We Did What the Defense Attorney Could Not Do!

20160511_131803Meet our client Oscar. When he was referred to us in the beginning of April 2016, he was literally on the edge of losing his home. He had spent thousands of dollars in an attempt to keep his home but had no success.

Unfortunately, he was injured at work and his employer refused his workman’s compensation benefits. That is when he depleted his savings and fell behind with his mortgage. After surgical treatment and months of recovery, he was able to take a new position and begin full time employment.

He had tried to obtain a Loan Modification by himself with no success. He turned to a Foreclosure Defense Attorney who took his money but “continued” the Foreclosure process. He was told he could not qualify for a modification.

After meeting him and discussing his situation, we decided we could help him. The long and short of it is that Oscar has been granted a Loan Modification. Today, May 11th, 2016, his Foreclosure was delayed to allow him time to make his trial payments. After that, he will receive a permanent modification and his order for foreclosure will be dismissed.

We are so happy for Oscar. If you know someone in trouble or someone who could benefit from our services, please pass our information along.

Beet Pesto and Pasta

Beet Pesto & PastaWho says pasta can’t be pink? Nutritious and delicious beets turn this pesto bright pink—a perfect transformation to celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
  • 3 large beets, tops trimmed
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ½ cup pistachios, shelled
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound dry pasta

 

Directions:
  1. Prep the beets by removing the stem and most of the root, and then thoroughly rinse until they are clean.
  2. Add the beets to a pot of boiling water, and boil for about 30 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Drain the water from the pot, and then peel the outer layer off of the beets. It’s best to do this under running water so that the vegetable doesn’t stain your hands.
  4. To assemble the pesto, chop the beets into quarters, and place them into the food processor, along with the smashed garlic, pistachios, lemon juice, olive oil, and cheese. Pulse until smooth.
  5. To prepare the pasta, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta of your choice, and cook until al dente.
  6. Toss the pasta with the beet pesto, and garnish with chopped pistachios and Parmesan cheese before serving.

Insight on the Millennial Home Buyer by Chrystal Caruthers

Millennial BuyerMillennials are the largest generation in America. They are a demographic bonanza to the real estate agents who know how to successfully market and convert these young adults. New research shows, they are buying houses in the most unlikely places.

Jonesboro, AR; Fargo, ND; Laredo, TX all top the list of places with the highest percentage of Millennial homebuyers, according to the Ellie Mae Millennial Tracker, a major mortgage industry software provider.

“The mortgage industry is poised to experience a monumental shift as more millennial homebuyers enter the market,” said Joe Tyrrell, executive vice president of corporate strategy at Ellie Mae. “There are roughly 87 million would-be homebuyers in the millennial generation and 91% of them say they intend to own a home one day.”

Demographics

Single ladies are well represented in the March numbers. At least 31% were women with an average FICO score of 724.  Their average age, 30.

Men accounted for 66% of primary borrower closed loans in March. They had a 727 average FICO score and their average age was 30.

Still married couple made up 51% of millennial buyers in March, 48% single. The average age, 29.

The average loan amount was $188,502, with a 87% loan to-value-ratio, according to Ellie Mae. Most, 59%, were conventional. This says that young buyers are taking advantage of new loan programs that allow lower down payments without the penalty of mortgage insurance premiums.

Loan Type

Most millennials, 59%,  chose a conventional loan. With an average FICO of 749, these young people were able to close in 42 days, faster than average.

For those who went FHA, 38%, they had a 692 average FICO and managed to close in 43 days, still faster than market average of 44 days from contract to close.

Compared to the average American, millennials who buy homes tend to have higher credit scores. The average American has a 687 FICO score.

Still, lenders are opening the credit box, allowing more borrowers to qualify for loans. The average FICO score for conventional closed loans in March 2016 was 733, down slightly from 755 in March 2015, according to Ellie Mae.

Rates

Millennials are smart to lock in today’s low rates. In March, the average rate for all loans dropped to 4.12% from 4.22% in February for a 30-year fixed.

FHA borrowers really saw rate advantages at just 4.07% on average in March, down from 4.17% in February, according to the report.

For more detailed information regarding the mortgage process, please visit with one of my preferred vendors, Jim Francis, with First Centennial Mortgage http://www.mortgageservicesltd.com/TeamFrancis

Picture Perfect: Photo Tips That Sell Homes

powershotsDid you know that 90 percent of buyers start their home search online, and most first impressions are made from online photos? If you want to make sure that get people interested in buying your home, you need to make sure that that impression is a good one.

Follow these tips for photos that stand out, attract buyers, and get homes sold.

Photography Basics

Change Perspectives.

Listed photos can become redundant when all images are shown at an eye-level perspective. Keep a buyer’s attention by getting low and shooting up, or standing on a stepstool for a bird’s-eye view to create a more dynamic perspective.

Zoom in.

It’s tough to notice the original crown molding or your brand-new, eco-friendly appliances when the photo was taken from the doorway. Take a few steps forward to zoom in on can’t-miss features.

Steady the Focus.

Blurry images are a huge turnoff to buyers. The most common culprit is a shaky hand. A tripod can fix that. Don’t have one? Simply steady the camera on a surface for an innovative alternative.

Lighting Matters

It’s best to photograph interiors in natural light. Open up the blinds, and let the sunshine in, but be careful to avoid harsh, direct sunlight, which causes intense shadows. Photograph each room at the time of day that shows it in its best (and natural) light.

Avoid the flash. A flash can result in glare and add some unsightly or dated coloring to your home. In rooms with little to no natural light, turn on as many warmly lit light sources as it takes to produce an inviting ambiance.

