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Historically Low Interest Rates!

This month, August 2020, Fannie Mae has announced historically low interest rates:

30 yr. mortgages 2.88%

15 yr mortgages 2.44%

With the pandemic still coursing the world, this has been a challenging time for many with regard to buying or selling a home. With this new announcement, if you’ve been considering selling, this is a great time to take that step. Inventory is low and demand by those who are in a position to buy is high. If you’ve been thinking about buying and have the ability to do so this is an amazing opportunity for you. With rates so low, you can qualify for more home or perhaps if you haven’t been able to qualify before, now you will have options.

Yes, for many this is a scary time, but an old proverb says, “If you have an advantage offered you, take advantage of it!”

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The Virtual Staging Advantage!

So your home is vacant but the cost of having someone come in and stage your home is prohibitive for you. So what can you do? Virtual Staging!! This is a cost effective alternative to having a “stager” come into your home, create a plan, bring in furniture, have a crew set it all up and then have to do so again to pick it up when your home has sold. Those cost can run into the thousands or tens of thousands depending on the size and grandeur of your home. Virtual Staging takes advantage of new and evolving technology to allow potential buyers to view your home online, fully staged and then if they choose, to walk through physically to get a sense of the vacant space for their own furnishings.

At this time, during the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have chosen to not go to homes personally until they have completely walked through online. As good as photographer may be, still photos are the least effective when people are online shopping because they often do not adequately show the depth or dimensions of your rooms. Being able to see furniture in the photos gives people a better sense of flow and space.  Image result for Free Images of Virtually Staged Rooms

There are many options and prices available to you so rather than just take a company’s word for their quality, make sure and shop around. A simple search titled “Virtual Staging” will yield numerous results so relax, take your time and be diligent. Ask for addresses of homes they have staged that you can view online instead of what they’re showing you on their website. Look at the real effects they’ve created and not just what a commercial web designer may have built into their website.

As always, buyer beware. Then once you’ve done your due diligence and had your home virtually staged, get ready for buyers to be ringing your bell!

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Summer Activities Amid the Chaos!

With the pandemic still causing cities to shut down their activities (little league, softball, soccer, swimming pools, etc) and parks being closed, the challenge for parents, especially of small or elementary school age children is vast. How do you keep your kids occupied and active without losing your own mind in the process? Below are a few ideas that will hopefully help your summer be filled with more fun than folly!

  •  Stock up on crayons, sidewalk chalk, real or faux sand (saves you that mess real sand traveling indoors AND can be used indoors without causing a mess). The key is to be involved with them by creating fun drawing or painting projects for them to accomplish. Then once they’re finished allow them to present and post their artwork.
  • So they’re getting sufficient fresh air, plan outdoor activities or games (slip and slides are fairly cheap and kids love them!) Use the sidewalk chalk to create a Hopscotch game for them and their friends. No friends around? Take a break and play with them!! Great for the health benefits for them and you!
  • Set up running races, pin the tail on the donkey, water balloons and other easy to do party games. Take a walk through the dollar store and check out birthday party games and duplicate or use the packaged ones, again at a minimal cost.
  • Don’t have a swingset but kno w your kids are missing playing on them at the park? Go to sites like Letgo, Mercari, Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace to find used items for sale. You can find some amazing finds on these sites. I know someone who bought a $1500 wood swingset with a climbing wall, slide, treehouse and monkey bars (similar to the one shown) for a couple of hundred $$. Great deal at the time and an even greater once the kids got stuck at home.
  • Plan sunset bike rides or walks as a family to not only enjoy each other’s company but also to help them exert those last bursts of energy so they go to sleep more easily.
  • Another great and well received activity is Movie Nights. Indoor with pillows, blankets, jammies and popcorn is always a fun time for the whole family. Or a great distraction for you if you need to get some things done as once the movie starts they rarely even know you’re there anyway.
  • If you have a large white sheet and a projector, outdoor movie nights are fabulous!!
  • Go camping and/or hiking. Fresh air AND a great time of family togetherness.
  • Have quiet time activities arranged as well because as I’m sure you will agree, if you have more than one child, they will get on each other’s nerves so allow them to go to their own rooms and read, color, write or simply relax and take a nap.
  • This is a great time for your child to become a pen pal. They can write letters (physical in the regular mailbox letters so their screen time is limited) to grandparents, great grandparents or friends they haven’t seen for awhile. They will be excited to place their letter in the mailbox and even more excited when they get some mail back addressed directly to them!

