Stress-Free Home Buying Tips

Did you know that most people consider buying a home to be one of the biggest stresses of adult life? It shouldn’t be! Here are four simple ways to make the home buying experience a much less stressful process:

 

  1. Get pre-approved. Once you have decided to buy a Western New York home. Your first step should be to visit a mortgage lender! It’s the only way to know if you can truly afford to purchase a home, and how much home you can afford.
  2. Set goals. Know what you are looking for before you start your home search. A Realtor can help you set realistic goals based on your loan amount and the features you are looking for.
  3. Be flexible. Is a master bath on your must-have list? If you found a home that meets all of your other requirements — and has a new roof and furnace as well — it might be time to re-evaluate what you can live and live without.
  4. Use an agent.  This is probably the most important step! Your real estate agent can answer all your questions about buying a home and help reduce your stress by guiding you through the process. Leave it to a professional!

While some anxiety is a normal part of life, buying a home does not have to be one of the most stressful events in your life. Buying a new home should be fun! Let me be a part of making that happen. Call me today! I specialize in the Western New York area.

Posted in Buyers | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

2014 Tax Changes You Should Know About

The 2014 Tax filing deadline is fast approaching, this article will explain the significant income tax changes you may not be aware of. This discussion will include changes to Social Security and Medicare, federal income tax standard deductions and exemptions, mileage deduction rates, earned income credits, Hope and Lifetime Learning tax credits, in addition to changes to retirement accounts such as the 401(k), 403(b), IRAs, and Roth plans.

Note:  Changes that apply to the 2015 tax year can be found in this article: Income Tax Changes 2015 – 2016.

Federal Income Tax Filing Deadline

The filing deadline for the year 2014 is Wednesday April 15, 2015.  Information appearing in this article applies to changes effective in 2014, which then become part of a taxpayer’s return in 2015.

Income Tax Rates

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, or ATRA, added a seventh federal income tax bracket (39.6%) in 2013, while the remaining six rates were unchanged.  In 2014, taxable incomes above the following thresholds now fall into the 39.6% bracket:  Married Filing Separately ($228,800), Unmarried Individuals ($406,750), Head of Household ($432,200), and Married Filing Joint Returns ($457,600).

 To view other changes to the standard deductions, capital gains, social security, medicare, mileage, earned income and more list please visit: http://www.money-zine.com/financial-planning/tax-shelter/income-tax-changes-2014/

Posted in General Interest | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

April Fools’ Day – The History of the Fools

April Fools’ Day, also called All Fools’ Day, is celebrated every April 1st in the United States. While it is not officially recognized as a holiday, many celebrate by pranking, or pulling practical jokes on, their colleagues or by organizing larger-scale hoaxes.

 

As April Fools’ is celebrated in different ways throughout the world, it is unknown exactly how the tradition originated. Some cultures saw it as the first day of spring, celebrating with general merriment and feasting, and certain calendars may consider it the first day of the year. One theory for the terming of an April Fool was that some refused to follow these calendars that recognized April 1st as the first day of the year, which resulted in being called an April Fool.

 

There are a few other theories as to precursors to the holiday tradition. Hilaria, a Roman festival, which celebrated Cybele, an Anatolian goddess, was celebrated around March 25th. The Feast of Fools was a term given to many medieval festivals celebrated during the fifth-sixteenth centuries in Europe, but particularly at the end of December. These celebrations developed a tradition of practical jokes, especially when observed in Spain.

 

However, the tradition of practical jokes had been well established by 1632, when legend states that the Duke of Lorraine and his wife escaped a prison at Nantes by dressing as peasants, walking right out the front gate. When the guards were alerted to the escape, they laughed at what they thought was an April Fools’ prank. One of the first April Fools’ pranks occurred in 1698, when citizens of London were tricked into attending the lion-washing ceremony at the Tower of London, a ceremony that did not actually exist.

Posted in General Interest | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Importance of Using a Real Estate Agent

When a homeowner decides to sell their house, they obviously want the best possible price with the least amount of hassles. However, for the vast majority of sellers, the most important result is to actually get the home sold.

