Ring in the New Decade with Style (and Friends)


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It’s time to celebrate a new year (and a new Roaring 20s)! And if something’s worth celebrating, it’s worth doing with friends. So this New Year’s Eve, do it in unique style—with your closest pals, but with an eye on high points from the past year and a brighter future.

Lessons Learned. So what did you learn this past year? What would you change? What would you do again if you could? And be honest (you’re with friends). Did you do what you wanted to do? And if not, how will you change that this coming year?

Goals. And speaking of doing things in the coming year, what are your goals, anyway? Do you want a different home? A bigger home? A house instead of an apartment? A new job? A look for yourself or your house? Whatever it is, do yourself a favor and write it down. That’s right—write it down. And one great way to start is to create a vision board with your friends.

The Vision Board. You can do this pretty much any way you want, but get a whiteboard, put it up on the wall or an easel and write down your goals. And more than that, write down what you’re going to do each day to achieve that goal.

Be specific. Ask the other people in the room for their feedback, too. They know you, and you know them. What will get you to those goals and what will likely hold you back? Write it all, until your hand hurts, if necessary. Take photos of what you’ve written, erase, and start over, if necessary.

Once everyone has had their say, share your pics of the boards and hold each other to what you wrote! Then you’ll have something to remember all year long in 2020 that will actually do you some good!


Why you need a great real estate agent

Realtor Showing Hispanic Family Around New Home

Your home is your greatest asset. So why, when it’s time to buy or sell one, would you entrust that transaction to anyone less qualified than a great real estate agent.

Why? Four simple reasons:

They take the pressure off. The key thing about a great agent is that they’ve already done the homework necessary to make either your buying or selling experience the most profitable for you. They lead, you follow, everyone wins.

They know the market. Every city, every county, every rural township has its own market history and local quirks. A knowledgeable real estate agent knows those twists and turns and can tell you immediately what to watch out for as a buyer and how to best position your home as a seller. For buyers, they’re going to know the best local areas to shop and which ones to avoid. For sellers, they know what’s turning heads lately and how to make your home the most attractive it can be to serious buyers.

They know presentation. A good agent can advise you on how to stage and present your home in a way that will attract buyers and keep them coming.

They know pricing. Perhaps the most important thing, especially as a seller, is knowing what price to list your home at. That magic number is something a great agent knows how to pinpoint to the dollar. Listing at the right price point can pave the way for heartache or hurrahs. And as a buyer, your agent can tell you exactly what offers to put in for the home you want.

Great agents always pay for themselves. Always.


Gather: Holidays at Home

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It’s true: There’s no place like home for the holidays. So, no matter how far away …

Never mind. The important thing here is that being together for the holidays really does count. And if you have the space, maybe you could host the party!

Alright, maybe that doesn’t excite you. But it might very well excite the people coming into town to visit—uncles, aunts, cousins, kids, mom, dad. What, the whole gang is converging on your sweet, quiet home? You don’t say! Well …

Clear the decks. If you’re having people over, have them bring air mattresses if you don’t have beds for them to sleep in. Seriously. If the idea is togetherness, then forget the hotels and have them bunk down wherever there’s floor space—especially if they’re kids.

Bring a dish to pass. Also, for the big holiday meal(s), have visitors bring something they like to cook. Aunt Susie’s oatmeal chocolate chip bars? Uncle Don’s honey ham? Cousin Jill’s au gratin potatoes? Bring ’em all. Yummers.

Life’s a game. And be prepared to entertain people who otherwise will be bored out of their skulls. Have people bring a white elephant gift (something someone thought was tasteful once but is clearly hideous) and then have everyone play a round-robin series of four board games. Create a point system for each. Whoever wins gets last pick in the steal-a-gift white elephant gift exchange. Loads of fun. Try it!


The 6 Best Ways to Make Guests Feel at Home

Cafe Business Collaboration Colleagues Success Concept

Whether your guests are coming over for the first or 50th time, you want them to feel right at home. Here are six ways to make sure they want to come back again (and again and again):

Have a plan. Better to pull it off casually rather than whipping out an agenda, but have a plan for the evening. Music, games, lighting—make it on purpose. And make sure you know what they like to eat and do …

Ask ahead. What do your guests like to drink? Do they like games or modal jazz or a certain snack or that really great dessert from the local cake shop? Don’t guess, ask them before they come. You’ll show you care about them, and you’ll increase their chances of enjoying themselves!

Sit facing each other. Make conversation at the table or in your living room the point of the evening instead of the TV. Arrange the seating so you all can face each other. It makes conversation easier and keeps things a lot livelier.

Keep the refreshments fresh. Whatever you serve, don’t run out of it. Being a good host means being prepared.

Play music. Having good background music (classical, jazz, holiday tunes) puts everyone at ease and makes conversation flow better. It’s easier to feel at home when you feel comfortable, and music does that for people.

Ask about them. Nothing but nothing ingratiates you to someone else than to ask them about them. So whether it’s with a Q&A game or just in regular conversation, make your guests feel valued and at home by learning a lot about them and talking as little as you can about yourself. People walk away enjoying themselves (and you) more!

Appraisals – Why they are a must

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Some people, when buying a home, take a look at the few hundred dollars that an appraisal costs and try to skirt around it.

