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Bring the Beauty of Winter Inside for the Holidays!

There’s nothing quite like an evergreen blanketed in fresh, sparkling snow or ruby-red berries produced from a bare branch. This holiday season, show your appreciation of outdoor beauty by re-creating it indoors! Acknowledging nature inside your walls is a fashionable trend this year. Buy dry or fake outdoor accents from a store or scavenge for the real items outside! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Accent an elegant chandelier or noticeable light fixture with a strand of leaves or berries. If you want it homemade, all you need is thread and a pile of leaves or berries!
  • Create a table centerpiece with a bowl of outdoor décor. Fill a wicker basket or a glass bowl with pine cones, nuts, acorns, berries, pine needles and feathers!
  • Mold a wreath together using anything you want! Use rosemary to create a scented wreath, or string crabapple berries and leaves together for a colorful selection!
  • Collect a handful of evergreens into a vase or a bowl and place it on any table, mantel or shelf. Evergreens exhibit a vibrant color and are best used in subtle, neutral-colored rooms.
  • Incorporate magnolia leaves into golden fixtures or wall hangings. Magnolias have a long life span and accentuate subtle colors well.
  • Spread a thick layer of cotton over a windowsill or a mantel, or place it underneath a holiday decoration. Sprinkle glitter atop the cotton and it will appear as sparkly and fresh as the snow outside!
  • Fill a vase or a glass halfway with sugar or salt and place a pine cone or pine needles inside. This will confine the snowy scene outdoors into a tiny object inside!
  • Weave ivy through a wicker basket, through the ribbon on a wrapped present or through holiday decorations. Ivy can add natural appeal to an object that already exists.
  • Decorate any corner of any room with flowers that are remarkably in blossom during these winter months! Fill a basket or colored vase with hydrangea blossoms, white roses, topiaries or narcissus plants for a vibrant contrast in colors!
  • Light candles and surround them with greenery or glittery “snow” cotton. The peaceful candlelight will illuminate these natural wonders.
  • Hang greenery around windows and hang mistletoe from doorways. We all know what mistletoe leads to!
  • Instead of spending money on new ornaments, boost your tree’s appeal by hanging pine cones or pomegranates from the branches!

By decorating the indoors with outdoor attractions, you can still enjoy the beauty of nature while relaxing in your warm, cozy home. Use your imagination to recreate a wild, winter wonderland for a festive atmosphere!

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Is A Home Warranty Plan A Good Option for You?

There are few things as a homeowner more frustrating than discovering, too late usually, that something in your home that you thought was covered by your homeowner’s insurance, well, is not. Home Warranty Plans provide coverage for the things in your home that you can’t get covered through homeowners insurance ie:  major home systems breakdowns  or breakdowns of major appliances. You might be surprised how many “breakable” components live within your home systems and appliances, until something goes wrong of course! With a home warranty plan you can lower your stress with regard to how you’ll pay for something if it breaks down. Below are what have been ranked on multiple online sites and in reviews as the top 5 reliable home warranty companies with the best offerings and customer service. That said, it is important to do your own research based on some of the following criteria and how it relates to your home and your needs.

CHECKLIST of Items to Research and Compare:

  • Read several reviews both good and bad.
  • Can your plan be transferred to your buyer if you are thinking about or are in the midst of selling your home?
  • Do they offer 24/7 support at no additional cost?
  • Do they offer a 24hr claims line to follow up on progress of your claim?
  • Do they offer free quotes with no strings attached? In other words, if you choose to not purchase a plan, will they then bill you for coming out to give you a quote? Sounds silly but it does happen, so make sure and ask when you call.
  • What is the length of their workmanship guarantee?
  • Can you choose a service provider you already trust or does it have to be someone they provide?
  • Do they offer local service providers from whom you can choose?
  • Do they prescreen the providers they offer to service you?
  • Do they require a home inspection before coverage? Yes, some will cover you without an inspection.
  • Can they cover your roof as well as items inside your home?
  • Will they cover pre-existing issues? Most will not so you may have to research several companies to find one that will.
  • Do they offer an emergency alert network?
  • What is the extent of the coverage? Again, delve into details before purchasing a plan.
  • Will they replace items if they are not able to be repaired? If your home is more than 5 years old, this could be one of the most important features of your plan.

