5 New Year’s Resolutions Every Homeowner Should Make for 2017

5 New Year’s Resolutions Every Homeowner Should Make for 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 is coming to a close, and with the new year just around the corner, people across the world are gearing up to set their intentions for the upcoming year in the form of New Year’s Resolutions. And while you’re bound to make at least one standard resolution (like “finally get in shape” or “eat more vegetables”), as a homeowner, there are some home-specific resolutions you’ll want to think about to get the most out of your property and the experience of owning a home this upcoming year.

Here are 5 New Year’s Resolutions every homeowner should make for 2017:

1. Bump Up Your Mortgage Payments

If you have any sort of expendable income in 2017, you might want to think about putting it towards your mortgage. Making extra payments on your mortgage can have a huge impact on the total you end up paying out over the course of the loan. It can also shorten the amount of time you’ll be saddled with payments and can have you owning your house free and clear sooner than you expected.

The more you can contribute, the better. But even if you can only make a few extra payments per year – do it. Those extra dollars will add up and end up saving you serious dollars in interest over the course of your mortgage.

Create a 2017 budget and look for any areas where you can shave a few dollars, like your daily trip to the coffeehouse or an expensive gym membership. Then, re-purpose that cash and put it towards paying down your mortgage faster.

2. Explore Refinancing

2016 saw near record low interest rates on mortgages, and while they’ve slowly crept up towards the end of the year (current rates are around 4%), they’re still HALF of the average interest rates over the past 40 years (which averaged at 8.45%).

If you haven’t refinanced your mortgage recently, now is the time to do it. With a new president taking office, the economy may shift, and interest rates may rise.

Talk to your loan officer about refinancing and getting a lower interest rate. And if you’re in a variable rate mortgage, shift over to a fixed rate mortgage and lock in the low interest rates while you can.

3. Review and Renew Your Homeowners Insurance

A lot of homeowners roll over their insurance year to year, but if you haven’t reviewed your policy in a while, you might be missing out on some money-saving opportunities.

Shop around and get quotes to see what rates are competitive in the current market and if you’re paying more, see if your current company will match the lowest quote. If you have a stand-alone policy, think about bundling your auto and homeowners insurance with one company. Insurance companies will often offer discounts for customers who hold multiple policies. If you’ve made any major improvements to your home that could impact the insurability of your house (like clearing trees, installing a high tech security system or adding storm reinforcements), let your agent know. Improvements can often lower your premiums.

4. Declutter, Declutter, Declutter

While spring is traditionally the time for organizing (in the form of “spring cleaning”), there’s no better time for a fresh start – and a more organized home – than the New Year.

Cleaning out closets, getting rid of things you no longer want or need and taking a more minimalist approach to life can have huge benefits. Not only will your home look better, but you’ll also FEEL better as a result. Messy, cluttered homes can cause increased stress and anxiety, making it much harder to relax and enjoy your space. Clutter has also been shown to decrease creativity, productivity and focus, so if you want to have a happy and productive 2017, it’s time for the stuff to go.

Plan a day to go through all of your closets, cabinets and storage space. If you’re not actively using something, get rid of it. The benefits you’ll reap from decluttering will far outweigh the value of the things you get rid of.

5. Get Up To Speed On Safety

The new year is the perfect time to review the current state of your property and take any precautions necessary to ensure that you’re safe in the upcoming year.

Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace them if necessary. Check your house for radon, a common, carcinogenic gas that can increase your chance of lung cancer (you can pick up a radon testing kit at a local hardware store for less than $10).  Meet with your family to review emergency evacuation plans in case of a fire, flood or other emergencies.

With these 5 resolutions, you’ll get the most out of your property – and of owning your home – in 2017 and beyond.

8 Scams to watch out for this Holiday Season

Holiday Fraud_FB Social Media_Layout 18 Scams to Watch Out For This Holiday Season

 

The holidays are a happy time for celebrating with family, friends, and co-workers. Unfortunately, this time of year can also be turned sour by a wide variety of clever frauds, unauthorized debit and credit card transactions, and bogus person-to-person scams. By the end of 2015, individuals, retailers, charitable donors, and companies were victimized to the tune of $1.5 billion… and that number is expected to have gone up in 2016.

 

Just as you protect your home with an alarm system, you should set up defenses for your credit and identity. During the holiday season, fraudulent activity spikes, but here’s how to protect yourself from the eight most common scams.

 

Big Data Breeds Data Breaches

 

Big data during the holidays is great for marketers; it’s a bonanza of consumer information to use to lure shoppers to Black Friday deals and the like. However, while companies wrangle in the chaos of holiday orders, scammers search for weaknesses in a company’s cyber-security. According to a top executive at one of the leading credit bureaus, “Data breaches are inevitable and most consumers are vulnerable to identity theft… especially during the holidays.” In fact, 25% more consumers were affected by identity theft during the holidays in 2015 than in 2014!

