CENTURY 21 AA Realty Blog

CENTURY 21 AA Realty Blog

How to Have a Healthier Kitchen

By John Voket

Many of us make lofty self-improvement plans in the new year. Some are attainable, and others, not. If your goal is to make healthier choices, you may want to turn first to your kitchen.

Here are four ideas to consider incorporating into your kitchen this New Year:

– Even before healthy ingredients, Kelley Herring at healinggourmet.com says pick the right gadgets to make healthy eating easier. Take the simple garlic press ($20 – $50). Herring says this anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal superfood helps fight colds, infections, and is powerfully protective against cancer and other diseases. So skip peeling, chopping and dicing and press yourself a potent spoonful in seconds. Use your press for a fresh dose of healing ginger or turmeric, too.

– Recipegeek.com contributor Amanda Walsh says keep all those healthy fruits and veggies you're buying as fresh for as long as possible. Since ethylene gas develops when you keep fresh fruits and veggies in your fridge, it can hasten spoilage. Walsh uses something called Bluapple (2 pack: $15 / 1 year refills: $12). Just nestle a Bluapple inside your fruit/veggie crispers to eliminate ethylene gas for three months – then simply refill.

– When it comes to healthy appliances, countless chefs and health food writers swear by their Instant Pot ($80 – $200+). Katie Wells at wellnessmama.com says this Canadian invention delivers the best of a slow cooker and pressure cooker all in one countertop package. An Instant Pot can actually create space in your kitchen by replacing other appliances – because it handles pressure cooking, slow cooking, rice cooking, steaming, and warming.  

– Now there's room for a new steam oven. December's PC Magazine selected this healthy appliance as a 'must have' for 2019. Over at digitaltrends.com, Dan Evon says while steam ovens can’t cook all the same meals as a traditional oven, they are extremely advantageous for reheating leftover foods through reliable steaming, baking, or broiling. He says cooking with steam also retains vitamins and minerals in vegetables, uses less fats or oils for proteins, and is great for making grains, rice, breads, and custards that require a ‘water bath’ (Budget $350 – $600).

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2019. All rights reserved.

Right Now Is the Time to Make Your Homeownership Dream Come True

By Jameson Doris

The time has finally come. After what has seemed like an eternity for many potential homebuyers, the seller's market appears to be cooling off in many real estate markets across the country.
According to Zillow research, after several years of rising prices and competitive bidding, now is the perfect time to purchase a home, and the outlook only looks sweeter as we head into winter.
"The housing market always lets up a little in the fall, when kids are back in school and the home shopping season wraps up for the holidays," says Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas. "But this fall and winter are shaping up to be more favorable for those buyers who have struggled to get into the housing market for several years amid red-hot competition."
And Zillow has taken this information to the next step by compiling a list of the 10 best places for homebuyers this winter, based on these three metrics:

  • An increase in the share of listings with a price cut
  • Projected increase in rent appreciation over the next year
  • Affordability relative to the past 

Some surprising cities made the list, including Seattle and Las Vegas, which were previously difficult markets for struggling prospective homebuyers in the past. Here are the 10 best places for buyers this winter, based on the metrics listed above:

  1. Orlando
  2. Boston
  3. Seattle
  4. Las Vegas  
  5. Charlotte  
  6. Columbus
  7. Portland
  8. Sacramento 
  9. Minneapolis
  10. Dallas 

To view a full breakdown of Zillow's research, click here.
This appeared first on RISMedia's Housecall.
Jameson Doris is RISMedia's blog and social media editor. Email him your real estate blog ideas at jdoris@rismedia.com.  

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

Fall Home Considerations to Make Before Winter

While Spring is the standard time to do a clean sweep of your home, fall is also a great opportunity to examine areas you may have overlooked, refresh any spaces that feel dull, and consider safety measures. Below are four fall items to examine, from MultiVu.

