5 Ways to Host the Perfect, Mess-Free Super Bowl Party

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If you are hosting a big party to celebrate Super Bowl 50, you probably want it to be an event that you and your guests remember for years to come.

But Super Bowl parties can be messy: Crumbs and dirt from your guests’ shoes can embed themselves in your carpet, drinking glasses and plates can pile up, and the late-night messes can leave you feeling frustrated. But not to worry, we have a few Super Bowl party ideas that can help you minimize the mess.

Game-Changing Super Bowl Preparations

table cloth with appetizers and party itemsBefore you place the perfect decorations and put the snacks out on the table, prepare for game night with these helpful tips.

1. Buy Disposable Table Covers

Protect your coffee table from scuffs and crumbs by covering it with a disposable cover, whether it’s a plastic tablecloth or a roll of brown paper. For extra security, you can tape the edges to the underside of the table, and all you have to do is scoop up whatever’s left — including broken chips, bits of salsa, and water rings — and toss it out.

2. Put Everything in Easy Reach

Every second counts during the Super Bowl, both during the game and during the commercials, and no one wants to miss any of the action while heading to the kitchen to grab another drink or handful of chips.

Let your guests stay glued to the TV by keeping the food within easy reach on a large table in front of the couch. (The disposable table covers will definitely come in handy here.)

bite-sized pizza, fries, and dipping sauce 3. Go Bite-Size with the Snacks

Keep the mess to a minimum and select the best snacks that are bite-sized. You can stick toothpicks into your appetizers, too, to add an element of style to your snack selections.

Check out these recipes for bite-size snacks on the Food Network or these appetizer recipes from Better Homes and Gardens for great bite-sized snack ideas.

4. Prepare Your Stain Removers

It’s always helpful to prepare for spills, and having carpet cleaner on hand can help you prevent stains from forming on your carpet or on your sofa.

A little bit of dishwashing detergent can go a long way to clean up soft drinks, wine, and beer. Visit Good Housekeeping for easy cleaning solutions for just about any kind of stain, including beverages.

5. Stick with Disposable Plates

Avoid any mishaps and broken dishes by buying disposable plates, bowls, cups, and silverware before game day, and have your guests personalize their glasses with a permanent marker to prevent any misplacing. Then, instead of having to wash dishes, you can toss everything into the trash bag and stick it in the garbage.

Preparing to Sell Your Home? We Have Your Covered!

clean and decluttered living room ready for a home saleThe home selling preparations don’t stop even during the Super Bowl. We hope these mess-free party preparations can help you stay on track and avoid having to clean massive messes, and we can recommend other helpful tips for cleaning and decluttering your home that can save you time and money.

We’re available to talk if you need any advice, resources, or real estate information, and we can help you sell your home for top dollar and in a short time. Just give us a call today and let’s talk about your goals.

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5 Home Selling Tips for Homeowners Who are Not Selling (Yet)

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Selling your home may be an idea you are seriously considering, but that does not mean you are ready to put your home on the market just yet. You may be waiting to pay off your mortgage, you may be waiting for the kids to move out, or you may not be ready yet to part with all the memories you have made in this home.

But that does not mean you don’t have to start preparing to sell.

What to Consider Before Listing Your Home

personal belongings cluttered in a home's attic, a DO NOT home selling tipMany home sellers feel overwhelmed when they are preparing to sell their home for a number of reasons: There is the daunting task of decluttering, the sometimes unexpected repairs that have to be made, and the seemingly endless list of squeaky doors and minor fixes that buyers would notice almost immediately.

And all of this happens in a short time. (Read this Popular Mechanics article about what surprises this first-time home seller experienced to get an idea of what can happen.)

Prepare Now, Feel Less Stressed Later

You are in the perfect position right now to do what many home sellers do not have the chance to — slowly start to get your home in order. Here are ten home selling tips you can try now so you won’t feel overwhelmed when you are selling your home later.

1. Start with the Necessary Repairs

Free yourself from future stress by making any major repairs now, whether that is repairing the HVAC or replacing the hot water heater.

paint roll and paint brushes2. Go for Neutral Colors

If you want to give your walls a fresh coat of paint, opt for more neutral colors. During home showings, neutral colors and décor make it easier for home buyers to picture themselves living in your home, which is your ultimate goal.

3. Start Decluttering Now

Home sellers often find that decluttering is one of the more frustrating and overwhelming tasks, but if you start cleaning the clutter now, you will thank yourself later. A good rule of thumb: If you don’t love something and use it, lose it.

4. Deep Clean Your Home Periodically

small vacuum cleaner on dark floors in a homeSometimes it feels like the little things pile up quickly, don’t they? Try to stay ahead of minor maintenance and cleaning tasks by:

  • cleaning fixtures and light switch covers
  • fixing broken doorbells
  • repairing squeaky doors
  • dusting high and low
  • cleaning floors and windows

Check out our previous blog post for more ways to clean, organize, and declutter your home.

5. Refresh Your Front Entrance

During the home selling process, making a fantastic first impression is the key to getting buyers in the door. Refresh your home’s curb appeal by purchasing a new welcome mat, painting the front door, and polishing or replacing the doorknob.

List Your Home with Us for a Smooth Experience

We hope you found these home selling tips helpful. We know that selling a home can be overwhelming, especially if the unexpected happens. But we want to make sure that you have as painless of a sale as possible, so we will do everything we can to help you sell your home for top dollar and in a short time. So when you do decide to list your home, just give us a call.

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Home Organization Tips for the New Year

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dining area with four chairs and a tableHappy New Year!

Now that 2016 is here and the busyness of the holidays is over, many people are setting New Year’s resolutions — whether personal, professional, or real estate-related. It is the perfect time to set goals and welcome the new year with a fresh start. And what better way to start the new year fresh than by cleaning and organizing your home?

10 Ways to Get Rid of Last Year’s Clutter

“Out with the old, in with the new” as the saying goes. To help you start fresh with a clean and organized home, here are ten tips for kicking out the clutter and keeping it out in the new year.

1. Tackle Holiday Messes First

The busyness of the holidays often brings messes — shredded wrapping paper, loose Christmas tree needles, half-eaten leftovers in the fridge. Cleaning up from the holidays is a great place to start, and HGTV offers a great article about how to clean your home in 45 minutes.

small vacuum cleaner on dark floors in a home2. Vacuum the Floors

Now that the holidays are over and the constant flow of guests has diminished, give your floors a little TLC with a thorough vacuuming. Even this simple cleaning task can make a world of difference in the look and feel of your home.

3. Open the Windows

Freshen up your living spaces by letting in the natural light. Opening the windows helps make your home seem more inviting to both you and your visitors.

4. Refresh and Rearrange

Tired of the layout in your living room or bedrooms? Mix it up for the new year to add flow and a fresh look to your home.

5. Dust in High and Low Places

Give your rooms a thorough dusting to get rid of last year’s grime, starting with the lowest shelf on the bookcase and moving up to the ceiling fans and the hardly seen areas behind your shelves.

6. Replace Light Bulbs and Fix Squeaky Doors

Have a minor fix that you haven’t gotten around to correcting yet? Maybe it’s the burnt-out lightbulb in your bathroom or squeaky door to your closet. Make those tiny repairs now and your home will start to feel new again.

7. Organize and Declutter

We all have that one space we use as a catch-all for our miscellaneous clutter, whether it’s a closet, a chair, or a table. This year, keep the clutter at bay by getting rid of unused items, removing the clutter catch-all, or organizing everything in labeled bins.

