How To Block Spam Calls

Those unwanted and annoying spam calls seem to get more sophisticated and harder to detect, using local numbers or spoofing your own phone number. Even if you hang up immediately or unsubscribe, they still seem to call back. A recent estimate placed the number of spam calls in 2019 at over 50 billion! Here’s a quick how-to to help stop (or at least reduce) spam calls:

  1. Block numbers one-at-a-time. This is a helpful solution if it is the same number calling repeatedly. Search your phone model online plus “how to block phone numbers.”
  2. Work with your carrier. Some mobile providers have software that stops or filters these calls. AT&T uses Call Protect, Verizon Wireless uses Call Filter, and T-Mobile uses Scam Shield and Scam Block.
  3. Add your number to the Do Not Call Registry. Visit to add yourself to the list that telemarketers are supposed to honor.
  4. Use the phone’s software. Whether you have an Android or iPhone, they both have Do Not Disturb functions that allow you to block all calls, unless they are from contacts saved in your phone. Check your user’s guide (or online) for instructions.
  5. Block calls on your landline. You can buy a call-blocking device that stops unwanted calls and diverts others to voicemail. Some of these devices have a blacklist of problem numbers that you can add numbers to as well. 
  6. Register a complaint with the FTC. While the FTC might not follow up every complaint, they do monitor which companies are annoying and scamming customers. They have been known to shut down some of these spammers, too. Report unwanted calls to

It’s a Sellers’ Market [INFOGRAPHIC]

It’s a Sellers’ Market [INFOGRAPHIC] | Keeping Current Matters

Some Highlights

  • Over the past year, homeowners have gained an unprecedented opportunity to sell with great success while buyer demand is soaring.
  • With homes selling twice as fast as they did last year at this time, getting multiple offers, and rising in price, homeowners are in the driver’s seat.
  • Reach out to a local real estate professional today if you’re ready to learn about the leverage you have as a seller in today’s housing market.

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Are There Going to Be More Homes to Buy This Year?

Are There Going to Be More Homes to Buy This Year? | Keeping Current Matters

If you’re looking for a home to purchase right now and having trouble finding one, you’re not alone. At a time like this when there are so few houses for sale, it’s normal to wonder if you’ll actually find one to buy. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), across the country, inventory of available homes for sale is at an all-time low – the lowest point recorded since NAR began tracking this metric in 1982. There are, however, more homes expected to hit the market later this year. Let’s break down the three key places they’ll likely come from as 2021 continues on.

1. Homeowners Who Didn’t Sell Last Year

In 2020, many sellers decided to pause their moving plans for a number of different reasons. From health concerns about the pandemic to financial uncertainty, plenty of homeowners decided not to move last year.

Now that vaccines are being distributed and there’s a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, it should bring some peace of mind to many potential sellers. As Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at, notes:

“Fortunately for would-be homebuyers, we expect sellers to return to the market as we see improvement in the economy and progress against the coronavirus.”

Many of the homeowners who decided not to sell in 2020 will enter the market later this year as they begin to feel more comfortable showing their house in person, understanding their financial situation, and simply having more security in life.

2. More New Homes Will Be Built

Last year was a strong year for home builders, and according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), 2021 is expected to be even better:

“For 2021, NAHB expects ongoing growth for single-family construction. It will be the first year for which total single-family construction will exceed 1 million starts since the Great Recession.”

With more houses being built in many markets around the country, homeowners looking for new houses that meet their changing needs will be able to move into their dream homes. When they sell their current houses, this will create opportunities for those looking to find a home that’s already built to do so. It sets a simple chain reaction in motion for hopeful buyers.

3. Those Impacted Financially by the Economic Crisis

Many experts don’t anticipate a large wave of foreclosures coming to the market, given the forbearance options afforded to current homeowners throughout the pandemic. Some homeowners who have been impacted economically will, however, need to move this year. There are also homeowners who didn’t take advantage of the forbearance option or were already in a foreclosure situation before the pandemic began. In those cases, homeowners may decide to sell their houses instead of going into the foreclosure process, especially given the equity in homes today. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, explains:

“Given the huge price gains recently, I don’t think many homes will have to go to foreclosure…I think homes will just be sold, and there will be cash left over for the seller, even in a distressed situation. So that’s a bit of a silver lining in that we don’t expect a massive sale of distressed properties.”

As we can see, it looks like we’re going to have an increase in the number of homes for sale in 2021. With fears of the pandemic starting to ease, new homes being built, and more listings coming to the market prior to foreclosure, there’s hope if you’re planning to buy this year. And if you’re thinking of selling and making a move, doing so while demand for your house is high might create an outstanding move-up option for you.

