HomePath Ready Buyer™ Program

3percent_closing_costBuying a home can be a daunting process, especially for First-Time Buyers. At HomePath, we support smart and sustainable homeownership as it advances Fannie Mae’s mission to stabilize neighborhoods. That’s why HomePath is proud to bring you this homebuyer education course. If you’re a First-Time Homebuyer, we encourage you to take this education course to prepare you for the responsibilities of homeownership. After completing the course, if you attach the course completion certificate to an initial offer and successfully negotiate a purchase of a HomePath property, you can request up to 3% closing cost assistance toward your purchase.

Plus, completion of the HomePath Ready Buyer™ course also meets the homeownership education requirement for the Fannie Mae HomeReady® mortgage loan*. Find out if the HomeReady mortgage is right for you. Visit MyHomeReady.com.

4 Foods That Fight Dog Breath

puppybreathThere are a few universal canine characteristics that every dog lover can appreciate, like that wagging tail that greets you with happiness when you walk in the door, or those big eyes that melt your heart when you ask your dog to sit for a treat. But if there is one trait that everyone could live without, it would be the less adorable dog breath! Since your pet can do little to help his halitosis, try these natural remedies to add a breath of fresh air to your pooch’s palate!

 

carrots-300x222Carrots Plaque buildup is a key cause of bad breath, so consider serving up some baby carrot sticks as a daily treat to combat plaque. The beta-carotene and vitamins will also play a major role in maintaining your pet’s overall good health.

 

parsley-300x217Parsley Rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acids, and antioxidants, parsley is another natural breath freshener. Chop up some fresh parsley leaves to sprinkle over your dog’s meal, or add it to your next batch of homemade bones.

 

 

coconutoil-300x188Coconut Oil This oil has antibacterial properties that make it great for not only dog breath, but also their skin and bones, and it even helps with digestion and the immune system. Pour a teaspoon of coconut oil over your dog’s food every night.

 

brownrice-300x179Brown Rice Since digestion plays an important role in a dog’s breath, use brown rice as the base for your homemade dog food. Not only is it high in fiber, which aids in digestion, but it’s also loaded with powerful antioxidants.

Pressed Flower Craft

pressed-flower-hoopThe problem with fresh flowers is that they eventually wither. The solution is to press them. Pressed flowers can be used in a wide variety of projects, including this easy craft that creates a beautiful stained glass effect.

Materials:
  • flowers
  • wax paper
  • crayon shavings
  • iron
  • a frame of your choice (such as a floating frame, embroidery hoop, or homemade Popsicle frame)
Instructions:
  1. Press the flowers by placing them between two sheets of absorbent paper and topping them with heavy objects such as a stack of books for two to three weeks. Avoid paper towels with imprinted texture, because the pattern may imprint on the petals, and consider replacing paper after about a week.
  2. When the flowers are completely dried and pressed, cut out two sheets of wax paper to fit the size of the frame you are using.
  3. Arrange the pressed flowers on one sheet of wax paper. Sprinkle the crayon shavings on top of the flowers.
  4. Put the second sheet of wax paper on top. Iron the wax paper on a medium setting without steam until the crayons melt together.
  5. Once melted, allow the wax paper to cool before placing the craft into your frame. Place in a window where the sunlight can travel through your stained glass design.

Your new craft will give you years of enjoyment and bring back memories of the occasion when you first got the flowers. Not bad for such an easy project!

 

Your Shopping List for Hard-to-Kill Plants

hardtokillNot the green thumb type of gardener? Does your foliage tend to droop and die? Then these rugged plants are for you!

So what makes these plants hard to kill? They are considered to be low maintenance because they just need to be in the right light and given the right amount of water once the soil is dry to thrive. Reference the list below to find out how much light each plant requires, and then match them to the appropriate rooms in your house.


Low Light:
Some plants thrive in little to no light, which means that they would be great for rooms with little natural lighting. Perhaps the most well-known of these plants are the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) and the tropical Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata). Others hard-to-kill plants in this category include the Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema) and the Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum).

Medium Light:
The second group of plants to consider are ones that are a bit more light flexible, as they work well in a fair amount of natural lighting. One example is the tried and true Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum). The intricately patterned Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura) also fits the bill, as does the Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica).

