NextHome announces new Hollister brokerage

NextHome announces new Hollister brokerage

Nants Foley & Barbara Douglass-Scherer

Pleasanton, CA — March 10, 2020 — NextHome is pleased to announce the newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Four Corners Real Estate Group, based in Hollister, California. The brokerage represents the 71st office location opened in California for the NextHome franchise and the 443rd NextHome brokerage opened nationally.

NextHome Four Corners Real Estate Group is owned by Barbara Douglass-Scherer and Nants Foley. Together they bring more than 33 years of combined experience to buyers and sellers. Nants has built a reputation of excellence working with residential and ranch/horse property clients. Barbara expertly serves veterans in addition to residential and commercial buyers and Sellers.

Located in the Central Coast of California, NextHome Four Corners Real Estate Group is adjacent to Silicon Valley and actively serves San Benito, Santa Clara, Monterey, and Santa Cruz counties.

Barbara’s real estate industry journey began after 25 years in human resources at the executive level. In 2010, she obtained her real estate license and began working with Century 21 M&M in Los Banos. Her years of working with people in human resources, combined with earning her Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management have been instrumental in Barbara’s approach to real estate. Over the next several years, Barbara had the opportunity to work with other large and small franchises in San Jose, Gilroy, and Hollister.

In 1996 Nants began in real estate with a small family-owned brokerage. Real estate seemed the right career choice for someone with Master’s degrees in both architecture and marketing. She soon obtained her Broker’s license. Over the years she also worked with large companies such as Coldwell Banker and Intero Real Estate Service. In 2015 Nants created an indie brokerage – Four Corners Real Estate.

Barbara and Nants met while collaborating on a successful transaction in Hollister. Nants was the listing agent and Barbara represented the buyers. Their similar philosophy created a working relationship based on customer service and excellent execution made them realize they could work together exceedingly well. Both recognized that they worked well together but little did they know that was the start of a future fabulous partnership!

It was Barbara who found the NextHome franchise opportunity while searching for the cutting-edge technology tools to provide epic service to her clients.

Nants had an anti-franchise bias but kept her mind open to Barbara’s suggestion. Once she looked through NextHome’s promotional materials, Nants was sold. 

“All it took was opening the materials and looking through the resources to know that NextHome was where we needed to be,” Nants said. “It ticked all the boxes for the technology we needed. Also, the cost of being a franchisee was so reasonable I recognized I couldn’t even come close to achieving that value by getting tech pieces together and paying for them separately. It was a no-brainer.”

Today, Nants and Barbara are setting NextHome Four Corners Real Estate Group apart from the crowd utilizing NextHome’s cutting-edge technology, marketing, and commitment to professionalism.

“One of the reasons Nants and I work so well together is that our visions are very much aligned,” Barbara said. “Professionalism and education are our hallmarks. We provide clients with a better experience than they can get anywhere else.” 

NextHome’s #humansoverhouses resonated strongly with both Barbara and Nants.

“The business of real estate has evolved,” Nants explained. “We are operating in a global marketplace. And to excel in that global market, we need to execute with a new level of professionalism, commitment, and excellence. We are a small office, but we are mighty in the tools and technology that we offer our clients.”

Nants has been involved with a long list of community organizations since she and her family moved to Hollister from the San Francisco Bay Area in 1990. She was a Hollister Planning Commissioner for seven years. She served as gubernatorial appointee to the 33rd District Fair Board for seven years. She was a board president when San Benito county’s first women’s crisis center, Emmaus House, opened. In addition, she has been active with the San Benito Chamber of Commerce, the Hollister Downtown Association, and The United Way. She also taught classical ballet for two decades at a local dance studio. With her husband Tim Foley, former San Benito County Superintendent of Schools, they now volunteer their time with DreamPower Horsemanship in Gilroy. The philanthropic organization uses equine therapy to improve the lives of people with mental, physical, or intellectual limitations.

Barbara is also passionate about her community. She supports her husband’s efforts at the American Legion, the Veterans Legion Riders, and the Hollister Lions Club. Barbara also helps out with Save Our Setters Rescue when needed. Her Irish Setter, Harley is happy to help but kind of likes being an “only child” – well, except for Luke!

Please join us in congratulating Barbara and Nants on the opening of NextHome Four Corners Real Estate Group in Hollister, California!

Photo courtesy of Mary Casillas.  


Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at

Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

NextHome Beach Time Realty expands in St. Pete Beach, FL

NextHome Beach Time Realty expands in St. Pete Beach, FL

Annie Fleeting

Pleasanton, CA — March 3, 2020 — NextHome is thrilled to announce the further expansion of NextHome Beach Time Realty in St. Pete Beach, Florida. The new brokerage offers resort property owners a fresh option for licensed Community Association Management. In addition, NextHome Beach Time Realty will continue to provide friendly and professional residential real estate sales and vacation rental property management services to the Pinellas County area, including the cities of St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, North Redington Beach, Redington Shores, St. Petersburg and Tierra Verde.

