Archive for November 2015

Home Improvement Tips


home improvement tipsWe all think about home improvement from time to time. We would love to remodel our kitchens or bathrooms, add on a room or expand to our outdoor spaces with decks and patios. Here are some tips for doing home improvement that will add resale value to your home.

  • Refurbish the basement. If your home has a basement, don’t leave it as empty space. Remodel it to add a recreation room or home theater. Any addition of enclosed heated or cooled space adds resale value.
  • Add on a deck. A space to relax and enjoy cool drinks. A homeowner who adds a deck will likely recoup around 75% of their money back when they sell. But mind the size. Most appraisers will compare your home to similar ones in the neighborhood. So “keeping up with the Joneses” might be the way to go.
  • Major master bath remodel. Turning your last decade bath into a updated future decade bath is where its at. Add some space if you can find it. His/hers sinks and vanities are always a good sell. Update your tub, shower and tile.
  • Paint those walls! Most prospective buyers want to be able to visual their stuff in your home. One way to help is by painting the walls a neutral base color. Consult a professional for color selections if you need help. Hire a pro painter if you can’t do it yourself.
  • Attic space. If you have some large open attic space why not create a bedroom or hobby room in it. Add value with recessed windows, built-ins, hardwood flooring and some window seating.
  • Expand upward. If you can’t go outward, go upward. Even out the look of your house by adding a second story over the garage or a flat-roofed area. This will create additional square footage (heated/cooled) and add resale value.
  • Keep room options open. We all want to make our home ours but what happens if a room becomes too custom. Buyers often can’t see beyond highly customized areas. So make sure the room is flexible and can be changed easily.
  • Revitalize your kitchen. Kitchens sell houses so investing a bit or a lot of money in this room will get you value. Buyers today expect to see stainless steel appliances and draw pulls and knobs. Add some new lighting and maybe some tile and you have a nice updated space.
  • Minor bathroom changes count. If you can’t afford a big remodel then consider replacing your dated tub, toilet, sink and/or tile. Maybe change out the old “surround” for a tile wall and floor. Even minor changes can reinvigorate your spaces.
  • Last but not least, replace your siding. By updating your siding, you will increase the first impression a prospective buyer will get when they look at your home. If the siding and trim look bad, then you get the label of fixer-upper. Not a good resale title.



Energy Efficient Home

Did you know that making your home energy efficient increases the value?
energy efficient home

Image courtesy of khunaspix at

According to one study, making no cost/low cost changes can boost your home’s value $18,000. Why not implement some of the following suggestions to make your home more energy efficient?

  1. Lower the thermostat on your water heater. If your hot tap water is too hot to touch, lower the temperature a few degrees.
  2. Check for air leaking around doors and windows. A lot of the air you pay to heat or cool escapes through unsealed doors and windows. Install or replace worn weather stripping. Replace broken or missing storm doors.
  3. Keep heat producers far from your thermostat in summer. Floor lamps and televisions can significantly raise the
    temperature in the area near a thermostat, turning on your air conditioner too often.
  4. Clean your furnace and air conditioner filters. Replace existing dirty air conditioner or furnace filters. During heavy use periods, replacement is recommended every 30 days.
  5. Operate large appliances during low-use periods in summer. Use your washer and dryer and other heat-producers
    early in the morning or late at night. Use the air-dry method on your dishwasher to save energy.
  6. Request an energy audit. Contact your local utility company to request a free energy audit. Most electric and gas companies will check for proper insulation, find cracks in the eaves or roof that could leak energy, and make
    recommendations for improvements. Some electric companies offer low-cost financing for such improvements. Also ask about energy conservation programs such as Gulf power’s Energy Select. They offer three different levels of cost based on usage periods during the day.
  7. Replace existing insulation. A proper barrier keeps heat and cold from penetrating your home’s exterior and provides for
    even temperatures between rooms. The EPA recently reported that proper ceiling insulation may reduce electric bills 20%.
  8. Replace existing appliances. Replace old appliances with Energy Star rated appliances, specifically created to optimize energy consumption. If your budget limits you to replacing one appliance, buy a new refrigerator; a new model could knock off 25% of your electric bill.
  9. Replace your incandescent or CFL lightbulbs with new LED lights. LEDs run for a year or more on what an incandescent spends in a month.
  10. Contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding EEM Mortgages. EEMs provide benefits to borrowers purchasing a home that is energy efficient, or can be made efficient with improvements.

Home Maintenance Tips

Plumbing, Fixtures and Appliances

water-kitchen-black-designWater damage in your house is both hazardous to your health and costly to repair. The following list will help you maintain your homes plumbing and keep your house dry, from either man made or natural water problems.

