New Year, New Home? Set Homeownership Goals Whether You’re Buying, Selling, or Staying Put
The start of a new year always compels people to take a fresh look at their goals, from health and career to relationships and finance. But with historically low mortgage rates, increased home sales and price growth, and a tight housing inventory, the time is right to also make some homeownership resolutions for 2021.
Home buyers, is this the year you work to improve your credit score, pay down some debt, or save for a down payment?
Home sellers, we’ve laid out plans for you to get top dollar for your property, including timing your home sale, making your property stand out from the crowd, and investing in your extra living space.
And even if you’re staying put for awhile, homeowners, you can resolve to improve your status quo by evaluating your home budget, finalizing your home maintenance schedule, or maybe investing in a second property.
So no matter your homeownership status, we’ve got some ideas and advice for you to make this year your best one yet. Read on to learn more.
Resolution #1: Qualify for a better mortgage with a higher credit score.
Your credit report highlights your current debt, bill-paying history, and other key financial information. Importantly for your home-buying journey, it is also used by lenders and companies to calculate your credit score, which partly determines if you are qualified to obtain a mortgage. Therefore, before you start house-hunting, make sure your finances are in the best possible shape by checking your credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion (via AnnualCreditReport.com). You can also obtain your credit score for free from some banks and credit card companies.
Your credit score will be a number ranging from 300-850.1 Generally speaking, a credit score of 740 or higher is considered very good to excellent.2 If your FICO score drops below 740, you might need to work at boosting your score for a few months before you begin house-hunting. Ways to do this are to pay your bills on time every month, keep your credit card balances low, and avoid applying for new credit.
Resolution #2: Improve your credit health by paying down debt.
Do you have student loans, credit card debt, or car payments tying up your income each month? That debt is hurting your “buying power,” or the amount of home you can afford. Not only is it money that you can't spend on your new home, but your debt-to-income ratio also affects your credit score, which we discussed above. The less debt you have, the higher your FICO score and the better mortgage you can obtain.
If you can, pay off some debt in its entirety—like a low balance on a credit card. Then apply that "extra" money you previously paid on that credit card to pay off bigger debt, like a car loan. Even if you can’t pay off all (or any) of your debt in full, reducing the balances of each account will help you qualify for the best possible mortgage terms.
Resolution #3: Create a financial safety net before applying for a mortgage.
Don’t forget that buying a home requires some cash as well. A down payment is typically 7% of a home’s purchase price, and closing costs currently average $3,700.3,4 You’ll also need money for moving expenses and any initial maintenance tasks that might pop up. And as the pandemic taught us, you never know when an unforeseen event might cause a job loss, drop in income, or health scare, so having some liquid savings will ensure that you can still pay your mortgage if a crisis occurs.
Dedicate some effort to building up your reserves. Cut down on unnecessary expenses, and consider having a portion of each paycheck automatically deposited into your savings account to avoid the temptation to spend it.
Resolution #4: Decide on the right time to sell your home.
If you’re looking to maximize profit on the sale of your home, selling earlier in the year makes sense. Listing prices historically increase early in the year, peak in May, plateau through June, and decrease for the remainder of the year.5 And, according to the National Association of Realtors, “[w]ith both mortgage rates and the number of homes available for sale expected to remain relatively low, home prices are likely to continue to increase. [In] mid-January, home prices typically begin a quick ramp-up in a normal year.”5
But sales price isn’t the only thing to consider. You might not be ready to sell your home yet because you don't want to uproot your kids during the school year or because you need to tackle some minor upgrades before placing your home on the market.
This means that there is no one month or season that is the perfect time to sell your home. Instead, the right timeline for you takes into account factors such as when you’ll earn the highest profit, personal convenience, and whether your home is even ready to put on the market. A trusted real estate professional can talk you through your specific needs to clarify when to sell your home.
Resolution #5: Boost your home’s resale value by making your property shine.
Housing inventory is at historic lows across the country, and that means the market is fiercely competitive.6 Selling your home in 2021 has the potential to net you a huge return right now, and you can maximize that amount with some simple fixes to make sure your property outshines your neighbors' for sale down the street.
In your home, you might need to tackle a minor remodeling project, such as upgrading the flooring or adding a fresh coat of paint. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, simply refinishing existing hardwood floors recoups 100% of the cost at resale, and completely replacing it with new wood flooring recovers 106% of costs.7
Outside, you might consider improving your curb appeal by removing a dead bush, trimming a tree that blocks the front window, or power-washing your moldy driveway and sidewalks. In fact, real estate agents say cleaning the exterior of your house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to a home’s sale price.8 And according to a Virginia Tech study, improving a home’s landscaping may increase its value by 10 to 12%.9
A good agent should provide custom-tailored suggestions to ensure your property pops inside and out. Ask us about our local insider secrets that will make your home stand out from others on the market.