The brokerage builds on the success of NextHome Beach Time Realty’s two other offices. This continuing success is guided by owner Annie Fleeting. Annie opened her first NextHome office in December 2015 in St. Pete Beach and expanded by opening another branch office in Redington Beach in November 2018. The latest addition is their second St. Pete Beach location, in the vacation rental community of Sunrise Resort. Number Three officially opened in November 2019. The new office aims to provide superior resort management service and compliments the brokerage’s recent management agreement with Sunrise Resort. NextHome Beach Time Realty is now managing Sunrise Resort’s 58-units of family-friendly condominium rentals.

“St Pete Beach was just named the #2 beach in the United States and #16 in the world by Trip Advisor for 2020! We have hundreds of thousands of visitors who come here from all over the world,” Annie said. “We are excited about this new facet of our business and are thrilled to provide property owners a management resource that is engaged, connected, and cares.”

Annie is using NextHome’s suite of tools and support to continue to serve clients across the stunning St. Pete Beach and surrounding areas.  

“It is so exciting to be part of something bigger,” Annie said. “We tell people that NextHome is the ‘Google’ of real estate. There is no question the NextHome brand is getting noticed in our county with three of the offices in the Top 100 out of 799 offices being NextHome locations!”

Annie met her future and charming husband, Robert Fleeting in 1982 when he was importing two of Britain’s largest-selling beers into Tampa, FL for a test market. The couple moved to Robert’s home country of Scotland in 1986 and built a successful property development company. Their developments included nightclubs, hotels, and shopping centers. In 1996, the Fleetings sold all of their existing enterprises in Scotland and moved back to the United States.

In truth, real estate has always been a family affair for Annie, who began her career working in her father’s property management company at the age of eleven! (That same company is currently owned and operated by Annie’s brother, Jim, and responsible for managing more than 4,000 units). In 1997, the Fleetings returned to the property development business – this time making a mark in the Florida market. Along with other partners, the couple formed Coral Point Homes – a development group that built more than $150 million in multi-family housing primarily in Pinellas County.

The Fleetings started a real estate brokerage, Beach Time Realty, in 2010 to service the needs of homeowners who wanted to turn existing housing into vacation rentals. As the market improved, Beach Time Realty helped those same property owners sell and reinvest into new properties. With over 50 properties under property management and sales volume increasing, Annie knew it was time to grow her brokerage and franchising with NextHome made the most sense. Every year under the NextHome flag, Annie’s brokerage has dramatically increased both real estate sales and her property management portfolio. In 2019, they sold over $30,000,000 in residential real estate, in addition to adding significantly to their property management portfolio.

“NextHome Beach Time Realty has a level of service that is somewhat unique to our market,” Annie said. “We help investors evaluate their investment purchase in both rental income opportunities and negotiating a fair purchase price. We are able to help acquire the property, manage tenant relationships, and help the property owner re-sell and re-invest.”

“I have been fortunate enough to meet Annie in person and she is an exceptional addition to the NextHome franchise,” said NextHome CEO, James Dwiggins. “She has a proven track record of running profitable businesses in the real estate space.”

When not selling real estate, Annie enjoys spending time with Robert and their four children and five grandchildren. Avid soccer fans, the Fleetings were the owners of the Premier League soccer team, Kilmarnock FC, from 1989-1996.

Please join us in congratulating Annie, Bobby, and the rest of their team at NextHome Beach Time Realty on their third NextHome office location!

Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at


Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

Meet your February 2020 NextHomie of the Month!

Meet your February 2020 NextHomie of the Month!

Please join us in congratulating our NextHomie of the Month for February 2020, Denise Outlaw Adams of NextHome 2Buy-R-Sell in St. Louis, MO. Congratulations, Denise!

My first question to Denise was “Why Outlaw? Where did it come from?” Her answer left me with chills.

“My Great, Great Grandfather lived in the South and was a slave. He was caught at the gate of the property he worked on with one of the owner’s horses. They said he was a thief and they lynched him. In those days as an indentured servant, the slave took the last name of the people that owned them. Before his lynching, he proclaimed that he would never take his owner’s name and that he would die an Outlaw, and to this day his name carries on,” said Denise.

I was speechless… what followed was a glorious and wonderful conversation of all things Denise Outlaw Adams.

Denise was licensed in real estate in 1998. Prior to working in real estate, she worked in Human Resources for Anheuser Busch and McDonald’s. During that time, she lived in all corners of the nation. She moved around from Detroit to Dallas, Houston, Washington DC, Fairfax, VA to Pasadena, CA, and purchased 18 houses in the process!