High Light:
Do you have rooms in your house that just pour in the natural lighting? Then load up on these beauties! A great example of a hardy high-light plant is the Aloe Vera plant (Aloe barbadensis), which you can grow and then use the gel from its leaves to sooth burns. Another is the Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla), which adds a touch of outdoor living into your indoor space. The Jade Plant (Crassula ovata), the Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina), and the Zebra Haworthia (Haworthia attenuata) also fall into this group of plants that soak up the sun.


Maintaining beautiful, vibrant plants in your home can be easier than you think, regardless of your gardening skill level. Simply matching the right type of plant with the amount of lighting in your house is a great first step.

 

5 Simple Ways to Add Instant Curb Appeal

curbappealDespite what we’ve all been taught, people do judge books by their covers. When you’re selling your house, your exterior is that cover.

If people see any flaws or unsightliness, you could lose potential buyers before they even walk in the door.

Conversely, if you can wow them with your curb appeal, they’ll enter your home in a positive frame of mind.

The best part is, you don’t have to spend a fortune or break your back to boost your home’s curb appeal. Use these easy and affordable tips to create an exterior that invites buyers into your home.

Apply a fresh coat of paint.

Exteriors can face some harsh conditions. Depending on your location, wind, rain, snow, intense sun, and extreme temperatures can take their toll. But a little paint is usually all it takes to have your house looking like new again.

Sometimes, you don’t even have to repaint the whole exterior. Adding a splash of color to the front door, shutters, or other areas can really make a house pop.

Swap out or revitalize front door fixtures.

The front door is a natural focal point of any house. And even seemingly small details can make a big difference. For example, a unique door knocker or gleaming, freshly polished hardware can be a simple way to make it stand out.

Hide unsightly features.

Even the most attractive homes have features that are better hidden. Lattice is a great way to keep trash cans and air conditioning units out of sight. Or, if you prefer not adding another structure, you could plant a row of shrubs or trees instead.

For electrical boxes, water meters, and other fixtures attached to the house, adjusting the color to match your walls can act as camouflage. It won’t be completely out of sight, but it won’t draw unnecessary attention, either. And you won’t obstruct access.

Pressure wash decks, patios, and walkways.

If you don’t own a pressure washer, you can usually rent one from your local home improvement store. In just a few minutes you can spray away years of muck and grime buildup from wood, stone, and brick surfaces. You may be surprised by just how much of a difference you’ll see.

Plant some flora and fauna.

This one is an obvious suggestion, but it’s still one of the most effective ways to add curb appeal. It’s also one of the most versatile. Plants and flowers can add color, create a focal point in the yard, direct the eyes to the front of the house, conceal unsightly features, and even make use of spaces that may otherwise be wasted.

These simple upgrades are among the best investments you can make when selling your home. For a few hundred dollars or less, boosting your curb appeal could result in more potential buyers and thousands of extra dollars on the final price.

 

Your Road Map to Home Ownership

roadmaptonewhomeHome ownership is one of the greatest opportunities for establishing a stable financial future. It’s also one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life.

If you prepare properly, you’ll be able to find a home that suits your needs and your budget. Follow this road map to make your first home buying experience a positive one.

Phase 1: Plan
  1. Check your credit score, and clean up any issues or inconsistencies. You’ll need your score to determine a realistic interest rate, so you can factor this in when looking at homes.
  2. Pay off your debts as best as possible. 
Know your DTI (debt-to-income ratio), as it will be a major factor in getting a mortgage.
  3. Understand and prepare for mortgage requirements. If your down payment is less than 20 percent, you may be required to purchase PMI (private mortgage insurance), which costs about 0.5 percent of your loan, though these rates vary.
  4. Practice making mortgage payments. If you’re renting, tack on the difference between your current rent and a realistic mortgage payment to your monthly living cost. Add this amount to your savings while you get accustomed to making larger monthly payments.
  5. Set your moving goal, and calculate how much you’ll need to save per month to make your down payment. Adjust to save more than 10 percent per month to help you in the long run, as you’ll need to anticipate the cost of repairs and maintenance on your home.
Phase 2: Attack
  1. Consult a professional. 
It may be tempting to go it alone, but an expert will be able to provide additional insight on the process and any hidden costs along the way.
  2. Choose a budget based on salary. Aim for a home that costs only about two-and-a-half times your gross annual salary.
  3. Only buy a home that you plan to live in for at least three to five years. You may face tax implications if you sell in less than two years.
  4. Compare monthly expenses to income. 
Your monthly home expenses should not exceed 36 percent of your gross monthly income.
  5. Add in details. Factor in closing costs, which often amount to 5 percent of the mortgage price.
  6. Mind the resale value. Consider the neighborhood and school district when purchasing, even if you don’t have children. Both affect resale opportunity.

