Nebraska Realty Now Offers 3D Virtual Tour Services

Nebraska Realty now offers 3D Virtual Tour services to all of their agents! We have a long standing tradition of being innovative and pro-active in the real estate market. We've proven to be trendsetters and bring new technology to our agents and clients throughout Nebraska and Iowa. Now available to Nebraska Realty agents! Our 3D Virtual Tours collect accurate visual and spatial data to map entire areas in minutes. Your clients will see their space in a whole new way!




Four Ways to Use a Roth IRA That Have Nothing to Do With Retirement

A Roth IRA is a great retirement savings vehicle, but that's not all you can use it for.


The Roth IRA is one of the most widely touted retirement accounts, and for good reason. It’s one of the only accounts that offers tax-free money in retirement, and who doesn’t love that?

But what most people don’t know is that the benefits of a Roth IRA go far beyond retirement.

In fact, the Roth IRA is one of the most flexible accounts you’ll find, making it a great place to save money no matter what financial goal you’re working towards.

Here are four powerful ways to use your Roth IRA for something other than retirement.

Quick word of caution: While you can use a Roth IRA for ANY of these goals, you can’t use it for ALL of them at once. Every dollar can only be used for one thing, so be careful not to double count this money as available for multiple purposes.

College Savings

I often encourage my clients to max out their Roth IRA before contributing to a college savings account like a 529 plan or Coverdell ESA. Here’s why:

  1. The tax-free growth is similar to what you get within a dedicated college savings account.
  2. With a Roth IRA, you always can withdraw up to the amount you’ve contributed both tax-free and penalty-free, no matter the purpose.
  3. You can also withdraw the earnings without penalty for qualified higher education expenses, though they will be taxed as ordinary income. (Your earnings are the amount above what you’ve contributed.)
  4. Money within a Roth IRA is not counted when considering your child’s financial aid eligibility. (Though any money you withdraw from a Roth IRA for college will be counted as income in the next year’s financial aid application, which can hurt eligibility.)
  5. If you don’t end up needing the money for college, you can simply leave it in your Roth IRA and use it for retirement.

In other words, a Roth IRA is a great way to save money tax-efficiently for college while maintaining the flexibility to use it for retirement if your goals or needs change.

House Down Payment

Your Roth IRA is also available tax-free for use as a down payment on a house, up to a point.

As always, the amount you’ve contributed is available at any time for any purpose, including a down payment.

But you can also withdraw up to $10,000 in earnings both tax-free and penalty-free if it’s used to purchase a home under the following conditions:

  • The Roth IRA has been open for at least five years.
  • You are a first-time home buyer, which according to IRS Publication 590-B means that neither you nor your spouse have owned a home within the last two years.

If you are married, your spouse can do this as well. Which means that you may have an extra $20,000 available to you.

Keep in mind that this is a lifetime limit, so once you’ve used the $10,000 exception, you can’t use it again.

Emergency Fund

Ideally, you should have an emergency fund that’s separate from all your other savings accounts. That way you can use the money if needed without sacrificing your other financial goals.

But what if you simply don’t have enough money to both build an emergency fund and save for retirement?

In that case, a Roth IRA can be a great way to keep the money available for either need. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Contribute to your Roth IRA.
  2. Invest it in something very conservative that won’t lose value, like a money market fund.
  3. If you have an emergency, you can withdraw up to the amount you’ve contributed at any time without tax or penalty. And because it’s invested conservatively, you know the money will be there if you need it.
  4. If you never have an emergency, the money can stay in the Roth IRA and grow for future use.

It’s a great way to make sure the money is available if you need it without losing that valuable Roth IRA space.

Launchpad for Your Child

Here’s a great way to give your child a head start on their own financial freedom:

  1. Encourage her to get a job or even start a mini business.
  2. Agree to match some percentage of her earnings with contributions to her own Roth IRA.
  3. When she’s an adult, she’ll already have some tax-free savings built up and it will be because of her own hard work!

Moral of the Story: Use Your Roth IRA!

The deadlines around contributing to a Roth IRA are strict. You have until April 15 to make your contribution for the prior year, and after that the opportunity is gone.

So the main point here is this: Contribute to your Roth IRA, even if you don’t yet know what you’ll use the money for.

There’s so much flexibility built into the Roth IRA that there will always be a good use for the money. And the tax breaks are so great that you don’t want to miss out.

So, what are you waiting for?

Matt Becker is a fee-only financial planner and the founder of Mom and Dad Money, where he helps new parents take control of their money so they can take care of their families. His free book, The New Family Financial Road Map, guides parents through the all most important financial decisions that come with starting a family.

