Get Ready To De-Clutter! Part 1

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Who said spring cleaning should only happen once a year? Any time is a good time to declutter … but where to start and how to do it well? This week, get in the right frame of mind. Next week, we’ll tackle the bedroom!

Before you begin:

  • Set aside time to focus on decluttering.
  • Avoid buying anything new for your home during the decluttering process.
  • Think about what you want the space to look like after decluttering. Throughout the process, revisit this vision.

Next:

  • Choose an area that causes the most stress or an area that impacts your daily life.
  • Start with visible surfaces like desktops and tables, then tackle hidden places like drawers and cabinets.
  • Re-evaluate and reorganize large items like furniture.
  • Deal with each item, and make sure there is a proper place for everything.

Minimizing the Effects of Jet Lag

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

You’ve planned and saved for a vacation, and the last thing you want is to spend half of it feeling groggy. Here are things you can do before and during your trip to mitigate the impact of jet lag, which is caused by traversing several time zones and affects your internal clock.

Before you travel

  • Be well-rested when you get on the plane. Being overtired before a flight can make jet lag worse.
  • Try to adjust to the new time zone gradually over a few days.
  • Drink lots of water.

During your flight

  • Steer clear of caffeine and alcohol—dehydration exacerbates jet lag.
  • Adopt the new time zone’s sleeping and eating schedule as soon as you board.
  • Keep drinking water.

When you arrive

  • Engage in physical activity (walking is enough!) and get outdoors as much as possible.
  • Stay awake until sunset—no napping.
  • Drink even more water—no kidding! It’s the best medicine.

Economic Slowdown: What the Experts Are Saying

Economic Slowdown: What the Experts Are Saying | Simplifying The Market

More and more economists are predicting a recession is imminent as the result of the pullback in the economy caused by COVID-19. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research:

“A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.”

Bill McBride, the founder of Calculated Risk, believes we are already in a recession:

“With the sudden economic stop, and with many states shutting down by closing down schools, bars and restaurants…my view is the US economy is now in a recession (started in March 2020), and GDP will decline sharply in Q2. The length of the recession will depend on the course of the pandemic.”

How deep will it go?

No one knows for sure. It depends on how long it takes to beat this virus. Goldman Sachs anticipates we will see a difficult first half of the year, but the economy will recover in the second half (see below):Economic Slowdown: What the Experts Are Saying | Simplifying The MarketGoldman also projects we’ll have “further strong gains in early 2021.”

This aligns with the projection from Wells Fargo Investment Institute:

“Once the virus infection rate peaks, we expect a recovery to gain momentum into the final quarter of the year and especially into 2021.”

Again, no one knows for sure how long the pandemic will last. The hope is that it will resolve sometime over the next several months. Most agree that when it does, the economy will regain its strength quickly.

*Quarter 1 data from Goldman Sachs was updated from 0% to -0.2% on 3/17/20 after the initial release.

Bottom Line

This virus is not only impacting the physical health of Americans, but also the financial health of the nation. The sooner we beat it, the sooner our lives will return to normal.

Malware Help

Image by Darwin Laganzon from Pixabay

Has your computer suddenly gotten super slow? Do you have a new toolbar on your browser that you don’t remember adding? Or, maybe your search and home pages have changed. Odd pop-ups appearing? You could be experiencing malware symptoms!

Malware is hidden in your computer, unlike a virus, because the designers want their program running unnoticed in the background.

What should you do?

  • If you notice these symptoms, assume it’s malware and that it’s already gotten past your antivirus (you DO have an antivirus program, right?). Run something else, like ESET’s Free Online Scanner for Windows computers (eset.com/us/home/online-scanner), which doesn’t require installation, or try Malwarebytes’ free version (malwarebytes.com) for either PC or Mac.
  • Run the scanner (follow instructions provided by the program) in Windows Safe Mode if you’re on a PC. Search support.microsoft.com for “start in safe mode” for instructions for your version of Windows.
  • Finish up with a full computer scan with your antivirus program and deal with any threats found. Remember to keep programs up-to-date, and scan and clean your computer regularly.