In order to accomplish all three goals, a seller should realize the importance of using a real estate professional. We realize that technology has changed the purchaser’s behavior during the home buying process. For the past two years, 92% of all buyers have used the internet in their home search according to the National Association of Realtors’ most recent Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers.

However, the report also revealed that for the second year in a row 96% percent of buyers that used the internet when searching for a home purchased their home through either a real estate agent/broker or from a builder or builder’s agent. Only 2% purchased their home directly from a seller whom the buyer didn’t know.

Buyers search for a home online but then depend on an agent to find the actual home they will buy (53%) or negotiate the terms of the sale & price (31%) or understand the process (63%).

Stephen Phillips, the Chief Operating Officer for HSF Affiliates LLC, put it best:

“Home buyers are more informed than ever with their Internet searches and ongoing research; however, there’s a critical need to transform that information into analysis and advice that helps consumers make the best home-buying and selling decisions.”

The plethora of information now available has resulted in an increase in the percentage of buyers that reach out to real estate professionals to “connect the dots”. This is obvious as the percentage of overall buyers who used an agent to buy their home has steadily increased from 69% in 2001.

Bottom Line

If you are thinking of selling your WNY home, don’t underestimate the role a real estate professional can play in the process.

Article submitted by KCM Crew

Posted in Sellers | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 WNY Easter Events

Easter is the first sign of spring (plus it’s an excuse to eat chocolate). There are a ton of cheap (and free) Easter events happening in Buffalo and Western New York between now and Sunday, April 5, 2015. There’s even an adult Easter Egg Hunt at a winery.

Here’s a list of the egg-cellent, egg-stravagant and egg-citing activities:

 

Easter Bunny Arrival at Boulevard Mall
Welcome the Easter Bunny to Buffalo. Join the parade to center court. Bunnies, chicks, ducks and goats from Kelkenberg Farm + Face paintings and Balloon artists will be on site until 2 pm. Photos with the Bunny start at 11:30 am.
When: Saturday, March 14 at 11 am
Where: Near the TGIF entrance
Get Details: http://www.boulevard-mall.com/event/easter-bunny-arrival/2145451803

Broadway Market Easter Festival Kick Off
The Easter season kicks off at the Broadway market.

When: March 20, 2015, 11 am.
Where: Broadway market, 999 Broadway, Buffalo, NY, Market Stage and throughout the Market

Glow Kids Evangel Easter Egg Hunt

Come to the largest Easter Egg hunt on this side of town! Registration is FREE at the door the day of the event for ages 2-10 years old. 16th Year!

This year we’re excited to feature a high energy Easter Show full of dancing & theater performances, Easter Egg hunting, giant prizes for those who find the golden eggs, and goodie bags for each child that comes! Save the date and bring your family and friends to the most talked about event of the season. All are welcome and we have more than enough candy and prizes for everyone.

When: Saturday, March 18, 10 am
Where: Address: Glow Kids Evangel 8180 Greiner Rd, Williamsville

 Tonawanda Easter Egg Hunt

It’s time for the 32nd annual Easter Egg Hunt sponsored by the Town of Tonawanda Youth, Parks and Recreation Department and Kenmore Rotary Club. Meet the Easter Bunny and have your picture taken.
When:
Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 10:30 am
Where: Lincoln Arena

Breakfast with the Easter Bunny at the Buffalo Zoo

Face painting, catered brunch, docents on hand with animals and the Easter Bunny!
When: March 28 and March 29 and April 4 at 9 am and 11 am
Where: The Buffalo Zoo Children’s Resource Center
Get Details: http://www.buffalozoo.org/all_events.html

Clearfield Community Center Easter Egg Hunt

When: Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 10 am and 11 am
Where: Clearfield Community Center, 730 Hopkins Road, Williamsville

Tifft Spring Eggstravaganza

Come out for an afternoon of fun crafts and games, live animals, natural egg dying, a hike, hands on activities and refreshments.
When: Friday, April 3, 10 am, 12 pm or 2 pm
Where: Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd, Buffalo, NY
Get More Details: scirencebuff.org

