One of the biggest new year’s resolutions for homeowners is to clean up and organize the home. There is a proven correlation between clutter and stress, so homeowner’s want to minimize the stress to start the new year right. Here are 5 home organization tips for a stress-free start to 2020.

Home Organization Tips To Start The New Year Right

Start in One Place

While it can be overwhelming to tackle organizing an entire house, the best way to begin is to start in one place. Start organizing in the room that causes you the most stress, or the room that guests see first upon entering. When you start with one cabinet in one room, and get in a groove, the rest of the house doesn’t seem so daunting.

Use Creative Storage Solutions

Look for wasted space that can be turned into storage. For example, if you have a small living room but need to make room for toys and blankets, consider investing in a storage ottoman to hide the clutter. Additionally, with limited space, another way to organize is to use stacking shelves that have cubes to hide your items. This way the toys are easily accessible but are not an eye sore when you walk into the room.

Get Rid of What You don’t Need

If you are going to take the time to organize and de-clutter, you might as well get rid of unwanted items at the same time! Homeowners often keep 80% of items they never use, so be picky when it comes to keeping items! Whether you decide to garage sale or donate your unused items, removing items you don’t use is a great step in the decluttering process.

Arrange by Frequency of Use

It only makes sense to put seasonal decorations in the back of the storage room since you only need them for a short period once a year. By keeping these in the back, you aren’t having to move these boxes every time you need the vacuum. If you use an item every day, make sure it’s easily accessible and at eye level. Constantly grabbing things from the back may derail your organization plan.

Take Your Time

Don’t expect to organize and de-clutter your home over night. Take your time and sort in an effective way so you’ll only have to do this once a year, not once a month!

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In this series, I highlight the businesses I like to refer to my friends, family, home buyers and sellers in the Pierce County area. This month I’m talking about PNW Grill in Puyallup.

Community Recommendation: PNW Grill

PNW Grill is a fun family-friendly restaurant that was established in 2019. Inside you’ll find casual tables, a large bar, darts, pool tables, and ping pong. PNW Grill serves scratch made food with some fun plays on American classics. I love a good steak and their rib eye is to die for! I loved this place so much that we are hosting our November VAREP Restaurant Takeover here.

Here’s what their customers have to say:

“Their wings are TO DIE FOR! Seriously, the Asian sesame are the way to go. Also, their mojitos are flavored with fresh fruit purées that are made in house daily. The peach and mango are amazing. I haven’t tried a pizza yet, but the table next to us got one and it’s definitely a must have next time. Great job to the new owners for really taking the place to its true potential.”

“My service was top notch and my waitress was very attentive.  My nephew had the rib-eye and it was mouthwatering as far as presentation. People: You want top quality beef you are going to pay for it, and I’m telling you it’s worth it to dine here.  I ordered the Rainer and some point during the meal I looked up to see my nephew staring at me.  I looked down to the pile of crust beneath me and muttered “What?” through a mouth full of meat and cheese.  I apparently was stuffing the slices in my face as though the apocalypse was upon us.  Great place, great service, great pizza.  If I ever get the chance to come back, I’m getting the steak.”

For more information, visit their Facebook page.

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The U.S. housing market is still humming along, which means that home sellers in many regions are still getting multiple offers. For home buyers, this means putting your best foot forward if you want to make your offer stand out from the rest.

6 Ways to Make Your Offer Stand Out from the Rest

  1. Walk in with home loan pre-approval to make your offer stand out from the rest.

Nothing says “I’m serious” about buying a home than having completed the mortgage pre-approval process ahead of time. When your offer includes a pre-approval letter from your mortgage lender, home sellers know that you are ready, willing and able to make the deal go through.

Conversely, home buyers who haven’t completed the full pre-approval process (even if they have been pre-qualified) may make an offer that their lender ultimately won’t agree to. This can easily send the home seller back to square one and may even cause a home buyer to forfeit their earnest money deposit.

 

Comparing Pre-Qualified vs. Pre-Approved Home Buyers
PRE-QUALIFIED PRE-APPROVED
Filled out / completed a mortgage application X
Credit history check completed X
Finances reviewed X
Down-payment estimated X
Specific amount offered by lender X
Lender provides interest rate information X

 

You can see how much more “ready” home buyers who have been pre-approved for a home loan are vs. those who have only been pre-qualified or who have not even contacted their lender yet. If you’re working with a real estate agent but haven’t yet chosen a lender, your realtor could point you to a mortgage company they have experience with, who can help you get the pre-approval process completed before you make an offer.

  1. Put down a serious earnest money deposit.

The very definition of “earnest” includes the idea of being transparent, genuine and serious about something!

earnest – adjective – characterized by or proceeding from an intense and serious state of mind

When used as a noun, it is also defined as a considerable or impressive degree or amount. In a slow  home-buying market, buyers can make small earnest money deposits. In a hot market or seller’s market – not so much. Putting down a high earnest money deposit tells home sellers that you’re serious about their property. It sends a message that you’re not holding back in order to make multiple offers on different properties (homebuyinginstitute.com).

