The Julie Pogue Properties Louisville KY Real Estate Blog

Kitchen Trends 2015!

The Contemporary Kitchen: 10 Top Trends for 2015

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine 

NKBA_kitchen

Photo Credit: National Kitchen & Bath Association

Contemporary is the buzzword when it comes to kitchen designs this year, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association. Streamlined designs, eclectic touches, and multiples of appliances lead the trends, according to NKBA’s 2015 forecast.

Here are the top 10 overall kitchen design trends expected to be hot this year, according to NKBA’s report:

1. Clean with an overall contemporary feeling: A fusion of styles and multiple colors in one kitchen
2. European-styled cabinets
3. Multiples of appliances in one kitchen (most notably two dishwashers, like a dishwasher and a dishwasher drawer, or the addition of a refrigerator/freezer)
4. The rise of steam ovens
5. Furniture-like pieces (such as furniture-styled dry bars)
6. Outdoor kitchens
7. Fewer standard kitchen tables, replaced by counters or tall gathering tables
8. TVs and docking stations (many kitchens have desks or home office areas as well as flat-screen televisions and docking/charging stations)
9. Wine refrigerators
10. A focus on the user experience, from easy maintenance to accessible design

Most Popular Colors: The most common color scheme for kitchens: White, followed by gray, according to NKBA. About a third of NKBA remodelers also said they did black or blue kitchens in 2014. Kitchens in green tones were also gaining in popularity. Designers are increasingly reporting an appetite for kitchens with multiple color schemes.

“I am seeing lots of white painted kitchen perimeters with espresso stained islands and dark stained kitchen perimeters with light colored painted islands,” says Christine Shorr with Morris Black Designs in Allentown, Pa. “Lots of painted white kitchens with light countertops and espresso islands and painted gray cabinets.”

Out of style: Country/rustic, Tuscan and Provincial looks with distressed finishes, as well as color schemes in reds, bronzes, and terra cottas are on their way “out” in the kitchen.

 

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Kentucky Derby Festival 2015!

Pegasus Parade: A Family Tradition

The Republic Bank Pegasus Parade has been a long-standing tradition in Louisville for the past 59 years. The march down Broadway has become a staple in the Louisville community, as well as tradition among families and friends. One family in particular not only attends the parade but was at the helm of its founding. Three generations of the Jones family have helped to pave the way for a successful parade, and this year, give us a glimpse of what it was like in the early years.

Anna Lee Deerr worked at the Chamber of Commerce in Louisville in the 1950’s and witnessed the birth of an idea that has grown to become a very large event. A perspective otherwise unknown, until speaking with Ana Lee, was the original reason for the parade to begin with. To our fortune, Ana Lee was able to share some of what she witnessed.  “The parade came about as a way to help promote the Kentucky Derby.   We wanted people to come early for the parade and stay for the race. A bigger and better parade would be better to promote the Kentucky Derby. This would help bring in more people and make better income for the city.”

With the thought of economic success on the mind, the Chamber of Commerce launched a parade hoping for the best and charging forward to help the city benefit from the long-standing Kentucky Derby horse race. “The parade was always on Broadway except we didn’t have seats, people came out but it wasn’t a very large crowd, a respectable one, but not very large. It was only after a few years that it really took off and slowly became what it is today.” Ana Lee was on the floats for the first 2-3 years but the real star of the show was her brother, Charles M. “Pat” Jones.

Charles M. “Pat” led the parade in 1956 on his trusty steed, Silver, a white horse of which he bought from Dixie Stables. Pat Jones’s wife, Erma Jones Greer brought her children Patty, Gary, and Becky to the parade and remembers fondly sitting on the curb watching her husband lead the parade down Broadway. Erma reflected on the first parade. “It was mostly horses, not many floats. It started on 9th and Broadway and went east. The next year I was pregnant and my son was born on the day of the parade. Needless to say the parade was a huge part of our family in the 1950s.” Pat & Erma’s daughter, Patty Jones Adwell worked at Brown & Williamson and participated in the parade as a float handler.

Charles and Anna Lee brought their family out in support of the parade. Whether it was participating in the parade or supporting on the sidelines, everyone in the family supported in any way they could. The Jones family did a great service to the city of Louisville and truly impacted the history and culture of the Kentucky Derby Festival. After 59 years, the Pegasus Parade is truly a family tradition.

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Women Leadership In Real Estate

It’s Time For More Female Leadership in Real Estate

Brooke Wolford

Brooke Wolford

By Brooke Wolford

I recently had a conversation with other real estate professionals about the industry’s lack of women in leadership roles. For an industry comprised of almost 60 percent women, this doesn’t make sense. I have been blind to this issue because I am fortunate to work for a broker who’s management team consists of mostly women. The culture within our office is also very diverse.

Out of curiosity, I did a little research. I pulled demographics and surveyed a small group of people within the industry, all of whom are from different areas of the country and work at different companies. The results were mixed.

This is not an issue that only affects the real estate industry, but rather a workplace issue in general. Just the other day there was an article in the New York Times about the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins case and the small percentage of women who are venture capitalists. The story also highlighted the lack of female leaders in Silicon Valley. I found this report by Catalyst, which is further proof that we have a long way to go in terms of female corporate leadership:

Now, I believe there are solutions to this problem, not only at the company level, but also at the individual level. Let’s seize this as an opportunity. Here are some points based off of the research I did with my peer group, as well as some statistics I found:

  1. Many in my peer survey suggest that women are very motivated and have additional skills that can be great in leadership.
  2. Many real estate pros surveyed said there is a lack of female leaders at the brokerage level. When asked the average number of people in upper management at their brokerage, they said seven, and the average number of females in upper management: one.
  3. Some said that their companies have had the same people in leadership roles for many years (10 to 20 years or more).
  4. According to NAR, 57 percent of REALTORS® are women.
  5. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 61 percent of the U.S. workforce; they earn almost 60 percent of all undergraduate degrees and 37 percent of all MBAs, yet many companies continue to lag in placing females in executive positions.
  6. Many people I spoke to suggested that some women are motivated to advance but they seem to get stuck in the middle management limbo.
  7. Several studies I read show that women are often held to a higher standard than men.
  8. According to the U.S. Census, women account for a little over half of the population.
  9. In 1980, the portion of female leaders of the top 500 companies was at 11 percent, and today, that number is roughly 18 percent.  That’s only a 7 percent increase – in 35 years!

As I look at myself and look back at my history, I see that I made a lot of sacrifices to get to where I am now. I sacrificed sleep, health, and having a personal life to run a business while simultaneously being a single mom. There were times that I only slept a couple hours a night. A lot of this was my own doing. I also didn’t have a strong support system, like family to help, a supportive significant other, etc. But why should I not be able to have it all? When there are 12 million single parent families in the U.S. as of 2014 – and more than 80 percent are headed by single mothers – working toward success both professionally and personally is clearly not uncommon.

I could go on and on about this, but I think it’s more important to stress that there is an opportunity here. Being the diverse and constantly changing industry that real estate is, there is plenty of untapped talent and ways to improve.

The best chance of changing obstacles in business is to tip the gender scales in leadership.

To all the women reading this: Become the leader of your own career and life. Be authentic authors of your own lives. Take responsibility for your professional development. No one has a greater investment in your success and satisfaction than you. Don’t depend on the traditional management structure of your organization to put you on the path to achievement. It’s up to you to direct and protect your career and to develop your own potential. You cannot afford to be passive or to accept roles assigned to you. Know what you want and why you want it, then be prepared to take action to make it happen. This means maintaining your focus on your goals in spite of any feelings of discouragement. Tell yourself this: I simply will not give up. If your goal is to become a leader and to help real estate industry become truly diverse, then don’t give up. Your leadership is most needed.

