Selling your house? Decluttering can pay off big with the perfect garage sale

Selling a home and garage sales. They’re like cookies and milk, macaroni and cheese or peanut butter and jelly – they just go together.

Especially if you’ll be staging the home before putting it on the market, depersonalizing and getting rid of clutter are important steps. Plus, those tasks help lighten the load when it comes to packing for the move.

We recommend going through your home, room-by-room, scrutinizing every item. Do I really need/want this? If not, start a “garage sale pile” or box[es].

Whether it’s a giant or moderate purge you’re looking at, holding a garage sale is a great way to rid yourself of unwanted items and make some cash at the same time.

The most successful garage sales begin with a plan, so let’s get started.

Plan for success

I have a friend in San Francisco who is also in the real estate business and, as a new agent, she was so excited about her first listing that she decided to hold an open house the first weekend the home was on the market.

As a rookie, she didn’t have the slightest idea of how to plan an open house – all she did was choose a date and did some advertising.

Not one person attended her open house.

Had she looked at a calendar before choosing which weekend to hold the home open she would’ve realized that the particular Sunday she chose was Super Bowl Sunday and the 49ers had made it to the big game. While she isn’t a football fan, the entire city was glued to the TV during her open house.

The moral of this story for you is to plan the date of your garage sale carefully. Don’t hold it on a day when there’s a major sporting event happening, either nationally or locally.

Check to see if there are other popular local events happening as well – anything that may draw potential customers away from your sale.

The Yard Sale Queen suggests holding your sale on the weekend after payday, which for most folks is the first and the fifteenth.

Additional considerations

  • Make a drawing of how you’ll set up the sale. Ensure that you have room for people to move around between the tables, racks and whatever else you’ll use to display your merchandise.
  • Prepare the night before so that all you have to do is open the garage door and start making money.
  • Ensure that all items are clearly marked with the price and that the most desirable items are out in front where potential customers can see them from their cars. The Yard Sale Queen says that “manly” items, such as power tools, should be among the out-front items.
  • Enlist help, whether it’s the kids, a friend or neighbor.
  • If you’ll be selling electrical items, make sure there’s a place to plug them in, or have an extension cord on hand so that customers can test them out.
  • Save grocery bags and newspaper in the weeks leading up to the sale so that you can wrap and bag your customers’ purchases.
  • Before setting clothing and handbags out for sale, go through the pockets to ensure there is nothing of value in them, recommends The Yard Sale Queen.

What to do the day before the sale

You’ll need to let people know about your sale and there are several ways to accomplish this. One of the best ways is to place an ad on Craigslist, in the “Garage Sale” category, listed under “For Sale.”

If you belong to your neighborhood’s NextDoor app, post it there. Facebook will bring in a lot of folks as well, so be sure to join any local buy, sale, trade and garage/yard sale groups.

Take lots of clear, compelling photos of your merchandise to lure in buyers.

Create or buy garage sale signs to place around the neighborhood. Take a tip from my industry and use arrows on each sign to help guide the customers to your home. Amazon.com sells entire garage sale kits as well as individual signs.

Get cash from the bank so that you can make change. You’ll need coins as well as $1, $5 and $10 bills.

Plan to keep the money on your body during the sale. A fanny or waste pack is a safe and convenient way to hold your cash. We found some inexpensive ones online at Amazon.com, Walmart and at Forever 21.

Yay! It’s sale day!

  • Set up the signs around the neighborhood and on the nearest busy street.
  • Make sure each item has a price tag.
  • Greet customers to make them feel at ease. Keep an eye on them, but not to the point that you’re hovering.
  • When a customer hands you payment for an item, keep the money in your hand until you’ve made change. A common garage sale scam is a customer who claims they gave you a larger bill than they did. If you’ve already pocketed the payment before making change, you have no way to prove how much you were handed.
  • Have your helper keep an eye on large groups that arrive at the same time. Keep an eye out for customers who may be trying to distract you while someone else pockets your merchandise.

 

Selling your home? How to prepare it for the photographer

American homebuyers primarily shop for homes online before choosing a real estate agent. They crave lots of interior and exterior photos and many won’t read about a listing that doesn’t have them.

