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Happy Fourth of July everyone!  Today, we are taking a day off to be with family and remember those who fought to establish our independence as a free country!

Homes for sale in spring TX

This morning, I walked outside to snap a few photos of our US Flag which is provided by our local Klein High School band for their annual flag fundraiser.  I got to thinking about the proper ways to display and care for the American flag, and I thought I’d share those guidelines here.

The official flag code pdf can be found and downloaded here.  The pdf is fairly tedious to read, so we’ll share some of the highlights here.

•  Display the U.S. flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in the open. When a patriotic effect is desired the flag may be displayed 24-hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

•  On special days, the flag may be flown at half-staff. On Memorial Day it is flown at half-staff until noon and then raised.

•  When the flag is displayed on a car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.

•  All persons present in uniform (military, police, fire, etc.) should render the military salute. Members of the armed forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute.

•  All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.

•  Don’t let the flag touch the ground.

•  Don’t carry the flag flat, or carry things in it.

•  Don’t use the flag as clothing.

•  Don’t fasten it or tie it back. Always allow it to fall free.

•  Don’t use the flag for decoration. Use bunting with the blue on top, then white, then red.

When storing or disposing of the flag, do the following:

•  Fold in the traditional triangle for stowage, never wadded up.

•  The VFW offers the following instructions for properly disposing of a worn flag:

  • The flag should be folded in its customary manner.
  • It is important that the fire be fairly large and of sufficient intensity to ensure complete burning of the flag.
  • Place the flag on the fire.
  • The individual(s) can come to attention, salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and have a brief period of silent reflection.
  • After the flag is completely consumed, the fire should then be safely extinguished and the ashes buried.
  • Please make sure you are conforming to local/state fire codes or ordinances.

Thanks for stopping by our blog.  Have a Happy and Safe Independence Day!

Chris and Vera

 

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As we sell more and more homes and go through the process of staging and photographing a home, I see just how important it is to help the homeowner prepare their home to sell.  I must admit that I, along with many others, love home decor, and my Pinterest boards and Houzz idea books are full of inspirational photos.  But, the reality is, most of us don’t have interior designers on retainer, and most of us have homes that are lived in and are not quite photo ready.

As a photographer, the first step I take in helping a homeowner get their house ready to show, is to open up the curtains and blinds and let the light shine in!!!  In my humble opinion, that’s the most important step in getting potential buyers in the door.  The current trend is light, bright, and in many cases, white open spaces.  The trend of dark, rich tones is slowly giving way to the lighter hues.

I found a fantastic article from a Realtor.org blog and I wanted to share it here.  If you look closely at the before and after photo, you’ll see that for the most part, the homeowner’s furniture is all the same.  A few accessories and lamps have been added and/or replaced.  The stager, Patti Stearn, simply replaced the rug, rearranged the furniture a bit, and then photographed the room from an appealing, symmetrical perspective.  Same room, totally fresh update!

PattiStern_beforeandafterPhoto credit: PJ & Company team in Irvington, NY

I’d like to mention a few details that I think make a nice, updated addition.  First, in the ‘After’ photo, note the glass lamps.  I’ve been noticing lots of clean, glass accessories.  These accessories are easy to find at many discount retailers.  My personal favorite retailer is Tuesday Morning.  HomeGoods, Marshall’s and TJ Maxx are also great retailers that carry fresh, trendy accessories that won’t break the bank!

Second, notice the addition of the mirror over the mantle.  When staging your home for sale, remove art that is either dated or taste specific.  Mirrors are always a great accessory for a key, focal point, such as over the mantle.  In the above photo, the stager simply moved the original art to the secondary wall facing the mantle.

After reading this article I’m inspired to update a few of the rooms in my own home!  If you are thinking of selling your home, call Chris and Vera to help you stage, photograph, and sell your home quickly!  281-974-8979

See the original article written by Melissa Tracey for Realtor.org below.  You can find the link the article here.  Excuse me while I run out and find some accessories to update my own house!

My Favorite Staging Accessory: Rugs

Go-to prop: Rugs

Stager: Patti Stern, PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, Cheshire, Conn.

Why I love it: “One of my favorite accessories is rugs — in all shapes and sizes. Rugs are great for staging because they can dress up any space. We sometimes even layer rugs over existing carpeting to play down flaws and update an all sea of beige carpeting. Rugs can anchor furniture and often better showcase hardwood floors.”

Make it work tips:

1. When staging a room, look for a modern neutral rug that goes with the décor, such as organic rugs like sisal for under a kitchen table or even with a colored border.

‪2. If there is hardwood don’t go too big with the rug. Try a 5×7 under a kitchen or small dining table when there is hardwood to add color.

3. Don’t use too many patterns. Think about the rug when the room will be photographed. You don’t want it to overwhelm the photo. When in doubt, use a neutral beige rug that will make the photo and the room pop.

