Thursday, January 28, 2010

Were You a First Time Homebuyer in 2009?

Were you a first-time homebuyer in 2009?  When you get around to doing your taxes this Spring, do you know what IRS will need from you in order to get your tax credit? 

According to the IRS website,  there are five items you need to have in order to verify the details of your home purchase for the purpose of getting your tax credit.  They are:

  • A copy of the final closing contract (HUD-1 Statement)
  • A copy of your most recent monthly mortgage statement 
  • If the home was newly constructed, a copy of the occupancy permit

Plus two of the following four items:

  • Copy of your current drivers license showing home address
  • Copy of a recent pay statement showing your name and home address
  • Copy of a recent bank statement showing your name and home address
  • Copy of a current auto registration showing your name and home address
So, get your records in order, homebuyers, and enjoy the one-time benefit you are receiving.  And, welcome to the club of home-OWNERS!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Maintaining Your Kitchen Countertops from the DIY Network

From the DIY Network comes an excellent article about maintaining your kitchen countertops .   The article addresses the three most common types of countertops: plastic laminate tops, solid surface  and natural stone countertops.

Plastic Laminate Countertops
These are fairly easy to maintain, and therefore to increase their appearance and life.  Common sense tips like: wipe off spots and spills with a damp cloth and mild soap.  Don't allow water to stand on the seams or on the backsplash.  Don't use the countertop as a cutting board.  Be careful of cigarette burns, or damage from anything else that is hot that touches the tops.  Re-apply caulk as needed to keep out water penetration.

Solid Surface Countertops
Clean up spills immediately, but don't use abrasive pads.  Dry the top after cleaning.  Do not put hot items directly on the surface.  Don't use the surface as a cutting board.  Do not allow acetones, such as are found in paint cleaners and nail polish, to come in contact with the surface.

Natural Stone Countertops
Clean regularly with soap and water, but don't use abrasive pads. Wipe dry after cleaning.  Dust the countertop regularly.  Repair chips, scratches, burns and stains following the manufacturer's instructions.  Check to see if you should have your stone countertops sealed to prevent staining.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

San Antonio Area Companies Are On the "Best to Work For" List

Three San Antonio area companies are ranked in the "100 Best Companies to Work For" list from Fortune Magazine.  A relatively new company, NuStar Energy LP is ranked at No. 21, while nearby New Braunfels company Scooter Store is ranked No. 38, and San Antonio insurance giant USAA is ranked No. 45.  The score is determined by a random survey of employees and the pay, benefits, hiring, communication and diversity of the company.

NuStar showers employees with no-cost health insurance for them and their families, and an old fashioned pension plan.  Full time turnover is a low 3%!

The Scooter Store practices celebrations for employees, including quarterly pep rallies and daily birthday parties.  40% of employees are salespeople who earn commissions based on their performance.

USAA boasts top of the line benefits such as a 401(k) match of up to 8% of pay and performance bonuses up to 18% of pay for their almost 22,000 employees.

Congratulations for these three fine area companies in the Alamo City area!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Do's and Don'ts for Maintaining Your Kitchen Cabinets

The Do It Yourself Network has some great tips for maintaining your kitchen cabinets.  Whether you are getting your San Antonio home ready to sell, or just wanting to keep your cabinets looking like new,  follow these easy steps.

Do inspect the caulk around sinks and backsplashes to prevent water damage to cabinets.
Do clean knobs and drawer pulls using mild soap and warm water.  Dry with a soft cloth.

Do lubricate and adjust drawer slides periodically.  Use a little silicone spray lubricant.
Do lubricate and adjust door hinges.
Do tighten loose knobs or pulls.

Don't put wet dishes in cabinets - dry thoroughly before putting them away.

Don't clean cabinets with harsh abrasives.

Don't hang wet dishcloths on the edge of the countertop or on cabinet doors or drawers.

The DIY article also gives specific tips for wood cabinets and plastic laminate cabinets.  Check it out!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

San Antonio Housing Forecast for 2010

On Monday, Jan 4th, local San Antonio Realtors, builders, developers, and other experts, gathered to hear the predictions for the 2010 San Antonio housing market.   They describe their outlook for new housing starts and closings as cautiously optimistic, expecting it to be as good or better than the '09 market.  Fueling the optimism is the expectation of an influx of jobs into San Antonio in the coming year.

