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Tips for Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market

Seller's market
Seller's market

Buying a home in a Seller’s market always has its challenges. But when you’re trying to do it in a seller’s market, the difficulty can reach a new level. When the market favors the seller, time is of the essence. Multiple offers happen with more regularity in a seller’s market than a buyer’s market, because a seller’s market is defined in part by low inventory and a surplus of home buyers. A beautiful home that is priced well can attract more than one offer.

In a seller’s market, you should always assume you’re competing against several other offers. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a new home in a seller’s market, when there are more buyers than homes, and sellers can afford to hold out for higher offers. You just need to make sure you do it right and arm yourself with the right information:

Here are a few things to consider as you prepare your offer when buying in a seller’s market:

Choose an Experienced REALTOR: In sports and in business, it’s important to have the best players on your team when facing fierce competition. In a seller’s market, that means choosing a real estate agent who not only has proven expertise in the neighborhoods you’re interested in but is also highly responsive and efficient. Make sure to use an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent that owes you a fiduciary and works in your best interest.

Demonstrate Credit Worthiness: You should get Pre-Approved for a home mortgage with a local lender before touring homes if you need to get financing. By obtaining a pre-approval for a mortgage before you start home shopping, you’ll know how much buying power you have. Your offer may have far more credibility than competing ones where buyers didn’t take this step.

Lower Your Expectations: When the inventory of homes is limited, you probably can’t afford to wait for the perfect house to hit the market. Prepare yourself to adjust your expectations. It makes the most sense to make exceptions to your criteria for things that can be changed. For example, you can renovate or add a bathroom someday, but you can’t change the home’s location or lot size.

Make your Best Offer first, be Ready to Bid: Make your best offer but be prepared for it not to be your final offer. High home prices can lead to home appraisals that don’t climb as fast, leaving lenders to not fund the loan. Home buyers should have money set aside the pay the difference between a contracted purchase price and the appraisal.

By Prepared to Make Concessions: Your relative lack of power in a seller’s market doesn’t just affect the question of price. It carries over to every other aspect of the deal, too. Shorten the inspection period, be flexible on closing dates; you should be prepared to accommodate the seller’s needs even if it is an inconvenience to you.

Don’t be that buyer who wants to wait until the weekend to view a home in a seller’s market. By the weekend, that home could be sold. Try to be one of the first showings. Sellers usually don’t enjoy having buyers come through their homes at all hours of the day, so most would like to see their home sold quickly. If you write a good, fast, and clean offer, your chances of acceptance are far better than those of a buyer who is unprepared or is unrealistic on price.

Finally, don’t get carried away with the pressure to buy, even in a seller’s market. Remember that a home decision has a long-term impact on your financial future. It may be better to let a house go than make a poor decision that’s expensive to change.

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.

Ways Smart Home Technology Can Save You Money!

Smart Home Technology
With most of us spending more time in our homes today, you have undoubtedly seen increases in your utility bills, food costs, and more. We are paying more to be entertained at home as well. Smart home technology is now a highly desirable feature to be added to homes and will not only save you money, but will increase your home’s value when you go to sell. Green homes are becoming more and more in demand, especially by Millennials and younger home buyers.
Save on Water & Electricity:
You can save money on your home’s utility bills all year round while also adding comfort, convenience and control.
LED Lighting: 
Replacing your incandescent or florescent bulbs with LEDs can greatly reduce the amount of power your home consumes. “Smart” LED lights cost more but can join your Wi-Fi network for automation and app or voice control.
Wi-Fi Thermostats: 
Smart thermostats let you easily adjust heating and cooling settings from your smartphone, smartwatch or tablet, and many can automatically optimize settings based on when you’re home and when you’re not.
By learning your schedule and detecting the weather, products like Google Nest ($249) or the Ecobee family of smart thermostats (from $169) can save you more than 20 percent on your annual heating and cooling bills.
Smart Switches, Power Strips:
Special switches and power strips also can cut off electricity on demand or via a timer. Belkin has a line of Conserve-branded switches, starting at $10, that shut off power to what’s plugged into it either with the flip of a switch or after a predetermined amount of time.
Conserve brand power strips ($39) can cut off any residual power to a device after a specific time or with a wireless remote switch. Supporting up to eight devices, these power strips include outlets you want on all the time while shutting off other plugs.
Smart Shower Heads: 
Smart shower heads eliminate costly heat-up time and also adjust water flow based on where you are in the shower. Evadrop, for example, says it cuts water use in half .
Smart Sprinkler Systems:
Smart sprinklers are designed to optimize your watering schedule based on local weather conditions. They also detect leaks and monitor water flow to reduce overall costs. Most come with a mobile app that allows you to control your watering efforts on the go.
Energy Monitoring
By installing an energy monitoring system such as Sense, homeowners can identify appliances that are quietly adding to the monthly utility bills. The Sense monitor is installed in electrical panel, connected to Wi-Fi, and viewable in real time via a smartphone app. The device automatically detects items in the home in order to identify vampire loads and see how much they’re costing.
Advanced smart home technology users can take advantage of integrations with Alexa, Google, IFTTT, TP-Link, and Phillips Hue to setup additional energy-saving automation. Sense will help homeowners form better habits, identify problem appliances, and reduce always-on device consumption that may account for up to 20% of energy use.

