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Tired of buying high-end kitchen cleaners that never seem to work very well? Try making your own, much more cost effective spray. It only takes 3 simple ingredients, one of whsoapicvinegarh I know you already have! Dish soap, cleaning vinegar, and good old tap water. Add about 2 parts cleaning vinegar, 2 parts water, and one part dish soap. Pour them in a spray bottle, give a little shake to mix- instant kitchen cleaner. Safe, effective, and cheap! The soap provides for the clean and clingability (is that a word?) the vinegar for dirt cutting power and odor control, and the water for easy spraying. The vinegar is pleasant enough on odor and the spray can be used in trash bins, bathroom floors, and any other place those pesky household odors tend to linger. Give it a try. If it doesn’t work for you, well, you’ve still good ingredients you can use elsewhere.

Nasty sponge odor ospongen the sink? Instead of throwing it away every week, try this. Dampen the sponge with dish soap (or the cleaning spray you just made, put it in the micro wave for one minute. Be careful taking it out as it will be extremely hot! The microwaves will kill the bacteria and the associated odor. Yes, it does work! Don’t put a sponge with metal in it in the microwave or else snap, crackle, and pop!

 

 

Why Use A Real Estate Professional

There is a misperception among many first-time home buyers that by using a Real Estate Agent, they will be subject to paying a commission. In virtually all situations, this is not the case. The costage1mmission for the sale of a home is paid for by the seller, not the buyer. If you went to your local appliance store and bought a new refrigerator, you wouldn’t expect to pay a commission to the salesperson. The same applies when you buy a house–it is the seller of the item (in this case a house) that is responsible for paying to have it sold.

Let me or my seller’s expert, Sally Laux, work in your corner during your home searching and buying experience. We’ll make sure every party in the process does an ethical and value-conscious job for you. We do it the right way, right out of the gate, every time!

Traditionally, when we think of the word ‘invest,’ we think of putting money in some type of financial vehicle and wait for a monthly statement to see how that initial investment has grown such as in a bank account, money market, certificate of deposit, stocks, bonds, mutual funds.  Many times investments can cost large sums of up-front money which many of us don’t necessarily have. So, what can you do with $100 TODAY and actually see a tangible benefit in a short period? Here are some tips, especially for this time of year, but equally relevant in the balmier summer months. Some of these ideas will cost you a few dollars, some of them are simply a change in behavior, but will equally fatten your wallet. Some of these you will have no doubt heard before, but in combination, you’ll see a difference.

On a cold windy day, pan your hand around the perimeter of your windows. Feel that draft brushing your palm? Don’t think of it as cold air rushing in, think of it as hot cash rushing out! Can’t buy new windows with $100, but what can you do? Think simplicity, think bubble wrap. Yes, Ibubble wrap2.jpg said bubble wrap. Why do you think bubble wrap stretched out over a swimming pool heats the water? Those little air pockets super heat in the sun and create an excellent insulation source. It can also prevent heat loss and cold air entry, if edge sealed, with double sided tape. A roll of bubble wrap from U-Line,  12″x 300′, (that’s 300 square feet) costs about $27.  A roll of double sided tape about $2. That’s a $29 investment. The U.S. Department of Energy says your  energy savings could be between 5% and 30% of your annual energy budget. So, if your heating and cooling bills run $250 a month, then your savings could be as high as $900 a year. So far, you’ve gotten a 3000% return on your meager $29 investment.  Can you do that in the stock market?

Got ceiling fans? Hopefully you are aware they can reverse direction? In the summer months, run your fans counter clockwise. This creates a wind chill effect direfan2.jpgctly under the fan. In the winter months, run your fans clockwise. This will create an updraft effect and recirculate warmer air down towards the floor (since warm air naturally rises.) Estimated savings are about 10%. So, using our the monthly energy bill estimate as before, you’re looking at a possible energy saving of $300 a year. And this cost you ZERO dollars!

Need that scalding hot water on your hot water heater set at 140 degrees? No, you really don’t! Your body temperature generally runs around 98.6 degrees. Water set at 120 degrees, is 21 degrees warmer than your own body produces and is a comfortable showering or bathing temperature and will still clean your clothes and dishes water heater.jpgquite well. Lowering the manual thermometer on your hot water heater can save on the average of 6% to 10% on your annual energy bills. Again- costs you ZERO!

