State Of The National Real Estate Market

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate market continues to trend upward. According to analytics firm CoreLogic, in November, home prices were up 8.2% year over year. Interestingly, Idaho (15.7%), Maine (15.4%), and Indiana (13.6%) were the states with the highest increases. Plus, this past year saw record low interest rates, which is certainly a driving factor in the current hot real estate market. While this is great news for existing homeowners, it has posed some difficulties for lower income individuals to afford homes.

One major challenge facing the industry is inventory for would-be buyers is at a 12-month low. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), inventory nationwide is down to a 2.1 month supply. This is a 30% decrease in available homes for sale from the same time period last year. Most real estate professionals consider a six-month supply of homes a healthy balance between a buyer and seller market. This low supply, or low inventory, generally indicates a strong seller’s market. NAR also reported the median days on market in December 2020 was only 16 days, further indicating that it is a strong seller’s market.

Because the real estate market is very dynamic, whether you are thinking about selling or buying, it’s more important than ever to work with an agent who understands the local market. Often, homes are sold where the seller may have netted a higher amount or there are buyers who lose out on a great home because their agent may not understand these market forces. Find an agent with knowledge and experience locally who can understand your unique needs. Contact me for more information today!

Your Guide To Recycling

Recycling has a positive impact on the environment for many reasons. It helps conserve natural resources, prevent waste from piling up in landfills, and protect nature. However, if not done correctly, your recycling efforts can be in vain. Here are 5 tips to follow!

Know what can and can’t be recycled. Paper, plastic containers, glass, cans, and cardboard are the most commonly recycled materials. Items like plastic bags, plastic wrap, styrofoam, paper towels, tissues, and aluminum foil are commonly mistaken as recyclable materials. However, they should be placed in the trash. If you place materials that cannot be recycled into the bin, they can ruin the entire load and cause it to end up in a landfill instead.

Avoid small items. Avoid recycling small items, such as caps, pieces of paper, can tabs, plastic cutlery, and pen caps, even if they are made of recyclable materials. These items can get lodged in sorting machinery at the recycling center.

Clean before recycling. Containers should be free of food waste, rinsed, and dried before being placed into a recycling bin to avoid contaminating the entire batch.

Keep a list of recycling guidelines nearby. Every community has a different recycling program depending on what local facilities can process. Keep a list of the guidelines nearby to ensure you are recycling correctly.

Pay attention to the numbers. Not all plastic and glass containers are made equally and many may not be recyclable in your area. Make sure to check the numbers inside the recycle symbol on the bottom of the container and refer to your recycling guidelines to determine which types will be accepted by your local facility before placing them in the bin.

Credit Scores & Buying A Home

Before you jump head first into searching for your dream home, you need to ensure your finances are in order. This includes reviewing and strengthening your credit. Here’s what you need to know!

Why Your Credit Score and Report Matters

As a buyer, a strong credit score and report makes you a more desirable loan candidate. When deciding to approve you for a home loan, mortgage lenders take a deep dive into past car loans, student loans, credit cards, bills, and more. They also review your history of repayment and public-record information. If their findings are positive, they will be much more likely to approve you for a loan and offer lower interest rates and better terms.

What Credit Score Do You Need

The credit score required for a loan depends on the type of mortgage you select, the size of your down payment, and your lender. According to QuickenLoans, most lenders require around a score of 620 or higher to be approved for a conventional mortgage with lower interest rates and flexible repayment periods. If a buyer would like a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, they require a minimum score of 580 and, for a loan through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), score requirements differ depending on the private lender.

How to Improve Your Credit

Reviewed your credit score and realized it may need some work? There are ways to improve your score. These include, but are not limited to, correcting payment errors on your credit report, ensuring you make all payments on time, making micropayments in between due dates, and paying down credit cards.

Tips For Hiring A Moving Company

The process of moving can seem daunting, but with a little help from a reliable moving company, a lot of stress can be relieved. Here are some tips to make sure your belongings are in safe hands.

Get references from friends and family. You should always do you research thoroughly, reading review sites and local articles and blogs, however, nothing is stronger than a good recommendation from a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor.

