Debbie Van Horn

Residential Real Estate Broker

Fonville Morisey, A Long & Foster Company

Top NC Agent Serving the Greater Triangle in North Carolina



Potential Impact of Tax Reform on Housing

News from Long and Foster and Prosperity Lending

Impact of Tax ReformWhile the tax bill has not yet been inked into law, its forthcoming approval brings several housing policy changes for 2018. Here are the key real estate-related items you need to know.

Mortgage interest deductions have been reduced to a combined $750,000 of loan debt for primary residences and second/vacation homes. New homebuyers can deduct interest on up to $750,000 of combined mortgage debt. Current homeowners are grandfathered into the previous deduction to a combined debt limit up to $1 million. Proposals to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction on second and vacation homes were not passed with the new laws.

Interest deductions for home equity loan debt has been eliminated if you're not using the money for home improvements. Previously, homeowners could deduct interest on home equity debt up to $100,000—even if those loans were taken to fund purchases outside of their homes, like a child's college tuition. Now, you can only take an interest deduction for up to $100,000 of home equity debt if the loan is spent on your home.

Deductions for property taxes, as well as state income or sales tax, are now capped at a combined $10,000. Previously, homeowners could deduct the full amount for their local property taxes, as well as the full amount of either their state income or sales taxes. In 2018, you'll be limited to a combined deduction total of $10,000 for state and local property, income and sales taxes.

Capital gains tax exclusions remain the same when you sell your house. Previous versions of the tax bill proposed cuts to the exclusion, but married filers can still exclude up to $500,000 when selling their primary home, as long as they've lived there two of the past five years.

Moving expenses are no longer deductible. Currently, you could deduct reasonable moving expenses if you met certain requirements, but that deduction has been eliminated. 

5 Ways to Reduce the Chaos of House Guests During the Holidays

Having overnight guests during the holidays can get kind of crazy, but it doesn’t have to. Here are 5 ways to reduce the chaos of house guests during the holidays.

1. Map out Places to Sleep

If you’ve got a guest bedroom – or maybe a couple of guest bedrooms – then great.
But you might also consider letting people sleep on your sofas or stay on an air mattress if you happen to have one lying around.

Take the time to consider where you have room for guests and where your guests might be the most comfortable. Not only will this make your guests happier, but it can also keep you from having to be overly hospitable.

What we mean is that it’s easy to get carried away saying “yes” to everyone. But you have to learn when to say “no” too. Planning and mapping out places to sleep can help with that.

2. Give a Little Extra

Remember all those tiny shampoos you stole from the hotel on your last vacation? Put them to good use: arrange them in a cute little display, using a vase or even a cornucopia if you’re feeling especially festive. This way, your guests can use them if they forgot to pack their own toiletries.

The week before your guests arrive, make sure to set aside a full day to do your laundry so you can ensure you’ll have enough towels for the visit. If you find that you won’t, you’ll have plenty of time to run to a discount store and grab a couple more.

This same rule applies to blankets. Not only do you want to make sure your guests are sleeping on clean, fresh bedding, but you also want to make sure there’s plenty to go around so everyone can stay warm and cozy.

3. Label Things

Labeling things may sound silly, but it’s a great way to inform your guests of how to dispose of their dishes without putting a damper on the holiday fun. There are actually a lot of great ways you can make some signs that are both festive and informative.
We’re thinking something like this, but instead of “Merry and Bright,” your signs could say things like “Clean” and “Dirty” to indicate where your guests’ dirty linens belong.

4. Set Aside Some “You” Time

Doing all this work to make your guests comfortable is totally futile if you’re not a happy host. Make sure you’re taking time out of your busy holiday schedule for you.

Here are some ideas on how you can get away for 20 minutes or less:

  • Meditate
  • Go for a walk around the neighborhood
  • Take a hot bath
  • Hit the hay a little early
  • Wake up a little early
  • Offer to run an errand and stay out a while
  • Let your guests entertain themselves

5. Set Boundaries

The main reason holiday guests are so stressful is that, as the host, you often feel like you have to bend over backward to accommodate them. Here’s the thing: you’re a human, with valid feelings and emotions, and you deserve to feel comfortable in your own home.

Find a time to sit down with all your guests at once (maybe during dinner the first night) to discuss some ground rules. Things like: “no one’s allowed in the master bedroom without express permission,” or “shower times are limited to 20 minutes, max, so everyone can get a little hot water.” Nothing crazy. People will be a lot more understanding than you think.

Setting up your home for the holidays can be hectic – but not nearly as hectic as having to move during them. If you need help with anything, give us a call.

Source: Home Actions

Is a Fixer Upper for you?

In a seller driven market, some people opt to not do updates/upgrades and sell their home for less. If you are considering a fixer upper --whether you have the funds for all of the required renovations or plan to work on one project at a time - keep these tips in mind to make the most of buying a house that needs a little work.

Inexperienced Professionals

Only hire experienced, well-reviewed architects and contractors for design and construction. This way the work on your house is completed properly and on time.

