Don’t Eat Away Your Retirement

Saving is tough, and every now and then, it’s nice to splurge—especially on a meal out. Or maybe grabbing a mid-day meal is your preferred way of easing the stress of the workday. But if you go out for lunch four days a week, over the course of a 40-year working life, you’ve eaten away nearly $60,000!

Still not convinced that bringing lunch to work is a smart decision? Read the following reasons, courtesy of BMO Harris Bank.

It’s healthier. Packing your own lunch gives you complete command over exactly what you eat and how much you eat. Think portion control.
It’s cheaper than eating out. A typical sit-down lunch at a restaurant can run you anywhere from $8 – $15. Add tax and tip on top of that, and you could be spending as much as $350 PER MONTH on lunch.
You can make new friends. Since everyone shares the employee lunchroom, eating your lunch there (and not at your desk) may provide you the opportunity to have conversations with others whom you may not typically interact.
Leftovers. Leftovers aren’t just for dinner. The next time you make one of your favorite meals, prepare at least one extra, smaller, portion to take to work. Pasta typically heats up easily.
Time is your friend. You aren’t wasting precious minutes getting to your lunch destination, standing in line, or waiting for your order to be prepared.

Can’t see yourself going cold turkey and bringing your lunch every day? Then start out small. Even taking it to the office twice a week will help build your savings.

“You can save hundreds of dollars each year if you simply cut back on that morning latte,” says Julie Curran, Regional President, BMO Harris Bank. “You’ll be amazed how quickly the savings add up.”

Source: BMO Harris branch.

Retirement – Beth Paisley – Real Estate – Winchester Virginia

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Considering Making a Move to Winchester VA?

When you’re thinking about making a move, the first steps in the home buying process are:

* Deciding when you want to make your move
* Considering how much money you would like to spend
* Thinking about what type of home you would like
* Deciding where you would like to live
What type of home are you looking for? There are so many choices that it is important to have an idea of what you want and need before you begin looking. Consider making a checklist of amenities that are essential and those you would like to have in your new home.

The list below may help you clarify your thinking on what is important to you when you are ready to purchase.

* What neighborhood(s) would you like to live in?
* What price range do you have in mind?
* What type of home interests you? (one-story, two-story, split-entry, townhouse, condo, duplex)
* What style appeals to you? (contemporary, traditional, no preference)
* Are schools a factor?
* Do you need to be close to public transportation?
* How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How many do you want?
* What other interior features are important to you? (separate family room, formal dining room, home office, etc.)
* What about exterior features? Have you considered a garage, yard size, patio/deck, hot tub, view, or waterfront?
* Are there any special features you are looking for in a home?

The next step is usually finding out how much you can qualify for and deciding the type of financing that will work best for you.

If you’re in the “thinking about it” stage, you will want to speak with a lender about receiving pre-qualification. If you choose to become pre-qualified, the lender will determine how much you can borrow based on financial information you provide to the lender. Pre-qualification is useful for making preliminary decisions about how much home you can afford, but does not assess your creditworthiness. You will need to fill out a loan application and go through the lender’s loan approval process at a later date.

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Reducing closing stress

Keep Your Home Purchase on Track

By: G. M. Filisko

Published: March 30, 2010

You’ve found your dream home. Make sure missteps don’t prevent a successful closing.

1. Be truthful on your mortgage application

You may think fudging your income a little or omitting debts when applying for a mortgage will go unnoticed. Not true. Lenders have become more diligent in verifying information on mortgage applications. If you fib, expect to be found out and denied the loan you need to fund your home purchase. Plus, intentionally lying on a mortgage application is a crime.
2. Hold off on big purchases

Lenders double-check buyers’ credit right before the closing to be sure their financial condition hasn’t weakened. If you’ve opened new credit cards, significantly increased the balance on existing cards, taken out new loans, or depleted your savings, your credit score may have dropped enough to make your lender change its mind on funding your home loan.

