Keeping Kids Entertained at Open Houses

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If you’ve ever had children tag along with open house visitors, you know it can sometimes be difficult to keep them entertained while touring a house. Here are a few ways to conquer kid-size boredom, keep the parents’ attention, and extend time to engage with the family.

Give kids something to do. Scope out a low-traffic station for snacks, coloring or play dough. Hold a contest for the best drawing of the home and offer a prize that winners can pick up at your office. This gets kids involved in the spirit of house hunting and creates additional contacts with prospects.

Give kids something to take home. Inexpensive coloring books and a pack of crayons, a pick-a-prize toy box, or a small goody bag handed off at the end of the visit can add a little extra patience to kids’ reserves. Your level of understanding in the situation will also translate well with parents.

Create a digital playground with a few iPads or a dedicated “kids only” laptop loaded with simple and fun-to-play games, like “My PlayHome” or “Make a House.” Gearing media toward real estate reinforces interest in the parents’ activity and helps them explain the process to little ones.

Ask kids’ opinions. While older kids may not be as finicky, they can distract parents and push to speed things up. Be ready with clipboards and opinion checklists that ask to list their top three likes and dislikes about the home. Send a branded house hunting checklist home with parents.

Kids can be an opportunity to develop a relationship with real-estate-minded parents. Don’t miss out!

Source: Inman

Show Mom You Love Her On Valentine’s Day

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Have plans for Valentine’s Day? Of course flowers and candy may make Mom happy. But if you and the kids really want to show her how special she is this Valentine’s Day, try one of these ideas.

Write her a letter or make her a glittery card. Mom’s going to keep a handwritten letter from her kids for a long time. Grab a pen and paper or some glue and sequins and have your kids write a letter or make a card that shows how special she is. She’s going to savor that treat forever.

Extend Valentine’s Day to a weekend day. You knowMom…would a few hours alone be her favorite activity one weekend day? Let the Valentine’s Day love spread to the weekend and take the kids out for a while.

Clean the house. Vacuum, dust, scrub the bathrooms – you know Mom doesn’t like to do these chores. Help the kids clean so Mom can spend some time in a lemon-scented, freshly vacuumed home.

Wash her car. Better than cleaning the house – wash, vacuum and maybe even wax her car. There’s no mom that’s not going to appreciate a shiny, clean, cup-free car!

Take the kids grocery shopping. Go to the grocery store for Mom. It’s Dad’s turn to push the cart, pay the bill, lug the groceries in the house, and most importantly, say no to sugary cereal and cookies.

And finally – Take Mom out to dinner. It may sound like a fun idea to cook for Mom on Valentine’s Day, but you’re going to stick her with the greasy pots and pans and a sink full of dishes that need to be loaded (and then unloaded) from the dishwasher. Treat her to a night out. Doesn’t have to be fancy. She’ll be glad to not be on KP Duty.

These are a few ways to say “We Love Mom.” But remember, you don’t have to save these for a special day. Make every day Valentine’s Day!

Teach Your Kids to Love Their Home and DIY Projects

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Do you want your kids to grow up and already love a good DIY home maintenance project or at least understand the value of a clean and tidy home? Start working with them while they are young. Kids actually think cleaning the house or helping with home repairs is fun, so the sooner you engage them in this, the better.

Start while they’re young. While involving kids in housework and home maintenance may take more time, getting kids started while they are young will teach them the importance of caring for a home and taking on some hard work. Kids can hold flashlights, hand you tools or carry a light toolbox. Older kids can help with the screwdriver, replace light bulbs or take part in chores like vacuuming or cleaning

Get kids their own toolbox or yard tools like a kids’ rake or lawn mower. Let them imitate you nearby. This makes participation a game.

Talk about what you’re doing. As you work on home projects such as gardening, painting, repairing, cleaning, talk to your kids about what you are doing. You can teach them more and keep them chatting.

Let them decorate their own rooms. Kids spend a lot of time in their rooms so the more they do to make them their own, the more they will like them. They will also feel ownership and want to be in charge of keeping their rooms clean. Comfortable is important.

Teach your kids about important jobs for home owners that some adults don’t think about, including:

Help them locate the breaker box and flip the correct switch when you lose power. They can also help you label the breaker box, a task that a lot of homeowners plan to take on but never do. Kids love to run around the house and let you know what lights are off or on when you flip a switch.

Show them where to turn off the water for the house or in a bathroom. Kids are known for putting weird things down toilets. No matter how often you say not to, they still do it. Even if you don’t show them where the house water turns off, show them how to turn off an overflowing or running toilet.

Change batteries in smoke alarms. Let kids help you change the batteries in smoke alarms. You should do this twice a year and it’s a great time to teach kids about home maintenance and home safety. This could even be a good time to talk to your kids about a fire evacuation plan.

And make a quick cleaning fun!

Have a Musical Cleaning Event! For a fun cleaning game, turn on your favorite fast song and have a race to see who can clean up the most toys while the song plays. Whenever you turn the song on, the kids clean. ! Kids think this is a blast and race to beat each other. You end up with tired kids and a clean room!

What Can I Expect from My Home Inspection?

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Home inspections are a standard practice when buying a home. No one wants to make the biggest purchase of their lives, only to discover a weak foundation, shoddy electricity and plumbing that will cost $10,000 to repair. A good home inspection can protect buyers from major expenses when buying their homes.

What does a typical home inspection include?
Generally, a home inspector will look at:

The Foundation: Is there evidence of settlement and/or seepage in the basement or lowest level of the home? Is the settlement uneven or are there cracks? What is the structural integrity of the home? What is supporting the home?

Heating and Air Conditioning: What is the insulation like in the home? Is there enough heating and air for the home? How do the systems operate and are they operating properly? What can the inspector see in the way of potential problems in these systems?

