Spa Bathroom Makeover Tips

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Treating yourself to a spa day is great, but it’s not really feasible to do that every day—no matter how much you might need the spa after a long day of work. Here are some ways to transform your home bathroom into a spa-like environment, making it much easier to indulge your spa desires whenever you like.

  • Declutter surfaces. Minimalism in the bathroom is more conducive to a spa-like experience. Decant essentials (like liquid soap or cotton balls) into pretty containers and stash the less lovely stuff (like toothpaste and deodorant) in a drawer or cabinet.
  • Add organic features. Lots of plants can make a bathroom feel lush, and opting for bamboo accessories (like bath mats, bath caddies, and shelves) is an instant spa look.
  • Upgrade your towel game. Invest in high-quality towels (all in white for a serious spa look) and consider installing a towel-warming rack for maximum luxury.
  • Pay attention to scents. It’s easy to add the calming aromatherapy many spas offer to your own bathroom with essential oil diffusers or natural candles in a relaxing scent.

Succeed As Your Own Boss

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Whether you are thinking about quitting your job to start your own business, or you’re a budding entrepreneur, there are lots of tips at tricks to succeed at running your own business. Grow as a business owner by:

  • Getting clear on your business. Running a business might seem straightforward, but don’t forget business owners have to wear a lot of hats: business manager, strategist, sales and marketing, finance, and more! When you’re clear about your business goals, it can help streamline the systems and structures you need in place to support that outcome.
  • Asking for help. Many successful business owners have help. That might mean taking an online business course, learning the essentials of successful marketing, or simply seeking a business coach. Don’t be afraid of learning from those who have walked your path.
  • Networking. One of the best ways to become successful is to get yourself out there among other business owners. Look online for business groups, networking breakfasts, and online social media groups in your area of expertise and geographic location. When people see a face regularly in their peer network, and have a clear understanding of your business, they are more likely to recommend your services, especially if you refer someone to them first.
  • Thinking about where you can add value. You may have heard of the marketing term “lead magnets.” These are simply free gifts that you give to prospective customers. That might be a free downloadable eBook or 15–20-minute consultation. You provide the gift in exchange for the person’s email address. These gifts typically answer common questions that customers come to professionals for, like how to lose weight in 5 easy steps. The great thing about lead magnets is that they grow your email list of people to market to, and help develop a rapport with prospective clients so when they are ready for your product or service, they’ll know who to call. Consider your area of expertise and the most common questions people ask you, then develop your “gift” from there.
  • Hiring experts. Just like customers come to you for expertise, it’s worth entrusting certain parts of your business to legal or financial experts, freeing your time to do what you do best.

Pricing Garage Sales

Having a garage sale is a great way to make a few extra bucks and clear clutter that you no longer use. However, if you don’t price your items right, you could either lose money or be left with the junk you want to get rid of. Check out these “dos and don’ts” of garage sale pricing:

  • Research items that might be valuable before the sale: search for items on eBay to ensure you’re not underpricing.
  • Price items individually before the sale starts — see what items you can group together like a set of chairs or books, but otherwise price individually. Here are some ideas for prices: clothes sell between $3-$5 an item and $1-3 for kids’ clothes; shoes are $3-$7; books sell for 25-50 cents for paperbacks or $1-2 for hardcovers; records sell for $2 each; toys and games $1-3 depending on condition.
  • Decide on prices using a fair market value, not what you paid for them.
  • Use low-tack stickers so that signs don’t blow away, but you can still remove them without making a mark. But don’t use stickers on albums or collectible magazines. Instead, use painters’ tape.
  • Don’t hesitate when a buyer asks the price. Be firm but be open to negotiation. If their offer is too low, don’t be afraid to say no.