“By the time I got back to headquarters at Anheuser Bush in St. Louis, I was ready to put some roots down,” said Denise.

Buying and selling houses and the business of relocation had become quite familiar to her by this time. In St. Louis she has purchased eight additional houses. It was easy to realize real estate was a natural next step.

After working for big-box franchises for many years, Denise decided to spread her wings and fly on her own. One day she happened upon a NextHome ad in REALTOR Magazine. However, it was immediately AFTER she had just established her own brand 2Buy-R-Sell. Yep, she had just completed trademarking her new logo, bought the office, and even had the ribbon cutting with the local chamber of commerce. However, she was still curious and investigated NextHome a bit more.

After meeting with Charis and receiving an invitation to attend the first NextHome conference in Nashville, Denise proclaimed “I. AM. HOME. When you’re home, you’re home, and you just know it.”

She rebranded everything and move forward in orange and hasn’t looked back since. NextHome 2Buy-R-Sell was established within the first one hundred offices in the company.

In has not been without grit and determination that Denise has remained an inspiration to all those she has helped in real estate, and continues to help.

“In the last three years, I have buried seven people that are very very close to my heart. Hardest three years I’ve had in my life. It is the

love and caring from my NextHome family and clients that have kept me going. 2020 is my year, look out!” said Denise.

When not busy with promoting NextHome 2Buy-R-Sell, Denise loves to travel, entertain, hang with her new pup Mitzi, and occasionally partake in a little Casino therapy.

“I am old school,” said Denise. “As long as I put God first, have truth in my heart, and live and do right the blessings will come. I always put people first. We think we are fighting things by ourselves, as humans we should share from the heart. Allowing ourselves to open up and not judge helps us find we have more in common with people when we are open and vulnerable. We are all just people”

Rapid Fire Questions!

AM: Describe yourself in three words

DOA: Honest, empathetic, leader. I am direct and have an over the top sense of humor. I jump right in there and take over. My worst trait is patience, I have quick wit so I get it, I have to learn to slow my roll.

AM: Do you have a favorite quote?

DOA: “You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge”

AM: How do you define success?

DOA: Health, peace of mind, and clarity

AM: What describes a NextHomie?

DOA: Character, people first, fire

AM: Any words of wisdom for NextHomies?

DOA: At the end of the day if you have love and peace in your heart, you win. Every day I wake up grateful. Don’t let adversity get you down!

It’s easy to see why Denise earned the February 2020 NextHomie of the Month recognition. NextHomies, be sure to take a minute and get to know Denise when you see her at the 2020 NextHome Conference. That smile will shine from across the room 🙂 Congratulations, Denise!

Thanks for the wonderful year of interviews NextHomies!

Amanda Mills

NextHome Culture Committee Chair

Home Value Growth Expected to Re-Accelerate Just in Time For Home Shopping Season (January 2020 Market Report)

Home Value Growth Expected to Re-Accelerate Just in Time For Home Shopping Season (January 2020 Market Report)

  • The typical home in the U.S. is worth $245,193, up 3.8% from a year ago.
  • There were 1,500,262 homes listed for sale in January, down 8% from a year ago.
  • Typical U.S. rent grew 2.3% year-over-year, to $1,602.

Annual U.S. home value growth slowed for the 21st consecutive month in January, but you have to squint to spot the difference. Paired with inventory that is hovering near record lows, the nearly two-year slowdown in the housing market may come to an end right as home shopping season kicks off.

U.S. home values grew 3.8% year-over-year to a Zillow Home Value Index of $245,193, less than one-hundredth of a percentage point slower than the previous month (before rounding: 3.77% year-over-year growth in December, 3.76% in January), according to the January Zillow® Real Estate Market Report. Annual home value appreciation has slowed in each month since April 2018, but this is the smallest month-over-month drop during that period.

Among the nation’s 50 largest markets, annual home value growth in January was fastest in Memphis (6.9%), Phoenix (6.7%) and Birmingham (6.3%). Growth was slowest in San Jose (-2.9%), New York (+.8%) and San Francisco (1%). Annual growth in San Francisco, while very modest, broke a streak of annual declines that dated to May 2019.

Annual home value growth in 27 of the 50 largest U.S. metro markets was faster in January compared to December, and was flat in one additional market. In other words, the slowdown has already reversed itself in many places, and it may be only a matter of time before that reversal will begin showing up in faster national appreciation numbers.

At the same time as the ongoing slowdown in home value appreciation has largely bottomed out, the number of homes listed for sale remains incredibly low. Inventory increased from record lows a month earlier, but was down 8% year-over-year in January — the biggest annual drop since March 2018. There were 1,500,262 homes on the market last month, up 4,295 from the previous month but down 130,310 year-over-year.