This could go on and on but you get the idea. Be creative. Be thoughtful. Be involved. Be Happy!!

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Summer Travels? Be Safe, Secure & SOLD!

Often during the summer, even though your home is on the market, you still do a lot of traveling to weddings, reunions, family picnics and family vacations.  You might only be gone over a weekend or perhaps a week or two.  So what can you do to ensure that your home is secure while you’re away from home? Here’s a few tips.

  • It’s great to put your lights on timers but it’s a mistake to use one that illuminates the same lights at the same times every day. A better choice is using timers that can be set for different times each day and to not all go on at that same time. You want it to appear that you are randomly moving from room to room throughout the day and evening.
  • There are numerous systems with apps now that you can purchase that allow you to control your lights from wherever you are. If you travel a lot, this may be the best way to provide yourself with a stress free trip.
  • To ensure safe and protected showings while you’re gone take a few simple steps: Leave a container of masks, booties and hand sanitizer (and/or gloves) by your entry door so buyers take necessary precautions while viewing your home. Note your listing that masks are required and to please avoid touching items in the home while walking through. Also put a note by your door as they are leaving to please take their masks, gloves, booties etc with them and dispose of them properly outside of your home.
  • If you’re road tripping in your own vehicle, see if a neighbor, friend or family member can stop by at different times while you’re gone and pick up your mail or just hang out for short periods of time so there are cars in your driveway while you’re gone. If the live nearby and can leave their car in your driveway overnight once in a while even better!
  • In the past it’s been suggested that you have your mail delivery stopped while you’re gone. This can be an ok idea but keep in mind that you are letting people in the local post office with whom you’re not acquainted know that no one is home. Better to have someone pick up your mail or if it drops through your mail slot, just gather it up when you get home.
  • This may be the most important tip. DO NOT POST on social media that you are heading out to your reunion or someone’s wedding or that you’re anxious to hop on that cruise…..WAIT and when you return you can post that you just got back and what a great time you had. Still get to share but do so wisely!
  • Don’t be afraid to let your local police department know that you’ll be gone and ask if they can periodically patrol your street and keep an eye on your home. They really don’t mind doing so.

With a few well thought out plans, you can enjoy your summer journeys while still marketing your home and feel safe and secure all the while!

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Solar Panels…Worth the Money?!

You’ve heard the pitch, “Save thousands of dollars by going solar!”. But is that true for you and how can you get through the hype and determine the truth.

Below are a couple of things to consider when considering going solar:

What are you currently paying for your electricity?Image result for free image of home with solar panels

This is probably going to be the most important factor that you will be considering since your goal from installing solar is to lower the cost of powering your home. If you look at your current electric bill, you’ll see that your bill is based on the number of kilowatt-hour (kWh) you use. Costs per kWh can vary greatly based on where you live. Make sure when determining your savings you are using your actual cost per kWh and not calculating your savings based on a generalized article or ‘worksheet’ you’ve found online. Obviously those homeowners with the highest electricity rates will most likely save the most by switching to solar power.

What will a switch to a Solar Panel System Cost to Install?

When considering the solar company you will use for this major investment, going with the lowest bid just because it’s the least out of pocket, may cost you far more in the long run. You must consider both your short term and long term gains when choosing equipment and the company that will design and install your system. Take your time. Meet with multiple companies and don’t be afraid to ask very specific questions about them, their installation team, their warranties, etc.  With all the research and details available online, prepare for your meetings with the companies by creating a list of specific questions you need answers to in order to choose. Take notes. Get all your questions answered. If they are trying to rush through your appointment, rush them out your door!

