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As we close the chapter on the Moultrie Woods New Home Community Development. I want to share with you a quote from one of our residents on why she and her family fell in love with the neighborhood.

“It reminded me of a quaint little village.  It was a small neighborhood, which I liked.  It’s peaceful.  It’s perfect for my son and me.  My favorite part of my house is the primary bathroom shower- I love all of the upgraded touches.  Its the little things that count in my house such as the loft that I can use as my work space.  I love my backyard-the nature and the fact that lawn care is included in my HOA fees make it so easy to enjoy my yard.  My son loves his school and we love Treaty Park, which is right across the street.”  Amanda F.

Thanks Amanda and to everyone in Moultrie Woods New Home Community – together we have made a good neighborhood great!

Eli Rozier, President, The Avail Group, LLC

When it comes to backyards, bigger isn’t always better. Especially if you can make your space your own by using some of these inspiring ideas we’ve compiled for you! We promise your petite backyard will benefit from some simple and stylish tricks, like patio string light ideas that help set the mood around the outdoor bar, or innovative backyard ideas that might even include a water feature or two! We’ve also found the best patio plants, great ground cover flowers and plants, and even healing plants that will add plenty of visual interest.

But perhaps you haven’t been blessed with a green thumb? No problem! We have plenty of backyard solutions for you that don’t require getting your hands dirty, pruning, watering, or any of those other tasks. And if you’re short on backyard storage, we have solutions for that, too—from sheds to benches with plenty of space to hide things. This is your chance to make your small but mighty backyard your very own oasis, and the good news is you don’t need to spend a lot of time or money doing it. After all, shouldn’t the goal of summer be to to enjoy your outdoor spaces without having to constantly worry about maintenance and upkeep? We think so!


The coronavirus pandemic has thrown millions of people’s financial plans off the rails, and that certainly includes home buying. If you were hoping to purchase a property soon, you no doubt have a lot of questions—about whether it’s possible to buy or tour a house now, COVID-19’s impact on home prices, and more.

We’re already written a guide to home buying in the age of coronavirus to help you navigate this new reality in real estate, but we know there’s a lot you still want to know. So here are the answers to your most pressing questions about buying a home right now. Whether you’re wondering what’s up with home prices or open houses, read on to learn everything you need to know.

1. Is it possible to buy a house now?

While buying a house today may be more challenging due to health and economic concerns, it is certainly possible. In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has declared that residential and commercial real estate services are an essential service that should be allowed to continue. (State orders, however, may overrule that guidance.)

Furthermore, the real estate industry has quickly adopted new technologies to help home buyers and sellers stay safe for as long as this pandemic lasts.

However, certain aspects of the home-buying process might be restricted or look a bit different these days. For instance, as COVID-19 outbreaks gained momentum, certain hard-hit states (such as New York) banned in-person home viewings. And while home closings typically involve the presence of the buyers, the sellers, their agents, and a notary, some states (such as Florida) loosened restrictions and allowed remote or “curbside” closings, where documents are slipped through car windows to lower the exposure levels of all parties involved.

Aside from federal and local restrictions, a lot will depend on the home sellers’ comfort levels. Some sellers might be fine with your touring their house. But others might not be comfortable letting strangers in their home, even if property tours are allowed in your area.

local real estate agent will have the best handle on what home buyers can and can’t do in your area, so feel free to consult an agent for the most up-to-date information. Here’s more information to help you answer the question, “Should I buy a house now?

2. Is now a good time to buy a house, financially speaking?

From a financial perspective, there are certainly some advantages to buying a home right now. For one, mortgage interest rates are historically low, which means your monthly housing payments will be lower, too. And putting a property under contract now and locking in a low interest rate gives buyers more control than living in a rental where rents might go up.

Another big consideration on the financial side of the home-buying equation comes down to competition. The coronavirus has dissuaded some home buyers from home shopping for the time being. So buyers who do venture out face less competition, which could put them in a stronger position to negotiate with sellers.

