Real Estate

Realtors Agree—These Are the Worst Colors to Paint Your Home

by SOPHIE MIURA

PHOTO: Aaron Fallon for MyDomaine

Finding the perfect hue to paint your room might seem like a purely aesthetic decision, but it turns out the choice can have serious consequences. While it’s well-documented that green sparks creativity and fiery tones energize a space, a report from Zillow Digs suggests color can also impact the value of your home.

The home improvement website mined data from more than 50,000 photos of recently sold homes to uncover color trends. Worryingly, it discovered that rooms painted certain shades consistently fetched a lower offer, forming a blacklist of paint colors to avoid. These are the three paint shades industry pros say you should avoid at all costs:

  • Slate gray: Homeowners who opted to paint their dining room slate gray lost $1112. However, those who chose dove or light gray increased the sale price by $1104.
  • Off-white: While this shade might seem like a safe bet, the study found that kitchens painted off-white fetched $82 less than the predicted estimate. Interior designer Emily Henderson told Money that some shades of white paint can make a space look “flat” or “dead.”
  • Terra-cotta: People who took a risk by painting their living room this shade of orange took $793 of the value of their home.

Do you agree with these findings? What color do you consider to be the worst offender when selling?

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5 Ideas to Increase the Value of a Basement

Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

The basement doesn’t just have to be a space to throw all of that extra storage. Show it as usable space, and it may even help you increase the value of the home. Basement remodels typically recoup about 70 percent of their costs at time of resale, which can add a tremendous amount of value to your home.

Making it the coolest room in the house may not be too difficult either. After all, basements tend to stay cooler during the summer months, making this an ideal place for the family to hang out when the weather heats up outside.

1. Create an In-Home Theater

Basements not only are typically cooler than the rest of the home, but they’re also usually darker. For that reason, they’re an excellent place to add a theater to watch movies on those hot summer nights. Best of all, you don’t have to do a complete basement remodel, with costs around $50,000, to gain this space. A TV mount costs around $250, while built in seating costs around $840 – $1,680. (Just be sure for safety to completely waterproof the room before running wires through the basement.)

2. Make a Children’s Play Area

Basements are often neglected areas of the home, used primarily for storage and not much else. So why not turn your unused basement space into a new playroom for your kids?

Start with the staircase. Most basements have only partially finished staircases so installing a new one will help make the space more comfortable as well as safer. Next, ensure that you have egress windows installed, and that the basement is fully waterproofed. From there, you can carpet the floors to make the space more comfortable, and move your children’s toys downstairs to make more space in their rooms.

3. Create an Adult Entertainment Space

Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

If you love to entertain, consider building a bar into your basement. Basements are already the ideal place to install a wine cellar, so why not take it a step further and put in an entertainment area and bar for parties as well? Basements that walkout onto patios can be the ideal place for summer entertaining, giving guests a way to get in out of the heat or a summer rainstorm. Consider putting in a tile floor to give the room a finished look and keep the floors easy to clean. Match the bar countertop to the color of the floors for a fresh, stylish appearance.

4. Create a Garden Utility Room

If you spend any time out in the garden, you probably know about the dirt, tools, and pots that accompany this hobby. Basements are a great place to install a utility sink and counter, and to store all of your garden paraphernalia. Installing a french drain and a hose will make cleanup a snap, while shelving placed just beneath the windows will give your plants a place to sprout before you take them outside for the summer.

5. Create a New Family Room

Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

Family rooms often get even more use than the more formal living room, so family rooms in a cooler basement can get a lot of use during the summer months. Basements finished as family rooms may be coveted by homebuyers too, giving you the maximum return on investment. This includes not only tiling or carpeting the floors, but also putting up drywall to complete the walls as well. Consider adding a suspended acoustic ceiling to help insulate the basement from the sounds above, while making the rooms more attractive at the same time.

 

 

How to Save Money

Confession time – I’m a natural spender. I always knew that I should save money, but I never knew how to save money. My idea of saving money was getting something on sale. Sure I spent $25 that I probably didn’t need to, but I “saved” $75!!

 

In order to get our finances in order and get our debt paid off, I had to go from being a spender to learning how to save money. This transition is not always easy, but here are 5 simple things that you can do to start saving money.

1. Save Your Raise:

Any extra money that you receive that you’re not used to living on, save it before you spend it. This can include any bonus or overtime pay, raises, and tax refunds. Before it disappears and you have no idea what happened to it, put those extra dollars into a high-interest savings account.

 

2. Save Your Spare Change:

Every day or at the end of the week, empty your pockets or coin pouch into a jar and watch the savings grow. Since we use cash for most of our daily purchases, our change adds up quickly. In 2016 we accumulated $160 in loose change which was used to purchase the gifts for our two daughter’s Christmas stockings. Not a bad way to use those coins that would normally weigh down your wallet.

 

3. 52-Week Challenge:

If you’ve spent even a minute on Pinterest, than you’ve probably seen this savings trick. The idea is that every week you save a predetermined amount of money. You start by setting aside $1 on week one, $2 on week two, so that by the time you get to the last week, you’re saving $52. Follow this and when the year is up, you will have saved $1,378.00. There are many savings challenges out there depending on what your goal amount is, and the reason why they work is because the savings goal for each week is a manageable amount therefore making it easier to stick with.