For example, a consumer wrote in a forum at CityData.com “As I am looking at a listing, if there are no photos, I disregard the listing. . . and if the bedrooms and baths aren’t shown, I disregard the listing.”

There are reasons that a listing may not include photos of the home. These include:

  • The seller requests that no photos be published
  • The photos aren’t ready to be published yet
  • Often, homes in foreclosure don’t include photos of the interior

The reasons listed above are rare, but they do happen.

Since your home’s listing will include attractive, compelling photos, let’s talk about how to get the home ready for its moment in the spotlight.

Buyers notice more than you think they do

Cluttered kitchen and bathroom counters. The toilet seat left up. Dark walk-in closets. Dirty baseboards.

While you worry about the color of your living room in your listing photos, potential buyers are wondering if those nasty baseboards are an indication of a general lack of home maintenance

Is your car parked in the driveway a sign that the garage is overstuffed because there is little to no storage space in the home?

Cleaning the home, from top to bottom is the first task to accomplish. A thorough cleaning will help people perceive the home as well-maintained.

After that, it’s time to get rid of the clutter. With no strange faces peering at them from your family photos home shoppers are better able to imagine themselves living in the home, surrounded by their “stuff.”

They can’t imagine that with someone else’s toothbrushes on the bathroom counter. Stash personal items and leave only the decorative stuff on countertops.

Then, play up every room’s focal point. This is especially important in rooms viewed from the entryway. If you need some help with this, check out the tutorial at serendipitysocial.com.

Although the photographer will adjust each rooms’ lighting to his or her needs, ensure that there are adequate window coverings throughout the home. Often, a room may need to be photographed with the window coverings closed to avoid glare or the sun streaking on the floors.

Then, ensure that every light fixture and lamp in the home has a working bulb.

The photographer can only do so much

In fact, the experts at realestatephotographerpro.com prepared a quick list for home sellers:

Photographers cannot do the following:

  • Move or re-arrange furniture
  • Make beds, clean, dust or declutter
  • Pick up toys or yard items
  • Photoshop vehicles, walls, damaged walls, power lines, wall pictures, cords, etc.
  • Touch personal bathroom supplies such as shampoo, toothbrushes, deodorant, towels, etc.”

The latter item, by the way is an important one to consider because “Bright, artificially-colored packaging, like on cereal boxes and shampoo bottles are also very distracting to the eye,” according to the pros at Eddy Photos, an El Monte, California photography studio.

You’ll find additional prep tips online at photoslc.com and kellycolson.com.

Exterior Photos

The exterior photos are important because they are digital depictions of your house’s curb appeal.

Before the photo shoot, walk around the yard and remove anything that might distract the viewer from the home: cars, garbage cans, kids’ toys and other clutter.

Wash down the driveway and sidewalk and ask the photographer to shoot the photos while they are wet to give a richer appearance.

Please reach out to us if you have any questions about preparing for the photographer.

How to choose your perfect neighborhood

Something interesting happens to folks when they make the decision to buy a home. That decision is like rocket fuel, propelling them into the car and on the road to their local Sunday open houses.

While this may be fun, it’s not an efficient or intelligent way to shop for a new home.

If you had a real estate agent at this point in the house hunt he or she would counsel you to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Only then will you know how much you can spend on a house. But wait – don’t step onto the launch pad just yet.

Have you ever watched that TV show about first time homebuyers? The real estate agent asks the buyers to show her the neighborhood they want most to live in. When they get there, she then asks them how much they think houses in the neighborhood sell for.

Typically, the buyers are way off in their estimation of value and the homes are worth far more than they think.

To avoid such a rude awakening in the search for your new home, choose a neighborhood that fits your budget as well as your criteria. Here are some tips to help you narrow your search:

Where to begin

Compiling lists is a good way to get focused, and during this part of the process you’ll make two lists.

The first list should include everything you don’t like about your current neighborhood. Is it noisy? Are you located too close to a commercial area? Get clear on what drives you nuts about where you live now.

Next, compile a list of features you would find in your ideal neighborhood, if cost weren’t an issue. Let your imagination run free – you’ll be editing the list later in the process. Here are a few items you may want to consider:

  • If you have children, or they’re in your future, you may want to research schools in the area and look at homes in your chosen school districts.
  • If you commute to work, perhaps you’d like to be closer to public transportation or the freeway.
  • Do you want a view?

