What is a Mortgage Rate Lock?

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The mortgage lending world is full of terms that may not be familiar to you but are important to understand if you are considering buying a home or refinancing. One of those terms is mortgage rate lock. 

A mortgage rate lock is an arrangement between a lender and a borrower in which a mortgage’s interest rate is locked for a certain period of time. Typically, the locked-in rate will be the current market interest rate.

Some lenders choose to charge borrowers a lock fee if they choose to lock in the interest rate. Also, it’s common for lenders to start at a higher rate in case the homebuyers do not exercise their options to lock in a rate.

When a borrower and lender agree to a mortgage rate lock, it is important that both parties are bound by the agreement. This agreement would mean, for example, that the borrower could not unlock the rate because the market interest rate had lowered. Interest rates will usually be locked from the moment that the mortgage is offered until it is closed.

Unless a change occurs to the loan application, the interest rate will stay the same and will not be affected by market changes. Changes to the mortgage application, such as an increased loan amount or an updated credit score for the borrower, can result in the interest rate changing. Interest rates can also change if the home is appraised at a higher or lower amount than expected, or the borrower changes the type of mortgage for which they are applying.

Mortgage rate locks have some drawbacks from the borrower’s standpoint. For example, if the market rate falls during the term of the mortgage, a borrower would not be able to take advantage of these lower rates. The same would be true for lenders if the market rate rises.

A lock deposit can be a good way to make sure that both the borrower and the lender hold to the terms of the mortgage lock agreement. This deposit shows that both parties are committed to upholding the agreement. A loan estimate and a rate lock can be issued at the same time, and the period of the mortgage rate lock can be between 10 and 60 days. A longer rate lock period typically means that the borrower and lender have agreed to a higher interest rate.

Questions about mortgage rate locks or anything related to home mortgages? Please contact us today. 

Lighten the Load: Some Tips for De-Cluttering Your Home

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De-Cluttering – It is both an art and a science. Making sure you keep what you need and really want, and finding a good home for things you don’t is harder than it sounds. If you are getting ready to move, it’s time to de-clutter. If you’re already in your home, it’s also time to de-clutter! Here are some simple tips to make this task a little easier.

Decide what is trash and what is treasure. If you have been saving a t-shirt from a fundraiser in 1994 and it no longer fits or smells like the gym, it’s trash. If you have a handwritten letter from your great grandmother, that is probably a treasure. This first step is hard because you have to determine what is important to you.

Determine what to do with what you’re getting rid of. You have a few choices – Donate items to a reputable donation center such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army or your favorite charity; sell items; give them to friends or family; or throw them away.

If you have valuable items and you’d like to sell them, you have a few options. You could bring everything out for a garage sale, or, you can list them online. Craigslist is the obvious choice for selling large items such as furniture or appliances that you don’t want to ship. Ebay or Craigslist can work for smaller items. A lot of people post items on Facebook, as well.

Go digital. If you have photos, home videos, or scrapbook items you want to store but want to take up less space, go digital. You can scan these items yourself or you can have them professionally scanned saving you hours but costing you some money.

Once you have gotten rid of things, you want to make sure you are always clutter free. Try these tips:

When you get something new, get rid of something old. One new blouse in, one item of clothing you never wear out. A new kitchen gadget in, an old kitchen gadget out.

Is there something you can’t decide if you will use again? Give it an “expiration date.” Mark your calendar and if you have not used that item by the expiration date, get rid of it.

Do you buy on impulse? Wait 48 hours before buying something. You may realize in 48 hours that you really don’t need it after all.

And get rid of some of these items. You really don’t need them:

  • The extra buttons that came with your new sweater. You know – the buttons you put in the drawer with the rest of the buttons.
  • Old t-shirts, gym towels and socks that you really will never wear to the gym again.
  • Holiday cards – Unless there is a sentimental value to these cards, you’re probably not going to read them again.
  • Old wall calendars.
  • Ticket stubs and receipts (that are not for tax purposes). Why are you keeping these anyway?
  • The magazines you are going to get to some day.
  • Invitations to events that have past; party favors
  • Recipes you tried but didn’t like.
  • Books that weren’t life changing and you’re not going to read again.
  • Storage containers that no longer have their lids.
  • Instructions for appliances you know how to use.
  • Old computer cords.
  • The packets of condiments you picked up at Chinese food restaurants and fast food restaurants.

Feel the difference when you lighten the load!

Hosting New Year’s Eve in Your Own Home!

 

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Are you hosting your first New Year’s Eve party? Hosting your fifth? Whether it’s your first New Year’s Eve at home or you’re a seasoned couch potato during the holidays, trying something new may be the resolution you made for this New Year’s Eve. Here are some ideas for kids and adults to make ringing in 2019 at home a blast!

