Take Advantage of Great Interest Rates

Most recently, buyers have enjoyed more selection in the marketplace which has led to more open negotiations versus bidding wars. This is illustrated by an increase in average Days on Market and a decrease in the average Sold-to-List Price Ratios complete-year over year (the last 12 months over the previous 12 months). In King County, the average Days on Market increased from 22 days to 36 days complete-year over year, and the Sold-to-List Price Ratio decreased from 101% to 98%. In Snohomish County, the average Days on Market increased from 25 to 35 days complete-year over year, and the Sold-to-List Price Ratio decreased from 100% to 98%.

Buyers have had more selection to choose from which has tempered price growth complete-year over year. Median price remains even in King County and up 3% in Snohomish County. Multiple offers are not as commonplace as they were, but terms such as inspection contingencies and home sale contingencies are doable in some areas and price ranges. This balancing out has created some more normal terms for buyers, while sellers are getting close to full price on average and cashing out on the above-average appreciation we enjoyed from 2012 to 2018.

It is still a seller’s market, yet we are heading towards balance. The months of available inventory based on pending sales (the amount of time it would take to sell out of homes if no new homes came to market) currently sits at 1.7 months in King County and 1.5 months in Snohomish County. Zero to 3 months is a seller’s market, 3-6 months a balanced market, and 6+ months a buyer’s market. In 2017 to early 2018, inventory levels were commonly under one month, which was a very volatile and constricted environment within which to purchase a home. The direction towards balance is welcome and providing much more comfort when making a move.

The inventory levels are an amazingly beneficial phenomenon due to the fact that buyers are simultaneously enjoying the lowest interest rates we’ve had since 2016! Currently, the 30-year mortgage rate is hovering around 3.6% and the 15-year around 3.07% according to Freddie Mac. Not only are rates the lowest we’ve seen in 3 years, but they are an entire point lower than they were in Q4 of 2018. When rates crested 4.5% last year, we saw a marked reduction in pending sales. This highlights the recent opportunities that have come alive for buyers to secure such low debt service and for sellers to have a larger audience. When rates rise, folks reassess and sometimes step aside, which is why this current opportunity should be taken advantage of.

This is meaningful because the rule of thumb is that for every one-point decrease in interest rate, a buyer gains ten percent in purchase power. For example, if a buyer is shopping for a $500,000 home and the rate decreases by a point during their search, they can up their price ceiling to $550,000 and keep the same monthly payment. This is huge, especially in the wake of intense price growth over the last 6-7 years, which priced many buyers out of the market. Buyers that took a break and stepped to the sidelines in the past may want to consider their opportunities now. This is the most favorable buyer environment (inside of a seller’s market) we’ve seen in some time!

This recent decrease in rate is helping the move-up market come alive. What is great about this, is that it opens up inventory for the first-time buyer and helps complete the market cycle. First-time buyers are abundant right now as the Millennial generation is gaining in age and making big life transitions such as buying real estate. According to Nerd Wallet, 49% of all Millennials have a home purchase in their 5-year plan. The rates are also providing very low debt service for investors, second-home buyers, and down-size buyers headed toward retirement.

Will these rates last forever? Simply put, no! According to Freddie Mac, rates should increase closer to the 4’s as we round out 2019 and head into 2020. While still staying well below the 30-year average of 6.85%, increases are increases, and securing today’s rate could be hugely beneficial from a cost-saving perspective. Just like the 1980’s when folks were securing mortgages at 18%, the people that lock down on a rate from today will be telling these stories to their grandchildren. Note the 30-year average – it is reasonable to think that higher rates must be in our future at some point.

So what does this mean for you? If you have considered making a move, or even your first purchase, today’s rates are a huge advantage in helping make a move more affordable. If you are a seller, bear in mind that today’s interest rate market is creating strong buyer demand, providing a healthy buyer pool for your home. As a homeowner who has no intention to make a move, now might be the time to consider a refinance. What is so exciting about these refinances, is that it is not only possible to reduce your monthly payment, but also your term, depending on which rate you would be coming down from.

If you would like additional information on how today’s interest rates pertain to your housing goals, please contact me. We would be happy to educate you on homes that are available, do a market analysis on your current home, and/or put you in touch with a reputable mortgage professional to help you crunch numbers. Real estate success is rooted in being accurately informed, and it is our goal to help empower you to make sound decisions for you and your family.


Posted on September 13, 2019 at 6:44 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Statistical Information, Strategy, Uncategorized |

Pumpkin Patch Guide 2019

KING COUNTY

Baxter Barn
31929 SE 44th St, Fall City
Pumpkin patch, tractor-pulled hay rides, fresh eggs, gift shop, pony rides, picnic area, farm animals

Carpinito Brothers
1148 Central Ave N, Kent
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, farm fun yard, hay rides, produce stand, concessions

Fall City Farms
3636 Neal Road, Fall City
Pumpkin patch, tractor-pulled hay rides, fresh honey, pre-picked produce, farm animals, snacks and refreshments.