Home Inspections: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know

If you’ve ever bought or sold real estate, you’ve probably experienced a home inspection. If you’re considering your first home purchase, understanding the inspection process is a crucial stop along your path to home-ownership. Or, if you own property and somehow sidestepped a traditional inspection when you acquired it, knowing how to prepare for and successfully navigate through the inspection waters will be vitally important when you sell.

Whether you are a buyer, a seller, or real estate professional, home inspections can be stressful. They typically result in a second round of contract negotiations, sometimes even more emotional than the first. Inspections can rip a deal apart, shifting buyers back into house hunter mode and leaving sellers in the mire of having to put their property pack on the market. In order to avoid those worst-case scenarios, it’s important to understand the three key classifications to a home inspector’s findings: Maintenance Items, Safety Issues, and Major Defects.

Maintenance items, you would think, are pretty self-explanatory. This can include things like a tricky door lock, a broken window seal, or a missing gutter extension, just to name a few.

Buyers (especially first-timers), please take note: you are going to own a home soon. That comes with a lot of responsibility, including taking care of all kinds of little things that get wrapped into the “joys of home-ownership”. If you own an automobile, you have maintenance responsibilities such as changing the oil, keeping air in the tires, filling it with gas, and hopefully washing it every once in a while. Houses need maintenance too, though they typically pay you back in the form of appreciating value. No matter how much you love your car, it can’t do that. Maintenance items are normal, and when identified by a home inspector, consider putting them on your first to-do list once you move in.

Sellers, when maintenance items are brought to your attention, don’t take it personal. Again, maintenance is part of normal home ownership. Depending on what tasks arise from an inspection, you should consider tackling them as part of your regular duties while waiting for your sale to close. More importantly, if the fixes are cheap and easy, it may be smart to remedy them before they become one of our next classifications.

Safety issues can be scary. A broader definition, “serious safety deficiencies that immediately impact the life and/or health of future owners or occupants”, can definitely make you feel a little goose-bumpy. Whether you are a buyer or seller though, it’s important to remember that most fear comes from a lack of knowledge.

The absence of a proper ground-fault protected outlet near a sink or other water source can be dangerous; some people may not read warnings about listening to their plug-in boom box in the shower. An under-supported deck sounds, feels, and looks scary when an inspector recommends not to have more than a handful of people on it at any given time, especially while that recommendation is delivered while jumping up and down on it for the full “wobbly” effect. And environmental hazards, with all their disclosure requirements and government regulations, are often some of the scariest (and potentially deal-breaking) problems of all.

When confronted with these and other safety issues, remember that information is our friend. The opinion of a good contractor or subject matter expert can reveal solutions that remove the fear from the equation and maybe even shed light on an inexpensive remedy that resolves a problem altogether. Expenses are the determining issue of our next classification.

Material Defects, specifically “major” ones, are simply issues that cost a substantial amount of money to remedy. They may not be related to matters of maintenance or safety, but often are.

A roof covered in deteriorated shingles, even though it may not be leaking, could be considered a material defect. Older mechanical items, structural concerns, and even large, old trees, while not immediately unsafe or in need of maintenance, can greatly effect a property’s value, or more specifically, the pocket book of current or future homeowners. These issues can cost many thousands of dollars to remedy, an expense that no buyer or seller will want to bear.

The important thing to consider with material defects is that the value threshold to consider something a “major” problem is different for everyone. One person’s $500 problem can be more serious than another’s $5,000 issue. Or the customary percentage of a property’s value constituting a major material defect in one marketplace could be completely different from another – an inspection in Omaha will be completely different than one in Chicago, for example. You will find that the issues that arise during a home inspection often overlap in their classification, but this final idea of subjectivity really sums up most home inspection findings, regardless if they’re maintenance items, safety issues, or material defects. And that summary leads to the best logic on how to deal with a home inspection.

The best way to sail through and successfully deal with any home inspection is to hire, and listen to, a good Realtor®. Realtors® are the subject matter experts on how inspections affect real estate transactions, and they can guide you through the general give-and-take associated with them. They’ve often seen and already dealt with similar issues in the past. Realtors® can help you sensibly and objectively review inspection reports, and often know many other industry professionals and experts when you need to gather additional information before making a decision. If you don’t utilize the skills and advice of a Realtor®, in the very least try to follow one of the basic principles of the National Association of Realtors® Code of Ethics: “Whatsoever ye would that others should do to you, do ye even so to them.

Air Quality in Homes Impacting Your Health

 It’s no secret that the air quality in homes can affect an occupant’s health. Realtors® have been working with purchase contract contingencies concerning radon tests, mold and indoor air quality tests for years. Now based on research done by the EPA’s Office of Research and Development studies have found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be two to five times higher inside homes than outside of the home, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas.

