Avoid Food Poisoning

We’ve all heard that raw or undercooked meat and seafood can cause food poisoning. But beyond meat, there are a few problematic foods that might surprise you. Find out what they are — and how to steer clear of food poisoning.

Raw cookie dough: It may be tempting to lick that spoon after mixing up cookie dough, but don’t do it! Raw cookie dough contains two problematic ingredients: raw flour and raw eggs. Wait just 15 minutes and you can enjoy a warm — and thoroughly cooked — treat instead.

Eggs: Speaking of eggs, there is a chance to pick up salmonella if you eat them uncooked or undercooked. Bypass the sunny-side-up option and choose scrambled, hard boiled, or over-well eggs instead.

Produce with thick skin: Bacteria may be hiding on the outside of that thick skin, which contaminates the inside of the fruit when a knife cuts through the produce. Before you cut into that ripe watermelon or mango, thoroughly wash the outside with a produce brush and clean water.

Why This Summer Is the 2020 Real Estate Season

Why This Summer Is the 2020 Real Estate Season | Simplifying The Market

With stay-at-home orders starting to gradually lift throughout parts of the country, data indicates homebuyers are jumping back into the market. After many families put their plans on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what we once called the busy spring real estate season is shifting into the summer. In 2020, summer is the new spring for real estate.

Joel Kan, Economist at The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) notes:

“Applications for home purchases continue to recover from April’s sizable drop and have now increased for five consecutive weeks…Government purchase applications, which include FHA, VA, and USDA loans, are now 5 percent higher than a year ago, which is an encouraging turnaround after the weakness seen over the past two months.”

Additionally, according to Google Trends, which scores search terms online, searches for real estate increased from 68 points the week of March 15th to 92 points last week. As we can see, more potential homebuyers are looking for homes virtually.

What’s the Opportunity for Buyers?

Another reason buyers are coming back to the market, even with forced unemployment and stay-at-home orders, is historically low mortgage rates. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac indicates:

“For the fourth consecutive week, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has been below 3.30 percent, giving potential buyers a good reason to continue shopping even amid the pandemic…As states reopen, we’re seeing purchase demand improve remarkably fast, now essentially flat relative to a year ago.”

With mortgage rates at such low levels and states gradually beginning to reopen, there’s more incentive than ever to buy a home this summer.

What’s the Opportunity for Sellers?

Finding a home to buy, however, is still a challenge, as this spring sellers removed many listings from the market. Though more people are now putting their houses up for sale this month as compared to last month, current inventory is still well below last year’s level.

According to last week’s Weekly Economic and Housing Market Update from realtor.com:

“Weekly Housing Inventory showed continued tightening. New Listings declined 28% compared with a year ago, as sellers grappled with uncertainty and hesitated bringing homes to market. Total Listings dropped 20% YoY, a faster rate than in prior weeks, leaving very few homes available for sale. As Time on Market was 15 days slower YoY, asking prices moved up 1.5% YoY.”

If you’re thinking of selling your house this summer, now may be your best opportunity. With so few homes on the market for buyers to purchase, this season may be the time for your house to stand out from the crowd. Trusted real estate professionals can help you list safely and effectively, keeping your family’s needs top of mind. Buyers are looking, and your house may be at the top of their list.

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking of selling, many buyers may be eager to find a home just like yours. Let’s connect today to make sure you can get your house in on the action this summer.

Buying or Selling a Home? You Need an Expert Kind of Guide

Buying or Selling a Home? You Need an Expert Kind of Guide | Simplifying The Market

In a normal housing market, whether you’re buying or selling a home, you need an experienced guide to help you navigate through the process. You need someone you can turn to who will tell you how to price your home correctly right from the start. You need someone who can help you determine what to offer on your dream home without paying too much or offending the seller with a low-ball offer.

We are, however, in anything but a normal market right now. We are amid one of the greatest health crises our nation has ever seen. The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the journey consumers take to purchase or sell a home. To successfully navigate the landscape today, you need more than an experienced guide. You need a ‘Real Estate Sherpa.’

According to Lexico, a Sherpa is a “member of a Himalayan people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet, renowned for their skill in mountaineering.” Sherpas are skilled in leading their parties through the extreme altitudes of the peaks and passes in the region – some of the most treacherous trails in the world. They take pride in their hardiness, expertise, and experience at very high altitudes.

They are much more than just guides.

This is much more than a normal real estate market.

Today, the average guide just won’t do. You need a Sherpa. You need an expert who understands how COVID-19 is impacting the thoughts and actions of the consumer (ex: virtual showings, proper safety protocols, e-signing documents). You need someone who can simply and effectively explain the changes in today’s process to you and your family. You need an expert who will guarantee you make the right decision, especially in these challenging times.

Bottom Line

Hiring an agent who understands how the pandemic is reshaping the real estate processes is crucial right now. Let’s connect today to guarantee your journey is a safe and successful one.

