Copy of Chilly Weather Chili

Hasn't this weather been incredible? I'm jumping the gun here and sharing a delicious and simple chili recipe. When fall rolls around I always have items for chili in my pantry just in case and it makes enough for plenty of leftovers which is always a plus.

 

Grocery List:
-2 cans of 28 oz diced tomatoes
-2 lbs ground beef
-1 can pinto beans
-1 can kidney beans
-Onion
-Bell Pepper
-3 tbsp Chili Powder
-2 tsp Garlic Powder
-2 tsp Cumin
-1 tsp Sugar
-1 tsp Salt
-1 tsp Pepper
-Red Pepper to taste
-1/2 tsp Oregano
-2 cups Water

Instructions:
-Sautee onion and bell pepper
-Brown the beef, drain the fat (or don't)
-Add the rest of the ingredients
-Let simmer for two hours (this is the hardest part)

Serve with rice and saltine crackers - then top it with cheese and sour cream. Avocado is also good on top of it. 
 

6 Natural Ways to Survive Allergy Season

6 Ways to Survive Allergy Season

     

 

 

 

1. WATER

Hello! Seems simple right? Water is essential in surviving allergy season! The water keeps your sinuses hydrated for better lymphatic circulations in your body. A little bit of sea salt to your water may help your cells absorb and attain water faster and more efficiently. So in other words... DRINK UP!

2. ONIONS AND GARLIC

Get to cooking! Making meals with onion and garlic which contain quercetin: a flavonoid that inhibits inflammatory reactions. Although they can be used once the allergies start, it's better to be used as a preventive.  These would be great in a chicken soup, YUM!

3. FLAX SEEDS, FISH, AND WALNUTS ( OMEGA 3- FATTY ACIDS)

These foods are critical as they contain a high concentration of Omega 3 Fatty acids which are significant for decreasing the production of inflammatory chemicals in your body. They are also great sources of selenium which is a significant anti-allergy mineral. So grill up some fish, grab a handful of walnuts and fight off those allergies!

4. TEA

Get to sippin'! During an allergic reaction, histamines occur which stimulate your symptoms to come to the surface immediately. Various teas like Green and Chamomile Tea contain anti-histamines and anti-oxidants to boost your immune system's endurance levels. Green tea in particular contains catechins, which have shown to suppress the enzyme that translates histidine  to histamine. BONUS TIP: Find some LOCAL honey and add it to your tea. The honey will also prepare you for allergy season and also make your tea tasty!

5. EAT YOUR FRUITS!(and veggies)

Oranges, Strawberries, Apples, Kiwi..                                                                                                 Fruits contain vitamin C with acts as an anti-inflammatory to help counteract allergic reactions such as sinuses and inflammation to the lungs. To get this benefit, however, you need large doses of it which may cause some to experience upset stomachs. As such, foods containing vitamin C should be consumed gradually throughout the day. A smoothie for breakfast will start your day off with a healthy dose of Vitamin C!

6. Rosemary

Herb it up! Rosemary contains rosmarimic acid, which is a plant polyphenol that has been shown to minimize allergic reactions. It has shown to work by suppressing allergic immunoglobulin responses and leukocytes which causes inflammation. Rosemary is often uses to flavor meats, seafood, and even put in breads.

I hope these easy, every day remedies help you get through allergy season without a sneeze.

 

Vegetable Garden Startup

If you've been thinking about starting a vegetable garden of your own then now is the time to start planning what you'll grow for yourself. There's a gardener in everyone just waiting to sprout. But how do you start? With an adventurous spirit and just a little forethought. Here are a few tips to get a beginning gardener safely off the ground:

Do garden. There's no joy like surrounding yourself with flowers or dining on a salad you grew yourself. So don't miss out because you're afraid you have a "brown thumb." Plants are built to grow, though they'll grow better with a little help from you. Still worried? Make your first garden in a pot, where it's easier to control soil, water and light (just move it into the sun). See Burpee's container vegetablesherbs, and patio flowers.

Pick your spot with carePlants can't survive without sun and water, so choose a place for your garden where they can get all they need. Vegetables and most flowers need full sun--which means they need a place where at least six hours of sunlight falls on them every day during the growing season. (Don't have a spot with that much sunlight? There are plants that thrive with less, but most don't flower as much or bear fruit.) Try Burpee's Sunlight Calculator to find out how much sun your garden gets. Think ahead, too, about watering. A spot near the outdoor faucet means less hose hauling or water-can toting in the hot summer. And that's easier on you.

Start with the soil. Plants live by their roots. Roots live in the soil. So the most important part of your garden is the part below ground. Most soil around houses isn't ideal for plants, so improving it is the most powerful thing you can do to have a successful garden. How? By adding organic matter. What's that? It's just broken-down plant parts, usually in the form of compost, shredded leaves or composted manure. Organic matter does wonders for soil: It holds water for plants' root in dry times, but also allows excess rain to flow freely away. It breaks dense soil up to make spaces for roots to grow and air to reach them. And it provides food for many organisms that live in soil and provide healthy nutrients to your plants.