Outdoor photographs should be taken on a clear day, with minimal clouds. Follow the sun. Sunlight adds warmth to photographs, but consider where the sun is in relation to your home before snapping the shutter. You want the sun behind you in the photo, so if the front of your home faces east, photograph the front of the home in the morning and the back of the home in the afternoon.

Content that Sells

What you choose to photograph is just as important as the quality of the shots. Make sure your listing has the following shots.

Favorite Home Features.

Walk around your home, and note your favorite features. They can be vanity elements, like the reclaimed wood built-ins in the living room, or functional details, like the updated ventilation system that reduces energy costs.

Photograph the unique characteristics that can impress with just their looks, and capture the brand names or features that convey “updated and green” without saying a word.

Buyers rank kitchens, bathrooms, storage options, and eco-friendly features as the top amenities in a home. Make sure to highlight at least one wow-worthy item, per amenity, so that your home features all four of these 
in-demand items.

The great outdoors.

It’s easy to want to point your lens toward your home with outside shots, but don’t forget about the other outdoor features. Flaunt the outdoor play area for kids and pets, and snap some images of your budding flower beds or fruit trees. Decks, outdoor storage, and even a spacious driveway are all photo-worthy areas.

Creating a picture perfect listing doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Just follow the advice above to show off your home like a pro.

 

Tips for Trouble-Free Pet Introductions

introducingpets1Change is a big part of life, especially when it comes to living with new people. If you’ve experienced this, then you know that it can also be difficult, and that an adjustment period is often necessary. The same holds true, if not more so, for pets. Whether you are giving a new pet a home, merging households with someone else, or giving your current pet a playmate, introducing pets to each other (or children) can be stressful and should be taken slowly. Follow these suggestions to help make the process go more smoothly.

Introducing Dogs to Dogsintroducingdogstodogs

  • Start in a neutral area to prevent the original from being territorial, and supervise closely.
  • Watch for signs of aggression, and separate them if they don’t seem to like each other.
  • Offer plenty of praise and treats when they get along well together.

Introducing Cats to Catsintroducingcatstocats-300x187

  • Keep them in separate rooms to get used to each other’s sounds and scents.
  • Once they do, put them in the same room, but watch for aggressiveness.
  • Continue to let them interact more if their first meeting goes well.

Introducing Dogs to Catsintroducingdogstocats-300x187

  • Take your dog out on a long walk before their first meeting.
  • Keep your dog on a leash when you introduce him to the cat.
  • Let your cat set the pace, and don’t force them to interact if they don’t want to.

Introducing Pets to Your Familyintroducingpetstofamily-300x187

  • Make this a slow and gradual experience, starting with a few short periods of time.
  • Teach your kids how to pet animals appropriately, explaining how to pick up and hold a young or small pet correctly, and that grabbing him by his tail or ears is dangerous.
  • Before introducing your pet to a baby, let the animal smell something of the baby’s to get familiar with the scent.
  • When you do introduce them, do so at home (a familiar environment) while holding the baby, and let your pet smell the baby from a distance.
  • You can gradually get closer as they get acquainted.

9 Home Repairs You Can Count On (and When to Expect Them)

homerepairsIf you have ever purchased a home, you know that saving for that down payment is tedious. After budgeting and making financial sacrifices, the last thing any new homeowner wants to worry about is expensive home repairs. But unless you are prepared to ask the right questions of the previous homeowner, you may need to stick to the dreaded budget for longer than you think.

Here is what you need to know about common home repairs before you buy:

  1. Roof (every 30 years)
    The life expectancy of an asphalt shingle roof (the most common type in America) is about 30 years, with the average roof replacement costing around $12,000—although more accurate estimates are based on size, pitch (slope), and surface material. More high-end roof materials include slate, sheet metal, ceramic, and, of course, solar panels, all with varying life expectancies.
  2. Windows (every 30 to 50 years)
    When it comes to windows, wood casement windows have a longer life expectancy than aluminum casement windows, averaging about 50 years (wood) versus 30 years (aluminum). Obviously, the number and quality of the windows will greatly affect the replacement cost, should it be necessary. And for a better return on your investment, look for windows that are ENERGY STAR qualified. To get the most of existing windows, or when replacing windows, go to www.energy.gov for more information.
  3. Gutters (every 30 years)
    Gutters and downspouts are estimated to last for about 30 years; however, inefficient or improperly installed gutters can lead to a backup of water or ice, and can damage roofs, siding, and even a home’s foundation. Any standing water near the drainage point of a downspout may indicate improper installation, and you should ask the previous homeowner how long this has been occurring.
  4. Central Air (15 years)
    Much like a furnace, the lifespan and efficiency of a home’s central air conditioning depends on the relation of the size of the unit to the home. Several factors come into play when choosing the right unit for a home, such as the amount of wall and attic insulation, the efficiency and placement of your windows and doors, and the orientation of your home to the sun.
  5. Furnace/HVAC (15 years)
    A furnace replacement is on the mid-to-higher end of the home repair spectrum. Proper maintenance plays a big part in the lifetime of a HVAC system, so be sure to ask the previous homeowners about their upkeep. If you do need to purchase a new system, make sure you do your research, and understand the term annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), which measures how efficiently a furnace converts gas into heating energy.
  6. Hot Water Heater (13 to 14 years)
    A water heater replacement is one of the most common household repairs, considering their life expectancy is about 13 to 14 years for a gas and an electric unit, respectively. It is not difficult to determine when you need to replace your water heater, as a decrease in water temperature will dictate the replacement.
  7. Carpet or Vinyl Flooring (11 years, 30 years)
    Interior projects, like flooring replacement, are often for aesthetic purposes rather than need-based replacements. But if you are considering a home with carpet, you should know that the lifetime of a carpet is only about 11 years. When considering an update, know that vinyl or tile flooring usually has about a 30-year life expectancy.
  8. Hardwood Flooring (100 years)
    Real hardwood floors have the longest life expectancy—up to 100 years—but may require refinishing to keep them looking new. Since there are many variations of wood flooring, it would be wise to do some research into which type best fits your family’s needs. Some flooring may be more sensitive to moisture or prone to scratching, and therefore require more maintenance.
  9. Fireplace (100 years)
    If you’re considering a home with a fireplace, you should know that, while fireplaces look nice and create relaxing environments, there is some very serious maintenance required to ensure safety. Although the lifetime of a wood burning fireplace is around 100 years, annual maintenance is still required. You should also consider the amount of homeowners insurance coverage required for a home with a fireplace.

