Posted tagged ‘Sandy Luedke’

Check List for a Better Spring

April 3, 2014
Time to take care of the yard.

Time to take care of the yard.

Now that we’ve finally reach Spring, it’s time to start preparing the house for both indoor and outdoor activities.  Laura Gaskill recommends things like cleaning off the lawn furniture, fix and patch the house. Check out her entire list:

1. Set up outdoor furniture. If you haven’t yet gotten the outdoor furniture out of storage, now is the time. Give everything a good cleaning, and go shopping for new pieces as needed. Wish you had an outdoor dining area or place to sit with a good book? Jump on the project now so that you have all season to enjoy using it.

2. Tune up lawn mower and gas grill. Make sure all of your outdoor equipment is in working order. Stock up on the types of fuel you will need to run your lawn mower and gas grill. If you have a reel lawn mower (i.e., a push mower), take it in to have the blades sharpened.

Lawn Care

Lawn Care

3. Clean siding. Wash the exterior of your house to remove road salt and grime that has accumulated over the winter. Use a pressure washer or a regular hose with a cleaning attachment, depending on the type of siding.

4. Check fences, driveway and paths for damage. Particularly for regions that experience freezing and thawing conditions, driveways and paths can become cracked over the winter. Take a walk around your home, looking out for signs of damage on the driveway and walkway, as well as the foundation, fences and gates. Schedule repairs as needed.

5. Refresh your mantel. Take everything off your mantel, and wipe down the surface. Bring in something fresh and green — potted ferns, blooming bulbs or cut branches will last longer than cut flowers. If you have a mirror hanging above the mantel, clean it as well. Add a few scented or plain beeswax candles as a finishing touch.

6. Celebrate Earth Day by going greener at home. Commit to making lasting changes to go greener this year by adopting a few easy new habits:
• Trade paper towels for a stack of washable dish cloths
• Use real napkins instead of paper
• Swap out your cleaning products for natural methods
• Check out a local farmer’s market for fresh produce
• Shut off lights when you leave the room

7. Clean windows. Boost natural light throughout your home by cleaning the windows, inside and out. If you have second-story windows, either hire a service to clean the outside or use a hose attachment to clean them yourself (while standing safely on the ground!).

8. Have air conditioning serviced. If you use air conditioning and haven’t had it serviced yet this spring, now is the time. If you use window air conditioning units, change the filters before installing them.

9. Bag up some giveaways. Simplify your life this spring by getting excess stuff out of your home (and out of your way). Grab some boxes or sturdy bags, and aim to fill at least one per room with items to give away, sell, recycle or toss. Your home will feel so much lighter, it’s worth the effort!

10. Rotate artwork. If you love collecting art prints and paintings, you know how easy it is to run out of wall space long before you’ve hung all of your artwork. A simple solution is to rotate your artwork each season, keeping some pieces carefully stored in a closet.

11. Swap towels and bedding. Rotating linens with the seasons is an easy way to perk up your home, and it extends the life of your textiles. You can’t go wrong with classic white towels and sheets, but if you are looking for something a little different this spring, why not pick a bold color instead?

Take care of these things and your Spring and Summer will be so much more enjoyable and healthy.

Selling your home – how do you set your price?

March 20, 2014

Selling Home - Real Estate in DFW, pricing to sell, Sandy LuedkeIt’s the first day of spring, and a good time to plant that For Sale sign in the yard. Selling your home wasn’t a snap decision, and you’ve thought long and hard about your next move, but there’s one thing left to do – name your price. Do you list high to ward off tire-kickers, or list low in the hopes of a bidding war? What determines your price anyway?

Obtaining the help of a seasoned real estate agent (like me, Sandy Luedke!) will go a long way in getting you and your home prepared for that winning offer. Here are some questions you should ask your realtor, and they should have a ready answer for you:

  • What is the difference between list and sales prices?
  • What are the two most important factors when selling a home?
  • When is the best time to buy?
  • What is the difference between market value and appraised value?
  • What is the difference between list price, sales price and appraised value?
  • How does someone sell a slow mover?
  • How is the price set?
  • What are the standard ways of finding out how much a home is worth?
  • How do you prepare a house to sell?
  • Where do I get information on housing market stats?
  • How do I handle a low offer?