Interest Rates Hover Near Historic All-Time Lows [INFOGRAPHIC]

Interest Rates Hover Near Historic All-Time Lows [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Interest Rates Hover Near Historic All-Time Lows [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • Mortgage interest rates have dropped considerably this spring and are hovering at a historically low level.
  • Locking in at a low rate today could save you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your home loan.
  • Let’s connect to determine the best way to position yourself for a move in today’s market.

Experts Predict Economic Recovery Should Begin in the Second Half of the Year

Experts Predict Economic Recovery Should Begin in the Second Half of the Year | Simplifying The Market

One of the biggest questions we all seem to be asking these days is: When are we going to start to see an economic recovery? As the country begins to slowly reopen, moving forward in strategic phases, business activity will help bring our nation back to life. Many economists indicate a recovery should begin to happen in the second half of this year. Here’s a look at what some of the experts have to say.

Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve Chairman

“I think there’s a good chance that there’ll be positive growth in the third quarter. And I think it’s a reasonable expectation that there’ll be growth in the second half of the year…

So, in the long run, I would say the U.S. economy will recover. We’ll get back to the place we were in February; we’ll get to an even better place than that. I’m highly confident of that. And it won’t take that long to get there.”

Nonpartisan Analysis for the U.S Congress

“The economy is expected to begin recovering during the second half of 2020 as concerns about the pandemic diminish and as state and local governments ease stay-at-home orders, bans on public gatherings, and other measures. The labor market is projected to materially improve after the third quarter; hiring will rebound and job losses will drop significantly as the degree of social distancing diminishes.”

Neel Kashkari, President, Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank

“I think we need to prepare for a more gradual recovery while we hope for that quicker rebound.”

We’re certainly not out of the woods yet, but clearly many experts anticipate we’ll see a recovery starting this year. It may be a bumpy ride for the next few months, but most agree that a turnaround will begin sooner rather than later.

During the planned shutdown, as the economic slowdown pressed pause on the nation, many potential buyers and sellers put their real estate plans on hold. That time coincided with the traditionally busy spring real estate season. As we look ahead at this economic recovery and we begin to emerge back into our communities over the coming weeks and months, perhaps it’s time to think about putting your real estate plans back into play.

Bottom Line

The experts note a turnaround is on the horizon, starting as early as later this year. If you paused your 2020 real estate plans, let’s connect today to determine how you can re-engage in the process as the country reopens and the economy begins a much-anticipated rebound.

How to Make a Difference


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

What makes leaders inspirational is the behaviors and traits they display in the face of adversity. They’re the ones that take life’s challenges head-on and use their misfortune to inspire and uplift others, rather than getting resentful or giving up. Many of us could benefit from taking note of these traits, not only to enhance our own lives, but to inspire and motivate others to make a positive impact in the world. And it doesn’t have to be making large-scale gestures, either. Here are some of the common ways we can implement these traits in our everyday lives:

  1. Be charitable. Instead of accepting birthday gifts, set up a donation to a favorite charity. Facebook allows you to do this on your profile.
  2. Share your challenges and how you overcame them. By not sharing our adversities and only sharing positive experiences, we give an unbalanced view of life and that can sometimes lead to others who experience challenges thinking they’re doing something wrong. Sharing our stories creates empathy and knowledge that we’re not alone in dealing with life’s stressors.
  3. Pay it forward. When you next go to a coffee shop, buy an extra coffee and ask the server to give it to a person who may be experiencing homelessness. Open the door for someone. Your small action can lead to many other actions in turn.
  4. Start at home. Do you have members of your extended family who are struggling? Is anyone a single parent who is balancing competing demands? Maybe you can offer some of your time to do some jobs around the house or pick their kids up from school.
  5. Stand up for and uplift others. Building up others around you, rather than pushing them down or demeaning them, is a mark of a true leader. People who get ahead by hurting others will not have a network of supporters later, and no-one can be a leader all alone. Take time to compliment someone else’s work or accomplishments, and truly enjoy their successes!
  6. Connect with others in your community and offer your experience. Micromentor.org offers free mentorship to new business owners who need a little extra support. Share your skills – and change a life!

Get An Ergonomic Workspace

A sedentary lifestyle is bad for our health. Unfortunately, office jobs require we spend many of our waking hours sitting. Do the next best thing to a stand-up desk and support your body by creating an ergonomically friendly workspace.

At your workspace:

  • Support your back. Adjust the back of your chair so it fits your body shape. Add extra lower back support if needed so your backrests comfortably against the chair.
  • Properly position the keyboard. Elbows should be at the sides of the body when sitting properly in your chair and typing on the keyboard. Avoid leaning forward to reach the keyboard.
  • Place the computer screen at eye level. Avoid strain on the neck by placing the top of the computer screen right at the level of your eyes. If you work on a laptop, this means you’ll need to boost the height of the laptop and get an external keyboard to type on.
  • Rest your elbows at 90 degrees. The office chair should have arm supports so your elbows rest at a 90-degree angle. Without arm supports, you’ll likely end up hunching your shoulders.