 

4. Pay Yourself First:

Another way to save money automatically is to pay yourself first. If you have your paycheck directly deposited, talk to your Human Resources department and see if they are able to split the deposit so that you have money deposited into your savings account with each pay. You can determine how much you would like sent into your savings. It could be $25, $50, or even 10% of your earnings. Since it’s being put into your savings account right away, you’ll be sure to save it before you can spend it.

 

5. Have a Spending Plan (aka The Budget):

This is the biggest money saver of them all. Set up a monthly budget where you list your monthly income that is expected and deduct the various expenses that will need to come out. From the remaining amount you can determine how much you would like to set aside into savings.

No matter what method or methods you use to save money, the trick is to make sure that you are consistent and stick with it. Happy Saving!!

 

Your Turn!

  • What do you do to make sure that you are saving money each month?

The Debt-Free Move

Looking at a big move in your future? Here’s how to minimize debt in the process.

by Chris Sirico

 

 

No matter how you slice it, moving is expensive. The American Moving and Storage Association estimates that the average in-state move cost around $2,300 (and that number increases to $4,300 for a state-to-state move.) But with careful budgeting, research, and a little elbow grease, it’s possible to execute a move without racking up tons of debt. This guide will help you think through the costs you’ll face and how to minimize them as you plan for your move. We’ll cover when to use professional help, planning for the day-of, getting settled in and avoiding financial pitfalls along the way.

Contents

Planning Your Move
Selling Your Old Stuff
When to Hire Help
U-Haul or…? Options for Bulky Items
Case Study: Baltimore to Chicago
Practical Packing Tips
Moving In

Planning Your Move

You’ll be better able to control expenses if you can begin planning weeks or months in advance. Here are some things to consider as you build a moving checklist.

Negotiate an Employer-Paid Move

If you’re moving for work, ask your employer about covering your relocation expenses. You may also be able to negotiate a reimbursed move if your current employer transfers you to a new city. An employer-sponsored move could include container rental, storage, shipping, travel and petty cash.

Save Receipts for a Tax Deduction

You might be eligible for a tax deduction if you are moving for work but your employer isn’t covering the cost. This could be one of the biggest ways to recoup some of your moving expense. Read more on the IRS website.

Move Off-Season

About 60% of moves occur June through October, according to a US Census report.The cost of movers, rental companies and even housing can increase during this peak season. Move during the cooler months to use the law of supply and demand to your advantage.

Minimize Storage and Time Off

Try to avoid relying on renting storage for your things. While you may need a few days (or weeks) of storage, an early start and a little creativity can help minimize this cost. Be sure to sell, donate and toss the things you won’t keep before moving your stuff into storage.

You will need to take some downtime from work, but a head start can help minimize the cost of those lost wages. Chip away at your pre-move tasks a little at a time. Once you’ve moved, give yourself a couple days to get the basics unpacked in the new place, but get back to work as soon as practical.

Moving While Selling and Moving Quickly

Your priorities might shift depending on your circumstances. It makes more sense to pay for storage if you’re showing your house while preparing for a move. It may also make more sense to pay for professional moving services if you need to move in a hurry.

Consider a Balance Transfer Card

If your move will cost more than the cash you have on-hand, you’ll need a plan to keep that debt from costing you even more in interest. Hopefully a costly move brings better financial prospects. But if you need a little time to pay off your moving debt, you might look into a balance transfer credit card.

Balance transfer cards offer attractive terms for those looking to transfer a balance from another credit card. Balance transfer cards usually have 12-, 15- or even 18-month introductory periods with 0% APR. Some also include cash back or other rewards programs you’ll appreciate even after you’ve paid off your balance.

Subscriptions and Services

Don’t forget to cancel your gym membership, cable and utilities. You can forward your mail online ahead of time, but you’ll also need to update financial accounts, online retail accounts and magazine subscriptions.

Get a Tune-Up

The last thing you need during a big move is an automotive breakdown, which could result in very costly repairs on top of your moving expenses. Make sure your vehicle is up-to-date on regular maintenance: oil, fluids, tire pressure and parts replacement. Be sure you have a spare tire with sufficient air pressure, too.

Include Extra Time and Cash for Emergencies

Don’t plan to move in a half day, especially if you’ve hired movers to load your belongings. It’s bad moving etiquette not to be available for the duration of the work.

Think it’ll take 3 days to move? Give yourself 5. The hardest part of planning a move is the unknown unknowns. Be sure to build in some margin for error. There are bound to be a few wrinkles, and moving is stressful enough without feeling like you’re in a time crunch.

Note that these prices are seasonal and show just one example of how these services might compare. Quotes will vary by provider, moving distance, location, dates, and other factors.

The same is true for the cost of your move—it’s likely to cost more than you expect. Have access to cash in case you need more transport capacity, storage time or another emergency solution. It’s normal for unforeseen expenses to pop up. Count on them ahead of time, and you’ll be able to face them more calmly when they do arise.

Pack a Lunch (and a Tent)

A family can spend hundreds on meals and accommodations during a long move. Fortunately, you can take advantage of the occasion to enjoy a few nice picnics and a night under the stars. Pack a cooler of groceries for your drive: sandwich items, fruits, veggies and bottled water are cheaper, healthier alternatives to highway restaurants.

If you’re not afraid of roughing it, a campground can be less expensive than a hotel. My family always looked for KOA exit signs when traveling cross-country.

