My Rochester Local Library - Summer Reading Program...building community in difficult times...(check out your own library too!)
“IMAGINE YOUR STORY” ALL AGES - SUMMER LIBRARY PROGRAM (SLP) JUNE 20 – AUGUST 8 2020 Join us for a fun summer of fantasy, fairy tales, and mythology!
All ages are welcome to take part in this free program. Please email the library at email@example.com or call the library at 508-763-8600 to sign-up! Then start reading and completing challenges from June 20 through August 8. (Yes, listening to audiobooks and being read to all count!) There will be prizes earned for participation in certain activities, and for completing a log by August 8.
There are many activities which youth (and adults) can do independently, while others can be done with a grown-up or together with family. You are also welcome to use logs to accomplish your own summer goals. We just ask that this includes daily reading, brain building activities, and outdoor experiences.
This year, links for Bingo Cards, Challenge Checklists, and Logs can be found below under “Links for Printouts” so that you can print them from your own home. (Contact Ms. Lisa if you cannot print our documents from your home. There will be some printed copies available for pick up at the library.)
There will be no in-house library programs due to pandemic restrictions. However, check our Event Calendar to save the dates for library sponsored at-home and in the community programs!
By reading, completing challenges, and logging your progress, you will also be helping us reach our goal of 100 (minimum) completed logs. We have registered for the first ever “First Lady of the Commonwealth and Blades Summer Reading Challenge”. The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners teamed up with the Boston Bruins and First Lady of the Commonwealth Lauren Baker to challenge everyone to read this summer! To participate, libraries set a summer program goal and strive to reach it by program end. All libraries reaching their goals will be entered into a drawing to win many special Bruins prizes. First Lady Baker is also asking us to submit summer reading success stories as they happen. She will select her favorite and visit that library! So please share your success stories with us right away!
This program is free thanks to the support of state and local sponsors. “Imagine Your Story” is sponsored by the Massachusetts Library System, the Boston Bruins, and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, with additional support from the Collaborative Summer Library Program, The Friends of Plumb Library, The Rochester Cultural Council, Brook Realty, Rochester Memorial School and many wonderful volunteers.
Last week, we shared that the CARES Act makes it possible for you to access money in your retirement account now to keep your business afloat without taxes or penalties. If you missed it, you can go back and read that article here.
In that article, I said that this could be a good time for you to take your money out of your retirement account and reinvest it on your own terms, rather than hold it in a place where it’s vulnerable to the ups and downs of the stock market. If you are considering that as an option, it might be time to consider a Self-Directed IRA (SDIRA), which gives you control over your finances rather than giving up that power to a broker, a robo-advisor or investments you don’t really understand.
An SDIRA is an IRA that allows you to invest in different assets beyond the typical stocks, bonds, and mutual funds of a traditional plan. They’re available in both the form of a traditional IRA (which allows you to make tax-deductible contributions) or Roth IRA (where the distributions are tax free).
If you move your IRA assets into an SDIRA, you will have the freedom to invest in a greater variety of assets. And depending on those investments, you may be able to get higher returns at faster rates, but most importantly you’ll be able to be deeply connected to what your IRA is invested in. It also could help you hang on to value that isn’t subject to sudden dips that you don’t understand, the way the stock market is.
It is definitely a big decision. The most important thing you can do is get clarity on what your current investments are and what you want them to be.
Here’s how to get started.
Carefully Read Your Financial Statement
First, log in to your retirement account right now, or go through your records to find your last paper statement. It’s time to figure out what exactly is going on in there.
Many brokerages select investment funds for your portfolio based on rates of growth. For example, you may be typed for “slow-growth” or “conservative” or “income” or “high growth” investment plans based on what you indicated as your time frame for retirement when you opened the account. Based on whatever you indicated when you opened your account, your broker or robo-advisor will offer investment options based on a few tiers of growth and risk, and you probably don’t know exactly what stocks you are investing in.
Labels like “slow-growth” or “conservative” aren’t enough to tell you exactly where your money is invested. However, your last statement should contain the names of the funds, and you can go from there to do your research. You can then look up the funds on sites like Yahoo Finance to see what your investments comprise.
What do you think? Do you like what you see? What would you rather not have money invested in? What’s missing that you would like to have money invested in? Note the answers to these questions and use them to inform your next move.
How to Get into a Self-Directed IRA
If you decide to shift to a SDIRA, you still will need a custodian or trustee to hold your account assets. There are companies set up especially to work with these types of accounts. The regular brokerage firm you’d normally work with for other retirement plans probably will not.
Do some research to find a reliable firm that specializes in SDIRAs. If you need to, consult with us, as your Creative Business Lawyer®, for recommendations. After that, the custodian can walk you through the steps to bring your current IRA over from where it’s currently managed. Then you can start diversifying your assets.
