Getting the Most out of Your Garage Sale

Garage sales can be a great way to get rid of clutter and earn a little extra cash. But make sure you plan ahead for the best results!

Don’t wait until the last minute.

Depending on how long you’ve lived in your home and how much stuff you want to sell, planning a garage sale can take a lot of time and energy. And that’s on top of the effort of putting your home on the market!

Contact your local government.

Most municipalities will require you to obtain a permit in order to hold a garage sale. They’re often free or cheap, but the fines for neglecting to obtain one can be hefty.

See if neighbors want to join in.

You can turn your garage sale into a block-wide event and lure more shoppers. However, a permit may be necessary for each home owner, even if it’s a group event.

Schedule the sale.

Sales on Saturdays and Sundays will generate the most traffic, especially if the weather cooperates. Start the sale early — 8 or 9 a.m. is best — and be ready for early birds.


Place an ad in the newspaper, free classified papers, and websites, including the date(s), time, and address of the garage sale. Add information about what will be available, such as kids’ clothes, furniture, or special equipment. On the day of the sale, use balloons and signs with prominent arrows to grab attention.

Price your goods.

Clearly mark rounded prices (50 cents, 3 for $1, or $5, for example) with easily removable stickers.

If it’s junk, recycle or donate it.

If it’s truly garbage, throw it away or place it in a freebie bin. Don’t try to sell broken appliances, and have an electrical outlet nearby in case a customer wants to try plugging something in.

Display items nicely.

Organize by category, and don’t make customers dig through boxes.

Stock up on supplies.

Having a stock of old shopping bags that can be reused encourages people to buy more items. Newspapers are handy for wrapping fragile goods.

Manage your money.

Obtain ample change for your cashbox, and have a calculator on hand. Assign one person to man the “register,” keeping a tally of what was purchased and for how much.
Thinking of selling? Give me a call. I'll show you how to get the most out of your home sale!

The Benefits of Home Ownership - 7 Reasons to Buy Now

If you're considering buying a home, but are on the fence. Consider these reasons why it makes sense. 
  1. Tax benefits. The U.S. Tax Code lets you deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage, your property taxes, and some of the costs involved in buying a home.
  2. Appreciation. Historically, real estate has had a long-term, stable growth in value. In fact, median single-family existing-home sale prices have increased on average 5.2 percent each year from 1972 through 2014, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.  The recent housing crisis has caused some to question the long-term value of real estate, but even in the most recent 10 years, which included quite a few very bad years for housing, values are still up 7.0 percent on a cumulative basis. In addition, the number of U.S. households is expected to rise 10 to15 percent over the next decade, creating continued high demand for housing.
  3. Equity. Money paid for rent is money that you’ll never see again, but mortgage payments let you build equity ownership interest in your home.
  4. Savings. Building equity in your home is a ready-made savings plan. And when you sell, you can generally take up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple) as gain without owing any federal income tax.
  5. Predictability. Unlike rent, your fixed-rate mortgage payments don’t rise over the years so your housing costs may actually decline as you own the home longer. However, keep in mind that property taxes and insurance costs will likely increase.
  6. Freedom. The home is yours. You can decorate any way you want and choose the types of upgrades and new amenities that appeal to your lifestyle.
  7. Stability. Remaining in one neighborhood for several years allows you and your family time to build long-lasting relationships within the community. It also offers children the benefit of educational and social continuity.
When you're ready to make a move, give me a call. I'll do my best to make your transition as smooth as possible. 

Luxury Living in South Texas

What defines luxury to you?

Is it having a place to showcase a grand piano 
or a treasured piece of sculpture?

Or do you define it by having a gourmet kitchen 
with 6 gas burners and lots of preparation area?

Do you require an elegant master suite 
with its own fireplace 
and sculpted tray ceiling

Or maybe you desire 
room to entertain 
and have privacy 
from your neighbors?

If this fits your needs and desires, this home could be yours 
for under $700,000

If this sounds like the home you've been dreaming about, 
or you'd like to know  about others, contact me, 
by using the form on the right. 
Christine Henderson
Changing Real Estate Dreams Into Reality Since 1985

How NOT to Market a Home

Every picture tells a story and when you're selling a house you want the pictures to show a home as inviting and welcoming as you can. Here's some examples of marketing pictures (none of these are any that I would have used) that do the opposite. None of them have been retouched, but I have cropped them to highlight the flaws.

If you are going to take a photo, at least make sure that the blinds
are even and preferably down to their full length. 

If there are issues of lighting, that can be adjusting by lights, 
a flash or the angle the blinds are turned. 