Selling Your Old Stuff

Start unloading unwanted items by selling online. Sell high-quality clothing at a consignment store or used clothing boutique. Sell or trade in unwanted books at a used bookstore. Use your imagination.

Don’t overlook your own friend base when selling your stuff. Use social media to post about your moving sale and any big items you’re looking to part with. Sell other items in a moving sale that you can promote with signs, social media and a Craigslist ad.

eBay is a great tool for selling small, high-value specialty items. Think of what might not find a fair price on Craigslist—electronics, musical instruments, hobby gear, specialty clothing, or accessories—and list those things.

Of course, there will be some items that don’t sell. Save the unwanted clothes; they’re handy for use as cleaning rags or packing materials when you move out. But donate other items to a thrift store. (Tip: be sure to fill out your donation receipt so you can take a tax deduction on the value of your charitable donation.)

When to Hire Help

How Much Stuff Do You Have?

The scope of the job, the time required, the number of large items, and the type of vehicle needed will all depend on the size of your household. If you’re moving with a lot of stuff – especially several big-ticket items – hiring professionals to transport your belongings safely can pay off.

A DIY Move Isn’t Free

It’s also important to remember that a DIY move isn’t free. You may face fewer out-of-pocket costs, but you’ll still have to spend your own time moving. You’ll have to pay for packing materials, fuel and rentals separately. When you do the work yourself, you also take on the risk of property damage—or worse—injury.

If you plan to enlist friends to help you move, you’ll probably want to at least feed them lunch as a courtesy for their help. Pizza might cost less than the $120–$200 per hour you’ll pay a four-person moving team, but it’s not free.

You Have Options—Hire Professionals for Packing, Loading or Transport

You can hire professionals for packing, loading, transport, or any combination of the three. Professional movers will pay for (or have insurance that will cover) broken items that they packed, loaded and shipped. (See the section on movers insurance below for more information.)

What If Something Gets Broken?

Renter’s insurance may cover damage when moving. It’s worth checking your coverage if you have it. Professional movers usually have a base level of insurance, but it might not be enough to cover damages to big-ticket items. If you’re concerned about loss, consider buying additional movers insurance. (The best insurance, though, is proper packing.)

U-Haul or…? Options for Bulky Items

Sell It!

If you ask a frequent mover how they move cheaply, there is one tip they’re almost sure to share: sell as much of your furniture as possible and replace it in your new city. Only ship furniture and bulky items with sentimental value. Sell and rebuy items from discount retailers like IKEA—they’re cheaper to rebuy than to haul, and they might break in transit.

Friend with a Truck

Let’s say you’re moving a short distance. If you’re like me, your first thought is, “Who do I know that has a pickup truck?” These people are born helpers, bless their hearts. I know pickup drivers who really enjoy helping people move, even if they do get asked a lot. So go for it! Just know there are other options if your truck-owning friends turn you down.

Rent a Pickup

You can rent a flat-bed pickup truck from a home improvement store for less than $30 a day. That’s less than a few cases of limited-edition craft beer you might buy to bribe a buddy. A rental’s truck bed is more spacious than the average pickup, too. A pickup rental is a great option for a one-day, in-town move.

Strap It on Top

I’ve moved mattresses, bed frames, bookshelves and dressers with nothing more than a midsize sedan, a moving blanket and some hauling straps. A set of 4 straps is about $10, and they’ll come in handy for years after your move.

Make sure you know how to use your straps. Get that item tightly secured, and give a couple tugs to make sure it can’t slide backward. Mattresses like to bend upward when they catch wind. To avoid this, strap them down near the front through your front windows and towards the back through your rear windows. (Then you get to hop in through the window like Mario Andretti.)

Rent a Moving Truck

If you do have a lot of furniture that you’d like to hold on to, a rental moving truck might be your default option. Shipping or truck rental is likely to be your single greatest moving expense, so do some comparison shopping before you choose. Factor in the fuel you’ll buy (with mileage as low as 6 mpg highway) and any per-mile cost the provider charges. It is usually possible to tow a car behind a moving truck if you’re moving solo.

Ship a Moving Container

Services like PODS, U-Box and U-Pack are transportation-included moving solutions that deliver a container that you pack. Pricing varies based on the packing volume needed and the distance you’re moving. These services tend to land in a price range at, or above, that of a moving truck rental (see case study below). But you might find that they hit the sweet spot for a small load of furniture that wouldn’t fill a moving truck. Container shippers do include fuel cost in the price. They also tend to offer storage, which might be helpful if you’re dealing with tricky logistics.

Ship with Amtrak

If you’re willing to try an adventurous method to save on moving, consider using Amtrak. You can ship up to 500 pounds of stuff per day, and it costs about 50 cents per pound. That could be a significant savings over traditional methods, but there are guidelines and some damage risk.

Amtrak’s basic shipping guidelines require shipments be in boxes 3′ X 3′ or smaller that weigh 50 pounds or less. Amtrak also ships bicycles, and some stations can ship fully-packed palettes and other large items.

Case Study: Baltimore to Chicago

Here are some quotes from container and truck rental providers for a hypothetical move from Baltimore to Chicago, a state-to-state move of 700 miles. These are summertime prices (peak season) quoted a week out from the beginning of a weekend move (peak days and non-ideal lead time). Bear in mind that this is a worst-case scenario in terms of pricing. Since each container is a different size, estimates are based on enough storage for a 3-bedroom house as defined by each company.