Forgotten Traffic Rules

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Even if you have been driving for years, it is still possible that you may have forgotten some traffic rules (maybe that makes it MORE likely!). Here’s a quick recap of some common rules we often forget:

  • Going just 5 miles above the speed limit is illegal.
  • If two or more cars arrive at a four-way stop at the same time, the driver to the right has the right of way.
  • Stop means a complete stop, and you can get a ticket for not stopping.
  • It is illegal almost everywhere to text or hold your phone behind the wheel.
  • Failure to signal is against the law.
  • In dry conditions, you should be a minimum of 2 seconds away from other cars — longer when it’s raining or icy.
  • In some states, it is illegal to cut through a parking lot to avoid traffic.
  • 34 states in the U.S. allow police officers to pull a driver over and cite them only for not using a seatbelt (no need for another violation).

7 Simple Money-Saving Habits

Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay

Saving money isn’t just about getting a great deal on a big purchase or putting a percentage of each paycheck into a rainy day fund. Make saving money a daily habit with some of these small steps:

  • Change the time when you normally go out. Happy hour and movie matinees cost less than dinner or evening showings.
  • Find out what your library has to offer. You know about the books already, but your local library may also have a multitude of movies, magazines, CDs, museum passes, and even a “library of things” (think kitchen or gardening tools) you can check out for free.
  • Make double batches of dinner for next-day leftovers or freeze the extra for nights when you might otherwise get take-out.
  • Choose fabric over paper. Keep a stash of cloth rags in the kitchen to use instead of paper towels. Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones.
  • Shop secondhand. Browse local thrift stores, garage sales, or check out online auction sites like Ebid.net.
  • Set up an auto-transfer to savings accounts or IRAs. An automated bank transfer will help build your savings with zero stress. Even a small amount, bi-weekly or weekly, is better than nothing.
  • Eat more veggies. Meat generally costs more, so swap it out for more vegetables. Beans, for instance, are filling and crammed with nutrients.

How Your Tax Refund Can Move You Toward Homeownership This Year

How Your Tax Refund Can Move You Toward Homeownership This Year | Simplifying The Market

If you’re looking to buy a home in 2020, have you thought about putting your tax refund toward a down payment? Homeownership may be one step closer than you think if you spend your dollars wisely this year.

Based on data released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Americans can expect an estimated average refund of $2,962 when filing their taxes this year.

The map below shows the average tax refund Americans received last year by state:How Your Tax Refund Can Move You Toward Homeownership This Year | Simplifying The MarketAccording to programs from the Federal Housing Authority, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae, many first-time buyers can purchase a home with as little as 3% down. Truth be told, a 20% down payment is not always required to buy a home, even though that’s a common misconception about homebuying. Veterans Affairs Loans allow many veterans to purchase a home with 0% down.

How can my tax refund help?

If you’re a first-time buyer, your tax refund may cover more of a down payment than you ever thought possible.

If you take into account the median home sale price by state, the map below shows the percentage of a 3% down payment that’s covered by the average tax refund:How Your Tax Refund Can Move You Toward Homeownership This Year | Simplifying The MarketThe darker the blue, the closer your tax refund gets you to homeownership in one of these programs. Maybe this is the year to plan ahead and put your tax refund toward a down payment on a home.

Bottom Line

Saving for a down payment can seem like a daunting task, but the more you know about what’s required, the more prepared you’ll be to make the best decision for you and your family. This tax season, your refund could be your key to homeownership.

How to Help Grade Schoolers Succeed With Homework

Homework, a given by the time a student reaches high school, starts early for most students. Teachers even send home assignments with kindergarteners. It’s important for parents to establish healthy routines around homework, and that includes knowing when—and how—to help your young kids complete their homework assignments.

  • Location, location, location: For many young children, doing homework tucked away in their room isn’t ideal. Setting up at the dining room table while you’re making dinner means they’re not lonely or distracted by toys, and you’re available to answer questions.
  • Goal-setting: Some kids benefit from creating a task list for the day—and perhaps even an order in which to do things. And, as an incentive, you might withhold screen time until certain goals are met.
  • Question the questioner: When your child says they don’t understand an assignment, ask what they think it means. When they ask how to spell something, ask how they think it’s spelled (and point them to a hard copy of a dictionary for kids). This gives you a chance to provide gentle guidance or encouragement while still letting kids think things through.
  • Limit the lifelines: If your kid asks for help constantly, try limiting the number of questions they can ask on a given day to three. They’ll be more apt to try to solve problems on their own to save those precious lifelines.
  • Redirecting: In some cases, rather than helping your kids finish all their homework, it’s best to let them turn in something that’s incomplete so they can get assistance from the teacher. This helps establish a pattern for future homework questions in high school and beyond, when the teacher may be the only source of guidance.