By considering these important and often costly parts of your home, and asking questions about them beforehand, you will feel more confident in your purchasing decision, and you’ll be more likely to avoid headaches during the home inspection process. And once the home is finally yours, use this home maintenance schedule to protect your investment and get the maximum life out of your home.

 

Summer Salad

salad1The best salads are those that never meet the refrigerator because they are fresh from the garden. This microgreens salad is no exception—it’s fresh, healthy, and light. It will make the perfect predinner dish and will impress your guests when you tell them that it came from your own backyard!

Ingredients

Salad

  • 2 cups microgreens
  • 1 blood orange, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • ½ avocado, peeled and cubed
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • A dash of salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Rinse your microgreens, agitating with your hands to remove any soil. Set aside to dry before using them.
  2. Place your greens into your serving dish, and top with the remaining salad ingredients.
  3. To make the dressing, whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl until thoroughly combined.
  4. Toss together the salad and the dressing, and serve immediately.

A summer salad has never tasted so good!

Getting from “For Sale” to “Sold”: A How-To Guide

homesellerchecklist

Selling your home doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, there are three phases to the process that are essential for a successful sale. Use this collection of tips in each phase to move your home from “For Sale” to “Sold!”

The Preparation Phase

Know your market value.

Visit open houses, and compare sale prices. Better yet, ask a real estate professional for a comparative market analysis for your home. Here’s what you can gain:

  • A list of upgrades to help your home keep up with others on the market
  • A strategy for featuring details that already make your home stand out
  • A better perspective on your home’s worth and your finances

Invest in an inspection.

Catch the problem areas that a shiny exterior is hiding before potential buyers do. Early inspection equals more time to fix repairs, and ultimately provides insight into your home’s top needs.

Prioritize improvements.

Start with the must-haves that solve problems, and then choose wisely. Change your mind-set from home to product when ranking projects.

Do your homework before hiring.

Don’t rush to hire a contractor and purchase materials. Compare at least three bids, and ask for references. Don’t offer buyer credits against the purchase price, either—you’ll be better off investing the money to get the work done before listing.

The Listing Phase

Plan your pricing strategy.

Start the pricing conversation early, and get more detailed as you get closer to listing. Decide on reductions and if-this-then-that scenarios. Write them down to use as a foundation when at a crossroads. Pausing to decide during the process may lead to lost interest or money.

Set the stage.

Staging is very different from decorating. In fact, it’s the opposite. Decorating makes a home your own. Staging gives it a broad appeal so that potential buyers can envision it as their own. The top staging priorities are listed as follows:

  • Doing a thorough, deep cleaning
  • Removing personal and quirky decor
  • Decluttering

Take high-quality photos.

A picture is worth a thousand words (and scheduling a showing). Showcase the preparation phase—your hard work and investments—with high-quality photos, which are a must for the era of the online search.

Stage for online and mobile devices.

Today’s buyers are busy. So over 90 percent of buyers start their home search online, and many first impressions are from a computer screen, smartphone, or tablet. Make sure that all of the listing details are at their fingertips, including high-resolution photos that are optimized for web and mobile devices.

The Showing Phase

Be flexible with open house showings.

The Sunday open house might seem disruptive to you, but research says that it is the number one successful showing day. Evenings are equally as important. Remember: buyers have jobs and busy schedules, and they could be traveling from a distance.

Highlight low-cost living.

Energy efficiency, shade-baring trees, and a low-maintenance garden are examples of major selling points to highlight.

Keep up with curb appeal.

Be prepared for eager buyers driving by your home before an open house, and maintain curb appeal throughout the entire showing process.

Pay attention to smells.

Pet odors are the number one offender, but watch out for food smells and scents that are musty or allergenic, too. Don’t use scented candles or aerosol sprays that simply mask the odor; eliminate it with a deep clean and fresh air.

Be mindful of flow.

Have a friend do a walk-through of your home. Look for odd breaks from one room to the next, and group furniture into arrangements that inspire conversation.

The keys to a successful showing are simple—stay flexible, act with the buyer in mind, and when the showing begins, be gone.

When you are ready to take the next steps, please feel free to give me a call. I am more than happy to walk you through the process!

5 Gardening Mistakes to Avoid

gardenmistakesFor some people, gardening can seem intimidating—but don’t be scared away! People often make some common, easy-to-fix mistakes when they give it a go with their green thumb, and getting started down the right path is easier than you think. With some basic knowledge about these 5 gardening no-nos, you can quickly find yourself on your way to a successful, thriving garden.

