.  You can switch out a kitchen backsplash without moving cabinetry or appliances, and the sky's the limit in terms of style and color.

Feb 8, 2014

Happy Friday Everyone!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Happy Friday Everyone! I really enjoyed this song and wanted to share it as my friday blog - hope everyone has a good weekend!

Feb 1, 2014

Is Leveraging really risky? A deeper look

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

 

This is a great article which talks about using leverage when buying properties and the positives and negatives of it. Though this is more of an article for my investor clients I think it is helpful for all buyers and sellers to understand. Enjoy

by ALI BOONE
I’d say one of the most famous debates that comes up on this website is the one about paying all cash for a property versus leveraging a property.

And by famous I mean, it gets ugly.

The heart of the debate seems to center around the difference in risk in buying a property using all cash or buying a property using leveraging. Those who leverage their properties boast that the benefit of doing so allows the investor to buy more properties with the same amount of money. Those who pay cash come back against that argument saying how risky leveraging is and that the risk isn’t worth it, even if it does get you more properties. From what I can tell, this point in the debate seems to always be the point of impasse between the sides. Being able to buy more properties by using leverage is an indisputable fact. Leveraging inducing more risk seems indisputable. So then, everyone stops debating at that point and goes about their merry ways.

I think this is the wrong place for the impasse. Being able to buy more properties using leverage, yes, that is correct. But leveraging being riskier?

Is it?

For any newbies out there, “leveraging” refers to using ‘someone else’s money’ to buy something. That can include loans from a bank, loans from an individual, financing on a credit card, borrowing money, etc.

For the purpose of what we are talking about here, I’m going to stick with referring mostly to mortgages. A mortgage isn’t the only way to finance a property but it’s the primary one and a lot easier and more common than other methods. For the purpose of this article, I’m thinking mostly about mortgages because I want to look at long-term loans rather than short-term (just trying to keep it simple).

What is Risky about Leveraging?

Obviously there are factors involved with leveraging that are cause for concern. There may be others, but for the most part, the following issues are the things that should be looked at in terms of risk associated with getting a loan for a property:

Cost. A huge concern with leveraging anything is that inevitably you will be charged interest which will make your actual cost significantly higher than the original purchase price. That extra cost can end up being quite substantial depending on the terms of the loan.
Losing what you put into it. Let’s say you buy a house for you and your family. You get a 30-year mortgage on the property. You do great with the house until year 20 when you unexpectedly lose your job. You can’t find a job quickly and you don’t have much in savings (and even if you do, having no income can suck all of that up painfully quick), so suddenly you can’t pay the mortgage. The bank who you have the mortgage with takes your house from you. So for 20 years, you paid a huge amount of principle on the house, you paid a ton in interest, and who knows how much in miscellaneous expenses for the house, and now you have no house. You don’t get any of that 20-years’ worth of money back and you have no house either. Oh, and your credit is in shambles.
Losing other assets in addition to that one. If you have a mortgage on a house that you lose, unless you have a non-recourse loan you are at risk for the bank taking away other assets that you own, in addition to the house with the mortgage, in order to pay for the loss. Luckily most mortgages now are non-recourse, meaning the only thing they are allowed to take is that particular piece of property and nothing else of yours, so that helps but recourse loans do still exist.
Type of loan. Speaking of loan terms, let’s say you don’t lose your job but instead the payment on your mortgage goes up dramatically. This can happen with an adjustable-rate mortgage. If you have a fixed-rate mortgage you are locked in at the same interest rate for the entire length of the loan. If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, after a set number of years the interest rate on your loan will change. It will change to match the current going market interest rate (with some restrictions), which could be much higher than what you originally signed up for. If you were to buy a house for yourself today, you might be able to get a loan with a 2.5% interest rate (primary homebuyers, not investors). What if with the real estate market booming like it is right now, the interest rates in five years jump to 8%? Don’t laugh, it can happen. Remember in the 1980s when interest rates hit 18-19%? Regardless, the difference in monthly payments may be enough to force you to not be able to pay and you could lose the house.
Well that all officially sounds pretty miserable, I must admit. If those were the only sides of the story, I too would only buy with cash. However, investment properties can work slightly differently than a primary home and when an investment property is bought correctly, a lot of those risks can disappear completely. I would even argue that they disappear enough to justify saying that buying a property with leverage is less risky than buying with cash.

Mitigations for the Risks

Cost. As long as your mortgage payment (which includes the interest payment) is well-covered by the monthly rent collected for the property, you aren’t paying this extra cost out of your own pocket. Yes, you are less that money you pay out in interest but if you actually run the cash-on-cash return of a property that you finance versus that of buying with all cash, the returns are usually significantly higher so you still make more money than if you bought with all cash and avoided the interest payment.
Losing what you put into it. Same scenario as before: after 20 years of owning a property, something drastic happens and you can’t make the mortgage payment anymore and you lose the house to the bank. If you are an investor and bought smart and the property made you money for the entire time you owned it, even if the bank runs in and takes it out from under you, the only thing that will take a negative hit is your credit score. All you put into the house originally was the down payment and some closing costs, and after that, the tenants essentially paid all of your expenses in the form of giving you rent every month. Okay, so actual worst case scenario you lose what you paid for the down payment and your credit score. That’s assuming the money you made on the house didn’t pay you back the money you put down because it likely did. So then it really is just back to your credit score. This mitigation is of huge consideration when buying an investment property versus a home for yourself. This mitigation flat doesn’t exist if the house is yours because you aren’t collecting income on it along the way and it remains a major risk. (Just in case you are wondering if you should finance a house for yourself anytime soon…)
Losing other assets in addition to that one. Never get a loan that isn’t non-recourse. For a mortgage, this shouldn’t be a problem but always make sure that is written in there. Then the only thing you could lose is that property and none of your other assets.
Type of loan. Never get an adjustable-rate mortgage, always get a fixed-rate. With the fixed-rate interest included, your payment should be well-covered by the rent collected on the property. So then you have some wiggle room in case of changing rents, but you don’t have to worry about drastic changes to your mortgage expense.
So assuming you know how to properly buy a rental property, the only official risk in leveraging a rental property versus paying all cash for it is a potential bash to your credit score should something go totally wrong, no? What else?