Don't overdo. Keep your first garden manageable so you don't get overwhelmed. For beginners, a plot 3 feet by 3 feet is a good size. Or plant no more than half a dozen good-sized pots. That's enough to provide a satisfying harvest of herbs, greens or easy vegetables while you get a feel for the amount of time and effort it takes to water and weed.

Get a head start. Many vegetables need to be started from seed several weeks before it's safe to plant them outside. For beginners, it's easiest to let someone else do that in a commercial greenhouse and buy the small plants (often called "transplants" or "starts"). Burpee sells garden ready vegetable plantsflower plantsherb plantsfruit plants and perennials and delivers them at your proper planting time. When's that? In late spring, but it varies from place to place based on frost dates (known as your 'growing zone'). To find out your growing zone, click here or call your local extension service.

Sow some seed. Even if you buy transplants for your must-have vegetables, take a chance on sowing seeds for a few easy things, such as radisheslettucesunflowers or nasturtiums. Seeds are cheap, so misfires don't cost much. And there's nothing like watching the whole life cycle of a plant unfold before your eyes.

 

from Burpee.com: How to Start a Garden

10 Real Estate Terms Everyone Should Know

1. Buyer’s Agent vs. Listing Agent

There are usually two agents involved when you buy a home; the “buyer’s agent,” who represents you, and the “listing agent,” who represents the home seller. Dual agency is when there is only one agent representing both sides of the transaction, and it is something you want to avoid at all costs!

Money saving tip: When buying a home, you don’t pay your real estate agent - they’ll get a commission from the home seller.

 

2. Fixed Rate vs. Adjustable Rate Mortgages

Conventional loans include “fixed rate” and “adjustable rate” mortgages. A fixed rate mortgage has a predetermined interest rate throughout the life of the loan; the most common are for 30 years. An adjustable rate mortgage has a variable interest rate; the most common are for 5, 7, or 10 years.

Money saving tip: Adjustable rate mortgages can make financial sense if you’re planning to sell or refinance your home before the introductory period ends; but if you’re planning to own your home longer than five years, it’s less risky to choose a fixed rate loan. Make sure to shop around so you can get the best mortgage possible, which will save you a lot of money in the long run. Ask your friends, family, and real estate agent for lender recommendations.

 

3. Pre-approval Letter

Before you apply for a mortgage or even start looking for a home, you should get a pre-approval letter from the bank, which is an estimate of how much they’ll lend you. This letter will help you determine what you can afford, and ensures home sellers that you will be able to get a loan when needed.

Money saving tip: When you go in for a pre-approval letter you should be clear on what the bank is offering. Ask them about closing costs, what fees are involved, what you’re getting for that fee, and if they’ll lock in your loan at a specific interest rate. Note that if you end up competing for a home against other offers, it can help to have a local lender. Local lenders want continued referrals and really care about their reputation; listing agents prefer to deal with them for this reason.

 

4. Listings

Real estate agents frequently refer to homes for sale as “listings.” A “listing” on a website shows information about the home, like the price and number of bedrooms. 

Money saving tip: For the most up-to-date listings, use sites from real estate brokers rather than real estate portals. Brokers have access to the multiple listing service, which real estate agents are required to update, so the information is more accurate than sites who aren’t affiliated with a brokerage. In a competitive real estate market, you can miss out on a good deal if you use sites that don’t show all the homes for sale.

 

5. Inspection

After you’ve made an offer on a home, you’ll need to schedule an inspection, which costs around $500 – $800, depending on the market. The inspector will go through every nook and cranny, and review things like the plumbing, electrical, foundation, walls, heating, and appliances.

Money saving tip: Get advice from your realtor on a good inspector. If they find something wrong, you can negotiate for a reduced price. If they miss something, you could be stuck with expensive repairs after you’ve purchased the home.

 

6. Appraisal

When you apply for a mortgage, your lender will require an appraisal of the home you want to buy. A licensed appraiser will estimate the home’s value based on comparable homes that have sold in the area and an investigation of the property.

Money saving tip: If the appraised value is less than the offer you are making on the home, you might not be approved for a loan. The bank doesn’t want to invest in a home that’s overpriced (and neither do you!). Before making an offer, ask your agent to do a comparative market analysis, which will tell you what comparable homes have sold for nearby.

 

7. Contingencies

When you put in an offer on a home, you can specify certain conditions that must be met before the deal will go through – these are called contingencies. You have to make sure you can actually get the loan (a financing contingency), that the inspection doesn’t show anything too crazy (inspection contingency), and that the appraised value is close to what you’re offering to pay (appraisal contingency). Those are just a few common examples; there are several other types of contingencies, which you should discuss with your agent.

Money saving tip: If you’re in a bidding war on a home, sometimes it can help to shorten contingency periods or waive them altogether. You may not necessarily have to pay more money, just be more flexible.