Fox Hollow Family Farm
12031 Issaquah Hobart Rd SE, Issaquah
Pumpkins for sale, hay bale maze, bouncy house, face painting, haunted house, pony rides, petting zoo, farm animals, concessions

Jubilee Farm
229 W Snoqualmie River Rd NE, Carnation
Pumpkins, horse-drawn covered wagon rides, hay rides, hay bale maze

Oxbow Farm
10819 Carnation-Duvall Rd NE, Carnation
Pumpkins, produce, picnic area, playground

Mosby Farm Pumpkin Patch
12747-b South East Green Valley Rd, Auburn
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, tractor-pulled hay rides, snacks and refreshment stand, picnic area

The Nursery at Mt Si
42328 SE 108th St, North Bend
Pumpkin patch, tractor-pulled hay rides

Remlinger Farms
32610 NE 32nd St, Carnation
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, animal barnyard, pony rides, steam train, hay jump

Serres Farm
20306 NE 50th St, Redmond
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, duck races, animal train

Thomasson Family Farm
38223 236th Ave SE, Enumclaw
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, kids korral, tractor train rides, pumpkin sling shot

Tonnemaker Valley Farm, Woodinville Farm Stand
16215 140th Pl NE, Woodinville
You-pick pumpkin patch, you-pick flowers, produce stand, on-site pepper roasting on Saturdays

 

SNOHOMISH COUNTY

Biringer’s Black Crow Pumpkins & Corn Maze
2431 Highway 530 NE, Arlington
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, straw or hay bale maze, tractor-pulled hay rides, farm market, picnic area

Bob’s Corn & Pumpkin Farm
10917 Elliott Rd, Snohomish
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, bonfire & picnic area, hay rides, pony rides, playground, concessions

Carleton Farm
630 Sunnyside Blvd SE, Lake Stevens
Pumpkin patch, train rides, corn maze, haunted corn maze, tractor-pulled hay rides, farm animals, farm market

Craven Farm
13817 Short School Rd, Snohomish
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, tractor-pulled hay rides, face painting, farm animals, snacks & refreshment stand

The Farm at Swans Trail
7301 Rivershore Rd, Snohomish
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, pick your own apples, pig & duck races, petting zoo, putt-putt golf and more

Fairbank Animal Farm & Pumpkin Patch
15308 52nd Ave W, Edmonds
Pumpkins, petting zoo, farm animals, picnic area

Fosters Pumpkin Farm
5818 State Route 530 NE, Arlington
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, hay bale maze, corn cannon, pre-picked produce, face painting, farm animals, snacks and refreshment stand, picnic area

Stocker Farms
8705 Marsh Rd, Snohomish
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, haunted corn maze, tractor-pulled hay rides, jumping pillow and more

Thomas Family Farm
9010 Marsh Road, Snohomish
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, monster truck rides, haunted house, gem mining, Zombie Safari Paintball Hayride, beer garden, putt-putt golf and more

 

PIERCE COUNTY

Double R Farms
5820 44th St E, Puyallup
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, hay rides, farm animals, pumpkin sling shot

Maris Farms
25001 Sumner-Buckley Hwy, Buckley
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, haunted woods, farm animals, hay ride, trout fishing, play ground

Picha’s Farm
6502 52nd St E, Puyallup
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, hay ride, pumpkin sling shot, concessions

Scholz Farm
12920 162nd Ave E, Orting
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, play area

Spooner Farms
9622 SR 162 E, Puyallup
Pumpkin patch, farm animals, face painting, pumpkin sling shot, concessions


Posted on August 22, 2019 at 6:48 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Just for Fun |

5 Real Estate Reality TV Myths Explained

Have you ever been flipping through the channels, only to find yourself glued to the couch in an HGTV binge session? We’ve all been there, watching entire seasons of shows like “Property Brothers,” “Fixer Upper,”and “Love It or List It,” all in one sitting.

When you’re in the middle of your real estate-themed TV show marathon, you might start to think everything you see on the screen must be how it works in real life. However, you may need a reality check.

Reality TV Show Myths vs. Real Life:

Myth #1: Buyers look at 3 homes and decide to purchase one of them.
Truth: There may be buyers who fall in love and buy the first home they see, but according to the National Association of Realtors, the average homebuyer tours 10 homes as a part of their search.  

Myth #2: The houses the buyers are touring are still for sale.
Truth: Everything is staged for TV. Many of the homes shown are already sold and are off the market. 

Myth #3: The buyers haven’t made a purchase decision yet.
Truth: Since there is no way to show the entire buying process in a 30-minute show, TV producers often choose buyers who are further along in the process and have already chosen a home to buy. 

Myth #4: If you list your home for sale, it will ALWAYS sell at the open house.
Truth: Of course, this would be great! Open houses are important to guarantee the most exposure to buyers in your area, but they are only one piece of the overall marketing of your home. Keep in mind, many homes are sold during regular showing appointments as well. 