Resolution #6: Invest in your “extra” living space to meet current buyers’ needs.
Due to COVID-19, more people are staying at home to work, go to school, exercise, and stay entertained. And these lifestyle changes are showing up in home buyer preferences. For example, according to one study, buyers are looking more and more for homes with formal, outfitted home offices, private outdoor spaces, and updated kitchen appliances.10
So if you’ve got an underutilized room, consider turning it into an office, home gym, schoolroom, or multi-purpose room to meet current home buyer needs and attract better offers on your home. Got some underwhelming space outside? You could turn it into an outdoor entertainment area by adding a firepit, upgrading the patio furniture, or installing a grilling area. Be sure to consult with a local real estate professional before investing in a renovation, however, as each market’s buyers have different tastes.
Resolution #7: Evaluate your household budget to reflect financial changes.
After this past year, in particular, your financial picture may have changed. Maybe you were furloughed, had your hours reduced, or got a new job further from home. Perhaps you’ve kept the same job, but you’re now working remotely. A work-from-home arrangement could mean less money spent on gas, tolls, a professional wardrobe, and dining out for lunch.
But this could also mean new (or increased) expenses now that you’re working at home, such as new tech-related purchases, faster Wi-Fi, and higher energy bills. January marks the perfect opportunity to update your income and expenses and review last year’s spending habits, tweaking as needed for 2021.
For more specific ideas, contact us for our free report "20 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Your Household Budget."
Resolution #8: Save money now (and earn more later) with a home maintenance plan.
Having a schedule of regular home maintenance projects to tackle will save you money now and in the long-term. You’ll avoid some surprise “emergency fixes,” and when you’re ready to eventually sell your home, you’ll get higher offers from buyers who aren’t put off by overdue repairs.
Even if nothing necessarily needs fixing right now, you can lower your energy costs by maintaining and upgrading your home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, simple fixes add up: replace five most frequently used bulbs with ENERGY STAR ones to save $75/year; repair leaky faucets to save $35/year; replace older toilets with low-flow models to save $100/year; and seal air leaks to save $83-$166/year.11
For a breakdown of home maintenance projects to tackle throughout the year, contact us for our free report “House Care Calendar: A Seasonal Guide to Maintaining Your Home.”
Resolution #9: Invest in real estate for a better standard of living.
Even if you don’t plan on leaving your current residence, real estate is a great way to improve your quality of life in 2021.
Have cabin fever from the long quarantine? A vacation home in a getaway location you love lets you safely spread your wings. And if you have been looking for a second stream of income, an investment property might be your answer. Just be sure to consult with a real estate professional to get a realistic sense of a property’s true income potential.
Want more information on how a second property fits into your 2021 plans? Request our free report, "Move Up vs Second Home: Which One Is Right For You?"
LET US HELP YOU WITH YOUR 2021 GOALS
Without a plan and a support system, 55% of Americans will break their new year’s resolutions.12 Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or stay put in your home, it helps to connect with a trusted real estate agent to keep you motivated and on track.
As local market experts, we have the knowledge, experience, and networks to help you achieve your homeownership goals, whatever they may be. Reach out to us today for a free consultation and commit to a happy and prosperous new year.
1. USA.gov -
7. National Association of Realtors -
9. Virginia Cooperative Extension -
11. U.S. Department of Energy -
Does “Aging in Place” Make the Most Sense?
Does “Aging in Place” Make the Most Sense? | MyKCM
A desire among many seniors is to “age in place.” According to the Senior Resource Guide, the term means,
“…that you will be remaining in your own home for the later years of your life; not moving into a smaller home, assisted living, or a retirement community etcetera.”
There is no doubt about it – there’s a comfort in staying in a home you’ve lived in for many years instead of moving to a totally new or unfamiliar environment. There is, however, new information that suggests this might not be the best option for everyone. The familiarity of your current home is the pro of aging in place, but the potential financial drawbacks to remodeling or renovating might actually be more costly than the long-term benefits.
A recent report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS) titled Housing America’s Older Adults explained,
“Given their high homeownership rates, most older adults live in single-family homes. Of the 24 million homeowners age 65 and over, fully 80 percent lived in detached single-family units...The majority of these homes are now at least 40 years old and therefore may present maintenance challenges for their owners.”
If you’re in this spot, 40 years ago you may have had a growing family. For that reason, you probably purchased a 4-bedroom Colonial on a large piece of property in a child-friendly neighborhood. It was a great choice for your family, and you still love that home.
