CENTURY 21 AA Realty Blog
CENTURY 21 AA Realty Blog
(Family Features)–Counting calories isn’t the only way you can resolve to bring about positive change in your life during the new year. If you’re like many Americans, it may be a good time to start counting your way toward better financial health.
The past year brought financial setbacks to nearly two-thirds of United States households, according to a survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE). In fact, more than a quarter of U.S. adults say the current quality of their financial lives are worse than they hoped. Topping the list of setbacks in 2017 were transportation issues (23 percent), housing repairs or maintenance (20 percent), and the inability to keep up with debt and falling behind on bill payments (16 percent).
In an effort to reverse that trend, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults will make financial New Year’s resolutions for 2018, according to the survey. Among those that plan to step up their financial game, top goals include setting and following a budget (40 percent), making a plan to get out of debt (39 percent), establishing savings (32 percent) and boosting retirement savings (31 percent).
“We continue to see a lot of anxiety about money,” says Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE. “Three-quarters of Americans said something causes them financial stress, and it’s most often not saving enough and debt that are to blame.”
Reduce money stress and take control of your finances with these tips for financial success from the experts at NEFE:
1. Get debt under control. Take a hard look at what you owe. If there’s a clear warning sign of too much debt, take action. Set a goal to reduce your debt load next year by 5-10 percent. That might mean reducing impulse shopping. When you face temptation, delay the purchase and give yourself time to consider whether it’s a wise move that fits within your budget.
2. Save now and do so often. Preparing for unexpected events like medical emergencies can help reduce the financial impact of a life-changing event. Emergency savings can offset unexpected costs and help you get back on solid footing. A good rule of thumb is to have 6-9 months of income set aside. If that feels out of reach, start with a smaller goal, even as little as $500. When it comes to saving, it’s also a smart idea to think long term. Review your long-term savings and ensure they are on target for your retirement plans.
3. Shop for better services. You may be surprised by how much you can save when you periodically shop for the most competitive rates on your recurring bills. Make a game out of shopping providers to find the best value on your insurance policies, cell phone plan, internet and utilities. Ask your providers about current rates and any promotions available to long-time, loyal customers. Then look at alternative providers to determine where you can trim some spending. Be sure to understand your current offering thoroughly so that you are comparing apples to apples.
4. Understand what’s behind your financial decisions. If you ever wonder why you feel good about spending money on vacations but avoid saving for retirement, the answer may lie in your unique values and how they influence your financial decision-making. Consider taking the LifeValues Quiz at smartaboutmoney.org, where you can also find help with setting goals and getting your finances in order.
Source: Family Features, National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE).
Century 21 AA Realty Long Island
By Craig Middleton
On popular home improvement shows, people repair or add new features to their homes to add substantial market value in the process. Whether you are looking to increase the value of your home or just make improvements for your own enjoyment, some of the best financial investments you can make for your home include:
Major Problem Fixes
The first high-return investment you should make in your home is to correct any major problems. If your home has serious issues, such as a broken air conditioner or a pipe leak, fixing those issues should be priority No. 1. Repairing or replacing the roof and siding can be a great investment, as potential buyers will generally factor in both the time and cost of having to fix it themselves. Problems like these are always easier to fix when they’re small than later, after having put them off.
Replacing garage doors is one of the best improvements for the exterior. If your garage door looks new, your house will look new as well. Painting the outside of your home is another good investment in the exterior. If you don’t want to take the time and money to fully repaint your home, pressure-washing can be a quick way to make the outside of your home look much more presentable. Replacing windows is another way to make the outside of your home look better, as well as improve the home’s energy efficiency.
Like the garage door, the front door is important in making a good first impression on a potential buyer. Replacing a wooden front door with a steel door can also make your home safer, and increasing the safety of your home can be another great selling point.
Update The Interior
Fixes and additions to the inside of your home can be a great financial investment. A fresh coat of paint to the interior can add value by making the home look newer, cleaner and brighter.
Improving your home’s bathroom(s), particularly visible elements such as vanities, lighting, countertops, toilets and tubs, can create a high return. You may obtain a better return on investment by making improvements to the main features, instead of completely gutting the bathroom.
Kitchen remodels can be another way to significantly improve the value of your home, by improving functional items such as cabinets, drawers, pantry doors and appliances. Appliances such as refrigerators don’t have to be completely new, but they should keep up with current trends.