Easter Express

Medina Railroad Museum will be offering The Easter Express train ride. Join the Easter Bunny for a one-hour ride and Easter Egg Hunt.
When: April 4, 2015, 11am Easter Egg Hunt, Noon Train Departure or 12:15 pm Easter Egg Hunt, 1:15 pm Train Departure
Where: 530 West Avenue, Medina, NY
Get More Details: www.railroadmuseum.net/easter-express/#sthash.PQ0jP0dC.dpuf

Easter Egg Hunt at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens

Kids seven and under are invited to come out to the gardens and for the Easter Egg Hunt. Collect two eggs to exchange for a prize. The hunt is outside. Mr. Doodle Bug will join the Easter Bunny for the event. Children’s Center will offer family fun activities including face painting, spring-themed crafts and doodle giveaways. Inside kids can also enjoy a scavenger hunt, games and more.
When: April 4 at 11 am
Where: Buffalo Botanical Gardens
Easter Bunny: March 21, 22, 28, 29 and April 3, 4 from 11 am to 3 pm
Get Details: http://www.buffalogardens.com/collections/events

Seaster Egg Hunt

The only underwater egg hunt in Western New York. Children search the exhibits for “SEAster” Eggs. Win prizes, say hi to the SEAster Bunny and Beaker, the aquarium mascot.
When: April 4
Where: Aquarium of Niagara, 701 Whirlpool St., Niagara Falls, NY
Get Details: http://aquariumofniagara.org/

Easter Egg Hunt with Adventure Landing

Come out for the 31st annual Easter Egg Hunt on the Mini Golf Course. Two hunts will take place.
When: Saturday, April 4, 9 am and 11 am
Where: Adventure Landing, 2400 Sheridan Drive, Tonawanda, NY
Get Details: http://www.adventurelanding.com/parks/buffalo/home/specials-events/events-and-promotions/

21 Brix Winery Easter Egg Hunt

It’s the 3rd Annual ADULT ONLY Easter Egg Hunt with chocolate, wine and prizes.
When: Saturday, April 4 at 11 a.m.
Where: 21 Brix Winery, 6654 West Main Street, Portland, NY
Get Details: http://www.21brix.com/ai1ec_event/adult-only-easter-egg-hunt/?instance_id=344

Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum Egg-cellent Easter Celebration
When: April 4 at noon
Where: Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, 180 Thompson St., North Tonawanda, NY
Get Details:
http://carrouselmuseum.org/site/plan-your-visit/calendar?month=apr&yr=2015

Read More: 2015 Buffalo, WNY Easter Egg Hunts, Train Rides + More

 

Posted in Local Info | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

St Patrick’s Day Parade 2015

  2015 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

Sunday, March 15, 2015
Delaware Avenue  @ 2 PM
Grand Marshal – Denice Morrison

The United Irish American Association of Erie County (UIAA) is celebrating its 75th anniversary.  Denice Morrison of Darien Center, NY was elected the Grand Marshal of the 2015 Diamond Jubilee Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.  For this once in a lifetime honor Denice, has chosen her husband John Morrison, Chairman of the UIAA Executive Committee, her dear sister Shawn Baumgarden and her wonderful stepchildren, Aryn and Jason Morrison to be her deputy marshals.  Her brother Jason Lorka, his wife Julianna and daughter Ellee will be travelling to Buffalo from their home in Arizona to lead a large contingent of family and friends honoring Saint Patrick and supporting Denice in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.

Before being elected to serve on the Executive Committee of UIAA, she volunteered on the work of the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade for many years. Denice currently continues to work as a division marshal and is directly involved in the fund raising efforts of the UIAA.  The UIAA has no paid employees, all are volunteers and raising money to fund the music in the Parade is a major effort.

Mrs. Morrison grew up in Hamburg, graduated from Frontier High School and attended Erie Community College.  She is the daughter of Kathleen (McDermott) and Thomas Lorka, her father is retired from Gibralter Steel. Denice is a member of Saint John Vianney parish.  Active in community activities, Denice enjoyed her years as a Buffalo Jill.  She and her husband John recently moved from Orchard Park to their new home in Darien Center.    Denice has been employed with M&T Bank for 20 years.  She is currently Vice President in the Customer Asset Management Department. Her husband John Morrison served as Grand Marshal for the 2007 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.  He is currently President and CEO of Financial Trust Federal Credit Union.

