Playing it Smart in a Volatile Market

Last month we talked about inflation and its impact on the housing market. That trend continues and Russia’s war with Ukraine is directly affecting the world economy. Gas prices around the globe have surged, and even though they’re coming down a bit, an average of $4.24 per gallon is still much higher than anyone wants to pay.

Food costs continue to rise as well, in addition to new car sales and other big-ticket items. So where’s the good news?

COVID-19 rates are inching upward with the latest strains, but severe illness is at a pandemic low, thanks to vaccinations and a steadily weakening virus.

Mortgage rates are up, too. Your best course of action here is to control what you can. With an uncertain future it makes sense to lock in a fixed rate to avoid any spikes that could cost you thousands of dollars with a variable rate mortgage. Protecting your largest asset is a priority in a volatile market. Refinancing is always an option if you’re concerned about future rate hikes.

Even if you’re only exploring possibilities related to your mortgage and finances, contact me for some helpful advice to figure out your next steps.

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If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.


April Fools’ Day

Everyone knows that on April 1, it’s become customary to play funny but harmless practical jokes on our friends, family and colleagues. But did you know that April Fools’ Day dates back centuries?

We don’t know exactly when and why this “holiday” came to exist, but we have discovered a few theories.

Theory 1: In 1582, France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, moving the first day of the new year from April 1 to January 1. News didn’t travel that quickly in those days, so those who were still celebrating the new year at the spring equinox were thought to be April fools.

Theory 2: In Scotland, during the 1700s, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “Hunting the Gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (“Gowk” is another word for “Cuckoo”) and it was followed by Tailie Day. Pranks played on people’s behinds, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them became a regular tradition.


Home Improver: 3 Uses for Fabric Softener Sheets

Those dryer sheets you’ve been using to remove static and soften your clothes and towels have alternative uses. Here are three of our favorites.

  1. Freshen Up Your Gym Bag. A good workout can lead to unwanted odors that get trapped inside your gym bag, only to burst forth the next time you open it. Even the cleanest bag can get a little funky, so drop a few dryer sheets in it to neutralize odors. Pro tip: stick them in your sneakers to minimize foot odor.
  2. Soap Scum. A few drops of water applied to your favorite fabric softener sheet will remove soapy buildup from your shower tiles. It’s like magic! Give it a try!
  3. Remove Pet Hair. A dryer sheet can combat pet hair on your furniture. Wipe down shelves, tables, counters, and furniture with a dryer sheet and you’ll forget you have pets in the house. Works great on clothing too, so check your sweaters before leaving the house. You’ll want to remove dog or cat hair that may have latched onto your sleeve. Grab a sheet and wipe it right off!

The One Thing You Can Do To Avoid Inflation Risks

With inflation rising faster than it has in 40 years, it’s time to look at your current debt and make some adjustments before it costs you more than you could have imagined.

Have you noticed how much more expensive groceries have become? According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, meat and dairy are the most affected. Here’s how much these staples have gone up from just one year ago:

  • Beef +16%
  • Milk +14%
  • Eggs +13.1%
  • Seafood +12.7%
  • Chicken +10.3%

Groceries are always a good measure of inflation. It’s a relatable concept that’s easy to grasp. On a larger scale, inflation has also affected big-ticket items like auto sales, renovations, and new home sales. So what’s the one thing you can do to stop past purchases from rising inflation costs? Assess your current debt.

Is any of your debt tied to variable rates? Look at car loans, credit cards, and your mortgage. The one thing you can do to avoid paying top dollar on your rising debt is to fix your rates. Lock in what you can. Refinance your car loan and mortgage.

Look at the soaring grocery rates above and expand that out to what you’re paying on larger variable rate purchases. It is well worth the effort to stave off any increased debt.

If you’ve been thinking about a purchase but you’re concerned about inflation, fluctuations in the market, or any other obstacles, give me a call. We’ll talk through your concerns and help you make the decision that makes the most sense financially.

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If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.


Snow Day Activities

Just when we thought an early spring was on its way, Mother Nature decided we need more snow in our lives. What can you do at home with the kids when there’s a winter storm approaching? Get crafty!

For more crafty ideas, click here.


