Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS
 
Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS

Jeff's Blog

How to Transform Your Room with Ceiling Color

January 3, 2012 4:10 am

Ceilings are often the forgotten “fifth wall” in a room, according to the experts at Benjamin Moore Paint. Too often, little thought is given to a ceiling’s contribution to the overall room design, and is often covered in some generic white paint.

The experts at Benjamin Moore recommend that you start looking at your ceilings from a new perspective. Color, sheen, pattern, and texture on the ceiling can transform the entire look and feel of a room. Here are a few of the paint retailer’s ceiling color tips and ideas to help transform your space:
  • Warm it up. A large room with high ceilings can feel impersonal or unbalanced when furnishings, floor coverings and accessories visually occupy the bottom half of a room, leaving the top bare. Experiment with a ceiling color in a deeper shade. For example, a rich cocoa in a soft sheen, such as eggshell or pearl, will cozy up and balance a large open space.
  • Dress it up. Consider experimenting with glazes on your ceiling, including metallic and pearlescent effects. Or try a specialty plaster, which can add texture, color and dimension.
  • Open it up. Make a small room or room with a low ceiling feel larger by keeping the color contrast between the walls and ceilings to a minimum. For example, a pale yellow ceiling over wheat-colored walls allows the eye to gently travel upward without the stark demarcation created by a bright white ceiling. For the best effect, choose ceiling colors in a flat sheen, which will absorb light and hide imperfections.
For more ideas, visit www.benjaminmoore.com.
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Mortgage Defaults: Signs of Recovery

January 3, 2012 4:10 am

The UFA Default Risk Index for the fourth quarter of 2011 edged lower to 131 from the year’s third quarter revised 133, which suggests that residential mortgage default and prepayment risks are continuing their return to normalcy, according to a recent report by realestateeconomywatch.com.

According to a recent UFA Mortgage Report by University Financial Associates of Ann Arbor, Mich., the stage is set for a recovery in the housing market. Under current economic conditions, investors and lenders should expect defaults on loans currently being originated to be only 31 percent higher than the average of loans originated in the 1990s, due solely to the local and national economic environment.

The UFA Default Risk Index measures the risk of default on newly originated nonprime mortgages. UFA’s analysis is based on a “constant-quality” loan, that is, a loan with the same borrower, loan and collateral characteristics. The index reflects only the changes in current and expected future economic conditions, which are less favorable currently than in prior years.

Each quarter, UFA evaluates economic conditions in the United States and assesses how these conditions will impact expected future defaults, prepayments, loss recoveries and loan values for prime and nonprime loans. A number of factors affect the expected defaults on a constant-quality loan. Most important are worsening economic conditions. A recession causes an erosion of both borrower and collateral performance. Borrowers are more likely to be subjected to a financial shock such as unemployment and, if shocked, will be less able to withstand the shock. Fed easing of interest rates has the opposite effect.
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How to Boost Space in a Small Bathroom

January 3, 2012 4:10 am

According to home improvement retailer, Lowes, smart storage and décor solutions can make the most of space in a small bathroom. Pullout drawers, built-in niches, and well-placed hooks can help create a bathroom that lives large despite its small square footage.

Starting with a clean, uncluttered design is essential in order to give your small bathroom a larger feel. Consider classic white tiles for your walls with mosaic insets to add interest and draw the eye up, which make a bathroom appear taller. Create inset shelves on shower walls to store shampoos and soaps without infringing upon shower space.

Reconfigure your bathroom closet to create sensible storage space by including organizers such as bins, baskets, and trays. A door organizer can house small toiletries, a pullout drawer puts essentials within reach, and a pullout hamper keeps towels and clothes off the floor. Think outside the box—a spice rack intended for the kitchen can be perfect for holding small bottles and jars in your bathroom.

Any bathroom, especially a small one, can never have too much towel storage. A towel rod attached to the wall behind a door offers more hanging space.

Also be sure to choose the right vanity. While deep drawers are great, they can easily become cluttered. Add trays to separate items and keep drawers organized. Also use baskets on the lower shelves of vanities to store additional towels and bathroom essentials.
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Consumer Confidence Ticks Up Again

January 2, 2012 4:10 am

According to the latest Consumer Confidence Index released earlier this week by The Conference Board, consumer confidence—which had already improved in November—increased even further in December. The Index now stands at 64.5 (1985=100), up from 55.2 in November. The Present Situation Index increased to 46.7 from 38.3. The Expectations Index rose to 76.4 from 66.4.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey®, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was December 14.
According to Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, "After two months of considerable gains, the Consumer Confidence Index is now back to levels seen last spring. Consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions improved again. Looking ahead, consumers are more optimistic that business conditions, employment prospects, and their financial situations will continue to get better.”

Franco adds that it is too soon to determine whether or not this increase represents “a sustainable shift in attitudes."

