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Serving South Florida

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For over 30 years

coronavirus

Housing and Interior Design Trends for 2021

Accessory dwelling Unit

Accessory dwelling Unit

Design trends for 2021 include multi-zone kitchens, upgraded lighting, and oversized rectangle tiles according to home design website Houzz. The online resource recently released the following trends it expects to get hotter in 2021 as well as other home design sources.

Sconce lighting. Interest is growing in swing-arm and other sconce fixtures. Besides adding to decor, sconces have the benefit of adding task lighting around a sink or range

The multi-zone kitchen. Kitchens traditionally use a three-zone “work triangle” setup with a connection between the fridge, sink, and range, Houzz notes. More homeowners are adding touch points and creating additional work zones. Houzz refers to the trend as a “work trapezoid,” which might include dedicated areas for baking, prepping and chopping, or separate stations for snacks, drinks, and homework.

Rejuvenating bathroom design. Bathrooms are being designed to help reduce stress. Forty-one percent of homeowners who have undergone a bathroom renovation say they wanted their new space to evoke more of a relaxing vibe and adding steam showers, aromatherapy shower heads, and bathtub fillers that can hold a cup of tea or glass of wine.

Oversized rectangle tile. Large rectangular tiles can help visually expand a small space, and fewer grout lines means less cleaning. Houzz says the larger tiles are being used in several classic patterns, such as herringbone, stacked, and brick. Houzz designers recommend using a matte finish on bathroom floor tiles to reduce slipperiness.

Browns and beiges return. “Warm taupes, beiges, sands—basically any earth tone is surging in popularity,” Houzz notes. “Some designers say the trend is an evolution from popular whites and grays of recent years and that brown as an accent color works well to bring warmth to a palette heavy with those colors.”

Home offices and nooks. Homeowners are creating efficient spaces for offices, work nooks, and even backyard cottages as remote work grows and likely remains elevated in 2021.

Video conference-worthy backgrounds. Homeowners are feeling the need to have an aesthetically pleasing background for their video meetings and are even converting living rooms into video conferencing rooms with large screens and improved lighting and audio equipment.

Open floor plan scrutiny. “Perhaps no other design element was put under the microscope this year more than the open plan,” Houzz reports. “Anyone who had multiple family members attempting concurring video meetings in an open layout quickly saw the disadvantages to a lack of walls.” While this trendy floor plan isn’t likely to go away, many homeowners are considering sliding doors or partitions that can close off rooms for privacy.

Pergolas. To extend usable living space, homeowners are turning their attention to the outdoors.  These structures can add shade for dining, lounging, and other outdoor activities.

Backyard cottages and ADUs. For more privacy, some homeowners are adding a dedicated area to their backyard that’s separate from their main home. Accessory Dwelling Units ( ADU) are standalone structures are used as home offices, gyms, meditation areas, or extended living spaces to house relatives or kids who had to stay home from college due to the pandemic. No need for an architect, there are numerous sources that offer pre-fabircated sheds for multiple purposes from gardening to “sanity sheds”.

New multifamily amenities. With gyms, pools, and communal kitchens in multifamily buildings now periodically closing to keep residents safe, new spaces—indoors and outdoors—are emerging that are designed for fewer occupants such as

  • Quarantine stations. These designed rooms permit people who test positive for COVID-19 (but don’t need a hospital) to recuperate and avoid infecting family or neighbors.
  • Recording studios. There’s rising demand for studios that supports residents’ musical pursuits, podcasts, and videoconferencing.
  • Bicyclists’ havens. Whether it’s bike lockers or a bike-share program, multifamily experts expect this trend to accelerate due to the pandemic and communities reducing on-site parking.

Resilient landscapes.  Due to greater weather volatility, landscaping needs to better handle heavy rains and flooding, snowstorms, and drought. Multifamily waterfront communities are being designed or retrofitted with strategic landscaping and elevated public use area to address shifting shorelines and storm surges.

Health-minded building certifications.  The latest generation of certifications, rating systems, and design standards is based on scientific and medical research that affects human and occupant health such as programs like the WELL Building Standard, from the International WELL Building Institute, and Fitwel, according to the BuildingGreen site. Both suggest ways to gain a variety of benefits, from extensive natural daylight to good indoor air quality, filtration, and low energy use. Unlike LEED, these programs consider emotional wellness, too, which translates into greenery, gardens, and other biophilic design elements.

There are plenty of reasons to look forward to 2021, especially when it comes to the home design. After a year that guided many of us to spend more time at home,  the new year is an opportunity to bring comfort and creativity to our living spaces.

Stocking the Freezer During to Prepare for a Lock Down

Stock Freezer

 

Stock Freezer

As the coronavirus spreads, people across the world are preparing for the possibility of forced quarantines, and shutdowns of businesses and services. Keeping fruits, vegies and meats stocked in your refrigerator is not a practical idea if you are going to be in a mandatory lockdown or just want to limit your trips to the store for your own personal safety.

