Posts for Syndication

Creating a Teen Hangout

By Virtual Results

Creating a Teen HangoutIt’s difficult to predict how the pandemic is going to continue to impact our lives over the coming months. But it seems safe to say that the more time we can spend at home, the safer we will be from the coronavirus. If you have teenagers at home, then it can be challenging to share a living space with them. Teenagers are beginning to assert their independence, and they need some time away from family members now and again. Now is a great time to create a teen hangout space in your home where your teen can retreat when they need to relax and recharge. Here are some inspiring ideas we’ve discovered to create spaces for your teenagers at home.

Treat them to a bedroom makeover

When was the last time you redecorated your child’s bedroom? If it’s been a few years, then it’s time for a makeover. Help them create a bedroom space that is comfortable and more grown up. This means swapping out the Disney décor for something more contemporary and adult that lets their unique personality shine. If the room is big enough for a small sofa, then this can make the room feel even more like a hangout space. Add new lighting and have some of their favorite photos framed.

Create a game room

Do you have a spare room in your home, such as a guest bedroom or even a storage area? Then why not transform it into a game room? Having a place to engage in a little fun is critical, especially if we’re once again asked to shelter in place. If you have enough space, then consider adding a ping-pong table. Stock up on board games or carve out space for playing video games. Give them a way to play their favorite music, and maybe even add a mini fridge so they don’t have to raid the kitchen for their favorite snacks.

Transform the basement

If your home has a basement, then this is really the perfect place to create a teen hangout space. Giving them an entire floor that they can retreat to when they need their own space can be ideal for everyone. Not only does it give them room to spread out, but it can also keep the upstairs portion of your home much more tranquil. You can create zones in the basement that your teens use for different purposes. A comfy sofa and a TV can create a zone for watching movies or playing video games. You can transform a corner into a sleeping nook with a bed and a privacy screen. Don’t forget to add a desk so that your teen has a place to complete homework or attend online classes if needed.

Give them some outdoor space

Finally, give them a corner of the backyard that they can call their own. Hang up a hammock or get some comfy outdoor furniture where they can lounge. You can make their area a little more private with container plants or trellises. Add some fun lighting so that they can enjoy their outdoor space even when the sun goes down.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Improving Your Credit Score

By Virtual Results

Improving Your Credit ScoreAre you one of the millions of Americans who are ready to jump into the real estate market this year? Despite the pandemic, the real estate market is flourishing because of record low interest rates. It’s an excellent time to get a great deal on a home. But lenders have tightened their requirements for getting a home loan, and as a buyer it’s essential to have a good credit score when you begin your search. Here are steps you can take to improve your score before applying for a mortgage.

Check your report

The first thing you need to do is to order a copy of your credit report. Thoroughly review the document for errors. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to discover mistakes on your credit report and they can negatively impact your score. If you do find errors, then you need to take the necessary steps to have them removed. It can take several weeks or months to clean up your report, so get started on this step right away.

Avoid new debt

One of the worst things you can do before you apply for a mortgage is to burden yourself with additional debt. Do not take out any new loans or make any big purchases on credit before closing on your home loan. Your score could take a big hit and the new debt can be a red flag to lenders.

Improve your credit utilization ratio

When you apply for a home loan, your lender will be looking at your credit utilization ratio. This is the ratio of your debt to your credit limits. You want to shoot for a credit utilization ratio of about 30 percent. There are two ways you can do this. The first is to pay down your existing debt. The more money you can funnel towards credit card debt and other loans, the better. The second way is to contact your creditors and ask them to increase your credit limits. Though it may seem like this is asking for more debt, as long as you don’t use that available credit, it will help to improve your credit utilization ratio.

Don’t close accounts

Have you paid off one of your credit cards? Congratulations! That’s a big step toward improving your credit score. However, don’t be tempted to close that account – at least not right now. While you may want to close the account to avoid the temptation of spending that available credit, that could impact your score. Several things help to determine your credit score, including the length of your credit and your credit history. Closing accounts can negatively affect your credit score, so wait until you’ve closed on your home loan to do it.