Let’s break this down…

An Example of Paying Cash or Leveraging

You set your sights on a rental property that you are interested in buying. The purchase price is $105,000 and it brings in $1,150/month in rent. The total monthly expenses (including estimates for vacancy and repairs) are $376, so you will then bring home $774/month in profit. For an all cash buy on this property, you will be looking at a cash-on-cash return of 8.84%.

Now let’s say you finance the same property instead of paying all cash. If you get a fixed-rate 30-year mortgage at 5% interest, you’re monthly mortgage payment will be $450.93. Add that to your monthly expenses and you will bring home $323.07 each month. It sounds like a lot less than the $774 from the all cash buy, but remember, instead of putting $105,000 of your own money into this, you only put $25,000 or so in. So your cash-on-cash return actually ends up being much higher. In this case, 14.77% to be exact. That’s just under double the returns you would earn for paying all cash.

Okay, so you know the numbers now. What happens if for some ungodly reason this property goes completely bunk? You know it hasn’t gone bunk because of an adjustable-rate mortgage because you bought a fixed-rate. So clearly the apocalypse must have occurred in your neighborhood to make the property go bunk. So now you can’t get tenants ever again and you didn’t have an apocalypse clause in your insurance policy so you can’t get that money either. The house is done.

For both scenarios, let’s look at what is lost:

If you paid all cash for the property, you are out $105,000 cash (less what profits you made along the way).
If you had a mortgage on the property, you are out $25,000 cash (less what profits you made along the way) and your credit score/ability because you had to foreclose.
Which are you more comfortable with? For me personally, I’d rather lose my credit score all day long than an extra $80,000 out of my pocket. But maybe you’re obsessed with your credit score and would rather lose $80,000 in order to keep it high. To each their own.

Back to the Debate

So what’s the verdict?

The way I see it, if I use leveraging I can buy a property for 1/5th of the cost of paying all cash, my returns are higher, my tax benefits are substantially higher, and I’m more covered for vacancy and repair issues because having more houses can cover those expenses as they come. Then, if all goes south, I only lose 1/5th of what I would have had I paid all cash. Doesn’t that essentially mean my risk is only 1/5th of what it would be if I used all of my own money? The only major difference is the risk to my credit score. Not sure how to weigh that into this, but to me the risk of losing my credit score is literally the only big risk I see. I’m not risking near as much of my own money as I would if I paid all cash. Which is more important, money or credit score? And that’s assuming something even goes that drastically wrong with the rental property in the first place to cause the whole thing to go under.

What if the value of your property drops significantly and now you owe more on the mortgage than what the house is worse? Easy. The value of your property doesn’t matter unless you are trying to sell it. Being underwater on a house affects you zero if you aren’t trying to sell. So that’s no argument.

What if you are forced to sell though and it’s underwater from what you owe? If you don’t have the money to make up the difference, you just foreclose and you only lose your credit score. If you had paid all cash, you’re going to lose the full difference between the sale price and what you bought it for. That could be tens of thousands.

Jan 17, 2014

Six Simple Steps to Reduce Personal Debt

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

This was a great article that I recently read and thought I would pass it along. It is always in the start of a New Year were we reflect on our systems, our ways of dealing with things, our way of thinking. We reflect and decide what we want to change for the better! Debt is a scary word for some people - and others LOVE the word Debt. I say love because they have learned the ways to use debt to their advantage and make them money. Perfect example is when you buy a four-plex and borrow 80% of the money from the bank for example. That is alot of debt - but if you rent all the units out - not only do you have your mortgage and all monthly costs paid for. If you did your calculations right when you bought the property it should also cash flow for you, providing extra money each month! That is why I say some people LOVE debt. Enjoy....Natalia

Posted on: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 Written by: Robert Kiyosaki

 Paying off your bad debt so you can build great wealth

When my first business failed, I personally had over $1 million in debt that needed to be paid off. Those were hard times for Kim and me. For a short time we even lived in our car.

Having as much debt as we did, coupled with the emotions of losing my business, it would have been easy to roll over, get a good job, and give up on my dream of building a successful business. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t tempting.

Thankfully, we didn’t give into that temptation. Instead we made a plan.

Using all we had learned about money and how it worked, we looked for great opportunities to build our asset column—and eliminate our personal consumer debt—bad debt. By implementing this plan, we were completely debt free within a few years and on our way to financial freedom.

The following are the six simple steps you can use to eliminate your personal debt. If you implement them, they will work.

Step #1 – Lock it down

If you have credit cards with outstanding balances, discipline yourself to use only one or two credit cards. Any new charges must be paid off in full every month. Do not incur any more long-term debt.

Step #2 – Up the ante

Come up with $150 to $200 extra per month. If you have a good financial education and understand how to have money work for you, this should be relatively easy to do. If you can’t generate an additional $150 to $200 per month, then your chances for financial freedom may only be a pipe dream.

Step #3 – Focus on one

Apply the additional $150 to $200 to your monthly payment on only one of your credit cards. You will now pay the minimum payment plus the extra money on that one credit card.

Pay only the minimum amount due on all other credit cards. Often people try to pay a little extra each month on all their cards, but those cards surprisingly never get paid off.