Now, go over both lists and narrow down your criteria, depending on your housing budget. If you want a tennis court, but your budget makes you an entry-level buyer, knock that item off the list but add that you’d like your new home to be close to a community tennis court.

The final list is an excellent tool for your real estate agent. With the list in hand, your real estate agent can counsel you as to which neighborhoods you should confine your search.

When you find several neighborhoods that fulfill most of your criteria, it’s time to do some detective work.

A few things to consider when weighing your neighborhood choices

  • Property values: Is this an up-and-coming neighborhood where values are expected to rise? These types of communities are typically located on the edges of popular neighborhoods. Those who can’t afford the more popular area naturally try to be as close to it as possible, raising values in the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Crime statistics: Federal fair housing laws prohibit your real estate agent from disclosing many neighborhood factors, and crime is one of them. While the Internet is a great place to find crime statistics (via the FBI database), you’ll get the most accurate statistics from the local police or sheriff.
  • Traffic: How easy is it to access the neighborhood from major thoroughfares? If you commute, this may be an important consideration.
  • Plans: Contact the city planner to get the scoop on any future plans for the area. Certain features, such as a landfill, have a negative impact on nearby property values.

Keep Sleuthing

Now you can ignite the rocket fuel and head Mach speed into your house-hunt.

Drive around the neighborhood at different times of the day and night and on both weekends and weekdays. This will give you an idea of neighborhood activity patterns – how neighbors use the area.

If you have children you’ll want to see if children are actively engaged with one another after school and on weekends.

Maybe you’re trying to avoid a noisy neighborhood. This detective work will let you know quickly whether the area suits your needs.

Talking to neighbors is another way to get a feel for an area and its residents.

While a degree in rocket science isn’t a prerequisite to finding your perfect house in the ideal neighborhood, the process is easier if you approach it efficiently and intelligently.

Do your homework and before you know it, you’ll ignite the solid rocket booster and liftoff into homeownership.

 

What are loan origination fees?

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: When buying a home, the down payment isn’t the whole ball of wax.

When budgeting for a home, you’ll need to factor in other expenses as well and one of the largest of these are closing costs. Because they aren’t due until closing, many homebuyers don’t focus on them as much as they should.

Yes, they can be pricey but there are ways to save money on them.

First-time buyer?

Closing costs include all the fees charged by the lender and others to help facilitate your purchase of a home.

Before loan approval, you’ll be given a Loan Estimate. This is a three-page form that outlines an estimate of these fees. By law, the lender must supply you with the Loan Estimate within three days after the submission of the loan application. Find a sample of the form online at consumerfinance.gov.

Another form of note is the Closing Disclosure, which you will receive at least three days before closing.

“A Closing Disclosure is a five-page form that provides final details about the mortgage loan you have selected,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“It includes the loan terms, your projected monthly payments, and how much you will pay in fees and other costs to get your mortgage (closing costs),” they conclude.

Check out the sample Closing Disclosure, here.

How much are closing costs?

There’s no definitive answer to this general and common question. Even the “rule of thumb” varies, from between 2% and 5% to between 3% and 6% of the home’s purchase price.

Putting it into dollars, closing costs on a home purchased for $325,000 would be between $6,500 and $19,500.

What the fees typically pay for

Fees vary according to lender, but if you’d like an idea of what you might pay, see page 2 of the Closing Disclosure, here.

Let’s take a closer look at the most confusing closing costs for buyers and how to negotiate with the lender to lower it. Use the sample copy of the Loan Estimate, mentioned earlier, to follow along.

First, shop around for a lender

Many new homebuyers latch on to the lender offering the lowest mortgage interest rate and that often turns out to be a huge mistake.

As you now know, there is far more to the cost of a loan than interest rate.

First, decide that no matter how tempting an offer is, you will solicit offers from at least three lenders.

Next, compare them according to each lender’s APR or the stated rate. What’s the difference?

The stated rate, or interest rate, states the annual cost of the mortgage.

