TWELVE WAYS TO SIMPLIFY IN 2020

Many households have organized people living in them, but they do not have time to organize. The British Telegraph reported that the average 10-year old owns 238 toys, but plays with less than 12 daily. Disorganization can cause so much stress and discord in a family when the house feels chaotic and cluttered. Newsweek reported years ago that the average American spends 55 minutes a day looking for things we know we own, but cannot find. How much time are you spending looking for things? It may be time to simplify! Here are some tips to simplify your life in 2020:

Auto Each time you come home, take in an armful of items from your car. Getting into a clean car is such a great feeling!

Bathroom Make a pledge to use up your current inventory of lotions, hair care, and other personal products before buying more. If you’re really honest and don’t see yourself using them, toss them out!

Bills! You can’t afford to keep paying bills late. Sign up for auto-pay on recurring bills and cancel paper statements. Assign one collection point for non-recurring bills and select one day each month to pay those bills.

Clothing If someone held all your clothing hostage and you had to pay a ransom for each item you wanted back, which pieces would you pay for? Those are the clothes you love. Donate the others.

Clutter Have 3 boxes: donate, elsewhere, and trash. Start in one room, working clockwise. Items that you find that belong in another room go in the ‘elsewhere’ box. Items you don’t need go in ‘donate.’ Work for 20 minutes each day and then put things from the ‘elsewhere’ box away in the appropriate rooms.

Décor Minimize cleaning time by minimizing your décor. Donate items that are no longer interesting to you and that feel outdated or tired-looking.

Kitchen The locale for everything “gadgety”. Thin out specialty tools that rarely get used. Store them elsewhere, in a seasonal or entertaining area, or let them go.

Meals Take the frustration out of meal planning. Subscribe to online meal-planning sites such as www.e-mealz.com.

Papers Perhaps the most overwhelming of all. Imagine being paperless, how good that would feel! Start by going paper-less. Cancel magazine & catalog subscriptions (call the 800# inside, it only takes 2 minutes!) and junk mail (www.catalogchoice.org).

Schedules Plan out your week or month in advance. Mark down work commitments and personal time. What tasks, errands, appointments and events are you going to do? Kindly say no to events that would require you to over-commit yourself. Simply say, “I’d love to, but I already have commitments that day.”

Toys Too many toys in the room? Put some aside and rotate toys every few weeks to keep things fresh for the kids. They’ll ask for their favorites. Are there toys they never seem to miss or they’ve outgrown? You guessed it, donate or toss them!

Travel Make a standard checklist of all items you need when you travel. Include personal items, electronic accessories, documents (i.e. maps, passports, phone numbers), clothing, snacks, etc. Leave blanks in each category for things to add for each specific trip. Print off a form each time you travel or laminate and use a dry-erase marker to check items off as you pack.

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Tips for Reducing Your Debt

Tips for Reducing Your Debt

Debt is something that most adults carry in some form or another. It’s something that enables you to buy things that would otherwise be out of your reach, such as a home or car. Some debts can be paid off sooner, while other debts are with you for the long haul. But if you’re carrying a lot of debt in all forms, it’s time to start reducing some of them so you can afford your other debts more easily.

The simplest rule of managing debt is to live within your means. That is, don’t spend more than you make, and if you use credit cards to pay for things now, make sure you can pay it back later. Sometimes paying it all back isn’t possible because of life events and you start accruing interest on those balances. You’re probably asking, “How do I get rid of this debt if I don’t make enough to pay it off?”

The first step is to trim your spending and create a budget for every month. Do you eat out frequently? Or is a pricey coffee something you buy every day? Unfortunately you’re going to have to sacrifice your pleasures for a little while in order to find the cash you need to apply to your debts. If you can’t stomach the idea of giving up these things entirely, restrict their purchase to a couple of times a week. You’ll build up a positive balance in your account that can be used to pay down debt quicker.