Don’t be afraid to ask about any incentives or discounts they may currently be offering BUT don’t get pushed into making an immediate decision “or else lose today’s special price”. That’s probably the first company you should cross off your list.  note: Odds are pretty high that if you called them the next week and told them you would like to hire them but at the discounted price, they will say yes.

Speaking of incentives….check in your city, county and state to see if there are any energy incentives and rebates available. These can sometimes reduce your net cost by 50% or more. The federal government offers a 30% solar tax credit (search online for details and ask your tax professional for how you personally could benefit). Hard to believe but true…some utility companies even offer rebates to their customers to encourage their switch to solar power. Check your utility company’s website for details.

Only you can determine if the switch to solar offers you enough benefit to outweigh the initial costs. As in any big decision, due diligence is the key!

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Can I Stop Paying Rent due to Covid-19?

This question seems to be coming up quite a bit today during the uncertainties of the Covid-19 Pandemic and jobs being on hold for many people causing financial hardship like most people have never experienced. Many people have asked that if their landlord has been given a break from paying their mortgage can they then take a break from paying their rent?

Keep in mind that regardless of what might be happening with your landlord, you are still bound by the terms of your lease. You should review your lease and see if there are any provisions in there for extenuating circumstances. You can also contact your landlord and see if they’re able to allow you any relief from your regular payments. BUT if you don’t do that and you just stop making your payments without an agreement, you may open yourself up to legal ramifications and eviction.

Some things to think about before you consider this unfair. Because your landlord’s mortgage is on an income producing property, there’s a good chance that, even though you think he can, he may be eligible for a forbearance agreement. Also, keep in mind a forbearance agreement doesn’t mean he is not still going to be responsible for the payments in the future.  Also, you are living there and if something breaks down, will you still expect him to go to the expense of doing repairs? Plus, he still has to pay insurance and taxes.

Again, your best option if you need a break, is to contact your landlord and ask if there’s something you and he can work out. Then, either way, abide by his response.

If he’s not able to help you out, consider contacting your city or county and see if they’re offering residents rent assistance. Another source is to contact your church and see what kind of programs they might be offering. Many have set up relief programs assisting their members through these challenging times.

 

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Quarantine Projects? Try These Budget Friendly Kitchen Updates!

The open design of most contemporary and recently renovated homes, places the  Kitchen as the centerpiece of the layout.  It’s important to note that the Kitchen is one of the rooms of most importance to potential buyers. Do you want your kitchen to radiate a contemporary and upgraded appearance that will be remembered, without the hassle of draining your bank account?

Here are some quick upgrading tips that will allow your outdated kitchen to show off some modern flare:

Upgrade the lighting. A simple task like this will brighten the entire room, while diminishing the old fixtures that look like rusty antiques. Scattered track lighting is the Image result for small kitchen recessed lighting ideasbest approach, and adding dimmers will provide even more lighting options. If you have a little bigger budget or are handy yourself, recessed lighting is always a plus because it automatically creates the sense of higher ceilings and an expanded space. Put on dimmers for an added bonus that buyers love!

Upgrade the cabinets, without replacing them. If new lighting displays more nicks and stains than you knew existed, sand the cabinets and paint a glossy finish over them. Or paint them white. To add a unique feature, replace a few cabinet doors with glass doors that allow you to show off your fancy dishware. If the finish is in good shape, you can create a whole new look by changing up the hardware. Check current magazines and online articles to see what kind of hardware their decorating articles are highlighting.

Upgrade the seating arrangements. If your kitchen includes a breakfast nook,  upgrade the light fixture or the window treatments. Add a rug, in order to separate it from the rest of the kitchen. Purchase new breakfast bar stools or add pendant lighting over the bar. If your large kitchen displays wasted space, add an island! This doesn’t have to be expensive. There are so many portable islands on the market that are quite affordable.