Adding high-efficiency appliances to a home can modernize it and also save you money on electricity. Some states and cities have tax programs that could reduce your taxes if you buy and use high-efficiency appliances that require less electricity.
Overall, you should research the investment potential of your home before making any purchases. If you are trying to increase the resale value of your home, you need to make sure your fixes or additions will increase the value of the home not only for you, but also to potential buyers.
Adapted from an article on RISMedia’s Housecall blog.
This material is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, no representation is made as to its accuracy. This material is not intended to be construed as legal, tax or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult your legal, tax or investment professional for specific advice.
Century 21 AA Realty Long Island
By Suzanne De Vita
The homeownership rate improved to 63.9 percent in the third quarter—the second time it has inched up this year, slightly topping 63.7 percent in the second quarter and 63.5 percent this time last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s recent Quarterly Housing Vacancies and Homeownership report.
Another second-time win? The gap between the owner household formation rate and the renter household formation rate widened again. Approximately 87 percent of housing was occupied in the third quarter, with 55.7 percent owner-occupied and 31.4 percent renter-occupied. Owner-occupied and renter-occupied housing accounted for 55.5 percent and 31.6 percent shares, respectively, in the second quarter of this year, and 55.5 percent and 31.8 percent shares, respectively, in the first quarter.
The homeownership rate in the third quarter was again highest in the Midwest, at 69.1 percent, and the South, at 65.5 percent. The rate in the Northeast was 60.4 percent, while the rate in the West was 58.9 percent.
Households headed by those aged 65 and older comprised the biggest share of homeowners in the third quarter, 78.9 percent, while households headed by those aged 34 years and younger comprised the smallest, 35.6 percent. Home sales to first-time homebuyers, notably—who are a median 32 years old—dipped this year, according to the recently released National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
Non-Hispanic White Alone homeowners, as defined by the Census, claimed the highest homeownership rate in the third quarter, as well: 72.5 percent. Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Alone homeowners encompassed the second-highest rate, at 57.1 percent, while Hispanic homeowners held the next-highest, at 46.1 percent. Black Alone homeowners totaled the lowest rate, at 42.0 percent.
The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.6 percent in the third quarter, the report revealed, while the renter vacancy rate was 7.5 percent—both largely in line with the second quarter. Homeowner vacancy rates were again highest outside metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) at 2.0 percent, ahead of in principal cities at 1.6 percent and in suburbs at 1.5 percent. Renter vacancy rates were also highest outside MSAs at 8.5 percent, followed by inside principal cities at 7.9 percent and in suburbs at 6.9 percent.
The median asking sales price for vacant for sale housing in the third quarter was $187,300, the report showed. The median asking rent for vacant for rent housing, over the same period, was $912.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at email@example.com.
Century 21 AA Realty Long Island
By John Voket
No matter what part of the country your home is in, the coming of fall signals an opportunity to do whatever necessary or voluntary projects need to be done ahead of winter weather, the coming holiday season, and the New Year.
At soundbuilthomes.com, Elizabeth Kraus wonders if you have been putting off re-staining or sealing your deck? Her advice: take advantage of the remaining warm, dry weather to clean and seal or stain your deck before wet weather arrives to do damage.
The same, Kraus says, goes for your home’s window and door trim, gutters and other areas which may have had surfaces exposed, paint or stain eroded, and see to any loose exterior trim pieces, window or door seals, gutters, shingles, siding or roofing.
Kraus says late summer and early fall present the perfect time to have ducts and chimney flues cleaned and vacuumed, before you shut yourself and your family behind closed doors and windows with all of the dust which may have accumulated during the past year. And don’t forget to dust off the blades of those ceiling fans, too!
The Virginia Farm Bureau (Vafb.com) says simply walking around the outside of your house is the best way to detect any areas in need of attention.
Got any obvious openings under your porches, or into your crawlspace, or basement? The bureau suggests sealing any places where wild animals might take winter refuge.