Although it’s tempting to purchase new furniture and other items for your new home, or even a new car, wait until after the closing.
3. Keep your job

The lender may refuse to fund your loan if you quit or change jobs before you close the purchase. The time to take either step is after a home closing, not before.
4. Meet contingencies

If your contract requires you to do something before the sale, do it. If you’re required to secure financing, promptly provide all the information the lender requires. If you must deposit additional funds into escrow, don’t stall. If you have 10 days to get a home inspection, call the inspector immediately.
5. Consider deadlines immovable

Get your funds together a week or so before the closing, so you don’t have to ask for a delay. If you’ll need to bring a certified check to closing, get it from the bank the day before, not the day of, your closing. Treat deadlines as sacrosanct.
More from HouseLogic

How maintenance adds to home values

Reducing closing stress
Other web resources

More on calculating closing costs

More on the closing process

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who wanted a successful closing on a Wisconsin property so bad that she probably made her agent rethink going into real estate. A frequent contributor to many national publications including, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

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10 Ways to Slash Winter Utility Bills

By Barbara Pronin

Cold weather is great for winter sports, but on the home front it brings higher utility bills as we try to stay snug and warm. Apart from making best use of the fireplace, it’s a natural and necessary expense. But there are steps we can take to save on gas and electricity even in the coldest days of winter.

Small steps can add up to worthwhile savings, according to consumer consultants at Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), who offer 10 tips for lowering utility bills:

Laundry – Washing your clothes at a lower temperature than usual saves energy and money.
Lights off – Train yourself (and the kids) to switch off the lights whenever you leave a room.
Light bulbs – Changing regular light bulbs for energy saving models can save up to 75 percent of electricity usage for each bulb.
Reducing drafts – Check for drafts around windows and doors. Filling them in won’t cost much but will help save big on utility bills.
Refrigerator – Every time you open the door, you make the fridge work harder. Be more efficient about how often you open it and how long you keep it open. Also, if you have hot food leftovers, cool them before refrigerating.
Cooking – Cooking larger portions and freezing leftovers for future use will reduce your total cooking time.
Tea time – When you put the kettle on, boil only as much water as you will need for a one-time use.
Showers – Showering for just a few minutes less will save a lot of energy – especially if the whole family does it.
Air filters- Make sure they fit properly and that you clean or replace them regularly.
Shut the door – Don’t heat the rooms you don’t use. Keep their doors closed and turn off the heating vents.

Beth Paisley – Real Estate – Winchester Virginia

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Winchester, Va.-W.Va.

Winchester, Va.-W.Va.

Winchester is the least populous metro area among the chosen markets, with a population of 128,472, though it had the second-highest jump in population over the last decade, up 24.7 percent.

Beth Paisley, a Realtor at Long & Foster/Webber & Associates in Winchester, attributes the population rise to home-price declines.

“Prices have dropped 50 percent from five years ago,” she said.

“Housing is more affordable (and) people are willing to drive to have more affordable housing,” she added.

The area’s median sales price in fourth-quarter 2010 was $161,000, down 5 percent year-over-year, according to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems (MRIS), a regional multiple listing service serving several states in the mid-Atlantic region.

Nonetheless, Winchester’s home values are expected to jump 62.7 percent in the next 10 years — the highest appreciation rate among the 10 markets. The area also has the second-highest expected 10-year ROI: 270.7 percent.

The Winchester area had the lowest unemployment rate among the 10 markets: 6.9 percent. Due to Winchester’s “location and close proximity to Washington, D.C., (and) Northern Virginia,” the area’s major employers are the federal government and government contractors, Paisley said.

About 10 percent of Paisley’s clients are investor buyers attracted to Winchester’s rental market and affordability, she said.

The median rental listing price in Virginia rose 6 percent between April 2010 and April 2011, according to HotPads.

Foreclosures are a major force in the Winchester market. The area had the second-highest share of foreclosure sales as a percent of all sales among the 10 markets in fourth-quarter 2010: 40.5 percent, according to RealtyTrac. That share rose 7.6 percent compared to fourth-quarter 2009.

Nationwide, 26.5 percent of overall sales were foreclosure sales in fourth-quarter 2010, according to RealtyTrac.

Median days on market for sold properties in March was 66 days, compared with 105 days for the mid-Atlantic region as a whole, according to MRIS.
Winchester, Va. -W.Va Metro U.S.
Population (2010) 128,472 308,745,538
% ch. population (2000-2010) 24.7% 9.7%
10-year projected population growth % 8.3%
Unemployment rate (March 2011) 6.9% 9.2%
% pt. chg. in unemployment rate (March 2011 vs. March 2010) -1.3% -1%
10-year projected job growth % 11.6%
Median sales price (Q4 ’10) $161,000 $175,000
% ch. median sales price (Q4 ’10 vs. Q4 ’09) -5% -2.8%
Median list price (March 2011) $156,950 $189,900
% ch. median list price (March 2011 vs. March 2010) -4.9% -4.8%
Projected 10-year appreciation % 62.7%
% homes affordable at median income (Q4 ’10) N/A 73.9%
SmartZip Affordability Index 130
Total cost of ownership/rent ratio 1.04
Share of foreclosure sales (Q4 2010) 40.5% 26.5%
% ch. share of foreclosure sales (Q4 2010 vs. Q4 2009) 7.6% 4.1%
Average foreclosure discount (Q4 2010) 23.8% 28.2%
% active loans noncurrent (as of March 31, 2011) 9.8% 12%
% active investor loans (as of March 31, 2011) 5.2% 5.5%
SmartZip InvestorScore 60
10-year return on investment (ROI) % 270.7%
Median age of inventory on in days (March 2011) N/A 108
Search ranking on (March 2011) N/A
Walk Score 62

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Home Inspection vs. Appraisal

Many people wonder about the difference between a property appraisal and an home inspection, and how each is used during the home buying process.

An appraisal is a formal assessment of the value of a home or property. When you are seeking financing, the lender usually requires an appraisal to ascertain the value of the property in order to make sure the loan amount does not exceed the value of the property being sold.

An inspection is an assessment of the systems and structural integrity of the property. It’s normally ordered and paid for by the buyer at the time of inspection to find any hidden problems with the property. An inspection is often written into the Purchase and Sale Agreement as a condition of the sale.

Please email or call me if you would like additional information or names and contact information of reputable local inspectors. I’m happy to help.

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How to Use Comparable Sales to Price Your Winchester Home

How to Use Comparable Sales to Price Your Home

By: Carl Vogel

Published: August 5, 2010

Before you put your home up for sale, use the right comparable sales to find the perfect price.

Knowing how much homes similar to yours, called comparable sales (or in real estate lingo, comps), sold for gives you the best idea of the current estimated value of your home. The trick is finding sales that closely match yours.
What makes a good comparable sale?

Your best comparable sale is the same model as your house in the same subdivision—and it closed escrow last week. If you can’t find that, here are other factors that count:

Location: The closer to your house the better, but don’t just use any comparable sale within a mile radius. A good comparable sale is a house in your neighborhood, your subdivision, on the same type of street as your house, and in your school district.

Home type: Try to find comparable sales that are like your home in style, construction material, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, basement (having one and whether it’s finished), finishes, and yard size.

Amenities and upgrades: Is the kitchen new? Does the comparable sale house have full A/C? Is there crown molding, a deck, or a pool? Does your community have the same amenities (pool, workout room, walking trails, etc.) and homeowners association fees?

Date of sale: You may want to use a comparable sale from two years ago when the market was high, but that won’t fly. Most buyers use government-guaranteed mortgages, and those lending programs say comparable sales can be no older than 90 days.

Sales sweeteners: Did the comparable-sale sellers give the buyers downpayment assistance, closing costs, or a free television? You have to reduce the value of any comparable sale to account for any deal sweeteners.
Agents can help adjust price based on insider insights

Even if you live in a subdivision, your home will always be different from your neighbors’. Evaluating those differences—like the fact that your home has one more bedroom than the comparables or a basement office—is one of the ways real estate agents add value.

An active agent has been inside a lot of homes in your neighborhood and knows all sorts of details about comparable sales. She has read the comments the selling agent put into the MLS, seen the ugly wallpaper, and heard what other REALTORS®, lenders, closing agents, and appraisers said about the comparable sale.
More ways to pick a home listing price

If you’re still having trouble picking out a listing price for your home, look at the current competition. Ask your real estate agent to be honest about your home and the other homes on the market (and then listen to her without taking the criticism personally).

Next, put your comparable sales into two piles: more expensive and less expensive. What makes your home more valuable than the cheaper comparable sales and less valuable than the pricier comparable sales?
Are foreclosures and short sales comparables?

If one or more of your comparable sales was a foreclosed home or a short sale (a home that sold for less money than the owners owed on the mortgage), ask your real estate agent how to treat those comps.

A foreclosed home is usually in poor condition because owners who can’t pay their mortgage can’t afford to pay for upkeep. Your home is in great shape, so the foreclosure should be priced lower than your home.

Short sales are typically in good condition, although they are still distressed sales. The owners usually have to sell because they’re divorcing, or their employer is moving them to Kansas.

How much short sales are discounted from their market value varies among local markets. The average short-sale home in Omaha in recent years was discounted by 8.5%, according to a University of Nebraska at Omaha study. In suburban Washington, D.C., sellers typically discount short-sale homes by 3% to 5% to get them quickly sold, real estate agents report. In other markets, sellers price short sales the same as other homes in the neighborhood.

So you have to rely on your REALTOR’s® knowledge of the local market to use a short sale as a comparable sale.
More from HouseLogic
What You Must Know About Home Appraisals

6 Reasons to Reduce Your Home Price

What’s the Value of a View? Research from Texas Christian University

Carl Vogel, a freelance writer and former editor of The Neighborhood Works magazine, lives in a home in Chicago that is not typical of those nearby, so he appreciates a savvy comp.

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10 Inside Tips From a Designer Who Specializes in Small Baths

10 Inside Tips From a Designer Who Specializes in Small Baths

By: Dona DeZube

Published: December 27, 2012

A New York City designer shares secrets to making a small bath both functional and beautiful.

Got a small bathroom to renovate? Go wild with texture and colors if it’s a rarely used guest bath, but stick to clean and simple in a master bath.

That’s the word from designer Jamie Gibbs, who transforms incredibly small New York City bathrooms into beautiful spaces. “I liked being shocked by details in a little space, especially if it’s not going to be used much,” Gibbs says.

His small-bath secrets:

1. Avoid textures in bathrooms that get daily use. In a heavily used bathroom, anything with texture becomes a collection spot for mold, mildew, and toothpaste. Say no to carved vessel sinks or floor tile with indentations.

2. Be careful with no-enclosure showers with drains right in the floor. These Euro showers allow for a feeling of openness, but the average American contractor doesn’t know how to waterproof the floor for them, Gibbs says. The tile seals can be compromised if not installed correctly, causing the materials to decompose, and water to leak underneath.

3. Use opaque windows and skylights to let light filter into all parts of the bath. A long skinny window with frosted glass means you don’t have to burn high-wattage light bulbs. Make sure water condensation will roll off the window into an appropriate place (i.e. not the framing or the wall) to avoid future maintenance issues.

4. Look for fixtures that have a single handle rather than separate hot and cold taps. “Space-saving gearshift faucets are a very good choice in small bathrooms,” says Gibbs. You’ll also save money by not having to drill holes in the countertop for the hot and cold taps.

