Cold Weather Hacks to Stay Warm Inside All Winter Long

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When it’s cold outside, you want to stay warm inside. Here are a few hacks to make your home warmer and cozier as we settle into whatever winter brings.

Add a rug or two. Got cold hard floors? A rug will provide some warming insulation. Even better, layering several will create a cozy barrier to keep your feet warm. Put a plush rug on a tile floor, and you’ll gladly stand up for winter.

Make your sofa snuggle-worthy. Put pillows and throw blankets on your sofa to make it a place you’re happy to snuggle on and snuggle into. Then burrow in with some tea and a good book or a good movie.

Reverse the direction of your ceiling fan blades. When you do this, the fan blades will push the hot air downwards (instead of drawing air upwards) and help keep the heat lower. This is especially important in rooms with high ceilings. How do you know your fan is spinning in reverse? When you look up your blades should be moving in a clockwise fashion.

Block a drafty window with a towel. Roll up a towel and place along the bottom of a door to stop drafts and heat leaks. Feeling crafty? Make some homemade door snakes.

Let the light shine in when it’s sunny. Open the curtains on sunny days; close them in the evenings. You want the sun to heat your home but you don’t want the cold nights to make your home drafty.

Warm your bed. Use flannel sheets and a warm down comforter to stay warm on frosty nights.

Wear your favorite warm clothes – the oversized sweater, the loose lounge pants – and don’t forget your socks. According to the Univesity of San Diego if your feet are cold, you’ll be cold. And wear slippers – in addition to wearing warm socks, keep your feet extra toasty when doing chores by wearing slippers.

Keep your oven door open after baking. Let the warm air circulate in your kitchen. This works especially well in a smaller home or kitchen, but it’s good to try no matter what size your home is.

Home alone? Keep your bathroom door open when you shower. The warm, humid air will seep out into your home.

Finally, close off rooms you’re not using. If you have an empty guest room or storage space, close the door and seal it with a draftstopper. You won’t waste money heating a room you don’t use.

All About Cranberries

Christmas Candles and Fireplace

Cranberries – The holiday fruit of all holiday fruits. As the holidays get closer, cranberries go on sale. And who can resist buying four bags when they are buy-one-get-one free? But after you make the traditional cranberry sauce, what are you supposed to do with the other three bags? Here are some non-food uses for cranberries and some fun cranberry facts to share.

Create a festive holiday mantel.
Cranberries add the perfect hint of deep red to a classy and classic holiday mantel. Lay out some evergreen garlands and vases with floating cranberries and candles to really make a special holiday mantel.

Light up the room.
Add cranberries to your glass cylinders and top with candles. If your cylinders are all one size, you can add different amounts of cranberries to raise candles to different heights for this beautiful look.

Hang topiary balls.
Cover foam balls, which you can purchase at any craft store, with leaves and cranberries. Simply use pushpins to stick the cranberry on the balls. The silver head of the pin will sparkle, too. Add a red ribbon and hang small topiaries on your tree or larger ones anywhere you’d like to add a special touch.

Make a super easy, super festive centerpiece.
Even if you have not got a single crafty bone in your body, it does not get easier than this. Fill a ceramic dish with cranberries and lay some evergreens over the middle. Voila. The holidays come to your dining room table.

Hide the stems in a floral arrangement.
Do you like holiday flowers but wish you couldn’t see the stems? Use cranberries as camouflage. Fill a vase half full of cranberries and fresh water and drop in your floral arrangement, perhaps roses and holly for a holiday treat. Add more water and cranberries to hide the stems of this beautiful mantel decoration. Or pair cranberries with a bouquet of white flowers for a beautiful holiday contrast. Keep in mind when using cranberries in a vase that they will float. If you don’t want to hide the stems, toss in fewer so they mix in with the stems.

Keep kids crafty.
You can even get kids in the cranberry game with this “oldie but goodie.” String cranberries for garland for your tree. It’s a lovely tradition and a lot of fun. You can mix with popcorn or other small decorations of your choosing. Choose a heavy thread and eliminate bad cranberries before you get started. Then tie a knot at the end of your thread, thread the needle and start stringing. It’s a fun craft for a cold night.

Fun Facts about Cranberries

  • Native Americans and Pilgrims used cranberries as a red dye.
  • Wild cranberries were probably part of the first Thanksgiving in 1621.
  • The first recorded use of the word “cranberries” appeared in 1647 in a letter written by missionary John Eliot.
  • New England sailors ate cranberries, a good source of vitamin C, to fight off scurvy.
  • The first commercial canned cranberry sauce was put on the market by the Cape Cod Cranberry Company in 1912.
  • Wisconsin in the nation’s #1 cranberry producer. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington also produce millions of pounds of cranberries every year.
  • One cup of fresh cranberries contains about 50 calories.
  • One cup of cranberry sauce contains about 400 calories.

We’ve answered your questions about cranberries; now let us answer your questions about home loans! 