The APR, “Unlike an interest rate … includes other charges or fees such as mortgage insurance, most closing costs, discount points and loan origination fees,” according to the pros at Bank of America.

Experts are divided over which rate to compare. For a deeper understanding, visit themortgagereports.com.

Origination charges

Loan origination fees are, simply, the fees lenders charge to initiate your mortgage. This is one section of this form you’ll want to compare to other lenders’ offers.

“This is where we’ll find the “junk” fees — the add-ons a lender uses to make more money,” according to Hal M. Bundrick at nerdwallet.com.

You may see other fees listed in this section, such as:

  • Administration fee
  • Processing fee
  • Document preparation fee
  • Appraisal review fee

“Remember, any fee in Section A ‘Origination Charges,’ is negotiable and part of the lender’s profit strategy,” Bundrick said.

He also offers this negotiating trick that can be used even before you receive the Loan Estimate:

“… ask each lender you’re considering: ‘If we proceed, what are all of the origination charges that I will find listed on the Loan Estimate under Loan Costs, Item A?” Use those exact words and get their response in writing.”

Feel free to reach out with any homebuying questions. We’re happy to help.

The home inspection: which repairs are mandatory?

Twenty-five percent of May 2021 homebuyers waived the home inspection in their efforts to win a bidding war, according to research from the National Association of REALTORS®.

It’s a dangerous tactic and one we don’t recommend.

Yes, the results of a home inspection can derail the entire deal. At best, especially if the problems are significant and the buyers are still willing, it can significantly slow down the transaction while negotiations reopen and work gets done.

But waiving your right to an inspection isn’t wise.

Which repairs are mandatory?

Various states require certain fixes before the sale is consummated. California, for instance, requires that the water heater be strapped to the wall (earthquake safety regulations).

In Nebraska, the home must have “… working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors at the time of sale,” Matt Steinhausen, a longtime professional home inspector in Lincoln, Nebraska tells Valerie Kalfrin at homelight.com.

As a whole, there are no federal laws mandating certain repairs in a home sale. This is why many homes are sold in as-is condition. If the problems are serious enough, these homes may only attract cash buyers, typically investors.

And, there’s a reason for this.

Lenders generally won’t lend money to purchase a home with certain problems. Many insurers want their say in the matter as well.

Home inspections that reveal safety and health issues, violations of local building codes or structural problems may not qualify for a mortgage.

The Veteran’s Administration, for instance, requires that the home adheres to its Minimum Property Requirements (MPR). You can find a list of them at benefits.va.gov.

Buyers using an FHA-backed loan may run up against some problems as well because FHA expects the property that they lend money on to adhere to its requirements. These requirements include that the home must offer:

  • Adequate entry and exits (for example, windows) from the bedrooms to the home’s exterior.
  • Non-leaking roof. A roof that isn’t worn.
  • No structural problems.
  • No peeling paint if the home was built before 1978.
  • No “Defective exterior paint surfaces in homes constructed post-1978 where the finish is otherwise unprotected.”

These represent a few examples. For a more in-depth look at FHA requirements, visit HUD.gov.

Which repairs should I request?

After the lender and the insurance company have their say on which repairs they require, there may be other issues that make you uncomfortable. Anything that will impact your health should be at the top of the list of repair requests, along with any structural issues.

Check the home inspection report for anything that indicates:

  • Electrical hazards
  • Mold
  • Problems with the heating/cooling system
  • Wood-destroying pest infestations
  • Plumbing issues
  • Water damage

Any of these problems aren’t necessarily deal breakers. Approach all repair requests in a spirit of respect and good faith and be willing to work with the seller on getting them resolved.

Cosmetic repairs, by the way, are rarely entertained.

Repairs aren’t guaranteed

The current housing market strongly favors the home seller. The demand for homes is so high, in fact, that buyers are not only not in the driver’s seat or even riding shotgun; they’re hitchhiking.

Sellers tend to decide what they will fix and what is open for negotiation with the buyer. In any of the common multiple-offer situations, it’s almost a take-it-or-leave-it scenario. There’s always another buyer right behind you.

In the current market, it’s important to “weigh the risk of playing hardball,” cautions Kalfrin, and we agree.

