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Why It Pays to Be a Homeowner (Literally)

Why It Pays to Be a Homeowner
The classic buy vs. rent debate has been going on for ages. Is buying a home really a valuable investment, or are you better off renting and putting your money into other wealth-building avenues? While arguments can be made for both, and you should certainly never put all your eggs in one basket, the numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the financial benefits of owning a home. Let’s take a closer look at what they have to say.

Home values are going up, up, up. Between Q3 2016 and Q3 2017, U.S. house prices rose 6.5%, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI). On a home valued at $250,000, that’s a $16,250 bump in equity in one year alone! Adjusted for about 2% inflation, that number comes in around $11,000. Not too shabby!
Big cities are booming. It’s no secret that home values are rising faster in big cities, but just how fast? Of the 100 largest metro areas, the following saw the highest price increases from Q3 2016 to Q3 2017: Seattle-Tacoma, WA (13.8%), Stockton, CA (12%), Boise City, ID (11.2%), San Francisco, CA (11.2%), and Grand Rapids, MI (11%).
Income growth can’t keep up. Collectively, national house prices have risen about 34.6% over the last five years, which far outpaces inflation. On the flip side, the median household income has only risen about 10% from 2011-2016, according to the latest data. So what you may be lacking in higher wages, you could be making up in equity.
These numbers1 clearly illustrate that it pays to be a homeowner. Experts agree that these trends are likely to continue, making the case for homeownership even stronger.

Breaking It Down
If you already own a home, you can rest easy knowing you are increasing your net worth by building equity. But if you’re still renting — and some people have legitimate reasons to do so — you’re missing out on some awesome wealth-building opportunities. And the longer you wait, the more expensive it will be to start taking advantage of them. Bottom line: Make the smart decision to start building your wealth through homeownership. Either way, you’ll have a monthly payment. Why not make it work for you?

[1] All figures based on FHFA’s 2017 Q3 Purchase-Only Index.

Whether you’ve got equity you want to tap into or you’re ready to start taking advantage of the financial benefits of owning a home, let’s connect to find the right financing solutions for your situation.

This article was provided by:
Jason Harris
NMLS# 416892
Centier Bank
600 E 84th Avenue
Merrillville, IN 46410

4 Tips to Help Your Home Sell This Spring


The spring homebuying season is fast approaching. With more sellers on the market, it will mean more competition to sell your home quickly and for the right price. An experienced real estate agent is a valuable partner in this process, as they’ll handle things like marketing the property, holding open houses, helping you set a listing price, and negotiating with buyers. But you shouldn’t sit back and rely solely on your agent to get the job done. If you’re planning to list your home this spring, here are four ways you can better support your agent to help your home sell faster — and get the best deal possible.

Create a blank canvas. Your home may be immaculately decorated, but your décor is a reflection of your tastes and preferences — not those of prospective buyers. When selling, the goal is to enhance your home’s features and space in a way that helps buyers envision it as their own, which is why your agent will want to stage your home. To do this effectively, you have to remove the distractions (aka, your belongings) to create a blank canvas for the agent to work with. That not only means de-cluttering and making repairs, but it also involves taking down family pictures, putting worn or excess furniture into storage, and possibly even repainting in neutral colors. Don’t take it personally. Trust that your agent has your best interests in mind, and be willing to work with them so they can present your home in its best possible light.
Spruce up your curb appeal. First impressions are everything, which means your yard and front entrance should be well-kept and inviting in order to attract potential buyers. Your agent can help you identify areas where your curb appeal needs work, but as a general rule of thumb, be prepared to complete the following: trim shrubs and trees, plant seasonal flowers, cover dead grass with sod or grass seed, and install accent lighting to accentuate your landscaping. Also, jazz up your front porch with a new rug, an updated porch light, and a fresh coat of paint on your door. Bonus: Improving your curb appeal can increase your home’s value roughly 3% to 5%.
Get the word out. Your listing agent will handle a good deal of the marketing for your home, including taking professional real estate photos, putting a for-sale sign in the yard, and posting your home on the multiple listing service (MLS) and other online listing sites. But you can help by using your own circle of influence to get the word out. Share your listing with your followers on social media, and forward it to friends, family, and even neighbors. You’d be surprised how powerful word of mouth can be.
Price it right. More than a fresh coat of paint, the key to attracting buyers in a competitive market is to price your home right. Set the price too high, and you’ll deter interested buyers; price it too low, and you may leave money on the table. That’s why you should work with your agent closely to set the best asking price. Your agent will conduct a comparative market analysis of similar homes in your neighborhood that sold recently. These homes are called comps because they’re comparable in terms of size, features, and age, and will give you an idea of what people are willing to pay for homes similar to yours. Your agent should also compare listing versus sales price, as well as how long the homes were on the market. Homes that were initially priced high and stayed on the market longer are a good indicator not to set your asking price too high.


