How to Build Your Credit as a College Grad

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Being a college graduate nowadays is becoming somewhat confusing. You were told as a child that you need to go to college to get a great job. So you did. But now you realize that going to college also means the burden of unwanted debt, which is problematic when you’re just starting your career. So building good credit is a must during these early years. If you, or your child, just graduated college, here is some useful information on how to build credit after getting a degree that will help you buy a home one day.

Building Your Credit

Step 1: Find Out Where You Start

It’s important to know where you are, and how many loans you took out for school determines your credit score. You can take a look at free credit sites, but a great site to use is Annual Credit Report. Since it is backed by federal law, you are allowed to receive your credit score information for free without any payments. However, you can only check your score for free on this site once every year.

Building Your Credit

Step 2: Credit Cards

If you want to make big purchases in your life—like buying a car, having a mortgage, renting a home, and even certain careers—you’re going to need a good credit score. So talk to your bank and look at different credit card options online to see what works best for you. You’ll find a credit card that suits your specific needs and wants that you can rely on . . . just remember not to overspend!

Building Your Credit

Step 3: Look Over Your Student Loans

You should look over the student loans you have taken out. On occasion, there is an error on your credit report because of loans and/or other complications. If there is something that you believe is a mistake listed on your credit report, contact the consumer financial protection bureau to help you with any disputes or complaints you may have about your credit score. They will help you understand what you see on your credit report and work with you on any fraudulent activity that may have occurred. Always remember to pay your student loans monthly and on time. This will ensure that you are paying back what you’ve borrowed, and your credit score will positively reflect this.

Step 4: Monitor Your Spending

Building your credit means monitoring what you spend your money on. You should never get a credit card just to use it for frivolous items. This can be detrimental to your credit score if you love to shop or make purchases out of wants instead of necessities. The way you should go about using a credit card is for everyday items. A good rule to follow is to only use 30% of your monthly limit and pay your card’s balance off every month. This way, you’ll be monitoring your spending and keeping a great credit score!

Building Your Credit

How to Repair Your Credit

If you’ve looked over your credit, and it is not what you’d like it to be, there are some ways you can always repair your credit score. Start paying all of your bills on time if you haven’t been and always monitor your spending if you decide to open a new line of credit. Do not close any existing lines of credit because this is only going to negatively affect your credit score. Remember that you can always transfer any existing debt onto a higher-limit credit card to help lower your monthly payments. By taking the first steps to repairing your credit score, you are on the right track to becoming free of debt and constantly paying interest on your purchases every month.

Building Your Credit

Building your credit during and after college is the best thing you can do for your financial future. Having good credit is what everyone strives for financially, and it will allow you to worry less about money, which gives you more time to find the perfect career with your expensive education! As long as you remember to be smart with your credit purchases, and you pay off your balances monthly, you will have a strong credit score that will allow you to buy a home, car, and any other major purchases you will want in your life.

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Household Food Waste [Infographic]

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an infographic on responsible homeownership 

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Food waste is a global epidemic that starts in your home! Here’s a look at the shocking damage that comes from food waste, how it affects your household income, and ways that you can help be part of the solution.

Household-Food-Waste

A Global Problem…

  • As much as 40% of food produced is never eaten
  • Food waste has increased about 50% in the last 40 years
  • 1 billion people are malnourished** even though enough food is produced to feed twice the world’s population
  • Americans waste enough food to fill 730 football stadiums per year
  • 25% of fresh water consumed goes to food that is ultimately thrown out
  • Food waste in landfills emits methane, a toxic chemical more powerful than CO2, and contributes to global warming

…Starts in the Home

In a year, the average American household of 4 wastes…

  • $1,350 – $2,225 on uneaten food, OR
  • 960 lbs. of uneaten food

Be the Solution

  • Don’t throw out produce for aesthetic blemishes
  • Buy food in realistic quanities
  • Package leftovers to consume the next day
  • Understand “Expiration” Dates
    • The dates on food signify peak quality for the product. The item is still safe to eat well past the marked date.
    • These dates are not required by the USDA.* They are made up by the manufacturer. Now, think about that. The manufacturer will want you to buy their product more frequently, right? So naturally, they set these dates early to encourage you to go out and buy more.
    • THESE DATES MEAN VIRTUALLY NOTHING!