Weigh it against your desire for the home and your budget.

It’s crucial that you work closely with your real estate agent when faced with a repair request. We deal with these requests daily and can help you through the process.

The gardening season starts now!

No, we’re not loopy – a variety of seeds can and should be started indoors and January and February are the ideal months to plant many of them.

So, thaw out that green thumb, dig into those seed catalogs you’ve been using to keep cabin fever at bay and get a head start on this season’s garden.

Some flower seeds to start now

Save some money in spring by starting your own flowers from seeds now. Some to consider include:

Sweet pea – Sweet peas are best planted in fall if you want them to bloom in early spring. It’s not too late to plant them, however. They will bloom, but just a bit later than they would have had you planted them in fall.

Start them now in seed planters filled with seed starting mix and transplant them in the garden in spring, as soon as the soil can be worked.

Need more tips? Check out reneesgarden.com.

Dianthus – Dianthus is typically quick to germinate (10 to 21 days) but slow to flower (60 to 90 days), so January is the ideal time to start the seeds indoors. You’ll need lights to set the seed tray under. Even an inexpensive fluorescent shop light will do the trick.

“Be aware that only selected cultivars of Diathus plumarius, such as ‘Sweetness’ (Dianthus plumarius ‘Sweetness’) will bloom the first year from seed,” cautions Bridget Kelly. She provides more helpful tips at gardenologist.org.

Snapdragon – Gorgeous and colorful, snapdragons are a must for a spring flower garden.

Seeds need to be sown 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost date (which you can find at davesgarden.com)

Vegetable seeds to plant in January and February

Tomatoes, peppers and any other warm-season vegetables you plan on growing require a long season, so starting the seeds indoors, early, is a must.

Other vegetables to start now include:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Eggplant

Get your fruit crop going

Like tomatoes, melons require a long growing season so get these seeds started indoors, now:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Watermelon

How to

Don’t look to the seed packet to give you much more information than how many weeks before your last frost date to start your seeds indoors.

The key to successful seed starting indoors is threefold:

  • Soil – always use a mix labeled especially for seed starting. These are typically soilless mixtures which will help prevent “damping off,” a common fungal disease of seeds and seedlings started in cold, wet soil.
  • Heat
  • Light

Then, you’ll need some additional equipment:

  • Containers – these can be as simple as small (3- to 4-ounce) paper cups with holes punched in the bottom for water drainage.
  • Trays to hold the containers – ensure that you line the trays with a waterproof material.
  • Seedling heat mat. These are available online at amazon.com, homedepot.com and walmart.com.
  • Fluorescent lights or LED grow lights. For the budget minded, an inexpensive fluorescent shop light will suffice. LED grow lights are a bit more expensive and you’ll find them at walmart.com and homedepot.com.
  • Plastic domes, bags or wrap – used to cover the containers to help retain moisture in the planting mix until the seedlings breach the soil.

Fill the container with the seed starting mix and use your fingers to lightly press down the soil to remove air pockets. Add more of the mix so that the container is filled to within one-quarter inch of the rim.

Plant the seeds – about two to three per container – cover the container with the dome or plastic, place them in the tray and then place that on the heat pad, under the light source.

Once the seeds germinate, remove the plastic and move the light as close as possible to them (without touching) and allow it to remain on for at least 12 hours every day.

As the seedlings grow, adjust the light so that it sits just above them – almost touching them.

Finally, about three weeks after germination, give the seedlings a weak solution of a 3-1-2 liquid fertilizer. Always apply fertilizer to wet soil and water after fertilizing.

Happy gardening!

 

Retiring? Sell that house and buy a condo

It’s wise to have a plan for that day when you say “I’m outta here!” to the work world. Your happily ever after won’t be so rosy if you’ve put off the planning.

We aren’t talking financial planning here; after all, we’re real estate agents, not financial experts.

What we’re talking about is geography–where you’ll live. The lifestyle you hope to pursue will bear on your choice of location. At least it should.

Do you plan on slowing way down or going into this phase of your life with wild abandon? If it’s anywhere near the latter, we have a suggestion for you: Downsize.

Especially if lots of travel is in your future, the last thing you need is a big house and all its accompanying maintenance to anchor you in place.