Consumers' assessment of current conditions improved in December. Those stating business conditions are "good" increased to 16.6 percent from 13.9 percent, while those stating business conditions are "bad" declined to 33.9 percent from 38.0 percent. Consumers' assessment of the job market was also more positive. Those claiming jobs are "plentiful" increased to 6.7 percent from 5.6 percent, while those claiming jobs are "hard to get" decreased to 41.8 percent from 43.0 percent.

Consumers' short-term outlook also improved in December. The proportion of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 16.7 percent from 13.7 percent, while those expecting business conditions will worsen declined to 13.4 percent from 16.1 percent.

Consumers' outlook for the job market was also more favorable. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 13.3 percent from 12.4 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined to 20.2 percent from 23.8 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes improved to 17.1 percent from 14.1 percent.

The next Consumer Confidence Index release is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31, 2012.
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5 Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance

January 2, 2012 4:10 am

Five, 10 or 15 years ago, the American Dream often consisted of owning a big house, fancy cars and great clothes. However, according to Kate Raidt, author of “The Million-Dollar Parent: How to Have a Successful Career While Keeping Your Family a Top Priority,” the recent recession and housing crisis has caused many Americans to reassess what’s truly important: achieving work/life balance in order to do more things, not have more things.

Here are Raidt’s five “must-dos” in order to successfully live the new American Dream and create a successful work/life balance:

1. Live below your means. The only way to have time and energy to do the things most important to you is to spend less time at work and more time with life. Your monthly expenses might be keeping you in a job that demands too much of your time. Cutting monthly expenses reduces the amount of income needed and may allow you to choose a career that affords you more time for life.

2. Your job must be a good “vehicle.” According to Raidt, any job that sucks you dry emotionally or physically is not a good vehicle for a fulfilling life because you come home too drained to do the things you really love. Ask yourself: Am I able to leave work behind when I drive home? When I come home, am I energized to spend time with my kids? If the answers are “yes,” then you probably have a great vehicle for work/life balance – regardless of your job title or paycheck.

3. Are you in control of your career and your life? Make sure you work for an organization that allows you to stand up for your own schedule and that is willing to work with you to help you have life balance.

4. Turn off your cellphone. Emails, text messages, Facebook, YouTube, games, apps, etc. are huge culprits in the demise of the American Dream. Raidt believes that spending more than a few minutes a day with these gadgets will kill quality time with your kids, distract you from exercising and derail any goals you set for yourself.

5. Take time daily for what matters most. Carve out quality time for your priorities - i.e., your children - every day and don’t let anything get in the way of that time. Schedule everything else (including work) around your priorities. Push and shove distractions out of the way, says Raidt, or your life goals will take the hit.
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Use of Real Estate Agents on the Rise

January 2, 2012 4:10 am

According to the National Association of REALTORS® “2011 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers,” more than ever, homebuyers are relying on real estate agents and brokers to help them with their home purchase regardless of whether the home they are buying is a foreclosure, short sale, or even a FSBO sale because they need a real estate agent to help them through the process.

According to NAR’s annual research report, 89 percent of recent buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker. The data also depicts a trend line of how buyers purchased a home from 2001 to 2011. In 2001, only 69 percent of buyers purchased through a real estate agent or broker, compared to today’s 89 percent. Overall, the 2011 Profile shows only 7 percent of recent homebuyers bought through a builder or builder’s agent and 4 percent bought through the previous owner.

The survey also reveals that 60 percent of recent buyers had an oral or written arrangement with the real estate agent or broker so that the buyer’s agent only represented the buyer and not the seller.

Twenty-nine percent did not have this arrangement and 11 percent of recent homebuyers did not know if they had the arrangement or not. While 29 percent of buyers did not have this arrangement, it is not clear whether when the buyer purchased a home the buyer’s agent was also the selling agent or whether the buyer ended up purchasing a home that their buyer’s agent was not the listing agent.

For more information on the 2011 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, visit www.realtors.org.
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5 Ways to Turn a Resolution into Reality

December 30, 2011 4:02 am

While approximately 90 percent of Americans break their New Year’s resolutions by January 31, there are strategies to help you stick to your guns and make your goals for 2012 a reality. Consider these tips from life coach, Dr. Maya Bailey:
  • Be clear and specific. Dissect general resolutions, such as “I want to be more successful,” to come up with the specific steps to reach that goal. For example, define what success means to you: More money? More time to spend with family? More notoriety? This will help clarify the necessary steps for reaching your goal, says Bailey.
  • Confront your mental blocks. Ask yourself what blocks and obstacles you will have to overcome to reach your goals, advises Bailey, and take inventory of your own self-limiting beliefs. Uncover the beliefs that have historically blocked you from moving forward and replace these with new, positive thoughts right away.
  • Determine where you need improvement. Once you’ve conquered your self-limiting beliefs, figure out which areas of weakness tend to hold you back from reaching your goals: Disorganization? Avoiding people? Lack of consistency? Sometimes our bad habits derail us from reaching our goals, so seek to strengthen such areas, says Bailey.
  • Have a timeline and a plan. Declaring a resolution is a great first step but if you don’t put some parameters around it, such as a deadline, chances are high that it might never happen. A plan and a timeline build in necessary accountability to your resolution, Bailey explains. Consider enlisting a colleague, spouse or coach to help in the accountability department.
  • Keep the prize in mind. Did you know that most top athletes mentally rehearse and visualize themselves performing at their best? If you're really serious about manifesting what you want this year, take advantage of this important strategy, says Bailey. Picture yourself a year from now having achieved all your resolutions for 2012, ready to take on the challenges of yet another year. This positive mental image will serve as an important motivator throughout the year.
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Considering a Second Home? Make Sure Your Finances are Up to Snuff

