Thursday, August 29, 2019

Disaster Supply Kit - Be prepared!

Water – You will need water for drinking, cooking and sanitation purposes. Pack a minimum of 1 gallon daily per person for 7 days.

Food – You will need enough for a minimum of 7 days:

  • Non-perishable packaged or canned food and juices
    • Manual can opener

  • Foods for individuals with dietary restrictions (i.e. infants, elderly, etc.)

  • Snack foods

  • Cooking tools and fuel

  • Paper plates and plastic utensils

Flashlight and Extra Batteries

Pillows, Blankets and/or Sleeping Bags

Clothing – Include a complete change of clothes suitable for your areas climate. Be sure to include sturdy shoes to protect you from debris or other sharp objects you may encounter outdoors post-storm.

First Aid Kit, Prescription Medication and Other Medicines

Radio – Battery operated and NOAA weather radio


Cleaning Supplies – Include garbage bags, moisture wipes and other items you may need to sanitize your home or surrounding post-disaster.

Special Items – Assess all family member needs. Consider other items needed for infants, elderly and individuals with access and functional needs (i.e. medical items, baby bottles, etc.)

Cash – Banks and ATMs may not be open or available for extended periods following a disaster.

Toys, Books and Games

Important Documents – Consider storing all critical documents in a waterproof container, as well as, saving them electronically. These items can include but are not limited to insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.


Pet Care Items

  • Proper identification / immunization records

  • Ample supply of food and water

  • Carrier or cage

  • Medications

  • Muzzle and leash

  • Photo of you and your pet(s) – in the event you are separated from your pet, having an updated photo with your pet will help validate pet ownership.

Source: Disaster Supply Kit

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

633 Divers Just Set the World Record for Largest Ocean Cleanup After Collecting 1,600 Pounds of Trash


It took the group of divers only two hours to collect all of the trash and fishing line from the ocean floor of the Florida beach shoreline.

A massive group of eco-friendly scuba divers have just set the Guinness World Record for the largest underwater cleanup.

Over 633 divers donned their wetsuits and masks last week at the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier in Florida so they could pick up all the fishing gear and plastic waste from the ocean floor.

Though the total amount of recovered garbage is still being calculated with experts expecting the number to grow, officials say that the cleanup resulted in at least 1,626 pounds of trash and 60 pounds of fishing line being recovered from the ocean floor – and city officials say that they will be recycling and disposing of all of the collected ocean waste accordingly.

Source: 633 Divers Just Set the World Record for Largest Ocean Cleanup After Collecting 1,600 Pounds of Trash

Friday, August 23, 2019

Shipwrecked Adult Party, Leisure Square Day, Toga Party top things to do this weekend


Here are the best events in Hobe Sound, Stuart, Jensen Beach, Sebastian, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie.

Summer is winding down, but the weekend is picking up on the Treasure Coast. Check out the best events and things to do during the next few days in Martin, Indian River and St. Lucie counties. Here’s What To Do in 772.

Martin County

Dixie’s Tupperware Party adult comedy show to benefit Nala’s New Life Rescue starts at 7 p.m. Friday at the Cambridge Clubhouse at Heritage Ridge South, 8201 S.E. Constitution Blvd., Hobe Sound. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 each. Ages 21 and older only. Wine, beer, soda and light refreshments are provided. For more information, call 772-485-3799 or go to


Celebrate Gilbert’s First Anniversary from 6-11 p.m. Saturday at Gilbert’s Coffee Bar, 615 S.W. Anchorage Way, Stuart. The coffee bar opened last year at Sunset Bay Marina & Anchorage. Enjoy live music by three different artists starting at 7 p.m. The celebration also includes drink specials, a raffle and the Sunset Sliders food truck. For more information, go to


The Shipwrecked Adult Party to celebrate The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast’s 11th birthday is 6-9 p.m. Saturday at 1707 N.E. Indian River Drive, Jensen Beach. Pirate, mermaid or castaway costumes are encouraged. Tickets are $45 each at the door and include two drinks and appetizers. Ages 21 and older only. The official after-party begins at 9 p.m. at Carsons Tavern, 2883 S.E. Ocean Blvd., Stuart. To get tickets, go to (After Sensory Friendly Day from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday, the museum is closed for exhibit installations until Sept. 2.)