                Above all, remember it’s crucial for children to learn how to do their own homework—don’t do it for them!

Entry-Level Homeowners Are in the Driver’s Seat

Entry-Level Homeowners Are in the Driver’s Seat | Simplifying The Market

One thing helping homeowners right now is price appreciation, especially in the entry-level market. In the latest Home Price Insights report, CoreLogic reveals how home prices increased by 4% year-over-year and projects prices will rise 5.2% by December 2020.

Why is this good news for the homeowners?

When prices appreciate, homeowners gain equity. In addition, those planning to sell this year, especially in the entry-level market, can potentially earn a substantial profit.

Dr. Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist at CoreLogic, says:

“Moderately priced homes are in high demand and short supply, pushing up values…Homes that sold for 25% or more below the local median price experienced a 5.9% price gain in 2019, compared with a 3.7% gain for homes that sold for 25% or more above the median.”

As Dr. Nothaft indicates, the lack of inventory continues to drive home price growth. This means there’s a high demand for homes in this tier of the market, making it a great time to consider using your equity to move up to a bigger or more premium home.

When you upgrade your home, you may be able to find the amenities or features you’ve dreamed of – such as a yard to plant or garden in with your family this spring, or more outdoor space for entertaining this summer. Maybe it’s the master bath you’ve always hoped for, or a garage to finally park your car inside.

Whatever you choose, if you’re moving out of an entry-level house, you’re likely going to be in the driver’s seat as a seller.

Bottom Line

If you’d like to own a bigger home, let’s get together to discuss your situation. You may be surprised by the current value of your home and the equity you’ve gained.

Opportunity in the Luxury Market This Year

Opportunity in the Luxury Market This Year | Simplifying The Market

Homes priced in the top 25% of a price range for a particular area of the country are considered “premium homes.” At the start of last year, many of the more expensive homes listed for sale hadn’t seen as much interest, since much of the demand for housing over the past few years has come from first-time buyers looking for starter homes. It looks like buyer activity, however, is starting to show a shift in this segment.

According to the January Luxury Report from the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing (ILHM):

“In a snapshot of 2019, despite pessimism at the start of the year, the last quarter showcased a strengthening, with an upswing in the luxury market for sales in both the single family and condo markets.”

Momentum is growing, and those looking to enter the luxury market are poised for success in 2020 as well. With more inventory available at the upper-end, historically low interest rates, and increasing average wages, the stage is set for buyers with an interest in this tier to embrace the perfect move-up opportunity.

The report highlights the increase in buyer activity in this segment, resulting in growing sales toward the end of 2019:

“According to reports from many luxury real estate professionals, the significant increase in number of properties bought at the end of 2019 versus 2018 is reflective of an early 2019 holding pattern.

Many of early 2019’s prospective luxury buyers held off while waiting to see how prices would react to new tax regulations and other policy changes. Buyer confidence returned in late spring and compared to 2018, above average sales were reported in the final quarter of 2019.”

With evidence of strong buyer confidence, this is great news, as more homeowners are building equity and growing their net worth throughout the country:

“Many homeowners are now diversifying their wealth, owning several properties rather than a single mega mansion. In addition, there have been an increase number of home purchases taking place in smaller cities, reflecting the rising number of people relocating from major metropolises. Their property equity wealth or ability to pay high rental costs have afforded them the opportunity to purchase luxury properties in…secondary cities throughout North America.”

With a strong economy and a backdrop set for moving up this year, it’s a great time to explore the luxury market. Keep in mind, luxury can mean different things to different people, too. To one person, luxury is a secluded home with plenty of property and privacy. To another, it is a penthouse at the center of a bustling city. Knowing what characteristics mean luxury to you will help your agent understand what you’re after as you define the scope and location for the home of your dreams.

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking about upgrading your current house to a luxury home, or adding an additional property to your portfolio, let’s get together to determine if you’re ready to make your move.