How to host your first holiday dinner

How to host your first holiday dinner.

First-time homeowners, unite! This is your year for finally hosting a holiday dinner. It’s a rite of passage, an honor, and also? Just a whole lot of fun. Don’t worry about stressing, just use these basic steps to turn your holiday hosting into an appetite-pleasing, perfectly decorated event that everyone can enjoy.

Start with a list.

You’ll need lists, lots of them. For starters, create a guest list. Then once you decide on a direction for the meal, make a grocery list. But don’t forget to keep a non-food list as well—you’ll want to include things like napkins and decorations (or even extra Tupperware). You can minimalize list stress by using an invitation service like www.evites.com. Electronically send invitations and then manage RSVPs.

Choose a style.

Your style is your own, and it should suit the guests you’re inviting as well. You can go five-star formal, or opt for a more low-key buffet style meal. Whichever you choose, make sure it’s something you’re comfortable with. If you have a huge gathering, there’s no shame in disposable plates to help with the cleanup. From five-star to buffet, a buffet warmer is staple that will serve your household for years to come. Consider your options here.

Buffet Warmer - great for hosting your first holiday dinner.
BestProducts.com

Self-Serve Drinks

Empower your guests by setting up a self-serve bar for drinks. It only takes a few kitchen staples and ingredients, and it allows you to focus on food and socializing and not refilling glasses. Plus, you can throw in a few decorations to make it an eye appealing focal point. Think of it like the office water cooler, a nice gathering place for guests.

Self-Serve Bar for Drinks - Holiday Hosting Idea
WhatsCookingAmerica.net

Decorations

Don’t fret, decorating for your holiday meal doesn’t need to be a stressful event. A few things here and there will do plenty to set the mood. Remember holiday colors, and don’t forget the power of a few seasonal items like pine cones and tinsel. We happen to think that place cards are a delightful way to make your guests feel special, and this place card idea gives cranberries a fantastic use.

Holiday Place Holders - great for hosting holiday dinner
CountryLiving.com

Most importantly, have fun! This is your home, your people, your meal. You have everything to enjoy, right in front of you. After dinner, switch on the fireplace or a good movie, and simply relish in a job well done.

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Woods Bros Realty presents 2010 Spring Jubilee of Homes

JubileeLogo-webWoods Bros Realty is proud to present its 2010 Spring Jubilee of Homes. Over 20 brand-new homes will be open to the public from 1-5 p.m. on April 17-18 and 24-25. Visitors can register at each home for a one-in-four chance to win a Visa® gift card.

This year’s Jubilee occurs during the very end of the $6,500 repeat and $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credits, in which buyers have until April 30 to be under contract and until June 30 to close on the purchase of their new home. Buyers could purchase one of these homes in plenty of time for the tax credit. For those who would prefer to customize their own new home, Woods Bros sales professionals will be on site at each home to help buyers through the process of selecting a builder and a floor plan, all the way through to the closing and moving into a brand-new home.

It’s no secret that today’s new homes save home buyers money on heating and cooling costs. From windows and doors to insulation and roofs, the efficiency standards have increased over time. Some builders go above and beyond when considering energy efficiency. A number of our Spring Jubilee Homes have earned the Energy Star rating.

Compared with standard homes, Energy Star homes meet strict energy efficiency guidelines, delivering hundreds of dollars in annual savings on heating, cooling and water bills. These guidelines also help protect the environment, creating less air pollution, and the Energy Star rating is becoming an important quality when considering reselling your investment.

Click here for a list of new homes in the Spring Jubilee of Homes.

Leave the Light on Thursdays throughout April

LTLOwebtopperTime is running out for the $6,500 repeat and $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credits, and the government is NOT going to extend the credit. That gives you less than a month to negotiate an accepted offer on a home in order to make the April 30, 2010, deadline, at which point you must close on the purchase by June 30, 2010.

In order to give our customers and clients more opportunities to find the home of their dreams, Woods Bros Realty is holding its “Leave the Light on Thursdays” open houses every Thursday night from 5-7 p.m. throughout the month of April. Search participating homes at www.WoodsBros.com.