Click Here for complete details and information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Local Info | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

9 vital home repairs to complete before negotiating a sale

Even a burned-out light bulb can get a surprising write-up by inspector

There’s something that I see generated in almost every transaction — a list of repair items found during due diligence inspections that buyers would like completed before closing. This can cause heartaches for sellers, who have negotiated their best deal and then feel “put upon” because they’re being asked to make repairs to close the sale.

The problems that arise, however, could be remedied upfront if a home inspection were done when the house was listed. Let’s face it: We live in our homes and don’t address or even see some of the issues that arise because they don’t affect our daily lives. We look at homes online with a more critical eye than we do our own homes. I have seen too many sellers caught by surprise regarding the same issues that seem to pop up frequently.

Have these items addressed prior to listing the house, not before your seller has negotiated the best possible sales price, and everyone will be happier on the day of closing!

Fogged windows

A seal has broken, and although the window is functional, it really is “windy.” If your new listing has one or 12 of these drafty portals around the house, encourage the seller to replace them prior to listing.

Jet tubs that leak

Some of my recent experiences indicate that this applies to all jet tubs. In the past month, whether I was acting as a buyer’s agent or listing agent, every single jet tub has leaked in the homes that I’ve seen. Many of us don’t use bathtubs as often as we used to, and I am convinced that most jet tubs go unused for, potentially, years. Checking your tub for leaks prior to listing will ensure that no leaks appear during a home inspection. No buyer likes leaks, after all.

Water damage to exterior trim

On any home that’s more than 8-10 years old, I frequently see rotten wood on exterior trim. If you can see splitting or rotten boards as you walk along the front or rear of your property, have them replaced, then caulk and paint. Nothing says “well maintained” like a coat of fresh paint on fascia and trim! Pay special attention to chimney areas on homes built before the late ’90s (and the advent of HardiePlank or cement board).

Roofing items

Are there split or missing roof shingles on your new listing? If so, the best thing a seller can do is pay a roofer to give the roof a once-over, replacing any missing or damaged shingles.

Last year, a buyer told me that he checked the stair handrails and deck rails in homes. If they were wobbly, he took that as a sign that the house wasn’t cared for overall. Whether that’s fair or not, this is a safety issue that seems to sneak its way onto inspection reports more times than I can remember.

Gutters

Gutters that are not functional or do not properly channel water away from the foundation of the home are problems. Have them freed of debris and functional prior to listing.

Leaky showers

And, in fact, leaky faucets throughout the house. If it leaks, it shouldn’t. Have it fixed by a licensed plumber.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)

These issues can be a big concern due to the cost to replace HVAC units. If your unit has rust on it and appears to be inoperable, clean it and service the unit prior to closing. Change the air filter and make sure it is in good working order!

Light bulbs

Please change them! I cannot tell you how many times I have seen light bulbs missing or not working, and on every single occasion, the home inspector writes up “lights not working, have evaluated by a licensed electrician.” I asked one inspector if they tested whether the bulb was just burned out. He said, “No; if we did that, it would take us longer to complete the inspection.” Yikes! Licensed electricians cost money, and that inspector could give your seller the impression that there’s a major electrical issue with the home.

It is true that during the home inspection, the buyer will usually find something else beyond these fundamental fixes, but addressing these issues will decrease the risk of any deal-killers and hopefully avoid some major expenses for sellers.

 

Posted in Sellers | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Six Home Hunting Tips for 1st Time Buyers

Whether you’re looking for a Western New York home right now or plan to be on the hunt some time this year, don’t just stumble into a house hunt unprepared. While the process is exciting, there might be a few things you want to make sure you have on hand during the search so you can hunt for the home of your dreams smarter.

1. A trusted friend

Even if you’re searching with an agent (like me), you might still want to enlist a friend (preferably someone who’s been through the home buying process before) to get sage advice from. And if they know you, your personality and your style, they might help you see clearly when you’re being blinded by price or other charming home elements.

2. Your list of priorities and a checklist to run down

That assembly of dream home elements that are floating around in your head? Write them down as a list instead, organized by priority of what you and your family need in a home. It’ll help you stay focused when you run into neat design elements in houses that while are great to look at, aren’t what you need or even necessarily want. Also consider taking a physical list with you of the things you should look for when looking at homes — like the roof, plumbing, neighborhood — in case you get excited and forget all about it when you see big windows and real wood flooring.

3. A notepad and pencil

You’ll want it with you to take notes and maybe even sketch floor plans. Don’t trust your memory after looking at lots of properties; you might mix them up. And it’ll be helpful to have when you do any second, third or more viewings.

4. A camera

Yes, these days real estate listings come with plenty of pretty photos to flip through, but bring your own camera (or use your phone)  to record the things that caught your eye — from beautiful design elements to flaws that you want to remember. It’ll be helpful to take notes alongside the images so you have references to go back through.

5. Comfortable, easy-to-slip off shoes

House hunting is physical work, and you’ll want comfortable shoes you can walk all over with. But since some open houses might require you to take your shoes off before viewing the home, maybe leave those lace-up, knee-high boots at home so you don’t get frustrated every time you want to see the inside of a property.

6. Furniture measurements and a tape measure

For those with large or unusual furniture pieces they know they’ll be moving with and those looking at particularly tiny homes for sale, you might consider bringing a few important furniture measurements to see how your style and furnishings might fit into the homes you’re looking to buy. This shouldn’t be the reason you pass on a great deal or location, but it could factor into the decision making process.

Happy House Hunting Home Buyers in Western New York!

Source: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/first-time-homebuyer-6-essentials-to-take-with-you-on-a-house-hunt-213650?utm_content=buffere3f45&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Posted in Buyers | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

19 Indoor Activities with Kids

Winter has hit hard here in Western New York and the kids are probably saying “We are bored” Here are just some general ideas to keep you and the kids from going stir crazy this winter.

1. Camp out inside

Susan G. and her kids, from Stratford, CT, set up tents and sleeping bags in the living room. They make hot dogs, popcorn and s’mores and watch a movie or listen to their favorite music. “Instead of going upstairs for bed, the kids just camp out. The next morning, it’s pancakes for breakfast served tentside!”

2. Serve up a living-room BBQ

Relive the warm and lazy days of summer by cooking up a batch of favorite summer foods usually done on the grill. Try burgers, potato salad, lemonade/iced tea and more. Enjoy everything together while dining on a blanket spread out on the floor.

3. Snuggle up

Daphne R., from Portland, OR, explains how her family will “take advantage of the cozy factor and snuggle up with lap robes…reading good books in front of the fire.” Take the opportunity to read a book out loud with the kids taking turns too!

Andrea has five children and tells us they gather together and take turns reading chapters from their favorite books. They also play board games and sing songs. “Winter is a wonderful time for togetherness. I love it!!” she says.

4. Puzzle Time

Kim T., from Topeka, KS, has her family of six (ages six to fourteen) do a puzzle together, usually 500 to 1,000 pieces. “We don’t try to do it all in one night. We leave it up for several days and work on it little by little. It’s amazing how into the puzzle the kids will become, even over watching TV.”

5. Game Day

Turn off the TV and video games and get together for an old-fashioned game night. Let the kids take turns picking a game for the whole family to play, or resurrect half-forgotten (or never-learned!) card or board games.

6. Try a no-repeats weekend

Make a game of trying something new every weekend, with no repeats! Eat new foods, learn something new as a family or go places you’ve never been before.

7. Try a game of sock volleyball

Betsy M. and her boys, from Westmoreland, OH, clear off the family-room floor and blow up a couple of balloons for “sock volleyball.” They mark off the court and, wearing only their socks or playing in bare feet, “play volleyball using our feet instead of our arms….It keeps us laughing hysterically.”

Feel the rhythm.

