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9 Ways to Share the Spirit of the Season—Starting From Home

Holiday Spirit

The holiday season is upon us, and many of us have already begun to celebrate. From trimming trees to lighting candles, it’s the time of year to fill your homes (and hearts) with holiday joy.

But there’s no need to stop at your front door. Let the spirit of the season radiate outward from your house into your community. Some homeowners hang outdoor lights and decorations to help make the neighborhood “merry and bright.” But that’s not the only way to share the magic of the holidays with others.

Not sure where to start? Check out these 9 inspirational ideas for spreading cheer far and near!

  

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

You probably don’t have to look far to find someone who could benefit from a gift or kind gesture this time of year. Try one (or all) of these ideas for sharing the season with those closest to home.

  1. Host a Holiday Party

Hosting a neighborhood holiday party is a great way to reconnect with old friends and welcome new families to the community. And it doesn’t necessarily require a huge investment of time or money. Plan a potluck dinner and ask your guests to bring a dish or drink to share. Or host a holiday cookie exchange and ask everyone to bring a couple dozen of their favorite cookie to swap with other guests. Hot cocoa and caroling is another great way to bring neighbors together to celebrate the season.

If you have a neighbor who you’ve been at odds with in the past, consider extending them an invitation, as well. It could be the perfect opportunity to make peace in the new year.

  1. Help a Neighbor in Need

The holiday season is the perfect time to offer help to a neighbor in need. Next time you head out to rake your leaves, take care of an elderly neighbor’s, as well. Or drop off dinner for a friend who is recovering from surgery.

If you know of someone in your community with a larger need, consider setting up a Care Calendar through a site like CareCalendar.org. Then share the link with other neighbors who may be interested in helping, too. Users can sign up to run errands, cook a meal, babysit, wash laundry, clean the house, mow the lawn, or complete other household tasks depending on the individual’s needs. Even a small gesture of kindness can make someone’s holiday extra jolly.

  1. Treat Your Mail and Package Carriers

Extend comfort and joy from your own front porch during your postal and package carriers’ busiest time of year.1While many of us love the convenience of shopping online for holiday gifts, the boom in e-commerce has exponentially increased the workload for our postal and package carriers, some of whom work up to 70 hours a week during the holiday season.2

You can help brighten their day by leaving a goody and note of gratitude in your mailbox or a basket of water and snacks by your front door. Attach a sign that says: “Thank you for working hard to deliver our holiday packages. Please take a treat to enjoy on your route!”

 

DON’T STOP AT YOUR STREET … BRING HOLIDAY CHEER TO EVERYONE YOU MEET

Surprise and delight those you encounter with a small act of kindness or a generous gesture. ‘Tis the season of giving, but the reaction you get in return may be the best gift of all!

  1. Overtip

Don’t be a Grinch when it comes to tipping at the holidays. Your waiter, your Uber driver, and your hairdresser will all appreciate an extra-generous tip this time of year.

International etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer recommends that you start by setting a budget for holiday tips and prioritizing those you most want to thank.3Place those who help you most frequently at the top of your list—such as your trusted housekeeper, nanny, or daycare provider. For those you regularly tip at the time service, consider frequency and length of the relationship to determine an appropriate amount.

Everyone could use a little extra cash around the holidays. If you can afford it, share a bit of your abundance with others.

  1. Thank Those Who Don’t Get a Holiday

Santa isn’t the only one working on Christmas. Emergency workers, hospital staff, airline employees, toll booth attendants, movie theater staff, and many others will be working to make your holiday safe and bright.

Say “thank you” by bringing breakfast to the firehouse or police station on Christmas morning or by dropping off a tray of goodies for the hard-working hospital staff on New Year’s Eve. Keep a stash of treats or coffee-shop gift cards on hand to pass out to those you encounter working over the holidays. And, if appropriate, a generous tip is always appreciated!

  1. Fill Stockings for the Homeless

Not everyone gets to go “home for the holidays.” You can bring a little cheer and comfort to a homeless person this year with a holiday care kit.

Pick up some inexpensive Christmas stockings from a craft store and fill them with a variety of useful items, such as:

  • Applesauce cup (and plastic spoon)
  • Baby wipes
  • Bandages
  • Bottled water
  • Beef jerky
  • Cereal or granola bar
  • Cheese or peanut butter crackers
  • Deodorant
  • Gloves
  • Lip balm
  • Lotion
  • Nail clippers
  • Socks
  • Tissues
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Tuna and crackers
  • Trail mix

As an added touch, include a sweet treat and a handwritten note wishing them a happy holiday. Hand the stockings out at a shelter or keep a stash in your car so you can offer one when you encounter someone in need.