  • Check water hoses and connections
  • Check dishwasher hoses for leaks
  • Check toilet supply/shut-off valve
  • Clean & check refrigerator drip pan and/or ice-maker connections
  • Check shower/tub surrounds for signs of damage including mold or mildew
  • check traps and drains under sinks, tubs and showers for leaks
  • Check hot water heater for leaks
  • Check boiler for leaks
  • Check water main/meter or well pump for leaks or sweating
  • Clean septic tank
  • Check garage, driveways and other outdoor areas for water damage
  • Ensure that water is not pooling near the house and drains properly
  • Check the attic for leaks or water damage
  • Look for leaks by window and door sills
  • Clean and maintain gutters and downspouts, ensuring water flows away from the house



Homeowner Tax Tips

Home Office – Is your home office Tax Deductible?

tax benefits for homeownersYou can deduct certain expenses if your home office is the principal place where your trade or business is conducted or where you meet and deal with clients or patients in the course of your business. Your home office will qualify as your principal place of business if you use it exclusively and regularly for the administrative or management activities associated with your trade or business. There must be no other fixed place where you conduct substantial administrative or management activities.

Generally, the amount you can deduct depends on the percentage of your home used for business. Your deduction will be limited if your gross income from your business is less than your total business expenses.

Here are some basic facts to consider if you work at home:

$ A home office may qualify for deductions if you use it for administrative or management activities of your trade or business if there is no other fixed location to conduct such activities.

$ The home office deduction is available to you whether you rent or own.

$ If you rent, figuring your home office deduction is relatively simple. Just multiply your annual rent payment by the percentage of the total space occupied by the office. That prorated portion can also be applied to utilities, insurance, repairs and maintenance.

$ There are limitations to home office deductions based on your income. The taxpayer must be able to itemize deductions, using Schedule A. The home office deductions – along with other miscellaneous deductions – must exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income.

$ If home office deductions exceed net self-employment income, those deductions may be carried forward to the next year, again, only if the self-employed has sufficient net income.

$ For telecommuters, the business use of an employee’s home must be for the convenience of the employer, and the employee must not be renting the office space to the employer.

5 Tips for Understanding Home-Office Deductions
tax benefits for homeowners

Tax Savings

  • Take advantage of every legal opportunity to reduce your taxes. Recent changes in the law benefit business owners who use their homes as an administrative and  management base but work at other locations.
  • Ask your tax professional to analyze your business regularly so you don’t miss  important deductions.
  • Document deductible items. These usually include such costs as computers and other
    equipment, telephone charges, furnishings, and prorated portions of rent, utilities and home insurance. You may not deduct expenses for lawn care or those related to rooms not used for business.
  • If you are a homeowner, discuss with your tax adviser whether or not to take a depreciation deduction for the office space.
  • For detailed information, go to the Internal Revenue Service website, and download IRS Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home.
If You’ve Got It, Deduct It… Maybe

tax benefits for homeownersRunning a home-based business can offer many beneficial tax deductions that other businesses sometimes may not claim. Unfortunately, too many small business owners end up paying extra taxes every year because they are unaware of several small business deductions that are available.

Each business may be different, however, so be sure to discuss any possible deductions with
your tax adviser or accountant.

$ If you join any business or purchase into any franchise, the expenses, such as kits or  franchise fees, may be claimed as deductions.

$ Be sure to save all receipts for any supplies you purchase for your business use. Computer  paper, business cards, pens, catalogs, or any other items you purchase and use for your business.

$ Most advertising and giveaways can be claimed on your taxes. Keep all receipts for any newspaper ads or any advertising you do online.

$ If you have a phone line or internet connection for business use, save all receipts for each bill paid.

$ If you incur fees from customers’ bounced checks, those amounts may be deductible. Be sure to keep the returned check, the letter from your bank and your bank statement to show the fees you were charged.

$ Keep receipts for all shipping supplies and postage.

$ Computers, copiers and fax machines may also be deductible.


Tax Benefits for Homeowners


5 Star GuaranteeWe all know the old adage about nothing being certain except death and taxes. However, on a more positive note, you can also be certain of tax benefits if, that is, you are a homeowner.

Purchasing a home can provide valuable tax savings to home buyers. Mortgage interest, property tax, and other payments associated with financing a home can apply to your tax deductions. They may decrease the amount of income tax you must pay to the federal government.

Another financial advantage to owning a home is that as you begin to pay off your mortgage
loan, you build equity in your property. In other words, the value of your home can increase as your total mortgage amount decreases over time.

Additional Advantages of Home Ownership
  • Scheduled Savings: When you are a homeowner, your monthly mortgage payments serve as a type of savings plan. Over time you will accumulate what lenders call “equity,” an ownership interest in your house that you may be able to borrow against or convert to cash by selling the house.
  • Stable Housing Costs: While rents typically increase year after year, the principal and interest portion of most mortgage payments remains unchanged for the entire repayment period. Because of the effect of inflation, you pay the same amount with ever “cheaper” dollars.
  • Increased Value: Houses typically increase in value over time. It’s not unusual for a house that sold fifteen years ago to be valued at much more than its selling price today. This increased value is as good as money in the bank to the homeowner.

Landscape Lighting Tips


landscape lighting tipsSuccessful outdoor lighting is important. Lighting around your home is for security, to help prevent accidents and to add to your curb appeal. Appraisers have stated that investing in the right outdoor lighting can get you a 50 percent return on your money when you are ready to sell.

So now that we have established that lighting is important here are some tips for lighting that I think you can use.

  • Highlight trees in your yard. Illuminate them from below or place a light in the tree itself, either way lighting trees is a stunning effect.
  • Up lights. When used in moderation, up lighting is a good, dramatic way to highlight landscaping or architectural features around your home. Up lighting is surprising.
  • Focus central. Use lighting to create a focal point for your home such as the entryway. Let the light draw people in.
  • Beauty and function. Break up that runway look along your walkway by adding pointed lighting in plantings near the walkway instead.
  • Use different fixtures. We are all used to seeing spotlights and floodlights, but some landscape designers will use step lights, area lights, post light or bollards.
  • Warm light accents. Instead of having Christmas all year long opt for the standard warm white lights. Show off the accents of your yard and home instead of providing a light show.
  • Control the effect. Use timers and plan which areas of your landscape is lighted and for how long. Set the timer to turn off at midnight so that just the security lighting remains active.

landscape lighting tipsNow this might seem like a lot of lights and you are thinking that the cost could be through the roof but you can now take advantage of LED lighting. LEDs are dropping in price and are cheaper to run per year than incandescent lights. You also have the alternative of using solar powered spots and floods. They will collect battery power through the day and turn off when the battery is depleted. There has been improvement in photovoltaic cells and battery options.

Another option is to use hybrid lighting where the steady light is an LED but when motion is detected it turns to an incandescent for brighter temporary lighting.

Most if not all of these lighting options can be found at your local home improvement center if you are a DIYer. If not, I can get you a recommendation for a professional landscape contractor that can get you an estimate for placing lighting around your yard.

Emcee Arah – “the REALTOR with Architectural Dimension” – is both a Certified Distress Property Expert (CDPE) and a Certified Investor Agent Specialist (CIAS). He is uniquely equipped to assist you in navigating the residential real estate market in DC and the Maryland suburbs. Contact us by phone at (301) 452-5252. And don’t forget to leave your comments below, or on our Facebook page – we’d love to hear from you!


How Much Is Your Home Worth?


what's my home worthWhen getting ready to place your home on the market, finding out what your home is worth is one major essential in determining the asking price of your home. As your local Real Estate agent, I can assist you in finding out your home’s value. Today, we are providing some helpful tips on how to find out your home’s value before you place it on the market.

  • Hiring a professional appraiser is a great way to get an idea of your home’s value. Even if you don’t plan to sell right away.

what's my home worthHiring an appraiser can help you and your Realtor make a decision on what the asking price should be for your home when you do decide to place it on the market. Generally, the cost to have your home appraised is based on the size of your home. Ask your Realtor for a recommended professional appraiser.

Your home’s value is also based on your location so attending other open houses in your neighborhood can give you an idea of what your neighbors are listing as their asking price. Although what your neighbor has as their asking price is not going to necessarily reflect what you should place as the asking price of your home but it does allow you to gain data and info to compare it to your home.

Lastly, ask your Realtor if he or she can provide you a CMA report, comparative market analysis. The CMA report is essential when it comes to determining what you are going to list your home for. The CMA report will allow to you to compare your home value to similar homes for sale in your area but also homes that have similar features as your home such as square footage, year built, and location. We have available on our website a Home Market Evaluation tool. Using a few details, you can get an accurate report of the market activity in your neighborhood.


These are just a few of the steps you will complete to find your home value. We always recommend asking your professional Real Estate agent to assist you. He or she is an expert in these areas and is going to work with you to make sure that you list your home for the best asking price possible.

Emcee Arah and his team of professionals have a comprehensive understanding of the current real estate market in in Silver Spring, Maryland and the Washington, DC Metroplex. Team EMA’s 25-point marketing strategy customizable to each Seller, is one of the signature tools for their many years of exceptional customer service in real estate. The mark of excellence combined with a reputation for integrity has earned his team distinction amongst the most trusted Realtors in Montgomery County, MD.