A recent survey from the National Association of Realtors® revealed that 77 percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home makes it easier for potential buyers to visual it as their own. Here are our top tips.
Anna Reed, Realtor
Purchasing a new vehicle, while exciting, can be a burden for many shoppers. A variety of options and considerations for each make and model can turn the decision-making process into a stressful situation.
To help make that part of the car-buying process a little less difficult, consider these podium finalists for Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, Truck of the Year and SUV of the Year. Each finalist is evaluated using six criteria: safety, efficiency, value, advancement in design, engineering excellence and performance of intended function.
These podium finalists offer a multitude of benefits, each with its own strengths, for car buyers shopping in the new year. Learn more about 2019 cars to consider at motortrendawards.com.
Sporty and Stylish – For a fun yet serious sedan, the Genesis G70 features punchy powertrains that support an agile, sporty chassis wrapped in classy exterior styling with strong graphics and a well-appointed interior. As the first sports sedan from Hyundai’s luxury line, this sleek model packs power.
Excellent Efficiency – Cruise the roads with 50 miles-per-gallon efficiency in the Honda Insight, a smartly packaged hybrid featuring thoughtful style and storage solutions, plus seamless and silent adaptive cruise control performance. With lane-keeping assist that rates among the industry’s best, its smooth ride competes with luxury vehicles while combining efficiency and style.
A Craving for Variety – If deciding between vehicle models is causing fits, consider these options from Volvo. For a fresh, modern interior with comfortable seating, the S60 sedan and V60 wagon deliver all-round performance with base 2.0-liter turbos, meaning you don’t have to pay extra for power. Or, for stylish appeal with a familiar turbo-four engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, the XC40 compact crossover provides quick acceleration and spirited steering response.
Electric Excitement – Power and torque don’t go by the wayside with Jaguar’s I-Pace, the maker’s first electric car and first all-electric SUV which boasts about 200 miles of real-world battery range. Add the adjustable ride-height for added off-road capability and one of the most original automotive designs in years, and this set of wheels can have you riding in unique style.
Rethinking an Iconic Ride – Configured to equally suit the ambitions of the off-roading newbie and expert alike, 2019’s thoughtful, thorough rework of the Jeep Wrangler features significant tech updates for the American original.
Time for a Truck – Featuring a new design, cylinder deactivation and an automatic trailer light test, the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado offers more versions, more space and more options. Rear bumper corner steps and three cargo hooks at each bed corner deliver functionality, while a smooth High Country 10-speed automatic transmission makes for a smoother ride for truck buyers.
Go Ahead and Haul – If you’re in the market for a workhorse truck combined with plush luxury and tech-forward thinking, the GMC Sierra fits as a versatile cargo-hauler. This truck differentiates itself with the MultiPro tailgate, adaptive ride control and a carbon-fiber bed. The powerful drive of a 6.2-liter engine combined with a 10-speed transmission and overall body control while towing makes this truck a key asset for long-distance hauls.
Work or Play – The best-in-class styling of the Ram 1500 – sophisticated and well-executed without going over the top – packs an interior outfitted with the tools needed for activities ranging from fun to function. A 48-volt mild hybrid system saves fuel while coil-spring dampers and an optional air suspension provide a luxury car-like ride.
From heading off to college to marrying the love of your life to taking those dream vacations, life’s biggest moments are often tied to being financially responsible.
While memories of your first dance as newlyweds don’t often include the cost of the band, money is frequently front and center when planning for some of life’s larger events. From early adulthood through retirement, a credit card is one tool that can help you achieve your financial goals while offsetting some costs along the way.
“No matter your stage in life, it’s important to plan ahead and have the right tools to meet your financial needs,” said Jason Gaughan, credit cards executive at Bank of America. “A credit card offers flexibility, convenience and an increasing amount of rewards that can make your budget go even further.”
These tips from financial experts can help you maximize financial tools like credit cards throughout life’s milestones.
For many, college represents the first instance of being responsible for personal finances. During this time, some students apply for their first credit cards to cover a wide range of costs such as books or travel expenses to and from school. Experts agree it’s important to start building credit at this age, but only if you can handle the responsibility associated with a credit card.
“Though credit can be a somewhat foreign topic for beginners, online resources such as Bank of America’s Better Money Habits offers tips to help young adults learn about things like how your credit score is calculated, the difference between a credit report and credit score and explains why it’s important to understand before signing up for a credit card,” said Lysandra Perez, a relationship manager for Bank of America who is responsible for educating clients on establishing strong financial habits including managing and building credit.”
According to BetterMoneyHabits.com, an important rule for building strong credit is to spend no more than 30 percent of your available credit line. The online resource also recommends that students look for credit cards that offer low interest rates and no annual fee to help minimize finance charges if they aren’t able to pay their bills in full each month.
“Establishing strong financial habits early on can help set you up for future credit opportunities later in life,” Perez said.
As people become more established professionally, they often become more comfortable financially, allowing them to pursue their passions.
Using a credit card that offers rewards tied to interests is a strategy some young adults utilize. According to a Bank of America survey, 91 percent of Millennials ages 23-29 plan to use a rewards card to help pay for upcoming travel.
“It’s common for people in their mid-to-late 20s to prioritize maximizing credit card rewards,” Gaughan said. “They understand using a card for smaller, everyday purchases like coffee and groceries can be an easy way to earn points to pay for fun events like a trip abroad or home for a college reunion.”
Saving and tracking rewards is key during this period, too. Digital tools like My Rewards provide new visibility into the rewards you earn and how to maximize their value. Also look to explore banking rewards options like Preferred Rewards, which can offer special perks and benefits like credit card rewards bonuses, discounts on home and auto loans, interest rate boosters and no-fee ATM transactions.
