The Downside of Down Payment Assistance

In this time of skyrocketing inflation, buyers are looking for any help they can find — and there is help out there. Sort of. Let me explain.

You may have seen ads or read articles on Down Payment Assistance (DPA). These programs are designed to provide loans or grants to buyers struggling with coming up with a typical 20% down payment.

While this sounds like a great opportunity, many DPA programs just don’t work. Often there are restrictions related to location, credit, and income.

Here’s the problem: Let’s say houses in your area average $400K. In order to qualify, your income will need to be low enough for the application to be approved. But the income restriction can be so low that you can only afford a $300K home and that means you’ve been priced out of your area before you even start to look.

Even if you did qualify to buy a home in your area, you may not stand a chance with a DPA loan when your competition is ready to put down 20% cash down (or more).

Sometimes the answer is simply to wait until you’ve saved your 20% down payment. But variables exist and there are sometimes ways to get you into a new home faster. That’s how I help. Contact me to review your credit and finances, and I’ll give you an honest opinion on your best path to a new home.

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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.

Celebrating May

Suddenly, it’s almost May. How did that happen? May starts on Sunday and we thought it would be fun to take a look at some very random events that occurred on May 1 through the years.

  • 1931: The Empire State Building opens in Manhattan.
  • 1941: Citizen Kane, considered by many to be the greatest film ever made, premieres.
  • 1956: Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine is made available to the public.
  • 1961: Harper Lee wins the Pulitzer Prize for To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • 1971: Amtrak begins railway operations.
  • 1991: Rickey Henderson steals the 939th base of his career, surpassing Lou Brock’s MLB record.

Home Improver: Let It Go: Declutter Your Home

Take Elsa’s advice and Let it Go. It’s time to declutter your home. As shown in the photo above, there are several things you can do with unwanted items: keep, donate, trash, sell, recycle. Let’s focus today on donating and selling.

Donate items to Ukrainian refugees. Many people fled their homes and came here with little money and only the clothes on their backs. Be careful of scammers, and seek out reputable nonprofits willing to accept your donations.

Sell online. Want to make a few bucks on that iPad you used for a month or those boots you forgot to return? You have several options:

  1. eBay. The most popular online marketplace for used items. If you own it, someone on eBay is probably willing to buy it.
  2. Let Go/Offer Up. These companies merged midway through the pandemic. Think eBay, but local. That means in addition to shippable items, you can list your old snowblower or that exercise bike you never use, and your buyer can come pick them up.
  3. Savers. Feeling overwhelmed and just want everything out of the house? Box it up and drive it to the nearest Savers. They may not take everything, but they’ll take most of your stuff to resell.
  4. PangoBooks. Have unwanted stacks of books? Set up a PangoBooks account and sell your books online. It only takes a few minutes to set up and start adding books to your online store.

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.

2022 Mortgage Loan Limits to Skyrocket

If you sold your home this year, you probably got more than you expected for it. In Massachusetts, homes sold at a rate that was 16.5% higher than the first 10 months of 2020, according to the Mass. Association of Realtors.

The median single-family home sold for $520,000. Given the low inventory of available houses and the high demand, it’s no surprise that sellers made it to closing in almost half the time of the typical sales cycle.

There is some good news for buyers trying to stay competitive. Loan limits are about to take a record-setting jump. The FHFA has announced that for most of the US, mortgage loan limits are increasing by 18% in 2022, from $548,000 to $647,200.

With rates still very low, now is the time to buy. There’s no reason to wait out the market. In fact, there is a chance that increased loan limits could ultimately drive up the price of homes once again.

If you’ve been thinking about a purchase but you’re concerned about fluctuations in the market, 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.

2022: Let’s Celebrate

We’re just over a week away from welcoming in 2022, and if you thought I was going to talk about resolutions, you’d be incorrect.
This month, let’s focus on a myth we often choose as a New Year’s goal: work-life balance.

We all want it, and if it seems impossible to achieve, it’s because it pretty much is impossible. Family, work, kids, finances, vacations, physical and mental health can’t be balanced evenly. Instead, try to shoot for work-life harmony.

When we think of “balance,” we tend to think of time and how we manage it. We certainly can’t balance it. But when we think of “harmony,” we focus not on time but on energy. Balance is more about the “who, what, and when” while harmony focuses on the all-important “why.”

To learn more, read this article.

Home Improver: Moth Myths: Do They Really Eat Sweaters?

If you’ve been carefully storing your best sweaters in fear of having moths eat holes in them, we’re here to tell you that moths are not the enemy. This is a moth myth.

The fact is, adult moths don’t eat clothing. I know, we’re shocked! How can this myth have survived for generations and, more to the point, what exactly is eating holes in your beautiful cashmere (or wool) sweaters?