Organic Food on a Budget… Health Goals for 2018!

Organic food usually tastes better, and is better for you, but it can also be very expensive compared to non-organic products. Organic food can cost nearly 50 percent more, thanks to the extra labor required to produce it and consumers’ demand exceeding supply.

So how do you get tasty organic food without spending a ton of extra money? Follow these tips to get more bang for your buck.

Shop at farmers’ markets: You can get fresh organic produce for far less at a farmers’ market than you’d pay at the grocery store. It’ll taste just as good, and you’re getting your food straight from the source.

Choose seasonal produce: Out-of-season produce usually has to be imported, and that can really drive up the price. Focus your meals on in-season fruits and vegetables so that you don’t end up paying $6.00 for a pound of organic asparagus.

Shop more frequently, and plan your meals around bulk sales: The trick here is to only buy what’s needed for your meals, and to only plan for a week of meals at most. That way you’re less likely to throw food away, because you can use leftover produce for more meals before it goes bad.

Grow your own: A home vegetable garden will provide some extremely cheap organic produce, and gardening can also be a fun and rewarding hobby.

HAPPY SHOPPING! From your friends at Heritage Real Estate Services!

Thank you for reading our Blog for 2017!

Best Wishes for 2018!!




Short sale and foreclosure: How are they different?

As unfortunate as it can be when homeowners fall behind on mortgage payments and must face the possibility of losing their homes, short sales and foreclosures provide them options for moving on financially. The terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different, with varying timelines and financial impact on the homeowner. Here’s a brief overview.

A short sale comes into play when a homeowner needs to sell their home but the home is worth less than the remaining balance that they owe. The lender can allow the homeowner to sell the home for less than the amount owed, freeing the homeowner from the financial predicament.

On the buyer side, short sales typically take three to four months to complete and many of the closing and repair costs are shifted from the seller to the lender.

On the other hand, a foreclosure occurs when a homeowner can no longer make payments on their home so the bank begins the process of repossessing it. A foreclosure usually moves much faster than a short sale and is more financially damaging to the homeowner.

After foreclosure the bank can sell the home in a foreclosure auction. For buyers, foreclosures are riskier than short sales, because homes are often bought sight unseen, with no inspection or warranty.

Prevent Frozen Pipes in Your Cozy Home

Prevent Frozen Pipes in Your Cozy Home

The season is changing and winter is on its way. And that means it’s time to think about protecting your home from the incoming elements, including freeze-proofing your water pipes.

When pipes freeze, pressure builds and could result in them bursting at their weakest point, potentially causing water damage to your cozy home. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are particularly vulnerable, especially when they’re subjected to extra cold air coming through utility line holes.

Many states will experience these types of temps at least once or twice each winter. Even in warm states, winter weather can freeze water pipes. It doesn’t have to be bitter cold. Temperatures only need to drop to about 20ºF for a few hours to put an exposed pipe at risk.

So What Can You Do?

The best way to prevent your home’s pipes from freezing is to keep them from being exposed to the cold. Here’s how:

  • Cover exposed pipes in crawl spaces or attics with insulation sleeves.
  • Re-route pipes to an inside wall.
  • Use caulking to seal cracks in the foundation or walls that let cold air in.
  • Disconnect garden hoses and turn off the water supply to spigots.
  • Keep cabinet doors open below your sinks to allow warm air in.

Here Comes the Cold!

If a cold snap is fast on the way and you don’t have time to take all the recommended steps, you can still help prevent frozen pipes with a simple turn of the faucet handle. Open your faucets just slightly to allow a small flow of water. Moving water is less likely to freeze, and it relieves excess pressure that builds if freezing does occur.

Winterize Your Vacation Home

Do you own a vacation home? Take time to winterize before you leave for the season. Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your home while you’re gone:

  • Drain all pipes and water heater.
  • Insulate pipes in crawl spaces and other uninsulated areas.
  • Pour non-toxic antifreeze in toilet tanks. (Only use antifreeze rated for plumbing systems.)
  • Locate and seal air leaks around windows, electrical outlets, doors and foundation.
  • Install storm windows or insulator kits for an extra layer of protection on your windows.
  • Cover outside faucets with an insulated cup or install “freeze-proof” faucets.
  • Increase the amount of insulation in your walls, attic and crawl spaces.

No matter where you live or how cold it gets — or doesn’t get — a little proactive protection can help keep your home safe and cozy. Happy winter!