Freezing can extend the shelf-life of a huge variety of foods. You can stock up on frozen items right from the store, but if supplies are running low, it’s just as good to pop your own perishables in the freezer.

Berries, mango, peaches, cherries freeze well, as do bananas. They can all make for a convenient smoothie or, slightly thawed, a sweet treat. For veggies: corn, peas, and green beans, spinach, peppers, and onions are all good options. Avocados can also be frozen in chunks when they’re ready to eat. The key is to freeze things before they start to get overly ripe.

A lot of prepared foods are perfect for freezing, such as sliced bread, soups, lasagna, grilled chicken breast, sandwich meat and cooked rice — so consider cooking big dishes that can be portioned into single servings to freeze, then eat on the go. Not just cooked meat, but any raw meat, including chicken pieces, ground beef, steak, bacon and pork can all be thrown into the freezer and thawed to cook at a later date. Many people don’t think to freeze items like milk, cream, or yogurt, because the consistency of these items can change dramatically when frozen. However, they’ll keep longer, and can be used in sauces, soups and other recipes where the texture won’t matter.

Avoid freezer burn

Always freeze food once it has cooled down, not while it’s still hot. Make sure you get as much air out of your storage container as possible and seal tightly to prevent air from getting in and causing freezer burn.

If you are freezing leftovers, wrap them in foil first for extra protection before putting them into a zip-top plastic bag. A vacuum sealer to suck all the air out helps food last just a little bit longer.

Organize your freezer space

You should have a variety of foods in your freezer.  Label foods and date them so that you can use the first in, first out system of consumption.

Freeze in appropriate portions. Consider what one serving would be like and freeze in portions that make sense for your use. If you are cooking for a family or a friend’s family, adjust sizes accordingly.

Make an extra batch of whatever you cook for a freezer meal. If you are making meatballs or lasagna, it’s much easier to double the recipe than to have to make it again just to freeze. Eat one now and freeze one for later.

Soups and chilis freeze very well and heat up quickly. Freeze a portion or two each time you make soup and you’ll have a great variety later on.

Don’t discount breakfast. Muffins, breakfast burritos, even banana bread (just slice before freezing) make great additions to the freezer.

A little treat. Cookie dough can often be frozen, and you’ll be able to throw a fresh batch of cookies into the oven quickly.

 

 

