8 Maintenance Tasks All Homeowners Should Do Once a Year
You have the basics of homeownership maintenance down. You change the ceiling blade direction every summer and winter, you scrub the inside and outside of your windows each spring, and you remove every drop of water from your sprinkler system before the first frost.
But are you sure you’re getting everything done?
These eight annual maintenance to-dos are easily forgotten—but checking them off once per year can save you some major headaches, heartaches—and money!
1. Salt your water softener
You’ll need to take a trip to your local home maintenance store for this project. If your water heater features a rad built-in water softener, skipping regular maintenance can cause irreversible damage.
Let’s say you’ve purchased a home with a 2-year-old hot water heater. Pretty new, right? Well, if the previous owner skipped salting the softener, letting mineral build up inside the unit, it will sound like a rock tumbler.
Should that happen, a few intense flushes should do the trick. But don’t wait.
At the end of the day, regular maintenance will prevent damage and will help you avoid a major expense down the road.
2. Test your well water
Having your own well can be a perk—sweet, fresh-from-the-earth water, with no bill! But in-ground water is subject to all sorts of contaminants, including high levels of nitrates, sulfates, or microorganisms. To keep your gut happy and prevent nastier health issues, make sure to test your well water every year. (Shallow wells can require more frequent testing.)
Many municipalities offer free water screening. If yours isn’t so kind, you can send samples to a nearby laboratory for analysis.
3. Update your disaster kit
You don’t have to be a prepper to be prepared. Even minor storms can knock out power for a days. Darkness is a lot less miserable with basic supplies. Every household needs a disaster kit—essential supplies that can keep you going in an emergency. Include necessities such as a first-aid kit, a three-day supply of nonperishable food, plenty of water, printed maps, and a whistle.
Dig through your kit once a year, and check the expiration dates of all of your food, look for broken seals, and make sure none of your necessities have been used or gone missing in the previous 365 days. Check your stock against Ready.gov’s extensive list of basic disaster supplies.
4. Know your humidity
Humidity—especially in the basement—is an early warning sign of future problems. High humidity can cause mildew and black mold. Left unchecked for a significant period of time, it can even cause structural damage. So pick up a hygrometer, and check your levels at least once a year.
If the reading is low, don’t assume you’re in the clear. Too little humidity might not be as dangerous as high levels, but it can still cause sore throats and itchiness—and damage the house. Wood might crack, paint can chip, and electronics could be permanently damaged. Shoot for humidity levels that fall between 30% and 50%.
5. Check for termites
Many homeowners tend to take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to these wood-eating buggers—but once a year, make sure termites are on your mind.
Ultimately, an annual termite inspection is typically less than $100, and can save you thousands.
6. Take a photo
You’d never skip snapping a shot of your kid on her first day of school each year—so why wouldn’t you do the same for your house? On the anniversary of your purchase, step outside with a camera and shoot a picture of your home in its current state. Over the years, you’ll be astonished by how much your home has evolved.
7. Save 1% of the home’s value
The typical rule of thumb is that a home costs 1% of its value in maintenance fees each year. For example, if you’re purchasing a home worth $300,000, expect to pay $3,000 each year to keep it in shipshape condition.
While you should be regularly saving throughout the year, taking the time once annually to investigate your bank accounts can keep you out of hot water. And, of course, the 1% rule is only an estimate—when it comes to homeownership, anything can go wrong.
A new roof might cost $7,500 (or more—way more). Serious foundation issues could ring in at $40,000. And new siding might require a $10,000 payment. Adding more to your home savings account is never a bad idea. But at the very least, make sure you have the bare minimum.
8. Create a donation pile
After a few years in your home, you might be astounded to find out just how much unnecessary stuff has piled up. Once a year—perhaps around spring-cleaning—do a deep dive into your closets, drawers, bookshelves, and garage. Toss or donate anything you haven’t touched in the past year.
RELATED: Do I Have Too Much Stuff?