Purchasing your first home can feel a little overwhelming. There are many factors to consider and a lot of preparation. But if you take each phase above one step at a time, your journey should be smooth.

Bring the Outdoors In

smallspaceIf you need to freshen up your living area and want something that never goes out of style, bringing the outside in is always a good idea—nothing brings more life to a space than the addition of a houseplant. Whether it’s herbs in the kitchen, a small tree in the living room, or succulents in the bathroom, plants are always a designer’s favorite. Try some of these tips to add some nature into your indoor space!

Find your ideal area. Walk through your living space, and look at all of the areas where a plant could work. You want to place your plants in an area where it will be most visible. A beautiful plant in your home’s entryway, for instance, sets the mood from the moment you walk in.

Vary the sizes. Mix up the plants that appear throughout your home for variety. Try incorporating different types and sizes for what is needed throughout your living area. For example, a tall tree can add height to a living room with a low couch, and a short plant on the kitchen table draws the eye to the center of the room.

Try a vertical garden. You can still enjoy the benefits of having plants even if you have limited floor area. A vertical garden on a wall or a hanging plant in an unused corner of a room make great use of space.

Use a living centerpiece. Most everyone would love to have fresh-cut flowers on their kitchen table year-round, but it can become expensive. With a planter, you can have real flowers on your table at all times, for a fraction of the cost. If you want to mix it up, have two or three planters that you rotate to different locations around the house.

Think of functionality. Plants can be more than decorative. Bring your favorite herbs into the kitchen, and they can provide a tasty complement to your meals, as well as greenery to your kitchen window ledge. Because of its many health benefits, aloe is another great plant to have in any home.

Adding plants to your home’s decor will create a more vibrant, living space and can even add a breath of fresh air (literally) by improving the quality of your indoor air. So take an interior design tip from Mother Nature, and bring a touch of the outdoors inside your home!

8 Easy Ways to Eliminate Pet Odors from Your Home

freshhomeIf you’re one of those families that has multiple pets, you know it can be hard to keep your home clean and smelling fresh. Here are some tips on how to keep your home from smelling like a pet store!


Bathe and groom your pets regularly.
This will keep excess dirt, oils, dander, and any odors that may be on your pets’ coats from being carried throughout your house. Brushing and grooming can be done more often, since it is just as important. Whenever possible, brush your pets outside to prevent loose hair from finding its way onto and into furniture and carpeting.


Get rid of the hair on your furnishings.
Use a vacuum cleaner with a pet attachment or a lint roller to do away with loose hair at least once a week. If the lint roller or vacuum attachment isn’t working, try using a rubber glove (assuming that a little dampness is all right for your furniture, of course). Put in on your hand, moisten it a bit, and gently glide it over the surface.


Vacuum the floors.
You should try to vacuum your floors once or twice a week, depending on the number of pets you have in your home. This will help lessen the amount of hair and cat litter on the floor that leaves behind those lingering pet smells. You can also use a squeegee to pull up the stray hairs in your carpet that your vacuum can’t get to.


Check your air filters.
Pet hair can build up and clog your air filters. Be sure to change your air-conditioning or furnace filters at least every three to six months.


Be sure to always use disinfectants.
Many odors are caused by bacteria. Try using high-quality sanitizing cleaners that kill more than 99 percent of germs for those lingering odors and surface bacteria. Be sure to use products that are safe for curious tongues and noses!


Eliminate those urine odors right away.
If your pet has an accident inside, clean the area right away using an enzymatic cleaner. These are designed especially for eliminating pet odors and destroying any pheromones and molecules left behind.


Don’t forget to wash their bedding.
If your pet has a bed with a removable cover, be sure to wash that, as well as other pet bedding, at least twice a month.


Keep up with the litter box.
You should scoop the cat litter at least once a day. Keep the litter fresh with baking soda, as this can be used to absorb the smell. Try using a plug-in air freshener in the room where you keep the litter box.

 

How to Be a Mindful Homeowner

auditingenergyWhether you have recently relocated, or you have called your house a home for years—all stages of home ownership can benefit from tips and reminders on how to show homes and communities a little bit of love.

Use this checklist to make sure you’re keeping up with all home and community matters, from maintenance tips and money savers to being good to the environment and your neighbors.