Today, your kids are likely grown and moved out, so you don’t need all of those bedrooms. Yard upkeep is probably very time consuming, too. You might be thinking about taking some equity out of your house and converting one of your bedrooms into a massive master bathroom, and maybe another room into an open-space reading nook. You might also be thinking about cutting back on lawn maintenance by installing a pool surrounded by beautiful paving stones.
It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? For the short term, you may really enjoy the new upgrades, but you’ll still have to climb those stairs, pay to heat and cool a home that’s larger than what you need, and continue fixing all the things that start to go wrong with a 40-year-old home.
Last month, in their Retirement Report, Kiplinger addressed the point,
“Renovations are just a part of what you need to make aging in place work for you. While it’s typically less expensive to remain in your home than to pay for assisted living, that doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk to stay put. You’ll still have a long to-do list. Just one example: You need to plan ahead for how you will manage maintenance and care—for your home, and for yourself.”
So, at some point, the time may come when you decide to sell this house anyway. That can pose a big challenge if you’ve already taken cash value out of your home and used it to do the type of remodeling we mentioned above. Realistically, you may have inadvertently lowered the value of your home by doing things like reducing the number of bedrooms. The family moving into your neighborhood is probably similar to what your family was 40 years ago. They probably have young children, need the extra bedrooms, and may be nervous about the pool.
Before you spend the money to remodel or renovate your current house so you can age in place, let’s get together to determine if it is truly your best option. Making a move to a smaller home in the neighborhood might make the most sense.
Overcoming Sugar Addiction
As we all know, eating large amounts of sugar is anything but wholesome for the body, especially when refined or processed. Though, for whatever reason, we find it hard to resist these sweets and that’s truly because it is everywhere. Whether we are consuming sweet desserts, snacks or drinks, studies have finally shown that sugar is in everything. Not only is this the case, but it has been found to have actual addictive properties which makes it even harder to say no to them. Just like a person with a drug addiction, once we stop consuming sugar, our body immediately craves it.
So how do we control these intense cravings? Just in time for the holiday season, we will teach you what’s actually going on in the body when we eat sugar and learn how to realistically control your addiction to it.
What is Sugar?
Processed (Refined) V. Natural (Unrefined) Sugar
Processed sugars are exactly what they sound like. They are smaller molecules of sugar that have been processed or broken down, allowing them to be absorbed into the blood at a very quick rate, shooting our blood sugar levels high. Examples of refined sugar include processed, white sugar, white flour, and fructose corn syrup.
On the other hand, natural sugar has been left in its raw form. Some great examples of natural sugar include honey, agave, and fruit. Typically, this type of sugar is much higher in fiber, water, and various nutrients such as antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Compared to refined sugars, natural sugars have a much lower number on the glycemic index scale. This means that natural sugar has less of an immediate impact on the bloodstream and slows down the typical “crashing” effect processed sugar delivers. All in all, if we’re going to sweeten anything we eat, choose this type of sugar.
Is All Sugar Created Equal?
As you could have guessed, not all sugar is created equal. This is because the simplicity of the structure of a sugar molecule determines how quickly it is broken down. Sugar is metabolized at different rates and we feel very different if we break it down too quickly.
What happens when we eat a big bowl of white pasta? We feel extremely full at first and then exhausted because our body is trying to utilize the sugar in the bloodstream and turn it into fuel.
Have you ever felt exhausted from eating an apple? Probably not.
How Does Sugar Affect The Body?
Sugar is considered an inflammatory food meaning it causes inflammation. It also increases your triglycerides and blood sugar levels in the blood. Sugar has been shown to promote cancer growth, diabetes, excess weight and obesity, metabolic syndrome, gastrointestinal illnesses, cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, tooth and gum decay, and even can cause acne. Aside from all the chronic health concerns, it is physiologically addictive. In 2008 studies confirmed sugar, in fact, is chemically addictive. Studies have even said that sugar can be 8x more addictive than the drug cocaine.
What Makes Sugar So Addictive?
Sugar is addictive because, just like other addictions, it causes a release of dopamine in the brain which is the primary neurotransmitter involved in addiction--it gives us the feeling of pleasure. When we stop eating sugar, we stop releasing dopamine. When we stop releasing dopamine, the feeling of pleasure ceases and we begin having the withdrawal effects. What do we do to get those feelings of pleasure back? We eat more sugar and become dependent on it to feel pleasure and happiness.
What’s even scarier – people who consume sugar often develop a tolerance to it, causing you to need more to actually feel the pleasure effects.
So, what do you think? Is sugar actually addictive? The answer is clearly yes, due to the withdrawal & dependency effects it has on the body when we stop eating it. The amount of addictiveness sugar has on a person depends on you and your personality. Therefore, it might affect some more people than others. (example: just because a person drinks alcohol doesn’t automatically make them an alcoholic)
Tackling Sugar Addiction
How do we stop giving into sugar cravings and ultimately stop the development of a sugar craving all together?