Step #4 – Keep it rolling

Once the first card is paid off, apply the total amount you were paying each month on that card to your next credit card. You are now paying the minimum amount due on the second card plus the total monthly payment you were paying on your first credit card.

Continue this process with all your credit cards and other consumer-credit debt. With each debt you pay off, apply the full amount you were paying on that debt to the minimum payment of your next debt. As you pay off each debt, the monthly amount you are paying on the next debt will escalate.

Step #5 – Go big

Once all your credit cards and other consumer debt are paid off, continue the procedure with your car and house payments. If you follow this procedure, you will be amazed at the shortened amount of time it takes for you to be completely debt-free. Most people can be debt-free within five-to- seven years.

Step #6 – Build your wealth

Now that you are completely debt-free, take the monthly amount you were paying on your last debt, and put that money toward investments. Build your asset column.

That’s how simple it is.

Jan 5, 2014

Setting goals for 2014!!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

2014 is here! Are you ready for it? Are you ready to make the changes you have been talking about for years now? Can you visualize your dreams and goals and get closer to achieving them? This year I am challenging myself to make my dreams a reality. To step closer to accomplishing my goals and finding my freedom. I challenge you to join me.

You are your own worst critique. Sitting on the coach and watching TV is one road, try walking down a different path. What are your goals? your dreams? What are you aspiring to do, yet your not doing it? This youtube video is an inspirational video that I found. It is not so much the video and the pictures that are important so much as the words. 

You can be the change you want to see. It is only you that holds you back from greatness. So take some time today, sit down and write out some goals for 2014 - and then go a step further and write out how you plan to achieve those goals. Write what you plan to do every month, every week, or every day to get closer to achieve that goal. Writing it all down is so important - it makes your goals seem real, seem possible to achieve. 

I am very excited for this year! This is the year for Love, for Friendship, and for Money. My husband and I have worked so hard at achieving some of our goals. One of our goals is that In 10 years we want to be financially free. What that means is that in 10 years neither one of us will have to work if we don't want too. We will have enough cashflow coming in that we can take off for a month if we want, and all our bills will still get paid that month. Sounds impossible to you? It isn't......try just opening yourself up to the possiblities and STOP making excuses as to why you can't pursue your dreams and goals. 

I encourage you try! Thanks for reading as always and remember that anything is possible! Set an intention and then work hard this year to achieve it. 

Dec 12, 2013

Kenai Peninsula Christmas Events!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Christmas is less than 2 weeks away and hopefully you have gotten all your Christmas gifts and planning ready to go! Below is a link to an Events Calendar that I found helpful to know what all is going on in the Soldotna/Kenai area! Below are just a few things that I picked out that are happening that sound like fun! Enjoy

  • The Kenai Community Library will hold a video conference at 10 a.m. Dec. 11 of “History in the First Person: Building the Mercury Capsule,” geared toward students in grades seven through 12 (though all are welcome). Take the study of science, engineering and history to the pioneers of America’s space race, interact with engineers who designed and built the Mercury capsule and the space systems that made it work. 
  • Peninsula Community Health Services will hold its fifth annual Love Lights program to benefit patients who are dealing with health and financial challenges. Sponsor a light or lights for $5 each to commemorate and honor a friend or loved one. The lighting ceremony will be held Dec. 11 at on the first floor of PCHS at 230 E. Marydale in Soldotna.
  • Triumvirate Theatre will hold dinner theater presentations of the musical “White Christmas” Dec. 13, 14, 20 and 21 at Triumvirate North, five miles north of Kenai on the Kenai Spur Highway. Dinner, catered by The Blue Grouse, starts at 6 p.m. with the show at 7 p.m., and 2 p.m. matinees on each Saturday (matinee shows do not include a meal). Dinner show tickets are $39, and matinee tickets are $20, available by calling The Blue Grouse at 283-5600 between 5:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., or stopping by River City Books or the Triumvirate Theatre Bookstore in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. For more information on tickets, email triumvirate.tickets@yahoo.com. For more information on the show, email director Joe Rizzo at hereliesdrama@hotmail.com for more information. 
  • An Evening of Christmas, featuring the Redoubt Chamber Orchestra, will be performed at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at Kenai Christian Church, with holiday favorites and audience sing-alongs throughout the concert. The Central Peninsula Community Orchestra also will perform, along with instrumental and vocal solos and ensembles. Admission is $10 for individuals, $5 for youth 12 and under, and $25 for a family, available at the door.
  • The Audubon Christmas Bird Count will be held Dec. 14. It is open to the public. Volunteers should meet at 9 a.m. at Kaladi Brothers Coffee in Soldotna to register a team and get an area map (or come on your own and join a team). Birders meet again at 6 p.m. to tally the results during a potluck at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Environmental Education Center on Ski Hill Road in Soldotna. Call Jack Sinclair at 262-7817 for area pre-assignments or more information.
  • Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Kenai will hold a craft bazaar and cookies “buy” the pound event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 14 and 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 15. To reserve a craft table, call Lori Seymour at 283-3315. *The Kenai Peninsula Fair will host a Christmas bazaar from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Ninilchik fairgrounds, with more than 40 vendors. Call Laura McGinnis to reserve a table and for more information, at 907-567-3670.
  • Kenai Peninsula Trout Unlimited will hold a screening of “Cast Alaska” fly-fishing film, potluck and chapter meetings at 6 p.m. Dec. 18 at Triumvirate Theatre in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. Need not be a member to attend. 
  • The Kenai Community Library will hold family craft time at 2 p.m. Dec. 22 to make holiday ornaments. All ages are welcome, but children under 10 must have an adult helper. *The Kenai Community Library will hold a Local Artist Showcase featuring dancers from Peninsula Artists in Motion at noon Dec. 23.

