Spring Cleaning for the Spring Market

If you are thinking of selling your home this spring, now is the time to look around your house and make a plan to de-clutter, organize and clean. When prospective buyers visit your home, you only have one chance to make a first impression. So, putting in some extra effort before you post the “For Sale” sign can make a big difference in both sale price and days on market. Here is a quick list to help you de-clutter and spruce up your house as you prepare to make it “show worthy”:


When buyers enter your house, they are looking for space. Living space. Closet space. Storage space. To help convey space, you will want to pack away belongings you won’t need before the move. This will give you a head start on packing as well as help get your home ready to sell. Consider renting a storage unit to hold boxed possessions and extra furniture. This is also a great time to hold a garage sale or donate unwanted items to charity.

  • Clean out your closets, packing away items you won't need before you move and donating those items that are no longer used or needed.
  • In the kitchen, throw away old or expired food and clear off the counter tops. Pack away small appliances that take up counter or cabinet space.
  • Remove oversized furniture, small tables, extra chairs and “dust collectors” to make your rooms look more spacious.
  • Organize the remaining items to show off the space.


Buyers perceive a clean home as a well-maintained home. Therefore, a home ready to show can never be too clean. Don’t be afraid to break out the white gloves.

  • Start with your front door and, yes, doorknobs. Clean and/or paint the door.
  • Clean the finger prints from doorknobs and light switches.
  • Clean appliances inside and out. Make them shine!
  • Clean light and ceiling fan fixtures. Replace burned out light bulbs.
  • Clean windows and window screens.
  • Steam clean carpets.
  • Wipe down baseboards.
  • Paint tired walls with a neutral, inviting color.
  • Repair or replace damaged walls, fixtures, windows and screens.

The Wendy Slaughter Team specializes in showcasing our clients’ homes. After we tour your home, we provide a “Home Enhancements Checklist” that outlines those repairs and upgrades that will help you sell for more. We then bring in our professional designer who will stage your home. Finally, we hire a professional photographer to capture and show off your home’s best features.

These services help our listings stand out above the competition and are part of our proven marketing formula that helps our clients sell their homes faster. Last year, our Howard County listings sold in an average of 17 days as compared to the county average of 44 days on market. Contact us to help you make your home a “show worthy” addition to the spring market.

~Debbie Pavlik

10 Home Improvements Sellers Can Skip

When appraisers determine your home's value, they compare your home to surrounding comparable homes. Although it doesn't happen too often, there is a chance that you can over improve your home for your market area.

We've seen sellers put thousands of dollars into gourmet chef kitchens, owner's baths with champagne tubs and imported tile from Italy only to learn later that they are unable to recoup the costs of when they go to sell. Check out this slideshow for additional examples of some improvements that you may not have to do to your home. Wendy was asked to contribute to this slideshow and she happily agreed!

Wine Cellar

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Remodel Your Kitchen

Written by guest blogger Karen Pitsley from Transforming Architecture.

Thinking about renovating or upgrading your kitchen?  The idea of doing a project in your home can be very exciting, especially when it deals with something you use constantly like your kitchen!  Sometimes, however, reality can be less enthralling.  Planning and preparation are the keys to a successful kitchen remodeling project.  Even the most careful planning doesn’t guarantee perfection, but it will certainly reduce the frustration and limit the surprises.  There are many different things that need to be considered before starting your home remodeling project.  Here are five questions you should ask yourself before you begin:

1. Should I hire a design professional?

I’m an architect, so of course my answer is YES!  Seriously though, all projects do not need an architect.  If you are moving walls or redesigning spaces, call an architect. If you are in need of a “room lift” with new colors and furniture, call an interior designer.  If you are unhappy with the layout of your kitchen, but are staying within the current footprint, I recommend calling a kitchen designer or architect or interior designer.  Kitchens in particular are such an essential part of your home, so if you’re unsure, call your design professional for a free consultation.  To most architects, every project is an opportunity to have fun, but I have told potential clients that their project just doesn’t need my services.

