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  • Everything Must Go! How to Sell Your Stuff—for the Most Money—Before You Move

    Taking the time to sort and sell your stuff before a move could save you a lot of money; in fact, it might even pay for your move entirely. And with the abundance of online marketplaces available, it’s never been easier to sell your stuff hassle-free.

    But what if you aren’t just looking to get rid of things, but also to sell them for the best price? We spoke with moving experts from around the country to bring you these insider tips on selling your stuff for the most money.

    Bundle items together

    There are a lot of online marketplaces claiming to be the best one to help you sell your stuff, but in practice they’re not all equal.

     “Craigslist is 80% flakes,” says New York City–based art collector Michele Hembree.

    In 2018, Hembree and her family began the grueling yearlong process of moving from their suburban Alameda, CA, home to a small apartment in New York.

    They had a lot of stuff to get rid of— everything from old books to 20 years' worth of Christmas ornaments, children’s toys, and camping gear. After making a checklist with her husband, she got to work on selling nearly everything they had.

    Using high-traffic sites like Facebook Marketplace (for small things) and Chairish (for furniture and larger pieces), Hembree’s strategy was to focus her efforts on marketing the items to get the best price.

    “Sometimes I’d bundle things together—then you can ask for more," she says.


    Put time into your photos and descriptions

    Hembree also found that she had the most success when posting her items for sale with high-quality photos and descriptions, including information about the item’s brand and quality.

    "If you take photos of your stuff in a dark corner, no one will buy it," she says. "The photos have to be good.”

    Miranda Benson, marketing coordinator for San Francisco–based moving company Dolly, emphasizes that point—with an extra trick to make your stuff stand out.

    "I always advise including at least one stock photo of the item—you can usually find this by Googling the product and brand name," she suggests. "And then a few well-lit, high-definition photos you've taken yourself.”

    Benson also stresses the importance of the description.

    “Make sure to be clear about what's included, what condition it's in, how long you've had it, and what kind of home it comes from, like if someone has a pet or smokes," she says. "Whether it's a designer handbag or a functional futon, buyers need to evaluate for themselves what they're getting.”

    Don't rely solely on online marketplaces

    To be sure she was getting the best price for her stuff, Hembree also sold through a variety of channels both online and offline.

    “We had a great secondhand store nearby,” she says. “So maybe once every two weeks I would drop off a box or a piece at the consignment store—then I’d pick up a check a few weeks later.”

    Just before the move, she got rid of her remaining things by selling them on site, bundling low-cost items together.

    “It was a huge garage sale, and we had a great turnout because I advertised it a lot on sites like and,” she says.

    Benson also encourages her clients to sell through multiple channels, citing Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp among her favorite online platforms. Although she doesn’t explicity dislike Craigslist, she says, “It does require you to be checking your email or texting people, which isn't always the most effective for a quick sale.”

    For more efficient sales, Benson recommends people tap into their personal networks, and take advantage of common interest groups, using them to advertise any niche items that might be harder to sell elsewhere.

    “I belong to a few Facebook groups that are specific buying and selling marketplaces, including one for fans of Modcloth and vintage-style clothing,” she says. “I find selling my clothes there to be much easier than selling them on Poshmark or similar sites, because I'm reaching a niche audience that's specifically interested in what I'm selling.”

    Time it right for the best sale

    Like most things, timing matters when it comes to making the best sale. Benson advises selling when people are in a shopping mood—that is to say, just after they get paid.

    “Post new items on payday—generally the 1st and 15th of the month, or the second and fourth Fridays of the month,” she says. “Unless you're selling a significant amount of items, you won't notice a big difference, but you're likely to see more activity and more deals being made after people get paid.”

    Hembree used a similar tactic to sell her stuff for the most money, often dropping items off at a consignment shop just before the weekend— or posting new items online Friday afternoon.

    “If people are going to be picking something up," she says, "or scrolling these sites or going to a store, that’s when it’s going to be."

  • Don't Fall Short! 6 Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle This Autumn

    Autumn brings pumpkins and—love 'em or hate 'em—pumpkin spice lattes, sweater weather, and spooky skeletons. But most importantly, fall brings an end to a summer of outdoor adventures—and tedious yard tasks like weeding, mowing, and watering the lawn.

    But just because the weather's cooling off doesn't mean your to-do list will, too. Before busting out the cinnamon spice and mulled wine, take on a few home maintenance tasks that will put you in good standing once temperatures dip.

    "It's easier to prepare for a winter emergency in the fall," says Jericho McClellan, who works in construction management.

     But fear not: We've got you covered with our checklist of home maintenance chores to tackle this season. Read on for details about where to start, and whom to call if you need backup.

    1. Properly store your yard equipment

     One of the best parts about fall: You can usually put your lawn mower into hibernation mode until spring.

    But before you forget about that pesky piece of machinery entirely, remember this: Spring will suck if you don't prep your equipment this fall. That's because gasoline reacts with the air in the tank if left long enough, causing oxidation, which creates small deposits that can affect the performance of your mower.

    And it's not just gas-powered equipment that needs a fall refresh.

    Lester Poole, Lowe's live-nursery specialist, recommends running pressurized air through your pressure washers to remove any remaining water in the system, which will prevent freeze damage to the pumping mechanisms.

    If your winter is particularly snowy and gritty, you'll be glad to have your pressure washer on high alert.

    DIY: This project is easy to do yourself—just get rid of any spare gasoline. Many cities and counties have hazardous-waste programs, or your local auto parts store might take the old gas for you, too.

    2. Protect your pipes

    When temps dip below freezing, unprotected pipes can burst from exposure. Guard against burst pipes by wrapping them in foam insulation, closing foundation vents (more on that below), and opening cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow around supply lines. And make sure to keep your thermostat at 60 degrees or higher overnight.

    If you haven't tracked down your home's water shut-offs yet, now's the time. They might be located outside your house or in your crawl space. Once you've found them, give them a test.

    "The winter is not a fun time to try to figure that out, especially should a pipe burst," McClellan says. (More on that, too, in a minute.)

    Now's also a good time to drain all of your exterior water hoses to prevent an icy emergency.

    DIY: If your pipes do freeze, leave the affected faucets on and turn off your water supply, says Jenny Popis, a Lowe's Home Improvement spokeswoman. Then locate the freeze point by feeling the length of frozen pipes to determine which area is coldest. You can attempt to thaw it by wrapping the frozen section in washcloths soaked in hot water—then thaw until you have full water pressure.

    Call in the pros: If you can't locate the freeze point or your pipes have burst, call in a licensed plumber, which will run $150 to $600 on average(depending on the severity of the leak).

    3. Clear out your crawl space

    While you're winterizing your pipes, peek around your crawl space. Is your HVAC system blocked by boxes of 50-year-old Mason jars? Can you get to any leaking pipes quickly?

    DIY: While it's still warm, clear out any debris from your crawl space to ensure clear passage when winter's worst happens.

    Call in the pros: Creeped out by the idea of crawling around under your house? Professional crawl space cleaners charge about $500 to $4,500, depending on the size of your house and the state of the space.

    4. Close your crawl space vents

    During your crawl space expedition, this is a must-do: Close the vents that circle your home's perimeter.

    "The vents were placed there for a functional reason, not just aesthetics," says real estate agent, broker, and construction expert Ron Humes. "The problem is that most homeowners have no idea why they are there."

    Here's why: In warm, wet seasons, crawl space vents allow airflow, which prevents moisture buildup. But if you leave them open during cold, dry weather, that chilly air will cool down your floorboards—making mornings uncomfortable.

    DIY: "When the temperatures drop, slide those crawl space vents closed," Humes says. "Just remember to open them again in the spring."

    If one of your vents is broken, replacements range from $20 to $50.

    Call in the pros: If your crawl space stays damp through the fall and winter, you might want to consider waterproofing, dehumidifying, and sealing off your crawl space to prevent wet air. This can cost $1,500 to $15,000.

    5. Kick-start your composting efforts

     Now's the perfect time, with all those leaves and dead plants, to start a compost pile. You don't even need a fancy compost spinner; sectioning off a corner of your yard is enough.

    "Put yard waste to work by piling green leaves and clippings into a pile near your garden," Poole says. Next, layer with brown materials such as soil, dead leaves, and coffee grounds. Next up: kitchen scraps.

    "Through the season, turn your mound using a pitchfork to expose oxygen to all ingredients and use it in the spring for fertilizer," Poole says.