Averages are for illustrative purposes only, based on data from the American Moving & Storage Association Industry Fact Sheet using an average household moving load of 7400 pounds. Costs for all services will vary by location, service provider, size of household and season.

Details

PODS – $2791
(8′ X 8′ X 16′ box; includes transit and 30-day storage)

U-Pack Trailer – $1775
(using 17 linear feet X 8′ X 9′)

U-Box – $2350
(5 boxes; 7’6″ X 8′ X 5′)

U-Haul 26′ Truck – $2443 total ($2009 for Sunday pickup)
(maximum length, 26′ X 7’3″ X 6’10”)
$2170 (but down to $1736 for a Sunday pickup)
+ $273 Gas (6 mpg at $2.40/gal)

Penske 26′ Truck – $2195 total ($1964 AAA rate)
(maximum length, 26′ X 8′ X 8′)
$1922 ($1691 with 12% AAA discount)
+ $273 Gas (6 mpg at $2.40/gal)

Practical Packing Tips

You’ll set yourself back if you have to replace furniture you didn’t take the time to disassemble, glassware you didn’t pad, or a flat-screen TV you loaded loose into a shipping vessel.

Collect used boxes from a grocery store to save on packing material, but ensure each box is strong enough for its contents. Save unwanted clothes and gather newspaper for padding.

There are some packing materials you shouldn’t skimp on. Stock up on furniture pads, moving blankets, and stretch wrap. Get more than you think you’ll need. These tools are a physical insurance policy for your belongings—the short-term expense will prevent expensive replacement costs later.

Don’t wait until the last minute to start packing. Sort through and organize your possessions in the weeks leading up to your move. You’ll have less to pack and load if you can eliminate unused possessions by selling or donating them. You can also ease the days before your move by packing rarely-used items early. Check your attic, basement, shed, and closets to see what you can do without for a couple weeks.

Make sure you fit belongings securely into your truck and within each container. Jostling can cause objects to shift, fall or crush in transit. Bundle items in large groups. First pad with moving blankets or furniture pads between objects and on the outside of the bundle, then fasten everything together with stretch wrap. Secure packing is particularly important if you’re using Amtrak or a container service like U-Pack or U-Box.

 

Moving In and Paying Off

The job isn’t over as soon as you pull in to your new place, and neither are the expenses. Take these steps to make your new life on the other side of your move as affordable as possible.

Ask Around

Your realtor is a great resource in shopping for all the services you’ll need in your new place: TV, electricity, doctors, etc. They’ll be familiar with the area and can probably give you a rundown of popular options.

While you’re at it, make friends with your new coworkers and neighbors. They can point you to the best value at stores, gyms, nightlife and other pastimes in your new neighborhood. Maybe there’s a great park or dollar theater out there. Find out by asking around.

Unpack ASAP

There are a couple of reasons to get your new place set up quickly. For one, you’ll be less tempted to eat out if you have a fully stocked kitchen and a comfortable place to eat. For another, you won’t end up re-buying household items that are tucked away in boxes stacked in your garage.

Re-Buy Housewares and Furnishings on the Cheap

New home, new stuff, right? Maybe not. You can save money on the tail end of your move by shopping judiciously for the things you’ll need. Look for essentials at dollar stores and thrift stores. Check Craigslist for furniture before you visit retail stores. You can always add the bigger, nicer items later.

Space out Home Improvement Projects

No home really feels like home until you’ve added your own personal touch, but the cost of home improvement projects can add up quickly. The key is to prioritize what needs to be done immediately and what can wait. By all means, fix that roof leak to prevent greater expense in the future. The covered patio, however, should probably wait until you’ve paid off the cost of the move itself.

Think through your move ahead of time. Lighten your load by selling and donating possessions. A little creativity and comparison shopping can go a long way to save you money.

 

Buying Your First House: Starter Home or Forever Home?

By EMILY STARBUCK CRONE

 

 

If you’re a first-time home buyer, you may be wondering: Should you purchase a small starter home to get into the market now, knowing you may grow out of it in a few years? Or, should you stretch your budget — or spend more time saving — to get a “forever home” that will take care of your long-term needs?

Here are some factors to consider as you weigh whether to get a home best suited for the short term or the long haul.

Market conditions: Mortgage rates are historically low, but there’s no telling how long that will last. Also, many real estate markets nationwide are booming; consider whether to jump in before home prices get even higher, or whether they may weaken.
Where you want to live: Consider if you’d be OK living for a few years in the suburbs, where you might be able to find something more affordable, or if you’d rather try to snag a home in a different area where you want to live long-term.
 How much house you can afford: It ultimately comes down to how much money you have saved and how much you can afford to spend on a monthly mortgage payment. Use a home affordability calculator to see what’s within your price range.
 What kind of house you want: For a starter home, you might go for an apartment, condo or townhouse in an up-and-coming area. If you’re thinking forever home, a single-family detached or a house with land to build an addition later could be a better fit — but it’ll be more expensive.
The costs of getting out early: If you do spring for a starter house now, and you end up getting married or having kids or needing to move quickly, you may face penalties, such as capital gains tax.

Those are some of the big-picture considerations. Let’s dive into the details on what else you need to think about.