Our industry...

Enjoy a Creative Easter Egg Hunt!

Easter Egg Hunt: 5 Creative Ideas

Ah, Easter Sunday morning.  What a peaceful, quiet time of reflection.  The children come downstairs dressed in their Sunday best and the family enjoys a leisurely breakfast before heading to church.

What?  That doesn’t happen at your house?

Yeah.  Mine neither.  My kids are up at the crack of dawn to see what the Easter Bunny left for them before scrambling to find all the hidden eggs.  All is over before we have even had our first cup of coffee.  Boo.

Creative-Egg-Hunts

Fed up with the fun being over in 3 minutes flat, we have tried several different twists on the traditional Easter Egg hunt.  My kids have enjoyed the change as it keeps the fun fresh and new each year.  And most importantly, what took the “Easter Bunny” a hour to do is not decimated (and forgotten!) in less than 5 minutes.

Here are 5 Unique Egg Hunts 

Who doesn’t like shopping? - Hide ‘Bunny Munny’ in several of the plastic eggs to buy things at the Bunny Emporium.  Pick up several fun Easter trinkets at the dollar spot or things that appeal to your children (toys, movies, books).  Price them at different price points and have your children “shop” with their money.Easter Egg Hunt

Color hunt  – Assign hunters a particular color(s) to find on their hunt.  This is especially good when hunting with mixed ages, as it allows the younger children a chance to find a equal amount of eggs.

Easter Egg Hunt

Flashlight Hunt – Put together your hunt the night before Easter.  Using flashlights and glow-in-the-dark paint on the eggs, kids will love to find their eggs at night!

Easter Egg Checklist- Give each hunter a list of what particular eggs they are supposed to find, “4 yellow eggs, 3 purple eggs, 1 golden egg, etc.”.  This turns it into a true hunt and you will find the kids end up helping each other out.

Easter Egg Hunt

Scavenger hunt – Older kids LOVE a good hunt.  With a little bit of pre-work, this will be a favorite!  Put clues to find each consecutive egg in the plastic eggs hidden throughout the entire house and have their ultimate find be their Easter Baskets.  Be creative with your clues (Hop on over to the place which makes you go brrrr…) and make your kids think!

The only drawback to having a fun Easter Egg Hunt?  My kids have come to expect a creative hunt every year!

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Rising Home Sales!!!

Pending Home Sales Rise in January to Highest Level in 18 Months

MEDIA CONTACT: ADAM DESANCTIS / 202-383-1178 / EMAIL

WASHINGTON (February 27, 2015) — Improved buyer demand at the beginning of 2015 pushed pending home sales in January to their highest level since August 2013, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All major regions except for the Midwest saw gains in activity in January.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, climbed 1.7 percent to 104.2 in January from an upwardly revised 102.5 in December and is now 8.4 percent above January 2014 (96.1). This marks the fifth consecutive month of year-over-year gains with each month accelerating the previous month's gain.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says for the most part buyers in January were able to overcome tight supply to sign contracts at a pace that highlights the underlying demand that exists in today's market. “Contract activity is convincingly up compared to a year ago despite comparable inventory levels,” he said. “The difference this year is the positive factors supporting stronger sales, such as slightly improving credit conditions, more jobs and slower price growth.”

Yun also points to more favorable conditions for traditional buyers entering the market. All-cash sales and sales to investors are both down from a year ago1, creating less competition and some relief for buyers who still face the challenge of limited homes available for sale.

“All indications point to modest sales gains as we head into the spring buying season,” says Yun. “However, the pace will greatly depend on how much upward pressure the impact of low inventory will have on home prices. Appreciation anywhere near double-digits isn't healthy or sustainable in the current economic environment.”

The PHSI in the Northeast inched 0.1 percent to 84.9 in January, and is now 6.9 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index decreased 0.7 percent to 99.3 in January, but is 4.2 percent above January 2014.

Pending home sales experienced the largest increase in the South, up 3.2 percent to an index of 121.9 in January (highest since April 2010) and are 9.7 percent above last January. The index in the West rose 2.2 percent in January to 96.4 and is 11.4 percent above a year ago.

Total existing-homes sales in 2015 are forecast to be around 5.26 million, an increase of 6.4 percent from 2014. The national median existing-home price for all of this year is expected to increase near 5 percent. In 2014, existing-home sales declined 2.9 percent and prices rose 5.7 percent.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America's largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

# # #

1According to NAR's January Realtors® Confidence Index, all-cash sales were 27 percent of sales, down from 33 percent in January 2014. Sales to investors represented 17 percent of the market in January, down from 20 percent a year ago.

*The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.

The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined. By coincidence, the volume of existing-home sales in 2001 fell within the range of 5.0 to 5.5 million, which is considered normal for the current U.S. population.

NOTE: Existing-home Sales for February will be reported March 23, and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be March 30; release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.

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Anchorage Arbor Day Program

The Anchorage Forestry Board invites residents to their annual Arbor Day event, Wednesday, March 25th, 6-7 pm, at City Hall.


This year's guest speaker is Andrew Berry, Forest Manager at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, who will discuss the Bernheim Forest and Anchorage connection. 

After the program, each adult attending the presentation will receive their choice of trees to take home that evening.  Please note that the nursery could not deliver the Katsura trees listed in The Anchor Age.  As substitutes, Golden Chain and Hop Hornbeam trees were selected.  Other available trees include Heritgage Birch, Kwanzan Flowering Cherry, Kousa Dogwood, Allegheny Serviceberry, and Flame Maple (clump).

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March Madness 2015!!!

March Madness is upon us! Get in on the fun with this interactive bracket!

http://www.ncaa.com/interactive-bracket/basketball-men/d1

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Commercial: Secondary Markets Gain Attraction

Commercial: Secondary Markets Gain Attraction

The dollar is strengthening, so you would expect institutional real estate investors from outside the U.S. to hesitate before buying here. But that’s not happening, because the relative stability of the U.S. economy and commercial real estate markets offsets the higher buying costs. That’s one of the takeaways from Scaling New Heights, a 2015 commercial real estate outlook from NAR, Deloitte, and Real Estate Research Corporation/Situs, which the groups released February 5.

What’s more, big buyers from outside the U.S. aren’t just looking at properties in New York, L.A., Washington, and Miami; they’re looking at properties throughout the U.S., including secondary markets.

That means buyers from London or Toronto might be interested in your apartment or office property in Omaha or Indianapolis. What investors are looking for, says George Ratiu, NAR’s manager of quantitative and commercial research, is higher yield, and they can often get that more readily in secondary markets than they can in the big markets.

If you have commercial properties in even smaller, “tertiary” markets, your buyers will probably be mainly from the area or region, as they always have been, Ratiu says.

Looking ahead, expect financing to be more widely available this year than in the previous few years. That’s because all the major sources of financing are back: pension funds, commercial banks, institutional investors, even commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS), which virtually disappeared during the recession. Today they account for about 30 percent of financing.

Despite the improved availability of money, you still have to have a performing asset to get financing at the best terms, as you would expect.

All in all, it’s a good time to be in commercial real estate, because the momentum is on the upswing.

Learn more about the findings in the video with NAR analyst George Ratiu.

More about the report.

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Managing Kids' Room Messes!!