Answers to these questions and more are also available on Ideal Real Estate Group’s Resource Page for Home Sellers, in the article titled Pricing to Sell.

Contact us at any time and let us answer any real estate questions you have, and let us help you through the transition of selling your home.

How to prepare your home to sell for top dollar

March 13, 2014

Flower Mound Realtor, Selling Your Home in Flower Mound, Texas Real EstateYou stopped noticing your cracked driveway over a year ago, and the broken light fixture on your front porch has been long forgotten. Pet owners are not immune from it either – “normal” odors they are no longer sensitive to could be a big turn off for prospective home buyers. When something has been a part of our lives for so long, details that stick out like a sore thumb to anyone else can become invisible to us.

When it comes time to sell your home, you want to make it as attractive as possible to your ideal buyer. This means you want to prepare the space in such a way that they can easily see themselves being happy and worry free within the walls of your home.

To do this, it would be wise to hire someone to stage your home for you. If that isn’t an option, clear your mind and do your best to look at your home like a prospective buyer. Is there clutter on the counter? This would immediately put the thought of having to ‘clean the place’ in the mind of the person looking to buy, which will put a mark in the negative column regarding the home tour.

Are the carpets stained? Are the walls too bare or too bold? These are also considerations of buyers when looking at homes. They typically don’t want to be saddled with the need to immediately repaint purple walls or install new carpet. That alone could cause them to turn away without making any kind of offer on the home.

Another topic that is touchy for some home owners is that of family pictures. We love our family, and many of us decorate our home with years of photos that tell the story of our life. However, when selling your home, being surrounded by a ‘strangers life’ can subconsciously create tension that might block a prospective buyer from feeling like this could be their family’s new home, since it so clearly belongs to someone else. For better results, replace family photos with inviting landscapes, seascapes, mirrors, and nature prints.

If you are able to afford it, be sure to take care of any major repairs or updates that could deter a buyer from making an offer on your home. This includes:

  • Replacing any broken windows
  • Replacing a leaky roof
  • Fixing cracked driveways, sidewalks, and walls
  • Update old or outdated appliances, cabinetry, and/or flooring

It is also important to work on your home’s curb appeal. Remove any weeds, dead plants, bushes and/or trees to make your landscape look pristine. Make sure the grass is green and maintained, and plant a few annual flowers in noticeable spots near your front entryway. It is also appealing to plant greenery and flowers in decorative outdoor pots that can later be moved. These can be placed along the sidewalk, by your driveway, or set by the front door.

For a few other quick fixes that don’t cost a lot of money but can help you get top dollar for your home, be sure to visit our Ideal Real Estate Group’s Website. Go to the Seller’s Resource Page and see our article on Common Questions and Answers about Selling Your Home.

As an expert real estate agent in the Dallas / Fort Worth area for over two decades, I can help you make sure your home looks its best when buyers come knocking, so contact me, Sandy Luedke, today and we’ll get started on selling your home for top dollar!

Are foreclosures really a bargain?

March 6, 2014

foreclosed in flower mound, texasLife is full of twists and turns. As much as we try to plan for every possible contingency, there are simply factors that affect our lives over which we have no control. A foreclosure is not typically the desired outcome of any new home owner, yet it happens. If you have a previous foreclosure and are wondering about your options regarding future home ownership, be sure to check out our blog post titled: After a foreclosure how to own a home again.

For those of you looking to purchase a home on a smaller budget, there are several options available for “bargain house hunting.”

First, you might want to investigate purchasing a foreclosure. However, this is not a process you should go through alone. Many experts advise buyers to hire an expert to ensure the house is thoroughly inspected and that any liens, undisclosed mortgages or court judgments are cleared or at least disclosed.

Another option, if you are a veteran, is to look into veteran loans which can offer up to 100% financing. There are specific stipulations with this, so be sure you are dealing with an agent familiar with the process. The Veteran’s Association (VA) also has VA foreclosures, and if you are interested, you can call 1-800-827-1000 to request a current listing.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also acquires foreclosures, and if you (and the house) meet certain criteria, you could purchase a house with a down payment as low as $100.

Buying foreclosures are risky because you are buying the property “as-is.” This is why it is difficult to get a bank loan, because the bank knows if you default on your loan, they might get stuck with a money-pit.

For more information regarding purchasing a foreclosed property and where to find foreclosure listings, visit our Buyer’s Resource Page on Ideal Real Estate Group’s website and select Foreclosures. As an experienced real estate broker, Ideal Real Estate Group can walk you through the process.

If you feel you might be coming close to facing foreclosure, please pick up the phone and call me or email me, Sandy Luedke. I have decades of experience in the real estate market and have discovered options that may save you, and your home, from a foreclosure. Don’t wait until it’s too late and be proactive in exploring your options.

Appraisals and Market Value

February 27, 2014

Flower Mound Real Estate, Home for saleSpring is right around the corner. This is the time of year home owners get the urge to dust the cobwebs out of the house, clean out the closets, and give each room a good shine. It’s also when people envision sprucing up their yard, planting flowers, adding foliage and improving the home’s overall curb appeal.

Then again, there’s also a group of dreamers who would rather just pack everything up and start over at a new place – a different place – a place that better meets their current needs.

The decision of whether to stay or go could depend heavily on what you already have. Obtaining a current, accurate appraisal of your home can help you determine your starting point. Home values rise and fall based on the current economy, the real estate market as a whole, and what’s going on in and around your own neighborhood.

What you don’t want to do is make a decision on the purchase price of a new home based on an assumption of what you think your current home is worth. An experienced real estate agent will make sure you have covered your basis during your introductory meetings, to ensure your home buying adventure is a good one.

For help in obtaining a current appraisal on your home, give us a call. Because of Ideal Real Estate Group’s long-standing community involvement and networking expertise, we have developed relationships with partners throughout the Metroplex to help ensure the best possible experience regardless of what your needs may be.

For more information on what your home may be worth, market value, and appraisals, visit our Buyer’s Resource Page on Ideal Real Estate Group’s website. Let us help you find your next home!

Relocating to Texas? Here are some things you need to know about Property Taxes!

February 20, 2014

Property Taxes
Because Texas does not have a state income tax, it makes us a popular place for relocations. When you dig a little deeper, you realize our property taxes may be higher than some states, but when all is considered, the various trade-offs for calling Texas your new home are worth it.

However, if you are a transplant from another state, your former state may still expect you pay their property tax. It pays to plan ahead and make sure you have cut the proper ties. Just because you many no longer consider yourself a resident of your previous state, there may be some other factors that cause them to think otherwise.

Here are a few points to review. If any of these apply to you, it will be wise to be proactive and get it handled and changed over, instead of procrastinating and receiving a penalty letter from the IRS:

  • The amount of time you spend in your previous and current state
  • Where your spouse and children live, and where your children go to school
  • The state where your driver’s license is issued
  • The state where your vehicles are registered
  • Where your professional licenses are maintained
  • Your location of employment
  • Where you file your tax returns
  • The address of any professional listing (online, social media, yellow pages, etc.)
  • The location of any property tax exemptions you claim

If you are planning on making a move from one state to another, be sure to get professional advice from a tax specialist on what your particular tax caveats might be. It is not wise to assume the tax laws will be logical.

Please visit our Buyers Resource Page regarding Property Taxes for more information you may find useful.

For any of your relocation needs, whether you’re selling your home in Flower Mound, looking for a family home in Colleyville, or you simply want to explore your options, Sandy Luedke and Ideal Real Estate Group have the expertise and long-standing record of Texas hospitality and service to help you get where you need to go.

After all, there’s no place like home, and we’d love to help you find yours!