Myth #5: Homeowners decide to sell their homes after a 5-minute conversation.
Truth: Similar to the buyers portrayed on the shows, many of the sellers have already spent hours deliberating the decision to list their homes and move on with their lives and goals.

Bottom Line

Having an experienced professional on your side while navigating the real estate market is the best way to guarantee you can make the home of your dreams a true reality.

 

KCM August 2019

 


Posted on August 14, 2019 at 6:43 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Just for Fun |

Preparing Your Garage For an Electric Car

 

Electric cars help lower emissions and fuel costs, improve fuel economy, and bolster energy security. And considering the volatility of gas prices—and their general skyward trajectory—electric fuel shows promise as an economic alternative. But switching to an electric vehicle entails more than new driving habits and a conversation piece with strangers. It’s also a lifestyle update. From setting up a charging station in the garage to maintaining optimal temperatures therein, check out these useful garage preparation tips to assure your electric vehicle battery is in tip-top shape.

 

Selecting a Charger: Level 1 vs. Level 2

Charging an electric vehicle is more involved than charging your smartphone, and you’ll likely need a home station charger. That said, make sure you familiarize yourself with the two main levels of electric vehicle chargers supplied by home-based charging equipment and most public charging stations so you can choose the best one for your home and car.

 

Level 1 Chargers

A Level 1 cord set charger delivers a standard household current of 110 or 120 volts and comes with most plug-in vehicles upon purchase. It’s outfitted with a three-pronged, household plug at one end that’s connected to a control box by a short cord. A longer 15-to-20-foot cord running from the other side of the box connects directly to the vehicle itself.

  • If you have the time, a Level 1 could be the way to go. But be forewarned: What you get is, more or less, a trickle charge that affords roughly three to five miles per charging hour. For instance, the Nissan Leaf takes around 24 hours to fully charge on a standard 120-volt household outlet.
  • The upside is, Level 1 equipment doesn’t entail an elaborate setup of high-power circuit breakers or dedicated electrical lines, which are required by major appliances like stoves and refrigerators.
  • Because cord sets are portable, plug-in vehicles can be charged virtually anywhere there’s a standard outlet. Provided the circuit isn’t a household outlet that’s patched into the same circuit as other demanding appliances—in which case you could trip a circuit breaker.

 

Level 2 Chargers 

You can also consider installing a Level 2 charger, which delivers 240 volts and replenishes pure electric vehicles in about three hours—which is about seven to eight times faster than Level 1 equipment. Unlike the simplicity of Level 1 setups, though, Level 2 chargers may warrant the services of a professional due to the rigmarole of electrical codes, equipment setup, and necessary inspections.

  • Level 2 chargers cost anywhere between under $300 to over $1500, the price ultimately depending on cord length and amperage.
  • Level 2 outputs typically range between 16 to 30 amps, but professionals often recommend around 30- to 40-amp systems—an adequate overnight charge for most plug-in electric cars.

 

Installing a Charging Station

It’s worth mentioning that the “charger” you’re installing is technically referred to as Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE). This is the wall-mounted box with cord and plug that delivers electricity and functions as a communication and safety unit for the actual charger situated inside the vehicle itself.  The EVSE ensures the battery doesn’t overheat and shuts the charging session down if there’s a short circuit, power surge, or any other type of faulty hardware.

If you’ve opted for a Level 2 ESVE, you’ll likely need to reach out to a professional electrician to wire up equipment and determine where the ESVE should be situated in regards to where your vehicle is parked. Notwithstanding factors like outdated wiring, meters, and breaker panels, updating the garage for your electric ride should actually be pretty straightforward.

 

Cost of Installation

The installation cost generally hinges on the work involved—such as the amount of wire that needs to be run, whether additional or replacement breaker panels are necessary, and the cost of labor in your area. This could vary between just a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand. It’s also worth looking into your local. utility company’s offerings, as you may qualify for special rates or a rebate when you install an ESVE.

Posted in Living by Meaghan McGlynn /Windermere


Posted on August 6, 2019 at 12:53 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information |

2019 Q2 Quarterly Report Per County

 

North Snohomish County Quarterly Market Trends–Q2 2019

2019 provided a very healthy and more balanced spring market! Median price is up 8% complete year-over-year and up 3% from last June. Prices have started to find their balance as more inventory has come to market compared to the scarcity of years past.While buyers have had more choices over the last year,it is still a seller’s market with just 1.3 months of inventory based on pending sales, resulting in an average of 23 days on market and 100% list-to-sale price ratio in June. Low interest rates continue to drive demand, however sellers who overprice or don’t address condition issues will linger on the market,which is illustrated by the 15% increase in carryover inventory year-over-year.

Our real estate market continues to be driven by low interest rates, positive job creation, and upbeat consumer sentiment. Currently, interest rates sit around 4% which is still an historical low, affording buyers the ability to make moves and reduce their debt service. Price appreciation has started to temper to more normal rates, compared to the double-digit appreciation we experienced over the last 3 years due to more sellers coming to market. This has created more balance and greater opportunity for buyers.The generational shift we are experiencing as Baby Boomers move towards retirement and Millennials enter into their prime earning years is an exciting exchange happening in the market place right now.

