11 Tips for Back to School Success

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It is that time of year again! Time to bust out the new backpacks, get your school supplies together, and begin a brand new school year. If you are looking for ways to start the year off right, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when heading back to school!

1.) Always get a good night’s sleep

In addition to going to bed at a decent time (7-8 hours of sleep is recommended), your environment plays a key role in the quality of your sleep. Choose a blanket that keeps you warm so that you are less likely to wake up in the middle of the night from being cold. You will also want to make sure you are sleeping in total darkness. Turn off screens when you lay down to go to bed. Looking at your phone or watching TV keeps your mind stimulated which can keep you awake longer.

2.) Plan an exciting breakfast

This way you will be more motivated to get up in the morning knowing you won’t have a boring breakfast!

3.) Put your alarm across the room

By putting your alarm across the room, the chances of you hitting snooze and going back to bed are significantly less. Once you are out of bed, you likely won’t be going back to sleep.

4.) Set your schedule as your lock screen

Instead of digging through your phone or pulling out a printed sheet of paper, setting your schedule as your lock screen gives you easy access to where you are supposed to be and when. This can be especially helpful for the first week or so of school.

5.) Make a Post-It note calendar of weekly to do’s

When you complete each task, you can take the Post-It off of your calendar. This provides a sense of accomplishment since your list is getting smaller. This tip can be useful for work or school!

6.) Use colorful pens and highlighters when taking notes

Using colorful pens and highlighters can help you stay more organized when writing notes or reading. Anything highlighted or written in the same color pertain to one another, making it easy to distinguish subject matter when looking back at your materials.

7.) Set study/ homework goals and treat yourself when you reach them

Treating yourself when you reach a goal can be very effective when studying. Your treat could be anything from your favorite candy or snack to playing your favorite game, or even just some time to browse social media. Choose something that you enjoy to keep yourself motivated.

8.) When studying, create a schedule with study times and break times

Set your phone alarms to indicate when to study and when to take a break. Taking breaks while studying can ultimately help you study longer since you are not overloading your brain with information non-stop.

9.) Get regular exercise

Regular exercise is proven to give you more energy throughout the day and increase brain function. Even small amounts each day can make a difference.

10.) Re-Write Notes

When you get home, re-write your notes from that day to help increase the chances of you remembering the content. Go over those same notes a week later and highlight key points for even further memory retention.

11.) Use Google Scholar

Skip the regular old Google search and use Google Scholar to find more accurate and relevant information if you are doing research for a project or paper. On this search engine, you can also keep track of your citations as you go.

Helpful Tips for Moving with Pets

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In all the commotion and excitement of moving, it can be difficult to remember the impact a new home move can have on your furry friend. That is why, in honor of National Dog Day, we bring you these helpful tips to make moving with pets as easy & stress-free as possible!

  1. Make sure your pet has proper identification. Before you move, ensure your pet has a fitted collar with ID tags listing your contact information and new address to ensure they don’t run off while you’re unloading boxes. Even if your pup is highly trained, it is important to remember that the stress of a move can make even the most obedient dog to run away due to unfamiliar surroundings.
  2. Prepare an overnight kit. Don’t let your furry friend’s food, medicine, toys, etc. get lost in moving boxes! Make sure to have all these things easily accessible to sustain your pet’s current habits and make them feel comfortable during the transition.
  3. Update your vet. Make sure your current vet knows of your new address or, if you are moving out of the area, be sure to have your pets vet records sent over to your new vet.
  4. Reduce stress. If your pet is easily stressed or requires more attention, it may be best to leave them with a friend for the day during the moving process or in a kennel overnight. If this is not possible, help reduce stress by keeping the animal in a quiet area with plenty of water and toys to keep them occupied.
  5. Seek out pet friendly hotels. If you are moving far away and are planning to stop for the night at a hotel, make sure you plan ahead to find a spot that is pet friendly. Also, while on the drive, make sure to make plenty of stops for potty and water breaks to keep your pet comfortable. If your pet is prone to car sickness, contact your vet a month prior to the move to ask the proper precautions or medicines available to help with this transition.

End of Summer To-Do List

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Summer 2016, we are sad to see you go!

Just as soon as it came in, summer is sadly already on its way out. That is why we’re bringing you every last thing you need to squeeze in before the first leaves fall and the kids go back to school. See below for your end of summer to-do list!

Hit the Road

If you haven’t had time for a summer getaway, don’t fret. August is a great time to squeeze in a last minute road trip with your family or friends! Take a much needed break from your regular day to day life, pack up the car, choose a destination and go.

Be Brave

Get out of your comfort zone and do something you’ve never done before like skydiving or waterskiing to help make summer 2016 more memorable!

Throw an End of Summer Bash

Now that all the parties from the 4th of July have died down a bit, it’s time to get together with family & friends one last time to celebrate a great summer had and great year to come!

Have a Garage Sale

If you haven’t had time to participate in your neighborhood’s annual garage sale, take a weekend to have one of your own! That way, you can clear out old, unwanted items and prepare your home for the new season to come.