 

8. Offers and Contracts

Once you find the right home, you’ll make an offer on the property with the help of an agent or attorney. If the seller counters your original offer, it’s usually because they want more money or a faster timeline for closing the deal, at which point you’ll have to negotiate. When submitting an offer, it’s a good idea to add a personal touch by including a cover letter that explains why you want to buy the home.

Money saving tip: Choosing an experienced realtor is key to winning in negotiations. Do your research to find one who has done recent deals in your area, and be sure to read online reviews.

 

9. Closing Costs

Be prepared to pay a lot of fees when you purchase a home. Typically, closing costs will amount to 2-5% of the purchase price of the home, and that doesn’t include the down payment. Common fees include excise tax, loan-processing costs and title insurance. 

Money saving tip: Ask your lender about every fee involved in the Good Faith Estimate, and see if you can shop around for a better price for those services or negotiate down. Examples include homeowner’s insurance, wire transfers, underwriting and settlement fees.

 

10. Title Insurance

After all the negotiations are done and the seller has accepted your offer, you should receive a home title report within a week. Most mortgage lenders require you to pay title insurance as part of the closing costs; title insurers search the public records to make sure the home seller actually had rights to the title and that there are no liens on the home (like an unpaid contractor or unpaid taxes).

Money saving tip: Ask your agent for recommendations, and shop around to find the best title insurance rates. You may also be able to negotiate some fees the insurance provider charges.

 
 
 
 
from Redfin.com
jazmin-quaynor-106654.jpg

How to Impress your Mother in Law

Thanksgiving is a little over a week away which means you will most likely be hosting family in your home. Usually there's one critic you're aiming to please more so than yourself. Your Mother in Law. We can't tell you how to cook or how to discipline your kids to her standards, but we can help you get your house ready for her stay. These cleaning tips cover some things you may not have thought of, but will definitely impress her and make her think, "Wow, she pays a lot of attention to detail." Just make sure you maintain it for those SURPRISE visits we all know happen. We will give you a guide for that too.

1. Vacuum
     Did you know you're supposed to sanitize your vacuum? Think about how dirty it probably is from constantly cleaning your dirty floors. 

  1. Empty the canister
  2. Using your instruction manual, take everything apart
  3. Use scissors or a seam ripper to clean out the beater bar
  4. Wipe down the bottom of the vacuum with rubbing alcohol
  5. Rinse out the canister and wipe down with alcohol
  6. Change or clean filter
  7. Make sure everything is dried thoroughly before putting back together

2. Couch
     There's most likely an odor coming from your couch that you don't even notice anymore.

  1. Sprinkle baking soda over the couch
  2. Vacuum it all up (with your newly sanitized vacuum)

3. Stove Top
     A lot of cooking will be happening over the next week and a half. Your mother in law may take control of the kitchen and the last thing you will want to do is listen to her complain about how dirty the stove is that she's 'having' to cook on

  1. For gas stoves, place the stove burners in a bag of ammonia OUTSIDE to remove the gunk
  2. For electric stoves, give them some elbow grease
  3. For glass cooktops, sprinkle on baking soda, place a damp towel over it for 15 minutes, then rub away

4. Oven Glass   
     People are always looking through the oven glass while asking, "is it done yet?" It happens about 20 times more often during the holidays.

  1. The only step is to take a melamime sponge (magic eraser) to it. It will work for the rest of your oven too if you want to take it a step further

5. Ceiling Fans
     There's nothing worse than a guest mentioning they're a little warm and turning the ceiling fan on to reveal a dust snow party in your living room.

  1. Take an old pillow case and wipe the fan blades - the pillow case will catch the dust from falling everywhere

 

There you have it! We recommend doing a little more than these 5 cleaning tips to ensure a happy home, but we wanted to make sure you didn't forget about some of the things that tend to go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. 

Beaumont's Best

Behind historical oak trees and a growing community you will find some beautiful and unique homes in the Beaumont area. From plantation style to San Miguel inspired, there's a home for everyone's individual tastes when it comes to meeting your dream home needs. There's hundreds of homes to choose from if you're wanting something unique, but we've picked four of our favorites that have been on the market recently (one may still be available and it will probably be your favorite of them all). 

 

This is the newest of the Beaumont homes we will list. Built in 2012, and sold in the last year, it was only on the market for 3-4 days before it got a contract. The outside is perfection, but the inside is even more dreamy. We can't wait for this Calder Terrace home to be available again. 

This is the newest of the Beaumont homes we will list. Built in 2012, and sold in the last year, it was only on the market for 3-4 days before it got a contract. The outside is perfection, but the inside is even more dreamy. We can't wait for this Calder Terrace home to be available again. 

In Calder Place, you'll find a lot of cottage style homes - some small, some large, but this one is the perfect size. We love the green exterior and the metal roof on this one, but that front porch is just yelling for someone to sit on it and enjoy this awesome weather we've been having lately. 