Inventory was down year-over-year in 47 of the nation’s 50 largest metro markets. For-sale inventory fell the most from a year ago in Seattle (-27.6% year-over-year),  Phoenix (-24.5%) and San Diego (-23.1%). The three large markets in which inventory rose year-over-year in January were: San Antonio (+7.7%), Detroit (+6.4%), and Chicago (+0.3%).

This persistently low inventory is a key reason why home value growth is expected to speed up once again. The economy has remained strong, mortgage rates are low and buyers will be competing for a limited number of homes this home shopping season. Inventory appeared to have hit bottom and was on an upswing a year ago, rising year-over-year in every month between September 2018 and April 2019. But in hindsight, that “growth” was illusory, largely a result of a temporary stock market dip, prolonged government shutdown and a surge in mortgage interest rates that spooked buyers and/or prodded on-the-fence sellers to list for fear of losing out if a prolonged slump developed, pushing inventory up.

But as the economic storm clouds on the horizon in early 2019 cleared up, we saw buyers return in droves, taking advantage of ultra-low mortgage rates. This first look at 2020 data suggests we could see the most competitive home shopping season in years, as buyers are already competing over near-record-low numbers of homes for sale. That is likely to mean more multiple-offer situations, and that buyers will have a harder time finding the perfect fit for their families. The good news for buyers is that low mortgage rates are helping to make homeownership more affordable, and home builders are responding to the hot housing market by starting construction on more homes than at any time since 2007.

Rent growth remained stable, with the typical U.S. rent now $1,602/month, up 2.3% year over year and just $1 more than last month. Annual rent growth has hovered between 1.7% and 2.4% in every month over the past year. Rent was up year-over-year in 47 of the nation’s top 50 markets. Annual rent growth was fastest in October in Phoenix (up 7.9% YoY), Pittsburgh (+7%) and Cincinnati (+5.7%).

NextHome Expands into West Virginia

NextHome Expands into West Virginia

Curtis Siever

Pleasanton, CA — February 25, 2020 — NextHome is pleased to announce the expansion of NextHome Realty Select. The new Martinsburg-based brokerage represents the first franchised location opened in West Virginia for NextHome. 

NextHome Realty Select – Martinsburg is owned by real estate veteran Curtis Siever. His new brokerage builds on the success of his first three Virginia-based NextHome offices; Winchester, Woodstock, and Front Royal. 

In addition to serving the growing West Virginia Eastern Panhandle, NextHome Realty Select will continue to provide residential real estate, new construction sales, land sales, and lot development services to the areas of Winchester, Front Royal, Woodstock, Linden, and the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

The expansion into Martinsburg was a natural next step for Curtis and his team of more than 20 professional agents. 

“Two of my agents live just outside Martinsburg and seven other fantastic agents are licensed in West Virginia,” Curtis said. “We’ve been serving buyers and sellers in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia for more than two years now, but we didn’t have a physical location or a franchise brand that covered that area. Now we do, and we are thrilled to be able to better serve this growing population.”

Located just 90 minutes outside Washington D.C., Martinsburg is one of the fastest-growing cities in West Virginia and an attractive choice for major manufacturing companies. Since announcing its mega plant in 2015, Proctor & Gamble has brought more than 1,400 jobs to the Martinsburg area. In January, Clorox also announced a $190 million investment in a new plant at Martinsburg’s Tabler Station Business Park. That new plant, which is still in the approval phase, would bring more than 100 additional jobs to the Martinsburg area. 

“It’s on the Interstate 81 corridor, which is a major north/south thoroughfare,” Curtis said. “The transportation infrastructure is there for manufacturing, making the area really attractive. In addition, there is a commuter train that runs from Martinsburg to Washington D.C., so you have that ability to commute into the city.”

In addition, Martinsburg boasts attractive home prices. According to Curtis, the average sales price hovers around $180,000. Curtis added that the residential market has seen about a 2.8 percent increase in gross value year over year.

“You have jobs, you have industry, you have convenient access, and you have affordability,” Curtis said.

In this context, NextHome Realty Select – Martinsburg is poised to provide superior and knowledgeable service to clients who are relocating, investing, or looking for the perfect right-sized home. 

Curtis has been working in real estate for 26 years. Originally from Front Royal, he was licensed in 1994 and started his career with Weichert Realtors. Curtis’s brother, Terry, was the owner of a successful real estate construction business. Blue Ridge Construction created beautiful homes but needed someone to market and sell these properties. Curtis was the perfect person to provide that service.

The early years of his career were spent selling homes in the Front Royal and Linden areas to many clients moving from the Northern Virginia and D.C. area. Curtis also had a desire to build new construction homes and managed a construction company from 2003 to 2008, building 35 new homes.