The bureau also says this time of year is an ideal opportunity to address this punch list:
– Trim back tree branches and brush that might damage your house during a storm, and remove dead trees near your house that pose a risk to your house during high wind storms
– Check that all outdoor stairs are in good shape and have sturdy railings
– Check your plumbing, testing pressure valves on hot water heaters and move any flammable materials away from furnace, hot water heater, and other heat sources
– Check water hoses on washer, ice maker, and dishwasher for leaks
– Clean lint from the clothes dryer exhaust duct and surrounding area to prevent fires
Century 21 AA Realty Long Island
From chainsaws to generators, outdoor power equipment can be critical to restoring order and safety in the aftermath of a storm. That’s why it’s critical to prepare your equipment now. Here are some steps to take from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).
- Make a list of what may need cleaning up. Survey your property. Consider the damage a storm might cause and make a list of what tools might be needed for repairs. You might need a chainsaw, pruner, generator, or utility-type vehicle.
- Take stock of your outdoor power equipment. Make sure equipment is in good working order. If needed, take your equipment to an authorized service center for maintenance or repair.
- Find your safety gear. Avoid the scramble for sturdy shoes, safety goggles, hard hats, reflective clothing and work gloves, which should be stored in an accessible area with your equipment.
- Review the owner’s manuals for your equipment. Read product manuals to ensure you know how to operate your equipment safely.
- Have the right fuel on hand. Fuel stations may be closed after a storm, so it’s important to have the proper fuel for your equipment. Store your fuel in an approved container. Use the type of fuel recommended by your equipment manufacturer. It’s illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in outdoor power equipment.
- Remain calm and use common sense. Clear-headed thinking and smart decision-making can help you make smart choices. This is no time to rush. Take time to think through a strategy for clean-up efforts.
- Use safety precautions. Be aware of fundamental dangers that can occur. For instance, chainsaw kickback. Always stand with your weight on both feet, and adjust your stance so you’re angled away from the blade. Hold the chainsaw with both hands. Never over-reach or cut anything above your shoulder height. Always have a planned retreat path if something falls.
- Keep firm footing when using pole saws and pole pruners. Keep a firm footing on the ground. Observe the safety zone, which means keeping bystanders and power lines (those above you and any that might have fallen down) at least 50 feet away from your work area.
- Ensure portable electric generators have plenty of ventilation. Generators should never be used in an enclosed area or placed inside a home or garage, even if the windows or doors are open. Place the generator outside and away from windows, doors and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. Keep the generator dry and do not use it in rainy or wet conditions. Before refueling, turn the generator off and let it cool down.
- Be aware of others. Keep bystanders, children and animals out of your work area. Do not allow other people near outdoor power equipment, such as chainsaws, pole saws or pole pruners when starting the equipment or using it.
- Pay attention to your health. Storm cleanup can be taxing on the body and the spirit. Do not operate power equipment when you’re tired or overly fatigued. Drink plenty of water and take regular breaks.
If you’d like more homeowner information, please contact me.
Source: Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI)
Century 21 AA Realty Long Island
By Deborah Kearns
Under extenuating circumstances, buyers or sellers may need a Power of Attorney authorizing someone else to act on their behalf in a real estate transaction. It’s critical for agents to understand how to process a transaction when the buyer or seller can’t physically be present to sign documents at or before a closing.
So what exactly is a “Power of Attorney,” or POA? It’s a legal document that grants authority for someone to act as an agent (or “attorney-in-fact”) on behalf of someone else who is incapacitated or unable to be present to sign legal documents (a military deployment or business trip overseas, for example). In a home purchase or sale, an attorney-in-fact under a POA may sign certain transactional paperwork on behalf of the buyer or seller.
When working with clients who intend to use a POA in a transaction, you should have the principal provide a copy of the POA form to the title company immediately for review and approval; it is possible that it could take a few weeks to review the documentation and do the legwork to confirm its validity.
As a closing agent, it is our role to ensure the POA form complies with the title underwriter’s guidelines. Each lender also has its own policies and criteria for using a POA, so it’s important that you provide the POA as early in the process as possible to remedy any issues that might arise and ensure a smooth closing.
Anytime a POA is presented you should ask whether or not the principal is incapacitated. Understanding the reason why a POA is being used will help determine whether additional evidence is needed to evaluate the legal competence of the principal and the necessity for a POA. The principal’s physician will typically provide a signed letter to confirm incapacity, and you’ll need that documentation (dated within six months) for approval of the POA form.