The Snakes Alive hike at Jonathan Dickinson State Park is 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday at 16450 S.E. Federal Highway, Hobe Sound. Meet at the Hobe Mountain parking lot. To register, call 561-745-5551. For more information, go to


Indian River County

The End of Summer Luau at Heaton’s Reef is 6-9 p.m. Friday at Cobalt Restaurant and Vero Beach Hotel & Spa, 3500 Ocean Drive. It includes drink specials, an extensive cookout buffet, a complimentary beverage and live music by the beach. The cost is $40 for adults and $25 for ages 12 and younger. For more information, go to

The free Leisure Square Day is 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the City of Vero Beach Recreation Department’s outdoor activity center at 3705 16th St. It features Starbucks coffee at 7 p.m., water aerobics at 9:30 a.m., yoga at 10 a.m., the Aerial Antics Youth Circus performers at 10:30 a.m., a turkey shoot basketball contest at 11 a.m., hot dogs and drinks from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and an ice cream social from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For more information, call 772-770-6500 or go to

The Guided Forest Bathing Walk at Round Island Riverside Park is 8:45-11:45 a.m. Saturday, 2200 S. State Road A1A, at the Indian River-St. Lucie County line. Join Kelly Bruce, an Association of Nature and Forest Therapy certified guide, for a relaxing stroll through the mangroves. The practice of forest bathing helps people slow down, relax and reconnect with nature by quieting the mind and awakening the senses. Donations accepted. Bring sunscreen, bug repellent and water. To RSVP, go to

Laurie’s Stories: Kayak, paddle, hike or fish at Round Island Riverside Park

Gainesville’s Less Than Jake performs a live show along with openers from 6-11 p.m. Sunday at Capt Hiram’s Sand Bar, 1606 Indian River Drive, Sebastian. It also features Florida craft beer for sale. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. To get tickets, go to

The Fresh Market’s 10-Year Anniversary Celebration is noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 526 21st St., Vero Beach. It includes free samples throughout the store, celebration cupcakes, samples from the grill, a raffle and giveaways, such as reusable bags. For more information, go to


St. Lucie County

The Porkers 4-H Club’s Pie Auction and Barbecue is 6-10 p.m. Saturday at the St. Lucie County Fairgrounds, 15601 W. Midway Road, west of Fort Pierce. Doors open at 5 p.m. Dinner begins at 6 p.m. The pie auction starts at 7 p.m. The dance is from 8-10 p.m. Tickets are $15, but ages 5 and younger get in free. For more information, go to

The Toga Party at Bottom’s Up Public House is 9 a.m. Saturday to midnight at 208 Avenue A, Fort Pierce. Party “Animal House” style with live music, a toga costume contest, a chugging contest and wood-fired pizza for sale. For more information, go to

Laurie’s Stories: Bottom’s Up Public House late-night music venue opens with quality cocktails, craft beer

The fourth annual ALS Awareness Day at First Data Field is noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at 525 N.W. Peacock Blvd., Port St. Lucie. Game tickets bought through the ALS Awareness group benefit ALwayS for ALS. The game is followed by the ice bucket challenge. The goal is to break last year’s record of more than 100 people participating. For more information, go to

The Fall Hunting Classic Kids Weekend at Bass Pro Shops is noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at 2250 Gatlin Blvd., Port St. Lucie. It features a children’s archery challenge, a fall bear craft and a free photo download. The first 100 kids to complete the archery challenge get tin raccoon boxes. For more information, go to

Laurie K. Blandford is TCPalm’s entertainment reporter and columnist dedicated to finding the best things to do on the Treasure Coast. Read her weekly column, Laurie’s Stories, on Follow her on Twitter at @TCPalmLaurie or Facebook at


Source: Shipwrecked Adult Party, Leisure Square Day, Toga Party top things to do this weekend

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

New Condo Rules Will Open More Doors for Buyers


The association says changes to FHA financing qualifications will bring more entry-level homes to the market, helping to meet buyer demand.

The National Association of REALTORS®, after reviewing the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new condominium financing rules, says the guidance affords property owners greater flexibility in the qualification process for loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration. Lenders will be able to issue FHA loans for single condo units, and buildings with a greater number of investor-owned units or greater percentage of commercial space can qualify for FHA financing, among other changes HUD released Wednesday. NAR expects the new rules, which will go into effect Oct. 15, to revive a condo market that has been stifled since the Great Recession.

NAR says the new condo rules, which will help more would-be buyers access affordable housing, satisfy many of the changes the association has backed for more than a decade. Specifically, the new rules will:

Extend FHA certifications on condo developments from two years to three years, with an additional six-month grace period to meet requirements. This will alleviate some of the cost and time burdens on condominium associations that intend to maintain FHA approval. Condo associations also may continue submitting updated recertification packages, rather than the full certification package each time. The National Association of REALTORS® expects the change to prompt more condominium properties to apply for FHA eligibility, making more affordable housing more accessible.

Allow for single-unit mortgage approvals—often known as spot approvals—that will enable FHA insurance of individual condo units, even if the entire property does not have FHA approval. The condo building in which the FHA buyer wants to purchase must meet certain requirements: The property must have at least five units, a limited concentration of FHA-insured units, at least 50% owner-occupancy, and a maximum of 35% commercial space.