Catch a Flick

Still haven’t had a chance to catch the must see summer blockbuster that everyone’s been talking about? Head to the movies! Better yet, head to a local outdoor theater to enjoy your movie on a warm summer night.

Camp Out Under the Stars

Whether you pack everything up and head to a campsite far away or lay out a sleeping bag in your back yard, now is a great time to fit in one last summer camp out!

Enjoy some Sun & Fun

If you haven’t had a chance to yet, now is the time to enjoy the last of the warm weather at your local beach or pool. Don’t forget the SPF!

Volunteer

Summer is a great time to help those in need around your community! Take a day or weekend before the season ends to help out at your local church, park, food shelter, etc.

Challenge Yourself

Why not finally set yourself up to achieve goals you had at the start of summer? Sign up for a run, read that novel, learn a new language, whatever it may be, set your goal and go for it!

Spend Time with Loved Ones

Before everyone is busy again with the hustle & bustle of a new school year, weekend activities, and holidays, it is important to set extra time aside to spend with those you love and care about.

The Home Buying Process: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

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The Olympic Games Rio 2016 are in full swing and so is the summer 2016 real estate market!  If you’ve thrown yourself into the ring called “the home buying process” this season, then you already know that it can be hard to keep up, stay on track and make it all the way to the end.

If you’ve already been through the home buying process, than you know that all the hard work and dedication is worth it to hold your gold medal, AKA your new brass house keys, in your hands when all is said and done!

One thing to remember if you are currently going through, or are at the starting line to begin the process, is that buying a home is a marathon, not a sprint.

Follow these checkpoints along the way to help you successfully achieve your gold: the home of your dreams.

Checkpoint 1: Get Pre-Approved

Submit your application and the documents needed to verify your income, assets, and debts, including thirty days of recent paystubs, last two years of W-2s, and two recent bank statements.

Checkpoint 2: Home Search and Offer

Your Realtor will help you find the perfect home and write up an offer letter to the seller, which details the price you are offering to pay for a property and any applicable conditions.

Checkpoint 3: Purchase Agreement

Your Realtor will write up the contract for you and the seller to sign. A deposit is generally required. This agreement will outline all of the required dates, deadlines, and contingencies.

Checkpoint 4: Home Inspection

If the offer is accepted, a home inspection is next. Home inspections are not required, but highly recommended. A home inspector will look for any issues or violations with the property.

Checkpoint 5: Application and Disclosures

Your loan officer will have you review and sign a number of documents and disclosures, including your mortgage application and a Good Faith Estimate, which details the estimated costs of financing.

Checkpoint 6: Appraisal and Title

An appraisal (an estimate or property value) will be ordered and provided to the underwriting team. Your loan officer will select a title company to research the property title.

Checkpoint 7: Homeowners Insurance

Proof of insurance is required prior to closing. Your first year’s premium must be paid in full. Have your insurance agent contact your loan officer to ensure they receive the proper insurance binder.

Checkpoint 8: Final Approval

Underwriting will review all the documentation necessary to approve your mortgage loan additional verifications may be necessary at this point. If all of the documentation is acceptable, you will be clear to close.

Checkpoint 9: Closing Disclosure

You will get a final breakdown of all costs and money required at closing. For closing, you will need government issued identification and a certified check to pay closing costs.

Checkpoint 10: Your Loan Closing!

It’s closing time! Did you bring your government issued identification? Do you have a certified check to cover closing costs? During the closing, a representative from the title company will review all the loan documents with you. They will get signatures from both you and the seller. After all money is distributed, the deed will then be recorded with you as the new owner of record!

Rest assured you are not on this journey alone. Your loan officer will be with you every step of the way and will be able to answer any questions that arise.

10 Ways to Protect Your Home while on Vacation

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From booking travel arrangements to packing, a lot of preparation goes into planning a vacation. One thing many people overlook, though, is preparing their home for what may happen after they leave. When you go out of town, especially for an extended period of time, ensuring your home is safe from possible intruders or other incidents should be a priority. Aside from checking that all of your doors and windows are locked, there are many other precautions you can take to protect your home. Here are some tips to help keep your home safe while you’re away.

  1. Give friends spare keys

Give a set of keys to a trusted friend or relative in case of an emergency. If you have any spare keys outside under a flower pot, door mat, or any other hiding spot, move them inside while you’re away.

  1. Don’t advertise your vacation on social media

When you advertise your vacation on social media, your home becomes a target. You may think there is no need to worry since you are just sharing the information with friends. However, your friends are not the only ones that can see your posts on social media. Posts can reach friends of friends or even complete strangers if you do not have the proper privacy settings. These people may not be so trustworthy. Save the sharing until you are back from vacation.

  1. Set lamps and radios on timers to avoid looking vacant

A home that is noticeably dark for multiple days is a clue that you and/or your family are on vacation. Give the illusion that someone is home by putting lamps and radios on programmable timers.

  1. Have a friend check on your house frequently

Since you have already given someone spare keys in case of emergency, have the same friend come over to check on your home frequently while you are away. Ask them to check for signs of home or property damage or signs of a break-in. Have them care for any pets that are still in the home. Request that they bring in the mail if you do not suspend your mail service. By having someone maintain a presence at your home, it will help give the appearance that you are home.

