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Sonoma County’s Fall 2019 Market

Good values for both buyers and sellers NEAR THE MIDDLE — ThisGeyservilleareapropertyislistedat$879,000byVanguardProperties.SonomaCounty’smedianhomepriceisnowat$699,000buttheaveragesellingpriceinnorthernSonomaCountyismuchhigheratabout$800,000.TheRenzLanepropertypicturedwasbuiltin2001andis2,300squarefeet.

Changing market conditions still being influenced by 2017 wildfires, record low mortgage interest rates By Rollie Atkinson Sonoma West Sta


onoma County’s real estate market remains a busy one with a mix of inuences including ongoing impacts from the 2017 wildďŹ res, low mortgage interest rates and continued demands for higher priced premium Wine Country residences. While diďŹƒcult to make ďŹ rm predictions, the closing months of 2019 are looking much better than sales activities from one year ago. “It seems we will be ďŹ nishing the last quarter of 2019 stronger than we ďŹ nished in 2018,â€? said

Rick Laws, regional vice president with PaciďŹ c Union. “That is based on demand that is reected in properties going under contract this year versus the same month as last year. Properties going under contract is considered a leading indicator.â€? There are currently about 1,200 residential properties listed for sale across the county. Of those, just over 500 are under contract, during a period when another 500 sales were closed. The median sales price was $625,000 which is 1.6% below one year ago. Housing values vary greatly across the various local markets with Healdsburg, Sonoma Coast and Sebastopol remaining the higher priced markets. Healdsburg’s median sold price for the year stands at $863,250. Coastal property was $885,000 and Sebastopol’s sold price was $850,000, almost exactly the same as one year ago. Portions of Santa Rosa, Cloverdale and Russian River had the lowest sold prices, ranging from $480,000 (Russian River) to $557,000 (Cloverdale.) Laws and other local real estate professionals

mentioned the likely impact on market activity from the two-year anniversary of the October 2017 wildďŹ res that destroyed 5,600 properties. That is because many of the homeowner ďŹ re victims are facing the end of their relocation payments from their insurance companies. Most home insurance policies provide for just 24 months of rental assistance or relocation expense reimbursements. Randy Coman, of Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Wine Country Group said he has noticed impacts from the wildďŹ res in markets that were not touched by the ďŹ res. “We are seeing apprehension from some would-be buyersâ€? because of the continued risks of future wildďŹ res. “Part of our responsibility has become calming people down.â€? The recent Public Safety Power Shuto (PSPS) spread fears and second thoughts, said Coman. “Even when we see prices that are set right (in rural or wild land border areas) there is still apprehension.â€? See Market Report Page 4


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Market Report Continued from page one The county’s housing market activity also includes lots of new construction of replacement houses and new owners building on lots purchased from previous wildfire victims who have moved out of the county. There are currently 523 lots listed for sale, with 47 sold in September. The average days on the market was 160 days and the median price was $275,000. About one-quarter of listed properties qualify as luxury properties with asking prices above $1.3 million. According to Gerrett Snedaker, of Better Homes & Garden Real Estate, “The pace of new sales (37) in September this year is equal to the pace of a year ago (36) and it is 18% below the pace last month (45). The days on market for luxury home closings was 102 days this September compared to 77 days a year ago.” Other local market trends show ample inventory in most local markets with slightly “softening” prices. There are 129 properties listed in the Healdsburg area, a total that is 29% above one year ago. Fifteen properties closed in

September, including some “older” listings that had been on the market for 142 days on average. Active listings in the Sebastopol area market stood at 74 in September, nearly equal to one year ago. There were 31 sales in the

Sebastopol market. Total Sebastopol sales were 11% below last year’s total and pace. Cloverdale’s inventory at the end of September was 39, with 13 new sales recorded last month. In Windsor, there were 49 active

listings in September. Thirty properties were sold with a median price of $627,000. (Except where noted, all market statistics are based on MLS (BAREIS) data and reports.)

ON THE MARKET — This single family residence located close to downtown Sebastopol is listed on the market at $799,000 by Sotheby's International. It is a 1,087 square foot house with 2 bedrooms and a single bath. The median price of recently sold properties in Sebastopol was $850,000 during September.