That’s a very bad idea. Why? In the general scheme of things, the cost of an appraisal amounts to a pittance compared to the final cost of the home. And that $500 or so is money very well spent. That’s because an independent appraisal puts everyone at ease. It lets you, the buyer, know exactly what the true fair-market value of the home is—the value on which taxes likely will be based and around which other comparable homes in the area are priced (because they had appraisals, too).

Also, if you’re a seller, you might want to embrace the appraisal idea, too, because if you’re willing to fork over the cash, that might very well grease the wheels for that potential buyer who’s ready to pull the trigger but is watching all those tertiary costs stack up and starting to waffle. Just sayin’.

So, whatever your position in the transaction, buyer or seller, learn to like appraisals. They save time. They save headaches. They save wondering who’s taking whom for a ride. And it might just save the deal everyone wants to make.


Prepare to Buy – Get Your Credit in Top Shape

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Now that interest rates are probably on their way back up, there’s no time like the present to make sure your credit is in tip-top shape.

Pay off smaller debts now. Thinking about a big purchase? Don’t make it. Instead, if you have small (or smaller) consumer debts, put off all the purchases you can and pay those off. Getting debt, any debt, off the books will boost your credit score and give you a better chance at a lower interest rate on a mortgage.

Clear up discrepancies. Most people’s credit history contains … well, stuff that didn’t happen that affects your score. Get your free credit report (from your bank, Credit Karma or another website) to see if there are any outstanding accounts listed that are no longer open and then call the three bureaus (Experian, Transunion and Equifax) to clear up the junk.

Avoid hard inquiries. When a bank, business or other potential creditor asks the three bureaus about your credit, it’s called a hard inquiry, and it counts against your score. Why? The assumption is that you are planning to buy something big from that creditor or open another line of credit, because why else would they be asking for your credit history? Even if you don’t open another account, it’s a strike against you.

The only way to better credit is to incur less debt or make (a lot) more money. But take these steps, and you can increase your score more than you might think.


Selling Your House During Winter

Couple with real-estate agent visiting house for sale

Though winter isn’t usually considered peak selling time, plenty of houses get bought and sold between November and March. If you find yourself needing (or wanting) to move during the winter, here are a few things you need to know:

Clear it up. If you live in a snowy climate, keep those walkways and driveways clear of snow and ice. Make the path to your home look like you want and expect people to walk up at anytime.

Wintertime is buy time. Because warmer months tend to attract the most lookers, the parade of people stopping by in summer and fall tends to have a lot more window shoppers among the serious few. But in winter, that ratio gets reversed—if you don’t really want to be out in the cold, why would you? So be prepared for less traffic, and don’t let that discourage you.

Warm fuzzies. Make your home the comfy, inviting place everyone wants to be in when the wind starts to whip. Heat up some apple cider (holiday smells!) or some water for tea and cocoa. Brew some coffee. Bake some cookies or pumpkin bread. Let the weather work for you by enticing folks to stay longer (and look longer).

Winter doesn’t have to impede your home-selling. Just use what Nature gives you to your advantage.


Curb Appeal – Winter Tips

Beautiful luxury mansion with manicured front lawn.

Wintertime has an appeal all its own, but when the wind starts whipping and the temps drop, it’s way too easy to let the curb appeal of your house drop, too. Don’t let that happen.

Keep the snow off. If you live in a cold-weather region, keep your driveway visible. It takes a little more diligence and maybe even some driveway salt, but seeing black pavement or concrete in between the piles of snow definitely makes a much better visual impression than packed-down snow.

Make leaves leave. If you live in a warmer climate, wintertime leaves never seem to. But there’s something about a pile of leaves left to rot in a corner of your front yard that says, “Someone here doesn’t care.” Even after your big fall leaf day, take care of that by grabbing a leaf rake and doing a frequent scan of your yard for stragglers—those last survivor leaves blowing in from neighbors’ yards or freshly fallen from your own trees.

Prune the trees. Summertime growth is over. Now that the sap has stopped flowing, take some time to trim those asymmetrical branches and round out those tree profiles. The trimmed look makes for a great first impression, and people won’t even know why.

A Festive Home for the Holidays

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Can it be Christmastime already? You’d better believe it. It’s time to celebrate, and you don’t have to spend a bundle to make the yuletide fun. So, jump in!

Spin the tunes. Nothing but nothing keeps the holiday vibe going like good music. But you don’t have to stick to the old standards. With a subscription service and a Bluetooth speaker, you can stream a steady flow of classical, carols, jazz, standards and even international Christmas music every waking hour, and without repeating the same old Perry Como and Brenda Lee.

Little touches. A little greenery here, a string of lights there, and your home can say, “Christmas” nearly everywhere for very little money. Simplicity reigns here—one well-placed candle does a lot more than a garish blinking wreath. But do get nice wreath for the front door. They make such a great impression.

Gifts are good. Instead of focusing just on your family, find a small gift that you can give anonymously to your neighbors, just to say, “Merry Christmas” and add some joy to their day. Add a hand-written note on Christmas-themed paper, and you’ll make everyone who gets one smile!

Oh yeah, food. Keep some (not a lot) of holiday-themed food around. A little candy, some cookies. C’mon, it’s Christmas. Live a little and enjoy it. It’s gone before you know it!