Car Seat Safety

How many times have you been at the grocery store and watched a young child get in the front seat of the car? Not only is this a bad idea, it is against the law if your child is under age 8 in Georgia.  The Georgia Child Restraint Law states that “All children under the age of eight are required to be properly restrained in an approppriate child passenger safety seat or booster seat.”  And as you prepare for summer vacations and possible road trips, now would be a good time to check out if you are in compliance with the law.  In addition, the Paulding County Sherriff’s Department will help you with a Child Car Seat Inspection.



Here are some reference materials you might want to look at:


Psychology of Color

There are many decisions you will make when you own a home. There are several ways you can use paint to decorate:

Create an accent wall
Create faux effects with different painting techniques
Create a mural

While painting can be inexpensive, many homeowners choose “trendy” colors. And often find themselves regretting their decisions. Understanding the psychology of color can help in the selection process. So we are providing a breakdown of different colors and what they mean.

Meaning of colors
Encourages appetite and is often used for the kitchen and dining room. This color raises a room’s energy level meaning it is also stimulating, passionate, exciting, and powerful.
Like the sky and water, blue is calming, healing, soothing, and relaxing. This color is often recommended for bedrooms and bathrooms, but can also be a good selection to use in a home office.
A ray of sunshine, yellow evokes happiness. This color is often recommended for kitchens, living rooms and dining room because it is very social.
This is the color of color of balance and growth, and considered the most restful color for the eye. It is a color that can be used in any room of the house as it promotes comfort and togetherness.
Derived from red and yellow, orange offers excitement, enthusiasm and is an energetic color. It is thought to be one of the best feng shui colors for the kitchen, dining room, and living room because of its appetizing and social qualities.
A royal color derived from red and blue, purple is very soothing and calming. Softer hues of this color are frequently used for the bedroom while deeper tones make for great accent walls.
The earth tones of brown offer stability and reliability, along with comfort. Brown tones are often seen in bedrooms and living rooms and can be used as a foundation where other colors might be used as an accent.
This is a color of sophistication and power, and is also elegant and modern. It is frequently used as an accent or background color offering other colors the ability to stand out.
A color of purity and clarity, white offers a feeling of expansiveness. It is a good color for small spaces, as well as bathrooms.
While there are several colors to choose from, it is also important to consider the flow of your home and how these colors work together. If you are selling your home, it would be beneficial to paint neutral colors throughout your house offering a buyer a clean palette to color as they like.

How SMART is your home? – using home technology & automation

Wondering about home technology? How many times have you left home and wondered if you closed the garage door? What about lowering the thermostat when you are going to be out of town? So how do you get started…

Using Home Technology to Set-up a SMART home

While there are several options in setting up a SMART home, one of the current options is an alarm system that offers home automation. Popular companies, including ADT, offer SMART home systems that provide features including:

  • Ability to arm and disarm your security remotely
  • Automate lights
  • Adjust the thermostat
  • Automate appliances from remote locations
  • Camera monitoring that can be viewed on your smartphone, tablet or computer

More sophisticated systems can be used increase energy efficiency by lowering or raising the temperature based on someone being in the room or turning lights on/off if a room is empty. A smart home could even notify you when it’s time to take medicine, and alert the hospital or emergency services if someone falls, shut off water before a tub overflows or turn off an oven.

Cost of a SMART Home?

Depending on the sophistication of your system, a SMART home could cost in excess of $20,000. But there are systems that can be put in place for far less. An alarm system offering home automation can be under $50/month. And then there are other items that you might find helpful:

Philips Hue Lights

Control the lighting in your home with your smartphone using the Hue Personal Wireless Lighting system. A starter pack of one bridge and three A19 bulbs can often be found for under $200, and one bridge can control up to 50 A19 or BR30 bulbs.

Nest Thermostat

Conserve energy and adjust your thermostat from your smartphone, tablet or computer. Google liked this so much it acquired the company last month! A Nest Learning Thermostat can be purchased through their website.

Looking for more? Check out the Smarthome Home Automation Superstore.  And here are some local vendors* offering home technology and automation services for residential real estate in Dallas and Acworth, GA:

*We do not recommend or benefit from the services of any of the above vendors. They are for informational purposes only.

5 Steps to Increasing Your Credit Score Awareness

You’ve seen it on the news, and heard about it on social media. Credit breaches are becoming more common. And if you are considering buying a home, this can be a major obstacle. After all, when was the last time you paid for something with cash?

So what should you do?

  1. Monitor your credit card and bank statements
    Review each transaction to confirm that it is correct, and compare to your receipts. Report any questionable transactions to the financial institution immediately. 
  2. Consider purchasing credit monitoring service.
    While you are preparing to purchase a home to ensure that you are aware of any issues that may occur. Research a few different credit monitoring services before you make the decision. 

