Northern Virginia Real Estate and Community News

Dec. 5, 2022

13 Life Lessons From Classic Holiday Movies


Getting out and enjoying the holiday light displays around Northern Virginia is a great way to spend a December evening. And after spending some time out in the cold there’s no better way to warm up than to curl up under the covers with a holiday movie and some hot chocolate.


Holiday movies and TV specials can teach us how to live better and enjoy more happiness year round. These are some of the most important life lessons from a few old favorites and some other works that may be less well-known.


 "How the Grinch Stole Christmas": 


Sing joyfully. Before he had his change of heart, singing was what the Grinch liked least of all. Surround yourself with the music of the season and sing along. 


Resist commercial pressures. The Grinch learned that Christmas doesn't come from a store. Focus on the true meaning of the holidays by sharing time with loved ones and looking for ways to make others happy. 


Let your heart grow bigger. Dr. Seuss suspected that the Grinch suffered from a heart two sizes too small. As soon as it grew three sizes larger he brought back the toys he stole, put everything right and got to love his new friends in Whoville. 


"It's a Wonderful Life": 


Recognize that one person can make a difference. While the challenges around us can seem overwhelming sometimes, we all create our own environment. George Bailey leads a modest life, but he prevents good old Bedford Falls from turning into a sleazy Pottersville.


Celebrate the potential to create better outcomes. With all the talk about "toxic" people, we may sometimes overlook the fact that we all possess a mix of constructive and destructive qualities. By appealing to the good in people, George helps them to succeed in every walk of life. 


Welcome help from others. As powerful as George is, he still needs Clarence, the angel, to help him through a rough night. Regardless of whatever weaknesses you possess, you can still serve as somebody's angel if you're willing to reach out.


 "A Christmas Carol": 


Teach old dogs new tricks. We may sometimes feel that our habits are too ingrained to change. Scrooge proves that a life of stinginess can give way to one of kindness even late in life. 


Pay attention to your dreams. We spend about one-third of our life sleeping. Put that time to good use by listening to what your dreams may be trying to tell you. Come to terms with your past. Recognize the unhealthy patterns that get between you and greater happiness. Scrooge's greed cost him his first love. You may need to become more generous to transform your own relationships. 


Become more resilient. The Cratchit family remains cheerful in spite of their poverty. Tiny Tim appreciates his blessings even though he's poor and crippled. If we bear our hardships with patience, we can protect our peace of mind.


Other Holiday Programs and Movies: 


Focus on others. Steven Spielberg's cartoon, "Pinky and the Brain," is about more than a laboratory mouse trying to take over the world. The friendship between the two mice shines through when Pinky writes to Santa saying it's okay to forget about him and just give Brain what he wants. 


Work for world peace. The true story of the 1914 Christmas truce is captured in "Joyeux Noel." If German, French and Scottish troops can call a ceasefire on one Christmas Eve, maybe we can all be more peaceful. 


Believe in Santa Claus. "Miracle on 34th Street" looks like it was ahead of its time in questioning consumerism. It's also timeless in affirming the importance of faith. Plus, it may offer the best legal argument for believing in Santa Claus. 


Many of us look forward to watching our favorite holiday movies and specials each year. It's a great way to revisit their inspiring messages and share them with our children. 


Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway




Posted in Community Events
Nov. 16, 2022

Mason Neck State Park


Over the summer I visited Mason Neck State Park as part of my effort to show you all the wonderful parks Fairfax County has to offer.

Have you visited all the area parks?  What is your favorite?




Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway


Posted in Community News
Nov. 7, 2022

Tips to Protect Your Identity While Holiday Shopping Online


We are at the beginning of the Holiday Shopping season, and Northern Virginia has plenty of opportunities to get out and shop.


But, if you are like most and do most of your shopping online you need to protect yourself.


Following these tips will help you keep your identity and financial accounts safe from scammers and prying eyes: 


Watch your Smartphone carefully. Do you use your Smartphone to make purchases online? 

  • Before you let a friend, family member, or stranger borrow your phone, ensure you’ve logged out of every program and website. 
  • It’s easy for someone to steal your identity online by using your logged-in credentials on a Smartphone. You may want to set up and download apps that lock your phone if it’s lost or stolen. These apps can prevent thieves from stealing your information. Search your favorite app store for security apps designed for your phone. 

