When it comes to household expenses, staying at home has brought about savings in some areas, while increasing expenses in others. The laundry room has likely seen an uptick in usage, with its associated costs following suit. Save your energy and money by keeping these tips in mind as we continue to adapt to being home more often.
Master your machine settings
Review the owner’s manuals for your washer and dryer. There may very well be energy-saving settings you’re not using. For example, your washer’s “high-speed” or “extended wash” cycles will remove more moisture, which can help reduce drying time. A dryer’s “cool down cycle” allows clothes to finish drying using only residual heat.
Think twice before washing
Once you’re aware of the costs associated with washing and drying, and the natural resources this consumes, you may decide you don’t need to launder certain clothes as often – which can also extend the life of these garments. Some clothing, like jeans, sweatshirts, and sweatpants, can be worn a few times without a cleaning. Washing these items only when necessary will help you cut down. Another tip – keep another laundry basket in your room for those lightly worn clothes that you could wear again, so they keep separate from your clean clothes.
Use hot water only when necessary
Using warm water instead of hot can significantly cut down your washer’s energy expense. Using cold water puts less pressure on electricity grids, saving your household even more money and energy. Cold water washes are less likely to shrink or fade your clothing as well. To ensure your clothes still get clean, try using a cold-water detergent.
Right-size your loads
For both washing and drying, taking into consideration the size of your load can factor greatly into your savings. No matter the size of the load you wash, it costs the same amount to run a cycle. So instead of doing two small loads, wait until you have one large load. When drying, keep in mind that an overly full dryer will take longer to dry the clothes. A dryer with too few items inside costs more to operate.
Clean the dryer vent and filter
When the lint filter in your dryer gets clogged, airflow is reduced, and the dryer can’t operate effectively. Make a point to clean the filter after every use. If you use dryer sheets, scrub the filter every month to remove any film buildup. The venting that attaches to the back of your dryer also needs to be kept clean and clear.
When the weather is sunny and warm, consider putting your clothes out to hang-dry. Doing so will keep your drying expenses to a minimum. It can also be a better drying method for clothing with delicate tailoring.
With staying at home being the new status quo, taking a look at the ways our homes use energy and incur expenses is more relevant than ever. These small changes in the laundry room are just some of the minor adjustments you can make in your household during these unique times.
This week on “Mondays with Matthew”: Now that things have settled down somewhat following the initial impact of COVID-19, Matthew dives into the topic of mortgage rates. Will they go below 3%? Matthew discusses this and the factors that have formed his updated 2020 and 2021 mortgage rate forecast.
Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, many of us now find ourselves working from home. While it’s hard to complain about the commute, working from home can be an adjustment. For example, you may find yourself doing tasks around the house and suddenly you’ve missed several important emails. If you feel like you need some help being more productive while working from home, here are five tips to improve your workflow.
The best kind of light is natural light. Try setting up your workspace by a window. If that’s not possible, add a desk lamp or floor lamp to brighten your space. Not only will it help with visibility; it brightens your mood, which helps you to be more productive.
Remove distracting clutter. Take everything off your desk that you don’t need. Store it elsewhere or use shelves on your wall to display it.
If you find yourself cleaning throughout the day, set aside time specifically for these tasks. If you’re still waking up at the same time you did when working at the office—which studies show is a great strategy when working from home—using your would-be commute time to tidy up helps avoid those periodic distractions.
Bring the Outdoors In
Bringing plants into your home is beneficial for productivity and health alike. Greenery is a natural mood booster and gives life to a room. Plants naturally purify the air, helping you breathe easy as you make your way through the workday. Try arranging both hanging and potted plants to improve the mood around your workspace.
Change Your Chair
A chair that’s too tall, too short, or not comfortable is a fast track to back and shoulder problems that inhibit your workday and linger afterwards. Being in a stationary position for hours at a time requires the right kind of support to stay productive. Features to look for in a quality office chair include proper lumbar support, sturdy wheels, and an adjustable base that allows your shoulders to relax and your feet to rest flat on the floor.
It’s important to keep your home office professional and dedicated to your work. However, adding personal touches to the space will help you feel at ease. Position your work computer and phone front and center with any related work tools close by and handy. Adding pictures of loved ones, artwork, and inspirational quotes will help inspire you to generate ideas while working productively.
As the situation develops with the COVID-19 pandemic, Windermere Real Estate is dedicated to taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus while continuing to work with home buyers. To help with this process, here are some ways you as a home buyer can keep yourself and others safe during the buying process.
WHEN TOURING HOMES
❱ Only tour the property if you feel healthy.
❱ Ask your Windermere agent to show you the property instead of attending an open house.