Home Improver: Change Your Curtains Seasonally

It’s been an odd February with temperatures close to zero some days, 65 this week, and another snowstorm heading to us tomorrow. This made us think about curtains and their function. Why? Read on.

  1. Function. Heavier curtains in fall and winter insulate your home from drafts. During spring and summer months, lighter curtains filter sunlight and provide an airier feel. There are some who believe in heavy curtains year-round because they tend to keep both winter cold and blazing summer heat from invading your home. That’s fine, but make sure you clean and rotate them out regularly because…
  2. Hygiene. Curtains are magnets for dust, pet hair, germs and grime. I know, it’s gross when you think about it, but not when you seasonally clean and change them. If you have allergies, they may be exacerbated by your curtains. If can’t seem to get the mildewy smell out of your carpet, it may not be the carpet. Check the drapes!
  3. Fashion. One easy way to freshen the look of your home is to switch out your window coverings. You can create the look of a fresh makeover just by adding new curtains this spring.

Want some inspiration? Click here for 55 curtain designs.

Sorry, Suze Orman. We Disagree.

Suze Orman is an excellent resource for people seeking tried-and-true financial advice. She’s a bestselling author, columnist, and speaker. She knows her stuff. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take issue with her advice.

For instance, in her recent blog post, Suze says this about refinancing:

“The big mistake is that after spending years paying down their existing 30-year mortgage, people then refinance into a new 30-year mortgage. This is so very wrong. Let’s say you have been paying your original mortgage for 14 years. Now you decide to refinance and you take out a fresh 30-year mortgage. Sure, the new mortgage is at a lower interest rate, but you just extended your mortgage-payment on this home to 44 years! That’s 44 years of interest payments.”

OK, Suze, we get it. What you’re saying makes sense — but only if you’ve been financially stable for quite some time with considerable savings in the bank. That, however, is not the world we’re living in these days.

A refinance relieves the stress of mounting debt that plagues so many people who have been directly affected by the pandemic, whether it’s job- or health-related. Because we’re in a period of historically low rates, a refi will beat any bank loan you could hope to get.

The people I have worked with are looking for the financial relief a refinance provides. No one should feel ashamed for seeking help, even if they have made poor financial choices in the past. We’re not all perfect. Not even Suze.

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If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.


Home Improver: Is the Water Table Rising?

This has been one of the rainiest springs and summers in a long time. What does that mean for the water table? Is it rising? How can it affect your home?

Let’s start with a definition, from our friends at National Geographic:
“Well beneath the ground, at various depths depending on geography, topography and weather conditions, pockets of water, called aquifers, exist. The water table marks the boundary between that available water and the dry surface.”

Water tables can rise when they take on more water than they drain off. This can be from unusually high amounts of rain, or excess water from higher elevations. They are sometimes above the level of basement floors or crawlspaces. This may put your home at risk for flooding.

Watch for lingering puddles in your yard after a couple of days of heavy rain. It is very likely that the puddle is the top of the table and has temporarily exceeded what the yard can handle. There’s not much you can do to stop the flooding once it’s happening, but there are preventative measures that can be taken.

Basement and foundation waterproofing professionals, as well as landscaping contractors, can help homeowners develop a plan to mitigate water damage. This can include the installation of drains and pumps to move water away from the house. Special paints and sealants also can protect the foundation.

Accelerating and Recasting Your 30-Year Mortgage

It’s tempting to choose a 15-year fixed rate mortgage for a few reasons:

  • It’s a lower interest rate than a 30-year mortgage
  • It’s paid in half the time
  • You build equity faster

There is, of course, one major trade-off: your monthly payment is significantly higher. Even if you can swing it, the extra cash you’re paying out each month can limit your ability to afford other items as needed: a new car, home repairs, health-related costs, unforeseen income interruption, etc.

For these reasons, a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is a safer bet. Yes, mortgage-for-mortgage, you’ll be paying a higher interest rate for a longer period, but your monthly payment will be significantly less, and that affordability makes it the more attractive option for most homeowners.

There are ways to pay down your 30-year mortgage faster. Accelerating your mortgage means you can pay more than your monthly obligation. You make your monthly payment and then pay more that month, with the second payment applied to reduce the principal balance of your mortgage. An extra $300 per month can typically cut months and even years off the length of the mortgage, saving you tens of thousands of dollars.