In addition to surveying the housing market and mortgage rates in your area, you should also take a good, hard look at your personal financial situation. You’ll want to gauge whether now is a good time to buy for you. Are your job and income stable, or are you worried about layoffs or the stock market?

If your own financial future is uncertain, you might want to take more of a wait-and-see approach to home buying. Or consider buying a home well under what you can afford just in case the coming months throw you a curveball.

3. How has the coronavirus affected home prices?

The coronavirus has the world economy in turmoil. But so far at least, this does not mean that home prices have plummeted across the board or that buyers can lowball their way to a bargain. Instead, in most real estate markets, home inventory remains very tight.

“I don’t expect the slowdown to be like the last recession where prices fell,” says chief economist Danielle Hale. “There are more than enough buyers out there to keep home sales from slowing in any major way.”

Some sellers have pulled their listings as they wait for better market conditions. On the flip side, a home seller who doesn’t have the luxury of time is facing a smaller buyer pool, due to safety concerns and limited physical access to touring homes. So buyers could have the upper hand for a short period when it comes to homeowners who need to sell.

The only way to test a seller’s level of motivation is to make an offer. But play it safe. Buyers should not assume that because of the pandemic they can automatically lowball a seller—this could turn the seller off. You might want to try offering a modest discount below asking price to simply start a dialogue.

Here’s a breakdown of how to negotiate an offer on a home in the age of coronavirus.

4. Is it safe to buy a house now?

While no one can guarantee you won’t catch the coronavirus, the real estate industry has worked to prioritize buyers’ and sellers’ health by eliminating personal interactions almost entirely during the pandemic. Even as different states reopen, you can still do most aspects of the home-buying process remotely, or at a safe social distance, when it comes to your home search that you may not have considered doing in the past.

First, you can find local real estate agents online and interview them virtually. While showings may not be easy to arrange because of shelter-in-place orders or continuing health concerns, most real estate listings now offer virtual tours.

When possible, video chats allow agents to walk through a prospective home while you watch from the safety of your current residence. Virtual tours may not be as good as walking through a home, but they can give you a good idea of whether or not you want to see the house in person when it’s possible. And it’s also a great way to pare your options and skip visiting some homes.

When it comes to the financial aspect of home buying, many lenders had already made the entire mortgage process digital long before anyone heard of social distancing.

Another new term? “Desktop appraising,” which allows the appraiser to stay home and review available data that allows lenders to approve mortgages remotely.

And in many states, drive-through or even video closings are temporarily permissible during the pandemic.

Remember, whether all of the above is available depends on your area, so always consult with your agent each step of the way. And read more on whether or not it’s safe to buy a house now.

5. Are open houses or home showings allowed?

Whether open houses are allowed in your area all comes down to how local authorities enforce their lockdowns. Under many quarantine orders, such as in Los Angeles and New York City during the height of the pandemic, open houses have been completely banned. Other states currently allow open houses as long as capacity allows for social distancing. The National Association of Realtors® offers guidelines on open houses, recommending that they be limited to fewer than 10 people, if they’re hosted at all.

In general, in areas where open houses aren’t allowed, individual home showings with just a buyer and an agent are OK. Keep in mind that even if showings are allowed, agents and home sellers must all be willing to make them happen. Check with your agent and local government for more information, and know that what’s permissible could change as this pandemic progresses.

If you do choose to attend an open house or tour a home, here’s what you can do to stay safe:

  • Don’t touch anything in someone else’s home. Ask that the owners open cabinets and closets prior to a showing.
  • Stay six feet away from your real estate agent at all times. If the home is small, ask your agent to open the front door for you and wait in the kitchen while you tour the house on your own. You can ask questions via cellphone as you look around.
  • Wear protective booties; agents generally provide these even in normal times. Carefully throw them away when you’ve finished touring.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap after you leave the home.

Or instead of attending an open house or private tour, you can conduct a virtual house hunt. You can also drive through a neighborhood and check out the area from the safety of your car. Here’s more on how to stay safeduring your house hunt.