MAKE THE FOOD FABULOUS
People love to nosh on fun food for New Year’s. After all, the next day they start their new diet! You’ll want to have snacks and dinner for the early birds and for the late nighters. Here are some easy ways to make sure you have enough food for everyone, no matter when they come or when they plan to leave.

Make the Party BYOA: Bring Your Own Appetizer
Ask your guest to bring an appetizer. You’ll supply the beverages! Almost every party-goer has a favorite appetizer they like to make. And if someone isn’t sure what to bring, invite them to bring raw vegetables and humus or a fruit and nut platter. These will make an excellent complement to the other foods, which most likely will not be as healthful.

Host a Midnight Dinner (Or Keep the Spread Out All Night Long)
A midnight dinner is a great way to keep the party going after you ring in the New Year. It’s only once a year, so no one will complain that they “ate too late.” Try something like a salad and baked potato bar. It’s just enough and doesn’t take a lot of effort to set up. And, people can eat as much or as little as they like. This meal is fast and easy.

Prepare a big salad ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Make sure you have different choices for dressing. The salad is your vegetable option. The main attraction is the potato bar.

Before the guests arrive, prepare different potato toppings: a bowl of sour cream, bacon pieces, chopped scallions, salsa, shredded cheese, butter, steamed brocolli, chili….anything you can think of that you may want to put on a potato will work. Remember that baked potatoes take a long time to cook so get them in the oven early.

If you use paper plates and bowls, clean up is easy, and you’ll be in bed before you know it.

DECORATE WITH STYLE
Of course you know you need party hats and noise makers, but you also have lots of choices for decorations. However, you may be ready to wrap up the holiday décor not get crazy by putting out more. Here are some easy decorations that don’t cost a lot of money that add a little New Year’s spice to your party.

Hang Paper Snowflakes from the Ceiling
Let your kids and their friends get in on the decorating fun. Before the party, have them cut paper snowflakes of all different sizes out of white paper. If you’re not worried about a little mess, let them sprinkle glitter on the snowflakes to add some sparkle. Then put a little ribbon of different lengths on the snowflakes and tape them to the ceiling. Test your tape first to make sure it won’t pull off your ceiling paint.

Scatter Curly Ribbon
Curl some ribbon with scissors and then scatter the ribbons in different places. Get the wider kind of ribbons – about 1/2 inch thick. Curl with scissors and put them on tables, light fixtures, mantles and even mirrors. You can hang some ribbons from the ceiling with the snowflakes and sprinkle on your tables and bar.

Add a Touch of Class with Shiny Christmas Ornaments
Add some sparkle and some class. Glittery Christmas ornaments look wonderful in a bowl as a centerpiece. You can also hang plain ornament balls from a light fixture over a table using varying lengths of ribbon in festive colors.

MAKE MINGLING EASY
Once your ready for your party, you need to have something to do! Here are a few ice breakers to get adults and kids mixing and mingling. You probably won’t want to play these games all night, but they can be good to get your party started.

Write Predictions for the New Year
Have your guests sign their predictions and place them into a bowl or a box. Then take turns reading the predictions while everyone guesses who wrote them. It can be surprising how difficult it is to guess your friends’ predictions – and it’s a great way to kick off the night or to wrap up the night!

Play “Guess the Resolution”
Before the party starts, write general New Year’s resolution ideas, such as “lose weight” or “eat better” on notecards. Place them in a bowl, and then to start the game have guests pick one. They are not allowed to look at their card. They can either hold it to their forehead or have someone tape it to their back. Then, only asking yes or no questions, and only asking one question per person, they must figure out what their resolution is. Say they ask one person, “Does my resolution involve physical exercise?” That person would say yes, and then they’d move on to the next person. The first three people to guess their own resolution correctly, win a prize.

Play “Fact or Fiction”
Give guests a tally sheet with all the players names and a fill-in-the-blank line. Gather the players for a round of introductions. When it’s their turn to talk, each guest will share three “facts” about the best New Year’s Eve Party they ever attended. Two of these things should be true and one should be fiction. Players keep score by writing down which story they think is fake. The player who identifies the most fake facts wins.

Or Play “Two Resolutions and One Lie”
Have everyone tell the group two of their real resolutions and one fake resolution. Everyone has to guess which is the fake resolution.

Remember, these games just get the party started! Don’t make people play all night long.

ARE KIDS INVITED?
Do you have kids coming to the party? If it’s not enough that they get to stay up past their bedtime, here are some ways to make the party more fun for them, too. They also can play the adult party games above or be paired with a grown up partner, if the games are a little to “old” for them.