    A credit monitoring service is usually a subscription based service that offers you a variety of services that may include updates on your credit including credit inquiries, questionable transactions, credit score updates, and potential identity theft.

  3. Increase your awareness.
    Be aware of your surroundings whenever you use a debit or credit card, i.e., gas stations, ATMs, etc. “Skimming” has become more frequent and can result in identity theft and/or financial loss. [glossary_exclude]skimming[/glossary_exclude]
  4. Pay down your debt.
    Paying down your debt will decrease your debt to income ratio and could help in improving your credit score. It is also a good idea to start with the highest interest rate account first. Do not incur any additional debt.
  5. Review your credit report.
    Now is the time to get a copy of your credit report and review it for errors. [NOTE: Only one website is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law —] Report any errors and follow up on having them fixed, since this can be time consuming. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — are required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.

Don’t wait until you have found your dream home only to be denied a mortgage because of a credit issue.  The FICO website has a lot of information that you will find helpful. And when you are ready to find that dream home, let us know. We’d be happy to help you!

Getting Your House Ready to Sell

How can a buyer get interested in purchasing your house? Impression is the keyword. You just need to get your house ready to sell by doing some preparation. Get inspected by a professional if you want to put a little effort in for maximum results, or if you don’t want to spend much money by paying a professional you can do some of it yourself by getting your house ready to sell.

Now that begs a question, how to impress a buyer? Here are the steps for getting your house ready to sell to a buyer.

Beautify your exterior

What you do is just beautifying. The goal is to make your exterior look pretty and fresh to impress your buyer, since that is the  first impression a buyer will have. There are two sensory organs of a buyer you must impress. Those are eyes and nose.  The steps you can take to freshen up the exterior are:

  • Get the grass, trees, flowers, and plants tidy and fresh by mowing and watering it.
  • Clean up the curb and entering path and put some potted flower in the sides.
  • Freshen up the smells by including some aromatic plants.
  • Clean up all windows and entering doors.
  • Get rid of lawn equipment by storing it out of sight.
  • Paint the exterior if necessary.

Create A Cozy Interior

After a buyer has an impression from your house exterior, do some simple things to create a cozy home interior. It aims to make a buyer feel homelike when entering your house. These are the steps:

  • Clean up the tile floors; scrub it if there are some bad spots.
  • Get rid of spider webs from your ceilings.
  • Wash the carpets with a fragrant soap.
  • Place your furniture in a welcome manner and store unnecessary items.
  • Clean the closets
  • Clean the garage, basement, and attic
  • Get the windows opened and clean, it will bring freshness to your house inside.
  • If you have pets, bathe them.

Repairing and Replacing

Some repairing and replacement may be necessary to do, especially if there is broken furniture, equipment, or appliances. Just check out:

  • broken or missing door
  • cabinet handles
  • ceilings
  • ventilation filters
  • broken tiles in bathroom and kitchen
  • faucet
  • wallpaper
  • some furniture

Get your friends’ opinion

Ask some friends to walk through your home like a buyer, and offer some advice and suggestion to make your house better prepared to sell. And the most important thing is that your friends feel like your home is their own home.

What’s next?

As a home stager and professional organizer, we can help you with this daunting task. Just give us a call.

The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act

As a result of the housing crisis, the government enacted the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 to help taxpayers. The following information is a brief recap of the information available on the IRS website:
What is the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007?
The Act basically offers taxpayers the ability to exclude income from the discharge of debt on their principal residence. It includes debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a foreclosure.

What does exclusion of income mean?
Normally, debt that is forgiven or cancelled by a lender must be included as income on your tax return and is taxable. But the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act allows you to exclude certain cancelled debt on your principal residence from income. Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a foreclosure, qualifies for the relief.

Does the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act apply to all forgiven or cancelled debts
No. The Act applies only to forgiven or cancelled debt used to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence, or to refinance debt incurred for those purposes. In addition, the debt must be secured by the home. This is known as qualified principal residence indebtedness. The maximum amount you can treat as qualified principal residence indebtedness is $2 million or $1 million if married filing separately.

Does the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act apply to debt incurred to refinance a home?
Debt used to refinance your home qualifies for this exclusion, but only to the extent that the principal balance of the old mortgage, immediately before the refinancing, would have qualified. For more information, including an example, see Publication 4681.

How long is this special relief in effect?
It applies to qualified principal residence indebtedness forgiven in calendar years 2007 through 2013. This means it will end with this year’s tax return. You should consult with a professional to determine how this might effect you.

