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The Commonwealth Blog

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Everything You Need to Know About Home Inspections


You May Save Yourself a Major Headache  

Before purchasing a home, it’s wise to go through with an inspection. This prevents unwanted mayhem from occurring after you’ve signed papers, shaken hands, and moved into your new home -- only to find the roof is about to cave in. To ensure everything’s in great shape and you have peace of mind, opt for an inspection by a certified inspector before committing to your move.

 

While the inspection’s not necessary, unless outlined by the loan agreement, you may save yourself a lot of trouble and money. Here’s what you need to know.

 

Interiors and Exteriors Are Covered

A solid home inspection covers both inside and outside spaces, and it’s important that your inspector does a thorough job while looking for possible leaks, cracks, and other problematic issues. While outside, he or she will search for cracks in walls, crumbling brick, issues with roofs, and will inspect the state of attached structures like garages and carports. They should have an understanding of the structural integrity of your soon-to-be home and report all issues back to you.

 

The inside will similarly be investigated to find issues that may cause further damage. The inspector will scout out possible sources of leaks and fire hazards. They’ll inspect heating and air systems and evaluate your water tank. They’ll move on to the plumbing, wiring, ventilation systems, and test all smoke detectors. Appliances may have a looking over, but it’s not mandatory, and homeowners should ask inspectors to see if all washers, dryers, and dishwashers are in tip-top shape.

 

Fixes that require the help of a specialist won’t be included in the inspection. So if you’ve got a termite issue on your hands or a damaged septic tank, seek advice from specialists in those fields. While it’s likely nothing is wrong with your new home, going through with an inspection will make sure everything is working properly, giving you the green light to move forward with the deal. You’ll feel confident knowing you’ve inspected all nooks and crannies before settling in.

 

You’re Responsible for Hiring an Inspector

You are the one responsible for paying for the inspection fee, which is usually around several hundred dollars. If a specialist is needed to investigate other pressing matters, you may have to shovel more money out of your pocket. Sometimes, the seller is willing to negotiate the cost of the inspection fee, which is usually fairly reasonable.

 

Some states also require inspections to be done by a specialist with a certified license, and we recommend doing your research to find a trustworthy source. Realtors are available to recommend inspectors and help move the sale along. You ultimately want to rely on an inspector who won’t miss any minor or major damages.

 

Negotiation is Possible

If large damages are discovered during the process, buyers have several options. They can negotiate the matter with the seller and deduct the cost of repairs from the sale of the house. If that option’s not on the table, buyers can request a cash credit from the cost of the sale to take care of the damages themselves.

 

If you’re dealing with major repairs, it’s important to consider what you’re willing to work with. Understand some projects are too lofty to take on, and it may be worth continuing your search for the perfect home elsewhere. If everything is good to go and only minor issues arise, you can trust you made a responsible decision by investigating beforehand. Now, you’re ready to move into a home you know is structurally safe and sound – all with the help of a handy-dandy home inspection.

 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Easy Updates to Make Before a Sale

Preparing for a Sale  

Prepping your home for a sale makes all the difference. With a little bit of love and hard work, you can easily transform your house into an inviting space for prospective buyers. They’ll appreciate your home’s amazing features and you’ll walk away with a great deal – all with the help of these handy tips.

 

Stay Clear of Clutter

A clean space is calming. Clutter, trash, and scattered objects thrown about the floors and countertops are distracting and prevent buyers from seeing a future in your home. Place all clothes, books, and kid’s toys in their appropriate places, and organize bookcases and closets. Rooms will feel relaxed and organized, and guests won’t be distracted by unseemly messes.

 

Organizing closets is an especially important task. If storage spaces are overflowing with clothes and miscellaneous objects, they’ll appear smaller than they actually are. Ample storage space is attractive to most buyers and making closets neat and tidy shows others they can easily store belongings in the available closets and linen drawers.

 

Alongside clearing your space of unwanted and unused items, make sure all the dust and grime are gone. Clean fireplace mantles, wipe countertops, and polish appliances. You may not have cleaned in a good while – but prospective buyers don’t need to know that!

