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Date Archives: January 2021

BHHS Bay Street Realty Group Cora Bett Thomas Realty Blog Home

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January
31

How to Make Your Home's Entryway Pop

The entrance of your home says a lot about your character, from interior design to overall aesthetics. Below are some helpful tips for making sure your space wows you and your guests every time.

Kill the clutter. Clutter is a huge no-no in your entryway, as it impacts the entire vibe of your space from the moment you set foot in the door. However, this can be hard, as the entryway is the space you dump your keys, mail, boots and coat. To remedy this, make sure you have designated, tucked away spaces for everything you store at the entrance of your home. Hooks for coats, baskets for mail and a covered bin for shoes can all work wonders.

Add a statement. Placing a beloved piece of art or furniture in the mouth of your home is a great way to appreciate it every time you enter, and can offer a fantastic conversation starter between you and guests.

Have a seat. Whether it's a plush chair or a simple bench, a seat in your entryway is great for roosting as you tie your shoelaces, and makes a perfect place for attractive accent pillows.

Light it right. Good lighting in your entryway is a must. Add an attractive lighting fixture, set up a dimmer for mood and a floor or table lamp for added options.

Personal touches. Placing photos of your family and pets in your entryway can add a nice personal element and warm your heart every time you pass by.

January
29

How to Choose the Right Kitchen Sink

In the wide world of kitchen décor, the sink is rarely a star. Sandwiched between the granite countertops and the kitchen backsplash, it is perhaps the last thing homeowners think about. But considering how often we use it, and the different chores we use it for, the sink deserves a considered choice.

Kitchen design consultants at HGTV provide kitchen sink basics to think about:

Size and Shape 

Classic Farmhouse
A large, single-basin sink, this classic design works well if you plan to use it for multiple chores beyond washing dishes, such as cleaning over-sized pots, pans and baking sheets, or bathing dogs or babies. More common is the double farmhouse sink, with two basins of equal size. 

Traditional Double Sink
With two basins of different size, these allow the user to prep in the smaller size and clean up in the larger one, or separately wash small items you don't want to put in the dishwasher. While the 60/40 split is most common, many models offer two sinks of varied size options.

Three-Basin
This sink features two basins of equal size, with one small one and a garbage disposal in the center. It's a good choice if you want to keep food scraps away from the basins where you prep and clean.

Rounded Sides
Some homeowners consider a curved sink easier to clean than one with square edges, and the sleek, minimalist look is attractive.

Materials

Stainless Steel
This is easy to clean and offers a contemporary look, but metal can scratch. Most manufacturers offer bottom grids—wire trays placed in the bottom of the sink to prevent scratching. If you live in an area with hard water, water spots can be a problem.

Porcelain
This looks authentic in kitchens with a vintage style, and if you love color, the choices are endless. Porcelain sinks can chip, however, and metal pans can leave black scuff marks that are difficult to remove.

Granite Composite
Made of granite particles and polymers, these sinks resist scratches and chips and do not show water spots. Lighter-colored granite composite sinks can stain, however, and some special maintenance may be required.

Natural Stone
Natural stone (soapstone being the most common choice) can exactly match your countertop material. But it's costly, and it can scratch and chip. Special cleaning products may be required.

January
28

A Beginner's Guide to Painlessly Going Green

You've heard the warnings about global warming, you feel compassion for stranded polar bears and you worry about overwhelming the landfills. As a homeowner, you may not be ready for composting, but there are ways to become an eco-friendlier household.

Ecologists provide simple but useful tips that even the laziest activist can use to do their part in helping the environment:

Cut down on water use. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Drink tap water in reusable containers instead of plastic bottles. Lower the water level when doing small laundry loads and don't run the dishwasher until it's full.

Use less power. Shut off the lights before you leave in the morning, and unplug electrical equipment that you aren't using during the day and while you sleep—especially your work and home computers.

Adjust the thermostat. Set it for a few degrees higher in summer, and a few degrees lower in winter. You likely won't feel much of a difference, and you'll like the decrease in utility bills.

Replace your light bulbs. Sources say if every American household replaced one regular lightbulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road.

Change your shower-head. A low flow version will save water while providing just as much pressure.

Save on paper. Keep a digital calendar and notes instead of paper ones. Whenever possible, re-use the back side of old printed sheets for new but less important print jobs. Sign up for paperless billing and pay your bills online.