**49.1 million in the United States!
*except baby food

Sources

National Resources Defense Council 

World Food Day USA

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Door to Door Organics

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Home Automation: the Future Is Now For Homeowners

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By Cole Walker

Those familiar with the latest Avengers movie are probably familiar with Tony Stark’s virtual assistant Jarvis. I remember being enamored at the thought of being able to talk to an AI and have it control every faucet of my home. Little did I know that the technology to do so was already a reality.

Home Automation

What Is Home Automation?

You can think of home automation as an AI controlling things for you. Upon first appearance you might think it’s the obvious dream come true for the laziest people.  By simply speaking or hitting a button on your smart phone, we’re able to control the lights in our house, our locks, security systems, and even our appliances. Imagine being able to set your coffee pot to start brewing the moment your alarm goes off in the morning.

With home automation, you can do just that.

How It Benefits You?

The home automation and smart home market is expected to explode (even more so) in the coming years.  A $4.4 billion dollar industry in 2013 is expected to reach upwards of $21 billion by 2020. That number should expand even more with the latest news that Apple has now released its own system and products labelled HomeKit.

Aside from the obvious tech lover’s dream, why would any home owner want to invest money into outfitting their home to become “smart?”

Studies have shown that home automation benefits, such as energy efficiency and peace of mind, have helped many families save money. The initial and affordable costs of purchase eventually balance out thanks to smart technology features. For example, in the middle of winter, we typically run the heat in our home regularly. Leaving the home for any extended period of time, work, holidays, etc., we often lower the heat to save on utility costs. As a species always on the go, we tend to forget these simple things. Something as simple as turning down your heat when you’re not using it can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars a year.

Home Automation

In terms of heating, smart technology allows us to set and forget.  We can set by schedule or even have a smart thermostat learn our patterns over time and have it set automatically. If that’s not enough, the ability to simply open an app on our phone and turn down the heat and manage our heating, locks, lights and more is home automation’s biggest selling feature.

The ability to do these things isn’t exactly new, yet with the release of devices like Apple’s Homekit and the Amazon Echo, one should only expect home automation to grow at a much more significant pace. Even today, we’re seeing the added ability to control things like pet feeders and irrigation systems. The possibilities seem only limited by the current technology.

From a Real Estate Perspective

The thought of home automation excites many of us. As a home owner, though, we all want to know what the return will be.

After asking 500 Coldwell Banker agents about the impact of smart home technology on the real estate market, Paul Hagey, on Inman.com, provided data that two-thirds of respondents are more interested in homes equipped with smart features. One in three agents said those homes sell faster.

From a buyer’s standpoint, the added features of being able to feel secure were the most important in the survey. The thought of being able to view your home or lock your doors while away through a smart device has been the biggest selling perk.

The other more popular smart home features that buyers were interested in:

  • Temperature Control
  • Lighting
  • Entertainment
  • Appliances

When all is said and done, having home automation will help future proof your property. With record profits being shown in the home automation industry, the value of smart homes is estimated to climb to 60 billion by 2017.

How Expensive Are We Talking

When I first started thinking about equipping my home with smart technology, I figured it was a pipe dream due to my limited knowledge.  In the beginning, home automation was so complicated that it was best left in the hands of professionals and those with deep pockets.

Today, DIYers with even a basic technological background can install even the most basic of systems thanks in a large part to pre-built systems.

Some of those systems include:

Nest

Following a 3.2-billion-dollar purchase of Nest Labs, Google officially joined the arms race for home automation. The purchase included the widely popular Nest learning thermostat and the protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector.