Kids' Rooms: Storage Solutions for Every Age

By: Jan Soults Walker

From babies who adore you to teens who ignore you, kids change -- and so do their storage needs. Here’s how to organize kids’ rooms from cradle to college.

Cradle Crawlers

Transformer cribs. An ordinary crib accommodates baby for two to three years -- until he learns how to escape over the rail. Boost storage with a convertible crib with storage drawers ($145 to $350) that’ll convert and adapt to your toddler’s needs and beyond.

Some convertible cribs change into toddler beds, daybeds, or full-size headboards, giving you options as your youngster gets older. If you can’t find a crib with storage below, use the space between the legs for stowing bins or baskets for diapers, toys, and more.

Pimping the closet. Remove the door on the nursery closet for easy access, and install a variety of cool storage features. Drawers, bins, and shelves can round up onesies, booties, baby towels, diapers, and toiletries. A simple wire rack storage system is $90 to $350 at home improvement centers.

Install lower rods so baby, as he grows, can easily latch onto duds (and maybe even hang them up). Expandable hangers ($14 for a 3-pack) fit tiny baby clothes but open up to accommodate larger sizes when needed.

Toddlers and Elementary Age

Look ‘em in the eye. Stow books and puzzles on a low magazine rack or shelving unit so toddlers and elementary-age children can grab a good read or brain teaser on a whim. As children grow, paint the shelf to suit changing tastes and use it for teen magazines, framed photos, and school books.

Cornering the market. Young kids love nooks, so create a cozy hideaway by arranging storage units -- open shelves, a desk top, and cabinets -- so they (mostly) enclose one corner of your kid’s room. Bookshelves and kids’ desks range from $50 to $200.

Stock up with plenty of games, books, toys, and crafts supplies. Paint cabinet doors with blackboard paint to add an eye-level creative opportunity.

Corral the bling. Little girls often possess a cartload of hair ribbons, barrettes, and bows. Look for special organizers that keep them on display, orderly, and within easy reach. One option: Sort items into the pockets of a clear vinyl shoe holder ($10) that fits on the back of the door. 

Tweens, Teens, and Beyond

A magnetic personality. A bulletin board is a great way for your tween or teen to organize and display all those photos of friends and Fido. Or, coat a vertical surface (such as a closet door) with magnetizing primer ($25/quart) and paint over the primer with a hip color. Use assorted magnets and magnetic clips and holders to display artwork, sports schedules, and homework reminders.

Making a (book)case. A bookcase headboard ($100 to $200) is a grown-up way for your teen or college student to keep reading materials organized and the tablet reader handy. Platform storage beneath the bed provides room for drawers or cubbies that can hold baskets and bins for corralling small stuff.

Explore the shallows. Commandeer space between wall studs and create a shallow storage niche outfitted with hooks, shelves, or rods for organizing jewelry and other smallish gear. Add a mirrored door to keep clutter out of sight.

Lofty ambitions. For a small bedroom, a loft-style bed offers a fun spot for snoozing and space below for bookcase storage, a futon, or a study desk. Loft beds for kids' rooms start at $150 and range to $3,000 or more. 

Keep rolling. Give your tween or teen a rolling caddy ($25 to $80) for storing personal bath supplies, jewelry, cosmetics, and hair gear. The caddy stores in the bedroom and rolls to a nearby bath and back.



Read more: http://members.houselogic.com/articles/kids-rooms-storage-solutions/preview/?cid=eo_rl_sss_rcrpromo#ixzz3TzaZh8U7 
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The Internet is Great but…...Get Out There Into the World!!

Source: Written by Andrew Fortune for GreatColoradoHomes.com

Looking at Homes Online Versus In Person

Posted by Andrew Fortune on Monday, March 3rd, 2014 at 1:31pm. 10,166 Views

Looking at Homes Online Versus In Person Real Estate Infographic

In an effort to help online home shoppers avoid the emotional let down of falling in love with homes before they visit them, I wrote this article to point out some of the main differences between online listings and real life homes.

I often get contacted by homebuyers in Colorado Springs who have found their dream home online and want to see it immediately. They haven't communicated with a real estate professional yet, and they haven't looked at a home in person for many years, but somehow they know that the home they just found online is the right one. Usually, they have been looking online for a few months and the excitement has been building. This is very common for first time home buyers. After personally showing homes for so many years, I’m constantly reminded that the perfect home for sale online rarely become the perfect house in person.

Here are some things to consider. First of all, when someone hires a real estate professional to list their house for sale, the #1 one job of that agent is to get the most amount of showing activity possible. That is why they are referred to as the “listing” agent. Their #1 priority is to list the property to the best of their ability with all the tools available. Listing agents use photo and video tricks to showcase the property's highest and best qualities. For this reason, real estate tend to look better online, than in person. You’ll find out the real details upon visiting the property.

Here are a few issues that are nearly impossible to identify in an online real estate listing:

real estate online vs in person gif


1.) Don’t Trust Room Sizes by the Photos

Good photographers know how to make a space look larger than normal by using wide angle lens and imaging software. The lens will capture as much of the room as possible and display it in a wide image. This will cause a “fisheye” effect that distorts the image, so the photographer will us software to correct the distortion. I use Adobe Lightroom to adjust the image. It aligns the image back to a parallel shape, while still maintaining the depth of field. This usually makes the room look more spacious online.

camera wide angleGood photographers will also crouch, or lay down in the corner of the room to get a view that makes the ceilings look taller than they really are. It also causes the room depth to appear farther than normal. If there are too many pieces of furniture in a room, listings agents will advise sellers to put those pieces of furniture in storage to create more floor space. When an image is taken from a low spot in the farthest corner with a wide angle lens, the result look like the room is huge with extra tall ceilings. You can’t trust images online to accurately show the dimensions of a room.


2.) It’s Not Always As Clean As It Looks Online

It’s very hard to tell how clean a home is from the photos online. Experienced sellers have been preparing their home for months in advance by doing repairs, painting, rearranging furniture, etc. When it comes time to take the listing photos, they are exhausted. They will do a deep clean in all the main areas, but not necessarily throughout the whole house. When you visit the home, you may find that the closets, secondary bedrooms, bathrooms, and/or garage spaces are not very clean. Dusty blinds, baseboards, and decor can reveal a home that is not cleaned as often as the online pictures may appear. This can be a major turnoff for many homebuyers.

HDR ComparisonHDR image processing is also a tool that real estate agents and photographers use to make a house "sparkle" online. HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing is slightly deceiving and unfair to the viewer, in my opinion. With that said, I do use it. It’s just too powerful of a tool to not incorporate into my toolkit. An HDR capable camera is setup in the corner of a room (usually at a low angle), on a tripod with a wide angle lens. Using a remote trigger, the camera will snap of a serious of images using different light exposure ranges. These images are then oversampled together into imaging software to use the best possible lighting for each pixel. This creates an effect of perfect lighting. Sometimes the software is overused as well. Have you ever seen an online listing photo that looked more like a computer graphic than an actual house photo? That’s caused by overusing HDR processing. When used correctly though, HDR imaging will cause a home to shine in the perfect light and appear to look “heavenly”. What it looks like in reality may be another story though.


3.) What’s That Smell?

Picture this: You have been looking at homes for a couple of months and you haven’t found the right home yet. Your agent sends you a listing that just came on the market and IT’S PERFECT! You stop everything and rush to view the property immediately. You get to the home and are eagerly waiting at the front door for your agent to open it. As soon as the front door opens, your nose is inundated with the smell of a thousand city zoos. Aromas of cats, mixed with a hint of monkey and lama all dominate the air space. You really want to look at the home, but all you can think about is the overwhelming smell of animals. This is a classic scenario that every Realtor deals with. In my opinion, it’s probably the hardest issue to overcome when I’m showing homes. When I’m in a home with strong pet odors, it’s almost impossible to focus on anything other than, “lets get back outside”.