Not Using Quality Soil

Good soil is the foundation for a successful garden. Before planting, put the effort into preparing the soil by removing weeds, turning the soil, and adding organic nutrients.

Over- or Underwatering

Consistent, appropriate watering is the key to successful gardening. Too much water can cause root rot and fungus, while underwatering deprives plants of a much-needed element. Most plants thrive best by allowing the soil to dry out totally prior to a thorough, deep watering—encouraging deep, healthy root growth. Having proper soil drainage for plants in containers is important if you tend to be an overwaterer.

Not Reading Tags

Be sure to read the information tags that come with each plant, and choose the most suitable plants for the area in which you will be planting. Before shopping for plants, pay attention to how much sun your planting area gets each day, and then choose wisely!

Not Mulching

Mulching your garden provides so many benefits, it’s a shame not to do it. Mulching keeps roots cooler in the heat, retains moisture, helps prevent weeds (and reduces the time spent pulling them!), protects your soil from wind and hard rain, and provides a habitat for all the good organisms that improve your soil quality.

Ignoring Pollinators

Did you know that many fruit and vegetables require pollinators in order to produce? Your harvest will improve greatly if you include some bee- and butterfly-attracting plants in your garden, such as butterfly bushes or goldenrods. Much like a garden, your seeds of self-confidence need to be planted and nurtured so they take root. Use this tips, give yourself a little time and be patient, and you’ll find your gardening skills blooming as much as your plants!

Why You Feel Healthier and Happier with Pets

petbenefits11There are a lot of great benefits of pets. One commonly experienced one is walking your dog, which can make you more physically fit by strengthening your muscles and bones; this can help not only your body, but also your self-esteem. On an emotional level, owning a pet can decrease depression, stress, and anxiety; from a health perspective, it can lower your blood pressure, strengthen your immune system, and even decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke. Read on to discover more of the incredible benefits that you can experience by owning a pet!

They Can Decrease Stress and Blood Pressure

Research has found that hypertensive or high-risk patients’ blood pressures are lower when their pets are around. Another study found that people experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a spouse, family member, or close friend was nearby. When a person connects with a pet by petting it, oxytocin, the hormone related to stress and anxiety relief, is released.

They Can Help You Socialize

petfriends-300x225Multiple studies have found that pet owners are more social than non–pet owners. There is typically more social interaction in neighborhoods with pets, which also makes these neighborhoods seem friendlier to observers. Even if you live alone, having a dog or cat has the same emotional benefit as that of a human friendship.

They Can Build Immunities in Children

This one may sound counterintuitive, since many people might think cats and dogs cause allergies rather than prevent them. However, many studies have shown that having multiple pets actually decreases a child’s risk of developing certain allergies. Families that had children who were exposed to two or more dogs or cats as babies were less than half as likely to develop common allergies as children who had no pets in the home.

They Can Boost Your Mood

Pets create endless entertainment, whether you have a comedian or a scaredy-cat on your hands. Pets offer unconditional love, but they also give their owners a sense of purpose. Smiling at your pet can raise your serotonin and dopamine levels, which are neurotransmitters associated with joy and happiness.

They Can Help Your Heart Health

happycoupleMany pet owners would agree that a pet can fill your heart with love, but did you know that they can also do a lot more for that organ? Research has shown that pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels—all of which can ultimately minimize a person’s risk for having a heart attack.

They Can Help You Detect Medical Conditions

Research has found that one-third of the pets—such as dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits—who live with people who have diabetes would change their behavior when their owner’s blood sugar level dropped. Other reports have indicated that canine friends have sniffed or licked a mole or lump on their owner’s body because they may have the ability to smell cancer.

A Seasonal Schedule for Home Maintenance

Male arm and hand replacing disposable air filter in residential air furnace.

Just like your car, your home needs a regular tune-up to keep it running at its best. Use this checklist to organize your chores so you can minimize stress and enjoy what each season brings.

Spring

As the winter weather fades away, spring is the perfect time to tackle outdoor maintenance. Be sure to check outdoor vents 
for debris, and clear gutters and downspouts. Also look for overgrown tree roots that could damage foundations, driveways, 
and walkways.

Other items in your spring to-do list should include:

  • Check the attic and basement for cracks that could have allowed water to seep in. (This is especially important after a wet winter.)
  • Remove furniture, and deep clean carpets and floors.
  • Clean ceiling fans, and give all rooms a thorough dusting.
  • Have the HVAC system serviced.

Summer

There may be no better time for outdoor maintenance than summer due to the consistently warmer weather and increased daylight. Take advantage of it to repair and re-stain decks; power wash the driveway, siding, decks, and windows; replace any loose or damaged shingles; trim tree branches and shrubs; and repair cracks in sidewalks, driveways, or steps.

You should also do these summer maintenance tasks:

  • Prepare the rain storage system to water the lawn in dry months.
  • Change the air filter in the HVAC system.
  • Test smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers.

Fall

The fall season is an important time for maintenance tasks. You want to get ready for the winter before it gets too cold, including storing patio or lawn furniture, and organizing your garage or storage shed. Get your chimney inspected and cleaned in preparation for the cold weather. And don’t forget to check for cracks around external doors and windows, and repair where necessary.

It’s also recommended that you:

  • Check dryer hoses, and change out filters and lint traps.
  • Flush your hot water heater by draining water completely to remove sediment.
  • Check outdoor vents for debris.
  • Have the HVAC system serviced.

Winter

The cold, dark winter months are the time to focus on important indoor maintenance. Caulk the sink, toilet, and bathtub, and reseal tile grout. Organize closets and drawers, and donate used or unwanted items. Also wipe down baseboards and doors, and touch up peeling paint where necessary.