Easy Renovations

If this is to be your personal home, fix up your new house yourself to save money and achieve rewarding results by aiming for minimal renovations you’ll enjoy doing. Keep in mind if you are flipping a home or looking for a rental property, you will need to keep popular, sought after updates in mind.

Structural Issues and Impending Replacements

Hire a home inspector independent of the seller and broker to evaluate the house. A good one will help you learn about the home’s faults and needed repairs before you make an offer.

House Value Boost

Pay attention to how much you’re spending on home upgrades, making sure the value of your house will increase and compensate for the renovation costs.

Zoning Restrictions

Learn about the municipality’s zoning districts and the corresponding restrictions to be sure you’re permitted to change the house or use as a rental property.

For those looking to invest in a home soon, a fixer-upper is worth considering. For more information on the fixer-upper market, feel free to reach out to us me!


I remember many years ago talking with neighbors about bats in the attic. At the time it surprised me that several others had encountered similar stories. The bats seemed to be hopping from one home to another! As soon as one person got the bats out of their attic, a neighbor started to see the signs, usually bat droppings called guano that can be quite toxic.

Although bats are migratory, they usually return to the same place each spring when females have their young. If they can't get into the same house, they'll look nearby.

Common places for bats to get in your home are ridge caps, louvers, vents, and fascia boards. Once they get into your house (usually the attic), you have to get them out before you can seal spaces to prevent them from re-entering. It’s a REALLY bad idea, and can even be illegal, to seal before all the bats are out – bats inside your home or dead bats in your attic could lead to worse problems!

Typically an animal control company will put an “exclusion device” in your home – the bats can go out but can’t re-enter. Once all the bats are out, you’ll have to check for any possible entry points – they only need 3/8 of inch to get in! Any opening will need to be sealed, and places that can’t be sealed such as attic louvers, can be covered with metal mesh.

Note: Even if bats are on the outside of a louver screen, their droppings (guano) can still be getting in the home, and it is toxic! Not a DIY project to remove!

Be proactive even if bats are only on the exterior! Get professionals to clean any guano and have galvanized mesh placed on exterior of louvers. This is the time of year to ensure there are not entry points for bats in your home, and take the steps necessary to make sure you don’t become their new home next spring!

Looking for a contractor: Triangle Wildlife Removal 919-480-8226

Fall is a great time to paint!

With the summer season coming to a close, fall is a great time to do many chores that you've left unfinished. This is a good time to rake up leaves and accomplish other similar tasks. If your home needs a facelift, now is a good time to give it some fresh paint. With new painting technology, painters are able to get the job done in temperatures as low as thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Read on for more reasons that fall is the optimal painting season.

Less Moisture

With the fall season comes less of a chance for those pesky afternoon showers. When you're painting the exterior of your home, these afternoon showers can put a real damper in your plans. For paint to be applied and set, moisture needs to remain little to none. In the fall, you won’t have to worry about a torrential downpour ruining your beautifully painted home and having to start over from square one.

Lower Humidity

Because paint needs to set at a certain temperature, the fall is a great time to spruce up the exterior of your home. The humidity in the summer will cause the paint to run off your home right after it is applied. However, since there are usually lower temperature fluctuations in the fall, humidity tends to stay more under control. Lower humidity is your friend when painting the exterior of your home.

Mild Temperatures

With temperatures starting to become more consistent and less extreme, the fall is a great time to pick out that great, new color for your home. With the temperatures becoming more consistent, painters are better able to guarantee that your paint will look great and have few complications down the road. Additionally, now painters can even use special paint that is ideal to set at certain temperatures, even as low as thirty-five degrees. Mild temperatures are fantastic for paint.

Splash of Color Just Before Winter

Another reason why it’s such a great idea to paint in the fall is because you can spruce up your home right before the holidays. Wow your holiday guests with how vibrant and beautiful your home looks from the curb. If you're looking to impress holiday guests this winter, plan on painting your home's exterior now!

If you have any questions or need phone numbers of reputable contractors to paint your home, please do not hesitate to reach out!

Kitchen Design Trends That Never Go Out of Style

There are a number of design trends you can't go wrong with when you're looking for ways to improve your kitchen. Whether you're focused on creating more space or updating your appliances, stick to classic looks your whole family will love.

Here are eight kitchen design trends that never go out of style and let you create a trendy place to cook, eat and hang out in the comfort of your home.

  1. An open layout — A large, spacious kitchen with hardwood flooring is perfect for cooking up a storm and accommodating family meals, so keep in mind the way this space transitions into the rest of your home when opening up your kitchen.
  2. A dynamic combination of lights — A mix of sunlight with accent and ambient lights is ideal when creating bright, beautiful indoor spaces, so look for places to add new, long-lasting bulbs to bring your kitchen to life.
  3. An abundance of storage space — A convenient selection of deep drawers, built-in cabinets and more is handy when you need to put away food and cookware, so install accessible, spacious storage areas when designing your new kitchen.
  4. A single-level island — A long, counter-height island with a marble top is a bonus when preparing meals and entertaining guests, so make room for this added cooking space and seating area when improving your kitchen.
  5. A spacious sink — A long, wide sink up against moisture-repelling subway tile is a helpful way to prevent backsplash when you wash big pots and pans, so focus on finding an impressive sink and creating a tough backdrop to add functionality to your kitchen.
  6. A set of stainless steel appliances — A collection of vintage or modern stainless steel appliances is key when cultivating a neutral look, so choose a top-of-the-line refrigerator, oven and more to create a distinguished kitchen space.
  7. A polished silver finish — A series of polished silver accents works wonders when it comes to creating a modern look, so incorporate this motif into your kitchen with new faucets, cabinet handles and more.
  8. A classic white backdrop — A clean white look is a good starting point when you're designing a color scheme for cooking and eating areas, and then use furniture, accessories and more to add a pop of color to your classic kitchen.