Pet OdorAnimal lovers don’t understand this problem. They are immune to the smell. In my experience, I’ve noticed that cats are worse than dogs. Male cats are prone to “spray” to mark their territory, even if they are neutered in some cases. This smell is almost impossible to get rid of. Regardless of the type of animal, it takes a very clean home owner to remove the smell out of the home on a daily basis. Many pet owners are not able to do this well. They will try to fix the problem with candles and carpet deodorizers 30 minutes before a showing. That only works for a few minutes. After a short time in the house, the pet hair and ammonia smell will start to come...

All About Louisville!

Interesting Facts about Louisville, Kentucky

Source: http://www.bestplaces.net/city/kentucky/louisville

As of 2014, Louisville's population is741,285 people. Since 2000, it has had a population growth of 26.77 percent.

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Average Commute time is 22 minutes. The National Average is 25 minutes.

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The median home cost in Louisville is$148,100. Home appreciation the last year has been 1.40 percent.

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Compared to the rest of the country, Louisville's cost of living is 9.50% Lower than the U.S. average.

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Louisville public schools spend $12,091 per student. The average school expenditure in the U.S. is $12,435. There are about 17.1 students per teacher in Louisville.

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The unemployment rate in Louisville is6.90 percent(U.S. avg. is 6.30%). Recent job growth is Positive. Louisville jobs have Increased by 0.25 percent.


Map Of Louisville

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Tax Time Benefits for Homeowners!!

Don’t Miss These Home Tax Deductions

By: Dona DeZube

Published: December 22, 2014

From mortgage interest to property tax deductions, here are the tax tips you need to get a jump on your returns.

Owning a home can pay off at tax time.  
Take advantage of these homeownership-related tax deductions and strategies to lower your tax bill:

Mortgage Interest Deduction 
One of the neatest deductions itemizing homeowners can take advantage of is the mortgage interest deduction, which you claim on Schedule A. To get the mortgage interest deduction, your mortgage must be secured by your home -- and your home can be a house, trailer, or boat, as long as you can sleep in it, cook in it, and it has a toilet.

Interest you pay on a mortgage of up to $1 million -- or $500,000 if you’re married filing separately -- is deductible when you use the loan to buy, build, or improve your home.

If you take on another mortgage (including a second mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit) to improve your home or to buy or build a second home, that counts towards the $1 million limit.

If you use loans secured by your home for other things -- like sending your kid to college -- you can still deduct the interest on loans up $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately) because your home secures the loan.

PMI and FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums
You can deduct the cost of private mortgage insurance (PMI) as mortgage interest on Schedule A if you itemize your return. The change only applies to loans taken out in 2007 or later.

By the way, the 2014 tax season is the last for which you can claim this deduction unless Congress renews it for 2015, which may happen, but is uncertain.

What’s PMI? If you have a mortgage but didn’t put down a fairly good-sized downpayment (usually 20%), the lender requires the mortgage be insured. The premium on that insurance can be deducted, so long as your income is less than $100,000 (or $50,000 for married filing separately).

If your adjusted gross income is more than $100,000, your deduction is reduced by 10% for each $1,000 ($500 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return) that your adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000 ($50,000 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return). So, if you make $110,000 or more, you can’t claim the deduction (10% x 10 = 100%).

Besides private mortgage insurance, there’s government insurance from FHA, VA, and the Rural Housing Service. Some of those premiums are paid at closing, and deducting them is complicated. A tax adviser or tax software program can help you calculate this deduction. Also, the rules vary between the agencies.

Prepaid Interest Deduction
Prepaid interest (or points) you paid when you took out your mortgage is generally 100% deductible in the year you paid it along with other mortgage interest. 

If you refinance your mortgage and use that money for home improvements, any points you pay are also deductible in the same year. 

But if you refinance to get a better rate or shorten the length of your mortgage, or to use the money for something other than home improvements, such as college tuition, you’ll need to deduct the points over the life of your mortgage. Say you refi into a 10-year mortgage and pay $3,000 in points. You can deduct $300 per year for 10 years.

So what happens if you refi again down the road?

Example: Three years after your first refi, you refinance again. Using the $3,000 in points scenario above, you’ll have deducted $900 ($300 x 3 years) so far. That leaves $2,400, which you can deduct in full the year you complete your second refi. If you paid points for the new loan, the process starts again; you can deduct the points over the life of the loan.  

Home mortgage interest and points are reported on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040.

Your lender will send you a Form 1098 that lists the points you paid. If not, you should be able to find the amount listed on the HUD-1 settlement sheet you got when you closed the purchase of your home or your refinance closing. 

Property Tax Deduction 
You can deduct on Schedule A the real estate property taxes you pay. If you have a mortgage with an escrow account, the amount of real estate property taxes you paid shows up on your annual escrow statement.

If you bought a house this year, check your HUD-1 settlement statement to see if you paid any property taxes when you closed the purchase of your house. Those taxes are deductible on Schedule A, too.

Energy-Efficiency Upgrades
If you made your home more energy efficient in 2014, you might qualify for the residential energy tax credit.

Tax credits are especially valuable because they let you offset what you owe the IRS dollar for dollar for up to 10% of the amount you spent on certain home energy-efficiency upgrades.  

The credit carries a lifetime cap of $500 (less for some products), so if you’ve used it in years past, you’ll have to subtract prior tax credits from that $500 limit. Lucky for you, there’s no cap on how much you’ll save on utility bills thanks to your energy-efficiency upgrades.

Among the upgrades that might qualify for the credit:

  • Biomass stoves
  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
  • Insulation
  • Roofs (metal and asphalt)
  • Water heaters (non-solar)
  • Windows, doors, and skylights

To claim the credit, file IRS Form 5695 with your return. 

Vacation Home Tax Deductions
The rules on tax deductions for vacation homes are complicated. Do yourself a favor and keep good records about how and when you use your vacation home.

  • If you’re the only one using your vacation home (you don’t rent it out for more than 14 days a year), you deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on Schedule A.
  • Rent your vacation home out for more than 14 days and use it yourself fewer than 15 days (or 10% of total rental days, whichever is greater), and it’s treated like a rental property. Your expenses are deducted on Schedule E.
  • Rent your home for part of the year and use it yourself for more than the greater of 14 days or 10% of the days you rent it and you have to keep track of income, expenses, and allocate them based on how often you used and how often you rented the house.

Homebuyer Tax Credit
This isn’t a deduction, but it’s important to keep track of if you claimed it in 2008. 

There were federal first-time homebuyer tax credits in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

If you claimed the homebuyer tax credit for a purchase made after April 8, 2008, and before Jan. 1, 2009, you must repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years, with no interest. 

The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe each year until it’s paid off. Or if the home stops being your main home, you may...

Things to Consider When Buying a Home…..

14 Things to Consider Before Buying a Home

Don't let your emotions cloud your judgment
Wait! That house may seem like everything you’ve ever wanted, but before you make an offer, take some time to consider a few things beyond the size, style and price. 

When buying a home, it’s easy to let emotions get in the way of reality, or get sudden amnesia about factors that may make a difference.
"Sometimes we want something so badly, we’re not willing to ask all the questions we should,” says Leslie Levine, author of "Will This Place Ever Feel Like Home?" 