Become an investigator - Identify sources of sugar in your intake and make a conscious effort to reduce this as much as possible. This means you will need to read nutrition labels on all foods.
Reflect - Find out how much you really are consuming on a daily basis. Keep a journal or utilize food logging apps like MyFitnessPal and Loseit.
Identify the foods you are addicted to - What I like to call “trigger foods”. Each person will be different. Common symptoms of sugar withdrawal include: irritability, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, and feeling foggy.
In the future, in public sugar situations like a holiday party - Ask yourself “Am I really hungry or do I just feel a craving coming on?” This takes reflection but the more you understand yourself, the better you are able to know when a sugar craving is coming on.
Cut Out Sugar Completely?
That can be pretty challenging, but we can definitely cut back on unnecessary refined sugars. The American Heart Association recommends the following maximum amounts of sugar that should be consumed in a day:
Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 cubes).
Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6.35 cubes).
The average American consumes 4 – 5x that amount every single day.
Tips for Conquering Your Sugar Cravings:
Find healthy swaps to your specific food cravings. Example: Dark chocolate chips in a handful of mixed nuts instead of a candy bar.
Pair natural sugar with lean protein and heart healthy fat. If you’re going to have an apple, cut it up with some heart healthy fat like peanut butter. This slows the breakdown of sugar and keeps you satisfied longer.
Hold-off for 15-20 minutes when sugar cravings hit - They come on suddenly, they’re very overwhelming and typically short lived. Distract yourself. If you must consume something, drink water but get out of the kitchen. Ask yourself am “I really hungry or am I just craving sweets?”
Purchase single serving foods you crave because completely cutting all foods out makes us want it more. This all or nothing mentality causes us to feel too restricted and leads to binge eating later, ultimately “falling off” the healthy lifestyle we are trying to build. Enjoy ice cream every once in awhile – go out, have it. Leave it there and come home. Do not keep tubs of ice cream in your fridge because you will eat it all. On the other hand, identifying trigger foods and eliminating them completely might be the best way to tackle cravings.
Have purposeful, scheduled snacks. Often times we go too many hours between meal times and end up overeating once we finally sit down. Purposefully snacking prevents this from happening. Keep snacks at your desk, in your purse, in the car etc. (in emergency to help tackle cravings and an unplanned schedule)
Become a nutrition facts label & ingredient list reader. Only 48% of consumers truly know how to read a nutrition facts label. Read the nutrition facts label to look out for total sugar and added sugar. READ THE INGREDIENT LIST to identify sources of added sugar and be able to tell the difference from natural sugar. Example: foods like yogurt, pasta sauce can be crazy high in sugar so you have to watch out.
Think about your drink. Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to the greatest source of added sugars in the diet and are completely empty calories. The body doesn’t seem to recognize calories very well when they’re delivered in liquids; you don’t feel as full. Suggestions for sweetening your food and drinks:
Sugar in the raw
Stevia (stevia in the raw)
Truvia or truvia nectar (half honey and half stevia)
Honey or agave (natural but lower GI than white sugar/flour)
In conclusion, take a closer look at what you are currently eating to see where you can eliminate unhealthy and unnecessary added sugars. Remember not all sugar is created equal. Choose natural sugar, like a banana, and pair it with healthy fats, like peanut butter or a lean protein (like greek yogurt) to manage your blood sugar levels. Sugar is added to almost everything so try to consume real food with minimal ingredients. A healthy lifestyle is not all or nothing when it comes to food. Take steps towards eliminating unnecessary sugar from your diet--your cravings will go down and you won’t need as much to feel/taste the sweet effects when you do have natural sugar.
If you feel like you need a plan to tackle your sugar addiction, or any aspect of your nutrition, consider nutrition counseling with a licensed and registered dietitian.
Allison Lesko RD LD
Licensed & Registered Dietitian
fit-flavors | Director of Nutrition
email@example.com | (314) 744-9048
Curious about local real estate? So are we! Every month we review trends in our real estate market and consider the number of homes on the market in each price tier, the amount of time particular homes have been listed for sale, specific neighborhood trends, the median price and square footage of each home sold and so much more. We’d love to invite you to do the same!
You can sign up here to receive your own market report, delivered as often as you like! It contains current information on pending, active and just sold properties so you can see actual homes in your neighborhood. You can review your area on a larger scale, as well, by refining your search to include properties across the city or county. As you notice price and size trends, please contact us for clarification or to have any questions answered.
We can definitely fill you in on details that are not listed on the report and help you determine the best home for you. If you are wondering if now is the time to sell, please try out our INSTANT home value tool. You’ll get an estimate on the value of your property in today’s market. Either way, we hope to hear from you soon as you get to know our neighborhoods and local real estate market better.