Tag: covid-19

NYC Noise Complaints Increase 279% in Just 4 Months

Even Americans who haven’t visited know that New York City never sleeps. Endless streams of people on the street and taxi cabs clogging the roadways are just part of the ceaseless movement in the city. With a population nearing nine million people, New York City always has something going on within its five boroughs.

With all the commotion, it’s safe to say that New York City could be one of the loudest cities on earth. However, it seems that New Yorkers are getting tired of the noise more than usual this year. From COVID-19 lockdowns to widespread protests, New York City has become quite chaotic lately — is this the cause of the increase in noise complaints?

Methodology

We analyzed data from NYC OpenData, which includes a database of 311 calls placed within the city. We looked at noise complaint calls placed from February 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020, and from February 1, 2019, to June 30, 2019.

We also used available population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau to weigh noise complaint call data in relation to the population of each New York borough: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

Noise complaints rise 106% in one year

a line graph showing an increase in new york city noise complaints from 2019 to 2020

It’s no secret that New York City is a noisy place –– the bustling streets and never-ending traffic jams create quite the cacophony of sound. However, it seems like residents are complaining about noise more than ever, especially since last year. Total complaints more than doubled from this time last year, increasing by 106 percent. 

Here’s a breakdown of the data between 2019 and 2020: 

Month 2019 2020 % Change
February 26,839 27,781 3.51%
March 33,567 37,396 11.41%
April 39,059 39,373 0.80%
May 40,339 77,628 92.44%
June 58,845 105,240 78.84%

Noise complaints increased by over 106 percent from 2019 to 2020 (within the measured time period). The city also saw a 97 percent increase in complaints from the beginning of April to the end of May 2020, marking the largest jump in noise complaints so far this year. These increases paint a striking picture of the considerable changes in city life over the last several months.

COVID-19, lockdowns and protests in NYC

an illustration showing a 279% increase in total noise complaints in New York City from February to June 2020

The beginning of March marked the start of quarantines, lockdowns and panic over the COVID-19 pandemic. With such a huge population density (27,000 people per square mile), New York City quickly fell into chaos as the virus spread through the city –– as of June 30, there were over 212,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York City alone.

Quarantines and lockdowns within the city meant millions of people began working from home. With so many now at home from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., it’s no surprise that New Yorkers had more to complain about when it comes to noisy neighbors and the sounds of city traffic. The data reflects this timeline perfectly, showing a difference of nearly 10,000 additional complaints logged in March (compared to February).

The end of May 2020 came with a new noise in New York City: protests. This unrest was widespread across New York City, with protests in all five boroughs. The sheer volume of these protests can be seen clearly in the data we analyzed. From the beginning of May to the end of June, noise complaints increased by 79 percent. Additionally, complaints of “loud talking” more than doubled from the beginning of April to the end of May, about the time when the protests began.

Battle of the boroughs: Who complains the most in NYC?

Despite having a smaller population than other boroughs, The Bronx has logged the most noise complaints in 2020 so far –– a total of 81,869 complaints logged from February to June.

Because populations differ across the five boroughs, we divided each borough’s total complaints by its respective total population to find comparable percentages.

Borough-specific data is below:

  • The Bronx: 81,869 total complaints (6 percent of the population)
  • Manhattan: 74,661 total complaints (5 percent of the population)
  • Brooklyn: 73,899 total complaints (3 percent of the population)
  • Queens: 49,469 total complaints (2 percent of the population)
  • Staten Island: 6,635 total complaints (1 percent of the population)

A borough rich in local culture, The Bronx has been called the birthplace of hip-hop and salsa, is home to Yankee Stadium and boasts one of the most diverse populations in the city. This diversity could be related to a higher volume of noise complaints, especially since a 2017 study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal determined that neighborhoods with higher poverty rates and larger minority populations experience more noise pollution than other neighborhoods.

New York City explodes with fireworks

From the beginning of April to the end of June this year, complaints about illegal fireworks increased by a staggering 283,595 percent –– only 19 complaints were logged in April, while complaints in June totaled 53,902. Brooklyn is seeing the majority of complaints about fireworks, with approximately one in three complaints originating from the largest of the boroughs.

Fireworks are the second most complained-about noise in New York City from February to June, with loud music and parties taking the first place prize for the most complained-about noise (157,823 total complaints during this time period). With this in mind, it’s important to note that 311 OpenData categorizes these complaints in their own section, rather than grouping them with other noise complaints.

Here is a breakdown of the noises New Yorkers complained about the most in June 2020: 

  • Loud music and parties: 73,238 complaints
  • Fireworks: 53,902 complaints
  • Traffic: 10,795 complaints
  • Loud talking: 7,213 complaints
  • Construction: 2,014 complaints

While summer fireworks in New York City have always been present, this year is definitely unique. The unusual volume of fireworks has raised many conspiracy theories among New Yorkers, with some claiming the government is using the fireworks to desensitize the public to “war-like sounds.” Others claim the police are using the fireworks as a punishment for the recent protests, while some say New Yorkers are simply bored in quarantine.

Whatever the cause of the fireworks, they are wreaking havoc across the city. Countless residents have been hospitalized with firework-related injuries and the city government has created a police taskforce to curb illegal firework activity, with police donning riot gear and arresting anyone believed to be involved.

