What is Keeping You from Selling?

Real estate is finally moving again as the US housing market finally turns a corner. Prices, however, have not crept back up to the levels they were at with the last housing bubble, but they are on an upswing after several years of decline. The recovery of the housing market will have far-reaching impacts in the coming years across the U.S. and international markets as U.S. consumers increase their spending on buying, renovating, furnishing and maintaining their homes.

The inventory problem has been exacerbated by the plunge in home prices since the go-go years. Many people who bought at the top of the cycle are so deeply underwater, they can’t get the price they need to sell and are therefore not bothering to put their homes on the market. Inventory continues to shrink and buyers are now faced with a lack of listings and are snatching up homes the moment they come on the market.

So, sellers – with all this data, what’s holding you back from listing your home?  Are you waiting for prices to rise a bit more?  Are you too underwater? What would make you finally put your home on the market?  Despite the number of Americans who have been hurt financially by the housing crash, the desire to own a home remains strong.

Bargain Hunters

If you are anything like me, I am always looking for a great deal! I love knowing that I have saved money on a purchase I have made.  I have put together a list of a few websites that I like to use often because it saves me a lot of money.  Bookmark these websites now and save yourself some money:

1.  Gasbuddy.com or Gaspricewatch.com.  With summer around the corner and the kids out of school now, most everyone is ready to start vacationing.  Before you begin your travels, track down the cheapest gas stations in your area.

2.  Cellfire.com.  This website allows you to load coupons on your cell phone and add them to a grocery-store savings card.  With Cellfire, you’ll never have to print, clip, or forget your coupons again!

3.  Retailmenot.com or CouponCabin.com or Fatwallet.com.  These websites offer printable and online coupons.

4.  Pronto.com or Shopping.com or Thefind.com. Do you need to do some shopping around before you buy? These websites are comparison shopping sites.

5.  Priceprotector.com.  Use this website to be alerted if the item you just bought takes a price dip.  You can only use this feature if the store has a price protection policy.

If you can think of any more to add, please leave a comment below.  I am sure like me, everyone is always looking for a great deal!



Design A Room

So you have finally found your dream home! Your Realtor has taken care of all the paperwork, and now you just need to close on your your new home and move in! All you have to do is finish packing your own home, and decorate your new home.  But how are you going to do that?  I have come across this fantastic website that will help you see how to decorate your home without you actually being in it.  It is a free drag and drop tool that allows you to select the shape of your room, add furniture to your room and color coordinate your room’s furnishings. Check it out here.

Spruce Up Your Home In Minutes

Your friends and family never just drop in without calling…except when they do, right? It’s Saturday and you have decided to take the day off and just relax.  You slept in late, and lay around most of the morning when an unexpected old friend calls and says, hey, I was driving around the neighborhood looking and houses and realized you lived here.  Do you mind if I stop in? Sure I don’t mind you reply. Knowing that your house is a mess!  What are you doing to do? Here are some quick-clean tips that will get you out of a jam!

1.  Clear the Decks.  Find an empty box or laundry basket and begin tossing, loose clothes, damp bathroom towels, dirty dishes, and even loose papers.  Once you have filled it up, stick it in the back of a closet.  Don’t try to clean the whole house. Just target the most important areas that you know you are going to be visiting with your friend.  Living Room, Back Porch? Just clean these areas and leave the rest alone.

2. Wipe Clean. Spray a rag with cleaning solution and wipe down kitchen surfaces first, then bathroom, and dining room table. This will also give your house a clean, fresh smell.

3. Freshen Yourself Up. Your visitors are really not coming to see your house.  They are coming to see you.  Take a quick look at yourself in the bathroom mirror. Brush your hair or throw on a hat. Check your clothes so that you look presentable – it’s time to get out of your pjs! Women, freshen your makeup and men, if you haven’t already done so, shave.  Just do easy things such as these that can be done in a matter of minutes.

4. Divert Attention.  To distract your guests from the less than perfect state of your home, put something colorful out that will draw someone’s attention to something that is cleaned.  For instance if someone comes into your kitchen, which they likely will for a drink, let them see a brightly colored dish towel over the dishes you haven’t put up yet.

5.  Dim the Lights.  Another way to distract someone is to dim the lights. Light some candles if you have some.  Nothing hides imperfections better than low lighting.

Finally, don’t apologize for things that aren’t done.  This will also call attention to imperfections that most people wouldn’t notice in the first place.  The house may not look perfect, but presentable.  And, your guest is not looking for perfection either.  After all, your guest is really intruding on your personal time.

I hope these tips help! Please feel free to leave more tips here if you can think of ones that might help everyone.


Low On Energy? Try These Foods.