Don’t-Miss Home Tax Breaks

January 18, 2014

By: Dona DeZube        

Published: January 10, 2013

From the mortgage interest deduction to energy tax credits, here are the tax tips you need to get a jump on your returns.

Mortgage interest deduction Private mortgage insurance deduction Prepaid interest deduction Energy tax credits Vacation or second home tax deductions Home buyer tax credit repayment Property tax deduction

Mortgage interest deduction

One of the neatest deductions itemizing home owners can take advantage of is the mortgage interest deduction, which you claim on Schedule A. To get the mortgage interest deduction, your mortgage must be secured by your home — and your home can even be a house trailer or boat, as long as you can sleep in it, cook in it, and it has a toilet.

Interest you pay on a mortgage of up to $1 million — or $500,000 if you’re married filing separately — is deductible when you use the loan to buy, build, or improve your home.

If you take on another mortgage (including a second mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit) to improve your home or to buy or build a second home, that counts towards the $1 million limit.

If you use loans secured by your home for other things — like sending your kid to college — you can still deduct the interest on loans up $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately) because your home secures the loan.

PMI and FHA mortgage insurance premiums 

Helpfully, the government extended the mortgage insurance premium deduction through 2013. You can deduct the cost of private mortgage insurance as mortgage interest on Schedule A — meaning you must itemize your return. The change only applies to loans taken out in 2007 or later.

What’s PMI? If you have a mortgage but didn’t put down a fairly good-sized down payment (usually 20%), the lender requires the mortgage be insured. The premium on that insurance can be deducted, so long as your income is less than $100,000 (or $50,000 for married filing separately).

If your adjusted gross income is more than $100,000, your deduction is reduced by 10% for each $1,000 ($500 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return) that your adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000 ($50,000 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return). So, if you make $110,000 or more, you lose 100% of this deduction (10% x 10 = 100%).

Besides private mortgage insurance, there’s government insurance from FHA, VA, and the Rural Housing Service. Some of those premiums are paid at closing and deducting them is complicated. A tax adviser or tax software program can help you calculate this deduction. Also, the rules vary between the agencies.

Prepaid interest deduction

Prepaid interest (or points) you paid when you took out your mortgage is 100% deductible in the year you paid them along with other mortgage interest.
If you refinance your mortgage and use that money for home improvements, any points you pay are also deductible in the same year.
But if you refinance to get a better rate and term or to use the money for something other than home improvements, such as college tuition, you’ll need to deduct the points over the term of the loan. Say you refi for a 10-year term and pay $3,000 in points. You can deduct $300 per year for 10 years.
So what happens if you refi again down the road?
Example: Three years after your first refi, you refinance again. Using the $3,000 in points scenario above, you’ll have deducted $900 ($300 x 3 years) so far. That leaves $2,400, which you can deduct in full the year you complete your second refi. If you paid points for the new loan, the process starts again; you can deduct the points over the term of the loan. 
Home mortgage interest and points are reported on IRS Form 1098. You enter the combined amount on line 10 of Schedule A. If your 1098 form doesn’t indicate the points you paid, you should be able to confirm the amount by consulting your HUD-1 settement sheet. Then you record that amount on line 12 of Schedule A.

 Energy tax credits

The energy tax credit of up to a lifetime $500 had expired in 2011. But the Feds extended it for 2012 and 2013. If you upgraded one of the following systems this year, it’s an opportunity for a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax liability: If you get the $500 credit, you pay $500 less in taxes.

  • Biomass stoves
  • Heating, ventilation, air conditioning
  • Insulation
  • Roofs (metal and asphalt)
  • Water heaters (non-solar)
  • Windows, doors, and skylights
  • Storm windows and doors

Varying maximums

Some of the eligible products and systems are capped even lower than $500. New windows are capped at $200 — and not per window, but overall. Read about the fine print in order to claim your energy tax credit.

  • Determine if the system is eligible. Go to Energy Star’s website for detailed descriptions of what’s covered. And talk to your vendor.
  • The product or system must have been installed, not just contracted for, in the tax year you’ll be claiming it.
  • Save system receipts and manufacturer certifications. You’ll need them if the IRS asks for proof.
  • File IRS Form 5695 with the rest of your tax forms.