Energy Savers
• Invest in a drying rack and a clothesline so you can skip the dryer year-round.
• Lower the temperature on your hot water heater to 120ºF, and toss a hot water heater blanket over top of it for extra insulation.
• Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL and LED light bulbs for a 75 percent and 85 percent energy savings, respectively.
• Check the amount of insulation in your home, and install more where needed. Let the home’s design and the climate you live in be your guides for the proper amount.
• Plant mature trees on the east- and west-facing sides of your home to keep it cool in the summer and to block the cold wind in the winter.

Home Improvers
• When making home improvements, be sure to check for national and state tax benefits.
• Improve indoor air quality by maintaining your air filtration systems and decorating your home with houseplants.
• Make sure all home electronics have proper surge protection, and consider a smart power strip, which will cut the power to auxiliary electronics when not in use, for electronics such as your TV.
• Clean indoor and outdoor vents of dust and obstructions on a semi-annual basis.
• Regularly check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to see if they are in working order, and your fire extinguisher to see if it is fully charged and free of leakage, corrosion, damage, and defects.

Community Matters
• Make sure that you know and review your community and homeowner association (HOA) rules often. Rules are typically more applicable during the change in seasons.
• Set boundaries with your children and pets to make sure they have good manners. Dog owners should be especially considerate of noise levels and designated bathroom spots.
• Develop relationships with your neighbors, whether they are young, old, community locals, or new residents.
• Be good to your neighbors by reporting suspicious activity, lending a hand with weather-related problems, or offering to help with a tedious home maintenance task.
• Take pride in your community by helping to maintain the whole neighborhood, not just your own yard.

New to the neighborhood?  Download this contact sheet to organize important phone numbers for easy access.

 

Finances – SMART Goals

SMARTWhat is a financial goal and how many of us actually sit down to create one for ourselves? While you take this time to think of ways to organize and clean out your home, mind and body, also take a minute to reflect on how you would like your finances to work for you. When creating a financial goal and thinking of what you want your financial future to look like, a good start is to understand the SMART goal technique.

SMART goals are goals that embody five distinct traits: 

Specific: Your financial goals should be as specific as possible in order to successfully achieve exactly what you want. Always include as much detail as possible. What am I striving for? How will I achieve it? Who does it involve? Why is it important to me? If getting out of debt is important to you, think about what debt you want to tackle. Is it credit card debt or student loans? Pick one and focus on that for your goal.

Measurable: For a goal to be effective, it must be measurable. Define how much you will achieve by accomplishing this goal. A goal to “make a lot of money” is not helpful because you can’t measure “a lot.” Let’s look at getting out of credit card debt. What does that mean to you and what does it look like? Saying “I want to reduce my credit card debt by $3,000” is a start to being measurable. How will you accomplish paying down that debt? Do you just “put a little extra in every month when I have that money?” Unfortunately, that may not work very well. You need to be specific and you need to be able to measure it. Figure out exactly how much extra you can pay every month towards your debt. Now you have a concrete figure. You know you need this amount every month. You can now work on ways to make sure you this much to pay off your debt. This also breaks down your goal of paying your credit card debt into smaller goals that you can attain on a measurable frame. Now, you aren’t focused on paying off all your credit card debt, which can feel overwhelming. You are viewing it as paying off a specific, measurable amount each month.

Attainable: A big mistake we often make with goals, and one of the main reasons why we may fail to meet goals, is because we shoot for the moon with a goal we can’t reasonable achieve. As you are creating your financial goal, ask yourself, “can I actually do this/is it possible?” If you have made your goal specific and measurable, it should help in determining if your goal is attainable. It’s also okay if your goal may seem slightly out of reach. That’s the great thing with goals. We can always adjust them if we need. The point is that you are working toward something. Making a goal too easy to achieve means you aren’t growing and changing something about yourself. Sometimes, we have to stretch and struggle to reach that goal. It can help you to be more of who you want be rather than who you have been. If your goal is to pay down credit card debt, challenge yourself to rework your budget to be able to put that money toward your goal.

Realistic: Setting realistic goals involves the methods we intend to use to achieve our goals. An example of a realistic goal might be, “I want to pay off my credit card debt of $3,000 by paying $300 a month for the next ten months.” Is the $300 something you can work into your budget for putting toward that goal? A realistic goal must be in the realm of possibility for you.