In Calder Place, you'll find a lot of cottage style homes - some small, some large, but this one is the perfect size. We love the green exterior and the metal roof on this one, but that front porch is just yelling for someone to sit on it and enjoy this awesome weather we've been having lately. 

If you like sleek lines and architecture that embraces the natural surroundings of the home then you'll love the Oak Trace and Summerwood neighborhoods. A lot of the homes have tons of windows to let the sunshine in and they're great for entertaining guests outdoors.

If you like sleek lines and architecture that embraces the natural surroundings of the home then you'll love the Oak Trace and Summerwood neighborhoods. A lot of the homes have tons of windows to let the sunshine in and they're great for entertaining guests outdoors.

Built in 1931, this home is one of Beaumont's finest homes. The owners have kept all of the San Miguel charm on the inside while maintaining the home. You'll find high ceilings, original light fixtures and windows, an awesome floorplan, and a beautiful backyard at this home. 

Built in 1931, this home is one of Beaumont's finest homes. The owners have kept all of the San Miguel charm on the inside while maintaining the home. You'll find high ceilings, original light fixtures and windows, an awesome floorplan, and a beautiful backyard at this home. 

Have you seen a home in Southeast Texas that is unique? We'd love for you to send us what you've seen. There's so much Beaumont, Texas has to offer when it comes to historical and unique homes. 

Retro Tile Updates

Southeast Texas is known for Spindletop, Cajun influences, The Big Thicket, and that retro bathroom tile found in a majority of homes. We know what you're supposed to do about the first three. Visit and eat, but what should you do about the last one? Some would say to tear it out and start over, but that's just not an option for a lot of people, especially when you've just spent your money on purchasing the home that has this tile. Forbes has compiled a list of quick updates HERE on small budgets for these bathrooms. Some of them honor the builders of these 60s homes and keep the tile around, but add some enhancements while others do away with the sometimes strange colors. If you're considering any of these ideas for updates let us know and we can get you in contact with the right person to do the job. 

 

 

Newest Restaurants

The food scene in Southeast Texas has been on the rise for the past few years with food trucks and farm to table spots popping up, there's a place for everyone to claim a favorite. We've gathered a list of a few new places to check out.

Green Light Kitchen

There's already a downtown location, but this restaurant will be in West End Beaumont soon. You'll see breakfast, pasta, sandwiches, burgers, and salads on this menu - definitely something for everyone. 

Sweet Basil

A Vietnamese restaurant where you can get pho, spring rolls, or try something you've never had before. Blood cake and pig knuckles are on their menu, but we won't force you to try them...

Republic Chicken

We will let you in on a little secret... we've had this one already and it doesn't open until Wednesday. We have tried the chicken fried chicken, chicken fried steak, chicken tenders (did we mention this is a chicken place?), green beans, creamed corn, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and THE GRAVY. You definitely won't be disappointed with this choice.  

 

Which ones will you try? Let us know what you think about them. You may see us at 1 or all 3 some time. 

 

Local Business Spotlight

Football season, college visits, fall weather, and holiday vacations are arriving before we know it and we've found a solution for you and your pets who can't travel with you (AND a fun idea for kid's birthday parties!).

Ark O' Noah Pet Sitting

Whether your pet is happier staying at home laying around or is a social butterfly that wants to be around people and other pets - Ark O' Noah has you taken care of with their services. You decide if you want in-home visits or boarding with a pet sitter. The in-home visits can be tailored to your pet's needs. If they expect a meal and walk every morning and a fetch session in the afternoon with dinner served in the evening, Ark O' Noah can handle that for you. If your dog or cat would rather be with a human being then they can pick them up or be dropped off with the pet sitter for the week/weekend. We hear some of the pet sitters allow your pups to sleep in the bed with them... Seriously, you don't get that with a regular boarding facility. We highly recommend this business for all of your animal needs, and we say "all of your animal needs" because we really do mean ALL of your animal needs - including exotic animals. You won't be disappointed by what they can do for you.

If you don't need pet sitting services, but you need a party idea, contact Ark O' Noah for their petting zoo. School events, church events, or birthday parties! We don't want to give all the details away about what animals they have because it's better to hear it from Amanda, owner and operator of Ark O' Noah, who is so passionate about all animals and we know you'll instantly love her and her team. 

Visit their website at www.ArkONoahPetSitting.com for all services and contact information. Let us know what you think about them and tell your friends. 

Down Payment Help

One of the most stressful realities of the home-buying process is the amount of money coming out of your pockets, but there's ways to minimize how much you have to spend.

Ask for the sellers help.

The home seller may be willing to help buyers with the closing costs, via seller concessions. However, realize that lenders do limit concessions, depending on the mortgage type. For example, the FHA’s mortgages have a cap of 6 percent the sales price; Fannie Mae-backed loans have caps between 3 percent and 9 percent.

Explore government options.

Some home buyers may find down payment help from state, local, or even national programs. For example, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers several programs, such as assistance with down payment and closing costs. Most HUD programs are geared to individuals who meet certain income or location requirements. Check out links by state. HUD also offers assistance through its Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program for law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers, or EMTs. For veterans, the VA offers loans that often require zero down payment or private mortgage insurance.

