Real Estate Information Archive


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Tips for Hosting Guests During the Holidays

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  A time for friends and family to come together to celebrate the holidays.  Many will be hosting guests in their homes over the next two months and while they are surely delighted to spend time with their loved ones, it can be a stressful time as well.  If you are opening your doors to family members or friends this holiday season, here are some ideas for prepping your home so that you’ll be ready to welcome them with open arms.

Tidy up the house.  Use this as motivation to thoroughly clean your house.  Get rid of clutter, make small house repairs and complete that decorating project you’ve been putting off.

Stock up on food and drinks. Make sure you have different types of beverages and snacks that your guests enjoy. It’s nice for them to be able to easily grab a quick snack whenever they want.

Have activities planned for your guests. Depending on how long they are staying, you may want to plan some special events or activities for your guests.  Whether it’s a shopping excursion, a day at a museum, a holiday concert or just a nice dinner out, your visitors will appreciate your thoughtfulness in keeping them entertained. Click here for a list of fun events happening in the Tampa area this holiday season: Holiday Events

Be mindful of the little ones. If your guests include children, be sure to plan for them as well.  If you don’t have children, you may want to pick up a game or some arts and crafts to have around for them.  Find out their food preferences prior to their arrival so that you are prepared to accommodate them at meals. 

Provide comfortable sleeping spaces. Be sure to have nice, clean sheets, pillows and extra blankets.  If you have a guest bedroom that has not been used in a while, strip the bed and wash the bed linens so that they are fresh for your guests.  Check out this link for how to create a peaceful retreat for your guests.


Provide toiletries.  The guest bathroom should have soap/body wash, shampoo, conditioner and lotion available for guests.  Guest Bathroom Toiletries 

Give instructions for electronics. If the guest room has a television, leave written instructions for how to use the remote.


By following these tips and prepping your home ahead of time, you will be able to offer a warm welcome to your guests and enjoy the time you have with them!

Advantages of being in a Homeowners Associations

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

There are many positive aspects of living in a neighborhood that is governed by a Homeowner’s Association (HOA). Finding the right one for you and your family may take some research, but if you’re looking for a managed area, it could save some headache in the end.

            What is an HOA?

●     And HOA is an organization that creates and enforces rules in a subdivision or condominium. When you purchase a home in an HOA community, you are, by default, a member of that HOA, and must pay fees and follow their bylaws.

●     Most HOA’s now have their information, some complete with neighborhood photo galleries, available online, making it easy to start your research.

●     Fees and their due dates vary by neighborhood, depending on amenities.

●     Research the amenities that a neighborhood's HOA focuses on.  Whether it’s community beautification, a neighborhood gathering place, or a neighborhood walking path and gym, there are many options available.

●     After you look at the qualities of an HOA and narrow down which ones you like best, find out what the fees are and how they’re paid.  HOA fees can be high, but in comparison with what amenities they offer, it could save you money in the end.

●     Most HOA’s have rules and regulations that go beyond your local municipality.  These bylaws are in place to protect your property value, and maintain a certain quality of life for the homeowners.


            HOA Benefits

●     The amenities that some HOA communities offer can save a member money in the end.  A community center means a gathering place for members, saving rental fees for party venues. A walking track or swimming pool can save residents from joining private gyms and health clubs.

●     HOA neighborhoods in general are more appealing aesthetically, because member fees go towards keeping the common areas clean and landscaped.

●     Some HOA organizations provide security, trash pick-up, pest control, as well as street sweeping and snow removal. Your property is your responsibility, but the shared areas are taken care of.

●     If you choose to live in a condominium community, the organization usually handles all landscape maintenance, as well as exterior home maintenance: for instance, if a shutter blows off the building, it’s taken care of.  All the homeowner needs to do is notify someone on the property management board, and they handle the rest.

●     The community organization board members live in the neighborhood, so they are aware of needs specific to the area, and can better handle solutions to any problems.