Make $$$ While You Sleep

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Selling handmade crafts on Etsy or becoming a rideshare driver on nights and weekends are great side hustles, but they take time. Passive income, on the other hand, can keep the virtual cash register active—even when you’re not. Here are some ideas to help you dream in dollar signs:

  • Monetize your expertise. What’s the thing your friends and family always ask you about, the thing you can discuss at greater length than anyone else you know? Turn that expertise into what’s known as an “information product” like an e-book, a YouTube channel, or even a mobile app. Yes, there’s a large time investment up front, but when you’re done you can earn money from it anytime—even when you sleep. 
  • Rent out a room, amenity or an entire property. If you have a second home, renting it out either as vacation property or on a long-term basis can be lucrative. Renting out a room in your home with a site like Airbnb can bring in quite a bit of money—or, have a pool? You can even rent that by the hour with Swimply (swimply.com).
  • Get into money lending. With peer-to-peer (P2P) lending services like Prosper (prosper.com) and Peerform (peerform.com), you can offer partial loans and then earn interest on them. It’s not entirely passive income, as it requires ongoing monitoring and research (these are unsecured loans, after all), but for the financially savvy, P2P lending can be an excellent source of almost-passive income.

What Do Experts See on the Horizon for the Second Half of the Year?

What Do Experts See on the Horizon for the Second Half of the Year? | Keeping Current Matters

As we move into the latter half of the year, questions about what’s to come are top of mind for buyers and sellers. Near record-low mortgage rates coupled with rising home price appreciation kicked off a robust housing market in the first half of 2021, but what does the forecast tell us about what’s on the horizon?

Mortgage Rates Will Likely Increase, but Remain Low

Many experts are projecting a rise in interest rates. The latest Quarterly Forecast from Freddie Mac states:

We forecast that mortgage rates will continue to rise through the end of next year. We estimate the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will average 3.4% in the fourth quarter of 2021, rising to 3.8% in the fourth quarter of 2022.”

However, even as mortgage rates rise, the anticipated increase is expected to be modest at most, and still well below historical averages. Rates remaining low is good news for homebuyers who are looking to maximize their purchasing power. The same report from Freddie Mac goes on to say:

“While higher mortgage rates will help slow the pace of home sales and moderate house price growth, we expect overall housing market activity will remain robust. Our forecast has total home sales, the sum of new and existing home sales, at 7.1 million in 2021….”

Home Price Appreciation Will Continue, but Price Growth Will Likely Slow

Joe Seydl, Senior Markets Economist at J.P. Morgan, projects home prices to continue rising as well, indicating buyers interested in purchasing a home should do so sooner rather than later. Waiting for rates or home prices to fall may not be wise:

“Homebuyers—interest rates are still historically low, though they are inching up. Housing prices have spiked during the last six-to-nine months, but we don’t expect them to fall soon, and we believe they are more likely to keep rising. If you are looking to purchase a new home, conditions now may be better than 12 months hence.”

Other experts remain optimistic about home prices, too. The graph below highlights 2021 home price forecasts from multiple industry leaders:
What Do Experts See on the Horizon for the Second Half of the Year? | Keeping Current Matters

Inventory Remains a Challenge, but There’s Reason To Be Optimistic

Home prices are rising, but they should moderate as more housing inventory comes to market. George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, notes there are signs that we may see the current inventory challenges lessen, slowing the fast-paced home price appreciation and creating more choices for buyers:

We have seen more new listings this year compared with 2020 in 11 of the last 13 weeks. The influx of new sellers over the last couple of months has been especially helpful in slowing price gains.”

New home starts are also showing signs of improvement, which further bolsters hopes of more options coming to market. Robert Dietz, Chief Economist at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), writes:

“As an indicator of the economic impact of housing, there are now 652,000 single-family homes under construction. This is 28% higher than a year ago.”

Finally, while it may not fundamentally change the market conditions we’re currently experiencing, another reason to be optimistic more homes might come to market: our improving economy. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, notes:

“A growing economy in the summer months has multiple implications for the housing market. Growing consumer confidence, a stronger labor market, and higher wages bode well for housing demand. While a growing economy and improving public health conditions may also spur hesitant existing owners to list their homes for sale, it’s unlikely to significantly ease the super sellers’ market conditions.

Bottom Line

As we look at the forecast for prices, interest rates, inventory, and home sales, experts remain optimistic about what’s on the horizon for the second half of 2021. Contact your trusted real estate advisor to discuss how to navigate the market together in the coming months.