Settle collections

Finally, you can greatly improve your score by settling any debts that have gone into collections. Are you able to pay off this debt? Then contact the collections agency and tell them you wish to settle the debt and have it removed from your credit report. Be sure to get your agreement with them in writing, and continue to check your report to make sure it’s been removed.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Why You Should Pressure Wash Your Home

By Virtual Results

Why You Should Pressure Wash Your Home

With all the time you’ve spent at home this year, you may have noticed things you hadn’t really noticed before – like how dirty the exterior of your home is. Being at home more has also given us time to tackle projects that are pretty far down on the to-do list – like cleaning the exterior of your home. Let’s talk about why pressure washing your home is a good investment of your time and energy.

It improves your home’s curb appeal

First things first – pressure washing your home makes it look clean and inviting, thus improving your curb appeal. If you’re selling your home this summer, then it’s incredibly important to pressure wash your home. Buyers are out in force this season because of record low interest rates. You need your home to stand out, and pressure washing helps to achieve that goal. Even if you aren’t selling, pressure washing improves the look of your home and your neighborhood. Curb appeal affects home values, and good curb appeal shows people that you care about your home and your community.

It’s an important part of your home’s maintenance

Pressure washing isn’t just important for cosmetic reasons. It also helps with the maintenance of your home. When you pressure-wash your house, you help to prevent build-up of things you don’t want, like dirt, mold, and mildew. Allowing these things to build up on your home can cause your building materials to deteriorate or even rot over time. This could cause expensive leaks or repairs. Eventually the building materials may need to be replaced. By pressure washing your home, you’re helping to ensure that the exterior of your home stays in good shape for the long haul.

It keeps your family healthy

Many people are sensitive to mold and mildew. It can harm those who have allergies or asthma. When you pressure-wash your home, you remove those irritants and help to keep your family and loved ones safe and healthy.

It prepares surfaces for painting

This summer is an excellent time to tackle large-scale home projects. Since we’re spending so much time at home, you can finally get to those items on your to-do list that you’ve wanted to do for years. For some, this could mean painting the exterior of your home. An important step in painting the exterior is to get it ready to receive the new paint. Pressure washing the outside of your home removes grime and loose paint so that you have a smooth surface for your project. If you’re going to invest the time and money in painting the exterior, then it’s important not to skip this step.

It’s incredibly satisfying

If none of the reasons above have persuaded you that pressure washing is a good idea, then maybe this reason will – it is incredibly satisfying. Watching years’ worth of dirt and grime just magically disappear with almost no effort is fun! Many people find pressure washing to be a relaxing activity. It has the power to transform the exterior of your home and renew your pride of ownership.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Can You Host an Open House This Summer?

By Virtual Results

Can You Host an Open House This Summer?While the pandemic put in-person open houses on hold for several weeks, more buyers and sellers are eager to resume this practice. While virtual tours have helped to keep the market afloat during these challenging times, it’s hard to replace the experience of seeing a home in person. Fortunately, experts agree that it is safe to resume open houses, provided key safety precautions are met. Here’s what you need to know about safely hosting an open house this summer.

Keep your home clean, disinfected, and sanitized

First of all, it’s essential to keep your home clean, disinfected, and sanitized when it’s for sale. Follow all CDC guidelines for keeping your home clean and have hand soap available at all sinks so that visitors can wash their hands frequently.

Require PPE

In addition to regularly sanitizing your home, you should require basic PPE for those visiting your home. This includes asking all visitors to wear masks. It is also advisable to provide shoe coverings for visitors. Not only does this keep your floors clean, but it also helps prevent visitors from bringing contaminants into your home. Encourage visitors to practice social distancing inside your home, and limit how many people can be inside at any given time. Consider providing hand sanitizer throughout the home so that guests can easily keep their hands clean.