In a majority of cases, the principal should sign deed documents in person if they’re available, rather than having someone else do so. If a seller, for example, is leaving town prior to closing, you should make arrangements for them to sign the deed before they leave.
Generally, a POA should list the property being sold or mortgaged, and it should be dated within the last six months in order to meet underwriting regulations. You’ll want to look at the POA form to ensure there are no limitations on the power to act, and for any date of termination.
Don’t forget that a POA must be recorded in the appropriate Recorder’s Office. If you have a POA that is expired, or if the scope of the powers does not include the transfer of real estate ownership, call your escrow officer for assistance.
Deborah Kearns is an award-winning writer based in Denver with more than a decade of experience in corporate communications and news journalism. She has covered the real estate industry for more than seven years.
This material is not intended to be relied upon as a statement of the law, and is not to be construed as legal, tax or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult your legal, tax or investment professional for specific advice. The material is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, no representation is made as to its accuracy.
Century 21 AA Realty Long Island
(Family Features)–Spring is a sensible time to refresh and restore your home after heavy indoor use during winter. It’s also an opportunity to conduct overdue home maintenance and achieve a sense of accomplishment.
Tackle the project room by room with these tips from the experts at Office Depot to make the work feel more manageable and ensure you complete a thoroughly satisfying job.
The main entrance, whether it’s the front door or a mudroom entrance off the garage, tends to become a dumping ground where items are shed with each trip through the door. You may have to wade through some clutter to make headway, but after a thorough cleaning of the furniture, floors and walls in this space, your next challenge is making sense of all the mess.
One solution is assigning designated storage spaces for each family member. A series of plastic storage boxes or cubby-style organizers can help contain possessions like shoes, backpacks, handbags and more. Rely on stylish hooks or a coat tree for extra storage. Put your finishing touch on the freshly cleaned entryway with some pops of color and personality, such as cheerful wall art and a welcoming rug.
If there’s any room that comes close to the clutter of the entryway, it’s the home office. A major difference is that generally, office messes come in the form of paperwork, and paper can actually be organized quite easily.
Sorting is the best first step, so you know exactly what you’re up against. Create piles for all the different types of paper you’re likely to encounter, from bills and to-do lists to the kids’ school work. Separate other items by category, such medical records and financial documents or art supplies and books, into piles of their own.
There are dozens of options when it comes to home filing systems. Consider keeping current documents in a location you can access at your fingertips, such as a hanging file drawer or a desktop filer. Labeled tabs and color-coded folders can help make frequently used documents more easily accessible.
For archival materials, such as tax returns and insurance policies that you’re likely to consult infrequently, a secure but separate storage solution makes more sense. Drawer labels and colored hanging file pockets paired with a categorical or alphabetical organization system can make it easy to dispose of unwanted clutter without tossing important papers.
Once you’ve dealt with all the paperwork, don’t overlook important details like dusting the computer desk and screen to make your freshly cleaned office extra inviting. Adding a stylish, functional centerpiece can also help you stay organized now and in the future.
Because it’s likely the most used room in the house, the kitchen sees a fair bit of cleaning year-round. However, in any busy household it’s easy to let deeper cleaning slide. While you’re tackling the rest of the house, take time to give the kitchen its due. Mop the floors, disinfect all surfaces and remove clutter that has accumulated, including old and out-of-date food from the refrigerator and pantry.
Because consumables are such an integral part of this space, it’s a good idea to use green cleaning products that won’t leave harmful residues on your cooking surfaces or distribute contaminants into the air.
When warm spring weather arrives, throwing open the windows to circulate fresh air can be one of the most welcoming ways to wake up the bedroom after long winter months. Freshly washed linens and a flipped or rotated mattress can also give the room a freshness you can see and feel.
Beyond the typical chores like vacuuming and dusting, don’t forget dusty baseboards and make sure to wipe down any glass or mirrored surfaces for extra shine. Another way to make a big difference is organizing items that exceed the storage capacity of your furniture. In the bedroom itself, a trunk at the foot of the bed or a wardrobe organizer that complements your other furnishings is a smart bet.
In the closet, you can repurpose common office supplies and organizers to make the most of limited space. For example, adhesive hooks are perfect for handbags, necklaces and scarves. Lightweight shelving or cubbies make it easy to confine shoes, and for an assortment of accessories and knick-knacks, try stacking plastic bins. Another idea to maximize drawer space in your dresser: move undergarments and socks into a portable storage cart with trays or drawers that fits neatly in the closet.