What We Need From A Home During COVID-19 Pandemic

Home Buying and COVID-19
Home Buying and COVID-19
It is safe to assume that COVID-19 or other lethal viruses are going to be a part of our lives for years to come. Homes, businesses, schools, travel entertainment and more will all have to adapt for keep people safe and productive. The one area that we all can control is where we live. Our homes are increasingly becoming our refuge, work place, school, and sources of entertainment. Our needs have changed as well as the stresses in our lives and our homes should be an area that provides us with restorative releases from the stresses that living with a pandemic produces.
Our needs are tied to our emotions, which are themselves influenced by our surroundings. The pandemic we’re living through has intensified certain emotions and shaken up our priorities. Emotional needs are translating into new demands on our interiors and how good design can help address the new challenges.
Multipurpose Rooms:
Home isn’t just home anymore. With the pandemic and lock down, it has become an office, a school, a gym, a play area, a restaurant, a dormitory and a place to retreat and relax. Hybrid designs, detachable units and convertible pieces are the keys to creating a home suited to the “new normal.”
Rooms that can be closed off for offices, playrooms, and individual spaces are helping homeowners better manage playtime for the kids, conference calls for work, and peaceful alone time
Sanitation and Disinfection:
Before COVID-19 there was already a growing awareness of the importance of healthy air, but today it has really become a priority as we spend more and more time at home. Homeowners are looking for all possible means to improve indoor air quality: furniture that doesn’t emit VOCs or other pollutants, sensors that monitor air quality and air-purifying treatments.
 In order to keep homes safe and clean, entryways will become clearly defined transitional spaces where one can remove their shoes, hang their jackets and sanitize their hands before entering.
There is a new emphasis on contact-less ways of stopping germs from multiplying on certain surfaces or limiting their proliferation in the home. This includes solutions for disinfecting clothing, such as with disinfecting wardrobes; antimicrobial products and fabrics for children and bedding; soaps that change color when you’ve washed your hands long enough; and self-disinfecting features such as door handles.
There are few materials that we can use that are more sterile than others, and will be used even more in the future of design.
  • Metals such as copper, brasses, and bronzes are natural antimicrobial materials that have intrinsic properties to destroy a wide range of microorganisms. Not only are these metals hygienic, but they are great accents to warm up your home.
  • Quartz is one of the hardest non-precious stones on earth, therefore countertops made from quartz are hard, stain and scratch-resistant, and the most sanitary. Quartz is already popular, and that will only increase post COVID-19.
  • Woods like bamboo, oak and cork stop bacteria and microorganisms from growing. We love the look of warm lighter oak woods for flooring, and think this will continue to be a big trend in home design.
Restful Environments and Wellness:
Our homes have also become our refuges, a place to rest and recharge our batteries.Responding to this need are products that ensure high-quality sleep, helping us process our daily emotions and protecting our immune systems, such as sleep and breathing monitors and sound insulation. It also means keeping bedrooms areas for rest and finding other areas in the home for work and school.
Going to gyms and fitness class outside the home are no longer safe options. This search for well-being also includes physical activity at home, with a focus on equipment and furniture resilient enough to withstand daily use, including stain-resistant, waterproof, warming and anti-odor products that can be used for exercise.
Closed off Spaces:
Now that people are having to live, work and play all in the same confined space the need for sound proofing and privacy has grown. There are a large percentage of people who may never return to a full time office environment and home offices are a mandate now instead of an afterthought. There will be a rising need for functional private offices to be an integral part of the home.
the benefits of making your office space aesthetically appealing —something that often comes second to function. “Whatever your home office space is, make it beautiful. Face something beautiful,” she said. “I like to face into the room, or you could look out of a window. Have a comfortable desk chair — spend money on that; it’s where you sit every day.”
Outdoor Space:
Since the onset of the pandemic, our appreciation of the outdoors and nature seems to have greatly increased. The act of simply going for a walk or sitting in a park has been a monumental source of reprieve. However, in the midst of a lock-down scenario, these activities don’t guarantee safety and aren’t universally accessible.
As a result, the demand for home designers to provide private outdoor spaces for every type of home looks set to increase. It will be up to architects to work out how to integrate the outdoors into even the most compact of homes, experimenting with roof gardens, micro backyards, porches and balconies. People may also seek a closer connection between their living spaces and the natural world, with folding glass doors merging these two zones together.
Tech Infrastructure:
Designers anticipate not only an increased need for smart home technology, but also a need for that technology to be touch-less, in order to reduce the spread of microbes.
“Automation will no longer be an indulgence but will help keep people safe,” MacEwen says. “As the memory of the pandemic fades, I do think the ‘best practice’ for hygiene will remain and change the way we interact in the world and what we expect from our home.”
In the end, whatever becomes of the changes to home design as a result of COVID remains to be seen. The question for housing is how might we create spaces that adapt flexibly for how people want to live, and where they can see and touch hygiene in new ways and feel safe as a result.

Keeping Home Buyers Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic

Home Buying and COVID-19
Home Buying and COVID-19

 

How I Keep Buyers Safe During The COVID-19 Pandemic:

 

Buying a home is never a simple undertaking. Even at the best of times, house hunting comes with lots of built-in stressors, from mortgage approvals to bidding wars and beyond. But house-hunting during the corona-virus pandemic? That changes the game entirely.

Although it’s a scary time to be out and about checking out real estate, it is still possible to do so and stay relatively safe. The industry has rapidly adapted, introducing approaches that minimize exposure to the virus.

A trusted Exclusive Buyers Agent is always a key ingredient in a successful home-buying experience. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this asset is absolutely non-negotiable.

Virtual Showings:
Many agents are now working remotely and conducting most of their business virtually. Instead of Open Houses, just ask me to provide you with a Virtual Tour of the property using Facebook, Skype or WeChat. Also remember that listing pictures may not tell the whole story. Special camera lenses and creative angles often make rooms appear larger than they actually are. Look out for potentially distorted pictures (which often have angles that curve somewhat) and learn to take such shots with a grain of salt. Listing agents only take photos of the positive aspects of the home. I will review the entire home with you and provide you with a constructive and truthful assessment of the condition , location and if it meets your needs.

Home Tours:
If you want to tour a property, I can provide you with masks, hand sanitizers and shoe covers. During the tour, it’s also now customary me to open all doors, so that home buyers can explore closets and other enclosed spaces without touching anything as they look.

If you do make an offer that’s accepted and you head to the closing table, real estate agents and attorneys are also adapting to remote closings.

Remote Mortgage Approval
One smart way to stay safe right now is to work with a loan officer who is set up to work remotely. Most lenders have already made the entire mortgage process digital. There is no need for you to meet a lender or show up at a closing table any longer.

Remote Home Inspections
I am offering clients the option of doing a remote inspection, where I am with the inspector in the property alone and review the findings with Buyers virtually. The Inspector and I walk you through the home’s deficiencies and operations in advance of sending you a formal report.

Virtual Home Appraisals
Home appraisals required by a lender generally include a site visit, which is not possible in some parts of the country where this is not considered an essential service. Luckily, appraisals pertain only to those getting loans, so cash buyers can skip this process entirely. But if you are getting a mortgage, fear not, virtual appraisals are generally accepted by most lenders today.