 

Invest in Small Updates

Making subtle alterations to everyday spaces goes a long way. Slab on a fresh new coat of paint to freshen things up and cover dirty blemishes. Opt for light colors to make rooms feel airy and open, and consider replacing bright accent walls with calm colors. Don’t forget to roll up the blinds and curtains to flood your space with natural light. These cost-effective tricks help buyers see a future in your space, and they won’t feel stuck in any dim corners.  

 

Furniture is another thing to consider. If items are bulky and too big for the space, pack them away before buyers walk into your living room. Replacing old couch cushions with new ones allows for a bright, clean feel. After all, a tidy sofa with cute accent pillows is more inviting than a couch with dirty, soggy cushions.

 

The same strategy applies to kitchens and bathrooms. Updated faucets and fixtures make your space sparkle, and putting in the extra effort in these areas makes for a faster sale.

 

Tell Your Home’s Story  

Many homeowners focus on updating hardware and replacing old, tarnished fixtures with new shiny ones. This is important, but don’t forget buyers ultimately want to know they can make your house a home. This is, perhaps, the most important thing to remember, and it’s important to showcase each room's personality and how it can be used to the buyer's benefit. 

 

Stage your office space to convey an organized and focused space. Turn your bathroom into a calming retreat with matching towels and a candle or two. Include a nice reading chair in your living room with a book by its side to communicate to buyers that this is where the relaxation happens. Leaving rooms barren doesn’t help buyers envision family dinners and movie nights, and it’s important to show passerby how each room can be used.  

 

A home is a place where people want to make memories and grow with friends, family, and community, and creating a welcoming front entranceway leaves an impression on buyers. It’s probably the first part of the house they’ll see (as well as their future guests, in-laws, etc.). Invest in a nice door and some attractive landscaping and you’re already a step ahead of the game.

 

These tips ensure an easy-breezy house-selling experience and excite buyers with the prospect of moving into a home that’s well-kept and inviting. Doing the right prep work pays off, so give your home a little facelift. It'll be worth it when multiple offers come in from a group of excited buyers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Selling a House on a Crowded Street



Selling a home on a crowded street has its ups and downs but know it can be done – and very well at that! The first thing to understand is no matter how attractive your home may be, it’s only worth as much as similar homes in the same area. The fact that your house is situated on a busy street automatically decreases its value between 5 and 10%. 

While your home may not sell as well as its counterparts in quieter areas, there are still some strategies you can use to get the most out of your property. Take a look at these tips and tricks to upsell a home situated on a busy street. 

Landscaping is Key

Reduce the sound of traffic and unseemly street views by engineering a beautiful landscape in the front and backyards. Upsell the value of your home by adding lush grass, shrubberies, and flowers in barren places. Vibrant and fresh plants are a nice alternative to stark highway views, and potential buyers will appreciate the appeal of a fecund garden. 

The addition of a water fountain adds pizzazz to any outdoor space and helps eliminate sounds from nearby streets. Installing noise-reducing windows similarly reduces unwanted noise when lounging inside the house. Lining your property with tall, green arborvitaes also helps. They tower above other shrubs and drown out noise from the street. 

For added security, build an attractive fence around your home to combat noisy roads. Sturdy fences are appealing to parents and pet owners who prefer the safety of an enclosed space. Kids and pets can run free in the backyard while parents relax with an iced tea in hand.

Regardless of location, a home with a nice yard adds value to a house, making it a common requirement for buyers looking to soak up some vitamin D in their new backyard.

Add Appeal to Your Backyard Space

Backyard spaces are essential to the American way of life. They’re a common place for families and friends to gather around the barbecue or fire pit. It’s where holidays and birthdays are celebrated, and an attractive backyard adds huge appeal to buyers as they tour your home. 

We’ve already mentioned the benefits of landscaping, but don’t forget about fun backyard décor. Add patio furniture and colorful cushions to showcase your outdoor space and string up lights for a celebratory feel. Staging your backyard with the appropriate pieces sets the tone for prospective buyers, and they’ll more easily envision their own backyard festivities once they’ve seen what you’ve done with the place. 

Be Strategic in the Selling Process

Investing in the appropriate modifications will certainly make your home more attractive but be careful not to over invest. At the end of the day, your home is still only worth as much as the most beautiful properties in the area – and you probably couldn’t move your home away from the busy road. 