Time-Bound: This last element of SMART financial goals is really important. Effective goals are time-bound or timely. What does that mean? It means your goal will have a starting point, an end point and measurable time or milestones in between. Making your goal time-bound provides a framework for you to work within.

  • Time makes your goal more SPECIFIC: “I’ll eliminate my credit card debt in ten months.”
  • Time makes your goal more MEASURABLE: “I’ll put X dollars away every Sunday and then pay N dollars on the 15th of the month toward my credit card bill.”
  • Time makes your goal ATTAINABLE: “I can’t pay $3,000 in 2 months toward my credit card debt, but I can afford $300 a month to put toward it.”
  • Time makes your goal REALISTIC: “Is the time needed to attain this goal really the best use of time for me?”

To discuss more mortgage related topics, please click here.

 

Connecting with People

Connecting GroupFor us to accomplish anything worthwhile, we cannot do it alone. We need others to help us along the way.

It was a pleasure for me to share company with Anthony Petruzzi, author of Connecting with People, Life Lessons from a PEZ Dispenser.

Anthony and I met about 10 years ago at a Multi-Chamber event at College of DuPage. He was passing out flyers for a networking event and literally bumped right into me. He said; “Hey, I need to meet you!” I said; “Hey, I need to meet you too!” He gave me his flyer. Connectings with People

I went to his networking event and it proved to be very worthwhile. I was able to “connect” with people from all walks of life. I was able to build friendships and business relationships, many of which are still intact today. Cindy and Anthony

People will tell you all kinds of things. Don’t listen unless they are telling you how to succeed.

Anthony has written this book, which I highly recommend reading. If people are at the center of every aspect of your life, wouldn’t it make sense to learn how to better communicate with all of them to build stronger relationships?

Would you like to connect with Anthony? Click here for more information.

Choose the Best Paint for All Your Rooms

paintsheenWhen selecting paint for your home, color is likely your first consideration, but the sheen of a paint is just as important. In fact, it’s arguably more important because it affects the look and function of your paint. This handy guide will help you choose the best sheen for every room in your house.

But first, what is sheen, anyway?

A paint’s sheen is the amount of light it reflects, which can dramatically change how a color looks in your home. It is determined by the amount of additives in proportion to dye within a paint. The higher the sheen, the more durable the paint will be. But it will require more coats.

Keep that in mind when buying paint, so you can select the best choice for the room you will be painting.

Sheen Options and Characteristics

FLAT/MATTE

This is paint that contains no sheen. The biggest benefit to a flat finish is the paint coverage: it typically requires only one or two coats, which helps speed the job along. It can also make imperfections in the surface less noticeable. However, it is not nearly as durable as other paints and is difficult to clean.

Best for: low-traffic areas, like ceilings and adult bedrooms

SATIN AND EGGSHELL

While still on the low end of the sheen scale, these finishes have a little bit of a sheen to them. They reflect a little bit more light than flat/matte paints and are more durable.

Best for: high-traffic areas, small spaces, living rooms, dining rooms, and children’s bedrooms

SEMIGLOSS/GLOSS

The more glossy a paint is, the more resistant it will be to dirt and scuff marks. It’s also easier to clean than any other sheen but high gloss. Its ability to repel moisture also makes it great for high-humidity areas. The trade-off is that any bumps or dents in the surface will be more noticeable.

Best for: kitchens, bathrooms, trim, windows, and doors.

HIGH GLOSS

Incredibly durable, stain resistant, and easy to clean, high gloss paint can stand up to the messiest conditions. The downside? It requires several coats and will highlight flaws. And if the surface is too smooth, it will take on a plastic appearance.

Best for: kitchens, doors, and window trims

When selecting any paint, it’s a good idea to apply a small amount to part of the area so you can see how it will look in your home. The last thing you want to do is have to repaint after all your hard work.

Red Door Design Spaces really has the eye for color, as well as, many other interior decorating experiences. Are you looking for a few more recommendations? Feel free to Click here for more information

Vegetables You Can Buy Once and Regrow Forever!

Regrowing celery from left overs

Ever wonder how you could make your favorite vegetables last longer? You can, just by saving your vegetable leftovers and regrowing them in water. It’s a simple, cost-saving way to get the most of your veggies, keep your fridge replenished, and reduce your grocery bill!