Marriage and Parenthood
A seismic shift often occurs when entering the marriage and parenthood stage of life. The individually minded spending of early adulthood transitions to down payments on homes and saving money for children’s educations.
These years typically require more financial savviness to make every dollar count as large expenses requiring loans, such as houses and cars, are more prevalent during this stage.
Along with larger purchases, these years also often come with grocery store trips, filling up the gas tank for carpool duty and buying new clothes as your kids grow. Look for a cash back card that lets you earn rewards on your everyday purchases and offers redemption for cash back to cover expenses or invest in a savings account.
By retirement age, you’ve likely spent decades saving and are looking to enjoy the fruits of your years of labor. While the amount saved for retirement varies greatly depending on your situation, it’s always important to spend wisely during retirement, and a credit card that reaps high rewards can help.
“There are many ways to continue saving and investing once in retirement,” said David Poole, head of Merrill Edge Advisory, Client Services and Digital Capabilities at Bank of America. “Credit cards that allow you to invest rewards back into your retirement fund is an easy way to continue contributing to your 401(k).”
Credit cards can also help retirees fulfill long-standing travel goals. Some like the Bank of America Premium Rewards card offer lucrative travel benefits such as earning two points for every dollar spent on travel and dining purchases. Look for points that are flexible and can be used toward future travel purchases or as cash back.
“With so many credit card options available, it’s important to understand what your current needs are,” Gaughan said. “Do your research, develop a strategy and work with your financial institution to determine the best card for your lifestyle.”
Find more information and credit card options at bankofamerica.com/creditcards.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Bank of America
ELIMINATE UP TO $40,000 IN STUDENT DEBT!!
Maryland SmartBuy helps homebuyers with qualifying student debt purchase a home. The program works by paying off student debt during the purchase of the home through special Maryland Mortgage Program (MMP) financing. Maryland SmartBuy involves the purchase of move-in-ready homes currently owned by, and available from, the state of Maryland.
Maryland SmartBuy 2.0 gives homebuyers an opportunity to purchase any home in Maryland that meets Maryland Mortgage Program guidelines while paying off student debt. This limited time program provides all of the student debt relief offered by the original Maryland SmartBuy while making more homes eligible for purchase.
To qualify for either Maryland SmartBuy program, homebuyers must have an existing student debt with a minimum balance of $1,000. Maryland SmartBuy financing provides up to 15% of the home purchase price for the borrower to pay off their outstanding student debt. Maryland SmartBuy 2.0 offers the same student debt relief of 15% of the home purchase price with a maximum payoff of $40,000.
The full student debt must be paid off at the time of the home purchase, and homebuyers must meet all eligibility requirements for the Maryland Mortgage program.
Financing for either Maryland SmartBuy program is available only through approved Maryland SmartBuy lenders. These lenders can help you confirm your eligibility and ensure you meet all applicable requirements. Contant Anna Reed for more information.
The Maryland Department of the Environment, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health and local county health departments are promoting January as Radon Awareness Month. Radon is an odorless, colorless, naturally occurring radioactive gas that easily migrates through the soil. It can accumulate within homes, initially in areas where floors and external walls are in contact with the ground, and is often a concern during property transfers. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after tobacco smoke. People who smoke and are also exposed to elevated radon levels where they live are at a greater risk for lung cancer. Thus, it is important that all homes be tested for radon and corrective measures taken when necessary. All homes, regardless of location, can have elevated radon levels. Historical data shows that radon levels are elevated in Northern Maryland (counties ranging from Cecil to Garrett) and Central Maryland (Howard, Montgomery, Baltimore, Anne Arundel, and Prince George’s counties). Because it is colorless and has no warning sign, the only way to know if dangerous levels of radon are present is to test the home. This can be done with a simple testing device. Radon levels are often higher in the basement, so it best to conduct the test in that area. Radon can also be high on the ground level in homes without basements. If radon levels are higher than 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) it can be remediated by contacting a certified radon service provider. https://mde.maryland.gov/programs/Air/ RadiologicalHealth/Pages/radon.aspx
Although radon testing and mitigation methods are not complex, they are not foolproof. Certain procedures must be followed to help ensure desired outcomes. During Radon Awareness Month, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and its partners, will work closely with Maryland REALTORS® to provide information to help buyers, sellers and their agents better understand the nature of radon hazards, how to evaluate exposures, and how to resolve problems if elevated levels are found. Save a life by testing and fixing your home today.
If you'd like your home tested for radon contact me at 240-447-8200 Anna Reed, Realtor www.annareedrealestate.com
BALTIMORE – The Maryland State Department of Education has received a $10.6 million federal grant to help improve programs for children, birth to five, throughout the State.
The Preschool Development Grant will allow Maryland to conduct a needs assessment on the availability and quality of early childhood programs, and develop a strategic plan to fuel continued improvement.
“Early childhood education provides a strong foundation for future success in the classroom,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “This federal grant will help expand educational opportunities for our youngest learners and give our children the start they deserve.”
Maryland’s new grant is one of 45 recently announced by the US Department of Health and Human Services. The $10,618,584 grant is one of the largest awarded in the current cycle of the Preschool Development Grant program.
“This critical funding allows Maryland to strengthen collaboration and program improvement throughout our State on behalf of our youngest learners,” said Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools. “By enhancing care and education for Pre-K students, particularly those from low-income households, we are investing in the future of our State.”
Maryland’s grant will help the State develop a plan to better utilize existing federal, state, local, and non-governmental resources to improve delivery of services, as well as to increase the number of children in high quality programs. Specifically, the grant will allow Maryland to:
Maryland’s new grant is initially for a single year, but MSDE intends to apply for a three-year renewal grant.
More on the federal Preschool Development Grant program can be found here: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/occ/resource/pdg-b-5-initiative