Working with a professional realtor is a good idea when determining the value of your home. Find an agent with extensive experience and great marketing skills. With industry knowledge under their belts, they can help you decide on a realistic asking price and work to get you multiple offers. Understand they’ll more easily market your home as a pristine and welcoming space if they have professional photography and copyediting skills. Do your research here – you may walk away with more money. 

Consider your home may be suited for a commercial space. Many properties near busy roads do well when converted into commercial buildings because they attract attention from local passerby. These properties can also be used as live-work spaces if they abide by zoning rules – a prospect worth considering if you’re having trouble selling your house as a residential property. 

Be Patient

It may take time. It may take more time than you want it to take. But with the right strategies in place and with help from a skilled realtor, your property will be occupied in due time by residents who appreciate all your hard work. You’ve lived there yourself and likely loved every minute of it. Someone will see the same charm you once did --- and they’ll love what you’ve done with the place.  

Monday, August 6, 2018

What to Do When Multiple Offers Come In



The Real Estate Game

Selling or buying a house is an exciting endeavor. Homeowners embark on an emotional journey as they start a new chapter in a house that’s about to become a home. Buyers do the same as they search for the perfect place to put down their roots. It’s a time of reflection and new beginnings.

But the process isn’t all fun and games, and things can get stressful when multiple buyers make an offer on your home. The competition has begun, and it’s important you play your cards wisely. So, we’ve gathered some helpful information to help stack the cards in your favor. If selling a home, you want to get the most out of your property sale, and if buying, you want to competitively position yourselves against your counterparts.

Understand Sellers Have the Upper Hand
Sellers run the game, and they position themselves to see how things play out in front of them before making any final decisions. Sellers work with listing agents to handle multiple bids – if a property attracts much attention. They decide on the most appealing offer after considering price, closing dates, and the amount of money a buyer is financing. After thoroughly vetting multiple offers, they may walk away with more than their asking price.

Homeowners are lucky to receive multiple offers, and if they do, they typically proceed in one of three ways. They may reject all offers, finding no offer acceptable. Or the seller may reject one of the offers and continue to work with the others. In this scenario, the seller should consider making a counter-offer to the remaining buyers, prompting them to up their bids. In the third scenario, the seller accepts one offer and rejects all others – the most ideal!

But once an offer is chosen, another may come through – and it may be nice and shiny. The seller may proceed with the last-minute offer to the dismay of the original buyer. Feelings may be hurt. People may be mad. But the seller still has the upper hand. 

Sellers are Legally Protected
A listing agent has a fiduciary responsibility to their seller clients and works to ensure they receive the best terms and conditions. It’s written in the Real Estate Code of Ethics that realtors, when acting as listing brokers, must submit all offers and counter-offers until a close has been made, the contract ended, or the seller waives the privilege in writing. Even last-minute buyers can swoop in with a promising offer. 

Sellers also allow brokers to disclose to other prospective buyers whether an offer has been made on the property. While potentially jarring for other candidates, this tactic encourages a healthy amount of competition, and the seller has a better chance of walking away with more money.



How to Buy

It’s clear there’s a game to be played – so how should buyers go about playing it? Understanding the seller’s exact list of terms and conditions makes any prospective candidate more attractive. If working with a realtor, they should explain the seller’s conditions, bettering your chance of success.

It’s also wise to consider more than a seller’s price. Consider extending a closing date if its beneficial to the seller. This could be a huge convenience for a homeowner who’s already swamped with packing, kids, and trying to sell a house. If they need more time, grant them that luxury – or consider moving promptly if the seller wants to. If you’re flexible, you may be rewarded – with a house!

To better polish your offer, shorten the time it takes to get an inspection, shorten the mortgage contingency rate, and increase the standard escrow deposit for the area in which you are buying. These strategies will make you a frontrunner in the competition for your dream home.

Get What You Want
As a seller, you have the right to review all offers before closing a deal, and you're legally protected by a listing agent who works with your best interest in mind. You only need decide what factors are most important to you when weighing the pros and cons of multiple offers. You’ve invested in your home and lived in it with love, and you deserve to get the most out of your sale. As a buyer, learn the exact terms and conditions of the seller to help seal the deal on your dream home. The work will pay off with a beautiful home you love for years to come.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

5 Reasons to Use Succulents & Geodes to Liven Up Your Living Space

They're easy to manage, ask for little care, and add color and life to living, dining, and working spaces. Perfect for homeowners who are always busy, succulents are the low-maintenance decoration solution even for high-maintenance households.