2. What is my five year plan?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a potential client’s home and will hear something like this, “we just finished our kitchen, got new windows and siding and are now ready to design an addition.”  This is sad for a design professional to hear.  We know you don’t want to pay a contractor to undo what you just paid him to do.  Nor do we like suggesting that you do so, but the best design option for your lifestyle may have been a fantastic kitchen open to the addition.  Work with your design professional and make sure you tell him/her what your future plans are.  The ideas you plan to implement in four years may impact your design today.  Why not plan it all at once?  The benefits can be: easier future budgeting, spending your money wisely, getting the best design now and when the next phase gets built, and being excited about the new house you will soon have.

3. Do I have the time necessary to complete the project?

Never plan a major remodeling project to finish just before some major event is to take place in your home.  Although it is tempting to want to host a Thanksgiving feast when your home is in its newly remodeled state, please resist the temptation.  It will add a whole new level of stress to everyone involved.   All projects should have a projected schedule for completion, but if there is a weather delay or cabinet order delay, your project may be completed the day before your guests arrive, but you’ll have no time to clean the pounds of construction dust, decorate the rooms and make the turkey!  Be kind to yourself, and schedule your event for New Years!

4. What is my budget?

This is a tough question.  It depends on the project complexity, your geographical area and hidden conditions.  This is especially true if you live in an older home. Tear out a wall and you’re sure to find something different than you had thought.  It might be lovely old brick that was covered over with drywall or it might be asbestos.  Make sure you have some contingency funds.  This could be anywhere from 10% for a newer home, and 15-20% or even higher, for an older home, but this is a great question for your design professional.  They will know your geographical area and from experience, be able to glean the likelihood of unforeseen conditions.  If all goes well, you’ll have more money spend on furnishings and fun details at the end.

5. Will my home be livable during the remodel? 

Remodeling is dusty, messy, and noisy.  It is challenging to live in a home that is undergoing a major renovation.  It is stressful.  If you are remodeling a part of the house that is not used daily, then you and your family can probably live through it.  I had a client whose project was to add a second floor, and they chose to stay and live in the basement.  Not fun and if given the same choice now, they would choose to move out for those eight weeks. Talk to your contractor. It’s possible you could save money by moving out.  Your project may be completed faster because your contractor doesn’t have to make your home clean and safe for your family (kid-safe and contractor-safe are two different levels) every night.  That half hour can be used to finish the trim or skim the drywall.  Some contractors will not take projects if the family is not moving out.  If nothing else, moving out will save you some SANITY!

One last bit of advice.  Find a professional that makes the process fun!

Karen L. Pitsley, AIA, is principal and architect at Transforming Architecture LLC, an architectural firm located in Howard County, providing residential design. She may be reached at 301-776-2666 or at karen@transformingarchitecture.com

In Honor of National Homemade Cookies Day...

Debbie has decided to share two of her favorite homemade cookie recipes! Enjoy and happy baking!

Russian Tea Cakes

1/2 cup butter

2 TBL sugar

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1 cup all purpose flour

1 box 10X sugar (confectioner/powdered sugar)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix the butter and sugar together. Combine the pecans and flour with the butter/sugar mixture. Roll dough into small balls (size of a Swedish meatball). Place on a greased baking sheet. Cook at 300 for 45 minutes. Careful - cookies can burn easily!

Remove cookies from baking sheet and roll in powered sugar immediately. Let sit for 15 min and roll again. Roll in sugar a third time when cookies are completely cool.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup confectioner sugar

In medium bowl, mix together cocoa, white sugar and vegetable oil.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in vanilla.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt and stir in to the cocoa mixture.  Cover dough and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Roll dough into one inch balls (about Swedish meatball size).  Roll each ball in confectioner sugar before placing on parchment paper on cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Let stand on cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool.

Both of these recipes can be made gluten free!!

15 Meaningful Home Improvements for Sellers

Want to make the most out of the time you spend getting your home ready for sale? There are several steps in the home selling process that are important for most homes. Something as easy as doing a thorough home cleaning and taking time to de-clutter will help make that first impression of your home memorable to buyers. Even a small change like upgrading a light fixture can have a huge impact on what a buyer sees when they walk into your home.

Check out this eHow slideshow  that details 15 ways that you can improve your home to help it sell faster. Wendy was featured in slideshows 7-9!

Howard County Stats Update!

