Top Tips For Preparing Your House For Sale

When preparing your house for sale, your ultimate goal is to have potential buyers fall in love with your house. In order for this to happen, your home needs to be appealing, clean and free of clutter. You’ll want prospective buyers to be able to envision themselves living in your house.

Clutter is distracting. You want potential buyers to admire your home rather than the things in your home. Further, clutter can make your home appear small so make sure you tidy up and make your property, inside and out, appealing.

One of the main things that prospective buyers will be looking out for is square footage and storage. They won’t show up with a tape measure ready to go through each inch of your house, but, they will let their eyes do the calculating. With furniture in the “right” place(s) and appealing decorations, you can help prospective buyers get a sense of what it would be like to live there.

A clean and organized house can show potential buyers the value of your property. There’s nothing that says a property is worth its asking price more than the care that went into the property. Show potential buyers that your property is worth every penny by cleaning thoroughly, organizing efficiently and reducing clutter.

Before you put your house on the market, there are things that you should do before your first open house. Implement these easy, do-it-yourself suggestions to get the most money for your home in the shortest amount of time:
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1. Go through your entire house and reduce the visible clutter in each room.
· Declutter all surfaces
· Remove personal pictures
· Remove excess furnishings and décor
Remember…less is more!

2. Declutter your closets and cabinets: Potential home-buyers will be looking in your closets, kitchen drawers and cabinets to see if there is enough storage for their needs.
· You can showcase what your house has to offer in terms of storage by decluttering your closets, cabinets and drawers to show off the potential those spaces have to offer.

3. Think about the small, but important, details:
· Add some plants or flowers
· Make a room look larger by adding a mirror
· Make sure to have the right lighting
• Remember to turn on all of the lights, open the blinds and shades before your open house

We can facilitate and coordinate your entire move. From downsizing and de-cluttering to packing to unpacking we are a one-stop shop. We will make sure that your move is as stress free as possible.

If you’re in need of assistance with any or all aspects of your relocation, give us call. We’d love to help!

Top Tips For Setting Up A Home Office

Crazy times! Welcome to the new normal, whatever that means. I guess we all have our own definition of what that means. It seems that everyone is doing what feels comfortable to them. There are, however, some things that we will all be seeing and experiencing at least for the near future. We will be all be wearing masks and/or face shields especially while shopping. Things that we never thought about, but did on a daily basis without thinking about, are no longer acceptable, ie. shaking hands. Elbow bumps or some other greeting like the “Vulcan Salute” (See Star Trek) will now be the new normal.

Many people will no longer be returning to an outside office, even if you were lucky enough to keep your job. Or, you may have an office to go to but may not be required to go there as often as you used to. As such, during the pandemic, many of us have had to set up a home office or at least a space in our home to get work done. Many of us will continue working from home permanently and will now have to create a space where we can work.

Wherever you live, no matter the size, I’m thinking it would be a great idea to create a space in your home so that you can get your work done efficiently. That can mean anything from paying your bills to writing a newsletter or working on a client project. Work comes in all shapes and sizes. But, I think we can all agree that a dedicated work space will make all the difference in the world.

Here’s some tips to set up your home office for maximum efficiency, productivity and success:

1. Make sure:
• It’s comfortable
• It’s functional
• Supplies are accessible

2. Use Technology:
• Make sure your computer has a good internet connection
• Set yourself up for virtual meetings
• Make sure your computer has a camera
• Adjust your background
• Use a phone that has good reception

3. Create a Workspace:
• If possible, utilize the door or partition to close yourself off from others in the house
• Set up a desk and filing cabinet
• Use a desktop file organizer so that whatever you’re working on is vertical (instead of in piles)
• Whenever possible, try to keep anything not work/office related out of that space.
• Your kids toys do not need to be in your work space

4. Keep a Schedule:
• Get up in the morning when you normally do (or did)
• Get to your “office” the same time each day
• Get dressed (not just from the waist up)
• When you look good, you feel good and it changes your mindset and confidence
• Take meal breaks
• Get out of your “office” and don’t eat at your desk

5. Set boundaries:
• Let others know that you are working.
• If necessary, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door
• Start work at a specified time and end work, whenever possible, at a specified time
• Don’t get distracted by social media
• Check social media 3 x per day and set a limit for 5-10 minutes

6. Create systems:
• Filing
• Virtual and physical
• The two should mirror one another
• Follow up
• This is sooo important!
• To Do’s
• To keep yourself accountable

7. Communicate:
• Stay connected with colleagues
• Join or attend virtual networking groups
• Take time for education
• There are so many webinars, seminars and on-line training available

Organizing and COVID-19

I do hope that you and yours are staying safe, healthy and practicing social distancing.