For instance, she says, you may see a basketball hoop over the garage and assume the neighborhood is great for kids. But a closer inspection may show that it’s rusted and hasn’t seen a ball in a decade, and that other yards in the neighborhood have no jungle gyms or tire swings out back.
1. Visit at various times of day
The windows that let in so much light during the day may be a peeping Tom’s dream at night. That seemingly quiet residential street may be a noisy, highway-feeder street during morning or evening rush hour; or it may be near impossible to get from your quiet street across traffic and onto the feeder street in the morning. The adjacent school may seem like a nice perk if you’re buying in the summer, but during the school year, daily playground noise and extra traffic may be more than you bargained for.
2. Look through recent newspaper archives
“Make sure you’re getting information on what you can’t see,” Levine suggests. Perhaps the municipal water well that feeds your neighborhood has high levels of contaminants or a proposed high-voltage power line may soon be coming through your back yard. You can also check with the city or county to see if there are any proposed projects.
3. Talk to neighbors
How many people in the neighborhood own their homes? Sometimes it’s hard to tell at first if you’re choosing a neighborhood that’s primarily rental houses.
4. Ask if the neighborhood has an association
“Is there a newsletter for it? How often does the neighborhood get together? Do they have a block party every year?” Levine asks. “Even if you don’t plan to attend, the fact that they’re having a gathering says they care about their community, that they want to get to know each other, that they’re willing to socialize that way. People who behave that way are building a community. They’re going to look out for your kids; they’re going to look out for your house. It’s a nice, safe way to celebrate something.”
5. Quiz the sellers 
What problems are they aware of that the house had in the past – even if they’ve been fixed? An ice dam five years ago may have caused water damage that has since been repaired. But it’s good to know that the house may be prone to ice dams so you can take preventive measures rather than find out the hard way. Discovering the basement flooding was solved by building up the landscaping in a particular area will prevent you from leveling the ground there in later years.
6. Get a home inspection
Virtually all houses have defects, according to National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents. Some will be obvious and most will be curable. But knowing what needs fixing can help you negotiate a lower price – or at least prepare you for costs you’re soon to incur. Strongly consider getting inspections, too, for lead paint, radon and wood-eating pests.
7. Get detailed records on past improvements 
This isn’t always possible. But if you’re told the house’s exterior was painted two years ago – and then see a receipt noting the whole project cost just $1,000 – then you’ll be forewarned that cheaper materials were used and that you may be looking at repainting sooner than you thought.
8. Don’t just assume remodeling will be a snap 
If you voice your ideas to the sellers, you may be able to glean valuable insights. For instance, perhaps that shower is in an odd location because, when remodeling 10 years ago, the previous owners discovered a costly structural impediment to putting a shower where it would seem more appropriate.
9. Consider the view 
“So many neighborhoods now have teardowns. So look at the two houses on either side of you. If this neighborhood has had some teardowns, one of those houses might be a candidate. And they may build some behemoth structure that affects your light or the way your house looks or your view,” Levine says.
10. Ask for utility bills 
You may adore the Cape Cod architectural style or the high ceilings and walls of glass in a modern home – but those winter heating and summer cooling bills may push your monthly payments beyond affordable. Ditto for the water bills you’ll pay to maintain a pristine landscape.
11. Pay close attention to taxes
Don’t just ask what the seller’s most recent tax bill was; ask what several recent tax bills have been. In some areas, houses are re-appraised – and taxed at higher rates – frequently. That great deal and good investment may not seem quite so grand if the property taxes skyrocket year after year. Again, look at newspaper archives or talk to your...

People, Places & Things to Watch in 2015

Five Surprising People, Places And Things To Watch In 2015

[This is the final post in a series of six about trend sightings for 2015 and beyond.]

In previous posts, I’ve delved into fashion, beauty, design, marketing, food, business practices, social responsibility, today’s family and more. For my final post in this series, I’m turning to five trends that transcend categorization and at the same time help point the compass toward where our society is going. You likely will have heard of all of them, but their importance might come as a surprise. Here are the mega-influences for 2015:

Louisville-ia
The New York Times Magazine recently published a stating-the-obvious article about the kombucha-drinking, well-educated, lifestyle-obsessed, open-minded young people of Portland, Ore. As Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein would happily tell you, this isn’t really news. But the noteworthy line was buried at the end of the second paragraph: Portland has the country’s second-highest rate of attracting and retaining young college-educated people. Louisville, Ky., is first. HGTV’s FrontDoor blog notes that Louisville “has two personalities. There’s the urban area within the Watterson Expressway belt highway, comprising the old city and its early suburbs. It’s funky, urban and politically ‘blue.’ Yet unlike many older cities, many of its most vibrant neighborhoods never suffered ‘white flight’ and have not needed gentrifying.” And it’s affordable, livable, blessed with good weather, and home to new entertainment and sports complexes, loads of trendy restaurants, a burgeoning tourism industry, smart people, a thriving coffee culture and even its own Museum Row. Named America’s ninth most hipster city by Thrillist, the birthplace of Hunter S. Thompson has a mix of history and amenities that might make it the next Portlandia.

photo: creativecommons.org/Fleur Design Photography

photo: creativecommons.org/Fleur Design Photography

The Year of Joan Didion
“[Joan Didion] cut loose any fixed idea that I ever had about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about good fortune and bad, about marriage and children and memory, about grief, about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.” That quote from influential New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani appeared in a Fall 2014 Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary about Didion. The campaign reached its fundraising goal of $80,000 in about 24 hours, after a big push from mainstream newspapers (Los Angeles TimesChristian Science Monitor) and the fashion industry, where Didion’s signature look has long been iconic. Vogue, where Didion worked in her early days, ran an exclusive trailer of the film. Refinery 29I Want to Be Her! (whose author, a former fashion editor, offered up a Didion-inspired wardrobe) and a host of others expressed their wild enthusiasm for the project. The team could have funded the project in many ways, but it chose Kickstarter to “reach as many people as possible.” In this way, they engaged Didion’s fawning fan base from day one, generating early buzz for what will surely be one of the most dissected films of the year.

The Korean Wave Rolls On
Fueled by social media and YouTube, the Korean Wave began as an obsession with K-pop music (remember Psy?) and South Korea’s wacky K-TV dramas (the next Bollywood). Cuisine is the “third member of the Korean Wave triumvirate,” and the South Korean government is harnessing that power. According to The Wall Street Journal, the government spent 21.9 billion won ($19.7 million) in 2012 on the “globalization of Hansik” (Korean cuisine), with former first lady Kim Yoon-ok leading the charge. It worked. An analysisby GrubHub of its 20,000-plus restaurants cited Korean food as the eighth-highest trending cuisine in the U.S., with a 22 percent increase in popularity from 2012 to 2013. And the wave rolls on: The New York Times reported on the growing popularity of South Korean skin-care products, and Women’s Wear Daily looked at the mushrooming presence of South Koreans at Fashion Week, noting that the country was once considered purely a consumer market but is becoming a trendsetting region.

Must-Read: Garden & Gun
(This is an observation about the success of a magazine and a trending geographic culture, not an endorsement of guns.) While other magazines struggle, Garden & Gun’s print and digital readership is skyrocketing. Founded by former New Yorker publisher Rebecca Darwin, the magazine is a...

2015 in Marketing, PR and Buzz Generation!!!

Next Year In Marketing, PR And Buzz Generation

Marian Salzman, Forbes Contributor

[This is the fifth in a series of six posts about trend sightings for 2015 and beyond.]