The nest thermostat is a wall-mounted and self-programming thermostat that connects via Wi-Fi which allows you to control it from a mobile app.

Home Automation

After installation, you manually adjust the temperature for a few days, and it will eventually adjust itself on its own as it learns your patterns throughout the day. It will even know when you’re out of the home and adjust its temperature to help you conserve energy use and ultimately save money.

The current products from Nest include the thermostat, smoke and carbon monoxide detector, and the Nest Cam security camera. Google is also launching Brillo which will most likely integrate with Nest and other smart home devices.

SmartThings

Following the same suit, the company SmartThings was acquired by giant Samsung for an estimated $200 million dollars.

SmartThings is a popular and very easy choice to get started in the home automation department. You can purchase starter kits that come with the smarthub (needed), motion sensors, door sensors, presence sensors, and even power outlets. The cost of a kit is as low as $150 dollars with sales happening on a regular basis.

While clamouring a lot of success early on, Smart Things has been met with negative complaints with their smart app and smart devices lately. Still, the majority of users have been quite happy with the results for the price. If you’re looking to purchase, you may want to wait for the Q3 of 2015 when they plan on releasing their second version of the SmartThings hub.

Apple HomeKit

A new competitor to the market, Apple’s HomeKit puts them right in the middle of an ever growing competitive-home-automation market.  With products just shipping, it’s unknown at this time how good it may end up being, so it may be best to wait a few weeks for consumer reviews.

For those a little more tech savvy, other options include WeMo, Revolv, and Vera.  Those who have a more extensive background in programming may look towards OpenHAB or CastleOS.

The Drawback

The thought of being able to fully control every device in your home through voice recognition isn’t too far out of the picture. But there are concerns for those looking to change their home into a smart home.

The problem facing most consumers, and home owners looking at easy DIY home automation features, is the lack of compatibility between devices. For years, we’ve had to deal with different hardware working only with specific platforms and devices. It seems that some companies are putting forth a better effort to change that, but with such a large amount of money on the table, it remains to be seen if you’ll be stuck in a one-choice-only mode.

The cost of all these devices will add up, but the beauty of it all is that you don’t need everything at once. Over time, you can add to your home automation, making it a much more affordable solution than having a professional installation done.

Home automation has never been easier, and with companies like Google, Apple, Samsung, and Amazon all getting their feet wet, it seems to be only a matter of time before a fully integrated “Jarvis” like system is upon us.

Home Automation

Are you going to be automating your home in the near future, or do you have a home that already is? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

About the Author: Cole Walker is the central agencies associate for Camrose Property Group. He is a real estate blogger.

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Bedroom Necessities Part Four: Mirror Ideas

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Whenever you get ready to start your day, there is one thing you always do: look in the mirror. You look in the mirror when you’re getting ready, brushing your teeth, and deciding what hairstyle to go with for the day. But your mirrors are more than just a way to look at what you’re wearing. Mirrors accentuate the rooms of your home and give lots of style to your bedroom, so here are some mirror ideas you can add to your room that will give it a whole new look and feel.

Mirror Ideas

Bedroom Mirror

Whether it is the doors of your closet, or a full-length-standing mirror, you need a mirror in your room. A mirror as tall, or taller than you, is great because it helps you know what you look like every morning before you go about the things you have to do throughout the day. A full-length mirror will also make your room feel spacious. And if you cannot see your entire outfit every morning, you may not notice a huge stain on your pants before you leave!

Mirror Ideas

Multiple Mirror Designs

Placing round mirrors alongside each other on your wall looks interesting and artistic. These mirrors go great with round paintings or pictures as well.

Mirror Ideas

You can add small mirrors next to picture frames of your friends and family. Whenever you look at your family photos, you will get a glimpse of yourself in the mirror to remind you where you came from.

Many mirrors form a picture or give off an avant-garde reflection that is intended to mesmerize or even confuse you as you gaze into it.