Here’s what not to do with all that newly empty space: Fill it up again. But if you fail, well, you’ll be sorting through it again next year when you do these steps all over again.
As a homeowner, what annual home rituals do you keep? What advice might you have to new homeowners when it comes to ongoing home maintenance? Sound off on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or our Twitter or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
7 Pricing Myths to Stop Believing If You Ever Hope to Sell Your House
Pricing your own home is hard. Of course, you want to make a profit. Of course, all that money you spent installing a swimming pool or a half-bath will be recouped, because you’re leaving your digs in better shape than when you bought it, right?
Well, not necessarily. Too many home sellers fall prey to myths about home pricing that seem to make sense at first, but don’t jive with the reality of real estate markets today. To make sure you haven’t bought into any of this—since the buyers you’re trying to woo sure haven’t—here are some common pricing myths you’ll want to rinse from your brain so you kick off your home-selling venture with realistic expectations.
1. You always make money when you sell a home
Sure, real estate tends to appreciate over time: Home prices increased by approximately 5% by the end of 2017 and continue rising 3.5% in 2018. But selling your home for more than you paid is by no means a given, and your return on investment can vary greatly based on where you live.
2. Price your house high to make big bucks
We know what you’re thinking: “Hey, it’s worth a shot!” But if you start with some sky-high asking price, you’ll soon come back to Earth when you realize that an overpriced home just won’t sell.
While the payday might sound appealing, you’re actually sacrificing your best marketing time in exchange for the remote possibility that someone will overpay for your home.
RELATED: Home Won’t Sell? Check The Price
While certain buyers might be suckered in, this becomes far less likely if they’re working with a buyer’s agent who will know all too well when a home is overpriced, and advise their client to steer clear. And this can lead to problems down the road (as our next myth indicates).
3. If your home’s overpriced, it’s no big deal to lower it later
Sorry, but overpricing your home isn’t easily fixed just by lowering it later on. The reason: Homes that have lingered on the market for months make buyers presume that something must be wrong. As such, they might still steer clear, or offer even less than the price you’re now asking.
Bottom line: Price your home appropriately from the beginning for your best shot at having a quick and easy sale.
RELATED: The Importance of Proper Pricing
4. Pricing your home low means you won’t make as much money
Similarly, sellers are often leery of pricing their home on the low end. But as counterintuitive as this seems, this strategy can often pay off big-time. Here’s why: Low-priced homes drum up tons of interest, which could result in a bidding war that could drive your home’s price past your wildest dreams.
5. You can add the cost of any renovations you’ve made
Let’s say you overhauled your kitchen or added a deck. It stands to reason that whatever money you paid for these improvements will be recouped in full once you sell—after all, your home’s new owners are inheriting all your hard work.
The reality: While your renovations might see some return on investment, you’ll rarely recoup the whole amount. On average, you can expect to get back 64% of every dollar you spend on home improvements. Plus that profit can vary greatly based on which renovation you do.
6. A past appraisal will help you pinpoint the right price
If you have an appraisal in hand, from when you bought or refinanced your house, you might think that’s a logical place to start to price your home. It’s not!
An appraisal assigns your home a value based on market conditions at a specific date, so it becomes old news very quickly. In fact, lenders typically won’t accept appraisals that are more than 60 days old because lenders know markets can change quickly.
7. Your agent might overprice the house to make a bigger commission
Don’t even go there.
While it’s true that an agent’s commission is based on the selling price of a house, the disparity will end up being negligible. For example, the difference in commission between a $300,000 house and one that’s $310,000 is about $150.
No real estate agent is going to lose a sale for the sake of a couple hundred dollars.
Do you have any home selling myths to add to our list? Sound off on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or our Twitter feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
The Ultimate Tax Preparation Checklist
The IRS estimates taxpayers spend 13 hours on average preparing their tax returns. Before you prepare your tax return you should have a tax preparation checklist to help you get organized.
What is the overall goal of a tax preparation checklist? Simply put, it will help you get everything together before you begin to file your tax return or show up for your appointment with a tax professional. As you move down the checklist, you will find items you may have missed as well as things that were accounted for in the past.