Bottom Line

Housing demand is high and supply is low, so if you’re thinking of moving, it’s a great time to do so. There are likely many buyers who are looking for a home just like yours, and there are options coming for you to find a new house too. Contact a local real estate professional today to see how you can benefit from the opportunities available in your local market.

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4 Rideshare Safety Tips

Whether you’re traveling in a new city or just need to get across town at home, rideshare services (like Lyft and Uber) are an increasingly popular choice.

With the large numbers of rides across the world, most of us have heard stories of accidents and crime occurring during rideshares. Luckily, most of these incidents are preventable by keeping the following safety tips in mind.

  • Make ride requests indoors. Whether you’re requesting a ride at night or during the day, it’s safer to make the request before you go outside. If possible, wait indoors until your ride arrives.
  • Confirm the ride before getting in the car. Make sure the car’s make and license plate match the ride match from the app. Ask for the driver’s name, and ask them to confirm your name.
  • Sit in the back seat. It’s a personal car, not a taxi, but being in the back seat affords you access to two doors so you won’t risk getting into or out of the car near a busy lane of traffic.
  • Utilize the app’s trip sharing feature. Both Lyft and Uber have a trip sharing tool in their safety options. Trip sharing sends the driver’s name, photo, license plate number, and car location with the person of your choice so someone knows where you are and who you’re with.

How Much Leverage Do Today’s House Sellers Have?

How Much Leverage Do Today's House Sellers Have? | Keeping Current Matters

The housing market has been scorching hot over the last twelve months. Buyers and their high demand have far outnumbered sellers and a short supply of houses. According to the latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sales are up 23.7% from the same time last year while the inventory of homes available for sale is down 25.7%. There are 360,000 fewer single-family homes for sale today than there were at this time last year. This increase in demand coupled with such limited supply is leading to more bidding wars throughout the country.

Rose Quint, Assistant Vice President for Survey Research with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), recently reported:

“The number one reason long-time searchers haven’t made a home purchase is not because of their inability to find an affordably-priced home, but because they continue to get outbid by other offers.”

A survey in the NAHB report showed that 40% of buyers have been outbid for a home they wanted to purchase. This is more than twice the percentage in 2019, which was 19%.

What does this mean for sellers today?

It means sellers have tremendous leverage when negotiating with buyers.

In negotiations, leverage is the power that one side may have to influence the other side while moving closer to their negotiating position. A party’s leverage is based on its ability to award benefits or eliminate costs on the other side.

In today’s market, a buyer wants three things:

  1. To buy a home
  2. To buy now before prices continue to appreciate
  3. To buy now and take advantage of historically low mortgage rates while they last

These three buyer needs give the homeowner tremendous leverage when selling their house. Most realize this leverage enables the seller to sell at a good price. However, there may be another need the seller has that can be satisfied by using this leverage.

Here’s an example:

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, recently identified a situation in which many sellers are finding themselves today:

“As mortgage rates are expected to remain near 3%, millennials continue to form households and more existing homeowners tap their equity for the purchase of a better home…Many homeowners may want to upgrade, but do not for fear that they will be unable to find a home to buy.”

She then offers a possible solution:

“While the fear of not being able to find something to buy will not disappear in a limited supply environment, new housing supply can incentivize existing homeowners to move.”

There’s no doubt many sellers would love to build a new home to perfectly fit their changing wants and needs. However, most builders require that they sell their house first. If the seller sells their home, where would they live while their new home is being constructed?

Going back to the concept of leverage:

As mentioned, buyers have compelling reasons to purchase a home now, and many homeowners have challenges to address if they want to sell. Perhaps they can make a deal to satisfy each party’s needs. But how?

The seller may decide to sell their home to the buyer at today’s price, which will enable the purchaser to take advantage of current mortgage rates. In return, the buyer might lease the house back to the seller for a pre-determined length of time while the seller’s new home is being built. A true win-win negotiation.

Not every buyer will agree to such a deal – but you only need one.

That’s just one example of how a seller might be able to overcome a challenge because of the leverage they have in today’s market. Maybe you feel a need to make certain repairs before selling. Perhaps you need time to get permits or approvals for certain upgrades you made to the house. Whatever the challenge, you may be able to work it out.

Bottom Line

If you’re considering selling your house now but worry a huge obstacle stands in your way, contact a local real estate professional. Maybe with the leverage you currently have, you can negotiate a deal that will allow you to make the move of your dreams.