Watch out for fake shopping websites and emails. Fake websites and emails can steal your personal information before you even realize that the website isn’t real. 

  • Verify every website you use to do your online shopping. 
  • Be careful before you click on any links in your email. These may be scams created to harvest your personal data. 
  • Ensure the websites you use are secure and have security certificates that 1 are up to date. Secure sites encrypt your personal financial information to help you keep it safe. 

Pay attention to your accounts. Identity thieves have learned that they can make smaller transactions online, and you may not notice them. These small transactions also verify active accounts. If these small transactions go unnoticed, they go on to steal even more. 

  • Keep an eye on all of your online accounts. If you see any transactions you don’t recognize, call your bank or the merchant that holds the account immediately. 

Avoid public computers and networks. It’s safer to shop online during the holidays at home on your personal devices. 

  • You may not be able to tell if a public computer or network has been hacked by identity thieves. They may have set up key logging software that can capture every bit of information you type. They may have also infected the machines with malware or viruses to steal your data. 

Avoid using your debit card. It’s safer to use a credit card for shopping online. Credit cards have stronger safety and consumer protection measures than debit cards. 

  • If a thief gets hold of your debit card number, they can drain your bank account in minutes, yet it can take days, weeks, or months for your bank to replace your lost funds. 
  • On the other hand, with a credit card, they run up your balances, but the fraudulent charges are taken off again when you report them right away. 

Pay attention to the privacy policies. Legitimate websites have privacy policies that state that they protect your financial information. If you’re using a website to shop during the holidays and don’t see any type of privacy policy, then it may be a sign of a scam. 


Print your online receipts or save them. Saving all your receipts enables you to 2 keep track of your purchases. You can compare these receipts to any charges you don’t recognize on your accounts. 


Be careful on social media. Your social media friends may share amazing deals during the holiday shopping season. It’s smart to check these deals out ahead of time with your friends to ensure they are really deals that they recommended to you. Social media networks are also vulnerable to identity thieves. 


You can shop online safely and protect your identity at the same time. Stay safe as you browse for gifts and enjoy the holiday season. 


Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway



Posted in Community News
Oct. 3, 2022

How To Keep Your Aging Grandparents Safe and Independent


When you’re an adult, you think about certain things. “What will my profession be? How do I know where I want to live?  Who should I marry?” 


As a certified Senior Real Estate Sales Specialist I understand that there is much more to consider than that list, such as thinking about your loved ones, including your aged grandparents. 


Their quality of life, especially if they live in a big city such as DC, is declining as their vision, hearing, and mobility deteriorate. Friends and relatives are often too preoccupied with their own families or occupations to pay the extra attention required to keep their older loved ones safe. 


Simple Changes Around The House 


People are both concerned and frustrated at the idea of their aging grandparents becoming a little forgetful or unstable on their feet. Simple modifications around the house can make a vast difference in your family and loved ones, helping them feel safer and more independent. 


Start With a Home Safety Audit 


A home safety audit is a comprehensive assessment of potential hazards in and around the house. Anything that could cause bodily injury, produce a fire or flooding in the home, or compromise safety by making it simple for intruders are all potential hazards. 


Based on the result, you may need to make some physical changes to their living space. 


These changes may include: 


Decluttering your home. Throw out old clothes, expired food, and other unwanted stuff. Starting with the psychological relief, the payback from being organized is significant. 


Provide adequate lighting. In gloomy rooms or hallways, provide some extra lighting. Residents in senior care homes can experience changes in their mood, health, and well-being because of lighting. 

  • Safety and visual performance can coexist. The elderly can see better, avoid falls, and sleep better with proper illumination. 

Keep them connected. If they don’t already have one, get them a cell phone. Encourage them to use technology to stay in touch with family, doctors, and other caretakers. 


Ensure a watchful eye is kept on them. Connect with their neighbors to look out for each other. The simplest way to curb loneliness is to have people around to support and engage them.  

  • “Social Capital” has been long known for the ties that build trust, connection, and participation. This link is important for the elderly, because both our health and our social capital decline as we age. 

Provide adequate security. Think of installing a security system. Apart from the primary goal of crime prevention, these security systems also give protection from risks, aid them in maintaining a more efficient home, and increase their ability to remain independent. 