Upgrade the sink. A dirty, scratched up sink doesn’t allow a potential buyer to imagine a clean environment. Polish up the existing sink, purchase a new faucet for the sink. You might even consider adding a garbage disposal or a water filtration system.

Upgrade the countertops. Decorative laminate is available for a reasonable price, and the décor looks much like the expensive options, such as granite. Laminate also lasts forever and is easy to clean, which a potential buyer should appreciate. If your area has many competing homes with granite check on prices on a basic bullnose style at a wholesale granite business. This eliminates the middle man costs of buying from a big box or design store.

If you’re really adventurous, try shopping at stores like “Restore” which benefits Habitat for Humanity. This is a great place to find that new cabinet hardware, portable island, light fixtures or even some new cabinets or cabinet faces.

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Cabin Fever Family Project?!

Going out of your mind dealing with day in day out being at home cabin fever? Well, now could be that perfect time to head out to your garage and delve into creating the organized, maximally usable garage you’ve been imagining each time you squeeze past the bikes and bins and boxes that never got put away when you moved in.  It can also make a huge difference if you’re selling for potential buyers to realize they have an organized space immediately that can accommodate not only their car but also the oodles of storage needs they haven’t been able to utilize before. This is also a great project to include the entire family…young to old…there’s a task that can accommodate all ages. Make it a fun time with music playing, snack time and a great time to talk about all that’s going on.

So, though organizing the garage may seem like a daunting task,  it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just like any other large or small organizing project, break the process up into segments. Start by going through your garage and figuring out what you are keeping, what you are giving away, and what you are throwing out. Get rid of anything you really don’t need. Then organize by separating things into groups. The pruning shears should not be mixed in with the tennis rackets and the soccer balls. Categorize these groups by how you use them and how often you use them. For example, keep all your gardening items in one spot and your sports equipment in another.

Here are some suggested categories that seem pretty universal:

    * Gardening Equipment

    * Sporting Goods

    * Tools

    * Seasonal Items

So now that you have everything separated, how can you maximize your space while again, leaving room for your car(s)? Here are a few tips:

  • Floor to Ceiling Wall shelving or portable shelves will maximize all the available space that does not impede parking your car. If you have a standard size garage, you might See the source imagewant to park your cars in the garage with their doors open to determine how deep your shelves can accommodate without being a challenge.
  • Hang gardening tools on racks and hooks. Again, considering space, perhaps have your shelves start at 5-6 ft off the floor so you have space below for your hanging items.
  • Image result for free images of garage interiorsTo create a more finished look consider tiling or epoxy painting your floor!
  • Pegboards are always a great option for tools. Make them even more effective by outlining the shapes of the tools on the pegboard so everything goes back and fits in their own spaces.
  • If you have room for cabinets, they’re a great way to create a cleaner and clearer appearance. This also can add storage for oversized pantry items that won’t fit in your Kitchen pantry.
  • Locking cabinets placed high will help keep dangerous items out of the reach of little hands!
  • Use labeled or color coded bins on your shelves to create more organization. If you can’t afford to add shelves, purchase stackable bins that can be piled on top of each other.
  • If you have a high garage ceiling, consider lofting shelves or hanging bikes, skis, snowboards, etc. from the ceiling. There are great hooks available to Image result for free images of garage interiorsaccommodate all these items.See the source image
  • If you have the height and funds to add a stand up or crawl height attic to your garage, this is a great space to store seasonal items or items you only use once in a great while.

No matter how much or how little you can do, any form of organization will help you feel refreshed and far less stressed!

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Selling and Buying amidst the Covid-19 Crisis

At this crazy time when the Covid-19 Virus has interfered with our daily lives, here are a few tips if you are currently selling or buying a home about how to remain safe and still accomplish your goal.