Courtsey of Lillian & Team

American Family Insurance

Tips on Wills!


Did you know that you don’t have to be rich to need a will? It is the only way you can be sure that your property goes directly to who you wish to have it.

More importantly, a will is the only way you can appoint guardians for your children. With so much riding on a single document, you definitely don’t want to rely on online or generic forms – 0nly an attorney knows what is valid under state law.

Because your financial situation will probably fluctuate over time, it makes sense to use percentages rather than specific dollar amounts when bequeathing assets.

It is also important to review your will every now and then – keep it up to date, especially when you retire or undergo other major financial changes.

If you do not have a will, or if your current will needs to be updated or reviewed, please contact me for a referral. I know a wonderful estate attorney who can make the process pain-free and much easier than you might imagine.

Courtesy or Michelle Jacinto- Source Keeping in Touch


Tell your Members of Congress you oppose any tax reform plan that would weaken the tax incentives for owning a home, such as the Mortgage Interest Deduction, and not to let a tax reform plan increase taxes on homeowners by eliminating the state and local tax deduction.

The recently released tax reform framework promises to lower taxes for the middle class and create economic growth. However, restricting the Mortgage Interest Deduction to just the top 5 percent and repealing the deduction for state and local taxes would eliminate the time-honored tax incentives of owning a home for current and prospective homeowners. It could also lower the value of all homes by more than 10 percent and inhibit growth.

Send your message to Members of Congress. Complete this form to get started- link below….

Don’t Let Tax Reform Become A Tax Increase For Homeowners

Sold! A First Timer’s Checklist For Selling Your Home


As a homeowner, the selling process can be an overwhelming experience – especially for first timers. Since they’ve never been through the experience of selling a home, many homeowners feel a bit lost as to what they need to do before they can pass their keys over to the next owners.

But not to worry! Here’s a checklist that covers all the essentials for homeowners getting ready to sell their first property:

Sprucing Things Up

Before homeowners list their home, they will want to handle any minor fixes that might keep them from getting top dollar for their property and spruce things up to make the home more attractive to potential buyers.

While every home is different, some areas that homeowners will want to revamp before listing their home include:


Painting is a relatively easy and inexpensive fix, but it can really make a difference in how a home presents. Before listing, homeowners should plan to refresh both the exterior and interior paint.

It also helps to use neutral colors when repainting a house that’s about to go on the market. Bold colors can be off-putting or distracting to potential buyers. Using neutral colors like white, beige, or gray, will help potential buyers see the property, not the paint.


The first thing potential buyers will notice when viewing a home is the landscaping. If the yard is in shambles or there are human-sized weeds sprouting from every corner, it can be a deal breaker.

Investing in landscaping upgrades will add to a property’s curb appeal and can help land a higher selling price. If the outdoor area hasn’t been landscaped, adding flowers, small trees and greenery can go a long way. If the property already has a garden, cleaning the area up (including raking, pruning and adding additional plants to fill in any visible gaps) will suffice.

Cosmetic Repairs

If there are minor and/or inexpensive repairs that need to be done to the property, it can be helpful for the homeowners to take care of them prior to listing. Small repairs, like steam cleaning the carpets or fixing a leaky shower, are quick, easy and inexpensive fixes, but can make a big difference when showing the home.

While homeowners will want to leave more major repairs and remodels for the potential buyers, cleaning up small problems will yield big results when they put their home on the market.


It’s important for homeowners to stage their home in a way that’s appealing to potential buyers. Staging can either be done with the help of a professional organizer and decorator or independently, but proper staging should include:

  • Decluttering the home
  • Removing any personal items
  • Reorganizing, rearranging and/or removing furniture to make the home feel more open and spacious
  • Thoroughly cleaning the home
  • Arranging the home to highlight the property’s best features (for example, pulling back curtains to showcase a gorgeous view or moving any furniture that blocks interesting architectural details)
  • Adding decorative items to enhance the space

Staging a home in a way that appeals to buyers can have a huge impact on the selling process. Professional stagers typically cost a few thousand dollars, but if homeowners want to save the extra cash, HGTV has some great tips on how to best stage a home for maximum impact.

Choosing An Agent

Once the property is ready to be shown to potential buyers, it’s time to find an agent.

Choosing the right real estate agent is HUGELY important, particularly for first time sellers. Having the right real estate agent representing the property can mean the difference between a quick, painless and positive selling process and a long, drawn out nightmare.

When choosing a real estate homeowners should consider:

Does this agent specialize in this type of property and in this area?

Whenever possible, homeowners should work with an agent who possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience selling the type of property they’re looking to sell within their market.