For many vegetables, you only need to place the scraps into a bowl of water and they’ll start growing on their own. Of course, you should make sure that the container you use is appropriate for the size of the vegetable, and that you check the vegetable every day to see if it still has enough water. We’ve listed some examples of commonly eaten vegetables below, but keep in mind that this method of regrowing can work for other vegetables as well, such as cabbage, fennel and leeks.


Lettuce
Lettuce is one of those staples that tends to get used in all kinds of meals year-round, so chances are you’re buying a head of lettuce once a week or so. Cut back on your lettuce purchases by first cutting off the bottom of the lettuce head you already have at home. Then put the section in a small bowl with shallow water, about a half-inch. Then just leave it on a well-lit window sill, and replace the water every few days. Halfway through the first week, check out the center to see if anything’s growing. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you see! After about 2 weeks, you should have a new half-head of lettuce, so when you have enough green leaves sprouting up, eat away!


Celery
Celery is one of the easiest foods to grow from leftover scraps. Just cut off the bottom 2 inches of the stalk, and place the stalk in a small bowl of water. Much like with the lettuce, make sure to keep the bowl in direct sunlight for as long as possible each day. After about 3-4 days, you should notice regrowth happening in the center of the stalk. Be patient while the celery growth process happens in that center, and you’ll be rewarded.


Green Onion
If you tend to top your food with green onions a lot, this is a pretty simple way to ensure you always have some around. Keep the white part of the onion with any roots that are still intact. Drop the roots in a narrow drinking glass with enough water to cover them, and move the onion around so the roots are pointing down. Put that on a window sill that gets some sunlight. Make sure you change the water out once every couple of days so the roots don’t get greasy. Within about a week, you’ll have a brand-new set of green onions!


Carrot Greens
People love their carrots, but they don’t often make use of the entire vegetable, discarding the carrot tops. Stop the waste and grow your own greens for a salad! When you prepare your carrots for consumption, leave about an inch of carrot with the carrot tops. Then put the cut-off ends in a shallow bowl of water, leave them where they can get sun, and watch those greens grow! Within a few days, you’ll see sprouts coming out of the carrot tops.


It’s amazing what you can do with a few vegetable leftovers, a little loving care and water. And just think of how much fun you’ll having bringing your vegetables to life!

Sell Your Home Faster with These Staging Tips

Interior of modern living room

Home staging can help you sell your house faster and for top dollar. But creating an environment with broad appeal can be challenging when you’re still living in the space. If you’re having difficulties setting the stage, try implementing these tips!

If you have children . . .

Keeping your house clutter-free can be a challenge with kids in the house. Be sure to put most of the toys in storage (especially large items, like play kitchens), and keep the rest out of sight when showing your home. You’ll also want to clear kids’ drawings and artwork from refrigerators and walls.

Since not all home buyers have children of their own, it’s a good idea to make over children’s spaces. Convert the playroom into a simple space that buyers can picture their own belongings in. And make children’s bedrooms more universally appealing by repainting the walls to a neutral color and removing kid-themed decor.

To make this transition easier for your kids, have them choose their favorite toys, books, and stuffed animals to keep in an easily accessible box or storage area.

If you have pets . . .

As cute, cuddly, and lovable as your pets may be, their presence should be minimized when selling your home. Remove photos of pets from the refrigerator, walls, and tabletops. Seal up doggie doors. Keep pet toys, food, and water bowls out of sight. And pack up cages, carriers, and cat trees.

Be vigilant about eradicating hair and odors. They’re a big turnoff to potential buyers, and dander is a common allergen. Vacuum daily, or even twice a day if your pet sheds a lot. Use an enzyme cleaner to remove urine stains and odor. It may be a good idea to have your carpets professionally cleaned as well.

If possible, get the pets out of the house—at least during showings. Send them to a kennel or pet sitter, or ask a friend or relative to take them for a short time.

If you have small spaces . . .

You can’t easily add square footage to a home, but you do have ways of making your space appear bigger.

One strategy is to make use of light, color, and patterns. Brighter rooms look bigger and more inviting, so maximize the light as much as possible. Place mirrors strategically to reflect images and light. Incorporating lighter colors on the walls and furniture will also help open up the room.

Stripes draw the eyes in the direction they point. So you can use a striped rug to make the room seem longer, or vertical stripes on the walls to accentuate height.

Decluttering is important when staging any home, but it is paramount when spacing is at a premium. Place an emphasis on storing anything you don’t immediately need. And don’t limit it to open areas. Remove half the items from your closets to give the appearance of more storage space.