Another option is to recast your mortgage. Let’s say you get a large, unexpected bonus at work or win the lottery or inherit money from a long-lost relative. You could apply that money to your mortgage in a lump sum which will lower your monthly payment. Once the payment is made, your mortgage is recasted (i.e. recalculated) to reflect a lower monthly payment based on the new balance and reducing the interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

With options of refinancing, accelerating, and recasting, you may find yourself paying considerably less than you thought when you first purchased your home.

If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.


Daytripping in MA

Ready for a Day Trip or a fun summer weekend with friends and family? Don’t let August go by without hitting the road for a fun trip that’s local and doesn’t require a week away from home or work. Here are a few suggestions for Day Trips in Massachusetts!

Salem is an incredible experience in summer. It’s an amazing walking city, filled with history (Salem Witch Trials, Maritime Historic Site and the real-life House of the Seven Gables).

Go back in time on a day trip to Plymouth. See Plymouth Rock, step aboard the Mayflower II and visit Plimouth Plantation, a living history museum that replicates 17th century colonial life of the Pilgrims.

Head downtown and explore the history, architecture, food, and attractions that make Boston one of the country’s best walking cities. Whether you’re walking the Freedom Trail or cruising around the city streets (and waterways) on a guided Duck Boat tour, there’s so much to do and see for kids and adults.

Enjoy the summer and be sure to take some time to relax and recharge by getting away, even if it’s for one really fun day.


Home Improver: Rain Barrels for Water Conservation

This feels like the rainiest summer in years! Why not take advantage of all the wet stuff falling out of the sky? If you’ve never used rain barrels to gather water, there are several reasons to consider investing in them.

Rain barrels collect water from your roof that runs from the gutter, through the downspout, and into your rain barrel. The collected water can be used to water your lawn and garden. Other used include wash your car, filling a koi pond, or cleaning around the house.

According to the Massachusetts EPA, rain water is “soft,” meaning it is free from minerals and chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, and calcium, which are often found in tap water. Rain water is ideal for watering plants, washing cars and windows.

Owning rain barrels saves you money on your water bill and teaches your children about the importance of conservation.

Feeling in a DIY mood? You can build your own rain barrel.

How Inflation Affects Mortgages

Although it’s impossible to predict the housing economy, we can take some cues from what’s been happening and make an educated guess that points to the strong possibility of inflation.

So how does this affect your next home purchase? If you’ve been shopping you will have seen that there is low inventory across the market. Combined with mortgage rates remaining historically low, prices begin to rise. Buyers can afford to pay more because they’re saving so much on the low rates.

But what happens when rates begin to go up as well? With rates on the rise and mortgage payments increasing, your money is stretched to the point where you may need to settle for a less expensive home because the affordability has been affected. Your purchasing power decreases as rates rise,

I’ll ask the question I’ve asked in previous newsletters: What are you waiting for? Even if you thought a few months ago there was a shot that rates might drop even further, you were taking a risk. Now, it seems like waiting might lead you to regretting not striking while the iron was hot.

With the economy moving, unemployment dropping, and vaccines leading us into a hopeful post-pandemic world, there are good things to look forward to, even if we face inflation and a decreasing dollar.

If you’d like to chat about your options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re going to buy this year, we should talk soon.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.


Fenway Safety Guidelines

Tomorrow is Opening Day at Fenway and while fans will be back in the stands for the first time since 2019, Fenway Park will be operating at just 12% capacity to keep within Massachusetts’ COVID safety guidelines.

This means each game you attend will include about 4500 fans seated throughout the park.

There are some safety requirements as well:

  • Download the MLB Ballpark app which will include a health screen survey.
  • Masks are required for all attendees age 2 and above.
  • Tickets are sold in physically distanced “pods” comprised of 2 or 4 seats that allow safe distance between groups.
  • Tickets will be delivered via the MLB Ballpark app.
  • Fans will be directed to enter the gates closest to their seats, as labeled on their digital ticket on the app.
  • All fans must follow the guidelines for proper social distancing while in the ballpark.

*Source: MLB.com


March Home Improver: Washi Tape for Easter Eggs

Tired of dyeing Easter eggs in the same old colors you used when you were a kid? Here’s a new way to decorate eggs while keeping dye and vinegar off your kids’ clothes. It’s fast and fun and it’s called Washi tape.