Vacation home tax deductions

The rules on tax deductions for vacation homes are complicated. Do yourself a favor and keep good records about how and when you use your vacation home.

  • If you’re the only one using your vacation home (you don’t rent it out for more than 14 days a year), you can deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on Schedule A.
  • Rent your vacation home out for more than 14 days and use it yourself fewer than 15 days (or 10% of total rental days, whichever is greater), and it’s treated like a rental property. Those expenses get deducted using Schedule E.
  • Rent your home for part of the year and use it yourself for more than 14 days and you have to keep track of income, expenses, and divide them proportionate to how often you used and how often you rented the house.

Home buyer tax credit

There were federal first-time home buyer tax credits in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

  • If you claimed the home buyer tax credit for a purchase made after April 8, 2008, and before Jan. 1, 2009, you must  repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years, with no interest.
  • If you used the tax credit in  2009 or 2010 and then sold your house or stopped using it as your  primary residence, within 36 months of the purchase date, you also have  to pay back the credit. Example: If you bought a home in 2010 and sold in 2012, you pay it back with your 2012 taxes.
  • That repayment rules are less rigorous for uniformed service members, Foreign Service workers, and intelligence community workers who get sent on extended duty at least 50 miles from their principal residence.

Members of the armed forces who served overseas got an extra year to use the first-time home buyer tax credit.  If you were abroad for at least 90 days between Jan. 1, 2009, and April  30, 2010, and you bought your home by April 30, 2011, and closed the  deal by June 30, 2011, you can claim your first-time home buyer tax credit.

The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe.

Property tax deduction

You can deduct on Schedule A the real estate property taxes you pay. If you have a mortgage with an escrow account, the amount of real estate property taxes you paid shows up on your annual escrow statement.

If you bought a house this year, check your HUD-1 Settlement statement to see if you paid any property taxes when you closed the purchase of your house. Those taxes are deductible on Schedule A, too.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice; tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

Buying Your Home – Finding the Right Home

January 4, 2014

Buying your homeWhat are the pros and cons of adding on or buying new? Before  making a choice between adding on to an existing home or buying a larger one,  consider these questions:

  • How much money is available, either from cash  reserves or through a home improvement loan, to remodel your current house?
  • How much additional space is required? Would the foundation support a  second floor or does the lot have room to expand on the ground level?
  • What  do local zoning and building ordinances permit?
  • How much equity already exists in the property?
  • Are there affordable properties for sale that  would satisfy your changing housing needs?

Do we dig deep and buy a dream home or settle for a starter  home? Choosing between a smaller house in an affluent neighborhood, an  older, bigger house in a more working-class community or a brand-new home is not  easy. If you’re in this situation, start by examining your priorities and asking  the following questions:

  • Is the surrounding neighborhood or the home itself  the most important consideration?
  • Is each of the neighborhoods safe?
  • Is quality of the schools an issue?
  • Do any of the areas seem to attract  more families with children or adult residents? And where do you fit in?

As for the return on your investment, home-price appreciation is hard to  predict. In the late 1980s, and again 10 years later, the more expensive move-up  housing appreciated wildly. But during the recession that followed, smaller  homes tended to hold their value better than more expensive ones.

How  do you choose between buying and renting? Home ownership offers tax  benefits as well as the freedom to make decisions about your home. An advantage  of renting is not worrying about maintenance and other financial obligations  associated with owning property. There also are a number of economic  considerations. Unlike renters, home owners who secure a fixed-rate loan can  lock in their monthly housing costs and make prudent investment plans knowing  these expenses will not increase substantially. Home ownership is a highly  leveraged investment that can yield substantial profit on a nominal front-end  investment. However, such returns depend on home-price appreciation.

10 Breathtaking Swimming Pools from the Down Under

December 22, 2013

Looking to put in a Swimming Pool this year? Here are some great ideas!


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