Ok, quick calculation here. So far, you’ve invested, mmm how much? That’s right $29!

Let’s look at a couple more items. Lower your home’s thermostat in the evening hours when you’re going to bed. If you sleep under cover, maybe even with pj’s, perhaps running the heat all night at 73+ degrees isn’t that necessary? How about while you’re awaythermostat.jpg at work or school? Why would you heat your home for 8 hours a day when you’re not there at 75 degrees? The Goldfish really aren’t appreciative of the extra warmth during the day (especially since you installed that bubble wrap!)  Turning down the thermostat just 10 to 15 degrees when not really needed can save up to 10% on your electric bill. Did I mention, it cost you ZERO!

And one last thing. If your home is not well insulated, sometimes warm air can escape (with your hard earned dsocket wrap.jpgollars) around the electric sockets. Simple solution- socket insulation. A Frost King insulation kit at Home Depot costs about $1.95 each.

So, how much did your investment cost? All together about $29 for bubble wrap and tape, and about $20 for 10 electric outlet insulation pads for a grand total investment of $49! That still leaves you with $51 to invest. Well, after all that hard work, you deserve dinner out on the town and a movie!

 

 

 

 

 

My Realtors Prayer

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May I always use my hands as Your gifts to serve my clients in need. May I use the mind that You bestowed on me to always keep my client’s best interest at heart. May I use the talents You provided me to be creative in serving other’s needs. May I use my eyesight, my windows to this world, to see every client as an equal. May I use my tongue in the manner of speech as if I were speaking to You. May I use my ears to listen and not just hear my clients. And may I give thanks to You for giving me the opportunity to serve your children as they seek shelter and may I never forget, under all is land to which You have provided.

by: Me

Skyscraper.jpgMany times, potential real estate investors feel they need to have a large amount of money to invest in real estate. While in some cases this can be true, but in most other cases – not! If you want to invest in a Real Estate Investment Trust and purchase a percentage of say, a skyscraper then yes, it might mean you need a large start-up. But for the majority of meager investors, you can invest and gain a comfortable return. The two most common form of investment are the REIT and the other, the most common form, is Direct Ownership.

This blog will look at the direct ownership leg of investment. I’m not referring to someone who buys a second home for a vacation home and finances it as an investment weekend getaway, or buys in advance of their retirement. While worthy purchases, these are not the type of investment homes that get you the highest cash-cash return, well leveraged, properties I’m referring to.

A good investment property is one in which you pay little in and get the highest moneyreturn in a relatively short period.  For most, this type investment means buying good rental properties that pay out on a consistent monthly basis, ie: good tenants!

Here’s an example: You buy a small townhome for $100,000. You put down 20%, ie: $20,000. Your closing cost are (based on 5%) $4,000, so your cash-in is $24,000. Assuming you’ve done your due diligence and not purchased a lemon, if your area would command a $900 a month rent plus their own utilities, then your Net Operating Income would be $10,800 a year. That is a 45% cash-on-cash (CCR) return! If you only put down 10%, then your CCR would be 77%! This means in 15-1/2 months, you’ll have recouped your initial investment. (Do not count your note buydown with your computation of CCR.) Can you think of another investment that gets you a solid rate of return at this rate?

Use financing vehicles that allow you to put as little down as possible therefore jpmreducing your cash in. It may also be helpful to invest with a well groomed partner, splitting your cash in and reducing your individual risk. The downside to this is you also split the end-game profit when you sell and your monthly intake is halved, or percentage split depending on your agreement.

Don’t overpay for a property. You’ll need to connect with a trusted Realtor. One who knows the local market and can find those gems with high potential. While syndicated sites such as Zillow, Trulia, etc, may give you some basic information, opaying too muchnly the MLS will provide the most detailed platform, and only your Realtor can negotiate for you like a fierce lion on a feeding frenzy!

Be sure to screen your potential tenants. They can either be fantastic or a nightmare. Vet them well, background check them to the nth degree, and don’t fall for hard luck stories just to fill a vacancy. Watch (and listen for) for those red flags when interviewing prospective tenants. A well placed tenant can be a total win-win for you and the tenant. A hastily placed tenant can create havoc and prove runniness to your investment. And don’t forget, a tenant you take care of today could well become your ultimate buyer tomorrow.

moneyOnce you’ve got the hang of landlord tenancy, look for multiplex properties, then those with amenities. Consider hiring a property management company to take care of the mundane (albeit necessary) day-to-day business of rent collection, maintenance, vacancy reductions etc. Start small and grow with success.