Secure additional flexibility in the ratio of investors to owner-occupants allowed for FHA financing in a condo building. While the current owner-occupancy requirement is 50%, HUD may approve an owner-occupancy level as low as 35% for older properties with less than 10% of units in arrears. Individual investors can purchase no more than 10% of units in a property with more than 20 units and no more than one unit in properties with less than 20 units.

FHA approvals for condos prior to these changes have been heavily restricted. For example, the National Association of REALTORS® pointed to data earlier this year showing that in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, there were 5,683 condo projects—but only seven had FHA approval. NAR sent out an all-member email about the new condo rules Wednesday morning.

“It goes without saying that condominiums are often the most affordable option for first-time home buyers, small families, and those in urban areas,” NAR President John Smaby said in a statement. “This ruling, which culminates years of collaboration between HUD and NAR, will help reverse recent declines in condo sales and ensure the FHA is fulfilling its primary mission to the American people.”

The association’s most recent existing-home sales report, released in July, showed that sales of condos and co-ops dropped 6.5% year over year. Further, with more than 8.7 million condo units nationwide, only 17,792 FHA condo loans were originated in the past year. Down payments for single-family homes also have grown significantly more expensive in recent years in the absence of widely accessible FHA condo financing, NAR argues.

FHA restricted its condo approval process in 2009, which limited the number of properties that could receive FHA loans. In 2016, it moved to lift several of those restrictions, but the proposed rules were never finalized.

Source: NAR: New Condo Rules Will Open More Doors for Buyers

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

PSL #10! - Best Cities for Retirement (and Worst)


Best Life’s editors crunched the numbers to figure out the best and worst U.S. cities for retirement. (Short version: head to Florida!)

Choosing a place to retire to can be a challenge. Of course you want the option of being able to get those tennis matches and golf games going daily, but you also crave the convenience of living in a bustling locale with restaurants, shops, and tons of cultural events at your doorstop. The good news is, you don’t have to choose. There are tons of cities that can give you everything a recent retiree could dream of—and some that you should steer clear of, too.

To that end, Best Life’s editors crunched the numbers on the country’s 250 most populous cities to figure out the best and worst places for retirement in America. Using wide-ranging data—including figures sourced from the U.S. Census, the technology firm Niche, the tax compliance experts at Avalara, and official U.S. climate data—we pinpointed the following factors to determine the final list:

The percentage of the population ages 65 and older

Costs for those earning $50,000-$75,000 that goes to housing

The number of cultural institutions per 100,000 people in the city

The city’s violent crime rate

The local tax rate

Average annual precipitation

From there, we weighed the numbers to come up with a Retirement Index for each city. (Some factors, like the percentage of the population of retirement age, had added weight.)

Read on for the best and worst U.S. cities for retirement. Sure, there are plenty of Floridian towns in there, but other results will surprise you (including one West Coast city with a zero-percent tax rate)!

Source: The Worst and Best U.S. Cities for Retirement | Best Life

Friday, August 16, 2019

Woodstock Days, Winestock, Groovestock top things to do this weekend with live music


Here are the best events in Stuart, Jensen Beach, Port Salerno, Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach and Sebastian.

Get ready for a groovy weekend on the Treasure Coast. Some of the best events and things to do in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Here’s What To Do in 772.

Martin County

The Beach 2 Beach 5K starts at 7 p.m. Friday at Stuart Beach, 825 N.E. Ocean Blvd. Parking is available at the finish line at Jensen Sea Turtle Beach, 4191 N.E. Ocean Blvd. Transportation shuttles are available until 6:35 p.m. Walkers and strollers are welcome but should use the sidewalk. Awards begin at 8 p.m. or when most of the runners have finished. The cost is $40 each. For more information, go to

The Surfrider Foundation Treasure Coast Chapter’s Beach Cleanup at Jensen Sea Turtle Beach is 6-8 p.m. Friday at 4191 N.E. Ocean Blvd. Buckets for trash pickup are provided, as well as drinks. Bring bug spray. Play volleyball with other volunteers after the cleanup. For more information, go to

The seventh annual Treasure Coast Bonito Blast is this weekend at Pirate’s Cove Resort & Marina, 4307 S.E. Bayview St., Port Salerno. The captain’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. Friday. The weigh-in on the dock is noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, followed by the awards party at 5 p.m. The event includes $2,500 in prize money, dinners, live music, auction items and a raffle for a paddleboard. Raffle entry is $5 per ticket, or $20 for 5 tickets, and benefits the Wounded Veterans Relief Fund. Registration is $125-$150, but anglers younger than 12 fish for free. For more information, go to

Woodstock Days, celebrating the music festival’s 50th anniversary, are this weekend at Terra Fermata Tiki Bar, 26 S.E. Sixth St., Stuart. It features songs from Woodstock and that era, including Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Joe Cocker, The Who, Janis Joplin and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Live music starts at 7 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 each day. Ages 21 and older only. For more information, call 772-286-5252 or go to