Highly Ranked Home Warranty Companies: (Received 4.5 to 5 Stars)

*American Home Shield      866-282-4071       ahs.com

*Select Home Warranty       888-388-7156       selecthomewarranty.com

*America’s 1st Choice Home Club     844-209-7912     afchomeclub.com

*First American Home Warranty      855-292-5824    fahw.com

*The Home Service Club       800-728-9003      hscwarranty.com

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Prepare Your Home for Winter & Make it More Desirable for You & Buyers

It may be only Autumn BUT winter is right around the corner (and in some areas, even though it isn’t officially winter, you’ve already had freezing temps and snow) so now is the time to make the necessary updates and repairs to make your home as energy efficient as possible before the winter heating bills add up. This is especially important if you’ve bought an older home because you love the charm and character but aren’t really sure how energy efficient it is or more importantly…isn’t! If you’re a seller putting your older home on the market, being able to show buyers that they won’t have to worry about exorbitant heating (or cooling for that matter) bills because of the updates you’ve made can make the difference between for sale and sold! And remember, just because your home is ‘newer’ does not mean it was built in the most energy efficient way. So whether your home is new or 100 years old, the following tips may benefit you.

  • Areas to check for leaks:  Of course you have the obvious…windows, doors, attic (rafters & windows), basement windows or concrete blocks but there are some spots you might never think of: electrical outlets on exterior walls, dryer vent, plumbing and ductwork at their point of entry, recessed can lights if the ceiling has attic or roof directly above, whole house fan and even your mail chute if it’s in your door or wall. If you’re in a freezing cold climate, make sure you cover and insulate your exterior water spigots to avoid pipes breaking inside your home. (I speak from experience, this is not a pleasant experience but an easy one to avoid!)
  • No sure if you have a leak? On a windy day, hold a match to the area (with necessary precautions) you’re checking and see if it stays lit or blows out. If it blows out, you have a leak.
  • Once you’ve determined where your leaks are located, simply choose the best method to resolve it: A great product that is easy to use and very effective is Flex Shot. (Again personal experience…I live in one of those 100 year old homes!) It is less messy than caulk, works as well as weather stripping and creates an immediate seal. There are inexpensive foam inserts that fit inside the outlets on your exterior walls that works like insulation to keep out the air.
  • Insulate your attic and basement exterior walls. You can also check and see if there is a shutter seal available for your type of whole house fan.
  • If you can’t afford to replace old windows or you love the charm of the original wavy glass so prevalent in century old homes, again, grab some Flex Shot (or similar easy to use waterproofing product) in either white or clear, whichever will match your trim the best, and seal around the outer edges of the trim and the interior edges around the glass.

If you take the time to do even a fraction of the tips above, you will see your heating bills in the winter and your cooling bills in the summer rival newer homes that don’t have anywhere close to the character of your own!!

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Add Autumn Colors and Beauty to your Curb Appeal!

As we move through Autumn and into Thanksgiving, adding the deep oranges, rusts and mustard yellows to your landscape can give your curb appeal the boost it needs.  Mums are a great choice because you can get several different rich colors and types to blend into a dynamic foray of Autumn colors. If you don’t have the time or style of landscape to plant the mums, use potted ones just as effectively, either individually or grouped together.

If you’re selling, try to keep what you’re adding seasonal but not “holiday focused”. In other words if you did some major Halloween decorating, it is time to take the ghosts and goblins down but leave the undecorated pumpkins and gourds.

If you’re lucky enough to have nature screaming autumn around your home and you’re How-Much-Is-A-View-Worththinking of selling, DO IT NOW!! The most effective and cost effective landscaping you could hope for will draw buyers to your home so they have the possibility of enjoying these stunning views for years to come! 

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Current Mortgage % Rates

    Current Rates for 10/25/19 by just a few top Lenders: These numbers reflect excellent credit score but in researching you may find that this is just as good a time for those of you who may be dealing with challenging credit scores. Some companies like New American Funding and Citi focus on helping people with challenges. The key is to do your research. Go online and explore sites that offer info, details, pros and cons and that allow you to focus their results on your personal situation and importantly location because rates can and do vary state to state.  There are hundreds of sites so when searching, try to put in specific parameters to slim down the results to focus on your needs instead of everyone’s needs. This will save you time, frustration and the aggravation that might cause you to give up on your quest for a better rate and bottom line.

loanDepot! Get Your Low Rate Today!     Rate: 3.875%     APR:  3.875%

Close Your Own Loan.com     Rate:  3.50%      APR:  3.709%

New American Funding     Rate:  3.675%    APR:  3.678%

RateZip             Rate:  3.50%      APR:  3.53%

 

 

 

 

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Great Photography is Key!