Keep air flowing

We all know that outdoor spaces are safer than indoor spaces when it comes to protecting yourself from the coronavirus. Help keep air moving indoors by opening all the doors and windows. Not only will this increase air flow, but it will also make your home appear bigger and brighter. You might also consider investing in HEPA-based air purifiers to use in each room to help keep the air clean.

Limit touching

We’re all now very aware of how easy it can be to pick up bacteria and viruses on frequently touched surfaces. Limit how much visitors need to touch surfaces in your home during their visit. Potential buyers will want to know what’s behind every door, so keep them all open during your open house. In addition, turn on every light in your home before visitors arrive, so that no one needs to touch light switches during their visit.

Make resources available online

Instead of handing out paper copies of floor plans or photos, make these resources available online. That way, potential buyers who want more information can easily access it from their own devices.

Follow local and state guidelines

Most importantly, you should follow all local and state guidelines when hosting an open house. Every jurisdiction has its own guidelines in place, depending on the severity of the pandemic in your area. Make sure you keep up to date and follow all recommended procedures to keep you and your visitors safe.

Work with a professional

Finally, it’s key to work with a professional real estate agent when selling a home this summer. The real estate process can be complex, and with all the new restrictions in place, it’s helpful to have an expert on your side. Working with a professional agent who is knowledgeable about your local market will give you peace of mind when listing your home for sale during the busy summer season.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Getting a Home Loan During the Pandemic

By Aaron Jay

Whether you’re buying a new home or you’re hoping to refinance, getting a mortgage can be a big job. It’s doubly so right now as we adjust to the “new normal” caused by the global pandemic. While the real estate market is still quite strong and interest rates are at record lows, it can be more complicated to qualify. Here’s what you need to know to set yourself up for success.

home loan pandemicRates have dropped

First things first – interest rates for mortgages are at record lows. These are the lowest levels we’ve seen in a long time. That means it’s a great time to take out a new loan if you’re planning to buy a house. It can also be an excellent time to refinance your existing loan to get a better deal and save money on your payments.

Getting a mortgage is more complicated

However – it’s important to know that the pandemic has caused the mortgage process to become more complex. It is more difficult for lenders to complete the underwriting process, because many of the firms they work with, such as title companies, have reduced their services because of the pandemic. In addition, many of the steps of the closing process that normally happen in person are now happening online. This includes getting documents notarized, completing a home appraisal, and even signing documents at closing.

Your employment status is crucial

During normal times, your lender will want to verify your employment status before closing on the loan to make sure you can afford your payments. Due to record levels of unemployment caused by the pandemic, you will be required to prove to your lender your ability to pay several times during the process. Typically, a lender will check your employment status two or three times when processing your loan application. Now you can expect your lender to verify your employment and financial health up to ten times during the process. You will need to show that you are currently employed. If you are furloughed during that time, then your closing will be delayed until you return to work. Be patient and have your documents ready at all times to expedite the process.

Your credit score is more important than ever

Your credit score has always been an important factor when determining your eligibility for a home loan. It also factors into the rates and terms you qualify for. In the past, you could get an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 580. Right now, the number is closer to 620. The economic downturn we’re experiencing as a result of the pandemic has made lenders more nervous. This means that some are making their requirements stricter. The bottom line is that if you want to buy a home, then you should work on improving your credit score first.

Consider a refinance carefully

If you’re a current homeowner who wants to refinance for a lower rate, then you should carefully consider your situation. Are you planning to stay in your home for a long time? Then refinancing can be a smart financial move. But if you’re not sure you’ll be there for more than a few years, a refinance could end up costing you money. Remember to factor in closing costs and fees when you’re making your decision.