The Wave 92.7 Country Throwdown kicks off with preliminary rounds starting at 8 p.m. Saturday at Manatee Island Bar and Grill, 4817 S.E. Dixie Highway, Port Salerno. It continues Sept. 5 at Manatee Island’s location in Fort Pierce. The top 12 contestants from preliminary rounds move to the final round Sept. 21. For more information, go to

Elements of the Elliott Museum’s Summer of 1969 exhibit featuring the Woodstock Art & Music Festival, Apollo 11 walking on the moon, our Vietnam veterans, and the New York Mets Worlds Series win. The exhibit opens Thursday July 11 through September

Elements of the Elliott Museum’s Summer of 1969 exhibit featuring the Woodstock Art & Music Festival, Apollo 11 walking on the moon, our Vietnam veterans, and the New York Mets Worlds Series win. The exhibit opens Thursday July 11 through September 29. (Photo: ERIC HASERT/TCPALM)


St. Lucie County

The Operation Kidsafe Safety Event is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Bev Smith Toyota, 3350 U.S. 1, Fort Pierce. The event includes local first responders, a cookout, face painting and free backpacks while supplies last. Admission is free. For more information, call 772-464-8440 or go to

The Inshore Fishing Tournament to benefit Mission 22, which fights veteran suicide, has its weigh-in at 2 p.m. Saturday at Little Jim Bait & Tackle, 601 N. Causeway, Fort Pierce. The cost is $100 per boat. For more information, call 772-801-1530 or go to

The Italian American Club of the Treasure Coast’s Tombola Night, or Italian Bingo Night, is 6-9 p.m. Saturday at the local Disabled American Veterans chapter, 1150 S.W. California Blvd., Port St. Lucie. The cost, which includes dinner and dessert, is $12 for club members and $15 for guests. To get tickets, call 772-361-8603 or go to

Winestock: A Day of Peace, Music and Wine is 1-5 p.m. Sunday at Summer Crush Vineyard & Winery, 4200 Johnston Road, Fort Pierce. Enjoy live music, wear hippie clothes and eat at a Taco Dive food truck. Proceeds benefit Angels of Hope. For more information, call 772-460-0500 or go to


Indian River County

The Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce’s ninth annual Grill Out Night is 5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday. The community-wide open house event with a 1960s theme features businesses staying open late with sales, activities, prizes and refreshments. To see a map of participating businesses, go to

The Coastal Cleanup at South Beach Park is 9-11 a.m. Saturday at 1706 Ocean Drive, Vero Beach. Meet under the pavilion by the beach access. Supplies are provided. For more information, go to

Pareidolia Brewing Company’s Groovestock is 5-9 p.m. Saturday at 712 Cleveland St., Sebastian. More than a dozen musicians perform classic songs from Woodstock on an outdoor stage. Bring chairs. Plus, there are food and drink specials at the brewery. Admission is free, but donations are accepted for musicians. For more information, call 772-571-5693 or go to

The Modern-Day Pinup Magazine Release Party with The Parisian Hostess starts at 6 p.m. Saturday at American Icon Brewery, 1133 19th Place, Vero Beach. The party includes classic cars and pinup girls. Dress up in 1940s or ‘50s attire and walk the red carpet for photo opportunities. Admission is free. For more information, go to

Laurie K. Blandford is TCPalm’s entertainment reporter and columnist dedicated to finding the best things to do on the Treasure Coast. Read her weekly column, Laurie’s Stories, on Follow her on Twitter at @TCPalmLaurie or Facebook at

Source: Woodstock Days, Winestock, Groovestock top things to do this weekend with live music

Thursday, August 15, 2019

How to Buy a New Home if Your Current Home Hasn't Sold Yet


Buying a new home doesn’t have to wait until you’ve sold your current house. You can move forward when a sale takes longer than you’d like.

Buying a new home while simultaneously selling your current home is like a well thought out, choreographed dance. Because many homeowners often have to use the sale proceeds from their current home to afford their new home, attempting a new home buy before your current one sells can leave you in financial limbo. And you may risk missing out on the new home you want to buy if the timing doesn’t line up just right.

In addition to financial concerns, timing is a challenge when trying to buy and sell at the same time. Relocating for work is a common reason why a homeowner would need to buy and sell at the same time, and when that’s the case, you often don’t have much time to get settled before your job starts. You might also have children or be in a situation where moving into temporary housing before settling into your new home might not be the most comfortable option.

Ideally, to avoid extra costs, timeline challenges, and carrying two mortgage payments, it’s often best to wait until your current home sells before buying a new one. But life can be complicated, and buying and selling concurrently may be your only option. If it is, here are a few ways you can get through it.