Electrical: What does your electric system look like? Is it safe? Are there potential hazards? Is everything properly grounded and bonded? Are all the outlets working?

Roof: What’s happening on top of the house? Are there any general maintenance issues you should know about? What type of roof is it? Are there skylights that need repair? Are there places that are leaking?

Your home inspector should also check out your:

  • Lot and landscaping
  • Plumbing
  • Hot water supply
  • Chimney and fireplace(s)
  • Termite damage/wood damage
  • Attic
  • Exterior
  • Garage

There is a lot of ground for your home inspector to cover, so you want to hire one who will take his time and do a thorough job on your behalf. How do you pick a home inspector? Here are some tips:

1. Don’t trust an inspector simply because the inspector has a state license.

2. Look for an inspector who is associated with a professional inspection organization such as the National Institute of Building Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors or the American Association of Home Inspectors.

3. Don’t only take your agent’s recommendation; ask for three recommendations and then really grill the inspectors.

A home inspection is one of the most important things you can do to make your home purchase a good one. Don’t skip this step!

Holiday Safety for Your Pets

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Celebrate with your pets – after all, they are part of the family, too, but make sure you keep them safe this holiday season. Dogs and cats don’t know what they can and cannot eat, and if it’s shiny, they think it must be a toy. Here are some simple holiday pet safety tips so you can safely spend the holidays with your furry friends and not with your vet.

Watch what they eat. We all know that chocolate is a poison to your dog, but what else should they avoid? Grapes and raisins, onions, avocados, macadamia nuts and alcohol are all bad for Fido. Keep him safe by feeding him his food and dog treats but not people food. Even if the food isn’t poisonous to dogs, too many table treats can lead to indigestion and one ill pooch. And never give your dog the bone from your meat. These treats can cause your dog to choke or cause stomach and digestive issues.

Keep them away from candles and breakables. With all the excitement of the holidays, your dog or cat may be extra playful or a more nervous than usual. Make sure lit candles and breakables are away from their paths, so they don’t knock them off of the table and break them or start a fire.

Plants can be poisonous. Mistletoe is poisonous when eaten and can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Holly can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. None of this spells joy this holiday season. And the verdict is still out on the dangers of poinsettias, but better safe than sorry.

Go garland-free if you have a cat. Anyone with a feline has seen the joy in its eyes when it sees something shiny. Tinsel and garland are begging to be eaten by a cat. At best, eating this will cause vomiting. At worst, it can lead to an obstructed digestive tract. Ribbons and yarns can cause the same problems. Entertain your furry friend with safe toys and discard the rest.

Provide your pets with a safe and people-free zone. A bedroom or study with a nice bed and some fresh water gives your pet a place to go to get away from guests and chaos. Dogs and cats like their routines. Keep them relaxed and safe with a room of their own.

By following a few simple “rules,” you and your furry friends will have a much happier holiday season. 

Fed Announces Fed Funds Rate Hike

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After its September 25-26 meeting, the Fed announced an increase to the benchmark Federal Funds Rate by 0.25 percent for the third time this year. The increase, which was expected by investors, brings the new target rate range to between 2 and 2.25 percent.

If you’re wondering what this rate hike means for home loan rates, don’t panic. A rise in home loan rates shouldn’t be expected as a direct result of the Fed’s decision.

This is because the Fed hike is not to all rates but to the Fed Funds Rate, which is the short-term rate at which banks lend money to each other overnight. The Fed Funds Rate is not directly tied to long-term rates on consumer products like purchase or refinance home loans.

In its announcement, the Fed noted that the economy and labor market continue to strengthen and that inflation remains near the Fed’s target of 2 percent. If inflation can stay in check, this could be good news for home loan rates. Inflation reduces the value of fixed investments like Mortgage Bonds, and home loan rates are tied to Mortgage Bonds.

However, continued strong economic news could also benefit Stocks at the expense of Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates if investors move money into Stocks to take advantage of gains. I’ll continue to monitor all these market movements for you.

While home loan rates have ticked higher this year, they remain attractive historically. If you have any questions about whether you can benefit from current home loan rates, please reach out to Universal Lending at anytime.

Ready for Fall Cleaning? Here are Some Ways to Get Your Home Ready for Fall and Winter

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Summer is coming to a brisk end, and fall is almost here. Yes – Fall means crisp days, long walks, the changing leaves and the best autumn vegetables. But it also means we’ll be closing up our homes and spending more time inside. Now is the time to clean your home and make it cozy for family time inside. Here are some fall chores to make your home the space you want it to be. You don’t have to do all of these. Pick a couple to get started. Check them off the list as you go, and you’ll see that getting ready for a new season is not so hard.

Wash all your windows. All you need is a bottle of glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Do this on a cloudy day so you can see any streaks.

Clean your window treatments. Dust wooden blinds and use a damp cloth or your microfiber cloth. You can vacuum canvas, cotton or fabric treatments. Use a low setting and an attachment. If your cloth treatments are really dirty, check the cleaning instructions and go from there.

Wash your walls and dust the trim along the walls and the windowsills. Dust, wash, rinse and dry painted or paneled walls. Start in the kitchen and bathroom and go from there.

Dust ceiling lights and ceiling fans. These collect a lot of dust and are often forgotten.

Dust your air vents or vacuum them with an attachment.

Clean your refrigerator coil. Click here for more refrigerator cleaning tips, if you’re really ambitious.

Vacuum and shampoo your carpets or treat yourself to a professional cleaning.

Clean out those closets. What didn’t you wear this past season? Do you need to keep it or can you donate it?

Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change the batteries.

Replace your furnace filters.

Clean the chimney or have it professionally cleaned.

This may seem like a lot to do, but you will be glad you did when winter is here and you’re cozy, warm and safe inside!