Posted by Jeff Smith on 3/5/2018

If you've ever read a self-improvement book or attended a motivational seminar, you probably felt charged up for about a week or so, but then slipped back into old, self-defeating habits.

Why does that happen? Is it because we're all born a certain way and have no control over the cards we're dealt? While it may sometimes appear that destiny plays a role in the direction of our lives, habits are often the underlying cause of both problems and accomplishments.

Zig Ziglar, a well-known sales trainer and personal development author summed it up perfectly: “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing – that's why we recommend it daily.”

Here are a few ways that good habits can improve everything from family relationships and health to time management and stress reduction.
  1. Either before you go to bed or the first thing the next morning, write down your objectives for the day. When you commit something to writing and have a visual reminder of what you need to accomplish, there's a much stronger chance it will get done. Whether you prefer to use your iPhone or just old-fashioned written lists, everyone needs some kind of daily system for staying organized and remembering tasks and priorities. As Benjamin Franklin said more than 200 years ago, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
  2. Your attitudes and expectations often become self-fulfilling prophesies. It's easy to fall into the trap of complaining about things like how messy the house always looks or what a daily struggle it is to get the kids to do their homework. If you find yourself going down this negative path, keep in mind a quote from Oprah Winfrey: "What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it." The opposite is also true, so it pays to choose your thoughts and words carefully.
  3. Establishing good, consistent habits in children makes life easier, more productive, and less stressful for the entire family. That can include everything from doing homework and chores to personal hygiene and keeping their bedrooms looking civilized.
  4. Learning to be patient with yourself, your spouse, and your children is easier for some people than others, but when you think of yourself as a "work in progress," you'll have more of a tendency to keep trying and not get discouraged.
Many books, websites, and seminars are based on the premise of improving the conditions of your life by improving the quality of your habits and thoughts. A good starting point for many people is to do a self assessment, write down a list of achievable goals, and then come up with a realistic action plan.

Posted by Jeff Smith on 10/2/2017

We all like a clean home. As many times as we go through our daily and weekly cleaning routines, our homes can still be dirty. There’s plenty of places in your home that you might be neglecting to clean. These places are germ breeders. Especially to help prevent the spread of cold and flu, it’s important to keep these frequently used areas germ-free. The good news is that cleaning often overlooked spots is very simple. We’ll tell you where you need to clean and how with the tips below. 

The Refrigerator Handles

While you’re preparing dinner, it’s very likely that you will need to open the fridge door more than once. You may surface clean the outside of the fridge, but often forget the handles that everyone grabs to get in and out of this appliance. You should scrub the handles down on a weekly basis with a mix of hot water and vinegar. 

Your Computer And All The Accessories

You probably spend a lot of time at your desk and at the keyboard of your computer. Think of the times you have spilled things, sneezed on your computer, or just plain sweat while sitting there. There’s a ton of germs breeding all around your computer and its accessories. Make sure you do more than dust your computer off. Take off the accessories and scrub them every so often. If you have a laptop, turn the unit off and use a damp cloth to wipe it down. 

Toothbrush Holder

While you probably remember to brush your teeth twice a day, you may not remember to clean your toothbrush holder very often. You can easily throw toothbrush holders right in the dishwasher. Also, boil the toothbrushes themselves in water for a few minutes every so often. This is especially important during times of cold and flu to keep viruses from spreading.      

The Faucets

The faucets are perhaps one of the dirtiest places in your entire home. Be sure that you’re cleaning the handles and the faucet itself on a regular basis. You can do this with hot water and dish soap (something that’s already nearby!) For a deeper, disinfecting clean, use a paste of baking soda and vinegar.


These great little inventions protect your tables from having the finish damaged by glasses and cups. Without a cleaning once in awhile, they can build up residue and bacteria. Be sure to give them a once over with warm water and soap.  

Some other areas that could use cleaning in your home:

  • Light switches
  • Placemats
  • Cabinet handles
  • TV remotes
  • Coffee makers

While your home looks clean, you want it to be clean. By following these tips and by paying attention to the most used areas of your home, you’ll be on your way to a deep clean that avoids breeding germs.  

Posted by Jeff Smith on 9/18/2017

Ready to kick off your search for the perfect house? You may need to find an expert real estate agent first. By doing so, you can streamline the homebuying process and discover a house that meets or exceeds your expectations.

However, selecting a real estate agent can be tricky, especially for first-time homebuyers. And if you make the incorrect choice, the risk increases that you may encounter problems as you conduct your search for the ideal residence.

We're here to take the guesswork out of finding the right real estate agent to guide you along the homebuying journey.

Now, let's take a look at four questions that every homebuyer needs to ask a real estate agent.

1. What is your real estate experience?

Learn about a real estate agent's housing market experience – you'll be glad you did. With this information at your disposal, you can find out how a real estate professional has helped past homebuyers achieve their goals.

Also, ask a real estate agent about how he or she deals with homebuying challenges. This will enable you to find out whether a real estate agent can help homebuyers through tough times, or if a real estate professional struggles when he or she is faced with homebuying hurdles.

2. How do you communicate with clients?

As a homebuyer, it is essential to find a real estate agent who is readily available. This real estate professional will keep in touch with you at each stage of the homebuying journey and ensure you can make informed decisions along the way.

A real estate agent who prioritizes communication will keep you informed about open houses and new residences as they reach the housing market. As such, this real estate agent may help you accelerate the process of going from homebuyer to homeowner.

3. Can you provide client references?

Typically, an experienced real estate agent will be able to provide client references at any time. If you get in touch with these references, you can gain firsthand insights into what it might be like if you select a particular real estate agent.