6. Should I buy a house sight unseen?

While buying a house sight unseen has long been the only option for people relocating due to a new job or military service, the trend has been on the rise for more and more folks. In fact, according to a survey of 1,300 consumers during the week of April 5, 24% (or 1 in 4) said they’d be willing to buy a home without seeing it in person.

Buyers who consider buying a house sight unseen generally have some comfort level with the neighborhood and know the market. And according to senior economist George Ratiu, the comfort level of buying a house sight unseen may come down to age.

“Younger cohorts are more inclined to rely on detailed photos, virtual tours, or live video instead of an in-person visit, with 31% indicating they would be willing to buy sight unseen,” says Ratiu.

Even if you’re buying blind, you shouldn’t operate completely in the dark. Here are some features that buyers find most helpful in such a home search.

  • The ability to take a virtual tour of the home
  • Listing and neighborhood information that is accurate and detailed
  • Plentiful, high-quality listing photos that show the property’s interior and exterior
  • An agent or landlord who can walk a buyer through the property via video chat

Check out more advice on how to buy a home sight unseen before you commit to a purchase.

7. Can I buy a house if I’m unemployed?

Generally speaking, if you are recently unemployed you should think twice about buying right now. But there are some ways you can proceed, albeit with caution.

For instance, home buying is possible when you’re between jobs if you have enough money in the bank to make an all-cash offer—due to a previous home sale or inheritance—and can skip the mortgage process entirely.

If you do need a mortgage, you’ll need not only a high credit score and a low debt-to-income ratio, but also a source of funds to prove to lenders you can make your monthly mortgage payments. If you are a dual-income family with a spouse or significant other still working, that person could apply for a mortgage. Many lenders also allow for a monetary gift to home buyers from relatives. Sometimes a sizable gift satisfies lenders’ application requirements even if the borrower is currently unemployed.

Here’s more on how rising unemployment may affect the housing market.

8. How long will it take to close on a house?

Yes, the length of time from an accepted offer to home closing during the height of the pandemic is taking longer. Closing times used to average about 26 days in January, then hit 43 days in February, and shot up to 60 days in March. They’re likely to take longer still in the coming months.

The simple fact is lenders are buried under paperwork as refinancing applications skyrocketed due to the historically low mortgage interest rates.

In addition to lender backlogs, social distancing and shelter-in-place orders have complicated the home closing process. While home inspections and appraisals are possible, everything is just taking longer during the pandemic. Here’s more on the home closing process.

9. Is moving allowed right now?

According to the American Moving & Storage Association, moving has been deemed an essential service by the federal government.

Still, while moving is legal in the big picture, it might not be allowed for your specific circumstances depending on what stage of the pandemic you are in. For instance, during the height of New York City’s epidemic, some apartment buildings decided to ban residents from moving due to safety concerns and shelter-in-place orders.

Check with your local and state governments (and your HOA or condo board, if applicable) before scheduling any move. And if you have to move, read all about how to move safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

10. How can I prepare to buy a house?

You may be interested in buying a home, but simply don’t feel comfortable getting out there and house hunting right now. Luckily there are still things you can do to prepare so you’re ready to spring into action later this summer or whenever you decide you’re ready.

  • Check your credit score: The very first step in preparing to buy a home is to check your credit score. Credit scores are what mortgage lenders look at to determine whether you are creditworthy, and will dictate your interest rate. So do everything to protect your score. Many companies—from credit cards to utilities—are working with consumers who can’t make payments. If you are having trouble making payments, don’t just skip them. Call your lender and work out a plan.
  • Figure out how much home you can afford: The pandemic has roiled markets and caused tremendous economic uncertainty. So you’ll want to carefully consider how much home you can afford and err on the conservative side. Check an online home affordability calculator, which will help you determine your monthly mortgage payment.
  • Secure mortgage pre-approval: Now it’s more important than ever to get pre-approved to show sellers you’re serious when you make an offer. Pre-approval shows how much a lender will loan you, assuring the seller that you’re financially capable of buying a home.
  • Avoid any major changes: A major tenet of preparing to buy a home is to not make any major changes in your life or your finances. But with the coronavirus pandemic, some upheaval—such as getting furloughed—may be out of your control. Yet much of it is not. For instance, do not buy a car or pricey new furniture, or apply for a new credit card. All of those can lower your credit rating, meaning you may not be able to qualify for a home loan.
  • Check online listings: On real estate sites like you can see what properties are available in your area in your price range. And take advantage of the virtual tours many agents are offering to house hunt from your couch.