Easy to Do, Hard to Forget

Recent trends have seen a shift from minimalist décor to planned constructions of color, a phenomenon that’s apparent in the use of succulents and geodes – they perfectly create a vibrant and refreshing space without cluttering it up. Simply find a pot with a pop of color and fill it with cactus potting mix. Adding hens and chicks succulents (members of the Sempervivum genus) or Hawthoria succulents add texture to your piece, and they need little tending to stay alive. Don’t have a green thumb? Don’t worry. Succulents only need to be lightly watered every two weeks.

Turn to Cacti for Color

Turning your tablespace into a greenhouse utopia is easy because the mix of metals and succulents speak for themselves. Arrangements with cacti and Hawthoria add natural, earthy tones, casting color around the house. Add your favorite shimmering stones or minerals such as purple agate geodes to effortlessly add lasting color.

Foolproof Flower Designs

With the right tricks up your sleeve, it’s easy to create decorations for your home that leave lasting impressions on all who enter. Spark this reaction by finding the perfect vase or bowl. These can be inexpensive containers or even repurposed items from your home. Next, include your favorite mixed metals for a personal touch. This will help to create different dimensions of color and ensure your décor is never boring. Adding aquarium pebbles to the base of your design illuminates the colors while creating texture. Vertical porcupine quills add height and intrigue, and a swirl of Sempervivum will have guests green with envy. It’s an added plus that succulents are the perfect plant for both novice and experienced planters, as they’re low maintenance and require little watering.

Lush Landscapes with Little Effort

A long and narrow vase or planter lets you create a landscape with an earthy vibe while still allowing for conversation across the table. Short succulents, with their many whimsical designs, catch the eye of dinner guests and are truly hard to miss. Intricate narrow-styled designs are the perfect centerpieces for adding something subtle yet interesting to the table. It’s décor that captivates the room without getting in the way.

Versatility in the Vines

It’s no wonder there’s a growing trend of using succulents and geodes in home design. They can even be used as the perfect place settings for guests. Simply write guests’ names on the outside of the vase. They’ll know where to sit, and they get to take home something beautiful. Suitable for any room, person, or occasion, succulents and geodes may just be the colorful pieces you’ve been searching for.

Monday, July 30, 2018

How Realtors Wow Buyers Post-Purchase

As a realtor, your job doesn’t end once buyers finish signing their paperwork. You don’t wave goodbye and hope for the best. Buyers put incredible amounts of trust in you to help their dreams come true for creating a home in which they’ll spend a third (and sometimes more) of their life. There’s a relationship that builds from each partnership, and it’s your opportunity to cultivate ongoing business and craft a list of clients who can speak to your superior skills and care as a realtor.

Share Your Knowledge of the Community

Home buyers are often moving into new areas – it’s rare that a new home buyer will move just down the street to a different house. That means their surroundings will be all-new to them, and the local businesses they have come to know and love will change. That’s a problem.

People greatly prefer to do business with companies they have come to know deeply and with whom they have nurtured trust. Since your buyers already have a good deal of trust in you, the businesses that you recommend for common household tasks such as plumbing and electricity as well as local food suppliers, restaurants, and bars will almost certainly be some of the first places they try.

Help them Move

You don’t have to set aside a Saturday to shuffle boxes and furniture from one house to another, but you can either recommend a reputable moving company or arrange one for them. You don’t have to foo the bill (unless you want to); if your buyers were already planning to use a moving company for their move, they’ll be happy the logistics are already worked out. Just be sure to check with your buyers when they plan to move and what times would be convenient for them.

Buy a Move-in Dinner

Even with the help of professional movers, the overwhelming list of post-move tasks is made more challenging by simple, small tasks such as finding a tasty meal. Help your buyers ease into their move by arranging a dinner for them. You don’t need to attend – they will likely prefer some privacy and some time to unwind without having to be too social.

Simply order in some comfort food for them to enjoy with all the utensils and seasonings included. They’ll be grateful that you made their move so easy and appreciate the additional gesture.