Sometimes space dictates that each room in the house cannot be dedicated to just one purpose, but combining multiple spaces – such as a home office and craft room, den or storage area – can often lead to clutter accumulating. Start by organizing things into piles based on which part of the space is best suited for each item.
Also, take time to check for broken items or ones you haven’t used in a while and determine what can be repaired, donated or discarded. Once everything has been properly sorted, store any items that didn’t previously have a home. Hanging items that are used often for crafting is one way to make creative use of your space and free up space for additional furniture or storage, such as shelving or attractive totes.Source: OfficeDepot.com.
Century 21 AA Realty Long Island
By Barbara Pronin
Everyone wants to protect their home, their property, and most of all, their families. In fact, market research suggests the home security business is growing at a rate of about 9 percent a year. But home security systems are not all alike.
Some systems can not only warn you of intruders, but can also notify authorities, monitor smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and/or include video surveillance. Mot security alarm installers can provide services that include equipment plus installation and monitoring service.
If you are thinking about buying a home security system, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests that you:
– Get references from friends, neighbors or relatives.
– Check out companies online and check the Better Business Bureau for complaints.
– Verify that the contractor’s license is in good standing via the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies.
– Get written estimates from several companies.
– Read the fine print regarding costs, installation timeline, warranty, and an explanation of your right to cancel within three days of signing a contract.
– Ask lots of questions:
- Who will perform the installation and monitor the system? Some companies subcontract this work to a third party.
- What is the contract period for monitoring? One year? More? Are there penalties for early termination? What happens if you move before the contract term is up?
- How much does the monitoring cost? How often will you be billed?
- Does the company call you before notifying the police?
- How soon after the alarm sounds will you be notified?
- What happens if the alarm company can't reach you when the alarm is sounding? Is the alarm reset? Are the police called? Are alternate numbers called?
- What happens if the power goes out? Is there a back-up battery system?
- What does the warranty cover, and for how long? Is it from the manufacturer or their installer?
- Who is responsible for repairs or upgrades to the system?
– Does the company offer interactive services like smoke and fire detection, remote control, video surveillance, email notifications and special apps for smart phones?
Century 21 AA Realty Long Island
By Maria Patterson
For many, a small, pricey hotel room is no way to vacation. Many would prefer instead the space and creature comforts of a home away from home.
Renting a home, however, is not like booking a hotel. Hotels come with a lot of predictability in terms of size, location and amenities. With a vacation home, however, you're leaving a bit to chance. Follow these tips from the travel experts at Frommers to eliminate as many surprises as possible when booking a vacation home:
Really know what you want. Figure out your priorities, says Frommers. Maybe a full kitchen is a must for you or maybe you need to be right on the beach. Make your decision based on your biggest priorities and save money by sacrificing factors that aren’t as important to you.
"Authenticate" the property. Don’t just rely on one site. When you’ve found a home you think is "the one" do your due diligence and check it out on other sites, social media and through customer reviews.
Check out the owner. Do some research and find out who you’re renting the property from. Are they new to the vacation rental experience or have they been at it a while? Connect with them on social media to get a sense of who they are and what others have to say about them. You want to make sure you're renting from a reliable source.
Corral your group. If you’re traveling with a group of extended family and friends, establish the ground rules up front. Find out what everyone’s priorities and needs are, including what they’re willing to spend. If your group is too large or too diverse personality-wise, you may be better off getting separate condos in the same development to give everyone a little breathing room and avoid conflict.
Find out what comes with the home. Do you need to bring your own sheets? How about beach chairs or grilling tools? If such details aren’t readily available on the rental site, correspond with the owner. This will save you the time and expense of having to run out and buy supplies when you arrive.
Know your contract. Every vacation rental owner has different rules, especially when it comes to cleaning and repairs. Do a walk-through when you arrive and contact the owner immediately if anything appears broken or damaged.
Remain flexible. Remember, a home is not a hotel. There is no room service, housekeeping or maintenance to call when a need arises, so be ready to troubleshoot and roll with the punches.
With a little bit of extra research, you can spread out and enjoy the space, privacy and flexibility of a vacation rental.
I hope you found these tips useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.
Century 21 AA Realty Long Island