Your real estate agent can advise you about how to make your earnest money deposit as competitive as possible, and about how to make your offer as a whole as competitive as it can be.

  1. Connect emotionally to make your offer stand out from the rest.

It’s common for home sellers to receive letters from buyers who are especially interested in “winning” when it comes to a multiple-offer bidding war. Tell the homeowner why this property matters so much to you, what makes it special to you, how you can see yourself living there.

When touring the home, you might have even seen belongings in the home that give you an idea of the home seller’s future aspirations or something in their past that you might share. Put it in the letter! Give the seller reasons to prefer your offer in a multiple offer bidding war scenario.

  1. Include an escalation offer.

In a situation where you know there are multiple offers, you can include an escalation offer in your bid. This tells the seller exactly how much you are willing (and able) to pay for the home. An example of this would be to offer $2,000 more than the highest offer submitted up to the limit you feel comfortable with. If you make an offer on a home that is listed for significantly less than amount for which your mortgage lender pre-approved you, you have some room to include an escalation offer in your bid.

Bear in mind, though, that the home’s appraisal may be a factor. If the home isn’t likely to appraise for the amount you would have to pay for the home, the lender may only be willing to lend the amount for which the home appraises. In that case you would need to be prepared to put more money down at the time the home loan closes to make up the difference.

  1. Forego inspections and contingencies and pay more closing costs.

It’s common to include a request for home inspection in any offer to buy a house. However, for the sellers, this might reveal the need for repairs or updates they would be asked to complete or fund before the home sale would close. Offering to pay for the home inspection (or even some of the seller’s closing costs) and forego any minor items found could encourage a seller to work with you instead of other home buyers.

  1. Be ready to move… or not.

The faster the home sale process can move, the faster the seller can move on. If you’re pre-approved for the mortgage that speeds up the process from the get-go. If you can also offer to take possession quickly this might be a bonus for the seller. Conversely, if the seller needs more time to pack up and move out, offering to wait and work on their time schedule could help your offer stand out from the rest.

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Credit score is a large part in buying a home and improving your score could mean qualifying for lower interest rates and better terms. Unfortunately, most people only think about credit repair when it matters and are not proactive in repairing it ahead of time. Here are 4 simple steps to repair your credit score so you can qualify for the best home with the lowest rate.

4 Simple Steps to Repair Your Credit Score

Review your credit reports

The first step in repairing your score is examining it. The credit bureaus are required to give you a free copy of your credit report once a year, you just need to request it. Another way to check is to use a free online tool that gives you a breakdown of your scores. Using these tools you can see the areas of your credit in which you are excelling and the areas which could use some improvement.

Increase credit limits

Credit card utilization holds a lot of weight in determining your score and therefore increasing your limits is one of the best steps to repair your credit score. Generally speaking, carrying a balance of 50% of your available credit to will negatively impact your score. And maxing out your cards will definitely hurt your overall score. If you owe $2,500 on a card with a $5,000 limit, and you increase your credit limit to $7,500, your score will improve immediately. This drops your utilization percentage down which helps your overall score.

Pay down outstanding balances

Decreasing your percentage of available credit can make a significant impact on your score. Similar to increasing your credit limit, paying down outstanding balances helps your credit card utilization percentage. Paying off balances may be tough as a short-term improvement to increase your score, but it should be a long-term financial goal. Over time your credit score will increase and you won’t pay as much interest.

Pay off high interest “new” cards first

Since age of credit matters to your credit score and interest rates matter to your bank account, it’s a smart financial move to pay off high interest new cards first. Paying off high interest cards will help you save money over time since you will be saving the interest on those payments. And paying off new cards first will help increase the average length of credit, which will help your score. Using the saved money from these cards toward paying off other account will help you continue to lift your score (snowball effect), without really changing your spending mindset.

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Selling your home for the most money is a top priority of most sellers. If you’re planning on selling your home within the next few years, there might be some home improvements to make beforehand that can really increase your home value. Here are 4 upgrades to make before you sell your home.

Upgrades to Make Before You Sell

Update Cabinets

It’s not necessary to replace your cabinets as it may not make financial sense, but giving your cabinets a refresh can be one of the best upgrades to make before you sell. Start with a fresh coat of paint, preferably a color that is trendy and will appeal to home buyers when you sell. Next, change out the hardware. You may be surprised at how much a difference these two simple updates can make. Just updating your cabinets can turn a kitchen from a dark and isolated room, to a bright and welcoming room.