    Next year's tomatoes will thank you.

    DIY: If your yard lacks space for a compost corner—or you have no interest in regular pitchforking—consider a tumbling composter. This well-reviewed model from Amazon costs about $100.

    6. Protect your trees

    Not all species of trees are winter-hardy—especially thin-barked ones like beech, aspens, or cherry trees. For these varietals, "sun-warmed sap quickly freezes at night and causes bark to split," Poole says.

    He recommends wrapping your tree trunks with paper tree wrap, covering the entire bark from an inch above the soil to the lowest branches. Adhere the wrapping to the tree using duct tape to keep your trees in tiptop condition.

    DIY: You can find 150 feet of paper tree wrap on Amazon for $18, although you may need a few rolls depending on how many trees need winter protection.

    Call in the pros: Are your trees already looking the worse for wear? A tree service can help you sort out what's wrong. Pruning costs anywhere from $75 to $1,000.


  • Creature Comforts: This Fall's Biggest Design Trends Are Peak Cozy

    Everybody knows that fall is prime time for pumpkin spice, crackling fires, and oh-so-many plaid Pendleton blankets. But why settle for what everyone does? We scratched autumn’s surface just a bit to unearth a few looks that aren't quite so ... basic. 

    This year's autumn decor trends are undeniably cozy, yes—but with a twist. These are the freshest looks for your home this fall, so you can curl up in style.

    1. Separated spaces

     When it comes to floor plans, all home buyers want open, open, open, right? Not so much these days, reveals Justin Riordan, interior designer and founder of the Portland, OR-based home staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency.

     "Starting this season, there's a real demand for a return to the traditional layout, including a closed-off kitchen, dining space, and a separate living room," he says. "The great room is no longer en vogue and is instead being replaced by a well-defined core entryway, living room, dining room, and eat-in kitchen."

     "Surprisingly, we are also seeing a serious lack of television in the main formal living room," he adds. "Instead, we are seeing the TV tucked away in a media room, either in the basement or on an upper floor away from guests' eyes and ears."

    So why the change? Riordan thinks with all that's going on in the world, we're retreating more—and want dedicated spaces for private conversations.

    "The traditional layout lends itself to concentrated intimate interactions with the people we love and choose to spend our time with," he says.

    2. Burnt orange

     If you're planning to refresh your walls this season, you might want to think about painting over your off-white lacquer in favor of something with a bit more color, says Kate Spiro, an interior designer in New York City. Yes, this one veers dangerously close to pumpkin spice territory, but hey—there's a reason why the orangey hue is so perfect for fall.

    "Muted earth tones like rust, nude, and beige have become the new neutral, and burnt orange is a continuation of this trend," Spiro says. "Burnt orange can instantly brighten up a room and breathe new life into your space. This color will be popping up everywhere for fall."

    Add burnt orange strategically, preferably on an accent wall in your space, Spiro recommends.

    "This will create more impact and feel more modern than using this color in excess," she says.

    If you don't want to paint, you can also seek out burnt orange handcrafted ceramics, vases, textured pillows, or other decorative accents.

    3. Chaise lounges

     You probably remember the comfort of your family's La-Z-Boy. Well, the chaise lounge is the new comfy armchair, and it offers the perfect respite after a long day, says Annabel Joy, co-founder of Trim Design Co., in Massachusetts.

    "These long chairs are back in a big way," she says. ("Chaise lounge" is derived from chaise longue, which is French for "long chair.") "They’re showing up in boutique hotels, private homes, and all the design magazines. It’s really no surprise—wouldn’t you rather lounge than sit as you read that book? And who doesn’t secretly wish they could fling themselves dramatically down onto a chaise when their family members are driving them nuts?"

    Joy recommends using an elegant chaise lounge as an accent piece in a master bedroom or living room, and looking around antique and vintage shops for a custom piece. (They've been around since Napoleonic times!)

    "There are plenty of new models popping up in showrooms, but we prefer sourcing a vintage piece with great lines and transforming it with a fresh upholstery job," she says.

    4. Suzani prints

     Haven't heard of suzani yet? You'll soon be seeing this textile pattern everywhere as it becomes the print of the season, Joy explains.

    Suzani is a type of embroidered tribal textile—usually a cotton base, adorned with silk or cotton thread in various sun, moon, and floral motifs, she explains. It's traditionally made in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and other Central Asian countries, but you can find it at online retailers like Etsy.

    Suzani looks beautiful on a bedspread, wall hanging, throw pillow, window treatment, or bed canopy, Joy says. It can also be used to upholster furniture like chairs, benches, ottomans, and headboards.

    "The large scale and bold colors of suzani are an excellent complement to the maximalist trend, and we love how this textile feels both traditional and bohemian at once," Joy says.


  • The 5 Biggest Mistakes Veteran and Military Home Buyers Make

    Having a place to call your own—whether you’re going to be there for four years or forever—is an essential part of the American dream. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers plenty of great programs to help those who have served in the military get a home loan, but the process isn’t foolproof. First-time home buyers aren't the only ones who make buying mistakes. Even people buying their second home, or their 10th, can be thrown off course when buying a new home and dealing with lenders.

    You can avoid your own buyer's tale of woe (or headbanging frustration) by avoiding those mistakes before you start your home search. We asked VA-savvy real estate agents to tell us which missteps they see the most—and how you can avoid them when you apply for and get a VA loan.

    Mistake No. 1: Not using a VA-savvy real estate agent

    If you’re getting a VA loan, make sure you work with a real estate agent who understands the VA home loan process.

    “I see a lot of people go with an agent who doesn’t understand the VA system,” says Katie Fraser, a Realtor® with Trident Realty Group Northwest in Seattle. “The VA won’t underwrite [just] any house. It is a huge, huge, huge deal to use an agent who understands the VA home loan system, the VA appraisal process, and what that all really looks like.”

    When you’re buying through the Veterans Affairs department, you’ll need to find a home that meets VA home loan property requirements. A VA loan program appraiser will have specific criteria (e.g., fixer-uppers, and even some newer homes, won’t qualify). An agent experienced with home loans for veterans will also know about VA loan limits, the debt-to-income ratio lenders will expect you to have to qualify for a home loan, and other essential information.

    Save yourself the headache of making an offer on a house that may not get approved, or for which you may not qualify for a VA loan, and work with a VA-experienced real estate agent from the start. Ask another veteran for a referral, or get help from Veterans United Realty to find the right real estate agent.

    Mistake No. 2: Not communicating with your lender

    Veterans have access to arguably the most powerful home mortgage option on the market, but about 33% of home-buying veterans don’t know they have a home mortgage benefit, according to the VA.

    When you first meet with your lender, be sure to discuss your service member status so you can be informed about all of the potential advantages for veterans.

    One of the biggest benefits you’ll get with a VA loan is the ability to buy with a 0% down payment (yes, we're totally serious). Not having to make a down payment can make it possible for veterans  to buy a first home, often years sooner than if they had to save up for a down payment first.

    VA loans also come with low-interest-rate mortgages, don't require mortgage insurance, and have more forgiving credit eligibility requirements.

    "Veterans should ask their lender if they offer any incentives for veterans," adds Alissa Gerke, broker and owner of Select Realty Group, in Columbia, MO. "I’ve seen lenders waive appraisal fees, offer a waiver of origination fee if the veteran has a certain credit score, or other lender credits."

    Pretty much everything will get easier as soon as your lender knows your eligibility for veteran status, so speak up!

    Mistake No. 3: Forgetting about all upfront home-buying costs

    While you'll have a ton of financial advantages with your VA loan, you willhave some borrower costs to deal with.

    “Probably the biggest mistake I see is active-duty members coming into the home-buying process and not knowing there are other closing costs and fees necessary for buying a home,” Fraser says.

    When you’re buying a home, even if you have little or no down payment, you’ll likely have to plunk down a bit of cash for things like a home appraisal and inspection. It might not cost much in the large scheme of things, but it'll help speed things along if you come prepared knowing what you'll have to shell out for.

    Mistake No. 4: Not thinking of your home as an investment

    Maybe you think there's no sense in buying if there's a chance you might be relocated in the next few years. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't buy; in fact, that home could end up being a smart investment.

    By searching in high-demand areas or choosing a popular home style and size (say, 1,500 to 2,000 square feet), you’ll give yourself a better chance at resale if you need to move later. Or, you can hang on to it and rent it out.