Use less plastic. Use reusable grocery bags even where they're not required. Re-use empty plastic food containers with tight fitting lids, such as cottage cheese containers, for leftovers and storage purposes—be sure any unwanted plastic goes into the recycle bin.

Eat less meat. If you're not ready to go vegetarian, try committing to a meatless dinner once or twice a week to decrease the resources you use. Producing wheat and even veggies takes far less water than producing beef, and there are plenty of tasty meatless recipes online that families can explore together

January
28

Fraud Alerts: How They Can Help You

Victims of identity theft or fraud may feel they don't have many options to protect themselves. An easy stopgap, however, is to place a fraud alert on your credit report.

A fraud alert can be placed fairly simply. Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to ask that they place a fraud alert on your credit report, giving potential lenders and creditors notice that someone may be trying to fraudulently use your identity to apply for credit. The three main credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—the one that you report the problem to will notify the others.

It alerts them that they should do more thorough vetting, including calling to check if you're really at a store trying to take out new credit, and verifying your identity before extending credit in your name.

Two Types Available
An initial fraud alert lasts 90 days, after which the credit bureaus will automatically remove it from your credit report. You can then request another 90-day fraud alert if you think you're still at risk for identity theft. You can also request that the 90-day alert be removed early if you no longer need it. You must notify each bureau separately to have them remove it.

The second type is an extended fraud alert that can last up to seven years. It can only be placed on your credit report after your identity has been stolen and you've filed an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission. You may also need to file a report with local police.

An extended alert requires creditors to contact you in person or through your designated contact method to make sure you're the person trying to request credit. You can still open a new account after the creditor contacts you.

This type of alert isn't the same as a credit freeze, which is also called a security freeze. This prevents lenders from checking your credit to open a new account, effectively preventing new account openings.

Keep in mind that a fraud alert can be a red flag for lenders, and there's no guarantee it will stop identity theft. After filing a fraud alert, get a free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau and check it for warning signs of fraud. These include accounts opened in your name that you don't remember opening, or charges on your credit card that you don't recognize.

January
26

5 Financial Tips for First-Time Parents

So a babe is on the way? Congrats! Along with the chaos of, well, everything that is to come, your finances are about to experience an upheaval, as well. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will cost upwards of $245,000 to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18—and this does not include college. Feeling that bank account burn already? Below are five tips for rocking your budget as a new mom or dad.

1. Tweak the budget. Your new little one is going to cost a pretty penny. From hospital costs to diapers and child care, budgetary stress is an added strain on you as a new mom or dad. Look for any unnecessaries you can slash to make room for more baby dollars. The more prepared you are, the better.

2. Track your spending. Don't just make that budget and set it aside. Set a monthly meeting with your spouse to look over your spending, make sure you're on track, and identify any problem areas or potential saving pockets.

3. Learn your tax credits. I bet you didn't see this one coming. Being a parent has some advantages at tax time, so talk to your tax professional about what you may be eligible for.

4. Automate, automate, automate. Not only can automation help you avoid bouncing bills, but by having money withdrawn from your account, you can pad up your savings, too. Figure out how much you can part with every month and automatically squirrel it away into an emergency savings account, a college savings account, or both.

5. Set financial goals. While creating a budget and savings plan is great, setting goals for your family can help you stay on track. Looking to have a set amount in a college account by the time your kid hits 18? Do the math and decide how much you need to save monthly to hit it. Is an annual family vacation a must? Figure out how to stash some cash for that, and then make it happen. Also, stay well informed on real estate market trends if you're looking to buy a home or move up to a larger one.

Above all, don't forget to be realistic, and forgive yourself if it takes some time to get on track. Parenting is a lifelong adventure!

January
25

What to Expect from a Home Inspection


When you're selling your home, the home inspection is a pivotal moment. It can lead to good news or bad news that potentially derails your sale.

In a home inspection, a property's rooms and building systems are inspected top to bottom by a professional. The inspector produces a full report, including photographic evidence, that outlines the home's defects and any repair work likely to be necessary over the next few years.

It takes about 2-4 hours for an experienced expert to complete the inspection process. During that time, the inspector must have total access to the house, including the attic, basement, and crawl spaces or other hard-to-reach areas. Otherwise, the inspection will not be 100% complete.

Why Is a Home Inspection Important?

The buyer's mortgage lender usually requires a home inspection — the buyer pays out of pocket for the cost, around $200. The inspection helps verify there are no substantial problems with a property, including anything that could make it unsafe or compromise its long-term value.