This is only a snapshot of the trends in north Snohomish County; please contact us if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.

 

 

South Snohomish County Quarterly Market Trends–Q2 2019

2019 provided a very healthy and more balanced spring market! Median price is up 3% complete year-over-year and up 1% from last June. Prices have started to find their balance as more inventory has come to market compared to the scarcity of years past. While buyers have had more choices over the last year,it is still a seller’s market with just 1.5 months of inventory based on pending sales, resulting in an average of 21 days on market and 99% list-to-sale price ratio in June. Low interest rates continue to drive demand, however sellers who overprice or don’t address condition issues will linger on the market, which is illustrated by the 16% increase in carryover inventory year-over-year.

Our real estate market continues to be driven by low interest rates, positive job creation, and upbeat consumer sentiment. Currently, interest rates sit around 4% which is still an historical low, affording buyers the ability to make moves and reduce their debt service. Price appreciation has started to temper to more normal rates, compared to the double-digit appreciation we experienced over the last 3 years due to more sellers coming to market. This has created more balance and greater opportunity for buyers.

The generational shift we are experiencing as Baby Boomers move towards retirement and Millennials enter into their prime earning years is an exciting exchange happening in the market place right now.

 

 

North King County Quarterly Market Trends–Q2 2019

2019 provided a very healthy and more balanced spring market! Median price is up 1% year-over-year at$760,000. Prices have started to find their balance as more inventory has come to market compared to the scarcity of years past.While buyers have had more choices over the last year, it is still a seller’s market with just 1.6 months of inventory based on pending sales, resulting in an average of 23 days on market and 99% list-to-sale price ratio in June. Low interest rates continue to drive demand, however sellers who overprice or don’t address condition issues will linger on the market, illustrated by the 60%increase in carryover inventory.

Our real estate market continues to be driven by low interest rates, positive job creation, and upbeat consumer sentiment. Currently, interest rates sit around 4% which is still an historical low, affording buyers the ability to make moves and reduce their debt service. Price appreciation has started to temper to more normal rates, compared to the double-digit appreciation we experienced over the last 3 years due to more sellers coming to market. This has created more balance and greater opportunity for buyers.The generational shift we are experiencing as Baby Boomers move towards retirement and Millennials enter into their prime earning years is an exciting exchange happening in the market place right now.

This is only a snapshot of the trends in north King County; please contact us if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.

Seattle Metro Quarterly Market Trends–Q2 2019

2019 provided a very healthy and more balanced spring market! Median price is even year-over-year at $750,000. Prices have started to find their balance as more inventory has come to market compared to the scarcity of years past. While buyers have had more choices over the last year, it is still a seller’s market with just 1.7 months of inventory based on pending sales, resulting in an average of 23 days on market and 99% list-to-sale price ratio in June. Low interest rates continue to drive demand, however sellers who overprice or don’t address condition issues will linger on the market, illustrated by the 66% increase in carryover inventory.

 

Our real estate market continues to be driven by low interest rates, positive job creation, and upbeat consumer sentiment. Currently, interest rates sit around 4% which is still an historical low, affording buyers the ability to make moves and reduce their debt service. Price appreciation has started to temper to more normal rates, compared to the double-digit appreciation we experienced over the last 3 years due to more sellers coming to market. This has created more balance and greater opportunity for buyers. The generational shift we are experiencing as Baby Boomers move towards retirement and Millennials enter into their prime earning years is an exciting exchange happening in the market place right now.

 

This is only a snapshot of the trends in the Seattle Metro area; please contact us if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.

Eastside Quarterly Market Trends–Q2 2019

2019 provided a very healthy and more balanced spring market! Median price is up 2% year-over-year at $925,000. Prices have started to find their balance as more inventory has come to market compared to the scarcity of years past. While buyers have had more choices over the last year, it is still a seller’s market with just 2 months of inventory based on pending sales, resulting in an average of 30 days on market and 98% list-to-sale price ratio in June. Low interest rates continue to drive demand, however sellers who overprice or don’t address condition issues will linger on the market, illustrated by the 27% increase in carryover inventory.

 

Our real estate market continues to be driven by low interest rates, positive job creation, and upbeat consumer sentiment. Currently, interest rates sit around 4% which is still an historical low, affording buyers the ability to make moves and reduce their debt service. Price appreciation has started to temper to more normal rates, compared to the double-digit appreciation we experienced over the last 3 years due to more sellers coming to market. This has created more balance and greater opportunity for buyers. The generational shift we are experiencing as Baby Boomers move towards retirement and Millennials enter into their prime earning years is an exciting exchange happening in the market place right now.

 

This is only a snapshot of the trends on the Eastside; please contact us if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.