Consider selling the house and buying a condo. Read on to find out why.

You’ll lower your housing expenses

Whether you’re single or heading into retirement with a spouse or partner, ditching the family home for a condo is a sound financial decision.

First, condos typically cost less to purchase than single-family homes. For example, although condo prices have risen steadily over the past decade, the median sales price in March 2021, nationwide, was $289,000 (quickenloans.com).

During that same period, the median sales price of an existing single-family home was $334,500, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

This represents a more than 15% difference (or $45,500) in price.

Not only will you save money on the purchase of a condo rather than a single-family home, but you’ll spend less heating, cooling and maintaining a condo.

Yes, there are fees involved in condo ownership. The bonus here is that these fees help cover any major maintenance and repair costs in the community.

You’ll have fewer maintenance hassles

Although some condo communities feature homes with small yards, they pale in comparison to what you may have now. The most popular situation is a community with common areas, maintained by the homeowners association (HOA).

This means you eliminate the exterior painting, lawn mowing and snow shoveling you did when you owned a single-family home.

You’ll enjoy more amenities

Depending on the type of home you currently own, buying a condo may offer you far more amenities.

Even the smaller condo communities tend to offer swimming pools and clubhouses. A slight step-up in value and you may live in a secure community with a doorperson, concierge, fitness center and more.

Most of these goodies cost residents nothing because the fees are included in the HOA dues.

Your home may be safer and more secure

If you plan a bit of a wanderlust lifestyle when you retire, you can’t go wrong with with the home security a condo offers.

Be aware that small condo communities experience more burglaries per year than single-family homes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Condo communities that include 10 or more units, however, have lower burglary rates.

There are several reasons for this. First, larger condo communities typically offer more security features, making it tougher for the bad guys and gals to gain access to the community as well as the individual units within.

The pros at brinkshome.com offer another reason. “Single family houses are often attractive targets, as their large size promises would-be thieves greater rewards and their numerous access points make them more difficult to secure.”

Owning a condo will allow you to hit the road for as long as you want with far less worry than if you leave behind a large single-family home.

You couldn’t pick a better time to make this decision. The real estate market still favors sellers. And, the amount of equity you’ll have to work with after the sale may shock you.

Take advantage of that equity to downsize your finances and your life during retirement.

 

Budget-friendly home security tips

Nationwide, crime is skyrocketing. Sadly, we recently saw the homicide rate explode to the highest rate “… in modern history,” according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies.

Non-violent crimes, or crimes against property, have also increased, although the rate is far less than the homicide rate. Last year, for instance, there were 2.5 million burglaries in the US.

Home invasions (when someone violently breaks into the home), burglary (home break-in) and larceny (when someone saws the catalytic converter off of your car parked in the driveway) are the crimes homeowners are most concerned about.

Yet, only 17% of our homes have security systems. (policyadvice.net)

The remaining 83% of homes, according to FBI statistics, are 3 times more likely to be robbed than those with some sort of security system in place.

This holds true whether you live in a city or a rural area.

Providing your home with security features doesn’t have to cost a lot, either. Let’s take a look at how to choose the right security system for those on a budget.

Which parts of the home do you need to protect?

Sure, it would be great if we could all afford a top-of-the-line home security system. With inflation currently raging and escalating prices for everything from gas to food, budgets are tight.

Instead of a whole-home system, consider protecting the most vulnerable area of the home, the front door. The pros at ADT claim that 34% of burglars use the front door of homes.

Next, consider safeguarding first-floor windows. Twenty-three percent of bad guys and gals will gain entry through these windows.

Backdoors and garage doors are next on the list.

Choose the areas of most importance if you’re on a tight budget.

The absolute cheapest way

“Alexa, I’m leaving,” is the magic phrase to use if you need rock-bottom priced security.

You’ll need an Amazon Echo Dot, which you can purchase for as low as $19.99 at Amazon.com. Then, download the Alexa Guard app.

“Think of Alexa Guard as a tattletale that specifically listens out for breaking glass, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors,” explains Michael Bizzaco and Erika Rawes at digitaltrends.com.