The answer is… moths. It’s kind of a trick question, so let’s explain. Adult moths don’t have the mouth structure to chew holes. The real culprit is moth larvae. Kids gotta eat! Just like caterpillars that chew on leaves before they become butterflies, moth larvae need to chew, too — and their preference is natural fibers, like your delicious wool sweaters.

So what can you do to avoid baby moths-in-the-making from eating your sweaters? Keep them clean and stored away. Hanging them in a closet is like hanging a salami in an Italian deli. It will attract the hungry. Instead, store them in plastic bins with airtight lids or in compression storage bags.

Pandemic Babies and Divorce Rates

You’d think with everyone cooped up during the pandemic there would be huge spike in birth rates. But it seems familiarity breeds contempt, not babies, as birth rates have dropped and divorces have increased.

It may be a case of social distancing taken a little too far, but the baby bust maybe the result of spouses spending their free time binging episodes of Tiger King and The White Lotus while strategically avoiding intimacy.

According to FormsPal, a website that provides free legal forms, there are some very surprising facts about pandemic-era divorces:

  • At least 60% of the divorced have been married for no more than a year
  • Compared to 2020, the COVID-19 crisis has triggered a nearly 21% increase in divorce agreements initiated by couples in 2021
  • In 2021, around 7% of divorcing Americans have been unable to withstand even a month of marriage

There’s no question that the pandemic has created tension within some marriages. It’s bound to happen when job status, mounting debt, and both partners living and working from home cause cracks in the foundation of otherwise healthy marriages.

Working with Debbie brings a human element absent from online services. She’s empathetic to your situation and takes a holistic approach that considers your whole financial picture. That beats a computer algorithm every time. Computers don’t care, but Debbie does. It’s one of the reasons her clients trust her to take care of their home sales and purchases — and why they often refer their friends and family to her as well.

This pandemic has changed our lives forever. In cases where divorcing spouses need help finding new homes that make financial sense for both parties, Debbie should be your first call.

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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.

Happy Labor Day

Oh, no! Summer is almost over and next Monday is Labor Day! Wasn’t it just Memorial Day with the whole summer stretched out before us?

I don’t know about you, but this pandemic blur has me questioning the passage of time. It seems frustratingly slow in our attempts to return to pre-Covid days, while time is flying by as we think about all the friends and family we haven’t been as close to the past 18 months.

We hope you’ve had a wonderful summer in spite of everything. If you haven’t had a chance to get away, even for a day or two, try your best to work in some downtime before the official start of fall on September 22.

Maybe a barbecue with a close group of friends? A day trip with the family? A surprise visit with a loved one you haven’t seen in months?

Enjoy the remaining days of summer while they’re still here. It won’t be long before sweater weather is upon us.

Home Improver: Make Your Own Honey (Yes, Bees Are Involved)

Deciding to be a beekeeper is a little bit like deciding to take care of other animals, but you have to consider what’s needed for successful beekeeping.

Do you have ample space in your yard for your bees? Are they allowed? Check your local zoning regulations first to make sure your city or town permits beekeeping.

Important: Get your family tested for bee allergies to prevent bad reactions.

Also, consider your neighbors. Are they bee-friendly? You can always bribe them with a lifetime supply of honey.

Speaking of which, to extract honey from the hive, you will need beekeeping tools. This fascinating video shows you how to extract the honey. This is the time of year when honey is typically extracted. If you don’t already have active hives set up, you can plan for a very sweet 2022!

Don’t Be a Casualty of the Bidding Wars

Question: What is the primary reason keeping people who have been looking for homes from buying them in 2021?

Answer: They keep getting outbid, and it’s very frustrating.

Bidding wars are escalating prices well beyond their value, simply due to a lack of inventory and a growing number of buyers.

Sellers, meanwhile, are benefitting from desperate homebuyers who are tacking on $50,000 – $100,000 over asking price. If you are currently searching for a home, be prepared to bid more, but don’t give up too much or you may regret your impulsive extravagance down the road.

We are seeing determined but reckless buyers waiving contingency clauses like appraisals and home inspections to stay a step ahead of the competition. Sellers love this because it can sidestep potential roadblocks that may delay the sale.

According to, Boston had the fourth highest increase in home prices in March and it has yet to slow. The article does mention that this could be a plateau, and that frustrated buyers may eventually back down from high-stakes bidding wars, leading to a decrease in overbidding.

The one thing we advise is to get pre-approved for your mortgage, especially for first-time homebuyers. Banks have no obligation to lend you money beyond the appraised value, which means that even with approval, you will still be responsible for any additional payments due from outbidding your fellow home-buying competitors.

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.