Remote Home Closings
In-person home closings—where all parties come together to sign contracts, swap keys, and shake hands—are, for the most part, not happening right now. Mobile closers are going to the Buyers for the final execution of documents. They are practicing safe social distance practices and there is no “closing table” any longer. Keys will be brought to you personally or couriered.

There is no limit the the services and adaptability that Optima Properties offers its clients…..we are currently assisting in the lot selection, model selection, and construction of a home virtutally for several clients who will not see their new home until the day they move in.

 

Life After COVID-19? How Interior Design will Change

Covid Interior Design Trends for Homes
Covid Interior Design Trends for Homes
Spending months in quarantine has already dramatically impacted design, with new trends that will undoubtedly continue to resonate well into 2021 and beyond. The future of interior design will reflect the reality of a world that has been forever changed by incorporating cleanliness and materials to help to mitigate the spread of disease, floor plans that provide separate spaces for home-bound activities, and a focus on personal well-being.
Nature-starved homeowners have been craving what they’ve been denied of late, so expect to see an increased number of plants and lush indoor gardens, earth-toned color schemes, outdoor-style interior flooring, and even the occasional attached greenhouse.
Residences will no longer have a home office, but an office at home. Significant reconsideration of how we can create a beautiful, functional office at home will be designed and set up to accommodate full time satellite workplaces.
If you’re doing your part and social distancing from inside your home, you may start to notice small details of your house or apartment you hadn’t thought about before – like how to help keep your home as clean as possible during the corona virus outbreak. There are few materials that we can use that are more sterile than others and will be used even more in the future of design.
        • Metals such as copper, brasses, and bronzes are natural antimicrobial materials that have intrinsic properties to destroy a wide range of microorganisms. Not only are these metals hygienic, but they are great accents to warm up your home.
        • A separate “casita” or guest house suite can be useful for isolating someone that may be ill, or to provide more distance and privacy for guests.
        •  Office spaces and study areas are more necessary than ever. As more of us work (and learn) from home, a dedicated office and space for studying is essential. Many of us quickly had to convert areas and rooms to our own home offices – showing us the importance of a separate space. Homes with multiple areas for getting work done – offices, libraries, and study areas – will be even more popular in design.
        • Multiple areas for activities and entertainment, such as home gyms, media rooms, and game rooms will be necessary to keep everyone entertained. During this pandemic, we have found ourselves with a lot of time on our hands, so whether it’s a family game night or a workout, the need for a space for everyone at home has only increased.
        • There’s no doubt that the future of kitchen design will look different in a post COVID 19 world. First, we have been forced to alter the way we shop, store, and prepare food. Second, we have more time at home to get organized, tackle lingering projects, and sanitize our homes. Finally, we have had to change the way we interact and socialize with family, friends, and colleagues. More long term storage and larger freezer capacity are in demand. New kitchens will be designed with cleanability in mind. Low maintenance cabinet finishes, faucets, tile, and fixtures will be a top priority. Quartz is one of the hardest non-precious stones on earth, therefore countertops made from quartz are hard, stain and scratch-resistant, and the most sanitary.

Our living spaces greatly influence our physical health – as well as our emotional state of mind (especially during his time). So it will continue to be important to create environments that stimulate our senses in a good way, improve relaxation, and have health and wellness benefits to the people using them. Here are a few ways of living that will be popular.

  • Bringing in nature will be emphasized in many different ways. From larger windows with views outside and using colors that reflect the natural world. Having lots of greenery in a home is also an obvious and easy stimulant to our overall wellbeing (along with lots of health benefits).
  • An increase in organization. Being quarantined at home makes us realize what is really necessary. Clutter can cause anxiety and discomfort – feelings that are more unwanted than ever. Organization will be emphasized, through de-cluttering, smart storage, and built-in shelving and spaces for keeping items organized in smaller spaces.
  • A sense of security and calm will definitely be present in interiors. When the world is full of uncertainty, having a space that feels like an escape from the outside world, with soft and cozy materials, light colors and relaxing vibes, will be a prerequisite of design.

When it comes to colors this year, we’re seeing the return of earth tones in a wide spectrum, from cream to terra cotta.  Expect to see decor that conveys softness, with plenty of light colors, especially pinks, beiges and other neutral tones, for a Zen look promoting rest, tranquility and well-being.

Nature continues its influential role in the world of decor. Vegetal hues have been in the spotlight for several seasons now, and this year we saw a lot of them, ranging from tender green to intense mint to peacock blue. Sky blue has brightened up the pastel palette.

Earth tones aren’t the only trend with staying power of late. While black is becoming less popular, blue has been replacing it. It’s a more versatile and emotionally indulgent hue well suited to sheltering at home.