If you have the ability to choose your own office chair, look for these ergonomic features:

  • An adjustable seat. When sitting in the chair, feet should be flat on the floor. Thighs should be horizontal, and arms even with the desk height.
  • Appropriate width and depth. Make sure you can sit comfortably with your back against the backrest and 2-4 inches between the backs of the knees and seat of the chair.
  • Comfortable, padded, breathable material.
  • Lumbar support for the lower back.
  • Adjustable armrests.

A Surprising Shift to the ‘Burbs May Be on the Rise

A Surprising Shift to the ‘Burbs May Be on the Rise | Simplifying The Market

While many people across the U.S. have traditionally enjoyed the perks of an urban lifestyle, some who live in more populated city limits today are beginning to rethink their current neighborhoods. Being in close proximity to everything from the grocery store to local entertainment is definitely a perk, especially if you can also walk to some of these hot spots and have a short commute to work. The trade-off, however, is that highly populated cities can lack access to open space, a yard, and other desirable features. These are the kinds of things you may miss when spending a lot of time at home. When it comes to social distancing, as we’ve experienced recently, the newest trend seems to be around re-evaluating a once-desired city lifestyle and trading it for suburban or rural living.

George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com notes:

“With the re-opening of the economy scheduled to be cautious, the impact on consumer preferences will likely shift buying behavior…consumers are already looking for larger homes, bigger yards, access to the outdoors and more separation from neighbors. As we move into the recovery stage, these preferences will play an important role in the type of homes consumers will want to buy. They will also play a role in the coming discussions on zoning and urban planning. While higher density has been a hallmark of urban development over the past decade, the pandemic may lead to a re-thinking of space allocation.”

The Harris Poll recently surveyed 2,000 Americans, and 39% of the respondents who live in urban areas indicated the COVID-19 crisis has caused them to consider moving to a less populated area.A Surprising Shift to the ‘Burbs May Be on the Rise | Simplifying The MarketToday, moving outside the city limits is also more feasible than ever, especially as Americans have quickly become more accustomed to – and more accepting of – remote work. According to the Pew Research Center, access to the Internet has increased significantly in rural and suburban areas, making working from home more accessible. The number of people working from home has also spiked considerably, even before the pandemic came into play this year.

Bottom Line

If you have a home in the suburbs or a rural area, you may see an increasing number of buyers looking for a property like yours. If you’re thinking of buying and don’t mind a commute to work for the well-being of your family, you may want to consider looking at homes for sale outside the city. Let’s connect today to discuss the options available in our area.

Unemployment Report: No Need to Be Terrified

Unemployment Report: No Need to Be Terrified | Simplifying The Market

Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its latest jobs report. It revealed that the economic shutdown made necessary by COVID-19 caused the unemployment rate to jump to 14.7%. Many anticipate that next month the percentage could be even higher. These numbers represent the extreme hardship so many families are experiencing right now. That pain should not be understated.

However, the long-term toll the pandemic will cause should not be overstated either. There have been numerous headlines claiming the current disruption in the economy is akin to the Great Depression, and many of those articles are calling for total Armageddon. Some experts are stepping up to refute those claims.

In a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article this past weekend, Josh Zumbrun, a national economics correspondent for the Journal explained:

“News stories often describe the coronavirus-induced global economic downturn as the worst since the Great Depression…the comparison does more to terrify than clarify.”

Zumbrun goes on to explain:

“From 1929 to 1933, the economy shrank for 43 consecutive months, according to contemporaneous estimates. Unemployment climbed to nearly 25% before slowly beginning its descent, but it remained above 10% for an entire decade…This time, many economists believe a rebound could begin this year or early next year.”

Here is a graph comparing current unemployment numbers (actual and projected) to those during the Great Depression:Unemployment Report: No Need to Be Terrified | Simplifying The MarketClearly, the two unemployment situations do not compare.

What makes this time so different?

This was not a structural collapse of the economy, but instead a planned shutdown to help mitigate the virus. Once the virus is contained, the economy will immediately begin to recover. This is nothing like what happened in the 1930s. In the same WSJ article mentioned above, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who has done extensive research on the depression in the 1930s, explained:

“The breakdown of the financial system was a major reason for both the Great Depression and the 2007-09 recession.” He went on to say that today – “the banks are stronger and much better capitalized.”

What about the families and small businesses that are suffering right now?

The nation’s collective heart goes out to all. The BLS report, however, showed that ninety percent of the job losses are temporary. In addition, many are getting help surviving this pause in their employment status. During the Great Depression, there were no government-sponsored unemployment insurance or large government subsidies as there are this time.

Today, many families are receiving unemployment benefits and an additional $600 a week. The stimulus package is helping many companies weather the storm. Is there still pain? Of course. The assistance, however, is providing much relief until most can go back to work.

Bottom Line

We should look at the current situation for what it is – a predetermined pause placed on the economy. The country will recover once the pandemic ends. Comparisons to any other downturn make little sense. Bernanke put it best:

“I don’t find comparing the current downturn with the Great Depression to be very helpful. The expected duration is much less, and the causes are very different.”