Washi tape is decorative, textured paper tape. It feels similar to masking tape. You can find it at Target, Michaels, or Amazon. It is based on traditional Japanese Washi paper, which has been around for 1,300 years.

Getting crafty with your Washi tape means you can cut it into patterns and mix-and-match designs to create truly unique Easter eggs. It’s easy for any kid to try. Make a mistake? Just peel it off and apply new tape!

To those celebrating, we wish you a Happy Easter! Thanks for reading this month’s newsletter!

Is the Wait Worth the Risk?

Have you been closely watching how mortgage rates have been trending? Are you hoping for rates to drop even more before refinancing? Does it feel like now that they’ve been at historic lows, they’re bound to go down even further?

It’s possible. But it’s also possible the opposite is true and for all we know we’re at the low-point and rates could begin to creep up in the coming months.

There are those who are waiting patiently for a magical 2.5% rate. That number is firmly in their minds as the time to refinance, and even 2.51 is not enough for them to act.

There’s only one question you can ask yourself: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk? (Sorry, got carried away. That’s my Clint Eastwood impression. It’s much better when you can hear it. But I digress…).

You may feel lucky but the real question to ask is this: “Is gambling on your biggest investment worth the risk over something as low as an eighth of a percentage point?”

Here are more questions to consider:

  1. How much am I really saving by waiting and continuing to pay my current mortgage at the higher rate?
  2. How would I feel if I pressed my luck by waiting and rates started rising again?
  3. Is the investment in your home really the place to speculate when you’ve got an insanely low rate available right now?

Only you can answer these questions. Think about them carefully and if you’d like to chat about your options, please call me at 617-965-1236.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.


National Corn Chip Day

Is it January 29th already? That can only mean one thing: It’s National Corn Chip Day!

To start your weekend off  with a crunch, we thought we’d share a great recipe for fresh guacamole. It’s great to dip your corn chips into and it’s very healthy. Avocados are a superfood you should integrate into your regular weekly produce shopping.

With Super Bowl LV a week away, here’s a great snack to serve as you wonder why the Patriots can’t sign great quarterbacks like Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Anyway, here’s the recipe from Chef Alton Brown, starting with ingredients:

3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated. Using a potato masher add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

Go Pats! I mean Bucs!


January Home Improver: Fix Your Sagging Doors and Dirty Knobs

Sometimes the thing that’s nearly imperceptible to others is the only thing you see and it drives you nuts. You know what we’re talking about: that one slightly sagging cabinet door that is destroying your entire kitchen aesthetic. Your solution? It’s time for all new cabinets!

That’s one way to go. But why spend thousands when you can easily fix and restore your cabinet doors to their original look – and even dress them up a bit for a whole new look?

First, let’s look at that saggy door. The culprit is typically a loose screw that may just need to be tightened. But after a few days you may see the door sag again. That’s because the screw has damaged the wood slightly. A quick fix that might solve your problem is to buy a bottle of wood glue. Squeeze glue into the hole and then reinsert the screw. Close the door completely then reopen to wipe off any excess glue. Then close the door and stick a “Do Not Open for 24 Hours” note on it. Your cabinets should be aligned without sagging. In the event the glue isn’t getting it done because the old screw caused too much damage, try a thicker, threaded screw and repeat the wood glue method.

Now, what about those grimy old knobs? If you love them, it’s worth the effort. Remove the knobs and handles. Fill a bucket or small container with equal parts water and vinegar. Soak in the solution overnight. Then scrub and rinse before reattaching.

Bored of your knobs and in need of a fresh new look? You’d be surprised the difference it makes by switching out your cabinet hardware.

 

Thinking of Refinancing? Do It Now to Avoid Fees

As the U.S. slowly returns to work, analysts are warning of another possible wave of layoffs as businesses restructure in a post-coronavirus economy. You may find yourself or a loved one in financial difficulty — even if it’s a temporary situation.

In this case, when household budgets are stretched to the maximum, you have the option of requesting forbearance which can temporarily postpone your mortgage payments and those will be tacked on to the end of your mortgage term. Don’t mistake forbearance for debt

If you’ve been patiently waiting to refinance at the lowest possible rate, you should do it right now before they go up in December.