“If the far-field microphones hear one of those danger sounds, Alexa will notify you by sending you a 10-second clip of the sound,” they conclude.

While the basic Guard is free, Amazon offers an upgraded subscription-based version for only $5 a month.

Experts caution that this solution shouldn’t take the place of a more comprehensive home security system. But, for those on a tight budget, it’s better than nothing.

Learn more at pcmag.com.

Security cameras to fit your budget

Once priced way out of the average American’s budget, security cameras are now readily available for everyone.

“Get a camera and make it visible,” an incarcerated burglar told reporters at KTVB.com.

The tech pros at cnet.com recommend the Wyze Cam as the best overall security camera and the Blink Mini as the best indoor camera. Both are available at amazon.com for as little as $24.99 and $19.99, respectively.

Alarms work

The folks at KTVB-TV, Channel 7 in Boise, Idaho sent a questionnaire to 86 incarcerated burglars. One of the questions asked was whether or not an alarm would dissuade them from robbing a home.

“Most intruders said they would leave immediately if a security alarm went off,” they said.

You’ll pay more for an alarm than you will for a camera, but the extra security you’ll receive may be worth it.

The Ring Alarm (around $140 right now at Lowe’s) integrates with Ring doorbells. Named “Best Security System for 2021,” by CNN Underscored, you can purchase it online at amazon.com, lowes.com, bestbuy.com and others.

Until you decide on which type of security you’ll use, the aforementioned burglars recommend that prior to leaving home, turn the TV on, loud. Also consider trimming bushes and trees that may block the view of your front door from the street.

What to expect in the 2022 housing market

If you’re thinking of jumping into the 2022 real estate market, either by buying a home, selling a home or both, understanding what is in store for the market in the future is imperative to making a wise decision.

Since nobody has a crystal ball to help discern the future, we rely on experts in various economic niches for our housing market prognostications every year. Are they always spot on? Nope, but some get awfully close.

So, let’s dive in.

Who are these people and how do they come up with forecasts?

Economic forecasters come in a variety of forms.

“Private sector companies may have in-house economists to focus on forecasts most pertinent to their specific business … Alternatively, they might rely on Wall Street or academic economists, those attached to think tanks or boutique consultants,” explains Daniel Liberto at Investopedia.com.

He goes on to caution us that “… economic forecasting is often described as a flawed science.” Examples include White House economists who will often publish rosy scenarios in an attempt to get the public onboard with certain legislation.

It’s no different in the housing market. Those with a “dog in the fight,” such as certain large real estate websites, rarely forecast discouraging news. In fact, while researching for this blog post, we found evidence of just that. One large real estate-related company’s 2022 forecast is the exact opposite of what other economists are predicting.

At any rate, economic forecasters, in general, rely on “… statistical models with inputs of several key variables,” according to Liberto. The variables are chosen according to the industry being studied. For instance, when forecasting future housing market conditions, economists use:

  • Interest rates
  • Unemployment/employment rates
  • Impacts on income, such as inflation
  • Supply and demand of homes
  • Housing affordability
  • Availability of mortgages
  • New housing construction data

Learn more about these variables at economicshelp.org.

Since space prohibits a deep dive into all of these, we’ll concentrate on the ones that our clients seem most concerned about.

Mortgage interest rates

Mortgage interest rates determine the volume of homebuyers in the market. When rates are high, those at the lower end of the affordability scale leave the home-buying process.

Low interest rates, on the other hand, encourage homebuyers and dry up the inventory of available homes.

Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com® forecasts that mortgage interest rates will “Average 3.3% throughout the year, 3.6% by end of year.”

To prove our economy can change quickly, Hale’s forecast was published prior to the latest news from the Fed: they are anticipating three interest rate increases in 2022.

“New projections based on the median forecast by Fed officials see the federal funds rate rising to 0.9% by the end of 2022, to 1.6% by the end of 2023 and to 2.1% by the end of 2024,” according to Greg Robb at marketwatch.com.

While the rates expected are higher than we’ve experienced in the past year, they may still remain at historic lows.

And 2022 home prices?

Attempting to time the market is never a good idea. By the time it corrects, it’s too late to take advantage of the previous market.

“Will next year be a good time to sell?” is a question we field a lot lately. Let’s see what economists have to say about it.