Educate them. If at all workable, teach them how to use shopping and meal delivery services. Technology is making life easier by the day, and you may experiment with it to see if you can extend the benefits to your grandparents as well. 


You and your family may need to change your approach to caring for your grandparents as they age, but love never changes. Some of the above suggestions may help your aging grandparents stay safe and independent at home. 


Regardless of your activities, be ready to connect with them to put them at ease. Your love for your grandparents will help you be supportive, and they will appreciate it. 


Feel free to request my Senior Housing Guide for more information.


Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway



Posted in Real Estate News
Sept. 5, 2022

Weekend Bathroom Makeover


Over the last few months I have given you a few home remodeling projects that you can do on a budget. I'm going to give you one more and then at the end you can request to have the whole booklet emailed right to you. That way you can have the projects I've shared, and a few more, all in one place for when you get motivated enough to tackle your projects.


Every home has at least one bathroom. Fortunately, most bathrooms are relatively small, which cuts down on the cost of materials and time needed to do a makeover. The kid’s bathroom can be a safe place to start your first remodeling attempt.


Keep in mind that different bathrooms have different decorating needs.


A bathroom for the kids needs to be functional and easy to clean. Your master bathroom can be more luxurious. A half-bath for guests might require a bit more formality.


Check out these great ideas for the bathroom:


Vanity: The vanity is the centerpiece of any bathroom. Some vanities come with sinks, and others allow you to choose a sink. Some provide storage. Now might be the time to try something daring.


  • Vanities can be very easy to install, depending on what you’re currently using. Investigate the amount of work involved. If you can avoid tearing into the wall, your life will be much easier.

Sink and tub faucets: Just like in the kitchen, a new faucet can be an inexpensive way to update the bathroom.

Toilet: Toilets are surprisingly inexpensive and also very easy to install. Turn off and disconnect the hoses at the toilet, remove a few bolts, and lift it out. The new one goes in the same way, but you’ll need a new wax seal. Have you always wanted to try a bidet?

Towel racks: New towel racks and a new toilet paper holder are simple and inexpensive to replace. Try to find something unique.


Shower door: Those sliding shower doors eventually reach the point of needing replacement. Or perhaps you have a shower curtain and want to go to doors. While replacing an entire shower or tub can be a big job, replacing or installing doors is relatively easy.


Flooring: Now is the time to remove the carpeting that the previous owners installed. High moisture and indoor carpeting don’t go together.


  • The bathroom is a great room to tile. It’s a smaller room, so the material costs are low. Specially treated tile provides excellent water resistance and good footing.

  • Linoleum tile is another option. While a rollout floor is a possibility, there’s a lot of precise cutting involved to work around the vanity and toilet. One mistake can put you back at square one.

Miscellaneous decorations: Most bathroom walls are pretty bare, so consider using the space for something. Keep in mind the humidity levels. For example, photographs tend to curl in such conditions.


  • Come up with something unique for the back of the toilet besides using it as a place to stockpile toilet paper.


Most bathrooms are small, can be made over quickly, and will only require a minimal outlay of cash. Remember that anything in a bathroom is likely to get wet at some point. Certain items don’t fare well in the bathroom.


You can get a pdf of all the projects here: Budget Room Makeovers 


And, as always feel free to reach out with any questions on which projects may lead to a better return on your investment.


Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway



Posted in Community News
Aug. 1, 2022

Give Your Kitchen A $1,000 Mini-Makeover in a Weekend


The kitchen is a unique room. There’s a lot of traffic coming and going at all times of the day, and there are also many expensive appliances that could potentially need to be replaced. It’s impossible to change everything with only $1,000.


Fortunately, there are numerous creative ideas that can be done to spice up a kitchen in Northern, VA even with a strict budget.


Try these weekend kitchen projects on for size:


Paint or wallpaper: Most people know how to paint. Fewer know how to wallpaper. With a little effort, anyone can make their kitchen walls look like new. Kitchens can be challenging to paint, since there are so many things to paint around. But on a positive note, there’s usually only a small amount of wall space.

Backsplash: It’s possible to make a simple or fancy backsplash with a small investment. The cost is determined by the tile and the size. A backsplash is a great way to create a kitchen with a custom appearance.