Over the next two decades, Curtis leveraged his new construction sales background to create an incredibly successful real estate sales career. Averaging over 40 transactions yearly, he consistently ranks as one of the top producers in his area.

In early 2016, Curtis felt it was the right time to open his own brokerage. He attained his broker’s license and began looking for a franchise that would best help him deliver services and technology to his brokerage.

“I found NextHome through a simple Google search,” Curtis recalled. “I was hooked on the website and found myself researching the company pretty thoroughly before reaching out to (NextHome’s Vice President of Sales) Charis Moreno.”

Since embarking on a career with NextHome, Curtis has enjoyed phenomenal success. In 2019, his three locations were able to close more than 240 transactions and reach $50.5 million in sales volume. Although impressive, these numbers represent an even larger accomplishment for Curtis and all the agents at NextHome Realty Select; they were able to increase their business by 62 percent year over year. 

In addition, Curtis has been able to pursue his passion for mentoring and teaching by becoming a NextHome Certified Instructor. This certification allows Curtis to teach National Association of REALTORs (NAR) courses. 

“I am so happy that NextHome Realty Select continues to grow and thrive,” Curtis said. “We hope to continue to attract top-tier agents to our brokerage as we serve the needs of buyers and sellers in Martinsburg.”

When not selling real estate, Curtis enjoys spending time with his wife, Donna. The couple enjoys traveling and spending time with Curtis’s daughter, Amanda.

Please join us in congratulating Curtis and the rest of the team at NextHome Realty Select on their fourth NextHome location!


Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at


Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

The Seven Best Video Lighting Tips

The Seven Best Video Lighting Tips

LIGHTS. CAMERA. ACTION. There’s a reason lights come first in this familiar Hollywood phrase. Because it can make or break your finished product. And we’ve got the seven best video lighting tips to get you on the right track.

The 7 Best Video Lighting Tips

Finding the best lighting for your videos can be a challenging task. Maybe your shot isn’t bright enough. Or it’s too bright. Sometimes the color temperature isn’t right, or the shadows are so harsh that you can barely decipher what is what.

You want your prospects and customers to really absorb what you have to say. Especially if you’re sending them a personal video email.

Knowing how to get good lighting for videos will keep your content looking sharp and professional. And you don’t need all the fancy lighting equipment you’ll see in a professional shoot.

There are simple, effective ways to get good lighting in videos, without hauling around a ton of gear. Watch the following video, or read the post below for seven DIY video lighting tips for video:

1. Use Windows During the Day For Best Indoor Video Lighting

Windows are your best friend when finding the best lighting for videos indoors during the daytime. And they should ideally be in the shadows to give you a soft, diffused light.

Make sure the window is generally in front of you when filming. This will give you the balanced lighting you’re looking for.

If you’re filming a video near a window flooded by sunlight, the harsh lighting will create dark shadows on your face.

You’ll also likely find yourself squinting on camera. That can be distracting to your viewers or video email recipients.

2. Turn On A Lamp at Night For the Perfect Lighting Indoors

The best lighting while filming indoors at night will come from a lamp. It should be bright but also diffused.

Your lamp doesn’t need to be a professional one. It can even be a simple, inexpensive desktop one.

But ensuring it gives off a diffused light is key. This will give you the soft video lighting you need with minimal shadows.

It’s also important to place the lamp even or just above your head. If it’s too far in direction, shadows will start to show on your face.

Bonus Tip: If you’re filming personal videos with your phone, a ring light is a great piece of video lighting equipment. It’ll give you the perfect lighting that really accents your face in a balanced way.

3. Seek Shade When Filming Outdoors in the Sun for the Best Video Lighting

When recording videos outdoors in the sun, it’s important to avoid harsh lighting. Look for spots in the shade to shoot your videos.

outdoor lighting, harsh lighting

Steer clear of direct sunlight that will cause overwhelming shadows on your face and squinting.

This will not be an issue on cloudy days, as you’ll have great, diffused video lighting to work with.

4. If You’re Recording Outside at Night, Find a Street Lamp

Shooting your personal videos outdoors at night can be tricky. But when your business depends on responsiveness, sometimes you’ll have to do it.

One of the best lighting tips for video in this situation is to use a street lamp. When you do this, don’t go too far underneath the lamp.

This will likely cause long shadows down your face. So, your viewer or video email recipient won’t be able to see your eyes. And how can you build trust with them if there’s no eye contact?

5. How to Set Up Lighting for Video at Your Desk…

The best lighting setup for video at your desk will depend on a variety of factors:

• If you have a window near your desk…that should give you the good lighting you need for your personal video. Just make sure there’s no harsh lighting coming through.
• If you don’t have a good source of natural light at your desk…a lamp will give you great LED lighting for video.