Buying with a sale and settlement contingency

Depending on the current market conditions where you’re selling and buying, you may opt to make an offer with a sale and settlement contingency. This means that your offer on a new home is contingent on selling and completing closing on your existing home.

With a contingent offer, you won’t have to worry about carrying two mortgages at once. That monthly debt will be gone by the time you close on your new mortgage.

However, contingent offers do have drawbacks for buyers. For starters, they aren’t as attractive to sellers as traditional, non-contingent offers, which many sellers see as more likely to close.

Some sellers won’t accept a contingent offer because other buyers might decide not to make a non-contingent offer on a home that’s “under contract” — costing the seller a backup buyer if the contingent offer falls through.

Even if a seller does accept your contingent offer, they can still consider other offers. If they get a new offer that they like, you’ll have a specified amount of time (generally 24-48 hours) to drop your contingency and agree to buy the home without conditions.

Bridge loans

If you’re looking for an option that’s specifically designed to help bridge the gap between the time it takes to sell and the time it takes to buy, you might want to consider exactly that: a bridge loan.

Bridge loans are short-term loans designed to temporarily finance your down payment while you’re waiting for your home to sell. This loan type is secured with your current home as collateral.

While bridge loans do offer flexibility for sellers, they do come with some risk. Not all lenders offer these types of loans, but if you do manage to get one, you’ll need to be prepared to repay it fairly quickly. Bridge loans are typically designed to be repaid in six months — quicker than many other traditional loan types. Lenders can extend it to about three years, though it’s not very common.

Plus, the repayment period can be further complicated by uncertainty around the loan terms. Depending on the bridge loan you get, the repayment terms can vary. You might have to make more traditional monthly payments or pay lump sum interest payments up front.

Perhaps what makes this loan type one of the riskiest are the potential repercussions if your home doesn’t sell. If the sale goes sour or the buyer backs out, you’ll still have to pay off the bridge loan according to its terms, and if you’re unable, the lender could foreclose on your home.

Aside from the risks associated with bridge loans, simply qualifying for one is a challenge. When comparing bridge loans vs. home equity loans as options for short-term borrowing, bridge loans generally have higher interest rates and fees than home equity loans. Lenders also want to see higher credit scores for applicants looking to get bridge loans, due to its high risk level.

And with bridge loans, you’ll have to qualify for the second mortgage and make both payments — plus the interest on the bridge loan. This can be a significant financial burden, especially if the home you’re selling isn’t getting offers.

Source: How to Buy a New Home if Your Current Home Hasn’t Sold Yet – Zillow

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

10 Tips to Improve Your Credit Scores!

The perks of having a perfect or even excellent credit score (think 750 or higher) are undeniable. It puts the ball completely in the corner of the consumer rather than the lender. You’ll often have lenders fighting for your business, and in nearly all instances, you’ll be offered the best interest rate by lenders, meaning you’ll have the lowest possible long-term mortgage and loan costs of any consumer.


So, what does it take to achieve this Holy Grail of credit scores? As one of the lucky 1-in-200 with a perfect credit score, I’d opine not all that much. Yes, it takes some dedication, but there’s no secret club or shortcuts to achieving credit score perfection.


Here are 10 credit tips I’ll share with you that should help in your pursuit of an 750 plus credit score.


  1. Pay your bills on time (and don’t be afraid to request a waiver if you’re late)


This probably goes without saying, but the most important factor of your FICO credit score is your payment history. Though FICO keeps its precise scoring formula a closely guarded secret, about 35% of your score is derived from your payment history. If you have a number of late payments and/or collections, your credit score will take it on the chin.


Yet, even if you have an occasional late payment, it’s often worthwhile to request that your lender forgive a late payment (assuming you’ve made your payment and are now current on your account).


Most people aren’t perfect and we miss payments from time to time. Many years back, I was a day late with a credit card payment, but I had at least five years of consecutive on-time payments with the lender in question. I asked that the late fee and adverse credit ding be forgiven and the lender obliged. For lenders, it’s often cheaper to bend a bit with customers they’d like to hang onto than spend a lot trying to acquire new ones.



  1. Set up as many automatic payments as possible


One of the best ways to reduce the possibility of a late payment and eliminate the “I forgot” excuse that proliferates throughout the industry is to set up as many automatic payments as possible for your credit accounts. Having your bills automatically deducted from your bank account on a specific date or charged to a credit card (assuming you pay it off monthly) ensures that you’re never late on your bills.


I’ve also found that paying bills through your bank online can be a particularly smart way to reduce your chances of being late with your payments. Not only do you avoid running the risk of your payment arriving and processing after the due date if you mail your bills in, but online banking is exceptionally quick and it makes record keeping very easy.