Communications, businesses and expectations today shift at lightning speed. If we want to succeed—marketers especially, but anyone in any industry—we have to constantly rewrite our best practices. We also need to be aware of what we’re doing now and what to expect for the future.

A lot of it in our industry will revolve around new technologies, according to Chick Foxgrover, chief digital officer at the 4A’s (American Association of Advertising Agencies, a client of my agency, Havas PR). In Ad Age earlier today, he said that a “micro trend” among some agencies is hiring hardware engineers well versed in development, product design and 3-D printing, for “prototyping products so that a creative idea may now be given some physical form.” He added: “We don’t know what to make of that yet, but it’s interesting that agencies are starting to consider the melding of the digital and physical seriously.”

Here are a few trends I see when I turn a mirror on my own industry:

Pumped-Up Perks
Management experts encourage companies to consider how they engage with millennials, who will soon make up the largest segment of the workforce. Flexible hours and dress codes, frequent feedback, an emphasis on social responsibility and a collaborative company culture are all on the increasingly standard list. And they’re all good ideas. But when creative companies take it further—sometimes by a lot—they aren’t just attracting and retaining top talent, or increasing productivity. All those free yoga classes, laundry services, manicures, climbing walls, dog-friendly office spaces, tuition reimbursements and company gyms are tools for burnishing companies’ brand halos, for getting the rest of us talking about what cool companies they’d be to work for (and, by subconscious extension, buy something from). Apple and Facebook made headlines this fall when they added egg freezing to the list of benefits offered to employees. Staff at brand consultancy BBMG are given $500 toward inspiration and another $500 for professional development, which they can decide how to use. According to Business News Daily, Patagonia encourages employees to take regular surf breaks, while Weebly pays for housecleaning and errand running. One company,FullContact, even pays employees $7,500 to go on vacation (on top of their paid vacation days) because it believes in the importance of disconnecting.

photo: creativecommons.org/futureatlas.com

photo: creativecommons.org/futureatlas.com

Hackathon Hysteria
Between 2005 and 2009, the term hackathon appeared four times on TechCrunch. By 2014, it was showing up in dozens upon dozens of posts. These “hacking marathons” of rapid-fire collaboration are now everywhere. In November in New York, there was a Time Inc. hackathon to generate digital ideas for the magazine industry, a New York University hackathon to reimagine technology used by students and an AT&T hackathon to create mobile apps. TechCrunch now puts on its own hackathons at its signature Disrupt conferences. Major League Hacking directs its events toward students, to tap into the tech-savvy future workforce and to encourage the coding movement at universities. Diageo sponsored a hackathon to create digital tools to help withresponsible drinking, while MIT hosted a hackathon to try and build a better breast pump. Indeed, hackathons are moving out of the tech realm and into other areas, such as lifesaving medicine. Yes, the events prompt innovation, but they’re also a means of generating PR buzz for a relatively small investment of time and resources, and we haven’t seen the end of them.

Reality Advertising Is Here to Stay
Earlier this year, Ad Age reported on global brands like Coca-Cola and Nissan adopting virtual-reality campaigns in which people wear VR goggles and motion sensors to have immersive experiences like playing soccer in the World Cup or diving off a plank. For now the technology is cumbersome—marketers have to provide the hardware—but the article pointed toward investment in better VR and stated: “Virtual reality could be transformative for the ad industry. Instead of interrupting people with ads, marketers could sponsor virtual experiences people actually seek out.” With virtuality and reality blurring, no wonder I am constantly confused: Did I just …? Are we …?

Enough About Me; Let’s Talk More About Me
Not that long ago, few people had heard of online reputation managers. But now, the industry is booming. (Last year, a Forbes contributor valued it at $5 billion, describing it as an industry “comprising hundreds of companies devoted to monitoring, repairing, improving and policing the reputation of individuals and businesses online.”)

Yet as online reputation management has exploded, it has also become commoditized. So many companies offer these services that it’s hard to differentiate one from another, and this past summer, following a ruling by the Luxembourg-based European Union Court of Justice, Google ...

2015 in Family Caregiving & Stages of Life!!

Next Year In Family, Caregiving And Stages Of Life

[This is the fourth in a series of six posts about trend sightings for 2015 and beyond.]

My colleagues at Havas Worldwide and I launched our annual trends report last week, which forecasts an übertrend for the next 12 months of everyone focusing on their individual selves, from self-tracking to self-improvement and more. The report’s nine other trends center on the global middle class, the desire to be memorable, bugs, safe eating, frenemies, women, wild things, small business and the new local. We’ve also come up with a massive list of sightings about what’s next, which we’ll release in January but are previewing in a series here over six days. Many of them have obvious implications for marketers.

photo: creativecommons.org/Horia Varlan

photo: creativecommons.org/Horia Varlan

The concepts of family, parenting and life stages have taken on new relevance and economic significance as baby boomers continue aging, younger adults find themselves squeezed in the sandwich generation, and the lingering hangover of the Great Recession has created a boomerang generation of un(der)employed millennials who return home to live until well into their 30s. That’s a lot for Americans to navigate.

Below are some sightings for the near future related to these changing relationships:

In Healthcare, Parents Often Know Best
“When the Diagnosis Is Rare, Parents May Know More Than Professionals” was the headline of a New York Times article this fall. It describes how parents of children with rare diseases have used online medical literature and information-sharing tools to become so knowledgeable about their children’s conditions that they serve not just as advocates but also as the deferred-to decision makers. “Especially in the rare disease community,” the article explains, “parents’ knowledge can often easily surpass that of the children’s doctors.” According to Children’s National Health System, “Patient advocacy and parent involvement for children with rare diseases also [are] expanding.” Researchers now meet with parents to present findings and learn what’s important to them. It is in part because of parent involvement that Children’s now believes that drug development for many rare diseases is at a tipping point toward providing treatments that will transform many lives.

When It Comes to Kids, There’s a Bonus to Being Bored
Rosemary Milliman, principal of the lower school at New York’s prestigious Trinity School, routinely tells the parents of Trinity kids that the best thing they can do for their children is to allow them to be bored. Let home provide the ordinary, she says, while school provides the extraordinary. Countless experts suggest that unstructured time fosters creativity, self-sufficiency, independence and problem solving. Having “nothing to do” is an opportunity for children to flex their imagination muscle—perhaps the most important one they have. The call for boredom is a reaction to the helicopter parenting and overscheduling of upper-middle-class children today. In a post this summer called “Dear Children: Let Me Explain This Thing Called Summer,” the mommy blog We Are THAT Family summed up the new thinking:

“[F]or a long time, I provided The More. I bought into this lie that it’s my job to make my kids’ childhood magical and fun and [every day] an adventure all about them… I have fed the entitlement beast and when it rears [its] ugly head, my children aren’t the only ones to blame. Our children need to be bored. They need to kick their feet and wait outside of bathroom doors, unanswered. They need to be sent outside or to their rooms to play. They need to turn over the bag of tricks and find it empty… They don’t need a plan for entertainment. They can create their own. And that’s when summer gets magical.”

Caregivers Need Care
As baby boomers age, and with people living longer than ever before, a growing demographic of caregivers has emerged—some 65 million individuals who provide unpaid care for a friend or family member with a chronic health condition. For these caregivers, the financial responsibilities, time demands and stress take a toll. Enter technology. According to a study by Pew Internet & American Life Project, “caregivers are heavy technology users and are much more likely than other adults to take part in a wide range of health-related activities” online. So in addition to supportive publications (likeToday’s Caregiver), nonprofits (Family Caregiver Alliance andCaregiver Action Network among them), and government-funded and private programs, a number of new technologies are aiming to help. New apps include features ranging from disease information, medicine management, symptom logs and medical history to support groups and tools that allow sharing of schedules and information with other family members.

