Answering Your Questions

Buying In The Winter


Looking to buy a home in the winter but unsure if you should? You can do it if it fits your timeline. Here are things to consider.

1. When do you ideally want to move? While you cannot predict the actual weekend, allow yourself 3-6 months to look for a house. Have an ideal time range when you would like to move and start 6 months prior. Be flexible though. What if you find the house of your dreams right off the bat?

2. Be patient. There are fewer homes for sale during the winter, but the sellers tend to be more motivated. On the plus side, you can see the home at its worst- in the cold and snow.

3. Dress warmly but simply. Wear warm clothes so you can walk outside and around the house. BUT, remember you will likely take off your shoes and coat in the house. Make sure you can easily take off your shoes at each showing.

4. Carry a shovel. If the sellers went out of town for a couple days, they may not have made plans for large snowfalls. You may need to shovel your way to the front door.

Buying a home in the winter offers a few more challenges. But, you can still find the home of your dreams with patience and planning.

Selling in the Winter


First impressions matter- especially in the winter. Selling your home during the winter season is difficult but not impossible. Make your home easy to show with these tips.

1. Shovel, shovel, shovel. Nothing is worse than a buyer having to walk through a snow bank to get in to your home.

2. Salt the sidewwalk and driveway so buyers don't fall.

3. Have a large entrance rug at the door so they buyers can easily take off their shoes and brush off their clothes.  If there is a lot of mud, have a basket with a couple of towels so they can wipe off any splatters.

4. Keep salt outside your door that an agent could sprinkle if your walk way has gotten slippery while you were gone.

5. Have a warm home ready for their arrival. When the weather is cold, nothing is worse than walking in to a cold house. This will guarantee the visit is short. If your home is vacant, consider a thermostat that allows for remote access or stop in and temporarily turn up the thermostat.

First impressions matter. Make the best first impression you can in the winter.

Getting Ready To List Your House


Sometimes people are unsure what they need to do for a listing appointment. Every agent works differently. Here is what I do for you.

1. We set an appointment so I can tour your home, discuss your goals, answer your questions and share with you comparable homes in the market. You then discuss with your spouse, family after the appointment what is best for you.

2. If you decide to list, I come back. Prior to me visiting, you get your home "show ready". We complete paperwork. I take pictures and measurements of your home.

3. The marketing begins with a sign placed on your lawn right away with other marketing materials to follow.

You may ask- "What is show ready?"

Here are several tops in making your home ready to list:

1. Clear out the clutter. This is the time to donate, throw away, pack all the items you do not need or want. You need to show the possibilities of your home- not the daily living of your family.

2. Replace light bulbs and fix any leaky faucets.

3. Clean, clean, clean! Buyers are turned off by dust, dirty baseboards, stained showers, etc. Clean sells!

4. Touch up paint rooms as needed. Paint over crazy color walls.

5. Depersonalize. Remove statement items that send the wrong message. You want the buyers to see your home- not your stuff.

6. Create an inviting entrance to the home. Make it warm and welcoming. A pot of flowers in the warmer weather works well. In the winter, a cheerful entry rug can do the trick.

Sometimes it takes time to get ready to list a home. That is okay. If you want to sell at a strong price, your home needs to be ready.

5 Ways To Refresh Your House


Are you bored with your house? Here are 5 inexpensive ways to change the look and feel of your home.

1. Thorough cleaning. clean everything. I mean everything! Wash the walls, baseboards (yuck), windows, curtains, blinds, floors, etc- you get the message. Clean off the fan blades, top of light fixtures, range hood. Get rid of the dust bunnies in your ceiling corners, under furniture and on top of lights. Dust. Polish stainless steel. Use polishing solution for the granite counters. Make sure you get your carpets cleaned annually. If you have pets, you may want to buy your own carpet cleaner to clean in between the professionals. When you know things are clean, your house shines more.

2. Rearrange the furniture. Moving things around keeps it fresh. You may also find you like the new layout.

3. Drape colorful quilts or blankets over worn furniture. I have kids- I know you cannot get all stains out of the couch to make it look like new. After it cleaning, it can still look... worn. Let's be honest. But a colorful quilt or afghan hanging on the back of the couch draws attention to its artistic beauty and away from worn furniture. You can also bring back life to your beat up dining room table with a tablecloth. I like to shop the seasonal sales for great finds at affordable prices.