The local real estate market has been wild this year. Let's take a look back at where we've been so far in 2013.

For the first quarter of this year, Howard County had an inventory shortage (among our team we jokingly referred to it a a "crisis").  Even during the second quarter "spring market," the inventory only rose to less than 750 active listings.  During the the 2nd quarter, our team began to see multiple offer situations due to the shortage of housing available to buyers and outstanding interest rates. It was almost as if we had a small housing bubble.  As you can see above, the number of active listings is on the rise as we move into the third quarter.

Of the 413 properties that came on the market in July, 42% are in the $300,000 - $499,999 range. This falls in line with the fact that the median sales price for July was $414,450 and the average sales price was $452,364.

As inventory climbs back up, the Spring/Summer market winds down and interest rates increase, we have seen a drop in the number of properties going under contract. We would expect this to continue into the Fall/Winter market with properties taking longer to sell and possibly selling for less than asking price (keep in mind, this is a generalization about our local market. Each home is unique!).

Please don't misunderstand: we're still selling houses! The market conditions have changed so we're reacting and addressing them to help our sellers. Reach out to us anytime if you have questions or just want to chat about real estate.

Yes, you should be keeping up with the Joneses...and here's why

The most frequent questions we hear from homeowners relate to maintaining or improving the value in their homes. Being active in the local real estate market means we know the trends. Some you may already know. Others may really surprise you.


Yes, this is a totally boring topic but it is super important! We cannot stress this enough: maintain, maintain, maintain! A stitch in time really does save nine. When something isn’t working, repair it right away. It’s the right thing to do and you’ll thank us later.


Everyone knows that kitchens and baths sell homes. Flooring is a close second. But even small changes can have a huge impact. Those old brass light and bathroom fixtures will age your home and make it seem dated. The good news: fixing this is affordable. Both Lowes and Home Depot now have great lighting options. We recently updated every light fixture in a townhouse for less than $400. It had a huge impact and the house sold quickly. Small investment for a huge impression!


It’s important to choose flooring and paint colors that are current. You don’t have to follow every fad but keeping up with trends while making your house still feel like your own will help to maintain or increase the value. Many designers offer color consultations at reasonable fees.  Again, investing a small amount for a fresh updated palette will make a huge impact in your home!


Maintaining and upgrading your home allows YOU to enjoy the house. Yes, you’ll recoup some of your investment but you’ll also fall in love with your home again. Should you sell down the road, your home will show like a model and you’ll sell faster and for more money than your neighbor.

Want some more free advice? Like us on facebook, follow us on twitter or contact us for more info about improvements and referrals to high quality service providers.

Wishing you all the best!

Wendy Slaughter

This article was originally published in Her Mind Magazine.

Title Insurance…why bother? (Guest Blogger MD Title Works)

People ask us all the time,

 “Why should I purchase title insurance?”

 “Do I really need title insurance?”

Buying a home is most likely the biggest investment you will ever make.  It is also probably the most expensive purchase you will ever make. So why anyone would ever consider NOT purchasing title insurance is crazy! We purchase life insurance, car insurance, pet insurance, health insurance, dental insurance, insurance for our phones etc. We pay yearly and/or monthly premiums without thinking twice. We wouldn't consider NOT owning homeowners’ insurance (which protects us against the cost of physical damage to our home) and we pay a hefty annual premium for it too.  No questions asked.

The interesting thing about the title to our homes is…it CAN be defective.  Believe it or not, builders have built houses on the wrong parcel of land, owners have forged documents, bogus mortgage releases have been filed, judgments have been missed when searching the title or have been indexed incorrectly among the land records, deeds have been filed with clerical and typographical errors or properties have been transferred by the wrong parties making them invalid.  The list of possible title defects is endless.  There are years and years and years of transactions for every parcel of land.  And these transactions have involved all kinds of people who, at anytime, can make a mistake or, even worse, intentionally commit fraud or wrong doing.

 “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe”

~ Albert Einstein

That being said, because of the Title Insurance industry, regulations and standards have been created that help diminish fraud and/or human error, making title defects few and far between. Hooray, Hooray! (patting ourselves on our backs here).  However, it just takes one and,  if you are anything like Charlie Brown…it’s your property that is the one with the problem.