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The Reason Mortgage Rates Are Projected to Increase and What It Means for You

The Reason Mortgage Rates Are Projected to Increase and What It Means for You | Keeping Current Matters

We’re currently experiencing historically low mortgage rates. Over the last fifty years, the average on a Freddie Mac 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has been 7.76%. Today, that rate is 2.81%. Flocks of homebuyers have been taking advantage of these remarkably low rates over the last twelve months. However, there’s no guarantee rates will remain this low much longer.

Whenever we try to forecast mortgage rates, we should consider the advice of Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American:

“You know, the fallacy of economic forecasting is don’t ever try and forecast interest rates and/or, more specifically, if you’re a real estate economist mortgage rates, because you will always invariably be wrong.”

Many things impact mortgage rates. The economy, inflation, and Fed policy, just to name a few. That makes forecasting rates difficult. However, there’s one metric that has held up over the last fifty years – the relationship between mortgage rates and the 10-year treasury rate. Here’s a graph detailing this relationship since Freddie Mac started keeping mortgage rate records in 1972:The Reason Mortgage Rates Are Projected to Increase and What It Means for You | Keeping Current MattersThere’s no denying the close relationship between the two. Over the last five decades, there’s been an average 1.7-point spread between these two rates. It’s this long-term relationship that has some forecasters projecting an increase in mortgage rates as we move throughout the year. This is based on the recent surge in the 10-year treasury rate shown here:The Reason Mortgage Rates Are Projected to Increase and What It Means for You | Keeping Current MattersThe spread between the two is now 1.53, indicating mortgage rates could rise. Actually, a bump-up in rate has already begun. As Joel Kan, Associate VP of Economic Forecasting for the Mortgage Bankers Association, reveals:

“Expectations of faster economic growth and inflation continue to push Treasury yields & mortgage rates higher. Since hitting a survey low in December, the 30-year fixed rate has slowly risen, & last week climbed to its highest level since Nov 2020.”

How high might they go in 2021?

No one knows for sure. Sam Khater, Chief Economist for Freddie Mac, recently suggested:

“While there are multiple temporary factors driving up rates, the underlying economic fundamentals point to rates remaining in the low 3% range for the year.”

What does this mean for you?

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or you’ve purchased a home before, even an increase of half a point in mortgage rate (2.81 to 3.31%) makes a big difference. On a $300,000 mortgage, that difference (including principal and interest) is $82 a month, $984 a year, or a total of $29,520 over the life of the home loan.

Bottom Line

Based on the 50-year symbiotic relationship between treasury rates and mortgage rates, it appears mortgage rates could be headed up this year. It may make sense to buy now rather than wait.

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Where Have All the Houses Gone?

Where Have All the Houses Gone? | Keeping Current Matters

In today’s housing market, it seems harder than ever to find a home to buy. Before the health crisis hit us a year ago, there was already a shortage of homes for sale. When many homeowners delayed their plans to sell at the same time that more buyers aimed to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates and purchase a home, housing inventory dropped even further. Experts consider this to be the biggest challenge facing an otherwise hot market while buyers continue to compete for homes. As Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at, explains:

“With buyers active in the market and seller participation lagging, homes are selling quickly and the total number available for sale at any point in time continues to drop lower. In January as a whole, the number of for sale homes dropped below 600,000.”

Every month, releases new data showing the year-over-year change in inventory of existing homes for sale. As you can see in the map below, nationwide, inventory is 42.6% lower than it was at this time last year:Where Have All the Houses Gone? | Keeping Current Matters

Does this mean houses aren’t being put on the market for sale?

Not exactly. While there are fewer existing homes being listed right now, many homes are simply selling faster than they’re being counted as current inventory. The market is that competitive! It’s like when everyone was trying to find toilet paper to buy last spring and it was flying off the shelves faster than it could be stocked in the stores. That’s what’s happening in the housing market: homes are being listed for sale, but not at a rate that can keep up with heavy demand from competitive buyers.

In the same report, Hale explains:

Time on the market was 10 days faster than last year meaning that buyers still have to make decisions quickly in order to be successful. Today’s buyers have many tools to help them do that, including the ability to be notified as soon as homes meeting their search criteria hit the market. By tailoring search and notifications to the homes that are a solid match, buyers can act quickly and compete successfully in this faster-paced housing market.”

The Good News for Homeowners

The health crisis has been a major reason why potential sellers have held off this long, but as vaccines become more widely available, homeowners will start making their moves. Ali Wolf, Chief Economist at Zonda, confirms:

“Some people will feel comfortable listing their home during the first half of 2021. Others will want to wait until the vaccines are widely distributed.”

With more homeowners getting ready to sell later this year, putting your house on the market sooner rather than later is the best way to make sure your listing shines brighter than the rest.

