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Tech for Efficient Remote Working

9/7/2019

Digital nomads who work while traveling need to keep their tech devices updated and in good shape if they want to succeed. Without them, their productivity could suffer and could cost them their jobs. Here are some tech must-haves for the remote worker:

Portable Wi-Fi Router
Internet connections at hotels, coffee shops, libraries and other public places can be unreliable. Having your own portable Wi-Fi router that allows you to wirelessly connect multiple devices at the same time can be a lifesaver.

You can buy a Wi-Fi hotspot, such as a Karma Go, for immediate online access. The easiest way may be through your smartphone, which allows you to create your own private Wi-Fi network wherever there’s cellular coverage. Check with your phone carrier for what type of Wi-Fi router service is offered on your phone.

Wi-Fi Range Extender
If you’re in a hotel where the internet speed is slow, it could be because you’re far from the router. A Wi-Fi range extender can help by increasing the coverage areas and boost the strength of slow connections in areas farther from the router.

You’ll need the network’s password and to at least be on the edge of the signal. You can use your hotel’s free internet network and password to connect the extender. A range extender can either plug into a wall socket to pick up the signal, or have a mini antenna that plugs into the USB port of your laptop.

Portable Charger
Who hasn’t seen their phone or other electronic device die on the road due to lack of power? A portable charger is a must-have while working remotely, and will charge your phone and other devices on the go without you having to be near an electrical outlet.

Portable chargers come in all shapes and sizes, holding varying amounts of power. Find one that will fit in your pocket for easy charging, then upgrade to a larger one if you need it.

Electric Converter
If you’re traveling outside of the United States, you may need an electric converter to plug your phone or other electronic devices into.

Electric plugs differ in some countries, and you won’t be able to plug your U.S. device into an outlet in Japan, for example, without a converter plug. It’s a simple thing to have, and one you don’t want to forget on a trip abroad.

Simple Ways to Save Money and Pad Your Emergency Fund

9/7/2019

Simple Ways to Save Money and Pad Your Emergency Fund

Having an emergency fund to help pay for an unexpected car repair, hospital visit, or other financial emergency is a smart financial move, but finding money to sock away each month is easier said than done. However, it is possible if you have a sound strategy in place.

Here are a few simple ways to save some money:

Buy and sell used
For one month, make it a point to only buy used items. And for each item you buy, sell something you already own.

While this tactic won’t necessarily work for food (although you can shop at a cheaper grocery store and make meals at home), it can work for phones, clothes and even cars.

Any money you save should be stashed in your emergency fund.

Price adjustments on old purchases
If you happen to buy a brand-new item, hang onto the receipt. Many stores have price adjustment policies where they’ll give you the difference between the price you paid and a lower price that comes later on down the line. Timing is everything when it comes to price adjustments, as you typically only have a week or two from the date of purchase to ask for an adjustment.

Compare prices on big purchases
Comparing prices on small purchases may not be worth your time, but when it comes to monthly expenses (clothing, groceries, gas, etc.), taking the time to shop around and find the best price is critical if you’re looking to save some dough.

The same goes for large purchases that may only happen once every few years, such as a car or major appliance.

It’s also a good idea to shop around for the best insurance rates for any insurance policy you may have. Check with your insurance agent before it’s time to renew your policy to see if you qualify for any discounts. And always check with other insurers to see if they offer a better price for the same coverage.

Cut little expenses
Little expenses have a way of adding up quickly, so consider whether you can eliminate any of these smaller expenditures, such as gym memberships, daily coffees and lunches out. You can even stand to save big by ditching cable and opting to use any of the streaming services that are currently available.

While it’s not necessary to cut everything at once, choosing to eliminate one recurring expense a month is a simple way to see exactly how you’ll fare without it.

Finished with the Renovation? Time to tackle the mess

9/7/2019

Finished Renovating? Now It's Time to Tackle the Mess

Completing a home renovation project is so exciting. The new space or enhancement you’ve been dreaming about for months is now a reality.

But what about that mess? Nothing quite compares to the post-construction havoc a renovation can cause in your home. According to the ServiceMaster blog, your primary focus should be removing the dust created by just about every home improvement project, which has an insidious way of sneaking into the most random nooks and crannies. If dust isn’t dealt with promptly, it will make its way into your air ducts, creating a health hazard for you and your family.

ServiceMaster Clean® offers the following checklist to get through the construction clean-up process quickly and effectively.

Vacuum Carpets and Upholstery
Vacuum all soft surfaces, removing and vacuuming each cushion and getting into the crevices of the furniture frame. It’s probably a good idea to give it a second round, too.