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.

 

Things To Do The First Week After You Move

After you move

 

Moving into your new dream house can be a daunting task. Between unpacking, cleaning and trying to find that stray roll of toilet paper, it may feel like you have lost your mind in a sea of bubble wrap. That is why I wanted to share simple things that you should do that first month of living in your new home. These items may feel like back burner tasks but really, they will help you sleep better at night in your new abode and make you feel like your new place is less like a new house and more like your new home.

Change the Locks: Security is the number one concern of most people in a new environment. You can easily switch out your locks and deadbolts to your new home to protect your valuables, your family and of course, yourself. Now is the time to consider the finish and the options are endless! When it comes to exterior locks, make sure you choose something that looks timeless and can be cleaned easily. A new security system is also a good idea. The options for this are endless as well. Systems with online monitoring, iPhone compatibility, thermostat control and even video monitors for the interior as well as your baby nursery are super helpful. Even if the room is empty now, it won’t be in the future – so go ahead and secure it!

Remove Toilet Seats: By removing your toilet seats, you will be able to really deep clean under the bolts and hinges.  After a thorough scrubbing, you can reinstall your existing seat or choose to shop for a new one (new versions with night lights, padding or even child sized attachments are now available!)

Change the Garage Door Code: Similar to the locks, but this is applicable if your garage door has a remote mounted on the outside of the door. It is easy to change the code, simply look up the user manual for your specific opener online. If your home comes with a smart garage door opener, make sure to download the app and get it set up with your phone too.

Replace the Fire Extinguisher: Emergencies happen, knowing that you have a working fire extinguisher if needed is essential.

Change the Smoke Detector Batteries or Units: Avoid the dreaded 3am chirping by changing the batteries when you first move in and mark your calendar for every 6 months to swap them out again. If the house is older than 10 years old, consider replacing the entire unit (possibly a combined carbon monoxide and smoke detector unit).

Change the AC Filter: A five-minute project that can prevent loads of headache down the road. An old filter can make your AC work harder which can lead to it running inefficiently or breaking.

Set up the Thermostat Schedule: Unless you like the exact same temperature and live on the same schedule as the previous owners, you’re going to want to set up the thermostat. Better yet, replace it with smart thermostat and start building out your smart home!

Clean the Dryer Vent: It is unknown when the vent was last cleaned. In order to prevent using the new fire extinguisher, clean out the dryer vent of years of lint!

Find all the Shut-Off Locations: Hopefully you never need to use these in an emergency situation; however, if it does happen, you don’t want to use that time to search for the shutoffs.

Change Your Address: The first address to change is with USPS. This will ensure that anything you miss will get forwarded. I was also able to select a checkbox to update my voter registration at the confirmation screen. Another important address update is on your driver’s license and car registrations.

Make a List of Emergency Numbers: The point of an emergency contact list is that it’s there when you need it. Now that you’re in a new location, you need a new list with local phone numbers and addresses for the police department, nearby hospitals, the fire department, and other emergency services. Don’t wait until you need them in a hurry.

Collect your Moving Receipts: For any home move, it`s a good idea to keep all of your receipts for moving expenses, just in case you`re able to write off your move. If you haven`t done that yet, now`s the time to gather your receipts and documentation and make notes about what each item is for as well as any additional information that may be helpful at tax time.

Meet your Neighbors and Enjoy your New Home!