For more information, check out our complete home home-buying guide in the age of coronavirus.

Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.


These days, it seems like everyone’s looking for ways to cut costs and stretch their income further. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your household expenses without making radical changes to your standard of living. When combined, these small adjustments can add up to significant savings each month.


Here are 20 things you can start doing today to lower your bills, secure better deals, and begin working toward your financial goals.


  1. Refinance Your Mortgage – For prime borrowers, mortgage rates are at or near historic lows. Depending on your current mortgage rate and the terms you choose, refinancing could save you a sizable amount on your monthly payments. There are fees and closing costs associated with refinancing, so you’ll need to talk to your lender to find out if refinancing is a good option for you.


  1. Evaluate Your Insurance Policies – If it’s been a while since you priced home or auto insurance, it may be worthwhile to do some comparison shopping. Get quotes from at least three insurers or independent agents. Try bundling your policies to see if there’s a discount. And inquire about raising your deductible, which should lower your premium.1


  1. Bundle Cable, Phone, and Internet – You can also save money by bundling your cable, phone, and internet services together. Shop around to see who is willing to give you the best deal. If switching is too much of a hassle, ask your current provider to match or beat their competitor’s offer.


  1. Better Yet, Cut the Cord on Cable – In many cases, you can save even more if you cancel your cable subscription altogether. An antenna should give you access to the major stations, and many of your favorite shows are probably available on-demand through a less expensive streaming service subscription.


  1. Revisit Your Wireless Plan – You can often save by switching from a big brand to an independent, low-cost carrier. If that’s not feasible, ask your current provider for a better deal or consider downgrading to a cheaper plan.


  1. Adjust Your Thermostat – Turning your thermostat up or down a few degrees can have a noticeable impact on your monthly heating and cooling costs. To maximize efficiency, change your filters regularly, and make sure your windows and doors are well insulated.


  1. Use Less Hot Water – After heating and cooling, hot water accounts for the second largest energy expense in most homes.2 To cut back, repair any leaks or dripping faucets, install low-flow fixtures, only run your dishwasher when full, and wash clothes in cold water when possible.


  1. Lower Overall Water Consumption – To decrease your water usage, take shorter showers, and turn off the sink while you brush your teeth and wash your hands. If you don’t have a low-flow toilet, retrofit your current one with a toilet tank bank or fill cycle diverter. And irrigate your lawn in the morning or evening to minimize evaporation.3


  1. Conserve Electricity – Save electricity by shutting off your computer at night and installing energy-efficient LED light bulbs. You can minimize standby or “vampire” power drain by utilizing power strips and unplugging idle appliances.4


  1. Purchase a Home Warranty – While there is an upfront cost, a home warranty can provide some protection and peace of mind when it comes to unexpected home repair costs. Most plans provide coverage for major systems (like electrical, plumbing, and HVAC) and appliances (such as your dishwasher, stove, or refrigerator).


  1. Outsource Less – From lawn care to grocery shopping to minor home repairs, we pay people to do a lot of things our parents and grandparents did themselves. To save money, try cutting back on the frequency of these services or taking some of them on yourself.


  1. Prepare Your Own Meals – It costs nearly five times more to have a meal delivered than it does to cook it at home.5 And home cooking doesn’t just save money; it’s healthier, cuts down on calorie consumption, and can offer a fun activity for families to do together.