Wipe Down Hard Surfaces
Clean surfaces from the top down, starting with the dust that has accumulated on your walls. Dry dusting will ensure paint and wallpaper won’t be damaged, but a damp cloth will remove dust faster. Check with your paint or wallpaper manufacturer to see if it will tolerate a little moisture and test a small area to be safe.

Next, move onto moldings and cabinets using a duster. Make sure to target the interior shelves and hard-to-reach corners. Wipe off countertops and any other flat surfaces before tackling the floor. Then sweep and mop the entire surface area.

Clean Air Vents and Replace Filters
If your project is of a larger scale, it’s likely that dust has made its way into your vents. Treating the air vents in the renovated area is critical for preventing the dust from spreading to other areas of your home. Here’s how:

- Remove the vent covers from the surrounding walls and ceilings
- Clean each one with soap and warm water, and let them dry thoroughly
- Replace any exposed air filters with fresh ones before replacing the vent covers

Don’t Forget About the Little Things
Remember, dust gets everywhere, so remember to clean these areas as well:

- Ceiling fan blades
- Light fixtures
- Lamp shades
- Electronics
- Small appliances
- Decorative items

 

HOMESELLERS’ ADVICE

3/16/2017

Should You Have An Open House?

Ninety-five percent of homebuyers use the Internet to shop for a home, according to the National Association of REALTORS.® If homebuyers can see your home through multiple photos, videos and virtual tours, why bother with an open house?

An open house can catch buyers early in the home-search process when they’re driving around neighborhoods and getting first impressions. They often choose several homes to drive by, and an open house could tip them favorably toward your neighborhood and home. Open houses allow buyers to view homes without obligation, and an open house helps them form their preferences, compromises and deal-breakers.

An open house is only effective if it shows the home to its fullest advantage. Deep cleaning, de-cluttering, de-personalizing, and staging are imperative, just as they are for showings by appointment. Your pets should be out of the home for the day, and you should make plans to be gone while your home is open to the public.

That said, less than nine percent of buyers chose the home they bought from yard signs and open houses.Instead, 90 percent used the services of a real estate agent, which means an open house is only one piece in the overall marketing plan for selling your home.

Contact me if an open house should be part of your home’s marketing plan. Keep in mind that you may be in a market where homes are selling so quickly that an open house isn’t necessary, but in most markets, you should employ all the ways homebuyers shop for a home.

HOMEBUYERS’ ADVICE

3/16/2017

How Much Home Should You Buy?

To buy the home that’s right for your household, you have a lot of decisions to make including, location, size, bedrooms and baths, and features. That’s when you should ask yourself: How much home can you really afford?

Nearly every buyer compromises on something, like getting a fixer-upper house instead of a new home, or buying a smaller home in a more expensive neighborhood. But you have to know how much you can spend before you make those decisions.

Lenders qualify you for a mortgage with a conforming loan standard that uses two ratios – income to mortgage debt, and income to total debt.

To qualify for a federally -insured 30-year fixed rate conforming loan, your income to mortgage debt can be no higher than 31% of your gross annual income, and your debts plus mortgage payment can be no higher than 43% of your gross monthly income, according to FHA.com.

If you make $5,000 gross income per month, under a conforming loan standard, your house payment (principal, interest, mortgage insurance, hazard insurance and taxes) should be no larger than $1,550.

If you’re carrying credit card debt, student loan debt, or paying child support, the monthly debt service must be factored in. To get the income- to-debt ratio, multiply your monthly income by 43%. With an income of $5,000, your total debt including your house payment can be no larger than $2,150.

Once you know how much home you can comfortably afford, it’s easier to choose the neighborhoods and homes that are within your range.

FINANCIAL ADVICE

3/16/2017

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Rising Interest Rates

When mortgage interest rates rise, you may be tempted to put your home buying plans on hold, but there are three reasons you shouldn’t let higher interest rates deter your home buying plans.

    1. Interest rates fluctuate. Mortgage interest rates rise and fall based on the lender’s viewpoint toward the economic outlook. News that suggests a slowing economy tends to bring rates down, while a rosy manufacturing or jobs report can send them back up.

Solution? When you shop for rates, shop at least three lenders using the same type of loan – 30-year fixed rate, adjustable, hybrid and so on. Do so at the same time because rates can change as much as several times daily.

    1. You have some control over rates. The rates you see advertised aren’t what you’ll necessarily pay. They’re available only to those with the best credit histories, those who are able to put at least 20 percent down, and those borrowing well within their means.

Solution? Talk with your lender about ways to improve your credit profile. If you’re stretching to buy a home, expect to pay higher interest rates.

    1. Rates are currently a bargain. Between 1972 and 2008, mortgage interest rates averaged about nine percent annually. Today, they’re around four percent. A 1/8th point translates to about $25 or less a month in monthly payments on a conforming loan, or $9,000 over 30 years in tax deductible costs.