Is there a limit on the amount of forgiven qualified principal residence indebtedness that can be excluded from income?
The maximum amount you can treat as qualified principal residence indebtedness is $2 million ($1 million if married filing separately for the tax year), at the time the loan was forgiven. If the balance was greater, see the instructions to Form 982 and the detailed example in Publication 4681.

If I sold my home at a loss and the remaining loan is forgiven, does this constitute a cancellation of debt?
Yes. To the extent that a loan from a lender is not fully satisfied and a lender cancels the unsatisfied debt, you have cancellation of indebtedness income. If the amount forgiven or canceled is $600 or more, the lender must generally issue Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, showing the amount of debt canceled. However, you may be able to exclude part or all of this income if the debt was qualified principal residence indebtedness, you were insolvent immediately before the discharge, or if the debt was canceled in a title 11 bankruptcy case. See Form 982 for details.

Home Ownership & Divorce

As one of the most valuable items you will own, home ownership can become a pivotal issue in a divorce. If you currently own the home with your spouse, a decision will need to be made on how the home will be affected in the divorce. If one of you owns the home independently, the other should probably consult with a lawyer to seek legal advise on how the home ownership will be dealt with in the divorce. But there are several other issues that need to be considered.

Can You Afford To Keep It?
As a married couple, you may have been able to afford the mortgage as well as the maintenance costs of your home. But as a single homeowner, you will need to calculate whether you can afford the cost of home ownership. Beyond the mortgage, the home will also incur expenses for insurance, repairs, maintenance, utilities, taxes and any other expenses in your particular situation.

Will you need to buy your spouse out?
You may need to buy out your spouse’s portion of the home, which may require refinancing or a second mortgage. This may not be possible, and the roles may be reversed with your spouse having to buy you out. Either way, you will probably need to hire an appraiser to obtain a valuation on the home.

Can You Afford To Sell The House?
Once you have the home valuation, you will need to determine what your equity position is. You need to consider what you can sell the home for minus what is still owed on the mortgage. If you need to split the sale proceeds, you would end up with 50%. Is that enough to start over?


     Sale price: $250,000  
   Mortgage balance: $125,000  
  Less: expenses/costs $  25,000  
  Net sale: $100,000  
  YOUR net proceeds: $50,000  
*for illustration purposes only


Is joint ownership an option?
If you have children in school, you may want to remain in the house until they graduate. A financial advisor and attorney can help you understand the financial and legal implications of this decision, and how potential gains upon the sale might impact you, your spouse or both of you.

Again, whether you stay in the house or not, there could be tax implications especially capital gains. If you have lived in the home for at least two of the five years prior to the sale, Individuals are allowed up to $250,000 in tax-free capital gains when they sell their home, while couples are allowed $500,000.  There is no age requirement.

Real Estate Transaction(s)
A divorce can result in multiple real estate transactions. The first transaction could be between the current couple with one being a buyer and the other a seller. The buyer needs to consider this the same way any buyer would with a real estate agent assisting them. They will need to:

  • conduct a title search
  • check for liens
  • have a home inspection including termite inspection
  • consult with a mortgage broker/counselor to ensure that they can afford the home as a sole owner
  • have the deed modified with a Quit Claim Deed process to reflect ownership

Next steps
We can work with you to help make this transition a little easier. Let us know how we can help.

Purging Continues As You Clear The Garage & Basement

If you have been following along with the decluttering chores, the rooms inside of your house is now looking very nice. But, as you prep your house for a sale, you have boxes piling up in the garage and/or the basement, or other storage area outside of the main living area of your house.

You might think that a garage packed full of stuff would give a buyer the idea that your garage holds a lot of stuff, right? Wrong. All that stuff works in just the opposite way. A garage or basement that is full of stuff indicates a lack of storage space rather than an abundance of space. When you show your buyer a large empty space, they see instantly that there is a lot of room for their stuff. Now that you’ve been decluttering the inside of the house and piling boxes up in your garage or basement, it’s time to take a look at that space.

Your Assignment
Drive around any neighborhood and take a look at the houses with the garage doors open. Chances are you’ll see more stuff than the owner will need in a lifetime. Basements offer the same sort of “out of sight, out of mind” storage space. When a buyer is looking for a new house, they want a garage or basement that doesn’t resemble their own mess. When you stage your house for sale, you have to consider your storage areas, too.

Start in the garage, carport, or other outdoors storage area that does the duty of a garage. If you have sports equipment that’s broken or out of season, pack it up or get rid of it. Be ruthless. Treat your garage like the last day of a clearance sale – everything must go!