The government has taken a major COVID hit and it intends to recoup any lost funds by imposing a 0.5% new mortgage refinancing fee on December 1. If half a percent doesn’t seem like much, let’s put it in perspective: the average U.S. homeowner will pay, on average, $1400 for that bump.

Rates haven’t been this low since the 1970s (yes, 50 years ago). While no one can predict the future, it’s not a bad bet that today’s rates through November 30th could be the lowest you’ll see for a very long time.

Yes, it’s a short window, but it could be worse. The Adverse Market Refinance Fee was slated to begin in September, but industry pushback forced the FHFA to hold off until December. Consider this your window of opportunity.

Here are the rates right now (source: Freddie Mac)

If you’ve been waiting for the right time, the time is now. Get in touch and let’s look at your options. If you hadn’t considered a refinance but would like to discuss the possibility, please call me at 617-965-1236. I have been very busy helping homeowners save money and I’d love to do the same for you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.


Website Refresh!

One thing we’ve learned during the pandemic is to take a closer look at our marketing.

If it’s been a few years since you’ve updated your website you may find that it looks and feels dated. There may be some broken links, an outdated logo, and a need to add or delete services.

I love the new and improved Westchester Mortgage. It fits with my style and looks like the kinds of clients I love to help.

Have a look and let me know what you think! I value your opinion.

By the way, if you’d like a referral to my trusted marketing team, send an email and I’ll put you in touch with the best people I know to help you market your business.


September’s Home Improver: White Vinegar: The All-Purpose Cleaning Solution

Having company this weekend and need to clean in a hurry? No time to shop for products? Grab some white vinegar and get cleaning!

As a non-toxic, natural cleaning agent, white vinegar is great for little jobs where either commercial cleaning products don’t exist, or they contain chemicals that may be less eco-friendly or less healthy for a house with small children and pets. Always remember, as with any cleaning agent, do a spot test on fabrics.

1. Kitchen. Using equal parts water and vinegar, clean the inside of your refrigerator. You can even leave a bottle of solution in the door when you’re done. To clean your microwave, place a half cup each of water and vinegar in a glass bowl and run the microwave for 3 minutes. Then simply wipe away and greasy buildup with ease.

2. Bathroom. When paired with baking soda, you can remove all the nasty stains and odors from around the toilet and tub. It won’t have a negative effect on tiles, grout, and metals the way bleach does.

3. Bedroom. Mix white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and some tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Lightly spritz on your mattress to help combat dust mites, mildew, and general odors. For a deeper clean, follow with a dusting of baking soda. Let dry, then vacuum the mattress.

 

Is Forbearance a Good Option or a Re-fi Trap?

As the U.S. slowly returns to work, analysts are warning of another possible wave of layoffs as businesses restructure in a post-coronavirus economy. You may find yourself or a loved one in financial difficulty — even if it’s a temporary situation.

In this case, when household budgets are stretched to the maximum, you have the option of requesting forbearance which can temporarily postpone your mortgage payments and those will be tacked on to the end of your mortgage term. Don’t mistake forbearance for debt forgiveness.

This may seem like a godsend in difficult times – and it can be – but read on to learn about how being granted forbearance can work against you.

As of this past Monday, nearly 4.3 million homeowners were in forbearance plans.

The Massachusetts Division of Banks, in a memo sent in late March, said that “institutions will implement all reasonable and necessary change to provide relief to those adversely impacted borrowers during this state of emergency, and continuing thereafter, as necessary.”

This relief package includes:

  • Forbearing mortgage payments for 60 or more days from their due dates
  • Waiving late payment fees and any online payment fees for a period of 60 days
  • Postponing foreclosures for 60 days
  • Offering borrowers an additional 60-day grace period to complete trial loan modifications, and ensuring that late payments during the COVID-19 pandemic do not affect their ability to obtain permanent loan modifications

While an approved forbearance request can be a much-needed relief in difficult times, it is part of your mortgage history and will remain on your record, though not necessarily in a punitive way.

For more information on COVID-19 assistance, visit the CARES Act government website.