HOUSE & Home October 2019 A special supplement to the Oct. 17, 2019 edition of:

The Healdsburg Tribune The Windsor Times

Print & Digital Content and Layout: Andrew Pardiac, Rollie Atkinson, Jim Schaefer, Maci Martell Advertising & Sales: Teresa Elward, Brad Schmaltz, Carol Rands, Allie Sesser

“BEST Residential Contractor” North Bay Bohemian’s Best of 2019


Office & Administration: Jan Todd All contents are copyrighted by ©Sonoma West Publishers, Inc. PO Box 518, Healdsburg, CA 95448


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Five ways to elevate your home decor through minimalism


he latest trends in home decor reveal a desire for a feeling of tranquility and calmness, perhaps as a response to today’s overly busy and distracted lifestyles. With a return to natural materials in home design, everyone is looking for a way to create a peaceful, less hectic inner space. When it comes to home decor, less is deďŹ nitely more. How can you tap into this yen for a little more Zen? 1. Simplify your design strategy When revamping your room to create a more minimalist eect, choose a limited color palette, meaning one to three colors at most. Select mostly more muted or neutral colors, though you can use one vivid color in a piece of furniture or art to grab the spotlight. Let the textures of the materials that you use for the oors, walls, ceilings and furnishings — whether they are natural wood, stone, ceramics, glass, tile, fabrics or canvas — create the room's visual interest instead of yesterday's toobusy colors and patterns. Choose a couple of contrasting textures, like glass and reclaimed lumber, or woven fabric and stone, to highlight in the room for the best eect.

blankets and throw pillows. Let the furniture speak for itself. 4. Streamline artistic expression Instead of ďŹ lling every wall with pictures, choose just one accent wall, eliminating excessive decor elements around it. Let one work of art dominate that space, reducing any competition for attention. 5. Leave plenty of open space Resist the urge to ďŹ ll every corner and surface of the room with ornaments and knickknacks. It's the open space, unencumbered by any visual clutter, that creates the feeling of calm and tranquility you’re craving. DECLuTTER — Chooseasinglewalltoaddartisticaccentstoaroom. And if you’re lucky enough to have a great view out the window, When you’re selecting new 2. Declutter your spaces Decide what items you really want furniture for your minimalist rooms, install only simple, streamlined look for high-quality, standout pieces window treatments — or no window and need to be in each room and get treatments at all — to highlight that designed with clean lines, with no rid of the rest — or ďŹ nd a way to fussy design details or busy patterns. view. store it neatly, preferably out of Minimalist decor is all about sight. One of the greatest visual Don't acquire more furniture than making careful choices and choosing the room really needs. Chances are clutter culprits today comes from the best quality furnishings and technology. It's hard to know what to you can do without all those end decor over quantity of items. You do with the mass and tangle of cords tables and extra chairs. can turn any room into a beautiful Make one exceptional, stylish from all the latest gadgets, power showcase that you'd be happy to strips and chargers everyone uses in piece of furniture be the focal point for each room, and don't over-furnish entertain and live in, with some their homes. or over-decorate the space around it. thoughtful decision-making. Then avoid the urge to smother the 3. Choose furnishings couch or sectional with tons of with clean lines — (BPT)