  1. Plan Your Menu in Advance – Meal planning is deciding before you shop what you and your family will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It can help you lower your overall food bill, eliminate waste, and minimize impulse purchases. When possible, buy produce that is in season, and utilize nutrient-rich but inexpensive protein sources like eggs, beans, ground turkey, and canned tuna.


  1. Plant a Garden – You can save even more on produce by growing it yourself. If you have space in your yard, start-up costs are relatively minimal. Gardening can be a rewarding and enjoyable (not to mention delicious) hobby for the whole family. And it could save you around $600 per year at the grocery store!6


  1. Review Memberships and Subscriptions – Are you paying for services and subscriptions you no longer need, want, or can utilize? Determine if there are any that you should suspend or cancel.


  1. Give Homemade Gifts – Who wouldn’t appreciate a scratch birthday cake or tin of cookies? And if you enjoy crafting, Pinterest and Instagram are full of inspiring ideas. Show your recipient how much you care with a homemade gift from the heart.


  1. Minimize Your Debt Payments – The best way to reduce a debt payment is to pay down the balance. But if that’s not an option right now, try to negotiate a better interest rate. If you have a good credit score, you may be able to qualify for a balance transfer to a 0% or low-interest rate credit card. Keep in mind, the rate may expire after a certain period—so be sure to read the fine print.


  1. Get a Cash-back Credit Card – If you regularly pay your credit card balance in full, a cash-back credit card can be a good way to earn a little money back each month. However, they often come with high-interest rates and fees if you carry a balance. Commit to only using it for purchases you can afford.


  1. Ask for Deals and Discounts – It may feel awkward at first, but becoming a master haggler can save you a lot of money. Many companies are willing to negotiate under the right circumstances. Always inquire about special promotions or incentives. See if they are able to price match (or beat) their competitors. And if an item is slightly defective or nearing its expiration date, ask for a discount.


  1. Track Your Household Budget – One of the most effective ways to reduce household expenses is to set a budget—and stick to it. A budget can help you see where your money is going and identify areas where you can cut back. By setting reasonable limits, you’ll be able to reach your financial goals faster.



Want more help getting a handle on your finances? Use the budget worksheet below to track income and expenses—and start working towards your financial goals today! Please reach out to me for a downloadable version.


  Expected Actual Difference
Mortgage/taxes/insurance or Rent      
Utilities (electricity, water, gas, trash)      
Phone, internet, cable      
Home maintenance and repairs      
Car payment/insurance      
Gas, maintenance, repairs      
Health insurance      
Clothing and personal care      
Gifts and charitable contributions      
Savings, retirement, college fund      
Tips and other      
Total Actual Income  
Total Actual Expenses  




We would love to help you meet your financial goals. Whether you want to refinance your mortgage, save up for a down payment, or simply find lower-cost alternatives for home repairs, maintenance, or utilities, we are happy to provide our insights and referrals. And if you have plans to buy or sell a home this year, we can discuss the steps you should be taking to financially prepare. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!



The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.





  1. Insurance Information Institute –
  2. Department of Energy –
  3. Money Crashers –
  4. Harvard University –
  5. Forbes –
  6. Money –
New-home sales plummeted for four weeks after the nation shut down and then reversed course. Many would-be purchasers are renters who want more space.

NEW YORK – Sales of newly built homes started to rise over the past two weeks, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting (JBRC). Activity plummeted in the first four weeks of the national shutdown, with sales down 85% from normal spring activity by the fourth week.

“We’re still down roughly 65%, but more positive news is coming out of the new home market, particularly for builders who are targeting the first-time and entry-level buyers,” says Devyn Bachman, manager of research at JBRC.

More renters are leaving their apartments and looking at new homes, she says. Her research reveals that demand for new construction is skewing towards renters, especially young couples with two incomes who feel secure in their employment.

Regarding the appeal of new homes during the pandemic, Bachman says, “It’s safe, it’s clean, it’s new, and it’s easy to show at this point. Lots of the builders have set up virtual tours on their websites, the sales agents are setting appointments for consumers to come in and tour models in a safe distance manner. They’re actually able to show the new home, where in several markets it’s very difficult to see resale listings at this point.”