Emergency Supplies for Quarantine or Hurricane

Emergency Supplies

Emergency Supplies

Emergency Supplies that you can buy now and be prepared for any emergency in the next few months.  COVID-19 cases are increasing and there may be a need for you to self-quarantine for a period of weeks. We are also in the summer months frequently occurring natural disasters—a flood, hurricane, tornado, fires, and more—and they often come with little or no warning.  There are already known shortages of items in the stores and with the onset of a hurricane warming the shelves will soon be bare. Stocking up now on the right non-perishable food items will help you weather the storm (or global pandemic) with less stress knowing that you have these emergency supplies on hand for now or later.

What to Always Keep in Your Pantry

These non-perishable food items (or close to it) have lengthy expiration dates, so you can stash them away for long periods of time, even if it’s not hurricane season or tornado season. Make a list of everything in your stockpile and check expiration dates every 6 to 12 months to keep things fresh. And don’t forget to have a MANUAL can opener on hand at all times—all that food won’t be of any use if you can’t open it.

Peanut butter: A great source of energy, peanut butter is chock-full of healthful fats and protein. Unless the jar indicates otherwise, you don’t have to refrigerate after opening.

Whole-wheat crackers: Crackers are a good replacement for bread and make a fine substitute when making sandwiches.

Nuts and trail mixes; Stock up on these high-energy foods—they’re healthful and convenient for snacking during a hurricane, tornado, or other emergency.

Cereal;Choose multigrain cereals that are individually packaged so they don’t become stale after opening.

Granola bars and power bars;Healthy and filling, these portable snacks usually stay fresh for at least six months.

Dried fruits, such as apricots and raisins;In the absence of fresh fruit, these healthy snacks offer potassium and dietary fiber.

Canned tuna, salmon, chicken, or turkey;Generally lasting at least two years in the pantry, canned meats provide essential protein. Vacuum-packed pouches have a shorter shelf life but will last at least six months.

Canned vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, and peas;When the real deal isn’t an option, canned varieties can provide you with essential nutrients, making these a great hurricane food or natural disaster

Canned soups and chili; Soups and chili can be eaten straight out of the can and provide a variety of nutrients. Look for low-sodium options.

Dry pasta and pasta sauces; It might be a carb-heavy, gluten-full food, but pasta is filling, and dry pasta and jarred sauce can last on pantry shelves for months

Bottled water; You need at least one gallon per person per day. “A normally active person should drink at least a half gallon of water each day,” Andress says. “The other half gallon is for adding to food and washing.”

Sports drinks;The electrolytes and carbohydrates in these drinks will help you rehydrate and replenish fluid when water is scarce. Just make sure your sports drink of choice doesn’t come with too many additives, such as sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Powdered milk or Boxed milk; Almost all dairy products require refrigeration, so stock this substitute for an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D when fresh milk isn’t an option.

Sugar, salt, and pepper;If you have access to a propane or charcoal stove, you may be doing some cooking. A basic supply of seasonings and sweeteners will improve the flavor of your food, both fresh and packaged.

Multivitamins;Supplements will help replace the nutrients you would have consumed on a normal diet.

 

What to Buy Right Before an Emergency

If you’ve been given ample warning that a storm is coming, there’s still time to run to the market and pick up more hurricane food: fresh produce and other items that have shorter shelf lives. Most of these foods will last at least a week after they’ve been purchased and will give you a fresh alternative to all that packaged food..

Apples;Apples last up to three months when stored in a cool, dry area away from more perishable fruits (like bananas), which could cause them to ripen more quickly.

Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits;Because of their high acid content and sturdy skins, citrus fruits can last for up to two weeks without refrigeration

Avocados;If you buy an unripe, firm avocado, it will last outside the refrigerator for at least a week.

Tomatoes;If you buy them unripe, tomatoes will last several days at room temperature.

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams;If you have access to a working stove, these root vegetables are good keepers and make tasty side dishes. Stored in a cool, dark area, potatoes will last about a month.

Cucumbers and summer squash;These vegetables will last a few days outside of refrigeration and can be eaten raw.

Winter squash:While most are inedible uncooked, winter squashes, such as acorn squash, will keep for a few months. If you’ll be able to cook during the emergency, stockpile a bunch.

Hard, packaged sausages, such as sopressata and pepperoni; You can’t eat canned tuna and chicken forever. Try stocking up on a few packages of dry-cured salamis such as sopressata, a southern Italian specialty available at most grocery stores. Unopened, they will keep for up to six weeks in the pantry.

 

Non-grocery Items:

Within the two-week limit, make sure you have enough toothpaste, floss, face wash, moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, razors, shaving cream and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. It’s also good to have extra laundry detergent and hand soap at home. Stock up on face masks, hand sanitizers, toilet paper

 

More Food Advice for an Emergency:

  • If the electricity goes out, how do you know what is and isn’t safe to eat from the refrigerator? If your food has spent more than four hours over 40º Fahrenheit, don’t eat it.
  • If you don’t have electricity, you may still be able to cook or heat your food. If you have outdoor access, a charcoal grill or propane stove is a viable option
  • If your family has special needs—for example, you take medication regularly or you have a small child—remember to stock up on those essential items, too. Keep an extra stash of baby formula and jars of baby food or a backup supply of your medications.
  • If you live in an area at high risk for flooding, consider buying all your pantry items in cans, as they are less likely to be contaminated by flood waters than jars.

