Important Bike Safety Tips

Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

Some of the rules that keep roads safe for drivers and cyclists apply primarily to drivers. Some of the responsibility, however, falls squarely on the shoulders of bike riders. If you love to ride, keep these in mind:

  • Go with the flow: Cyclists should ride on the same side of the road they’d be on if they were driving in a given direction.
  • Stay in your lane: Even if there isn’t a designated bike lane, it’s best to stay off the sidewalk. You should typically ride as far to the side of the road as you safely and comfortably can (this varies by state).
  • See (and obey!) the light: These apply to cyclists, too! Riding through a stoplight or stop sign is just as much of a no-no for bikes as it is for cars.
  • Signal your intentions: Bike riders have a set of hand signals that communicate the same messages. Learn how to signal actions like turning and slowing. This is especially important if you’re on the far right side of a road and need to cut across a lane to make a left turn.

Finally, don’t forget that a bike helmet isn’t the only garment that will help keep you safe. Wear reflective clothing for day and night riding. Check your outfit for loose shoelaces, straps, or scarves that could get caught in chains or spokes and secure the bottoms of long skirts or the cuffs on loose-fitting trousers before you start pedaling.

How To Trade In Your Phone

Have you ever traded in a phone? Most carriers have their own programs that you can learn about on their website or through your account. However, there are other options out there too, offering cash for both Android and Apple devices. Here’s how to get the best deal:

  • Shop around. Don’t just take your carrier’s word for it, be sure to check multiple providers to find the best offer. Try these sites after checking with your provider: GadgetGone.com, ItsWorthMore.com.
  • Before cashing in, fix that broken screen. Some carriers will reduce the price for the phone to next to nothing if it has a broken screen. However, most screen fixes are quick, can be cheap, and will increase the value of your phone. Do your research.
  • Delete. Delete. Delete. Be sure to delete all personal information after you have backed up your phone. Once you’ve saved your data, restore the phone to its factory settings to avoid any potential fraud or your data getting into the wrong hands. 

How To Cope When Plans Fall Through

No matter how much we prepare in advance, chances are very good that plans will have to change along the way. Some people are adept at going with the flow when this happens, but for others, a sudden schedule change can be debilitating.

There’s no magic solution that makes plans bullet-proof or changes easier to handle, but there are some things you can do to help your brain cope with the stress of change. And most of the following tips can be implemented at the moment plans fall through, or even afterward, so it’s not all about planning ahead for changing plans!

  • Have a Plan B. And maybe even C. Unexpected changes are most difficult to handle when we don’t have a backup. Think ahead of time about how you might pivot if you needed to, and you’re more likely to be able to make the shift gracefully.
  • Focus on what you can control. It’s upsetting when changes are beyond your control, and it’s also important to remember that worrying about those things won’t help. Instead, look at the elements of a plan that are in your control and do what you can with those.
  • Look for learning opportunities. This may come after the fact, but if you can reframe the experience as a chance to learn something it may be easier to let go of anxiety.
  • Treat yourself kindly. There is no point in berating yourself about your reaction when plans fall through, or piling shame on top of whatever unhappiness you were already feeling. Give yourself the chance to feel and acknowledge your feelings without judgement and you’re more apt to be able to move on.

As Home Equity Rises, So Does Your Wealth

As Home Equity Rises, So Does Your Wealth | Keeping Current Matters

Homeownership is still a crucial part of the American dream. For those people who own a home (and those looking to buy one), it’s clear that being a homeowner has considerable benefits both emotionally and financially. In addition to long-term stability, buying a home is one of the best ways to increase your net worth. This boost to your wealth comes in the form of equity.

Equity is the difference between what you owe on the home and its market value based on factors like price appreciation.

The best thing about equity is that it often grows without you even realizing it, especially in a sellers’ market like we’re in now. In today’s real estate market, the combination of low housing supply and high buyer demand is driving home values up. This is giving homeowners a significant equity boost.