4. Redecorate. Move your items around. Change up where you put your collectibles, pictures or other items on display in your home. Your guests will see some of them for the first time.

5. Paint. if you are careful and deliberate, you can paint a room inexpensively. Find a color that ties in the furniture and decorations. Or, find a color that makes them shine. If you have a lot of brown or neutral furniture, you can use a color to highlight its beauty. If you have an amazing statement piece of furniture, you can pick a neutral shade that highlights or maybe even makes it seems less dramatic.

Fall in love with your home again.

Organizing My House


Are you like most of us who have trouble keeping things organized? Here are some tips that have worked for me.

1. Identify problem areas.

2. Break problem areas down in to 2 categories: things where how it is organized matters and things where how it is organized does not matter (Like your bedroom where no one is likely to regularly be in your room except you).

3. In my house, these are the things where how it is organized matters:

-In my house, clutter on counters sneaks up and somehow overnight, it takes over. Each week, find a time to go through everything on the counter. Are there major categories? Mail, newspapers, magazines, junk?

--Mail- we sort junk out immediately in to the recycle bin. My mail goes in to a decorative box that I look at each weekend. My husband takes his mail to our office daily. If he cannot grab his mail, we stack it neatly in to one pile for him. The kids know to take their mail to the room.

--Magazines and Newspapers- we sort these in to a pile. Most of them are mine, so I read them every weekend and recycle if I cannot do it the day they come.

-Dishes are a constant problem. I assign the 4 kids a night, and they then help out on the remaining days on a rotating basis. The weekends are the easiest for me to help out, so my kids are assigned a day M-Th.

-Kids' clothes and misc items all over the house. It has taken me nearly 20 years to figure out this system. Now, I usually place their items on the stairwell to upstairs, and they grab it as they go to their room. If they tend to ignore it, I place their items outside their bedroom door- they must step on it to get in to their room.

-Shoe organizer- I have a place where each kid can leave about 3 pairs of shoes in the entryway without it getting cluttered. They are not always good about putting them on the organizer, but it takes them 60 seconds to clean the area.

-Bench by doorway- I have a bench by the front door since it seems it is too challenging to hang a coat. (A helpful friend once said- "Just have them hang them up when they come in the house. Hmm... if it were that easy, none of us would be dealing with this everyday.) There is no great space for bookbags, so the kids over the years have gotten better about leaving the bookbags there and only 1 coat or sweatshirt. My kids know there is a limit to what can stay there. Again, it is easy to clean the area when guests come over. I also leave a basket on the bench that holds the leashes and doggie bags.

-Dirty clothes/kitchen towels on main floor- my kids leave dirty socks all over the place. I have a small laundry basket in a corner that is easy to throw dirty stuff in to it. Then I grab it when I do laundry or place it in the laundry room when guests come over.

4. In my house, convenience can reign where how it is organized does not matter:

-I will admit it- I have struggled to find a great place to put my pajamas other than the floor. Sometimes the temperature can swing substantially in a week. So I may have more than one set of pajamas being worn. I use a nice wicker basket to throw them in to. Since I started this, I have had always taken care of them. My dog loves it too- she thinks it is a great place to lie down while I get ready.

-Closet- closet systems seem really expensive, and some use cheap particle board that does not hold up. My husband and I have a walk in closet. We bought two hickory pantry cabinets and added shelves to store our folded clothes. Some items- like work out clothes and tank tops do not store well on a shelf. We place these items in to a basked that is placed on the shelf. We bought two 3 drawer hickory cabinets for undergarments and socks. This system has worked well for us.

-Office and craft room- the plastic 3 drawer systems have worked well to store a number of items. Plus, if the original purpose is no longer needed, we can then easily re-use it for something else.

-Dirty laundry- hampers seem to add steps and have only one purpose. Each kid gets a laundry basket (a couple kids have kidnapped two or more baskets) for dirty clothes. Then it is again used for clean clothes. Ideally, they put the clothes away. But, they do not all do that. At least the clothes end up in a basket and not the floor.

-Cleaning caddy- I have at least one of all of the cleaning supplies in a cleaning caddy. Each kid is assigned a bathroom on a rotating basis. They can then grab the caddy, and they have everything they need. We keep it in the basement utility room, and it has been an easy way to get the kids to clean. Now, I just remind them weekly where they are assigned. And as of writing this, they all cleaned their areas promptly Saturday morning.