  • A backsplash does a much better job of protecting the wall than paint or wallpaper. It also provides a great visual impact.

New countertops: High-end countertops can often be found in the used market. Many of these fancy countertops come out of larger homes, so there’s probably plenty of material. You might need an expert to cut it for you, but the cost is minimal.


  • Depending on the material, new countertops can be quite inexpensive. Fortunately, they are easy to install. Assuming everything was level when you removed the old top, there’s little to do besides some gluing and cutting.

New light fixtures: Many people are afraid to deal with anything electrical, but there are only a few wires to connect. Turn on the old light and trip the breakers until the light goes out. Then turn off the switch and you’ll be super safe.


Find a video online or a book at the library on simple electrical projects. If you can use a screwdriver and join a few wires together, you’re all set.

  • Electrical projects can actually be among the easiest to complete. There’s nothing to cut or anything else that requires significant talent or skill.

New flooring: Flooring projects can be challenging for two reasons. First of all, ripping up old flooring can be exhausting and frustrating. Furthermore, installing new flooring usually involves crawling around on your hands and knees for prolonged periods of time.


  • There are tools designed to scrape up old floors, particularly anything laid with adhesive. It can be worth the expense to invest in these tools. Renting is also an option. Kneepads are another worthwhile investment.

  • Check out books or videos on flooring to learn all the tricks of laying down tiles. However, choosing a random-patterned rollout floor eliminates this burden.

Paint cabinets or appliances: You may have seen people paint kitchen cabinets, but you may not know that it’s possible to paint your refrigerator or other appliances, too! A fresh coat of paint is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to spruce up the appliances in your kitchen.

Install new cabinets: Maybe a coat of paint isn’t enough for the plans you have in mind. New cabinets are pretty easy to install, as long as you get everything straight and level. Depending on the cabinets, it can cost more for the installation than for the cabinets themselves.

New hardware: If time or money is tight, consider just changing all the hardware on your cabinets. New pulls, knobs, and hinges can bring cabinets up to date.

Build a bar. A cool way to update a kitchen is to add a bar. Even though they can be fairly easy to build, you’ll probably need a book or friend to help, unless you’re experienced with construction. The cost of the materials is minimal.


A kitchen is a great place to start any home makeover because few rooms are used more. If you can simultaneously make the kitchen more functional, it’s a win-win.


Since kitchen makeovers are common, it’s possible to find a lot of used items at great prices. Are you planning a kitchen makeover? I’d love to know how it goes.

“It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, 

so that when I've gone and come back, I'll find it at home.”


- Rumi


Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway





Posted in Community News
July 5, 2022

Tips for A Stress-Free Family Vacation


Do you have summer travel plans all set?  Are you worried the stress will outshine the fun?


Although family vacations can be a little frustrating at times, they’re the source of many comical and pleasant memories. Whether you plan to go to the beach, the mountains, or even the big city, you can take a memorable family vacation that’s low-stress and fun for everyone. 


Keep these tips in mind to reduce stress on your next family vacation


Plan ahead. Planning is a very important part of any vacation. Take into account the individual needs of your kids and arm yourself with whatever is necessary to take care of them while on vacation. 

  • For example, if your four-year-old takes naps, bring along the stuffed animal they sleep with at home as their “comfort” item. For your teen, ensure they have their favorite hand-held electronic device to pass the travel time. 

Set up a flexible schedule for each vacation day. When you have a day-to-day plan, kids can look forward to things they want to do. Plan a special kid activity for each day. 

  • Work in an hour or so of swimming in the hotel’s pool each day or going to play miniature golf. Exercise keeps stress levels low and expends excess energy, especially for kids. Think of play time as de-compression time for kids.  
  • To see some sights, consider taking a bus tour. Everyone sits down, which relieves aching feet from walking, while still exploring the new surroundings. 
  • With kids, visiting just one museum per day may be your best bet. If it rains on a day you planned to go to the water park, switch to another day’s plans to see a movie or do another indoor activity. Also, every third or fourth day, plan an easy day where you sleep late, hang out at the hotel, or take short walks around the area. Plan some low-stress days. 

Expect the unexpected. It’s a positive experience for kids to learn that, sometimes, even the best planning is affected by weather, mistakes made by the hotel, and other events out of your control. Talk to your kids in advance about these unplanned possibilities. 