There is more freedom to an SDIRA than just the ability to choose common investments. It also lets you invest in non-traditional assets, which you wouldn’t normally be allowed to do with a traditional IRA. These could include rental property, cryptocurrency, or privately held companies.
The only hitch here is you need to make sure the type of investment is something your custodian would agree to handle, which is also dictated partially by IRS regulations. Collectibles, wine, and artwork, for example, are against the rules. You also cannot include life insurance in your SDIRA. Otherwise, you contribute and invest your way within the legal parameters.
With everything that is happening in the world—and with the stock market—knowing your options (and really understanding the investments you are making) is vital to preserving the life and legacy you are working so hard to build. If you need help figuring out how to best preserve these assets, we are ready to offer guidance.
As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we know that this isn’t a decision that you take lightly. We will be happy to help you evaluate whether using some or all of your retirement account now is a good choice for you, your family and your business.
*This article is a service of our preferred partner Bob Prousalis of P&P Law, Creative Business Lawyer®. He offers a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.
When you buy or sell a home, you get used to hearing words you've never heard before. The mortgage lenders and insurance agents who help you through the process will throw around so much real estate jargon, somewhere along the way you might wish you had brought a dictionary—or maybe a translator.
Two rather vague but very important terms for buyer and seller alike are "earnest money deposit" and "down payment." Both have to do with cold, hard cash, but what's the difference? Here's your cheat sheet on earnest money deposit vs. down payment.
What is earnest money?
Earnest money—also known as an escrow deposit—is a dollar amount buyers put into an escrow account after a seller accepts their offer. Buyers do this to show the seller that they're entering a real estate transaction in good faith, says Tania Matthews, an agent with Keller Williams Classic III Realty in Central Florida.
Another way to think of earnest money is as a good-faith deposit that will compensate the seller for liquidated damages if the buyer breaches the contract and fails to close.
How much is a typical earnest money check?Earnest money deposits usually range from 1% to 2% of the purchase price of a home—depending on your state and the current real estate market—but can go as high as 10%. If a home sales price is $300,000, a 1% earnest money deposit would be $3,000.
The buyer's financing can also dictate the amount of an earnest money check. For example, if a buyer makes a cash offer, the seller may request more earnest money to show a true "buy-in" from the purchaser, says Matthews. In that instance, the seller of a $300,000 home might want a 3% deposit (or $9,000) versus the 1% deposit for an offer financed through a mortgage.
In any case, the seller can either accept, reject, or negotiate the buyer's suggested earnest money amount, says Bruce Ailion, a Realtor® with Re/Max brokerage in Atlanta.
The earnest money deposit process
Earnest money deposits are delivered when the sales contract or purchase agreement is first signed. They are often in the form of the buyer's personal check.
The check is held by the buyer’s agent, title company, or other third party (but never given directly to the seller) and is sometimes never even cashed, says Brian Davis, co-founder of SparkRental.com.
If the check is cashed, the funds are held in an escrow deposit account. The money will be shown as a credit to the buyer at closing and will offset part of the down payment amount or closing costs.
So here's the real crux of the matter: If a prospective buyer backs out of the deal, the seller might be able to keep the earnest money deposit.
Matthews advises sellers to comb through the contract to see if they can take legal action. But keep in mind that if the buyers back out for any reason allowed by the contract or purchase agreement, they are legally entitled to get their earnest money back.
What is a down payment?
A down payment is an amount of money a home buyer pays directly to a seller. Despite a common misconception, it is not paid to a lender. The rest of the home's purchase price comes from the mortgage.
The money you put down can come from the buyer's personal savings, the profit from the sale of a previous home, or a gift from a family member or benefactor.
Down payments are usually made in the form of a cashier's check and are brought to the closing of a home sale or wired directly from the buyer's bank.
Typical down payment amount
The exact amount of a down payment is often determined by the lender in relation to the overall loan amount. The minimum down payment required by mortgage lenders is 3% of the house's price, and a 20% down payment is recommended by real estate agents.
Your purchase contract offer generally states how much you intend to put down, and a seller may be more likely to accept your offer if you are putting more money down.
But that's not to say you have to put down 20%. After all, that's a large chunk of change to have on hand, especially for first-time home buyers.
Be aware that the down payment is not all you need to buy a house. You also need to budget for closing costs, appraisals, and other expenses when you purchase real estate.
Is a 20% down payment mandatory?
For decades, a 20% down payment was considered the magic number you needed to be able to buy. It's an ideal amount, but for many people it's not realistic. In fact, many financing solutions exist, so you can consider that myth busted.