Life, Death and Instagram
Death and taxes might be certain, but the ways mourning, bereavement, death rituals and loss play out online are still evolving. Last spring, The New York Times touched on the evolving social norms for loss in the Internet Age: Should you “like” a Facebook post announcing the death of a loved one? Is it OK to text a funeral home to request a picture of your mother’s corpse? What about selfies at funerals? The article also discussed new websites that deal with grief, from Modern...

2015 in Fashion, Beauty & Design!!

Next Year In Fashion, Beauty And Design

Marian Salzman
Forbes Contributor

[This is the third in a series of six posts about trend sightings for 2015 and beyond.]

When many people hear the word trend, their mind first goes to fashion. Even though the cultural phenomena that I like to call Future Headlines exist in every discipline, many of us don’t recognize them as trends. A suddenly popular food, like the dressed-up biscuits that are the latest “it” meal, isn’t seen as a trend—it’s seen as the best thing ever. We believe new, of-the-moment business practices are simply the future, not ideas that come into vogue and fall back out.

Fashion, however, along with her sisters beauty and design, are obvious trends. We expect them to be in Vogue, then not in vogue. Each season, we look forward to seeing what ideas will take root thanks to the blessing of designers, creative directors, stylists, celebrities and, increasingly, bloggers and social media stars.

Here’s what these early-adopting tastemakers have brought into the mainstream for the coming year:

Athleisure
Your “went to the gym and skipped the shower” look is now chic. Chanel has debuted anathletic-themed lineup, Alexander Wang’s H&M collection combines couture and sport, Net-a-Porter launched a Net-a-Sporter channel ($250 yoga jumpsuit, anyone?) and thehippest store in the Hamptons sells workout wear. Tory Burch, the princess of pulled-together, is coming out with a sport line in early 2015, and Beyoncé announced a partnership with Topshop for an athletic streetwear brand. Indeed, sneakers have replaced stilettos as every style maven’s favorite footwear. Denim sales are down (and yoga pants are up). The new athleisure is part of our healthier (but hectic) lifestyle: We prioritize working out, but we’re too busy to change. Or we just want approval to wear elastic waistbands around our ever-expanding midsections.

photo: creativecommons.org/Dennis Jarvis

photo: creativecommons.org/Dennis Jarvis

Fur-Free Fashion
Designers and retailers are following the lead of Vivienne Westwood, Ralph Lauren and other top brands and forgoing fur. Last year, West Hollywood banned the sale of fur in its tony boutiques. This year, London’s hot Mahiki nightclub announced a new fur-free dress code. And Piperlime, a subsidiary of Gap Inc., said it would stop selling furafter a petition from a woman in Virginia gathered more than 50,000 signatures on Change.org. The holdouts are coming under pressure: The international animal welfare group Four Paws (which successfully pushed Patagonia and the North Face to create standards for ethical down) just launched a campaign against Burberry. Last year, PETA released undercover footage from a Chinese angora farm, and after pressure from a group Jezebel described as “every human with a conscience,” Zara, Gap and other retailers temporarily banned angora.

Androgyny Is Everywhere
With roots in normcore and the tomboy style that has been popular in recent years, today’s androgyny takes in closely cropped hair, oversize silhouettes and skinny black suits with collared shirts. “[F]or fall 2014,” wrote Vogue, “we’re seeing unprecedented gender fluidity on the runway—womenswear borrowing from menswear borrowing from gals borrowing from the boys—describing clothes in terms of traditional ideas of aesthetics of the sexes feels inaccurate, not to mention stale.” Celebrities like Ellen Page, Tig Notaro, Tilda Swinton, Milla Jovovich, Jared Leto and Annie Lennox are known for their androgynous style, as are bloggers like Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and Emily Weiss of Into the Gloss. Even Gwyneth Paltrow and model Cara Delevingne have made headlines recently for their androgynous fashion choices.

She’s Come Undone
The most popular look in beauty right now is … a lack of one. Skin care now matters more than makeup; you’re better off splurging on night cream than concealer. Terms like glowingradiantno-makeupand natural make headlines galore. A few examples: “Taylor Swift’s Pretty, Glowing Skin on ‘David Letterman’—How To” (fromHollywood Life, which says, “Her skin was glowing and she ditched her usual red lip for a more natural beauty look.”); “3 Fall Food Face Masks for Glowing Skin” (...

2015 in Food & Nutrition!!

Next Year In Food And Nutrition

Marian Salzman, Forbes Contributor

[This is the second in a series of six posts about trend sightings for 2015 and beyond.]

America circa 2015 is more obsessed with what it eats—and what it doesn’t—than ever before. And we’re tending toward extremes: Some of today’s culinary trends are almost ridiculously decadent, while others are equally virtuous. (Perhaps that’s why many people are starting to advocate an 80/20 principlefor healthy and indulgent eating.) Food dovetails with nutrition, which dovetails with health. I’ll get to that later, but first the fun stuff.

photo: creativecommons.org/Khairil Zhafri

photo: creativecommons.org/Khairil Zhafri

It’s a Wing Thing
Chicken wings are hot right now—and I don’t mean just spicy—at cult-favorite foodie spots run by highly trained chefs and at cheap local chains alike. TheNew York Times recently declared a “chicken wing boom,” and the National Chicken Council’s Super Bowl wing-eating forecasts rise every year. Plus, Tyson’s frozen Any’tizers Boneless Chicken Wyngz won a Better Homes & Gardens Best New Product Award. The ultimate finger food, wings are inherently noshable, reflecting a seemingly continuous growth in snacking.

Don’t Risk It; Eat a Biscuit
The Cronut has jumped the shark. Even as predawn legions line up outside Dominique Ansel’s New York patisserie and Ansel has trademarked the name of his cult-favorite creation, Dunkin’ Donuts recently rolled out (so to speak) a croissant-doughnut hybrid in 7,900 retail stores. And while the pastry’s runaway popularity spawned other imitators and new mashups like the cragel and the pretzel croissant (whose creator picked a public fight with Ansel, perhaps to get press), foodies have moved on to a more classic flaky comfort food: Southern buttermilk biscuits. The move is both a backlash to the hybrid trend and a chance for chefs to experiment and put their own stamp on a food that isn’t claimed or trademarked. Restaurants like San Francisco’s Biscuit Bender sell biscuits in creative flavors including pumpkin spice chocolate chip and also sour cream and sage, and the Maple Street Biscuit Company out of Jacksonville, Fla., and Biscuit Head in Asheville, N.C., stuff them with everything from fried chicken to goat cheese to brisket.

Rum: No Longer Ho-Hum
Bourbon and whiskey are king, but signs point to rum soon becoming the life of the party. Tiki culture, with its ironically kitschy bars and sweet, fruity cocktails, is undoubtedly trending. And with the kitschy decor come Tiki cocktails that typically include a mix of light or dark rums, flavored syrups and fruit juices. Think the mai tai (allegedly invented by “Trader” Vic Bergeron, the godfather of Tiki), the Zombie and planter’s punch. The rum itself is getting better, too, with Caribbean rum makers upping their game. NPR noted that the Miami Renaissance Rum Festival, which drew 10,500 visitors last year, has become a central stage for what you might call the rum revolution—the recent ascent of high-end, premium rum.” U.S. craft distillers are in on it, too, with artisanal rum makers popping up in droves in New York City, PittsburghIowaand beyond.