If you can’t find extra money, look into consolidating debt into a personal loan and have one payment instead of multiple. A personal loan usually has a lower interest rate that’s fixed, and you can pay off the balance more quickly than credit cards. Make sure to reserve your credit cards for emergencies only to avoid building up a new balance. Don’t close the cards, though, as the open accounts help your credit rating. If you’re in the process of buying a home, be sure to check with your loan officer before opening, closing, or consolidating any lines of credit.

Understanding the Debt-to-Income Ratio

Understanding the Debt-to-Income Ratio

Understanding the Debt-to-Income Ratio

One of the most important aspects of qualifying for a mortgage is your debt-to-income ratio. You may have heard 30% or 43% thrown around with the words debt-to-income as a measure of how much you can afford to pay every month. The ratio works like this: you earn $6,000 a month before taxes and deductions, which means you have $1,800 a month available to you for your debt service. $600 of that available amount goes toward paying your outstanding debts and leaves you with $1,200 to go toward a mortgage according to the debt-to-income ratio guideline.

You can max out that $1,200 a month for a mortgage and stay within the 30% rule, or you can push further and go as high as 43% on the ratio. The higher the debt-to-income ratio you go, the more money you have available to buy a home and still obtain a qualified mortgage. Your ability to get a higher percentage depends on a few factors and you should always discuss the pros and cons of going higher with a mortgage specialist.

Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The Different Types of Mortgages

The Different Types of Mortgages

The Different Types of Mortgages

When you think of a mortgage, you probably think of the traditional mortgage with a large down payment, or maybe the FHA mortgage with 3.5% down for a home. There are actually multiple mortgage products available to homebuyers, although some have restrictions for qualifying. Understanding the different types of mortgages lets you figure out how to buy a home even if you don’t have what it takes to get a conventional mortgage. Here’s a look at some of the different types of mortgages.

  • Fixed-rate mortgage, also known as a conventional mortgage. This is the most common or popular mortgage product. It’s a 30-year loan with a fixed interest rate, but it’s possible to get a conventional mortgage with 20-year and 15-year terms.
  • Government-backed mortgage, also known as an FHA loan. This type of loan is aimed at borrowers who would most likely be turned down for a conventional mortgage, but are capable of making loan payments.
  • Adjustable-rate mortgage or ARM. There are multiple types of mortgages that fall under this term, but they all share a common denominator in the variable interest rate aspect. If interest rates rise or lower via a third party index rate, so will the interest rate on the mortgage.
  • Interest-only mortgage. A borrower only pays the interest on the principal for a set period of time and gets a lower payment as a result. However, once the interest-only period expires, the mortgage payment jumps higher because the principal has come due. Once the principal payments are triggered, the monthly mortgage payment can be higher than it would be with a conventional mortgage.
  • Balloon mortgage. This type of mortgage is similar to an interest-only with one exception: the remaining balance of the mortgage is due at the end of the mortgage term.
  • Combination mortgage. A combination mortgage consists of taking out a down payment loan and a conventional mortgage. This is typically done to avoid the costs of private mortgage insurance (PMI). The idea of taking out two loans to buy a home may seem counterintuitive, but PMI can be expensive. Getting a down payment loan can cost less than PMI over the long run.

Source: Home Buying Institute

If you or anyone you know has questions about home loan rates or products, please reach out. I’m always happy to help. Enjoy this month’s issue of YOU Magazine.

Franklin County Triennial Update

The Franklin County Auditor’s office are beginning preparations for next year’s 2020 triennial update.

The triennial is a process where the Auditor’s office uses a statistical analysis of neighborhood home sales to update property values across the county. The update keeps home values aligned with market values and will be followed by a more thorough reappraisal in 2023, when a state-registered appraiser visits every property in the county and evaluates a home’s individual characteristics.

The triennial update process is not intended to increase or decrease taxes, but rather to keep property values up to date with the market. The goal, as your Franklin County Auditor, is to complete the most accurate assessment of property values possible, and I welcome your feedback.