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Five autumn fix-ups for your outdoor space Summer’s end can mean time to think ahead to next year’s patio parties After a long summer relaxing on your deck or patio, autumn is a great time to renovate your outdoor space — or build one from scratch. Here’s five tips for fabulous fall fix-ups. 1. Get decked out. Fall is an ideal time to tackle a deck project, whether it be repairs, board replacement or a completely new build. In addition to offering more pleasant temperatures for working outside, fall and winter are typically slower times for contractors, meaning you won’t have to wait as long to get onto their schedules. Contractors may also be willing to offer off-season discounts on their services or materials, which tend to be cheaper after the spring and summer rush. Another big advantage of waiting until the off-season to tackle outdoor projects is contractor focus. Rather than being one of many projects a contractor is juggling, you can be one of the few, which often translates into greater attention to quality and better customer service. 2. Think high and low. Research the best materials available for your budget and be sure to keep maintenance in mind. After all, the last thing you want is a deck that requires constant upkeep. Look for materials that are both high performance and low maintenance. Trex decking is my go-to material for outdoor projects. It’s a composite material that delivers the beauty of wood without the environmental impact, the laborintensive upkeep or the natural deterioration over time. I love that it’s made from 95% recycled materials and only needs an occasional cleaning with soap and water to maintain its beautiful appearance for decades. 3. Raise your railing game. Railing is one of the most visible elements of a deck and has tremendous impact on a deck’s aesthetic and curb appeal. In recent years, the industry has seen an influx of statement-making railing styles inspired by contemporary architecture and commercial design. Give your outdoor space an instant facelift by replacing your old wood deck


FALL FIX-uPS — There’sstillgoodweatherandseason-endingbargainstomotivatehomeownerstodooutdooradditions. railing with one of these new modern designs, including rod, mesh and glass that can take any deck from drab to dramatic. 4. Hide and chic. Nothing dampens the enjoyment of an elegant al fresco gathering quite like the sight of unattractive trash bins or nosy neighbors. Providing function and design, lattice is perfect for concealing storage areas or unsightly views and enhancing privacy. With styles ranging from romantic to deco, lattice panels also can be applied to structures such as arbors and trellises, or used as wainscoting or deck skirting. 5. Light it up. Lighting is a must for any outdoor space. In addition to amping up the ambiance, it enhances safety and helps to extend the time you can enjoy your outdoor space. Outdoor lighting can easily be integrated into deck boards and stairs, as well as railing posts and caps. Consider installing energyefficient LED bulbs that are dimmable and cool to the touch, making them safe for kids and furry friends.

— (BPT)

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When it’s time to consider hiring a professional landscaper In this age of DIY, many outdoor home projects look doable. The truth is, plenty of outdoor projects tackled by homeowners to save money are better left to landscape professionals. When attempting these projects on their own, homeowners soon realize that some jobs require more knowledge and expertise than an online search engine can provide, and the project may end up costing more if doing it themselves. Fortunately, trained, experienced and certified experts are available to help turn your vision into an enjoyable reality and bring years of knowledge and value to your outdoor project. Experts found through the National Association of Landscape Professionals, which represents an industry of nearly 1 million landscape, lawn care, irrigation and tree care professionals, have the expertise to create and maintain healthy green spaces that benefit our communities and environment. How do you know if you need a professional? Here are five signs. Your lawn looks unhealthy You see brown grass, patchy growth and weeds. You've tried everything from various lawn products to altered watering techniques, but nothing works. Lawn care professionals have the expertise and education to get to the root of your yard problems. A trained lawn care professional can evaluate factors including the pH balance of your soil, the presence of non-native grasses or problems created by overor under-fertilizing your lawn. These experts may have your soil analyzed and work alongside an agronomist to determine the best fertilizer application for your specific type of grass, and create a maintenance plan to achieve optimal lawn health. You want a patio You've dreamed of entertaining outdoors, viewing online pictures of patios, and think, "How hard can that be? Hardscaping — installing elements of landscape architecture, from pathways to retaining walls — requires a skilled hand, careful consideration of the best materials, plus knowledge of placement and installation.

