4 Family Travel Survival Tips

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Studies show that traveling with family members can strengthen family bonds—but that only works if you’re not arguing the whole time. Here are a few tips to ensure your next family adventure is more fun than frustrating.

  1. Get everyone involved in the planning process. Find books geared toward every age group that are set in your vacation destination or activity books designed for little ones traveling there. The latter may include scavenger hunts and language lessons to keep kids engaged throughout the trip.
  2. Allocate extra time to get from place to place. It always takes longer than you think it will. And when you’re rushing to catch a plane or meet a tour group, patience goes out the window.
  3. Make sure everyone gets nap time. Being well-rested is a critical component to making sure everyone—parents included—can enjoy every waking moment. When the kids need some shut-eye, adults should take advantage of that time for a nap, too.
  4. Relax the rules a bit. If sweet treats aren’t the norm at home, they’re excellent rewards for post-museum good behavior. Treats can also be a fun way to get kids to interact with the local culture—they can have gelato every day in Rome, for instance, but how about if they to learn to order it themselves? In Italian!

Next week: Look for Part 2- Family Travel Survival FLIGHT Tips!

Should I Buy Now or Wait? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Should I Buy Now or Wait? [INFOGRAPHIC] | Keeping Current Matters

Some Highlights

  • If you’re thinking that waiting a year or two to purchase a home might mean you’ll save some money, think again.
  • Mortgage interest rates are currently very low, but experts across the board are forecasting increases in both home prices and interest rates.
  • Buying a home now means you’ll spend less in the long run. Contact a local real estate professional to put your plans in motion before home prices and mortgage rates climb even higher.

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Got Lawn Problems?

Got a lawn? You probably have or have had these problems. Here are the most common problems and how to fix them.

  • Mushrooms: are beneficial to your lawn and provide nutrients. Try using grass clippings as mulch if they bother you, otherwise, know they are a good sign of a healthy lawn!
  • Snow mold: is a fungal lawn disease that happens in spring, after the snow melts. It looks like small patches of cobweb-like grass. You can solve the problem by mowing regularly, rake up visible mold patches, and holding off putting chemicals on the lawn.
  • Patchy lawn: may be a sign of compacted soil. Simply loosen soil using a core aerator, which can be rented at most hardware stores.
  • Brown/dead areas: this can be caused by dogs making a potty stop. It might be tough, but the way to prevent this is to keep the doggies in their own areas. Soak with a hose to help the grass grow back.

Is Home Price Appreciation Accelerating Again?

Is Home Price Appreciation Accelerating Again? | Keeping Current Matters

At the beginning of the year, industry forecasts called for home price appreciation to slow to about half of the double-digit increase we saw last year. The thinking was that inventory would increase from record-low levels and put an end to the bidding wars that have driven home prices up over the past twelve months. However, that increase in inventory has yet to materialize. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that there are currently 410,000 fewer single-family homes available for sale than there were at this time last year.

This has forced those who made appreciation forecasts this past January to amend those projections. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the National Association of Realtors, and Zelman & Associates have all adjusted their numbers upward after reviewing first quarter housing data. Here are their original forecasts and their newly updated projections:Is Home Price Appreciation Accelerating Again? | Keeping Current MattersEven with the increases, the updated projections still don’t reach the above 10% appreciation levels of 2020. However, a jump in the average projection from 5.3% to 7.7% after just one quarter is substantial. Demand will remain strong, so future appreciation will be determined by how quickly listing inventory makes its way to the market.

Bottom Line

Entering 2021, there was some speculation that we might see price appreciation slow dramatically this year. Today, experts believe that won’t be the case. Home values will remain strong throughout the year.

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Patience Is the Key to Buying a Home This Year

Patience Is the Key to Buying a Home This Year | Keeping Current Matters

The question many homebuyers are facing this year is, “Why is it so hard to find a house?” We’re in the ultimate sellers’ market, which means real estate is ultra-competitive for buyers right now. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes homes are getting an average of 4.8 offers per sale, and that number keeps rising. Why? It’s because there are so few houses for sale.

Low inventory in the housing market isn’t new, but it’s becoming more challenging to navigate. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, explains:

The housing market is still relatively under supplied, and buyers can’t buy what’s not for sale. Relative to what we saw in 2017 to 2019, March 2021 was still roughly 117,000 new listings lower, adding to the pre-existing early-year gap of more than 200,000 fresh listings that would typically have come to market in January or February. Despite this week’s gain from a year ago, we’re 19 percent below the new seller activity that we saw in the same week in 2019.

While many homeowners paused their plans to sell during the height of the pandemic, this isn’t the main cause of today’s huge gap between supply and demand. Sam Khater, Vice President and Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, Economic Housing and Research Division, shares:

The main driver of the housing shortfall has been the long-term decline in the construction of single-family homes . . . That decline has resulted in the decrease in supply of entry-level single-family homes or, ’starter homes.’”

When you consider the number of homes built in the U.S. by decade, the serious lack of new construction is clear (See graph below):Patience Is the Key to Buying a Home This Year | Keeping Current MattersThe number of newly built homes is disproportionately lower than the rate of household formation, which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has continued to increase. Khater also explains:

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and current recession, the housing market was facing a substantial supply shortage and that deficit has grown. In 2018, we estimated that there was a housing supply shortage of approximately 2.5 million units, meaning that the U.S. economy was about 2.5 million units below what was needed to match long-term demand. Using the same methodology, we estimate that the housing shortage increased to 3.8 million units by the end of 2020. A continued increase in a housing shortage is extremely unusual; typically in a recession, housing demand declines and supply rises, causing inventory to rise above the long-term trend.”

To catch up to current demand, Freddie Mac estimates we need to build almost four million homes. The good news is builders are working hard to get us there. The U.S. Census Bureau also states:

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,766,000. This is 2.7 percent (±1.7 percent) above the revised February rate of 1,720,000 . . . Privately-owned housing starts in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,739,000. This is 19.4 percent (±13.7 percent) above the revised February estimate of 1,457,000. . . .”

What does this mean? Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, clarifies:

The March figure of 1.74 million housing starts is the highest in 14 years. Both single-family units and multifamily units ramped up. After 13 straight years of underproduction – the chief cause for today’s inventory shortage – this construction boom needs to last for at least three years to make up for the part shortfall. As trade-up buyers purchase newly constructed homes, their prior homes will show up in MLSs, and hence, more choices for consumers. Housing starts to housing completion could be 4 to 8 months, so be patient with the improvement to inventory. In the meantime, construction workers deserve cheers.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning to buy this year, the key to success will be patience, given today’s low inventory environment. Contact a local real estate professional today to learn more about what’s happening in your area.

Note: The original version of this blog included a graph showing total number of housing units built, which included houses and apartment units. The revised graph, shown here, includes only single-family homes, which more accurately explains the current situation.

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Will the Housing Market Maintain Its Momentum?

Will the Housing Market Maintain Its Momentum? | Keeping Current Matters

Last week’s Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows sales have dropped by 3.7% compared to the month before. This is the second consecutive month that sales have slumped. Some see this as evidence that the red-hot real estate market may be cooling. However, there could also be a simple explanation as to why existing home sales have slowed – there aren’t enough homes to buy. There are currently 410,000 fewer single-family homes available for sale than there were at this time last year.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, explains in the report:

“The sales for March would have been measurably higher, had there been more inventory. Days-on-market are swift, multiple offers are prevalent, and buyer confidence is rising.”

Yun’s insight was supported the next day when the Census Bureau released its Monthly New Residential Sales Report. It shows that newly constructed home sales are up 20.7% over the previous month.

Buyer demand remains strong. With more of the adult population becoming vaccinated and job creation data showing encouraging signs, existing-home inventory is expected to grow in the coming months.

What will this mean for home sales going forward?

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) have all forecasted that total home sales (existing homes and new construction) will continue their momentum both this year and next. Here’s a graph showing those projections:Will the Housing Market Maintain Its Momentum? | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

Living through a pandemic has caused many to re-evaluate the importance of a home and the value of homeownership. The residential real estate market will benefit from both as we move forward.

The post Will the Housing Market Maintain Its Momentum? appeared first on Keeping Current Matters.

4 Tips to Maximize the Sale of Your House

4 Tips to Maximize the Sale of Your House | Keeping Current Matters

Homeowners ready to make a move are definitely in a great position to sell today. Housing inventory is incredibly low, driving up buyer competition. This gives homeowners leverage to sell for the best possible terms, and it’s fueling a steady rise in home prices.

In such a hot market, houses are selling quickly. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), homes are typically on the market for just 18 short days. Despite the speed and opportunity for sellers, there are still steps you can take to prep your house to shine so you get the greatest possible return.

1. Make Buyers Feel at Home

One of the ways to make this happen is to take time to declutter. Pack away any personal items like pictures, awards, and sentimental belongings. The more neutral and tidy the space, the easier it is for a buyer to picture themselves living there. According to the 2021 Profile of Home Staging by NAR:

“82% of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.”

Not only will your house potentially attract the attention of more buyers and likely sell quickly, but the same report also notes:

“Eighteen percent of sellers’ agents said home staging increased the dollar value of a residence between 6% and 10%.”

As Jessica Lautz, Vice President of Demographics and Behavior Insights for NAR, says:

“Staging a home helps consumers see the full potential of a given space or property…It features the home in its best light and helps would-be buyers envision its various possibilities.”

2. Keep It Clean

On top of making an effort to declutter, it’s important to keep your house neat and clean. Before a buyer stops by, be sure to pick up toys, make the beds, and wash the dishes. This is one more way to reduce the number of things that can distract a buyer from the appeal of the home.

Ensure your home smells fresh and clean as well. Buyers will remember the smell of your house, and according to the same report from NAR, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms of the house to focus on if you want to attract more buyers.

3. Give Buyers Access

Buyers are less likely to make an offer on your house if they aren’t able to easily schedule a time to check it out. If your home is available anytime, that opens up more opportunities for multiple buyers to go from curious to eager. It also allows buyers on tight schedules to still get in to see your house.

While health continues to be a great concern throughout the country, it’s important to work with your agent to find the best safety measures and digital practices for your listing. This will drive visibility and create access options that also keep everyone in the process safe.

4. Price It Right

Even in a sellers’ market, it’s crucial to set your house at the right price to maximize selling potential. Pricing your house too high is actually a detriment to the sale. The goal is to drive high attention from competing buyers and let bidding wars push the final sales price up.

Work with your trusted real estate professional to determine the best list price for your house. Having an expert on your side in this process is truly essential.

Bottom Line

If you want to sell on your terms, in the least amount of time, and for the best price, today’s market sets the stage to make that happen. Contact a local real estate professional today to determine the best ways to maximize the sale of your house this year.

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Healthy Road Trip Snacks

Retro roadside diners may be part of the fun of road trips, and fast food is certainly convenient.


With a little planning, though, you can stock a cooler or tote bag with delicious snacks that are easy to eat on-the-go—not to mention healthier and cheaper than burgers and fries. Here are a few road trip-friendly snack ideas to get you started, plus some hints on how to pack them.

Road Trip Snacks:

  • Fruits & Veggies: Choose ones that travel well (apples, carrots) and prep items that would be hard for a driver to eat one-handed (peel oranges and chop carrot sticks).
  • Dried foods: Anything in the dehydrated category (dried fruits or jerky) is ideal for road trips, with less mess and longer shelf stability.
  • Nuts: Protein will make you feel full longer. Bring your favorite mixed nut or trail mix or choose peanut butter pretzels for a protein boost.
  • Eggs: Hard-boiled eggs are another excellent protein source. Peel them in advance if you’re solo.
  • Wraps: Put sandwich fixings into a tortilla or pita wrapped in foil for easier on-the-go eating.
  • Beverages: Make sure you’ve got plenty of water and a selection of other favorite drinks.

Packing Tips:

  • Keep refrigerated items in a cooler within arm’s reach.
  • If you’re traveling solo, put snacks in containers that fit into your car’s cup holder so it’s easy to eat one-handed.
  • Put dips like ranch or hummus in small containers that can be resealed easily.
  • To save space, freeze a couple of bottles of water in advance and use them in your cooler to keep snacks chilled. When you’re ready to drink the water, it’ll likely be starting to defrost a bit.
  • Make sure you’ve got a trash/recycling bin handy at all times to keep your car from turning into a garbage dump—and pack a roll of paper towels and some wet wipes to clean up messes. Use a plastic cereal container for pop-top easy trash stashing.

Soothe Summer Bug Bites

One of the best things about sunny summer weather is getting to spend more time outside. The downside, though, is outside is where all those biting bugs hang out.
While it’s hard to avoid the bugs entirely, there are some measures you can take to keep insects further away from you—and a few things to have on hand to treat the bites you do get.

  • Homemade bug repellents: Most DIY insect repellents rely on scent, including citrus, garlic, lavender, cinnamon, and peppermint. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) even lists oil of lemon eucalyptus as an effective insect repellent.
  • Diluting essential oils in a carrier oil typically makes them safe for application on skin but be sure to use recipes for the appropriate measurements of each ingredient. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has four such recipes to try: https://www.almanac.com/news/gardening/gardening-advice/homemade-bug-spray-recipes
  • Home remedies for bug bites: One of the best things to put on a bug bite to alleviate the pain and itching (and to keep you from scratching) is good old hydrocortisone cream. If you don’t have any on hand, however, not to worry. Try mixing baking soda with a little water until it’s a paste and apply that to the bite—this works in a similar way to calamine lotion. Aloe vera gel can also minimize itching, and an ice pack can help numb a painful sting and relieve swelling.

Home remedies are great, but it’s also important to know when to get a professional’s opinion. If you’re allergic to certain insects’ bites or you know you were bitten by a poisonous bug, there’s no question that you should seek medical help immediately.

How To Be More Productive

We all know there are certain time-wasters in our everyday lives, like social media. But besides avoiding those, what about real actionable tips that can help you achieve more in less time? Here’s a 5-step plan to be more productive:

  1. Engage in a morning routine. Many successful leaders have a morning routine that helps focus their mind for the day, calm racing thoughts, and energize their body for the day ahead. You too can achieve this by setting aside 10-30 minutes each morning to: meditate for at least 5 minutes, journal — make a plan for the day, write a short gratitude list — and stretch or workout.
  2. Eat breakfast. Sounds simple, but many of us don’t make time for a nutritious breakfast, often grabbing convenience food to go. Prepare something healthy the night before so that you can grab that on your way out the door. This saves money on eating out and creates more energy by fueling your body effectively.
  3. Create boundaries around social media. Those who are productive with their time don’t spend hours on social media. But that doesn’t mean they don’t use apps like Facebook or Instagram. They’re just smart about when they use them. You could designate 15 minutes twice per day for social media by setting a timer. You may soon find that you have a lot more time to get things done.
  4. Plan your week every Friday. Taking the time to plan out activities and commitments for the following week will give you a big picture of everything you want to do and help you see if you’re over-extending yourself.
  5. Make the best use of your brain. Sounds interesting, but there is logic here! Some people are more productive at certain times of day. For example, if you are a morning person you might feel it is best to tackle challenging projects first thing in the morning and more menial tasks that require less brain power —like returning phone calls, running errands, and checking and responding to emails — a bit later in the day. Take 5-10 minutes to consider when your brain is most creative, active, and has lots of energy. Then plan activities around that knowledge. You might find yourself considerably more productive, especially if you stick to the tasks you’ve designated for certain times.