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What To Expect as Appraisal Gaps Grow

What To Expect as Appraisal Gaps Grow| Keeping Current Matters

In today’s real estate market, low inventory and high demand are driving up home prices. As many as 54% of homes are getting offers over the listing price, based on the latest Realtors Confidence Index from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Shawn Telford, Chief Appraiser at CoreLogic, elaborates:

“The frequency of buyers being willing to pay more than the market data supports is increasing.”

While this is great news for today’s sellers, it can be tricky to navigate if the price of your contract doesn’t match up with the appraisal for the house. It’s called an appraisal gap, and it’s happening more in today’s market than the norm.

According to recent data from CoreLogic, 19% of homes had their appraised value come in below the contract price in April of this year. That’s more than double the percentage in each of the two previous Aprils.

The chart below uses the latest insights from NAR’s Realtors Confidence Index to showcase how often an issue with an appraisal slowed or stalled the momentum of a house sale in May of this year compared to May of last year.What To Expect as Appraisal Gaps Grow | Keeping Current MattersIf an appraisal comes in below the contract price, the buyer’s lender won’t loan them more than the house’s appraised value. That means there’s going to be a gap between the amount of loan the buyer can secure and the contract price on the house.

In this situation, both the buyer and seller have a vested interest in making sure the sale moves forward with little to no delay. The seller will want to make sure the deal closes, and the buyer won’t want to risk losing the home. That’s why it’s common for sellers to ask the buyer to make up the difference themselves in today’s competitive market.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re buying or selling, your real estate agent is your ally. They’re with you throughout the process and are there to help you navigate the unexpected, including potential appraisal gaps.

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Save Time and Effort by Selling with an Agent

Save Time and Effort by Selling with an Agent | Keeping Current Matters

Selling a house is a time-consuming process – especially if you decide to do it on your own, known as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO). From conducting market research to reviewing legal documents, handling negotiations, and more, it’s an involved and highly detailed process that requires a lot of expertise to navigate effectively. That’s one of the reasons why the percentage of people selling their own house has declined from 19% to 8% (See graph below):Save Time and Effort by Selling with an Agent | Keeping Current MattersTo help you understand just how much time and effort it takes to sell on your own, here’s a look at a few of the things you need to think about before putting that “For Sale” sign up in your yard.

1. Making a Good First Impression

While it may sound simple, there are a lot of proven best practices to consider when prepping a house for sale.

  • Do you need to take down your personal art?
  • What’s the right amount of landscaping to boost your curb appeal?
  • What wall colors are most appealing to buyers?

If you do this work on your own, you may invest capital and many hours into the wrong things. Your time is money – don’t waste it. An agent can help steer you in the right direction based on current market conditions to save you time and effort. Since we’re in a hot sellers’ market, you don’t want to delay listing your house by focusing on things that won’t change your bottom line. These market conditions may not last, so lean on an agent to capitalize on today’s low inventory while you can.

2. Pricing It Right

Real estate professionals have mission-critical information on what sells and how to maximize your profit. They’re experienced when it comes to looking at recent comparable homes that have sold in your area and understanding what price is right for your neighborhood. They use that data to price your house appropriately, maximizing your return.

In a FSBO, you’re operating without this expertise, so you’ll have to do your own homework on how to set a price that’s appropriate for your area and the condition of your home. 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, or run into problems when it comes time for the appraisal.

3. Maximizing Your Buyer Pool (and Profit)

Contrary to popular belief, FSBOs may actually net less profit than sellers who use an agent. One of the factors that can drive profit up is effective exposure. Simply put, real estate professionals can get your house in front of more buyers via their social media followers, agency resources, and proven sales strategies. The more buyers that view a home, the more likely a bidding war becomes. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average house for sale today gets 5 offers. Using an agent to boost your exposure may help boost your sale price too.

4. Navigating Negotiations

When it comes to selling your house as a FSBO, you’ll have to handle all of the negotiations. Here are just a few of the people you’ll work with:

  • 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

As part of their training, agents are taught how to negotiate every aspect of the real estate transaction and how to mediate potential snags that may pop up. When appraisals come in low and in countless other situations, they know what levers to pull, how to address the buyer and seller emotions that come with it, and when to ask for second opinions. Navigating all of this on your own takes time –a lot of it.