• If you’re recording your videos with a webcam…we recommend Logitech. The awesome thing about Logitech’s webcams is that they don’t need a lot of light to capture a clear image. See the gear review video below to find out more…

6. Avoid Mixed Video Lighting

It’s a good idea to try to avoid an overwhelming amount of mixed video lighting. This is when you have competing color temperatures in your shot.

So, if you have a lamp producing a warm tungsten light, while also receiving cooler light from a window – you’re going to get an odd light combination on your face.

The mixed lighting can be rough on your camera sensor, as it’s trying to auto white balance with the contrasting lighting. Depending on how the sensor white balances, you can end up very warm and yellow shots or very pale and blue ones.

If your camera is struggling with the different color temperatures, turn off the lamp and stick with natural lighting.

7. Don’t Go Overboard with Backlight

Backlight is a very artistic and cinematic filming technique. But it’s not needed for simple video.

If you’re using a webcam to record your videos, it will probably have auto exposure. So, if there’s too much backlight, your camera will set the exposure to the light behind you. And your face is going to be left in the shadows.

lighting tips for video, backlight

For more helpful tips from our partners at BombBomb, check out their blog!

What First-Time Homeowners Need to Know About Filing Taxes

What First-Time Homeowners Need to Know About Filing Taxes

If you bought a home for the first time in 2019, you probably have questions about filing your taxes. Learn more about filing taxes for the first time as a homeowner.

Buying your first home is a big deal. It’s perhaps the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, and it can bring independence, privacy, self-reliance and stability, as well as setting you on the path towards financial security, freedom and flexibility.

If you bought your first home in 2019, you’ll be filing taxes as a homeowner for the first time this April. You may have heard that first-time homeowners can get a big tax break. Well, we have some bad news and some good news regarding that.

Bad news first: The homeowner tax credit for first-time home buyers is a rule that no longer exists. You can only take advantage of it if you purchased your first home on or before September 30, 2010.

But the good news is that there are still tax advantages to homeownership. The added good news is that you don’t necessarily have to be a first-time homeowner to take advantage of them. You can continue to benefit from homeowner tax advantages for the entire length of time you own your home and even after you sell it. These tax tips for new homeowners will show you how.

You Can Deduct Mortgage Interest and PMI

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), you can deduct any interest you paid on your mortgage, as long as you borrowed $750,000 or less. This includes mortgage interest you paid as part of closing costs. If you bought your home on or before December 15, 2017, you’re grandfathered in under the old limit of $1 million, so you can deduct loan interest on mortgages up to that amount. You can take this deduction every year you’re paying on your mortgage, and for subsequent home purchases as long as your loan amount is below the threshold. You can also deduct the interest you paid on a home equity loan up to $100,000, as long as you use that money to improve your home.

If you borrowed for your home with a downpayment of less than 20 percent, you probably have private mortgage insurance, or PMI. You can deduct PMI payments as long as your adjusted gross income is less than $100,000 if you’re married or $50,000 if you’re single.

You Can Deduct State and Local Taxes

You can deduct your state and local taxes, or SALT, from your federal taxes, up to a limit of $10,000 under the TCJA. If you pay your taxes through an escrow account, you’ll see that amount on your Form 1098. If you pay local taxes directly to your municipality, make sure to keep a record of your payments so you can deduct those from your taxes, too.

A caveat: you have to itemize in order to deduct SALT payments, PMI payments and mortgage interest. SALT deductions, and mortgage interest deductions, too, might benefit you at tax time if you live in an expensive, high-tax area. Otherwise, you may be better off taking the standard deduction, especially if you’re married. If you’re single, on the other hand, your mortgage interest, PMI and SALT might easily exceed your standard deduction.

Do You Qualify for a Homeowner Exemption?

In many states, some homeowners qualify for a homeowner exemption or homestead exemption, which can lower your property tax bill, usually by lowering the assessed value of your home.

Who qualifies? Well, that really depends on your local laws. Typically, these things are decided on the state, county or municipal level, and requirements can vary widely. Commonly, homeowner exemptions are given to the elderly, the disabled and veterans, but some jurisdictions give them out to homeowners below a certain income threshold or homeowners who make specific improvements to their property, such as planting a rain garden or a coconut tree. Typically, you do have to use the home as your primary residence in order to qualify.

Some Energy-Efficient Upgrades Still Bring Tax Benefits

You can’t get tax breaks for most energy-efficient home upgrades anymore, but you can still get them for solar panels through 2021. If you had solar panels installed in 2017 through the end of 2019, you can get back 30 percent of your costs in the form of a tax credit. If you install panels in 2020, you can get back 26 percent of the cost, and if you install them in 2021, you can get back 22 percent of the cost.