Encourage kids to dress up
Gussy up your kids. Your night will feel special and fun if they dress for it — plus it will make for excellent pictures. Let kids be over the top: White gloves, pearls, bow ties and tiaras are easily found in your local party store, in your kids’ dress-up trunk or in grandma’s closet. Paint everyone’s nails. Wear hats. Break out the glitter and get fancy!

Dance
Make a playlist that includes favorite grown-up and kids’ songs. Roll up the rug and dance with wild abandon. When you get tired, sit down and check out your kids’ moves. Have a dance contest and be sure to take pictures.

Make it Glow
Kids like their lights! Light up your house with kids and glow sticks and glow necklaces. You can even stick glow sticks in balloons for awesome lighted balloons!

No matter what you choose to do this New Year’s Eve, we hope your 2019 is all you dream of! And if your dream for 2019 includes a new home, let us help with your mortgage questions.

A Little Strategy Goes a Long Way When Storing Holiday Decorations

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Don’t toss the holiday decorations in boxes and crates and shove them to the back of the closet. By planning ahead when you put them away, you’ll save hours of time and even money next year when you’re not checking for the bulb that has burned out or running to the store to replace something that got crushed.

Before you get started putting things in boxes for next year, make sure you want to keep everything. Now is the time to get rid of decorations you don’t like, have no sentimental value or are broken. Even with the best intentions, are you really going to look for the burned out bulb in the strand of lights next year? Perhaps you can find a new strand on sale this year. (Click here for tips on de-cluttering after the holidays.)

Storing the Christmas Tree: Storing an artificial tree in the box it came in is not a good idea. The box deteriorates, making the tree prone to bugs crawling in during the year. You can buy a tree bag or a tree box inexpensively. Other ideas:

Wrap the tree in old belts to cinch it up and make it easier to store and more manageable to handle.

If the artificial tree is getting older, before you put the tree away, label the layers by number so you can see what piece goes where.

Storing Christmas Ornaments: Take the opposite approach to storing your tree for your ornaments and keep them in the boxes they came in. These boxes are designed to protect your ornaments.

Other storage ideas:

Ornaments can be stored in egg cartons and apple containers and you can put a layer of tissue paper for extra protection. Non-fragile ornaments can be stored in sandwich bags. Of course, be sure to wrap anything fragile in tissue paper and line the boxes with paper if you’re not storing in the original packaging.

You can also store your ornaments in plastic cups in a box or container. If you do this, glue the cups to the bottom of the box to keep them from moving around and to protect the ornaments.

Storing the lights: Wrap strands of lights around old coffee cans to keep them from tangling. Put a hole in the top or bottom of the can and put the ends of the lights strand through the holes. If you don’t use coffee cans, use something bold to wrap your lights around, or you can be guaranteed they will come out of storage tangled.

Labeling Your Boxes: You can make unpacking and setting up even easier by labeling your boxes. Number them by how many you have, e.g., 1 of 12, 2 of 12, etc. And label the first box you need as number 1. If the tree goes up first, then label the box(es) with tree stand, decorations and lights for the tree with the earliest numbers. The last thing you want is the tree stand in box number 7.

Storing Wreaths: You can purchase special boxes that your wreaths fit in to protect them or you can store them in plastic dry cleaning bags. Hang your wreath on a coat hanger and then slip it into the bag. If you’re careful when you put it in, it’ll come out ready to hang next year.

It may take a little extra time when you put the decorations away, but you’ll be ready to go next year, with time and money savings in mind.

Clear Out the Clutter Before You Put Away Your Holiday Decorations

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The best way to stay organized in the new year is to head into the year ready to go! Cleaning up holiday clutter (and clutter from the rest of the year) can be easy and fun. Here are some tips to cut clutter and get organized.

For every one new item you bring in, get rid of two. If you get a new holiday ornament, pick two that have no sentimental value that you really don’t love to get rid of. If you get a new DVD as a gift, find two that you never watch and get rid or them. Did kids get new clothes? It’s a sure bet that they have clothing they don’t wear or have outgrown. The same is true for toys. In with the new, out with the old. Many of these items will be welcome at Goodwill or another recycling store, and you can get a tax write off to boot.

Fill boxes that packages came in with items to discard. Instead of recycling or throwing away shipping boxes, pack them with items you can recycle or discard. It’s a fun game and a challenge for the family. How many toys, outgrown clothes, old decorations or things you just don’t love, can you fit into a box? You’re not using these items anymore but they still have a lot of life left in them. You have the boxes, now it’s time to fill them.