❱ Drive separately from your agent to the property.
❱ Be considerate of the seller’s home and wash or sanitize your hands before entry, touching as little as necessary. While many sellers will likely provide it, bring your own hand sanitizer and use before and after you tour the home. You might also consider wearing disposable gloves for further safety.
❱ Ask your agent to confirm with the seller’s agent that they have not recently been sick or in contact with someone suspected of having COVID-19.
❱ Sellers often ask you to take off your shoes when you tour their home or wear protective booties that have been provided. Consider bringing your own booties and throwing them away when you’ve finished touring.
❱ Be mindful of how much you touch things in the home and minimize contact with doors and hand railings.
❱ Reduce the amount of time spent with other people in the same room. This “social distancing” practice can curb person-to-person spread.
DO NOT TOUR HOMES IF
❱ If you are currently self-quarantined because of illness or other reasons, you should not tour homes in person. Ask your Windermere agent to video chat with you while they tour the home so you can see it virtually.
❱ Do not view homes when you’re sick, feeling like you’re about to be sick, or getting over an illness.
❱ We do not recommend touring homes after returning from international travel or travel that exposed you to a large group of people in close quarters, like large events.
Find our Coronavirus Protections for Home Sellers here:
The holiday season is here and for many of us, that means it’s time to deck the halls. If you’re looking for some inspiration and a place to start, here are some ideas that are certain to get everyone in the spirit.
A Tree of a Different Color
For many, there’s nothing more quintessential during the holidays than a Christmas tree decked out in ornaments. But acquiring a tree can be challenging and expensive. Moreover, housing a tree consumes time and space. That’s why we love the idea of an alternative tree. There are plenty of options you can buy online or create yourself using things you probably already have around the house. And if you miss the smell of a real tree, try a scented candle or essential oils.
The Season of Lights
There’s something perpetually charming about twinkling lights. Whether you’re wrapping them around your front porch or adorning your fireplace mantle, extra lights deliver a warm glow during the holiday season. Getting creative and adding light to otherwise unexpected places, including bookcases, around headboards, or even in glassware, is a great way to keep everything looking merry and bright.
Not all holiday climates are built alike. If you’re expecting a white Christmas, you’re probably used to pine trees and winter brush, but for those of you located in regions where the mercury doesn’t drop, sprinkling in natural elements can transform your home into a wintery oasis. Holly and pine needles add a traditional touch, or consider a wreath of olive branches with some sleigh bells interspersed.
Bring it All Home at Dinner
When decorating for the holidays, don’t forget the table! A sprig of holly adds a festive touch to your place settings. And instead of the traditional centerpiece, try placing candles in glass vases or mason jars to give your tablescape that added touch of holiday pizzazz.
We’re in the thick of autumn now, with Thanksgiving just days away. That means it’s time to start considering how to best showcase your home before the guests arrive.
One of the cheeriest bits of fall is the shifting colors that bring a canopy of rustic hues to a walk through the neighborhood. You can bring that cozy feeling inside yourself with some golden-dipped creativity.
Gilded Pears – Use real or fake pears, whichever you prefer, spray paint gold, and allow them to dry completely. You can add little flags to the top if you’re really feeling crafty.
Magnolia Wreath – Collect some Magnolia branches and use a wreath frame as a base. Spray paint the green side of each leaf with gold and then assemble using wire. It’s not as complicated as it looks!
Dipped Pinecones – First, you’ll want to make sure your cones are clean and dry. Apply gold leaf adhesive using a foam brush; deciding how much you add will determine how much of the cone is covered in gold. After they dry, consider gold leafing the cone’s scales. Wrap it around the cone and use a clean foam brush to rub it into the adhesive. Then give it a light spray with sealant and allow them to dry.
Gold Acorns – Hand pick your acorns, clean, and oven-dry them to make sure they are pest free. Paint them gold and then add a layer of clear shellac for a shiny look. Lastly, you’ll want to use a hot glue gun to attach the caps since they naturally fall off after the acorns dry. You can use these as filler in a glass vase or simply scatter them on a tabletop.
Shimmering Maple Garland – All you’ll need is a bag of artificial leaves, bought at any craft store, some Elmer’s glue, glitter, and string. Use a paintbrush to apply glue to each leaf and sprinkle lots of glitter over them. Let the glue set, then shake off the excess glitter, punch a hole at the top and attach a ribbon. Tie them all to a large strand and voilà, a perfect garland for the holidays.
