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24 Elf on the Shelf ideas

I have to admit I am one of those moms who will have every intention of hiding our elf and after a few days am either out of ideas or in a hurry to wake up before the kids to move  “Owen” before the kids are out of bed. For fellow parents who run out of elf ideas after a few days or just need some fresh inspiration, here is my list of 24 Elf on the shelf ideas

 

  1. Put some flour on the kitchen counter and have the elf make “snow” angels
  2.  Attach a piece of string from the wall to the tree and have the elf “zipline” using a candy cane
  3. Add a towel around the elf’s head and waist and hide him in the shower
  4.  Wrap the elf in a dishcloth like it is wearing a blanket and set it on a shelf in the refrigerator
  5. Put the elf in a toy car and leave it in the hallway. Bonus points if you can add a Barbie to the passenger seat
  6. Have the elf waiting with mini pancakes for the morning
  7. Unwrap a few candies and leave them around the elf like he ate them overnight
  8. Set the elf and a few small toys up in a circle with playing cards like they had a poker night
  9. Set the elf on the couch with the remote and a small bowl of popcorn, even elves need a movie night sometimes
  10. Pour a few goldfish in the bathroom sink and have the elf fish for them
  11. Have the elf arrive in a rocket ship
  12. The elf can leave notes for your kids written in mini marshmallows
  13. Let the elf ride on a toy horse or dinosaur
  14. Have the elf leave the kids a note on the bathroom mirror
  15.  Wrap school age kids lunches with wrapping paper and include a note from the elf in their lunchboxes
  16. If kids aren’t behaving have the lef go on strike until they listen to their parents
  17. Have the elf TP the tree
  18. Set the elf up with a bunch of cotton balls and a note inviting the kids to a snowball fight
  19. Let the elf get tangled in lights on the tree
  20. Make paper snowflakes and have the elf cutting out a new one
  21. Let the kids find the elf using a coloring book
  22. Set the elf up so he is building with Legos
  23. Elf outhouse 
  24. Time for the elf to go back to the North Pole until next year, have him leave streamers on the kids bedroom doors they can run through in the morning

 

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Row of residential houses in winter with snow

Why Winter Is The Perfect Time To Buy A Home

Winter is the perfect time of year for plenty of things: making snow angels, going ice skating, and drinking hot cocoa by the fire are all things that come to mind.

But do you know what else winter is the perfect time of year for?

Buying a home.

There’s no better time to find your dream home than the winter months. Here are five reasons why winter is the perfect time to find a home:

1. There’s less competition

One of the best reasons to purchase a home during the winter is that there’s typically less competition.

Winter isn’t the most popular time of the year to move; kids are still in school and potential buyers with children tend to wait until spring or summer to start looking to avoid having to pull their children out of school. And because there’sless buyers on the market, you’ll face less competition on the homes you’re interested in.

You’re also less likely to face multiple offer situations when the market is less competitive — which means that when you find a home you love and put in an offer, you’re not going to be up against anyone else, which greatly increases the chance of your offer being accepted.

2. Prices are more competitive

Another major benefit of buying a home in the winter is that the pricing is more competitive.

This means that in the winter, you’re far more likely to get a deal on your home than spring or summer. In fact, recent research shows that while buyers paid $1500 more than the sale price of the average US home during the peak spring season. But in the winter? They paid $3100.

3. You’ll deal with more motivated sellers

Another plus of buying in the winter?

Because there aren’t as many buyers on the market, sellers are much more motivated to sell — which means they’ll be much more willing to negotiate with you.

That can mean anything from coming down on the price, covering some (or all) of your closing costs, working with you on the closing date, or even throwing in extra appliances to sweeten the deal.

If you buy during the peak season, sellers don’t have as much incentive to negotiate since there’s a lot of competition, so do yourself a favor and buy in the winter when sellers are much more motivated to get their home sold.

4. You get to see how your new home holds up in the cold

If you live in an area with harsh winters, another benefit of buying a home in the winter is that you get to see how your potential new home will hold up in the cold — while it’s actually cold outside.

If you buy during the warmer months, your new home may look great. But when winter rolls around you might find that the chill in the air travels from outside to inside, or that your home is properly insulated to keep ice from building up on the exterior.

Bottom line: When you buy in the winter, you get to see your potential new home’s winter performance before you buy. You can make sure that your house has proper heating and insulation instead of buying in summer and hoping for the best — which can be an expensive mistake.

5. You get to take advantage of your real estate agent’s slow season

Because the winter months are typically slower in the real estate industry, your agent likely doesn’t have as many clients as they would in the peak season — which logically means you’ll probably get more of their attention.

A great real estate agent will always take care of you — no matter how busy they are. But there are only so many hours in the day, and during the peak season, he/she will likely have multiple clients they need to split their attention between.

But less real estate activity in the winter means less clients for your real estate agent, which means they have more time and energy to devote to you and your home search. They’ll be more available to research potential homes, show you new properties, and answer your questions — which will make your home search easier, faster, and more enjoyable.

As you can see, winter just might be the perfect time to buy a home. So bundle up, call your agent, and get out there and find your new home!

Don’t forget to reqest your free copy of my Ultimate Home Seller’s Guide while you’re here!

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5 Decluttering Tips To Get Your Home Ready For Holiday Visitors

 

The holidays. It’s a time for celebration, a time for good food and good cheer, and – for many homeowners – a time for out-of-town visitors. And while gathering your loved ones from all corners of the globe to celebrate with you and your family undoubtedly brings holiday joy, it can also bring more than a bit of holiday anxiety.

If you’re like most homeowners, you’ve probably accumulated quite a bit of clutter since spring cleaning. And with piles of toys and clothes and all manners of STUFF spilling out of every drawer, closet, and cabinet, the thought of hosting guests can quickly have you singing the holiday blues.

But don’t worry! It’s not too late to get your home in order and your clutter under control. Here are 5 decluttering tips to get your home ready for holiday visitors:

1. Prep Your Kitchen For Maximum Efficiency.
A large part of any holiday gathering is the meal, and if you’re the one playing host, you’ll likely be the one responsible for getting that meal on the table. The last thing you want is to spend your entire celebration stuck in the kitchen, rifling through cabinets looking for that casserole dish you haven’t seen since Mother’s Day. Organizing, getting rid of unnecessary utensils and tools, and prepping everything you’ll need to get your meals cooked, plated, and served is key. The right preparation saves you a ton of time, energy, and frustration, leaving you free to spend the holiday enjoying the company of your family and friends.

Go through your kitchen and remove any tools you won’t be using for your holiday meals, like your frozen yogurt machine or Halloween cake molds. Organize your pots and pans by size and function so you can easily locate them as you’re preparing your dishes. Clear everything off the counters so you have plenty of space to work on and aren’t wasting time trying to find room as you go along.

Not only will prepping your kitchen help you prepare and serve your meal more efficiently, but it’ll also save you time on your cleanup… which means more time to enjoy those delicious holiday desserts.

2. Get Your Kids Into The Spirit of Giving.
If you have children, clutter is par for the course. Between clothes, shoes, sporting gear, and toys, it seems like their clutter multiplies overnight. Factor in that your children are just going to be getting MORE clutter from your holiday guests in the form of presents, and things can quickly get out of hand.

But the holidays are all about giving, and they actually present the perfect opportunity to help your kids downsize, declutter, and give back to people in need.

Find a local charity that’s accepting holiday donations, and talk to your children about the importance of sharing the holiday spirit with other children who are less fortunate than they are. Help them work through their clutter and identify toys and clothes they’ve outgrown to give to charity.

Not only does this help to declutter your home, it also helps teach your children an important lesson about the spirit of giving, and your children will feel good knowing that their things are going to give someone else a wonderful holiday season.

3. Keep The Holiday Decorations To A Minimum.
While holiday decorations can add a nice ambiance to your home for the holidays, overdoing it can cause more clutter and overwhelm your visitors. Take stock of your holiday decorations, and be honest with yourself about which will add to the space and get your guests in the holiday spirit and which will just take up space and make them feel like they’re in the holiday aisle of the local Target.

To keep holiday decoration clutter to a minimum, think of them as an accent, NOT a focal point. Instead of displaying your entire collection of snowglobes, choose 1 or 2 that have a sentimental meaning and display them on your mantle. Hang up one Thanksgiving art project that your child made at school, not every project from the past 5 years.

Taking the less is more approach to holiday decorations will make your home feel more spacious and less cluttered while still creating that special holiday experience for your guests.

4. Rearrange Your Furniture.
While your current furniture setup likely works perfectly for you and your family, it might not be the most functional as you add more people for the holidays. Too much furniture + too many people = serious clutter.

Take stock of your current furniture arrangements and see how you can maximize each space. Rearrange the couches in your living room to form a circle around the middle of the room so everyone can face each other. Take any unnecessary tables or shelves that are taking up space without adding functionality and move them to the garage. Move, remove, and rearrange your furniture to create a space that feels more open and inviting.

5. Make Room For Your Guests’ Clutter.
No matter how well you declutter before the arrival of your holiday guests, the truth of the matter is they’ll be bringing clutter with them. And if you don’t have a place for them to put their clothes, suitcases, and other things, your home will feel just as cluttered as it felt pre-holidays within 10 minutes of their arrival.

Clear out space in a closet or garage for each guest to store their suitcase. If possible, give them space in a closet or drawer to put away their clothes. Make room in the bathroom for things like extra curling irons and electric shavers.

By being prepared and having a plan of action for your guests’ clutter, you can stop it from re-cluttering your space.

With these 5 decluttering tips, your home will feel organized, spacious, and ready to host your out-of-town holiday visitors.

5 Tips For Selling Your Home Around Thanksgiving

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The majority of people think the best time to sell a home is during the summer. Children are out of school which makes it much easier for parents to relocate and start a new life in their new home. In actuality more than half of homebuyers do not have children or have children that are out of the house. There are far less numbers of homes for sale during the holidays which makes the demand for a quality home that much higher.

1. Make Curb Appeal a Top Priority.

By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, trees have started to lose their leaves. This makes maintaining the exterior of your even more of a priority. Bare trees result in a more exposed home, so touch up the paint, clean the gutters and spruce up the yard. Keep buyers’ safety in mind as well by making sure stairs and walkways are free of leaves.

2. Avoid Clutter at All Costs.

Family visiting during Thanksgiving can add quite a bit of clutter to the home. In the case that a potential buyer wants to view the home, eliminating this clutter couldn’t be more important. If family has taken over a bedroom that’s usually used for storage, it can be wise to invest in a storage unit. These are not expensive and can be rented for a month or two while the home is on the market. Clutter decreases the perceived size of the home which could be a deciding factor whether a buyer puts an offer in or continues their search.

3. Appeal to the Buyer’s Imagination.

Creating a warm atmosphere during Thanksgiving and the holidays when your home is being sold can do a couple of things. The potential buyers could imagine themselves celebrating their own Thanksgiving in the home. This isn’t the time to put up huge amounts of decorations but rather enough to get into the spirit of the season. Warm colors should be abundant and those quirky holiday decorations that some families put up in their homes during certain holidays should be kept in the attic.

4. Price The Home To Sell.

Pricing the home to sell during the holidays is extremely important. If you accepted a new job and need to relocate by the end of the year this multiplies in importance. Many buyers if in the same situation will want to put an offer in around the Thanksgiving holiday. This will reduce the stress of trying to find a home during the Christmas holidays when many people travel for extended periods. Closing quickly will also allow you to write off closing costs during this year’s tax season.

5. Select an Experienced Real Estate Agent.

Picking the right agent is important regardless of what time of year that it is. During the holidays it’s more important as many facets of selling a home can be impacted by the holiday breaks. I’d love the opportunity to earn your business!

Remember: Selling your home during the Thanksgiving and holiday season isn’t impossible. Taking care of the small details leading up to the sale will only increase your chances of considering offers with your turkey dinner. Happy Thanksgiving and good luck selling this holiday season!

VA Loans by the numbers

 VA Home Loans by the Numbers [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights:

  • The Veterans Administration (VA) Home Loan is a benefit that is available to more than 22 million veterans & 2 million active duty service members which helps them achieve their dreams of homeownership.
  • In 2017, $189 billion was loaned to veterans and their families through the program.
  • VA Purchase Loans are on the rise in 46 out of 50 states and Washington, DC.
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Mortgage Rates Expected To Increase. If You Want To Buy, Now Is The Time

 

When you’re buying a home, you might think the price you offer is ultimately the price you’ll pay, but if you’re buying a home with a mortgage, that’s not the case. With a mortgage, in addition to paying your principal (the amount of money the bank loans you to purchase your home), you’ll also pay interest on that principal—which is why the interest rate on your loan is so important.

Interest rates on mortgages have been low in recent years, but they’re steadily rising. And even a minor increase in an interest rate can cost you big over the course of your mortgage. According to a recent article from Realtor.com, thanks to forecasted hikes to the Federal Reserve Key Interest Rate (which directly impacts interest rates on mortgages), mortgage interest rates are expected to continue increasing for the foreseeable future.

As the article demonstrates, even a small increase in your mortgage interest rate can spell major changes in your monthly payment. For example, if interest rates for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage increase by one percentage point from the current rate of 4.65%, you’ll pay a whopping $53,000 more over the course of your loan than you would pay if you purchased today.

The Takeaway: If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a home, do yourself a favor and make a move now before interest rates go any higher

So about this Christopher Columbus guy…

Here’s a question for you…

Did Christopher Columbus really discover America?

The answer depends on who you ask, or what you read.

But at this point, enough people believe he didn’t even step foot in America, let alone discover it.

So, why does he get celebrated?

Well, even if he didn’t “discover” America, he certainly did other great things worth being recognized for.

Years ago, real estate agents were given credit for “finding” people the perfect house. Then, the Internet made “discovering” almost any house on the market a pretty simple task. Even a novice, with no real estate experience, could find the house of their dreams on their own.

This kinda made people start to question the value of real estate agents…

Made it seem easy.

Well, if it were simply a matter of finding a house, that might be a valid conclusion.

But there’s so much more to it.

Stumbling across America, or a house to buy, is not the same as successfully staking your claim, and making it your new home.

Rather than give a laundry list of what a real estate agent does beyond just helping someone find a house, let’s just paint a quick picture…

You’re on a boat, back in 1492. You’ve sailed the ocean blue. You reached land. Now what? How do you actually make it your new home? Can you possibly anticipate everything you’ll encounter? What do you do first?

Finding a house, or a buyer for your house, is only one small part of the process. For most people, navigating the entire process of buying and selling a house is a whole new world. And that’s where great real estate agents earn their respect.

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Home Buying in Fall

A lot of people think the best time to buy a house is during the Spring market.

And, it is…

…in the sense that more houses are listed for sale in the Spring. But, there’s also a heck of a lot more buyers trying to buy those listings.

The thing is, some of the houses listed back in the Spring don’t end up selling. (Usually just because they were overpriced.)

Now, it isn’t like new listings don’t happen in the Fall. There’s always new listings coming on the market. But it’s not like, just because it’s Fall and not Spring, prices are necessarily going to fall. In other words, new listings aren’t likely to list for a lot lower than you would have seen in the Spring.

However, the homeowners who did list back in the Spring, are much more likely to be anxious (perhaps even desperate) to sell their home. They’ve created their own problem…they missed the boat by pricing too high.

Which is great news for you, if you’re looking to buy a home:

  • Less competition. (Many buyers stop looking at this time of year…for no good reason.)
  • Motivated sellers. (They’re sick of being on the market, and wondering why nobody bought their house.)

But it isn’t always easy to find those listings. They don’t wave a white flag, or lower their price to some ridiculous amount everyone would notice. If only it were that easy…
Just because someone listed their home back in the Spring doesn’t mean they’ll be all that negotiable.

There are certain things a great real estate agent will know to look for.

And I love rolling up my sleeves and finding the ones we can most likely negotiate the best deals on.

So, got anything you want me to roll up my sleeves and look for? Real estate deals won’t just fall in your lap, but I can certainly help you find one this Fall.

Bonus
Want another reason to buy a home in the Fall?

You can take advantage of year-end sales to outfit your home!

Hardly anybody buys a home who doesn’t want (or need) to make improvements, however small. So why not coordinate your purchase with sales on items you’ll need? According to Consumer Reports, September is an ideal time for buying carpet and paint. In October lawn mowers go on sale, and the same goes for appliances and cookware in November.

4 Tips For Buying Your First Home

If “Buy my first home” is at the top of your list of life goals, here are 4 tips to getting those papers signed and having the keys in your hand.

1. Clean Up Your Credit

Your credit score is one of the main factors that determines whether you get a loan to purchase your home – and what interest rate you’ll pay on said loan. The better your credit score, the better rates you’ll get on your mortgage, which can save you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your mortgage.

The first step to cleaning up your credit is knowing your number. A recent survey conducted by LendingTree found that nearly 60% of Americans don’t know their credit score. Don’t be that person! Not knowing your credit score can ruin your chances of getting a loan. Most of the major credit card companies, like Chase and American Express, allow you to check your FICO score directly from your account interface. But you’ll also want to check your credit report for inaccuracies, so use a service like LendingTree or Credit Karma to get a more accurate picture of what’s going on with your credit.

Once you know your score, it’s time to do damage control if necessary. Contact the credit bureaus to correct any misinformation on your credit report. If you have any delinquent accounts, pay them off. If you’re struggling to pay down your balances, look into consolidating your debt or working with a credit repair company to get your payments down and your credit back on track.

2. Don’t Accrue Any New Debt

Once you’ve got your credit under control and are working to raise your score, it’s important that you don’t accrue any new debt. Credit inquiries can bring down your credit score, and large balances (like a new car loan) can make you look like a riskier borrower to lenders.

If you’re on the market for your first home, keep your spending to the necessities and don’t take on any new debt.

3. Stash Away Savings

You also need to make savings a priority. A good motto for potential homebuyers is “the more savings, the better.”

No matter which way you slice it, purchasing a home is an expensive ordeal, and while a mortgage certainly helps to offset the costs, there’s a lot of things you’ll need to pay for out of pocket. You’ll need a good chunk of the purchase price set aside to use as a down payment, money for closing costs, cash to cover moving from your current place to your new home… the expense list goes on and on, which is why it’s important that you have plenty of funds in the bank to facilitate the home-buying process without putting too much strain on you and your family.

Talk to your lender about how much you should realistically have in the bank before you make the purchase. Then, do everything you need to do to hit that number before you buy your home.

If you have trouble saving, set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account that pulls a certain amount from every paycheck to add to your savings. Immediately put any “found money”, like bonuses or tax refunds, into your savings account. Download an app like Digit that analyzes your spending habits and transfers small amounts into your savings – you won’t even notice it’s missing, and every dollar counts!

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

One of the best weapons in a first-time-buyer’s arsenal is the right real estate agent. Working with the right real estate agent can make you fall in love with the process of buying home or make you wish you could go back to renting for all of eternity.

When choosing an agent, you’ll want to work with someone who has experience in the type of property you’re looking to buy in your desired location. You’ll also want to work with someone who isn’t overloading with clients and who has experience working with first-time-buyers. You’re likely to have a lot of questions along the way, and you don’t want to work with an agent who’s too busy or frustrated to answer them for you.

With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to making your dream of owning your first home a reality.

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Sellers, Take Note: A/C, Kitchens, And Energy Efficiency Top Criteria For Buyers

When you’re getting ready to list your home, you want to make sure any changes or renovations are going to give you a return on your investment by making your home more appealing to potential buyers. But what, exactly, are the things buyers are looking for?

According to Zillow’s 2017 Consumer Housing Trends Report, there are a few clear winners when it comes to upgrading your home to make it more appealing to sellers. According to the report, 62% of buyers require a home has air conditioning before they make a purchase. And while the perfect kitchen and an energy efficient home aren’t exactly “needs” for most buyers, they do rank high on their list of “wants” (at 48% for both).

The Takeaway

If you’re thinking about making changes to your home in order to generate more interest from buyers, your money would be best spent installing central air. Improving your kitchen and making your home more energy efficient come in a close second.