Memorial Day

I have a friend who feels guilty about attending family functions and barbecues on Memorial Day. She thinks it’s a solemn day and should be spent honoring those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives while serving in the US Military. And it should.

But it also happens to be the last Monday in May, which is the unofficial kickoff to summer. So can we respect those who gave all and still have a pool party with burgers and dogs?

I asked a three-tour Marine veteran and close friend that very question. His response was a resounding “Yes, absolutely!”

He said our military personnel defend the country to allow us to have the freedom to celebrate and enjoy our lives with friends and family. Those soldiers who were lost would want us to be happy and celebrating together.

So enjoy your Memorial Day with your loved ones. Celebrate and always remember those who gave their lives for that privilege.

May Home Improver: Lily of the Valley

Have you met my friend Lily? She’s from the valley, but luckily she never picked up that California accent.

OK, fine, gag me with a spoon! I’m not talking about a person, it’s a flowering plant that blooms in spring. It is also the official flower for those born in May.

Known for it’s fragrance and bell-shaped flowers, Lily of the Valley is a common component to most bridal bouquets. And while it’s called Lily of the Valley, you’ll be surprised to know that this plant is actually a member of the asparagus family. But don’t eat it. It can be toxic when ingested.

Instead plant it in a shaded area of your yard. Most people like to plant them under a tree for easy upkeep in their yards. These plants are typically planted in the fall and will bloom when the weather warms up.

So to review, Lily is not a Californian. She’s a flower that’s related to asparagus. Do not eat, no matter how much you love asparagus. She looks great at a wedding, as well as in your yard under the shade of a tree.

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.


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!

Top 3 Mortgage Predictions for 2021

I think we’ll all remember 2020 as one of those years where everything was pretty terrible: COVID-19, racial unrest, massive layoffs and furloughs, Kobe Bryant’s death, and a drawn-out, contentious election. By the way, whatever happened to those murder hornets?

On the positive side, there were stimulus checks and the lowest mortgage rates we may ever see. So what’s on the horizon in 2021? Here are the Top 3 mortgage-related events you can expect:

  1. Expect a bustling housing market next year. Demand will be high while inventory will remain low, unless a higher-than-predicted number of sellers put their homes on the market, which is entirely possible.
  2. Expect a small uptick in mortgage loan rates. With higher demand this is inevitable, but no one expects it to be very much of a bump. 2021 will still be a great time to buy and refinance. Right now, mortgage rates are at an all-time historic low.
  3. Expect the FHFA to increase its baseline loan limit in 2021 to $548,250. That’s up from $510,400. The high cost limit also jumps, from $765,600 to $822,375.

Given all the activity we expect in the coming months, now would be a great time for you to reach out and have a call with me to look at your options and set you up for a purchase or refinance.

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.

What Do You Know About Snow?

Looks like we’re in for a snowy holiday season! Here are a few things about snow you may not know about.

  1. It’s a myth that no two snowflakes are alike. in 1988, a Wisconsin scientist identified two identical flakes from a winter storm.
  2. In a snowstorm at Fort Keogh in Montana, the largest snowflake ever recorded was 15 inches wide.
  3. Each winter in the US, at least one septillion ice crystals fall from the sky. 1 septillion has 24 zeroes. That’s a lot of snow!
  4. The most snow in a 24-hour period happened in Colorado in 1921, when they saw over six feet of the white stuff in a day.

December Home Improver: Keep Your Home Free of Pet Odors

But one thing we don’t love is the lingering wet dog smell that remains long after your pet warms up in your home. Cats present their own indoor odors, especially around litter boxes. We wanted to share our best tips to reduce unwanted pet odors in your home.

  1. To reduce odors from rugs and carpets, be sure to sprinkle some baking soda before vacuuming. This will neutralize the odors and leave your room fresher.
  2. Clean your pet’s ears. If you are experienced at this, the effort is worth it. If not, set up an appointment to have your pet’s ears cleaned, which will remove unwanted scents from dog and cat beds, your sofa and carpets.
  3. If you clean your litter box regularly but the smell is still noticeable, try moving it to another room either upstairs or in the basement. Another tip: keep it in a well-ventilated room.
  4. Try an unscented cat litter with baking soda. Sometimes the fragrance of the odor-masking litter is just as offensive as the used litter itself.


The Effect of Coronavirus On Mortgages

There is no question the coronavrius pandemic has had a severe impact on our daily lives. Financially, it’s brought a very strong economy into a recession almost overnight. In the past three weeks more than 17 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment after a staggering number of layoffs.

Real estate sales slowed during stay-at-home orders and as of April 5, new home listings were down 27% nationally year-over-year.