Your Franklin County Auditor’s office will be as accessible and transparent as possible to homeowners during this important Triennial Update process, and we will host expanded and varied opportunities for homeowners to challenge the new values we assign.

4 DIY Things You Can Do to Lower Your Energy Bill This Summer

4 DIY Things You Can Do to Lower Your Energy Bill This Summer
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If you live in a place where summer heat is an issue, this time of year can mean substantially higher energy costs. Here are four low-cost, high-impact changes you can make on your own to save money and keep your home more comfortable this summer.

Clean your window sills
A few seasons worth of dirt and soot can prevent your windows from closing all the way. Even a little air getting in can make your AC less efficient and raise your electric bill. Drafty windows are the top energy leak in a typical home, accounting for up to 25% of a home’s energy loss.
Cost: $0-5 (cleaning spray and paper towels)
DIY level: Easy. You can even make this a chore for the kids!

Install a door sweep
“A common place where air leaks occur is under the door leading from the house to the garage because they are often not as well sealed as doors leading directly to the outside,” says Energy Star. Install a door sweep to seal the gap between the bottom of your door and the threshold to prevent cold air from escaping your home.
Cost: $10-15 (per door)
DIY level: Easy. Use a drill to make holes in the door and screws to attach the sweep.

Caulking Window Frame

Caulk your windows
Window air leakage can be reduced by applying a continuous bead of caulk around the window trim where it meets the wall, at the mitered joints of the trim, and between the trim and the frame. Make sure the caulk is intended for indoor use and can be painted. Using Charlotte, NC as an example, the Department of Energy estimated that the average homeowner could save 14% on heating and cooling costs each year with proper air sealing and insulation.
Cost: $3-5 (caulk)
DIY level: Medium. Caulk can get messy, so go slow.

Check your ducts
Ducts are used to distribute AC and heat throughout houses with forced-air systems “In typical houses, about 20% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts.” says Energy Star. “The result is an inefficient HVAC system, high utility bills, and difficulty keeping the house comfortable, no matter how the thermostat is set.” You can check all the ducts you can access, such as those in the attic, crawlspace, or garage. Look for holes and tears, and seal them using mastic or metal tape.
Cost: $5-10 (roll of tape)
DIY level: Medium. It’s just taping, but you’ll likely be dealing with tight spaces and a few creepy-crawlies.

Top Tips to Make Your Offer Stick

Top Tips to Make Your Offer Stick
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House in HandIt’s that time again, when the real estate market is as hot as the summer sun. Low inventory, multiple-offers, and offers that soar over asking price are great for sellers, not so much for buyers. If you’re looking for an edge to ensure you get the home you want, here are a few tips.

Up your budget
If you’re a first-time buyer looking in a lower price range, you’re in the most competitive market. Getting pre-approved for a little more could move you into a higher price bracket and eliminate some competition. Adding even a few thousand dollars could make the difference, and the change to your monthly mortgage payment will be negligible.

Cut associated expenses
If you’re worried about upping your budget, think of ways to save on associated expenses, and put that money into your mortgage instead. Look for homes without a homeowner’s association. That could save you several hundred dollars per month. Look at areas where you don’t have to pay a toll for your daily commute (or, better yet, where you don’t have to drive at all). Those savings add up.

Watch the contingencies
“Sellers have the upper hand in a multiple-bid situation, and they want offers that are clean and concise,” says NerdWallet. Asking the seller to pay closing costs, purchase a home warranty, or requesting that they make small repairs like fixing a leaky faucet can get your offer thrown in the trash.

Be flexible
In a multiple-offer situation, the seller is looking for the easiest path to closing. The trick is finding out what they really want—beyond the right price, of course. It could be that a shorter closing would do the trick. Or maybe you can offer them the opportunity to rent back until they’re ready to make their move.

Write a letter
Yes, writing a sappy letter to the seller telling them all about you and why you love their home is shameless pandering, but sometimes shameless pandering works. Include a picture and don’t hesitate to include your cute kids or four-legged friends.