Tips for Moving With Pets

We all love our pets. They’re members of the family we could never leave behind. Moving with pets can be a nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be. If your pets are keeping you from moving, consider these tips for moving with pets to ease the transition.

 

Keep Pets Away from the Action

If possible, try to keep pets as distant from the move as possible. Animals, especially creatures of habit like cats, will get upset with a changing environment. Keep them away from the packing as much as possible. If you have the means, try moving and unpacking everything before moving your animal. You can also keep your pet contained in a smaller room (like a laundry room or bathroom) and let them adjust to that one area while you unpack everything else. The best thing to do is move your pet last and keep environmental changes to a minimum.

 

Buy Stress Relieving Products

If you have a very nervous pet, there are products that can help cure that anxiety! The thunder shirt for dogs and cats has great reviews. You can use this for the car ride, the move, and afterwards (Fourth of July, I’m looking at you). Stores also provide calming treats. For cats, veterinarians recommend Feliway, which is a spray that will relax your cat.

 

Keep Your Pet Contained

No matter how trustworthy your pet may be, it’s safer for everyone to keep them contained in a crate. You wouldn’t want your pet to kick in the fight or flight and run. A lot of bird owners make the mistake of traveling with their feathered friend perched on their shoulder, but you could lose your bird within the blink of an eye if he’s spooked. You never know what you could run into during a move. Crating your pet will be more comfortable for the both of you. You can also keep your pet in the crate until you’re done unloading your stuff and have unpacked a room for them to settle down.

Stop Holiday Stress Before It Starts

 

“What are your plans for the Holidays?” Aunt Karen asks. 

 

Suddenly, you’re sweating and feeling like the word Holidays, as the kids say, is a trigger word. You’re filled with panic. Vignettes of previous holiday chaos flashes before your eyes. Should the mashed potatoes have milk or heavy cream? What is pumpkin pie spice anyway, and Mom didn’t make it this way? Are the dogs fighting again or is that your cousin and his new girlfriend? The office lights flicker illuminating the leftover Halloween decoration and Santa is suddenly Krampus, his sack filled with stress and fighting family members. Deep breaths, deep breaths. This season, be ready. Here are ten ideas to stop the stress before it even starts.  

  

Plan a vacation.  

There’s nothing like a weekend getaway to focus on to help get you through a difficult and stressful time. Think of it like a focal point, schedule something relaxing in January and fix it between the navigational beacons. You’ll slip right past the stress towards your vacation.  

 

Don’t think about the negatives.  

Easier said than done, amiright? But in this case, it’s important not to dwell on the things that went wrong last year or how you felt and instead approach this season with a sense of a clean slate. Use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to control those negative thoughts. Things like, revising your negative thoughts into positive ones, looking for positive things to intentionally think about, and visualizing the best parts of your day.  

 

Don’t commit 

We all do it—we say yes to one thing and as we open our calendar to put this one thing in, we blink and suddenly it’s forty things and maybe we should have thought about some kind of color-coding strategy. This season, start out right. Don’t commit. Not when someone asks. Say something like “That sounds really great, but I need to check my calendar at home before I can commit to anything.” This buys you time to really consider whether this is something you want to do or whether this is something you were feeling pressured to do.  

 

Schedule self-care.  

Take some time and set it aside for you. That could mean a massage. It could mean a long hike. But in the name of self-care, make sure it’s quiet, no one can find you, and you don’t have access to your phone. If you’re feeling super stressed, setting a date for yourself to do this once a week throughout the holiday’s will go a long way to reset your stress levels.  

 

Eat before coffee 

There is nothing worse than that day where you wake up anxious, drink a pot of coffee on an empty stomach and suddenly realize your heart has transformed into a small, winged creature stuck in your chest. The cure has suddenly become the sickness. During this stressful season, pre-empt these days with a small breakfast. Nut butter toast is a favorite way to settle an anxious stomach and give the coffee something to stick to without a lot of heavy calories. Plus, the good fats will also go a long way to help your mood.  

 

Indulge in something spicy 

Normally the holidays are filled with an endless buffet of American Holiday Food, where everything is prepared to sedate you into a stupor. On those nights where you would rather stab someone with beaters than eat leftover mashed potatoes or, god forbid, cook something, order something spicy. Spicy food is shown to increase our endorphins, which contain a lot of our feel-good hormones.  

 

Ask for help 

No one gets an award for doing everything the hard way. Asking for help is easier said than done, but once you start it gets easier. Some tips for asking and getting actual results: ask in person. People can ignore emails and texts, or assume someone else has answered. Ask in person. Ask for something specific. “I would appreciate it so much if you could handle (specific detailed thing). Thank you so much for being someone I can depend on.” People love to feel needed and trusted.   

 

Critically evaluate your customs 

The holidays are a perfect time to look around and think, “What do I actually want my life to look like?” And if what you have in front of you isn’t it, do something different. No one says you have to set up Aunt Karen’s 45-piece nativity just because that’s what Karen did for thirty years before giving it to you. Let go of the pressure of other people’s expectations and think about what you want your life to look like. Now is a good a time as any to make changes that reflect an intentional, thoughtful life.  

 

Cling to your routine 

On the other hand, your daily routine can be an anchor point through this season. Think of these things as small rituals. You preform them to remember you are still yourself and the rest of the this is temporary. Focusing on the rituals of daily tasks can carry you mentally through the stress and the noise.  

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Guide to Charitable Giving

 

With the upcoming holiday season, it’s a time of year to give back. Whether you write a check for a large organization, donate a little extra to church, or are just thinking about getting started, here are some things to think about for responsible giving that makes an impact.   

  

Find Something Personal  

What things do you care about? What can you stay passionate about supporting? This is all about finding the things you connect with on a personal level. Whether animals, cancer research, women’s shelters or food banks. Find something you believe in.  

 

Do your research 

Before you get out the checkbook, do a little homework. Or assign any children you might own to such homework under the guise of “life skills”. You need to double check that the charity you’re interest in supporting is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) public charity.  

Examine the charity’s finances. Typically, excellent charities will have this information listed on their website. An organization that is financially healthy will have greater flexibility and freedom to pursue their charitable mission. You also want to make sure the charity is transparent about how it’s run, not just how it spends its money. Charities that follow good governance practices are less likely to engage in unethical or irresponsible activities. 

You can also check with Better Business Bureau which looks at how charities use their funds. To earn the BBB seal, a charity must spend at least 65% of its total expenses on program activities and no more than 35% of related contributions on fund raising. While a charity might look great on paper, their financial documents will reveal that they spend most of their money on soliciting donations (ie: telemarketers, etc) and sometimes less than 1% on direct cash aid to programs.  

 

Discuss  

After investigating a charity it’s time to sit down and talk with them. Hear where they’ve been and where they’d like to go. Make sure their goals and vision align with something you’re interested in supporting. Ask about whether a lump sum is better or a donation spaced throughout the year. And make sure you get a receipt as most donations are tax-deductible.  

 

Follow up 

Obviously, you don’t need to follow up for an itemized list of where your money went. But you do want to check back in around the six-month mark just to see how things are moving overall. This is also the time to consider your next donation and whether you feel comfortable continuing this relationship. And don’t forget about other ways you might be able to support the charity—through volunteering or something more specific.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Eight Summer Time Savers

 

Summer may not seem to be the time to start any new projects or habits, but it’s the perfect time to make life easier for yourself. Here are eight summer time-savers.  

 

Organize your grocery list. You probably shop at the same store or stores every time and can remember the layout if you needed. Organize your grocery list by the way you go through the store. Divide your paper into three vertical columns. First column is the outside edge. Middle column are the center aisles and the far column is the opposite outside edge. You can add two columns at the bottom for deli and any other common grocery store section. This allows you to create more efficient lists and cut down on the forgotten items and trips back to the store.  

 

Cut things quicker. Scissors for pizza, egg slicers for strawberries and mushrooms. Think creatively with your kitchen tools.

 

Prepare snacks. Especially in a household with demanding children, having a designated snack bin either in the fridge or kitchen is a way to cut down on interruptions and create more self-reliant children. After grocery shopping, prepare the snack items (such as small bags of carrots, grapes, nuts, crackers or other snacks your children like) and place them in a designated area that they can reach.  

 

Cleaning Supplies Where You Need ThemStage a small collection of cleaning supplies in each bathroom, in order to always have them on hand for a quick spray and wipe whenever you are in there and find it needs done. You’ll never need to apologize for your bathrooms again.  

 

Car Stash. Keep a bin of non-crumbly snacks, water, extra socks for that one kid, books, games (and motion sickness medicine) in your car and never have to scramble for those items again.  

 

Fill A Trash Bag. Taking a garbage bag around your home and filling it with trash or items to donate can be a freeing and productive exercise. It’s amazing how many things you keep that you don’t actually want.  

 

Put a trash bin where you sort the mail. Put that junk mail where it belongs.  

  

Keep beach items in a central location. Nothing is worse than the rush to find all the appropriate beach items. Keep a container in a closet and fill it with your beach towels, extra sunscreen and toys, so you always know where to find them and where to return them.  

 

Happy Summer!

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Bad Neighbor

You can pick your neighborhood, but you can’t pick your neighbors. We’ve all heard horror stories of conflicts that have started small but gotten wildly out of hand. Conflicts are sure to happen, but here’s how to make sure it doesn’t become a horror story.