The solution? Have some perspective. Home buying conditions change constantly. Focus on building equity with the lifestyle you want instead.

  HOMEOWNERS’ ADVICE

3/16/2017
 

HOMEOWNERS’ ADVICE

Six Easy Low-cost Energy Savers

According to Energystar.gov, the average American household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills, with nearly half of that amount spent on heating and cooling. Here are six easy, low-cost ideas to cut those bills down.

  1. Change your air filters. It’s a chore that’s easily forgotten, so put it on your calendar every one month to three months. Dirty filters slow air flow causing your heat and air units to work harder and break down faster.
  2. Wash clothes in cold water. This one’s a surprise, but energystar.gov claims cold water is just as effective as hot and will get your clothes clean without damaging fabrics.
  3. Seal and insulate your heating and cooling ducts. Air ducts can waste energy, so sealing and insulation can save as much as 20 percent on our energy bill or more.
  4. Seal windows and outside doors. All it takes is a little caulk and you can stop small leaks that add up to big money. Test for leaks on a windy day by lighting a candle and holding it near window seals. If the flame moves, you’ve got a leak.
  5. Upgrade to a programmable thermostat. If you’re gone at the same time every day, a programmable thermostat can lower or raise the temperature which saves energy… and saves, you nearly $200 a year.
  6. Have your HVAC serviced regularly. A service check once in the spring and once in the fall can improve efficiency and possibly prevent equipment breakdowns. The technician will test air flow and parts that may need replacement.

HOMESELLING TIPS

3/16/2017

Selling an Ugly Home

You’ve just inherited an old house in a distant location and want to put it on the market. You don’t have the time, resources or energy to make it perfect and just want a quick sale.

Or maybe you had renters who did substantial damage and you don’t have the money to make necessary renovations.

Just because it needs work doesn’t mean you can’t sell it. Many buyers today are looking for deals and may see potential in your home.

So what to do? Here are a few tips when on the market:

  • Leave brochures for new cabinets in the kitchen, color palette around the bedrooms.
  • Create computerized images of what updates might look like.
  • Secure bids from licensed contractors on necessary fixes and provide them to potential buyers. People may mentally overestimate the cost of a new roof, shower stall, drywall repair or fresh paint. Providing sample estimates will bring the home into clearer perspective.
  • Work with your real estate agent to make the home as presentable as possible for the least amount of money.
  • Nothing is going to attract people more than a lowered price. You will need to discount to gain an advantage over comparables in better condition.

A down-and-out house doesn’t mean you’re stuck. With small repairs, research and practical pricing, you can turn that “Ugly Betty” into a sale.

HOME OWNERSHIP TIPS

3/16/2017

Get Your Home Documents Organized

As a homeowner, you accumulate all sorts of documentation the moment you make the offer on your home. Loan documents, inspections, insurance policies, receipts and warranties are just a few of the documents you may be collecting. Knowing where these items are can save you a lot of time and money.

Keep closing papers such as the deed, settlement statement, appraisal, disclosures, mortgage note, inspections and title insurance policy together in one place—preferably in a safe deposit box.

For other records, a practical record-keeping system doesn’t have to be expensive. Purchase an accordion file and label each flap with a different category. Those might include:

  • Insurance Policies.
  • Purchase and House Data.
  • Property Taxes.
  • Home Maintenance and Improvements.
  • Warranties, Manuals and Receipts.
  • Home Inventory.

Organizing your home files may take a considerable amount of time initially, but it will definitely be time well spent in the event you need the documents in the future.

SHOWING YOUR HOME

3/16/2017

Making color work in your home

Don’t be offended if an agent suggests that you paint before placing your home on the market. They understand “color psychology.” Since people’s reaction to color is immediate, it can have a tremendous influence on their daily choices.

You can make your home stand out from the competition, sell more quickly and at a higher price if you use color effectively. Blues will feel cool, reds and oranges feel warm. Deeper shades of color imply intimacy and serenity.

Lighter exterior colors are favored because they can make the property seem larger. For older homes, you may want to consider historical accuracy, as this could be a big selling point as well.

For the interior, consider the purpose of each room. Kitchen and dining areas painted in “food colors” such as coffee browns, celery greens and scrambled-egg yellows will make the rooms feel more natural. Hallways are a great place to bring in the exterior colors for overall harmony. Master bedrooms in medium shades of green or blue for warm selling seasons, and rouge red for cooler weather. Other bedrooms can be painted in creamy tones of green, blue or a pale shell pink. Shades of blue, green or lavender can form a relaxing atmosphere in the bathroom.

When thinking about color, common sense helps. You should match other things in your home and keep a comfortable environment as well.

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