In 2009, San Antonio housing starts and closings dropped 18% and 25% from the previous year.  But by the end of the year, the market showed signs of bottoming out, leaving builders and developers anticipating a much better year.  Currently San Antonio has a healthy inventory of available homes, and about 2,000 homes under construction, making us one of the top housing markets in the United States.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

REALTOR® Magazine-Daily News-Sellers Should List Homes Early

REALTOR® Magazine-Daily News-Sellers Should List Homes Early

The message here from the nation's realtor organizations is that in order to reach the homebuyers who are looking to take advantage of the tax incentive for purchasing a new home, home sellers should be putting their homes on the market NOW, and not wait until Spring.  The incentive ends April 30th, so unless it is extended again, the homes need to go under contract by late March, and the buyers should be out house shopping soon to find the best deals. 

Traditionally home sellers wait until March or April to list their homes, hoping to move after school is out in late May or early June.  That pattern will not work with the tax incentive deadline.  So if you are thinking of moving up, moving down, or just moving, you should contact a Realtor very soon to get your home out there for buyers to find.  The number of homes on the market will surely increase as the year progresses, so the competition gets tougher later.  Don't wait!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"River Walk cleanup is a drag for tourists"

No, they don't drain the San Antonio River along the famed Riverwalk looking for lost tourists!  It is a drag for those who chose to visit the Riverwalk in January because that is the time the city annually drains the river to give the river bottom a good cleaning.  In an article in the San Antonio Express News, reporter Vianna Davila tells the story of the annual ritual.

The scene could break a tourist’s heart.  The San Antonio River Walk — normally full of water and its walkways usually flush with visitors — was decidedly empty Monday afternoon.  “We were a bit disappointed,” admitted Betsy Price, visiting with her husband from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.  They had wanted to take a nice river stroll and only later realized they’d arrived in town just in time for the annual river draining.  “But you know,” Price said, “it has to be done.”

It’s a tradition visitors and businesses owners along the River Walk have no choice but to accept. The city drains the river for an annual cleanup every January, in which workers remove trash and debris that has accumulated over the year — tables, chairs, silverware and cell phones — plus check the drainage system to ensure its functionality.  “There’s a lot of very surprised people,” said Kent Oliver, a supervisor at Rio San Antonio Cruises, a company that provides river barge tours.  During one previous cleanup, the river clearly drained of any water, one visitor asked Oliver if they could still get a boat ride later that evening. 

Workers started draining the river around midnight Sunday, a process that takes about 24 hours to finish, said April Hernandez, public relations manager for the city’s Public Works Department.  The river should be refilled by Jan. 14, Hernandez said.  This year’s cleanup is several days longer than previous efforts because workers are also removing sediment that has built up along the river bottom in the south loop and extension; next year, the north loop will be cleaned. The project is the first of its kind on the River Walk, Hernandez said. 

While some tourists lament the water’s disappearance, businesses along the river took the opportunity to spruce up.  Oliver and his coworkers were busy Monday touching up the handrails beside their ticket booth with green spray paint. Down river, workers painted outside chairs and tables at the Republic of Texas restaurant; they are closed until Friday. 

But the cleanup endeavor is not without setbacks: on Monday afternoon, a track loader scooping out silt in front of Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub suddenly found itself stuck in the very mud it was trying to remove.  A larger, front-end loader arrived and tried to pull the smaller loader out with a chain, while tourists along the walk gawked and snapped photos.  A dazzled 7-year-old Nolan Borkowski, visiting with his family from Austin, stared at the giant machine, hunched over like a defeated yellow giant. A puzzled Nolan asked why would anyone put a crane in the water?  “It’s an attraction in itself to see the river drained,” said his mother, Julie Borkowski, who had already brought her family to the river Sunday night for one last-minute barge ride. 
But the transformed waterway, unfortunately, did not quite satisfy Nolan’s taste.  “When it was full of water, it was like a beautiful river,” he said. And now? “It’s not as beautiful as it was.”