I wanted to write a newsletter about something relevant but didn’t want to send yet another newsletter about “The Virus”.  I guess I just need to address it, like everyone else, so here goes BUT, as it relates to organizing.

I’m sure by now everyone is antsy, stressed out and wondering how and when will we go back to work and back to our normal lives. Will we go back to the way things were? If not, what will the changes look like, feel like, be like? I’m guessing handshaking will be a thing of the past but will we continue to wear masks and gloves? If so, for how long? There’s so many questions and nobody really has the answers yet. Hopefully it won’t be much longer before we all find out.

One thing I do know, is that no matter what happens there will always be things to organize. That will not change. Like Covid-19 (see how I manged to sneak that in?), organizing is something that is universal. Organizing is something that everyone will do at one point or another in their life for some reason or another. Organizing is something we do either because we want to or need to and we do so throughout our lives.

At this point in time, all over the world, people are looking for things to do to keep busy while we’re at home social distancing. A large percentage of articles that I’m reading now suggest some form of organization as part of the recommended “To Do” list both personally and professionally, while we have the time.      

FYI, it’s also time for Spring Cleaning as well so you might as well do something, anything, to get organized or better organized as the case may be. Check that off your list!

So, I hope these basic rules of thumb will help you when you decide to organize whatever it is that you want to or need to get organized:

1.Before you start, make sure to have all of your supplies ready. Make sure to have a trash can nearby and a box for donations. While there are so many great organizing products on the market, I like to at least try to use items that I already have. For example, you can use a lazy-Susan to make it easier to reach items stored under the sink. Use baskets for larger items. Small boxes or tupperware containers are great for containing small things. Of course, bins are always a good option as well but, if you do need to buy them, make sure they’re clear so you can see the contents. 

2.The first step is “always” to empty everything out completely. Yes, completely.  Everything out! This is important as it allows you to see everything. It also provides the opportunity to wipe it down. 

3.Now go through everything and purge! Toss out all true trash: anything that is ripped, soiled stained, expired, missing a piece. Of course, anything that you no longer need or use can be donated if it’s in good enough condition.

4.The next step is to sort everything into categories. Keep like items together. All lotions together, all hair products together, all grooming supplies together, paper clips, post-it notes. You get the idea.

5.Utilize your organizing supplies (bins, small boxes, baskets, etc.) to contain the items that are similar.

6.Let the fun begin: The fun part, at least for me, is putting everything back in an organized way. Make sure the things you use the most are accessible. The other, less used items, can go up higher or perhaps somewhere else. Things should be organized in a way that makes sense to you. Everyone has a different way so do what works for you.

7.Wherever possible, label the bins or other containers so that staying organized is easy for you and anyone else in the house. Most people use labels for words, however, consider using photos for the little ones so they can help maintain the systems you put in place.

For those of you who are do-it-yourselfers, I am offering virtual organizing consultations or sessions, if you are so inclined.

Recycling, Reusing, Re-purposing. What’s the Difference?

Recycling, Reusing and re-purposing. They kinda seem like the same thing right? Well, technically they’re not! They have some similarities but they’re also quite different. Here’s the scoop.Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects.  Recycling can prevent the waste of potentially useful materials and reduce consumption, thereby reducing energy usage, air pollution and water pollution. Wikipedia

Recycling is great. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about recycling as an option. But, its not necessarily the best option. While it’s great that we have found ways to turn our waste into something else, or even the same thing with recycled materials, it still requires a lot of energy. In other words, it’s better than sending things to the landfill, but recycling should be a last option, just before the garbage can and ultimately landfill.

For those of us who are environmentally conscious or looking for ways to better care for the planet, we need to get back to reusing and re-repurposing. Many commonly discarded items, the most common being clothing, are readily reusable in their current form.  So, instead of tossing an item in the trash can or recycling bin, consider other ways it might still be usable. If not to you, perhaps consider donating so that someone else can use it. 

When items can’t be reused, for example something that is broken and can’t be fixed for its original intended purpose, we need to find ways to re-purpose them. Re-purposing is the process by which an object with one use value is transformed or redeployed as an object with an alternative use value. Wikipedia

Here’s a few reasons why we all should reuse or re-purpose whenever possible:

1. It’s less expensive: We can reuse items like grocery bags, paper (use the other side), boxes, ribbons, wrapping paper, and packaging “peanuts”.  In the process, we save ourselves the cost having to buy these items. If you still want to/have to buy something, consider buying used items and save money. This too, will conserve resources and prevent them from winding up in the landfill.

2. It uses less energy: When we recycle, things have to be heated up, melted and reconstituted into whatever it becomes. So, a lot of energy is used when we recycle. That said, if items aren’t particularly useful to us anymore, we can find other people, who could use them. That’s when donation is a good option.