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You may have heard the expression, ‘…take time to stop and smell the roses…’.  While I’m not sure where the quote originated, I assume it means we should slow down and take time to enjoy life, nature, etc.

Years ago I fancied myself a rose gardner and I collected and grew a variety of long-stemmed hybrid tea roses.  I was a young mom who had stopped working to stay at home, and I thought I had plenty of time to tend to my garden.  I purchased many books (we didn’t have Kindles or ipads yet) and read everything I could on roses.  I tended the garden and I loved the fragrant smell of fresh cut roses in my home.

As soon as my daughter took her first steps, I quickly spent less time in my garden and more time chasing an active toddler.

Today, I have busy teenagers and a real estate business with my husband, and my willingness to spend time in the hot, Houston heat prevents me from taking on gardening projects. But recently my husband helped me plant Knockout Roses in our yard.  They seem to require little to no maintenance, and the double bloom varieties provide vibrant color throughout much of the season.

Whether you stop to smell the roses or not, if you have roses in your landscape you may want to take a quick look at them and see if they need any pruning, if you haven’t already. Typically, it’s best to prune before Spring in late January or early February (depending on your climate), but if you are like me and you have the popular Knockout Roses, you may have just let them ‘do their thing’ and assume they are a no-maintenance landscape plant.  (I am guilty as charged!)  It is recommended to prune the rose shrubs each year to remove dead branches and encourage healthy new growth.  The plant will bloom off of new growth, so a little pruning allows the plant to spend its energy sending up new, healthy stems and buds.

As I was enjoying the blooms on my Knockout Roses this week, I noticed some strange tall stems that looked a little different from the other stems on the plants.   (See photo below) After a little bit of online reading, I learned that Knockout Roses, like many other rose varieties, are sometimes grafted onto a rootstock.  If you are not familiar with the concept of grafted roses, grafting means that a plant is grafted, or grown, onto a more hearty rootstock.  (Here is a great explanation of grafted roses.)  So this led me to look a little closer to determine if these strange stems were suckers, or stems that grow from below the graft, or if they are just a more hearty, fast-growing stem.  Upon inspection, it does look like my Knockout Roses may be grafted, and I may have a few suckers growing from below the graft.  So I will dig a little deeper to confirm and prune the sucker stem as close to the bottom as I possibly can.  I will also continue to watch for more suckers and prune them as they pop up.

Knockout Roses

Knockout-Rose-Suckers

I suppose that with a carefree plant like the Knockout, the sucker stems may not pose that much of a problem other than draining the overall plant and preventing more healthy growth.  Many of the suckers I’ve seen in my garden seem perfectly green with healthy blooms.  But then I found this:

Knockout-Rose-Prune

Uh oh, that doesn’t look normal.  Back to the internet!

I found this article that told me this sickly stem is not a good thing!  Oh no!  I’ll prune this stem and remove it immediately and watch the surrounding plants and hope that this disease doesn’t spread.

Although I really don’t want to spend a lot of time outside in the heat working in the garden, I’ve learned that it is important to take a little time each week or at least each month and take a look at your plants.  Do the leaves look healthy?  Do the colors of the leaves and plants look right?  Yellow leaves or misshapen leaves or blooms may indicate a problem.  Unusual growth patterns may also indicate that something may be amiss.  Also, if a fungus or pest works its way into your garden unnoticed, you may end up losing many more plants because the fungus can spread quickly to other plans in your landscape!

Disclaimer:  I am not an expert, so if you think you may have a similar problem as I have described, take a photo with your phone and go to a reputable nursery and ask the experts!  In fact, I recommend buying plants only from a reputable nursery.  I’ve often purchased plants at the cheaper, discount nurseries and I’ve received little to no advice or care instructions.  But when I’ve purchased plants from a reputable nursery with experts on staff, I’ve always received excellent instructions and advice and they are happy to help me if I come back and need to ask questions about the plants I’ve purchased.  Also, I’ve now learned that I should ask the nursery if the roses I purchase are grafted or not.  Then I’ll know if I have to watch for suckers.

Check back in a few weeks, and I’ll be posting more about my Knockout Roses.  I’ll be pruning them a bit and I’ll talk a bit about the benefits of pruning spent blooms during the season.  I’ll also share with you what I learn as I go!  I’ve noticed a few yellow leaves and some spots on other shrubs that may need attention!  Stay tuned…..

 

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Spring TX RealtorsWe came across this article from Realtor Magazine and we definitely want to share this information with everyone!

We also want to assure anyone who works with us that we will help you every step of the way during the home-buying process.  We have developed a network of experts who live and work here in the greater Houston area to help you along the way.  Whether you need a mortgage or inspections, or even legal advice, we can provide referrals for local experts whom you can meet with in person.

If you ever need help buying or selling your home, call Chris and Vera and we will meet with you in person!  Get to know the people you do business with and always be wary of sharing personal, financial information over email or internet.  We take client confidentiality very seriously!