December 30, 2011 4:02 am

While the thought of a mountain cabin or a beachfront bungalow may seem like mere fantasy, according to Massachusetts-based mortgage executive, Chip Poli, with the proper research, your dream vacation home might actually be within reach. The first step, says Poli, is to start organizing your finances to make sure you can afford it without compromising the security of your other assets.

Poli offers the following five tips to help you assess whether or not you are ready to handle the financial investment of a second home:

1. Figure out what you can reasonably afford by looking closely at your income, savings, and spending habits. Future expenses need to be factored into your budget, such as the likelihood of replacing a car or adding to your family.

2. Check each of your three credit reports well before you start looking at houses or shopping for lenders. If your credit score needs improvement, contact a credit counseling agency or ask your mortgage company for advice.

3. Create a budget. A budget not only clarifies your current financial situation, but it also helps you identify places where you might cut back to save for a down payment.

4. Consider tax implications. Purchasing a second home has its benefits, but you should make sure you consider funds for property taxes on the second home as well as additional income tax if your home will be rented out. You should research the area's property taxes because some locations have significantly higher or lower property taxes.

5. Get some help. Seek the help of a professional real estate agent and mortgage professional. Today’s market is too unpredictable to go it alone.
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Top Financial Lessons for the New Year

December 30, 2011 4:02 am

According to financial expert and television commentator, Jean Chatzky, there are several financial lessons from 2011 to be aware of as we move into the new year. Here are a few of Chatzky’s favorites:
  • Don’t obsess over the news. Negative economic news, such as the debt-ceiling debacle and the Eurozone crisis, created substantial market volatility, which plays with our emotions and makes us act impulsively, says Chatzky. Remember, she advises, the market rewards those who stick around for the long-term. A recent study by Fidelity revealed that 401(k) accounts are almost back to pre-recession levels—but only for those who didn’t back down and stop contributing. If the headlines are bad, turn off the TV, says Chatzky, and avoid the temptation to tinker with your portfolio.
  • Take control of your finances. While negative news and the financial market are out of our control, we always have control over our own finances, including how much we spend, and more importantly, how much we save. If you haven’t already, says Chatzky, automate your savings and watch your money grow. This is the ultimate sense of control.
  • Limit what you borrow for college. Student loan debt will reach $1 trillion for the first time ever and college tuition is soaring faster than inflation, so Chatzky advises college-bound students and their families to be careful about what—and how—they borrow to avoid ending up in a default situation.
  • It’s never too late to get on track. Chatzky stresses that it doesn’t matter how old or young you are—if you’ve made financial mistakes this year, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and make a plan that will put you back on track, whether it’s saving $10 a day or finding a better-paying job. Options are always out there for the taking.

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Tips to Overcome Winter Gloom and Sell Faster

December 29, 2011 4:00 am

If your home will be for sale this winter, it is important to master certain seasonal issues that are less significant or even non-existent at other times of the year. Here are a few tips to aid in the successful sale of your home:
  • Brighten it up: Counter the cloudy days of winter by making your home stand out. Keep the lights on in the front of the house even if no showings are scheduled. You never know who will be driving by to take a peek.
  • Don't overlook a place for shoes: Prospective buyers and guests will likely be schlepping through your home with muddy shoes and boots. Make sure you have a designated spot for wet footwear, like a festive rug or area in the breezeway. You want to ensure that your home stays just as clean for whoever will be touring the home next.
  • Keep it fresh: Homes, especially ones not currently being lived in, have a tendency to get stuffy in the winter time. Air out the home on warmer days or have a nice room fragrance available, like a candle or spray. As always, keep pets hidden or away from the main quarters to make sure no additional smells enter the home.
  • Keep a steady temperature: Don't cook your prospective buyers. Keep the home at a steady 65 degrees during showings. Those touring will likely not be taking off their jackets, so there's no reason to make them sweat.
  • Don't ignore the exterior: Just because it's winter doesn't mean you should neglect the yard. Be sure to keep walkways clear of ice and debris to ensure everyone's safety. Always shovel the driveway and walks promptly after a snowfall or ice storm.
With these tips and a little bit of thought, adjusting your selling methods to suit the season can only help in the long run.
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