I’m constantly asked by sellers, are my own photos ok? The answer is maybe yes…maybe no. The way buyers shop online nowadays, if your photos aren’t excellent, the buyer is moving on. The days of teasing buyers with a photo or two is not sufficient anymore. Your buyer wants to walk through your home online to decide if they want to walk through your home. So let’s talk about maximizing your photography for maximum results!

When you’re deciding on the best way to showcase your property to prospective buyers, keep in mind that the internet is very visual and people have highly visual expectations. Before they read a word of your description, most buyers will peruse your photos to see, firstly, if they are even remotely interested in your property. If the photos entice them to learn more, then they have done their job and you are a step closer to someone becoming seriously interested in your home.

The purpose of your advertising, like any other advertising of a product in the marketplace, is to give potential buyers the reasons to choose your home over others also available. Therefore, the quality and content of your photography is very important. There are ways that you can maximize both.  First, show as many photos as possible. Internet shoppers want to see as much as they can ahead of time. They shop the internet for convenience and ease of process.  If you state that you have 4 bedrooms but only show one, you are leaving the reason why you didn’t show the others up to their determination, such as: “wow the other bedrooms must be really small” or ” the other bedrooms must not be very nice” otherwise why wouldn’t they show them.  Neither might be true but that doesn’t matter.  If your buyer lives across the country or on the other side of the world, (yes, your BuyOwner.com exposure offers buyers access to your home 24/7 from anywhere in the world!) they are less likely to ‘stop on by’ to see about the other rooms.  They will go on to another home that does show them what they want to see.

Regarding the quality of your photos, minimize eye distractions.  The fancy towels might look great on your oven door but in a photo they distract the eye from looking at the room and instead bring their  attention directly to the towel.  You might love all the photos on your fireplace mantel BUT what you want to showcase is the fireplace & mantel since that’s what they are buying with your home. Remove other eye distractions such as remote controllers, pens, paper, newspapers, mail, keys, phone cords (or any cords), dishes in the sink or on the counter, etc.

A simple way to prepare for your photography is to stand at the entrance to the room being photographed. Look out of the room and then look in.  If your attention is drawn to something instead of the room, that’s what needs to come out for the photograph.  That might mean pulling out some furniture so that you are able to show more floor space.

The eye judges the room by the amount of floor space they can see. Let them see a lot of floor.

If you have hardwood floors, make sure the window treatments are open and the sunlight is pouring across the wood. Beautiful!

Remember, photos create your home’s first impression to your prospective buyers. And the never fail thing about first impressions is they only happen once! Maximize your photography and by doing so, you will maximize your home selling opportunities.

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Discover Your New Neighborhood via Fall Festivals & Activities

Fall Festivals can be fun, exciting, family friendly, filled with laughter and perhaps your best way to discover some hidden gems of amenities in your brand new neighborhood. One of the great parts of Autumn is the abundance of festivals…some adult focused and some all about family. Based on your personal situation, this may be your best, informal pumpkinFALLway to meet new people in your area with shared interests and discover adult and kid activities available in your community.

ADULT focused activities may include: Oktoberfest celebrations, Craft brew festivals and bar crawls, art fairs, evening concert festivals.

FAMILY focused activities may include: Oktoberfest celebrations (many are family friendly with specific kids areas to let them enjoy the weather, music and fun), Pumpkin patches and farms where kids can choose their own pumpkins, ride horses, enjoy hay rides, play games, etc., Apple picking farms allow kids to run in the orchards and choose which apples they want, pick, bag up and then pay for…usually have hay rides out to the orchards, kid focused concerts and plays in the park, church halloween events so the kids don’t have to go door to door.

Check your neighborhood activities by joining facebook groups and apps like nextdoor, an online website that allows you to pinpoint activities in your specific neighborhood or within a chosen perimeter.

The key is using all the abundant Fall activities to acclimate and familiarize yourself with your new community while also meeting new friends for yourself and your kids!

Tip: If you’re selling, be a gracious seller and leave a list of all the community activities available in your area in your home for the new owner. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll feel great for having done such a simple, yet kind gesture for your buyer.