Safety first. Did you know that three in five home fire deaths are the result of fires in homes without smoke alarms, or with no working smoke alarms? Oftentimes, this is due to missing alarm batteries from intentional device deactivation. Fire Prevention Month in October is the perfect time to take stock of your home's safety by testing alarms to ensure that batteries and devices are functioning properly. Replace any alarms that are outdated and install new alarms in your home—which should be located on every level and in every bedroom of the home.                                                                   

Refresh. Give rooms a facelift by switching out the old carpeting. Opt for a hypoallergenic option to help you enjoy the comfort of the carpet, while not worrying about its allergens, microbes and odors.                                                          
Mind your peepers. Short and frigid days mean we'll be spending a lot more time indoors. Switch to light bulbs that are easy on the eyes because poor quality light can cause unnecessary eye strain.  Making simple décor improvements and taking better care of yourself is as easy as changing a light bulb.

Cozy corner. Keep your house cozy during the long, cold months ahead. Have a basket with comfy throws and blankets for those colder nights and curl up with a book or a movie.  

Source: MultiVu

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

Raising a ‘Fair’ Credit Score to ‘Very Good’ Could Save Over $45,000

A good credit score benefits consumers in many ways. In fact, it can even save you hard-earned cash. According to a recent study from LendingTree®, raising a 'fair' credit score to 'very good' could in fact save consumers more than $45,000.

To arrive at this figure, LendingTree researchers analyzed anonymized loan request and average loan balance data from LendingTree users to see how a lower credit score can increase borrowing costs for the average American with a fair versus excellent credit score. The analysts compared the range of credit scores generally considered "fair" (580 to 669) to the range generally considered "very good" (740 to 799) to measure the difference in costs of the life of loans using the average balances for five different kinds of loans (mortgage, student loan, auto loan, personal loan and credit card).

The results revealed the following:

– Raising a credit score from "fair" (580-669) to "very good" (740-799) saves $45,283 on a common array of debts.

– Mortgage costs account for 63 percent of the savings ($29,106 in savings with very good credit score versus fair).

– Paying the minimum balance on an average credit card debt represents the second largest difference, with about $5,600 in savings for a very good versus a fair score. That amounts to someone with fair credit paying 248 percent more in interest than someone with good credit.

– Personal loan borrowers can expect to pay 271 percent more interest on the same loan if they have a fair credit score instead of a very good one, and auto loan borrowers can expect to pay 311 percent more in interest.

The Most Common Debts
Everyone's debt profile is different, but it's typical for an American consumer to buy a condo or house (average mortgage size: $234,437), purchase a reliable car (average loan size: $21,778), take out a personal loan to consolidate old debt (average loan size: $11,258), rack up charges on a credit card (average debt size: $5,265) and pay off some student loans (average debt size: $37,525). That adds up to $310,263 for a lifetime of common American debts. A few things about that figure:

– While the average American may not have $310,263 of debt all at once, it's still common for borrowers to overlap some or all of these debts at the same time or in close sequence.

– It's likely a low estimate of lifetime American debt, because consumers often have more than one loan of each type throughout their lives.

Still, $310,263 is a lot of money, especially when considering how much all of that debt costs in interest and fees. Assuming a borrower pays every one of these bills on time, this range of debt will cost someone with a very good credit score (between 740 and 799) $212,498 in interest. With a fair credit score (between 580 and 669), a borrower is still likely to qualify for similar loan amounts, but can expect to pay around $257,781 in interest and fees, a difference of $45,283.

To put that in perspective, the median earnings for Americans in 2016 was $31,334, before taxes. It would take most Americans well over a year to collect $45,283 of interest via take-home pay—money they would never have to pay if they had good credit.

Even with only one of these loans, the borrower would still see significant savings with a very good credit score. Take a mortgage for example. Assuming every other factor is equal, someone with a very good credit score would have a monthly mortgage payment that’s $81 less than someone with a fair credit score. The person with very good credit could invest that money, use it to pay down debts faster or to increase the down payments on future loans, which would exponentially increase the value of those savings over that same 30-year period.

The solution? Credit monitoring, says LendingTree. By keeping a consistent eye on your credit score, consumers can see changes to their score, catch errors and take immediate steps to improve their score.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

5 Ways to Prep Your Lawn for Fall

Summer is winding down, and as your grass grows even greener, it's time to start thinking about how you can prepare it for fall, especially if you plan to stage your home for sale. Pay mind to the following tips on late summer lawn care.

Aerate the area. Late summer/early fall is a great time to aerate your soil so that oxygen, water, and fertilizer will better penetrate your grass' roots and support it as sunlight dwindles.  