Listed below are some of the details that should be included on your tax preparation checklist.
Tax Preparation for Personal Information
The IRS needs to know who is filing the tax return, as well as how many people are covered on it. To make this easy, they require:
• Your Social Security number
• Your spouse’s Social Security number (if married)
• Social Security numbers for any dependents
Tax Preparation for Income Information
The following documents will help you prepare all the income information that you need to file a federal tax return:
• W-2 Forms from all employers you (and your spouse, if filing a joint return) worked for during the past tax year.
• 1099 Forms if you (or your spouse) completed contract work and earned more than $600.
• Investment income information (including: interest income, dividend income, proceeds from the sale of bonds or stocks, and income from foreign investments).
• Income from local and state tax refunds from the prior year.
• Business income (accounting records for any business that you own)
• Unemployment income
• Rental property income
• Social Security benefits
• Miscellaneous income (including: jury duty, lottery and gambling winnings, Form 1099-MISC for prizes and awards, and Form 1099-MSA for distributions from medical savings accounts)
Tax Preparation for Income Adjustments
The following adjustments can help reduce how much you owe in taxes, and in turn, increase your chance of receiving a tax refund:
• Homebuyer tax credit
• Green energy credits
• IRA contributions
• Mortgage interest
• Student loan interest
• Medical Savings Account (MSA) contributions
• Self-employed health insurance
• Moving expenses
Tax Preparation for Credits and Deductions
There are many tax credits and tax deductions for various expenses, which are designed to help lower the amount of tax that an individual has to pay:
• Education costs
• Childcare costs
• Adoption costs
• Charitable contributions/donations
• Casualty and theft losses
• Qualified business expenses
• Medical expenses
• Job and moving expenses
Tax Preparation for Direct Deposit
Are you interested in having your tax refund directly deposited into your bank account? If so, you will need to provide two things:
• Your bank account number
• The bank’s routing number
This tax forms / preparation checklist should help you get organized before filing your next income tax return.
How do you stay organized when tax time hits? We want to hear from you! Sound off on our Facebook Page, our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly eNewsletter. You may unsubscribe at any time.
5 Questions to Decide Whether to Pay Down Debt or Save
It can be hard deciding whether to prioritize paying down debt or putting money into savings – especially if you have limited resources. Answering five key questions can help you allocate your funds.
1. Do you have high-interest debt?
Interest rates on credit cards are often high. That can cost you considerably over time, since credit card interest typically accumulates faster than what you can earn on savings.
Pay it down!
If you’re carrying debt with double-digit rates, it may make sense to prioritize paying it down so you can free up future funds to save or pay other debts.
2. Do you have an emergency fund?
An emergency fund provides cash you can draw on in case of:
- Unexpected car or home repairs
- Medical emergencies
- Essential costs like rent and groceries if you are laid off or out of work
Save it up!
If you don’t have three months’ worth of living expenses set aside for emergencies, consider that goal next, while paying at least the minimum on any loans and credit cards.
3. Are you planning for retirement?
Your retirement account earnings may produce earnings of their own, so the earlier you start to save, the more growth potential you have. Plus, some retirement contributions help you minimize taxes.
Save it up!
You can’t borrow for retirement, so consider this goal next. As you build your retirement accounts, you can continue to chip away at debt at the same time.
5. What are your other goals or needs?
If your high-rate debt is under control, you have savings in an emergency fund and are contributing to your retirement, it’s time to consider saving for other things.
Save it up!
Depending on your goals, you can save for: A new car, education or a down payment on a home. Once you have those up and running, you can look toward the fun stuff like vacation and other big purchases.
Pay it down!
If your rates and terms are reasonable, you may decide to stay the course with your monthly payments. Or you could bump up your payments to pay those debts faster – especially any with higher rates. That way you’ll save on total interest paid and have more money to allocate to your goals.