8. Donate or Discard Old Clothes

What better way to say “out with the old” than to get rid of any shirts, jackets, pants, or shoes that you no longer wear? Now you’ll have more space in your closets and more room for new clothes.

bathroom clean of grime and clutter9. Deep Clean Your Bathroom

A clean shower door and bathroom wall can do wonders to enhance the overall appearance of your bathroom. DIY Network has several easy cleaning tricks for bathroom sinks, shower heads, and toilets that you can use to get rid of the built-up soap scum and grime.

10. Put Out a New Welcome Mat

What better way to welcome the new year and your guests than with a new, clean welcome mat? You’ll impress your visitors from the moment they walk in, and that curb appeal can do wonders for how even your neighbors perceive your home.

Decluttering Works Well During Home Staging, Too

These home organization tips can work wonders when you sell your home, since the foundation of home staging includes decluttering and cleaning to give buyers the best first impression. If you are selling your home in the new year, we can recommend other home staging tips and resources to help you sell your home quickly and for top dollar.

We hope you had a wonderful New Year’s and are looking forward to what 2016 has in store. Let us know if there is any way we can help make the home selling process easier on you in the new year.

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2015 Year in Review: The Economy and National Real Estate Market

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This time of year, many people like to take a moment and reflect on the year that has passed, whether it’s reflecting on good memories or how the nation is doing financially. Today, we would like to take a moment to reflect on the economy and what this year’s trends meant for real estate.

A Brief Look Back on the US Economy

The economy has done well in 2015 — personal income is increasing, new construction homes are on the rise, and the job market is strong. And looking to the new year, now is the best time to buy a home. Here are three main real estate-related takeaways from the United States’ past economic performance in 2015.

1. Unemployment is Decreasing

laptop at an office workplaceThe job market in the United States is doing much better than in previous years following the Great Recession.

Unemployment this time last year was at 5.6%; the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics states unemployment is at 5.0%. With more jobs and disposable income, home buyers have been able to spend more on their dream home than in past years.

2. Interest Rates May Increase

The Federal Reserve is expected to raise the interest rate tomorrow, December 16th, for the first time in nearly a decade. This is a good sign — the economy is doing well and the job market is strong.

For home buyers, however, these forecasted interest rate increases mean it will soon cost more to finance your home, and that now is the best time to buy the home of your dreams.

3. The Cost of Renting is Increasing

modern rental propertiesThe rental market has been surging, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, reaching a 20-year high this past year.

New apartment complexes have been built all over the nation to provide more housing, and due to this high demand for rental properties and lower vacancy rates, rent costs have increased.

For former renters looking for a place to call their own, now is a great time to purchase a home.

Now is the Best Time to Buy a Home

With forecasted interest rate increases, current rent cost increases, and a growing economy in 2015, now is the best time to buy a home. As local real estate experts, we can help you find the home of your dreams and direct you to the best home buying resources, including a mortgage calculator, that can help you purchase the home of your dreams with confidence.

Connect with us and let’s talk about your home buying goals for the new year.

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3 Benefits of Selling Your Home During the Holidays

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evergreen wreath with christmas decorations on a doorAs the holidays are approaching, many people are busy decorating their homes, lighting the tree, and marking their calendars to visit friends and family.

With all the busyness of the season, you might be wondering if now you should even attempt to sell your home. Any potential home buyers are also busy attending get-togethers or traveling out of town, right?

After all, that is how it has been in the past.

Yes, You Can Sell Your Home During the Holidays

The reality is that home buyers today are always looking at properties, including during the holidays.

Smartphones and other mobile devices have made it easier and quicker to search for homes on the go, and home buyers can search anywhere — including at a holiday party. So in light of this modern development, here are three main benefits of selling your home during the holidays.

3. You Have Less Competition

Many home sellers believe that the holidays are not the best time to sell, so they would rather wait until spring when the weather is nicer for home viewings.

This means that there is less competition for sellers who do list their home, so you don’t have to compete with other sellers for a buyer’s attention.