Mowing matters. You'll want to keep mowing all summer and into fall, but as the days shorten, move your mower blade to the lowest setting to trim the grass tight and let more light reach the crown of the grass. Bonus: less length in your grass means less leaves to turn brown come winter.  

Weed, weed, weed. Take some time each weekend to weed your lawn all summer, to boost your grass growth and set it up for a healthy fall season.

Lose the leaves. Raking leaves can be hard work, but doing so will save the life of your grass. As leaves begin to come down in late summer, clear them off to support your lawn.

Fertilize in fall. When fall hits, experts agree it's time to fertilize, delivering essential nutrients to allow your grass to grow deep roots and a healthy reserve for next spring.   

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

The ABC’s of FHA Loans

By Barbara Pronin

Like all mortgage loans, FHA loans require proof of steady income and employment as well as a minimum down payment. But they are attractive to consumers because they are government-backed, offering more attractive interest rates and less stringent qualification requirements.

Beyond that, how much more can you share with your clients about FHA loans? Here are seven fast facts to help you brush up:

  • Credit requirements – With a credit score of 580 or higher, a borrower can qualify for an FHA loan with a down payment as low as 3.5 percent. Those with scores between 500 and 579 need down payments of 10 percent. Under certain circumstances, such as insufficient credit history, exceptions may be made. Check with an FHA specialist.
  • Down payment funds – In addition to using their own savings, borrowers can use a gift from family members and/or an assistance grant from a state or local government to make the down payment.
  • Closing costs –The FHA allows sellers, builders and lenders to pay some of the borrower’s closing costs, such as appraisal, credit report or title expenses, as an incentive for the borrower to buy the home.
  • FHA-approved lenders only – Because the FHA is an insurer rather than a lender, borrowers must get their loan from an FHA-approved lender.
  • Mortgage insurance – Two mortgage insurance premiums are required on all FHA loans. The upfront premium is 1.75 percent of the loan amount, which can be financed as part of the loan amount. The second, called the annual premium, is paid monthly. It varies based on the loan amount, the length of the loan, and the initial loan-to-value (LTV) ratio.
  • Cash for repairs – A special loan, called a 203(K) loan, is available to borrowers who need extra cash to make home repairs. The loan amount is based on the projected value after repairs are made rather than on the current appraised value.
  • Loan limits – The FHA changes the maximum or minimum loan limits (called the ‘ceiling” and the ‘floor’) limits for FHA loans each year in response to shifting home prices. The limits are announced by HUD prior to the upcoming year.

Barbara Pronin is an award-winning writer based in Orange County, Calif. A former news editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism and corporate communications, she has specialized in real estate topics for over a decade.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

The Benefits of Homeownership

June is National Homeownership Month, “a time to celebrate and promote the modern American Dream of owning a home,” says National Association of REALTORS® President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation REALTOR® from Columbia, Mo., and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty. “Homeownership changes lives and enhances futures, and many Americans see it as one of their greatest hopes. These individuals are counting on the nation’s 1.3 million REALTORS® to champion and protect homeownership and help make it more affordable, attainable and sustainable.”

In addition to the obvious benefit of providing shelter, owning a home has a far-reaching ripple effect for owners and their families. Here are just some of the many long-term benefits of homeownership:

  • Owning a home is a secure long-term investment. While markets fluctuate over the short-term, provided you stay in your home for an extended period of time, it will most likely increase in value and yield a substantial return on your investment, making it one of the safest ways to invest your money.
  • You’re building equity. As the experts at discover.com explain, when you subtract the amount you owe on your home loan from the total value of your house, the amount left over is your home equity—the dollar value that actually belongs to you. You build equity by reducing the amount you owe on your loan with each monthly mortgage payment, and also as your home increases in value.
  • You benefit from tax deductions. Even though certain tax deductions were at risk during this year’s tax reform bill, homeowners still benefit come tax time. Talk to your accountant to find out exactly if and how the new tax laws might affect your deductions.
  • Aside from the financial benefits, homeownership has a wide range of positive effects on families. According to reports from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the children of homeowners tend to do better in school and are less involved in crime, as homes provide a stable environment for families.