If you are planning to take advantage of a lower rate through a refinance, you should be aware that you may have to get caught up in full before your new loan is approved. So if your three-month forbearance was tacked to the end of your mortgage, you would essentially be undoing the forbearance and paying the months you had skipped in order for your refinance to go through.

Coming up with three three months of mortgage payments may be insurmountable at this time, especially when you opted for forbearance in the first place. In addition, you may need to show where the funds came from to cover the months of forbearance. Whether you borrowed the money or if it was gifted to you, the banks may choose to decline the refinance if they conclude that you’re still too deep in financial difficulty or uncertainty.

If you would like to discuss financial options, please call me at 617-965-1236.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.


Happy Juneteenth!

Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated annually in almost every state on June 19 and often through the weekend. Its name is a portmanteau (combination) of the date.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed enslaved people almost two-and-a-half years earlier, Texas was the most remote of the slave-states, with a low presence of Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent. It finally came on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.

In 1980, Texas became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. In 2020, all but three states observe it as a state holiday.

In 2007, Massachusetts was the 25th state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday and as recognition of this event gains momentum, it is possible that Juneteenth could become a federal holiday in a few years.


June’s Home Improver: The Best Toilet Paper for Septic Systems

We are in our third month of COVID-19 and even though many are returning to regular day-to-day activities, one thing remains constant: toilet paper is still hard to find and many continue to hoard it. Because of the scarcity you may have gladly accepted whatever was on the supermarket’s shelves, but that could be an issue if your home has a septic system.

Not all toilet paper is the same, and those differences could create issues with your septic system. Your best bets are products that are biodegradable, made from recycled paper, and, of course, septic-safe. Here are the brands offering the best results for problem-free flushing. You may be surprised (and relieved) to see some familiar brands.

  1. Scott – Rapid Dissolving Toilet Paper
  2. Angel Soft
  3. Quilted Northern Regular or Ultra Plush
  4. Cottonelle Ultra Comfort Care
  5. Amazon Brand – Presto! Ultra Soft
  6. Firebelly Outfitters Brand – RV Toilet Paper
  7. Whole Foods Brand – Seventh Generation Toilet Paper

These papers are fast-dissolving and that includes multi-ply and quilted. Other bands may seem thinner, but that does not guarantee their ability to dissolve quickly. If your store is out of your favorite brand, consider one of the above to keep your septic system safe.

 

Case Study: Help with Refinancing

The Situation:

Julie is a divorced mom with a teenager at home. Her finances were perilously low, and she needed help. A friend of hers who had worked with me previously asked Julie to call me to explore her options.

The Challenges:

Julie felt she didn’t have the credit history or sufficient income to refinance and was hesitant to even start. She assumed her application to refinance her home would not be approved.

The Actions:

We had an initial conversation and I gave her suggestions on how to increase her credit scores. (Julie jokingly said “OK, Mom,” when I gave her the list of suggestions.) By her own admission, she was dragging her feet during the process and I encouraged her to continue. She felt completely overwhelmed and frozen from taking action. I helped organize her finances and get her paperwork in order to put the plan in motion. She needed a Marie Kondo of mortgages to “tidy up” her financials and I acted as her coach. From there, good things started to happen. She got a promotion, she updated and completed her paperwork, and I submitted the mortgage application and documentation.

The Results:

Four months and lots of encouragement later, her new mortgage was approved, closed and funded! Julie said, “Debbie is a life-saver. I could not have done this without her help and guidance. My life continues to improve as my credit score is steadily rising and new opportunities are presenting themselves.

“Thank you, Debbie, for helping me get back on my feet. I appreciate the care you took with me that went beyond anything I had ever expected. You kept me on track and accountable through this whole process. I would recommend Westchester Mortgage to anyone concerned about qualifying for a mortgage or refinance, especially those who need some extra hand-holding during a challenging process.”

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.


Happy Leap Year Day!

Just when you thought winter couldn’t possibly drag on further, we’ve got an extra day of February this year.

Here are some Leap Year facts you may not know

  1. Julius Caesar added the first Leap Year Day to his Julian Calendar in 45 BCE. The date was February 24 and in his calendar, February was the last month of the year.
  2. Babies born on Leap Year Day are called “leaplings” and there are approximately 4 million leaplings out in the world.
  3. Famous “leaplings” include Dinah Shore, Dennis Farina, Tony Robbins and Pope Paul III.
  4. The odds of being born on February 29 are just 1 in 1,461.
  5. Leap years are also Summer Olympics years as well as US Presidential election years.