    My clients and I "often go out and look for their first rental home, not just a home for their family," Fraser says. "With so many in transition, they’re able to purchase a home and it becomes an investment property for them when they go on to their next duty station or they move.”

    Don’t like the idea of becoming a landlord? A VA loan is assumable (meaning you can transfer the loan and the property to another vet), or you can just sell the home to a nonmilitary buyer. And don’t forget: You can use your VA home loan benefits again and again, so you can own a rental property and a new home. You can even refinance a VA loan if you are an active-duty service member. You may want to refinance if you have a non-VA loan, to increase your loan amount and tap into your home equity, or if you can get a better interest rate with a new VA loan.

    Mistake No. 5: Making other big purchases before closing

    Once home buyers find a home and their offer is accepted, they can be excited about moving in and making it theirs. Maybe you have an eye on a new big-screen TV, and you're looking into financing a new living room set you love. But don’t do that until you're really a homeowner, even if your lender has approved your mortgage loan.

    It's easier to get a VA loan than a conventional, non-VA loan, but you still must meet lender requirements.

    “Opening a line of credit or making a big purchase after mortgage approval is a common mistake,” Gerke says. “This can oftentimes change the veteran's credit score and make them ineligible for the loan.”

    Wait until after closing to make any other financial moves, just to be on the safe side and to keep your loan on track.


     Lake Elsinore State of the City Address Oct. 10


    Join us at this special annual event to find out more about the long-awaited improvements that are going on in the City of Lake Elsinore. Presented by the Honorable Mayor Steve Manos. 4:30-6:30pm / Pins N’ Pockets, Lake Elsinore



    Corona Spooktacular Halloweekend Oct. 12-13

    “Hocus Pocus” Family Movie Night, Escape Room by OBC Theater, Haunted House, Corona PD Trunk Or Treat and Paranormal Investigation Tours.


    Corona’s Historic Civic Center


     Fire Station 31 Open House Oct. 12

    Join in on the family fun with a static display, fire station tours and demonstrations for all ages.


    10: 30am-1:30pm / 14491 Chandler St., Eastvale 951-361-0900

     Wild & Scenic Film Festival Oct. 12

    One of the largest environmental film festivals in North America.


    The goal is to use inspiring and thought-provoking films to ignite environmental activism locally. 12pm. / Box at the Fox Theater, Riverside 951-530-8823


     Spooktacular Family Fun 5k Oct. 13


    5k Race for the whole family, hosted by Our Lady of Perpetual Help School.

    9am / Cross Country Course, Riverside


     Susan G. Komen Inland


    Empire MORE THAN PINK Walk Oct. 13

    All registered *** cancer Survivors and Metatastic Thrivers will receive a free pink t-shirt on Walk day.

    6:30-11am / Town Square Park, Murrieta


     Moreno Valley Health Fair Oct. 13


    14 booths, including LifeStream blood donation, vegetarian cooking demo, and giving away of slightly used clothing. 10am- 3pm / Moreno Hills SDA Church



     Job & Career Fair Oct. 16


    We will have multiple employers and educational institutions participating. Open to the public. All job seekers are invited. 10am-2pm / Moreno Valley Youth Opportunity Center


     First Responders Appreciation Luncheon Oct 16

    Come Celebrate and Honor our Local First Responders with a Community Awards Celebration! Featuring keynote speaker Fire Chief Shawn Newman. 11:30am-1:00pm/ Nellie Weaver Hall, Norco   951-737-6222


     Darkside in Riverside Oct. 18


    A Halloween pop culture con experience. Panels, celebrity guests, cosplay, horror film screenings, exhibitors, and food. 5 45pm / Fox Theater/RMA,, Riverside 951-205-0537


     Perris Harvest Festival Oct. 18 

    Enter in the pumpkin contest for chances to win a ghoulish prize, Participate in games for Youth and win candy and treats. Free costume and dance contest. 5-9pm City Hall Campus

     Lake Elsinore Howl-O-Ween Spooktacular Oct. 18

    Free, fun family event on Main Street. Costumes are encouraged. This event will feature trunk or treating, carnival games, and costume contest.


     5-8 pm /Downtown Main Street


     Pink on Parade :  Oct 19

    A 5K *** cancer awareness walk. This event unites the community in supporting *** cancer survivors and raising awareness in our community while generating funds. 7:30am / Mt. Rubidoux and Ryan Bonaminio Park  951-788-3471


     Beaumont Monster Mash Halloween Party  Oct.19

    Eerie entertainment will include free games and in-door trick or treating with bouncers and food available for purchase. A costume contest at 6:30pm.  4-8pm Community Recreation Center  951-769-8524

     Hemet Holiday Bazaar Oct. 3

    Hand made goods: quilted, knitted, embroidered, crocheted, and wood crafted items, plus jewelry, photography, and home adornments that will complement your holiday decorations.  9am-2pm/Solera Diamond Valley Lodge


     Corona Lemon Festival Oct. 19

    Features live music, a lemon-themed bake-off, opportunity drawings with great prizes, inflatable rides for the kids, and much more! The event will also highlight artwork from talented local artists for guests to enjoy and purchase.


    9am-6pm / Historic Corona Civic Center   951-735-3226

     Community Health Fair Oct 19

     Southwest Healthcare is hosting a community health fair to promote healthy living. Vendors of all kinds will be present with educational materials, fun things to buy and samples. 11am-2pm / Inland Valley Medical Center, Wildomar


     Riverside Youth Innovation Lab Oct. 19 


    A youth orientated, hands on learning experience. STEM lab. Make-n-Take Activities. interactive Displays.

    10am / Riverside Municipal Airport


     City of Riverside Halloween Happenings!  Oct. 25

    Bring your little ghouls and goblins to Bobby Bonds, Bryant, Reid, Villegas Parks and the Youth Opportunity Center for an evening of Halloween fun! Featuring special trick-or-treat stations, inflatables, snacks, carnival games and Halloween themed activities.


    5-8pm / Various Locations.


     Day of the Dead Artfest Oct. 25

    Join the City of Moreno Valley for an evening filled with Art Displays, Kids Arts & Crafts, Live Entertainment, food & fun!


    6-10pm / Conference & Recreation Center


     Temecula Halloween Carnival Oct 25 

    Enjoy some frightfully fun games, tricks, ‘and treats at the Halloween Carnival! You can play a round of ghoulish golf, try your luck at the High Striker or enter the costume contest. 5:30-8:30pm /  Ronald Reagen Sports Park  951-694-6444


     Kids Rock Halloween Bash Oct. 26


    Presented by the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest County. Gala & Auction. Join us if you dare for a spectacular Halloween themed evening in support of kids and teens in Temecula, Murrieta and Lake Elsinore. Costumes encouraged!

    5pm / Pechanga Resort and Casino, Temecula  951-699-1526 x:106


     Howl O’ Ween Pet Costume Contest Oct. 26

    Categories include Most Original, Best Group, Scariest, and Best Homemade Costume, and Judges Choice awards. Merchant Trick or Treat.


    1pm / Canyon Crest Towne Centre, Riverside  951-788-5845


     Paws on the Promenade Spooktacular  Oct  26

    Free pet parade, dog costume contest, treat bags for contestants, commemorative plaques for winners, local business vendors, adoptable dogs and raffle prizes.


    10am- 1pm / Promenade Mall, Temecula.


     Friends of Leaps & Bounds Fall Festival Oct. 26

    Join us for food, pony rides, petting zoo, live band and more!


    2- 6pm / Leaps & Bounds Ranch, Norco   951-340-0431


     Red Ribbon Family Fun Festival 

     Hosted by Corona-Norco Unified School District. Features activities that are FUN for all ages, entertainment, vendor booths, food, opportunity drawings, and serves as & the finale. 12-4pm / Promenade Park, Corona


     Wildomar State of the City  Oct. 30 


    The Murrieta/Wildomar Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a private V.I.P. Developer Reception from 5:30-6:30pm before Mayor Marsha Swanson’s State of the City Address which begins at 7pm. Did we mention it’s a Sock-Hop theme? 5:30- 8pm/ Wildomar Elks Lodge #2591

    951-677-7916  www.murrietachamber,org 







  • A Good Life Contains These 6 Essentials

    Here’s what we must ask constantly, “What, for me, would be a good life?” And you have to keep going over and over the list—a list including areas such as spirituality, economics, health, relationships and recreation.

    So, what would constitute a good life? Jim Rohn has a short list:

    1. Productivity.

    You won’t be happy if you don’t produce. The game of life is not rest. Yes, we must rest, but only long enough to gather strength to get back to productivity.