Title Insurance is a ONE time premium you pay at the time of purchase.  It is effective the entire time you own your home.  Most attorney fees are covered if you need to fight a claim.  In addition, it provides you with a reissue rate, meaning if you refinance your home at anytime, you will get a discount on the Lender’s Title Insurance that is required by most lenders.  That’s another thing—if the lenders require it, shouldn't you?

For the cost, Title Insurance is a no brainer.  It is what insurance SHOULD be.  It can protect you in most cases of fraud, errors and omissions and it is relatively inexpensive.  You buy the insurance ONE time and you have a policy....period.

So our answer is this:  You buy insurance, of any kind, as protection; protection against a loss that would result in a large, unforeseen expense.  Protecting the title to your home (probably your largest investment) is a must!  So we highly recommend buying it at settlement so you don't wake up one day to find there's a title problem and you end up paying thousands of dollars and spending countless hours trying to correct it. Whaa Whaa….Charlie Brown.

Maryland Title Works Unlimited

The Infamous Tax on Rain Water

In a nut shell, The Watershed Protection & Restoration Fund was enacted in order to control the amount of pollution from stormwater runoff. The tremendous amount of excess stormwater after a heavy rainfall or snowstorm is not absorbed into the ground or treated at a wastewater treatment plant. This excess water then flows directly into our streams, rivers, reservoirs (hello delicious drinking water) and the Chesapeake Bay.

This fund affects Baltimore City and 9 counties in Maryland and goes into effect on July 1, 2013. If you own property in one of these areas, you will be charged a yearly fee reflective of the amount of impervious area that resides on your property. Impervious areas are structures and areas that do not allow for the absorption of water. An area such as the roof of a house, a patio or a driveway does not absorb the stormwater runoff thereby sending it (and all of the pollutants that it picks up along the way) directly to all of our naturally occurring water systems.

Each county has (or is currently determining) a way to charge this fee. For most counties, the fee will be added to your tax bill just as most sewer and trash collection fees are currently added to tax bills. These fees will create a fund that will be used to create new stormwater management systems.

Depending on the county, the fee can be reduced by the implementation of things like rain gardens, ponds and green roofs that help thwart stormwater run off.

Here are the links that we have found so far for each affected county. Some counties have already had this fee in place and some are still in the process of determining a fee schedule.

Anne Arundel County
Baltimore City - Click on Stormwater in the top navigation bar
Baltimore County
Carroll County
Charles County
Frederick County
Harford County
Howard County
Montgomery County

Image taken from the EPA Slideshow - Using Rain Gardens to Reduce Runoff

Savvy Buyers: What’s up with that house?

People are always asking us how they can find more information about a particular property. Of course, the easiest way is to contact your friendly and helpful realtor who can do all of that work for you...but many people like to do their own research. So, for all of you curious people out there, here are some resources that you may find useful in your search:

State Department of Assessments & Taxation

This is the best place to start when you are seeking general information on a property. To pull a property's tax record, first select the county and then search by the address. Want to learn more about reading a tax record?   Check out our blog about it.


Interested in finding out if a house obtained permits before putting up a fence, finishing that basement or obtained a rental license before renting it out? Every county has a different online system for searching for permits. Some of the databases are only for a certain time frame, so it never hurts to call and ask about a particular property. Here are a few (click on the county to go to the website):

Anne Arundel County

Baltimore City

Baltimore County - No online search capabilities, but you can call with an address 410-887-3353

Carroll County - No online search capabilities, but you can call with an address 410-386-2674

Frederick County

Howard County - You have to create an account, it is free. You can also call them at 410-313-2455

Montgomery County

Prince George’s County

Plats & Recorded Deeds

So everyone knows (or at least Tess thinks everyone knows) that Google Maps enables you to see the lot where a property is located (you have to zoom into the map). How would you obtain the actual plat for a property? You would go to your county’s courthouse to the Land Records division (typically overseen by the Clerk of the Court). This magical place gives you the opportunity to pull recorded public information about a property like the deed and plat. Maryland put all of this information online and it can be accessed here. Of course, you can also go to the land records building to do your own search (Quick side note: Tess loves these places because she is a real estate nerd).