See if your employer will help.

Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) programs can assist low- to moderate-income employees with a down payment through their employer. Ask the human resources or benefits personnel at your employer if your company participates in an EAH program.

Look into special lender programs.

Some lenders offer specialized programs to help too. With FHA mortgages, borrowers may need just 3.5 percent for a down payment (but make sure they take into account mortgage insurance, which could add another $300 to a monthly mortgage payment). Some lenders, such as TD Bank, offer a 3 percent down payment with no mortgage insurance program. Check with your regional bank for possible down payment assistance or first-time buyer programs.

 

Source: HouseLogic (october 26, 2015)

We Just Made Back to School Easier

Summer is ending and school is approaching. Pretty soon you're going to be spending your days and nights on a schedule (we don't think that's a bad thing) with little time to eat, sleep, or breathe. We're not sure how you're handling or planning dinner between carpool lines, homework, extracurricular activities, and playtime - oh and we forgot - your job! So we thought we would take the time go ahead and plan your dinners for the first week back to school. By the way, here's a reminder of those start dates:

Beaumont: August 24
Kelly High School: August 10
Hardin Jefferson: August 22
Nederland: August 22
PNG: August 23

And now for the main event: DINNERS

MONDAY
Chicken Burrito Bowl
1 lb Diced Chicken Breasts
3 tbsp Olive oil
1 cup Uncooked rice
1 Onion diced
1 14.5 oz can Diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can Black beans
1/2 tsp Garlic powder
1/2 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Cumin
2 1/2 cups Chicken broth
2 cups Shredded cheese
Salt and Pepper
Fresh diced tomatoes
Diced green onions
Guacamole
Sour cream
1. Start by sauteing onions in 2 Tbsp. olive oil until they start to soften.
2. Season diced chicken with 1 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of pepper. 
3. Add chicken to pan and cook over medium high heat until chicken has started to brown.
4. Move chicken to one side of pan, in the other side of the pan add an additional Tbsp. olive oil and saute uncooked rice for about 2 minutes or just until some grains start to turn brown.
5. Stir in black beans, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, garlic powder, chili powder and cumin.
6. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to low.
7. Cook about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.
8. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
9. Sprinkle with cheese, recover and let set for 2-3 minutes off of the heat to melt the cheese.
10. Spoon into bowl

11. Garnish with fresh tomatoes, green onions, sour cream and guacamole.

TUESDAY
Crockpot Ranch Porkchops

2 Cream of Chicken
2 Dry ranch seasoning packet
Porkchops
Throw these ingredients into the crockpot and cook on low all day. They will melt in your mouth at dinner. Go ahead and serve them with your favorite mashed potatoes and use the extra "gravy" on top. You can thank us later for this one.

WEDNESDAY
Chicken Burrito Bowl Leftovers
This time spread the mixture on a tortilla, roll it up like a burrito, and heat it in a buttered skillet until warm OR pour it over some tortilla chips for loaded nachos.

THURSDAY
BBQ Shredded Chicken
BBQ Sauce
Chicken Breasts
Throw both ingredients into the crockpot and cook on low all day. When it's time for dinner, scoop it onto a bun with some slaw mix, onions, or pickles, or for a (slightly) healthier option, scoop it into a baked sweet potato.

FRIDAY
Go to the football game of your choice and support the school's concession stand!
 

Grocery List

Onion
Tomato
Avocado/Guacamole
Green Onion
Slaw Mix
Sweet Potato

Chicken Breasts
Porkchops

Cheese
Sour Cream
 

BBQ Sauce
Olive Oil
Cumin
Garlic Powder
Chili Powder
Diced Tomatoes
Black Beans
Rice
Chicken Broth
Salsa
Cream of Chicken
Dry Ranch Seasoning
 

Buns
Tortillas/Tortilla Chips

Summer is Ending - Finish Strong

With summer coming to an end, you may be sitting at home wondering what to do to fill the days. We've picked a few things around the area that will keep you entertained.

Cattail Marsh
5305 Tyrrell Park Road
Beaumont, Texas 77707
This area is full of wildlife that you won't see in your backyard. With the new boardwalk that stretches out over the marsh, you'll be sure to see something you've never seen before. This park could be perfect for your morning or evening stroll. 

Rao's Bake Camp
4440 Dowlen Road
Beaumont, Texas 77706
If the kids are getting restless and telling you how bored they are, send them to this baking camp! August 2-4 can give them three days of learning how to decorate sweet treats for family/friend's celebrations. What kid doesn't want to eat cake or cookies?

Raos cake.jpeg

Classic Movie Night
Jefferson Theatre
345 Fannin Street
Beaumont, Texas 77701
This historic theatre is hosting a classic movie night on August 9. The feature of the night is "Blue Hawaii." Enjoy a date night or bring the kids (rated PG).

