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 Donate items that are no longer interesting to you and that feel outdated or tired-looking.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.

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.

Frequently Asked Appraisal Questions And Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Appraisals But Were Afraid To Ask

Q: What do appraisers look for during the appraisal inspection? Is it the same for an FHA loan as it is for a conventional loan?
A. In most basic terms, a house is made of a foundation, walls, and a roof. And appraiser will pay attention to all of these. When appraising a property for FHA loan, in addition to determining the market value, the appraiser also has to make certain the property meets HUD minimum standards for health and safety.
A few of the many items appraisers look for when doing an inspection for an FHA loan include peeling paint in properties built before 1979 interior and exterior semi colon exposed wood on the exterior of properties semicolon exterior grade level to the negative grade needs to be corrected semicolon and heating and cooling systems. And Appraisal is not a home inspection a home inspection by a qualified professional is recommended for every sale.
Conventional appraisals are concerned with the condition of the property and how it affects market value. If an appraiser sees a defect or an issue that raises concern, they will note it in the report and make a client aware of the problem.
Q: Why don’t appraisers include the finished basement in their report?
A: This comment is what we hear repeatedly.  FNMA, garages and basements, including those partially above grade, must not be included in the above grade room count. Fannie Mae considers a level to be below grade if any portion of it is below grade a walkout basement with finished living space is not included in the above grade room count.
That doesn’t mean that the finished walkout basement with bedrooms, full bath, media room and wet bar doesn’t get any credit or have value. It is just addressed on a different part of the appraisal form.
There are also exceptions to this rule. If a property has a kitchen on the lower level sometime seeing as a bi-level or split-level houses, this area is included in the above grade gross living area, as a kitchen is necessary for house to be functional. Another local exception is a popular 5 level split. The finished area partially below-grade typically a family room or half bath is included in the room count in the gross living area, as this area is typically finished like the above grade living area and is perceived by buyers as part of the above grade living.
Q: What happens if the appraisal value comes in lower than the contract price?
A: Despite what many Realtors feel about appraisals, it does not make us happy when appraised value is less than the contract price. It is our job to provide an opinion of the market value and in this high demand low inventory Central Ohio market, this can be quite a challenge.
Appraisers do their best to find the comparable sales that are most similar to the subject property with respect to size, quality, condition and utility. Due to the limited sales available in the same neighborhoods, it may be necessary to use older sales or find sales outside the immediate neighborhood.
If the listing agent has provided the appraiser with the comps when used when listing a property, he/she has let the appraiser know about the number of contracts presented on the property, and the other factors about listing that the appraiser might not be aware of, then there is little to provide for reconsideration of value.
In these cases, there may be an adjustment of the sales price, or the buyer may have to bring more money to make up the difference.

Home Ready by Fannie Mae

Homeready is an affordable, low down payment mortgage product design for credit-worthy low-to-moderate-income borrowers, with expanded eligibility for financing homes in low-income communities.

Benefits
# Low down payment semicolon as little as 3% down for home purchases
# Flexible sources of funds with no minimum contribution from borrower’s own funds
# Non-occupant borrowers permitted
# Cancellable mortgage insurance (restrictions apply)
# Reduced MI coverage requirement for loan-to-value ratios above 90% (up to 97%)
# Pricing is better than or equal to Fannie Mae’s standard loan pricing (risk-based pricing waivers for LTV ratios are >80% with a credit score greater to or equal than> 680)
Borrowers
# Have low to moderate income
# Are first time or repeat home buyers
# Have a credit score greater to or equal than >620 ; borrowers with credit scores greater to or equal than> 680 may it better pricing
# Have supplemental border or rental income
# Are looking to purchase or refinance
Visit fanniemae.com/homeready for more details

5 Tips To Prevent Package Theft This Holiday Season

 We’re entering the biggest shopping season of the year. Unfortunately this is also prime season for package thieves. The Columbus Division of Police reminds you as you’re making online purchases over the next few weeks, follow these tips to avoid becoming the victim of package theft.

1. Sign up for delivery alerts so you know when your delivery is scheduled – and when the package has been delivered.

2. If you’re not able to be home when a package will be delivered, ask a trusted neighbor to hold it for you.

3. If possible, require a signature for all deliveries.

4. Consider shipping packages to your place of work or use the ship to store option.

5. Be a good neighbor! If you see a package on your neighbor’s doorstep, reach out and ask if they would like you to hold it until they are home.

Better yet, if you work from home, post on Nextdoor and offer to allow your neighbors to send their packages to your house. If you do have any packages stolen, first contact us and then check with your neighbors on Nextdoor to see if they saw anything suspicious. 

SAFETY FOR BUYERS

Three safety lessons for home shoppers.

  1. Educate yourself on the safety of an area.
    You may have some concerns over the safety of a neighborhood. The importance of educating yourselves about neighborhoods is essential. For example, you might want to drive by the property at different times of the day to get a better sense of the neighborhood for themselves and to talk to neighbors.

    Some real estate professionals provide a list of third-party resources for their buyers to check on crime statistics in an area, such as Family Watchdog to locate registered sex offenders in an area; CrimeMapping.com’s mobile app to uncover crime activity near your current location; and sites like DiedInHouse.com that reveal if any deaths occurred at the property in the past.

  2. Take extra precautions in distressed, vacant homes.
    First, when showing an REO, make sure it’s safe to go in. Your agent should have done a perimeter search around the property before entering. Do you see broken windows, a kicked-in door, or any signs of someone living there through the windows (such as a sleeping bag on the floor or food left out)? If you see such signs that a squatter may be present, don’t go inside.

