Categories
Selling

Should You List in January Or Wait for the Spring Selling Season?

Conventional wisdom says wait until the warmer months to put your house on the market. Here are a few reasons to rethink that idea.

Small house in woman's hands; Shutterstock ID 90062977; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post
Small house in woman’s hands; Shutterstock ID 90062977; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Thousands of homeowners speak to their real estate agent this time of year to consider their sale options — typically for the spring. It takes a few months for the agent and seller to plan and prep to list the home, so starting now makes sense.

Over the years, I’ve asked sellers if they would consider listing their home in January, right after the first of the year. At first, they look at me like I’m crazy. “Who sells a home in the dead of winter?” they ask.

As it turns out, many sellers not only successfully make it happen, but actually end up better off. Here’s why.

Buyers are out 24/7/365

In the past, buyers waited for spring to start their shopping because that’s when the majority of listings hit the market for the spring selling season.

Today’s buyers look at listings all day, every day. They have apps on their phone, get listings texted and emailed to them, and don’t care about the time of year.

They’re looking for inventory, and will buy homes well before the spring. List your home in January, and you will have a captive audience.

Bonuses, inheritances and tax implications

Each year, real estate agents’ phones ring come January. Previously active buyers want to re-engage, and new buyers come out of the woodwork. What causes this yearly phenomenon?

The end of the year often brings family events, financial activities and discussions about gifting for tax implications. Conversations about inheritances and taxes, money and homeownership seem to occur at many families’ holiday dinners.

Additionally, at year’s end, people take stock of their incomes, find out about work bonuses, and start thinking about whether they want to spend another year renting. Buyers start to take a second look at the tax implications of homeownership, too.

Whether it’s a new buyer who moves quickly or a previously active buyer who re-engages, these house hunters are around in January and will look at your home if it’s for sale.

Where’s the competition?

Typical sellers wait until spring to list. There’s no doubt that visible grass, blooming flowerbeds, and a spotlight on outdoor areas make houses more inviting.

But that also means that there might be two or three similar houses for sale in your neighborhood or school district, in your price range. Thus, it changes the supply-and-demand balance.

You’re better off being the only game in town when it’s time to sell. The more homes on the market, the more the buyers spread out.

Buyers shopping in January understand that the home won’t show as well as it does in the spring and summer months. Many of them don’t care. Having photos of your home during these times of year will help them envision it in the warmer seasons.

If you’re a flexible seller — meaning that you aren’t under any time restrictions or time frames to sell, and your home is already in showing condition — consider listing in mid- to late January. You can always control and negotiate your closing deadline with a buyer. If someone falls in love with the home, they may not mind waiting until April to close.

Also, many buyers have been at it for many months (sometimes years). So, come January, they are tired of open houses Sundays and the real estate hunt. This is your target buyer and, in part, they’re why it’s better to list in January than to wait until spring.

Posted by Brendan Desimone on Zillow

Categories
Interior Design

5 Most & Least Regretted DIY Home Projects

Hire a pro or do it yourself? See how homeowners rank these common projects.

Thinking of going the DIY route for a home improvement project? Well you’re not alone. Nearly three-quarters of homeowners have completed a DIY project in the past three years. However, 40 percent of them wished they hadn’t, according to a new survey from home design site Zillow Digs.

Deciding whether to do it yourself or hire professional help is a common question. To help homeowners make better decisions related to tackling home improvement projects, Zillow Digs asked homeowners from around the country which projects they regretted the most and the least. The results of the survey are revealed below.

Top 5 most-regretted DIY projects

1.  Add or expand a room (such as a bathroom or bedroom)

2. Refinish cabinetry (kitchen or bath)

3. Refinish basement or attic

4. Reinstall new carpeting

5. Refinish or install new hardwood floors

Top 5 least-regretted DIY projects

1. Replace lighting fixtures

2. Replace cabinet hardware (kitchen or bath)

3. Paint one or more rooms

4. Install new kitchen appliances

5. Replace plumbing fixtures (bath, sink, toilet)

Looking for inspiration for your next home renovation project? Check out Zillow Digs today!