Source: CNBC (04/27/20) Olick, Diana

© Copyright 2020 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

CHICAGO – The spring housing market will be slower than normal due to stay-at-home orders by many states and municipalities to control the outbreak of COVID-19 – but the majority of real estate professionals see the slowdown as temporary. They’re optimistic that a turnaround will occur once social distancing measures are lifted.

Almost six of 10 Realtors® recently surveyed by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that their buyers were delaying home purchases for a couple of months. It was similar on the seller side: 57% of real estate professionals said sellers were delaying home sales.

NAR’s Economic Pulse Flash Survey was conducted on April 5-6.

“Home sales will decline this spring season because of unique economic and social consequences resulting from the coronavirus outbreak – but much of the activity looks to reappear later in the year,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

Yun also predicts that home prices will remain stable “because of a pandemic-induced reduction in inventory coupled with less immediate concerns over foreclosures.”

Mortgage servicers also say they’re unconcerned about a flood of foreclosures hampering the housing market thanks to swift actions taken to offer forbearance options to out-of-work homeowners.

So far, most Realtors reported stable prices in their markets, with three out of four (72%) saying their sellers haven’t reduced asking prices to attract buyers. However, a majority of homebuyers (63%) expect prices to decline eventually, perhaps hoping that the temporary decline in buyers interest will translate into a buyer’s market after steps to fight the pandemic have been rescinded.

The survey also asked about monthly rental payments from tenants. Nearly half of the property managers surveyed (46%) said they’ve been able to accommodate tenants who cannot pay rent, and 27% of individual landlords reported the same.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes a provision for eviction prevention, as well as small-business loans and grants for assisting the rental market.

Real estate professionals are finding ways to work virtually to complete some transactions. The most common tools leveraged according to the survey are e-signatures, social media, messaging apps and virtual tours.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

What’s The Best Way To Disinfect Your Home? Tips For How—And What—To Clean During Coronavirus

Amy Dobson


As the world ramps up its self-protection measures against coronavirus, we have all seen the advice for washing our hands for 20 seconds (and various playlists for what songs to sing so you know you’ve reached the full 20 seconds), but there are also important considerations when it comes to keeping your living spaces free of coronavirus germs. Since the illness is transmitted via airborne droplets that can stay viable for at least several hours or possibly much longer (early studies are not conclusive about the exact window of time), it is important to decontaminate any surfaces where such droplets could land.

“What we tell people is to take this seriously,” said Vikas Chopra, a representative from Aftermath, a company that has specialized in removal of biohazard material for several decades. “This is not something to take lightly. The whole concept of flattening the curve really requires us to treat this as a serious matter. If you have a confirmed or suspected case we want to nip it in the bud right away.”

At the end of January the Environmental Protection Agency released an extensive list of disinfectants that are effective against coronavirus, and, just this week, it updated the list with 40 new products that made it through their expedited review process. Note the list doesn’t mention products by brand name, but instead identifies them by EPA registration number. Check your cleaning/disinfectant products for the EPA registration number on the packaging. If it is on this list, it is effective against coronavirus.

According to guidelines from both the Centers For Disease Control and EPA, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol or a bleach solution of at least four teaspoons of bleach per quart of water (equals to a third of a cup per gallon) are effective against coronavirus.

“The reason we say washing your hands is better than hand sanitizer, is that scrubbing with soap and water will get that stuff off a surface,” says Catherine Roberts, associate health editor for Consumer Reports. “It doesn’t necessarily kill it every time [but] it can remove pathogens.”

Citing previous Consumer Reports research she adds, “Scientists think soap does a pretty good job of disrupting the barrier that protects the virus. It should be comforting to folks that [coronavirus] is susceptible to being killed by these disinfectants. Hopefully that should be reassuring to people, that their cleaning efforts aren’t necessarily going to waste.”