●     Homes in HOA neighborhoods protect your investment in a fluctuating market because of their home-maintenance regulations.


Don’t let bad press shy you away from considering a home in an HOA.  If a house you absolutely love is in an organized community, do careful research, talk to residents in the community, then make your decision.  There are many different aspects to different organizations, and finding the right one for you and your family just takes a little research and thought.

Photo credit: 

The 50-20-30 Rule - Creating a Budget You Can Live With

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

If you are new to budgeting, managing your money may seem complicated and overwhelming.  You not only have to be organized, but you must make challenging decisions about how to spend your money.  Don’t despair! There is good news for you.  You don’t need fancy financial apps on your phone or extensive spreadsheets with dozens of categories to see how your money is being spent.  You simply need to follow the 50-20-30 rule!

The 50-20-30 rule assists you in building a budget by using three spending categories. 

  1. 50% of your income should go to living expenses and essentials including rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries and transportation.
  2. 20% should go to savings, investments and debt-reduction payments.
  3. 30% of your income should be used for flexible spending. This includes everything you buy that you want, but don’t necessarily need such as travel, going out to movies etc.

Remember that the percentages for essentials and flexible spending are the maximum amounts you should spend.  If you use less income in these categories, you will have more to put toward other financial goals.

Here is how to start the 50-20-30 budget. First, determine exactly how much money you bring home each month.  This will be the amount you will base your 50-20-30 split on.  Then track your spending. Every penny of it, from your rent/mortgage payment down to the coffee you stop for on the way to work in the morning.  As you are analyzing your spending, split it into the 50-20-30 categories.  Once you see what you are spending where, you can make the needed adjustments to ensure you are falling into the 50-20-30 parameters.  If you find you are spending too much on things that you want but don’t need, that’s when it is time to cut back.

The 50-20-30 rule works because it provides a simple way to track your spending so that you can pay your bills, add to your savings and have money left over for fun stuff.  It keeps you on the straight and narrow so that you can begin to meet your financial goals.  If you stay the course, you will eventually achieve financial stability.

What to Look for During a Post-Hurricane Home Inspection

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in our neck of the woods, and hopefully your home survived with no apparent damage. But it’s still important that you take the time to carefully look at your house and examine it for damage such as missing shingles or vents plugged by wind-blown debris.  Here is a list of things you should do to complete a post-hurricane home inspection:

-          Check your roof for visible damage. Look carefully at valleys where the roof planes intersect and check anything that comes up through the roof, such as vent stacks.

-          View your dryer vent outlet. Use a flashlight to see if it is clogged with debris from the storm.  Remove any debris that you find.

-          Check gutters and downspouts. They can come loose if a strong wind catches them.  This can result in them eventually swinging loose and doing some real damage. Clean them out if they are clogged.

-          Examine your exterior air handler unit for storm damage.  Be sure to keep all shrubs and landscape trimmed from around the unit for proper air flow.

-          Look at your home’s electrical service entrance.  If it is sagging or leaning, contact an electrician immediately.

-          Make sure your fence is still standing.  Take a walk around the perimeter of your fence and push it to check for storm-weakened sections. 

-          Observe any large trees you have on your property. You may want to consider having them removed if they are a possible threat to your home in future storms.

When examining your home after a hurricane or storm, document and take photos of any damage that you find.  This will make the insurance claims process much easier.

Protecting Your Home From Flooding

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

Weather is unpredictable and it can be treacherous.  While there is nothing you can do to prevent bad weather from happening, there ARE things you can do to prepare your house for it.  There are no guarantees that your home won’t sustain any damage, but these steps will help protect your home from flooding:

  1. Know the flood level of your home.  You will need an official measure of how high floodwaters could rise where you live.  There are flood maps available on line at FEMA.  Your home insurance agent should have this information as well.
  2. Determine how water flows around your property. The grading or slope of your yard can determine whether water will flow to or away from your house.  Observe how water flows during a typical rainstorm.
  3. Make sure electrical and climate systems are safe. Once you know the possible flood levels, you can move switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring at least a foot above where flooding may reach them.  If possible, adapt your furnace, water heater and any other anchored indoor equipment to sit higher than the property flood level.
  4. Raise and secure outdoor equipment.  Fuel tanks, air-conditioning units and generators should be secured and raised above flood level.  Generators won’t help you if they engulfed by water. They should never sit on the ground.
  5. Adjust water valves to prevent sewage backups into your home.  Install an interior or exterior backflow valve.  The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) recommends gate valves because they create a stronger seal than flap or check valves.  They are more complicated because you operate them by hand, but reduce the risk of water getting in.  These valves should be installed in all the pipes in the house.
  6. Extreme cases might require a complete retrofit.  One option is to raise your home so that the lowest floor is above flood level.  It’s an expensive option, but if you live in an area that experiences frequent flooding, it may be necessary.  Another option is to “wet-proof” your home by putting in foundation vents that allow water to flow through the structure rather than rising inside and causing more damage.  The third option is to “dry-proof” by using coatings and other sealing materials to walls to keep water out.
  7. When you know bad weather is on the way, take these last minute steps to help prevent flooding damage:

-          Clear gutters, drains and downspouts.

-          Move furniture, rugs, electronic and treasured items to upper floors.  If you have a one-story home, raise them above flood level if possible.

-          Shut off electricity at the breaker panel.

The expense of preparing for flooding may seem overwhelming, but the catastrophic damage it can cause could possibly cost far more, both financially and emotionally.  Do what you can to protect yourself today!

Preparing for an Emergency or Natural Disaster

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

Nobody enjoys thinking about the possibility of a family emergency or natural disaster, but taking steps to prepare for those possibilities should be a priority.   While not lessening the shock and anguish of an unexpected, tragic situation, being prepared will help you to get your life back in order faster and easier.

One thing to consider is having important paper work organized in an emergency binder.  The binder should contain all the important information about your life.  Think about any paperwork or vital information you would need access to in an emergency, such as:

  • Vital Records

-          copies of birth certificates, adoption records

-          copies of marriage licenses, driver’s licenses and passports

-          copies of all property and auto records – deeds, leases, titles, etc.

-          copies of all property/umbrella insurance policies

-          a list of where off-site and original documents are stored

  • Financial Information

-          list of all bank account numbers

-          copies of front and back of all credit cards

-          list of all investment account numbers

-          list of all retirement/pension account numbers

-          detailed information about current income/benefits

-          detailed information about mortgages/loans

  • Medical Information

-          copies of health/life/disability insurance cards and policies

-          medical history for each family member

-          list of medications and prescriptions, including dose and pharmacy

-          details about any ongoing medical conditions/treatments

  • Contact Information

-          friends and family to reach in case of emergency

-          neighbors who have access to your house

-          financial institutions, insurance companies, legal advisors

-          physicians, specialists, hospitals and other healthcare providers

-          employers and benefit administrators

-          including a family emergency plan in your binder will help you to keep yourself calm and organized during what may be a stressful time


Make sure that your emergency binder is kept in a place where it is easy to get to and that it is easy to carry and that family members are aware of its location.

Secondly, it is a good idea to have a safety deposit box or lock box in which to store your original documents.  This can also be used for storing important computer files and passwords, priceless family photos and valuable jewelry and memorabilia. Include a photo of each member of your family along with fingerprints and dental records.  A home inventory list is also a useful item to have in storage.  Remember that most of the documents in your “Emergency Binder” will be copies.  Originals should be placed in a safety deposit box or lock box for safekeeping.

Whether it’s a family emergency or a natural disaster, tragic events almost always leave people feeling blindsided.  Preparing in advance will help ease the feelings of being overwhelmed and panicked as you put your life back in order.  So, set aside a day to put together your emergency binder to help protect your family now!