5. Save space with wall-mounted toilets and bidets, but be aware that the water tank goes into the wall. That’s fine if space is such a premium that you won’t mind going into the wall to make any repairs. But if you share a wall with a neighbor, that’s a different issue.

6. Use a wall-mount faucet to make a reduced-depth vanity work in a small space. “I can get away with a 22” vanity instead of a 24” vanity with a wall mount faucet,” Gibbs says.

7. Check the space between the handles and the faucet of any space-saving fixtures. “If you can only get a toothbrush in it to clean, you’ll save space, but it’s functionally stupid,” Gibbs says. Make sure the sink is functional, too. If you’re using a vessel sink, make sure it’s large enough and not too high. “If it’s too high, you’ll knock it so many times that the fittings will come loose,” Gibbs says.

8. A pedestal sink is all form and no function. “It’s a great-looking sink, but there’s no place to [set] anything,” Gibbs says.

9. Wall-mounted vanities seem like they’re space savers, but they create dead space between the vanity and the floor — a space that often accumulates junk and never gets cleaned.

10. If you’re comfortable with it, go European and put up a glass walls between the bathroom and bedroom to create the illusion of space. Or put bathroom fixtures in the bedroom just outside the bath.

Beth Paisley-Realtor Winchester Virginia

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What should you look for when walking through a home in Winchester?

*Is there enough room for both the present and the future?
*Are there sufficient bedrooms and bathrooms?
*Is the house structurally sound?
*Do the mechanical systems and appliances work?
*Is the yard big enough?
*Do you like the floor plan?
*Will your furniture fit in the space? Is there enough storage space? (Bring a tape measure to better answer these questions.)
*Does anything need to be repaired or replaced? Will the seller repair or replace the items?
*Imagine the house in good weather and bad and also in each season. Will you be happy with it all year round?
*Do you have any questions on buying a home? Give me a call, send me an email or visit my website. With my help you’ll never be caught off-guard or left in the dark when it comes to real estate.

I look forward to providing you with the best home, for the best price, at the time you decide is best.
Beth Paisley – Winchester VA Real Estate

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7 Ways To Improve Your Home’s Sell-ability

In this economy, houses aren’t selling like they used to. However, there are some ways to improve the chances of selling your house. If you have a house on the market, or are considering it, read on for seven tips that will make it easier to sell your house and make a smooth transition from one owner to the next. (Learn more in Selling Your Home In A Down Market.)

Maintain Neutrality
This policy has worked for Switzerland, and it can also work in real estate. Customizing your home is great if you plan to stay there, but extreme colors and themed rooms can scare off potential homebuyers. If you have customized every room with extremely bright or dark colored paint, wallpaper or wall fixtures, you may want to consider toning it down a bit. Using neutral colors on the walls can help prospective buyers create their own vision for the house, and will also leave them with less work to undo if they buy the house.

Less Is More
Even though you have not moved out yet, removing some of your furniture can help the house move off the market. If you take pictures for your listing, having less furniture can help the home appear more spacious. When potential homebuyers arrive, having less furniture can also provide clear walkways.

That New House Smell
Honestly, the new house smell isn’t always the most pleasant, but at least it is new. In preparing to show your home, you should avoid strong smells. To avoid odors, make sure to take out the trash and clean the refrigerator regularly. It is also good to be mindful of what you cook in the days leading up to a showing since certain foods have strong scents. If you have pets, keep an eye on the litter box. Any smell that is too strong could send potential homebuyers running out the door.

Pay Attention to the Details
It is not a good idea to make major renovations when you are ready to sell your home because you may not recoup your investment. If you never got around to starting or completing that total kitchen or bathroom makeover, then you can make some small, inexpensive changes to spruce things up. Replacing the hardware on cabinets is a quick way to improve the appearance of older looking fixtures. Upgrading small items such as light switch and outlet covers can also add a nice touch.