"Putting [down] less than 20% is OK with most banks," Christopher Pepe, president of Pepe Real Estate, in Brooklyn, NY, told U.S. News & World Report.
Of you're putting down less than 20%, however, there's a catch. You will probably have to also pay for mortgage insurance, an extra monthly fee to mitigate the risk that you might default on your loan. And mortgage insurance can be pricey—about 1% of your whole loan, or $1,000 per year per $100,000.
Still, nothing compares to the feeling of owning your own home, so if you have your heart set on buying, there are options out there to help you achieve your dream of homeownership.
Contact us with all your questions!
Courtesy of Realtor.com (by Margaret Heidenry )
With the the COVID-19 virus, most of the modern world has found itself in some form of quarantine. While you are stuck at home, there are plenty of DIY home improvement projects that you can do to help with passing the time. Not only will these home improvement projects help you to stay busy, but they will also provide you with a great opportunity to truly transform different areas throughout your house.
Add a Fresh Coat of Paint
Adding a fresh coat of paint to any room, no matter how big or small it may be, is a great home DIY project to complete during the quarantine. When choosing a new paint color, keep in mind that brighter colors such as white, eggshell, beige, yellow, and pale colors will help to make any room appear larger, whereas dark colors should be reserved for main walls or large, open rooms.
Lighting is one of the most fundamental elements that involves decorating a room or creating a truly unique atmosphere. Consider updating, upgrading, or replacing the lighting in your home as an enjoyable home DIY project. Changing the lighting throughout your home can be as simple as switching out old lightbulbs for new LED lightbulbs or even colored bulbs. You can also choose to install brand new lighting fixtures that hang, descend, or even take on a modern shape and appearance.
If you just cannot stand being inside any longer, consider some home improvement projects that involve landscaping. The landscaping of any home is vital, whether you are interested in boosting your home’s curb appeal or increasing your home’s overall property value.
Adding new shrubs, planting flowers, or even creating a garden filled with fresh fruits and veggies is a great way to keep your mind off of the quarantine while also providing you with plenty to do each day. Additionally, planting and growing your very own fruits and veggies is a great way to stockpile your fresh foods while also providing you with the ingredients necessary for canning and making long-term preserves.
Clean Your Windows
Since the weather is nice but there is nowhere to go, it is the perfect time to clean your windows. Take time to clean the outside and inside areas of your windows. Clean windows not only gives you a better view, but also increases your curb appeal. It is also crucial to maintain your windows if you want them to last longer.
Switching Up Your Decor
When you are stuck inside for an extended period of time, you may begin to find yourself sick and tired of the current look and decor you have in your living room, bedroom, and other spaces throughout your home. Swap out current decor pillows for alternatives, or consider sewing your own if you have a sewing machine available. Making your own blankets, curtains, pillows, and even your own rugs can help you to keep your mind off of the quarantine while allowing you to pass time and decorate with entirely new material simultaneously.
Take the time to declutter your home while you are in quarantine, as the quarantine provides us with plenty of time to stare at our closets or our junk drawers. Commit to cleaning and decluttering at least one space a day in your home to avoid becoming overwhelmed and giving up on the process of decluttering altogether.
Eliminating clutter and organizing each space in your home can help you to feel accomplished while getting through this quarantine period. Additionally, when your home feels less cluttered and free from the junk you have collected over time, you will feel less stressed and anxious and instead, you will likely feel more at peace and comforted by remaining at home.
Find other ideas from this article here! Article by Abby Drexler
Questions or Comments? Leave us a note below or send us a message! :)
As we enter the summer months and work through the challenges associated with the current health crisis, many are wondering what impact the economic slowdown will have on home prices. Looking at the big picture, supply and demand will give us the clearest idea of what’s to come.
Making our way through the month of June and entering the second half of the year, we face an undersupply of homes on the market. Keep in mind, this undersupply is going to vary by location and by price point. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), across the country, we currently have a 4.1 months supply of homes on the market. Historically, 6 months of supply is considered a balanced market. Anything over 6 months is a buyer’s market, meaning prices will depreciate. Anything below 6 months is a seller’s market, where prices appreciate. The graph below shows inventory across the country since 2010 in months supply of homes for sale.
Robert Dietz, Chief Economist for the National Home Builders Association (NAHB) says:
“As the economy begins a recovery later in 2020, we expect housing to play a leading role. Housing enters this recession underbuilt, not overbuilt. Estimates vary, but based on demographics and current vacancy rates, the U.S. may have a housing deficit of up to one million units.”