Home Office Deductions May Be Available, Too

Whether you work from home full-time or just have a side hustle, you may be able to take a business use of home deduction. You can deduct $5 per square foot for up to 300 square feet of office space for a total deduction of up to $1,500. However, you should make sure that your home office is exclusively used for business purposes, and check with a tax professional to make sure you’re meeting the strict guidelines required to qualify for this deduction.

Before you file taxes as a homeowner for the first time, you need to know what tax credits and deductions you qualify for. Homeownership brings many tax advantages on the federal, state and local levels. It’s just one of the many reasons why owning your own home pays off.

For more helpful tips from our partners at American Home Shield, check out their blog!

NextHome announces new office in Michigan

NextHome announces new office in Michigan

Paul Armstrong

Pleasanton, CA — February 20, 2020 — NextHome is pleased to announce the newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Evolution, based in Belleville, Michigan. The brokerage represents the 17th office location opened in Michigan for the NextHome franchise.

Owned by Belleville-local Paul Armstrong, the brokerage serves the growing suburban area between Detroit and Ann Arbor. Although the town of Belleville is only 2.6 square miles, its central location between two of Michigan’s biggest cities and its rural charm make it an attractive option for new homebuyers. 

“A lot of people see the value here that you are located between those two big cities, but you can still get that country feel,” Paul said. 

Paul’s real estate career began soon after he purchased his own home for the first time. 

“I read extensively, I searched online, I got pre-approved, and I really educated myself on the process before even reaching out to a REALTOR®,” Paul said. 

Then, when Paul finally began looking for a real estate agent, he couldn’t find one. 

Eventually, Paul began asking patrons at the local bar where he worked. That approach finally connected Paul with the broker at a small independent office, and she was able to help him buy his first home. 

“She did an awesome job,” Paul said. “After going through that whole process I asked if she would be willing to take someone on as a new real estate agent. She took me under her wing and that’s how I got started.”

In 2014, Paul got his license and successfully sold real estate for the next two years. 

Then, in 2016, he opened his own independent brokerage alongside a partner – MI Choice Realty. 

Now in a leadership role, Paul built a fulfilling career and thriving business. At its peak, the small independent had 26 agents working under its banner. Paul personally closed between 50 and 65 transactions annually – all while still coaching and training agents. 

After three years with MI Choice Realty, Paul decided it was time for him to go out on his own and open his own brokerage. 

His search for the right fit began in November 2019, that’s when he discovered NextHome through a mutual friend. 

Michael T. Moore, owner of NextHome The Boulevard in Rochester, Michigan, introduced Paul to the company and Paul was impressed. 

“He showed me the overall value it offered not only to the broker/owner but also to the agents,” Paul said. “The toolset is incredible – really unrivaled. I also like the fact that NextHome caters to a small brokerage and the company won’t look down on us for wanting to be smaller and more client-centered. In fact, they celebrate that client-centric approach. I love that I get to focus on growing the brokerage the way that’s best for my clientele instead of what’s required of me by a big, sprawling company.”

Today, NextHome Evolution is positioning itself as a no-nonsense resource for buyers and sellers who want highly-trained and knowledgeable agents. 

“I want the real estate process to evolve,” Paul said. “That’s where NextHome Evolution came from. As we build a brokerage of high-quality agents, we can show that there is an evolution happening in this industry. We are evolving toward a focus on quality experience over transaction numbers, and that’s something we can offer that sets NextHome Evolution apart.”

Even when he isn’t working, Paul’s passion is real estate. In his spare time, he enjoys studying architecture and working on obtaining his building license. One day, Paul dreams of building one or two custom homes. 

Please join us in congratulating Paul on the opening of NextHome Evolution in Belleville, Michigan!


Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at


Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to be sued for a million dollars

You don’t have to be a millionaire to be sued for a million dollars

Business owners and individuals alike can be held “liable” for a variety of perils. General Liability Insurance is often wrapped into other insurance coverage that you’ve already purchased. For example: your auto insurance includes liability for bodily injury or property damage, your homeowner’s insurance includes liability for injury or personal loss on the premises of your home, business insurance can include damage to a rented space, etc.

The trouble is the included limits of liability may not be high enough to cover the true costs of these perils. To ensure you’re adequately covered, you can look into an additional Liability Policy in the form of a General Liability Insurance Policy, Personal Liability Umbrella policy or Commercial Liability Umbrella Policy. Traditionally, these policies start at a minimum coverage of 1 million dollars and increase from there.

These policies cover claims alleging from:

  • Bodily Injury, Medical Costs, Property Damage or Damages to Rented Property
  • Libel, Slander, or Reputational Harm

This added buffer of protection keeps your personal assets and paycheck protected.

The most costly claims events for small business owners include1:

  • Reputational Harm (estimated $50,000 average claim)
  • Vehicle Accident (estimated $45,000 average claim)
  • Fire Damage (estimated $35,000 average claim)
  • Product Liability (estimated $35,000 average claim)
  • Customer Injury or Damage (estimated $30,000 average claim)

Gateway Insurance Group, Inc. provides free consultations for individuals and business owners.  We’re happy to review your existing insurance coverage and explain your current policy and uncover any potential exposures.