According to the latest data from CoreLogic, the amount of equity homeowners have has continued to grow as home values appreciate. Here are some key takeaways from the Homeowner Equity Insights Report:

  • The average homeowner gained $51,500 in equity over the past year
  • There was a 29.3% increase in national homeowner equity year over year

To give you an idea of what that looks like in your area, the map below shows the average equity gains by state.As Home Equity Rises, So Does Your Wealth | Keeping Current Matters

What does all of that mean for you?

If you’re already a homeowner, you likely have more equity in your house than you realize. The numbers in the map above reflect year-over-year growth. If you’ve been in your home for longer than a year, you’ll likely have even more equity than that. That equity can take you places. You can use the equity you’ve gained to fuel your next move, achieve other life goals, and more.

On the other hand, if you haven’t purchased a home yet, understanding equity can help you realize why homeownership is a worthwhile goal. Homeowners across the nation gained an average of over $50,000 in equity this year. Don’t miss out on this chance to grow your net worth.

Bottom Line

If you want to learn more, talk with a real estate professional. A trusted advisor can help you understand where home prices are today, how they contribute to a homeowner’s net worth, and the impact equity can have when you own a home.

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Don’t Tackle Selling Your Home on Your Own – an Agent Can Help

Don’t Tackle Selling Your Home on Your Own - an Agent Can Help | Keeping Current Matters

If you’re looking to maximize your sale and minimize your effort, you need to work with a real estate professional. In a sellers’ market like today’s, it can be tempting to list your house on your own – known as For Sale By Owner (FSBO). But the truth is, a real estate professional can save you time and money by managing every step of the process, from pricing your home to reviewing documents and handling negotiations.

Before you decide to sell your house on your own, here are five reasons why working with an agent is your best bet to maximize the sale of your home.

1. First impressions are everything – and an agent knows how to make a great one.

Prepping a house for sale requires a significant amount of time and effort, even though it may seem simple at first glance. Doing it right so it stands out takes expertise and an understanding of what buyers are looking for. An agent considers things like:

  • Should you take down any personal art or pictures?
  • How much landscaping should you invest in to boost your house’s curb appeal?
  • What wall colors are most appealing to buyers?

An expert real estate advisor relies on their experience to answer these questions and more so you don’t invest in the wrong things. Your time and money are important – you shouldn’t waste either.

2. Agents have tools to maximize the number of views your home gets.

Put plainly, the more buyers that view your house, the better your return will be. In our current market, homes are receiving 3.8 offers on average per sale, according to recent data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). While that’s promising for the sale of your home, it’s important to understand your agent’s role in bringing buyers in.

Agents have multiple tools at their disposal – from social media to agency resources – to ensure your home is viewed by more prospective buyers. Leveraging the tools available to your agent and your agent’s expertise may help boost your sale price as well.

3. An agent won’t miss anything in the fine print.

Your agent can also save you time by taking any guesswork out of navigating the required documentation. Today, more disclosures and regulations are mandatory, meaning the number of legal documents you need to juggle is growing.

Because there’s so much to take care of, it can be hard to truly understand all of the requirements and the fine print. That’s where an expert advisor can truly shine. They’ve been through the process before and can be your guide to avoid any costly missteps.

4. Expert advisors know the market and how to price your home.

Another way your agent maximizes the sale of your home is by making sure it’s priced right. Real estate professionals have the experience to compare your house to recently sold homes in your area. They also understand the market at large and can factor in any upgrades you’ve completed to your home. Combining these factors is the key to making sure your home is priced to move quickly – and at a competitive price.

When you FSBO, you’re operating without this expertise. Even with your own research, you may not find the most up-to-date information and could risk setting a price that’s inaccurate or unrealistic. If you price your house too high, you could turn buyers away before they’re even in the front door. This could also cause problems when it’s time for the appraisal.

5. Your agent will be an expert negotiator.

In addition to their experience navigating sales, real estate professionals understand how to negotiate every aspect of a deal. They also know all the parties that will be involved with the sale, including:

  • The buyer, who wants the best deal possible.
  • The buyer’s agent, who will use their expertise to advocate for the buyer.
  • The inspection company, which works for the buyer and will almost always find concerns with the house.
  • The appraiser, who assesses the property’s value to protect the lender.