Additional helpful links

Assessing Your Real Estate Insurance Coverage

Organizing Your Home Made Simple

Deal Breakers for Home Buyers

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

When trying to sell your house, you want to make the best possible impression on potential buyers.  While some buyers will say that they knew a house was right for them the minute they walked in the door, other buyers will tell you they knew immediately that a house was NOT right for them. Sometimes deal-breakers are personal, but often they apply to many and can damage your chances of a profitable sale (or any sale at all).  Avoid these deal-breakers to get the best deal when you sell:

  • Pests - It seems obvious that people would be turned off by seeing bugs in a home, right?  But sometimes homeowners get used to having “bug problems” and don’t think about how they might negatively influence buyers.  Seeing one or two bugs, like maybe a fly or random little spider, might not be that big of a deal. But if a roach crawls out while people are looking at your house? Forget it.  They are out of there!  If you have any kind of infestation, you need to nip it in the bud before you start showing your house.
  • Pets - Just because you love your pets and consider your home very “pet friendly” does not mean other people feel the same way.  There are a myriad of reasons why having pets can hurt your home sale.  Sometimes it’s simply that animals make people nervous.  Taking your pets out of the home during showings can solve that problem.  But other things, such as visible food bowls, kitty litter boxes etc. can turn off people who don’t live with animals.  And any kind of pet odors can do a lot of damage as well.  It is a good idea to make sure your house is free of any pet paraphernalia and pet odors before opening it up to buyers.
  • Small/Outdated Kitchens - Big, open kitchens are one of the most desirable features for homebuyers.  If you have a cramped, closed off kitchen, updating it before you put it on the market will be well worth it.  Not only will you be able to sell it faster, you will get a better price for it and odds are you will likely recoup the money you spent sprucing it up and then some.
  • Cheap Upgrades - Poor quality shows.  While you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a house that you are leaving, you also don’t want to hurt your chances of selling it by making cheap upgrades and repairs that are poorly done.  Unless someone is looking for a “fixer upper”, they are going to lose interest quickly if they see a lot of shoddy upgrades.
  • The Roof - A roof in bad condition will scare away potential buyers quickly.  The idea of buying a house and immediately having to foot the bill for a new roof is not appealing.  If your roof is old or in need of repair/replacement, take care of it before putting your house on the market.  Otherwise, expect to have to lower your asking price.  A new roof will not only improve resale value, it will also boost curb appeal, both of which will increase your chances of selling and getting the best price possible!

Back to School - Establishing a Morning Routine

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

With kids heading back to school, it can be challenging to transition from a summer schedule to a more demanding school year schedule.  Establishing a morning routine will help keep everyone organized.  Here are some tips for creating an effective routine for your family:

  1. Set a time for waking up on school mornings and stick to it.  Consistency is key.  By waking up at the same time every day you will develop a pattern of wakefulness and sleepiness each day.  It’s equally important to go to bed the same time every night, especially for young children who 10 to 11 hours of sleep.  Once you have determined what time your kids need to get up to get ready for school, you can then easily determine what time they need to go to bed.
  2. Prepare for each day the evening before.  Make sure that school bags are packed up and placed in a designated spot to be picked up the next morning.  Have your children choose their outfits the night before as well. Plan for lunches if your children will be bringing them from home. Have them ready to grab and go. Get the day off to a good start by having everything organized and ready to go.
  3. Create a “to do” list for your children that includes everything they need to do before leaving for school; brushing teeth, getting dressed, putting on shoes, eating breakfast etc.  You can find free printable charts here or you can have your children make their own.  Place it where you know they will see it first thing every day.
  4. Make sure you leave enough time for a healthy breakfast.  Any breakfast is better than none, but try to avoid having sugary sweets for breakfast every day.  Your kids need fuel for their bodies and minds in order to be successful at school. 
  5. Leave the house with plenty of time to get to the bus stop (or school, if you are driving).  Arriving to school calmly and with time to spare sets a positive tone for the day.

Setting a consistent routine will make mornings more pleasant and the school day more successful!