Light Fixtures

Go through your home and see what light fixtures could use come updating. Replacing light fixtures can make a large difference in your home’s appearance. If you don’t have the budget to replace all the fixtures in your home, start with the ones in the kitchen and above tables as those make the largest impressions in a room. Then move to the main living areas, and replace the bedroom fixtures last. A bright statement fixture can really tie a room together and thus make the room feel more expensive which can increase your selling price.

Paint

Adding a fresh coat of paint to all of your walls is one of the easiest and most effective upgrades to make before you sell. Sticking with a neutral palette will ensure you don’t scare away potential buyers, and will help your home appear more cohesive and move in ready. It’s also a good idea to give your front door a fresh coat while you’re at it. The front door is the entryway into the home, and can make a lasting impression on home buyers.

Landscaping

Curb appeal goes a long way in attracting potential home buyers. Do you have a large empty strip of bark that could use a nice flower bed? How about pruning the shrubs and trees? Even if you don’t plan to sell your home right away, you might consider planting some perennials so they are well established by the time you want to sell your home. Attractive landscaping is a great way to make a positive lasting impression on future buyers.

You may also like: Tips to Finding the Perfect Western Washington Neighborhood

There are many benefits of owning a home – personalization, community, and ability to make it your own. One of the often-overlooked benefits of owning a home is the equity you build over time. Here are 3 benefits of growing equity in your home.

3 Benefits of Growing Equity in Your Home

What is home equity?

First off, let’s take a look at what home equity is, and how it affects you as a home owner. Home equity is the portion of your home that you truly own – the difference between the home’s fair market value and the outstanding balance of all liens on the property. Home equity is also known as real property value. The average home increases between 3% and 5% in equity per year.

Move up opportunity

One of the biggest benefits of growing equity in your home is the move up opportunity. With the rise in prices, homeowners naturally experience an increase in home equity. This increase allows them to put this money down toward a larger house to fit their family’s needs in the future. For example, if a family puts down $55,000 into the house, and the house has increased in value by $10,000, then the family’s home equity is really $65,000. When you buy your first home, the down payment is often times one of the largest hurdles to overcome. When you buy your second and third homes, you’re able to use your home equity toward the down payment of the new home, granted the market is healthy.

Gain in seller’s profit

In today’s market, when a home buyer looks at the amount paid when they bought their home and then the amount they received after selling, it’s clear that some homeowners were able to walk away with a large gain. A seller’s profit is jumping fast compared to over the last few years.

Out of a negative equity situation

Negative equity occurs when there is a decline in home value, an increase in mortgage debt, or both. Often times home owners see this situation when the housing market crashes and their area’s home values decrease. Many families experienced these challenges over the last decade. The good news is many families have moved beyond a negative equity situation since the market has recovered and they are able to use the growing equity in their home to get out of their negative situation.

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Our furry friends are a big part of our families. From setting designated feeding stations to keeping lint rollers scattered through the home, here are 4 tips to create a pet friendly home your guests and your pets will feel comfortable spending time in.

How to Create a Pet Friendly Home

Designate Feeding Stations

Creating a designated feeding station that is convenient for your pets to access but also not an eyesore for your family is key to create a pet friendly home. Choose a room such as a laundry room or mud room to stash your pet’s food and water bowls. This will keep the mess away from the entertainment areas of the home. It is important that you store food appropriately to prevent spoiling or unwanted bugs.

Conceal Toys

Yes we love buying our pets new chew toys, but we don’t necessarily love to see the toys lying around the house. If you don’t want your home to scream “crazy cat or dog person” stash pet items where they are easily accessible but not noticeable. Decorative baskets and bins are great for stashing toys and treat jars. Having a designated animal toy bin helps you keep track of the toys and tidy up your living space in an organized manner.

Vacuum/Sweep Often

In the shedding season, it’s vital to vacuum/sweep on a weekly basis (sometimes twice a week if you have a severe shedder). Be sure to vacuum the living spaces, including the couches and throw pillows. If you just aren’t a fan of sweeping, consider investing in a robotic vacuum. You can set it and forget it and maintain a hair free home.

Lint Roll

People don’t mind if you have pets, but they might mind if they leave your home with a leg full of dog hair. While vacuuming often is important, sometimes hair just finds it’s way onto the couch. Store lint rollers in a few easy to grab locations, like side table drawers, to offer to guests if they need to remove hair from their clothes.

Treat Stains Immediately

Accidents happen, and it’s ok as long as you treat stains immediately. If your animals are accident prone, consider getting a portable carpet cleaner for quick spot treatments. The last thing you want is for your guests to smell a stale scent when they sit on the couch. Get into the habit of walking through lesser-used rooms to make sure there aren’t any surprise stains setting in.

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Buying a home is 38% cheaper than renting a home. This is especially true if you plan on living in one space for at least seven years. As mortgage loans are more affordable now with down payment assistance and different loan options, let’s take a look at the financial benefits of owning a home.

Financial Benefits of Owning a Home

Building equity

One of the largest financial benefits of owning a home is building home equity. When you pay rent to your landlord, you’re setting aside a chunk of money that you’ll never see again. Additionally, landlords have the right to raise your monthly rent yearly, so what you pay today could differ than what you pay monthly next year. When you sign a mortgage loan, you are agreeing to the monthly payment for the life of the loan (likely 15/30 years). So, you can accurately budget your spending every month on your mortgage. When you pay your mortgage, you are building equity as you are paying off your loan. This means that unlike renting, you will see these funds applied directly toward what you own.

Tax benefits

Another one of the biggest financial benefits of owning a home is the mortgage interest deduction. Most of your monthly mortgage payments will go towards interest in your first few years of homeownership. You are able to deduct that interest from your taxes, if your loan is $1 million or less. Additionally, any taxes you pay to the government on your property are deductible from federal income tax.

No longer moving every year

Homeownership increases sustainability and stability. While moving every year from rental to rental may be necessary for your lifestyle, it is a major inconvenience and a financial and emotional burden. Renting can mean you may never know where you are going to live in a year, or how much you’ll be paying. Owning a home allows a financial and emotional investment in both your physical home and your community.

Use your home investment toward another investment

The equity that comes from paying a mortgage is what allows many individuals make future investments in the same home (refinancing, renovations), a higher-valued home (using the equity toward a down payment), a second home (using equity toward a second down payment), or additional financial goals (paying off debt, buying an RV). A home equity line of credit helps homeowners use that part of their home that’s already paid off to obtain financing for additional investments.

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A large part of what makes a house a home is the neighborhood that surround the house. Amid the excitement of searching for the perfect house for you and your family, don’t forget to pay attention to its surroundings. After all, a neighborhood you love, may be worth sacrificing an extra bathroom or white cabinets. Here are 4 tips to finding the perfect Western Washington Neighborhood.

Tips to Finding the Perfect Western Washington Neighborhood

Note Your Most Frequent Stops

Make a list of all the places you visit on the regular so you know how far the western Washington neighborhood would be from your frequently traveled locations. These places include your gym, church, grocery store, relative’s house, or shopping mall. For each neighborhood you’re considering moving to, list how many miles and how many minutes it would take to drive there. The gas money alone may steer you toward a closer neighborhood. The last thing you want is to regret purchasing a house because it’s too far from your amenities.

School District

Even if you don’t have school age children, buying. A home in a Western Washington neighborhood within a good school district will lift the overall neighborhood safety as well as make your home easier to resell in the future. If you do have school age children, visit each school the home in question is zoned for and make sure it’s to your liking. It’s frequently difficult to opt in to a certain district if you are out of bounds, so make sure you’re setting up your kids for success.

Take a Stroll

Before signing your closing paperwork, make sure to walk round the community on a weekend. Are there a lot of families out and about doing the same thing? Or are most people sticking indoors with the blinds shut? Are people friendly who you pass? Are the parks and common areas well taken care of? Answering these questions will give you a good idea of the sense of community and can also be an indicator of safety. You want to know what to expect when you move into your new home.

Trust Your Gut

The Western Washington neighborhood may be safe and in a good school district, but none of that matters if you don’t feel comfortable there. Can you see yourself spending time on the front porch? Do you see yourself building lasting relationships with your neighbors? Do you think your kids will get along with the neighborhood kids? Your neighborhood can have a huge impact on your daily life. It’s worth the time and effort to research, to make sure you’re moving into the perfect place for you and your family.

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In this series, I highlight the businesses I like to refer to my friends, family, home buyers and sellers in the Pierce County area. This month I’m talking all things home cleaning with My Cleaning Lady.

Community Recommendation Series: My Cleaning Lady

The owner of My Cleaning Lady was a stay at home mom, while raising her children. As a busy young housewife and mom, she often wondered if she really could master it all. With the laundry, sports, school, homework, and trying to keep a tidy house, there just didn’t seem to be enough time in the day to complete every task.

So, just once she hired someone else to clean her house for her. She will never forget that feeling! All she had to do was manage the kids. It took a huge load off of your task list. That is where her passion for cleaning began. She wants to continue to share that feeling with others. She loves that what she is providing essentially is time.

She cleans all rooms of the house including kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, and living areas. She has a rotating schedule, so be sure to schedule an appointment to see what services she provides.

Here’s what her clients have to say about her:

“A clean home is a happy a home! And my home is now clean and happy and I can’t thank my cleaning lady enough!”

“It is a very cute service! From logo to the service everything is Top Notch J”

“My Cleaning Lady has been cleaning our home since September. We have always been pleased with the service. She does a great job and we are happy when we come home after she’s cleaned. We highly recommend My Cleaning Lady! Thank you!”

For more information on My Cleaning Lady, visit her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/IKnowALady/

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