Make Your Holiday Home, Holiday Guest-Ready

christmas dog with teddy bear sleeping

Welcome your holiday visitors with a home that is guest-ready. It’s easy to feel ready for anything when the doorbell rings by taking a few simple steps today.

Clear the clutter. For a lot of us our guest room was once our “spare room” or it is still our office. Clear the clutter from the guest room when you know you are going to have visitors. If the guest room doubles your office, put away your files and move your laptop. If you store items in the guest closet, buy some storage bins and put things in the bins to keep the closet organized and welcoming. Clear out at least half of the closet, and leave plenty of open hangers so your guests can hang their clothes and jackets right away. Make sure some of the dresser drawers are available, too. Guests are more comfortable when they have a place to store their clothes and other items so they aren’t tossed around in their room or stacked on top of their suitcase.

Have a luggage rack ready. If you simply cannot empty any drawers or make room in the closet, get a couple of inexpensive luggage racks so your guests can put their luggage on those and pull their clothes from there, without having to work from a suitcase on the floor. Put an inexpensive hook on the outside of the closet and dangle a few coat hangers on that, so your guests have a place to hang up jackets and nice clothes.

Make a guest basket. Fill up a basket with everything from travel-sized soaps to snacks to munch on after you’ve gone to bed. Include a few travel essentials: lip balm, lotion, sunscreen, a lint roller and little essentials they may not have remembered or thought to bring. If you are feeling extra welcoming, put in some fun snacks, such as granola, bite-sized candy bars or fig newtons. Include some bottles of water or a reusable water bottle or glasses in the basket or next to the basket so your guests can get water during the night without having to fumble around in the dark kitchen.

Create an online cheat sheet. Make their stay easy by creating a packet ahead of time with all of the information they’ll need, like your WiFi network name and password, so they can log on whenever they want.

  • Add soft, low-key lighting. Make sure your guest room has a lamp with soft lighting or a 3-way bulb so they can adjust the lighting. Soft lighting makes it easier to read before dozing off and makes the room feel more cozy.Use good sheets. Put nice sheets on your bed. Splurge a little on sheets and a soft blanket. If the mattress is your old one from your youth, it may be time to buy an inexpensive but new mattress that is a little less used. Make the bed look lovely with a throw blanket or pillows, but don’t go overboard on the decorations. Too many throw pillows and guests get flustered trying to make the bed the way you like it.

    Put extra pillows and blankets in the closet or on a small table or chair in the corner so your guests can be as comfy as they want.

    Provide a fan if the room gets warm, or make sure your guests know how to work the ceiling fan if there is one.

    Clear some space on top of the dresser. Don’t clutter the space with family photos or knick-knacks. Leave the space clear so your guests can put their jewelry, books, phone, etc. in a place that’s easy to see. If you do want to put something on the dresser, nothing says “welcome” more than some fresh flowers.

    Prep the bathroom, too!

  • Put out fresh towels, shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, cotton balls, cotton swabs. If your guests forget something, they’ll be glad you thought of it.
  • Make sure you leave extra toilet paper where they can see it or in the obvious cabinet. No one wants to ask for toilet paper.
  • Put out a box of tissues, as well, if you did not put one in the guest bedroom.

Early Risers?

  • Put coffee by the coffee maker or prep the coffee maker and set the timer so your guests can start their day early (or late if you’re up and out before them). Put out some fruit and muffins so guests aren’t forced to root through your cabinets if they are hungry.

It’s all about your guests. Make them feel welcome and comfortable. By following a few simple tips, you’ll be able to make sure your guest and you have the visit of a lifetime.

Why Winter May Be the Right Time to Buy Your New Home

Daughter and Father near the Fireplace

It may be turning cold outside but fall and winter just may be the best time for you to get a hot deal on a new home. Don’t let the blues of shorter days keep you from house hunting in the fall winter. There are some good reasons that now may be the best time to buy your new home.

Fewer buyers are house hunting.
Most home buyers shop in the spring and summer, when homes pop up for sale like tulips. Because there are so many fewer buyers, winter home buyers are more likely to get a good deal on the house they want.

Lower prices.
With fewer buyers in the market, home sellers often lower prices to attract the buyers who are out there.

Sellers are motivated.
Motivated sellers may be a great thing for home buyers, as they are more willing to negotiate. When you find the house you are looking for, you may be able to negotiate on price, closing costs, repairs, and even items such as appliances or other items you want included in the sale.

Inspections may turn up more or different items in the different seasons.
You will have the opportunity to see the house at work in the winter. Gutters, windows, heating systems, etc. get put to test during the colder months. You may miss some of the curb appeal of the manicured lawn when shopping in the winter, but you’ll know if the plumbing is working at full capacity and able to handle extremes.

Don’t miss out on buying your dream home because it’s cold outside. Seize the opportunity to put the season to work for you.

FHA Loans – Great Options for First-Time Home Buyers

new beginnings

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, an FHA loan may be the right loan for you. 