Require them to take inventory and do a walkthrough. A strong, reputable moving company will take steps to evaluate the job ahead of time, including taking inventory of your belonging that need to be moved and doing a walkthrough to note stairways, doorways, etc.

Understand the contract you’re signing. A contract with your moving company should include the following: description and scope of services, pricing (fixed rate vs. hourly rate), date(s) of pickup, date(s) of delivery, liability and claims protection, and any additional charges.

Double check the company’s insurance and amount of protection. There are several levels of liability moving companies offer, but the most common are full value protection on items, requiring them to either repair, replace, or provide cash value for items that are lost or damaged in the move, and alternative liability coverage that requires them to be liable for up to 60 cents per pound of the item in question.

Unpack in a timely matter and report problems. Depending on your contract, you have a limited time to report any issues to the company and file a claim, so make sure to unpack and evaluate your belongings before that deadline passes.

Organic Food 101

You’ve seen the label ‘organic’ for years now, but what does this really mean and what are the benefits to you and your family?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the word ‘organic’ references the way farmers grow and process agricultural products. Organic farming practices are designed to address several factors, such as pest and weed control, usage of additives, animal habitats and treatment, pollution, and more.

For produce to be certified as organic, it must have been grown on soil that has been free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for at least 3 years. For meat to carry the organic certification, the animals must be raised in living conditions that allow them to continue their natural behaviors, fed natural, GMO-free foods, and cannot be given hormones or antibiotics. Finally, when it comes to processed organic foods, they must be free of artificial preservatives, food coloring, or flavors.

Over the years, research has shown potential health benefits of eating organic, such as an increase in nutrients, like Vitamin C, iron, and magnesium, in produce and an increase in omega-3 fatty acids in organic meat due to feeding requirements for the animal. Additionally, crops grown organically have shown lower levels of pesticide residue due to fertilization practices and lower levels of cadmium, a toxic heavy metal that can affect the liver and kidneys.

Generally, organic foods are more expensive than traditional foods, which is a factor that hinders many from opting to go fully organic. However, depending on your family’s financial situation or health requirements, it may be worth the additional cost.

Bring Some R&R Into Your Home

Your home is your oasis. A place to kick back and relax from your day. So, why not invest in some items that can boost the zen in your home? Check out the tips below to help you achieve ultimate bliss!

Introduce calming scents. A calming scent, like lavender, valerian, camomile, and bergamot, can do wonders for easing stress or anxiety. Find candles that incorporate these scents or purchase essential oils and diffusers, like this one from URPOWER that has over 44,000 5-star reviews on Amazon.

Drown out the noise. Having trouble sleeping due to distracting outside noises? A sound machine might be the solution. Like this one from Letsfit, most of them offer several sounds to choose from including natural noises, fan sound effects, and white noise.

Wake up more naturally. Studies have shown that waking up to natural light can allow you to wake with more energy and in a better mood. However, if you can’t wake to real sunlight, a wake-up light, like this one from Philips, can also get the job done. In addition to simulating the sunrise and sunset, it has natural wake-up sounds, FM radio, and tap snooze.

Get an at-home massage. Nothing feels better than a great massage. Bring that feeling home with a shoulder massager like this one from Naipo. Most massagers offer different modes and speeds for you to choose from depending on the area you are massaging or personal preference.

Whether you try one or more of these tips or find something else that works best for you, self care and relaxation is always a great investment!

Tips For Maximizing A Small Kitchen

Does your dream home come with a small kitchen? Not to fear! There are plenty of ways to get the most out of the tight space. You just have to get creative. Check out these tips!

Lighten up the area. Bright and light always opens up a space. Choose white or bright colors for the walls then pair that with unique overhead and under cabinet lighting. Don’t forget to open up any windows or glass doors to bring in natural light.

Get strategic with storage. Maximize the storage space you have by hanging items on the inside of lower cabinet doors or adding additional shelves to higher cabinets. Install a magnetic strip to a wall and use that to store your knives instead of the countertop or hang cutting boards and pots and pans from the wall or overhead.