South King county Quarterly Market Trends–Q2 2019
2019 provided a very healthy and more balanced spring market! Median price is up 5% complete year-over-year and up 2% from last June. Prices have started to find their balance as more inventory has come to market compared to the scarcity of years past. While buyers have had more choices over the last year, it is still a seller’s market with just 1.3 months of inventory based on pending sales, resulting in an average of 28 days on market and 99% list-to-sale price ratio in June. Low interest rates continue to drive demand, however sellers who overprice or don’t address condition issues will linger on the market.

 

Our real estate market continues to be driven by low interest rates, positive job creation, and upbeat consumer sentiment. Currently, interest rates sit around 4% which is still an historical low, affording buyers the ability to make moves and reduce their debt service. Price appreciation has started to temper to more normal rates, compared to the double-digit appreciation we experienced over the last 3 years due to more sellers coming to market. This has created more balance and greater opportunity for buyers. The generational shift we are experiencing as Baby Boomers move towards retirement and Millennials enter into their prime earning years is an exciting exchange happening in the market place right now.

 

This is only a snapshot of the trends in south King County; please contact us if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.

 

 

 

 


Posted on July 26, 2019 at 9:05 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Quarterly Reports, Statistical Information |

Q2 2019 Western Washington Gardner Report

 

The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere agent.

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Washington State employment jumped back up to an annual growth rate of 2.4% following a disappointing slowdown earlier in the spring. As stated in the first quarter Gardner Report, the dismal numbers earlier this year were a function of the state re-benchmarking its data (which they do annually).

The state unemployment rate was 4.7%, marginally up from 4.5% a year ago. My current economic forecast suggests that statewide job growth in 2019 will rise by 2.6%, with a total of 87,500 new jobs created.

HOME SALES

  • There were 22,281 home sales during the second quarter of 2019, representing a drop of 4.8% from the same period in 2018. On a more positive note, sales jumped 67.6% compared to the first quarterof this year.
  • Since the middle of last year, there has been a rapid rise in the number of homes for sale, which is likely the reason sales have slowed. More choice means buyers can be more selective and take their time when choosing a home to buy.
  • Compared to the second quarter of 2018, there were fewer sales in all counties except Whatcom and Lewis. The greatest declines were in Clallam, San Juan, and Jefferson counties.
  • Listings rose 19% compared to the second quarter of 2018, but there are still a number of very tight markets where inventory levels are lower than a year ago. Generally, these are the smaller — and more affordable — markets, which suggests that affordability remains an issue.

 

HOME PRICES

  • Year-over-year price growth in Western Washington continues to taper. The average home price during second quarter was $540,781, which is 2.8% higher than a year ago. When compared to first quarter of this year, prices were up 12%.
  • Home prices were higher in every county except King, which is unsurprising given the cost of homes in that area. Even though King County is home to the majority of jobs in the region, housing is out of reach for many and I anticipate that this will continue to act as a drag on price growth.
  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Lewis County, where home prices were up 15.9%. Double-digit price increases were also seen in Mason, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, and Skagit counties.
  • The region’s economy remains robust, which should be a positive influence on price growth. That said, affordability issues are pervasive and will act as a headwind through the balance of the year, especially in those markets that are close to job centers. This will likely force some buyers to look further afield when searching for a new home.

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home matched the second quarter of 2018.
  • Snohomish County was the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of only 21 days to sell. There were five counties where the length of time it took to sell a home dropped compared to the same period a year ago. Market time rose in eight counties and two were unchanged.
  • Across the entire region, it took an average of 41 days to sell a home in the second quarter of 2019. This was the same as a year ago but is down 20 days compared to the first quarter of 2019.
  • As stated above, days-on-market dropped as we moved through the spring, but all markets are not equal. I suggest that this is not too much of an issue and that well-priced homes will continue to attract attention and sell fairly rapidly.

 

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. I am leaving the needle in the same position as the first quarter as demand appears to still be strong.

The market has benefited from a fairly significant drop in mortgage rates. With average 30-year fixed rates still below 4%, I expect buyers who have been sitting on the fence will become more active, especially given that they have more homes to choose from.

 

Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner  7/25/2019

 

 

 


Posted on July 25, 2019 at 9:30 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Quarterly Reports, Statistical Information |

Back to School Basics – 10 Basic Tips

 

The first day of school has snuck up on us again! Most local school districts will start just after Labor Day, so if you haven’t already, now is the time to start getting ready. Take advantage of these last weeks of summer to start settling into a new routine before life gets hectic. Start talking about it. New teacher, new classmates, new schedules can all create some anxieties with kids.

~Start talking about school a few weeks before the first day. Talk about practical things like what the new schedule will be like, but also make sure to address their feelings and concerns about the upcoming year.

~Ease back into the scheduled days.When you and your kids are used to lazy mornings and staying up late, shifting to the early morning school bus rush can be incredibly difficult. To ease the transition,start 7-10 days before school starts, and shift bedtimes and wake-up times gradually. Every day, start their bedtime routine 10-15 minutes earlier and wake them up 10-15 minutes earlier until they’re back on track. And don’t forget to readjust your bedtime schedule, too!