A landscape professional will know what materials work best for your region and landscape design, and can assess your yard to consider issues that could impact your new feature. With a complex project, a landscape architect or designer can further assist you on planning and implementing your vision. Your tree looks sick If a tree in your yard has dead branches, bark splitting, fungus, defoliation or has had improper pruning, it's time to call an arborist. Consulting an arborist will help determine issues with your trees and the best course of action. Better yet, use an arborist to prevent problems with your healthy trees down the road. Arborists are trained and certified to ensure proper pruning and maintenance. They can recommend the best trees for your yard, where to plant them and how to get them off to a healthy start. You want a new landscape You love seeing colorful flowers and lush greenery at the local garden store, but don't know where to start. What will work best with your existing trees and plants? Where should you plant? What will grow best with your climate and soil type? You may be tempted to choose shrubs based only on their appearance, but improper choices could greatly impact your landscape design. A landscape professional is trained in proper plant selection and understands what flowers and greenery grow best in specific soil conditions, plus how to achieve a balance of colors and variety. They also know how to use plantings to camouflage unsightly areas of your landscape and add focal points to locations you wish to feature. When working with a landscape professional, they'll help you consider layering plant sizes and textures to create a beautiful outdoor space. You have big plans You've invested time and energy into your yard, and you want to protect that investment. Perhaps you want an irrigation system or landscape lighting, water feature or another upgrade. A landscape professional can help bring your vision to life. — (BPT)

HOUSE & Home H Fall 2019

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County removes some ADU restrictions Accessory dwelling units will be easier to build in parts of unincorporated Sonoma County By Andrew Pardiac Managing Editor andrew@sonomawest.com The County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an amendment to the zoning code that took away part of the “Z combining district.â€? The Z overlay restricted the building of ADUs and created an additional layer of permitting for those who wished to build. The Z overlay is from 1993 and aected 6,000 parcels of land, 4,000 in agriculture zoned land. Now, a potential maximum of 1,924 units have the overlay removed in those agricultural areas. While, the removal of the Z overlay allows more people to apply for an ADU permit, it does not automatically allow them to be built. The county changed it to address the aordable housing crisis in the state and to provide an avenue for farmers to keep the farm in the family. Though the number of potential units is 1,924, Deputy Director of Permit Sonoma Milan Nevajda cautioned that there were some sites where the removal of the Z overlay may not work, mainly due to open space or ood limitations that are not currently known. Inadequate water had been a reason for the tight restrictions, as well as critical habitats and ďŹ re hazard areas. Water supply can now be shown to be sustainable, as opposed to the “broad stokeâ€? ban from 1993. Fire hazards and habitat areas will still restrict builds. Public comment was in favor of removing the overlay and saw it as a “huge roadblockâ€? to homeowners using their land the way they wanted and to addressing the housing crisis and ďŹ re displacement. There was also support for the “aordable by designâ€? concept of ADUs. The new housing would also create a closer connection for residents to their food in the vein of farm-to-table. District 4 Supervisor James Gore wanted to know what the thought process was in crafting the amendment.



ACCESSORIZE — Anaccessorydwellingunit(ADU)inWindsor.MoreADUsmaystartpoppingupinunincorporatedSonoma CountyaftertheBoardofSupervisorsreducedthenumberofparcelsaffectedbytheZoverlay. “Was it (the Z overlay) seen as a process block as opposed to a policy issue?� he asked, noting that those who did apply for an ADU in the Z overlay had more time and roughly $20,000 more in costs. Gore saw the increase as arbitrary and not the proper way to ensure development respects farming.

spurred the direction to remove the overlay. Those who want to permit without the Z overlay will still pay $15,000 to $20,000, sta reported, which could go up signiďŹ cantly, up to $35,000, depending on what public utility hookups are there. ADUs will not be deed restricted, as enforcement would be too

Though the number of potential units is 1,924, Deputy Director of Permit Sonoma Milan Nevajda cautioned that there were some sites where the removal of the Z overlay may not work, mainly due to open space or flood limitations that are not currently known. “You don’t manage growth with fees,â€? he said. So far, 40 people have chosen to go through the process, which includes a general plan amendment in its permitting. All those were approved, according to sta. Sta reported that as applicants came forward, they saw there was the potential for a more case-by-case basis to allow for more ADUs, which

diďŹƒcult. ADUs that are permitted do not need a California Environmental Quality Act review. Nevajda said the environmental impacts were marginal, including a negligible amount of traďŹƒc increase. ADUs will continue to not be allowed to be used as short-term vacation rentals. Enforcement is complaint-based and the county also contracts for a web “data scrapeâ€? to

look for vacation rentals. There was some fear from the board that homeowners would build an ADU, move into it, and use the former primary residence as a vacation rental. Nevajda said that so far, they have found six cases of that happening, rare instances, he said. District 5 Supervisor Lynda Hopkins asked what would happen if farms fell out of compliance, giving the example of the farmer who no longer could work the land and abandoned his employee housing. The units would be legally non-compliant, sta reported, but the buildings wouldn’t be demolished, though expansion or changes would be denied. Additional ADU ordinance rewording will aect all county ADU builds. Limiting groundwater use by showing no additional water will be used is one change to those units in high risk zones. The other will allow ADUs to count toward the number of units on certain agricultural parcels, which will make the ADU more of a swap of acceptable build uses in the removed overlay.

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Eight ways to refresh your kitchen without a major renovation The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in your home. From cooking and eating to spending time with your family, most kitchens are well lived in and loved. But when it comes time for an upgrade, the kitchen is also one of the most expensive rooms to remodel. A full kitchen remodel can take months to complete, and the cost can add up quickly. The good news is there are plenty of budget-friendly ďŹ xes to help you rejuvenate your space without a total overhaul. Here are some top tips: Update your cabinet hardware One of the easiest ways to refresh your kitchen cabinets and drawers is to switch up the hardware. Warm up your space with brass ďŹ nishes or opt for another on-trend ďŹ nish and shape. Add open shelving Adding shelves is the perfect solution for a large blank wall. Once the shelves are installed, use them to display your glassware collection, beautiful china or colorful cookbooks. Shelves add storage and style to your kitchen. Upgrade your ďŹ xtures Bring out your inner chef by

NEW FIXTuRES— Kitchensarethecenterofactioninmosthomes,soinvestinginafew economicalupgradessuchasnewfaucetsandfixturescanboostahome’svalue.

selecting ďŹ xtures which feature a pull-down sprayhead with functions for rinsing, cleaning and fast ďŹ lling of pitchers. Simply upgrading your kitchen faucet takes your kitchen to the next level. New ďŹ xtures enhance the style of your space while you enjoy the latest innovative features like water temperature memory.

Splurge on a new appliance If you're really looking to spruce up your kitchen, choose your most outdated appliance and spring for a new one. A new stainless-steel refrigerator or sleek black cooktop might be all you need to revamp a dull space. If you're on a tight budget, keep an eye out for sales

throughout the year. Paint the cabinets or walls Never underestimate the power of a fresh coat of paint. A new color always feels like a huge change; and with very little supplies needed, painting is one of the most costeective ways to improve your kitchen space. Buy fresh owers It may sound simple, but fresh owers bring life and a pop of color into an otherwise dreary room. Make it part of your weekly routine to pick up fresh owers to brighten your kitchen and your mood. Play with lighting Lighting plays a big role in how your kitchen feels. Warm lighting will make your kitchen appear brighter and more welcoming. You can easily shop around for new light ďŹ xtures and light switches at most home improvement stores and compare prices online to get the best deal. You may have visions of your dream kitchen, but a full-edged renovation isn't always in the budget. Follow these tips to satisfy your urge to upgrade. — (BPT)

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Top 10 home improvement projects for older homes Do you own an older home, and are you looking to make upgrades that matter? Strategic enhancements not only increase a property’s resale value, but also its functionality. This is particularly important among young homebuyers. Sixtyeight percent of millennial homebuyers reported buyer’s remorse, according to a recent banking survey. Today’s high home prices in cities across the country mean that many millennials are buying older homes rather than newly built ones. Shortly after the purchase, these homebuyers feel disappointed with the dated features of their homes, unsure what and where to renovate. If you feel you’ve settled for your home, or perhaps you love the older property but want to give it a facelift, here are some leading homeimprovement projects for older homes: Technology additions: Smarthome features are frequently requested in new construction. Fortunately, your older home can become a smart home too when you implement technology, such as home automation. Thanks to WiFi, there’s no need for clumsy and

costly rewiring. Smart thermostats, smart music and programmable lighting are prime examples. Tankless water heaters: Tankless water heaters are ideal for older homes because they are easy to install, take up much less space and can reduce energy costs by as much as 60%. Because they heat water on demand, you never have to worry about running out of hot water. What’s more, longer warranties than what can be found with traditional storage-tank water heaters are now available. Wall removal: Removing a wall between the kitchen and living room can enhance the functionality of the area and provide a modern open concept design. Cutouts in walls are another option if the wall cannot be completely removed. Remember to ensure any wall is not load-bearing before removal, so you don’t impact the structural integrity of the home. Popcorn ceilings: Once upon a time, popcorn ceilings were the top trend installed in every house. Today, they distract the eye and make a home look old. Consider hiring someone to redo your ceilings or research how to scrape it yourself. Leave flat or add a knock-

down texture, which is a popular modern drywall finishing technique. New paint/wallpaper: That ’70s pea-green paint in the bathroom and the ’80s floral wallpaper in the bedroom instantly date your home. By updating the walls, your house will feel more modern and you can customize to your personal tastes. Dedicate a weekend to painting the walls in your favorite spaces and you’ll be amazed at the transformation. Painting old grout: After years and sometimes decades, grout in bathrooms and kitchen spaces really takes a beating and turns a dirty color that’s impossible to clean. It can be time-consuming and tedious to replace grout, so to get a fresh look consider painting it instead. Specialty grout paint makes the process simple with easy application features that simply roll on. Update hardware: Hardware throughout a home gets dingy and dated. To update a space without an overhaul, simply change out the hardware. Cabinet knobs, drawer handles, towel racks and more in a modern metallic hue can make a space feel fresh again without much investment. Don’t forget about air registers,

which can also impact the visual appeal of a space. Energy-efficient insulation: There are many modern insulation options available today that weren’t around when older homes were built, and many of those homes have little to no insulation at all. In addition to insulation, remember to seal spaces for air loss, such as air ducts, doors, windows, pipe inlets and the attic. Embrace the history: Be sure to research the history of the home and neighborhood. Would pulling out that original wood built-in be a detriment to the home’s authenticity and value? Perhaps you can hire someone to update the original wood flooring, so it has the modern stain tone you like, but the planks still maintain the home’s original luster. Light fixtures: Light-fixture styles change through the years and can make your home appear older than necessary. Replacements can make a world of difference. For example, replace an old brass chandelier with a modern pendant design. Not only will it be a style update, but the light output can make the space more usable.

— (BPT)

Licensed with Vanguard Properties

Jesse Pleinnikul (




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Three small things that you can do to add value to your home When it comes to your home, you want updates that make your property more comfortable, beautiful and of course, valuable. Whether you have a big budget or more elbow grease than cash to invest, there are numerous things you can do to improve your home’s worth immediately. Here are three small things you can do to boost your home’s value, plus one big one that will really make an impact. Fresh paint Paint is one of the most aordable ways to bring dramatic change to a room. Adding a fresh hue will instantly update the entire feeling of a space while also making it look more stylish and clean. Neutrals — like tan, gray or “greigeâ€? (gray and beige) — are always a good choice, but don’t fear a bolder color. Not sure? Consider painting neutrals on three walls and using the fourth as a focal wall that features a bolder color choice. For walls, start by patching and sanding any holes so you get a smooth ďŹ nish. Use painter’s tape to protect molding and ceilings and help you get a clean line when ďŹ nished. Drop cloths will protect

ooring and furniture. Taking time to properly prep helps ensure you get professional-level results that look great and last a long time. Bathroom updates You don’t need to invest in a complete remodel to get an updated bathroom. A few simple enhancements can make a big dierence without breaking the bank. Start by looking at the walls. Remove old wallpaper and repair any damage before adding paint. Then, look at the light ďŹ xtures and consider new options. A few quick swaps can add a modern aesthetic and optimum light for bathroom tasks. The style in a bathroom is often deďŹ ned by the accessories, so turning attention in that direction can help rejuvenate the space as well. Replace hardware on vanities and other extras like towel bars. Popular materials include chrome and brushed metals, but choose whatever ďŹ ts with the rest of the room. Finish the look with a new shower curtain and towels to elevate the space. Entryway enhancements Is the place where you welcome guests looking a little dingy? Your

FRESH PAINT — Anewcoatofpaintisoneofthemostaffordablewaystoadd valuetoyourhomebeforegoingtomarket. entryway is where your home makes a ďŹ rst impression, including buyers when it comes time to sell. Fortunately, it’s easy to update an entryway so it stands out positively and enhances your home’s value. Focus on the door by giving it a new coat of paint. Then replace hardware with a handsome, highquality option. You can add a door-

knocker or wreath to give it style, if you’d like. Then move to the surrounding spaces. Get rid of clutter to open up the space, and then add in a few key pieces of decor. For example, a plant or welcoming sign makes a house feel like a home.

— (BPT)

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Uncle Sam gave you a refund? While filing your taxes can be tedious, many Americans often look forward to receiving a tax refund. But it’s important to remember that if you’re receiving money back from Uncle Sam, it’s because you had too much withheld and overpaid your taxes last year — it’s not really extra money. So before splurging on a dinner out or a weekend getaway, consider these steps to put your tax refund to work this year, setting yourself and your family up for long-term financial success. 1) Pay down your “bad� debt. Eliminating your debt, especially the highinterest consumer debt with no tax benefits, makes it easier to reach your financial goals. If you’re carrying a balance on your credit cards or other high-interest loans, use your tax refund to pay down these expensive debts. If you’re still not down to zero after you use your tax refund, continue to make this a high priority in 2019. When it comes to smart money management, the only thing more important is contributing to your company’s retirement plan at least enough to receive the maximum See Page 13

MONEY MANAGEMENT — Beforesplurgingonadinneroutoraweekendgetaway,considerthesestepstoput yourtaxrefundtoworkthisyear.


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Homeowners, renters share similar savings and financial decisions Continued from previous page

retirement savings account, which often results in having to pay early withdrawal penalties.

employer match. Often, those contributions are taken straight from your paycheck before your taxes are deducted. Whether your employer matches 50% of your contribution or dollar-fordollar up to a certain amount, it’s hard to beat that kind of return, even in a bull market.

3) Max out your retirement accounts. Even if you have a 401(k), an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) can be a great way to supplement your retirement savings. Try to contribute up to the IRS maximum, which is $6,000 in 2019, plus an extra $1,000 if you’re over the age of 50. For most people, the above steps should be taken in order. If you still have more refund to put to work (or took these steps before you even got your refund), here’s how to think about saving for other common goals. The exact order of these might vary depending on your situation: 4) Consider other taxefficient saving and investing accounts: If you’re trying to save for college for your kids, contribute to a 529 college savings plan or education savings account, which both benefit from tax-deferred growth on your investments. You could also contribute to a health savings

unexpected situations happen frequently, but most Americans are unprepared. It’s best to tuck away between three to six months of essential living expenses in a savings or money market account.

2) Build up an emergency fund. Unexpected situations happen frequently, but most Americans are unprepared. It’s best to tuck away between three to six months of essential living expenses in a savings or money market account. Your money won’t grow much in these types of vehicles, but it will be easily accessible when you need to pay bills in case of a job loss or unexpected illness. Having some cash ready for unexpected situations will help you avoid expensive and unwise alternatives like living off credit cards, being forced to sell investments at an inopportune time, or withdrawing money from a

account (HSA), which is tax-advantaged savings and investment account available to people with high-deductible health plans. 5) Save for a down payment or pay down your mortgage. Alternatively, you may consider saving for the down payment on your home or making an extra payment or two on your mortgage or student loans. While those are considered to be in the “good” debt category since they are tax deductible and can help boost your credit score, eliminating your debt ultimately helps free up future money for other uses. 6) Treat yourself or keep investing for something bigger. Once you’ve addressed your savings goals, you may consider if there’s any left to treat yourself and your family. But make it something you really want, or if you’re still working toward a bigger goal, keep saving or investing for the longterm. While these steps are especially important when you’re trying to prioritize how to save and invest, they’re applicable to much more than just your tax refund. Smart saving and investing behaviors are key to helping you reach your long-term financial goals.

— (BPT)


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