In addition, winter is the time to:

  • Clean windows, and wipe down windowsills.
  • Change the air filter in the HVAC system.
  • Test smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers.
  • Activate the sump pump by dumping a bucket of water into the basin.

Be sure to bookmark this page, so you can refer back to this checklist at the start of each new season.

Cauliflower with Ginger and Cumin

finalcaulifeature

This dish is a great intro to Indian cooking—it’s flavorful and slightly spicy. The cauliflower should be browned in a sauté pan before transferring to the slow cooker so that the sugar caramelizes and the natural flavors are released. It has such a rich flavor that it can make a weeknight meat-and-side-dish dinner exciting.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower (about 3 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 serrano chiles, cut into 3 pieces each
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut in thin julienne
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon ground Indian red chile
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 heaping teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Step 1: Prep the cauliflower as the slow cooker heats up.

cauli-step-1

First, turn on your slow cooker on to high and let it warm up for 15 minutes before beginning. Then, chop the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. Don’t disregard the core and small young leaves attached to it. Dice these up as well and add them to the slow cooker along with the florets.

Step 2: Gather the rest of the ingredients.

cauli-step-4b

Gather the remaining ingredients.

Step 3: Sauté the cumin seeds.

cauli-step-3b

In a sauté pan, heat the canola oil over high heat. When the oil gets hot enough to sputter when drops of water are added, tilt the pan so that the oil pools at the bottom. Add the cumin seeds, and cover immediately.

Step 4: Add the oil and seeds to the slow cooker.

cauli-step-4b

When the seeds stop sputtering, remove from the heat and pour the oil over the cauliflower in the slow cooker.

Step 5: Chop the chiles.

cauli-step-4

Roughly chop the serrano chiles into three pieces per chile and add them to the cauliflower and oil mixture in the slow cooker.

Step 6: Add the tomato and ginger.

cauli-step-5

Dice the tomato and add it to the slow cooker along with the julienned ginger.

Step 7: Add the spices.

cauli-step-6

Add the coriander, ground red chile, turmeric, and salt to the slow cooker. Mix well so that the spices get incorporated. Cook on low for three hours.

Step 8: Remove from heat.

cauli-step-7

After three hours, the cauliflower should still be firm to the touch. Transfer the cauliflower, along with any liquid, from the slow cooker insert to a sauté pan.

Step 9: Sauté.

cauli-step-8

Stir fry the cauliflower until all of the moisture has been completely absorbed or evaporated. This should take about three to four minutes.

Step 10: Serve, and enjoy!

cauli-step-9

Remove from the heat, garnish with a little chopped cilantro, and serve warm.

 

MORTGAGE MYTH OR FACT: CAN YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE?

financial literacyBy The Home Story Staff

National Financial Literacy Month in April celebrates the importance of financial literacy in the U.S. Fannie Mae is proud to support this effort with our “Spring Into Financial Literacy” series targeting the educational needs of renters and homebuyers. More information can be found on our Know Your OptionsTM website.

MYTH: “It’s too hard to qualify these days for a home loan. I’ll have to put 20 percent down.”

There are lots of misconceptions when it comes to mortgages — from how hard it may be to qualify to how much you’ll need to put down. Despite what you may have heard, getting a loan doesn’t require a perfect credit score or a huge down payment. (However, it’s safe to say that it’s helpful to get your finances in order before you start house hunting or talking to lenders.)

MYTH: “Homeownership is completely out of my reach.”

Whatever you believe now, don’t count yourself out without knowing you may qualify for one of many mortgage options, down payment assistance, or affordability programs available. Ready to put yourself to the test?

Have a little fun with our quiz to see how prepared you are to sort mortgage fact from myth: http://www.thehomestory.com/mortgage-myth-fact-can-tell-difference/

 

Color Your World Like a Designer

colorguideAn infusion of color can transform a space or even an entire home. Experimenting can show off your personal style, but can be a little risky, as it’s not always easy to pick the perfect palette. Use these tips to get inspired, and begin thinking like a designer!

Understand the Basics

The best color for a space depends on light, textures, things you already own, and the way one room flows into the next.

When choosing a color, consider the lighting and how it shifts throughout the day. Even the type of light bulb you choose will change the look.

Navigate the Color Wheel

The color wheel is the best (and easiest) way to choose color schemes that work, for both beginners and experts.

The classic color wheel is made up of 12 different hues. These hues are classified into 3 categories:

  1. Primary colors (3) are the root of all colors and are the only hues that can’t be created by mixing any colors together (yellow, red, and blue).
  2. Secondary colors (3) are created by combining two primary colors to get either purple, green, or orange.
  3. Tertiary colors (6) come from mixing a primary color with its secondary color neighbors.

These 12 basic colors allow you to mix endless combinations of hues. Every combination can then be broken down for even more variety by adding to that color, like white (to tint), black (to shade), or grey (to create tones).

With these endless possibilities, how do you choose even one color, let alone a palette for your home? Try one of these:

Classic Color Combinations

Monochromatic Color Combination:  Love a color—own it
One-color rooms are peaceful, allowing the eye to move easily without interruption by other colors. Contrast is created by using tints, shades, or tones of the same hue. In the examples, one hue is muted to a neutral, and then brightened up as an accent to keep it all in the family.

Analogous Color Combinations: The friendliest neighbors
Analogous colors lead to soft, transitioning palettes that blend and change seamlessly. Often resembling nature’s palettes—think of sunsets or ocean waves—an analogous color scheme is made up of two or more neighboring colors.