High-touch surfaces to worry about include: doorknobs, fridge/freezer/microwave handles, backs of chairs, tables and desks, countertops, light switches, toilets and sink fixtures, remote controls, other electronic devices and toys.

Here are some other specific things to keep in mind:


  • The kitchen, or any area where food is prepped or consumed, is one of the best places for germs to hang around. There are so many surfaces you have to touch, often as a matter of habit, that you can easily overlook places to keep disinfected even if you have the best of intentions.
  • Some of the obvious places are the fridge and freezer doors, but don’t forget about the shelves on the inside and the handles of vegetable drawers.
  • Silverware: It isn’t just the knives and forks, but the silverware drawer that your fingers brush up against (or you breath over while the drawer is open) that you should take care to disinfect frequently.
  • If you use reusable grocery bags, it can’t hurt to soak them in the sink with hot soapy water after you’ve put all the groceries away.


  • Damp towels may be an excellent site for coronavirus droplets to stay alive longer than if they had landed on a hard surface. During this time of abundant caution it makes sense to wash towels more frequently and, if possible, to only use hand towels once when drying your hands (or perhaps everyone has their own dedicated hand towel to use for hand drying).
  • Don’t forget about disinfecting handles and fixtures for places like the medicine cabinet, drawer and window latches, or other overlooked items like bath mats and soap dishes.
  • Bedroom
    • This is where many items from our normal day end up, possibly contaminating each other before being used again. Wash pillowcases more frequently since that is where airborne droplets will occur the most and empty the trash can daily (especially if it doesn’t have a cover) to eliminate places where germs can congregate.
    • Don’t forget about the switches for bedside lamps, handles on drawers, curtain pulls or television remote controls.


    • Any laundry that could have coronavirus germs should be handled with disposable gloves. And, since coronavirus is transmitted through airborne droplets, take care not to shake the laundry (such as is when placing it in the washing machine). If you don’t have enough disposable gloves then dedicate reusable gloves to coronavirus cleaning and use those for touching laundry.
    • Wash laundry in as warm a water as possible to aid in killing the germs and make sure they are throughly dried in a dryer before using.
    • Instead of collecting laundry in a non-disposable hamper, use a trash bag or liner that can be laundered to prevent germs from lingering in the home.
    • Other wearables besides clothes need to be considered. Watches, jewelry, gloves and shoes are all likely to come in to contact with germs. Spraying your shoes—especially the tops and laces—with disinfectant and wiping your jewelry with a cloth that has an effective but non-abrasive cleaning solution will help prevent germs.

    Electronic devices

    • Rubbing alcohol (or “surgical spirit” as it is called in the United Kingdom) is a way to disinfect device surfaces without risking water damage. It evaporates quickly enough that if you wipe it on a device with a cloth or paper towel, there isn’t enough time for it to migrate into the cracks and openings of a device and cause internal damage.
    • Be warned: Over time, regular cloths like paper towels and dish cloths can be too abrasive for phone screens, so if you have microfiber cloth, use that instead.

    Other tips

    • The person who is self-isolating or showing signs of illness should have their own trash receptacle. Anyone who disposes of the trash bags should wear disposable gloves while doing so.
    • Even if you wear gloves while touching surfaces that have been contaminated, you can still be in danger if you don’t take remove them properly. Use your fingers on one hand to pull the other glove down your hand, grabbing the plastic near your wrist (not at its tapered edge where you could come in contact with your skin). Pull your fingers through the glove so that you turn it inside out as it comes off your hands. Then, use the inside-out glove to take off your other glove in the same manner and throw both away immediately.
    • Remember pet fur could host droplets from coronavirus. Wash your hands after touching your pets if someone else suspected to have coronavirus touches them.
    • Disinfect the inside of your vacuum cleaner by emptying the canister completely and wiping the inside walls with a disinfectant-soaked cloth. Let the moisture evaporate completely before closing everything back up again.