Market Value

I wish we could give you a link to a site that would provide accurate home values but the truth is, your best resource is a realtor (or an appraiser – see our awesome blog on how an appraisal works). There are websites that will give you an idea of the value of a home (we’re looking at you Zillow), but as a team, we do not advocate the use of these sites due to the many inaccuracies we’ve seen. Their “Zestimates” may not take into account the upgrades that a home has in comparison to other homes in the neighborhood. We too often see Zestimates that are very far from the true value. Your best bet is to reach out to a professional who knows the area.

Feel free to reach out to us anytime. We’re here to help!

5 Things Every New Homeowner Should Do (within the first week of moving in)

Congratulations! You have finished the settlement process and are given the keys to your new home.  What items should be put on your immediate TO-DO list?  Here are the top 5 items that the Wendy Slaughter Team recommends:

1. Change the Locks

You do not know how many sets of keys have been given to neighbors or contractors who have worked on the home, so to be on the safe side, change your locks.

2. Reprogram Garage Door Openers and Alarm Systems

Many garage door remotes have a reset button that you can hold down to re-program. If you have an exterior garage door keypad, you should change the code as well. You should also reprogram your alarm system keypads with your own codes. Use Google to find the instruction manuals for the systems.

3. Replace the Furnace Filters

If the airflow is blocked, the efficiency of your unit is compromised.  Not only will replacing your filter make your heating bills lower, but it will also make your furnace more efficient.

Replacing an HVAC filter

4. Replace Batteries in Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

There is no way for you to know how old the batteries are in these detectors, so to be safe, you should replace the batteries as soon as you move into your house. Moving forward, it’s recommended you change the batteries twice a year when you change the clocks for daylight savings time.

5. Check the Temperature Setting on the Hot Water Heater

The previous owners may have liked it hot hot hot! Check the settings and make adjustments if needed.

- Debbie Gottwals

How to “read” a tax record

Tax records are public information and can be pulled for any residential property. You can find them online at the State Department of Assessments and Taxation. In some areas, additional research is required and you have to do more than just plug in an address. For example, newly constructed homes often do not have the house number recorded and are listed solely under the street name.

Once you search for a property in a particular county your results will give you all kinds of juicy information. Not sure what some of the information is trying to tell you? Here’s a break-down of what each section means. We decided to highlight a few items for you below (we’ve blocked out some of the information to protect the identity of the innocent):

Tax Record Screen Shot

Section 1:

Principle Residence: This tells you if the property is owner occupied. A “No” would indicate that this property could be a rental property or it might be owned by a company.

Section 2:

Sometimes the premise address differs from the mailing address, either because the property is an investment property or the postal service guidelines require an adjustment. The legal description is how the property is described on the deed. It could be a metes & bounds description or an actual lot/block/subdivision description. It differs for every area.

The town section is only filled out if your property lies in an incorporated municipality. Ad valorem tells you which tax district the property falls under. The tax class applies to areas in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties that are special tax areas (how special can you get?).

The enclosed area is the square footage for the property and does not include the basement. It’s technically everything that lies above ground since the lower level is not considered living space (even if it is finished). Appraisers also define the square footage in this way and they have a separate line item adjustment for finishes in a basement.

Section 3:  

This is the assessed value of the property for tax purposes. Remember that the tax assessor is not nearly as accurate as an appraiser would be in determining the value of your home. Assessments are revised on a 3 year cycle so they are always behind the current market. If your home is assessed at a value that is higher than the actual value of your home, you can appeal the taxes.

Section 4:

Though this is not the case for every property, you can see that the first transfer of this home was for $6,000,000. This amount is actually not for this specific property – it was the amount the developer paid for all of the land before subdividing into individual lots. You may also see transfers with an amount of $0. This often indicates a refinance.

Section 5:

Shows any exemptions that the property may be receiving.

Section 6:

We have reminded many people to apply for the Homestead Tax Credit. This section will tell you the status of your application. More about that here.

Looking for additional information on a property? Contact us!

Smart Sellers Series: There is an invisible gas that can impact your deal

It’s not science fiction. There is an invisible gas that is in many homes and if discovered during your home inspection, it can cause issues with your contract – or even cause it to fall through.

