Judy Rivard - Sawicki Real Estate


When it comes to finding the ideal neighborhood for your next home, there's no "one size fits all" formula.

While some people enjoy the hustle and bustle of an urban environment, others prefer a quiet family-oriented neighborhood in the suburbs.

Whatever your preferences, convenience is near the top of just about everyone's priority list. Here's why:

Closeness to Work: Long, daily commutes are not only stressful, but they can cause you to miss family dinners, school events, and relaxing evenings at home. There's also the added cost of gasoline, highway tolls, and wear-and-tear on your vehicle. If you happen to be leasing a vehicle, then long commutes could result in additional mileage charges at the end of your lease. Although car leases vary, exceeding the mileage allotment set by the leasing company can sometimes run you as much as 25 cents a mile. That can potentially add up to a hefty surcharge!

While there are a lot of reasons to look for a home that's relatively close to your job or business, quality of life issues are among the most important. As an example, if your daily commute is 45 minutes, each way, that adds up to an hour-and-a-half on the road. If you factor in occasional traffic jams, road repairs, and other inevitable delays, you're talking about more than eight hours a week just driving back and forth to work. It's equivalent to adding an additional work day to your week! Although it's not always feasible (especially in two-income households), there are major advantages to finding a house that's less than a half-hour commute to your job(s).

Proximity to Conveniences: Life will also be easier if you live close to a well-stocked supermarket. When you shop at a large, high-volume grocery store, prices are more economical and food tends to be fresher. Corner grocery stores and pharmacies are nice to have nearby when you just want to pick up a few quick essentials, but for selection, price, and freshness, supermarkets are usually your best bet!

Other desirable locations to keep in mind when house hunting include good-quality schools, reputable childcare centers, and proximity to family and friends. Depending on your lifestyle, you might want to be close to airports, major highways, recreational facilities, and entertainment. It can also be an advantage to choose a home near medical and dental offices, a veterinary clinic, and a preferred church, synagogue, or mosque.

When launching a search for your family's next home, the key to success is to stay focused, create detailed priority lists, and work with a seasoned real estate agent. Whether you decide to live in a rural area, suburbia, or downtown, a real estate agent has the knowledge, training, and negotiating skills to help you get a good deal and match your lifestyle goals with your budget and timeframe.


One of the most critical aspects of your financial state, when you’re buying a home, is that of your credit score. Credit scores take your entire economic history into account. That means every missed payment, every account opened, and that three-digit number represents every debt you owe. Once you obtain your credit score and assess your finances, if you realize your score needs help, you may feel desperate. The good news is that you’re not helpless. There are plenty of things that you can do to raise your credit score in a short time to increase your chances of getting a better rate on a loan for your home purchase. Read on for some tips on how to improve your credit score.



Keep An Eye On Your Credit Card Balances


One of the most impactful factors on your credit score is how much debt you have. How much debt you have versus how much available credit you have is a significant factor in your score. If you pay your balances in full each month, that’s great. Keep in mind that even if you do pay off your balances that monthly balance amount affects your score as well. Paying off your outstanding credit card balances will have a positive effect on your score.


Remember Some Debt History Is Good


Once you pay off a car or home loan, it can be tempting to want these accounts removed from your credit history. When you’re getting a home loan, the lender wants to know that you’re reliable. If you can show that you have responsibly paid off other loans that can only be a positive thing for you and your credit score. Don’t be so quick to remove old accounts that have been paid off from your report. 


Pay On Time


If you pay your bills on time continuously, it can only bring your score up. If our rating needs help, this could be the most critical thing that you can do to raise your score.


Keep Your Payments Equal Over Time


Keeping your payments equal means that you shouldn’t start charging more than you usually would. You also shouldn’t begin to make lower payments than you have been. Keeping your spending and payments consistent can help you to raise and maintain a good credit score.


If you know you’ll be purchasing a home soon; you should check your credit score. If you’re not close to heading out on the home search, you can pull back a bit. While you always want to maintain good credit health, you shouldn’t be so focused on your credit score that you forget about other things like saving for a downpayment. Know that your credit score is essential in buying a home, but understand that there are many moving parts when it comes to buying a home. 



Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

If you're looking for loans with excellent interest rates, you may have heard the term USDA bandied about. This special type of loan is attractive on paper, but the reality is a little more complicated than what meets the eye. Learn more about what a USDA loan is meant to do, how to get one, and why the terms are so buyer-friendly. 

The Goal of the USDA 

The primary goal of a USDA loan is to infuse new life into rural communities. When people flock to cities, it causes rents to rise and small towns to crumble. A USDA loan is a way to entice Americans to renovate old homes and keep abandoned neighborhoods alive. These loans are backed by the government and issued by the lender. Because of the purpose behind the USDA, the applicant is judged more so on their general merits rather than their financial status. As long as the buyer is willing to commit to the property and the surrounding community, they're likely to be approved. 