First-time buyers need to be focused, realistic

Affordable housing in the Lincoln, NE real estate market is becoming a rare commodity. If you are a first-time buyer in the under $100,000 range who is using FHA/NIFA’s ABC2 program or NeighborWorks First Home program and only need $1,000 to get into a house, here’s the reality of Lincoln’s market: houses that are in good condition and in popular areas are going fairly quickly and we are seeing multiple offers.

There are lots of buyers trying to take advantage of the remaining timeline for the tax credit so keep in mind that you have plenty of competition from your fellow first-time buyers. So, what does this mean? Get focused and get focused fast on what is important.

Don’t be unrealistic in what you can buy for your money, there are no ‘deals’ to be snatched up as so many of those HGTV® shows would have you believe. This is Lincoln, Neb., and our market has remained pretty stable in unstable times. ESPECIALLY in the under $100,000 price range.

Don’t be looking at houses beyond your price range either. Sellers are not going to give away their houses. Once you fall in love with a house outside of your price range, it will be nearly impossible to find one within your price range that will compare. You are just setting yourself up for disappointment. And the seller who had to leave for the showing, well they did so in good faith that you are actually qualified to buy their house–it’s just not right.

Sellers are in the drivers seat in this price range. Don’t think you are going to offer someone $10,000-15,000 less than what a property is listed at and actually think you are going to get your offer accepted.

Be realistic and listen to your real estate professional.

Are we borrowing home sales from later in the year?

Unless you have been stuck in a closet or under a rock for the past several months, you  know that the deadline is quickly approaching for both the first time home buyer $8,000 tax credit and the $6,500 tax credit for repeat home buyers.

Anyone wanting to get either of those credits must be in contract by April 30, 2010. These incentives have certainly provided a boost to home sales across the country and in Lincoln. We are likely to see a rush from buyers to find a home and make an offer before the deadline hits. So, what happens after April 30th?

It’s possible some of these home buyers are making the move now instead of waiting until later this year. Perhaps they are getting married in the fall, or expecting a baby later this year, and they know they want to buy a house in 2010 so they have decidded to buy now and get the incentive. Does that mean realtors and home sellers will be sitting idle later this year? Perhaps.

However, I have encountered some buyers who are not going to let the promise of $8,000 force them into making a decision on a house before the right one comes along. Other buyers are betting that home prices are somewhat artificially inflated now because of the incentives and they are expecting home sellers will be more willing to negotiate later this year.

Your thoughts? Let me know.

Open House at North Creek Villas to start Sunday

North_Creek_Villas_FCH_logoWoods Bros Realty and First Choice Homes are pleased to present an “Open House at North Creek Villas” March 7-14 at the townhome subdivision at North 20th Street and Fletcher in Lincoln, Neb.

Nine brand-new townhomes are for sale in North Creek Villas, and they include two-bedroom ranch plans and two-bedroom two-story plans. All feature two-stall garages and are priced from $118,400 to $144,400. The convenient location offers easy access to I-80 and North 27th Street.

For the event, the homes will be open Sundays from 1-5 p.m. and Monday through Thursday from 4-7 p.m., with no opens scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

ranch22sty

First Choice Homes, is offering various incentives through the promotion. In addition, there is still an $8,000 first-time and $6,500 repeat home buyer tax credit available, not to mention already low interest rates.

First-Choice-HomesThe builder, First Choice Homes has built hundreds of homes in the Lincoln area for over 10 years. The company has been awarded an Honorable Mention award from the Better Business Bureau of Nebraska. First Choice Homes has teamed up with Gotcha Covered to select everything you need for your new home from carpet to kitchen cabinets, tile, light fixtures and all your home decorating needs. Their designers work with you for no extra charge.

The townhomes are listed by Beth Scholz and Rob & Teresa Predmore of Woods Bros Realty’s Lincolnshire Square office. For more information about the promotion, visit www.WoodsBros.com/NorthCreek.

Home buyer tax credits spurring Grand Island housing market

By Robert Pore
Grand Island Independent

It may be the right time to buy a house.