Celebrate a Japanese tradition. Who knew that when you de-clutter, you could also be teaching about a different culture? In Japan, clearing clutter and cleaning at the end of the year is a big part of the Japanese New Year tradition. Because each year is separate and distinct, the Japanese observe Ousouji by cleaning the home from top to bottom to ring the new year in with a clean state of mind and to invite prosperity.

Do you really want the white elephant gift? By definition, the white elephant gift is one that you have no use for and would never pick for yourself. The gift exchanges are worth a laugh, but decide now if you are going to be glad you kept that moose paper towel holder or the dribble coffee mug in May.

Take an extra step when storing holiday decorations. Don’t just toss holiday decorations in crates and shove them in the closet with the intention of going through them next year. Now is the time to get rid of the lights that don’t work and the snowman whose corncob pipe and button nose fell off years ago. Keep the decorations that mean a lot to you and that still work when you plug them in. Get rid of the items that are broken, missing parts, or just squished. Get more holiday storage tips by clicking here.

There are lots of fun, creative and easy ways to de-clutter at the end of the year to start off the new year in style.

Countdown to Christmas!

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Are your kids anxious for Christmas to get here? Are you looking for some fun ways to count down to the big day? Here are some fun activities for kids and grownup kids alike to make the time until Santa arrives go a little faster.

Red and green meal – Make a healthy pre-holiday Christmas dinner out of green and red foods. Some ideas: A tossed salad with cherry tomatoes and snow peas; another helping of cranberries; pizza with peppers, tomatoes and broccoli, spinach lasagna in marinara sauce; spinach enchiladas. Let the adults pick a healthy red and green entree and then let the kids be creative with the side dishes.

Christmas lights drive – You can do this more than one time, for sure! Load everyone in the car and check out the holiday lights. You can go to new neighborhoods or see what’s new in your own. Make a game out of it by seeing how many Rudolphs you can find on house roofs, count blowup Santa Clauses or listen for houses that are piping music outside. This driving game makes for limitless fun!

Gingerbread houses – Make your own gingerbread house. You can actually build your own out of gingerbread or buy a starter kit. Decorate with gum drops, cinnamon candies, frosting, marshmallows, or really, anything you can dream of and imagine. Gingerbread houses aren’t just fun for one night; they are great decorations for the entire holiday season.

Christmas movie night – This activity is an oldie but a goodie. Pick out your favorite holiday movie and plug it in. Are you a fan of White Christmas? Or is Christmas Vacation more your style? No matter what your taste, a movie night with popcorn and family is sure to put you into the holiday spirit.

Balloon volleyball – Want an activity that is only as holiday-themed as you make it? Blow off some of the Christmas energy by playing balloon volleyball. Put out some ribbon on the floor for a makeshift volleyball net and blow up a few balloons. Indoor balloon volleyball is a great way to burn some holiday calories and get out a burst of family energy.

Bake cookies (and then deliver them to others) – You may be baking cookies already, so fire up the oven for a few more and deliver them to fire houses, police stations, hospitals, assisted living facilities. If you can think of people who serve others or may be lonely during the holidays, then bring them a batch of cookies to show you care and to say thank you.

Make holiday decorations – Break out the scissors because there are few things more fun than making holiday decorations. What do you have in your house already? Construction paper? Ribbon? Glitter? Sequins and Beads? Glue? Styrofoam balls? If you have these things, you have the makings for a fun craft table. If you are a really festive elf, you can leave the craft table up all season and you can make ornaments whenever the spirit moves you.

Start planning now so you can make the lead up to the holidays part of the holidays!

5 Tips to Jump Start the New Year

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In the hullabaloo of the holiday season, be sure to carve out some time to reflect on this past year, and set goals for the year ahead. These tips will help you re-energize and refocus for a successful start to 2019.

Get started by following these 5 tips:

Celebrate success.
Reflect back on all that you have accomplished and celebrate it. Take 10 to 15 minutes and make a list, or a mental inventory of your achievements, big and small. When you look back, you’ll be amazed at how much you got done.

Build off a baseline.
Use your accomplishments as a springboard for goal setting. For example, if you finally organized your database this year, then schedule automated marketing to your network next year.

Ask for advice.
In business, getting feedback is a valuable tool for identifying professional growth areas. Reach out to clients, peers and local leadership who know you and your work. Ask for advice on ways you could improve.

Find a peer benchmark.
Know a colleague who performs a task exceptionally well? Learn more about what strategies and tools he or she uses, and see if you can apply the same to your work processes.

Broadcast your goals.
When you establish goals, share them with your colleagues. Then, invite them to check in with you periodically and hold you accountable for taking steps to achieve those goals.
Here’s to a prosperous New Year!

Source: ASCD Inservice