~Re-set eating habits.When school starts, your student needs to maintain a high level of energy throughout the day. Implementing a routine for breakfast, lunch and snacks is just as important as their sleeping patterns. Begin this transition 7-10 days before school starts as well.

~Inventory wardrobes. Before going school shopping, take some time to go through what you already have, donate things they’ve outgrown, and make a list of what is needed.

~Go back to school shopping early.The store aisles are currently packed with school supplies. Take advantage of your summer schedule to shop while the store isn’t as busy and the supplies haven’t been picked through. Don’t forget to buy extras for homework time or the winter re-stock that inevitably happens in January.

~Determine how your child will get to and from school and discuss it with your child so they know exactly what to expect. If they will be walking or biking, try to find a neighborhood buddy they can stick with, and be sure to practice the route with them.

~Sync your calendars.If you don’t already have one, create a shared family calendar to track everyone’s activities and commitments. Add all the important school dates before the year starts,so important things like parent-teacher night aren’t missed, and everyone is on the same page.

~Set rules for after school.After-school time and activities such as TV, video games, play time, and the completion of homework should be well-thought out in advance. Talk about the rules (and consequences) for these before school starts.

~Set goals.Research shows that setting and tracking goals leads to success. Before school starts,talk to your child about some things they would like to accomplish this year. Write down their goal(s),post it somewhere visible in the house, and check in periodically with them to see how they are doing.

~Implement a weekly family meeting.This will come in handy as the year goes on and schedules become fuller. Put it on the calendar and make it a priority:just a few minutes every week to sit down together,review the schedule for the coming week,and check in with each child about homework, projects, and goals. This is also a good time to clean out and organize backpacks and binders.


Posted on July 24, 2019 at 6:33 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information |

25 Ways to Fix Your Finances Fast

 

Quickly give your finances a boost.

Some financial fixes – from repairing your credit score to funding your retirement – can take years to pull off. Others take just a few minutes. Click forward for 25 quick financial moves.

A businessman uses a magnifying glass to look over documents.
 CREDIT

Review your credit card statement.

Sit down with your credit card bill and conduct an audit of your expenditures, including ones made impulsively. Use this exercise to learn from your past emotional spending mistakes – and avoid them in the future.

About 90 percent of filers will either pay a tax preparer or use a computer software service to help with their federal tax returns this spring, a report says.
 CREDIT

Look at your tax refund.

Do you receive a big tax refund check from Uncle Sam each year? “You may want to speak with your tax professional and adjust your withholdings,” writes Brad Wright, a certified financial planner at New England Financial Planning Group in Burlington, Massachusetts. Think of your refund as an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam, Wright says.

Different types of insurance.
 CREDIT

Bundle your insurance.

Having one company cover your disparate insurance needs can be a money-smart move. “You may be entitled to a better rate if you bundle your homeowner’s, auto, and umbrella insurance policies under one company,” Wright writes.

watching football on tv
 CREDIT

Phone your cable company.

Dial up your cable provider at least once per year to renegotiate your cable package. You may be able to get your bill reduced.

Conceptual smartphone showing the dollar symbol on blue background
 CREDIT

Go digital.

Sign up for a digital money-management system, such as Quicken or Mint.com, to track your spending – and potentially reduce making impulse purchases and overdrawing your account.

young woman reading paperwork in her living room and holding a cup of coffee
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Request a free credit report.

Request your free annual credit report from each of the three credit-reporting bureaus at annualcreditreport.com. “Make sure you are aware of all the credit in your name and (that) you don’t have any unexpected outstanding debt,” writes Bethany Griffith, a certified financial planner in Columbia, South Carolina. “Reviewing your credit report is also a way to catch if you have been a victim of identity theft,” Griffith adds.

Email inbox
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Unsubscribe.

“You’ll be much less tempted to overspend on your clothing/tech/fun budget if you aren’t bombarded with daily emails about all the ‘stuff’ you could buy,” Griffith writes.

Car keys on the ground, appear to be lost.
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Raise your insurance deductible.

Carve out extra room in your monthly budget by raising your auto insurance deductible, thereby lowering your premiums.

A young businessman looks through binoculars.
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Find unclaimed cash.

Head to your state’s treasury website or unclaimed.org to locate property in your name. “It takes almost no time to come up with your own money in these various state-run ‘financial lost and founds,'” writes Michael Resnick, senior wealth management advisor and certified financial planner at GCG Financial in Deerfield, Illinois.

Person pumping air into tire.
 CREDIT

Inflate your tires.

Improve your gas mileage – and save money – by making sure that your tires are properly inflated. Doing this can improve mileage by 0.6% on average, and up to 3% in some instances, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Person holding two paychecks
 CREDIT

Automate your savings.

Set up an automatic siphon from your paycheck to your retirement account. Automate payments from your checking to your savings accounts. You’ll build savings without even noticing it.