An agent relies on their experience and training to make the right moves during the negotiation. They’ll know what levers to pull, how to address each individual’s concerns, and when you may want to get a second opinion. Selling your house as a FSBO means you’ll need to be prepared to have these conversations on your own.

Bottom Line

Selling a house takes time, effort, and expertise – don’t go at it alone. If you truly want to maximize the sale of your home, work with a trusted real estate professional.

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Early October is the Sweet Spot for Buyers

Early October is the Sweet Spot for Buyers | Keeping Current Matters

Are you looking to buy a home? If so, we’ve got good news for you.

While there’s no denying the housing market is having a great year, many of the headlines are focused on the perks for sellers. But what about buyers today? As a buyer, you’re likely braving bidding wars and weighing low mortgage rates versus price appreciation as you search for your dream home. If you find yourself a bit discouraged, hear this: there are clear signs buyers may have more opportunities this fall.

According to realtor.com, the sweet spot for buyers is just around the corner. In a recent study, experts analyzed housing market trends by looking at data from the past several years. When applied to the current market, experts determined the ideal week to buy a home this year. The research says:

Nationally, the best time to buy in 2021 is the week of October 3-9. This week historically has shown the best balance of market conditions that favor buyers.”

So, what’s that mean for you? If you’re looking to buy a home, there’s a golden window of opportunity coming. Here’s what you can expect from that week.

Increased Housing Supply

The number of homes available for sale should increase. According to realtor.com, you can expect to see more new listings come to market the week of October 3. The findings estimate we’ll see roughly 17.6% more homes available than we saw at the start of the year.

This means you’ll have more options to choose from which should be a welcome relief in a market with tight housing supply.

Fewer Bidding Wars

With more homes available, you should also see a slight decline in the number of bidding wars. Having more options means buyers may not be competing as intensely for the homes on the market because there are more choices to go around.

This means when you write an offer, you may have less competition and a better chance of being the top bid. Just remember, it’s still important to come in with a strong offer.

Adjusted Homes Prices

As we move into the end of the year, the findings from realtor.com note this week may also be one of the peak weeks for price reductions in 2021. Historically the data shows an average of 7.0% of homes have a price reduction that week. Why? When housing supply ticks up, sellers need to look for other ways to make their house stand out.

This means, while home prices are still appreciating overall, you may see some homes with price adjustments from eager sellers. The process of closing a house takes time. To close before end of year, sellers may be more motivated this October.

Bottom Line

If you’re in the market for a home, don’t lose steam now. Data shows early October may give you the long-awaited opportunity to find the home of your dreams. Lean on a trusted real estate professional as your ally and advisor to help keep you motivated so you can find the perfect home.

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If You’re a Buyer, Is Offering Asking Price Enough?

If You’re a Buyer, Is Offering Asking Price Enough? | Keeping Current Matters

In today’s real estate market, buyers shouldn’t shop for a home with the expectation they’ll be able to negotiate a lower sales price. In a typical housing market, buyers try to determine how much less than the asking price they can offer and still get the home. From there, the buyer and seller typically negotiate and agree on a revised price somewhere in the middle.

Things Are Different Today

Today’s housing market is anything but normal. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), homes today are:

  • Receiving an average of  3.8 offers
  • Selling in just 17 days

Homes selling quickly and receiving multiple offers highlights how competitive the housing market is right now. This is due, in large part, to the low supply of homes for sale. Low supply and high demand mean homes often sell for more than the asking price. In some cases, they sell for a lot more. Selma Hepp, Deputy Chief Economist at CoreLogic, explains how these stats can impact buyers:

“The imbalance between robust demand and dismal availability of for-sale homes has led to a continual bidding over asking prices, which reached record levels in recent months. Now, almost 6 in 10 homes listed are selling over the asking price.”