If you’re low in energy, poor nutrition could be the problem. If you take time and eat well-balanced meals it can dramatically improve energy levels. The food you put in your body is fuel for your body, and changing the fuel you give your body can help.  Junk food is quick and usually equals poor nutrition.  However, healthy meals can be just as quick and more rewarding!  Here are a few recommendations on what you can eat from major health associations, including the American Heart Association.

1.  Carbohydrates.  These are your body’s main source of energy. There are two basic types. Complex carbohydrates are good for your body, fill your stomach, and boost your energy. Foods high in complex carbohydrates include beans, whole grains, and veggies. Simple carbohydrates are foods like candy bars, cookies, and soft drinks that contain a lot of empty calories in the form of sugar, along with high-fructose corn syrup. Unlike complex carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates do little to nourish your body, and while they provide a quick surge of energy, an equally quick crash will follow.  About 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates.

2.  Protein.  These are your body’s main building material; it assists in growth, transports vitamins, supports hormones, and helps us hold on to lean muscle. Protein comes in both plant and animal sources. Legumes, poultry, seafood, meat, eggs, and dairy products are good sources of protein. While you don’t want to eat too much protein, especially fatty red meat and whole dairy, it’s important to get enough.  About 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from protein.

3.  Fiber. The undigested fiber from food creates bulk so the muscles in the intestine can push waste out of the body.  Fiber is the part of plant foods that your body can’t digest and absorb. There are two types. Insoluble fiber, in whole grains and veggies, is the type that helps keep you regular. Soluble fiber, found in oatmeal, dried beans, and some fruits like apples and oranges, can help keep your blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check.

Eating healthy helps you to feel better and have more energy!


Living Green

Everyone is talking about going green.  Going green also means that you learn to be frugal.  It’s not just buying on sale or turning off light switches. If you are trying to find a way to go green, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Or, “How can I fix this so it can still be used?”

If you are thinking about going green, here are some ideas to help get you started. Start by consuming less and reusing more.

1. Recycle. Most cities now have free recycling programs, and even curb side pick-up of certain items.

2. If you’re making home improvements. Check out your local Habitat for Humanity store for materials. You’ll save some money, reuse items that are still good, and help Habitat continue building houses for those in need.

3. Repurpose sheets and table cloths to make window treatments, napkins and decorative pillows. Old sheets make great fabric for craft projects.

4. Use ceiling fans. If you have one with reversible blades, you can use it to push the warm air down, so you run the heater less. In spring and fall, if the weather is nice, turn your fans on and open the windows and get some fresh air circulating.

5. Use your crockpot and toaster oven when you can, instead of heating up the oven. These appliances use less energy.

6. Put your sprinklers on a timer. It will significantly reduce the amount of water you use on your lawn.

7. Do fewer laundry loads. You might also think about instituting a two day policy on bath towels. After all, you’re clean when you dry off after a shower, so why is the towel dirty after it’s used once? Always make sure laundry loads are full, and use the lowest water setting practical.

8. Caulk and weatherstrip the cracks in your house, it’ll make a world of difference. It helps keep warm cold air out in the winter and hot air out in the summer. It can help you save on your electric bill, which means you use less energy, and save on your bill.

9. A full freezer uses less electricity. So keep it stocked. If you have extra space, fill it with plastic water bottles. The up side of doing this is that if you have a power failure for any reason, the contents of your freezer will last that much longer.

10. Close doors and heater vents in rooms you aren’t using. This is a great way to save energy because you’re not paying to heat rooms that are empty. Plus, you’ll need less energy overall to heat the part of your house you do use.

Going green is a smart decision. It will save the planet, but it will also help you make the most of whatever resources you have to work with, no matter what is going on in the economy.

Credit Scores

When you buy your house, you want to get the best loan rate.  The best way to get a great rate is to establish a solid credit history. The main factor  in your credit score is whether you have a history of paying off debts on time.  Other factors include things like: total amount of your current debt, number of months or years you have been a good debtor, or whether or not you have recently opened new lines of credit. Today, credit worthiness is determined almost entirely by computers based on your credit scores.  The higher the score, the better.

Here are a few tips to help you get your score higher.

1. First, you should log on to www.annualcreditreport.com. Here, you can find out what each of the three major credit reporting companies, Equifax, Trans Union and Experian, say about your credit worthiness. This is a free service, however, you will not get your credit score on this website unless you pay money and purchase your scores. Go through this with a fine tooth comb. Since scores are based on several factors, you can use this free report to view your payment history, the amount you owe on each debt, whether or not you have been delinquent, and also take care of any problems that might appear on your report that shouldn’t be there.

2. Next, you can sign up at www.creditkarma.com or www.creditsesame.com to find out your credit score without paying a dime. Here, you can see what kind of work you need to do to clean your credit up.  The surest, quickest way to boost your score is to pay off existing debt.  Pay off as much of your credit balance that you can, and you will see a rise in your score.