Requirements of the USDA Loan 

Here are the key eligibility requirements for a USDA loan: 

  • Location: The majority of USDA properties will be in rural areas. You'll need to research the homes available under the USDA umbrella before applying for a loan. 
  • Credit score: The credit score minimum is ambiguous since the USDA loan is based on more than just straight financials. However, those with a credit score of at least 640 typically receive a fast-tracked application. This means fewer questions and underwriting from the lender and a nearly guaranteed approval. 
  • Down payment: USDA loans don't require a traditional down payment. However, you will need to pay 1% of the loan to the lender if putting down less than 20% of the total loan. 
  • Fees: There's a .35% fee every year for the entire course of the loan. The .35% is applied to the mortgage balance, meaning it decreases every year. 
  • Interest rates: The lender sets the interest rates for USDA loans, but they can go as low as 1% in some cases. 
  • Closing costs: Closing costs are typically between 1 and 3% of the total price of the home. 

It's worth noting that some USDA homes are in more populated areas, so you shouldn't assume a property is ineligible until you confirm. If you're unable to secure a USDA loan, you may want to consider an FHA loan. While the terms are not quite as attractive, FHA loans are also backed by the government. This gives people with lower credit scores a way to secure a property at a reasonable interest rate. 


If you have been looking for homes online for some time, you may be tired of viewing them on a screen. While online home searches are helpful and a perfect starting point for finding a home, you need to see a home to get a feel for it. Whether you are attending open houses or have set up private showings with your real estate agent, there are certain things that you can do to make the most of touring potential homes. You only have a limited amount of time to see a home. Your agent won’t wait around for you all day while you explore every nook of a house and people still live in the house. There’s a good chance someone may need to come back in at some point! Read on for tips on how to use your time and resources wisely when it comes to searching for a home to buy.


Don’t Waste Time


First, you should select the right homes to view. Don’t waste your time looking at properties that you can’t afford or aren’t the right size for you. From your online search, make a list of properties you’d like to see in person. You can narrow down your search quickly by doing the following:


Carefully read property details

Check out the photos of the home in detail

Find out from your realtor if there are any comparable properties for sale


Know What You Can Afford


If you can’t afford a property, don’t waste your time looking at it. Be realistic in your home search, finding the properties that will suit your needs and your budget. Remember that many factors go into a listing price for a home including the location, the size of the house, the neighborhood, the amenities, and more. The bottom line is to stick with homes that fall in your budget to make your search much more manageable.


Work With Your Realtor To Schedule Home Showings


Make use of your agent. They can schedule private showings for you or alert you to upcoming open houses. You can send your agent a handful of listings that you’re interested in, and they can make a schedule for you to maximize your time seeing properties in specific locations.


Hiring a real estate agent is an essential step in buying a home. They can help you to find and view the properties that could potentially come your next home.    



Photo by Huy Phan from Pexels

Caring for houseplants is not always as easy as it may seem. The benefits of plants in a home cannot be overestimated. They brighten up your home and give it a natural feel.

Houseplants can help you get rid of airborne toxins keeping your indoor air quality at its best. Keep reading to learn about some unexpected hacks and tips for healthy houseplants.

1. Have a Sponge Inside the Pot

Place a sponge at the bottom of the pot to keep them from drying. Plants need water to remain healthy. A sponge soaks up excess water and may come in handy when you forget to water your houseplant. You can use any sponge for this hack. Place it at the bottom of the pot before pouring in soil. The sponge may also be a great way to prevent soil leakages.

2. Use Water from Cooking for Irrigation

Leftover water from boiled eggs and vegetables can do wonders for your houseplant. The water is rich in minerals that promote healthy growth. Let the water cool and use it as home-made fertilizer. Consider using pulverized eggshells in your plants’ soil for an extra dose of calcium.

3. Proper Lighting

Plants require sufficient light to grow. South-facing windows get more light than north-facing ones. Pay attention to the amount of light that different windows get at different times. If your houseplant has foliage with bright colors, it requires more light than those with dull-colored foliage. Turn the pot regularly to promote even growth. Foliage grows in the direction of light. If you don’t turn your pot every few days, the plant may grow unevenly.

4. Bury a Bottle

Bury a small water bottle in your pot if there is enough space. Make a small slit on the bottle. Dig a hole in the soil and plant the bottle standing straight. Ensure that the top of the bottle is at the soil level and fill it with water. The water will slowly seep through the soil and nourish your houseplant. If there is no room for a water bottle, consider watering with ice cubes. Place a few ice cubes on the soil surface. As they melt slowly, they will water your plants. Ice cubes are an excellent choice for plants that don’t require lots of water.

5. Use Coffee

Coffee is great for your plants. The acid is great for most acid-loving houseplants such as gardenias and ferns. If you have leftover tea or coffee, use some water to thin it out. Use the mixture to irrigate your houseplants. Coffee grounds work just as well. Paper coffee filters are great for lining the bottom of your pots. They prevent spillage of dust, soil, and water.

There are lots of unexpected ways to take care of your houseplants. Even though there is no hack to take care of all your problems, you may incorporate a few of them to solve different problems. Try a few of them and choose the one that works for you.




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