 

Celebrate Milestones with Them

Past the initial move-in, you’ll still want to nurture your buyers and stay top-of-mind by sending an occasional reminder. You can tie in reminders of your shared experience by sending a card or greeting at certain milestones of your buyers’ lives. Don’t be overly personal – you won’t want to surprise buyers if you find out they are getting married or having a baby. But if they share milestones with you, provide them congratulations, and don’t be afraid to send birthday and Christmas cards to show buyers you’re still thinking about them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Will You Move to a Hip City?

We’ve all heard the hype: New York, San Francisco, and Portland are some of the hippest cities, boasting great food, up-and-coming art, and super trendy people. But a new wave of hipsterdom is among us, and cities are undergoing transformations left and right – inspiring moves across the United States.

So, what exactly makes these cities so trendy, and why should you – or shouldn’t you -- move to one?

They’re Full of Hipsters

According to a study by our friends at MoveHub, looking at hipsters can give you great insight into understanding what hip city you may – or may not – want to move to. They define hipsters as a subculture of 20 – 30-year-olds who are free-thinkers, non-mainstream, and what they call non-conformist conformists. They’re easy to spot and make impressions on the places they inhabit and the people they meet. They’re a prominent subgroup of a younger generation that’s difficult to ignore.   

In MoveHub's study, the U.S. Hipster Index, they rely on hard data to determine how hip a city is based on five key points – the number of microbreweries, thrift stores, vegan restaurants, and tattoo studios for every 100,000 residents, as well as the rate of rent inflation in the past year. The results offer several interesting things to consider before making a move.

The Pacific Northwest Still Reigns

Considering the five key points above, cities in the Pacific Northwest dominated the study, boasting four of the top-20 cities on the list. Someone’s got a whole lot of craft-beer drinking, thrifting, tattooing, and vegan eating going on. That someone – or place -- is Vancouver, Washing, scoring an 8.23 on the list and ranking number one. This hip city is closely followed by Tacoma, Spokane, and Seattle – all cities in the state of Washington. Remember that time you wanted to hike Mount Rainier after making a morning trip to the nation’s first Starbucks? Well, that can happen if you move to one of these hip cities. Plus, you’re neighbors with another hip city – Portland, Oregon.

Large Cities Aren’t ‘In It to Win It’

Big cities offer many cool experiences. New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago are timeless and offer the dream of a hustling and bustling city, but they don’t score well on the U.S. Hipster Index. Their mere size dilutes overall hipster impact, and revitalized areas that have a cool appeal are where gentrification runs rampant.

Rent skyrockets in the hippest areas and finding a studio apartment can be a daunting task. While big cities hold their own appeal, provide unique histories, and offer diversity, they’re also quite expensive – something to consider before packing your bags. The study shows that cities comprised of less than 500,000 people provide more saturated-hipster experiences, with cool cafés, shops, and studios situated closely together.

Different Cities for Different Folks

While the study accounts for 5 key factors, some cities regard certain hip factors more highly than others. In Denver, Colorado, for example, 9 microbreweries exist for every 100,000 residents – placing it at the top of the list for all-things-beer but lower on the list for all other factors. That’s great if you like your daily dose of hops, but what if you’re not a beer fan?

Don’t worry – you’re still cool. You may just want to move to Augusta, Georgia instead, a charming city that also houses the most tattoo studios according to the study’s parameters. Meanwhile, Richmond, Virginia boasts the most thrift stores, providing its love for recycled fashion. Other top-placing cities according to the study are Salt Lake City, Cincinnati, Boise, Atlanta, Grand Rapids, and Rochester – all recognized for their own uniquely hip qualities and affordability.

It’s up to You

Every city possesses its own history, culture, and politics, and it’s ultimately up to you to decide what qualities are most essential in a place you’ll learn to call home. A city is a playground in which you share experiences and make memories – why not make them hip, cool, and trendy, too?

Monday, July 23, 2018

How Do I Know If I'm Ready to Buy a House?

You’re ready to buy a house if you’re financially independent, have enough savings to cover a down payment and still pay off unexpected costs, and are or nearly are debt-free. At least, that’s what the ideal scenario looks like. There are some areas that are give-and-take, and the truth is that almost no one fits the ideal scenario.