An FHA loan is insured by the Federal Housing Administration and protects lenders from financial risk. Lenders have to meet certain criteria for their loans to be termed “FHA-approved,” after which the FHA backs the loans the lender issues in case a borrower defaults on the mortgage. Borrowers must also meet requirements to qualify for one of these loans.

Why are FHA loans good options for first-time homebuyers? Because other home loan programs generally have higher credit score and down payment requirements, FHA loans are a great option for first-time homebuyers who have not had as much time to save for a large down payment or meet the credit score requirements.

Of course, are some other considerations to make before jumping in. 

Additional fees as well as private mortgage insurance add to the cost of the mortgage, and you may have a higher interest rate.

If you are ready to consider an FHA loan to help you make your first move, contact Universal Lending today to get started down the path of homeownership. We’ll discuss all of your home loan options with you so you find the right loan for you. 

 

Thanksgiving Activities the Whole Family Can Enjoy

Family Throwing Autumn Leaves In The Air

Are you looking for some fun family activities that you can enjoy on Thanksgiving? Sometimes it’s hard to find something for all ages, so we wanted to give you some ideas for ways you can make Thanksgiving and the long weekend fun for the whole family.

Make Thanksgiving Crafts.

No matter what your guests’ ages, everyone has fun making crafts. Set up a craft table with different items they can use – pine cones, construction paper, crayons, glitter, beads, holiday ornaments, scissors, glue and whatever your creative mind can thinks of. Guests can make holiday cards, wreaths, ornaments and more. And for a great Thanksgiving dinner treat, let everyone create their own Thanksgiving place mats or let the kids create them for themselves and adult family members.

Make a Game Out of Thanksgiving.

You can tweak just about any favorite game to give it a Thanksgiving twist. Here are just a few.

  • Pin the Tail on the Turkey. Make several construction paper turkey tail pieces and create a construction paper turkey body. Tape the turkey body to a wall. Give all players a construction paper tail. Blindfold the players, spin them, and let them have a chance to pin the tail on the turkey. Whoever gets the tail closest to the right spot, wins.
  • Turkey Words: Give all of your adults and children who can spell a piece of paper and pen. Set a timer for three minutes and have everyone make as many words as they can out of the word turkey. Whoever has the most words in three minutes when the timer goes off wins the game. If you have adults, older kids and young kids competing, you can have prizes for different age groups.
  • Turkey Talk: Tell a “story in the round” by making a circle and starting with the first person who makes up the first line of a Thanksgiving story. An example might be, “Jerry didn’t want to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving this year.” The next person adds a sentence to give the story another twist. The third person does the same. Go around the circle until the story ends and see what kind of turkey tale you come up with.

Take a Break Outside.

If the weather is nice, get outside. Take a walk around the neighborhood, go on a local hike or even start a game of football — the traditional Thanksgiving sport. Is there really a better way to burn calories after a big dinner or before you sit down to eat? Everyone can use a little movement on this holiday.

Make Memories. Share Memories.

After dinner is the perfect time to make some new memories by sharing some old ones. Pick a theme such as “the greatest day ever,” “my favorite memory,” or the funniest thing that ever happened to me.” Then share the stories with your family and friends. It’s a great way to relax and keep the evening going while sharing memories. Want to relive this? Make sure someone videotapes the stories on their camera or phone. You can share this after the evening for a fun memory you’ll always treasure.

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to get together and share quality time. We hope some of these activities can help your family keep the day special and make it memorable.

Why Do Home Loan Rates Move Up and Down?

Miniature House on A Blue Financial Graph

More now than in recent years, we are hearing the question: Why are home loan rates rising so much? 

The Federal Reserve monitors the U.S. economy and, when necessary, takes steps to address inflationary concerns to avoid economic recession. When the Fed discusses interest rates, it is primarily concerning the Fed Funds Rate, which is the rate banks use when lending money to each other overnight.

Home loan rates, on the other hand, are dictated by the trading of Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are a type of Bond.

At the real heart of home loan rate movement is the dual relationship between Stocks and Bonds, as they compete for the same investment dollars on a daily basis. Inflationary pressures, economic conditions and geopolitical events all influence the direction of both Stocks and Bonds.

When economic reports are weak or disappointing, investors often move their money from riskier investments like Stocks into Bonds, which are considered safer. Since home loan rates are tied to Mortgage Bonds, this helps home loan rates improve.

In contrast, strong economic news often causes investors to move their money into Stocks to take advantage of any gains. This can cause Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates to worsen.

Inflation reduces the value of fixed investments like Bonds. This means that a low inflation environment tends to be good for Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates, while high inflation can cause both to worsen.

Political turmoil or economic crises around the world can also cause investors to move their money into the safety of the Bond markets, helping Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates improve.

If you are second-guessing whether now is a good time to purchase a new home, contact us. We’ll analyze your financial situation together and create a plan that’s right for you. And if you have friends or family members considering a home purchase or refinance, please share our information with them.