Article shared below:

A Warning to Your Buyers: Closing Scam

The Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of REALTORS® issued a warning to consumers to be mindful of a growing mortgage closing phishing scam that could leave buyers with no down payment.

Avoid Falling Victim to a Phishing Scheme

The FTC provides some of the following tips:

  • Never e-mail your financial information. E-mail is not considered secure.
  • Check the security of the website. For any financial information you provide over the web, check that the site is secure. The URL should begin with https.
  • Watch what you click on. Do not click a link in an e-mail to go to an organization’s site. Instead, look up the real URL and type it into the web address yourself.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading any files from e-mails.
  • Make sure your operating system, browser, and security software are up-to-date.

Source: FTC

In the warning, FTC and NAR say that scammers are hacking into the e-mail accounts of consumers and real estate professionals in order to access information about the closing date. The hackers will then send an e-mail to the buyer and pose as the real estate professional or title company. In the e-mail, hackers will say there’s been a “last minute change” to the wiring instructions for the funds for closing. They will then instruct the buyers to send the funds to a different account, which really belongs to them.

A buyers’ bank account could be cleared out in a “matter of minutes,” and they aren’t likely to get it back, according to the FTC.

“If you’re buying a home and get an e-mail with money-wiring instructions, STOP,” the FTC posted in its bulletin. “E-mail is not a secure way to send financial information, and your real estate professional or title company should know that.”

NAR is working with the Federal Trade Commission to warn consumers about this latest scam targeting buyers during closing.

“Buyers should be wary of sending financial information over e-mail, downloading attachments, or responding to e-mail requests to wire money in a real estate transaction,” warns NAR President Tom Salomone.

Source: “Homebuyer Beware: FTC, REALTORS® Issue Warning on Mortgage Closing Cost Phishing Scheme,” HousingWire (March 18, 2016) and Federal Trade Commission

 

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Homes for rent in spring tx
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Thinking of renting your home?  Here is a helpful article from the RE/MAX Housing blog.

6 Considerations Before Turning Your Home into a Rental

Sometimes moving out doesn’t necessarily mean moving on. If you need to relocate but aren’t ready to sell your home, you may be thinking about renting out your home.

Beyond considering how much equity you have in your home, the market forecast for real estate in your neighborhood, your savings and other financial factors, here are some things to ponder if you’re thinking about becoming a landlord.

1. Make sure you can legally rent your home
Check your mortgage to see whether there are restrictions on renting. If you have an FHA-backed mortgage, for instance, you won’t be able to turn your property into a rental. The federal loan program is meant for borrowers who are buying a home to live in it. The only way around FHA restrictions on rentals is to refinance and convert to a traditional mortgage. This requires having a certain amount of equity in your home – sometimes 20 percent or more. Also, check with your HOA or review your neighborhood covenants to see if there are any restrictions on rentals there. Some do not allow rentals, others have restrictions on the length of rental agreement, and others charge additional fees if you rent out your home.

2. Check into the local rental market
Contact a trusted real estate agent and a professional property manager to get a feel for the current rental market in your neighborhood. Ask them about the demand for rentals and any local market conditions that may affect future demand for rental units. While you have them on the phone, be sure to also ask about the local real estate market. The information can help you compare the benefits of renting out your property vs. selling it.

3. Talk to your tax accountant
Depending on where you live and your financial situation, renting out your home can impact your taxes, especially if you’re planning on selling it in the future. For example, you may be required to pay capital gains taxes on the proceeds from the eventual sale if you don’t live in the home for at least two of five years prior to selling it. Of course, this is just one possible scenario. Let a professional tax accountant walk you through your specific tax situation.

4. Look into the law
Becoming a landlord is about more than collecting rent. You’re still responsible for repairs and maintenance, and you’ll be required to continue carrying homeowner’s insurance on the property. It may even be advisable to increase your liability coverage. Another thing to keep in mind is that although you’ll still own the home, you don’t have the right to come and go as you please. Check the laws in your area regarding how much notice you must provide before stopping by. Each state has a different set of laws governing landlord-tenant relationships.

5. Consider a property management company
Will you be living far from your rental unit? Traveling often? Or, are you a complete pushover when it comes to things like collecting late fees? If so, think about using a property management company to handle your rental. For about 10 percent of the monthly rent, a property management company will handle tasks like screening potential tenants, collecting rent, evicting tenants and arranging repairs (you’ll still have to pay for repairs in addition to the monthly management fee).

6. Your new housing needs
Whether you ultimately decide to rent your current home or sell it, you’re moving on and need to find your next place. Be sure to connect with a real estate agent early in the process who can help you find your next home in the area where you’re headed.

Not sure if renting or selling is best for you? Call Chris and Vera and we can help you weigh your options.  (281) 974-8979

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