Mirror Placement

A standing mirror can be placed against a corner wall. You can even add fabric around it to give it an elegant and delicate look. Standing mirrors are great if you are big into fashion and want to look over your outfits to make sure they look great!

Mirror Ideas

Hanging mirrors behind your bed is also a great way to reflect light from an adjacent window. If you don’t mind the sun in your room when you wake up, this is an amazing way to start your day!

Mirror Ideas

If you have a couch or loveseat in your bedroom, placing a mirror behind it makes your bedroom look bigger and even more symmetrical.

Mirror Ideas

Shapes and Styles of Mirrors

You should always choose a mirror style that compliments your bedroom. The styles range from color, size, shape, and design; it all matters as to what type of theme you already have in your bedroom.

A mirror’s design can make a room feel serious, loving, artistic, modern, classical, or lighthearted depending upon its shape and feel. So it is best that you pick a mirror that has a design that matches the type of theme you’re going for in your bedroom.

Mirror Ideas

So whether or not you already have a mirror in your bedroom, you can think about all the ways that your mirror adds to your bedroom. If you believe it does not add anything interesting to your room, you can always get a new mirror. Or, you can try hanging some fabric around it, moving it to a different location, or placing it next to furniture that helps accentuate it. If you decide to get a new mirror, just be sure that it reflects exactly who you—and we don’t just mean your reflection!

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2015 2nd Quarter Market Report: Buyer & Seller Activity Continues to Grow

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2015 continues to be an impressive seller’s market. What’s even more impressive, however, is that the high competition amongst buyers has not scared them out the market. This housing market quarterly report, we saw more buyers and sellers enter the market to move inventory at higher prices and in record speed.

This data comes from a survey of HouseHunt agents with exclusive territories across America. This grassroots approach to studying the housing market gives us a thorough look at where the real estate market will continue to go in 2015.

Activity-Continues-to-Grow-2015-2nd-Quarter-Market-Report-housing market quarterly

Buyer & Seller Activity

Last quarter, we presented a seller’s market. There were considerably more buyers than sellers on the market, and conditions responded accordingly. This quarter, that stark contrast has carried over into the Spring. 64% of HouseHunt agents surveyed report having more buyers than sellers. This is an even greater difference than last quarter, when everyone first started claiming 2015 as a seller’s market.

Buyers continue to disproportionately dominate the market, giving seller’s a clear edge. What’s fascinating, however – and also a huge relief to industry professionals – is that the term “seller’s market” doesn’t seem to be scaring away buyers.

Even though buyer’s are at a disadvantage in this lopsided market, 83% of HouseHunt agents surveyed report an increase in buyer activity over last quarter. And no, this isn’t a standard second quarter jump. Last year, the second quarter only brought extra buyer activity for 71% of our agents.

Seller activity is also growing. 57% of agents saw an increase in seller activity. As both markets continue to grow rapidly year over year and quarter over quarter, it’s clear the housing market is finally back in full swing.

Two years ago, only 17% of HouseHunt agents reported having more sellers than buyers. While the percentage of each market has stayed roughly the same, the actual quantity of people in the market has increased greatly.  But how has that affected the price of homes and their duration on the MLS?

Home Inventory

A seller’s market equates to a strong economy. 91% of HouseHunt agents saw their listings sell for more this quarter than this time last year. This is about average: last quarter saw 87% report an increase, and this time last year saw 93% report an increase. What really makes the second quarter of 2015 stand out is how much that increase actually was. 32% of agents saw listings sell for over 10% more than last year. This rapid price point increase is in line with Inman reports about this being the highest prices for homes in the last seven years.

Only 4% of agents across the nation say their listings are selling for less. That’s the lowest depreciation rate since before the burst of the housing bubble!

Besides sale price, we also need to take a look at how long active listings sit on the market. As you can imagine, such competition amongst buyers has caused listings to fly off the market faster than ever. A whopping 70% of our agents say their listings sat on the market for an average of less than 60 days. That’s the highest percentage we’ve seen since the recession.