Seller:  It would be best to cancel any Open Houses you have scheduled but that does not mean you can’t continue to offer showings of your home on a person to person basis if you use some pro-active precautions to make you and your guest safe. Wiping down all your surfaces before and after any showings. The CDC has offered the following list of things to sanitize. It’s a great list as it forces you to think about items you might not even consider since your daily life tends to be repetitive and not abnormal. Perhaps, if you haven’t already done so, create a video walk through that you can share with prospective buyers who are too skittish to walk through your home in person.

  • Light switches
  • Doorknobs (on the inside and outside and also the locks on the doors)
  • House keys and car keys
  • Cellphone and landline
  • Earbuds, headphones, and AirPods
  • Refrigerator handle
  • Oven knobs
  • Small kitchen appliances
  • Drawer pulls
  • Sink knobs
  • Bathtub knobs
  • Toilet flusher
  • Toothbrush
  • Hairbrush
  • Makeup and brushes
  • Any bottles of hair care or skin care
  • Desk
  • Computer screen
  • Computer mouse or laptop touchpad
  • Computer keyboard
  • Windows
  • Mirrors
  • TV remote
  • Car door handles
  • Steering wheel of your car
  • Dashboard of your car (including the radio and air vents)
  • Gear shift of your car
  • Rearview mirror of your car

Buyers: Make sure and have all pre-qualification documents on hand to share with prospective sellers. Do not just puruse homes if you aren’t serious enough to get pre-qualifed before shopping. Wear protective gloves and shoe covers during home viewings and try to avoid touching household items and surfaces while you walk through the home. Ask the seller of the home you’re interested in seeing  if they have or can provide a video walk through of their home.

If you are a serious seller or buyer, you can continue to market or search for your home. Be smart and conscientious. And be flexible to new government guidelines and requirements. Lower interest rates are creating a strong opportunity for sellers and buyers. And remember, like every other crisis, this too will pass.

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Pre-Spring Prep Provides Perfect Spring Curb Appeal!

In springtime, while it’s easy to excuse yourself from yard work because of constant rainfalls or annoying allergies, you really should prepare your yard for the season, and for the one to follow, summer. If you wait too long, it could take longer for your grass to appear lush and weed-free, for your gardens to redevelop and for your fruit trees to produce.

And this is never more true than when you’re trying to sell. Now is the time to make your home—and its surroundings—look its best.

Here are steps to keep in mind:

  • Remove anything in your yard that doesn’t belong. That means raking dead, crumbled leaves that reappeared from under melted snow, picking up twigs and branches that snapped off of nearby trees, and disposing of any litter that blew into your yard from unknown sources.
  • De-thatch your lawn by using a rake to get rid of the layer of dead grass that has taken residency over your lawn. This is vital for your grass to receive the natural nutrients needed to grow. Also, if you use fertilizer or weed killer, it will not reach the lawn unless you remove this layer of thatch.
  • Lay a slow-release fertilizer on your lawn. This type of fertilizer will slowly release nutrients in your yard that will not cause the grass to grow before it’s ready. This way, even if Mother Nature decides to cover us with an April snowfall, your lawn will still be slowly working its way toward a green June.
  • Dig your lawn mower out of the shed or the corner of the garage and test it. Check for wear on the spark plugs, sharpen the blade, change the oil if needed, clean out old grass clippings and fill up the gas. If the mower is in need of repair, you have plenty of time to fix it. If not, it’ll be all ready for the first cut.
  • Scale back trees and bushes by trimming back limbs that are damaged or have grown beyond the rest. This will make room for the tree to grow faster and healthier. Keep branches out of your walkway and patio/porch area. Evenly trim bushes to look neatly manicured.
  • Now is the time to plant new foliage in the yard. Spring rain creates soft soil that makes digging as simple as ever. Plant new rose bushes, berry bushes or fruit trees now so that they have time to begin their spring growth.
  • While you should wait to plant and decorate with new perennials, you should pick them out now. Research the types of perennials available, find out which will grow in the sunlight and type of soil available in your yard, and plan your layout