BPD Cops & Kids Carnival
Beaumont Civic Center
701 Main Street
Beaumont, Texas 77701
FREE ADMISSION to this carnival filled with games, food, and prizes on August 20 10:00am-2:00pm

Mondays at the Museum: Yoga
1906 Calder Ave.
Beaumont, Texas 77701
Enjoy some outdoor yoga (no experience required, but great experience to try) with Tiffany Maloney of Love Yoga. A $10 donation is suggested and we highly encourage you to try this event out. It's held the last Monday of each month, until October, so don't worry if you miss this one.

Big Sale Prep

CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN: 

Step back for a moment and look at your home as if you were seeing it for the first time. Every room should be neat, spotlessly clean, dusted, and uncluttered. Steam clean the carpets and wax the floors. Wash the walls, windows, and light fixtures. Tighten loose stair railings and clean all woodwork. In the event that you feel a project of this magnitude is better left to a professional, ask your real estate agent to recommend a professional cleaning service.

 

ENTRYWAY: 

Use bright light bulbs in the foyer and throughout the house. Fill the house with a pleasant aroma, such as berries in the summer or cinnamon in the winter, or some other fresh scent.

 

LIVING ROOM: 

Replace the carpet if it's old or worn. It costs money, but you may find that you will more than recoup that cost when the house sells. Patch cracks and nail holes in the walls, and repaint walls in neutral colors, such as white or ivory. Nail down creaking boards and stair treads. Lubricate any sticking or squeaking doors. Open all curtains, and replace them if they are getting old. Add lamps and lighting if the condo is dark. Set out fresh flowers.

 

FURNITURE: 

Rearrange or move furniture to make your rooms look more spacious. Discard worn furniture and move extra furniture to a storage unit. Remember, too much furniture and too many knick-knacks make rooms look cluttered and small. One or two decorative items per surface is plenty, so pack the rest away. Visit model condos for decorating ideas.

 

KITCHEN AND BATHS: 

These rooms should sparkle! Clear off counters, and clean all appliances and fixtures. Scrub the floors and walls. Re-caulk tubs and showers. Clean these rooms thoroughly, and be sure they smell fresh!

 

CLOSETS: 

Take those things to Goodwill that you'll have to discard anyway when you move. Organize shelves and straighten shoes. Be sure that sliding doors operate smoothly on their tracks and knobs on drawers are secure.

 

UTILITY ROOM: 

Dust and wash off lint from the washer and dryer.

 

LIGHT AND BRIGHT: 

Do everything you can to brighten the interior. Replace wallpaper with white or off-white paint, and repaint shabby or dark walls. Open the blinds, and replace broken windows and window seals. Always maintain a comfortable temperature inside the house, even if you are away for an extended period of time

Five Questions For Your Realtor

WILL YOU GIVE ME NAMES OF PAST CLIENTS WHO WILL GIVE REFERENCES FOR YOU?

Interviewing a Realtor to help you buy a home can be very similar to interviewing someone to work in your office. Contacting a Realtor's references can be a reliable way for you to understand how he or she works, and whether or not this style is compatible with your own.

 

DO YOU HAVE A PERFORMANCE GUARANTEE?

Understand that, especially in the heavily regulated world of real estate, it can be increasingly difficult for a Realtor to offer a performance guarantee. Sometimes you may find a Realtor who is willing to guarantee that if you are dissatisfied in any way with their service they will terminate your listing agreement. If your Realtor does not have a performance guarantee available in writing, it is not an indication that he or she is not committed to perform.

 

HOW WILL YOU GET PAID? HOW ARE YOUR FEES STRUCTURED? MAY I HAVE THAT IN WRITING?

This is an issue that can also be related to Representation. In many areas, the seller still customarily pays all Realtor commissions through the listing broker. Sometimes, Realtors will have other small fees, such as administrative or special service fees, that are charged to clients, regardless of whether they are buying or selling. Be aware of the big picture before you sign any agreements. Ask for an estimate of costs from any agent you contemplate employing.

 

HOW WOULD YOU DEVELOP PRICING AND MARKETING STRATEGIES FOR OUR HOME? WILL YOU COMMIT TO THE MARKETING STRATEGY IN WRITING?

Pricing a home correctly is the single most important factor in determining if a home sells quickly, or at all. Although location and condition also effect the selling process, price is a primary factor. Access to all current property information is essential, and sometimes a pre-appraisal will help. Ask your agent where he or she obtained the information to create the market analysis.

 

WHAT WILL YOU DO AND WHAT WILL YOU NOT DO TO SELL MY HOME?

Who determines where and when my home is marketed/ promoted?  Ask your real estate agent to present to you a clear marketing plan.

Lighting Your Home To Sell

LIGHTING UP THE SALE 

Lighting is an important factor to take into account when you are selling your home. Natural and artificial lighting can create a mood that buyers notice when they walk into your house, so don't overlook this significant factor which can favorably influence a potential buyer.