The mystery gas is radon.

On a serious note…radon should not be taken lightly. There are health risks associated with radon including cancer. You can read more about radon and the associated health risks at www.epa.gov/radon.

If you’re a seller and you haven’t had your home tested for radon, it’s important to understand the process. A buyer will most likely include a radon inspection when he/she writes an offer. At the time of the home inspection, radon testing equipment will be placed in your home, normally on the lowest level of the house. The test runs for 48 hours and will be picked up afterward by the home inspector. Test results are usually available within a day or two.

The buyer determines their threshold for acceptable radon levels but many buyers default to the EPA recommended level of 4 picocuries per liter (or 4 pCi/L). If the levels are higher than the threshold, the buyers have a choice. They can either:

A)     get out of the contract or they can

B)      ask you to correct the issue by hiring a licensed remediation contractor to remediate and retest. New test results must be below level indicated on the Radon Inspection Addendum.

In Howard County, the buyers select option A or B when they write their offer so as a seller, you know your obligations when you accept the offer.

But here’s the catch. We’ve seen buyers – especially those buyers who are either first time homebuyers or are relocating from another area – who want out of the contract when radon results are above 4 pCi/L.

There are other, legal ways out of the contract so how can a seller mitigate this risk?

It’s important that you know ahead of time about your options and how they could impact your sale. You could have your radon tested before listing, remediate if necessary and retest. Disclosure is key here so providing the details to potential buyers is important.  Or you could let buyers go through this process once you are under contract…with the understanding that it could be an obstacle to closing later on.

Radon is serious and buyers have a right to decide how they want to handle the issue. It’s best if you understand the impact of radon prior to listing your home. Call us to learn more.

- Wendy 

See www.epa.gov/radon for more information.

                                                             Radon Mitigation System

                                                             Radon Mitigation System

A lender explains the sudden change in rates

Our guest blogger - Allen Tayman of C&F Mortgage - sent us this information about the sudden drop in rates that occurred on Friday:

A wide range of economic news was favorable for mortgage rates on Friday. The Employment data was weaker than expected, Japan expanded its bond-buying program, and tensions with North Korea increased. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week significantly lower.  This is the sharpest reaction seen to mortgage rates in months.  The market will continue to see high volatility, as traders feel out this new floor.  Now is a perfect time to jump on these low rates.


Have you ever heard the saying that “the house with the most documents wins” or gets the best value in the market? Well, it is true and here are 2 very good reasons for you to keep all of the receipts related to your home:
1) Receipts help to justify your list price to prospective buyers and
2) Receipts help to justify your contract price to an appraiser

But first, a little background information.
Keeping track of the improvements and repairs to your home can really pay off when it comes time to sell. In addition, differentiating between “improvements” and “repairs” is important. Improvements can be anything from new kitchen appliances, adding a deck, or finishing your basement. Repairs include replacing the carpet, adding fresh paint, fixing sagging gutters, replacing rotted trim around doorways – anything that is an important, but routine maintenance project. Even though these items fall into two different categories, all of these things will improve the value of your home.

Back to receipts….

#1 Helping buyers see the value of your home
Buyers want to see your home as close to model condition as possible and will form an opinion based on what they can “see.” For example, the buyers may not know that you replaced the hot water heater in the past 6 months. By documenting the date and cost of an item you replaced or repaired in your home, you can justify the list price with prospective buyers based on the value of the improvements or repairs you have completed. When we work with sellers, we ask you to provide a list of any updates or repairs along with the approximate cost and year the work was completed. We create a document based on this information and provide copies of this list for prospective buyers when they tour your home.

Buyers often decrease the amount they are willing to offer if they see the house looking run down, worn out, or out of date. If you can present an itemized list of repairs/updates/improvements in your house with the dates of completion and can provide the receipts as well, it tells a story to your buyer. It shows you were willing to invest in your home and that you cared about maintaining it. This list will help you when negotiating the contract price.