With credit criteria loosening, and the recent roll-back of lending restrictions imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act, there are many options to pursue homeownership. Talk to your local real estate expert about the best way to get on the path to owning a home.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

In the Market for a House? A Quick Guide to Home-Buying This Spring

By Kara Masterson

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

It’s an exciting milestone in a young person’s life to be on the cusp of purchasing a first home. If this is where you are at the moment, you probably have mixed feelings ranging from thrilled to anxious. That’s understandable, as this is a big purchase that will change your life forever.

To help you, here’s a quick guide that’ll make you better prepared as you begin your search:

Timing Is Everything
The natural first step to buying your first home is to determine if this is really the best time for you do so. While renting might not be a long-term solution, it may be what’s best for you given your current situation. You just want to make sure that you are at a place in your life where homeownership is really within reach. If it is, and you feel confident that you are ready, then it’s time to proceed.

Consider Your Finances
You might fall in love with a certain home, but struggle every month to make the mortgage payment. This is no way to live. You want to end up with a home that is well within your budget. Figure out what you are comfortable with spending and then only look at homes in that range. Do not get talked into buying more home than you can afford.

Work With a Real Estate Agent
There is no need to look around for the best home on your own. Real estate agents have a special knowledge of the market. Work with an agency and let them know what you are looking for. They will then compile a list in preparation for scheduling some viewings for you.

Shop Around for the Best Deal
Most people looking to sell real estate are willing to negotiate their price a little bit. Keep that in mind. In addition, some homes are over-priced, while others are under-priced, so you obviously want to aim for the latter, while still finding a great property in the location of your choice.

If you can follow this short guide, your path to homeownership will be within reach. The key is to take it slow and make sure that you’re confident in your final decision. You want a home that you’ll be comfortable in for the long term, and one that you can easily afford. Accomplish both of these objectives and you will be set for a happy future.

Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from Utah covering Diane Stowe for the real estate industry. She enjoys tennis and spending time with her family.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

Creating Appeal: 8 Home Staging Tips That Work

By Barbara Pronin

First impressions count – and experienced real estate professionals know that a clean, attractively organized home will pique buyer interest and sell more quickly than its neighbors.

“Clients tend to focus not on what the house could potentially become, but on how it looks on their first walk-through,” said Kathy Murphy, a top-performing agent with in Royal Oak, Mich. “If the front door is peeling, or the kitchen is a mess, that’s the way they will remember it.”

Staging a home to show at its best can make a remarkable difference. That’s why most agents work with their sellers to help create maximum appeal. Effective home staging can be accomplished without excessive effort or expense. The work should begin before the listing photos are taken, so that buyers are intrigued when they view the home online.

Listing agents can broaden their staging know-how with these tips from home staging experts:

  1. Start at the street – Curb appeal is more than a catchphrase. Advise your sellers to be sure the lawn is mowed, flowerbeds are neat, bikes and trash cans are stashed away. Paint, replace, or clean the front door as needed, and set off a drab entry area with a potted plant or two.
  2. Freshen the entryway – The second most important impression begins just inside the front door. Lights should be on, the area neat, and a vase of fresh flowers on a foyer table is a nice touch.
  3. Get rid of clutter – Most homes have too much furniture and far too many accessories. Suggest your seller rearrange the furniture to create better traffic flow, and consider putting a quarter of it in storage. Thin out bookcases and closets, because jam-packed spaces give the impression they are too small.
  4. Keep it neutral – Sellers love their collections of figurines or bowling trophies, but buyers need to envision the home filled with the things they love. A savvy seller will keep it simple and consider repainting colorful interior walls in neutral tones.
  5. Clean, clean, clean – Kitchens and bathrooms should be scrubbed and counters kept clear. Wet towels, hair dryers, and dishes in the sink are a no-no. If heavy cleaning is a burden to the seller, suggest an affordable cleaning crew to clean the carpets and make the windows sparkle – even steam-clean a dingy exterior.
  6. Fix what’s broken – A leaky faucet or a wobbly railing may not seem like a big deal, but it makes buyers wonder what else is wrong with the home.
  7. Remember the back yard – Be sure it’s tidy and that the swimming pool, if there is one, is sparkling clean.
  8. On showing days – A pot of potpourri simmering on the stove and a dining table set with attractive tableware are inviting and cost-effective touches.

Barbara Pronin is an award-winning writer based in Orange County, Calif. A former news editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism and corporate communications, she has specialized in real estate topics for over a decade.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

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