Design, Real Estate

Twilight Photography can make your home stand out from the crowd

DSC_0273Twilight photos use lighting to create a mood that enhances listing photos.  It is a great way to showcase your home and help it stand out from the crowd.


If you have decorative outdoor lighting evening shots can look fantastic.


Start with a professional photographer.  Then turn on every light inside the home and all outdoor lights as well.


If you are getting pool photos turn on the pool lights too.

When done well twilight photography will help show the beauty of your home to potential buyers, and it’s a lot of fun too!

Kelly Harden, Realtor

Mihara & Associates, Inc.


Real Estate

Initial Expenses When Buying a Home

LRE+Social+StockClients always ask what initial expenses they need to cover when buying a home.

This list of deposits, fees and closing costs will answer some of those questions.  Your Realtor and loan office will be able to provide much more specific information to you based on the home you want to buy and the type of loan you are using, but this list is a great guideline to get started.

Initial escrow deposit–  Buyers using the As-Is contract in Florida need to place an initial deposit of about 1% of the cost of the home into an escrow account within 3 days or less.  This money will be held in an escrow account and go toward the buyer’s portion of closing costs.  It’s important to note this money could be forfeited to the sellers if the buyers do not adhere to the terms of the contract.

Inspection fees–  Buyers should always have a home inspection performed by a state licensed and certified home inspector along with a Wood Destroying Organism (WDO) inspection.  Pricing will vary depending upon the size and age of the home.

Appraisal fee–  If you are getting a mortgage your lender will want to get an appraisal of the property to ensure the home’s value is at least the amount of the sales contract price.

Closing costs and prepaid expenses–  Buyers are responsible for a portion of the closing costs which include things such as title fees, taxes, recording fees, insurance premiums and more.  If they are getting a mortgage they will most likely have to prepay a few months of insurance premiums and taxes.  Your lender will provide a more accurate description and estimate of the fees involved when you apply for a mortgage.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.



Design, Real Estate

What is the difference between staging and decorating?

LRE+Social+Stock+InteriorWhen it’s time to list your home for sale I always suggest a consultation with my favorite stager.

This is when most clients ask why do I need a professional stager?  My home is beautifully designed, in fact it took a couple of years to get it perfect just the way it is today.

A stager and an interior designer both utilize the same design principles but they have completely different goals.  A designer wants your home to reflect you and your tastes while a stager is trying to make sure your home appeals to a large audience of potential buyers.

Stagers will show buyers how uses for various rooms in the home.  The will make sure each room has a single purpose.  Instead of having an office that doubles as a guest bedroom and tv viewing area they will design the room serve one function.  Buyers can get confused with too many options.

A good stager will make sure home looks it’s best when photographed.  Buyers shop for homes online before deciding what properties they want to view in person.  Stagers ensure the home will photograph well.

Investing in a good stager and following their guidance will help your home stand out amongst the competition and help your home sell faster and for more money.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.


Real Estate

Why is it important to get pre-approved for a mortgage before shopping for a new home?

loan-application-1240982Home buyers always ask why I have them speak to a lender and get pre-approved at the beginning of our home search.

The most important reason for you as a buyer is so you will learn how much home you can afford and what the estimated monthly payments will be.  Once you know what the lender says you can afford you get to decide what you are comfortable paying each month, or what your comfort level is.

Getting pre-approved keeps you from searching for homes that are out of your price range.  Homes today are selling at close to asking price, and sometimes even over asking price.  If you are looking at a home that is over your budget you set yourself up for disappointment because the more expensive homes will have options and upgrades that the homes in your price range may not.

A pre-approval also shows sellers you are a qualified buyer.  We are in a competitive market right now, most sellers will not take your offer seriously (if they look at it all) without a pre-aproval included from a reputable lender.  If you are paying cash the sellers will ask for proof of funds.  Sellers do not want to take their home off of the market unless they are comfortable the buyer is going to be able to complete the purchase of their home.

To be clear, what is a pre-approval?

A pre-approved buyer means a lender has verified your information with documentation and provided you with estimates costs of the loan.

Pre-qualified means a lender has asked a series of questions and based upon your answers he provides you with an idea of how much of a house you can afford.  The lender has not reviewed your information as closely as they do in a pre-approval.

It may seem like a hassle to speak to a lender before shopping for a new home but it will make the process easier on you and help your offer stand out to the seller when you are pre-approved.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.


Real Estate

Professional Photos Help Your House Sell!


One of the most important pieces of the marketing puzzle when selling your home is getting professional photos.

Why?  Because buyers initially begin their home search online.  High quality photos capture the viewers’ attention faster than anything else.

A professional photographer will position his camera to capture the best angle of the room and take full advantage of the lighting.

He will use drone photography when necessary to showcase the exterior features of the home and the surrounding area.


She will also use twilight photography to showcase the home’s special outdoor lighting features.


When used together these photos will attract buyer attention to your home.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.


Real Estate

Successfully Downsizing


With a little careful planning you can successfully downsize when purchasing your new home.

First decide where you will be moving to and how much space you will have in your new home.  Are you selling the 5-bedroom family home to relocate into a smaller 2-3 bedroom home?  Or will you be moving into a small apartment at a senior center.

Take inventory of what you have and decide what items must move into your new home.  Make a list of everything that must move with you, from large items like your bedroom furniture to small keepsakes and mementos like family pictures.

Allow your children or family members to select anything they may want to keep from the items that are left.  Give them a timeline to finalize their decision so you are not having to wait months for them to finally decide or run the risk of getting rid of something they truely wanted.

Any remaining items can be sold at a yard sale or through an online classified app such as LetGo.  If that seems like too much work you can always donate what’s left to charity.

Make sure to have plenty of storage options in your new smaller home.  Anything you need to purchase should serve more than one purpose, such as a storage ottoman used for a cocktail table.  Purchase decorative boxes and baskets not just for their design aesthetics but also to help control the clutter.

Finally, be ruthless about what you allow in your new home.  Space is at a premium now, so if it doesn’t meet your needs or make you happy do not let it in the house!

Kelly Harden

Mihara & Associates, Inc.


Real Estate

What will my Florida property taxes be when I buy a home?


Home buyers often have very common questions regarding property taxes when they are buying a home.

Everyone’s first question is “how much my tax bill will be?”

Home buyers will often look at how much the seller paid in property taxes and assume theirs will be exactly the same.

Please keep in mind the tax bill doesn’t usually stay the same when a house sells.

The seller may have qualified for Homestead Exemption which will provide an exemption for up to $50,000 in the assessed value of the property.  There may be additional tax discounts for seniors, disabled homeowners, veterans, etc. that the seller qualified for as well.

Also, in 1995 Florida passed the Save Our Homes amendment which states that property taxes can only increase by 3% per year.  This means if the seller owned the home for a long time and the value of the home has appreciated during that period the property taxes will increase when the county reassesses the home once the sale is complete.

You can search on the county Property Appraiser’s website for an estimate of next year’s taxes.

The other tax question buyers frequently ask is when do I pay my taxes?

Florida property taxes are paid in arrears, or at the end of the year for the year being taxed.  You may pay them as early as when the bill arrives in November, but they will not be considered late until April.

If you have a mortgage your lender will typically divide your tax amount by 12 and add that amount to your monthly mortgage payment.  Then they place the money in an escrow account used to pay the tax bill annually.  If you don’t have a mortgage you will receive a tax bill from the county in November.

If you have additional questions I can help with please let me know.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.




Real Estate

Why should I fill out a sellers disclosure when selling my home?

pexels-photo-618158When listing your home for sale your Realtor® is going to ask you to fill out a Sellers Disclosure form.  What is this and why should you fill it out?

The sellers disclosure form is a list of questions about your home that is given to the potential buyer to disclose any known past or present defects with the property.

As a seller you are required to disclose what you know due to a rule establised based upon the Johnson v. Davis court case in 1985.  This rule came into effect when the buyers purchased a home from the sellers and sued them because they believed the sellers knowingly sold them a home with a defective roof and as sellers failed to disclose this fact to the buyers.

You don’t have to use the exact form but you must disclose “any defects you are aware of that may materially effect the value of the property that are not readily observable and are not known to the buyer”.

Disclosing anything you know about the home protects you from a potential lawsuit after the sale.  It also helps the buyer make an informed decision to purchase your home.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.



Real Estate

What should a seller take care of before closing on their home?

LRE+StockEveryone wants a smooth transition when a property is sold.  As a seller, do you know what your responsibilities are just before closing on your home?

Repair Any Items Negotiated on During the Inspection Period

Any items sellers agreed to repair during the inspection period have to be completed before the closing date (or sooner if they are lender required repairs).  A licensed contractor is usually required to complete the repairs.  The lender or insurance company may require proof the repairs are complete.

Clean and Empty the House

Your contract should spell out exactly what items convey to the new buyers.  All your furniture, boxes and personal items should be removed from the home before closing.

Once your things are removed you should do a light cleaning- wipe down the counters, sweep the floors, vacuum the carpet, etc.  The buyers will do a deeper cleaning before they move in but you want to be sure the home is in the same condition or better then when the contract was signed.

Leave These Items for the Buyers

Keys to the home and mailbox, garage door openers, gate openers and such should be left in a kitchen drawer or given to the sellers Realtor®.

Owner’s manuals to all appliances should also be left in a drawer for the buyers.

 Transfer Utilities

Be sure to cancel the utilities and transfer service to your new home.

Congratulations on the sale of your home!  By following these guidelines you can expect a smooth transfer of the home from seller to buyer.

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.



Real Estate

Finding the perfect neighborhood for your new home


When you begin the search for your new home you will want to decide what type of neighborhood you want to move into.

Your agent will ask lots of questions to help find your new home.  Some things you will want to consider are-

  1.  Does the neighborhood suit your lifestyle?  Think about what activities you enjoy doing and what you want to have near your new home.  Would you like to live next to a park or trail because you love to bike ride?  Are nearby schools important for your young children?  Do you like the idea of a walking neighborhood that is close to area stores and restaurants?
  2. What amenities are important to you?  Do you want a community with trails, parks and a community pool?  Do you want a clubhouse with a state of the art fitness center?
  3. What type of home do you prefer?  Thing about how you are going to live in the home.  Do you need a large single family home with lots of bedrooms, a big yard and a pool for you and your growing family?  Do you prefer the idea of a townhome with limited yard but lots of great amenities?  Or is a condo with no maintenance more your style?
  4. How long of a commute to work would you prefer?  Do you have to live within 30 minutes of your job or is a longer commute doable?  Perhaps you primarily work from home but need access to the airport for monthly business trips?

All of these questions will help you and your agent determine the best place to search for your new home.

Happy Home Hunting!

Kelly Harden, Realtor®

Mihara & Associates, Inc.