In rare situations, an inspection can uncover trouble so egregious that the mortgage lender won't go forward with financing. This is most likely if there is a safety concern such as a major fault with electrical wiring. Mortgage programs for first-time buyers tend to impose stricter standards where safety is involved.

Of course, a home inspection doesn't usually shut down an entire transaction!

Much more likely is a situation where the buyer balks. Buyers might ask for a discount on the home's asking price or request that the seller handle some repairs before closing day. Naturally, it can be difficult to finish extensive repairs if you are facing a closing day deadline in just a few weeks.

With that in mind, it's always best for the seller to be proactive. You can get ahead of the game by paying for your own inspection and acting on any discoveries that might give future buyers pause.

What Main Issues Do Home Inspectors Look For?

Home inspectors produce huge, detailed reports — usually in big binders with plenty of photos.

There are certain areas to pay special attention to. The inspector is impartial, but you can be sure you'll hear about it if there are any "red flags" with the potential to bring your home sale to a halt.

That includes:

  1. HVAC System
    No matter what climate you live in, your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system is crucial to your home's comfort. The average HVAC system has a service life of about 12-15 years and tends to lose efficiency after nine or ten years. Older HVACs will be noted, and buyers rarely want to pay to replace them.
  2. Electrical Wiring & Outlets
    Electrical systems should get periodic inspections to ensure home safety. A single short in your wiring can lead to a fire. If you have an older home, it's a wise idea to install ground fault circuit interrupter outlets in your kitchen, bathroom, and any other areas where outlets are within six feet of water.
  3. Roofing
    Roofing manufacturers often claim their products will last for 20 years. Be wary, though, as even occasional harsh weather can take years off a roof's life. The inspector will get up on the roof, checking for leaks and giving a best estimate for how long the roof will remain sound before replacement.

When inspection time rolls around, sellers and buyers alike have good reason to hold their breath. By getting an inspection done before you go on the market, you put the power in your hands and avoid unpleasant surprises. Reach out to us today for more details on what to expect when it's time for a home inspection.

January
22

Owning a Home Is Still More Affordable Than Renting One

Owning a Home Is Still More Affordable Than Renting One | MyKCM

If spending more time at home over the past year is making you really think hard about buying a home instead of renting one, you're not alone. You may be wondering, however, if the dollars and cents add up in your favor as home prices continue to rise. According to the experts, in many cases, it's still more affordable to buy a home than rent one. Here's why.

ATTOM Data Solutions recently released the 2021 Rental Affordability Report, which states:

"Owning a median-priced three-bedroom home is more affordable than renting a three-bedroom property in 572, or 63 percent of the 915 U.S. counties analyzed for the report.

That has happened even though median home prices have increased more than average rents over the past year in 83 percent of those counties and have risen more than wages in almost two-thirds of the nation."

How is this possible?

The answer: historically low mortgage interest rates. Todd Teta, Chief Product Officer with ATTOM Data Solutions, explains:

"Home-prices are rising faster than rents and wages in a majority of the country. Yet, home ownership is still more affordable, as amazingly low mortgage rates that dropped below 3 percent are helping to keep the cost of rising home prices in check."

In 2020, mortgage rates reached all-time lows 16 times, and so far, they're continuing to hover in low territory this year. These low rates are a big factor in driving affordability. Teta also notes:

"It's startling to see that kind of trend. But it shows how both the cost of renting has been relatively high compared to the cost of ownership and how declining interest rates are having a notable impact on the housing market and home ownership. The coming year is totally uncertain, amid so many questions connected to the Coronavirus pandemic and the broader economy. But right now, owning a home still appears to be a financially-sound choice for those who can afford it."

Bottom Line

If you're considering buying a home this year, let's connect today to discuss the options that match your budget while affordability is in your favor.

January
21

4 Invisible Money Leaks Worth Fixing

Keeping track of every single dollar you spend can be difficult, no matter how closely you track your spending and monitor your bank accounts. Automatic payments from your checking account to pay for a gym membership, for example, can be forgotten and leave a checkbook unbalanced.

But besides accounting for where your money goes, there are some invisible money leaks that you may not be paying attention to that can add up to wasted money. Here are four:

Unused memberships and subscriptions
A gym membership is a common example of an automatic payment that gets forgotten and is rarely used. But other things can crop up too.

An annual renewal for a magazine you no longer read, a razor subscription and a monthly subscription to a premier cable TV channel that you rarely view are some things that can drain your bank account without you realizing it.