Step 1: Speak to them—take this step before actions can spiral in order to come to an early compromise.

Step 2: If that doesn’t work, have another conversation. But it’s also time to start documenting and researching. Write down what happened, the dates and what conversations and actions took place. Research the kind of conflict you’re having and whether or not you have any legal standing. Calling the cops should be a last resort or for truly dangerous conflicts, as it is likely to escalate the situation.

Step 3: Retaliation is common and has likely taken place, but remember, the goal should be to come to a mutual solution, even if it means you offer to pay to resolve the problem.

Step 4: Professional mediation is cheaper and less likely to cause greater conflict than going to court. Some states offer free mediation for these types of conflicts, but also your homeowner’s association can be a service.

Neighbor conflicts are common, but they don’t have to get out of hand. Follow these steps to stay in control of a difficult situation.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Three Steps to Picking the Neighborhood That’s Right For You

You can change just about anything in a house. Carpet. Paint. Fixtures. Even the appearance on the outside of a house. Theoretically, you can bulldoze and start over. The only thing you can’t change about the house you buy is the location. So, what can you do to make sure a potential neighborhood is right for you?

Visit at variety of hours. A neighborhood can seem quiet and calm during the day, and change drastically into the evening. It’s important to visit at all hours—this gives you a chance to see anything the potential neighborhood might be hiding. Like the annoying dog next door who barks from 7pm-9pm.

Check the School district. Even if your only baby is a fur-baby, you want to make sure you buy in a highly-rated school district. Schools are one of the most looked at factors when people decide where to buy, keeping neighborhoods and housing values in good school districts stable. And while you’re checking on the public schools, look at the potential neighborhood’s proximity to the areas desirable private schools.

Test the Commute: The new commute may seem great, until the first week in the new place. By then, all you can do is sink into the couch, stare at your new living room and try to avoid the feeling of having made a fatal error. Save yourself the crisis and test out the new commute—both ways—before you buy.

With these tips, you’ll be able to make sure the neighborhood is right for you. Make sure to check out our Picking A Real Estate Agent that’s Right For You to help guide you through the process.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Four Steps to Get Ready to Buy

Buying a home in Charlotte’s real estate market can sometimes feel like watching the news footage on Black Friday sales. Homes are selling within hours and everyone else seems to know to run for the TV in the back, while you’re still trying to get through the door. Having a trusted voice to cut through the noise is the first thing you need, but here’s what else you need to know so you’re ready to buy in Charlotte.

  1. Save: We all know to save for a down payment. What you don’t know is that lenders are also looking for a prospective borrower who has several months’ mortgage payments saved up. A prospective borrower who is only looking for loans that will allow them to put as little down as possible, sometimes 3%, not the typical 20%, is not going to be as competitive as someone with a down payment and savings. Lenders will give a borrower a little wiggle room if they have a lot of savings, but not much for annual earnings or credit score.
  2. Check your credit score: The higher your credit score, the lower your down payment and/or monthly mortgage payments could be. Tips for improving your credit score? Hack away at credit card debt, don’t apply for any new lines of credit for a few months prior to your home purchase, and avoid closing out any accounts. Wait to make any large purchases like furniture, TVs, etc. until after the closing date of your home.
  3. Get pre-approved: Sellers are getting multiple offers nowadays, and this is a great way to set yourself apart from the competition. Get pre-approved, not simply pre-qualified. This means your loan officer will collect financial information, run a full credit report, and give you a clear price range based off a mortgage amount that won’t overextend you on a monthly basis.
  4. But before you buy:. You need to prepare to move on from your current situation. Do you need to sell a home before you can purchase your next property? If you need to sell your home first, you’ll need to get your property ready for the sale. Like yesterday. A real estate agent will help you through this process—see here for how to pick an agent that is the best fit for your situation. If you don’t currently own, is your lease term up in a few months? If so, how much time do you need to find a home? If you’re renting, does your lease convert to a month-to-month term at the end of the lease? If so, how much notice do you need to give your landlord or property manager?

Regardless of the situation, be prepared so you’re not left outside while everyone else manages to grab the good stuff.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Four Common Mistakes Sellers Make

When it comes to selling a house, one mistake can cost you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars—or, even worse, make you and your unsold house sit like milk left out on the counter. To keep from going bad, here are a few of the most common mistakes people make when selling a home.

Fudging the Photography. It’s tempting to get your cell-phone and take a few snaps of your house, expecting potential buyers to see the charm under the Christmas decorations, stack of mail you’ve been meaning to go through, and kid’s soccer gear. Over 44 percent of potential home buyers start searching for their next home online before contacting a real estate agent or loan professional. This means, photography delivers the first impression they’ll have of your home. Photography is what decides the list of houses they want to see. Don’t cut corners when it comes to pictures.