Before your home is shown, walk through each room with an eye to creating a pleasant ambiance through lighting. Accentuate the natural light by keeping curtains open and windows sparkling clean. Arrange your furniture to take advantage of the best view. You may want to install indirect lighting to highlight a vaulted ceiling or to draw attention to indoor plants. Dimmer switches can create simple and inexpensive lighting appeal. Place a lamp and table arrangement in a dark alcove or corner to brighten up the area.

New Car or New Home?

WHY YOU SHOULDN'T BUY A NEW CAR RIGHT BEFORE YOU BUY A HOUSE

When a person's income starts to grow and they manage to set aside some savings, they commonly experience what may be considered an innate instinct of modern civilized mankind: The desire to spend money. Since North Americans have a special love affair with the automobile, this becomes a high priority item on the shopping list. Later, other things will be added and one of those will probably be a house.

However, by the time homeownership has become more than a distant and hopeful dream, you may have already bought the car.  It happens all the time, sometimes just before you contact a lender to get pre-qualified for a mortgage.

As part of the interview, you may tell the lender your price target for a home. He will ask about your income, your savings and your debts, then give you his opinion.

"If only you didn't have this car payment," he might begin, "you would certainly qualify for a home loan to buy that house or condo." You see, when determining your ability to qualify for a mortgage, a lender looks at two "debt-to-income" ratios....the GDS (gross debt service) and the TDS (total debt service)

 

WHAT ARE GDS AND TDS?

GDS and TDS ratios are the percentages of your gross monthly income (before taxes) that you spend on debt.  GDS will include your monthly housing costs including principal, interest, taxes and 50% of your heating or condo fees divided by your gross monthly income. The maximum allowed is 32%

TDS will also include your monthly consumer debt, including credit cards, student loans, installment debt, and car payments and again divide that sum by your gross monthly income to calculate the ratio. The maximum allowed is 40%.

 

HOW A NEW CAR PAYMENT REDUCES YOUR PURCHASE PRICE

Suppose you earn $5000 a month and you have a car payment of $400. At current interest rates (let's say 6% for a five-year fixed rate mortgage), you would potentially qualify for approximately $66,000 less of a mortgage than if you did not have the car payment (subject to what other debts you did have). Even if you feel you can afford the car payment, mortgage lenders approve your mortgage based on their guidelines, not yours.

Buying things on credit not only hurts your credit score, but it also leaves less money for you to use for a house payment. Lenders look at this figure also to determine how much money they will lend you, and how much they will charge you to lend it.  If you haven't already bought a new car, remember one thing... think ahead. Think about buying a home first. Buying a home is a much more important purchase when considering your future financial well being.

Four Important Questions

What to ask your mortgage lender:

DO YOU HAVE A VARIETY OF LOAN PROGRAMS TO FIT MY CASH FLOW AND EXPECTED LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP NEEDS?

If you are going to live in your new home for less than five years, you may want to consider an adjustable rate mortgage or "ARM." With an ARM your payments will be lower, but they will go up according to fluctuations in the market interest rate. Most people aren't aware that with a standard 25-year mortgage they'll be paying 2.2 times the amount of the mortgage in principal + interest  payments. If you are going to live in your new home for five years or more, a traditional fixed-rate mortgage may be a better deal.

 

DO YOU OFFER WRITTEN UNCONDITIONAL FULL MORTGAGE PRE-APPROVALS, NOT JUST PRE-QUALIFICATIONS?

A "pre-qualification" is usually a lender's opinion of your eligibility for a mortgage. If you ask to have a full pre-approval done, the lender will actually submit your credit history plus proof of down payment and employment to an underwriter and get an unconditional approval for your mortgage and a commitment in writing. The advantage of having a full mortgage pre-approval is that it will make your offer to buy a home stronger and it eliminates the possibility of an error in "qualifying" you for a larger mortgage than you can actually obtain.

 

DO YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO HANDLE DIFFICULT CREDIT HISTORY?

Many lenders will only work with you if you have perfect credit, and if a problem comes up, they won't help you. Lenders look at your credit history to figure out how much they will lend you and how much they will charge you to lend it. Before you make an offer on a home, make sure your lender has reviewed and received approval for you and your specific credit history.

 

IS THE RATE THAT YOU QUOTED ME THE RATE I WILL GET AT CLOSING?

Many lenders advertise their rates in the newspaper and in homes magazines. These are what are called "Posted Rates" in the industry. The name says it all. Lenders will lock in, or guarantee, the rates for between 60 - 120 days.  If the interest rates drop in that 60 - 120 day period,  the lender will give you that reduced rate...but it can't go higher.  Obviously, the longer that you can lock in the rate, the better.  Ask for their rate guarantee period!

Buyer's Tips

BI-WEEKLY AND WEEKLY PAYMENTS

Most mortgages have the option to allow payments to be made on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This option may be desirable for two reasons. The first is it can save you money as you can expect to pay off your mortgage about 4 years sooner. This can save you dramatically over the life of your mortgage. The other reason why these options are so popular is that if your employer pays you on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, you can simplify your budgeting by making the payment line up with the way you paid.