Bank fees
The average overdraft fee at a bank is $30, up 50 percent from $20 in 2000, according to research by Moebs Services, a research firm that focuses on financial institutions. Fees at credit unions are also high, with the average overdraft fee almost doubling during that same period to $29.

Banks used to automatically enroll customers with overdraft protection — which covers a transaction through a debit card or check if the account doesn't have enough money.

The Overdraft Protection Law of 2013 changed that, requiring banks to ask customers if they want to opt in for the coverage. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found in 2014 that opted-in customers paid seven times more in overdraft and nonsufficient-funds fees than those who hadn't opted in.

Price creep
If you've ever bought a low, introductory offer on cable TV or internet service, or signed up for a new credit card, chances are you've been the victim of price creep.

After a year of service, the monthly fee rises. With a credit card, an annual fee may be charged after no fee for the first year.

These price creeps can catch you off guard, and you may not notice them on your monthly bill when you're no longer a new customer. Call the company that raised its fees and ask if it has a new deal available.

Wasted food
From grocery stores to restaurants, Americans buy food that they don't eat. The National Resources Defense Council found that Americans waste 40 percent of their food purchases, an average of $2,000 per year, per household.

Meal planning and only buying and cooking food you'll eat can cut down on that money leak.

Every bit counts when fixing invisible money leaks. With some persistence and looking in the right places, that invisible money will soon be an expense you'll notice and can do something about.

January
18

How Federal Rate Increases Affect Credit Cards and Loans

If you've ever noticed a rise in interest rates in the news or saw your credit card bill get a little higher, there's one federal agency that you can look to: the Federal Reserve Board.

When the Fed raises interest rates, most borrowers with car and home loans won't see their rates change because they've locked in rates. People getting new loans, however, will see the higher rates, as will credit card users.

For a U.S. household with the average credit card debt of $10,995, a .25 percent hike in interest rates will make carrying a credit card balance a bit more expensive.

Technically called the federal funds rate, the interest rate the Fed sets is the rate banks use to trade federal funds. It is almost exactly correlated with the prime rate, which is what credit card companies typically charge their largest, most credit-worthy corporate clients.

From there, a change in the prime rate follows with credit card interest rate changes that consumers see. Credit card interest rates will usually increase during a day of increased federal funds rates, and usually by the same amount. 

Carrying a credit card balance, also known as revolving credit, is where credit card users will feel the pain of a Fed interest rate hike. An estimated 40 percent of credit card users carry a balance from month to month, and should see their costs climb immediately after a Fed rate hike.

Most credit cards have variable interest rates. As banks see their borrowing costs rise, they raise rates on credit cards.

If the Fed increases interest rates during the middle of a credit card billing cycle, for instance, customers may not see the increase until their next statement is due. But their rate may rise on new purchases immediately.

Credit card minimum payments are typically set at 1 – 2 percent of the principal balance, plus any interest accrued during the billing period. Rising interest rates will increase the accrued interest and minimum due, though not dramatically.

A .25 percent increase in interest rates causes the minimum amount due on a credit card to jump by $2 for every $10,000 of credit card debt. That's not a lot of money, but two or three more Fed rate jumps in a year and it can add up.

January
14

Daily Habits to Keep Your Home Clean

Cleaning doesn't have to be a hassle if you keep on top of it. Here are some small daily steps you can take to keep your home clean.

Post-shower swipe. To keep mold at bay, store a washcloth in your shower that you use for wiping down surfaces after you turn the water off. Just make sure everyone in the family knows the purpose of the rag so it doesn't end up on anyone's face! Swap the rag out once a week.

Early morning clutter sweep. As you wait for the coffee to brew or the dog to finish his breakfast before your walk, run through the lower level of your home and take care of any clutter piles: junk mail in need of opening, shoes or jackets dumped by the door or blankets on the couches that may need folding.

Nightly surface wipe. Every night before you head to bed (or the TV room), grab a rag and wipe down your counters, kitchen or dining table, and any other surface that collects food particles, dirt or dust.

Closet self-control. It can be tempting to strip off your clothes after a long day and dump them in a pile on the floor or toss them on a chair. But properly putting your clothes away—either in the hamper, back in the closet or in a pile for dry cleaning—will help stop weekly clutter.

Clean as you cook. Does your soup have fifteen minutes left to simmer? Start on the dishes, sop up splatter on the counter or floor, or tackle the trash. Waiting until the end of the meal can make it all too easy to say, "I'll clean up in the morning."