    What’s the reason for the seasons and the seeds, the soil and the sunshine, the rain and the miracle of life? It’s to see what you can do with it—to try your hand to see what you can do.

    2. Good friends.

    Friendship is probably the greatest support system in the world, so don’t deny yourself the time to develop it. Nothing can match it. It’s extraordinary in its benefit.


    Friends are those wonderful people who know all about you and still like you. I lost one of my dearest friends when he was 53—heart attack. As one of my very special friends, I used to say that if I was stuck in a foreign jail somewhere accused unduly, and, if they would allow me one phone call, I would call David. Why? He would come and get me. That’s a real friend—somebody who would come and get you.



    And we’ve all got casual friends, friends who, if you called them, they would say, “Hey, if you get back, call me and we’ll have a party.”

    You’ve got to have both real friends and casual friends.

    3. Your culture.

    Language, music, ceremonies, traditions, dress. All of that is so vitally important that you must keep it alive. The uniqueness of all of us, when blended together, brings vitality, energy, power, influence, and rightness to the world.

    4. Spirituality.

    It helps to form the foundation of the family that builds the nation. And make sure you study, practice and teach—don’t be careless about the spiritual part of your nature because it’s what makes us who we are, different from dogs, cats, birds and mice.

    5. Don’t miss anything.

    My parents taught me not to miss anything, not the game, the performance, the movie, the dance. Just before my father died at 93, if you were to call him at 10:30 or 11 at night, he wouldn’t be home. He was at the rodeo, he was watching the kids play softball, he was listening to the concert, he was at church—he was somewhere every night.


    Go to everything you possibly can. Buy a ticket to everything you possibly can. Go see everything and experience all you possibly can.


    Live a vital life. If you live well, you will earn well. If you live well, it will show in your face; it will show in the texture of your voice. There will be something unique and magical about you if you live well. It will infuse not only your personal life but also your business life. And it will give you a vitality nothing else can give.

    6. Your family and the inner circle.

    Invest in them, and they’ll invest in you. Inspire them, and they’ll inspire you. Take care of the details with your inner circle.


    When my father was still alive, I used to call him when I traveled. He’d have breakfast most every morning with the farmers at a little place called The Decoy Inn out in the country where we lived in Southwest Idaho.


    When I was in Israel, I’d have to get up in the middle of the night, but I’d call Papa. I’d say, “Papa, I’m in Israel.” He’d say, “Israel! Son, how are things in Israel?” He’d talk real loud so everybody could hear. I’d say, “Papa, last night they gave me a reception on the rooftop underneath the stars overlooking the Mediterranean.” He’d say, “Son, a reception on the rooftop underneath the stars overlooking the Mediterranean?” Now everybody knew the story. And giving my father that special day only took five or 10 minutes.


    If a father walks out of the house and he can still feel his daughter’s kiss on his face all day, he’s a powerful man. If a husband walks out of the house and he can still feel the imprint of his wife’s arms around his body, he’s invincible all day. It’s the special stuff with your inner circle that makes you strong and powerful and influential. So don’t miss that opportunity.


    The prophet said, “There are many virtues and values, but here’s the greatest: one person caring for another.” There is no greater value than love.

    So make sure in your busy day to remember the true purpose and the reasons you do what you do. May you truly live the kind of life that will bring the fruit and rewards that you desire.


    Written by Jim Rohn – Executive Agent Magazine

  • Does Writing an Offer Letter to the Seller Help? Not Always—Here's Why

    You’ve spent months—perhaps years—searching for the perfect house, and you've finally found it. But you're not alone; there's a very strong chance that other home shoppers are vying for it, too. So how can you stand out? Many experts recommend writing a personal offer letter to the seller.

    “If there are multiple offers, we always suggest buyers write a letter of introduction as a way to put a personality behind the number,” says Josh Rubin, a broker at Warburg Realty in New York City.

    After all, selling is an emotional process. But does this strategy work? We explored the pros and cons of writing a letter to find out whether it helps or hurts your chances of having your offer accepted.


    Why you should write a personal letter

    It can appeal to a seller’s soft side: Some buyers use a letter to tell a personal story in the hope that it will resonate with the seller. Tracey Hampson, a real estate agent with Realtor One Group in Valencia, CA, says she currently has a listing with three offers, but the offer she likes best is from a couple explaining how they are having their first child and want to raise him in a safe neighborhood.

    "This is the exact same scenario my husband and I were in when we first moved," she says.

    Touching stories like this can strike a chord with sellers and make them feel comfortable about passing on their home to you.

    It helps clear up any confusion about financing: A personal letter can also answer any questions or concerns that a seller might have about your ability to finance the home. For example, Hampson once had a buyer who was in the Air Force and was planning on using a Veterans Affairs loan.

    “VA loans have some stigma attached to them because of the loan fees the veteran borrower is not allowed to pay, so the seller has to pay for them," she says. "Also, VA loans usually take longer to close.”

    So Hampson included a letter explaining the myths about VA loans. She says it apparently worked; the sellers accepted the offer.

    It helps get a seller to work with you in a buyer's market: A personal letter can also be used to help explain your financial situation.

    “Back when it was a buyer’s market, letters were useful in getting the seller to accept a lower price, especially if the buyer had financial hardships,” says Vivian Cobb of Cobb Real Estate in Colorado Springs, CO.

    Why writing a personal letter can hurt you

    It can undercut your power during negotiations: Believe it or not, letting a seller know how much you want to buy their house could hurt you if you make it to the bargaining table.

    “There's a belief that a letter tips the scales to the seller when negotiating the price and the inspection,” says Karen Kostiw of Warburg Realty in New York City. “The seller may interpret the letter as the buyers ‘showing their hand,’ and it could weaken their position to negotiate.”

    It could make the seller uncomfortable: Sometimes a personal letter can veer into TMI territory. An anxious buyer may divulge more details than the seller is comfortable knowing and ruin their chances of getting the home.

    “Or, the buyer could inadvertently come off as insensitive, or say something in the letter that turns off the seller,” Kostiw says.

    It could bias the seller: Perhaps the biggest con of writing a personal letter is that it could lead to discrimination, which is why some agents prefer to steer clear of them.

    “Most letters consist of the buyers explaining their lives to add a touch of emotion to their otherwise dry contract, which is why it has worked for so long,” says April Macowicz, broker associate and team lead at the MAC Group RE in San Diego.

    But the buyers might reveal personal information that prejudices the sellers against them. "The Fair Housing Act states that buyers and sellers cannot discriminate on the basis of race or color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, or familial status," Macowicz explains. But this doesn't mean that discrimination won't occur. "And buyers who find out can sue for discrimination," she says.

    That's why Tory Keith, president of Natick, MA–based real estate firm Board and Park, says some seller’s agents don’t even share a personal letter if it contains certain information like a photo or information about the potential buyers' status in any protected class, "because rejection of such an offer could be interpreted as a Fair Housing Act violation.”


    “By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.”

    “But whatever happened to persistence, perseverance. Tenacity, or just plain CARING a lot? How do you stop caring??!?”

    Today’s blog is inspired by yesterday’s affirmation and the above response we got from it.

    It’s a question, a concept, sometimes a conundrum.  It’s one I  find myself facing all the time.

    If I let go does that mean I am giving up?  Giving in?  Throwing in the towel?  Being lazy?  Acting from fear, paranoia, exhaustion or malaise?

    What exactly does letting go mean?

    What is the real difference between letting go and “tenacity, plain caring” – as  our reader points out?

    After years of trying to let go, failing at times, wondering what were my motives, my goals, my incentives, I have reached a few conclusions.

    I think we must start with consistently misquoted phrase,
    “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves.”

    Despite popular opinion, this sentiment does not derive from The Bible. It might come from ancient Greek proverb, some attribute it to Benjamin Franklin.  Truth is it doesn’t really matter, the meaning stays the same, no one is going to drop anything in your lap.

    Good things can happen to you, but you have to get up off your butt and work for them. It’s not enough to believe you will be a rollicking success but  devote your days, to staying home and watching old episodes of Extreme Home Makeover, thinking that someone will sweep in and give you a complete home makeover, just because you want one.

    Another favorite quote – which can be traced to the poet Robert Lowell, is

    “Fate loves the fearless.”

    I prefer it because it ratchets up the stakes a few notches. It takes on fear, one of the greatest obstacles people have in going out there and trying to make it happen for themselves.