The government is providing a number of tax incentives that could help not only first-time home buyers but also those existing homeowners who would like to upgrade their residence.

Under the guidelines of the 2009-10 Home Buyer Federal Tax Credit program, first-time home buyers who have not owned a principal residence during the three years prior to the purchase may be eligible for a tax credit of 10 percent of the home’s purchase price, up to a maximum of $8,000.

Existing homeowners — who have been residing in their principal residence for five consecutive years out of the last eight and are purchasing a home to be their principal residence — or a repeat buyer may be eligible for a tax credit of 10 percent of the home’s purchase price, up to $6,500.

The eligibility period is for homes purchased after Nov. 6, 2009, and before May 1, 2010. However, home purchases subject to a binding sales contract signed by April 30 will qualify for the tax credit provided that closing occurs prior to July 1.

For more information about the Home Buyer Federal Tax Credit, visit www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com.

Pat Schmit of Woods Bros Realty, president of the Grand Island Board of Realtors, said the federal Home Buyers Tax Credit program has generated a lot of interest from potential home buyers.

“Many, many buyers have benefitted from this credit,” Schmit said, “mostly young people who are first-time home buyers.”

But interest has also been strong for the tax credit available for existing homeowners looking to upgrade, Schmit said.

Homes that qualify are all less than $800,000, including newly constructed homes or resale, and single-family detached, town homes or condominiums, provided that the home will be used as the buyer’s principal residence. Vacation home and rental property purchases do no qualify.

There are income limits to the program.

For example, home buyers who file as single or head of household can claim the full credit if their modified adjusted gross income is less than $125,000. For married couples filing a joint return, the combined income is $225,000. Single or head-of-household taxpayers who earn between $125,000 and $145,000, and married couples who earn between $225,000 and $245,000, are eligible to receive a partial credit.

The credit is not available for single taxpayers whose modified adjusted grossed income is greater than $145,000 or married couples whose modified adjusted grossed income exceeds $245,000.

The tax credit is refundable, which means that, if the amount of income taxes you owe is less than the credit amount you qualify for, the government will send you a check for the difference. Under the program, the tax credit does not have to be repaid unless the homeowner sells or stops using the home as his or her principal residence within three years after the purchase.

The Home Buyer Federal Tax Credit was started to stimulate the housing market following the recent economic recession that slowed home buying and home construction.

While the housing market suffered throughout the country as a result of the economic downturn, the effects were not as great in Central Nebraska, Schmit said.

“Our housing market fell to some extent, but this (tax credit) has definitely improved it and has sparked an interest in buying again,” she said. “We have had a very strong housing market, and we saw a small decline, nothing like other communities.”

Schmit described Grand Island’s housing market as “stable,” but the number of listings are down, “and that is hurting us.”

“Normally, this time of year, we have about 350 listings, and now we are down to about 280,” she said. “There are just not as many houses to choose from, and it’s taking buyers longer to find a house.”

The number of listings may be down because people are not ready to sell their homes because of the economic climate nationwide, Schmit said.

“They feel that maybe it is just not the right time to move up,” she said.

Also, with lower housing prices, people who purchased homes several years ago may be reluctant to place them on the market for less than what they paid.

Once those home prices become more competitive as the number of buyers increases, owners may be more willing to put those homes on the market.

Schmit said there is a wide range of homes on the market — from older homes to new construction. She said the current price range averages between $100,000 to $150,000.

“It’s a very dynamic market, and we have people of all ages looking,” she said. “We have had calls from people moving back from Oregon and California.”

Another incentive is that interest rates are low. Schmit said there’s also strong demand for rental properties in Grand Island, which may contribute to tighter lending practices for those wanting to buy a new home.

For the rest of the article, visit the Grand Island Independent web site.

Woods Bros Realty gives away a year of mortgage payments

HomeServices of Nebraska CEO Gene Brake presents winners Tim and Kerri McDonald with a year of mortgage payments, joined by their Realtor Harry Malone of Woods Bros Realty.
HomeServices of Nebraska CEO Gene Brake presents winners Tim and Kerri McDonald with a year of mortgage payments, joined by their Realtor Harry Malone of Woods Bros Realty.