3 Staging Trends that Can Turn Off Buyers

Stagers say popular home design trends may look stylish to owners but not to buyers. Don’t mix too many metals, for example – and neutral wall colors still work best.

CHICAGO – Home staging can show off a home in its best light. Adding simple, updated decor can make a space feel warm and inviting. But stagers say a few popular trends in home design should be avoided when prepping a home for sale:

  • Too many mixed metals: Mixed metals are a hot home trend, such as combining brushed nickel with matte black. It can add dimension and depth to a design – but don’t go overboard. Some fixture finishes don’t look right with others.“Brass nickel is out,” Janice Rosenberg, a real estate pro in Raleigh, N.C., told HomeLight. “Getting rid of that helps update a home. Brushed nickel is fine, and oil rubbed bronze is typically fine.”

    Designers suggest using two or three mixed metals at the most. Don’t have every fixture be something different. “Pick one that will be the dominant finish, then one or two additionally complementary colors of a cohesive look,” HomeLight notes.

  • Accent walls: Color pops are a hot trend, and the colors of 2020 are a lot bolder. But neutral palettes still reign in staging. Avoid adding color pops by painting a large wall a bright color for one accent wall. Keep the colors neutral and add pops of color instead through artwork, accessories, furnishings, etc.Wallpaper is another popular trend at the moment but it “can add visual clutter,” Rosenberg says.
  • Cheap decorations: Stronger personalities are being expressed through current home designs. But the mantra in staging is still to stay neutral and try to appeal to the largest buyer pool. That doesn’t mean stripping a listing of all personality, though.“Don’t just pick up generic, plastic or cheap decor,” notes on its blog. “Have a fresh vase of flowers visible upon entering the home; even go the extra mile to make sure everything is sparkling clean and nicely placed.” Stick with classic choices for home decor so the home appeals to a broad audience of buyers, but also don’t get rid of accents that are unique to showcase the personality of the home.

Source: “Foolish Fads: 9 Home Décor Trends to Avoid When Selling Your House,” HomeLight (Aug. 29, 2019) and “Trends for 2020: Dos and Don’ts of Staging Your Home for Future Buyers,” (Dec. 26, 2019)

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Study: It’s 16% Cheaper to Buy Now than Late 2018

Home prices are going up; mortgage rates are going down. A study by Black Knight found that the buyer savings from mortgage rate drops more than offsets the rise in home prices by about 16% (about $48,000) in just over a year’s time.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville-based Black Knight Inc. examined home price growth and affordability in the context of today’s lower-interest-rate environment in its latest monthly report. It found that the negative impact of rising home prices has been more than offset by mortgage interest rate declines.

“Even with home price growth accelerating, today’s low-interest-rate environment has made home affordability the best it’s been since early 2018,” says Black Knight Data & Analytics President Ben Graboske. “At that time, the housing market was red-hot with national home price growth at 6.6% and climbing – before rising rates and tightening affordability triggered a pullback in growth rates.”

Even though average home prices have increased by almost $13,000 a little over a year ago, “the monthly mortgage payment required to buy that same home has actually dropped by 10% over that same span due to falling interest rates,” Graboske says.

Black Knight analysis

  • Home prices continue to react to falling interest rates. December marked four consecutive months of acceleration in the annual rate of growth and had the largest single-month acceleration in more than 6.5 years
  • After falling from nearly 7% in early 2018 to 3.8% in August 2019, the national home price growth rate gained nearly a full percentage point increase over the last four months of 2019, climbing to 4.7% to close out the year
  • Still, 30-year interest rates fell to 3.6% in late January 2020 and made housing the most affordable it’s been since early 2018
  • Despite the average home price increasing by nearly $13,000 from just over a year ago, the monthly mortgage payment required to buy that same home has dropped by 10% over that same span due to falling interest rates
  • It now requires 20.6% of median monthly income to purchase the same home as it did just over a year ago – the smallest such payment-to-income ratio in two years Put another way, buying power for those shopping for the average-priced home has increased by 16% (approximately $48,000) in just over a year’s time
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