  1. Turn down the heat or turn up the air

Setting your thermostat at a lower temperature during the winter, or a higher temperature during the summer can significantly reduce your heating and cooling costs while you are away. You can even use this trick while you are at work every day to save money on your monthly energy bill!

  1. Advertise home security with signs

If you have a security system, post signs outside to signify your home is protected. Burglars are less likely to approach a home if they know there is a risk of setting off an alarm.

  1. Stow valuables in a safe place

Hide valuable items in a safe place. Be cautious about using a small safe; it could be a target if it is small enough for the thief to walk off with. Consider getting a safe deposit box at your bank to store your valuables.

  1. Unplug and switch off electronics

Reduce the chances of an electrical fire by turning off and unplugging non-essential electronics. Many electronics will still use energy even if they are turned off. Therefore, you will also save money on energy costs by unplugging your electronics.

  1. Cover garage windows

If you have windows in your garage, invest in some curtains to cover them. If someone can clearly see there is a missing car or two from the garage, it could increase the chances of a break-in.

  1. Park an extra car in your driveway

Parking an extra car in your driveway lets people know that someone is home. Whether they think it is just a visitor or the resident’s car, if there is one parked out in the driveway, it can be a red flag for a burglar.

 

You should spend your vacation relaxing and enjoying time with your family, not stressing out about your home security. Give yourself peace of mind while you’re away by taking these precautions before you leave.

Homes for Heroes

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I am privileged to announce that I have joined the Homes for Heroes organization in their mission to help heroes across the country save thousands of dollars in the process of buying or selling their home.

What is Home for Heroes?

Homes for Heroes is an organization that was formed after the tragic events of 9/11 as a way to say “Thank You” to the heroes of our nation. The Homes for Heroes organization is composed of a network of real estate professionals who are prepared to give real savings to those who serve their communities when they buy, sell, or refinance a home. This program is our way to say, “Thank you!”

Who qualifies as a hero?

Our core group of local heroes includes but is not limited to: Military personnel, Police Officers, Firefighters, First Responders, Educators, and Health Care Workers.  If you think you might qualify, please contact me and tell me about what you do for your community. When you are buying, selling or refinancing a home, let us say thank you for all that you do!

How much will I save?

The total amount you save will depend on the final selling or buying price of your home. Homes for Heroes affiliate Realtors agree to rebate equal to 25% of the gross commission they receive on your transaction. Discounted lender fees are also offered on purchases and refinances with a Homes for Heroes lender. The savings can be thousands of dollars!

Are there a lot of extra applications, forms, and paperwork?

No! Homes for Heroes promises no extra forms, no red tape, no fine print, no hidden fees, and no catch!

With my background of over 20 years in residential mortgage lending, Homes for Heroes offers me the chance to help our local community heroes achieve their dreams of home ownership.  If you are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity, please contact me for more info or you can register now at HomesForHeroes.com to get started.

5 Remodeling Projects that Pay Off

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Whether you’re selling your home in the near future or just looking for an upgrade to help increase your home’s value, here are 5 remodeling projects that will pay off.

Create a Backyard Oasis

When it comes to updating your home, taking care of the backyard is just as important as taking care of the inside of your home. The backyard is an important and convenient place to spend time with family and entertain friends and can be updated in various ways depending on budget. Adding a deck, planting flower beds, building a firepit or purchasing new patio furniture can go a long way to transforming your backyard into your very own oasis.

Upgrade the Heart of the Home

As they say, the kitchen is the heart of the home and should not be overlooked when it comes to remodeling and upgrading your home. The kitchen is where the family gathers and spends a great deal of time, so if there is one place to truly invest, this is it. If your budget permits, purchasing new appliances and countertops can transform the space, however, you can also DIY your way to a new kitchen by painting your cabinets or adding a backsplash.

Beautify your Bathroom

Upgrading your bathroom is similar to upgrading your kitchen in the sense that it can be done regardless of how large or small your budget is. You’d be surprised what a can of paint, a new shower curtain and matching towels can do to give your bathroom a whole different look! If it does fit in your budget, though, consider adding new light fixtures or even a new shower.

Wow in the Entryway

The entryway is the first impression guests or future buyers get when they walk into your home which is why it is an important area that cannot be ignored. Your entryway not only includes the indoor, but the outdoor area as well meaning it begins with your front door and front porch. If yours is outdated, try a fresh coat of paint or even purchase a new door which as proven to provide a great return on investment in the long run.

Replace Outdated Windows

If you’ve purchased an older home you fell in love with or have been in your home for many years, it may be time to replace outdated windows with newer, more energy efficient ones. Newer windows can save you a lot of money on your energy bills and although it is an expensive investment, overtime will pay you back in the long wrong. If you’re selling your home, this is also a major plus for potential buyers.

If you’d like to renovate your home but are struggling to find the means to do so, you may want to consider looking into our renovation loan options or cash-out refinancing! Contact me to discuss your options today.