Petite Pumpkins – If you are still head over heels for pumpkins, then using small ones for place cards will add some spice to your table. Tape each pumpkin halfway with painters tape, choose a design with horizontal, diagonal, or however you want! Next paint the bottom portion with gold craft paint (may require multiple layers) and with the last layer still wet, generously sprinkle gold glitter over the painted half. After your pumpkin is dry and you’ve shaken off the excess glitter, wrap beading foil tightly around the stem. Leave a little extra at the end for you to bend for your place card.
Find these and more decor ideas on our Pinterest Board, “A Gold Thanksgiving.”
Condominium homes are a great, low-maintenance choice for a primary residence, second home, or investment property. This alternative to the traditional single-family home has unique issues to consider before buying, as well as unique benefits.
Increasingly, condos are not just for first-time homebuyers looking for a less expensive entry into the housing market. Empty-nesters and retirees are happy to give up mowing the lawn and painting the house. Busy professionals can experience luxury living knowing their home is safe and well-maintained while they are away on business.
If you are considering buying a condominium for a home, here are a few things you should know:
With condominiums, you own everything in your unit on your side of the walls. Individual owners hold title to the condominium unit only, not the land beneath the unit. All owners share title to the common areas: the grounds, lobby, halls, parking areas and other amenities. A homeowners’ association (HOA) usually manages the complex and collects a monthly fee from all condominium owners to pay for the operation and maintenance of the property. These fees may include such items as insurance, landscape, and grounds up-keep, pool maintenance, security, and administrative costs.
The owners of the units in a condominium are all automatic members of the condo association. The association is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, who manage the operations and upkeep of the property. A professional management company may also be involved in assisting the board in their decisions. The condo association also administers rules and regulations designed to ensure safety and maintain the value of your investment. Examples include whether or not pets are allowed and the hours of use for condominium facilities, such as pools and work-out rooms. Should a major expense occur, all owners are responsible for paying their fair share of the expense.
The pros and cons of condominium living:
The condominium lifestyle has many benefits, but condominium ownership isn’t for everyone. Whether living in a condominium works for you depends on your current and planned future lifestyle. By necessity, condominium associations have a number of standardized rules. You need to decide whether these regulations work for you or not. Here are some points to keep in mind if you’re considering condominium living.
Convenience: People who love living in condominiums always cite the convenience factor. It’s nice to have someone else take care of landscaping, upkeep, and security. Condominium homes are often located in urban areas where restaurants, groceries, and entertainment are just a short walk away.
Luxury amenities: May condominiums offer an array of amenities that most homeowners couldn’t afford on their own, such as fitness centers, clubhouses, wine cellars, roof-top decks, and swimming pools. Lobbies of upscale condominiums can rival those of four-star hotels, making a great impression on residents.
Privacy: Since you share common walls and floors with other condominium owners, there is less privacy than what you’d expect in a single-family home. While condominiums are built with noise abatement features, you may still occasionally hear your neighbors.
Space: Except for very high-end units, condominiums are generally smaller than single-family homes. That means less storage space and often, smaller rooms. The patios and balconies of individual units are usually much smaller as well.
Autonomy: As a condominium owner, you are required to follow the laws of the associations. That means giving up a certain amount of control and getting involved in the group decision-making process. HOA bylaws vary greatly from property to property, and some people may find certain rules too restrictive.
Things to consider when you decide to buy:
Condominium homes vary from intimate studios to eclectic lofts and luxury penthouses. The right condominium is the one that best fits your lifestyle. Here are a few questions to ask to determine which condominium is right for you.
How will you use it?
Will your condominium be your primary residence? A second home? An investment property? While a studio may be too small for a primary residence, it might be a perfect getaway. Also, consider how your lifestyle may change over the next five to seven years. If you are close to retirement, you may want to have the option of turning a vacation condominium into your permanent home.
What amenities are most important to you?
Amenities vary location to location. Decide what you want, and you can be assured of finding it. Most urban and resort condominiums have an enticing array of extras, from spas to movie screening rooms to tennis courts.
What are your specific needs?
Do you have a pet? Some associations don’t allow them; others have limitations on their size. Most buildings will have a rental cap, so be sure to know what that cap is if you’re buying as an investment. Parking can also be a major issue, especially in dense, urban areas. How many spaces do you get per unit? Do you pay extra if you have more vehicles?
Cost: Condominium homes typically cost less than houses, so they’re a great choice for first-time buyers. However, because condominiums are concentrated in more expensive locations, and sizes are generally smaller than a comparable single-family home, the price per square foot for a condominium is usually higher.
Finally, once you’ve found a property you like, examine the association’s declaration, rules, and bylaws to make sure they fit your needs. The association will provide you with an outline of their monthly fees and exactly what they cover so you can accurately budget your expenses.