5. Get in to the habit and find solutions that work for you- it will not always be easy. But keep trying until you find a system that works for you. Cleaning my house everyday is not an option. I do not want to be the mom who always yells at her kids to clean up. So it is important you find unique strategies that work for you and are easy to incorporate in to your lifestyle.

Good luck!


I Don't Want To Move But Want To Know The Value Of My House


This is a common email I get:

"Margaret- I do not want to move. I am just curious about the potential value of my house. Can you help?"

Yes, I can! Please note that I am not an appraiser, and if you have no plans to move, I can easily share an estimate of your home's worth. But, the estimate will not be a list price or exact value. If you want "a number", call an appraiser who for a fee can do that for you.

Instead, I will pull up the properties in your area that have sold in the last year. I can then provide a range of your home's worth. This is a free service so I will not be visiting your home to do a full blown market analysis. Rather, it is an estimate of the range of value.

If you are seriously considering selling your home, I (and other agents) will take many hours to prepare an analysis for you about the potential value of your home. But if you are not interested in selling, a range can provide what you need.

It is okay to wonder what the market is doing. Feel free to contact me!

Why Buy a Condo?


I was asked this question the other day. Why buy a condo? The reasons can be numerous.

Answer these questions. If you said yes, you may be well suited for a condo.

1. Are you interested in maintenance free living? A condo's exterior is often covered by the association.

2. Would you prefer having certain services bundled up (lawn care, snow removal, trash, taxes, water, sewer)? These are items commonly bundled although every association is different.

3. Do you want a community where people tend to know each other? Often you will find neighbors interacting more in condo associations.

4. Are you done with the lawn work? Again, you typically have no responsibility, and the associations are often willing to assist you in making a flower bed if you are looking to continue gardening.

Condos are affordable, and they can be a great match for you.

Avoiding Foreclosure


Paying your taxes is essential.Here is an overview of Michigan's process.

If your taxes are not paid out of your monthly mortgage payment, you need to ensure you are saving the money to pay the twice a year bills. (Note: some municipalities may have 3 bills)

If your taxes are part of your monthly mortgage bills, you must still pay attention to the property tax notices. If your mortgage company fails to pay your bill, you could still lose your house.

When property taxes are not paid, your unpaid bill is sent to the County Treasurer. The Treasurer pays the municipality and now you owe the County Treasurer. Multiple notices will be sent to you about your unpaid bill including a visit to the property. If you fail to respond, the Treasurer can post your property for foreclosure after two years. During that period, you will have gotten many notices. A deadline for making payment or payment arrangements is important to notice. The Treasurer can work with you to keep your house. Once the deadline passes, the ability of a Treasurer to help is greatly restricted.

If your property sells at a Foreclosure sale, you will no longer be able to occupy your property.

Some have asked about how they get noticed if they move. It is always your responsibility to notify your township or city clerk about where they should mail the property tax bills- even if the bank is supposed to pay the bill.

While I greatly simplified the foreclosure process, there are resources where you can learn more. For those with little income, you may be eligible to receive assistance. To learn more about how to keep your home in Kalamazoo County, please visit Kalamazoo County Treasurer.

Transferring Utilities


Transferring utilities is an important item on your to do list.

As a seller, you do not want to pay for utilities after you no longer own the home.

As a buyer, you do not want your utilities shut off because the utility provider never got your information.

Utilities to get transferred:






Some utility providers will turn off the utility at the date the seller wishes to terminate their responsibility. Others will offer a grace period of a few days. Don't risk it, and work with your agent to get the utility information you need.

Property Tax Prorations


Many buyers and sellers have questions about who pays what portion of property taxes at the closing. In the greater Kalamazoo area, the property taxes are typically prorated by the days the property is owned by each party. A per diem tax rate is calculated using the last 2 property tax bills. Each tax bill will be calculated separately to establish two per diems. Then, those per diems are multiplied by the number of days each party owns the property. the Title Company will determine who owes who money based on when the taxes were paid.

If a tax bill has been sent but not paid, the Title Company will often pay the tax bill at closing.

Review property tax prorations with your lender to ensure you are paying the correct amount.

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