Buyers also have fewer properties to choose from, so you’re less likely to receive multiple offers on your home. For buyers who do find their dream home — your home — they may end up purchasing your property at or above market value.

2. Buyers are Serious

Unlike springtime, when many home sellers decide to put their property on the market, the weather is not as pleasant during the winter holiday season.

That means that potential buyers who are not serious about buying a home will opt for the comforts of their own home over viewing properties in cooler weather. They may also opt to attend a holiday party rather than view a home for sale.

Home buyers who are actively searching and viewing properties are generally more motivated, and may even want to buy their new home before Christmas or the new year rolls around. If a buyer for your home wants to get moving quickly, this can often translate into a quicker home sale.

christmas wreath in a frame on a red wall1. You Can Really Appeal to a Buyers’ Emotions

One of the most important tips about staging your home is that you need to appeal to the buyer’s emotions, and what better time to do that than during the holidays?

Selling your home means that you can leave the heat on, have cookies baking in the oven, and leave your holiday decorations up.

The holidays bring joy and warm feelings, and this seasonal atmosphere is perfect for setting the stage for your property with minimal work on your part.

We Can Help You Sell Your Home

Bottom line, selling your home during the holidays gives you the perfect opportunity to sell your home quickly and for more money. And we can help you make sure that your home sale goes smoothly, even during your busy holiday season.

From offering you a free home evaluation to advising you on further home staging tips, we have all the resources you need to make sure you home sells for more money in less time. Contact us and we can talk about a strategy to sell your property during the holidays.

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Can You Purchase a Home Even With Student Loans?

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student on laptopAs more millennials are preparing to buy a home, one issue is making it difficult for many — student loans.

The Project on Student Debt calculated that just about 7 in 10 college graduates in the Class of 2014 had student loan debt, and on average each student had about $29,000 in loans.

With mortgages often amounting to well over a hundred thousand dollars, many first-time home buyers may be asking whether they can even qualify for financing with their student debt.

So, is it possible to buy a home even with thousands of dollars in student loans? It depends.

What’s Your Debt-to-Income Ratio?

It all comes down to your debt-to-income ratio, or what percentage of your gross monthly income goes toward your total monthly mortgage payments.

Lenders recommend a debt-to-income ratio no greater than 36%, with no more than 28% of your monthly income going toward paying off your mortgage. As an example, someone who earns $50,000 in a year and has $1,500 in monthly debt payments would be right at the 36% recommendation.

calculator and finance sheetSo even if you are saddled with thousands of dollars in student loans, it is possible to obtain financing for a home if your debt-to-income ratio is right around that recommended ratio.

You Also Need to Consider Credit History

When home buyers apply for a mortgage, lenders look at whether they pay their bills on time and their employment history, for instance. If you have good credit history, that may further help you qualify for a mortgage.

You can always talk to a reputable lender about whether you can qualify for a mortgage with your student loan debt. Talk with us and we can help you get started with the mortgage pre-qualification process.

We Can Talk About Your Home Buying Plans

If you’re thinking of buying a home in the area, we can also recommend a reputable local mortgage lender so you can discuss the right mortgage for you, including interest rates and down payments. We even offer a free mortgage calculator on our website that can help you calculate monthly mortgage payments.

Contact us today and we can get started!

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How to Prepare Your Home for the Holidays

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dinner table with thanskgiving mealIt’s already November, but major retailers have already stocked their displays with twinkling lights and shiny ornaments, so you know what that means: The holidays are here.

Easy Holiday Home Decorating Tips

Whether you plan to host holiday get-togethers with friends, family, and neighbors or plan to visit your loved ones this year, you can prepare your home with today’s best styles to get into the holiday spirit.

Here are three ways that you can decorate your home for the holidays.

Use Seasonal Centerpieces

Nothing says “festive” quite like seasonal decorations around the table. Prepare for Thanksgiving Day meals by setting out cornucopias, small pumpkins, and autumn leaves, and exchange them for holly wreaths or tiny Christmas trees close to December.