3. It causes less, or no, pollution: As I’ve already said above, recycling requires so much energy that it creates its own share of pollution. Reusing and re-purposing doesn’t create pollution. Items can be used as, perhaps for another purpose or by someone else without causing any further issues for the planet.

4. It encourages quality over quantity: When we know that we aren’t going to throw something away and buy a replacement, we are inclined to buy something of higher quality, something that will last and something we actually need. So when buying something new, make sure its made/built to last a long time.

5. It’s more responsible: Reusing and re-purposing gives us more control of the waste we create. It’s not just being tossed away and eventually going into landfill. This, in turn, makes us more conscious of having to deal with our stuff. More importantly, when we reuse and re-purpose, we are reducing our consumption.

6. It’s environmentally friendlier: Reusing and re-purposing is one small step toward creating a healthier environment. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t ever recycle, but we could all do a lot better. Shopping at secondhand stores is a great way to reuse and re-purpose. Donating those items you no longer need or want is a also great way to avoid creating unnecessary waste.

7. It’s a lot of fun: Re-purposing can be fun. Step out of your comfort zone and think of new ways to use old things. It shakes things up and gives things new life.

The options are limitless. Get creative and have fun. 

Top 5 Tips To Help You Deal With Paper

organize office and deskOne of the biggest organizing challenges for most people, at least those who hire us, is with paperwork. After doing this kind of work for 10 years, it seems that the common denominator is that most people don’t know what to do with paper. They don’t know where or how to file it or how long to keep it. As a result, people keep paperwork much longer than they need to. Then, when they run out of space, the overflow winds up in piles, in bags or boxes. 

 

The IRS has a paper retention guideline that you can use if you’re not sure whether you need a document or not. Here’s the link to their website: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/how-long-should-i-keep-records

 

The truth is, there’s only so many options when it comes to handling paper, “the right way”.  A filing system doesn’t need to be complicated.  It just needs to work for you. There is no right or wrong way. 

So, here’s a few tips to keep your paperwork under control and, hopefully organized. Disclaimer: These are a few examples-not a comprehensive list.

 

  1. TOSS:
  • Anything you don’t want or need
    • Solicitations, flyers, catalogues

 

  1. SHRED:
  • Documents that have your personal information (ie, an account number, birthdate, social security number, driver’s license number) 
    • Note: Your address does not count as that is available to the public
  • All credit card offers
  • Applications
  • Expired credit cards
  • Old checks from closed accounts

 

  1. ARCHIVE:
  • Anything that you need but don’t need access to currently
    • Old tax returns
    • Legal files that are closed/settled (ie, Divorce records)
    • Documents that pertain to the purchase or sale of property

Please refer to the link above to determine how long these documents need to be kept

 

  1. SCAN:
  • If you’re attempting to go paperless make sure you have a system so that you can find these documents when you need them
    • A good rule of thumb is to have your scanned documents filed on your computer the same way they are filed (labeled) in your physical file

 

     5.  SET UP ACTION FILES:

    • To Do: Papers that you need to make a call about. It could be a bill you’re disputing
    • To Pay: Bills that need to be paid
    • To Read: Articles of interest
    • Events: Tickets or invites
    • Follow up: Items that you are waiting for. For example, you already made a call and spoke to someone about an issue with a bill and now you’re waiting for a response.

 If you need some help, please give us a call.  We will help you implement a system tailored to your specific needs.

Tax Time Tips

  1. Gather all of your important papers in one place.
    • I use a bankers box for each year.  That way, when I can get rid of the papers for that year, which according to my CPA is 4 years, I can shred everything without going through it again.
    • Make sure to label the box (ie, 2019 Tax Documents) on all 4 sides so it’s easily identifiable
  1. Take out anything that is tax deductible to prepare your taxes. This information will be what you or your CPA uses to prepare your returns.  This varies depending on whether your filing as an individual or on behalf of a business.  Here’s a list of some items you’ll need:

Personal Information

Tax Identification Numbers are mandatory items on your tax prep checklist. All taxpayers will need the following information.

  •  Your social security number or tax ID number
  •  Your spouse’s full name and social security number or tax ID number

Dependent(s) Information

Parents and caregivers should gather this information as they review what they need to file their taxes.

  •  Dates of birth and social security numbers or tax ID numbers
  •  Childcare records (including the provider’s tax ID number) if applicable
  •  Income of other adults in your home
  •  Form 8332 showing that the child’s custodial parent is releasing their right to claim a child to you, the noncustodial parent (if applicable)

Sources of Income

Many of these forms won’t apply every year. For example, you will only receive the investment forms you may need to file your taxes if you had distributions or other activity.