Complementary Color Combinations: Opposites attract
Choose two colors that are directly opposite each other on the wheel for a complementary color combination. The contrast creates interest and energy but remains sensible and pleasing to the eye.

Triadic Color Combinations: Equally balanced trios for the bold and vibrant
When strong contrast exists, balance is key. Choose three equally spaced colors on the wheel for a triadic color scheme, being careful to select one of the three as your main color and using the other two as accents.

Split Complementary Color Combinations: Almost opposites attract
This combination is pulled together from two (almost complementary) colors. Choose a base color, find its complement, and then choose the hue to the right or left of the base color’s complement. You’re left with more subtle contrast by not choosing a color’s exact opposite.

Practical Tips for Your Home

Blend Rather Than Match.
Every element in a chosen color shouldn’t match exactly. Use the entire family of tones, tints, and shades throughout the room (for example, a vase that’s a tint of the wall color). Variations keep rooms from looking overdesigned.

Neutralize for Balance.
Lots of brights? Add a neutral color to balance it out. Or start with a neutral scheme, and add pops of colorful accents.

Find a Pattern.
What about a favorite photo, piece of artwork, or sweater? Is there a pattern in the colors you are naturally drawn to? This will help you establish where you want to begin.

Brighten Dark Rooms.
In low-light rooms, shadows become distinct, making a space feel even darker. Choose a color that absorbs shadows to brighten it up. Contrary to what you may think, light colors won’t work; try a saturated, rich hue, like a jewel tone. Dark rooms allow you to experiment—even if the color looks too bright, super-saturated colors mellow in shadows.

Create Color Illusion.
Paint two adjacent rooms the same color to give the appearance of an open floor plan. Use the same colors and patterns in the master bedroom and bath to create an en suite feel.

Remember Existing Considerations.
Don’t forget to factor in woodwork, furniture, flooring, or countertops. Choose colors that will work with those elements already in place. The same advice can be said when choosing home accents and new furniture. Use our printable Color Guide as an on-the-go resource for your home’s color palette when you spot that perfect shade of fabric or other home accent.

Here’s What’s #Trending.
Choose a palette with Pantone’s Color of the Year, Rose Quartz and Serenity. Joined together, Rose Quartz and Serenity demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue.

Dial Down.
Tone down color schemes by adding white to create tints of bold colors. Even a primary palette can be muted enough to look elegant and not elementary.

Not Ready to Commit?
If you are worried about being overwhelmed by color, use it in smaller doses to accent rather than dominate. Accent with colorful accessories and artwork to see how much you enjoy living with a certain hue.

Organization 101: How to Make It a Habit

Org101So you’ve spent some time on Pinterest or other social media networks, and suddenly feel that you need to overhaul your life and become more organized. Every time you discover an aspect of your life that needs organization, you find yourself rushing out to buy something new to help yourself with the project. Then, after a few weeks, the inspiration fades away, and you end up back where you started. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s okay; it happens to the best of us.

The good thing is that being organized is not a personality trait; it’s a skill set. You just need to have the will to accomplish your goals and a few tips from someone who has been there. If you’re ready to be organized for the long term, here is what you’ll need to know:

Know yourself. Be honest when identifying your biggest problem areas, and know what your goals are before getting started. Most importantly, prioritize your goals based on which ones will have the most positive impact on your home, office, or life.

Being organized is not the goal. Don’t try to become organized for the sake of being organized or because your partner or colleague tells you that you should. Identify your own personal problems and priorities. Brainstorm (or write down) why each project is important to you and the benefits you’ll enjoy once the project is complete.

Expect hurdles and failures. The process of organizing a space has a tendency to uncover some hidden uses or storage needs that you weren’t aware of. This realization can force you to make some big adjustments or even start over. Organized people understand that their system of organization is not a commitment; they know that when it’s not working, and it’s okay to just start over.

Free your mind. Organized people don’t try to remember every item on their tasks list. Instead, they get their to-dos out of their heads and onto a list or calendar, so they never have to worry about dropping the ball. When you have a system and schedule in place, your mind is free to think about important problems, brainstorm a great idea, or even daydream.

Routines are the backbone of organization. Create a routine, and stick to it. This might take weeks, months, or even years—there is conflicting research on how long it actually takes to develop a habit. So to find the routine that works best, think of it as a work in progress. Start by identifying the repetitive or undesirable tasks, and incorporate them into a checklist with milestones. These small actions will eventually become more and more familiar; they’ll save you time by adding efficiency and eventually become habit.

Minimize. Have trouble letting things go? First, identify which of these common reasons is making you hold on to stuff—it’s sentimental, it was a gift, you think might need it some day, or it’s still in perfect condition. Ask yourself one simple question: would I choose to go out and buy this thing again right now today if I didn’t have it? If the answer is no, then you should let it go. Remember that having less means less to clean, less to organize, and less mess—less really does mean more.

Have a place for everything, and everything in its place. When deciding where to keep things, always consider where and how often you use each item. Store things where you use them, and don’t allow once-a-year items to eat up real estate that’s within arms reach.

Success is in the follow-through. Procrastination is the enemy of organization. Once you have a plan for an organization project, or even a small clean-up task, schedule it. If something is scheduled, make every effort to complete it on time.

Remember, being organized is a skill, and it takes practice. Sure, organization comes more easily to some people, but that doesn’t mean an organized life is impossible to achieve if it takes you a little while to get your feet wet.

7 Eco-Friendly Updates That Will Make Your Home More Marketable

goinggreen

Whether you’re preparing to sell your home or just looking to lower your carbon footprint, you may be surprised to know these green updates have a low up-front cost and can increase your return on investment.