    Also, homes that have been vacant may have maintenance issues. You may need to watch your footing as you tour the house, navigating away from any loose floorboards, steering clear of a rotted deck, and avoiding loose railings. Loose gutters or lighting fixtures may pose added dangers.

    Abandoned animals might be inside too. In an REO, pets can sometimes be left by the previous owner, or wild animals may find a way in. Never approach an animal. It can become hostile. Contact your local humane society or shelter.

  3. Prevent buyer regret — and illness.
    Another growing concern reported with REOs: drug contamination, and how a home’s tainted history can get lost if it sits in foreclosure limbo. The number of meth- or clandestine drug-contaminated homes is growing, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. These drugs can seep into a home’s surfaces, and unsuspecting buyers who move in may face not only a range of respiratory illnesses or neurological problems but also a costly decontamination process of the home.

    The risk from meth and clandestine contamination in homes is a rising concern that has prompted more real estate professionals to raise the issue to their clients. For example, homes where marijuana was produced may be more prone to mold damage. Rewired electrical work also can present fire dangers too.

    No federal disclosure law exists for meth or marijuana grow houses, and the disclosure regulations vary greatly by state. Oftentimes, standard home inspections won’t turn up drug contamination problems either but requires extra testing by specialists.

    Some real estate professionals have been trained to look for the signs, like the strong smell of urine or chemical smells like ammonia or acetone; trash filled with products like paint thinner, lighter fluid, drain cleaners, and cold tablet containers; and chemical stains on the toilets and bathtubs. Or, buyers and agents sometimes may feel some of the signs when they step inside the property, such as a burning sensation in the eyes or throat.

    Buyers can be encouraged to check the Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Clandestine Laboratory Register, a searchable database of addresses that have been uncovered by law enforcement agencies to have clandestine chemicals or drug labs. Some counties and states also have databases to track such homes. They can also purchase meth-testing kits or have a professional test for contamination.

Keeping Sellers and Their Home Safe

SAFETY TIPS FOR SELLERS

  1. Prescription drugs: Remove or lock them up prior to showings.
    A growing number of real estate professionals are reporting theft of prescription drugs from sellers’ homes during open houses. Indeed, nearly half of 164 real estate professionals surveyed at a REALTORS® Expo reported knowledge of prescription drug theft taking place at open houses.

    Home sellers should use a bag to remove prescription drugs from their homes prior to showings or to properly dispose of expired prescription drugs (the bags included a list of drop-off centers for safely disposing of expired medications).

  2. Stow away valuables: Valuables include everything from the mail left on the countertops (which may contain personal information and bank statements) to such items as jewelry, artwork, cellphones, and gaming systems.

    In capturing virtual tours or photographs of the home for marketing purposes, make sure such valuables are not photographed, like a seller’s priceless coin collection, wine cellar, or equipment in a fully outfitted media room.

    Too many people fail to consider that criminals nowadays can case houses from the comfort of their computer. They can see all the person’s valuables when you put them in fliers and on a website. If the valuables are not being sold with the house, why do they need to be shown anyway?

    Before sellers leave the house for a showing, they need to be responsible for walking through the house and making sure everything of value is out of sight.

  3. Remove family photos: It’s for your safety.
    Many real estate professionals advise sellers to remove family photos from their home. But the conversations are often framed around staging and making it so prospective buyers can imagine themselves living there. Focusing on the safety of your family. You may be reluctant to remove your family photos just because I say it will help new owners envision it becoming their house.  You don’t know who’s walking through the house. You have photos of your wife, teenage daughter, children displayed, and you could have a pedophile or stalker walking through your home. Who would leave their family photos up after you say that?
  4. Make a house safe for the buyers and the agent.
    Turn on the lights prior to showings — whether it’s daytime or evening — so that agents and buyers can move safely through the home and not have to face any dark unknowns. During the initial safety check of a listing,we should ensure all rooms have adequate lighting as well.

    Also, sellers should make sure there are no potential hazards in your home, like loose floorboards or carpets. You don’t want to risk someone tripping and falling in your home and potentially open yourselves up to liability.

    It’s important to remove not only weapons like guns before showings but also not-so-obvious weapons too. For example, many home owners may have a block of knives on their kitchen countertops; remove these for the agent’s safety as well.

  5. Keep the house locked: Consider extra monitoring.
    Another safety reminder for you: Doors need to be kept locked at all times. A home is being presented to the public, and it may attract intruders.

    Home sellers should know about deadbolt locks and keeping them locked. Also, sliding glass doors can be secured with bars and extra locks. Motion-sensor lights can be a good option for outdoor areas for added security. Windows should be checked to make sure they are locked securely.

    Take an extra step with some of your properties, particularly vacant ones, and possibly installing a wireless security system. A company called Presence allows you to turn your old smartphone device into a home security system, for free. By uploading the video-monitoring app, you can use your old smartphone to feed videos remotely to your current phone to keep an eye on the listing. You can also use a motion-detection sensitivity feature to alert you to any detected movements in front of the camera and send a video clip to you via email. Presence works with iOS, Android, Amazon Alexa, and web browsers.

  6. Beware of unexpected visitors coming to your doorstep.
    You need to know that when your house is for sale, you may also get some unexpected visitors who ask to see their home.

    Instruct visitors there are proper procedures for showings: Only real estate professionals using the lockbox should gain access to their home.

    What’s more, a growing rental fraud scam is causing more home sellers to report renters who are showing up at you doorsteps, too, ready to move in. Real estate professionals say their for-sale listings are getting scraped from websites by scammers who then place them as a rental listing on sites like Craigslist.