Tag: market

15 Home Business Ideas & The Free Courses You Need To Get Started

Are you looking for a work from home job or some at home business ideas?

If so, then I have a great list of free resources, such as courses and guides, that will help you find the best option and learn how to get started. Plus, all of the courses and guides in this article are free!

home business ideasIf you’re looking to make extra money, or even a full-time income, working from home is a great option. There are lots of realistic home business ideas that allow you to work on a flexible schedule.

In fact, around 50% of U.S. businesses are home based, and that number is expected to grow well into the future.

But, many people don’t know what kind of options are available or how to get started with their in home business ideas.

This article is a good starting point because I’m going to tell you about 15 different profitable home based business ideas and link to free courses, workshops, and guides that will help you kick off each of these ideas.

There are lots of valuable paid courses out there, but if you’re not sure about an idea, you might not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a course. That’s why free courses and guides are a great way to start.

You can learn more about each of these small business ideas, learn some of the basic skills, how much money you can earn, and more. You get to test these ideas a little bit before you invest a lot of time and money.

No matter what kind of business you decide to start, I think you’ll really enjoy starting one from home. 

I have been working from home since 2013, and I wouldn’t change it for anything! I absolutely love and enjoy running a business from home.

It has allowed me to travel full-time, save enough money to retire early, love what I do each day, and more.

Many people love running home based businesses for those reasons, but it also cuts your commute, allows you to earn money in your spare time, be your own boss, work on a flexible schedule, and more.

So, to help you get started, today I will explain some of the best small business ideas from home and which free online courses can help you get started.

Here is a quick list of the free work at home courses and resources I’m sharing:

  1. Selling Printables on Etsy Ebook
  2. Sell on Amazon Starter Course
  3. How To Start a Blog Course
  4. Build A Voiceover Action Plan From Scratch Minicourse
  5. Start An Online Advertising Business From Scratch
  6. Start Your Virtual Bookkeeping Business
  7. Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days
  8. General Transcription Mini-Course
  9. Become a Proofreader 76 Minute Webinar
  10. Court Transcript Proofreading Mini Course
  11. Podcast Virtual Assistant Workbooks
  12. Make Money Writing Romance Novels ecourse
  13. Pinterest Virtual Assistant Training Workshop
  14. Jumpstart Your Virtual Assistant Business
  15. Self-Publishing Your First Book

Below, I will be diving deeper into what each option is like, as well as more information about each of those free resources.

Below are 15 home business ideas.

 

1. Sell printables on Etsy.

Are you looking for a smart home business idea that allows you to use your creativity? Are you wondering “What can I sell from home to make money?”

If so, I recommend checking out this option. See, creating printables on Etsy can be a great side hustle because you just need to create one digital file per product, which you can then sell an unlimited number of times.

Printables are digital products that customers can download and print at home. Examples include grocery shopping checklists, gift tags, candy bar wrappers, printable quotes for wall art, and patterns.

You can sign up for this free ebook that helps you figure out where to start when it comes to selling printables on Etsy.

Related content on successful home business ideas:

  • 12 Passive Income Ideas That Will Let You Enjoy Life More
  • 15 Of My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed
  • 15 Outdoor Jobs For People Who Love Being Outside
  • 24 Of The Best Work From Home Jobs & How To Avoid Scams

 

2. Sell items on Amazon.

Yes, you can make money selling items on Amazon. Actually, this is one of the home business ideas with low start up costs because you can literally start selling items from around your house. Make money while you declutter your home, what’s not to love?!

The first year that my friend Jessica ran her Amazon FBA business, working less than 20 hours a week total, she made over $100,000 profit!

This free course shows you how to start a profitable Amazon business in a 9-part video course. You’ll learn:

  • The exact steps to follow to set up your Amazon Seller account
  • Two easy and affordable ways to find items to sell
  • How to choose profitable inventory that customers actually want to buy

Click here to sign up for the FREE Amazon FBA Starter Course!

 

3. Start a blog to work at home.

For obvious reasons, blogging is my favorite on this list of profitable home business ideas.

It is a business that allows me to travel full-time, have a flexible schedule, earn somewhat passive income, and more.

Blogging changed my life for the better, and it allows me to earn thousands of dollars a month, all by doing something that I love.

My blog was created on a whim as a way to track my personal finance progress. And when I first started my blog, I honestly didn’t even know that this was going to be one of the best small profitable business ideas out there. At least that’s been the case for me! 

You can easily learn how to start a blog with my free How To Start a Blog Course.

Here’s a quick outline of what you will learn:

    • Day 1: Reasons you should start a blog
    • Day 2: How to determine what to blog about
    • Day 3: How to create your blog (in this lesson, you will learn how to start a blog on WordPress – my tutorial makes it very easy to start a blog)
    • Day 4: How to make money blogging
    • Day 5: My tips for making passive income from blogging
    • Day 6: How to grow your traffic and followers
    • Day 7: Miscellaneous blogging tips that will help you be successful

 

4. Become a voice over actor.

A voice over actor is the person you hear but rarely see on YouTube videos, radio ads, explainer videos, corporate narration, documentaries, e-learning courses, audiobooks, TV commercials, video games, movies, and cartoons.

In 2014, Carrie Olsen replaced her salaried day job to become a full-time voice over actor. People are constantly asking her how she got her start and how they can too.

So, she created Build A Voiceover Action Plan From Scratch Minicourse — This free course will help you learn about becoming a voice over artist, even if you’re brand new!

 

5. Run Facebook ads for local businesses.

Did you know that you can make a living from Facebook? With Facebook advertising, you can help businesses expand their reach.

And, yes, this is a skill that you can learn without any prior experience in marketing or advertising.

The going rate for Facebook Ad management is $1,000 – $1,500 per month, per client.

Last year, business owners spent over $88,000,000 per day on Facebook ads. This is expected to continue to grow, and it is one of the largest advertising spaces that exists.

My friend Bobby Hoyt knows a lot about this topic. Bobby is a former high school teacher who paid off $40,000 of student loan debt in a year and a half. He now runs the personal finance blog Millennial Money Man full-time, as well as a digital marketing agency for local businesses that he started in 2015.

Bobby has a free webinar on this topic too. His webinar, Start An Online Advertising Business From Scratch, will teach you how to start this business even if you’re brand new, how to find paying clients, and more.

 

stay-at home business ideas

6. Start a bookkeeping business.

A bookkeeper is someone who tracks the finances of a business. They may handle payroll, billing and invoicing, etc.

These are all skills you can learn without being an accountant or having any previous experience.

Ben, from Bookkeeper Launch, helps people get started as bookkeepers even when they don’t have any experience. Ben is a CPA who founded his business after realizing that many businesses needed better bookkeepers. 

Start Your Virtual Bookkeeping Business will teach you more about running your own virtual bookkeeping business. You’ll learn:

  • Is a bookkeeping business for you?
  • What exactly is a bookkeeping business? What kind of work do they do?
  • How much money can you make as a bookkeeper?
  • How do you find clients?

 

7. Search for items to resell.

Have you ever found something that you thought you could resell to make a profit?

Melissa’s family earned $133,000 in one year by buying and selling items that they’ve found at thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets.

Some of the best flipped items that they’ve sold include:

  • An item that they bought for $10 and flipped for $200 just 6 minutes later
  • A security tower they bought for $6,200 and flipped for $25,000 just one month later
  • A prosthetic leg that they bought for $30 at a flea market and sold for $1,000 on eBay the next day

This is one of the home business ideas that anyone can start because you can start off selling things in your own house — I know we all have lots of stuff in our house that we could stand to get rid of. Then once you get a feel for the work, you can start purchasing items to resell.

Melissa has a great free webinar, Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days, that will help you learn how to make money by flipping items.

 

8. Transcribe audio or video content into text.

Transcription is when you turn audio or video content into a text document. You listen to what’s being said and type it up.

There are many businesses looking for transcriptionists too – since general transcriptionists convert audio and video to text for virtually any industry, there really isn’t a typical client. Some examples include marketers, authors, filmmakers, academics, speakers, and conferences of all types.

Beginning transcriptionists earn around $15 an hour and it goes up from there.

You can learn more in the Free General Transcription Mini-Course. In this course, you will learn what it takes to become a transcriptionist, how much money you can earn, how you can find jobs, and more.

 

9. Become a general proofreader.

Proofreading is one of the most flexible and detail-orientated home business ideas that work. All you need to work as a proofreader is a laptop or tablet, an internet connection, and a good eye for finding mistakes.

Proofreaders look for punctuation mistakes, misspelled words, lack of consistency, and formatting errors.

You take content that other people have written and then go over it with a fine-tooth comb. You might be proofreading blog posts, print articles, academic articles, website copy, ad copy, books, student papers, emails, and more.

In one year, Caitlin made slightly over $43,000 by being a freelance proofreader.

Caitlin put together a FREE 76-minute workshop, where she answers all of the most common questions about becoming a proofreader, and she even shows you how to use the most popular tools used by proofreaders around the world. You can sign up for free here.

 

10. Become a court transcript proofreader.

Becoming a court transcript proofreader is a more focused version of the last idea.

Here’s what it’s like:

“Court reporters use digital stenography machines in combination with computer-aided transcription software to write verbatim records of various legal proceedings. They report depositions, trials, hearings, arbitrations, case management conferences, compulsory medical examinations, examinations under oath, and pretty much any other type of legal proceeding. Because of the sensitive nature of legal proceedings, it’s imperative that as many errors as possible be eliminated from transcripts — an especially major error could ruin an entire trial!”

Due to this, many court reporters also use court transcript proofreaders.

There is more training that goes into becoming a court transcript proofreader, and that is why I separated it from the general proofreading job above.

Caitlin, mentioned above, also has a great FREE 7 day course just for people who are interested in becoming a court transcript proofreader.

 

Home business ideas with low startup costs

11. Become a podcast virtual assistant.

There’s a big demand for podcast virtual assistants right now.

This is because there are over 800,000 podcasts out there, and that number just continues to grow. Podcasts are still a pretty new area, and that opens the door for lots of home business ideas that help out with all of these podcasts.

While the podcast host is responsible for recording themselves, other tasks like editing and publication take time, so many podcasters outsource their work to freelancers or virtual assistants. Also, some podcasters may not know how to do those things, or they may choose to focus their time on other areas.

Some of the different services you can offer as a podcast virtual assistant include:

  • Audio editing
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Publication
  • Distribution
  • Show note creation

You can sign up here for free information that will tell you more about how to become a podcast VA. In this free resource, you’ll learn exactly what a podcast virtual assistant is, the services you can offer, and starting rates.

 

12. Write romance novels.

My friend Yuwanda Black has found one of the most interesting home business ideas – she writes romance novels, and in one month, she was able to make over $3,000!

With her free Making Money Writing Romance ecourse, she teaches you how to make money writing and self-publishing romance novels.

It is taught from first-hand experience, which Yuwanda has because she’s written and self-published 50 romance novellas since 2013. And, she continues to publish today.

 

13. Work as a Pinterest virtual assistant.

Working as a Pinterest virtual assistant is a growing field as more and more business owners are using Pinterest to grow their business.

Pinterest VAs help businesses improve their reach by doing things like:

  • Designing Pinterest images for a website
  • Helping business owners set up their Pinterest account
  • Scheduling pins because this can be time consuming for the average business owner
  • Brainstorming a marketing plan

Click here and click on “Free Training Workshop” to learn how to become a Pinterest virtual assistant and find your first client. In this free course, you’ll learn what you need to do to get started, what services to offer, and how much to charge as a Pinterest virtual assistant.

 

14. Work as a virtual assistant.

If you’re looking for home business ideas with low startup costs, then virtual assisting is a great one!

Virtual assistance is a field that is growing very quickly and it is one of the very popular stay-at home business ideas.

Not only does the internet allow us to complete more of our daily tasks online, more and more people are working online. This presents a good opportunity for more virtual assistants.

Virtual assistant tasks may include social media management, formatting and editing content, scheduling appointments or travel, email management, and more. Basically, you can get paid to do any task that needs to be done in someone’s business, but doesn’t need to be done by them.

If this is one of the home business ideas you’re interested in, I recommend checking out Jumpstart Your Virtual Assistant Business. In that link, you’ll receive a free worksheet and workbook that will help you decide what virtual assistant services you can offer (there are over 150 choices!).

 

15. Write your own eBook for work from home ideas.

Writing your own eBook is a great way to make money from home, and there is probably something super helpful that you could write about (even if you think otherwise!).

In fact, my friend Alyssa self-published her first book and has sold more than 13,000 copies.

She is now earning a great passive income of over $200 a day from her book ($6,500 in one month alone!).

Learn more at Self-Publishing Your First Book. This free series will teach you what it takes to publish a book, including the strategies used to launch a book, writing tips, and more.

 

What is the best home business to start? What are the most successful small businesses?

As you can see, there are plenty of different home business ideas out there, and this list is only scratching the surface. There are full-time home based business ideas, and then there are part-time business ideas.

The best business home based ideas are going to be different for everyone. For example, some people are naturally good proofreaders, while others will have a knack for finding the right items for reselling.

I would think about what kinds of things you’re good at, what interests you, the skills you already have, etc. That may narrow the choices down some. 

But, what I love about the home business ideas on this list is that the free courses and guides listed mean you can learn more about any of them without a big investment. You can explore ideas without feeling like you’re wasting your money.

What home business ideas are you interested in?

The post 15 Home Business Ideas & The Free Courses You Need To Get Started appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Rock Legend Robbie Robertson Is Selling His $4.2M Beverly Hills Retreat

Robbie Robertson Beverly Hills HomeGeorge Rose/Getty Images, realtor.com

A gorgeous home in a private, yet convenient, location was an ideal place for the legendary recording artist Robbie Robertson to settle down and let the inspiration flow.

Now the songwriter behind “The Weight” is hoping to offload his prestigious perch. Robertson’s Beverly Hills, CA, home is on the market for $4,195,000.

Robertson purchased this sanctuary in 2012 for $2,676,755, and it’s been remodeled over the past decade. The home now sports a minimalist, modern aesthetic, with clean lines, new finishes, and up-to-date technology.

He first put it on the market in July 2020 for $4,895,000, and has gradually reduced the price over the months since.

Robbie Robertson’s Beverly Hills home

realtor.com

Living room

The legendary musician wasn’t just working on tunes behind the front gates of this private sanctuary.

“Robertson bought this home as an escape to pen what would become his New York Times best-selling autobiography, ‘Testimony,’” says the listing agent, Ben Lee of Coldwell Banker Realty.

Lee also notes the appeal of the home’s setting and central location, high on North Beverly Drive across from Franklin Canyon Park.

“One of Beverly Hills’ best-kept secrets,” he says, “this ultra-private getaway boasts an incredibly scenic landscape, while remaining six minutes from the Beverly Hills Hotel.”

It must have been the ideal place for out-of-town collaborators of the former member of The Band, whether they stayed in one of the home’s five bedrooms, or in the nearby hotel. Guests could also make good use of the eight-car parking area at the end of the long and winding driveway.

The home has high ceilings, an open floor plan, and floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors. The large windows connect people in the home to the lush canyon foliage and views.

Open floor plan

realtor.com

Adding to the home’s modern vibe are glistening walnut floors, a floating staircase, and a gleaming state-of-the-art kitchen with stainless-steel appliances, custom cabinetry, and a generous central island with a cooktop.

Floating staircase

realtor.com

Kitchen and breakfast nook

Sophisticated smart home technology is in place, and, naturally, there’s a professional-grade sound system.

Although the design is modern, the 3,219-square-foot residence has a cozy, inviting feeling, thanks to its four fireplaces. Even the cars stay warm (or cool) in the temperature-controlled garage with quartz flooring.

Deck with fire pit

realtor.com

Garage with quartz flooring

At least one of the five bedrooms appears to have been used for studio purposes. The lavish master bedroom suite features a fireplace, canyon views, a large walk-in closet, and a deck. The master bathroom has a new steam shower, sunken tub, and still more views.

Studio/bedroom

realtor.com

Master bedroom

The 1-acre grounds have a retreatlike feel. Outdoor accoutrements include a spacious patio deck made of limestone and Brazilian ipe wood, two fire pits, and a hot tub that flows into a tastefully lit modern pool.

Pool with waterfall Jacuzzi

realtor.com

Robertson, 77, served as lead guitarist and songwriter for The Band. He penned rock classics like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and “Somewhere Down the Crazy River.”

As a solo artist and composer, he’s also known for musical collaborations on Martin Scorsese films, among them “Raging Bull,” “Casino,” “The Departed,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and “The Irishman.”

The post Rock Legend Robbie Robertson Is Selling His $4.2M Beverly Hills Retreat appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Inside Supernatural Star Jensen Ackles’ ‘Very Hip’ Lake House in Austin

If you’re a die-hard Supernatural fan like us, you’re probably still reeling from the show’s finale and coping with the fact that there won’t be any new Winchester adventures for us to follow. But we’re not here to talk about that, but rather snoop into the private life of one of the series’ leading men. More specifically, Jensen Ackles’ house — which we actually think Dean Winchester would approve of.

The actor starring in CW’s longest running show and his wife Danneel opened up their 7,500-square-foot home in Austin, Texas to Architectural Digest, giving us a rare glimpse into the heartthrob’s home and personal life.

As the story goes, the couple was relocating from Los Angeles and initially considered buying a house down the road when they noticed this property (that wasn’t even for sale). But since they fell in love with it, the couple went ahead and asked the previous owners if they’d be willing to sell. And since it’s not easy resisting Jensen Ackles’ charms, they managed to convince the owners so the Ackles’ moved on to the next step –- redecorating the house.

To help out, they hired architect Paul Lamb and interior designer Fern Santini and together they came up with some brilliant ideas on how to best revamp their already-stunning new house.

“It was imperative that the house express the Ackleses — young, bold, and irreverent,” Lamb told AD.

Jensen Ackles’ house, which boasts five bedrooms, revolves around Danneel’s decorating outlook of “more is more is more!” There is a lot of color, texture, a lot of wood work going on to make it look like a lake house and endless decorations with some of the coolest background stories.

Let there be music

In Supernatural, Jensen loves music. Remember his spontaneous Eye of a Tiger outtake? Still fun to watch! There’s definitely more of where that came from in real life, since Jensen did his best to create an amazing acoustic sound in his house.

The living room is scattered with guitars and all across the shag rug lie comfy and colored floor pillows. All this because the couple loves having friends over, sitting on the floor, singing and playing the guitar.

Jensen was excited to talk about one of his favorite features of the house: “The hand-scraped wood floors undulate quite heavily, and we’ve got these giant beams and wood all around that feel like you’re in the hull of a giant ship.” “What that does is it creates an amazing acoustic sound,” he continues. “We’ve always had music in our lives, and we wanted to pass on that tradition.”

Jensen Ackles and his family at home in Austin, Texas
Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Jeff Wilson for AD

Jensen’s kick-ass bar

They’ve taken care of the music, and to complete the ambiance they got rid of the formal dining room (that nobody used anyway) and replaced it with a kick-ass bar.

Placed on one end of the large living room, the bar is made out of black walnut with black and white veined marble. The cabinets were specially made to light the expensive bourbons it holds inside.

jensen ackles bar in his home in austin texas
Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Jeff Wilson for AD

The master suite

There’s a master bedroom swaddled in Trove wallpaper bearing vintage photography of 1920s opera boxes. The wallpaper is covered in sections by Japanese-inspired barn door panels “because sometimes you need an audience and sometimes you don’t”.

 Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas.
Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Douglas Friedman for AD

The master bathroom has a beautiful
bathtub sitting in front of a large window that provides a stunning view to the
lake.

The Mr. and Mrs. own two separate counters, because, you know, it just makes things easier in the mornings; and the inspiration for their master bathroom shower came from an Architectural Digest story featuring a steel and glass shower in the home of Neil Patrick Harris.

 Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas.
Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Douglas Friedman for AD

Jensen Ackles’ bright, wood-framed home

Thanks to exposed beams, larger expanses of windows, and rich wooden ceilings, the architect managed to simplify and open the spaces. They simply tore down walls to let more natural light into the home.

Jensen’s favorite space is the breezy two-story screened porch that transformed the entire profile of the house; and his favorite piece – a custom long table made using a 2,000-year-old cypress log.

Parents of three

Jensen and Danneel have three beautiful children, so they had to choose the decor and furniture according to their needs as well. It appears that the couple’s eldest daughter would make a great interior designer once she grows up. The six-year-old girl, JJ, helped pick out all her own bedroom decor.

 Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas.
Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Douglas Friedman for AD

Unsurprisingly, the kids’ favorite toy is a rolling acrylic table from the ‘50s, placed in the kitchen. Everybody loves a happy kitchen!

 Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas.
Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Douglas Friedman for AD

Jensen Ackles’ home is full of hidden gems

The actor’s house is a personalized, eccentric, yet highly livable place. It was designed to resemble the Laurel Canyon bungalow the couple had once lived in and it’s a testament to the old school, Austin-style lake house.

The space is filled with all kinds of eccentric and eclectic objects—some useful, some decorative, some both. The decorations could be found in abundance in Austin during its bohemian period (the Ackles’ are active supporters of local art), as well as in late-60s California.

More beautiful celebrity homes

Rob Lowe’s Gorgeous House in Montecito is Back on the Market for $42.5 Million
Luxurious Malibu Estate Previously Owned by Kelsey Grammer On the Market for $20M
‘Hunger Games’ Actor Josh Hutcherson is Selling His Celebrity-Magnet “Tree House” in Hollywood Hills
Jessica Alba’s Los Angeles House is a Pinterest-Perfect Dream Home

The post Inside Supernatural Star Jensen Ackles’ ‘Very Hip’ Lake House in Austin appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

How to Run a Virtual Brainstorm that Actually Works

Fun fact about pandemic life: Zoom fatigue is real. And not just real, but “widely prevalent, intense, and completely new,” according to Psychiatric Times.

Although we might be avoiding Zoom these days when an email or even a phone call (is it 1986 again?) will suffice, there's one place where video conferencing still shines, and that's the good ol' brainstorm.

Old school brainstorming was creative and connective and interactive—all things difficult, but not impossible, to recreate virtually.

When I picture brainstorms of years past, I see images of big tables full of candy and fidget toys and pens and Post-Its galore. Old school brainstorming was creative and connective and interactive—all things difficult, but not impossible, to recreate virtually.

Today we’ll talk about some virtual brainstorming strategies I’ve seen work really well. And then hopefully, you’ll give one a try. 

Choose your occasion wisely

brainstorms shouldn’t be a catch-all for any group conversation.

Back when our biggest workplace woe was a vending machine out of Diet Coke, many of us took brainstorming sessions for granted. But in a virtual world, it's harder to organize, facilitate, and get people engaged.

That's why brainstorms shouldn’t be a catch-all for any group conversation. (Often what you’re looking for is just a meeting.) Brainstorms are a very specific brand of discussion in which a collective of creative voices, ideas, and opinions are necessary inputs to achieve a valuable output.

Because of challenges like Zoom fatigue and burnout, I urge you to be stingy with your brainstorming sessions. They're a fabulous enabler of ideas and solutions, so do use them. But do so strategically and with clear intention.

Because of challenges like Zoom fatigue and burnout, I urge you to be stingy with your brainstorming sessions.

What are some great occasions to host a brainstorming session? Use them when you need to:

  • Add or refine product features
  • Define a path in a sticky situation
  • Solve a complex problem

These and many other scenarios call for a variety of perspectives in which there are no right or wrong answers, but only ideas.

In contrast, many other occasions don’t call for a brainstorm. Like when you need…

  • Approval or alignment
  • Receipt of a message or direction
  • Feedback on a mostly baked idea

These are not brainstorm moments—they're meetings with a much more defined outcome. See the difference?

Figure out the specific problem you want to address

Okay, so you've figured out that your situation calls for a brainstorming session. Now, it's time to make sure everybody who comes to the brainstorm is on the same page before you begin by creating a statement that lays out the specific problem and how you need to tackle it.

Your problem statement might be something like:

We’re losing market share on X product, and we need to define new features to attract Millennial customers.

And here's another example:

This client wasn’t happy with our last deliverable and we need to redefine how we’re engaging with them.

One of your goals is to keep the session short (because fatigue) while maximizing what you take away from it. A clear problem statement allows you to invite your brainstorming participants to get the creative juices flowing ahead of the actual session.

Assign some prework to get things rolling

Now that you've stated the problem or opportunity, it's time to let participants know you’re looking forward to a collaborative discussion and invite them to jot down some early ideas and send them your way.

You can then do some analysis ahead of the session. Did you spot any common themes? Any particular ideas you’re interested in having the group build upon?

Share your findings at the beginning of the brainstorming session. This will give you a strong foundation from which to build.

Get creative with tech 

Love it or hate it, video conferencing technology is definitely your friend in a virtual brainstorm. It allows you to create a purposeful connection amongst participants. But you have to understand how to engage them.

When I used to run in-person meetings with leadership teams, I was always intentional about switching up the activities every 30 minutes or so. I’d facilitate a breakout, and then we’d do a quick poll, and then I’d have people plot Post-It notes around the room, and more.

Keeping things changing and moving is a great way to keep adults engaged. According to the Harvard Business Review: "If you don’t sustain a continual expectation of meaningful involvement, [people] will retreat into that alluring observer role."

So take the time to learn the features of whatever platform you’re using, and make the session engaging. Some tactics you might try?

  • Use polls to test out early ideas
  • Use small group breakout sessions to create mini-competitions between your participants
  • Use a whiteboard to replicate a poster board people can plot virtual Post-It notes on
  • Use voting to prioritize or stack rank

Of course, talking is part of any brainstorm. But using technology can keep participants from slipping into the shadows without contributing.

Establish norms that serve your purpose

A brainstorm isn’t successful because of how smart its participants are, but because of how much freedom and space their voices are given.

A client once told me this story about a packaging company that was struggling with productivity. Their products had to be wrapped in newspaper before being shipped. But often, as employees were packaging product, they’d accidentally start reading the newspaper, losing precious packing minutes. These minutes added up to lost productivity.

One day the leadership team was brainstorming solutions to this distraction problem and one executive said, “Well, what if we just poked their eyes out?”

Of course, he wasn't serious—the question was absurd and meant to add a little humor. But it triggered a new line of thinking. Eventually, the company established a partnership with a non-profit organization that finds jobs for blind people.

Is this story true? I’m honestly not sure. But it’s a great illustration of the importance of free-flowing ideas.

A brainstorm isn’t successful because of how smart its participants are, but because of how much freedom and space their voices are given.

As the facilitator, what norms can you put in place to ensure that all ideas get voiced without judgment and everyone has a chance to speak?

Here are a few you might consider:

  • Use the improv rule of “yes, and.” It means that ideas are never knocked down, only built upon. (Don’t worry, they can get voted down later, just not during the brainstorm)
     
  • Use the two- (or one- or five)-minute rule. Ask people to limit themselves to two minutes at a time, even if they need to stop mid-thought (they can finish on their next turn). This challenges people to be concise and ensures that everyone gets a chance to speak.
     
  • Use a round-robin technique. Circle around the Zoom participants, calling on each person as you go. If someone isn’t ready, they can pass. But this is a great way to prevent introverts from getting overlooked.

What other norms will keep you on track?

Close out thoughtfully

Save a few minutes at the end of your scheduled session to check in on the process. How did it feel for everyone? What worked well and what might you skip next time? Do they have other tactics to recommend?

The best answer to “How do I host a great virtual brainstorm?” is the answer that your own participants give you.

When scheduled for the right occasion and with the right people, brainstorms are a fabulous tool. Don’t be intimidated by them. Just be open to learning as you go.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Mortgage Rates vs. the Stock Market

Mortgage match-ups: “Mortgage rates vs. the stock market.” With all the recent stock market volatility, you may be wondering what effect such events have on mortgage rates. Do mortgage rates go up if stocks go down and vice versa? Or do they move in relative lockstep? Let’s find out! Stocks and Mortgage Rates Follow the [&hellip

The post Mortgage Rates vs. the Stock Market first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

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

Is Your Mortgage Forbearance Ending Soon? What To Do Next

mortgage forbearanceSEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

Millions of Americans struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments because of COVID-19 have received relief through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

But mortgage forbearance is only temporary, and set to expire soon, leaving many homeowners who are still struggling perplexed on what to do next.

Enacted in March, the CARES Act initially granted a 180-day forbearance, or pause in payments, to homeowners with mortgages backed by the federal government or a government-sponsored enterprise such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Furthermore, some private lenders also granted mortgage forbearance of 90 days or more to financially distressed homeowners.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 8.39% of loans were in forbearance as of June 28, representing an estimated 4.2 million homeowners nationwide.

So what are affected homeowners to do when the forbearance goes away? You have options, so it’s well worth contacting your lender to explore what’s best for you.

“If you know you’re going to be unable to meet the terms of your forbearance agreement at its maturity, you should call your loan servicer immediately and see what options they may be able to offer to you,” says Abel Carrasco, mortgage loan originator at Motto Mortgage Advisors in St. Petersburg, FL.

Exactly what’s available depends on the fine print in the terms of your mortgage forbearance agreement. Here’s an overview of some possible avenues to explore if you still can’t pay your mortgage after the forbearance period ends.

Extend your mortgage forbearance

One simple option is to contact your lender to request an extension.

Homeowners granted forbearance under the CARES Act can request a 180-day extension, giving them a total of 360 days of forbearance, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The key is to contact your lender well before your forbearance expires. If you let it expire without an extension, your lender could impose penalties.

“If you just stop making regular, scheduled payments, you could have a late mortgage payment on your credit,” warns Carrasco. “That could severely impact refinancing or purchasing another property in the immediate future and potentially subject you to foreclosure.”

Keep in mind, though, a forbearance simply delays payments, meaning they’ll still need to be made in the future. It doesn’t mean payments are forgiven.

Refinance to lower your mortgage payment

Mortgage interest rates are at all-time lows, hovering around 3%. So if you can swing it, this may be a great time to refinance your home, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree.

Refinancing could come with some hefty fees, however, ranging from 2% to 6% of your loan amount. But it could be worth it.

A lower interest rate will likely lower your monthly payment and save you thousands over the life of your mortgage. Dropping your interest rate from 4.125% to 3% could save more than $40,000 over 30 years, for example, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Lenders have tightened standards, though, so you will need to show that you are a good candidate for refinancing,” Kapfidze says. You’ll need a good credit score of 620 or higher.

As long as you’ve kept up your end of the forbearance terms, having a mortgage forbearance shouldn’t affect your credit score, or your ability to refinance or qualify for another mortgage.

Ask for a loan modification

Many lenders are offering an assortment of programs to help homeowners under hardship because of the pandemic, says Christopher Sailus, vice president and mortgage product manager at WaFd Bank.

“Lenders quickly recognized the severity of the economic situation due to the pandemic, and put programs into place to defer payments or help reduce them,” he says.

A loan modification is one such option. This enables homeowners at risk of default to change the terms of their original mortgage—such as payment amount, interest rate, or length of the loan—to reduce monthly payments and clear up any delinquencies.

Loan modifications may affect your credit score, but not as much as a foreclosure. Some lenders charge fees for loan modifications, but others, like WaFd, provide them at no cost.

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Watch: 5 Things to Know About Selling a Home Amid the Pandemic

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Put your home on the market

It may seem like a strange time to sell your home, with COVID-19 cases growing, unemployment rising, and the economy on shaky ground. But, it’s actually a great time to sell a house.

Pending home sales jumped 44.3% in May, according to the National Association of Realtors®’ Pending Home Sales Index, the largest month-over-month growth since the index began in 2001.

Home inventory remains low, and buyer demand is up with many hoping to jump on the low interest rates. Prices are up, too. The national median home price increased 7.7% in the first quarter of 2020, to $274,600, according to NAR.

So if you can no longer afford your home and have plenty of equity built up, listing your home may be a smart move. (Home equity is the market value of your home minus how much you still owe on your mortgage.)

Consider foreclosure as a last resort

Foreclosure may be the only option for many homeowners, especially if you fall too behind on your mortgage payments and can’t afford to sell or refinance. In May, more than 7% of mortgages were delinquent, a 20% increase from April, according to mortgage data and analytics firm Black Knight.

“When to begin a foreclosure process will vary from lender to lender and client to client,” Sailus says. “Current and future state and federal legislation, statutes, or regulations will impact the process, as will the individual homeowner’s situation and their ability to repay.”

Foreclosures won’t begin until after a forbearance period ends, he adds.

The CARES Act prohibited lenders from foreclosing on mortgages backed by the government or government-sponsored enterprise until at least Aug. 31. Several states, including California and Connecticut, also issued temporary foreclosure moratoriums and stays.

Once these grace periods (and forbearance timelines) end, and homeowners miss payments, they could face foreclosure, Carrasco says. When a loan is flagged as being in foreclosure, the balance is due and legal fees accumulate, requiring homeowners to pay off the loan (usually by selling) and vacating the property.

“Absent participation in an agreed-upon forbearance, deferment, repayment plan, or loan modification, loan servicers historically may begin the foreclosure process after as few as three months of missed mortgage payments,” he explains. “This is unfortunately often the point of no return.”

The post Is Your Mortgage Forbearance Ending Soon? What To Do Next appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com