Different types of properties and different markets have different nuances, and working with an agent who understands those nuances can help homeowners sell their home quicker and for a higher price than working with an agent who isn’t as knowledgeable.

What’s the agent’s track record?

One of the best predictors of future success is past success. When choosing a real estate agent, homeowners should ask what their track record of success is. How many homes have they sold in the past year? What’s the average time their properties stay on their market? What percentage of their deals come in at the asking price or above?

Understanding a real estate agent’s past performance can help homeowners understand what they might expect during the selling process and helps to set up proper expectations for both the homeowners and the agent.

What’s the agent’s plan for selling the property?

Homeowners should also ask what their agent’s plan is for selling the property. What marketing channels will they leverage to make sure the property gets in front of the right people? How aggressively do they plan to market the property? What’s their backup plan should they not be successful with their typical marketing strategies?

It’s an agent’s job to sell a property, but there are many ways to do that. Homeowners will want to find out upfront what their agent’s plan is to make sure it’s in line with what they’re looking for.

Selling a property can be overwhelming for first time sellers. But by following the steps in this checklist, homeowners can take the necessary steps to selling their home quickly, easily and with as little stress as possible.

Why You Actually Need To Hire A Buyer’s Agent When Purchasing A Home


When you first start looking at houses to buy, you’re probably looking to find the best house possible…not looking for the best real estate agent possible.

It usually begins innocently enough…

Maybe you see a house online. So, you reach out to the agent with the click of the button. Or send a quick e-mail. Perhaps even pick up the phone to ask a few questions, or schedule a showing. Next thing you know, you’re being sent listings by e-mail, and going out to see houses with that agent.

Or, maybe you go to open houses and meet a bunch of different agents, and eventually just find yourself working with one of them. (Or several of them at the same time.)

You might be a little bit more deliberate about finding an agent, though. And you might choose to work with one who you have seen who has lots of signs, ads, or billboards. It might boil down to choosing an agent because everyone seems to use that particular agent.

But too many people just sort of stumble into working with a real estate agent by chance.

It’s not the best way to “hire” a real estate agent when you’re buying a house, but it’s pretty typical. Life is busy, and there isn’t any true process to finding the very best real estate agent.

So, the point is this: for most people, stumbling into a relationship with a real estate agent is just how it goes.

So, what is the point of the article then? What is the solution? What should you do?

First things first…

Make a concerted effort to find and choose the real estate agent you work with to buy a home… before you actually start looking at any homes.

While it’s natural to be excited to find the home you want to buy, when you do that first, you are skipping a worthwhile step.

Instead, you should ask friends, family, coworkers, or whoever else you know, for recommendations and referrals.

Then, meet with, and speak with a few agents. Get a feel for how they work. Determine whether you trust them, and whether they seem like they know what they’re talking about and doing.

Once you find one, actually hire the agent…

When you find one you like, hire that agent. Commit to the agent. Work solely with that agent.

Too many people feel like they should have several agents helping them find a house. Yet, all the agents have access to every home on the market. Every agent can get you in and show you the houses.

But not every agent can represent you, your needs, and your best interests the same. Some are better at handling the ins and outs of the process. And better at analyzing values, and advising you. And, of course, some are better at negotiating.

It isn’t about having several agents out there looking to find you some needle in a haystack. Or an agent who is willing to jump to show you a house the minute you call about one. It’s about having one that is solid and skilled representing your interests with their knowledge and skills, once you do find the right house.

And an agent that good isn’t likely to spend a whole lot of time or attention on you if they don’t feel that you are being loyal to them, or aren’t serious and committed to them, and the process of buying a house.

The best way to show them you are all of that, is to literally hire them. Sign a buyer’s agency agreement with them. Show them you are committed to him or her, and the process, by committing to them.

Why should you?

Most people, even some real estate agents, may tell you that you should never sign a buyer’s agency agreement and thereby hire a specific agent.

And you don’t have to. So many agents will work without requiring you to do so. You can get the milk for free, as they say…so why buy the cow?

Because…you aren’t “most people”. You know better.

If you don’t specifically find, choose, and hire a specific real estate agent to work with, you will possibly find one representing you by default.

It could be one that you meet at an open house. You just go to see the house. You love it. You want to make an offer. And, boom, the agent that was there is now representing you and your best interests.

Maybe that agent will be great. Maybe not.

And even if the agent is good, it isn’t like that agent will have a whole lot of background with you, or insight into you and your needs.

This can make the whole process not so great. You can find yourself feeling at odds, or working with someone who doesn’t seem to be fighting for you, so much as convincing you to do what they want you to do so they can make the sale.