Steps to Take Before Selling Your House

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

With summer quickly passing us by, you may think that prime house-selling season is over. But with interest rates still low and demand out pacing supply, it is still a great time to put your house on the market.  Kids will be going back to school, so parents will have more time on their hands and may be waiting to start their home search during a less busy season.  Before you hammer that for sale sign into your front yard, take these steps to get your house ready for potential buyers:

  1. Get a home inspection: Getting your house inspected before you place it for sale will not only provide reassurance for potential buyers, it will let you know where you stand and if any major work needs to be done on the house prior to selling.  Should work need to be done, it will give you time to shop around for best prices without feeling rushed to get things done.
  2. Freshen up your house: Curb appeal is important!  New exterior paint, lush landscaping and a clean entryway go a long way toward making a good impression on house hunters.  It will be worth the time and energy it takes to fix things up…and ultimately will benefit you financially because the property will appeal to more people and possibly get a higher price.
  3. Look for a real estate professional to represent you:  Do your research.  You will want a local Realtor with a lot of experience and a high success rate for selling homes. Have questions ready when you interview them.
  4. Set a price: Your realtor will assist you in determining the appropriate asking price  for your property.  Pricing is a strategy that depends highly upon the current market.  A real estate professional will know the market inside and out and make sure that your house is priced to sell and get you the best deal possible.
  5. Stage your house: Don’t wait until the last minute to start cleaning out all the extraneous “stuff” from your house.  You may want to consider using a storage unit to store some of your household items so that it is easier to keep your house neat and tidy for showings.

Remember, there is no time like the present to start preparing to sell your home!

Resale Value - What is Important?

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

Unless you plan to stay in a home for the rest of your life, resale value should be a major consideration when purchasing a house. Home-ownership is a huge financial investment and the goal should be to get as much monetary return as possible when you sell.  While you can’t always predict what the future holds for the real estate market, there are some basic guidelines for what kind of properties have good resale value.  Don’t make the error of focusing only on what you want when doing your home search.  Think about the following factors that will affect the resale value:

  1. LOCATION - This should be a primary consideration when looking for a home that will provide a good return on your investment.  A desirable location is likely to remain a hot market for home sales.  Think about the school district you will be in.  Even if you don’t have children in school, a top district will draw many buyers.  Different people will be looking for different things, but most buyers will want basically the same things from the location of their home.
  2. NUMBER OF BEDROOMS - A house with more than two bedrooms will sell faster and for a better price than one with only one or two bedrooms.  Even a couple with no children will want extra space for an office or guestroom (or both).
  3. NUMBER OF BATHROOMS - Buyers will expect to pay much less for a home with only one bathroom.  If people are choosing between a house with one bathroom and one with two, they will almost always be willing to spend a little extra to get that additional restroom.
  4. GATHERING SPACE - Buyers want a large, informal space for relaxing and entertaining family and friends.  You will get more value out of a spacious family room than you will out of a formal living room. 
  5. STORAGE - These days people have a lot of “stuff” and they need places to put it all.  Storage space, including closets, a pantry and loads of cabinets will improve the odds of getting high bids for your house. 
  6. GARAGE - People who live in suburban areas need places to park their cars.  A covered parking place or two is ideal.
  7. OPEN FLOORPAN - Buyers are looking for homes with open spaces and rooms that flow from one to the next.  A house with an open floorplan will improve your chances for a profitable resale.
  8. OVERALL CONDITION - A property that is well-cared for, updated and remodeled will greatly enhance resale value.  Focus on rooms that matter most to buyers - kitchens and bathrooms. Make sure everything is in good working order.  Some people might be looking for a fixer upper, but many buyers are willing to pay a premium for a move-in ready home.

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Contact Information

Photo of Linda and Craig Nowicke Real Estate
Linda and Craig Nowicke
RE/MAX ACR Elite Group
14823 N. Dale Mabry
Tampa FL 33618
Linda: 813-728-3880
Craig: 813-675-5030
Fax: 813-961-6016

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