 

 

 

Should You Refinance During The COVID-19 Situation?

Covid-19 and Refi

Covid-19 and Refi

Rates are lower than ever; when a refinancing is done right, it can save you thousands of dollars. But not every potential refi makes the cut. Sometimes the expenses just don’t justify the potential savings.

It is time to refinance your home mortgage if the terms lower your mortgage interest rate, pay off their mortgage years earlier, or saves thousands in interest over the life of the loan. You can save serious money by refinancing your mortgage. But due to refinancing fees and expenses, not every refi makes financial sense.

COVID-19 is creating changes with lenders and how they are doing business. This is resulting in refinancing taking longer and getting stricter than it has been in the past. Although the mortgage process is considered essential as a financial transaction, depending on where you live, there may be changes related to COVID-19  involving your appraisal, rate lock and closing process.

Rates are quite low and because your home is your biggest financial investment, the equity can be very useful as a resource in times of trouble. But if you’re thinking of financing your home loan there are several steps you should take to make sure that it’s the right move for you.

How Long Do You Plan On Being In Your Home?

Being able to answer this question will help you figure out the term length you want on any refinanced mortgage; but there’s another reason asking this question …

If you plan on moving within the next 5 – 10 years, it could be worth your while to look at an adjustable rate mortgage ( ARM).  You get a lower rate initially with an ARM because the rate can adjust after the teaser period. But if you move before the end of the fixed-rate time frame, you don’t have to worry about whether the rate is going up and down in the end. Additionally, your payment will tend to be lower because most adjustable rate mortgages are based on 30-year terms.

Age Of Current Loan

The age of your current loan sometimes plays a role in whether you can refinance. Even if you can refinance, it does not always make sense.  When you refinance you have to pay closing costs.  If you are not planning on staying in the house past the breakeven point when the savings and the additional expenses paid starts to net to overall reduced costs for home ownership, the it is not the time to refinance.  You may want to accelerate buying a new home to realize the saving from lower interest rates.

Plans For Monthly Savings

If you determine that you’re going to save money by refinancing based on the rate and term you can get, make sure that you have a plan for what you’re going to do with the monthly savings in order to put yourself in a better financial position. No one knows exactly when COVID-19 is going to end and how long it will take for the economy to recover. If you can save money now, you can work on establishing the savings need should the vaccine be delayed or we continue with a longer recession

You could use your savings to build up an emergency fund. Maybe you choose to allow yourself to save money in the future by paying off high-interest debt now. You can also use this to catch up on saving for retirement if you stopped contributing temporarily while dealing with the situation caused by the virus.

It’s a very volatile market right now, so we advise all of our clients to rely on the advice of their Home Loan Expert and Financial Advisors at all times.

The Mortgage Refi Process

Approving a mortgage is a complicated process, one that requires a lender to validate a borrower’s income, check the value of the home being used as collateral and scrutinize the title history of the property.

Just as refinancing applications picked up, the coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed the way everyone in the mortgage industry works. Loan officers no longer go to the office. Appraisers stopped walking through houses. And no one gathers around the title company’s closing table. The process is a little slower because everybody’s working from home right now. Things that would take an hour to do are taking a day sometimes.

It is more difficult to verify a borrower’s employment. A task once dispatched with a quick call to the borrower’s human resources department now means leaving a voicemail and waiting a day or two for a response.

Meanwhile, homeowners looking to refinance may have to get in line behind buyers who need a mortgage so they can close on a house which are a priority with lenders.

The mortgage industry already had been digitizing, and lenders quickly adapted to many changes. One stumbling block, though, is that most lenders still require some documents to be signed in the presence of a legal witness and notarized.  Florida allows for mobile notaries and they are busier than ever.

Sometimes, documents are being signed remotely and online and mobile notaries are not allowed yet.  You need to allow time for in person notarization and overnight mailing of documents.  Digital closings may be the way of the future, but we are not there yet.

What You Can Do to Secure a Smooth Refinance

Here are a few ways you can make the refi process as smooth as possible:

— Get your paperwork in order. Don’t let something simple like a missing document delay your refinance. Collect PDFs of financial documents, including pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns and retirement accounts.

— Make sure the lender will honor your rate lock. In normal times, lenders extend rate locks for 30 to 60 days, meaning you won’t have to pay more if rates go up before your loan closes. These aren’t normal times, though, and many refinances aren’t closing within 30 to 60 days, so make sure your lender is willing to extend your rate lock if your deal is delayed.