#2 Helping appraisers see the value of your home
Once you are under contract, the buyer’s lender will order an appraisal of the home. Even though appraisers work off of checklists that measure real values in a property, they also raise or lower the home value based on how sellers have cared for or neglected their properties and they credit the value based on any upgrades sellers have completed to stay in line with the market. Keeping receipts helps to quantify these repairs and improvements when it comes time to sell. When we work with sellers, we meet the appraiser at your home and we provide the itemized list and copies of the receipts. Rather than having to guess each improvement’s worth, receipts will empower the appraiser to identify the full value of a home improvement. Even if you think it’s only a small or minor improvement, you should include it.

One final recommendation: Photocopy or scan the receipts to a file so that you don’t find yourself with blank paper as the ink degrades over time.

- Debbie Gottwals

Repair Receipts

Blue tape. It's not just for painters anymore.

Blue Tape New Construction Final Walk Through

Building a home is exciting. It's also complicated, scary, fun, exhausting, exhilarating....just like a lot of good things that happen in life. It's important to have a trusted advisor (aka: your real estate friend) by your side.

About a week before you settle, you'll do a walk through with the builder. As your realtor, it's my job to critique the finishes in the house.

So the walk through goes like this:

We all meet at the new house. By "we" I mean the buyers, the builder's project manager and me. I bring coffee for everyone. That's important. We need to stay caffeinated but more importantly, we want the project manager to be our friend.

Next, the project manager explains the walk through process and warranty information. Then the walk through begins.

Let the blue tape fly!
(Sometimes, I bring my own blue tape. Builders love that!!! Not.)

We walk through the house, usually starting on the top level and working our way down. In these pics, you can see we found issues with kitchen hardware that was not level, trim on the kitchen cabinets that needed some adjustment and normal drywall issues in the stairwell.

There was a lot more blue tape all over the house. The buyer's were a little shy about bringing things up during the walk through. That's why I'm there. I'm happy to speak up for you and ask that things be cleaned up.

Call us if you're thinking about building a new home. We're really good with blue tape.

- Wendy 


Happy National Chili Day! Check out these recipes!

Chili Image

In honor of National Chili Day (whether you celebrate on the 25th or the 28th of February, it's an awesome holiday), we'd like to share two of Debbie Gottwals' famous chili recipes. A white chicken chili and a 3 bean vegetarian chili recipe. Enjoy!

3 Bean Vegetarian Chili (all in one pot)
3 TBL olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 medium green pepper chopped
1 (29 oz) can tomato puree
1 can garbonzo beans
1 can black beans
1 can dark red kidney beans
3 bay leaves
3 TBL chili powder
1 TBL cumin
½ tsp each salt and pepper
½ tsp red pepper (more if you like it spicy)

Garnishes (optional)
Chopped scallions
Shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
Sour cream
Chopped tomatoes

In a soup pot, heat olive oil. Add onions and peppers and sauté until tender. Add tomoto puree and all 3 cans of beans, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Add remaining ingredients and cover and simmer for 30 min on low (stirring occasionally).

Add garnishes and serve over corn chips or corn bread if you like.

White Chicken Chili
1 TBL oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 clove of garlic minced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 chicken breasts cut into chunks
1 (16-19 oz) can cannellini beans drained
1 (16-19 oz) can chick peas beans drained
1 (12 oz) can white corn
2 (4 oz) can of mild green chilies
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1.5 cups water

Chopped cilantro
¼ lb Monterey Jack shredded cheese
Hot pepper sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, heat oil and cook onion, garlic, cumin until onion is tender.

In a 2.5 qt casserole, combine onion mixture with chicken, beans, corn, chilies, bouillon cubes and water. Cover and bake 50-60 min until chicken is cooked.

Add garnishes to taste.

Serve with rice or pasta.

There's always something fun to do in maple lawn!

In 2008, I became a homeowner in a neighborhood called Maple Lawn located in Fulton, MD. While some may not be fond of the lifestyle, where neighbors live practically within touching distance of one another, others can't seem to imagine living anywhere else!

The opening of the Midtown West and Westside Districts this spring will bring plenty of new homeowners. Some residents such as myself, will just be moving from one part of the neighborhood to another, reinforcing the fact that once you live here you never want to be anywhere else. Why would you? With great restaurants and shopping located within the community, easy access to major highways and a great location right between Baltimore and the Nations Capital, what more could you ask for??  Well how about a great fitness center, yoga and Zumba classes, kids art classes, summer camps for kids, a beautiful pool, basketball and tennis courts and year round social events?