3. Lastly, closing old credit cards will not necessarily raise your credit score.  Having a large amount of credit available to you may make some lenders nervous, but having an account that has been open for many years will actually work to your benefit.

If you have a credit score of 650, it is considered good, however, if your score is 750 or greater, you will be a good candidate for the best credit deals. Ideally, you want to strive to pay everything on time, and keep the debt on your credit cards low.

Remember, any time there is a credit inquiry, you can request a copy of your report.

How to Keep Your Child in Sports, Without Breaking the Bank

How to Keep Your Child in Sports, Without Breaking the Bank

There are so many costs that come with having your child play in sports: sports equipment, uniforms, team fees, travel costs, trophies, etc. Many people ponder whether or not it has to be that expensive to let your child play a team sport.

Many families spend thousands of dollars a year on sports-related expenses for their children. The following tips can help you save money as you sign your child up for his or her chosen sport.

1. Buy used equipment. We’re not talking about just hand-me-downs, but barely used gear you can find for sale such as eBay and Craigslist, in newspaper ads and even at yard sales. You can save as much as 40 percent by purchasing sports equipment through such avenues.

2. Know when not to buy used. Be careful about buying used safety equipment, such as helmets and masks.

3. Sell your own used stuff. If your child has outgrown some gear, you can always sell it through the same avenues mentioned above.

4. Keep your options open. Whenever possible, buy equipment that can serve multiple purposes. For instance, a utility baseball glove could let your young athlete make numerous position changes — and that, of course, would be less expensive than buying three or four different gloves.

5. Save on team travel costs. You can find deep discounts on hotel accommodations through sites such as Priceline.com and Hotwire.com. To reduce food costs on the road, opt for a hotel that offers a free continental breakfast, or for accommodations with a refrigerator where you can store easy-to-eat items.

6. Conduct an honest assessment. How motivated is your child as far as this sport is concerned? If you see genuine motivation, talent and even scholarship potential, then it could be worth it to pay the higher fees for the “club level” of play. Otherwise, the lower-cost “recreational level” might be a better bet, both for your child and your wallet.

7. Know when to say when. Depending on your circumstances, consider limiting the number of sports your child participates in. Seasons can overlap, and if that happens, sports can reign supreme and become overwhelming — financially and in other ways too.

However costly it is, it is important to have your kids involved in something.  Encouraging your kids to play sports is one of the best ways to help them develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime.



Extend the Life of Your Vehicle

With rising gas prices and an uncertain economy, the last thing you need to deal with are costly car repairs.  Think about how much you’ll save by keeping your current car on the road before you surrender to the desire of a new set of wheels.  Here are seven tips to help you protect your investment.

1.  Owner’s Manual. There is a reason you receive a manual when you purchase a car. When you buy a car, open the owner’s manual and review the recommended maintenance program for your car.  Keep the oil changed, and fluids — and performed other maintenance. Getting checkups at regular intervals can help spot problems that could imperil your car’s overall health.

2.  Mechanic. Finding a great mechanic who knows your car is key to keeping up with the repairs you need.  Become friends with your mechanic to develop a trusting relationship.

3. “Check Engine” light.  Don’t ignore small problems.  If your check engine light turns on don’t ignore it.  Even if money is tight, it’s worth it to get these issues checked out by a reputable mechanic before they become a more expensive repair now.

5. Check your oil and coolant regularly. By doing this, you’ll find out about leaks sooner rather than later, and you’ll sidestep the problems that can be caused by low levels. Remember, regular, timely oil changes and maintenance can help you avoid costly repairs.

6. Check your tire pressure regularly. Proper tire inflation will help the tires handle better and last longer, and it will help you get the most out of a tank of gas. It’s also a good idea to have your tires checked for wear regularly.

7. Sun Damage.  Protect your car from the damaging effects of the sun, and whenever possible, park your vehicle in the shade or inside a garage. By making that extra effort, you’ll safeguard your car’s paint and interior.

8. Keep it clean. You’ll help your vehicle retain its value and appeal if you clean it regularly, both inside and out. Wash it, wax it and vacuum it. Treat leather surfaces with Armor All, and lubricate plastic and rubber parts. Doing these things protects both the paint and the interior from aging prematurely. Also, the better your car looks, the more you will want to take care of it.

The best thing that you can do to extend the life of your car and potentially save yourself a bundle of money is to have your car serviced on a routine basis. Car manufacturers have a schedule of recommended services for each vehicle they sell. You can find this in the owner’s manual. Follow this schedule. The best place to have work done on a new vehicle that is still under warranty is the dealership. On cars without a warranty, it is best to find a reputable independent shop and have it serviced regularly there.