 

SEND JOY TO THE WORLD BY BECOMING A SECRET SANTA

Reach beyond your sphere by sending some holiday magic out into the community. Surprise a stranger with an anonymous gift that’s sure to make their holiday shine.

  1. Offer Warmth on a Cold Day

As temperatures drop, some members of our community will be left out in the cold. Our local homeless population is especially vulnerable this time of year, but so are many families living in poverty. Health experts warn that a two-degree drop in body temperature can result in reduced heart rate, lack of coordination, and confusion, making it difficult for adults to work and children to learn.4

You can help by bringing your old but gently-used coats to a collection site. Leave a note in the pocket wishing the recipient a warm and happy holiday. Or tie a scarf around a tree and attach a sign that says: “I am not lost. If you need this to stay warm, please take it!”

Check with local homeless shelters to find out if they accept donations of old blankets. Well-worn blankets and towels can often be donated to an animal shelter to help keep four-legged friends warm this winter, as well.

  1. Pay Off a Stranger’s Layaway

Some large retailers offer layaway options during the holidays so that shoppers can pay for their purchases a little at a time. Media stories often surface this time of year about anonymous donors who pay off a stranger’s layaway account to the surprise and delight of the recipient.

This is a great way to help a family that may not qualify for charitable assistance but is on a limited budget for holiday gifts. If you have a particular interest in helping kids, you can ask to pay off an account that consists primarily of children’s items.

You don’t have to drop a bundle to become a family’s “Secret Santa.” Ask the layaway attendant to search for accounts with balances that fit within your budget. To make a bigger impact, ask friends and family members if they want to pitch in to help, too.

  1. Donate Toys to a Tot

One of the most popular ways to give back during the holidays is to participate in a toy drive. There are a number of great charities that collect toys for children of low-income families.

Before you shop, find out if the organization has a wish list of preferred items or guidelines for wrapping and labeling the gift. And check the drop-off deadline to ensure your gift will reach its intended recipient in time.

If you have children, involve them in the process of selecting and purchasing the gift so they can experience the joy of giving to those less fortunate, too.

One more easy way to support the community this year? Shop local! From locally-owned stores to service providers, please consider spending your holiday dollars here at home. We have an extensive network of local businesses and would love to recommend some of our favorites. Give us a call, and let us know how we can help!

 

Sources:

  1. NASDAQ –
    https://www.nasdaq.com/article/fedex-and-ups-deliver-another-record-holiday-season-cm898487
  2. The Kansas City Star –
    https://www.kansascity.com/news/business/workplace/article189245104.html
  3. Huffington Post –
    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sharon-schweitzers-2017-holiday-tipping-guide-checklist_b_5a037fc3e4b0c7511e1b398c
  4. One Warm Coat –
    https://www.onewarmcoat.org/theneed/

 

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What’s Up With Housing?

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Quartz countertops, induction cooking, and single-level islands are among the design trends that have the potential.
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If the expectations about housing in 2019 can be summed up in one word, it’s this: balanced. After months and months on a runaway track, home prices have started to temper, and will continue to moderate in the upcoming year.
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The administration wants to eliminate professional appraisals on home sale transactions less than $400K.  Critics say the change could push the country back toward the see-no-evil days of mortgage lending that preceded the housing crash.
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Privacy, flexibility and accessibility need to be at the top of the list when planning a household for aging parents or adult children.
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The recklessness that accompanied the build-up in equity prior to the last crash does not exist today. That makes this housing market much more secure than the one we had heading into 2008.
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Naturally, after years of transforming beach homes into their best selves, Marnie Oursler has learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t—and what the next big thing in coastal design really is.
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Though ONE St. Petersburg is not yet finished, some buyers hope to flip their units for hefty profits as Tampa Bay’s luxury condo boom continues unabated.


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What’s Up With Housing?

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Latest Florida Realtors data shows Single-family home sales up 8.5% year-over-year; condo-townhouse sales up 14.1%, due in part to rising inventory of active listings.
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Florida timeshare companies and exit companies are blaming each other for rising default rates, with the timeshare industry now lobbying lawmakers and regulators for policy changes.
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National flood insurance, like the 2018 hurricane season, ended at midnight last evening. Many observers predict another short-term extension for NFIP, but newly elected 2019 lawmakers may be more open to a long-term extension that also keeps rates affordable.
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This move could speed closings and reduce costs, but appraisers warn that automated processes are not as reliable.
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The federal agency that creates conventional loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will raise max amounts 6.9% – to $484,350 for most single-family 2019 loans.
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What’s Up With Housing?

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Millennials still show a preference for conventional loans. In Sept., 68% of all loans were conventional; 27% FHA and 2% VA, reports Ellie Mae, which says the industry should “educate these buyers on the options… available to them.”
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As home prices rose in the years before the Great Recession, complaints about a shortage of “workforce housing” became common in many communities throughout Florida. Those complaints are back again, with a vengeance. In most fast-growing areas of Florida — particularly in South Florida and Orlando — housing affordability for low- and moderate-income workers is a bigger issue than ever.
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The federal government’s clampdown on dirty money in luxury real estate markets in South Florida and other metropolitan areas is ramping up.
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Stackable apartments. Robotic valets. Infrared spas. The future has arrived, haltingly, and this time will be different. Maybe.
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Want to retire comfortably? Millennials should buy a home now, finds a ULI study. Those who postpone a purchase now to save money end up losing out later, because buying young nets a “big bang for the housing buck.”
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The 2018 Houzz Bathroom Trends Study finds homeowners are opting for showers over bathtubs in their master suites. And over half (56%) of baby boomer homeowners are addressing aging-related needs during master bathroom renovations.
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For the second consecutive month, sales and prices showed healthy year-over-year gains in October, with Pinellas County recording its biggest price jump — 13.3 percent — since January.
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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Friends,

The season has begun! And before we get too caught up in the excitement of the holidays, I want to pause a moment to offer a simple thank you. Your confidence, ongoing encouragement and new friendships enrich us all and help us appreciate our own many blessings. We are truly grateful for your continued support.

Best wishes to you and your family for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day,

Your Title Security Team


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What’s Up With Housing?

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Happy Thanksgiving

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Federal statistics show that Realtors are twice as likely as the general public to be victims of violent crime.
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Residential market is so strong that developers are changing plans for major projects to meet rising demand.
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Listing your house for sale in this low-competition environment could net you more money than your renovations otherwise would.
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The National Flood Insurance program expires again Nov. 30. According to NAR, about 1,300 home sales could be disrupted every day if so – 40K sales each month.
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Harvard report: Adults older than 50 own 50% of all U.S. homes, and many aren’t financially ready to retire with inadequate savings after the recent recession. Many may be forced to sell, especially if they carry a mortgage and unexpected bills come in.


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‘Tis the Season: 5 Reasons Why Winter is a Great Time to Buy or Sell a Home

It’s a common misconception that you shouldn’t try to buy or sell a home during the fall and winter months.

This is generally considered the “offseason” in real estate. Many sellers mistakenly believe that the cold weather will keep buyers away and that no one is looking over the holidays. Unfortunately, many real estate professionals perpetuate this myth by advising their clients to “wait until the spring” to list their home.

The truth is, homes are bought and sold year round. And while the market is typically quieter during the fall and winter, savvy buyers and sellers know how to use this slow down to their advantage. In fact, depending on your circumstances, now may be the ideal time for you to purchase or list a home.

If you’re in the market to buy or sell, there’s no need to wait for the spring. Read on to discover the top five reasons that it can pay to buy or sell a home during the offseason!

 

  1. LESS COMPETITION

What’s the number one reason to buy or sell a home during the offseason? Less competition!

This can be particularly beneficial if you’re a seller. Come spring, a huge wave of new listings will hit the market. But if you list now, you will have fewer comparable homes with which to compete.

In the spring and summer months, it can be difficult for your property to stand out in a crowded market. You may end up with a surplus of homes for sale in your neighborhood. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see multiple listings on a single street during the peak selling season.

Inventory in the fall and winter months, however, can be significantly lower. That means your home will not only receive more attention from buyers, but you may also gain the upper hand in your negotiations. In fact, research found that homes listed in the winter are nine percent more likely to sell, and sellers net more above asking price in the winter than any other time of year.1

Buyers also have a lot to love about the real estate offseason. While some buyers need to move during the winter, many bargain hunters search this time of year in hopes of scoring a great deal.

Smart buyers will continue to scan the market during the fall and winter for hidden gems that pop up during the offseason. There are always highly motivated sellers who need to sell quickly. And with less competition to bid against you, you’re in a better position to negotiate a great price. If you’ve been looking for a good deal on a home or investment property, now may be the best time to look!