Ask to review the association board’s meeting minutes from the past year to get an idea of any issues the association is working on. An analysis of sales demand and property appreciation compared to like units may help ensure that you make the best possible investment.
If you’ve suddenly been hit with a home improvement project that’s pinching your budget, like a roofing issue or heater malfunction, a personal loan might be an option to help cover the cost.
What is a personal loan?
A personal loan is an installment loan that’s typically issued by a bank, credit union or online lender. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on a two-year personal loan is 10.22% but varies depending on your credit score and other criteria. Some lenders offer repayment terms anywhere from 12 months to five years.
A benefit of using a personal loan for emergency home improvement projects is that the approval process is generally quick so you can address urgent home repairs sooner. Some online lenders can run a credit check, approve your application and send funds your way with a couple of days. The approval process for banks and credit unions, on the other hand, can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, if the lender needs additional information.
How to find a personal loan
If you’ve decided that a personal loan makes sense to fund your next home project, make sure you’re aware of these next steps.
1. Assess your budget
The last thing you need is taking out a personal loan only to realize after the fact that you can’t afford to repay it. Calculate how much you realistically need for your home improvement project, giving yourself a reasonable buffer for unforeseen repair expenses (e.g. permit fees, price changes for a specific material, etc.)
Then, tally your monthly income and financial obligations to ensure you still have enough cash on hand to keep the lights on and make monthly installments toward your loan. Using a spreadsheet or budgeting app can help you track these numbers easily.
2. Know your credit score
Generally, you need a good credit score to get approved for a personal loan. Your credit score is one of the key factors that lenders use to determine whether your application is approved, and a higher credit score results in a lower interest rate offer.
Check your credit score with the three credit bureaus to ensure there isn’t an error or suspicious activity that might inadvertently lower your credit score. For a free credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com to see where your credit stands before moving forward in the process.
3. Compare rates and terms
When you’ve confirmed that you have a good credit score that can get you competitive interest rates, it’s tempting to accept a loan from the first lender that approves you. But like other major purchases, it’s important to shop around.
Compare interest rates, annual percentage rates (APR), and term durations available, and read the fine print for any conditions or fees that might offset any benefits.
To start, try reaching out to your existing financial institution first to see what they can offer; sometimes credit unions, in particular, offer rate incentives for loyal members. Also, consider using a personal loan aggregator website to compare offers from multiple online lenders at once (just do your due diligence to ensure the site is legitimate).
4. Submit an application
If you’re ready to submit an application, you can either complete a form online or apply in-person, depending on your lender. Although all lenders require different information to process a loan application, some common information to prepare ahead of time include:
- Personal information
- Employment information
- Reason for the loan
- Amount you want to borrow
To minimize any delays on your end, it’s helpful to prepare copies of verification documents, such as a driver’s license, proof of address like a utility statement, information about your home and pay stubs. Your prospective lender will likely reach out to you if they need any other information to make a decision.
Although it’s always best to have emergency savings set aside for a sudden home improvement project, turning to a personal loan is a useful option when you’re pressed for funds and time. As urgent as your project might feel, however, always take the time to do your research to ensure you’re making the right move for your situation.
Appraisals are used as a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions, appraisals are an important part of the buying/selling process.
Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.
Appraisal value vs. market value
The appraiser’s value is determined by using a combination of factors such as comparative market analyses and their inspection of the property to determine if the listing price is typical for the area.
Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for.
If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show them comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give them a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.
What information goes into an appraisal?
Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals.
They also conduct an inspection. Typically, an appraiser’s inspection focuses on:
- The condition of the property and home, inside and out.
- The home’s layout and features.
- Home updates.
- Overall quality of construction.
- Estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately).
- Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools).
After the inspection, the appraiser of a typical single-family home will create their report including their professional opinion on what the price of the home should be.
You might hear the lender ask for two reports, the “Sales Comparison Approach” and the “Cost Approach.” These two approaches use different methodologies to find the appropriate value of the home, and help the lender confirm the home’s price.
Who pays and how long does it take?
The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed at closing. Typical costs range from $275-$600, but this can vary from region to region.
An inspection usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of your property. In addition, the appraiser spends time pulling up county records for the values of the houses around you. A full report is sent to your loan officer, real estate agent, and/or lender in about a week.
If you are the seller, you won’t get a copy of an appraisal ordered by a buyer. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, however, the buyer has the right to get a copy of the appraisal if they request it. Typically, the requested appraisal is provided at closing.
What if the appraisal is too low?
A low appraisal can present a problem when there’s a large difference between what you’ve agreed to pay and the appraisal price.