  1. Don’t carry a balance if you don’t have to


If you can, pay your credit cards off each and every month. One of the greatest misconceptions is that you need to carry a balance on your credit cards to improve your credit score, which just isn’t true. As long as you’re paying your bill on time each month, even if that bill is paid off in its entirety every month, then you’re going to see a long-term positive benefit in your credit score.

I’ve been paying my credit cards off in full for the past 12 years, which has helped reduce the overall cost of the goods and services I’ve bought since there’s no interest to be paid. It also helps keep your aggregate credit utilization down, which comprises about 30% of your FICO credit score.


  1. Don’t check your credit score each month


Another somewhat common misconception is that you need to stay on top of your credit score like a hawk. Your credit history is akin to a roadmap that lenders use to decide whether to loan you money, and if so, what interest rates you’ll qualify for. It takes a lot of data points to paint an accurate picture for lenders. This means that your credit score can take a long time to adjust upward, especially given that your length of credit history contributes to about 15% of your FICO credit score.


It took me 17 years to achieve an 850 credit score. While it’s certainly possible you could do so in fewer years, watching your credit score each month is probably going to drive you mad. Limit your credit score checks to between two and four times annually. This will give you a bigger-picture look at your progress.


  1. Don’t be afraid to increase your credit limit


It’s sometimes puzzling to me why consumers resist when lenders offer a credit limit increase, or why they fear asking for a higher credit limit. If you’re a compulsive spender, this fear would be justified. In all other cases, I’d suggest cardholders embrace the idea of higher credit limits.


The idea here is simple: The higher your credit limits, the less likely you are to use more than 30% of your aggregate credit, which is the line-in-the-sand point where your credit score could be dinged. Yes, increasing your credit limit will likely involve your lender taking a hard look at your credit report, and it may result in a temporary loss of a few points on your credit score. But over the long term it could help lower your credit utilization rate, which will have a considerably more positive impact on your credit score as long as you remain responsible with your spending.



  1. Ask your lender to lower your interest rate


Though this idea might sound insane, asking your lender for a lower interest rate tends to work more often than not. The thing is most cardholders don’t make this request because they are either afraid to do so or believe they’ll be told “no.”

As noted above, lenders spend far more money to bring in new customers than they do by caving in to a few concessions from those with excellent credit score. If you ask for an interest rate reduction, you just might get it, which means lower costs for you and possibly the ability to pay down your debt faster if you’re carrying a balance. Worst-case scenario, you’re told “no” — and there are far worse things on this planet than that.


  1. Keep good-standing accounts open and use them from time to time


One of the bigger errors consumers make is closing good-standing credit accounts because they believe credit card companies will view the action as “responsible.” In other words, consumers believe that by having fewer accounts, they’ll be demonstrating to lenders that they can responsibly manage their credit.


Unfortunately, that’s not how things work. The length of time your credit accounts are open comprises about 15% of your credit score. If your accounts are in good standing, leaving them open for an extended period of time will help your credit score. I’d suggest making an attempt to use your rarely used, good-standing accounts once or twice a year to ensure they stay open and aren’t closed by your lender.



  1. Only open accounts when it makes financial sense


An important factor in your march toward an 750 plus FICO credit score is to ensure that you only open new credit accounts when it makes the financial sense to do so.


In a given year, I’m offered somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 credit cards, and I haven’t opened a new account in at least four years. Opening a credit account makes sense when it’s an exceptionally large purchase, such as a house or car, or when it’s a large purchase that would strain your checking or savings account. In other words, avoid opening multiple new credit accounts just to save 10% on that $29 shirt you want.


  1. Focus on your revolving debts first


If you happen to carry a balance on your credit cards, it’s important for consumers to focus on paying off their revolving debts first.


Whether you realize it or not, FICO actually takes the types of debt you pay into account when calculating your score. These two types of debt are revolving and installment. Revolving debts typically have higher interest rates and your minimum payment is based on the amount you owe. Department store credit cards are a good example. Installment loans are fixed loans of a lengthy time period, such as a mortgage or car loan. Paying down your revolving debts first often means paying less in interest.


  1. Check your credit report annually


Last but certainly not least, make use of the fact that you can check your credit report once annually for free from each of the three credit bureaus. Far too many consumers fail to check their credit reports annually, and it’s more likely than you probably realize that one or more of the three credit-reporting bureaus has an error on your report. Head to right now if you haven’t done so yet this year and ensure that your credit report is accurate.






Steve Altonian Credit Law

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Stress-Free Homes Are a Trending Niche


From family and jobs to finances and health, life can get complicated. “Zen is in demand,” as one real estate pro says. Learn how you can provide that.

Whether it’s a luxurious $45 million estate in California or a modest $250,000 two-bedroom house in Ohio, marketing a home’s stress-relieving qualities is a growing trend. Today, developers, builders, and interior designers are trying to make homes that offer that soft landing at the end of a day. And homeowners need it—about eight in 10 Americans say they frequently (44 percent) or sometimes (35 percent) encounter stress in their daily lives, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Helping clients find a soothing place to come home to can become a niche in the real estate world. And, understanding what stress-relieving designs are available can help you and your agents guide clients to a happy purchase.