Compliments of Virtual Results

June is National Homeownership Month

By Aaron Jay

Did you know that June is National Homeownership Month? This designation is meant to celebrate all the benefits of owning a home. And the timing couldn’t be more appropriate now that we realize just how important our homes are during the global pandemic. Let’s take a closer look at how this celebration began, and how homeownership enriches our families and our communities.

national homeownership monthThe origins of National Homeownership Month

Back in 1995, President Clinton’s administration created National Homeownership Week to bring attention to the benefits of homeownership in America. Then in 2002, President George W. Bush expanded the observance to encompass the entire month of June. By increasing the duration of the celebration, President Bush essentially highlighted just how important homeownership has become to our health, happiness, and prosperity in the United States.

Homeownership builds wealth

One of the biggest benefits of homeownership today is the opportunity to build wealth. In 2019, home prices rose approximately four percent year-over-year from 2018. And although the coronavirus has brought with it some uncertainty in the real estate market, there is still good news. There have been record-breaking numbers of refinances on home loans because of historically low-interest rates. In addition, housing values have increased during the pandemic. Although purchase volume did drop during the lockdown, more buyers are entering the market and volume is picking up, too.

Homeownership provides safety

If it wasn’t obvious before, then it became clear during our months of self-isolation. Homeownership provides safety. As we sheltered in place, most of us could see how having a home helped to protect us from the worst of the pandemic. And the CARES Act enacted by the federal government helped to ensure that homeowners could stay in their homes during the worst of the crisis. Homeowners with loans backed by the federal government could take advantage of forbearance plans, allowing them payment relief for up to a year. Unfortunately, renters did not have the same protection, and many have faced eviction as a result of job losses and decreased income.

Our homes are the center of our lives

While our homes have often been thought of as our sanctuaries, they have truly become the center of our lives. Millions have begun working from home, and some may be telecommuting permanently as a result. Our homes have also become our schools, with millions of school-age children now attending classes from their kitchen tables or bedroom desks. The homes we live in reflect who we are, and they are a source of pride, accomplishment, and peace of mind.

Homeownership is attainable

Don’t let the pandemic scare you away from your dreams of homeownership, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. There are many programs available to help you achieve your dream of buying a home. This includes loan programs with low or no down payments, such as FHA loans, VA loans, and USDA loans. And it’s safer than ever to navigate the buying process, with many of the steps moving online, including closing. Talk to a professional real estate agent today to find out what options are available to you!

Compliments of Virtual Results

Keep Your Swimming Pool Safe From Coronavirus

By Aaron Jay

With swimming pool season upon us, you may be wondering how the coronavirus will affect your ability to enjoy a cool dip on a hot summer’s day. We know that the virus can last up to three days on some surfaces. But can it be transmitted in your pool? Are you and your family safe? Here’s what you need to know.

No evidence it spreads in water

First things first – the CDC has stated that there is no evidence the coronavirus can be spread through the water in pools or hot tubs. In addition, they say that the proper operation of pools and disinfecting the water with bromine or chlorine should kill the virus. Scientists concur that the virus can’t reproduce in water and that COVID-19 is not a water-borne illness.

Proper maintenance is important

The important thing to understand from the CDC’s statement is that proper pool maintenance is essential. You need to keep on top of regular maintenance if you own a pool or you’re selling a home with a pool. You should check both the chlorine and pH levels at least once a week, especially if you’re using the pool regularly. Of course, if you or anyone in your family is feeling sick, then you should avoid the pool completely.

Don’t just focus on the pool

In a residential pool, it’s not just the water that you should be focusing your attention on. You need to be sure to clean, disinfect, and sanitize the entire pool area. This means regularly sanitizing pool chairs and toys. Wash down the pool deck with chlorinated water. This is especially important in any area where puddles may form. In addition, wash all your pool towels after each use in hot water. And don’t use a pool towel that someone else has just been using. While the coronavirus does not spread in water, coming into contact with other surfaces around the pool can spread it.

Practice social distancing

If you’re planning on hosting friends or family that don’t live with you, then you should continue to practice social distancing while you’re in and around the pool. Keep the number of guests limited. Avoid coming within six feet of anyone that doesn’t live in your home. If you’re simply soaking in the pool and not going underwater, wear a facemask. Keep pool chairs and loungers six feet apart.