Usually, the seller’s agents and the buyer’s agent will respond by looking for recent sold and pending listings of comparable homes. Sometimes this can influence the appraisal. If the final appraisal is well below what you have agreed to pay, you can re-negotiate the contract or cancel it.
Where do you find a qualified appraiser?
Your bank or lending institution will find and hire an appraiser; Federal regulatory guidelines do not allow borrowers to order and provide an appraisal to a bank for lending purposes. If you want an appraisal for your own personal reasons and not to secure a mortgage or buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can do the hiring yourself. You can contact your lending institution and they can recommend qualified appraisers and you can choose one yourself or you can call your local Windermere Real Estate agent and they can make a recommendation for you. Once you have the name of some appraisers you can verify their status on the Federal Appraisal Subcommittee website.
Tips for hassle-free appraisals:
To ensure the appraisal process is smooth and efficient, provide your appraiser with the information and documents he or she needs to get the job done. The documents you will need include:
- A brief explanation of why you’re getting an appraisal
- The date you’d like your appraisal to be completed
- A copy of your deed, survey, purchase agreement, or other papers that pertain to the property
- A sketch of the property with the property’s dimensions. These are usually available online from the county assessors.
- If you have a mortgage, provide the information about your lender, the year you got your mortgage, the amount, the type of mortgage (FHA, VA, etc.), your interest rate, and any additional financing you have.
- A copy of your current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, balance owing and on what (for example, sewer, water)
- Tell your appraiser if your property is listed for sale and if so, your asking price and listing agency.
- If it’s a multiple offer situation, provide the appraiser with the other offers to prove the demand for the home.
- Any personal property that is included in the sale, like appliances and other fixtures.
- If you’re selling an income-producing property, a breakdown of income and expenses for the last year or two and a copy of leases.
- A copy of the original house plans and specifications.
- A list of recent improvements and their costs.
- Any other information you feel may be relevant.
By doing your homework, compiling the information your appraiser needs, and providing it at the beginning of the process, you can minimize unnecessary delays.
Podcasts are a growing medium as listeners search for new sources of entertainment and information. In 2018 there were about 550,000 podcasts, in 2019 there are more than 750,000. Listeners are growing too, an estimated 20 million more people in the U.S. are listening to podcasts this year as compared to2018.
This growth in audio entertainment inspired us to pull together a few of our favorite real estate podcasts. Whether you’re interested in investing in real estate, looking to make a move to a new home, or just want to know what’s happening in the market, here are our recommendations:
The Millennial Real Estate Investor
Find your niches in Real Estate with Dan Mackin and Ben Welch, who host experts with stories about their investing successes and challenges. Learn from the experienced guests on this show the many ways to get into investing and succeed at it.
Listen to Millennial Real Estate Investor wherever you get your podcasts (Icon linked):
Cash Flow Connection
If you’re drawn to the commercial side of real estate, Cash Flow Connections with host, Hunter Thompson, is an informative podcast that interviews leading investors, sponsors and managers. Learn about all the aspects of commercial real estate from all viewpoints to find the right fit for you.
Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, was just interviewed about the state of the real estate market, and what to expect in the next recession (hint: it won’t be driven by housing). You can listen to that episode here.
Listen to Cash Flow Connection wherever you get your podcasts:
For Those About to Move
Windermere Home and Wealth
Host Brian Bushlach interviews business owners, local guides, and Windermere agents in each episode about different areas throughout the Western U.S. and what they have to offer to those who live or visit there. Learn about what’s attracting newcomers to the area, and what the local real estate market looks like. This podcast is sure to stir your wanderlust.
Listen to Windermere Home and Wealth wherever you get your podcasts:
Finding Home with 106.1 KISS FM
Join first-time home buyers, and radio personalities, Anthony and Carla Marie from 106.1 KISS FM, as they walk through the home buying journey with their Windermere agents. This podcast is both entertaining and informative as they ask the questions you’ve always wanted answers to. With their knowledgeable real estate agents by their sides, they’re taking you along as they get approved, look for houses, and even put an offer on a home.
Listen to Finding Home on iHeartRadio:
Hosted by National Association of Home Builders CEO Jerry Howard and Chief Lobbyist Jim Tobin, this podcast covers updates in the housing market and building industry across the nation. Learn from experts in the field about recent laws and the news of the industry.
Listen to Housing Developments wherever you get your podcasts:
Real Estate News with Kathy Fettke
This podcast is aimed at real estate investors who want to stay curren on the latest real estate news. Presented in bite sized episodes, listeners can learn about laws, regulations, and economic events that affect real estate and their local market.
Listen wherever you get your podcasts: