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. 

Declutter Your Tech, Part 2

It’s time for more decluttering! Last month, we went over tips to better organize (or get rid of) the technology gear in your home. This month, it’s time to tackle virtual tech.

This kind of clutter can be especially hard to deal with, since you can’t see it—but more organized and streamlined tech tools make everyday tasks much easier. Use this list:

Declutter Your Computer

  • Audit space-hogging files. Use free tools like WinDirStat.net (for PCs) or Disk Inventory X (www.derlien.com for Mac) to identify file sizes so you can see which ones take up the most room—and decide whether to delete them or move them to an external hard drive.
  • Clean your desktop. Get rid of or move the files you downloaded to your desktop because you didn’t know where else to put them at the time. Make desktop folders for things that are “in progress” or even separated by simple titles like “work” and “personal.”
  • Clear unread emails. Sort into folders by year and mark them as read so you won’t panic about trashing them and can find whatever you need later using your email’s search tool. Use tools like Unroll.me going forward to minimize the dead weight in your inbox and easily unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t need.

Declutter Your Phone

  • Move photos to the cloud. Free tools like the Google Photos app (for iOS and Android) or low-cost IDrive.com allow you to store all your snapshots to the cloud so they’re not taking up so much space on your phone. Additional storage is available for a fee.
  • Cull your contacts. Scroll through your phone’s address book and delete any duplicates or former contacts you no longer need. iPhone users can do this all at once by logging into iCloud, while Android users can log into contacts.google.com (if that’s where you back them up).
  • Clean out your apps. Even if you don’t want to remove them from your phone entirely, create app groups or folders to sort similar apps (i.e. a “food” group for delivery apps or a “shopping” group for all your favorite stores). Search Google for “how to create folders on my (insert phone model).” Remove any apps you don’t use.

Is Homeownership Still Considered Part of the American Dream?

Is Homeownership Still Considered Part of the American Dream? | Keeping Current Matters

Since the birth of our nation, homeownership has always been considered a major piece of the American Dream. As Frederick Peters reports in Forbes:

“The idea of a place of one’s own drives the American story. We became a nation out of a desire to slip the bonds of Europe, which was still in many respects a collection of feudal societies. Old rich families, or the church, owned all the land and, with few exceptions, everyone else was a tenant. The magic of America lay not only in its sense of opportunity, but also in the belief that life could in every way be shaped by the individual. People traveled here not just for religious freedom, but because in America anything seemed possible.”

Additionally, a research paper released just prior to the shelter-in-place orders issued last year concludes:

“Homeownership is undeniably the cornerstone of the American Dream, and is inseparable from our national ethos that, through hard work, every American should have opportunities for prosperity and success. It is the stability and wealth creation that homeownership provides that represents the primary mechanism through which many American families are able to achieve upward socioeconomic mobility and greater opportunities for their children.”

Has the past year changed the American view on homeownership?

Definitely not. A survey of prospective homebuyers released by realtor.com last week reveals that becoming a homeowner is still the main reason this year’s first-time homebuyers want to purchase a home. When asked why they want to buy, three of the top four responses center on the financial benefits of owning a home. The top four reasons for buying are:

  • 59% – “I want to be a homeowner”
  • 33% – “I want to live in a space that I can invest in improving”
  • 31% – “I need more space”
  • 22% – “I want to build equity”

Millennials believe most strongly in homeownership.

The survey also reports that 62% of millennials say a desire to be a homeowner is the main reason they’re buying a home. This contradicts the thinking of some experts who had believed millennials were going to be the first “renter generation” in our nation’s history.

While reporting on the survey, George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, said:

“Americans, even millennials who many thought would never buy, have a strong preference for homeownership for the same reasons many generations before them have — to invest in a place of their own and in their communities, and to build a solid financial foundation for themselves and their families.”

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American, also addresses millennial homeownership:

“Millennials have delayed marriage and having children in favor of investing in education, pushing marriage and family formation to their early-to-mid thirties, compared with previous generations, who primarily made these lifestyle choices in their twenties…Delayed lifestyle choices delay the desire for homeownership.”

Kushi goes on to explain:

“As more millennials get married and form families, millennials remain poised to transform the housing market. In fact, the housing market is already experiencing the earliest gusts of the tailwind.”

Bottom Line

As it always has been and very likely always will be, homeownership continues to be a major component in every generation’s pursuit of the American Dream.

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How a Change in Mortgage Rate Impacts Your Homebuying Budget

How a Change in Mortgage Rate Impacts Your Homebuying Budget | Keeping Current Matters

Mortgage rates are on the rise this year, but they’re still incredibly low compared to the historic average. However, anytime there’s a change in the mortgage rate, it affects what you can afford to borrow when you’re buying a home. As Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, shares:

Since January, mortgage rates have increased half a percentage point from historic lows and home prices have risen, leaving potential homebuyers with less purchasing power.” (See graph below):

How a Change in Mortgage Rate Impacts Your Homebuying Budget | Keeping Current MattersWhen buying a home, it’s important to determine a monthly budget so you can plan for and understand what you can afford. However, when you need to stick to your budget, even a small increase in the mortgage rate can make a big difference.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), today, the median existing-home price is $313,000. Using $300,000 as a simple number close to the median price, here’s an example of how a change in mortgage rate impacts your monthly principal and interest payments on a home.How a Change in Mortgage Rate Impacts Your Homebuying Budget | Keeping Current MattersIf, for example, you’re getting ready to buy a home and know your budget allows for a monthly payment of $1200-1250 (marked in gray on the table above), every time the mortgage rate increases, the loan amount has to decrease to keep your monthly cost in range. This means you may have to look for lower-priced homes as mortgage rates go up if you want to be able to maintain your budget.

In essence, it’s ideal to close on a home loan when mortgage rates are low, so you can afford to borrow more money. This gives you more purchasing power when you buy a home. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, explains:

“Monthly payments have remained manageable despite soaring home prices because of low mortgage rates. In fact, monthly payments remain below the $1,250 to $1,260 range that we saw in both fall 2018 and spring 2019, but they are on track to hit that level this spring.

Although they remain low, mortgage rates have begun to increase and are expected to rise further later in the year, thus affordability will test buyer demand in the months ahead and likely help slow the pace of price growth.”

Today’s mortgage rates are still very low, but experts project they’ll continue to rise modestly this year. As a result, every moment counts for homebuyers who want to secure the lowest mortgage rate they can in order to be able to afford the home of their dreams.

Bottom Line

Thanks to low mortgage rates, the spring housing market’s in bloom for buyers – but these favorable conditions may not last for long. Contact your local real estate professional today to start the homebuying process while your purchasing power is still holding strong.

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What It Means To Be in a Sellers’ Market

What It Means To Be in a Sellers’ Market | Keeping Current Matters

If you’ve given even a casual thought to selling your house in the near future, this is the time to really think seriously about making a move. Here’s why this season is the ultimate sellers’ market and the optimal time to make sure your house is available for buyers who are looking for homes to purchase.

The latest Existing Home Sales Report from The National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows the inventory of houses for sale is still astonishingly low, sitting at just a 2-month supply at the current sales pace.

Historically, a 6-month supply is necessary for a ‘normal’ or ‘neutral’ market in which there are enough homes available for active buyers (See graph below):What It Means To Be in a Sellers’ Market | Keeping Current MattersWhen the supply of houses for sale is as low as it is right now, it’s much harder for buyers to find homes to purchase. As a result, competition among purchasers rises and more bidding wars take place, making it essential for buyers to submit very attractive offers.

As this happens, home prices rise and sellers are in the best position to negotiate deals that meet their ideal terms. If you put your house on the market while so few homes are available to buy, it will likely get a lot of attention from hopeful buyers.

Today, there are many buyers who are ready, willing, and able to purchase a home. Low mortgage rates and a year filled with unique changes have prompted buyers to think differently about where they live – and they’re taking action. The supply of homes for sale is not keeping up with this high demand, making now the optimal time to sell your house.

Bottom Line

Home prices are appreciating in today’s sellers’ market. Making your home available over the coming weeks will give you the most exposure to buyers who will actively compete against each other to purchase it.

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2021 Real Estate Myth Buster [INFOGRAPHIC]

2021 Real Estate Myth Buster [INFOGRAPHIC] | Keeping Current Matters

Some Highlights

  • There are a lot of misconceptions about buying or selling a home today, making it challenging to know exactly how to navigate the current real estate landscape.
  • Here’s a little clarity when it comes to 5 common myths about the 2021 housing market.
  • With these busted myths in hand, be sure to also work with a trusted real estate advisor so you can decipher local facts from fiction along the way.

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Buyer & Seller Perks in Today’s Housing Market

Buyer & Seller Perks in Today’s Housing Market | Keeping Current Matters

Right now, the housing market is full of outstanding opportunities for both buyers and sellers. Whether you’re thinking of buying your first home, moving up to a bigger one, or selling so you can downsize this spring, there are perks today that are powering big moves for people across the country. Here are the top two to keep on the radar this season.

The Biggest Perk for Buyers: Low Mortgage Rates

 Today’s most compelling buyer incentive is low mortgage interest rates. The 30-year fixed-rate is now averaging just over 3%. While that’s slightly higher than the record-lows from 2020 and earlier this year, it’s still way lower than historic norms, making purchasing a home an ongoing perk for hopeful buyers (See graph below):Buyer & Seller Perks in Today’s Housing Market | Keeping Current MattersThis is a huge advantage for buyers and helps to make owning a home attainable for more households – and there’s good reason to strive for homeownership. The latest Homeowner Equity Report from CoreLogic shows how homeowners saw major gains in their net worth last year, all thanks to owning a home. Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, explains:

Positive factors like record-low interest rates and a booming housing market encouraged many families to enter homeownership. This growing bank of personal wealth that homeownership affords was noticed by many but in particular for first-time buyers who want a piece of the cake. As a result, we may see more of those currently renting start to enter the market in the near future.”

Low mortgage rates are a plus for buyers right now, but experts forecast we’ll see them continue to rise as the year goes on. If you’re ready to purchase a home, it’s wise to get started on the process soon so you can secure today’s comparatively low rate.

The Biggest Perk for Sellers: Low Inventory

Today, there are simply not enough houses on the market for the number of buyers looking to purchase them, and it’s creating a serious sellers’ market. According to Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com:

“Total active inventory continues to decline, dropping 50 percent. With buyers active in the market and sellers still slow to put homes up for sale, homes are selling quickly and the total number actively available for sale at any point in time continues to decline.” (See map below):

Buyer & Seller Perks in Today’s Housing Market | Keeping Current MattersThe lack of houses for sale continues to challenge the market, and with low mortgage rates fueling buyer demand, homes are hard for buyers to find today. According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index Survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average house is now receiving 4.1 offers and is on the market for only 20 days.

Buyers are clearly eager to purchase, and because of the shortage of inventory available, they’re often entering bidding wars. This is one of the factors keeping home prices strong and giving sellers leverage in the negotiation process.

Homeowners who are in a position to sell shouldn’t wait to make their move. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for today’s inventory shortage, so listing this spring will get your house on the market when conditions are most favorable. With low inventory and high buyer demand, homeowners can potentially earn a greater profit on their houses and sell them quickly in the fast-paced spring market.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re thinking about buying or selling a home, there are major perks available in today’s housing market. Contact a trusted real estate professional today to discuss how these favorable conditions play to your advantage in your local area.

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Declutter Your Tech (Part 1)

Photo by OVAN from Pexels

This two-part series focuses on how to declutter your technology. This month covers tips and tricks to safely declutter physical tech items, while next month will focus on digital decluttering. We’ve included a handy checklist you can stick to your fridge!

  1. Start with your tech drawer/cupboard of old computer and media-related content (everyone seems to have one). Once you’ve identified these items, divide into three piles: sell (give yourself a deadline to make sure you get rid of these items) keep, or scrap/recycle. Look out for:
    • Old cellphones
    • Power cables that no longer fit your current computer or laptop
    • Gaming devices
    • Well-worn cameras that you’ve replaced with a newer one
    • Unused computer speakers
    • Controls for devices you no longer use, like old TVs and DVD players
    • Tapes, CDs, floppy disks
  2. For items you decide to keep, ensure they are stored in a designated space like a closet or drawer, preferably in either a protective cover or in a drawer organizer. Don’t forget to label them so you can easily identify the item when you need it.
  3. How to recycle:
    • Speakers, gaming consoles, and small electronic devices can be recycled at large retailers like Best Buy that have a recycling program.
    • Most large grocery stores provide cell phone recycling.
    • If you have an old Apple device, you should be able to not only recycle but also gain credit or trade-in value. Go to www.apple.com/recycling for more info.
    • CDs and DVDs cannot be recycled in your regular bin. Instead, they need to be donated to thrift stores, or sent away to safe recycling programs like GreenDisk (www.greendisk.com).
    • Your city or state may also subsidize tech recycling. Check their website for more information.
  4. Old photos. Digitizing is the best way to ensure your valuable old photos are backed up and saved. You can scan each one yourself, or pay a service (try ScanDigital.com or ScanMyPhotos.com) to do it. 

Creative Date Ideas

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Trying to keep a relationship fun can be costly, especially in the early days. Impressing someone new with fancy dinners or tickets to see live music can be expensive. Here are some ideas to keep the magic alive while sticking to a budget:

  • Go out for breakfast: you can have dates at any time of day. Plus, breakfasts are considerably cheaper than going out for dinner.
  • Fix a picnic and watch the sunset together in a park. You can save money making your own food rather than takeout, too.
  • Go to an open mic night. You still get the thrill of getting dressed up and going out together but without the cost of expensive venue tickets.
  • Enjoy a hike together! What better way to get to know someone than walking together?
  • Go to a You-Pick. Whether it’s summer or fall, you can still pick for two full seasons: berries in the summer and apples and pumpkins in the fall.
  • Cook a special dinner together. Just because you’re not going out doesn’t mean you can’t eat a delicious meal together. Why not try a new recipe, too?

Cool Uses For Plastic Bags

Plastic bags need not be one-time-use items. They have lots of reusable purposes. Try these ideas to make use of them, instead of letting them pile up under the sink or go right into the trash!

  • Add a stash to the car for a portable trash bin.
  • Take them on vacation as a travel laundry bag.
  • Weatherproof your padlocks. Stop them from freezing by adding a sandwich bag over the lock.
  • Portable poop bags. Save on buying doggy bags from the store and re-use old plastic bags.
  • Use as a doggy water bowl when out hiking.
  • Dispose of cooking oil in used resealable sandwich bags.
  • Craft! Bloggers and crafters have used old plastic bags to make rugs, bags, and even rope. Get online to find out how! Search Pinterest.com for “trash bag crafts.”
  • Keep a paintbrush fresh. If you’re in the middle of painting, but waiting for the first coat to dry, wrap the used paintbrush in a plastic bag to keep from drying out. Then simply unwrap and re-use.