Toxins such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) can enter a home or workplace from paint, flooring, stains, varnishes, plywood, carpeting, insulation and other building products used in their construction or remodeling process. These substances are released into the air through a process called off-gassing. The off-gassing can continue for years and affect the health of the homeowner or occupants long after the construction has been completed, or the updates to the home, or building have been made. Today’s more airtight homes actually work to seal some of these substances in, rather than allowing fresh air exchanges to dilute or dissipate the off-gassing.

Who would think that when a home seller is doing the common things to get their home ready to sell, like adding a fresh coat of interior paint, new cabinets or countertops, installing new carpets or adding insulation; they may actually be creating a higher risk of off-gassing and indoor pollutants in the home? When preparing for a new baby homeowners many times will choose to put a fresh coat of paint in a bedroom, install new carpets, and purchased new nursery furniture to convert the bedroom into a sparkling new nursery? In reality the new parents maybe creating a greater health risks for their newborn rather than minimizing it.

The average adult breathes approximately 13,000 liters of air each day, along with whatever VOC’s and other pollutants happen to be in the air. People’s immune systems work to protect them from harmful toxins that they encounter. But the human immune system can only handle so much. Eventually if a person’s body overloads with too many harmful substances the immune system cannot keep up and the body suffers. Once in a person’s system, VOCs are stored in body fat and can lead to serious health problems over an extended time period. The EPA has estimated that indoor air pollutions adversely affect thousands of people each year. Effects from over exposure to radon gas alone causes over 14,000 deaths annually. Many other commonly used compounds in manufacturing can also be known carcinogens and some of their uses are not presently regulated. Indoor air quality has become a significant health concern in the United States.

Many U.S. building materials manufacturers have also made changes in their manufacturing processes in order to eliminate VOC’s and off-gassing from their products. In everything from adhesives, sealants, drywall, paints, carpets, manufactured doors, cabinets, windows and insulation products, changes have been, made to make the end user product VOC free. Owens Corning one of the U.S. largest insulation manufacturers, (you know the people with the Pink Panther) has spent millions of dollars retrofitting their plants so they are now able to produce a fiber insulation that is a 99% natural product, made with 58 percent recycled content which is formaldehyde free. Owens Corning’s formaldehyde free insulation is marketed under the name Eco-Touch® PINK®FIBERGLAS Insulation.

Home builders these days are also keenly aware of the problems of off-gassing and many take proactive steps in their construction process to minimize hazards from indoor air pollutants.  They do this by using construction materials and products that are VOC free and having their HVAC contractors install furnaces and air handling equipment that provide adequate filtration and indoor air exchanges in the home.

For any new construction questions you might have contact Jim with Nebraska Realty Builder Services at

Eight Things You Need To Know About Your Credit Score (Part 2)

Maybe it’s time to purchase that home. Maybe you want to buy a new car. Maybe you just want to live debt free. Whatever the reason, understanding the impact these activities will have on your credit score is important.

It is important to know how paying off debt or increasing your debt will imapct your credit score. Most people think that paying off debt will automatically increase their credit score, but the truth is, it may actually lower it.

Here are the 4 remaining things to consider about your credit score that you may not know:

(5) Closing accounts can impact your credit: If you close an account that was “paid as agreed,” it will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years. If an account is closed due to default, it will remain on your credit report for 7 years.

(6) Who may see your credit report? According to the Fair and Accurate Credit Reporting Act (FACRA) businesses must have “permissible purpose” in order to pull/run your credit report. For example, if your mortgage is with XYZ Mortgage Company, they are permitted to periodically run your credit. Otherwise, third party vendors such as new accounts, landlords, etc., must have written permission from you to take such action.

Here is a short list of entities that may pull/run your credit report:

  • Creditors with whom you have made application for credit;
  • Insurance companies-for underwriting use;
  • Employers;
  • Collection agencies for the purposes of collecting a debt.

(7) Checking your own credit report will NOT hurt your score:

“Soft Inquiries”: Checking your own report is considered a “soft inquiry.” Soft inquiries include a credit card company that offers you a preapproved credit card for which you did not apply.

“Hard Inquiries”: A hard inquiry happens when you apply for credit such as an auto loan and that creditor requests a credit report. Generally speaking, these types of inquiries will remain on your credit report for 2 years. Hard inquiries can have a negative impact on your credit score.

(8) You can obtain a FREE credit report every year: You may obtain a free credit report through However, you must pay if you want to know your credit score. Moreover, you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the 3 national credit reporting agencies, Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax.

Disclaimer: The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions.