Tag: Holidays

Bundle Up! Winter’s Home-Buying Game Has Changed. Here’s How To Win

How to buy a house this winterViktoriia Hnatiuk / Getty Images

Savvy home buyers know that winter is typically a good time to embark on a house hunt, since much of their competition stays holed up at home until spring. But this winter, buyers might notice that despite the cold and the holidays, they’ve got company.

Lots of it, in fact.

“Normally winter is a good time for buyers,” says realtor.com® chief economist Danielle Hale. However, since the coronavirus kept buyers on lockdown for much of spring, many are making up for lost time by home shopping hard right now.

“This year’s unusual seasonal pattern means that buyers aren’t getting the usual break from the market frenzy that they typically do in the cooler weather,” Hale explains.

As a result, this winter is shaping up to be a seller’s market, with low real estate inventory, high prices, and bidding wars that could give buyers a major run for their money.

This doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel—just that you’ll have to hone your house hunt in new ways to suit the times. Here are some tactics that will keep you ahead of the pack so you’ll be sitting in a new home by the new year.

Secure your financing as soon as possible

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage and securing financing are an essential first step when buying a home. It gives you a clear picture of how much house you can afford, and lets you make an offer as soon as you find your dream home.

Matt van Winkle, a real estate broker and owner at Re/Max Northwest Realtors in Seattle, says this process is more important now than ever.

“Getting pre-approved for a loan is obviously important, but is there anything else they can do to put themselves in a good position?” he says. “Buyers need to be ready to buy a house before they start looking.”

Too often, buyers don’t line up their financing until they find a home they want to buy, van Winkle says. In the current competitive market, waiting to get pre-approval means you could lose out on purchasing a home you love.

“That creates a mad dash and stress to get everything lined up under pressure,” he says. “Get all your financing secured and ready before you look, that way when you find the right home you’re 100% ready.”

Starting early could also help you lock in an ultralow interest rate, which could affect your monthly mortgage payment and mean you could afford a more expensive home. As of Oct. 22, Freddie Mac listed rates at 2.8% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

Know what you want before you house hunt

COVID-19 has changed how we live and work. We’re spending much more time at home, and people are looking for different features in their living spaces.

Make a list of your must-haves before you start house shopping—and share your needs with your real estate agent.

Simon Isaacs, broker and owner of Simon Isaacs Real Estate in Palm Beach, FL, says it helps cut down on the number of homes you’ll have to view before finding the right one.

“I would suggest buyers not look at 25 homes,” he says. “If the agent is showing them that many houses, the agent doesn’t know what they want.”

In such a competitive landscape, knowing exactly what you want enables you to act fast when you want to make an offer.

Tour homes virtually first

More real estate agents are embracing virtual tours and remote showings to ease coronavirus safety concerns. In some cases, they’re even limiting in-person showings to the most serious buyers—those with financing already secured, for example.

“Real estate agents in our local market are adjusting to the client’s needs by continuing to provide in-person showings with precautions and also assisting buyers virtually with their home purchases,” says Matt Curtis, owner of Matt Curtis Real Estate in Huntsville, AL.

Virtual home tours, using Zoom or FaceTime, let you view the home from anywhere, and depending on the setup, you might be able to ask questions in real time. So you can narrow down the homes you’re most interested in and physically visit only the ones that best meet your needs.

Don’t dawdle if you want to make an offer

In September, there were nearly 40% fewer homes on the market than during the same month last year, according to a realtor.com report. At the same time, buyer demand has increased, creating an incredibly competitive marketplace. Homes were on the market for an average of 54 days in September, 12 fewer days than last year.

Tracy Jones, a real estate agent with Re/Max Platinum Realty in Sarasota, FL, says the buyers she’s worked with lately have had just a few homes to consider. And, with all the other buyers in a location also looking at those same houses, you’ll need to act fast if you’re interested.

The challenge, she says, is potential buyers have little time to mull things over, and they are pitted against one another.

Isaacs is seeing a similar situation. Wait too long to submit an offer, and another buyer is likely to swoop in with an offer of their own.

“I would say don’t deliberate on buying,” he says. “I’ve had too many clients who were [saying], ‘Should we, shouldn’t we.’ I would say if it’s something that you want to do, do it.”

Make your offer stand out

Since inventory is so low, sellers are getting multiple offers on their homes these days. To make sure yours gets accepted, you’ll need to make it stand out.

Cash offers and inspection waivers are some ways to make your offer more appealing, Curtis says.

A cash offer, if you can afford it, is attractive to sellers because it eliminates dealing with a mortgage lender and often speeds up closings. An inspection waiver comes with lots of risks, since you’re essentially agreeing to purchase a home as is, but the waiver removes any repair negotiations and helps you close faster.

For competitive markets, where you know you’ll be competing directly with many buyers, Jones suggests talking to your agent about escalation clauses. This is a contract addendum where you agree to pay more than other offers (up to a maximum you set).

Bottom line: “Find a strategy to help make your offer stand out amongst the 10, 20, or more offers that may come in on your dream home,” Curtis says.

The post Bundle Up! Winter’s Home-Buying Game Has Changed. Here’s How To Win appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Escape your home for a safe holiday staycation

With the 2020 holidays upon us, it’s likely you’ve spent some time considering how you’ll have a COVID-safe celebration. Should you stay? Should you go? Is travel to your family even an option this year as some states impose new travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine periods?

Perhaps for safety’s sake, you’ve decided to stay put. But you also recognize that being “home for the holidays” doesn’t have the same cozy appeal as it used to when you’ve already been home working from home for months on end. What you might need is a staycation – the getaway for when you can’t get away.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Stephanie a question.

Get away for the holidays without going away

Traditionally, when we think about holiday travel, we’re most likely planning how to get ourselves to a faraway destination – whether that’s to see family across the country, or to flee from some combination of family, holiday hustles and winter weather.

This year, I’ve personally decided I won’t be among the holiday crowds attempting to fly on the busiest travel days of the year. Instead, I’ll be sticking closer to home, celebrating in my own city with a staycation – and testing a theory that there is no place like a Hyatt for the holidays.

If you’re planning to stay close to home like me, here’s some good news: Your credit card points work just as well for living it up in luxury in your hometown as they do when you’re on the road.

Some more good news: You’ll save lots of points and dollars by not flying anywhere this holiday – so go ahead and book the suite!

How to use your credit card points to book a staycation

If you live in or near a city, finding a hotel to tuck into for a few days over the holiday period should be pretty straightforward.

To plan a staycation, I normally start by checking what’s available near me by searching the website for each of the hotel groups in whose loyalty programs I participate.

Here in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, I found plenty of options at varying price points when I looked up Marriott, IHG, Hilton and Hyatt – the four hotel programs in which I currently have points.

For example, a few weeks ago, I decided to take an early holiday staycation at the Hyatt Centric Downtown Portland. I chose the hotel because of its location right in the middle of the city, and because Hyatt has a 25% points-back offer on award stays and free parking for The World of Hyatt Credit Card holders through the end of the year.

I paid 30,000 World of Hyatt points for a two-night stay, got 7,500 points back, and got upgraded to a suite thanks to my World of Hyatt elite status. Without points, the suite would have cost $355 dollars a night – plus the free valet parking saved me another $47 a day. I was able to get a $804 value for 22,500 rewards points. Even though I was less than two miles from my actual house, I felt a world away.

How to use travel rewards to book a staycation

If you don’t already have a hotel-branded rewards credit card for earning points in a specific hotel program like World of Hyatt, or if you live in a location where there aren’t many chain hotels, you’ll likely have more luck booking a staycation using travel rewards points.

You can book directly through the respective program’s travel planning portal. Flexible bank programs include Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou points.

Once you find a hotel you want to visit, and before you make the booking, you’ll want to check to make sure the hotel amenities that excite you for your staycation are going to be open and accessible.

Other than being snuggled up in a warm bed that I didn’t make myself, the best part of my staycation weekend at the Hyatt Centric Portland was the food.

Masia, the hotel’s signature restaurant designed by Portland’s award-winning Spanish chef Jose Chesa, was finally open and serving after a long COVID closure. Since I live in a city where indoor dining still hasn’t made a full comeback (and is now taking a pause for the holiday season), it was a rather delightful experience to spend two mornings lingering over a long breakfast.

If you’re booking more than a week in advance, you should also make sure your reservation is flexible or cancelable should your own plans change, or the COVID regulations in your state or county change and require the hotel to amend their offerings.

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Best Christmas Gifts For Kids Under $10

Best Christmas Gifts For Kids Under $10 is a post originally published on: Everything Finance – Everything Finance – Its all about Money!

The best Christmas gifts for kids don’t have to cost a fortune. Most kids love the idea of simply opening a mystery wrapped package for Christmas.

For the past few years, I’ve been getting my son a few bigger gifts that he’s wanted for Christmas. Then, I fill out the rest of his gift haul with some smaller gifts around $10 to $15 and it works out great. I’m a firm believer that you can still find meaningful, useful, and thoughtful gifts for kids without going overboard with your spending.

If you’re on a tighter budget this year, you can definitely find Christmas gifts for kids under $10. If you have multiple kids in your household or a lot of nieces or nephews, getting gifts under $10 per person could be a really helpful strategy.

Construction Toys – $9.99

One place to start for your younger kids is construction toys. This set will be a great way to help build your child’s construction collection because it comes with 6 trucks! The playmat not only protects them while playing but also provides road and grassy areas to help make everything more realistic for them. You’ll even get a few road signs for them to place on the mat. The toy trucks are non-toxic, strong, durable, plastic.  A few of the trucks are a mixer, bulldozer, and dumper truck.

LED Hover Soccer Ball – $9.99

A great alternative for soccer in the house without risking damage to furniture and other items. Winter in some parts of the country unfortunately means cold weather. So having an option like this can help your child practice sports even in the middle of Winter.

The toy is able to glide along the floor with the built-in fan. It works on many different indoor surfaces including carpet, tile, and hardwood flooring. So this gives you and your child a few different places to practice soccer. The LED lights at night help keep your child entertained even after dark. This toy is great for kids 3+ and requires 4 xAA batteries.

 

RELATED:  When and Where to Get the Best After Christmas Deals

Stepping Stone Craft – $7.99

Decorate the landscape around your home with a ceramic stepping stone! The 8.25 in stone can be the perfect affordable project for you and a child to take on. The stone comes with the paint and brush you’ll need to complete the project. Brainstorm some ideas and get to work. Get as wild as mixing painting colors to make the painting more fun. After painting the stone it will fit in great in a terrarium or outdoor garden. The stone can be a turtle, hedgehog, flower, butterfly, sun, or ladybug.

Princess Necklace Activity Set – $9.49

What little princess doesn’t love jewelry! The kit includes 5 Disney princess charms to help bring the necklaces together. Your child won’t be limited to just one look, because the necklace can be taken apart and made again as many times as they would like. The small beads are a choking hazard and not recommended for children under 3.

 

RELATED: Best Christmas Gifts For Under $20

Bluetooth Speaker Sunglasses- $7.00

https://www.fivebelow.com/products/bluetooth-traxx-wireless-speaker-sunglasses

Sunglasses can really help block out the sun on a sunny day. Well, these Bluetooth Speaker Sunglasses can be more than just that. A similar item elsewhere can easily add to over $35! Your kid can connect their favorite device and listen to music on the go while protecting their eyes from the sun. The glasses will come with a rechargeable battery and has a playtime of 2 hours before having to be recharged.

 

Air Dry Clay – $9.39

For kids to make their own ceramic-like craft pieces – you can add some paint to round out the gift so kids can paint their creations once the clay dries. It’s a way to be creative and put their talents to use. This may take a little guidance from parents, but as soon as they get used to it, they might be asked for some more.

RELATED: 4 Great Ways to Stretch Your Family Christmas Budget

Disney Matching Game – $9.99

Great for kids’ memorization skills. Get a game your princess will love. It has all her favorite Disney Princesses like Snow White, Jasmine, and Belle. This a game for the whole family to enjoy.


The best Christmas gifts for kids don't have to cost a fortune.
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Guess Who Board Game – $9.97

This game was really fun growing up. It’s a great way to have bonding time with your child. The only downside is it, is only a two-player game, but games do typically go pretty fast. You each take turns guessing until you find out the person they are hiding from you.

Fishing Game – $9.98

This is a popular game you’ll see at arcades, but it’s also an action-packed board game as well. Whoever collects the most fish wins. The game comes with 21 fish and 4 fishing poles. So anywhere from 1-4 players can play at once. The game can help improve hand-eye coordination as players try and collect as much fish as possible. The pond the fish are in does rotate to make the task of fishing even that more difficult.

LED Gaming Headset- $10.00

https://www.fivebelow.com/products/bugha-exclusive-led-gaming-headset-w-boom-mic-3-5mm-aux-in-pc-connector

Bugha is one of the biggest names in gaming. The gamer recently struck a deal with Five Below and has items including headsets, gaming mouses, and gaming speakers for sale. The boom mic included with the headset allows gamers to play with a clear sound. If your kids are in need of a new headset, this LED gaming one is an affordable option for you.

Buzz Lightyear Operation- $7.00

https://www.fivebelow.com/products/operation-disney-pixar-toy-story-buzz-lightyear-board-game

Another board game that you can add to your children’s Christmas list is Buzz Lightyear operation. In the game, Buzz seeks the help of games who can assist him in getting his body and spaceship back on track. The discount at Five Below makes a huge difference, with some other stores having the game cost around $20. Use the tweezers to help make repairs and avoid the buzzer! The game does require 2 AA batteries. It’s a game for 1 or more players and players should be 6+ years old.

Affordable Christmas Gifts Summary 

Christmas gifts can add up in a hurry. The best Christmas gifts are the ones your children absolutely love when they open. There is a way to do that and be affordable and that’s what we hope this list does for you. Not only are they great gifts, but gifts that won’t hurry your pocketbook too much. Most of them are things they can do with siblings or other family members.

 

What affordable gift ideas would you add to this list? 

 

 

 

Best Christmas Gifts For Kids Under $10 is a post originally published on: Everything Finance – Everything Finance – Its all about Money!

Source: everythingfinanceblog.com