Good hygiene is a must

In addition to following all the advice given above, you and your guests need to practice proper hygiene. Anyone that will be getting into the pool should shower before swimming. Any contaminants that people bring into the pool on their bodies can use up the chlorine in the pool. This makes less chlorine available to kill bacteria and viruses like the coronavirus. You should also shower after you leave the pool, in case you’ve come into contact with the virus on any surfaces.

By using a little caution and regularly maintaining your pool, you can enjoy the water all summer long. In fact, if you’re planning to stay home as much as possible over the coming weeks, then your pool can become a real oasis and a great way to relax, recharge, stay fit, and entertain the kids.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Why Housing Prices Are Holding Steady During the Pandemic

By Aaron Jay

Over the past couple of months, we’ve watched as the pandemic has wreaked havoc on industries such as travel, tourism, and hospitality. Many have been left to wonder if the housing market would also suffer the consequences of the spread of the coronavirus. What may surprise you is that although the market has felt the effects of the pandemic, housing prices have not plummeted. Let’s take a closer look at what’s been happening.

housing prices pandemicInventory down, house values up

According to Zillow, the number of homes on the market has decreased by about 20 percent from this time last year. However, home values have risen by 4.3 percent and the average home is valued at more than $250,000. The National Association of Realtors has also reported that although home sales plunged in April, the price of homes increased.

Demand is high, but sellers are reluctant

Data supplied by Redfin suggests that demand is rising for homes and that right now, demand is outpacing supply. When the pandemic hit, many sellers across America decided to pull their listings or they are waiting to list until the worst of the crisis has passed us and markets have stabilized. The idea of having dozens of people in and out of their homes during a pandemic seemed too risky.

Activity picking back up in hard-hit areas

The pandemic did not hit all areas of the country equally. In those locations where infection rates were high and lockdowns strict, mortgage lock activity (where lenders and borrowers agree on the interest rate for a certain period of time) plunged between 15 and 50 percent in late March and April. Since then, activity has picked up, though, in hard-hit areas where the markets took the biggest hits, the rebound is slower.

Buyers returning at a faster rate than sellers

Though some buyers left the market in March in April because of job losses or income uncertainty, they are again returning to the market. In fact, buyers are returning to the market at a faster rate than sellers. This means inventory is falling, but the home prices are not.

History can guide us

While trying to predict the future in this kind of climate is tricky at best, we can look to history to see what may happen to the market in the coming weeks and months. During previous pandemics such as SARS, housing prices held steady while transaction volume plunged. It’s also important to remember that while even though housing prices plunged during the last economic downturn, we are not in the same situation. The housing market and the easy availability of credit were the main reasons for the Great Recession. Our situation today is much different. It is more difficult to qualify for the credit, and those who are buying homes are more likely to be in a position to afford them.

The federal government’s role

It’s also important to note that the decisive action of the government has also been responsible for the market’s stability. The CARES Act provides protections for those with federally backed mortgages. Lenders are not able to foreclose on a home until June 30 at the earliest, and homeowners can request forbearance for up to 360 days.

What happens next?

While experts can make educated guesses about what will happen in the coming months, much depends on what happens with the coronavirus. Some believe urbanites will decamp for the suburbs. Available treatments or vaccines can also affect the market. Some economists believe the market will bounce back quickly, while others think a rebound may take months or years. The only thing we can say for certain is that only time will tell.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Weekend Bedroom Makeover

By Virtual Results PubSub

With all the time you’ve recently spent at home, have you gotten a little tired of your décor? After looking at the same paint, the same art, and the same knick-knacks for the last few weeks, are you yearning for something different? The good news is you don’t have to invest a huge amount of time or money to makeover an area of your home. And one of the best places to start is arguably one of the rooms we all spend the most time in – the bedroom. Here are some tips to give your bedroom a makeover in just one weekend.

weekend bedroom makeoverRemove clutter

This first step is the most important step. Take a look around your bedroom. How much stuff is in there that doesn’t need to be? If you’re trying to create a peaceful oasis where you can get some quality sleep, then it’s time to edit. Are you storing anything in your bedroom that can be relocated? Is there anything in your room that makes it feel cramped or uncomfortable? Take it out. Is there a lamp that has never really quite worked in the room? Swap it out with a lamp from a different room. Also, think about what you really love in your bedroom. These are the items you want to keep in there and highlight – the ones that make you feel relaxed and recharged.