  • Employed
    •  Forms W-2
  • Unemployed
    •  Unemployment, state tax refund (1099-G)
  • Self-Employed
    •  Forms 1099, Schedules K-1, income records to verify amounts not reported on 1099s
    •  Records of all expenses — check registers or credit card statements, and receipts
    •  Business-use asset information (cost, date placed in service, etc.) for depreciation
    •  Office in home information, if applicable
    •  Record of estimated tax payments made (Form 1040–ES)
  • Rental Income
    •  Records of income and expenses
    •  Rental asset information (cost, date placed in service, etc.) for depreciation
    •  Record of estimated tax payments made (Form 1040–ES)
  • Retirement Income
    •  Pension/IRA/annuity income (1099-R)
    •  Traditional IRA basis (i.e., amounts you contributed to the IRA that were already taxed)
    •  Social security/RRB income (1099-SSA, RRB-1099)
  • Savings & Investments or Dividends
    •  Interest, dividend income (1099-INT, 1099-OID, 1099-DIV)
    •  Income from sales of stock or other property (1099-B, 1099-S)
    •  Dates of acquisition and records of your cost or other basis in property you sold (if basis is not reported on 1099-B)
    •  Health Savings Account and long-term care reimbursements (1099-SA or 1099-LTC)
    •  Expenses related to your investments
    •  Record of estimated tax payments made (Form 1040–ES)
    •  Transactions involving cryptocurrency (Virtual currency)
  • Other Income & Losses
    •  Gambling income (W-2G or records showing income, as well as expense records)
    •  Jury duty records
    •  Hobby income and expenses
    •  Prizes and awards
    •  Trusts
    •  Royalty Income 1099–Misc.
    •  Any other 1099s received
    •  Record of alimony paid/received with ex-spouse’s name and SSN

Types of Deductions

The types of deductions you can take depend a lot on your life situation. It’s likely you won’t need all of the records listed below for your tax documents checklist.

  • Home Ownership
    •  Forms 1098 or other mortgage interest statements
    •  Real estate and personal property tax records
    •  Receipts for energy-saving home improvements (e.g., solar panels, solar water heater)
    •  All other 1098 series forms
  • Charitable Donations
    •  Cash amounts donated to houses of worship, schools, other charitable organizations
    •  Records of non-cash charitable donations
    •  Amounts of miles driven for charitable or medical purposes
  • Medical Expenses
    •  Amounts paid for healthcare insurance and to doctors, dentists, hospitals
  • Health Insurance
    •  Form 1095-A if you enrolled in an insurance plan through the Marketplace (Exchange)
  • Childcare Expenses
    •  Fees paid to a licensed day care center or family day care for care of an infant or preschooler
    •  Wages paid to a baby-sitter
      Don’t include expenses paid through a flexible spending account at work
  • Educational Expenses
    •  Forms 1098-T from educational institutions
    •  Receipts that itemize qualified educational expenses
    •  Records of any scholarships or fellowships you received
    •  Form 1098-E if you paid student loan interest
  • K-12 Educator Expenses
    •  Receipts for classroom expenses (for educators in grades K-12)
  • State & Local Taxes
    •  Amount of state/local income tax paid (other than wage withholding), or amount of state and local sales tax paid
    •  Invoice showing amount of vehicle sales tax paid
  • Retirement & Other Savings
    •  Form 5498-SA showing HSA contributions
    •  Form 5498 showing IRA contributions
    •  All other 5498 series forms (5498-QA, 5498-ESA)
  • Federally Declared Disaster
    •  City/county you lived/worked/had property in
    •  Records to support property losses (appraisal, clean up costs, etc.)
    •  Records of rebuilding/repair costs
    •  Insurance reimbursements/claims to be paid
    •  FEMA assistance information
    •  Check FEMA site to see if my county has been declared a federal disaster area
  1. Keep your tax return together with the backup documentation for 7 years. That means 7 years from the date of filing.   Keep in mind that we file the year after so if you file late, in October, then keep your records for 7 years from that date (ie., if you file October 2020 for the year 2019, keep your records until October 2027.

**NOTE:  NEVER throw out the actual “tax returns” unless you are already collecting Social Security.   Even though your CPA may advise you to keep your records for 4 or 7 years, PLEASE keep your tax returns. Why?  Because when you are ready to collect Social Security, the only proof you’ll have is your tax returns.  If there is a discrepancy in the amount that you’ll be receiving, the burden of proof is yours.  The Social Security Administration, The IRS and The FTB are NOT responsible to keep or have your information.  You are!   Therefore, IMO, better safe than sorry