Posted by Alexa Fiander on Zillow

Categories
Buying

Equity Matters A LOT… Just Ask Freddie Mac

There are many reasons, both financial and non-financial, that homeownership remains an important part of the American Dream. One of the biggest reasons is the fact that it helps build family wealth. Recently, Freddie Mac wrote about the power of home equity. They explained:

“In the simplest terms, equity is the difference between how much your home is worth and how much you owe on your mortgage. You build equity by paying down your mortgage over time and through your home’s appreciation. In a nutshell, your money is working for you and contributing toward your financial future.”

They went on to show an example where a person bought a home for $150,000 with a down payment of 10% ($15K), resulting in a loan amount of $135,000. The buyer secured a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4.5% with a monthly mortgage payment of $684.03 (not including taxes and insurance).

The chart below demonstrates the home equity built after 7 years of making mortgage payments and assuming the historic national average of 3% per year home appreciation:

And that number continues to build as you continue to own the home.

Merrill Lynch published a report earlier this year that showed the average equity homeowners have acquired by certain ages.

Bottom Line

Home equity is important to building wealth as a family. Referring to the first scenario above, Freddie Mac explained:

“Now, if you continued to rent, and made the same payment of $684.03 per month, you’d have zero equity and no means to build it. Building equity is a critical part of homeownership and can help you create financial stability.”

Put your housing cost to work for you and your family. Meet with a real estate professional today to explore your options.

Posted by The KCM Crew

Categories
Holiday

Savvy Shopping for Black Friday Deals

Set your alarm (or just charge up your laptop). Black Friday is almost here, and the deals on household goods are unbeatable!

Thanks for your purchase. Cropped image of a customer paying to shop assistant by a credit card at the cash desk; Shutterstock ID 252655090; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post
Thanks for your purchase. Cropped image of a customer paying to shop assistant by a credit card at the cash desk; Shutterstock ID 252655090; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

With the holiday shopping season already under way (earlier than ever!), you may be thinking Black Friday is the time to buy that HDTV or budget laptop you’ve been eyeing. After all, the prices are so attractive. Just $150 for a name brand TV? Prices on bargain model laptops starting at only $99? The deals are pretty hard to resist.

Don’t just fixate on electronics, though. Consider purchasing items for your home, too. Sure, these purchases may not be as sexy as a sleek new phone, but there are plenty of great deals on items you’ll use year-round.

Large appliances

This is the time of year when you see retailers bundle sets — like washers and dryers, for example — and sell them at a discount. And the savings can be significant — up to several hundred dollars off, plus free local delivery and haul away. Special financing may also be available.

Don’t need a set? Don’t worry — individual appliance deals are impressive, too.

Oh, and if you have your heart set on that pricey, but oh-so-worth-it, Dyson vacuum cleaner, now is a good time to buy one.

Kitchen items

Need a new blender? Coffee maker? Microwave? It’s an ideal time to purchase these types of items as well, as the deals are better than average, according to dealnews.com.

And there’s no time like the present to complete your dream kitchen. Keep an eye out for normally expensive brands which may now be affordable, once you consider the rebate.

Tools and hardware

Whether you’re in the market for a storage cabinet, mechanic’s tool set, generator, lawn and garden gadgets, or snow blower, you’ll find it available at prices that won’t break the bank.

Tabletop essentials

You’ll see savings on everything from holiday collectibles to ornaments and figurines — just in time for the rapidly approaching holiday season. Whether you’re hosting relatives, entertaining guests, or just feeling festive, Black Friday is a good day to shop for tabletop essentials that can help set the mood.

Posted by Vera Gibbons on Zillow

Categories
Uncategorized

Singles Are Falling For Their Dream Home

Single-Home-Buyers-KCM

Some Highlights: 

  • 24% of all recent home buyers were single at the time of purchase
  • 47% of single men cite the desire to own a home of their own as the primary reason to buy
  • 18% of first-time buyers were single women

Posted by The KCM Crew

Categories
Tiny Homes

Tiny Homes Under 400 Square Feet

These small spaces offer lots to love, and what they lack in floor space, they make up for in charm.

Tiny footprints can make a big impact — on the environment, your wallet, and your quality of life. These micro homes obliterate the notion that living small means living with less.

Indeed, several of these listings are offering a lifestyle, not merely a new house. Whether you fancy acres of secluded woods, a waterfront dock, or a novel aesthetic, the following homes offer a glimpse into a redefined standard of living.

Sturgeon Bay, WI

6004 Bay Shore Dr, Sturgeon Bay, WI
For sale: $165,000

While not as miniature as your childhood toy trains, this 192-square-foot caboose has been transformed into a nostalgic tiny home, complete with a kitchen, bath, eating area, and bunk beds within its closed quarters. This 1.58-acre wooded lot also hosts a two-story 128-square-foot cottage with additional beds.

See more homes for sale in Sturgeon Bay.

Shelbyville, KY

56 Boat Dock Rd, Shelbyville, KY
For sale: $39,900

Located on Guist Creek Lake, this 396-square-foot, 1-bedroom, 1-bath home has a personal dock and unlimited boat launch. The interior is well maintained, with fresh paint and flooring.

See more Shelbyville homes for sale.

Lansing, NC

401 Riverwood Trl, Lansing, NC
For sale: $120,000

Combining two acres of land with 275 feet of river frontage, this 400-square-foot, 1-bedroom, 1-bath home offers a multitude of natural gifts. The wooden interior is cozy in traditional cabin fashion, and the covered deck offers a treehouse feel.

See more Lansing listings.

Silverado, CA

28882 Foothill Dr, Silverado, CA
For sale: $324,000

Located in notoriously pricey Orange County, this 268-square-foot home is a far cry from the “Real Housewives” abodes. Bursting with character, this 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom home provides generous outdoor living and proximity to the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary.

See more homes on the market in Silverado.

Madison, CT

70 Wildcat Rd, Madison, CT
For sale: $149,900

This impeccably styled 400-square-foot home is overwhelmingly charming, boasting beamed ceilings and a pleasant color palette. Located close to town and beaches, this home offers a tranquil setting that’s not too far off the beaten path.

See more Madison homes for sale.

Bon Carbo, CO

16022 County Road 30.0, Bon Carbo, CO
For sale: $179,000

When seclusion is not enough, this is the completely off-the-grid, 1-bedroom, 1-bath home you’ve been searching for. Nurtured for years, this 252-square-foot cabin in the mountains is paired with an additional guest cottage, gardens, outdoor cooking facilities, and solar panels.

See more homes for sale in Bon Carbo.

Port Vincent, LA

18120 Cooper St, Port Vincent, LA
For sale: $148,000

Located on a sizeable waterfront lot off the Amite River, this 400-square-foot home is perfect for a boat owner. In addition to having a delightful interior, this 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom home features a covered boat slip and lift, and a covered RV/boat port.

See more listings in Port Vincent.

Ashford, WA

32504 State Route 706 E, Ashford, WA
For sale: $65,000

Hiking, skiing, and fishing, all at a moment’s notice. This 224-square-foot, 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom home located near Mount Rainier claims 1.9 acres of Northwestern magnificence.

See more listings in Ashford.

Oden, MI

4700 Oden Rd UNIT 6, Oden, MI
For sale: $71,900

Reasonable waterfront living is part of the deal with this 245-square-foot, 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom home. Situated on 180 feet of shared frontage on Crooked Lake, this cottage provides effortless boat access with its private dock.

See more homes for sale in Oden.

Posted by Sharona Ott in Zillow

 

Categories
Uncategorized

Should I Pay a Mortgage Interest Rate over 4%?

Shocked-KCM

Mortgage interest rates, as reported by Freddie Mac, have increased over the last several weeks. Along with Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors are all calling for mortgage rates to continue to rise over the next four quarters.

This has caused some purchasers to lament the fact they may no longer be able to get a rate less than 4%. However, we must realize that current rates are still at historic lows.

Here is a chart showing the average mortgage interest rate over the last several decades.

rates-KCM

Bottom Line

Though you may have missed getting the lowest mortgage rate ever offered, you can still get a better interest rate than your older brother or sister did ten years ago; a lower rate than your parents did twenty years ago and a better rate than your grandparents did forty years ago.

Posted by The KCM Crew

 

Categories
Cleaning

The 7 Secrets Of People With Super Clean Houses

Hint: They don’t spend hours scrubbing their homes. And if you follow these tips, you won’t either.

A little bit of tidying every day not only saves you from those day-long cleaning sprees — it also prepares you for company at a moment’s notice.

We all know someone with an immaculately kept house. No matter when you drop in, everything is always in its place, looking and smelling as though they just spent the entire afternoon with a dust rag in hand.

But the truth is, tidy people don’t have to start from square one when it comes time to scour. Their daily habits make it easier to keep up with the cleaning.

Here are the cleaning tips we learned from those who are habitually tidy — put them to use from the first day you move in to that home for sale in Sarasota, FL, and it’ll always be as pristine as it was on move-in day.

1. They buy baby wipes

Moms already know this, but wipes have many uses beyond a baby’s bottom. Grab one to quickly wipe up spills, remove stains from upholstery, and wipe down surfaces daily.

2. They touch paper once

Instead of making piles of mail or school/work forms to deal with later, handle each piece of paper as soon as you see it. That means toss it (if it’s junk mail), file it in the proper place (e.g., in your “bills” folder), or display it (your 5-year-old’s latest masterpiece). Ditto for packages you receive.

Tammy Siu Kim, a mom in Seattle, has an ingenious use for those myriad catalogs she receives in the mail. “As soon as they arrive, I take the staples out and put them in a basket near my dining table. Then I use them to line the floor around my toddler’s chair when he’s eating. He can drop as much food as he wants, and I just wrap it up and put it in the compost pile or trash.”

3. They have help

If it’s in your budget, hiring a housecleaner — even if it’s just every other week — goes a long way toward keeping your house tidy. If you have someone tackling the big stuff — like scrubbing your shower or washing your hardwood floors — it frees you up to do the everyday organizing and maintaining. Another option is to sign up for a free newsletter like the one from FlyLady.net, says Brenda Iaquessa of Clinton, CT. Each one is full of little tasks and tips that can help you stay organized — and sane.

4. They do a lot of hosting

Nothing motivates you to keep a clean home like having guests, especially if they’re spending the night.

5. Theyre masters of the speed clean

Keep spray bottles of a mix of white vinegar and water and rags hidden in high traffic or messy areas of your home and use them to quickly wipe down smudges, fingerprints, or any other visible dirt, suggests Jeana Kraft of Wausau, WI. Another idea: Set a timer for 30 minutes every day and tackle as many cleaning tasks as you can. The daily upkeep will make arduous deep cleans less necessary.

6. They don’t leave dishes in the sink overnight

No matter how tired you are at the end of the day, clean up your kitchen before you go to bed. You aren’t going to be any more motivated to deal with it in the morning, and walking into a clean kitchen is a much more positive start to your day, especially if it starts at 6 a.m.

7. They make their beds daily

Nothing says messy like an unmade bed. And since it takes under five minutes to make it, there’s no reason you can’t. While you’re at it, hang up the clothes you threw on the floor when you got into bed last night.

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Trulia

 

Categories
Buying

Should You Buy a Home While Carrying Student Debt?

Financial experts give their two cents on managing both student debt and a mortgage.

It’s challenging for first-time buyers to break into the housing market as rents keep rising and the inventory of low-value homes remains scarce in most areas. Add thousands of dollars of student debt to the equation and potential buyers may assume they simply cannot afford to buy. Recent data showed that home buyers who completed at least a bachelor’s degree are minimally affected by their student debt when shopping for homes.

Check out some tips from personal finance experts about acquiring mortgages while carrying significant student loan debt.

If you had student loan debt, what was your payment strategy to get rid of it?

I used the debt snowball method to pay off my student loan debt. In 2005, I still owed $13,000. Since my loans were serviced through Sallie Mae, I took advantage of the 1-year forbearance to pause my loan payments so I could aggressively pay off smaller loans that we owed. While the interest still accrues during the forbearance period, I was able to focus on clearing up other debt faster. After the year passed, I was able to start paying off my student loan with more traction. It only took another year and a half to retire the remaining student loan balance. — Toni Husbands of Debt Free Divas

Personally, I was lucky enough to make it through undergraduate and graduate school without accumulating any student debt. My wife, however, accumulated between $10,000 and $20,000 in student debt from going to a small private college for her undergraduate degree. Once we got married, I “married” her student debt as well. Currently, she still has around $11,000 in student loan debt. To manage the payoff, the first thing we did was to call the loan administrator and request a lower interest rate, which they did to our surprise without any problems. Currently, the interest rate is only 3 percent annually, which equates to $124 per month. At this level, I do not feel that much of a hurry to pay it off. Instead, it is more along the lines of a low-interest home mortgage, which we are paying off at the required rate, but no more. — Jacob Irwin of My Personal Finance Journey

If you’re still carrying student loan debt, what is your financial plan to eliminate it?

Slow and steady! — Heather Jarvis of Ask Heather Jarvis

I currently hold quite a bit of student loan debt — over $85,000 — but I like to think that my resolve is tantamount to the balance. When I first graduated, I had nearly double that amount to pay off. But by making the pay-off my first financial priority and sending over $1,700 to pay it down every month, I was able to make a sizeable dent in that number quickly. I also cut out spending elsewhere to have more to send toward my loans whenever possible. This meant limiting meals out, having multiple roommates rather than living alone, and forgoing cabs in favor of public transportation. — Mario Bonifacio of Debt Blog

If you’re a homeowner, did you have student loan debt at the time you bought? How did that impact your purchase?

We didn’t let the student loan debt hold us back from buying a home, but we also purchased a home that easily fit into our budget instead of purchasing a home that stretched our budget. — Katie Brewer of Your Richest Life Planning

We purchased a condo while I had an outstanding student loan balance. The pre-approval process takes into account your debt-to-income ratio when determining the amount you’re able to borrow. Those purchasing a home without outstanding student debt should ensure that their monthly payment does not exceed 25 to 30 percent of your monthly income. We started with a small condo with very affordable monthly payments and assessments that allowed us to have breathing room in our budget to address our outstanding debt — including my student loans. — Toni Husbands of Debt Free Divas

The student loan debt did not impact our purchase much at all, since the home we wanted to buy was very affordable based on our income. For us, I do not believe it would have been better to pay off the student loan prior to buying a house, since our debt was fairly low, carried a reasonable interest rate, and does not tie up a large portion of our monthly income. — Jacob Irwin of My Personal Finance Journey

In hindsight, would it have been better to pay off your student loan debt before or after your home purchase?

One thing I would do differently would be to focus on repaying my students loans aggressively as soon as I graduated from undergrad. Instead of taking on car loans and living in high-priced apartments, I could have been much more aggressive as a single person with no children. Instead, I was comfortable with the idea of paying the minimum amount for the full loan term because that was the normal approach to dealing with debt. — Toni Husbands of Debt Free Divas

If you’re not a homeowner, is your student loan debt prohibiting you from buying?

I don’t believe that my student loan is prohibiting me from purchasing a house, though I may have been able to contribute a down payment fund by this point if it weren’t for my student loans. I still feel like both my personal and professional life are in limbo, and at this stage I feel like renting is the smart choice for my situation. I’m currently contributing extra money toward both my 401(k) and my personal IRA account each year and I could instead allocate some of that money towards a down payment if purchasing a home was one of my priorities. My student loans have definitely put the thought of even saving for a home on the backburner, but it was also not a priority of mine to begin with. — Debt Hater of From Debt to Dreams

What are your tips for folks carrying substantial student loan debt?

The single most effective way to get rid of student loans while saving and building wealth is to live below your means. When you start significantly upgrading your lifestyle, you lose flexibility with your budget. — Katie Brewer of Your Richest Life Planning

Maintain a positive attitude. The best plans and the most sophisticated math in the world don’t mean a thing if you make yourself miserable and give up. Second, make a budget. Knowing where you spend will help you make meaningful cuts and not beat yourself up over meaningless cuts (like single-ply toilet paper or bad Q-tips). Lastly, put together a sensible timeline of how quickly you might be able to pay off all your debt. Having a timeline can change the way you look at your debt; whereas hundreds of thousands of dollars might seem insurmountable, you know that December 2019 will definitely arrive and can therefore plan the months leading up to it. — Mario Bonifacio of Debt Blag

First, use the federal government to your advantage. It offers programs to consolidate and, in some cases, even forgive student loans. Sadly, not everyone knows about them. For instance, a relatively new program is called Pay As You Earn, or PAYE for short. It actually caps the monthly federal student loan payment at 10 percent of your discretionary income. Second, don’t stop paying. The same government that offers helpful programs can also garnish your wages, take a portion of your Social Security benefits, and confiscate tax refunds. Call your loan servicer and ask about your options. But be careful of student loan repayment scams. Only deal with reputable organizations that have excellent reviews and a Better Business Bureau rating. Third, get creative. For instance: volunteer with organizations like AmeriCorp. They offer loan forbearance (which means you don’t have to pay on the principal or interest while working). After your service, you receive a monetary award you can put toward your loan. — Howard Dvorkin of Debt.com

What advice do you have for prospective home buyers limited by their student loan debt?

Build a strong credit history by making your payments on time. Improve your debt-to-income ratio by paying down credit cards and other consumer debt. Balance your competing goals of paying down debt and saving for a down payment. — Heather Jarvis of Ask Heather Jarvis

Don’t let student loan debt hold you back from buying a home. It is important to make sure that you don’t take on more than you can handle, but it’s also important to balance student loan debt with other important financial goals. Make sure you purchase a home that allows you some room in your budget to focus on other goals. — Katie Brewer of Your Richest Life Planning

For anyone looking to buy a home and carrying loan debt, I would say that it is all about balance as with most things in life. You need to set your goals and figure out what is important to you. Are you OK with stretching your student loans out a few more years in order to save for that down payment? Or does the student loan payment need to be eliminated so that you have breathing room in your budget for a mortgage? It may be best to pay off your student loans as quickly as possible (especially if they are high-interest loans), and then switch your focus toward purchasing a home. If you do have any outstanding credit card debt, I would advise you to pay that off before even starting to save for a down payment. If you have sufficient income to pay off your student loans a little slower and buying a home is a priority for you, start shifting some of that money toward your down payment instead. If you come up with a sound financial plan and make sure that you can afford the monthly payments, I don’t feel that there’s any reason that a student loan will prevent you from owning a home. — Debt Hater of From Debt to Dreams

Posted by Tali Wee on Zillow

Categories
Holiday home

8 Hacks for Hosting Thanksgiving at Home

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is almost here. Harder still: the concept of having to host the holiday at your own home. Even if you love opening your home to friends and family, hosting on turkey day can induce stress in even the most experienced home entertainers. To help out, we’ve collected some tricks that make cooking faster, clean up easier, and the whole event less expensive. Bonus: You won’t lose your sanity and snap at a guest (at least not more than once).

mediaphotos/iStock

1. Stop grocery shopping now

One typical source of holiday stress is lack of space—you need room in your cupboards, fridge, and freezer to accommodate all the ingredients and finished dishes that will soon be filling them.