Rearrange

Now that you’ve edited down the contents of your bedroom so that it only contains the things you love, it’s time to take a critical look at the arrangement. Does the room work with the way you have the furniture currently arranged? If not, then it’s time to move things around. One rule of thumb to think about – it can be best to place your bed on the longest wall or the wall opposite the door and then position all the other pieces around it.

Add a coat of paint

What’s the biggest bang for you buck when it comes to making over your bedroom? Giving the walls a fresh coat of paint in a new color. Your choice of color can influence your mood. Think about how you want your bedroom to feel. Would you like it to be glamorous? Then go with a darker color, like dark blue or dark grey. Would you prefer it to feel light and cheerful? Then choose a soft yellow or green. You can easily paint the walls in one weekend on your own. If the thought of painting seems like a big job, then limit it to one accent wall, typically the one where you position the bed. Even painting just one wall can make a big difference.

Update your bedding and accessorize

Finally, take a look at your bed. New sheets and a comforter can seriously update the look of the room and make you feel refreshed. Browse online at retailers like Target or Amazon to find just the right style for you. It’s also time to add back in all those accessories that you love and decided to keep in your room, including mementos from your travels, framed photos of loved ones, or a pretty dish for corralling your jewelry.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Considering a Move to the Suburbs?

By Virtual Results PubSub

Millions of Americans in large cities have spent the last couple of months cooped up in small apartments while they wait out the pandemic. It’s always been tough to make the most of a small space. But when you don’t have the option to leave, the small space can start to feel claustrophobic quickly. According to a recent Harris Poll survey, almost one-third of Americans are thinking about moving to less densely populated areas because of the pandemic. If you’re one of those people, then here’s what you should ask yourself.

Does the suburban lifestyle fit my needs?

While it’s understandable to want more space after enduring months of living in close quarters, you should consider whether a suburban lifestyle fits your needs. The suburbs can be a major change of pace for urbanites that are used to having everything they need close by and available 24/7. Research the towns where you might consider moving and visit them to see what the vibe is like. Spend time in the stores, restaurants, and parks that would become home for you. Talk to the locals. Get a feel for the place before making a major decision.

How will it change my work life?

Another thing to consider is how moving to the suburbs would change your working life. Would you need to get a new job? If so, are there opportunities in the area for someone with your skillset? If you’ll be keeping your current job, then what would your commute be like? Remember – studies show that your commute time influences your happiness levels. The longer your commute, the more unhappy you will likely be. Will you be able to permanently work from home? If so, then you’ll need space for a home office. Keep in mind that working from home in the suburbs can be more isolating than working from home in the city, where distractions of all shapes and colors are right outside your door.

Will I need to buy a car?

Most city dwellers don’t need cars in order to get around. In dense urban centers, public transportation is available on virtually every corner. That may not be the case in the suburbs. Would you need to live near a train line so you can get to work more easily? Or will you need to purchase a car? How far away are amenities like grocery stores? Think about the added cost of owning a car when making your decision about moving out of the city. You’ll not only need to pay for the car itself, but you’ll need to factor in insurance costs, gas, maintenance, and parking fees.

How are the schools?

Finally, be sure to research the schools in the area before making your decision. If you have school-age children at home, then you’ll obviously want to move to a neighborhood that has a good school district. How well will your kids transition to a new school? If you don’t have kids, then it’s still important to look at the quality of the school district. Homes that are located in good school districts typically sell for more money down the line.

Compliments of Virtual Results