Closeup of a pair of scissors about to cut a cable cord.
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Cut the cable.

If negotiating down your cable bill isn’t enough, consider cutting it entirely. Replace those channels with subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu, which can cost less per month than your typical cable bill.

Business woman at working with financial reports and using mobile smartphone in the office
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Start a virtual piggy bank.

Sign up for tools such as Acorns or Digit, which funnel spare change into an account to help you reach your savings goals, writes Natalie Colley, analyst at Francis Financial in New York City.

Dollar Bills
 CREDIT

Enroll in a high-yield checking and savings account.

Move your money into a high-yield account, writes Autumn K. Campbell, certified financial planner at The Planning Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Online-only banks may offer more competitive yields on checking and savings accounts than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

A woman works at a desk next to a cash jar marked 401k.
 CREDIT

Take advantage of employer benefits.

If you’re not cashing in on an employer match by investing in the company-sponsored retirement account, consider remedying that. Contact your human resources department or consult your employee handbook for more information on securing the match. Overlooking that perk is like turning your nose up at free money.

Caucasian couple paying bills online together
 CREDIT

Check your Wi-Fi and cable bills.

“Some companies will charge you a ‘Router/Modem Fee,’ which could be around $8 a month,” writes Alex Rupert, senior associate for private client services at Sequoia Financial Group in Akron, Ohio. “Research the company’s website to determine which routers or modems are approved and then buy your own. I bought a used one off Amazon for $5.”

A woman holds a nest filled with money.
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Boost your retirement savings.

Log into your retirement account and increase the percentage you allocate to it by 1 or 2 percent. It will bring you that much closer to your retirement goals, and you won’t feel a difference in your paycheck.

Mixed race woman paying bills on laptop
 CREDIT

Determine whether you qualify for free tax filing.

If you made less than $66,000 in adjusted gross income in 2018, you qualify to file taxes for freethrough the IRS-partnered Free File Alliance. Bookmark this website today and use it come tax time instead of utilizing the so-called free services offered independently by tax software providers, which often include add-ons and upcharges.

Closeup of credit cards
 CREDIT

Request a credit-limit increase.

Log into your credit card account and request a limit increase. “Even if you don’t need it, a higher limit will bolster your percent of credit utilization and lead to an increase in your credit score,” writes Amy Hubble, a certified financial planner in Oklahoma City.

A man shops online using his laptop with his credit card in his hand.
 CREDIT

Automate your credit card payments.

Open your credit card account and put your payments on autopilot. It’s always best to repay the entire balance each month if you can afford to, so you won’t pay interest.

Man using calculator and calculate bills in home office.
 CREDIT

Fast-track your debt payoff goals.

Go into your student loan, mortgage or credit card account and add a few dollars or more to your automatic repayment amount. “You will be surprised how quickly these extra payments will help reduce your debt and the interest you are paying on it,” writes Jamie Ebersole, a certified financial planner in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts.

A doctor with a stethoscope holds a piggy bank.
 CREDIT

Ramp up contributions to your health savings account.

Boost savings for medical expenses by increasing contributions to your health savings account, or HSA. “Contributions to your HSA are tax-deductible and, once the accounts get above a certain threshold, can be invested in mutual funds for long-term growth,” writes Judy McNary, a certified financial planner in Boulder, Colorado.

A woman talks on a landline phone.
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Drop the home phone.

Who uses a home phone these days anyway? Drop your home phone to lower your phone bill and stick with your cellphone.

People using spin machines in gym
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Rethink the gym.

Do you refuse to cancel that overpriced gym membership you never use? Consider ways to get in shape, such as running, walking or following online videos, without paying that hefty price each month.

Happy family enjoying their vacation in Paris, France
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Identify a financial goal.

Whether it’s funding your next vacation or paying off your student loans, pinpoint a money goal that motivates you to save and cut down on spending.

 CREDIT

Repair your finances fast.

To recap, here are some ways to fix your finances fast:

  • Review your credit card statement.
  • Look at your tax refund.
  • Bundle your insurance.
  • Phone your cable company.
  • Go digital when tracking your spending.
  • Request a free credit report.
  • Unsubscribe from marketing emails.
  • Raise your insurance deductible.
  • Find unclaimed cash.
  • Inflate your tires.

These quick tweaks will boost your budget.

Updated on July 8, 2019: This story was originally published on Oct. 4, 2016, and has been updated with new information.

Posted on July 23, 2019 at 9:53 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Statistical Information, Strategy |

Should I Refinance My Home?

 

With the recent lower interest rates, many homeowners are wondering if they should refinance.

To decide if refinancing is the best option for your family, start by asking yourself these questions:

Why do you want to refinance?