  1.  Seal any cracks around door and window frames with caulk. | Cost: $5  This is a no-brainer. Eliminating cracks will take only a few hours and could pay you dividends. About 30 percent of a home’s energy loss happens at an entryway. If you’re looking to go green, this should be your first step.
  2. Install low-emissivity storm windows. | Cost: about $60 to $200 each  Low-emissivity storm windows reflect light back into the home, helping you save on heating costs. Make sure to choose the right fit for your home, as the types vary greatly depending on the materials and coatings. The US Department of Energy reports that storm windows could be as effective at lowering your energy costs as installing new windows.
  3. Install a programmable thermostat. | Cost: $250 with installation  You could save as much as $180 a year by choosing a thermostat that has the ability to automatically adjust the temperature when you are not at home. Doing so could save about 15 percent on your heating bill annually. Some thermostats also have other energy-saving features, like filter-change reminders. Just make sure you choose a system that is easy to use.
  4. Install ceiling fans. | Cost: $200  Installation cost varies based on existing electrical work. A single fan on high speed generally uses about 50 to 100 watts of power, resulting in about 800 kilowatts per year for a home with four ceiling fans—far less than a central air conditioning system. While fans are not able to actually cool the air, they can relieve you of feeling hot, and using them in lieu of A/C saves a large amount of energy. Just make sure to switch them off when you leave the room.
  5. Plant trees. | Cost: $30 to $50 per tree, varies by type of tree  This tip is especially good for the environment. If you want to save on your energy costs, particularly in the summer, plant trees on the east, west, and northwest sides of your home. This will prevent the sun from coming through your windows and making your A/C work harder. Plant a tree to shade your central air unit, and you may save up to 35 percent on your home’s cooling costs.
  6. Lower the temperature of your water heater to 120°F. | Cost: $0  An average of 15 to 25 percent of a home’s annual heating costs are related to heating the home’s water. This adjustment will take little time, and you will hardly notice a difference—until you look at the heating bill! When implemented, you’ll save up to $400 a year.
  7. Insulate your hot water heater with a blanket |Cost: $30  Especially if you have an older system, this small act could save up to 25 to 45 percent on your annual heating costs. To be most effective, add insulation underneath your water heater to prevent heat loss through the floor. Water heater blankets are inexpensive and effective. Look for one made specifically for your electric water heater.

Looking to give your home even more selling power? Download this energy audit worksheet to determine if you need a quick fix or a more permanent solution.

HomeReady® Mortgage – Find the Right Financing

Fannie MaeFor many homebuyers, finding their perfect house is the easy part – finding the right financing for their circumstances can be harder.

Fannie Mae’s HomeReady® mortgage helps address the financing challenges of multigenerational households, such as parents, adult children, and others sharing a home,  and low- and moderate-income households.*

1604a03v3HomeReady allows accessible financing and supports sustainable homeownership. Key features include:

  • Low Down Payment and Flexible Sources of Funds. Allows down payments as low as 3%, with no minimum contribution required from the buyer’s own funds (on 1-unit properties).
  • Conventional home financing with private mortgage insurance (PMI) that, unlike many government-insured loans, may be eligible for cancellation when home equity reaches 20%.
  • Homeownership education helps buyers get ready to buy a home and be prepared for the responsibilities of homeownership. The required training offers an easy-to-use, online course provided by Framework.
  • Underwriting Flexibilities. Through an innovative new feature that supports extended households, income from a non-borrower family member or other adult living in the household may be considered to allow for higher debt-to-income ratios.

* There are other requirements for getting approved for a HomeReady mortgage. Speak with your lender to learn more.

Paws for a Cause: How to Help Your Local Animal Shelter

sheltertipsIf you’re a pet lover, you have likely spent some time in a local animal shelter. Many of us would love to help dogs, cats, and other rescued animals living at these shelters, but let’s face it—it can be challenging. There often aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with our busy schedules, let alone to volunteer for the variety of tasks a shelter needs help with. Luckily, there are lots of ways to help local animal shelters without investing a ton of time, money, or energy. See below for 3 of the easiest ways to do so.

Spread the Word

Hang fliers of adoptable animals or for upcoming adoption events in pet stores, vet offices, parks, and other places where potential adopters frequent. In addition, sharing the profiles of adoptable animals with your followers on social media is simple and could play a part in creating the perfect match for an animal in need of a loving home.

Get Moving

Have a car? Many shelters have a hard time arranging to get animals from the shelter to vet appointments. Donating a little of your time (and your driving skills) will help animals get the care they need, when they need it. You can also take an hour once a week (or more!) to drop by and take a dog for a walk or hang out with the cats. Playtime has huge psychological and physical benefits for waiting animals—and humans!

Utilize Your Talents

Shelters could use help with a ton of tasks. For example, if you’re crafty, you can create homemade toys and bedding using old clothes or blankets. Are you a carpenter or a DIY whiz? Then you can help with anything from renovating parts of a facility to building a new cat tree. If you’re a web-savvy person, you can help with designing a professional-looking website; and if you’re a photography fan, you can donate your skill by taking high-quality photos for adoption profiles.

The No. 1 Thing Most Likely to Damage Your Home

griffin-e1460127625529While we often jump through hoops to protect our home from burglary and fire, we may neglect to protect it from the thing most likely to damage it: Wind.

According to data released Wednesday by insurance company Travelers, wind damage is the most common cause of homeowner’s insurance claims, ahead of hail, water, theft, fire and more. And yet, it’s one of the things many of us are least likely to protect our homes against, says Scott Humphrey, the second vice president of risk control at Travelers: “People don’t think about wind that much.”