Affordable Moving- Cost Effective Way to Ship Boxes

Moving to a new home
Moving to a new home
If you are moving an entire household, a professional moving company is your best option. But if you have 20-30 boxes of household goods or personal items to move, there are more affordable options. Every move is different. The key to finding the best option is to compare all of them.
Quick Reference
  • Ship by train – Amtrak
  • Ship by bus – Greyhound
  • Ship by marketplace -Uship, Busfreighter
  • Ship by car (only if you’re shipping a car)
  • Ship by freight
  • Use a trailer
Amtrak
Amtrak makes use of unused cargo space on their train carriages for shipping. Individual boxes can’t weigh more than 50 pounds and be larger than 36″ x 36″ x 36″. Split up your boxes into groups of 500lbs. Amtrak only allows you to ship 500lbs worth of boxes per day, so if you have more you’ll need to spread out your shipments over multiple days. Make sure to coordinate pickup of your boxes at the destination ahead of time. You get 2 days to pick up everything once it has arrived.
NOTE: Starting Oct. 1, 2020, Amtrak is suspending this service until further notice. You can take advantage of shipping your boxes cheaply before then.
Greyhound Package Express
The unused space in the luggage compartments of their buses is used to offer their Package Express service. Shipping will cost you around a dollar per pound, keeping your costs down if you only have a few boxes to move. While you usually drop off and collect your boxes from their depot, they’ll collect and deliver to your address for an additional fee.
Package everything in boxes or containers no larger than 30″x47″x82″ and no heavier than 100 lbs. Everything needs to be able to fit under the bus.
You need to be sure that fragile items are packed very well to avoid damage during the journey. All boxes will need to be inspected before being accepted. This means that you shouldn’t tape them up before dropping them off or having them collected. There’s a long list of prohibited items that cannot be sent on a Greyhound bus, so check their site for details.
Busfreighter
The Busfreighter business is partnered with Greyhound, offering the same service as the bus company. They’re able to offer slightly better prices on shipping. The rules for Busfreighter are very similar to Greyhound. The cheapest way to ship boxes with Busfreighter is to drop them off at the Greyhound station unsealed. Expect delivery to take two days for shorter journeys, and up to four days for transportation over 500 miles.
uShip
uShip offers a marketplace for truck drivers to bid for boxes to take on journeys they’re already making. This allows a trucker to fill any unused space and earn the driver more money for not much extra work. It can also mean very low prices for the customer, though this depends on how many trucks take the route and the bids you receive as a result. The more bids you get, the lower the price will be, but the prices might not be better than other options if it isn’t a popular route for truckers.
You can check the feedback of drivers before you agree to use them, and all truckers have been verified by uShip. There’s more leeway on the size of the box you can have shipped, and you can purchase insurance through the site. They don’t have restrictions on what you can have shipped either; it depends on what the driver is willing to take.
Ship by Car:
This option is only relevant if you’re planning on shipping a car at the same time as the boxes. Most auto transporters will allow you to put items in the car. Most auto shippers allow for 100lbs to be shipped inside the car as part of the base cost. Additional weight may cost extra depending on the auto shipper. There may also be restrictions around the numbers of boxes or suitcases you can put inside the vehicle.
Freight Shipping:
For those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, freight shipping can be a very economical option.
  1. Put all the boxes on a wood pallet and shrink wrap it. Use alot of shrink wrap. Make sure to shrink wrap around the actual pallet so everything stays anchored to it.
  2. Load the pallet up with boxes at a location where it can easily be brought out to the truck, i.e. your garage.
  3. Now you need to call around and get rates from freight companies.
  4. Haggle, haggle, haggle. Carriers are going to try and overcharge you. You should be able to get 1 pallet shipped for a few hundred dollars depending on the details.
  5. You’ll probably need a liftgate (small elevator on the back of the truck that will bring the pallet down to ground level) and a pallet jack to move the pallet. This will be a small additional charge. Make sure to let the shipper know you need these services.
Freight can also be a good option if you’re just trying to ship a couch or single furniture item. ShipSmart, (866) 333-8018, will actually do all the work of prepping and shipping your goods via freight for you.
Tow Trailer:
If you’re already planning on driving and your car meets the towing requirements, a cargo trailer can be a great way to transport small and even larger moves. UHaul is the only company that rents trailers for long distance moves.
Keep in mind, tow-behind trailers are responsible for a lot of accidents and can be dangerous. If you don’t have experience hitching and driving with a trailer, this is not a recommended method.

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.

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.