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Seriously? You’re going to Rent?!!

IS RENTING A RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOU?

Have you thought about renting for awhile after your home sells or instead of buying as you move into empty nesting but everyone keeps pointing out to you what a crazy thing that would be to do?!

It’s true that when you’re paying rent you’re not gaining any equity in that home so for some that means you’re just flushing your money down the toilet. BUT there can be an upside to this decision too. Perhaps you’re new to an area and you’re not sure if your job is going to be permanent…or you’re not sure if this is the area your want to live in long term…or you aren’t financially in a position to put down a decent down payment that would give you a best mortgage rate….or perhaps you can only afford so much a month and by renting a property where the rent includes utilities, HOA fees and all maintenance you don’t have those added expenses. Plus, remember, you’re not paying real estate taxes on top of your monthly payment. This may allow you to live in an area you desire but as a homeowner could not afford. Perhaps you’re downsizing or retiring and don’t want all the stress and upkeep of home ownership.

Perhaps, you have your own reasons for choosing to rent instead of own at this moment in time. Don’t let other’s shaming you for choosing to rent instead of own cause you to make the wrong decision

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My Water Bill is WHAT?!

In our society, running water is a given. Probably the only time we give it any thought is when something goes wrong or when we get the monthly water bill. It’s a necessity, so we have to pay for it. But do we have to pay so much?

In actuality, there are a number of easy things you can do to reduce your water bill.

1. Get Everything in Working Order

Leaks – Did you know a dripping faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day? One or more leaks-in the sink, the shower, or the tub-can really add up over time. By regularly inspecting your faucets, you’ll decrease your chances of leakage.

If you do find a leak, try replacing the washers. Older, often-used washers begin to let water leak; replacing them renews their efficiency. Or for a leaky toilet, replace the flange in the tank (the little piece that lifts when you flush) and make sure it fits snugly.

Insulation – Did you know insulating your pipes will make water heat faster and mean you’ll waste less water, waiting for it to heat up.

2. Simplify Your Water Use

Make this your mantra: waste not; want not. Try not to ever put water down the drain that could be used for something else. For example, cooled vegetable water can feed house plants.

Overall, see if you can find ways to use water less frequently: only do full loads of clothes or dishes; turn off the sink when you’re brushing your teeth; don’t boil a whole pot of water for one cup of tea. Avoid disposing of tissues in the toilet, where you’ll need to flush; just use a trash can instead.

Do whatever you can to minimize the amount of water you expend.

3. Upgrade

Replacing fixtures doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, there are a few cost-effective improvements that justify their cost incredibly quickly!

Showerhead: Looking for a way to lessen the amount of water used in your daily shower? Consider a low-flow showerhead! It reduces the amount of water used; some models even offer pause buttons to allow you to stop the flow while shampooing.

A water-saving toilet uses half the water that a normal one does in flushing. Older toilets use five gallons per flush; newer ones often reduce this to 1.6 gallons per flush. When you multiply that by uses per day, per week, per month, this can add up to big savings! Note: In some areas these toilets may seem to develop what look like rust rings in your tank more often but perhaps having to clean the toilet more often  will be worth the added $$ in your bank account!

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Pending Doesn’t Mean Done!

You’ve been shopping for weeks or maybe just a few days and you believe you have absolutely found the home of your dreams. Then, sadly, you discover the property has a pending contract. Before you walk away completely deflated, remember these important words, “It’s not sold til it’s closed!” BUT does that mean you can still make an offer on it?
Typically, once a home has a pending sale, you won’t be able to place your bid because both seller and buyer have agreed on the terms of the sale and signed the contract. But real estate deals have been know to fall apart for multiple reasons. Again, until it’s closed, it’s not a done deal!
Though you can’t submit an offer, you absolutely can contact the listing agent or if the home is being sold by owner, the seller, and make them aware of your interest and ask to be notified in the event something happens and the home is going to go back on the market. This way, you have the possibility of putting your offer in before others even know the home is once again available.
Now, it’s important not to get your hopes up that the deal will fall through or tell yourself this is the only home for you. Keep shopping with an open mind and heart. You may discover that not getting that home was a blessing in disguise as you step forward into a different home that makes you even happier!
An important note: If the other deal does fall through, before you jump in gleefully and with reckless abandon, keep in mind, there might have been a reason it fell through that might cause you to want to run away from it too!