Starter home considerations

Your lifestyle: Do you want to be in the middle of a big city, or are you fine with the ’burbs if that means you can own a home? If you want to live centrally, where real estate is most expensive, you’ll probably have to start small. Dana Bull, a real estate agent in Boston with Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty, remembers when she bought her first condo at 22, she could afford only one well outside of Boston, and she had some regret as she missed being in the city near her friends. Consider what you’re willing to sacrifice, both in terms of location and size.

Your future needs: Bull says many first-time home buyers assume they’ll be in a home much longer than they actually are. She says young, single people sometimes don’t realize how quickly life can change. A job switch, new relationship or new baby can alter what you need in a home.

Zachary Conway, a financial advisor with Conway Wealth Group LLC in Parsippany, New Jersey, adds that selling a house can be stressful — especially if you’re in the midst of major life changes such as having a baby.

So, if your life is full of flux and you think you would stay in your starter home for only 1 1/2 to three years, it may be less stressful to keep renting until you’re ready for something large enough to meet longer-term needs.

Capital gains taxes: If you set out to buy a starter home for the short term, be careful, Bull says. If you sell soon after moving in, you may owe capital gains tax on your profit from selling the home.

According to the IRS, individuals are excluded from paying taxes on $250,000 ($500,000 if married) of gain on a home sale as long as the house was used as your main residence during at least two of the five years before selling it. That means you may want to think carefully about buying a home you’ll grow out of in less than two years. Consult a tax professional to see how this could affect you.

Consider an exit strategy: If you’re considering going the starter home route, you should think through from the start how you’ll offload it when the time comes to move, Bull says. For instance, you might buy a property that you could rent out to cover your mortgage, especially during times of economic uncertainty, she says. This helps ensure you can cover your mortgage payment if you need to move ASAP or if the market is weak when you hope to sell but you don’t want to take a loss.

You should also carefully research the area in which you’re looking to buy, Conway says, and confirm “there’s enough resale potential to make sure that even in a market that’s heading downward, you still have a likelihood of being able to get out of where you are.”

Forever home considerations

Interest rates: Conway says that if you decide to wait so you can afford a forever home, there’s a chance that interest rates could increase from their current historic lows. “You might be able to scrape together some additional funds in the next few years, but maybe at that point, we may be closer back to historical norms of interest rates, and your mortgage is more expensive,” Conway says. Nobody can predict what will happen, but it’s important to keep a pulse check on mortgage rates.

Hot markets: In many major cities such as Boston, property values are rising rapidly, Bull says. There’s also a lot of uncertainty as to whether home values will plateau or keep going up, leaving first-time home buyers wondering if they should give in to the “feeding frenzy,” she says. If you wait in hopes of saving for a larger home, it’s possible prices will rise faster than you can save, she says.

Your cash flow: Considering your lifestyle and life events is certainly important, “but really at the end of the day, it comes down to the math of do we have the cash flow,” Conway says.

If you want a forever home, you have to ask yourself whether you can afford the larger down payment and whether your income supports a higher monthly mortgage payment. Conway says it’s key to create a budget and to carefully track what you save and spend, and to be sure you can afford a more expensive home. Don’t assume your income will be higher in a few years and go for a bigger mortgage, he says. And don’t forget to factor in higher ongoing expenses like property taxes and homeowners insurance.

» MORE: How much down payment do you need to buy a home?

Don’t stress too much

While making the decision between a starter home and forever home is a major move, Bull says don’t fret too much about making the wrong decision. Remember, she says, “there are always options — you can sell, you can rent, you can put yourself in a position where you can go out and buy another house.”

Conway adds that if you decide you’re not ready to buy for a while, that’s OK too, and you shouldn’t look at rent as throwing away money. “I wouldn’t jump into buying something for the sake of the fact that’s what we were told we should do,” he says. “It really comes down to what you’re comfortable with from a cash flow standpoint and what you want in your life. There’s nothing inherently wrong with paying rent.”

Take A Peek Inside 19 Living Rooms In Actors’ Homes

By Melissa Minton

When actors are not on location for an upcoming movie or television show, they retire to their high-design homes around the world. In their living rooms, celebrities (and their designers) incorporate cozy fireplaces, comfortable seating, bold art, and warm lighting to create spaces that are perfect for any occasion, whether they are entertaining A-list friends, learning their lines, or relaxing with family. Take a glimpse at the personality-packed living room decor of George Clooney, Jennifer Aniston, Ellen Degeneres, and many other stars and see where they kick-back after a night on the red carpet.

DERRY MOORE

The main room in Angela Lansbury’s Irish retreat was designed by Stephen Pearce to offer varied spaces for relaxing, such as a fireside reading area and a bright breakfast nook.

SCOTT FRANCES

The living room in Jennifer Aniston’s Los Angeles home by Stephen Shadley is an intimate space that opens to views of the koi pond.

ROGER DAVIES

Custom-made sofas upholstered in a Great Plains fabric stand before the living room fireplace in Patrick and Jillian Dempsey’s Malibu, California, home, devised by Estee Stanley Interior Design; the painting at left is by Thomas Helbig, the large round table is by Dos Gallos Furniture, and the Alma Allen low stool (used as an end table) is from Heath Ceramics.

WILLIAM WALDRON

The New York apartment of actor Will Ferrell and his wife, auctioneer Viveca Paulin-Ferrell, was renovated by architect Richard Perry and decorated by Shawn Henderson. The living room’s boulderlike seating is by Smarin, and the Hans J. Wegner wing chair and ottoman are covered in a Zimmer + Rohde fabric. The artworks include, from left, a Roy Lichtenstein print, a Mario Dal Fabbro sculpture from Maison Gerard, and two Sol LeWitt woodcuts; the television is by Samsung.

WILLIAM WALDRON

In another living room in Ferrell’s home, Robert Indiana serigraphs are displayed above a Vladimir Kagan sectional sofa clad in a Pollack fabric. Vases designed by Patricia Urquiola for Baccarat glitter on the Milo Baughman cocktail table; the red armchairs and ottoman are midcentury, and the bronze sphere is by Hervé Van der Straeten for Maison Gerard.

SCOTT FRANCES

A Maynard Dixon artwork hangs above the living room fireplace in Diane Keaton’s Beverly Hills home, which was decorated by Stephen Shadley; a William Ritschel painting is on the far wall.

MARY E. NICHOLS

An English dog painting is set over the living room fireplace in Rob Lowe’s Santa Barbara home, designed by David Phoenix, while a photograph by Lyndie Benson is above the Dutch secretary.

MARY E. NICHOLS

Schuyler Samperton decorated the interiors of this beachy Los Angeles home for actor Rob Morrow and his wife, Debbon Ayer.

BJÖRN WALLANDER

In George Clooney’s Mexican home by Legoretta + Legoretta, the living room features a slipcovered sofa and armchairs and a pair of stools by Casamidy grouped around a cocktail table by SL Westwood Design.

SIMON UPTON

In the living room at Jane Fonda’s New Mexico ranch, the carved-wood chandelier has arms that echo the antlers of the mounted elk, the actress’s quarry from a Montana hunting trip; two Marion Kavanagh Wachtel paintings flank a set of French doors, and the lamps are circa-1900 Handel.

MARY E. NICHOLS

A Persian rug hangs above the family room fireplace in Samuel L. Jackson’s Los Angeles home, decorated by Cecil N. Hayes; the mantel holds stoneware pots and a pair of West African chiwaras.

MARY E. NICHOLS

The living room in the Los Angeles residence of actress Jamie Lee Curtis and her husband, actor and director Christopher Guest, features dark wood floors and beams offset by white walls; the home was decorated by Jan McFarland Cox.

WILLIAM ABRANOWICZ

The living area in Julianna Margulies’s Manhattan apartment, designed by Vicente Wolf, is anchored by a sofa covered in a Larsen fabric. The African carved post and Portuguese Colonial candlesticks standing at the window are from VW Home, as are the Burmese side table and the hand sculpture.

ROGER DAVIES

In the living room of Portia de Rossi and Ellen DeGeneres’s Beverly Hills house, a pair of slipcovered sofas and a cocktail table, all by Kathleen Clements Design, are grouped with Louis XVI bergères; the Avalon blanket is by Hermès, and the fringed throw is an antique textile. A mixed-media sculpture by Catherine Willis takes pride of place over the hearth; to its left are a Roman bust and works by Mark Grotjahn and Ed Ruscha. A Ruth Asawa sculpture hangs to the right of the fireplace.

WILLIAM ABRANOWICZ

Designers Brooke Gomez and Mariette Himes Gomez updated Tracy Pollan and Michael J. Fox’s New York living room with clean-lined modern furnishings, including blue-glass table lamps from Bernd Goeckler Antiques and a pair of Dessin Fournir sofas covered in a Claremont fabric; the artwork between the windows is by Louise Bourgeois, the piano is by Steinway & Sons, and the early-20th-century Turkish Oushak carpet is from Doris Leslie Blau.

ROGER DAVIES

Martyn Lawrence Bullard worked with actress Ellen Pompeo to revamp the 1930 home she shares with her husband, music producer Chris Ivery, and their two children in Los Angeles. To lend architectural distinction to the living room, Bullard framed arched passageways in limestone and installed a custom-made basalt mantel; the mirror is by Richard Shapiro/Studiolo, and the club chairs are a Bullard design, upholstered in a Kravet silk velvet.

WILLIAM WALDRON

Decorator David Flint Wood painted the living room of actress Brooke Shields’s New York townhouse in Benjamin Moore’s cozy Chelsea Gray. Portraits of Shields’s two daughters flank a heart-shaped Keith Haring work, which was a gift from the artist.

ROGER DAVIES

Will and Jada Pinkett Smith created a family haven near Calabasas, California, with the help of architect Stephen Samuelson and interior designer Judith Lance. A large retractable skylight floods the double-height living room with natural illumination. The pair of vintage resin tusks is from Downtown, and the lanterns at left are Moroccan.

SCOTT FRANCES

When actress and comedian Ali Wentworth and her husband, television journalist George Stephanopoulos, relocated from Washington, D.C., to New York City, they enlisted their friend Michael S. Smith to decorate their new apartment. The living room features a skirted sofa and armchairs, all by O. Henry House, upholstered in fabrics by Cowtan & Tout and Jasper, respectively; the Regency mirror and the mahogany bookcase were bought at auction, the settee is a Swedish antique, and the cocktail table and the curtain fabric are both by Jasper.

7 TAX BREAKS EVERY FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYER MUST KNOW

The tax landscape changes yearly. Congress meets occasionally to review and adjust the tax code, so first-time homebuyers must stay on their toes to understand year-to-year tax changes.

The government provides tax breaks for existing and new homeowners to incentivize buying homes. Homeownership offers multiple home tax deductions, tax credits and other breaks that aren’t available to those who rent. If you bought your first home in 2016 — or you’re hoping to buy one in 2017 — it can pay to familiarize yourself with first-time homebuyer tax credits so you can take advantage of tax breaks that lower your tax bill.

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HOME MORTGAGE INTEREST DEDUCTION

The mortgage interest deduction is one of the biggest home tax breaks and is a crucial new homeowner tax credit. It covers interest paid on loans of up to $1 million, or $500,000 if you’re married but filing a separate return.

The deduction can be especially beneficial for borrowers with new loans because interest charges on mortgages are typically steeper in the early years of the mortgage’s term.

“The way loan amortization works, your first payments have the highest ratio of interest to principal,” said Andrew Christakos, an accredited investment fiduciary with Westfield Wealth Management in Westfield, N.J.

You must itemize on Schedule A of your tax return to claim the home mortgage interest deduction. To do so, add up all deductible expenses for the year, including those related to homeownership as well as other categories. Claiming the mortgage interest deduction can save you tax dollars if your itemized deductions are greater than your standard deduction.

Don’t miss this new homebuyer tax credit. Your loan provider should send you Form 1098 shortly after the tax year ends. It will show the amount of interest you paid the previous year.

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MORTGAGE INTEREST CREDIT

The federal government’s mortgage interest credit provides another opportunity for first-time homebuyers to claim a tax break for the mortgage interest they paid. Unlike the mortgage interest deduction — which reduces your taxable income — this mortgage interest credit directly counts against your tax bill, lowering what you owe.

“It’s a little-known but very cool program,” said Deb Tomaro, a Bloomington, Ind.-based broker with RE/MAX Acclaimed Properties. “Depending on the purchase price of your home, a buyer can get 20 to 30 percent of the interest they pay every year back as a straight tax credit.”

For example, imagine you prepare a return and find that you owe the IRS $1,000 in taxes. However, completing IRS Form 8396 for the mortgage interest credit shows that you’re eligible for a $1,000 credit. In that situation, you can apply the credit and not owe the IRS anything.

The credit is not refundable, so you won’t receive a check if the credit is larger than what you owe in taxes.

To be eligible for this strategic tax break, a state or local government must have issued you a Mortgage Credit Certificate. Typically, this certificate is issued at the time you originate the mortgage. The certificate tells you how much interest you can claim as a credit. If you also claim a mortgage interest deduction when you file your taxes, you must reduce the credit by that amount — no double-dipping is allowed.

First-Time Home Buyers On: The Finances

By Adrienne Breaux

 

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(Image credit: Reagen Taylor )

How long do you need to save up for a down payment? How long does it take to get approved for a mortgage? Buying a home—especially for the first time—is a learning process, made all the more intense thanks to the fact that large sums of money are also involved. So I asked real-life first-time home buyers Tiffany and Alan Goldsteinto help illuminate some of the money-related concerns of buying a home.

Saving starts with getting a grasp on what you’re making and what you’re spending.

Early on in our marriage, we made a habit of sitting down and making a budget. How much are we going to make each month after taxes? What known expenses do we have (i.e. rent, car payments, charitable giving etc.)? What is our targeted spend for things like groceries, clothing, eating out, and various luxuries? Everything after that would go towards savings and a down payment. After a few tweaks, we had a plan to have an “emergency fund” and a targeted down payment in about three years.

The next step was following through, but also reevaluating and adjusting as we went along. Want to take a trip? That’s fine — we would go add the expense to our plan and see how much longer it would take for us to meet our home ownership goal and decide if we were comfortable with that.

Spend less going out to eat or pass on that awesome shoe sale? At the end of the month we could see how much closer those decisions brought us to meeting our goal. Getting organized put us in control and took the fear out of making decisions. Ultimately, we compared ourselves to our plan each month and were able to stay on track.

→ Where you put your savings is just as important

On a side-note, it was equally important to decide where we wanted to put our savings. We decided to put the money for our down payment in a high interest savings account through a different bank than the one we used for our checking account. This gave us better growth prospects than a checking account, took away the risk that it would drop with the stock market the day before closing, and put it out of sight while still leaving it accessible in case of a major emergency. We also took advantage of a credit card that provided 2% cash back on all purchases. Since we were closely monitoring our expenses and paying off our card each month, these became ways to reach our down payment goal faster at no additional cost.

Get pre-approved

We did get pre-approved for a loan long before we were even serious about looking for a home. As we considered getting pre-approval, we were nervous about how the whole financing process worked. We asked around and were recommended a mortgage loan officer who met us on the weekend, talked through the entire process, and gave us advice about what we should be doing in anticipation of getting serious. When we finally made the decision to buy this house, we went back to him and he actually recommended we reach out to other people to test his rates. He ultimately matched the best offer we found.

→ Be ready to move quickly depending on the housing market

The Austin housing market is pretty aggressive right now with finite inventory and a lot of demand. This doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room to negotiate. Our offer was accepted two days after we put it in. The house had only been listed for four days and there wound up being three backup bids after they accepted ours. That said, we did go through a process with our realtor to develop a list of post-close items we would need to address with the house and asked the seller for related concessions off of the purchase price. They were amenable, so it was definitely worth the exercise.