You may have heard talk of the Fed cutting rates to 0%. Let’s be clear, though, that mortgage rates and the Fed’s rates are two different things. But there is some good news for buyers. Two weeks ago, the rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 3.29%, hitting an all-time low. This week, they rose to 3.33%, but that’s still significantly lower than the very reasonable 4.12% from a year ago.

While a low rate may make purchasing a new home or refinancing your existing one a desirable option, there are things you should consider. Is your job and income secure? (That may be difficult to answer given the uncertainty of what’s to come.) Do you have assets and savings along with good credit? This is particularly important now because banks may be more stringent than ever in approving mortgage applications.

This is where I can help. I know how to navigate towards a mortgage approval in difficult times. I have experience and success working with clients in the post-9/11 economy as well as during the recession in 2009. This is a similar situation and together we can figure out if buying now is right for you, your family, or friends.

We’ll get through this as we have in the past. We have learned hard lessons and that makes us more equipped to take on challenges as we adjust to the new economy.

I wish you all good health and if I can be of any help to you myself or through my trusted network, 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.

Tips for Making Staying Home More Interesting

If you are a non-essential worker and you find yourself housebound during the coronavirus, you may find yourself getting restless. If you live alone, you may feel isolated and if you have a family, you may feel like there’s no escape from the kids running around and looking for something to do. After all, how much Tiger King can you take?

Here are some ideas to make your 24/7 stay-at-home life a little more interesting.

  1. Learn something new. Watch a TED Talk every day.
  2. Start a blog on Medium and get paid for if it takes off. Or just read the thousands of articles published daily.
  3. Update your résumé and use free Canva templates to get creative with it.
  4. Self-publish that book that’s been sitting on your computer for free with Kindle Direct Publishing.
  5. Have fun with leftovers and miscellaneous food items and stage a “Chopped” competition with your family.
  6. Try 63 science experiments with the kids using stuff from around the house.
  7. Do the Getty Museum challenge. It’s becoming very popular! Use household items to recreate famous works of art.
  8. Have Virtual Happy Hour with friends (for adults) and Virtual play dates (for the kids) with Zoom or Google Hangouts.
  9. Plan a scavenger hunt in your house by hiding items in different rooms and have the kids hunt them down.
  10. Try a free 30-day yoga challenge.

April’s Home Improver: Spring Cleaning & Donating

Since most non-essential workers are spending more time at home than they have in years, we’re hearing of a lot of small home improvement projects. But most of all, people are keeping busy with spring cleaning. You may notice you have quite a few things in your home that you no longer use or need. Donating to charities can give your possessions a second life while decluttering your home. Here are a few ideas of places to donate.

  1. Non-perishable foods. Local food pantries are always in need of non-perishable items. If you have canned goods you’ll probably never use as you clean out the cupboard, you can always donate them to a food pantry in your neighborhood.
  2. Old books. For those who prefer paper books to Kindle or Apple e-books, you may have accumulated a stockpile of novels you no longer need. Why not donate them to the military? Check out Operation Paperback and send some books to our troops!
  3. Old clothes. If you have gone through your closets and realized you’ve got clothes in good shape that you and your family will probably never wear again, you can always make a donation to a charity that will gladly accept them along with other household items you may want to donate. Here is a list of charities you can help.

Is Zillow the Uber of Real Estate?

There’s no question that has evolved from a real estate curiosity to a major player in the industry. While some may think of it as a starting point for future homebuyers or simply an entertaining way for house-hunters to kill some time online, Zillow is emerging as a force that could disrupt the entire real estate process. In fact, it already has.

If you’re wondering if Zillow will eventually displace real estate agents, I suppose it’s possible, though highly unlikely — and it would be years away if Zillow were to consider such a pivot.

The more likely lasting scenario is their current model, which uses real estate agents the way Uber uses vetted drivers to close business for them.

Here’s how it works: Zillow sells leads to agents backed by large real estate brokers like Keller Williams, Re/Max and Coldwell Banker. Users sign up and explore locales where they want to buy. Zillow provides their “Zestimate,” which is sometimes less of an estimate and more of a guesstimate. Eventually, Zillow will suggest one of their recommended agents to work with the homebuyer, gather as much accurate data as they can and seal the deal. So the agent gets paid, but so does the broker and now Zillow gets their cut.

Now, whether these agents are any good at selling is no guarantee. The agents Zillow recommends are the ones paying thousands of dollars a year for leads. They are not necessarily the cream of the crop, though some are. Bottom line: it’s a crapshoot.

And that’s the risk you take when starting with software rather than a human. Real estate is almost always an emotional purchase and you need a sentient human to make it all work. Zillow knows that and that’s why they invest in human capital to power their sales engine. At least for now.

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.