Try Scent-Sational Decorations

Cinnamon, vanilla, gingerbread — these are the warm aromas that define the holiday season. So light a few candles in the kitchen or bake some cookies to fill your home with seasonal fragrances.

snowflake ornament with blue glitterFill Your Windows with Winter Joy

Let the sun cast its rays on your holiday decorations.

You can hang decorative snowflakes from your windows and watch your room light up with the sparkles, or choose stylish window decals to give your home the look and feel of a winter wonderland.

Let Us Be Your Real Estate Resource This Season

Are you searching for a new home during the holidays? You don’t have to find it alone. We have a variety of free, helpful home buying resources that can help you discover the perfect place to call home in the coming months.

Contact us today to learn more about the area, find homes for sale, or to schedule a showing of your dream home. We are always happy to help.

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Unique Ways to Decorate Your Home for Halloween

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Halloween is just around the corner. Have you thought about decorating your home this year?

It might seem like all of the options for Halloween decorations are the same year after year: carve a pumpkin, light the luminaries, and set out a bowl of candy for trick-or-treaters. But with just a little paint and creativity in the right places, you can really make your Halloween decorations stand out.

3 Easy Twists on Traditional Halloween Decorations

Looking to modify your Halloween decorations this year? Here are a few simple twists on your traditional choices.

pumpkin carved with geometric designsCarve Patterns Into Your Pumpkins

Who said pumpkins always had to have faces? Light up the night with swirls and stars from your illuminated pumpkins, and let your friends and neighbors admire your unique creation.

You can carve your pumpkin with as simple or intricate designs as you want. It’s all up to you.

Make Mason Jar Monsters

Turn your ordinary glass jars into simple yet spooky decorations with just a little bit of paint and cloth. You can paint a Mason jar orange with black eyes and a mouth to look like a jack-o’-lantern, or wrap a jar with gauze and stick on two eyes to look like a mummy.

And let your creations glow in the dark. Light a tea candle or put a battery-operated tea light into your Mason jar monsters and set it on a table or window sill to give your room a spooky effect.

Welcome Trick-Or-Treaters with Goody Bags

Turn the typical treat stop at your front door into a fun experience for both you and the trick-or-treaters — you’ll have fun decorating individual goody bags, and they’ll have fun choosing among delicious treats.

a pile of jelly beansFill a small Ziploc bag with orange jelly beans and draw on eyes and a mouth to make pumpkin treat bags, or draw a hairline and eyes on a bag filled with green jelly beans to create Frankenstein’s monster.

Or, if you want a spookier effect, you can make hand-shaped goody bags. Just fill transparent plastic gloves with candy or popcorn.

And if you’re selling your home this month, you don’t have to save these sweet tips for Halloween night; leave small goody bags for home buyers during a showing. It’s a great way to treat them.

Selling Your Home This October?

Let Halloween be the only spooky time that you encounter this month. We’re your real estate experts and are happy to help you stage your home, answer your questions, and determine a competitive listing price for your property, giving you peace of mind while selling.

Give us a call today and we can talk about your home selling timeline.

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“Know Before You Owe”: How New Rules Could Impact Closings

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house icon on grassIf you’re a home buyer, changes to the closing process are coming in just a few days.

New regulations go into effect on Saturday, October 3rd, providing new loan disclosure forms that are designed to help you better understand the terms of your home mortgage before you close on your new home. That means if you applied for a loan on or after that date, you will receive the easier-to-understand forms.

What You Need to Know About the New Closing Disclosures

To summarize, these new rules combine mortgage loan disclosures from both the Truth-In-Lending Act (which informs consumers about loan terms) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (which deals with closings) into one simplified set of disclosure forms for home buyers who are getting a mortgage.

The official title to these regulations is a mouthful — Truth-In-Lending Act / Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act Integrated Disclosure Rule— so the regulations are just referred to as TRID. (The enforcement agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, also calls it Know Before You Owe.”)