There are many reasons to refinance, but here are three of the most common ones:

  1. Lower your interest rate and payment – This is the most popular reason. If you have a 5% interest rate or higher, it might be worth seeing if you can take advantage of the current lower interest rates, hovering below 4%, to reduce your monthly payment and overall cost of the loan.
  2. Shorten the term of your loan – If you have a 30-year loan, it may be advantageous to change it to a 15 or 20-year loan to pay off your mortgage sooner.
  3. Cash-out refinance – With home prices increasing, you might have enough equity to cash out and invest in something else, like your children’s education, a vacation home, or a new business.

Once you know why you might want to refinance, ask yourself the next question:

How much is it going to cost?

There are fees and closing costs involved in refinancing, and Lenders Network explains:

“If you were to refinance that loan into a new loan, total closing costs will run between 2%-4% of the loan amount.”

They also explain that there are options for no-cost refinance loans, but be on the lookout:

“A no-cost refinance loan is when the lender pays the closing costs for the borrower. However, you should be aware that the lender makes up this money from other aspects of the mortgage. Usually pay charging a slightly higher interest rate so they can make the money back.”

If you’re comfortable with the costs of refinancing, then ask yourself one more question:

Is it worth it?

To answer this one, we’ll use an example. Let’s assume you have a $200,000 home loan. A 4% refinance cost will be $10,000. If you want to lower your interest rate from 6% to 4%,  then refinancing is going to save you $244 per month. To break even ($10,000/$244), you need to continue owning your home for over 40 months.

Now that you know how the math shakes out, think about how much longer you’d like to own your current home. If you plan to stay for more than 3 years, then maybe it is advantageous for you to refinance.

If, however, your current home does not fulfill your present needs, you might want to consider using your potential refinance costs for a down payment on a new move-up home. You will still get a lower interest rate than the one you have on your current house, and with the equity you’ve already built, you can finally purchase the home of your dreams.

Bottom Line

There are many opportunities for growth in the current real estate market. To find out what’s right for your family, meet with a local real estate professional who can help you understand your options and guide you toward the best decision.

 

 


Posted on July 16, 2019 at 10:12 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Statistical Information, Strategy |

Refresh Your Home – Some Great Ideas

 

The craving to move happens to every homeowner as they start to feel bogged down, or like they need a restart. That sense of newness doesn’t have to be dramatic, however. The great part about having a home of your own is you can make improvements and give your home a chance to evolve over time. You just need to help your home live up to its potential!  These are seven of our favorite improvements to help you make the most of your home.

 

1. Find Your Home’s Purpose

Each home is as unique as its owners, so in order to fully utilize your home, consider how you view your home’s purpose. Some people like to entertain, others find it a calm space in the frenzy of daily life; some nurture their families and others nurture their creativity. Your home’s purpose can be any combination of these and more, but it helps to consider the function of your space in order to ultimately find its purpose. Knowing your home’s purpose will help guide you as you move room to room while you refresh the space.

 

2. Assemble a List

 

Create a list of haves/needs/wants. Answer questions like: what is it about the space that isn’t working; how could it work better to fulfill the purpose; where could I move some of my items to make them feel new again?

 

3. Make an “Inspiration Board”

 

An “inspiration board” is a great way to visualize your home’s decor. You can create a board online with a tool like Pinterest to organize ideas you love, you can also use the ‘Save’ feature on Instagram, or the old-fashioned way with a cork board and magazines. Doing this will allow you to see all the elements you like in one place so that you can then tie it all together into a room you love.

 

Photo Credit: @Krista4Coral on Instagram

4. Choose a New Palate

Renew the lighting and color by shaking up your color palate. It’s easy to fall into the white/beige standby to keep our rooms neutral, but sometimes a color that provides a contrast to your décor will make the room pop. Add a new color to the palate, refresh a wall with an accent color that you already feature in your decor, or overhaul your curtains and throws with a brand new hue.
What about the Pantone color of the year? See our blog on how to incorporate Living Coral into your home.

 

5. Rearrange

Moving furniture around is another easy way to reinvent your space. Try placing your sofa on an angle to open up your entertaining room or move your lamps to improve lighting. You can also think about moving a piece of furniture into a room to give it new life, like using a unique dresser for a credenza or a chair as a side table.

 

Photo Credit: HouseBeautiful

 

6. Create a Collection

If you have items that you like to collect, think about how to transform that collection into something you can display. If you don’t already have a collection of loved objects think about what this collection would be for you. You can center a room design around your travel souvenirs, old camera collection, figurines, unique plates, or familial objects. Adding to this collection over time can be a great way to keep your spaces new while maintaining a personal feel to your decor.

 

7. Find Design Motivation

Home design evolves over time and can be sustained by finding items that inspire you. Read magazines and books that inspire your interests in architecture, design, art, etc. Or find stores and flea markets that sell pieces that influence your aesthetic. Another way to get in-tune and keep your aesthetic with you is to bring a camera with you when you’re doing your favorite activities and bring back memories or inspirations.

 

Note: Have fun with it! Homes and aesthetics evolve over time, add and subtract as you go, and don’t stress if the room doesn’t feel finished. You’ll get there eventually.

 


Posted on July 11, 2019 at 7:06 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Just for Fun |