MAKING EXTRA PAYMENTS

Paying extra amounts on your mortgage can make a big interest saving over time. When we select a mortgage company, privilege payments options are something that we look for. A 20% privilege payment will allow you to pay off up to $20,000 per year on a $100 000 mortgage. It is important that the privilege payment also be flexible to allow you to pay smaller payments on the mortgage and as often as you wish. An extra $1000 periodically paid on a mortgage can help you become mortgage-free faster.

REDUCING THE FEES ON YOUR PURCHASE

When you require a mortgage for more than 80% of the purchase price of a property, that mortgage must be insured. The premium charged by insurance companies decreases as the down payment increases. When you finance your property at 95%, a premium of 3.75% is added to the mortgage. By increasing the down payment to 10% of the purchase price the premium can be reduced to 2.5%. If you can put down 20%, you can avoid any additional insurance fee. Depending on your situation there are ways that you can structure this financing to avoid the insurance premium.

ADVANTAGES OF BIGGER DOWN PAYMENTS

As mentioned above, when you put a 20% down payment on your purchase you can avoid the insurance premium. More importantly the larger the down payment, the lower the amount of interest you will pay over the life of your mortgage. It is important to note that it may not be wise to stretch yourself to increase your down payment and end up borrowing on credit cards or a line of credit at a higher rate.

SHORT TERM RATES VS. LONG TERM RATES

The options for mortgages available can be very confusing for most mortgage shoppers. Terms for mortgages vary between variable and fixed rate, 6-month terms to 10 year terms. Taking a variable or floating rate mortgage can have savings. Typically the shorter the term or guarantee of the rate, the lower the rate will be. This does not always happen, depending on the market place and the economy, but history has shown that short-term rates tend to be lower than long-term rates. The upside of variable rate is the strong potential for interest rate savings. The down side is the fact that you are accepting the interest rate risk without a guarantee. If you are considering a variable rate mortgage you need to look at your own risk tolerance and your cash flow available to deal with potential increased payment. Considering projections of rates and where we see interest rates heading can also be important in this decision. Make sure you talk to an expert when you are making this decision.

Content courtesy of http://www.viviensharon.com/

The Top 8 Costly Mistakes Home Sellers Make

1. Not being objective about your property.

It was a great home, but now it’s an asset you need to maximize. Now it’s your property. This means you need to look at your property objectively, and develop the best strategy to get the best return on your investment. Click here to read about our listing strategy.

Skimping on your property preparation.

Preparing your property for market will directly affect how long it takes you to sell, and the sales price you ultimately realize. While you don’t want to go overboard with unnecessary improvements, there are many repairs & improvements you can make that will realize a positive return on investment (ROI.) Landscaping, touch up paint, & deep cleaning almost always return well, as does property staging. Sometimes, upgrades like new flooring or countertops make sense. A professional stager/decorator can help you make these decisions.

Pricing your home incorrectly.

Sellers most commonly price their homes too high, but pricing low can also cost you money. If you price too high, your property will wither on the market and buyers will wonder “What’s wrong with that property?” when they see a long-listed property for sale. Conversely, even if a low price results in a bidding war, there’s a chance you left money on the table. When pricing your property, it’s important to first understand the inventory in your specific market, which tells you how much leverage you have, and to price accordingly. Click here to read about our intelligent pricing strategy.

Misunderstanding the buyer’s offer.

While purchase price is one of the most important points to any contract, it’s important to know which fees are typically assigned to which party. If a buyer offers you asking price, but assigns $5000 in buyer fees to the seller, you need to view this offer as $5000 below asking. Likewise, it’s imperative that you understand typical deadlines like the buyer’s option & financing periods.

Not investigating your buyer.

Cash purchasers need to prove their funds through a bank statement, letter from their CPA, or letter from their asset manager. Most buyers will finance the property, and need to provide a pre-approval letter that describes the terms of the loan. It’s always good to call the party who issued the letter, and it’s important to understand the common loan terms in your current environment.

Not allowing potential buyers to view the property.

This may sound simple, but many sellers grow fatigued after a few weeks on the market and stop accommodating potential buyers. If you don’t get a fast sale, it’s important to maintain a positive outlook, and to let as many buyers through the property as possible (within reason.)

Lack of disclosures.

Potential buyers will want to see your seller’s disclosure & survey as soon as they’re express interest in the home. If you’ve made significant upgrades or repairs, they will want to see documentation. If you don’t make these easily accessible, a hot buyer will cool.

Choosing the wrong Realtor.

The right Realtor will help you avoid these mistakes, and a slew of others. While your college roommate, brother-in-law, and neighbor might all be agents, that doesn’t make them the right Realtor to help you sell your property. Interview agents and ask hard questions until you’re sure you made the right decision. Click here to read about our unique qualifications.

Content courtesy of http://ericbramlett.com/