Based on your current financial goals; are you Saving Up or Paying Down? We want to hear from you! Sound off on our Facebook Page, our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly eNewsletter. You may unsubscribe at any time.
The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial or investment advice. Patrick Parker Realty assumes no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional when making decisions regarding your financial or investment options.
The Difference Between Your Mortgage Rate and the Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
Understanding the difference between an annual percentage rate (APR) and an interest rate could save you thousands of dollars on your mortgage. But most homebuyers might not know that the interest rate and the APR measure two different costs associated with your home loan.
FREE eBOOK: Your Guide to Home Buying
The Most Critical Steps to Take When Buying Your Dream Home
Interest Rate and APR
An interest rate is the cost of borrowing the principal loan amount. It can be variable or fixed, but it’s always expressed as a percentage. An APR is a broader measure of the cost of a mortgage because it reflects the interest rate plus other costs such as broker fees, discount points and some closing costs, expressed as a percentage
Why have both?
The main difference is that the interest rate calculates what your actual monthly payment will be whereas the APR calculates the total cost of the loan.
RELATED: 6 Mortgage Terms To Know
You can use one or both to make apples-to-apples comparisons when shopping for loans.
For example, a loan with a 4 percent rate will have a lower monthly payment than a loan with a 6 percent rate, assuming both are fixed for the same term. Likewise, the total cost of a loan with a 4 percent APR will be less than one with a 6 percent APR.
Where it gets tricky
Interest rates and APRs have limitations to helping you understand the true cost of your mortgage. But taken together, borrowers should be able to use both figures to determine their total costs. The trick is to understand the interplay between the two figures.
If you are only focused on getting the lowest monthly payment, then focus on the interest rate. But if you are focused on the total cost of the loan, then use the APR as a tool to compare the total cost of two loans.
This chart shows the interest rate, APR and total costs over time for a $200,000 mortgage in which 1.5 discount points cut the interest rate by one-quarter of a percentage point, and another 1.5 discount points cut the interest rate by a further quarter of a percentage point.
3 loans, same amounts, 3 APRs
Time horizon matters
If you plan to stay in your home for 30 years or more, it probably makes sense to go with a loan that has the lowest APR because it means you’ll end up paying the lowest amount possible for your house. But if your time horizon isn’t that long, it may make sense to pay fewer upfront fees and get a higher rate — and a higher APR — because the total costs will be less over the first few years.
APR spreads the fees over the course of the entire loan, so its value is optimized only if a borrower plans to stay in the home throughout the entire mortgage.
Figure the break-even point
If you’re planning to stay in your home for a shorter period, you need to do the math and determine your break-even point.
For example, if you chose a 0.25 percent lower rate for an additional 1.5 points because of the lower APR, but you moved in five years, you lost money. Your break-even on the points was seven years.
Unfortunately, those calculations can be confusing for many, which is why it’s crucial to pick the right lender. Your Buyer’s Agent should have excellent relationships with lender’s and can refer you to someone they trust.
Did you recently shop for a Mortgage? Do you have Buyer’s Remorse? What might you do differently now that you didn’t do then? We want to here from you! Sound off on our Facebook Page or on our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
Why Is There So Much Paperwork Required To Get A Mortgage?
Why is there so much paperwork mandated by the lenders for a mortgage loan application when buying a home today? It seems that they need to know everything about you and requires three separate sources to validate each and every entry on the application form.
RELATED: 6 Mortgage Terms To Know
Many buyers are being told by friends and family that the process was a hundred times easier when they bought their home ten to twenty years ago.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Your Guide To Home Buying
The Most Critical Steps To Take When Buying Your Dream Home
There are two very good reasons that the loan process is much more onerous on today’s buyer than perhaps any time in history:
1. The government has set new guidelines that now demand that the bank proves beyond any doubt that you are indeed capable of paying the mortgage.
During the run-up to the housing crisis, many people ‘qualified’ for mortgages that they could never pay back. This led to millions of families losing their home. The government wants to make sure this can’t happen again.