Be frugal, but be fearless. Expect a few failures, but learn from each purchase as you go. Investment real estate purchases are not as scary or as unattainable as some believe them to be.

 

 

 

 

You have your home listed with your trusted Realtor. You get that first phone call “Hello Mr Jones, I have an agent that would like to show your home tomorrow morning…” Your heart races, your mind is a swirl, your adrenaline starts flowing as you think “Yes!” Your Realtor gave you great advise about how your home should look when prospective buyers come to tour. “What did she tell me, what was I supposed to do?” you start thinking. If you can’t recall, here are some last minute tips that may help on the fly.

  1. If you have a fireplace that you don’t use or is bricked up, don’t leave the space empty. It just begs the question, “Is thstage4.jpegis still good, can it be converted back into a useful fireplace.” So, why not show an option. A well placed set of candles in the fire box, flowers or some other ornamentation might do the trick.
  2. Be sure the kitchen counter space is as clear as you can make it. Clear off all the “I really got have this gadget, evestage2.jpegn though I haven’t used it in two years.” stuff. The less open space on the counters may lead a buyer to feel as there is not enough room for food prep and all their own gadgets. This also pertains to other flat surfaces in the home such as table tops, bathroom vanities, dresser tops, kitchen and dining room tables. A few well placed decorations goes far.
  3. Open the blinds and draperies. Let the natural lightstage1.jpeg shine through! Buyers love bright rooms and sunshine. A word of caution here. There are a lot of window treatments out there, but dirt, doggie nose prints, and kiddie prints on the glass is not really one of them. Keep the glass clean.
  4. Turn on the lights. Lighting can add the right touch of dramatic ambiance in a room. If your home is especially dark,stage3.jpeg even with the lights on, those additional lights can really make an otherwise dull room snap and sparkle. The general rule of thumb is 100 watts of light per every 50 square foot of room space. Pendant lights in the kitchen? Turn them on. The reflection off the counter tops really give that extra umph! Sconce or table top lighting bedside? Flip them on. Bedroom lighting creates a great mood.  If your home is being shown after daylight hours, turning on the lights is a must!
  5. And of course the universal advise; clean the pet litter boxes, clean out the ashtrays if you smoke indoors, pick up the dirty laundry and trash, etc. Remember, you have one asset to sell- one home. There are hundreds of homes out there astage5.jpgnd a buyer is easily turned off by odors, and clutter. And lastly, keep the temperature in your home comfortable. A too cold or hot home may cause the buyer to rush through it because they are uncomfortable exploring and makes them start to think about utility bills.

The 1 percent origination fee: The VA limits the origination fee a lender can charge a borrower to 1% of the loan. The origination fee covers a lender’s costs of processing a loan, and can include:

  • document preparation fees
  • processing feesva loans.jpg
  • administrative costs of originating your loan
  • application fees
  • faxing/mailing fees
  • additional fees involved with loan processing
  • Remember, the VA only guarantees loans, they do not make them.

Additional allowable fees:

The 1% origination fee is designed to cover the time and money a lender invests into each loan file. But those aren’t the only costs that a VA loan will incur. Beyond the lender’s origination fee of 1 percent, VA borrowers can be charged for the following items:

  • appraisal fees
  • recording fees
  • credit report fees
  • prepaid items (taxes, assessments, and similar items)
  • hazard insurance
  • flood determination
  • survey fee
  • title work and insurance
  • VA funding fee
  • discount points
  • well and septic inspection fees
  • closing protection letter fee
  • additional fees deemed appropriate by the VA

Non-allowable fees:

The VA prevents lenders from charging certain fees to a VA borrower. VA loan recipients can never be charged for the following items:

  • termite/pest inspectionmoney.jpg
  • attorney fee charged as a benefit to the lender
  • mortgage broker fee
  • real estate agent commission
  • prepayment penalties
  • HUD inspection fees for builders

So, if any of the non-allowed fees are being charged, the seller, agent, or lender may pay them, but not the Vet.

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