Give us a call at 858-428-3929 or visit us at

Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Gateway Financial Advisors, Inc., and Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. are not affiliated.
The Heartford, General Liability Insurance,
NextHome announces newest Virginia office

NextHome announces newest Virginia office

Dora Smith

Pleasanton, CA — February 13, 2020 — NextHome is pleased to announce the newest addition to the franchise, NextHome 1st Choice, based in Bracey, Virginia. The brokerage represents the ninth office location opened in Virginia for the NextHome franchise.

NextHome 1st Choice is owned by Dora and Mike Smith and, alongside well-known agent Kim Wallace, they are ready to serve the area’s luxury, residential, and commercial markets. 

Located near the Virginia and North Carolina border, Bracey is the closest interstate access point to Lake Gaston – an area where Dora has helped many clients find the perfect luxury home. Since the 1970s, Lake Gaston has been a popular retirement and vacation destination. Its 350 miles of shoreline attracts people from across the world, and today more than 150,000 call the area home. 

Licensed in both Virginia and North Carolina, the brokerage also serves Mecklenburg, Brunswick, Lunenburg, Warren, Northampton, and Halifax counties as well as the Granville, Wake County, and the Louisburg and Raleigh areas. 

Dora and Mike’s first foray into real estate took place more than 20 years ago when Mike started his construction company – RCS Construction Incorporated. Mike’s passion for building continued a tradition of general construction excellence in his family that had been passed down through three generations. The company works mostly in new residential construction, although the Smiths have also built some commercial properties. In his early career, Mike served his country as a Ranger in the U.S. Army and holds a hydraulic engineering degree. Dora also has a professional background in industrial engineering. 

Although she was involved in the construction business, Dora knew it was wise to diversify her skill set. In 2007, she obtained her real estate license and began working with Century 21 Clary in South Hill, Virginia. 

“I enjoyed the culture and the broker remains a dear friend and mentor,” Dora said. 

Dora continued to work for the company even after it was bought by a large, national franchise in 2016. However, the NextHome brand had already caught her eye and Dora thought that opening a NextHome brokerage would be a great choice as she grew professionally. 

“At the time, NextHome had really just started and its refreshing perspective and strong culture was attractive,” Dora said. “NextHome cared about people. ‘Humans over Houses’ wasn’t just a trite expression; I could tell that the company cared about its people and its agents.”

She began to look into opening her own NextHome brokerage around 2016, but life had other plans. One evening, Mike and Dora were attending a volleyball game at the University of North Carolina when Mike went into cardiac arrest. 

“His heart stopped, and by some miracle we were already across the street from one of the best hospitals in the country,” Dora recalled. 

Although Mike recovered, his health scare prompted the career-driven couple to look carefully at their priorities and values. Sometime later, Dora’s family experienced another tragedy when her brother died in a motorcycle accident. 

“When something traumatic like that happens, it makes you really look around at what’s important to you,” Dora said. 

Over the next few years, Dora prioritized caring for her husband and spending time with the couple’s teenage daughter. Her focus became family and faith rather than profits and prestige. 

Once their daughter graduated from high school and went to college, Dora decided the time was right to finally open her own NextHome brokerage. 

NextHome 1st Choice opened in February and the NextHome difference has already caught the attention of local home buyers and sellers.

“It’s the ‘Humans over Houses’ philosophy that sets us apart,” Dora said. “For us, that isn’t just a catchy phrase or marketing slogan. It’s the way we have tried to conduct ourselves for years. We’ve been here 20 years and we have an excellent reputation because we always do our absolute best to exceed expectations. People who know us know that we will do everything within our realm of possibility to please our clients and get them what they want. They know we will go the extra mile.”

Their values-based approach to business also continues to attract talented agents. 

“We want to attract the right people,” Dora said. “I don’t want to just focus on numbers, I want to focus on quality. We would love to work with ethical agents who do the right thing when no one is looking – agents who really care about their customers and who are going to follow through.”

Dora is also passionate about helping professionals in her community achieve their best potential. She has served on the Lake Gaston Chamber Board and is currently a member of the Roanoke Valley Lake Gaston Real Estate Board.

Dora and Mike will celebrate 35 years of marriage in September. They are the proud parents of their daughter Marissa, who they had the privilege of adopting when she was seven years old. An accomplished student who recently started her freshman year of college, Marissa hopes to one day build a career as a surgeon. 

Please join us in congratulating Dora and Mike on the opening of NextHome 1st Choice in Bracey, Virginia! 


Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at


Each office is an independently owned and operated business.