But you can still rate yourself on your readiness to buy a house based on how well you can immediately answer the requirements of a home purchase. See how well you fit into the following scenarios:

The Estimated Monthly Mortgage Payment Is Affordable

Online calculators can help give you a very rough idea of how much your mortgage might cost, but opening up a conversation with a lender is probably a more accurate way to understand what your financial burden might look like on a monthly basis.

Conventional wisdom recommends that you spend no more than one-third of your gross income on rent, but it’s much wiser to calculate your spending limit based on your net income. If you do, you can build in a bit of cushion for when bidding on the house begins. If you end up lower on your mortgage than you thought, that’s fantastic – if not, at least you’re not stretching your budget as much as you would be if you were relying on gross income figures.

A Down Payment of at Least 10% Is Ready

10% is OK – but it also comes with mortgage insurance. Yep – if you can’t put 20% down on your house, you’re required to buy mortgage insurance that will slightly raise your monthly financial responsibility.

However, 10% is better than no down payment. Most lenders won’t even give you a loan if you’re not ready with some kind of down payment, but 10% shows that you’re serious enough to deliver on your outstanding debt.

Income Is Regular and Reliable

Your income should be something you can count on to stay consistent or rise if you’re thinking of making a home purchase. Be sure that you’re settled in one place for a good amount of time, your standing with your company is positive, and you have the opportunity for financial growth.

Look for something more stable if you’re performing contract work or just starting as a freelancer. If you’ve established a strong network through long-term freelance work, you’ll probably be able to handle a mortgage even if you have to weather some difficult months will little work.

Debts Are Paid or Nearly Paid

If you’re waist-deep in educational debt, car payments, furniture and credit card payments, and personal loans, adding a mortgage to your already heavy burden is not a smart next step. Instead, pay off your highest interest loans first, even if they have the largest principal. Once you’re down to one or two low-interest debts, you can start considering how a mortgage will affect payment of those debts.

Don’t take home purchasing lightly. It’s an enormous step in your life, and it’s imperative that you do it right and set yourself up for mortgage payment success.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Is It Worth a Long Commute for a Dream Home?

With the advent of long and costly commutes, you may want to think twice about purchasing a home far from your place of work or study. Take into account these factors before picking up the keys to your new dream house -- you may save yourself time, money, and relief from a major headache.

Time on the Road Breaks the Bank

According to the Census Bureau, the average commute time in the U.S. is 25.4 minutes. This sounds doable, but bear in mind that transportation times vary widely depending on where you live. Larger metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, New York, and Boston boast some of the longest commutes, with average driving times of 102, 91, and 79 minutes respectively. That’s a lot of time, and there’s more to consider than the mere madness of gritting your teeth in gridlock.


The amount of time you spend behind the wheel affects how much is spent on gas and maintenance, so it’s important to estimate how often you’ll stop at the pump or repair shop. According to Lifehacker, a whopping $795 is added to annual transportation costs with every additional mile. Significantly reducing your commute time (or even cutting it in half) could save you money on items for your new home or help with a down payment.

Each mile matters, and it’s wise to calculate just how far you’re willing to go for your dream home. We’ll take the National Association of Realtors’ advice and encourage prospective buyers to compare commutes in different areas before signing any legally binding documents. Realtor apps can help by finding homes close to important destinations like school and work, making your search a bit easier.  

There are many factors to consider when searching for a new place. Why not calculate the time and money required for traveling, too? You’ll feel more prepared when you need to compare potential homes and make a final decision.

Investigate Hidden Costs


Many buyers move to the suburbs for the promise of an affordable home that’s well-kept. This is a lucrative prospect if travel times are minimal, but keep in mind that costly commutes to work, school, or the city can offset low housing prices. In a study published by the Urban Land Institute, research shows that suburban homeowners may spend more than their counterparts in the city when travel expenses are taken into account.

But don’t be fooled. While living close to the city center cushions you from traveling expenses, the cost of city living can be pricey. Parking passes are as much as $200 a month, and insurance and tax rates skyrocket when densely populated areas are more prone to accidents and theft. When making your decision, it’s necessary to research costs associated with both city and suburban life -- and to weigh the pros and cons of each.