— Keep your credit score tight. Now isn’t the time to miss a payment, take on new debt or otherwise do anything to lower your credit score. Lenders are being especially strict about borrowers’ credit histories.

 

COVID-19: Weighing the Risks of Going Out

COVID-19 Risk Chart
COVID-19 Risk Chart

Since COVID-19  lock downs began in the US, most Americans have drastically changed their patterns: following instructions to stay home, limiting almost all contact with others, and venturing out only for essential trips and exercise. Americans are getting tired of staying inside. All states have re-opened at different levels. As states begin to ease social distancing restrictions, people are beginning to have more options. Between those wanting to patronize newly reopened businesses or socialize in person, and more employers calling people back to work.

The safest thing anyone can do in the middle of the Covid-19 outbreak is still the same as it was a few months ago: Stay home as much as possible to avoid catching or spreading the virus until there is a vaccine or effective treatment, or until the pandemic otherwise ends. That especially applies to people who are sick, who should do all they can to avoid exposing others to the coronavirus.

But for many people, it’s really not clear which kinds of gatherings are safe and which aren’t. And that uncertainty can spark anxiety. Fortunately, health experts know more about the COVID-19 than they did when the lock downs began, and they can point us to different levels of risk as we begin to reengage. First and foremost, the advice that has been repeated for much of the past few months remains true: Your home is still the safest place to be during this pandemic. You should continue trying to stay home as much as possible, because the virus is still circulating at a very high rate in many communities. But whether you need to for work or you’re simply tired of looking at your home’s walls, there are ways to mitigate risk when you go out.

if you want to do something outside your home, it’s better to take advantage of the fresh air and do it outdoors rather than indoors when possible. If you want to meet with certain friends or family, consider a pact with them in which you’ll both agree to minimize or eliminate contact with anyone else, to reduce overall exposure for everyone involved.

The most important thing: Avoid indoor spaces that bring you within 6 feet of people from outside your household for long periods. “It is about density. It is about duration of contact,” according to Cyrus Shahpar, a director at Resolve to Save Lives. So if you’re having friends over, consider hanging out outside (and keep it to a small group). If you want to eat at a restaurant, look for outdoor seating. If you’re going for a run, go to the park, beach, or streets instead of the gym.

After some mixed messaging from federal officials early on in the COVID-19 outbreak, there is widespread consensus that people should wear masks when they go out — a surgical or medical mask if they have one, a cloth one if they don’t.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.” But other experts — and, in some cases, government mandates — go further, saying you should wear a mask in just about any setting outside your home as long as the pandemic continues.

The primary reason for a mask is to stop transmission from the wearer to others, particularly from people who are infected but asymptomatic and therefore might not even know they’re infected. If you wear a mask, you’re less likely to spray virus-containing droplets on surfaces or other people when you breathe, talk, sing, laugh, sigh, snort, cough, sneeze, and whatever else you might do with your mouth and nose.

One of the common pieces of advice throughout this pandemic has been to keep 6 feet or more away from people you don’t live with, summarized by the catchy slogan “6 feet distance determines our existence.” The closer you are to someone, the likelier they are to shed their coronavirus all over you, and vice versa.

Whether you’re leaving your home because you have to for food or work, or you’re going out because you can’t stand the sight of your apartment anymore, one way to minimize risk is to space out all your trips.

With every venture outside, you are putting yourself at risk of contracting COVID-19 in a world that’s still engulfed by a pandemic.

ALWAYS wash your hands frequently, and don’t touch your face. If you’re going to frequently venture far outside your home, that advice is especially pertinent. Take hand sanitizer to use religiously and wear gloves whenever possible.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Home Whenever Possible

Household Pets and COVID-19

Pets and Covid-19

Pets and Covid-19

 

Pets are an important part of our family, and one of the bright spots in the stay-at-home mandates due to COVID-19  is that we get to spend more time with them. The pets of the world are probably delighted with that aspect of the current crisis.

Understandably, many owners have questions about their pet’s susceptibility to COVID-19 and how it might affect their personal health. Just as medical experts are learning more each day about how the new coronavirus, COVID-19, impacts the health of humans, they’re also studying its effects on animals. And what they’ve discovered is that although the virus primarily spreads from person to person, it can spread from people to pets in some situations.

A small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, have tested positive for COVID-19, “mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.

Cats appear to be the most susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 and can even develop symptoms of the disease, preliminary studies show. They also seem to be able to spread the virus to other cats. (Laboratory studies have found that ferrets and golden or Syrian hamsters can spread the infection to other animals of the same species as well.)

How to protect your pets

Keeping your four-legged family members safe during the coronavirus pandemic looks a lot like how you might go about protecting the humans in your family. Physical Distancing is a key preventative measure. Public health experts recommend keeping your pet away from other people and animals outside the household.