Put on some great music and dance, dance, dance. You’ll have a great time introducing the kids to your favorite moves, and they’ll be able to show you what they’re into now. You could even take the opportunity to learn some partner dancing (waltz or mambo, anyone?) together!

8. Family Time

Cheryl has “Family Time” once a month. “We all gather at my house to have a quick meal and then we play games like bingo.” She also gets inexpensive prizes from the dollar store to add to the fun! It doesn’t really matter what you do just that you do it as a family.

9. Relive old memories

Break out the photo albums! Chrissy V., from Greensboro, NC, plays family videos and she and her family “are all entertained for hours!” They especially love “the older videos of when the kids were really small. They can’t get enough of seeing themselves.”

10. Host a film festival 

Introduce your kids to old movie greats. Or take turns choosing a genre (comedy, scary movies or adventure). You can extend the theme by cooking meals that fit the films. What could be more fun than eating spaghetti and meatballs as you watch Lady and the Tramp during your “Doggone Great Dog Movies” weekend?

11. Pamper and primp

Tamera finds that her two little girls, ages three and four, are easily bored when they’re stuck in the house. “We have a few things we do…but a fun one is Beauty Parlor Day! We style hair, paint nails, put on dress-up clothes, and have an indoor picnic on the floor.”

12. Let’s Get Cookin’

Jennifer E., from Oradell, NJ, bakes with her three children (ages ten, seven and two) whenever it’s cold or nasty outside. She gives each of them a job so everyone can help in his or her own way. “Cookies, cakes or brownies…we always have so much fun!”

13. Learn more about your family

Margaret Z., from Westland, MI, has “Scrapbook Weekends” in the winter months for grown-ups and kids. She says they learn a lot about their family history, especially from older family members, and the kids can tell stories using their latest vacation pictures. If you do this, consider videotaping it for a visual record of your family’s history.

14. Put on a play

Work together to make up a story, create costumes and design a set with things you have at hand. Then sit back on the sofa and get ready to applaud the entrances and exits that will be treasured memories for years to come. Videotape this too!

15. Craft it

Annie G., from Spencer, IA, taught her daughter how to crochet last year. “We now make afghans out of all the leftover yarn from other projects and donate them to the women’s shelter.”

16. Volunteer

Linda K., from Nyack, NY, says her family volunteers at a soup kitchen once a month and the kids serve meals. “It feels good to know you are helping someone who has no place to go and who really appreciates the hot meal on a cold day!”

17. Donate

Roseanne K., from Warminster, PA, sometimes gets her husband and kids to sort through their clothes and toys when the weather is bad. They then donate whatever they can to a local charity-run thrift shop.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta get outdoors—even when it’s cold. Here are a couple of fun ideas to help everyone focus on something besides the weather.

18. Make snow paintings

Brenda G., from Sheridan, IN, tells us her daughters are older now, but they used to play inventively outside on snow days. “I would save squeeze bottles and fill them with water colored with food coloring. We would take them outside and draw pictures on the snow.”

19. Go on a photo scavenger hunt

If it’s not too cold, hand out some disposable cameras, assign a topic and roam the neighborhood. For example, if the subject is lions, you may be surprised at the number of door knockers, statues or team mascots that fit the bill.

Hope you are staying warm and now you have some great ideas to bet those winter blues.

 

Posted in General Interest | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wild About You at Buffalo Zoo

You and your special someone are invited to celebrate Valentine’s Day (2/14/15) at the Buffalo Zoo. Enjoy a candlelit dinner catered by Frontier Catering and be serenaded by a string duet, while surrounded by our exotic animal collection. For $150 per couple, you will enjoy a three-course dinner for two, wine, entertainment, a special gift and personal visits from Zoo animals. Seating is limited. 

You must be 21 or older to attend.

Dinner Includes:

*Tossed house salad

*Hand sliced roasted tenderloin of beef, topped with a homemade bordelaise sauce

AND

*Chicken supreme, topped with a roasted red pepper pesto cream sauce

*Fresh Yukon Gold mashed potatoes

*Honey Dijon baby carrots

*Fresh baked artisan breads

*Creamsicle cake

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets.

Posted in Local Info | Tagged , , | Leave a comment