February’s Home Improver: Cleaning a Sewage Spill

Sewage can flood your basement when pipes break or when drains are backed up. Raw sewage can damage your basement and cause severe health problems. If your flooding is significant, please call a professional. For smaller leaks you feel confident in handling yourself, here are a few tips:

  1. Dress appropriately. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, boots or waders and rubber gloves. No exceptions!
  2. Turn off gas or water lines and keep a window open when possible. This will keep fresh air coming in and air circulating.
  3. Use a hose to rinse the floor and direct water towards the basement drain.
  4. Fill a bucket with a gallon of water and a cup of bleach. Swirl a stiff-bristled brush broom into the mixture. Scrub the walls of the basement and move down toward the floor. Continue saturating the brush broom and scrubbing the basement.
  5. Hose everything down again. Very important to keep going. Rinse off your brush, too.
  6. Repeat step 4. Yes, you have to do it twice! This is non-negotiable, even for minor seepage.
  7. Hose a third and final time. Then turn on fans and use a dehumidifer to help rid the basement of water.

Refinancing? Assess Before You Say Yes

There’s been a recent re-financing boom like we haven’t seen in a few years, when rates dipped to their lowest in decades. Now the fed has dropped rates below 4% and homeowners are considering refinancing now because rates may never be this low again.

Currently the rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is at 3.94%, which is the lowest it’s been since November of 2016. For perspective, the rate was 4.71% a year ago and 4.20% just four weeks ago.

Seeing this sharp decline makes refinancing very attractive to homeowners, but let’s look at three questions you may want to ask yourself before pulling the trigger on a refinance.

Can you say yes to the following?

  1. With the new proposed rate, will I consistently save $80 or more per month off my current mortgage payment?
  2. Am I in a position to eliminate my mortgage insurance based on the remaining balance of my current mortgage and increased property values?
  3. Will I be able to recoup the cost of this refinance in under two years?

If you said yes to all three, then you’re probably in a strong position to refinance your mortgage. If you answered yes to at least one, get in touch and let’s determine if a refi is right for you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.


Happy Independence Day!

This year is flying by and I hope you’re all squeezing in a little vacation time, even if you’re just taking a few days off to relax and not think about work for a while.

Many families will be away over the next few weeks. Whether you’ve planned a fun getaway or you’re simply barbecuing in the backyard with friends and family, time away from the daily grind is essential for recharging your body and brain.

If you are afforded vacation time by your employer and don’t take it, you’re doing yourself (and your company) a disservice.

Research consistently shows the health benefits of taking vacation time, like improved productivity, lower stress and better mental health.

So take that vacation (or staycation) and enjoy yourself this summer. You’ve earned it!


June’s Home Improver: Keep Bugs Out of Your Home This Summer

You may have noticed the spring has been particularly rainy and damp this year. You may not have loved it, but the many species of insects thrive on it. That means a summer filled with mosquitoes, ticks, ants, beetles, houseflies, spiders, centipedes and stink bugs.

Those creepy crawlies are bad enough outdoors, but they’re far more annoying when they invade your home. So what can you do to keep those invasive bugs out of your house? Here are a few tips:

  1. Pest control. If you live in a heavily wooded area and you regularly find insects crawling or flying around the house, you may want to call a professional to spray the rooms of your home.
  2. Declutter, clean, vacuum and sweep. Critters love a mess and thrive under boxes, in dark corners and in your carpet. The more you clean, the less chance of infestation.
  3. Seal your doors. The tiniest space in your door is a giant welcome sign to an insect. Head on over to your home improvement center and buy an inexpensive but effective door sweep.
  4. Repair or replace screens. See that tiny hole in your window screen? So do hundreds of creatures flying by and they will make themselves right at home if you don’t take care of it.

Honorable mention: Get some bats! Bats eat insects like people eat potato chips. You can’t have just one. In fact, the average American bat eats up to 1,200 mosquito-sized insects every hour, and each bat usually eats 6,000 to 8,000 insects each night.