Be Sensible About Your Sanity


Another worthwhile thing to consider is, well, your mental health. Studies show that long commute times can, not surprisingly, have a negative impact on your health. Research from Washington University suggests long travel times put drivers at risk for high blood pressure, weight gain, and other health issues associated with chronic disease.

The next time you commit to an hour-long journey to and from work, understand that your physical and mental health may be at stake. Determine if lengthy travel times will drive you off the rails, or if you can peacefully get by with help from a podcast or some music.

Live the Life You’re Meant to Live


Making an important decision like buying a house requires much thought and ultimately depends on the kind of lifestyle you want to live. Do you see yourself settling down in a quiet neighborhood to raise a family? Are you intrigued by the hustle and bustle of large metropolitan areas? Is proximity to parks and greenery essential to your well-being?

These preferences carry weight and help inform your house-buying decision -- and they should because where you’re at in life matters. You’ll be happier knowing your community supports your unique personality, goals, and aspirations.

Just don’t forget about commute times and all associated costs. With a bit of preparation and research, you’re well on your way to making a confident decision about a home you love.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

4 Ways to Make Moving Day Easier

We all know how stressful moving can be; fitting pots and pans into boxes becomes one big puzzle and hauling books to the car seems unnecessarily evil. But moving doesn’t always have to be a stressful ordeal.

In fact, with the right mindset and preparation, moving is made simple and can be accomplished in an organized and chaos-free fashion. Follow these steps on how to make your next move smart, easy, and maybe even fun.

Steer Clear of Clutter

Now is the time to take a good hard look at the things you’ve been hoarding in your closet for the last decade. Before packing, consider which items are essential to your happiness and if they’ve recently been put to good use. Rid your space of old socks, rusty pans, and books that will never be read.

It’s okay to be brutally honest in this phase. You’ll thank yourself later when you move into your new home without having to sift through old and neglected items. 

Now that things have been sorted, decide which pieces to sell or donate. Donation centers like the Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Donation Town accept a variety of used household gems. Clothes, furniture, electronics, toys, and sporting equipment can be scheduled for pickup, and getting rid of your things is as easy as making a phone call.

Plan Like a Professional

Just like decluttering your space saves you from a potential headache, planning your move ahead of time helps prevent unwanted mayhem. Research different moving companies and call a month in advance to schedule the best time for your move. Make sure your moving company of choice is certified in your state and has a reputation for responsible handling. After all, you can’t afford to have delicate dishes tossed around when no one is looking!

It will also be beneficial to contact all utility providers so money isn’t spent on services you no longer use. Changing your home address a week in advance ensures important documents arrive safely at their new location. Taking steps such as these, while sometimes easy to forget, makes your transition less dizzying and gives you a leg up on your moving experience. So, pull out the calendar and start planning.

Find the Right Tools for the Job

A packer’s journey usually begins with boxes. There are small ones, large ones – ones with labels and color-specific tape. Basically, there are a lot of boxes out there that will get the job done. We suggest making a trip to your local liquor or grocery store to pick up recycled boxes no longer in use. Why not buy a couple of cold ones while you’re at it? Toast to all your hard work and the friends and family who’ve made your move a bit more doable and fun.

When it comes to packing strategy, there are some things all packers should know. Place heavier items like books and glassware in smaller boxes. They’ll be easier to carry, and you won’t break as much of a sweat. Consider placing books in suitcases to avoid more heavy lifting and use durable trash bags for clothing items instead. Stack dishes vertically and wrap fragile items in blankets, towels, or bubble wrap so they can endure a rickety car ride.

Alongside boxes, you’re going to want plenty of Ziploc bags for screws, chords, and miscellaneous objects. Be sure to invest in durable packing tape and label the sides of boxes to make unloading easy. Packing boxes by item type or room will make unpacking even more straightforward, and it’s a good idea to have a game plan in mind before you load up the car.

Celebrate Your Victory

Moving undoubtedly takes a lot out of you. After all the cleaning, sorting, and hauling of furniture, you deserve a break. Whether hired movers did most of the heavy lifting or your friends and family were recruited for the job, everyone deserves some type of post-moving reward.

Put thought into tipping your mover. Order a pizza and a round of drinks for friends and family. Best of all, sleep soundly in your new home knowing the bulk of work is done and that the all the planning paid off. 

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