Follow the link below to find more events on the Kenai Peninsula!

http://redoubtreporter.wordpress.com/arts/

Nov 24, 2013

Tips for Underwater Borrowers Looking to Refinance

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

I recently had someone walk in to my office in Kenai asking me to list their home because they were afraid they would not be able to make the mortgage payment. They were afraid that if anything happened, like if the boiler broker down, or the heat system stopped working, that they would not be able to pay both their mortgage and fix the broken item. They would have to choose. It pains me to hear their story because I don’t feel that if you work hard, and try your best, that you should have the feeling that you won’t have enough money this month.  Many folks think that Alaska was not affected by the mortgage crisis we as a nation suffered from in 2008; and they are mostly right. We on the Kenai Peninsula for the most part were not affected. Home values did stop rising for a year or two, but now they are moving on up. 

For the folks though that bought high and now are in a mortgage with an arm and outrageously high interest rates, they have no where to turn. This client went to 3 different banks on the peninsula, tried to refinance and was told it was not possible. Now I am working with them to try and see if there is anything I can find or do to help them. Owning a home is such a wonderful thing, and to see owning your home be a burden pains me. I am not saying my client did all the right things and that the lenders are completely at fault here. She is the first to tell you she made mistakes. Then shouldn’t it be for home owners, like it is in life sometimes where if you can admit your faults and take responsibility for your actions that a helping hand should be there to offer another chance?

At this point my client feels her only option is to sell the home and rent a place that is less each month. If her interest rate was at the current rate of 4.5%, she would be able to afford her mortgage. A single mom though, is being told that she needs to sell her home, rent for a few years so she can better her credit and then possibly be able to buy another home in 5-7 years with an interest rate that she can afford.  HUH? She already owns a home that she is current on! Doesn’t that seem backwards?

I have said my piece – so for anyone else out there looking for some answers in their own financial situation, this article below has some good info of one of the programs out there called HARP that can help you refinance. Enjoy….

By Laurie Redmond

Underwater on your mortgage and still haven’t refinanced? Here are some lender tips on refinancing through HARP, a government-backed program to help underwater homeowners lower their monthly payments or lock down a low, fixed-rate mortgage.

Don’t assume you won’t qualify

Do you owe way more on your home than it’s worth? You can still refinance through HARP (the Home Affordable Refinance Program) no matter how underwater you are.

Moved out and rented your home? Is it a second home, a condo or an investment property that’s underwater? You can still use HARP.

You can easily check your initial eligibility yourself — it takes just a few minutes online. First, you need to know that your loan is owned by either Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae:

Second, you need to be able to answer yes to these three questions:

  1. Are you current on your mortgage payments? (No 30-day+ late payments in the past six months, and no more than one late payment in the past 12 months)
  2. Is the home either your primary residence, a one-unit second home or a one- to four-unit investment home?
  3. Did you close on your last home loan on or before May 31, 2009?

Contact your existing lender (the company you make your mortgage payment to) to confirm whether you are eligible. If your lender doesn’t offer HARP, contact another lender in your area — to get started here’s a list of some of the Freddie Mac-approved lenders and Fannie Mae-approved lenders offering HARP.

It’s easier than you think

Don’t put off refinancing through HARP because you think it will be difficult to do.

Start with the lender or servicer you have now for the easiest refinance process — for most homeowners there’s no appraisal and little paperwork. And, if you didn’t need PMI (private mortgage insurance) with your current loan, you won’t need it when you refinance through HARP, no matter how underwater you now are.

But don’t forget, not all lenders offer HARP, so shop around in your area. Freddie Mac’s and Fannie Mae’s participating lender lists are a good place to start.

Lock in to a low rate while you can

Don’t think you’ve missed the boat on a low interest rate. Rates are edging up, but keep in mind that you’re comparing them to the lowest rates in history. In three to five years, rates are unlikely to be this low.

So, you need to think long term. Even if you have a low, adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), it could be worthwhile to refinance to a slightly higher fixed rate. While you may pay more in the short term, you’re likely to be better off over the long run if interest rates rise. You’ll have greater stability and the peace of mind that your rate won’t change in the future.

Check with a lender to find out your monthly payments with a new interest rate and closing costs (including how long it will take you to absorb any closing costs). Online mortgage calculators can help.

Visit Harp.gov for additional info.

Related:

Nov 7, 2013

Are You the Reason Your Home Isn't Selling?

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

No matter how great the housing market is in your area, you still have to put in some effort to get your home sold for the best price. It starts by getting your home in shape to sell and pricing it reasonably. Even then, there are plenty more dos and don’ts to keep in mind. Below are a few that I think should be considered:

Don’t Stick Around for Showings

A home showing is meant to give potential buyers the opportunity to envision themselves living in your home. That’s difficult to do if you’re there lurking around corners or lolling around on the couch. While you may think you’re being helpful by pointing out your home’s best features, you’re just making the buyers uncomfortable.

Get out of the way so the buyers feel free to poke around and discuss the pros and cons of your home. If you feel the need to communicate, leave a letter detailing your home’s best points and the reasons you’re selling.

Represent Your Home Honestly

No matter how desperate you are to attract buyers, don’t resort to lying about your home. If you bill that narrow nook at the end of the hallway as a home office or that cubbyhole under the stairs as a third bedroom, buyers will catch on when they actually view your home. Nothing will run off a potential buyer faster than a clearly dishonest seller.

While we’re on the topic of representation, make sure the photos on your online listing show your home in its best light—literally. Dark photos or photos that don’t clearly show the entire room are useless to buyers. They’ll pass you up without even seeing your home in person.