You may not be having a party when a picture is taken, but don't show the backyard in disarray. Give the impression that the yard is ready for people to come over. Open and group the chairs together, show the umbrella fully open and set up a display of glasses and a pitcher. 

The color in this photo was not retouched, but it sure looks like there's a blue driveway. If it looks off in the camera, guess what? It will look that way when it's displayed. 

That's why professional photographers take TONS of pictures. They know not all of them will come out and they won't be able to recreate the event. 

Other items to make sure are NOT included the photos to market your home. 

People - unless you're a big time celebrity and you want people to buy your lifestyle. This also included leaving out the image of the photographer in the bathroom mirror.

Pets - Just because you love Fido or Fluffy, it doesn't mean your buyer will, That also means you need to make sure their scent isn't noticeable in the house as well. 

Unmade beds or dirty clothes on the floor - Pick up and clean up as if mom was coming over for a visit. Funny in cartoons, but not in seeing a home for sale. 

Cars or trucks in the driveway - They aren't included in the sale and they shouldn't be in the pictures either. They block the view of your lovely home. 

Staging is important when taking photos and when prospective buyers are coming to see your home. I can show you many more ideas of how you can make your home sell quicker and get you top dollar. When you're ready to sell, give me a call!

Luxury Living in South Texas

What defines luxury?

Is it the look of a castle 
as your drive up to your home?

Is it a gourmet kitchen with glistening granite counters, preparation island and all the cabinet space possible?

Or do you define luxury 
as a grand master suite complete 
with a fireplace and sweeping vistas?

If it's any or all of these, this  home could be the one for you. And you can have it all  with a price tag of just $650,000

If this sounds like the home you've been dreaming about, 
or you'd like to know  about others, contact me, 
by using the form on the right. 
Christine Henderson
Changing Real Estate Dreams Into Reality Since 1985

Don’t Miss These Home Tax Deductions

From mortgage interest to property tax deductions, here are the tax tips you need to get a jump on your returns because owning a home can pay off at tax time. Take advantage of these home ownership-related tax deductions and strategies to lower your tax bill:

Mortgage Interest Deduction
One of the neatest deductions itemizing homeowners 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 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.

Prepaid Interest Deduction
Prepaid interest (or points) you paid when you took out your mortgage is generally 100% deductible in the year you paid it 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 or shorten the length of your mortgage, or to use the money for something other than home improvements, such as college tuition, you’ll need to deduct the points over the life of your mortgage. Say you refi into a 10-year mortgage 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 life of the loan. Home mortgage interest and points are reported on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040.

Your lender will send you a Form 1098 that lists the points you paid. If not, you should be able to find the amount listed on the HUD-1 settlement sheet you got when you closed the purchase of your home or your refinance closing.

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.

PMI and FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums
You can deduct the cost of private mortgage insurance (PMI) as mortgage interest on Schedule A if you 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 can’t claim the 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.

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 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. Your expenses are deducted on Schedule E. Rent your home for part of the year and use it yourself for more than the greater of 14 days or 10% of the days you rent it and you have to keep track of income, expenses, and allocate them based on how often you used and how often you rented the house.

Homebuyer Tax Credit
This isn’t a deduction, but it’s important to keep track of if you claimed it in 2008. There were federal first-time homebuyer tax credits in 2008, 2009, and 2010. If you claimed the homebuyer 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.

The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe each year until it’s paid off. Or if the home stops being your main home, you may need to add the remaining unpaid credit amount to your income tax on your next tax return.

Generally, you don’t have to pay back the credit if you bought your home in 2009, 2010, or early 2011. The exception: You have to repay the full credit amount if you sold your house or stopped using it as primary residence within 36 months of the purchase date. Then you must repay it with your tax return for the year the home stopped being your principal residence.

The repayment rules are less rigorous for uniformed service members, Foreign Service workers, and intelligence community workers who got sent on extended duty at least 50 miles from their principal residence.

Energy-Efficiency UpgradesThe Nonbusiness Energy Tax Credit lets you claim a credit for installing energy-efficient home systems. Tax credits are especially valuable because they let you offset what you owe the IRS dollar for dollar, in this case, for up to 10% of the amount you spent on certain upgrades.

The credit carries a lifetime cap of $500 (less for some products), so if you’ve used it in years past, you’ll have to subtract prior tax credits from that $500 limit. Lucky for you, there’s no cap on how much you’ll save on utility bills thanks to your energy-efficiency upgrades.

Among the upgrades that might qualify for the credit:
Biomass stoves
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
Roofs (metal and asphalt)
Water heaters (non-solar)
Windows, doors, and skylights

File IRS Form 5695 with your return.

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.