So listings are selling for more and they’re selling faster. Does this mean more contentment with people selling their homes? Not necessarily. It’s important for sellers to keep their expectations realistic. They are clearly being inundated with all this good news about the market, and they immediately think they can overprice their homes. 26% of our agent’s clients saw their listings close with less than 95% of their original asking price. Compare this to this time last year, when only 9% of sellers were walking away with less than 95% of their original price.

Foreclosures

One thing we’re hearing a lot about in the news is a major decline in foreclosures. According to a recent Inman report, 12 out of 20 major metros saw a decline in foreclosures. This is great news, and there’s no reason to believe it might not be accurate. However, when you bring in our exclusive territories from all over the nation – not just the major cities – we saw that foreclosure rates are actually pretty consistent with where they’ve been for the last couple years.

This quarter, 84% of our agents said foreclosures made up less than 15% of their local market. While this is nothing particularly exciting, we can hope that the changes evident in major cities as reported by Inman start to trickle out into smaller cities and suburbs, as well. The third quarter of 2014 actually saw a small spike in foreclosures, but perhaps this summer will go in the other direction.

In Conclusion…

It can’t be overstated that the continued rise of the seller’s market is not just good for the housing market, but for the economy overall. To see home prices continue to rise and the market continue to grow simply wasn’t conceivable a few years ago.

Add to those market conditions the factors that indicate a promising summer for real estate, and there’s clearly a lot to be excited about. In the next quarter, we can expect a drop in foreclosures to sweep the nation. We can also expect the number of buyers and sellers to continue to grow as summer is traditionally the industry’s busiest time of year.

HouseHunt’s Quarterly Comparison Chart For the U.S. | 2nd Quarter 2015 Results in Red

2013 2014 2015
Quarter 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 1st 2nd
Buyer-Seller Ratio
More Buyers 76% 67% 57% 51% 61% 54% 39% 50% 61% 64%
More Sellers 10% 17% 26% 21% 19% 24% 37% 26% 15% 20%
About Even 14% 16% 17% 28% 20% 22% 24% 24% 24% 18%
Average Days On Market
0-60 Days 46% 65% 65% 57% 60% 63% 63% 56% 55% 70%
Sold in 60 Days Plus 54% 35% 35% 43% 40% 37% 37% 44% 45% 30%
Unsold Inventory
Good Supply 29% 24% 26% 32% 24% 28% 39% 44% 26% 26%
Tight Supply 71% 76% 74% 68% 76% 72% 61% 56% 74% 74%
Annual Price Appreciation
Up 0-5% 33% 21% 18% 29% 24% 27% 26% 26% 25% 26%
Up 5-10% 21% 24% 17% 31% 26% 29% 38% 27% 35% 33%
Up 10% Plus 29% 43% 54% 31% 42% 37% 25% 36% 27% 32%
Unchanged 7% 6% 5% 3% 3% 3% 4% 3% 6% 5%
Negative Appreciation 10% 6% 6% 6% 5% 4% 7% 8% 7% 4%
Buyer Activity
Repeat / Move UP / Investors 74% 81% 85% 78% 79% 77% 84% 76% 82% 75%
First-time Buyers 26% 19% 15% 22% 21% 23% 16% 24% 18% 25%
Ask vs. Sale Price
Less Than 95% 31% 30% 23% 30% 23% 9% 22% 28% 29% 26%
More Than 95% 69% 70% 77% 70% 77% 91% 78% 72% 71% 74%
Multiple Offers?
Yes 87% 88% 91% 87% 83% 86% 83% 76% 84% 88%
No 13% 12% 9% 13% 17% 14% 17% 24% 16% 12%
Short Sales / Foreclosures
Less than 15% of the market no data no data 77% 80% 83% 79% 87% 85% 86% 84%
More than 15% of the market no data no data 23% 20% 17% 21% 13% 15% 14% 16%

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