Avoid dog parks and public spaces where dogs gather to play, and when on walks, keep your dog at least 6 feet from other people and animals. Cats should be kept indoors when possible to limit their interaction with other people and pets, the CDC advises. While you spend more time at home, try to dedicate more time to playing with your dog or cat. It’s a great time to bond, teach them new tricks or focus on behavior training.

If you or someone in your family is sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pets — this includes petting, snuggling and smooching. If possible, have another member of your household care for your pet while you are sick, the CDC says. Also: Be sure to wear a cloth face covering if and when you are around your pet, and don’t forget to wash your hands before and after touching any animal. This helps to keep you and your pet healthy.

Here are some key actions you can take to prepare and help ensure the safety and care of your pets in case you get sick:

  • Identify a trusted person to care for your pet if you become ill or are hospitalized.
  • Make sure your pets all have proper identification. Ensure microchip information is up to date in case you and your pet are separated.
  • Keep a crate, food and extra supplies on hand.
  • Document all medications with dosages and administering instructions.
  • Keep at least one month of food and medications on hand.
  • Ensure that your pet is up to date on all of their vaccinations

If you are concerned that your pet has been exposed to the coronavirus, contact your veterinarian. Just like with people, it’s better to call first to limit the risk of exposing others to the virus.

COVID-19 Real Estate Home Buying Process

Real Estate Process
Real Estate Process

COVID-19 Real Estate Home Buying Process

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has labeled residential and commercial real estate as an essential business. Yet, COVID-19 has changed how real estate is conducted not only with how Realtors are showing properties but also how real estate transactions are closed.
One thing is certainly sure: being an “essential” business does not necessarily mean business as usual.
Pre-Closing
The New National Association of Realtors (NAR) guidelines follow and strictly adhere to all CDC safety guidelines. NAR supports and encourages that all brokerage firms order their agents to shelter in place and avoid all social interaction.
Such stay at home mandates and social distancing regulations have pushed real estate agents to become creative. Instead of having open houses, real estate agents are using virtual property showings, and Facebook live open houses. There are programs for customers to even design their home using digital tools, watching videos of the construction as their property is being built. Realtors are doing initial showings over video chat services like Face Time, Skype or Zoom.
Contract
Perhaps the real challenge COVID-19 poses to home buying is not necessarily shopping for the home—rather, it is closing on one.
Issues with contracts focusing on force majeure clauses, or clauses that provide for a delay or opportunity to get out of underlying obligations in the event of unforeseen or uncontrollable events have been an emerging issue during this pandemic.
The development of the COVID-19 Extension Addendum to Contract allows for time periods and dates to be extended as a result of the Corona-virus pandemic.
Closing
Once contract issues are overcome, the closing itself has evolved due to this crisis.
Make sure that you or the Seller only use an escrow and Title company that is capable of handling the closing. Specifically ask whether they use online or mobile notaries. Also determine if the local recorder’s office uses electronic recording and whether the title company is equipped to record the deed electronically.
Many documents in the closing process require a notary, and notarization is normally required to be done-in person. The Florida legislature and Governor signed into law effective January 1, 2020, a new law that allows for what is called remote online notarization (RON). This is a huge game-changer in the State of Florida, particularly in the area of real estate closings. No longer do parties all have to get together at a certain set time around the conference room and execute documents. Now, from the comfort of your own home, provided that you have your own laptop or smart phone, you can execute documents online and remotely and have those documents notarized. While the technology is new, it is not that new. It is the same technology that is used to validate your passport or driver’s license when you go through security at an airport. This validation technology is now being used for remote online notarization (RON).
If, for example, you are in another state and are closing on real estate located in Florida, or, perhaps, you are in a profession (such as being a doctor and on call) that makes it difficult to attend a closing, you can now remotely video into the closing and notarize your documents from the comfort wherever you might be. Documents are produced online for your review, and at the point that you are prepared to execute those documents, you can do so remotely. A notary is present at the time online, not physically with you, and that notary is then able to confirm and validate that you executed the documents without any duress or coercion.
There is a caveat, however, and that is that while remote online notarization, in theory, should work all over the world, it really is more of a domestic service for people within the United States. It is difficult for the technology, at this stage, to validate foreign credentials.
Appraisals and home inspections are other aspects of residential real estate closings are evolving during this pandemic. The Federal Housing Finance Agency is allowing alternative appraisal methods such as “drive by” appraisals where appraisers drive through the neighborhood and walk around a property without going into it. They are also doing “desktop” appraisals using public data to generate property values.
The loan process will likely take longer than in the past and I am encouraging my buyers to agree to no less than a 60 days closing if a loan is needed. You need to take this into consideration with your home buying timeline if you need to close on a property by a certain date.
Moving during a Pandemic
 I recently published an entire BLOG article on this subject which you can read here along with other articles that you may find informative.