“Know Before You Owe” is designed to help borrowers clearly understand the costs and terms of their home mortgages. Here are the changes that you can expect from these new regulations, from the number of forms you’ll need to fill out to the time requirements that can alter your closing date.

You’ll Have Two Forms Instead of Four

If you’re getting a mortgage, you’ll receive two forms under “Know Before You Owe.” The first, a loan estimate, based on your financial information. You’ll receive the loan estimate 3 business days after applying for your mortgage. The second, a closing disclosure, which outlines all of the costs you will need to pay. You’ll receive that form 3 business days before closing.

These two new forms are more user-friendly, and are replacing four separate forms that home buyers received before — two Truth-In-Lending statements, the loan estimate, and a list of itemized fees.

With these new regulations, you will have time to review the terms of your mortgage well before closing, so you can understand exactly what fees there will be. You can read the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s full guide to the loan estimate and closing disclosure forms here.

There is a 3-Day Review Period Before Closing

Under the new “Know Before You Owe” rules, mortgage lenders must send you easier-to-understand information about your loan — the Closing Disclosure form — 3 business days before closing on your home, giving you time to review the terms of your mortgage.

However, some changes to the mortgage terms — like changes to your interest rate or the loan product itself — will mean that you will need another 3-business-day review period, possibly delaying your closing date. If you would like an overview of the details, the CFPB highlights the instances where the 3-day review period would be affected.

We Can Answer Your Questions About “Know Before You Owe”

If you are buying a home and have questions about these new regulations, and what it might mean for closing on your home in the future, contact our real estate experts today and we will be happy to answer your questions in detail.

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Where to Find the True Value for Your Home

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woman surrounded by question marksEver wondered what your home is worth?

Want to know where to start looking?

Whether you’re just curious or are eager to find a competitive listing price, using the best resources to find your property’s value is crucial.

Today, we’re going to be talking about two types of home evaluation tools: neighborhood sold reports and comparative market analyses.

Comparing Your Home with Your Neighbor’s

A neighborhood sold report is a detailed list of homes that have recently sold in your area. They include information about the square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, address, neighborhood, and, of course, the sold price.

Since sales prices are determined in part by your home’s location, as well as a neighborhood’s housing supply and demand, honing in on your own neighborhood real estate market is the best way to determine what the housing market is doing and how it can affect your listing price.

How much did your neighbor receive for his 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house down the street? Is your listing price thousands of dollars more?

If your home is priced too high, you’ll know immediately by looking at the comparisons in the neighborhood sold report. It’s better to learn sooner rather than later, when your home is on the market and you’re feeling frustrated by the lack of home buyer interest. The same goes with pricing your home too low.

Your Home’s Value in Today’s Market

pair of glasses on a white deskA comparative market analysis, often called a CMA, is a fantastic tool to help you determine your home’s value. This report can include anything relevant about the current real estate market in your area, such as:

  • recent neighborhood home sales
  • withdrawn home listing prices
  • unique property features

The important distinction between neighborhood sold reports and comparative market analyses is that the CMAs are more detailed, and can take into account any home improvements or unique property features that buyers would be more interested in (and therefore, would pay more for).

The bottom line: CMAs help you find that sweet, sweet selling price that’s fair to you but still attracts potential home buyers.

Don’t Settle for Estimates

If you’re serious about selling your home, the market value of your property is what you’re after. Don’t settle for estimates based solely on your address or outdated information.

You’ll want to do considerable research on the current state of your local real estate market to help you determine the best listing price for your home. If you need help along the way, our real estate experts are always happy to offer assistance.

Sell Your Property with Our Real Estate Experts

We offer both a neighborhood sold report and a comparative market analysis, and we can work with you to determine the best price for your property. And if you’re eager to get the results you’re looking for in your home sale, list your property with our dedicated real estate team.

Contact us today to get started!

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