RELATED: Will I Qualify For A Mortgage?
2. The banks don’t want to be in the real estate business.
Over the last seven years, banks were forced to take on the responsibility of liquidating millions of foreclosures and also negotiating another million plus short sales. Just like the government, they don’t want more foreclosures. For that reason, they need to double (maybe even triple) check everything on the application.
However, there is some good news in the situation.
The housing crash that mandated that banks be extremely strict on paperwork requirements also allowed you to get a mortgage interest rate around 4%.
The friends and family who bought homes ten or twenty years ago experienced a simpler mortgage application process, but also paid a higher interest rate (the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 8.12% in the 1990s and 6.29% in the 2000s).
If you went to the bank and offered to pay 7% instead of around 4%, they would probably bend over backward to make the process much easier.
Instead of concentrating on the additional paperwork required, let’s be thankful that we are able to buy a home at historically low rates.
What is the Cost of Waiting Until Next Year to Buy a Home?
Over the course of the last 12 months, home prices have appreciated by 7.0%. Over the same amount of time, interest rates have remained historically low which has allowed many buyers to enter the market.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Your Guide To Home Buying
The Most Critical Steps To Take When Buying Your Dream Home
As a seller, you will likely be most concerned about ‘short-term price’ – where home values are headed over the next six months. As a buyer, however, you must not be concerned about price, but instead about the ‘long-term cost’ of the home.
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae all project that mortgage interest rates will increase by this time next year. According to CoreLogic’s most recent Home Price Index Report, home prices will appreciate by 4.7% over the next 12 months.
What Does This Mean as a Buyer?
If home prices appreciate by 4.7% over the next twelve months as predicted by CoreLogic, here is a simple demonstration of the impact that an increase in interest rate would have on the mortgage payment of a home selling for approximately $250,000 today:
If buying a home is in your plan for 2018, doing it sooner rather than later could save you thousands of dollars over the terms of your loan.
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Why the Holidays Are A Great Time to Sell Your Home
When it comes to real estate, many believe the ideal time to sell your home often falls in the spring months. After all, people often hunker down during the winter or are too busy with the holidays to think about purchasing a new home. Not to mention that people like to start shopping in the spring to make sure they are settled in their home before the start of a new school year.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Home Selling Essentials: The Ultimate Guide
But putting your house up for sale around the holidays has its benefits. Sure, you may not get into a bidding war, but you are going to deal with serious buyers who are ready to pull the trigger.
Consider these major benefits to selling your home this holiday season:
1. There’s Less Inventory
Conventional wisdom says people should wait until the spring to get the most from a home sale. But studies have shown that homes listed around the holidays can not only command more money, but can also sell quicker than ones listed in the spring.
One of the reasons is there is less competition during the holidays. For a multitude of reasons people won’t put their houses up for sale when the holidays are coming up, and so the ones shopping aren’t going to have dozens of houses to choose from. In the spring, inventory usually picks up, and price wars break out in coveted neighborhoods. But during the holidays, there will be limited choices which means a homeowner can have a higher asking price.
2. Buyers Are More Serious
Anyone who is shopping for a new home around Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s is undoubtedly going to be a serious buyer. While hitting open houses is a favorite pastime for many Americans, they aren’t going to spend their precious time around the holidays seeing how the other half lives. In the spring, when open houses are a regular occurrence, people may check out homes without a clear plan to buy.
If your house is up for sale in the winter and someone is looking at it, chances are that person is serious and is ready to pull the trigger. That can often result in a quicker sales process.
3. You Can Make the Home Warm and Cozy
The holidays are often a time when people gather around fireplaces, have hot chocolate and make nice smelling cakes and pies. For homeowners who put their house up for sale during the winter months, they can stage their house to give off the comfy and homey vibe that appeals to many home buyers. Some people may argue that showing a house in the winter is hard to do because there’s snow on the ground, the house is drafty and the curb appeal is lacking. But keeping the heat up, having a pie baking in the oven to give off a pleasant smell and keeping the sidewalk and driveway clear of snow and ice can boost a home’s appeal.