Reaching Female Homebuyers

Since 2003, Design Basics Inc., in Omaha, has been gearing many of its residential blueprints toward easing stress because that is one of the four important elements women look for in a home’s design. Why women, you ask? Well, 91 percent of home purchases are influenced by women, according to the Harvard Business Review. Additionally, the National Association of REALTORS® 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that the number of single female buyers continues to rise, and are currently the second largest buyer group at 18 percent behind married couples at 63 percent.

Paul Foresman, director of business development for Design Basics, says the company took data and research on female buyers of all ages and backgrounds and created the Woman-Centric Matters home design program. They discovered the four primary elements women are looking for in home design: entertainment, stress relief, storage, and flexible living. Foresman travels across the country talking to builders about the program.

“Everyone lives differently. But women tell us that they want to come into their home and feel like it is a place of respite. They look for homes that make their life easier, more convenient, more fun, and more inviting to others,” he adds.

Home designs by Greg Malin, CEO and founder of Troon Pacific in San Francisco, are adding amenities such as lap pools with underwater speakers that play music and art galleries with chaise lounges so you can take it all in.

“What’s the best luxury in life? My late wife would say it’s your health,” Malin says. So, he builds homes with his passion for sustainability and wellness in mind. Less stress in a person’s world can help with their health. For instance, cables in all bedrooms of his homes are shielded to mitigate electromagnetic field waves, which can cause the body to emit stress signals that can lead to high levels of adrenaline.

His company also uses biophilic design, which bridges a homeowner’s lifestyle with natural environment around them. “We’re trying to connect people to nature. One of our homes offers a yoga deck. Plus, each [development] project offers a wellness center with a sauna, steam room, a place to have a massage, meditation area, and outdoor shower,” he adds.

Joel Goodrich, agent at Colwell Banker Preview International in San Francisco, has shown Malin’s stress-free homes several times to clients. He also is a friend of Malin. “Perhaps, we are living in more stressful times than ever before. People are looking for their homes to be an oasis or retreat from life, the world, and business,” he says. “These homes are designed to feel like a retreat. Zen is in demand.”

Tips for Alleviating Stress at All Price Points

Most home buyers are looking for respite in a haven from everyday stress. The good news is not all stress-free homes have to be multimillion-dollar properties. Here are some of the stress-reducing designs and products being showcased in homes across the country.

Natural light, plus dimmers. “People always gravitate to the bright, sunny spaces in a home. So, anything we can to do enhance natural light is popular,” Foresman says. Malin adds that lights with dimmers can also help reduce harshness, especially in bedrooms, for a more relaxing ambiance.

Read More: The Ultimate Smart Home: Bedrooms

Automated shades. Shades programed to open at sunrise can be a calming way to wake up without an alarm. They can also be used to reduce sunlight for those not ready to rise, Goodrich says. In addition to setting times, homeowners can pair smart shades with a digital thermostat, so they automatically open and close based on temperature.

A water feature. “Water can be very calming,” Goodrich says. In one extreme example, an international architect put a waterfall in the middle of a living room design and branded it. But a simple fountain in a sun porch or patio can do wonders, too, he adds.

Pet centers. Many buyers nowadays are seeking pet-friendly abodes, so features such as cabinets with pullout drawers for dog food goes a long way. Some want a dog washing station or a room for the pet itself. Electronic doggie doors have also become popular, where the dog has a collar that automatically opens the door to go inside or out.

Nature’s beauty. The ability to see flowers or greenery outside your windows—even in a big city—helps create peacefulness. In Malin’s homes, he plants green rows of bamboo or cypress outside the main windows, even in the heart of the Bay Area.

Covered outdoor living space. Foresman says you don’t have to cancel your plans if it rains when you have a covered outdoor area, which eliminates worry. Plus, coffee on the patio can still happen on rainy mornings. A pergola cover or easy-to-assemble patio gazebo are cost-effective ways to accomplish this.

Work-in pantry. Taking the walk-in pantry to the next level, some buyers want a prep area, sink, dishwasher, and sometimes an oven in what’s dubbed the “work-in” pantry, Foresman says. This eliminates guests seeing any mess while keeping the heart of the gathering in the kitchen.

Relaxing sounds and white noise. Malin installs speakers in master bedrooms and bathrooms, allowing for the sounds of waterfalls, forests, or whatever keeps the homeowners tranquil. For existing homes without built-in speakers, try a Google Home or Amazon Echo—relaxing sounds at open houses may even entice buyers.

Shipping vestibule. This involves a door or cupboard that opens for delivery people. They can leave the package behind the door without entering the house, Foresman says. You don’t have to be home when the delivery is dropped off, and locks can used from your smartphone to avoid theft.

Dual owner suites. This newer building plan has quickly become Foresman’s top seller. It includes two suites on the main floor that can be used for older couples who don’t sleep in the same bed, multigenerational households, boomerang kids, friends who have purchased together, or live-in caregivers. “In many ways for all involved it’s a great stress reliever, with a private bathroom and enough storage,” he adds.

Source: Stress-Free Homes Are a Trending Niche

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Consumers agree: Buy now before home prices rise!


Home prices are getting bigger, but rates are dropping. Consumers are still optimistic about buying. What should you do as a prospective home buyer?

More people think it’s a good time to buy despite higher prices

It can be expensive to buy a home nowadays. Fortunately, rates remain low.

Plus, the national economy is strong, and employment is robust. Still, many buyers may be worried that they can’t afford a property today due to high home prices.

Actually, now may be a great time to purchase a home before home prices go even higher, many people believe. A new report from Fannie Mae suggests that Americans are more inclined to buy a home right now.

And, the Fed may cut interest rates this year.

If you decide to buy a home, you’re certainly not alone according to a new report.

Source: Consumers agree: Buy now before home prices rise | Mortgage Rates, Mortgage News and Strategy : The Mortgage Reports

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

America's Best Drivers: PSL #14

The Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report® is our annual report that identifies which of the 200 largest U.S. cities have the safest drivers. In the Report’s milestone 15th year, we’re also sharing the Risky Roads in the 15 bottom-ranked cities where collisions are most common.

To see the full article, click HERE

Monday, August 5, 2019

Here's some good news if you're buying a home: cash is no longer king

All-cash home purchases have waned in popularity. The reasons include fading bidding wars, falling mortgage rates and rising prices.

Just a few years ago, more than a third of home buyers didn’t blink at throwing down cold hard cash to make their purchases.

But the share of all-cash home buyers has trended down since 2014 and the decline has accelerated in recent months. In June, just 16% of home buyers paid in cash, down from 23% in February, according to the National Association of Realtors. The rest bought the old-fashioned way – by taking out a mortgage. Applications for home loans jumped 9.5% last month from a year earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The shift can be traced to several factors, including a less competitive, more buyer-friendly market and tumbling mortgage rates.

The trend could be good news for a sluggish housing market in which  existing home sales fell 4.2% the first half of the year compared with the same period in 2018, according to NAR figures.

he slowdown may partly reflect a drop in cash deals and the rise in purchases of homes using mortgage, says Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics, an economic research firm.. Since mortgage applications can take a couple of months to process, the lag could mean there will be a surge in home sales this fall, painting a brighter housing picture, he says.

Here are some reasons cash sales have lost favor:

Bidding wars have faded

 When competitive bidding was the rage, “People were cashing in their savings, such as 401(k) plans…in order to beat out” rival bidders who needed mortgages, says Jessica Reinhardt, a broker at RE/MAX Alliance in Denver. Sellers loved cash offers because they meant quick purchases with few hassles.

In many cases, parents gave cash gifts to their kids to buy homes. And some real estate brokers even put up cash for their clients, says Jessie Culbert, a Redfin agent in Seattle. “You needed cash to stand out,” she says.

Often, she says, the buyers then took out loans to quickly repay whoever provided the funds.

But the market has cooled as home prices climbed beyond the reach of many buyers. Last month, just 12% of purchase offers handled by Redfin faced competitive bids, down from 51.7% a year earlier. As a result, shoppers who would have come with cash a year or two ago were taking out mortgages.

Investors have pulled back

Fifty-seven percent of investors — who buy homes to rent them out or make repairs and then sell for a big profit – pay in cash, NAR says. Yet the share of home purchases made by investors has declined from 11.3% in 2018 to 11.1% so far this year, according to a housing research firm CoreLogic.

Many are less eager to buy homes than they were a few years ago on fears that prices may have peaked. Nationally, average home prices have risen 55.2% from their 2012 bottom and are 12.6% above their pre-housing crash peak, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller home price index.

“Investors naturally have become more cautious,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors.

Also, foreign purchases of American homes fell 36% in the 12 months ending in March compared to the prior 12-month period, partly because of a sluggish global economy and tighter capital controls by China, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Falling borrowing costs

Mortgage rates have decreased sharply since last year, which makes home loans more affordable. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was at 3.75%, down from 4.54% a year earlier, according to Freddie Mac. That has led many buyers who might have put up cash — whether investors or owners who plan to live in their units – to obtain mortgages instead, Shepherdson says.

Source: Here’s some good news if you’re buying a home: cash is no longer king

Thursday, August 1, 2019

August Events in PSL!

Talent show, national night out against crime and other things to do this month in PSL!


To see the full calendar click HERE