“Start clearing out the cupboards two weeks before you do your Thanksgiving shopping,” says Beth Hirsch, an instructor at The Cooking Coach 101. Bonus: By eating up your pantry items instead of shopping, you’ll save money to splurge on holiday gifts, or yourself!

2. Go full rental

For a little bit of money, a party rental company can make your holiday a lot easier.

“Even if your dining table is large enough to host a party of 12 or more, the dining chairs may be so wide that it limits how many can pull up to the table,” says Rebecca West, design psychologist and blogger of Happy Starts at Home. “Consider stashing the big upholstered chairs in the garage and renting folding chairs.”

Other things to consider renting: extra glasses, flatware, linens—that way you can laugh off the inevitable red wine and cranberry sauce stains—and a coat rack to keep outerwear from forming an unruly Everest in the guest room.

3. Spend less on table decor

Dressing up a table with fresh flowers gets pricey fast. Instead, buy fewer flowers and break them up into mini arrangements in mirrored bud vases (Wholesale Flowers and Supplies offers an assortment).

“Mirrored vases reflect candlelight and the beauty of the table,” says Bronwen Smith, owner of B Floral. Another idea for affordable table decor: “Spray-paint small pumpkins gold to jazz up your Thanksgiving tablescape.”

4. Fast-track your food

Instead of cooking the turkey for six semitraumatic hours—worrying all the while that it’s drying out or cooking unevenly—try spatchcocking the bird. This involves cutting the backbone out of the turkey and laying the bird flat, so that all the skin is face up.

“It slashes hours off the cooking time, and the turkey will have crispy browned skin on the outside and be moist and tender on the inside,” says Hirsch. Martha Stewart has step-by-step visuals. (God bless you, Martha!)

Another food shortcut is the mashed potatoes. “Potatoes done the usual way [boiled] take a lot of time, so instead I wrap them in damp towels and microwave them,” says Hirsch. “After that, they’re easy to peel and mash.” Note: This works only with thick-skinned russets, which produce a fluffy finished product.

5. Break out your summer cooler

If you’re hosting a group of drinkers that your ice bucket can’t accommodate, fill a large cooler with ice and chill the drinks in it: white wine, beer, bottled water, even milk or juice for the kids. You can also set the cooler in the dining area, which will keep guests out of the kitchen during food prep.

6. Have guests pitch in outside of the kitchen

People will want to help you with the meal, but unless you are game to host a true potluck, it might be easier to take on the main meal yourself and assign guests to bring wine and dessert.

“Making desserts is time-consuming and wine is expensive, so passing off those duties saves you both money and stress,” Hirsch points out. You can also ask guests to bring apps that don’t need to be heated, such as crudités, cheese, and cured meats. Request that they bring food contributions plated and ready to serve, so you’re not fishing around for dishes. This also keeps guests out of your kitchen, which means your sister-in-law won’t try to put her green bean casserole in the oven right as you’re basting the turkey.

7. Occupy the little guests

Since kids don’t like to linger over dinner, keep them seated at the kids table with an activity. For example, lay out crayons and paper and ask them to write their holiday gift wish lists. This can keep them busy for a surprisingly long time.

8. End the night with a next-day buffet

Many people love a fridge that’s full of Thanksgiving leftovers, but if you’re not one of these people, send your guests home with extra food. Set up a sandwich bar, which can be as simple as placing sliced bread on one end and waxed paper sandwich bags on the other, with the turkey, cranberry sauce, and other fixings in between. Have restaurant takeout containers handy so guests can take home individual portions.

Posted by Celeste Perron on realtor.com