Eliminate Pet Problems

People will put up with a lot from their own pets, including everything from stains to smells. But when it comes to your pets, buyers would rather not know they even exist. That means when your home is for sale, do your best to erase all signs that you have any pets.

That includes making arrangements for Fido or Fluffy to be out of the home when you have showings. It won’t always be easy, but it could mean the difference between selling your home in a few weeks or having it sit on the market for months.

Get More Advice From a Pro

There are tons of tips like these that will help you sell your home quickly and for top dollar. 

An experienced Realtor from your area will know what works and what doesn't with local buyers.  For any questions regarding the Kenai Peninsula areas, Call or Email Natalia at Century 21 Freedom Realty today! 

Oct 19, 2013

The Responsible Economy

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

 

I sat at my kitchen table this morning drinking a cherished cup of coffee and decided to browse through the new Patagonia magazine I had received in the mail yesterday. And I fell into this article that I pasted down below for your pleasure. Having moved to Alaska for my love of the outdoors and understanding that having good gear makes or breaks your trip is something many folks in the real estate world don't know about me - because they see me in town, in nice pants, heels sometimes, helping someone with their real estate needs. Now that I am a Realtor and in town or in my office far more than I usually would care for :), my love for the outdoors still runs strong through my veins. Yvon Chouinard, the owner and founder of Patagonia clothing is someone that I truly admire. His thirst for adventure is never filled yet the balance he has created for business and pleasure is something I continually strive for. His awareness of his choices within his company as well as his personal choices being connected pushes him to do better, to make his products better, in hopes of perfection. I share this all with you today for two reasons. I want this blog to not just be interesting info about real estate, but a place you can go to from time to time and see just how many different connections we actually have with each other beyond real estate. In part I also hope that seeing those different connections may help you realize that everything we do helps or takes away from our future, our kids future, our economy, our planet. I am not really sure how after reading Yvon's article below, I can help protect the nature and outdoors that I love so much through my business of being a Realtor. But I will say having awareness is the first step. 

The Responsible Economy

By Yvon Chouinard

Fall 2013

In my quarter century of stupid stunts, I've had enough near-death experiences that I've accepted the fact that I’m going to die someday. I’m not too bothered by it. There is a beginning and end to all life – and to all human endeavors.

Species evolve and die off. Empires rise, then break apart. Businesses grow, then fold. There are no exceptions. I’m OK with all that. Yet it pains me to bear witness to the sixth great extinction, where we humans are directly responsible for the extirpation of so many wonderful creatures and invaluable indigenous cultures. It saddens me to observe the plight of our own species; we appear to be incapable of solving our problems.

I saw the birth of my first grandchild last year, and I worry about the future she faces. When I was born, the human population of our planet was 2.5 billion. When she will be just 38 years old, the population will hit 9 billion. If everyone consumed the way an average American does, humans would be using up more than four planets’ worth of resources. Hardly “sustainable.”

The reason for this crisis is very simple. There are too many of us consuming too much stuff, and we demand that it be as cheap and disposable as possible. (Have you looked at the junk in one of those airline mail-order catalogs recently? Does the world really need a special tool for cutting bananas?) No wonder we don’t want to face up to the cause of our problems: It’s us! We are no longer called “citizens.” Economists, government and Wall Street call us “consumers.” We “destroy, waste, squander, use up,” and that’s just Webster’s definition. The sad truth is that the world economy revolves around our consumption. The stock markets rise and dip according to the level of consumer confidence.

And while we work harder and harder to get more of what we don’t need, we lay waste to the natural world. Dr. Peter Senge, author and MIT lecturer, says, “We are sleepwalking into disaster, going faster and faster to get to where no one wants to be.”

Can we even imagine what an economy would look like that wouldn't destroy the home planet? A responsible economy?

During the next two years, Patagonia will try to face and explore that question. We’ll ask some smart people to write essays on that subject for our catalogs and website. We’ll ask you to tell us where you see responsible economies cropping up. We’ll use real-world examples, not a lot of pie-in-the-sky theories. Most of all, we’re going to feel our way into how this question affects how we do business. Can Patagonia survive in a responsible economy? Stay tuned. It is the most ambitious and important endeavor we have ever undertaken. Our other environmental campaigns have addressed travesties such as the depletion of the oceans, pollution of water, and obstacles to migration paths for animals. But these are all symptoms of a far bigger problem; the Responsible Economy Campaign addresses the core.

Patagonia has worked for some 20-plus years to try to behave more responsibly. In 1991, Patagonia was growing at a rate of 50 percent a year, and we hit the wall in the midst of the savings-and-loan crisis. The bank reduced our credit line twice in several months, and the company ended up borrowing from friends to meet payroll and laying off 20 percent of its workforce on July 31, 1991. That’s a day I still refer to as Black Wednesday.

We learned the hard way about living within our means. We had exceeded our resources and limitations. We had become dependent, like the world economy, on growth we could not sustain. I even thought about selling the company. But if I hadn’t stayed in business, I never would have realized the parallel between Patagonia’s unsustainable push for growth and that of our whole industrial economy.

After that day in 1991, we added a third point to our mission statement: It now reads, “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Making things in a more responsible way is a good start, and many companies like us have started doing that, but in the end we will not have a “sustainable economy” unless we consume less. However, economists tell us that would cause the economy to crash.

I think we at Patagonia are mandated by our mission statement to face the question of growth, both by bringing it up and by looking at our own situation as a business fully ensnared in the global industrial economy. I personally don’t have the answers, but in the back of my simple brain a few words come to the fore, words that have guided my life and Patagonia’s life as a company: quality, innovation, responsibility, simplicity.