Use your oven. Not one to make things in the oven often? Consider using it to store pots and pans. Then just remove the items when in use.

Purchase a mobile kitchen island. Need more chopping space? Consider purchasing a mobile island that can be moved into the kitchen while you’re cooking. Most islands come with drawers or cabinets for storing knives or spices. Then just move it out of the kitchen to the dining room when not in use.

Install additional shelving. Have an open wall that faces into the kitchen? Consider installing additional floating shelves for storage. Also, if you have a lot of space between the top of your cabinets and the ceiling, add a long shelf to store minimally used items.

Closing Costs 101

What are closing costs?

Closing costs are the fees for services required to finalize your mortgage. Typically, the buyer is responsible for paying these costs unless otherwise negotiated to have the seller contribute. Fees include (but certainly are not limited to) attorney, appraisal, inspection, government taxes, title insurance, home insurance, mortgage insurance, and property taxes.

How much are closing costs?

Closing costs usually total about 2 to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price, and they generally vary depending on the property purchased and state you reside in. Your lender will provide you with an estimate of your closing costs following your loan approval, and although that number can change slightly, your final costs should be similar.

How can you reduce closing costs?

Some of the fees that fall under your closing costs can be reduced by doing ample research on lenders at the beginning of the homebuying process. Then, compare any potential discounts or deals they offer before making your choice. Additionally, you can attempt to negotiate with the seller to cover part or all of your closing costs.

Can you avoid upfront closing costs?

If you think you will be unable to afford the closing costs upfront, you can opt to roll them into your loan. However, choosing this route often costs you more in the long run. At a minimum, you’ll have to pay interest on your closing costs, or depending on your lender, you may face a higher interest rate on your entire loan.

Moving On A Budget

Purchasing a new home is likely one of the largest financial investments you will make in your lifetime. And on top of the home cost itself, there are additional expenses that come along with this life milestone, like moving costs. Follow the below ideas for moving on a tight budget!

Compare DIY to professional moving services. Don’t instantly assume that moving yourself is going to be cheaper than hiring help. Collect three to four quotes from various moving companies and compare that to the cost of the truck, dollies, moving pads, and compensation for friends and family who help. If it nets out to be about the same or just slightly different, consider the stress professional help could eliminate.

Move in the off season. If you are flexible with your move at all, consider moving in the fall or winter. By scheduling your move in the off season, you could potential save up to 30 percent on hiring movers.

Don’t pay for boxes. Hunt your office for leftover boxes from deliveries or post on social media to see if any family members or friends have extras hanging around the house. You should also check behind stores like Walmart for any discarded boxes or ask a customer service member in the evenings once new inventory has been stocked.

Purge your home. Decrease the items you need to move by doing a full purge of your belongings. Move from room to room in your home and toss or donate anything that you haven’t used in a year. This will not only help make packing a breeze, but it eliminates unnecessary weight, which is generally used by movers to estimate cost.

How To Save Water (and Money!) At Home

As a homeowner, if you don’t maintain good water-saving habits, you could be sending more money than necessary straight down the drain every year. Start saving by trying out the tips below!

Replace the shower head. Daily showers account for a huge portion of water usage at home, especially if you have multiple people residing in the house. To help cut down on water used during each shower, swap out your normal shower head with a WaterSense-certified replacement that uses fewer gallons of water per minute. According to the EPA1, this can save a family of four up to 2,700 gallons of water a year.

Fix leaking faucets. According to Forbes2, a leaking faucet can result in up to 20 gallons of wasted water a day. To avoid the expense that comes with this waste, make it a habit to check your faucets regularly for leaks and repair them quickly. Most of the time, it’s a quick fix and can be done with a faucet repair kit purchased online or at a home improvement store.

Don’t hand wash dishes. In this day and age, most homes are equipped with water-efficient dishwashers. By running a mostly full or entirely full load in the dishwasher, you use 1/6 less water than if you hand wash your dishes.

Water your garden by hand. Using a hose to water your outdoor plants and garden can result in a lot of waste. Try opting for an old-fashioned watering can, allowing you to keep your yard alive and well while also controlling the amount of water used each time.