If you're looking for ways to create a timeless space for cooking, eating and entertaining in your home, these eight kitchen design trends, which never go out of style, are here to lend a hand. A new, improved kitchen will increase your property's market value and embellish your home life, so choose the repairs and renovations you think will stay most relevant to your neighborhood and lifestyle.

When you're ready to take the next steps to fixing up your kitchen, please don't hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or requests you may have about enhancing this space.

Source: Home Actions

The 4 DIY Bathroom Upgrade Errors

Remodeling your bathroom can make your home appear more valuable to prospective buyers. But be careful. Here are four common mistakes homeowners make when DIY upgrading the bathroom.

1. Not taking ventilation into account

We know you've realized the importance of the bathroom fan if you've ever been in a bind when guests are over … Well, we'll spare you the details. We know you get the whiff — uh, drift. It can be easy to forget about the fan when remodeling, though. Even if you're not replacing the fan, be sure to clean your old one.

2. Lying to yourself about your budget

Judging by your bathroom remodeling Pinterest board, you've got a lot of great ideas. But are they practical? Realistic? For example, can you afford that rain-simulating, foot-wide shower head? Separate fantasy from reality by being honest with yourself about what you can actually afford.

Pro tip: Something that's easy to forget about when renovating your bathroom is your water bill. Yeah. Think about it. You're going to be doing all this testing for your new appliances, running a lot of water — a lot more than usual. That means your bill's going to be a lot higher. Be sure to factor that into your budget.

3. Being too confident

Listen, we're sure you're the best DIYer there is. You made your baby's crib from old dining tables you found at garage sales, and you've grated down all your old soap bars into potpourri. We get it. But it takes a strong person to know when to ask for help. If upgrading your bathroom is turning out to be a bigger DIY job than you thought it would be, call a professional.

4. Rushing

The bulk of your time is spent visualizing your future beautiful bathroom, and most of your energy is spent gathering materials. You may spend a week or two in your paint-covered overalls, taking selfies in your demolished bathroom, effectively making it look like you're working. But we know the truth.

You've gotten bored with the project, but your deadline is approaching, so you start throwing things together. You start doing a bad job. Poor construction can bring down your property value, for one. And a crappy bathroom (no pun intended) won't make your house seem all that inviting to prospective homebuyers.

Put a deadline on visualization and material gathering, and make sure you have enough time to properly complete your bathroom and check to make sure there were no mistakes.

Need more remodeling advice? Send me an email anytime - I'm happy to help!

Source: Home Actions

Things You Might Not Think of When Refinancing Your Home

Are you planning to refinance your home this year? If you're interested in lowering your mortgage payments, decreasing your interest rate or more, chances are you've probably thought about whether or not you should refi your mortgage. This lengthy process can have a number of advantages and disadvantages depending on your situation, so you'll have to weigh your options carefully before taking the plunge.

When you're ready to learn more about preparing for a new mortgage, here are six things you might not think of when refinancing your home.

  1. You'll have to get an appraisal. You'll have to get an appraisal when refinancing your home, so keep your house's value and your savings in mind when determining whether or not you should pursue smaller monthly mortgage payments or a lower interest rate.
  2. You'll need to pay closing costs. You'll need to pay closing costs a second time when refinancing your home, so make sure you have an adequate amount of money saved to pay these upfront fees and any other costs associated with a mortgage refi.
  3. You'll have to go through the same process. To a certain extent, it's like buying a house all over again, so think back to when you bought your house and make up your mind about whether or not you can dedicate enough time to the effort.
  4. You'll need to get your credit checked. The bank is going to want to check your credit score when you're refinancing your home, so keep in mind that you won't be able to negotiate a better deal if your credit score is lower than it was when you were first approved for a mortgage.
  5. You'll have to think about the interest rate. Are rates higher than they were when you first financed? Are they lower? Even a small difference can mean a lot of money over time. Take into account the full picture: the number of months you'll be paying the new mortgage and the rate you'll be paying compared with your current timeline and rate.
  6. You'll need to live in your house a long time. Refinancing may not be worth it if you're planning to move in the near future. Figure out how long you plan to live in your current place and how much your closing costs will be before making the refi decision.

These six things you might not think of when refinancing your home are important to take into account before you start shopping around for a new mortgage. Because a refi can lead to a number of benefits and costs down the road depending on the outcome, you'll need to prepare for every scenario before making a commitment.