I recently read a book about 40 companies that have been in business for over 200 years. I thought if those companies could exist that long, maybe they have some guiding principles that a responsible economy should follow. The common traits they all had were quality, innovation and restrained growth. Coming from a background of making the very best, lifesaving tools for the mountains, we applied the same philosophy to clothing. We have been innovators using technology not for the sake of inventing new products but to replace old, polluting and inefficient products and methods with cleaner, simpler and more appropriate technology. Every garment we make, for example, can be recycled now, unthinkable 10 years ago. We are working with more than 103 – and counting – other clothing manufacturers on what we call the Higg Index, which measures the environmental impact of textile manufacturing and which will be, in the end, public facing: You will be able to see the impact and history of a pair of jeans by pointing your smart phone at the bar code on their label. By choosing to consume more responsibly, perhaps we can relearn how to be citizens again and be part of the strongest force in society – civil democracy.

I have always believed that a design is perfected not when you can’t add anything more but when you can’t take anything away. The illustrator becomes an artist when he or she can evoke the same feeling with simpler line and form. Simplicity is the way to perfection. As a mountain climber, it pleases me to see the new generations of climbers soloing and climbing free routes on El Capitan in Yosemite that took us multiple days, fixed ropes and many pitons to climb.

I enjoy manual labor and love using good tools that leverage the efficiency of my efforts. But not a tool or machine that takes away the pleasure of the labor. (I think of that banana cutter, which replaces a perfectly good tool: my knife.)

I think the simple life really begins with owning less stuff.

We are questioning what Patagonia can do, as a company making some of this stuff, to lead us into the next, more responsible economy. After we grew too fast in the ’90s, we tried not growing at all. That resulted in stagnation and frustrated customers who often could not buy what they needed from us. You do not need a zero-growth economy. (In the same way you don’t have to stop people from having babies in order to stabilize the population: People die, babies are born; you need a balance between the two.) What we are reaching toward is an economy that does not rely on insatiable consumerism as its engine, an economy that stops harmful practices and replaces them with either new, more efficient practices or older practices that worked just fine. An economy with less duplication of consumer goods, less throw-away-and-close-your-eyes. We don’t know exactly how this will play out. But we do know that now is the time for all corporations to think about it and act.

I hope Patagonia can find a way to make decisions about growth based on being here for the next 200 years – and not damaging the planet further in the process. As my granddaughter grows up, I’ll do my best to see that, just as I did and her parents did, she has a life in nature that she loves. Then she will want to protect it.

For more information on this click here: http://patagonia.com/responsibleeconomy

 

Oct 1, 2013

Fall Hiking Tips

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Fall has arrived and it is a fantastic time of year to go enjoy the outdoors before the cold weather sets in.  Make sure to bring a camera to capture the beautiful fall colors!  Here are a couple of other tips to make sure your hike is a safe one!

  • LEAVE WORD OF YOUR DESTINATION & SCHEDULE. In order to locate you in an emergency or send assistance would you need it, leave word at home with friends as to where you are going and when you intend to return.
  • DO NOT DRINK WATER FROM PONDS OR STREAMS unless you have treated it first by boiling, filtering or using purification tablets.
  • CARRY A COMPASS and a topographical map of the area and know how to use both.
  • CARRY A DAY PACK containing rain gear, extra warm clothing, high energy food, water, first aid kit, pocket knife, whistle, matches in a water proof container, sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellent.
  • DRESS APPROPRIATELY for the season and wear appropriate hiking shoes or boots.  Layered clothing is best to meet changing weather conditions, and it is recommended that you avoid cotton clothing, which insulates poorly when wet and dries very slowly.

Sep 11, 2013

Home Care Tips & Ideas for September

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Since fall is just beginning, here are some helpful tips to start getting your home ready for the cold weather that will soon be here!

~ Clean gaps between deck boards, especially above joists.

~ Check caulking and weather strips around doors and windows.

~ Trim or remove planitings around foundation. Leave a minimum of 1 foot clear space between plantings and foundation.

~ Scrub mildewed areas of house and other structure's siding.

~ Service kitchen disposal by grinding several cups of ice.

~ Examine, repair and replace caulk and grout around tub and shower.

~ Pour 1 gallon of water down unused drains.

~ Clean fire extinguisher, refill or replace as needed.

Aug 30, 2013

Ingredients for Green Cleaning

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

     Protecting and preserving the environment starts right in your own home.  Here are some items that will not only save you money, but are also safer for you, those you care about and for the environement.

PURE SOAP - Soap biodegrades safely and completely, and is non-toxic.  Make sure that you use soap without synthetic scents, colors or other additives.  Even phosphate-free biodegradable laundry contributes to water pollution.

VINEGAR (FIVE PERCENT ACETIC ACID) - Vinegar is a mild disinfectant which cuts grease, cleans glass, deoderizes and removes calcium deposits, stains and wax build-up.

EUCALYPTUS OIL - Eucalyptus oil is a good disinfectant and deoderizer.  It gets rid of some stains, like ink and grease, kills and repels some insects and attacks rust.

WASHING SODA (SODIUM BICARBONATE) - A key ingredient for washing clothes, washing soda cuts grease, removes stains, disinfects and softens water.  Washing soda should not be used on aluminum.

BAKING SODA (BICARBONATE OF SODA) - Baking soda works well as an abrasive in alternate recipes.  Baking soda also deoderizes, removes stains, polishes and softens fabrics.

Aug 20, 2013

Back to School Safety for Motorist

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Now that school is back in session, take the time to reacquaint yourself with the safety rules of the road. 

  1. Double check at crosswalks. Students are getting back into the groove of school routines, so be vigilant for the last­minute sprint to school.

  2. Remember, motorists must stop behind a bus when it is flashing its red lights. It is illegal to pass a school bus while it is loading or unloading children. Motorists should stop at least 20 feet from the bus.