    So going back to the question, what is the difference between letting go and going the course?

    I think it can be reduced to a very simple concept,  “persistence, perseverance and caring are actions.”  They are positive actions.  We keep on working towards a goal no matter what kind of obstacles we may come up against.

    We dream, we set a course and we try and stick to it.  To quote the late Randy Paucsh,
    “The walls aren’t there to keep us out, but to show us how badly we want in.”

    You get very little in life without working for it.

    So not throwing in the proverbial towel when things don’t go our way is crucial to achieving anything.  Life is full of complications.  Moving forward is essential. It’s action.  Life is about forward momentum.

    If we want to clean up our act, be productive in the workplace, have connected, life-sustaining relationships with others, including ourselves we must trundle forth despite many set-backs.
    Perseverance is not letting them get you down. It’s belief in yourself and your abilities. It’s one of the most important traits we can have.

    Letting go is not an action it’s a mind-set. It’s not like holding on to a rope and then dropping it. It’s more like releasing an inner tension. It’s holding on to concept of how things should be as opposed to how they are. It’s thinking you can control everything in this moment. In fact its not living in the moment, it’s living in the future.  The future of either “what if’s” or if onlys.”

    At its core, letting go is having faith. Having faith that you don’t have to pull and push and cajole and scream for the universe to hear you.

    It’s trust. It’s trusting that if you do the right thing, think the right thoughts, do your work well, take care of others, give back, care, always care, caring is essential, things will work out OK.

    They will work out the way they are supposed to. Which is not always the way we want. But that is part of letting go. Sometimes we have to let people go. We have to let them find their way. Sometimes loving them and caring about them does not work, they can’t let it in. They, themselves have to get to the point where they can accept it.  Again, it does not mean we stop caring, sometimes we have to walk away, stop forcing the issue.  In those moments letting go is an action. It’s not a declaration of defeat.  Though it sometimes feels that way. It’s just a release.  It’s saying I will let you go. I will let you figure things out for yourself. I will be here, caring if you decide to come back, if you decide to fix the places I cannot fix for you.

    Sometimes that means while you care, you could wind up caring more for someone else. In letting go, we sometimes find what we were holding on to, was not at all what we wanted, be it a person, a job or a way of being in the world.

    In those cases letting go is an action of freedom. We are allowing ourselves the freedom to find something else, or for something else to find us.

    It’s not one size fits all; as everyone is dealing with different issues. Different relationships, different dreams.

    But in the end it boils down to gratitude and trust; Grateful for the moment. Trusting in the future.  That is the very essence of letting go.


  • 'The Best Home-Selling Advice I've Heard, Ever'

    Selling a house can be a big job, and stressful too! There’s so much to think about regarding the market, home staging, repairs, and more—it’s no surprise sellers find it so overwhelming.

    So in the interests of winnowing it all down to the true essentials—the tasks that can make a real difference—we asked home sellers to reveal only the very best home-selling advice they have heard. From when to put your house on the market to how to price and present your place just right, here are some top home-selling tips for the bandwidth-challenged that are truly worth the trouble.

    Pony up money on repairs

    “When it came to selling my house, the best advice I ever got was to get repairs done before buyers start poking around. Every house is going to have at least a few things wrong with it, and since you'll probably have to do them anyway before you close, you might as well do those little fixes upfront so that buyers can see your house at its best.

     "My last house was a pretty new build and I hadn't had many problems with it, so I didn't think there would be much to fix up when it came time to sell. Still, I knew that if buyers saw a bunch of small problems, they wouldn't be wowed by the house, or pay my full asking price. So, I ended up walking around my place and sticking Post-it notes to things I thought I might need to fix. I looked for loose door handles, leaky sinks, hard-to-open windows, and things like that.

    "I ended up making a bunch of little improvements, and while it took a bit of time and cost a few hundred bucks to fix everything up, my work paid off and I sold the house at asking." – Dustin McCaffree, Salt Lake City, UT

    Spend your reno dollars wisely

    “In my last house, we wanted to change the color of the fence in the backyard, but we knew we were moving soon and backyard fences don’t sell houses. We knew that money would be better spent on something buyers really care about, like the kitchen.

    "So, before putting my house on the market, I took the money I would have used on the back fence and painted my kitchen cabinets. Installed in the 1960s, my old, shiny oak cabinets dated the house, so I painted them gray because it was trendy to have gray cabinets at the time. It cost me under a thousand bucks to do it, but the people who ended up buying the house told us they chose it in part because they loved the color of the cabinets and how modern they made the kitchen look. They didn't even mention the backyard or the fence. I'm glad I put my money where it would count!” – Liz Mullens, Brea, CA

    Don't price your house too high

    "While certain listing agents might claim they can list and sell your house for a higher-than-market value price, they're usually just trying to get your business, so don't be fooled. In fact, you might be better off listing your house just under what you might expect.

    "Our real estate agent in Las Vegas wanted to list our house at a modest price that was obtainable and not off-putting. We had interest in a few hours, and multiple bids within days. From there, we were able to choose the best offer from many within a week. Taking this agent's advice to price modestly ultimately ended up fetching us a much higher price than we'd even dreamed we could get." – Matt Romero, Las Vegas, NV

    Spring is not always the best time to sell

    “People will tell you to sell in the spring because the weather is usually pleasant and the flowers are probably blooming, making the yard look warm and pretty. However, not everyone's house will show best in spring.

    "The last house we lived in, in fact, wasn't great during the warmer months. It was small and stuffy, so when it was hot outside, it was extra-hot inside. Plus, we didn't have much of a front yard and very few plants. We were afraid buyers would think our house was dark compared to the lush, green gardens they saw on other home tours.

    "So, we decided to sell in winter. Our living room was small, but when we decorated for the season (like putting blankets on the couch and lighting a fire), the house warmed up and seemed more like a romantic cabin than a small two-bedroom. Plus, during Christmas our whole neighborhood really got into decorating their homes with lights. It was beautiful to see all the houses lit up, and we knew some buyers might really value that, too. In the end, it worked out and we ended up selling our house at a great price." – Bill Ford, Irvine, CA

    Photos sell houses

    “The best advice I heard was to hire the right real estate photographer so you have great pictures for online listings. Unfortunately, I ignored this advice at first. I'm sort of a DIY kind of guy, and I was thinking that hiring someone would be a waste of money. Why couldn't we just take them ourselves?

    "So, I took it upon myself to snap some pictures on my phone ... and immediately realized that I was not at all qualified to do this. Our house was bright and open, but looked so dark and small in my pictures. I knew we had to hire someone.

    "So my wife and I got a list of recommended photographers from our real estate agent and started narrowing down our choices. We ended up picking one photographer and were completely happy with her work—her stuff was a hundred times better than anything I could have taken on my phone. We knew that those pictures really helped drum up interest from buyers." – Jesse Edmunds, La Habra, CA

    Curb appeal and bathrooms are 80%

    “Before I sold my house, I remember my parents telling me to focus my energy on making the front yard and the bathrooms look their best.

    "They told me to hire a gardener before I started showing the house because they said lots of people make home-buying decisions based, at least in part, on the front yard or garden. I found that this is completely true: When I was going on tours myself, looking for my current home, I started to notice that I would often make my decision about a house before even stepping through the front door. So I ended up hiring a gardener, putting more plants in, and was pleasantly surprised with how good the front of the house looked.

    "With the yard looking great, I tried to fix up the bathrooms as much as I could, too. I didn't have a big budget for this, but I ended up going on Pinterest and watching some HGTV to get some inspiration. I ended up getting the master bathroom shower retiled, repainting the guest bath, and adding some stylish wall hangings and towels to both of them.

    "I was really happy with how both my yard and the bathrooms turned out—and apparently so was my buyer!"  

  • 8 Things Your Plumber Wishes You Knew About Conserving Water

    You've heard it before: Conserving water is important. With all the water that Americans use each day—an estimated 322 billion gallons—every action you take, no matter how small, can contribute to saving this natural resource. No, we're not suggesting you stop flushing the toilet, taking showers, cleaning clothes, washing the dishes, or even watering the lawn. You just need to do them smartly.

    When your home's water system is on the fritz, there's no one quite as knowledgeable as professional plumbers. So to get the real scoop on how to conserve water inside the home, we polled some experienced plumbers (and plumbing-adjacent experts). Below, they spill the eight facts they wish every homeowner knew about saving water.

    1. Study your water bill

    Really look at your water bill every month and monitor your usage over time.