January
13

What Does 2021 Have in Store for Home Values?

What Does 2021 Have in Store for Home Values? | MyKCM

According to the latest CoreLogic Home Price Insights Report, nationwide home values increased by 8.2% over the last twelve months. The dramatic rise was brought about as the inventory of homes for sale reached historic lows at the same time buyer demand was buoyed by record-low mortgage rates. As CoreLogic explained:

"Home price growth remained consistently elevated throughout 2020. Home sales for the year are expected to register above 2019 levels. Meanwhile, the availability of for-sale homes has dwindled as demand increased and coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks continued across the country, which delayed some sellers from putting their homes on the market.

While the pandemic left many in positions of financial insecurity, those who maintained employment and income stability are also incentivized to buy given the record-low mortgage rates available; this is increasing buyer demand while for-sale inventory is in short supply."

Where will home values go in 2021?

Home price appreciation in 2021 will continue to be determined by this imbalance of supply and demand. If supply remains low and demand is high, prices will continue to increase.

Housing Supply

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the current number of single-family homes for sale is 1,080,000. At the same time last year, that number stood at 1,450,000. We are entering 2021 with approximately 270,000 fewer homes for sale than there were one year ago.

However, there is some speculation that the inventory crush will ease somewhat as we move through the new year for two reasons:

1. As the health crisis eases, more homeowners will be comfortable putting their houses on the market.

2. Some households impacted financially by the pandemic will be forced to sell.

Housing Demand

Low mortgage rates have driven buyer demand over the last twelve months. According to Freddie Mac, rates stood at 3.72% at the beginning of 2020. Today, we're starting 2021 with rates one full percentage point lower than that. Low rates create a great opportunity for homebuyers, which is one reason why demand is expected to remain high throughout the new year.

Taking into consideration these projections on housing supply and demand, real estate analysts forecast homes will continue to appreciate in 2021, but that appreciation may be at a steadier pace than last year. Here are their forecasts:What Does 2021 Have in Store for Home Values? | MyKCM

Bottom Line

There's still a very limited number of homes for sale for the great number of purchasers looking to buy them. As a result, the concept of "supply and demand" mandates that home values in the country will continue to appreciate.

Reach out to us today to see what your home value would be for 2021.

January
8

Is This the Year to Sell My House?

Is This the Year to Sell My House? | MyKCM

If one of the questions you're asking yourself is, "Should I sell my house this year?" consumer sentiment about selling today should boost your confidence in the right direction. Even with the current health crisis that continues to challenge our nation, Americans still feel good about selling a house. Here's why.

According to the latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index from Fannie Mae, 57% of consumer respondents to their survey indicate now is a good time to buy a home, while 59% feel it's a good time to sell one:

"The percentage of respondents who say it is a good time to sell a home remained the same at 59%, while the percentage who say it's a bad time to sell decreased from 35% to 33%. As a result, the net share of those who say it is a good time to sell increased 2 percentage points month over month."

As you can see, many still believe that, despite everything going on in the world, it is still a good time to sell a house.

Why is now a good time to sell?

There simply are not enough homes available to meet today's buyer demand, and they're selling just as quickly as they're coming to the market. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), unsold inventory available today sits at a 2.3-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from a 2.5-month supply from the previous month. This record-low inventory is not even half of what we need for a normal or neutral housing market, which should have a 6.0-month supply of unsold inventory to balance out.

With so few homes available for buyers to choose from, we're in a true sellers' market. Homeowners ready to make a move right now have the opportunity to negotiate the best possible contracts with buyers who are feeling the pull of intense competition when it comes to finding their dream home. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for NAR, notes how quickly homes are selling right now, further confirming the benefits to sellers this season:

"The market is incredibly swift this winter with the listed homes going under contract on average at less than a month due to a backlog of buyers wanting to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates."

However, this sweet spot for sellers won't last forever. As more homes are listed this year, this tip toward sellers may start to wane. According to Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, more choices for buyers are on the not-too-distant horizon:

"The bright spot for buyers is that more homes are likely to become available in the last six months of 2021. That should give folks more options to choose from and take away some of their urgency. With a larger selection, buyers may not be forced to make a decision in mere hours and will have more time to make up their minds."

Bottom Line

If you're ready to make a move, you can feel good about the current sentiment in the market and the advantageous conditions for today's sellers. Let's connect today to determine the best next step when it comes to selling your house this year.

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