Scale furniture to fit the size of the room, and keep walking pathways open. If you can, put some furniture in storage, or rent smaller furniture while your home is on the market.

In bathrooms, open shower curtains so buyers can see all the way to the back of the tub.

Need a plan for staging your home, please click here.

4 Areas to Boost Spring Market Curb Appeal

paint brushMany focus solely on the inside of their homes and forget about curb appeal – you know, the way a home looks from the curb? While it may be challenging for sellers to understand the idea of investing in a home they are leaving, the goal is to sell and get top dollar.

While your client may not be prepared to invest in some of these items, at the very least, be sure the landscaping has been tended to and the siding is clean and intact.

So let’s take a look at the 4 places money can best be spent outside:

Landscaping and Lighting

gardenSpice up the exterior of the home with a freshly manicured lawn, new shrubbery, colorful flowers and top it off with lighting. New shrubs and a crisp lawn won’t show well in the dark so install some outdoor lighting and call attention to the great new place that just happens to be ready to buy.

Don’t forget to shine a light on the house numbers – buyers can’t take note of the address if it can’t been seen.

Siding and Paint

Make sure the siding or paint is clean and not cracking or peeling. At the very least you want the outside of the home to be clean. If your clients aren’t in a position to replace or repaint the exterior of the home you can always use a power washer to spruce up siding or a hose to clean up exterior paint.

New Doors and Windows

If a home is dated, new windows and doors can give the home a cleaner, newer look – in the end more appealing to your potential buyers. If the sellers are on a budget then you might want to consider a new coat of paint; a fresh new look will breathe life back into weathered windows and doors.

Your Roof

A damaged roof is cause for concern and is best addressed immediately. Replacing a roof will be something that will appeal to buyers as it’s a big ticket item they would rather not deal with in just a few short years. Also, with a new roof comes a new asking price – that’s right this will increase the value of the home.

At the end of the day you’ll want potential buyers to want to walk into the home and the only way to do this is to draw them in with an attractive exterior.

The Home Refinancing Plan Banks Don’t Want You Knowing

house, money, calculatorThere has never been a better time to refinance your home. That’s because of a little-known government program called the Home Affordable Refinance Plan® (HARP). This allows Americans to refinance their homes at shockingly low rates, and reduce their payments by an average of $3,300 a year.
But here’s the catch – like most government programs, this is likely temporary. Currently the program is set to expire in 2016. But the good news is, once you’re in, you’re in.

It’s like a true middle-class stimulus package

This is unknown to many, but the Home Affordable Program is for the middle class. If your mortgage is $625,500 or less (unless you live in a high-cost area then the loan limits may be higher), you most likely qualify. Basically, the Government wants banks to cut your rates, which puts more money in your pocket (which is good for the economy). However, the banks aren’t too happy about this – here’s why:

  1. You can shop several lenders, not just your current mortgage holder
  2. Your home’s Loan-to-value (LTV) can be 80% to 125%

You think banks like the above? Rest assured, they do not. They’d rather keep you at the higher rate you financed at years ago. That’s why the pressure is on time-wise. The Middle Class seems to miss out on everything (did you ride the last stock bubble? Probably not). Thus, it’s almost a no-brainer to jump on this now.

You can greatly benefit:

  • The average monthly savings for most eligible Americans is $275. Can you use an extra $275 a month?
  • Many homeowners not only save every month, but depending on their current rates, they can also shorten their term.
Almost a million homeowners could still save money, but sadly, most of them think the HARP program is too good to be true. Remember, HARP is a free government program and there’s absolutely NO COST to see if you are eligible.

This is why it’s a no-brainer – you will likely lower your payment, possibly shorten your term, AND can also get cash. This is how powerful that little word called “interest” is. The middle class never sees “breaks” like this. So this is your chance to get “in”.

This often overlooked method to lower your payment (and continue to make the higher payment by directing the excess to the principal) is a great way for you to pay off your mortgage in a shorter period of time, all the while saving more money in interest over the life of the loan.

To find these rates, please click here.

Celebrate the Day!

St PatricksEvery year on March 17, the Irish and the Irish-at-heart across the globe observe St. Patrick’s Day. What began as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland has become an international festival celebrating Irish culture with parades, dancing, special foods and a whole lot of green.

  • Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional St. Patrick’s Day dish. In 2009, roughly 26.1 billion pounds of beef and 2.3 billion pounds of cabbage were produced in the United States.
  • Irish soda bread gets its name and distinctive character from the use of baking soda rather than yeast as a leavening agent.
  • Lime green chrysanthemums are often requested for St. Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations.
  • The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in the United States on March 17, 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City.
  • More than 100 St. Patrick’s Day parades are held across the United States. New York City and Boston are home to the largest celebrations.
  • At the annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade, participants march up 5th Avenue from 44th Street to 86th Street. Each year, between 150,000 and 250,000 marchers take part in the parade, which does not allow automobiles or floats.
  • There are seven places in the United States named after the shamrock, the floral emblem of Ireland including Mount Gay-Shamrock, WV; Shamrock, TX; Shamrock Lakes, IN; and Shamrock, OK.
  • Sixteen U.S. places share the name of Ireland’s capital, Dublin. With 44,541 residents, Dublin, CA, is the largest of the nice, followed by Dublin, OH, with 39,310.
  • Other towns with the luck of the Irish include Emerald Isle, North Carolina and Irishtown, Illinois.
  • There are 34.7 million U.S. residents with Irish ancestry. This number is more than seven times the population of Ireland itself.
  • Irish is the nation’s second most frequently reported ancestry, ranking behind German.
  • Across the country, 11 percent of residents lay claim to Irish ancestry. That number more than doubles to 23 percent in the state of Massachusetts.
  • Irish is the most common ancestry in 54 U.S. counties, of which 44 are in the Northeast. Middlesex County in Massachusetts tops the list with 348,978 Irish Americans, followed by Norfolk County, MA, which has 203,285.
  • Irish ranks among the top five ancestries in every state except Hawaii and New Mexico. It is the leading ancestry group in Delaware, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
  • There are approximately 144,588 current U.S. residents who were born in Ireland.

FREE Report! What is your Home Worth?

FREE COMPARATIVE MARKET ANALYSIS

What is a ‘Comparative Market Analysis’?

CMAComparative market analysis is an examination of the prices at which similar properties in the same area recently sold. Real estate agents perform a comparative market analysis for their clients to help them determine a price to list when selling a home or a price to offer when buying a home. Since no two properties are identical, agents make adjustments for the differences between the sold properties and the one that is about to be purchased or listed to determine a fair offer or sale price. Essentially, a comparative market analysis is a less-sophisticated version of a formal, professional appraisal.

What do you think your home is worth? Please feel free to contact me for your FREE COMPARATIVE MARKET ANALYSIS. Real Estate Agents use this market analysis as an industry standard.

Your FREE CMA will take 1-2 business days to complete. Are you ready to get started?

Use the Contact Us form to the right and type FREE CMA in the Message Box. We will reach out to you shortly.

You personally can make America stronger!

voteI am not here to tell you who to vote for. It is your responsibility to research the issues and make an informed decision about who best represents your concerns.

Your vote is your voice as an American citizen. It’s your opportunity to be heard, to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions and to have a say in important issues that affect your community. On Election Day, every vote matters.

Citizens of many countries complain about the world around them, and many don’t have the option to change their world. However, you do. The youth of America have the power to make decisions that can affect the country. If you don’t like the way America is run, and yet you don’t vote in elections or make your opinions heard, then you, not the government is at fault.

Be part of the solution! “We the People” need representation in Washington, take the money out of politics and let the people have their voice. Your vote is vitally important. Spread the word!

You can’t make this stuff up!

Open HouseCall it scoping out the competition or call it being nosy, but I am always interested in hearing about people’s experiences with other realtors.

Real Estate clients were finishing up a tour with an agent in Laguna Beach, CA, who frankly didn’t show them anything that matched their needs. Maybe in an attempt to redeem himself, he said he had driven by an open house earlier that would be a good fit for them.

So, they arrive and the open house is jam packed. The couple swoon over the house’s architecture, layout and upgrades. They had never seen an open house with such decadent catering and elegantly dressed buyers.  They give their agent thumbs up, “Good job! This might be the one!” As they are piling caviar onto their plates and sipping champagne, a woman who presumably was the listing agent, all of a sudden approaches them. They gush “This is a lovely home. Please tell the seller we are very impressed,”  to which she responds “Um, who are you?”

“We’re here for the open house,” explained the couple .  “This is indeed an open house…. for my friends and family. I am the new owner.” Embarrassed beyond belief, they put down their plates & slithered out.