You May Need To Rethink How You Look at a Home’s Asking Price

What does that mean for you? If you’ve found your dream home, you need to be realistic about today’s housing market and how that impacts the offer you’ll make. Offering below or even at a home’s asking price may not cut it. In today’s market, the highest bidder often wins the home, much like at an auction.

Currently, the asking price is often the floor of the negotiation rather than the ceiling. If you really love a home, it may ultimately sell for more than the sellers are asking. That’s important to keep in mind as you work with your agent to craft an offer.

Understand An Appraisal Gap Can Happen

Because of today’s home price appreciation and the auction-like atmosphere in the selling process, appraisal gaps – the gap between the price of your contract and the appraisal for the house – are more frequent.

According to data from CoreLogic:

“Beginning in January 2020, nationally, 7% of purchase transactions had a contract price above the appraisal, but by May 2021, the frequency had increased to 19% of purchase transactions.”

When this happens, your lender won’t loan you more than the home’s appraised value, and the seller may ask you to make up the difference out of pocket. Buyers in today’s market need to be prepared for this possibility. Know your budget, know what you can afford, and work with a trusted advisor who can offer expert advice along the way.

Bottom Line

Bidding wars and today’s auction-like atmosphere mean buyers need to rethink how they look at the asking price of a home. Work with a real estate professional who can advise you on the current market and help determine what the market value is on your dream home.

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It’s Still a Sellers’ Market [INFOGRAPHIC]

It’s Still a Sellers’ Market [INFOGRAPHIC] | Keeping Current Matters

Some Highlights

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How To Be There For A Friend With Cancer

Nearly 40% of people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes. When faced with the terrible news that a friend has cancer, there are some things you can do (and should not do) to stay positive for your friend during their time of need.

DO:

  • Offer to lend a hand. Daily tasks can be overwhelming for people who are sick. Ask your friend what they need help with and if they don’t know, you could suggest grocery shopping, cleaning, picking up or dropping off kids, or mowing the lawn. Pick anything you can do to lighten their load.
  • Ask if they’d like to talk. People with cancer often want to talk about anything but their diagnosis, while others are frustrated that people around them avoid the topic. Try to just be a friend who can be a supportive listener with whatever is on their mind.
  • Ask permission to visit. When someone is sick, they may not want visitors, so it’s important to ask beforehand when you should visit and be prepared for them to say, “not right now.” Remember, it isn’t personal.
  • Support other caregivers. Perhaps their spouse or partner needs a break. Ask how you can support them, too.

DON’T

  • Avoid your friend. It may be difficult to face your friend but avoiding them could cause more pain. Take time to process the news, but also be mindful that they may need you. You might have to put your feelings to the side and put theirs first to support them during this tough period.
  • Tell them everything is going to be OK. Offering false platitudes may make you feel better, but you can’t offer something you don’t know. Stick with a supportive comment, like “We’ll get through this and I’ll be right by your side.”
  • Make comments that they don’t look sick. Avoid telling your friend that they’re looking fine. Remember, each cancer is different, and it manifests in different ways that may not be visible. Leave health comments to their doctor.

Apps For Family Video Chats

The whole world is familiar with Zoom now, but it’s not the only video chat option. In fact, if you’re looking for a video chat app to stay in touch with family and friends (rather than coworkers), there may be other options that work better for you.

Here are some of the best video call apps to try. Best of all, every single one is free!

  • Skype: An oldie but a goodie, Skype works on computers and mobile devices and can be used to make regular phone calls as well as video calls with up to 24 people at a time.
  • FaceTime: With FaceTime, iPhone, iPad, and Mac users can easily connect for video chats with up to 32 people.
  • Duo: Duo is Android users’ answer to FaceTime, although you don’t have to have an Android device to use Duo. So, if your group includes both Apple and Android adherents, this app covers both for up to 12 people.
  • Houseparty: As the name suggests, Houseparty isn’t the app for your business meetings. It’s especially good for spontaneous gatherings, as the app notifies you when your friends are online. Video calls are limited to eight participants.