Kerri McDonald of Lincoln has one less thing to worry about for 2010. Woods Bros Realty, along with HOME Real Estate, is paying her mortgage payments for the year, as she is the winner of their 2009 Cover Your Bases promotion.

McDonald and her husband, Tim, purchased their first home, a Cover Your Bases listing, in September. By participating in the Cover Your Bases program, the seller agreed to provide an upgraded American Home Shield home warranty to provide more buyer confidence in the home.

Kerri said they plan to use the money to give themselves a nest egg or to pay down extra on their mortgage.

“I’ve never won anything before,” Kerri said. “I don’t know what to make out of it. It just hasn’t hit me yet.”

The home warranty has already come in handy for the couple, and they were able to take advantage of the first-time home buyer federal tax credit. They also took part in the NeighborWorks® program, a non-profit organization that offers home buyer education and assistance, in addition to neighborhood revitalization.

“This is really going to help us out with our future,” Tim said. “With the $8,000, too, what else could we ask for? It’s just a blessing, really.”

Sales associate Harry Malone of the Woods Bros Realty Lincolnshire Square office worked with the buyers to find a home, make an offer, and keep the sale moving when problems arose.

“They were very, very appreciative throughout the cycle of the sale, “Malone said. “These folks were just so nice all the way. It’s people like them who make my job enjoyable.”

Lou Villalobos of the Woods Bros Realty Country Club Plaza office was the listing agent of the home that had been on the market for a while and had recently had a price reduction, bringing into the McDonalds’ price range.

“When the Cover Your Bases promotion started, we added this home to it immediately,” Villalobos said.

The Cover Your Bases promotion was created to promote secure home buying and selling in an uncertain economy. Homes in the promotion included an upgraded home warranty to protect buyers from unforeseen repairs and expenses in the first year of owning their home. Entrants needed to purchase one of the promoted homes using a Woods Bros Realty or HOME Real Estate professional REALTOR®, and they were encouraged to have the homes inspected.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the results of this promotion and are thrilled for the winners,” said Gene Brake, CEO of HomeServices of Nebraska. “We appreciate all the buyers and sellers who have participated in the program.”

135 buyers were enrolled for a drawing of free mortgage payments for a year, up to $12,000 of principal and interest. Kerri’s name was drawn Jan. 5, and Tim waited until he picked her up from work to give her the news.

“It’s still just a shock to me,” she said.

For more information about the Cover Your Bases promotion, visit www.CoverYourBases.net.

Local home sales, new and used, boom during October, November

BY MATT OLBERDING / Lincoln Journal Star

November was a month to remember for local home sales.

Existing home sales were up 76 percent over the same month last year. Sales of new homes were up more than 60 percent.

Doug Rotthaus, executive vice president of the Realtors Association of Lincoln, attributed the numbers largely to the $8,000 tax credit for new homebuyers, which was extended last month, and the new $6,500 tax credit for buyers who already own a home.

“Tax credits are playing a big part in this, along with low interest rates,” Rotthaus said.

Kent Obrist, a Realtor with Woods Bros. in Lincoln, said about one-third of his buyers this year have been first-time homebuyers.

He said that helped lead to a “really good” October and November.

Nationally, half of home sales in October and November were to first-time buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Sales of existing homes were up 44 percent nationally and 53.5 percent in the Midwest compared with November 2008, although those numbers are measured differently from the local ones. The national sales figures are reported as an annual rate, rather than as raw numbers of sales.

“This clearly is a rush of first-time buyers not wanting to miss out on the tax credit,” said Lawrence Yun, the national Realtor group’s chief economist.

National figures for new home sales were not available from the Realtors.

Even with the strong showing in November, sales of new homes locally for the year to date are slightly below where they were last year, but Rotthaus said existing home sales are approaching record numbers.

The local record for existing home sales was set in 2005, and “we’re real close to beating ‘05 year-to-date,” he said.

Rotthaus said he’s looking forward to this year’s success continuing at least into the first half of 2010.

” I think the expanded tax credit will have a good impact on our market,” he said.

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