→ Between the offer being accepted and closing, there’s still a lot to do

The offer was accepted in late December and we closed in February, so the overall process took about two months. To be honest, we spent most of that time focused on scheduling the necessary vendors required for closing (inspector, bank appraiser, etc.), as well as looking for a contractor, budgeting renovations, and aggregating furniture and accessory lists. Overall, it was more along the lines of dreaming about paint colors…and doors…and light fixtures…in the middle of the work week.

Where House Flippers Can Get Financing

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Chris Gash

Until recently, home flippers—investors who buy houses to improve and resell for a quick profit—had few options for financing. Now, traditional lenders and crowdfunding firms are increasingly willing to put up the money.

Luxury-home flips can be lucrative, but risky. “With one flip, you could make the same amount that you could with 10 deals of a lower-end property,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of Attom Data Solutions, an Irvine, Calif.-based real-estate data provider. “But you’re putting many more eggs in one basket and counting on that one property to deliver.”

Jeff Pintar, founder of Pintar Investment Co. in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., is one of the most active luxury flippers in the nation, according to Attom Data. Last year, Mr. Pintar says he purchased 65 homes priced at $500,000 or more, and he’s averaging returns on equity of about 12% to 15% per flip.

Mr. Pintar, 47, says he uses multiple sources for financing. He has established business lines of credit at local banks with about a 5% interest rate that he can draw against to acquire homes. He also works with private-investment companies, which he says charge higher rates but are able to respond quickly. “The banks have trouble keeping up with the pace that we need,” says Mr. Pintar.

Many small-scale home flippers still rely on so-called hard-money loans—short-term, high-interest loans provided by private investors. David Dweck, a hard-money lender from Boca Raton, Fla., will finance up to 60% of the estimated after-repair value of homes purchased for over $500,000. That means if a house costs $600,000 but will be worth $750,000 after repairs, Mr. Dweck will lend up to $450,000, with the flipper putting down $150,000 in cash.

“Most people can’t walk into a bank and get a loan for one of these deals,” says Mr. Dweck, who also flips homes. His terms: an interest rate of between 11% and 14%, with two to four points—a point is equal to 1% of the mortgage amount—and up to one year to repay the loan.

Another source of capital for luxury flippers: crowdfunding, where the funds to finance a deal are raised through the contributions of a large number of people, usually via the internet. “The biggest benefit we offer is flexibility and a national focus,” says Nav Athwal, chief executive officer of RealtyShares, a San Francisco-based company that finances investment properties in 35 states. Funds come from more than 38,000 high-net-worth individuals who invest in a specific transaction for as little as $5,000.

RealtyShares funds up to 70% of the estimated after-repair value of a property in as little as 10 days. Interest rates vary from 8% to 11%, with the average loan term on luxury flips 12 months. RealtyShares also does preferred-equity deals, where they take a partnership interest in the property and benefit from both the interest paid and the potential upside of the transaction.

Jumbo Jungle Tips

Here are some things luxury flippers should consider.

The numbers are critical. Make sure your budget is realistic and your contractor has a record of finishing on time. Luxury flips take more time than lower-cost ones—an average of 208 days, compared with 181 days for all flips, according to Attom Data. A delay of just days can bring additional costs that will eat into profits, so make sure your budget includes reserves for contingencies, such as delays in getting construction permits.

Details count. Luxury buyers are demanding when it comes to high-end finishes. Hire a good designer and pay attention to the details when renovating a property. Factor in the cost of luxury upgrades a buyer will expect.

Beware of defaulting. Like banks, hard-money lenders and crowdfunders secure their loans with a mortgage on the property you’re flipping. If you default, they can foreclose on that mortgage. They may also report your failure to pay to the credit bureaus, which can affect your credit score.

See inside ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ home that’s on the market

Millions mourning the recent loss of Mary Tyler Moore will be heartened to see photos of the Minneapolis home where she lived in the popular ’70s show that carried her name.

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The stone Victorian mansion’s exterior was used in the show, but Mary’s actual apartment was a Hollywood set. It was meant to be behind the Palladian windows next to a turret on this Minneapolis home’s third story.

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In real life, that space is a family room with a gas fireplace, built-ins, and a beautiful view of the tree-lined street. The home is listed for $1.695 million with Barry Berg and Chad Larsen of Coldwell Banker Burnet.

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It spans 9,500 square feet — plenty of room for Mary and her fictional best friend, Rhoda, who lived in the TV mansion’s turret. In real life, that’s a third-story office with a sitting room.
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Altogether, there are 7 bedrooms and 9 baths, which means that theoretically even Mary’s crusty journalist boss, Lou Grant, could move in.

 

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Built in 1900, the home has been remodeled to include a chef’s kitchen with four — count ’em, four! — ovens and an L-shaped, granite island.mary-tyler-moore-bedroom-today-170126_15982ebe29244a137fdd23a9d339557c-today-inline-large

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The master suite features a fireplace, sitting and dressing rooms, and a spa-like bathroom. For kicking back, there’s a sauna and a rooftop deck with a hammock.

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The home’s Victorian aesthetic remains strong in the ornate millwork, bay windows and leaded glass transom accents. It boasts five gas fireplaces and two laundry centers.

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Although Mary Tyler Moore never visited the home while the show was on, she did drop by in 1996, and everyone was thrilled to see she’d made it after all.

 

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*Photography by: Landmark Photography