#FoodPorn Stars
Even though it originally meant provocatively photographed, ultra-gluttonous food, the term “food porn” has expanded to include glamour shots of healthy foods like ceviche, sushi and even salad. #Foodporn has become a popular hashtag on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, and it is a regular feature onVogue.com. As Thrillist wrote in June, “Finally replacing some chick’s feet on the beach as the most popular theme on Instagram, food porn is now everywhere, and it’s delicious.”

Like any social media movement, #foodporn has its stars: @smittenkitchen(from the blog of the same name), @spoonforkbacon (by a food stylist and photographer), @andrewscrivani (food photographer and New York Timescontributor) and @howsweeteats (blogger, author). Instagram stars of gastro art, which is even more stylized than food porn, include @gastroart,@dianecu,@julieskitchen and @rawveganblonde. Smart brands like Whole Foods (@wholefoodsmarket...

2015 Business Innovation & Social Responsibility!

NEXT YEAR IN BUSINESS, INNOVATION AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Marian Salzman
Contributor

It’s that time of year when my colleagues at Havas Worldwide and I have held our ears even closer to the ground than usual in order to compile our annual trends report, which launches today. We’ve also come up with a massive list of sightings about what’s next, which we’ll release in January but are previewing in a series here for the next six days. Many of them have obvious implications for marketers, and some are simply amusing.

In this post, I’ll talk about business, investment, innovation and social responsibility—both corporate and otherwise—because given the amounts of money that trade hands, and the innovation that the movements’ leaders have demonstrated, social responsibility has itself become a business.

photo: creativecommons.org/Nesster

photo: creativecommons.org/Nesster

Words of the Moment
A few years ago, stores, producers and other creative types added value by “curating” a tasteful selection of anything from music to dresses to sneakers. More recently, New York noted that “‘[d]elight’ and ‘delightful’ have become all-purpose marketing words in the tech world, trotted out to describe anything even marginally surprising or well made.” But companies are even more delighted with another word: “disrupt.” Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen describes disruptive innovation this way: “It transforms a product that historically was so expensive and complicated that only a few people with a lot of money and a lot of skill had access to it. A disruptive innovation makes it so much more affordable and accessible that a much larger population have access to it.” But now it’s just a buzzword, as Jill Lepore noted last summer in a New Yorker article titled “The Disruption Machine.” The poster children of “disruption”? They’re the “Ubers of everything”—with services from laundry to makeup application on demand. But once every service has been Uberized, what’s next remains to be pulled from the annals of marketing handbooks and SXSW.

Water Making Waves
Move over, green building and electrical energy conservation. The buzziest segment of the renewable energy and clean-tech sector right now is water innovation. The data on water scarcity is dreadful. About 1.2 billion people (one-fifth of the world’s population) live in areas where water is scarce, and another 1.6 billion live in places where the infrastructure can’t get water from to people. Companies and nonprofits are taking note. “[I]nvestments in innovative technologies and processes for reducing the drain on aquifers, detecting leaky infrastructure, reusing wastewater and addressing thetroublesome water-energy nexus are on the rise,” according to Heather Clancy of GreenBiz, citing companies like MillerCoors and Coca-Cola as leaders focusing on conservation. A quarter of startups are focused on monitoring, forecast and control, while another quarter specialize in organic, nutrients and solids treatment, according to the same writer in Forbes. In the nonprofit world, charity: water is the best-known water-focused organization but certainly not the only one.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match
One of the hottest concepts in the startup world today is an age-old one: matchmaker. Take Keaton Row, which offers personal stylists, or Spinlister, the so-called “Airbnb for bikes.” (“Airbnb of” being just about as hot as “Uber of.”) In the marketing world, Prokangaconnects freelancers with companies as needed by project. Similarly, AirPR, which launched late last year, offers a marketplace service to match pre-screened public relations and marketing talent with companies seeking these services. Co-founder and CEO Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer was inspired to launch the company (which TechCrunch called a “Match.com for PR”) when he noticed that Silicon Valley startups had trouble finding good PR people.

Crowdfunding.edu
We’ve all been on Kickstarter and CrowdRise. But when was the last time you checked your alma mater for a game-changing project to put your money behind? Colleges and universities across the country are using white-label, in-house crowdfunding to support student projects and businesses, faculty research, scholarships and campus life. The University of California system’sPromise for Education, an initiative to generate scholarships, asked participants to come up with a personal promise (from “do a 24-hour magic show” to “become a vegetarian”) that it would carry out if it met its fundraising goal. At Arizona State, the PitchFunder crowdfunding program...

Winter is the Best Time to Sell Your Home

Winter Is Apparently The Best Time To Sell Your Home. Here's How To Prep It In One Weekend.

Posted: Updated: 
Winter is known for many things, the least of which may be that it's the best season to sell a home. Granted, winter isn't exactly the most convenient time to move, but according to a study from real estate company Redfinhomes listed between December and March sell faster than homes listed in other months, and for more money. (That's been the case recent years, at least -- the market changes often).
Redfin says that anytime between December and May is an ideal time to list your home -- and February is the hands-down the best month. The company's analysis of nationwide listings from 2014 showed that 74 percent of homes listed in February sold within 90 days, and 13 percent of them sold for more than the list price. (Compare that to September, when 61 percent of homes sold within 90 days and October, when just five percent sold above list price).

In short, "shoppers in January and February are motivated," says Christin Camacho, a Redfin spokesperson. "They're looking in winter because they need to move, not because they're just looking for fun." And if people are going to brave the cold to househunt during winter, then they're going to make their effort worthwhile.

But before you pull a huge remodel to get it ready for the market, let's get one thing clear: Interior designers, realtors and home stagers almost unanimously agree thatyou should NOT stage large-scale remodels of ANY kind before selling your house. The investment, they say, simply isn't worth it.

The key to successfully selling your home lies in mini renovations -- the ones you can do on tight budgets, in a couple of days, and (most of the time) without professional help.

Feel free to breathe a sigh of relief and check out the suggestions for mini-improvements below.

Mini-remodel #1: Front porch paint job
Cost for gallon of paint: $33 Time to complete: Two days
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Repainting your front door is the most important revamp to execute, says Zillow interior design expert Kerrie Kelly. A fresh coat of color -- or a whole new door, if you're in need and willing to hire professional help -- will boost your home's "curb appeal," letting visitors know they can expect good things before they even get inside. Complete the front porch look with new address plates, light fixtures, potted plants and a welcome mat.

Mini-remodel #2: New kitchen and bathroom hardware
Cost of new knobs: $25 for 10-pack Time to complete: A few hours
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Kelly recommends picking up bulk packs of drawer knobs and door handles and replacing worn, rusted ones. "If you can streamline the hardware on your cabinetry, it's fantastic," she says. Oh, and organize your shelves while you're at it. "People don't like to see clutter."

Mini-remodel #3: Replace entryway light fixtures 
Cost of indoor wall lamp: $17 Time to complete: A day
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It's hard for designers to pinpoint exactly why perfect lighting puts house hunters in the mood to buy, but they agree that bright, warm lighting is key. First-impression areas like the entryway are especially important.

Mini-remodel #4: Paint with neutrals
Cost for gallon of paint: $33 Time to complete: Two days
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Remodeling Magazine editor Craig Webb has crunched the numbers to find out which large-scale remodels make the most returns for homeowners, and he recommends one very simple trick: "If you talk to realtors, one of the first things they'll say is to repaint." Add a coat of "light, bright and neutral" paint to any room (and all rooms, if you can!). Neutral...