  3. Speed limits may change during the school year. In school zones, be alert to decreased speed requirements.

  4. Be overly cautious while driving in proximity to high schools. Take into account the new drivers in the area who don't have much experience on the road.

  5. Children walking, cycling or skateboarding to school are often unaware of their surroundings, or distracted by their cell phones or personal music. Exercise caution and care, especially on roads without crosswalks.

  6. Watch and obey crossing guards, they are there for a reason.

  7. Do not text or talk on a cell phone unless it is hands free.

  8. When backing out of a driveway or garage be alert for children on their way to school.

Jul 23, 2013

OPEN HOUSE

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Please click below to check out the details on the Open House this Thursday in Kenai. There are a few other homes as well that are available and I will be posting their locations in the next day or so. Please come and check this out!

May 30, 2013

Some common buying concerns

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Purchasing a home with a low down payment is important for a number of reasons, including the buyer's ability to have extra cash left over for closing costs, decorating expenses, upgrades and/or other essentials needed to turn their new house into a home. Thanks to the level of competition between mortgage lenders, it's now easier than ever to buy a home with a low down payment.
 
First-Time Homebuyers
 
There are a lot of perks to being a first-time homebuyer, including the ability to get in the door with a low down payment. Many lenders will ask for a down payment as low as five percent (three percent for FHA loans) to those looking to purchase their first home.
 
A first-time homebuyer is someone who has rented their previous home(s) or has never purchased a house on a permanent foundation. Individuals who have owned manufactured homes may also be eligible for a first-time homebuyer loan, but the final decision is up to each individual lender.
 
FHA Loan
 
This type of loan is guaranteed by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and allows for a smaller down payment than many conventional loans. In addition to offering down payments as low as three percent of the total purchase price, FHA loans often carry lower interest rates and are easier to qualify for. This type of loan is ideal for first-time homebuyers, individuals with past credit problems or even those who wish to purchase a second home.
 
Provide Your Land As Collateral
 
If you own the land that you intend to build on, many lenders will use the land in place of a down payment. In other words, you build a house on the land that you already own, and the lender gets both if you default. This is why individuals who own land often choose to build, while using the lot in place of a big down payment. In addition, many lenders are more willing to approve a loan if the land is already owned by the buyer.
 
Owner Financing
 
When a seller lists their home, they have the option of considering owner financing. In this situation, a buyer provides a down payment to the seller and signs an agreement to pay for the home (plus interest) over a preset number of years. Owner financing typically requires a lower down payment, which can be any amount that the buyer and seller agree to. Because there is no bank qualifying and no credit check, a seller can extend the offer on any terms that they wish.

May 12, 2013

6 DIY Projects that can boost you resale value!

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

Its always when you start planning on selling your home that you realize there are so many projects that you wanted to do to make your home more inviting, or more up to date, and yet you haven't had the time. We if you are planning to sell it is really good to do a few projects. Below are 6 areas of your home that can drastically improve your resale value. Melanie @ Sunlit Spaces came up with some great ideas. Check them out!

First and Foremost:

Home Maintenance. The number one thing that will make your home sell easier, faster, or for more money is if the home has been well maintained. This means the roof doesn’t leak, the windows are insulated well, the water heater works, there is no water damage in the basement, etc. Buyers walk the second they see thousands of dollars in maintenance or upkeep. Aesthetics matter, but pocketbooks do too, I guess. 

Curb Appeal- YES! Guess we all knew this, but replacing old siding or the exterior of your home can make a huge difference in curb appeal. You should recoup at least 80% of the money that is spend to update the outside of the home, including siding, yard maintenance and- adding a porch! People love porches and adding one is worth the investment, according to some agents.

More Space- Ok, this isn’t exactly a quick little “DIY” project, but adding square footage drastically increases the value of your home. Every 1,000 square feet added increases the value by 30%. Crazy!

Minor Kitchen Remodel- K, don’t get all crazy and throw in a $60,000 kitchen, hoping to get your money back. But. If you do a minor update (paint cabinets, new flooring, new counters, etc) you will see a 90% of the money you put into it, at least in most markets.

Bathroom Remodels- Of course. Everyone loves a nice, updated bathroom. This can be done relatively inexpensively, with paint, light fixtures, new tile (or painted tile) etc.

Hope you found this helpful. Thanks for tuning in to the Rambling Realtor....

May 3, 2013

7 Ways to Rethink Your Underused Rooms

Posted by: Natalia Aulenbacher

 

Below is a great article by Tara@trulia. She really explains some really economical approachs to maximizing your space by thinking outside of the box. Check out this link for some great visuals as well! http://www.houzz.com/under-stairs

"As the Spring real estate season flourishes, and escrows close by the thousands, many home buyer’s fantasies of ownership become reality. For many, the house hunt is a quest for the the holy grail of more square footage. But the reality of home ownership is this: you furnish and decorate the spaces in your home according to their planned purpose (e.g., dining room, kitchen, bedroom, etc.) only to realize that you spend 80 percent of your time in 20 percent of your home’s square footage! 

Most homeowners who have formal living and dining rooms rarely use them (Thanksgiving and Christmas are but two days of the year). Similarly, millions of square feet in great rooms, breakfast nooks, laundry rooms and hallways and even “spare” bedrooms go underused - space wasted most or all of the year.  

Sometimes this is simply a sign that you have a really great kitchen or bedroom that you love - and love to be in.  But it’s often an indicator that there might be a little disconnect between your everyday life and the way you’ve chosen to configure your home.  In either case, given the cost of those precious square feet, it is a worthwhile endeavor to do what you can to make as many of them as lovable and livable as possible!