Maple Lawn is surely the place to be. Condos, townhomes, single family homes and estate homes offer a wide range of choices and price points for buyers in all ranges of the spectrum. Whether it's a lazy afternoon at the community pool, happy hour at one of the several neighborhood restaurants or Wednesday night book club, there's never a lack of things to do.

It's been 4 1/2 years and I can't imagine a place I'd rather call home. In a few months, my family will pack up our belongings and move down the road to another house with a little different layout….but in the same wonderful neighborhood called Maple Lawn!

- Beth

Maple Lawn Community Center

Guest Blogger - Handyman Matters

Bathroom renovation is something that most homeowners consider at some point while owning a home. Many times, it’s one of the first things on the list to be remodeled after purchasing an older home. Given that it’s such a popular starting place, we decided we’d pinpoint the top 4 benefits to renovating your bathroom.

1. Increase the resale value of your home. Renovating a bathroom – or really any part of your home – increases its resale value. New appliances, new showerheads, updated tile – these are all cosmetic details that can improve the look and value of your home, which is an increasingly important thing to remember in a down real estate market.

2. Improve the water efficiency of your home. The majority of the water we use each day is centered around the bathroom. From taking showers and baths to flushing the toilet to brushing our teeth, we use gallons of water each day. Replacing the toilet with a low-flush model or switching out a regular showerhead for a low-flow model can drastically decrease a family’s water usage, costing less money and helping the environment.

3.  Make better use of space.  Bathrooms are often designed poorly – shoving a sink, toilet and bathtub into a tight space as easily as possible without trying to intelligently make the best use of space for the room. By remodeling, you can add more free space and cultivate a better bathroom layout – especially when you get to choose which pieces of furniture and appliances will be used.

4.  Have full creative control.  One of the biggest benefits to remodeling your bathroom, aside from the increase in resale value, is the ability to make your bathroom uniquely your own. You get to choose the cabinets and countertops. You can pick out the perfect tub or shower, and you can handpick the tile and any other design elements so that they match your home and your personality perfectly.

Remodeling a bathroom can be a fun and exciting process for many homeowners. However daunting the task of designing and installing your new hardware, Handyman Matters can help you pick out the right materials for you and your home. Call us today at 410-549-9696 to set up a phone consultation to get started.


Handyman Matters Coupon

What is the deal with real estate teams?

I’ve shared my life with my athletic, sports-loving husband for over 23 years. Speaking as a person who is not athletic (that’s putting it mildly) and not sport savvy at all (I once asked Jason “What does the quarterback do when he isn’t throwing the ball?” I did not realize that there is an offense and defense and they come on and off the field during a football game), I have come to love teams.

Teams are awesome. You wear purple (or red…or maybe even gold and black! ) when you’re supporting your favorite football team. You cheer for your child at their soccer game. You might be on a team at work. Even your family is a team.

Real estate teams started forming years ago and each team has a very different feel. Most real estate teams only feature the team leader. It’s hard to figure out how many agents are on the team and who they are. That’s part of the mystery of teams. What’s really going on behind the curtain?

We’re a different kind of team. We don’t have a curtain.

You can learn about each of us on our website or on facebook. We all post on our team facebook page, we all write blogs and attend community events. Each agent is actively promoted and you’ll even see their names on our “for sale” signs (shocking!). We’re a highly collaborative team and you’ll sense that in our service to you. It’s just a different model.

From a buyer or seller perspective, working with our team is great. You have your individual realtor who works with you daily. But our team also has a full time Project Manager/COO (Creator of Order). She manages the files, our paperwork, keeps us reminded about important deadlines and even manages some of our marketing efforts. This frees up our time to devote to our clients. If one of us goes on vacation or is sick, we’re all here to assist you in her absence. So even though you have one main contact, we’re all here to help you get to settlement.

When you hire us, we take that very seriously. We feel grateful that you chose us to be on your team during one of the most important times in your life.

Go TEAM! (I sound sporty, right?)


Slaughter Team Helmet