Other Options to Granite:Choosing Countertops for your Home

Looking for something more unique than granite in your kitchen and bathrooms? These beautiful alternatives are sure to make a statement.


The Pros
Wood is readily available, sustainable, comes in a wide variety of colors and finishes, and is fairly affordable

The Cons 
Natural finishes require oiling and you must also be vigilant to keep the surface dry


The Pros 
Softer stone than granite, easier to cut and work with, heat resistant, durable, sustainable, and beautiful
The Cons
Easily scratched and stained


The Pros 
Durable, dense, ages well, and cost effective
The Cons
 Rough texture, requires maintenance, and doesn’t come in a wide range of colors


The Pros 
Extremely durable and very scratch, stain, and heat resistant
The Cons
Can discolor over time if in direct sunlight, may not look as seamless as granite when covering a large space since they are usually manufactured in pre-determined sizes

Ceramic Tile

The Pros 
Heat resistant, comes in every color imaginable
The Cons
 Grout can become easily stained, counter surface is uneven, and tiles can often crack


The Pros 
Very durable if sealed, heat resistant, and a wide variety of textures
The Cons
Can be easily stained with water or heat damage if not stained, not many color options, can seem outdated


The Pros 
Heat, stain, and germ resistant, and very customizable
The Cons
 Can chip or break depending on tempering, may show fingerprints

Stainless Steel

The Pros 
Heat and germ resistant, modern

The Cons
 Will show scratches and fingerprints, can be very noisy
Source: First American Home Warranty

Luxury Living in South Texas

If you've ever considered owning your own ranch, 

this might be the home for you!




if this sounds like the home you've been dreaming about, 
or you'd like to know  about others, contact me, 
by using the form on the right. 
Christine Henderson
Changing Real Estate Dreams Into Reality Since 1985

Saving Money on your Home

We're always looking for ways to save money. Here's some options you might want to try.

Smart Thermostats
You blast you’re A/C in the summer and crank your heat in the winter all in the name of achieving a comfortable temperature inside your home. A great way to save hundreds throughout the year is to invest in a smart thermostat – no more adjusting your thermostat throughout the day and wasting energy and money.
Low-Flow Toilets
Wasting water during baths and showers means your money is literally going down the drain. Replacing old and outdated showerheads with new low-flow models could shave upwards of $100 off your annual water bill. Don’t be fooled by the name – most low-flow shower heads still provide excellent water pressure!
More is Less
An easy tip that can save you thousands of dollars in the long run is to pay a little extra on your mortgage payment each month. Any additional money you spend above and beyond your normal monthly payment will go directly towards principle and save you tons of money in the long run in interest.
Unplug Electronics
Even when you’re not using your homes appliances and electronics they’re still using electricity. This phenomenon is known as “phantom power” and can cost you hundreds of dollars annually. By unplugging your appliances, you can save an estimated five to ten percent on your monthly electric bill. If you don’t want the hassle of unplugging, invest in a smart power strip to help reduce your usage.
Bring in Plants
Some people spend hundreds of dollars on air purifiers to reduce allergens in their home when all they actually need to do is buy a plant. Not only do plants remove toxins from the air naturally, they also add a little extra color to a room and make it feel more warm and comfortable.
6. $15 can Save you 15% or More….

For about $15, you can purchase the supplies you need to weatherproof doors and windows and save up to 15 percent on heating and cooling costs. Products can include caulking, felt, and foam tape, so make sure you figure out what your specific home will need.
Home Warranty
A home warranty is a great way to save money and protect your budget. In the event one of your home’s major systems or appliances breaks down, a home warranty can help protect you by subsidizing some of the costs associated with getting it repaired or replaced. 

Invest in Fans
Save money in the summer by decreasing your air conditioner usage and use your ceiling fan instead. On average, an air conditioner uses 3,500 watts of energy, while a ceiling fan only uses 60 watts of energy, costing only seven dollars per month to run. Ceiling fans can even be useful during the winter months! Set the fan to run in a clockwise direction which will push warm air down from the ceiling and keep your home warm.
Shop from Home
Before you buy new accessories to spruce up your home, look at what you already have and see if there are small tweaks you can make to give your home new life. Rearranging furniture and lighting is a quick and free way to recreate an entire room. Switching decorations between rooms is another free way to make two spaces feel new and different.
Washing Without Wasting
You can save money on your laundry by adopting some simple habits like washing clothes in cold water and not overfilling the dryer to save tons on your energy bills. When it is time to upgrade your washer and dryer, consider investing in energy-efficient units. Not only will they save you money on your bills, but they may qualify you for a tax credit.
Source:First American Home Warranty