There is a cure for the scourge of wasted space:  rethinking your rooms. The fact that a room is called a dining room or a breakfast area does not mean that’s the only function you can do there. In fact, I propose that buyers and owners alike might want to spend some time this Spring rethinking and rearranging your rooms to live to the very edges of your precious square footage. Here are a few ideas for repurposing your underused spaces at home:

1.  Too-small bedroom into closet or extra bathroom.  If you have a bedroom so tiny that it’s barely usable as such, and only when the occasional guest rolls into town, consider getting a sleeper sofa or making friends with a concierge at the hotel down town and converting the little bedroom into an amazing closet. I did this at my last home - simply opened up the wall between the small room and the master, inserted floor to ceiling closet doors and called in a closet organizing company to help trick my new closet out with shoe racks, sweater shelves, rods at varying heights and drawers.  

Best. Closet. Ever.  And to boot, I no longer found myself griping about the unusable little room!

If you have a little more money to invest and could use an extra bathroom, a too-small bedroom makes for a good, efficient bathroom - especially if it’s located next to another bathroom, so the plumbing already exists. 

2.  Wide hallway or under-stairs space into study or storage areas.  You might be thinking: “Are you nuts lady?  I don’t have any “extra” rooms!”  Even if every proper room in your home is spoken for and being used, you might still be able to find underutilized areas and spaces in your home that you can arrange more efficiently and squeeze maximum use out of those square feet.  Common culprits are very wide hallways and spaces under the stairs, both of which make excellent spaces for custom built-in storage cabinets or desks.  Need some inspiration?  Visit online home design wonderland Houzz, where there’s a whole category for under-stair design ideas and pics from real homes.

3.  Dining room into office or game room.  Probably the number one room conversion I hear homeowners consider is the change of a formal dining room into an office. Think about it - you might use the dining room a couple of days a year - a couple of weeks, max, if you are an avid entertainer or dinner party host.  But these days, many people work at home, at least part of the time, and running a household is a job of its own, generating papers, files and bills galore. Kids also need a study area for homework and school projects.  

Now, with wifi and laptops, all these work and study activities can happen anywhere in a home.  But many families find their best case scenario is to have one room with well-arranged desks, lighting, seating, monitors and office supplies, where one or many family members can contain their work and study activities and clutter. This promotes balance and calm in the rest of the home and minimizes distractions to boost focus. 

4.  Breakfast nook into computer or bill-paying area.  There’s something very sweet and romantic about the notion of a breakfast nook. But if you’re fortunate enough to have a nook and an eat-in kitchen island or other casual dining area, you might find yourself using the nook more for organizing the family calendars and paying the bills than for eating.  If this is how things go for you, it might make sense to lean on into what you’re already using this space for and optimize it by bringing organization and storage solutions to the area to cut clutter and make even your bill paying a bit more enjoyable.  

Consider installing a bulletin or chalk board, a table with a drawer in which you can stash your laptop and ensure you have drawer storage for your files, checkbook, pens or other objects you need to handle the family business.  

5.  Too-large great room into living, dining, study and play area.  A surprising number of homeowners with great rooms find that they furnish these massive, vaulted rooms beautifully upon moving in, never to enter more than a corner of the space again.  A great room presents the perfect opportunity to carve out and repurpose the space you have in a way that aligns with the activities your family actually does on a regular basis.  If you have a great room, but no casual dining space, why not make the area nearest to the kitchen into a breakfast nook-inspired dining area - there are scads of bar-height tables and stools on the market for precisely this purpose.  No spare room for an office?  Consider setting up a desk, chair and lamps or whatever other office area equipment your family needs in one segment of the great room.

And there’s absolutely no reason you can’t use furniture and carpets to turn your great room into more of a multipurpose room, strategically laying things out and arranging furnishings to host your family’s living, dining, study and recreation areas all within four walls.

6.  Basement or laundry room into mudroom or pet grooming area.  Many people think “underused space” and what instantly comes to mind is the basement. Basements have been finished with sheet rock, painted, carpeted and turned into living areas as long as human beings have been into home improvement. But here’s the rub: in many parts of the country, older homes were built over raised basements because the builders knew the lower areas were susceptible to flooding in the rain or snow.  In such areas and cases, it might not make sense to finish the basement with carpet and other things that will be ruined if they get wet.

That said, basements often have entry doors to the exterior of the home, and many have plumbing.  This makes them the ideal site for a tiled mudroom, with racks and shelves for family members to stash their muddy, wet shoes, coats, umbrellas and even sports gear - and a sink or other area where they can clean up a bit so as not to track their wintry messes upstairs.  Same goes for oversized laundry rooms that were built in the days before full-sized stacking, front-loaders were even a possibility - if you have oodles of extra laundry room space, rethink it into a mudroom/laundry room combo.

If you live in an area with mild winters, but you have canine family members, the very features which make basements and laundry rooms great mudrooms render them prime sports for installing a pet bath or shower area.

7.  Formal living room into library.  Are you a book junkie? It’s relatively harmless, as vices go, with one exception: it can be excessively space consuming.  By this I mean, it can be excessively clutter-creating, if you don’t get a handle on it.  If you have a formal living or dining room that is simply not being used, consider lining the walls with bookshelves - bought or built in - and converting the space into a library. Comfortable, well-lit seating and a desk or writing area will finish the room off.  

If books don’t float your boat or you have switched entirely over to e-reading, this same model can be applied to any space-sucking collection that you spend more time enjoying than you spend in your formal living or dining room."

P.S.: For a step-by-step room rethink plan, and many inspirational photos check out the book Right-Sizing Your Home: Make Your House Fit Your Lifestyle, by Gale Stevens.

Have you ever repurposed a room?  What was it before, and what did you do with it?  Were you happy with the results?  Please share!