Not addressing deferred maintenance issues. That thing you’ve been meaning to fix, but don’t want to—the mold on that one wall in the basement, a cracked window—it’ll all come back to haunt you during the inspection process. It’s a good idea to go ahead and address any deferred maintenance issues before putting the property on the market, and be upfront about any issues you haven’t addressed yet. Concealing issues with the property will create a trust issue between the buyer and seller once both parties are in the escrow period and could derail the transaction.

Overpricing. Nothing keeps your house curdling on the counter longer than overpricing. It leads to a home being on the market for much longer than initially expected and ultimately selling for a lot less than if the home were priced properly from the beginning. In other words, it’s not a good idea to price the home higher than what your agent recommends just to test the market. This will come back to bite you in the end.

Working with a real estate agent you trust to sell your house can keep you from making these common mistakes. Like a mom sweeping in to put the milk in the fridge, find one who’s there to keep things from going bad.

Sources:

  1. National Association of Realtors, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

Three Phases of Selling Your Home

Like phases of the moon, the process of selling a home can be dark and mysterious, so I’ve broken down the process into three steps below.

  1. Pre-Listing: Putting your home on the market is like getting your property ready for a big party. You don’t want people to come to the house before its ready. Some easy steps.
    1. Declutter. Pack up all items you don’t think you’ll need until after you moving into your new home. Most buyers have difficult time seeing potential in a property when they’re shopping for a home, so it’s important to make your home “move-in ready.”
    2. Paint. As simple as it seems, walls in neutral colors, or bright white, prevent potential buyers from getting distracted when looking at a house they might want to buy.
    3. Maintenance. Schedule a maintenance visit with your HVAC specialist for the air conditioning and hot water heater.
    4. Maid. Hire a service to do a deep clean of your property. Don’t forget to have the windows cleaned inside and out. Potential buyers won’t be able to tell if your windows are clean, but they will definitely be able to spot windows that aren’t.
  2. On the Market: This phase begins with pricing the property right. I can prepare a competitive market analysis for you that takes a lot of factors into account, including: location, heated square footage, amenities nearby, condition, local market conditions, etc. Once showings begin you’ll want to leave your home while showings are being conducted. This is usually the most inconvenient part of the selling process. Request that you receive a certain amount of notice prior to the showing appointment so that you have enough time to get the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and all the clothes into the washing machine.
  3. Contracts & Closing: If you’ve done everything possible to make your property stand out from others who are also trying to sell their homes, you can expect to receive an offer. I’ll present you with the offer(s) and help you negotiate with the buyer’s agent. Deals most frequently fall apart during the appraisal and inspections phase of the transaction. I can help you get over both hurdles. You’ll receive a draft of the settlement statement a few days prior to the closing date that itemizes every debit and credit in the transaction. The house is still yours until the deed records at the register of deeds in the county courthouse.

If you’ve made it to key day, it’s time to celebrate!

Sources:

  1. National Association of Realtors, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

Summer To-Do’s for a Year-Round Tidy Home

While nobody likes extra chores in the summer, it’s a little more than mowing lawns and slowly killing your garden by forgetting to water—it’s a time to keep on top of maintenance so you can kick back and enjoy your home year-round, without any repair surprises.

Outside:

  1. Weed the garden weekly—make a habit of grabbing a few weeds as you stroll through the yard and you’ll never have a choked bed
  2. Mowers should be set to the highest setting to protect the grass against the drought. Resist the temptation to mow short
  3. Water plants early in the day or around sunset to avoid frying your plants. Most plants prefer a good soaking a few times a week rather than a light shower every day. Porch ferns may need more watering as they are well-drained and often in sunshine
  4. Deadhead your flowers
  5. Use a lawn sprinkler once spring showers end. If yours are built in, check while in use for any issues
  6. Keep up on pool maintenance to avoid long days working on the pool. Keep the skimmer clean, clean the filter, check chemicals, scrub the pool sides weekly and keep it vacuumed
  7. If you plan on doing any exterior repairs, summer is the best time

Inside:

  1. Reverse your ceiling fans to counter clockwise to circulate cool air down
  2. Clean your air conditioning filters once a month
  3. Cover windows that get direct sunlight
  4. Check your emergency supplies—heat and storms can knock out power and you want to have first aid, water, batteries and flashlights, and battery powered radiator.
  5. Create or review your family emergency plan in case of bad weather
  6. Check for signs of bug or other infestations so you can address anything right away—don’t forget to check the attic
  7. If you’re planning any home improvement projects for the fall, now is the time to meet and schedule with contractors