Delegate responsibilities to each child. Maybe your twelve-year-old can be assigned to keep the eight-year-old occupied while at the airport. Or your teen can be in charge of watching over Mom and Dad’s luggage when they go to the restroom or magazine shop before take-off. 


Before traveling, brainstorm with your kids about how to solve potential challenges. Ask ten-year-old Johnnie what he can do to ensure his fourteen-year-old sister, Corrina, gets along well with him. Talk to Corrina about what she might do to make Johnnie happy. 

  • Tell your kids that you’re counting on them to make the trip as enjoyable as possible. 

Change seating arrangements during travel. Whether you’re flying, taking a train, or traveling by car, switch up the seating every half-day or so. Sit in the back seat with your five-year-old daughter while your eleven-year-old son sits in the front with Dad until lunch. 

  • Then, change seats after lunch. Consistent seat-changing can freshen up conversations and ease tensions between the kids. 

Take surprise items. For each child, pack new, unseen items to thrill and distract them from the monotony of travel. Trinkets like sticker books for younger kids, word puzzles for eight- to twelve-year-olds, and magazines for teens help time pass.

  •  A book about a child’s favorite subjects or even a new game for their hand-held device can be a godsend when stress starts to trickle in. 

Apply these strategies on your next family vacation. Everyone will be happier and your trip will be virtually stress-free. Start planning a family get-away now. 


Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway



Posted in Community News
June 7, 2022

Tips on Buying Power Tools






It’s almost Father's Day and many men have a power tool wish list. With the market being saturated with various brands of power tools, it can be a really tough decision to choose the right ones.


Here are some basic areas of comparison that you need to take into consideration. These tips will also help you get the best deals on the power tools you do decide to purchase.


Of course, the purchase price is something we are all going to look at.


It doesn’t matter how great a power tool is, if it is too much for the budget then it probably won’t even be considered. Most power tools are reasonably priced but you are going to run across some heavy-duty, top-of-the-line power tools that have a price tag to reflect it. Don’t spend a fortune on a tool you’re only going to use once or twice, just get what you need to get the job done safely. You can rent many expensive, ‘single-use’ tools such as a tile saw, table saw, floor sander, etcetera, from your local Lowes, Home Depot, or similar store. 


When you are starting your search, be sure to consider some local hardware stores too, and not just the big box stores. You will most likely find their customer service much better. 


If you are going to purchase, keep in mind that the total cost is more than just the purchase price. You have to include the ‘expendables’ or accessories needed to make the tool do what it has to do. Take the cost of these essentials into consideration as well. Depending on the type of power tool, these essentials can be sandpaper, belts, blades, bits, or any number of other items. Optional accessories are also something to consider, which may make the tool even more useful or versatile.


What features are you looking for in a particular power tool?


Don’t get caught up in all the ‘special’ or added features that some have to offer. You may end up paying a great deal more for a power tool that has features you won’t or don’t intend to ever use. Take a good look at those features however, because you may find a few that you could really use. that you didn’t think of, such as a laser guide on a miter saw, or a drill that has a hammer-drill setting. That will definitely make a particular model more appealing to you. Note: when it comes to circular saws, some are ‘left-hand’ blades and some are ‘right-hand’ blades. Which works best for you, something we sometimes forget!


Consider Replacement Parts and Customer Support...especially Batteries!

Since most power tools are designed to last a very long time, you want to find out about the availability of replacement parts. You also want to find out about customer support. It can be over the phone, by mail, or on the internet. It is important that customer support is available to you in the event you have questions, comments, or complaints about your power tool purchase. Manufacturers who have been in business for a very long time are likely to still be there down the road when you need a replacement part for your power tool. READ REVIEWS!

 Here’s a great example. For cordless tools, look at DeWalt. They are available everywhere. Batteries are available and are common or shared, and are compatible among many different tools. Many times, you can find them in sets, all using the same batteries and charger. Keep in mind that less common replacement batteries can be quite expensive. DeWalt tools are used by professionals and do-it-yourselfers alike, are of good quality, and they last!


Stanley, Milwaukee, Ridgid (Rigid) Tool Company, Dremel, Crescent Tool, Channel-Lok, Klein, Wiss tools, Snap-On, Craftsman, Black & Decker, Estwing, Lenox, and Leatherman, are others to consider. These are generally all brand names that have been around a while, so replacement parts and customer service are generally good and available.



The quality of a power tool is very important.


A good way to compare the quality of a particular type of power tool is to check reviews online from other consumers and professionals. These reviews are free to look at and usually unbiased. You can also check with magazines or websites that do comparisons such as Consumer Reports. However, you will probably have to pay for a subscription to get this information. Their monthly magazine has features for a variety of products. You can search their archives online to find articles and reviews about power tools as well.


It is a good idea to purchase a particular model and brand of power tool only after you have physically looked at it and touched it. Is it too heavy? Does it seem too flimsy for the job you plan to do with it? How noisy is it? Does it fit properly in your hands? These things are all very important and will affect how compatible the power tool is for you.


Safety should be a top priority on your list when it comes to selecting power tools.


 What is the safety rating? How many accidents have occurred with a particular model of hand tool? What safety features does the power tool offer you? All power tools on the market have basic safety mechanisms in place, but keep in mind that some only offer the bare minimum as regulated while others go the extra mile to ensure their customers are safe while operating them. NEVER remove a safety guard, it is there for a reason!


To get the most from the power tools you purchase, follow these guidelines: Don’t be blind-sided by the brand name or the design of a particular power tool. Take the time to find out exactly what it has to offer you. With a little research, you are sure to get just the right tool to get the job done.


Wishing a Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!


Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway



Posted in Community News
May 3, 2022

What Can I Do on a Weekend with $1000?


Everyone wants to improve their home. The list is usually a mile long. But most people don’t have an endless supply of money and time to make this happen. Hence the FAQ:


What can I do in one weekend with a $1000 budget to make an improvement?


Many projects are brought to mind but your house has an exterior, too. Remember that everyone can see your yard and the outside of your house. If you want to impress the neighbors, this might be the place to start.


  1. Paint: With a $1,000 budget, painting is the only exterior option that works. Whether your home is brick or siding, it can still be painted. Even vinyl siding can be painted with the appropriate paint. All that’s required is a few brushes and a ladder, in most cases.
  2. Mulch: Mulch is cheap, or even free in some cities during certain times of the year. Those old flower beds will look a lot better with a layer of mulch.
  3. New numbers: Every house ought to have the address clearly posted. It’s easier for the pizza delivery person, fire department, and the police to find your house. There are even a variety of different font options that add to the overall look of your house.
  4. New mailbox: It’s not uncommon to see a beautiful home with a mailbox that looks like it was run over by a truck. If the mailbox is in good structural shape, consider giving it a coat of paint.
  5. Flowers, shrubs, trees: Depending on the variety and season, these are inexpensive ways to add to the curb appeal of your home. Ensure that you’re purchasing plants that will thrive in your particular soil and climate.
  6. Planters: Whether under a window or sitting on your patio, planters are attractive, mobile, and inexpensive.
  7. Clean up: Many yards would benefit from a simple clean-up. Trim the grass around the house, trees, fence, and driveway. Pick up all the sticks. Then, plant grass seed on the bare patches. Pull the weeds. Fertilize the lawn. Keep the grass cut to the proper length. Pick up anything else that doesn’t belong in the yard. Throw out the broken porch swing and toys that nobody uses anymore.

Many of these tasks are entirely free and only require sweat equity.

When the weather is nice, landscaping and other outdoor projects can be very enjoyable. Consider the weather and season when planning your outdoor makeover activities. It can be tough to do gardening or painting in the middle of a thunderstorm.


“The house has to please everyone, contrary to the work of art, which does not. 

The work is a private matter for the artist. The house is not.”

- Adolf Loos


Those are all great but what’s the damage?

Again, landscaping projects are the first thing people might notice. But, we said our budget was only $1,000. Let’s see how the above might break down:


  1. Clean up the yard – Free: Take the time to clean up around your yard and make it look great! 
  2. Grass seed - $10 – Five pounds of grass seed is enough to cover 500-1,000 square feet.
  3. Trees - $90: Five, 2-gallon trees will set you back roughly $18 each. This is the average price for various pine and fruit trees.
  4. Flowers - $75: A decent sized rose bush is $20, depending on the variety. Chrysanthemums are only $8 each, which would cost $40 if you bought five of them. A fifty-pack of tulip bulbs is $15.
  5. Mailbox and post - $60: Pick one you like. A new post is around $25.
  6. Exterior paint - $160: A 5-gallon bucket containing a combination of paint and primer is $70 for white. Colored paint will set you back $160 for 5 gallons. That’s enough paint for a 2,000 square foot home.
  7. Mulch - $15: Two cubic feet of mulch can be found for $3. This price is by the bag. A truckload would cost much less per cubic foot. A large 4x15 flower bed would require 10 cubic feet of mulch to have 2” of coverage. Five bags would cost around $15.
  8. Planters - $150: Planters can range from less than $1 to several hundred dollars. A very nice planter is in the $50 range. Let’s use three of them.


If you add that all up, the total is only $560! When you’ve physically recovered from all the hard work, you could spend the other $440 on a few more beautifying projects. 


A lot can be done to enhance the landscaping and exterior of your home without spending a bundle. With the weather getting nicer, now is the time to tackle the outdoor projects. 


As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need recommendations.


Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway


Posted in Community News
April 13, 2022

Sorting Out Your Tax Documents: Pitch or Keep?


Even though dealing with tax season is probably old hat by now, there are some things about taxes that continue to perplex. Specifically, what should you do with tax documents and the supporting paperwork?


Your aunt says to throw it all away after 2 years. Your banker friend says to save everything for 7 years.


So what should you do? Are there reasons you should save tax documents forever?


Use this handy guide to help you determine which tax-related documents to save and which to pitch:


Save tax returns. Many financial experts recommend never throwing away tax returns. They might come in handy in the future when you need to reflect back to determine the cost basis of prior investment figures, if you wish to apply for loans, or if you want to file for disability insurance.

  • If you don’t have room to store tax returns, scan them and keep them in computer files. Be sure to back them up, though, in case your computer crashes.

File stock and mutual fund confirmations for safe-keeping. Because you’ll likely someday sell your stock market purchases, you’ll need the original information about your purchase of those items, such as when you bought them, how much you paid, and how many shares you bought.

  • As long as you have the stock, you’ll need those confirmations. So save - don’t pitch.

Throw away monthly statements from all financial institutions if you receive year-end reports. Be careful with this one, though, because some major brokerage firms recently stopped issuing year-end summaries and expect their customers to save monthly reports for tax time.

Pitch salary paystubs after the year’s end. If you saved paystubs all year, it’s okay to get rid of them after you’re sure your W-2 reflects properly the amount you earned. The only exception here is if, for some reason, you need the final paystub of the year (to claim how much money was deducted from your pay all year for donations to charities). 

Before you dispose of copies of household bills, ensure you don’t need them. If you have a home office, you’ll likely need your utility bills and other types of receipts to claim the home-office deduction on your tax return. 

  • Electric/gas bills, internet connection fees, homeowners’ insurance, HOA maintenance fees, and others may help you get a hefty tax return if you have a home office.

Save credit card bills. Although some financial experts recommend pitching them, many reasons to save them exist. For example, these days, credit card companies often ensure anything you’ve purchased with the cards. 

Home improvement receipts.  According to Turbo Tax, while you can’t deduct the cost of home improvements on your yearly taxes you can use them to offset the taxes you’ll pay when you sell your home and increase the amount you keep as profit.   

  • Under current tax laws, most home sellers will avoid paying taxes on their profit, but it’s always wise to know exactly where you stand.  You can find some of the exceptions HERE
  • HERE is a past blog I shared on this topic.  

Expect exceptions to these rules. If you have room, it’s wise to save any important records.

  • For instance, in 2010, the government offered the Longtime Home Buyers’ Tax Credit to home purchasers who could furnish proof they’d resided in their previous home for 5 of the prior 8 years. 
  • Sound easy? It wasn’t, as many applied for and didn’t receive this credit. Why? Many homebuyers were unable to prove they’d resided in their home for 5 years to the satisfaction of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • One couple that did receive the credit got it because they had saved their monthly utility bills for the home and sent copies with their application for the tax credit. So, saving their utility bills ultimately helped them receive a $6,000 credit from the IRS. 


If you take this information into account, you won’t get caught without a receipt you need or using up precious space to store papers you don’t require.


Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway




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