Maximize Your “Curb Appeal”
The front of your home is the first thing prospective home-buyers will see, so keeping it presentable is a must. If there is a yard, keep the grass to a reasonable height and if there are trees, be sure to keep the branches under control. The path to your front door should be a clear and welcoming one, not an obstacle course!

Don’t Get Too Personal
Upon entering your house, everyone will know it is lived in, but they do not need to see all the evidence. Get rid of excess clutter such as newspapers, magazines, and mail. Be sure to put away your laundry and shoes. It may also be a good idea to put away some other personal belongings like pictures on the refrigerator or mantle. For you, the pictures may make a house a home or display your personal touch. For the new homeowner, it may appear too personal.

Take Care of Repairs
Waiting to make repairs until after you find a buyer can be tricky. Depending on the nature of the repairs, you may not be able to find a buyer. Depending on how fast the buyer wants to close on the house, you may not have enough time to make the repairs. Save yourself some time and potential trouble, by making repairs before you list your home. The repairs will have to be made anyway, so it is better to get them out of the way sooner rather than later.

First impressions can make the difference between a sale or no sale. Keeping things simple can give you a leg up on similar houses on the market.

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4 Easy-Living, Universal Design Tips for Any Home

Here are some tips to get you started on incorporating universal design features in your home.

Universal Design-friendly lever handle on an interior door

Lever-style door handles are easier to use than knobs, and they can even contribute to the value of your home. Image: Baldwin Hardware

One of the basic principles of universal design, also called ageless design, is that it makes homes more practical and safer for everyone — not just the elderly or people with limited mobility.

These days, universal design features are an everyday fact of life for many households, with architects and other professional designers adding universal design ideas as a matter of course.

You don’t have to be a pro designer to incorporate this smart thinking into your own home. If you’re remodeling or simply adding a few upgrades, be sure to keep universal design features in mind. There are lots of resources that’ll give you some great starting points.

As we remodel our 1972 ranch-style house (we’re on the multi-year, budget-as-you-go plan), my wife and I have incorporated several low-cost, easy-to-do UD features. A few of our favorites:

1. Switch out doorknobs for lever-style handles. Doorknobs require lots of dexterity and torque to open; with levers you simply press and go.

Makes sense for folks with arthritis, of course, but think about an emergency situation when everyone, including small kids, needs to exit fast: A lever handle is a safe, foolproof way to open a door.

A big plus: Levers are good-looking and can contribute to the value of your home. A standard interior passage door lever in a satin nickel finish costs about $20; you’ll pay $25 to $30 for a lockable lever set for your bath or bedroom. Replacing door hardware is an easy DIY job.

2. Replace toggle light switches with rocker-style switches. Rocker switches feature a big on/off plate that you can operate with a finger, a knuckle, or even your elbow when you’re laden with bags of groceries.

Rocker switches are sleek and good-looking, too. Ever notice how conventional toggle switches get dirt and grime embedded in them after a couple of years? No more! You’ll pay $2 for a single-pole rocker switch, up to $10 for multiple switch sets.

3. Anti-scald devices for your bathroom prevent water from reaching unsafe temps. An anti-scald shower head ($15) reduces water flow to a trickle if the water gets too hot. An anti-scald faucet device ($40) replaces your faucet aerator and also reduces hot water flow.

Anti-scald valves — also known as pressure-balancing valves — prevent changes in water pressure from creating sudden bursts of hot or cold water. An anti-scald valve ($100) installs on plumbing pipes inside your walls. If you don’t have DIY skills, you’ll pay a plumber $100 to $200 for installation.

4. Motion sensor light controls add light when you need it. They come in a variety of styles and simple technologies. I like the plug-in sensors ($10 to $15). You simply stick them into existing receptacles, then plug your table or floor lamps into them. When the sensor detects motion, it turns on the light.

They’re great for 2 a.m. snacking, or if your young kids are at that age when they migrate into your bed in the middle of the night. The lights turn off after about 10 minutes if no more motion is detected.

Read more:

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