When you’re ready to sell your house, you’ll likely want it to sell as quickly as possible, for the best price, and with little to no hassle. If you’re looking for these selling conditions, you’ll find them in today’s market. When demand is high and inventory is low, sellers have the ability to create optimal terms and timelines for the sale, making now an exceptional time to move.

Bottom Line

Today’s housing market is a big win for sellers, but these conditions won’t last forever. If you’re in a position to sell your house now, you may not want to wait for your neighbors to do the same. Contact a local real estate professional for advice on how to sell your house safely so you’re able to benefit from today’s high demand and low inventory.

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How To Alleviate Itchy Skin

Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

Winter skin or stress? We all get itches, but you may be surprised at what is causing the annoyance.

Causes of itchy skin: The everyday causes are more common than you might think. Extreme temperatures, air conditioning or dry environments, dust, stress, hot showers, and chemical sunscreens are all skin irritants.

Solutions: It’s helpful to know what you’re reacting to, first. For hot showers, instead take a warm shower and then apply moisturizer. Avoid extreme temperatures at home and work, vacuum and dust surfaces (especially blinds and curtains, which are culprits of collecting dust) regularly — even better, buy an air purifier to take dust particles out of the air. Use natural sunscreens without chemicals and try to manage stress levels effectively.

Small Steps To A Healthier Heart

Researchers at Harvard say that small health improvements are an important part of heart disease prevention. Small steps, they say, are the key to succeeding at improving heart health. Improve your heart health with these tips:

  • Use those muscles. Lifting small objects, like a bag of pet food, is a great way to tone arm muscles. Incremental movements build strength and may motivate you to later join a gym and increase the weights you’re able to lift.
  • Take short walks. A short, brisk walk is a great way to energize your body and get it used to short bursts of exercise.
  • Go to the dentist. Regular professional cleanings and taking good care of your teeth at home are linked to a healthier heart.
  • Watch the liquid calories. Soda and other sweetened drinks are laden with added calories. Swapping for water flavored with fruit, or low sugar alternatives, could save 100 calories a day.
  • Get nutty! Snacking on nuts, like walnuts or almonds, is great for heart health. Try a handful instead of chips or candy.
  • Breathe. The practice of slow and deep breathing, even if only for a few minutes a day, can help lower blood pressure. Set a reminder to breathe on your phone to keep you on track.
  • Eat an extra serving of fruit or vegetables. Just one extra portion of fruit or vegetable a day can help your whole body!
  • Limit red meat. Swapping meat with fish once a week can benefit your heart and brain.
  • Eat more fiber. Foods like whole grain cereals, barley, spinach, pears, kidney beans, and prunes are packed with fiber which can help prevent heart disease.

How To Stick To Health Routines

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

While plenty of people aspire to be diligent about healthy routines, it often feels easier to stick to old habits—we’re so comfortable with the routine we already know.

To break out of a rut, many people need a leg up. So, here are some tips to help you stick to a new fitness regime or nutritional plan.

  1. Meaningful Motivation: It’s important to understand your own psychology when trying to stick to any new routine. Determine your motivation: the reason (or reasons) you want to start a new health routine. It can be helpful to put your “why” into words or pictures and post it in a place you’ll see it every day for constant reminders of your motivational message.
  2. Habits or Routines? Habits are individual actions (like brushing your hair), whereas routines are made up of habits (your morning routine might include brushing your hair, taking a shower, and getting dressed) that, often, we do without thinking. When establishing a new routine, it’s useful to break each routine down and identify the habits that you’ll be adding or adjusting.
  3. Achievable Goals: Give yourself benchmarks that you’re almost certain you can meet. For example, if you want to exercise more, perhaps your first goal is simply to walk around the block every day for a week. Success begets success. Small victories lead to much bigger ones.
  4. Mini-Mind Games: Make it harder to make excuses than to stick to the routine, even if that means playing little games with yourself. For instance, if your running shoes are in the bedroom doorway or your yoga pants folded atop the coffee maker, it’s harder to skip a morning workout.
  5. Accountability: Studies show that we’re much more likely to stick to a health routine if we’re not going at it alone. Find a workout buddy who has similar goals, like a running partner. It’s not only motivating to know you’re accountable to someone other than yourself, it’s fabulous to celebrate each milestone with others who are on the same path.
  6. Track Your Progress: Change can be so slow that it’s all but impossible to notice progress. When starting a new health routine with a specific goal in mind, it’s incredibly useful to track your progress each day so that you can see just how you’re doing over time—and give yourself a pat on the back. Write your workout plan and completed tasks down or try an app like Fitness Buddy.