Your garage should be as empty as possible. You aren’t going to need 80% of that stuff in the next few months. Keep the good bikes, the yard tools for the current season, and paint cans for touch up. That’s all you need. Again, be ruthless. If you have shelves, they should be only half full. This gives the impression of more space to fill. The buyer sees this space and thinks “Good. I have a place for my [fill in the blank].” And that’s exactly what you want them to think. You don’t want a buyer to see your stuff filling the garage. You want the buyer to envision their stuff filling the garage.

If you have a basement filled with goodies, you will need to clear that out, too. Some things are expected in storage areas, but again, a half filled storage area looks larger than it is. A buyer can image their out-of-season clothes stored in the basement, but only if they’re not looking at your boxes of out-of-season clothes stuffed in corners and on shelves, or hanging on rods all over. It’s a funny concept, I know, but it’s true. Your stuff in the basement makes the basement look crowded and small. A buyer can’t imagine their stuff in there unless the area is mostly empty.

Now that you’ve purged the unnecessary things from your garage and basement, it’s time to deal with all those piles of boxes you hauled out of the house. No matter how neatly you pile them, the spacious feeling you worked so hard to achieve is gone. Remember, space equals value. It’s time to rent a storage unit.

A potential buyer needs to envision their stuff in your house. They can’t do that if they can’t see the space available. Run along now and clear out that garage and basement. Tomorrow is a busy day!

Purge The Junk Room and Get Rid of Stuff

Which room is your dumping ground? Oh, stop pretending that you don’t know what I’m talking about. I know you have one. Everyone does. Yours might be the basement, the guest room, your office, or the laundry room.

Today is the day that your ‘junk room’ bites the dust. The phrase for today is “pack and purge.” Repeat it out loud; “pack and purge.” This is your mantra. It will get you through the day. What does today’s mantra mean? It’s time to find out.

Your Assignment

Everyone has “hidden treasures”. You know what it is. It’s the stuff that you stick away in the room you have designated a dumping ground, until you can get to it, read it, sew it, write it, color it, paint it, fix it, sign it, cook it, etc. etc.

You may have stuck it in this room because you didn’t know what to do with it at the time. Well, today it has a place, and that place is out of sight, and NOT in this room. Yes, it is time to pull out those boxes and bins again. It’s time to “pack and purge.”

Start in any corner of the room and pull everything out. Don’t take time to think about the items you have; just pull them out. Now, label three boxes – keep, give, toss. Sit down and begin putting everything in one of those three boxes. Don’t think too hard; you can always go back if you have time to sort later. If you can’t decide what to do with an item immediately, just put it in the ‘keep’ box and don’t worry about it right now. The idea here is to box it all up so your room is cleared out.

Once you have boxed up all your stuff, move the boxes out to a secure storage place. Now, organize and clean your room and turn it back into the room it’s intended to be. You want the room to match the appealing description on the listing, don’t you?

Imagine this room from a real estate agent’s viewpoint. Could you really expect real estate agents to show your house with a description of “mystery room” or “junk room?” How would you explain the embarrassing picture of this room with its piles of junk to a potential buyer? How would you feel about pictures of your junk plastered all over the internet? Will those pictures help sell your house?

You know the answer. This may be a tedious process, but consider this; every piece of junk you put in a box is worth money – real money – when you get that first offer from a buyer who has been dazzled with that guest room of yours! Pack and Purge. Pack and Purge. Sounds a lot better now, doesn’t it? 

Inexpensive Bathroom Makeovers

If you think your bathroom could use a boost, you’ve got company. Bathrooms are among the rooms most likely to be renovated in a home, according to the Home Improvement Research Institute. Homeowners spend about $4,900 on home makeovers during the first year they own their homes, while about 60 percent feel their bathrooms are “inadequate.”

The good news is that there are ways to make over your bathroom without spending a lot of money on remodeling costs and without replacing old fixtures. Try these tips:

Clean Start

You may be able to save yourself the cost of replacing worn-looking toilets, bathtubs or sinks with a good cleaning. Built-up soap scum, hard-water stains, rust, calcium and lime can dull the look of a bathroom and make it seem older than it actually is. 

Try using a powerful cleaner designed for tough bathroom stains to give your bathroom surfaces an instant makeover.  Stay on top of your bathroom’s appearance using maintenance products that make it easier for you. 

Splash Of Color

Use mildew-resistant, latex paint to add new color to the bathroom. Be sure to use a bin primer over any water stains or spots before starting the job, and pay careful attention to detail-areas, such as woodwork or trim around mirrors. 

Home designers often say the bathroom is a good place to experiment with colors. If your home has more muted tones, consider using bright hues in the bathroom to help make the room seem cleaner and brighter. 

Finally, add some decoration to the bathroom to make it seem less stark and more comfortable. You may want to hang some family photos on the wall or a framed picture or two. Just be sure not to make the bathroom appear too cluttered. Remember, if you have limited space, home designers say less is more.