 

The best way to reduce your risk of data breaches is use cash for all your purchases. According to a survey by TransUnion, however, only 20 percent of shoppers plan to pay with cash. If you’re part of the 80 percent using plastic, use a credit card instead of a debit card. You have more purchase protection using a credit card than a debit card if a data breach occurs or fraud happens.

 

Other protections from data breaches include:

 

  • Using a low-limit credit card for online purchases so you can detect fraudulent activity.
  • Utilizing services like PayPal to lower the risk of your card information being lost at the retailer.

 

Package Theft

 

E-commerce is great for holiday shoppers… but it’s also great for thieves. Last year, Insurancequotes reported that 23 million people had packages stolen at their front door!

 

To prevent this from happening to you, have your packages delivered to your office or delivered to a pick-up area such as a UPS store or Amazon Locker.  You can also set up tracking notifications so that you know when to expect delivery.

 

And while you’re waiting for your packages, be on the lookout for this scam: a note on the front door saying you have a package waiting for pickup. The note asks for a call, often to a pricey number that leaves you on hold for a long period while they collect premium phone rates, or it leads to a person asking for details on your personal information to “verify your identity.” If the note isn’t from a shipper you recognize, or if the Googled number isn’t found, don’t get involved.

 

Online Shopping Scams

 

The big brother of package thievery is the online shopping scam. Phony online stores lure shoppers in through searches and online ads, enticing you with low-priced, high-quality items. These “bargains” cost you not only money, but also hours of time trying to fight the fraudulent transaction. To put salt in the wound, once these websites nab your personal information, they often also infect your computer with malware that compromises your login to your online bank.

 

To avoid the pitfalls of the fake online merchant, only purchase from retail names you know and trust. You could also Google the site and look for reviews. Yelp is a legitimate site for reviews as is the Better Business Bureau. Before you make a purchase online, double-check that “https” appears in the URL, which signifies that the site has passed stringent security compliance standards.

 

Poisonous Holiday E-Cards

 

E-cards are popular during the holidays because they’re a free, fun, and easy way to catch up with friends and family members. But beware because it’s just as easy for scammers to use fake e-cards to steal your personal information. A lot of fake e-cards you may get are from your hacked address book or the hacked address book of someone you know. At first glance, the card may look legitimate, but once you open it, you’ve been phished.

 

The only way to avoid this from happening is paying attention to detail. The number one tell of a fake E-card is any kind of misspelling. The URL will have a subtle misspelled word or your friend’s name is misspelled. Usually the misspelled word will contain a number: T1msmith@comcast.net for instance.

 

Fake Apps

 

ConsumerAffairs is reporting a huge spike in fake apps. Scammers are using fake retail and product apps found in Apple’s App Store to steal unsuspecting consumers’ financial information. Many of these thieves rip off company or brand logos to make the fake app look real. So before you get that convenient retail or product app, make sure it’s legit.

 

Just as with fake e-cards, fake apps will seem normal until you start looking at the details. Before you download that convenient retail or product app, make sure you check for the following:

 

  • A nonsensical description
  • No reviews
  • No history of previous versions

 

 

Gift Card Scammers

 

Scam artists skim or copy the codes on the back of gift cards before they’re bought. After the card has been activated, the scammers drain the card’s funds.

 

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of compromised gift cards, buy gift cards displayed behind store counters, make sure preloaded cards are still loaded, and make sure the protective scratch-off strip is flawless.

 

Malicious Charities

 

During the holiday season we all feel an extra sense of giving. Grifters and thieves play on this sensibility by creating false charities and hitting you up on Twitter, Instagram, and in your e-mail inbox.

 

There are online resources to help you verify the legitimacy of charities. The website Charity Navigator is a non-profit organization that rates over 8,000 U.S-based charities operating throughout the world. Another way to get free reviews and evaluations on national charities is through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

 

Corrupted Wi-Fi

 

You’ll probably hit the mall this holiday for some in-person price checking, and you’ll probably have your smartphone, laptop, and/or your iPad with you. Please be careful because skimmers and scammers love to manipulate Wi-Fi signals in places like malls and coffee shops to gather your financial information. These people create Wi-Fi signals that mimic the signal you use, then hack your info when you connect to it.

 

To protect yourself from Wi-Fi manipulators, just don’t make online purchases with your credit or debit card when you’re in a public space.

 

Who Should You Turn To?

 

If you catch the trouble soon enough, credit or identity fraud can be an inconvenience. If you don’t, however, one instance can have long-term impacts. If, for example, someone bought an appliance using your name while you were trying to refinance your mortgage, then you might not get approved for the loan!

 

If you’re curious to know if you’ve been affected, or if you know your credit is in disrepair and need help fixing it, please let us know so we can refer you to our recommended professionals.

 

 

 

Was it you who needed a 5 BR home?

Was it you who needed a 5 BR home?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need space? It is here with lots of character!

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Check out the interactive floor plan/virtual tour; you’re going to love this place!

 

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This custom kitchen is simply amazing!   So many nooks and crannies, and great storage!

 

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Five bedrooms, room for all the family plus your hobby!

 

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Yard is beautifully landscaped with 3 garden ponds, lots of flowers for every season. Brick patio in the shaded, fenced back yard.

 

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2 car garage (wired for 220) with fenced in area behind garage for bikes, riding mower,, 4-wheelers, etc.

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This home should qualify for most types of loans.  Come check it out!  One of the Realtors at Advantage Real Estate would be glad to help you!  660-263-3393

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Puppies for Sale

Puppies for Sale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A store owner was tacking a sign above his door that read “Puppies for Sale.”  Signs like that have a way of attracting small children, and sure enough, a little boy appeared under the store owner’s sign.  “How much are you going to sell the puppies for?” he asked.

 

The store owner replied, “Anywhere from $30 to $50.”

 

The little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out some change.  “I have $2.37,” he said.   “Can I please look at them?”

 

The store owner smiled and whistled, and out of the kennel came Lady, who ran down the aisle of his store followed by five teeny, tiny balls of fur.  One puppy was lagging considerably behind.  Immediately the little boy singled out the lagging, limping puppy and said, “What’s wrong with that little dog?”

 

The store owner explained that the veterinarian had examined the little puppy and had discovered it didn’t have a hip socket.  It would always have a limp.  It would always be lame.  The little boy became excited.  “That is the little puppy I want to buy.”

 

The store owner said, “No, you don’t want to buy that little dog.   If you really want him, I’ll just give him to you.”

 

The little boy was quite upset.  He looked straight into the store owner’s eyes, pointed his finger and said, “I don’t want you to give him to me.  That little dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs, and I’ll pay full price.  In fact, I’ll give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents a month until I have him paid for. ”

 

The store owner countered, “You really don’t want to buy this little dog.  He is never going to be able to run and jump and play with you like the other puppies.”

 

To this, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a big metal brace.  He looked up at the store owner and softly replied, “Well, I don’t run so well myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands!”

 

Source:  Chicken Soup for the Soul (Canfield & Hansen)

10 Recipes for a Peaceful Christmas Season

by Joyce Meyer

Christmas is a beautiful and amazing time of the year—at time to celebrate the birth of Christ. One of the ways we do that is by giving and receiving gifts. But we live in a society where “being too busy” is applauded. And so it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the buying and the planning and the “business” of Christmas. Ironically, when the day finally arrives, we’re unable to enjoy it!

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re like me, you have something better in mind. You know that fullness of joy is found not in presents, but in God’s presence (see Psalm 16:11). That’s the magic of Christmas that makes us come alive! …So slow down, get quiet, and take time to soak in God’s presence.

Problems will arise and people will frustrate and/or disappoint you. There is no way to be alive and avoid that. But you can balance out the bad with the good by spending quality time with God and indulging in a few of the simpler pleasures of the season.

If you find yourself struggling with too much intensity, try a few of these simple “recipes” for a less stressful, more fulfilling celebration.

1. Take a deep breath.

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. — Job 33:4 NIV

2. Read something uplifting.

…Turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. — Proverbs 4:20-22 NIV

3. Listen to praise and worship music.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. — Psalm 100:2 NIV

4. Go to bed on time (maybe even a little early).

It is vain for you to rise up early, to take rest late, to eat the bread of [anxious] toil—for He gives [blessings] to His beloved in sleep. — Psalm 127:2

5. Spend time with a close friend.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. — Galatians 6:2 NIV

6. Enjoy a delicious, nutritious meal.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. — 3 John 1:2 NIV

7. Write down your worries…then throw them away.

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. — 1 Peter 5:7

8. Make a list of things you’re thankful for.

Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and the Mediator of that will]. — 1 Thessalonians 5:18

9. Get outdoors for a while.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. — Psalm 19:1 NIV

10. Be playful and laugh a lot!

A cheerful heart is good medicine…. — Proverbs 17:22 NIV

 

This Was From an Ann Lander’s Column……

We don’t know the author, but we loved the essay. Enjoy!

If a dog was your teacher, you would learn stuff like:

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Editable vector silhouettes of a man welcomed home by wife, children and dog with all figures as separate objects

When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience.

Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.

Take naps.

Stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On hot days, drink lots of water, and lie under a shade tree.

When you’re happy, dance around, and wag your entire body.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.

Be loyal. Never pretend to be something you are not.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

Call Advantage Real Estate for advice on how to sell your home quickly and at the highest possible price.  660-263-3393

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