5 most common causes of homeowner’s insurance claims

Percentage of claims related to each cause

Exterior wind damage 25%
Non-weather-related water damage (i.e. plumbing and appliance issues) 19%
Hail 15%
Weather-related water damage 11%
Theft 6%

Source: Travelers

Instead, they tend to focus far more on things like fire (buying and maintaining smoke alarms, for example) and theft (getting good alarm systems and locks)—both worthy concerns, but still less likely than wind to damage your home.

Wind can damage your home in a number of ways. Among the most common, says Humphrey: Wind detaching tree branches and hitting the home, wind lifting up roof shingles or damaging windows and doors and wind throwing things like patio furniture and other detached items in your yard.

There are ways to protect you home from wind damage. If a storm is coming, secure your windows with plywood, bring in lawn furniture, secure your garage with vertical braces and remove dangling branches, says Crissinda Ponder, the real estate analyst for financial website Bankrate.com. Repair or replace loose or damaged shingles and ensure you have good door bolts so doors are less likely to fly off, she adds.

Make sure you have enough homeowners insurance, which is highly dependent on how much your home is worth, says Penny Gusner, the consumer analyst with insurance website Insure.com. Get enough coverage to pay for the cost to rebuild your home, she adds. Ideally, you also want enough personal property coverage to pay for the replacement value of your possessions and enough liability insurance to cover the value of your assets in case you’re sued, Gusner says. (If you need more than what your homeowners policy covers, add on an umbrella policy.)

The good news: Wind damage is covered under most standard home insurance policies, Gusner says that homeowners in coastal and hurricane-prone areas may have wind damage excluded from their policies. “If you find that it is excluded, buy a separate windstorm policy,” she says. Even if wind is covered, make sure you look into the deductible, Gusner adds: “If winds are hurricane-strength that harms your home, you may have a hurricane deductible kick in, which is higher than your normal deductible. Hurricane deductibles don’t tend to be flat amounts. For example, if your home is insured for $250,000, and your hurricane deductible is 5%, you’d have pay out $12,500 before the coverage started.

To find recommendations for local Insurance Agents, give me a call. I happen to know a few good ones!

From Seed to Sauce: A Guide to Tomatoes

tomatoHomegrown tomatoes contain so much more flavor than any store-bought ones and, in just a few easy steps, you can be growing them in your own garden. Although you might find yourself at the end of the season with more tomatoes than you can get rid of, there are still great ways to get the most out of your harvest. Here is your guide to everything tomato—from A to Z (or, in this case, from seed to sauce).

PLANTINGtomatoes-300x225

Growing your own tomatoes is as rewarding as it is delicious. For a (nearly) guaranteed harvest, purchase your tomato plants from a local nursery. If you are a more experienced gardener, or believe you have a green thumb, you can try germinating and growing your plants from seeds.

However you choose to start your tomato plants, it is important to plant them in an area that gets plenty of sunlight and in a place where the plants have enough room to grow. (The amount of space needed will differ among varieties.) Water the plants consistently, so that the soil is always moist, but not saturated.

As the plants grow tall, you may need to tie the stems to a tomato basket to help support their growth. In about 70–80 days, you will be ready to harvest the delicious tomatoes!

PRESERVING

canned-300x225With a successful season, you will likely have more tomatoes than you can eat in a summer. Canning the extra harvest will allow you to enjoy them throughout the year.

Before preserving the tomatoes, you will need to peel them. Start by boiling a large pot of water.With a sharp knife, make an X at both the top and bottom of the tomatoes to allow for easy peeling.

Once the water comes to a rolling boil, blanch each of the tomatoes, leaving them in the water for only a minute. After you have transferred them to the cold water, you should be able to peel the skin away easily, starting at the X. Peel off all of the skin, remove the core, and dice the tomatoes into quarters.

Place the cut tomatoes into 32-ounce canning jars, and add water to fill the jars. Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar into each jar and securely tighten the lids.

Seal the jars by boiling another large pot of water. Submerge each of the jars and allow them to cook for 45 minutes. Cool for a full 24 hours. Check each jar to make sure the lid does not pop up. Press down on the metal lid; if it makes a popping sound as you release, it is not sealed properly. It is very important that you seal the jars properly, and that you do not store or eat tomatoes from a jar whose lid “pops up.”

Now tuck the jars away in a room-temperature area until you are ready to cook with them!

SERVINGsauce-300x225

Making sauce is so simple when you have canned tomatoes on hand. The next time you are hosting dinner, impress your guests by making pasta sauce from scratch following this recipe:

Ingredients:
• 2 32-ounce jars of tomatoes
• 1 small carrot
• 1 medium onion, quartered
• 1 celery stalk, quartered
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• ⅛ cup white cooking wine
• salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Roughly dice the canned tomatoes into smaller chunks.
  2. Using a food processor, roughly chop carrots, onions, and celery. Process according to your consistency preference.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pot over medium heat. Lower the heat, add the vegetable puree, and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic, and allow it to cook for another minute or until fragrant.
  4. Turn up the heat slightly, and add the white cooking wine. Allow it to a simmer for about four to five minutes.
  5. Finally, add the tomatoes into the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer over a low heat. Partially cover the pot with the lid to avoid splattering, and allow the sauce to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Season with salt and pepper according to your preference, and serve over spaghetti.

Once you master tomatoes from seed to sauce, why stop there? The possibilities are endless. I love tomatoes and love sharing recipes!