5. Juggling Legal Documentation

Speaking of time, consider how much free time you have to review the fine print. Just in terms of documentation, more disclosures and regulations are now mandatory. That means the stack of legal documents you need to handle as the seller is growing. It can be hard to know and truly understand all the terms and requirements. Instead of going at it alone, use an agent as your shield and advisor to help you avoid potential legal missteps.

Bottom Line

Selling your house on your own is a lot of responsibility. It’s time consuming and requires an immense amount of effort and expertise. Before you decide to sell your house yourself, connect with a local real estate professional to discuss your options and learn more about how they can make sure you get the most out of the sale.

The post Save Time and Effort by Selling with an Agent appeared first on Keeping Current Matters.

Protect Finances From Volatility

It’s always important to protect your finances, in good times and especially in volatile times. Here are ways to get started now:

  • Monitor and improve your credit score: In the U.S., you get a free credit report each year at www.annualcreditreport.com. Also, www.creditkarma.com offers free credit scores and helpful tips and insights to help you manage your credit. This is critical for those buying houses because your credit score may influence mortgages made available to you.
  • Review your spending: A budget is a great tool for monitoring cash flow. You can review where you’re spending your money and where you have an opportunity to save. For example, streaming services and subscriptions pile up quickly. Take a reality check and list all monthly charges, then sort through them to cut extra spending.
  • Make a savings plan: Do you put money aside each month into a savings account? If you do, do you assign a job for it? Research shows that those who know what they’re saving for are more likely to fulfill their savings goals. Save for specific goals to stay motivated.
  • Have a rainy-day plan: In addition to a savings fund, it is helpful to always have a backup plan for bringing in extra cash. Think about a side-hustle, like freelance writing, or items you can sell online. You may even decide to sell arts and crafts online if you have a special artistic talent. Don’t underestimate your skills and money-earning potential.
  • Don’t bury your head in the sand: If you lose your job, or are left suddenly out of work for illness, don’t avoid the situation and potential impact on your finances. Take swift action: Prioritize which bills need to be paid first and call providers and explain the situation. Most service companies will work with customers to pay bills at a lower monthly amount — they prefer this to nothing at all. Then you’ll save the late charges and potential to cut off services to your home.
  • Work with a financial advisor: Once you’ve completed these tasks, check in with an advisor and find out if you’re spending money smartly. They’ll help to identify opportunities for improvement.

Demand for Vacation Homes Is Still Strong

Demand for Vacation Homes Is Still Strong | Keeping Current Matters

The pandemic created a tremendous interest in vacation homes across the country. Throughout the last year, many people purchased second homes as a safe getaway from the challenges of the health crisis. With many professionals working from home and many students taking classes remotely, it made sense to see a migration away from cities and into counties with more vacation destinations.

The 2021 Vacation Home Counties Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that this increase in vacation home sales continues in 2021. The report examines sales in counties where “vacant seasonal, occasional, or recreational use housing account for at least 20% of the housing stock” and compares that data to the overall residential market.

Their findings show:

  • Vacation home sales rose by 16.4% to 310,600 in 2020, outpacing the 5.6% growth in total existing-home sales.
  • Vacation home sales are up 57.2% year-over-year during January-April 2021 compared to the 20% year-over-year change in total existing-home sales.
  • Home prices rose more in vacation home counties – the median existing price rose by 14.2% in vacation home counties, compared to 10.1% in non-vacation home counties.

This coincides with data released by Zelman & Associates on the increase in sales of second homes throughout the country last year.

As the data above shows, there is still high demand for second getaway homes in 2021 even as the pandemic winds down. While we may see a rise in second-home sellers as life returns to normal, ongoing low supply and high demand will continue to provide those sellers with a good return on their investment.

Bottom Line

If you’re one of the many people who purchased a vacation home during the pandemic, you’re likely wondering what this means for you. If you’re considering selling that home as life returns to normal, you have options. There are still plenty of buyers in the market. If, on the other hand, you want to keep your second home, enjoy it! Current market conditions show that it’s a good ongoing investment.

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