So while a “slow market” may scare off some buyers and sellers, it can actually be the perfect time of year for you to list or purchase a home. While the rest of the market is hibernating until spring, take advantage of this opportunity to get a jump start on your competition!

 

  1. EVERYONE’S MORE MOTIVATED

During the spring and summer, you’re likely to encounter “lookie-loo” buyers who are just testing the waters and unrealistic sellers who are holding out for a better offer. But the serious buyers and sellers stay active during the cold weather and holiday season, often because they need to move quickly. In fact, research shows that homes listed in the winter sell faster than any other time of year.1

January and February are peak job hiring months, which brings a surge of buyers who need to relocate quickly to start a new job.2And of course life changes like retirement, marriage, divorce, and new babies come year round. While families often find it more convenient to move during the summer when school is out, the reality is that many don’t have the option to wait. According to the National Association of Realtors, 55 percent of all buyers purchased their home at the time they did because “it was just the right time,” not because of seasonal factors.3

If you prefer to deal with serious, highly-motivated buyers and sellers who want to act fast and don’t want to waste your time, then the offseason may be the perfect real estate season for you.

 

  1. GREATER PERSONAL ATTENTION

Another key benefit to buying and selling in the offseason is the increased personal attention you’ll receive.

While we strive to provide unparalleled client service throughout the year, we simply have more time available for each individual client during slower periods. Similarly, we find the other real estate professionals in our network—including title agents, inspectors, appraisers, insurance agents, and loan officers—are able to respond faster and provide more time and attention during the offseason than they are during the busy spring and summer months. The result is a quicker and more streamlined closing process for all involved.

 

  1. COST SAVINGS

Clients who move during the offseason often report significant cost savings. Moving costs may be discounted by 15 percent or more during the winter months, and moving companies can typically offer more flexibility in their scheduling.4

Home renovations and repairs can also be less expensive in the offseason.5 Whether you’re fixing up your property prior to listing it or remodeling your new home before moving in, contractors and service providers who are hungry for business are often willing to work for a discount this time of year. If you wait until the spring and summer, you may be forced to pay a premium.

Home stagers and decorators are also more likely to negotiate their fees during the winter. And you can often score great deals on new furniture and decor during the holiday sales.

Whether you’re buying or selling, count cost savings as another compelling reason to consider an offseason move.

 

  1. EASIER TO MAINTAIN CURB APPEAL

Finally, listing your home during the fall and winter offers one key—but often overlooked—advantage: less lawn maintenance!

Good curb appeal is crucial when selling your home. According to a recent report by the National Association of Realtors, 44 percent of home buyers drove by a property after viewing it online but did NOT go inside for a walkthrough.6That means if your curb appeal is lacking, buyers may never make it through the door.

If you list your home during the peak of the selling season, we will generally advise you to implement a frequent schedule of mowing, edging, watering, weeding, and trimming shrubs and hedges. You’ll probably want to plant flowers, as well, to brighten your exterior. After all, a lush landscape is a key element in attracting spring and summer buyers.

If you list in the offseason, however, your lawn maintenance list is significantly reduced. While we do recommend that our sellers keep their exterior clean, tidy, and free of leaves, snow, and ice, you will probably spend much less time on outdoor maintenance during the winter than you would if you listed your home in the summer.

 

ARE YOU READY TO MAKE YOUR MOVE?

Now that you know all the great reasons to buy or sell a home in the offseason, it’s time to decide whether you’re ready to make your move.

Every client’s circumstances are unique. Whether you needto move quickly or you simply wantto take advantages of all benefits this season has to offer, it’s a great time to enter the market.

Call a professional today to schedule a FREE consultation … and you could be ringing in the New Year in your new home!

 

Sources:

  1. Redfin –
    https://www.redfin.com/blog/2013/12/why-winter-is-the-hottest-time-to-sell-your-home.html#.VjKYm2SrTKI
  2. Top Resume –
    https://www.topresume.com/career-advice/the-best-times-of-the-year-to-job-search
  3. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/highlights-from-the-profile-of-home-buyers-and-sellers
  4. Angie’s List –
    https://www.angieslist.com/articles/why-winter-can-be-best-time-move.htm
  5. Build Direct –
    https://www.builddirect.com/blog/the-best-times-of-the-year-to-get-deals-on-home-remodels/
  6. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/reports/2017/2017-home-buyer-and-seller-generational-trends-03-07-2017.pdf