Economists that we follow say that prices will soften in the new year, but slowly. Realtor.com experts claim that over the course of 2022, the median existing home price will rise 2.9%

If that projection comes true, it would represent the slowest rate of growth since 2012, according to Lance Lambert at fortune.com.

So, what could change this scenario? Rising mortgage rates could dry up demand, causing prices to plummet.

What may be more likely to occur are changes in the jobs market. The new Corona variant is still quite mysterious and how our lawmakers respond to it could impact the employment scene.

Best guess? It depends …

The housing market’s strength depends on a number of variables, one of the most important of which is the health of the job market.

“The Great Resignation,” new variants of the coronavirus and other factors have thrown all predictions about 2022’s jobs market to the wind.

California, for instance is expecting “… fewer payroll jobs …” in 2022 “… than previously anticipated,” according mercurynews.com’s George Avalos, citing the Anderson Forecast.

I know this is a lot to consider as you think about timing your home sale or purchase. Our best advice to you is to jump in as soon as you can.

Feel free to reach out for assistance; we’re happy to help.

 

How to handle a pet emergency when you can’t afford it

COVID-19 changed lives in ways that we never imagined possible. One of those ways was the introduction of intense loneliness, isolation and boredom due to the lockdown and stay-home mandates.

Some Americans relied on pharmaceuticals to tolerate the isolation while others turned to overeating, exercise, or even adopting a four-legged companion.

“Shelters, nonprofit rescues, private breeders, pet stores — all reported more consumer demand than there were dogs and puppies to fill it,” according to Kim Kaven at washingtonpost.com.

She goes on to say that pet rescues reported receiving “… dozens of applications for individual dogs. Some breeders were reporting waiting lists well into 2021.”

Add to this the so-called Great Resignation and inflation and we end up with a bunch of folks without the money to cover the basic necessities let alone a pet health emergency.

There is something powerfully comforting about the unconditional love provided by our pets. For many, they become family members. When tragedy strikes a family member, we want to do everything we can to help.

Whether it’s emergency medical care or free pet food, many pet owners have no idea that there is help for them. Let’s take a look at some of that assistance.

Local veterinary teaching hospitals

If you live near a university with a veterinary program and hospital, calling or visiting may be the best first step. Many have surgical funds. The University of California at Davis, for instance, offers the Compassionate Care Fund.

Texas A&M University’s Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital offers The Roach Family Fund.

For contact information for the university near you, consult this nationwide list of accredited colleges of veterinary medicine.

Red Rover

“Bringing animals and their people from crisis to care,” Red Rover’s slogan, aptly describes the many programs the group offers. One of these is their “urgent veterinary care grant.”

“These grants are intended to fill a small gap in funding that is keeping an animal from receiving urgent veterinary care,” the group explains on its website.

“In addition to financial support, case managers are there to provide emotional support and guidance throughout the application process.”

The typical grant, according to the group, is $250.

The group also offers an extensive list of organizations that offer pet-related assistance, organized by state. You’ll find it online at redrover.org. 

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF)

AVMF doesn’t provide funds to the general public, but to individual veterinarians across the country. The funds are intended to “… provide veterinarians with a simple and effective way to offer charitable veterinary services to clients facing personal hardships.”

Ask your veterinarian if you and your pet qualify.

The Pet Fund

“The Pet Fund is a registered 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to owners of domestic animals in the United States who need veterinary care,” according to The Pet Fund’s website.

The funds are only allocated for “… non-basic, non-urgent care.” This includes care for heart disease, endocrine disease, ongoing eye problems and cancer treatment, among others.

View the application online at thepetfund.com.

Pets of the Homeless

Most organizations that provide help for pets of the homeless are also happy to help others in need. They’re worth contacting if you can’t afford food for your pet.

To find a pet food bank near you, visit petsofthehomeless.org. Click on “Search Resources Near You,” and then enter your city or ZIP Code in the box on the new page.

Consult various pet resource directories

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) offers several directories for pet parents needing help.

Alley Cat Allies

Directory of pet foodbank locations nationwide.

PetSmart® Charities

Nationwide directory of low-cost spay and neuter clinics.