That isn’t necessarily going to happen. But it can…and does…to so many people. To “most people”.

And then “most people” complain about how horrible their experience was buying a house.

Here’s the kicker…

The reason why people complain that their home buying experience is often not great, is because the client and the agent do not have a committed relationship!

The lack of commitment actually causes mistrust, and less than ideal dealings.

Yet, most people go about it that way.

So, solve the problem most people have by actually seeking, finding, and hiring the best real estate agent you can find to help you buy your house.

Don’t just stumble into a loose relationship with someone you need to trust to get you the best house, at the best price and terms.

5 Natural Home Fresheners You Can Make!

Making your home smell delicious isn’t something you have to spend a lot of money on. Especially if you’ll be showing your home to potential buyers, or having an open house, you’ll want a fresh, clean scent to permeate your entire home so that it smells as great as it looks!

Here are five all-natural home fresheners that you can create yourself for a fraction of the cost of store-bought room fresheners, and without all the potentially harmful chemicals, too.



1. Lemon and rosemary

All you’ll need to create this fresh, clean scent is: a small stockpot, water, a few sprigs of rosemary, a lemon, and about a ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Fill your pot a little over halfway with water, add a sliced lemon, the rosemary sprigs, and the vanilla extract, and let it simmer on the stove and fill your home with a lovely scent. You can also place the mixture in jars with holes in the lids around the house, but you’ll want to change the solution every other day or so.


2. DIY reed diffuser


You’ve probably seen expensive reed diffusers in home stores. You can make one (or several) yourself very easily! The supplies you’ll need include a small vase, baby oil or mineral oil, essential oil of the fragrance you desire, and a few bamboo skewers or rattan diffusing sticks.

Fill the bottom of the jar with a half-inch of baby oil or mineral oil. Add the scented essential oil you’ve chosen (lemon and orange always smells clean, and lavender is very relaxing). Add your skewers or reed, and tie a ribbon bow around the vase for decoration. The oil will diffuse up the skewers or reeds, and will fill your home with your amazing essential oil fragrances!


3. Scented wood blocks


To make these easy and long-lasting fragrance diffusers, you’ll simply need some wood blocks, a small paint brush, and your choice of essential oil fragrances (or perfume oil). Cover the outside of the blocks in scented oil using the paintbrush, and let them sit overnight to absorb the oil fully. Wipe off the excess oil, and place these in inconspicuous places around the house (but make sure you place them on a small plate, jar lid, or any other glass or plastic container as the oil will leach onto any porous surfaces.) If you find your blocks need refreshing, simply “paint” them with more essential oil!


4. Au naturale orange candles


When we say natural – we mean natural! For these easy to make candles, you’ll need an orange (or oranges), a knife, any type of vegetable oil, and a candle lighter (not matches or a cigarette lighter). Cut the orange in half, and carefully run the knife around the edges of the orange to loosen the fruit. Remove the fruit, but be careful not to remove the inside stem – the white stem that sticks up from the orange’s center.

Once the inside of the orange is cleaned out, add oil to fill it just over halfway full. The stem will absorb the oil in about 45 minutes. Now you can “light” your orange.

The reason you’ll need a candle lighter is because it’s going to take a few minutes to dry the orange stem out enough for it to catch a flame. So hold the flame from the candle lighter to the stem, and just keep it there. Once it turns brown or black, it is ready to light. Keep trying to light it until it “catches”, and there you have it – an entirely homemade orange candle!


5. Easy refreshing room spray


Instead of buying bottles filled with chemicals you can’t even pronounce to refresh your rooms, why not make your own room spray out of completely natural ingredients? It’s easy, and you can create any scent you can imagine. We’re going to make lemon basil spray.

You’ll need: a 16 ounce spray bottle (you can use an old hairspray pump bottle, just make sure you rinse it out really well), ¾ cup of water, ½ cup of water, a tablespoon of vodka, 4 tablespoons of dried basil, a coffee filter and 5 drops of lemon essential oil.

In a small pot, bring the ½ cup of water to a boil and add the basil. Let that steep for four minutes. In a separate pot, bring the ¾ cup water to a boil. Line your funnel with the coffee filter, and place the funnel in the opened spray bottle. Pour the steeped basil water into the funnel, letting the coffee filter catch the basil. Now pour in the ¾ boiling water, vodka, and essential oil. Shake it up to mix, and then spray!

You can refresh this on a weekly basis using any essential oil and herbs you want, and you can also add extracts such as almond or vanilla – you’ll only need a few drops. Get creative and come up with deliciously scented room sprays of your own!

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