Given the undersupply of homes on the market today, there is upward pressure on prices. Looking at simple economics, when there is less of an item for sale and the demand is high, consumers are willing to pay more for that item. The undersupply is also prompting bidding wars, which can drive price points higher in the home sale process. According to a recent MarketWatch article:
“As buyers return to the market as the country rebounds from the pandemic, a limited inventory of homes for sale could fuel bidding wars and push prices higher.”
In addition, experts forecasting home prices have updated their projections given the impact of the pandemic. The major institutions expect home prices to appreciate through 2022. The chart below, updated as of earlier this week, notes these forecasts. As the year progresses, we may see these projections revised in a continued upward trend, given the lack of homes on the market. This could drive home prices even higher.
Many may think home prices will depreciate due to the economic slowdown from the coronavirus, but experts disagree. As we approach the second half of this year, we may actually see home prices rise even higher given the lack of homes for sale.
Article courtesy of The KCM Crew
*June is National Homeownership Month, and it’s a great time to consider the benefits of owning your own home.
*If you’re in a position to buy, homeownership might help you find the stability, community, and comfort you’ve been searching for this year.
Source: KCM & NAR
What Is a No-Fee Mortgage? When you apply for a mortgage or refinance an existing mortgage, you want to secure the lowest interest rate possible. Any opportunity a borrower can exploit to shave dollars off the cost is a big win. This explains the allure of no-fee mortgages. These home loans and their promise of doing away with pesky fees always sound appealing—a lack of lender fees or closing costs is sweet music to a borrower's ears. However, they come with their own set of pros and cons.
No-fee mortgages have experienced a renaissance given the current economic climate, according to Ralph DiBugnara, president of Home Qualified. "No-fee programs are popular among those looking to refinance ... [and] first-time home buyers [have] also increased as far as interest" goes.
Be prepared for a higher interest rate...
But nothing is truly free, and this maxim applies to no-fee mortgages as well. They almost always carry a higher interest rate. “Over time, paying more interest will be significantly more expensive than paying fees upfront,” says DiBugnara. “If no-cost is the offer, the first question that should be asked is, ‘What is my rate if I pay the fees?’” Randall Yates, CEO of The Lenders Network, breaks down the math. “Closing costs are typically 2% to 5% of the loan amount,” he explains. “On a $200,000 loan, you can expect to pay approximately $7,500 in lender fees. Let's say the interest rate is 4%, and a no-fee mortgage has a rate of 4.5%. [By securing a regular loan], you will save over $13,000 over the course of the loan.” So while you'll have saved $7,500 in the short term, over the long term you'll wind up paying more due to a higher interest rate. Weigh it out with your financial situation.
Consider the life of the loan...
And before you start calculating the money that you think you might save with a no-fee mortgage, consider your long-term financial strategy. “No-fee mortgage options should only be used when a short-term loan is absolutely necessary. I don’t think it’s a good strategy for coping with COVID-19-related issues,” says Jack Choros of CPI Inflation Calculator. A no-fee mortgage may be a smart tactic if you don't plan to stay in one place for a long time or plan to refinance quickly.
“If I am looking to move in a year or two, or think rates might be lower and I might refinance again, then I want to minimize my costs,” says Matt Hackett, operations manager at EquityNow. But "if I think I am going to be in the loan for 10 years, then I want to pay more upfront for a lower rate.”
What additional fees should you be prepared to pay?
As with any large purchase, whether it’s a car or computer, there's no flat “this is it” price. Hidden costs always lurk in the fine print. “Most of the time, the cost for credit reports, recording fees, and flood-service fee are not included in a no-fee promise, but they are minimal,” says DiBugnara. “Also, the appraisal will always be paid by the consumer. They are considered a third-party vendor, and they have to be paid separately.”
“All other costs such as property taxes, home appraisal, homeowners insurance, and private mortgage insurance will all still be paid by the borrower,” adds Yates. It’s important to ask what additional fees are required, as it varies from lender to lender, and state to state. The last thing you want is a huge surprise.
“Deposits that are required to set up your escrow account, such as flood insurance, homeowners insurance, and property taxes, are normally paid at closing,” says Jerry Elinger, mortgage production manager at Silverton Mortgage in Atlanta. “Most fees, however, will be able to be covered by rolling them into the cost of the loan or paying a higher interest rate.”
When does a no-fee mortgage make sense?
For borrowers who want to save cash right now, but don’t mind paying more over a long time frame, a no-fee mortgage could be the right fit. “If your plan is long-term, it will almost always make more sense to pay the closing costs and take a lower rate,” says DiBugnara. “If your plan is short-term, then no closing costs and paying more interest over a short period of time will be more cost-effective.”
*Interested in talking to a preferred, trusted lender? Contact us or visit our preferred partners page.
Always learning... got my e-Pro® certification this week!