     “We tell our clients to look at their water bill and compare it to previous months,” says Audrey Monell, president of Glendale, AZ–based Forrest Anderson Plumbing and AC. “Spikes in water usage usually indicate a leak somewhere in your home.”

    2. Small leaks can cause big problems

    Even if you’re noticing just a few drips from a faucet or pipe, you should address these leaks immediately.

    “A small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste 20 gallons of water per day, while larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons,” says Don Glovan, franchise consultant for Mr. Rooter.

    If “hundreds of gallons” doesn’t move you off the sofa to plug those leaks, Monell explains it another way.

    “If your faucet drips once every second, you will waste 3,000 gallons of water every year,” she says. “It is equivalent to 180 showers, which is like having your next-door neighbor come to your house and take a shower every other day because he likes your towels better.” (Gross.)

    3. That old toilet is wasting water (and money)

    Even if your toilets and faucets don’t leak, they could still be draining money out of your wallet. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, toilets account for 30% of an average home’s water consumption.

    “Replacing your older toilets with water-saving toilets can reduce a typical home’s water consumption by nearly 13,000 gallons a year,” Monell says.

    Gary Findley, CEO of bluefrog Plumbing + Drain, in Waco, agrees. “Older toilets can use 3 gallons of clean water with every flush.” However, new toilets use as little as 1 gallon per flush.

    Findley recommends products, including toilets and low-flow shower heads, with the WaterSense label, which means the EPA deems them water-efficient.

    4. Reuse your grey water

    Did you know that some water can be used twice?

    “Gently used water from bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines can be recycled to water your yard,” says Findley. “While you let your shower warm up, you can save the water that comes out to water the yard.”

    Some cities even allow residents to install grey water recirculation systems.

    However, you should not store grey water for longer than 24 hours. Any longer than this and the nutrients in the water will break down and cause unpleasant odors.

    5. Turn off the faucet

    According to the U.S. Geological Survey, people use about a gallon of water when brushing their teeth, washing their faces, and shaving. And if you have an older faucet, you’re actually using closer to 2 gallons! However, the solution is quite simple: Turn off the faucet while lathering, and then turn it back on when needed.

    6. Be smart when hand-washing dishes

    If you wash dishes by hand, Glovan warns against leaving the water running when you’re rinsing dishes.

    “If you have a double basin, fill one with soapy water and one with rinse water,” he says. “If you have a single-basin sink, gather washed dishes in a dish rack and rinse them with a spray device or a pan full of hot water.”

    7. UV rays are bad for your pool

    It takes a lot of water to fill a swimming pool, so avoid having to add more water unnecessarily.

    “If you use a swimming pool cover, you can avoid water loss due to evaporation,” says Findley. In fact, according to the California Urban Water Conservation Council, using a pool cover can reduce water loss through evaporation by almost 30%.

    If your pool is still losing an excessive amount of water, have it checked to ensure you don’t have a leak.

    8. Mulch will save water

    Evaporation also affects the greenery in your yard. To keep your plants and trees moist, Findley recommends putting mulch around them.

    “This will reduce evaporation, promote plant growth, and control weeds,” he says, and it’s true. According to a University of Florida study, mulch reduces soil water loss to evaporation by 33%.

    Mulch comes in a variety of materials, including leaves, lawn clippings, bark, straw, stones, and river rock. However, hay and straw may contain weed seeds, so you should purchase mulch that is weed-free.

  • Trapped in a Home Decor Rut? Try These 6 Tricks to Shake Things Up

    When you've lived in the same place for a few years, things can start to feel stale. That cheap secondhand coffee table you've had since your first apartment is definitely out of style. And you know the living room layout needs tweaking, but you just aren't sure how to change it up without blocking the fireplace with the sofa.

    Alas, this all-too-common dilemma has a name: the home decor rut.

    For many of us, design change can be hard (even when we're desperately seeking it). We're often too familiar with our homes, which can be a major roadblock when reimagining a room. Plus, when there's so much to be done, it can be hard to know what to do first. So we don't do anything at all, stuck in our own personal decor escape room.

     That's no way to live! You can dig yourself out of a design rut with a few tricks from the pros.

    1. Make changing your decor an urgent priority

    Photo by Chris Snook 
    How long have you been staring at your problem room, waiting for a solution to magically pop into your head?

    Stop staring. Instead, "create urgency," says Stephanie Plymale, president and CEO of the Portland, OR-based Heritage School of Interior Design. "Nothing gets done until you make a decision."

    That decision could be something, anything to force you to look at your room differently—for instance, getting rid of an enormous piece of furniture or painting a single wall a strange color.

    Not sure where to start? Consider: What's causing you the most stress? Plymale suffered her most recent design rut in her bedroom.

    "I realized that the anchor piece in my bedroom, a large bed with an imposing headboard, was dominating the room," she recalls. "It had to go."

    She called a friend and asked her to take the headboard away.

    "At that moment," Plymale says, "I became committed to change. Don't let fear stand in your way."


    2. Identify your mental roadblocks

    Now it's time to think about what's been holding you back from mixing things up.

    "If you're in a rut, a limiting belief of some kind is keeping you there," Plymale says. "In my case, for some reason, I had a limiting vision of what a headboard was."

    Think about the design beliefs you have that could be holding back your imagination. Maybe you've never strayed from a bohemian chic aesthetic, or perhaps you can't imagine anything but neutral gray on your walls. If so, take a look at midcentury modern design, or consider navy blue paint—anything to shake up your preconceptions.

    "I finally found my inspiration—the piece that broke me out of my rut," Plymale says: a headboard built from a room divider, stretching from floor to ceiling. "It made the room feel twice as big. I knew I needed to find my version of that vision."


    3. Empty the space

     If the deep-dive into your psyche isn't revealing any good reason for your home decor hangup, start from scratch.

    "Completely empty the space," says Ola Swarn, an interior design blogger at J'adore le Décor. "Leave only the large-ticket items, like the sofa, coffee table, and chairs."

    This has two benefits: First, you can better visualize alternate furniture arrangements. Maybe the couch really ought to live on the opposite wall—or your dining table should be rotated 90 degrees.

    Second, removing all the small furniture lets you look carefully at your bigger pieces. If your decor tastes have changed dramatically, this might be causing your rut.

    "Ask, 'Do I like the bones of this furniture? Am I still in love with the style of it?'" Swarn advises.

    Once you've answered those questions, you can focus on either replacing your large furniture, or updating your smaller pieces to get you closer to a style you adore.

    4. Go 'shopping'

    Designer Justin Riordan of Spade & Archer has a brilliant strategy for climbing out of your design rut: While emptying the room, organize all your items into categories. Put all your art together, for instance, and set your chairs and side tables elsewhere. Accessories go on another table.

    Take a break. Clear your head. And then, "go 'shopping' in the 'stores' you created," Riordan says. When looking at your belongings out of context, you might just come up with a brilliant idea for a new design.

    This process works best when you're redesigning your whole house, Riordan admits. But if you're truly stuck in a single space, give this funky strategy a go.

    5. Shift your design style ever so slightly

     If you outfitted your home when you were going through a farmhouse phase, figuring out new decor might get complicated. After all, you can't buy all new furniture. But everything looks so, well, farmhouse.

    All is not lost! You can keep your farmhouse furniture and just change your accessories for an entirely new vibe.

    "Many times a lateral shift to a different version of the same style is all that is needed to refresh a dull home," Swarn says.

    For example. farmhouse has a dozen variations: rustic farmhouse, industrial farmhouse, modern farmhouse, farmhouse glam, and more.

    "Most of the big-ticket furniture items in each of these versions will likely be very similar," she notes. "It's how the room is accessorized that swings the pendulum from one design aesthetic to another."

    6. Find another set of eyes

    Still can't figure out how to escape your design rut? Bring in a fresh pair of eyes. A friend or family member might be able to figure out what's missing. Maybe your living room demands a chandelier, or your kitchen's clamoring for some bright-red paint.

    If that's a bust, it's time to bring in the big guns: a professional.

    Yes, hiring interior designers can be pricey: You could easily pay in the thousands of dollars for their services. But if you're truly struggling with a room, their professional eyes can quickly pinpoint the problem. And cheaper solutions do exist for tighter budgets. E-design services like Modsy offer basic design services for less than $100.

    Getting out of your rut requires pushing your comfort zone and trying new things. But that little bit of effort creates a room that's both surprising and delightful—and not boring at all.

  • Why You Should Sell Your Home in 2019

    Few people are predicting that 2019 will be a record-breaking year for home prices.

    But relatively speaking, 2019 might be the best time for you to put your house on the market. Especially if you’re on the fence about selling this year or next, Nick Ron, CEO of House Buyers of America, recommends going with the devil you know rather than the devil you don’t.

    “I think it’ll be better than 2020 and 2021 – who knows what’s going to happen in those years,” Ron says.

     Home price growth slowed in the second half of 2018, with fewer buyers entering the market, at least partially due to rising interest rates issued by the Federal Reserve. In 2019, consumers shouldn’t expect homebuyers to flood the market again and drive prices through the roof, but it’s also unlikely to be a crisis for home sellers.

    If you bought your house in the last year or two, still love it and don’t want to part with it, go ahead and wait another five years before revisiting the thought of selling. But if you’re weighing your options to sell, considering selling this year or maybe the year after, don’t play the waiting game.

    Here are four reasons to sell your house in 2019:

    • New buyers are still entering the market.
    • Interest rates are still on the lower end.
    • You have high equity.
    • Selling now will be better than waiting till 2020

    New Buyers Are Still Entering the Market

    As interest rates rise, some buyers will hesitate to make an offer on a home or apply for a mortgage, so be ready to see occasional drops in buyer activity. And if your house is at the higher end of the price range in your market, you should expect less buyer interest than before. Ron notes the combination of rising mortgage rates and home prices exceeding buyers' budgets are what has caused the slowing of homebuyer activity in recent months.

    But with available housing inventory remaining low, even with rising interest rates, buyers who are ready to make a purchase will still shop for homes. The biggest wave of new homebuyers will be among millennials, who are mostly first-time buyers. In a Harris Poll survey of 2,000 U.S. adults commissioned by real estate information company Trulia, more than one-fifth of Americans between ages 18 and 34 said they plan to buy a home within the next 12 months. Already, millennials make up the largest share of homebuyers at 36 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors, which released the number in March 2018.

    The bottom line: While houses may sit on the market for a few more days on average compared with 2017 when the market was white-hot, buyers remain active and it’s still possible to profit from your home sale.


    Interest Rates Are Still Low-ish

    Mortgage interest rates have been on a bit of a bumpy road over the last few months. Interest rates for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage reached their highest level in over seven years in November 2018, when they hit 4.94 percent, according to Freddie Mac. As of the end of February 2019, however, interest rates are down slightly to 4.35 percent, according to the mortgage loan company. While it’s reasonable to expect mortgage rates to continue to climb gradually throughout the next year, they’ll remain much lower than the historic high of more than 18 percent in 1981.

    It’s important to keep in mind that while mortgage rates tend to mirror the Fed’s interest rate activity, mortgage rates are based on the market in that moment, your financial status and the property you’re looking to purchase.

     Just because the Fed raises rates at one meeting doesn’t mean mortgage rates will follow that exact pattern. “Not every Fed increase is passing on (to) a mortgage rate,” says John Pataky, executive vice president and chief consumer and commercial banking executive at TIAA Bank.

    A sudden leap in mortgage interest rates is unlikely in 2019, though Pataky notes that you should be ready to see rates continue to climb. “We do expect over the next 12 months that mortgage rates will continue to drift higher,” he says.

    If you’re looking to get the lowest interest rate possible on your next house, try to make a deal sooner rather than later.

    You Have High Equity

    Homeowners who bought during the recession or shortly after benefitted from historically low interest rates and, up until around 2015, lower home prices that were still in recovery mode. If you fall into that category, your home equity has risen with nearly every mortgage payment, each renovation you made to the house and all the other houses on the block that sold for a higher price.

    The higher your equity in your home, the more you net from the sale, which can easily go toward the down payment on your next house. The larger your down payment, the better you look to lenders and the lower your interest rate will be, and the less likely you'll need to increase monthly payments with private mortgage insurance.


    Selling in 2019 vs. 2020

    If not selling your home in 2019 means putting your house on the market in 2020, the sooner option is the best one. In a survey of 100 U.S. real estate experts and economistsby real estate information company Zillow, released in May, almost half expect the next recession to occur in 2020. Another 14 percent believe the recession will hold out until 2021, while 24 percent of panelists expect the recession earlier – sometime in 2019.

    Whether you believe the recession is imminent or a long way off, current real estate patterns indicate a sudden upswing in activity or prices is unlikely in the near future. Real estate markets tend to operate on a cycle of their own, the length of which varies by market but can be between 10 and 16 years total and flow from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market with a period of balance in between.

    “It doesn’t look like there’s anything on the horizon that’s going to cause a big spike in home prices or increase demand dramatically,” Ron says.

    US NEWS  

  • Why You Should Take Your Real Estate Agent's Advice

    Buying or selling a home seems like it should be fairly intuitive. A buyer and a seller agree on a price and voila – a deal is made. But of course, as any homebuyer or seller will tell you it’s much more complicated than that.

    In many markets, buying residential real estate has become all but a contact sport, and selling seems just shy of a Stepfordian beauty pageant. Not only has technology changed the way properties are marketed and searched for, but the smoke-and-mirrors of home staging has raised the bar for sellers’ presentation, and therefore made it more difficult for buyers to spot that diamond in the rough. And, of course, a seasoned Realtor can advise even the most veteran or rookie client.

    Many real estate professionals have begun to call themselves real estate advisors, and in many ways, the title is appropriate. For the average American homeowner, a home represents the largest asset they have. Therefore it is a wise move to hire someone to advise, regarding how and when to smartly buy or sell the asset.

     For many buyers and sellers, the real estate agent has become a trusted advisor, much like a portfolio manager. If someone is living in a robust real estate market, like a cosmopolitan city or affluent suburb, it makes sense to not only hire a smart and experienced agent to shepherd the often confusing process of buying or selling property, but also to follow his or her advice.

    Chances are your real estate agent is going to echo other professionals in a few key topics when it comes to buying or selling. Here are a few notable examples of advice your agent may give, and why they'll help you buy or sell your home.

    For Sellers:

    Stage Your Home

    These days, buyers have very little imagination, and they expect to see houses that look like clean slates, and the popularity of both newly developed properties as well as TV shows about interior design and real estate deals further the expectation. These professionally staged homes are selling a dream, and if your resale is going to compete, you also have to sell the dream of clean and bright. Anything too far from that can easily turn off many potential buyers.

    If some of your furniture looks old or odd, bringing in some newer pieces instead might be a small investment that will net you more money – and more quickly – upon the sale. And if your agent asks you to put a bowl of lemons in the kitchen or flowers in the living room, just do it.

    Clean Up and Declutter

    Cleaning up means not only giving the bathrooms and kitchen a deep cleaning, but it also means decluttering. Remember: You’re moving. Think of this as step one of packing, including getting extra furniture, toys and out-of-season clothes out of your house. Closet space is paramount. Keep your closets as neat as possible while your home is on the market. The floors of the closets should also be clear – if there's clutter on closet floors, it telegraphs to buyers that this home doesn’t have enough closet space.

    And for each showing or open house, make the beds, get dishes out of the sink and remove laundry from sight – and close those toilet seats.


    Personal effects can distract buyers from focusing on the space itself. All family photos, or other identifying decor pieces like awards and diplomas, should be moved into the new home or put into storage. They’re not going to help sell the property and your privacy is important. A good way to think about selling your house is that although the property is your home, once it’s on the market, it’s a product for sale. Depersonalizing also means neutralizing decor choices that are specific to you, like painting the chartreuse foyer white, storing your beer-soaked pleather recliner from college and taking down the bead curtain from the bedroom door frame.


    For Buyers:

    Get Your Ducks in a Row

    Before you begin to look at properties, decide if you’re going to take out a mortgage and get preapproved by a bank. It will give you an idea of what you can afford, and what you can’t. Many real estate agents are happy to help you reach out to lenders, but they won't want to show you homes until you know how you plan to pay for a house.

    Make a Wish List

    To best utilize the time and talents of your agent, give him or her your wish list. What are the things you must have versus what you’d like to have? An open kitchen? A view? Proximity to work? Outdoor space? A home office? The must-haves and want-to-haves help your agent narrow down potential properties, which shortens the time it takes for you to find a home that meets your needs.


    Let Your Agent Play Devil’s Advocate

    When you tour properties together, tell your agent what you liked and disliked about each property, but ask him if you’re missing something. Is bad decor throwing you off from seeing the amazing bones of the house? Is a fabulous renovation distracting you from dark views or an unlivable layout? Your agent should be able to see a neglected gem, as well as through the smoke and mirrors of great staging.

    Whether someone is new to the market or has bought and sold many properties over the years, one of the biggest mistakes that buyers or sellers make is to think they can outsmart the market or cut corners regarding their Realtor’s advice. As you would listen to the advice of your accountant, financial advisor or attorney, if you’ve bothered to hire a real estate agent whom you respect, listen to the advice he or she is imparting to you.

  • Are You Ready to Buy Your First Home?

    What does it take to activate a millennial homebuyer? Are the reports true that the younger generations prefer renting over homeownership, the American dream? As the market indicates and many real estate professionals can attest to, that's not the case. Millennials do want to own a home, but many don't know how to navigate this field. After all, it is the largest purchase most people ever make, and requires many considerations.

    So, how does the traditional process of buying a home jive with this technologically savvy generation that is used to relying on data derived from computers? More importantly, how do you know when you're ready to buy, and how do you know what to buy? There's no right or wrong way to answer any of these questions, and how you move toward homeownership is based on a variety of factors, both deeply personal and connected to the real estate industry overall.

     Here are five important things to consider and questions this generation can ask themselves to figure it out:

    • Money matters.
    • How long you plan to live there.
    • Timing.
    • The online marketplace.
    • Expert advice.

    Money Matters

    Do you need a mortgage, and how much are you able to put toward a down payment? Discuss your financial wherewithal with a mortgage banker, mortgage broker or financial advisor who can give you feedback on your individual financial situation. Review monthly home expenses, including property taxes with mortgage payments, compared to the option of renting. The monthly outlay may not be much different from renting, but consider whether you will see appreciation in property you own over time. In comparison, rent typically increases over time, unless you live in a rent-controlled building.

    How Long You Plan to Live There

    Most homebuyers should purchase with a minimum five-year window in mind. It's unlikely that you will make a profit selling after just a year or two, and flipping a house requires experience and skill.



    Should you purchase a starter home or wait until you can afford something bigger? Many millennial buyers struggle with this decision for one obvious reason: money. When is the right time to take the leap? This is the kind of soul searching buyers have to do for themselves. Sometimes when you wait, you might miss the market completely. Adversely, if you wait longer to have a larger budget, it will afford you to get more of what you want on a longer horizon.

    The Online Marketplace

    The internet is not the gospel when it comes to real estate. It's a great source for floor plans and photos, but remember that it's a marketing tool geared toward luring you in. Automated home valuation tools like Zillow's Zestimate are not always spot on, and should be double-checked by a human with real estate expertise. A great real estate agent is often the best source for comparable sale information, as he or she knows the ins and outs of the local market. Most importantly, this is your home you are shopping for – there are some intangibles that matter in owning a home that will factor into your final decision, and are often found in person rather than online.

    Expert Advice

    Do not discount the value of a real estate professional you can trust. They are experts in their field and will make navigating the transaction much easier. Many new buyers do not realize that they are paying for this service whether they use it or not. The total commission is already negotiated between the seller and the listing agent, and is built into the sale price. The seller pays both agents at the closing. There may be a small incentive to the seller if you buy without and agent, but it is to your disadvantage when you forgo representation and the expertise the right agent can provide.

     The joy derived from homeownership has a price that is worth more than a simple mathematical, scientific analysis. Though this decision must make financial sense, there is without a doubt a happiness factor that comes from owning a home that one cannot put a price on. From their growing representation in the homebuyer market, millennials want a piece of this American dream as well.

  • 5 Home Improvement Projects That Build Equity

    How do you build equity in a home while simultaneously enhancing your everyday life? By making home improvements that add value to your property. Not only will improving a home allow you to build equity quickly and efficiently, but it will also make your life more comfortable on a daily basis. Of course, you don’t want to improve or add just anything to your house. Instead, be strategic about the specific improvements you decide to make to your home. In other words: choose improvement projects that will give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to adding value to your property.

    Fortunately, we’ve done the research for you. If you’re looking to build equity in your home, and the property is lacking in these areas (think: a dated kitchen or lack of curb appeal), then these projects are an excellent way to add thousands upon thousands of dollars of value to your home. Here are 5 home improvement projects that will likely add value to your home. 

    5 home improvements that add value to a home
    Ask any homebuyer what they look for in a home, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one who doesn’t place value on curb appeal. After all, you can have the best interior in the world but without attractive landscaping and front exterior, few buyers (if any) will be charmed. Even a simple, well-maintained lawn can go a long way in building equity in your home. However, Money Crashers warns that going overboard with landscaping (i.e. adding fountains, expensive plants, etc) will not necessarily add value to a home. Instead, the website encourages homeowners to “wow potential buyers with a well-kept lawn, and some well-laced shrubbery or small trees.” These front yard house changes tend to “recoup a decent percentage,” according to Money Crashers.

    Energy efficient windows
    Tired of living in a home with old, drafty windows? Fortunately, this is an easy fix. Simply replace your old windows with new, energy efficient ones, and you’re sure to increase your home’s value (and decrease those monthly energy bills). While new windows aren’t cheap, they do end up saving you money in the long run. They also make it easier and faster to heat and cool your home throughout the year, which means you can kiss those high utility bills goodbye. In fact, according to Money, “replacing old windows with newer, energy-efficient ones can save you anywhere from $25 to $450 a year in heating and cooling costs.”

    Outdoor deck addition
    Everyone (especially a homebuyer) loves having an outdoor deck for lounging, eating and grilling. According to Remodeling’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, adding a wood deck addition to your home yields a return of more than 75 percent. The report notes that this return is for a 16×20 foot deck addition using pressure-treated joists. According to Money Crashers, the cost of adding a deck varies widely depending on materials and size, however, most decks cost anywhere from $1,200 to $10,000 or more. Though pricey, these decks will ensure you have plenty of outdoor space to enjoy while also building equity in your home.

    Bathroom remodel
    Having updated or new bathrooms in your home will go a long way in attracting potential buyers down the road. Since it’s a room that you and guests use on a daily basis, many consider bathroom remodels to be well worth the money, time and effort. According to Remodeling’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, a mid-range bathroom remodel will cost you around $20,000. When homeowners sell the home, they should be able to recoup around 67 percent of their investment. In many cases, you can remodel a bathroom for under $20,000 when you choose affordable and reasonable finishes from Home Depot and Lowe’s. 

    Kitchen remodel
    Kitchen remodels can either be extremely expensive or fairly affordable, depending on the finishes and appliances chosen. While it’s certainly never cheap to redo a kitchen, it doesn’t have to break the bank either. Those that choose high-end, luxury finishes, such as marble countertops, custom cabinets and designer backsplashes, could end up paying upwards of $100,000 or more. However, those that choose less luxurious finishes can easily redo a kitchen for $40,000 or less. For many homebuyers, having a spacious, practical and updated kitchen is at the top of their list of needs, making this improvement a must. 

    Other ways to build equity in your home
    In addition to adding value through home improvements, you can build equity in your home through other means including:

    Putting extra money towards paying off home loans – The more money you put towards paying those monthly mortgage bills, the closer you’ll be to owning your home. Whether it’s an end-of-year bonus or money from a side hustle, every little bit counts when it comes to paying off the principle and interest on your home loans.
    Putting more money down at the beginning –If you have the resources to do so, making a larger down payment will lower your monthly mortgage payments and interest on a home. It’s also a great way to build equity in a home almost immediately.
    Giving it time –In general, the longer you live in a home, the more equity you’ll have in that home. So don’t sell a home right away. Give it time, work to pay off your debt and add value to the home. Before you know it (in five plus years), you’ll have built up a good amount of equity in the home.
    For more advice on how to build equity faster, check here.

    Planning to sell your home and move soon?
    So you’ve made the necessary upgrades, waited for the right time to sell and have officially sold your home. Congrats! If you’re ready to say goodbye to your old home and hello to another, you’ll need the right moving company to handle the transition. Fortunately,’s extensive network of reputable and reliable movers makes it easy to book the best moving company for the job. All relocation companies in our network are licensed and insured, so you can rest assured that your move will be in good hands. To get organized for your move, use our comprehensive Move Planner. Our tool provides customizable moving checklists, personal tasks list, helpful recommendations, email reminders and plenty of coupons to get you organized. Best of luck and happy moving!
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