Not to mention that buyers tend to be more emotional during the holidays and will make decisions based on the feeling a house conjures up. During the spring there is a lot more foot traffic in homes that are up for sale. Buyers may not be able to do a thorough walk-through, may get frustrated because of the number of people looking at it and can leave with a bad feeling about the home.
4. Timing Is Perfect for Transfers
The end of the year is typically the time when people get notified that they will be moving because of a job transfer. Those people are going to need a house sooner rather than later, and as a result will be hunting for a new home during the holidays. These buyers can’t wait for the spring, which is why listing during the holidays can get the home sold and sold quickly.
5. Your Neighborhood May Look More Appealing
One of the staples of the holiday months, particularly Christmas, is that many people adorn their homes with festive lights and decorations. That is also true of local communities where lit-up snowflakes and wreaths can be found on lamp poles and up and down the main streets. People purchasing a home during that time may see the neighborhood in a different light and may be more willing to consider an area that they may have been on the fence about.
6. End-of-Year Tax Breaks
Reducing the tax bill is not the main reason buyers purchase a new home, but it could be the reason serious buyers make a move during the holidays. That’s because if the home sale closes before Dec. 31, buyers can deduct the mortgage interest, property taxes and interest costs of the loan. The tax deductions can be significant and could prompt a home buyer to move during the holidays instead of waiting until the spring.
Nobody wants their home to languish on the market nor do they want to have to lower the price they are asking for. And while many fear that will happen if they list their home during the holidays, often that isn’t the case.
Are you planning on selling your home? Contact us to find out why selling your home during the holiday season can mean less competition, more serious buyers and a quicker sale.
When is Black Friday 2017? It Depends.
Perhaps you’ll snag major deals on Black Friday, but don’t let that stop you from finding deals any time of year. Depending on what you’re looking for, Black Friday might not be the cheapest day to shop.
Websites BlackFriday.com and Rather Be Shopping looked at historical data and announced sales to determine the best dates to score deals from now until Christmas.
And if you’re looking to avoid crowds, cross that information, which follows below, with intelligence from Foursquare on the days of the week and times when stores are the least busy, broken down by product category. Generally speaking, Monday, Thursday and Friday are the best days to shop, based on foot-traffic data from the app’s users.
Mondays are good for buying cosmetics (around noon, to be precise), clothing, jewelry and candy. And Monday evenings are ideal for purchasing booze.
Thursdays are great for books, beer and building supplies.
Shopping for kids? Friday is the best day to hit up big box stores like Target, Walmart and Big Lots. It’s not just about good deals, but accessibility. Friday evenings are the slowest at stores, especially supermarkets where grocery aisles are the easiest to navigate.
Sundays are the best for buying gifts at department stores, craft stores and electronics merchants. Again, evenings have the fewest crowds.
Shopping by Product Category
What many retail shoppers and online shoppers don’t realize is there are optimal times during November and December to be buying certain products. Again, based on data, consider the following:
Dec. 4-25 – Jewelry and Wedding Bands
December is the most popular time of year to get engaged, according to wedding resource The Knot. Baubles also make great holiday gifts.
Jewelry promotions are in heavy rotation from Dec. 4 through Christmas Day, according to BlackFriday.com.
Dec. 9-11 – Name Brand HDTVs
Electronics are Black Friday favorites, but that doesn’t end after Cyber Monday.
Prices stabilize a bit following Cyber Week, but there is renewed promotional activity the second weekend in December.
Look for deals of 30-40% off on big brands including Samsung, Sony, Vizio and Panasonic, according to Rather Be Shopping.
Dec. 10 – Fitness Gear and Equipment
Dec. 12 – Stocking Stuffers and Small Gifts
Dec. 13 – Laptops
For the past three years, Dec. 13 has yielded online coupons from Dell.com and HP.com including $500 off a top of the line unit and budget models for less than $250, according to Rather Be Shopping.
Look for more of the same this year.
Dec. 14-17 – PlayStation and Xbox Consoles
Video games and consoles are big sellers in December and these are the best days to get a discount, according to BlackFriday.com
Dec. 14 – Tools and Hardware
Home improvement stores aren’t to be left out of the holiday sales rush and Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware and Harbor Freight will have offers of up to 30% off.
Still, Father’s Day brings better deals, so for those self-gifting tools and supplies, it pays to wait until Spring.
Dec. 15 – Toys
Both BlackFriday.com and coupon site Rather Be Shopping agree that this is the absolute best day to buy toys this month at big retailers such as Toys R Us, Target, Amazon and Walmart.
This is when retailers reach crunch time for toy sales and the incentives are aplenty in order to cash in on those “semi” last minute shoppers.
Dec. 16 – Apparel, Shoes, Accessories, Winter Clothing and Kitchen Gear
The absolute best prices on these goods before Christmas is Cyber Monday, but the next best opportunity is the Friday otherwise known as ‘Free Shipping Day.’
This is traditionally the day when retailers offer guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve, for free.
A large majority of online sites like Gap.com, Lands’ End.com, American Eagle, Macy’s and Old Navy will have fantastic coupon codes to go along with their free shipping offer.
It’s also a great day for kitchen and home goods.
Dec. 21-24 – Big Ticket Items
Retailers begin panic discounting on gift items the closer we get to Christmas, but they also begin clearing out the year’s models on appliances and furniture, but the deals get even better the day after Christmas.
Additional Ways To Save
Online shoppers would be silly not to take advantage of eBates.com. No tricks, no gimmicks, no forms to fill out. Ebates makes earning cash back easy!
Here’s how it works:
1. Shop First, start your search for the retailer where you wish to shop at eBates.com. They are partnered with hundreds of thousands of retailers, it would be extremely rare that whatever you want is not there. Then, be sure to click on any Ebates link to the store you’ll shop with before you make your purchase.
2. Validate When you click an Ebates link, you’ll see a pop-up confirmation letting you know you’re ready to shop and earn Cash Back at that store.
3. Purchase Complete your purchase as you normally would. This will also complete your Shopping Trip.
That’s all you have to do.
That’s it. And every quarter you get a check in the mail.
Do you have any secret holiday shopping tips to share? Sound off on our Facebook Page or on our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
5 Ways To Help Protect Your Credit
If you’ve been watching the news lately, you probably already know that monitoring your information and accounts is more important than ever.
Recently, we’ve seen an unprecedented number of headlines about data theft, with the Equifax data breach being one of the largest with as many as 143 Million people being effected.
Last year was a record year for data breaches in fact, with a 40% increase from the year before. In a world where our information is increasingly digital, and potentially accessible by the “bad guys,” do you know how to take control of your information and identity?
Well, there’s good news and bad news. Starting with the bad, there’s no way to completely prevent identity theft (short of living in the woods and burying your money in a hole). The good news is that there are a few quick steps you can take now, to help protect yourself and keep tabs on your data.
1. Monitor Your Credit
It goes without saying that staying on top of your credit is key. You should know if someone tries to open a new loan account in your name or worse, has used your information to default on a loan.
Once a year, you can get a free copy of your credit report from the three major bureaus (Experian®, Equifax®, TransUnion®) at annualcreditreport.com. It’s important to review all three reports—some lenders don’t report to every bureau, so they may have different information. Read through each report carefully and make sure you recognize the accounts. If something strange turns up, start by contacting the lender to investigate. For more info, take a look at this article on checking your credit report.
It’s also helpful to enroll in a credit monitoring. There are several credit monitoring services out there and most will alert you if a new account is opened in your name, or if something meaningful changes on your credit report. And if you catch something that looks like an error or fraud, they may be able to help you figure out what to do about it.
2. Put Fraud Alerts on Your Credit Report or Freeze Your Credit
What do you do if you think there’s fraud on your accounts? Rather than punching a wall or yelling incessantly, you have more constructive options. If you are (or think you might be) the victim of identity theft, you can put a fraud alert on your credit reports to let potential creditors or lenders know what’s going on. Once they know, they may be able to help protect you by taking extra steps to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.
You only need to notify one of the three credit reporting companies to put a fraud alert on your credit report and they’re required to tell the other two companies. Make sure you keep copies of all letters and renew the alert every 90 days until the issue is resolved. The Federal Trade Commission’s website, www.ftc.gov/idtheft, also offers information about how to protect yourself against fraud.
And, if you think you could be the victim of identity theft, consider a credit freeze. This is a tool that lets you restrict access to your credit report. And since most creditors need to see your credit report before they’ll let someone open a new account, this could make it harder for potential thieves to apply for credit or open accounts in your name. You can find out more about credit freezes here.
3. Sign Up for Purchase Notifications
Many banks and credit card companies let you to sign up for instant push notifications that’ll let you know when your credit card is used to make a purchase. This might sound annoying, but try it – you may be glad you did.
You can see immediately when your card is used. If you made the purchase, great – you can make sure the merchant charged you the right amount. If you didn’t, then you can quickly take steps to shut down the card and get a new one. And while most major credit card companies don’t hold you liable for the losses if the fraud happened on a credit card and you report it quickly, it’s nice to put a stop to it after a single questionable transaction instead of finding thirty of them on your monthly statement.
Also, some credit card companies allow you to lock and unlock your credit card through their mobile apps. When you can’t find your card, or see an unexpected transaction, you can lock down the card right away. And if your card was hiding in yesterday’s pants or the weird transaction was just something that slipped your mind, it’s easy to reverse.
4. Use A Different Password for Every Account
I know this sounds painful, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s hard to remember multiple passwords, and super frustrating when you mix them all up, but there are ways around it. And it’s better than the alternative.
• Use a password manager. Password managers can generate complex, encrypted passwords for each site you visit. You only need to know a single master password to access all of your passwords through the software and it can autofill your login credentials to save time.
• Tie something from each site to that account’s password. For example, once you build a strong password, you could also add the first 3 characters of each website to your password for that site. If you did this for every account, you’d still be able to remember your password, but help ensure that no 2 are identical. (Of course, there would be the few sites that start with the same 3 letters, but you get what I’m going for). At the very least, this is better than using the same password or forgetting your password all the time.
5. Be Suspicious of Emails or Phone Calls Asking for Your Information
Phishing is when a fraudster tries to contact you while claiming to be your bank, electric company, or anyone else you might trust enough to share your personal information. Fraudsters are getting more and more convincing, so phishing can be tough to spot.
Here are a few things to keep an eye out for:
• Generic emails sent to “Mr./Mrs.,” “Sir/Madame,” etc., instead of your legal name
• Over the phone, the caller asks you to validate your information with a Social Security Number or account number, but they don’t provide any information specific to your account
• Email addresses that don’t match the name of the company supposedly sending you the email.
• Emails with a link asking you to provide information without signing in through the secure site you typically use to access your account. Or, the link leads to a site that looks familiar, but the web address is incorrect or may have subtle differences.
If you experience any of the above, don’t risk responding directly. If you have questions or concerns, contact the company through their official website or phone number to ask about the suspicious message.
While fraud and data breaches are on the rise, so are your options in helping to defend yourself. And the best part is that you’re not alone in the fight. There are several organizations out there that offer sophisticated tools and tips that make it easier to stay on top of fraud than you might think. Bottom line: by adopting these few simple habits, you can play a big part in safeguarding your identity and reducing the impact of fraudsters.
Were you effected by the recent Equifax hack? Have you been the victim of credit card fraud? Have you ever had your identity stolen? What tips do you have for others as to how to navigate this mess? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn Feeds. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly HOME ADVICE™ eNewsletter for articles like these delivered straight to your inbox.
If you have more questions for Equifax, the company has set up a designated call center at 866-447-7559.
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