If a real estate agent cannot provide client references, this is a surefire red flag. In this scenario, you may want to consider other real estate agents who have proven they know how to deal with potential roadblocks on the homebuying journey.

4. Why should I hire you?

When it comes to finding the right real estate agent, it is important to understand how a real estate professional stands out from the crowd. By asking a real estate agent why you should hire him or her, you're sure to receive a unique response that gives you a better idea about what this real estate professional is all about.

Spend some time reviewing multiple real estate agents in your city and town. And if you use the aforementioned questions, you can boost your chances of hiring a real estate agent who can help you discover your dream residence quickly and effortlessly.

Categories: Uncategorized  

Posted by Jeff Smith on 9/11/2017

Take advantage of special home loans if you're currently serving in the military or have served in the military. You could qualify for mortgage cost savings as an active duty member or as a reservist. Specific mortgage cost savings that you could qualify for include a zero down payment, low interest rates, a cap on how much you have to contribute to closing costs and foreclosure protection. However, serving in the military isn’t always a home loan savings slam dunk. Preparation and the right documents are important. So too are the following actions. Prepare to Meet and Negotiate with Mortgage Lenders Review your credit reports with the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Clear up discrepancies, including erroneous charges, collections and other late payments that you previously resolved. Pay down debt. Set a goal to pay off credit cards, especially high interest credit cards. Avoid opening new credit card accounts. Lenders are going to take a pulse on your overall financial health. High debts could indicate that you’d struggle to pay your mortgage should even one event change in your life. High interest credit cards could also lend the appearance that your credit isn’t good enough for you to qualify for low interest credit cards, so again, pay off high interest credit cards early. If you receive a housing allowance, provide this information to lenders. A housing allowance is a benefit that active duty military members receive but may overlook when applying for a home loan. Should your spouse and you both serve in the military, the combined amount of your monthly housing allowance should be higher than if you were single. Contact your military human resources department if you’re unsure how much you receive in a monthly housing allowance. Get your financial records in order, meaning that you get paper copies of bank or credit union statements, a copy of your Statement of Service, DD-214 (if you're retired), paystubs, tax returns and paperwork on existing loans including any small business loans you took out to start a company. Before you meet with lenders, determine how much house you can afford. Take advantage of online mortgage calculators. Factors to include in your calculations when you’re determining how much house you can afford are monthly homeowner’s insurance premiums, homeowner’s association fees (if they apply), the down payment you’re going to put on your new home, property taxes, repairs, closing costs and inspection fees. If you’re thinking about buying an older home, consider increasing the amount you’ll spend on repairs annually. Documentation together, it’s time to start the loan pre-approval process. Meet with lenders who are approved by the Veterans Administration to offer mortgage cost savings to retirees, reservists and active duty members. Do this before you meet with realtors, as getting pre-approved for a loan can yield you greater mortgage cost savings. Use your military housing allowance to prove your loan repayment power. Prepare to negotiate with lenders to get the best interest rates and mortgage premiums that you can. In addition to your financial records, other factors that lenders will review about you include your marital status and your length of service. Lenders may focus on whether you just joined the military, are soon to be discharged or if your military job requires you to relocate often.

Posted by Jeff Smith on 9/4/2017

Fireplaces can serve as a focal point in a room, provide a source of heat and add to the comfort of your home. They can also help you to save on energy costs. There’s so many different kinds of fireplaces that you can either install or find in a home. If you’re shopping for a home, you may want a home with a built-in fireplace. You don’t necessarily need one to get all of the benefits that a fireplace can provide. There’s different types of fireplaces that are made to suit the many different needs of homeowners. Here, we’ll show you some different kinds of fireplaces along with their pros and cons. 

Wood Fireplaces 

The most commonly thought of fireplace is the wood-burning fireplace. This will be built-in to your home, or you can install them in your home to use as a heat source. You may even install a wood stove in the upstairs part of your home and another in the downstairs in order to keep an even heat throughout the home. In some homes, however, just one wood stove is enough to heat the entire house! 

This type of fireplace requires maintaining from time-to-time including cleaning the chimney. You’ll also need to clean out ash from the inside of the fireplace. The material that’s being burned- wood, needs to be stored somewhere. Rain and inclement weather can cause a problem, as you’ll need to dry the wood some before it can be burned effectively. You’ll need a screen to protect you and your family from the ash and embers that may be blown around form the inside of the fireplace while it’s burning wood. These fireplaces are advantageous for a classic look and feel but can often be a pain to clean.   

Gas Fireplaces 

If your home is fitted with a gas fireplace, you’re lucky because these types of fireplaces are cleaner and provide a more even heat source. Gas fireplaces, true to their name, burn gas instead of wood. A vented gas fireplace will look very similar to that of a wood- burning fireplace. There is a firebox present in the chimney that allows for ventilation with these types of heating sources. You can use a variety of things to give the appearance that you are “burning” them in a gas fireplace. This includes beads that will bring flames up and ceramic logs that appear just like the logs that would be present in a wood-burning fireplace. You can even easily convert a gas burning fireplace to a wood burning one. This is, if you seem miss cleaning up all of the ash that they create!   

Direct Vent Fireplaces

These fireplaces don’t require a chimney. They draw in outside air and feed off a gas line that’s attached through the wall. The flame of these fireplaces is secured behind a piece of glass. The big advantage to these kinds of fireplaces is that they emit a large amount of heat and don’t lose much heat in the process, since there’s no chimney to lose air through.  

Faux Fireplaces

If you choose, there’s a variety of options that you have in getting a fireplace that doesn’t actually create a flame at all. These fireplaces are typically run on electricity and give the same effect of a fireplace but are much easier to install anywhere in your home. Consider these if you really would like a fireplace without the hassle!