New York City has always been loud, but 2020 seems to have turned up the volume in the city. Noise complaints are at an all-time high with no end in sight. If you’re living in New York City this summer, there are easy ways to soundproof your home.

Sources

U.S. Census Bureau | New York City OpenData: 1, 2 | Gothamist | The Atlantic

The post NYC Noise Complaints Increase 279% in Just 4 Months appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

Swimming Pool Etiquette: Staying Safe During the Pandemic at Your Apartment Pool

Now that warm weather is upon us, we long for beautiful days outside enjoying ourselves under the sun — this definitely includes hanging out at your apartment complex’s pool so you can cool off. However, there’s still a pandemic, so your usual swimming pool etiquette will look a little different this year.

Because the pandemic is still a concern, many communities are reopening their pools with a long list of rules designed to keep renters safe and healthy. Here’s what you need to know when visiting the apartment pool this season.

apartment community recreational area

Is it safe to swim in a pool during a pandemic?

While COVID-19 can spread through airborne droplets, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there’s no evidence you can catch the virus through the water in a swimming pool. However, outdoor swimming pools rank less risky than indoor ones, which are not as well ventilated.

Because the chlorine in the pool is a disinfectant, experts say the main risk is being in close contact with other people around you. Following public health guidelines designed to keep you safe is the way to go — so here is what you need to know about the swimming pool rules for your building.

Know the swimming pool rules

Some apartment pools might post information online about swimming safely. If not, call the pool management team or building manager. Most local officials have implemented rules for public pools based on CDC guidelines. You might want to ask:

  • Is pool management restricting the number of residents using the facility or staggering arrival times?
  • Is there a reservation system in place so you can book swim time?
  • Are locker rooms and restrooms open?

Pool cleaning supplies.

Ask about the pool’s cleaning routine

Aside from the pool water itself, tested by the staff, everything else in the area needs disinfecting too. Find out how often equipment such as lounge chairs, outdoor tables and chairs undergo cleaning. You might want to bring sanitizing wipes with you to clean things yourself.

Follow instructions for entering, exiting the pool area

Your apartment building might assign separate entrances and exits to the pool so that people move in one direction and stay six feet apart — just a few inches longer than a typical pool noodle.

Time your visit to the pool to avoid crowds

Try swimming at off-peak hours so you can easily stay six feet away from people you don’t live with. Your apartment pool might have signs and markers on the property reminding residents about physical distancing.

Avoid gathering at the edge of swimming lanes, on the stairs, near the diving board or on the pool deck, unless it’s with the people in your household.

Pool day.

Don’t invite friends to your apartment’s pool

Most buildings strongly suggest limiting visitors during the pandemic. Anyone not living in your apartment should not accompany you to the pool.

Arrive at the pool ready to swim

To avoid indoor areas as much as possible, come to the pool ready to swim: Shower and put on your swimsuit in your apartment. Skip the pool’s locker room!

Pay attention to signs about limited capacity

One safety standard required for reopening pools is the number of people in the space — so everyone can stay six feet apart. If you get to the pool and it’s crowded, come back later.

people wearing masks bumping fists

Wear a mask

Until you actually go into the pool, wear a face mask to protect yourself and others on the pool deck.

Do not wear a mask while you’re swimming — the CDC warns that a wet mask makes it harder to breathe. If your mask gets wet, it’s less effective for protection too — so pack an extra one in case yours gets a good splashing.

Bring your own pool accessories

Even if your apartment pool has goggles, snorkels, life jackets and noodles available for residents’ use, you should bring your own. These items are difficult to disinfect and most come in contact with your face — so unless you find out how often they’re cleaned between uses…avoid taking this risk!

Stick to your own lane

Pay attention to your surroundings before and after entering the pool so you can avoid people coming in and out right beside you.

Once you’re in the pool, leave plenty of room for other swimmers and don’t try to pass anyone if you’re swimming laps. This is basic pool etiquette anyway. Some pools might limit the kinds of strokes you can do to avoid excess splashing, such as the butterfly.

Forget pool games

Whether you love playing Marco Polo or pool volleyball, it’s harder to keep your distance when you’re throwing a ball around. It’s best to avoid close-contact games this season.

Keep your hands clean

Just as you would in any public space, wash your hands before and after touching things. If you’re using sanitizer, wipe off your hands with a towel first because greasy sunscreens reduce how well sanitizer works.

Don’t bring food and drinks to the pool

Because you need to take off your mask to enjoy refreshments, the CDC discourages eating and drinking at the pool unless you can distance yourself from anyone you don’t live with.

person in tube in the water

Use pool etiquette common sense and keep everyone safe

Many pools have staff on site who will ask if you are feeling healthy. Be smart and respectful of other residents and follow pool etiquette. Please stay away from your apartment’s swimming pool if you have a fever, cough or any other coronavirus symptoms that could put people at risk.

Last but not least — don’t forget to wear SPF! Kill two birds with one stone — protect yourself from COVID-19 and sun damage.

The post Swimming Pool Etiquette: Staying Safe During the Pandemic at Your Apartment Pool appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?

Due to financial consequences of COVID-19 — and the broader impact on our economy — now is an excellent time to consider refinancing most loans you have. This can include mortgage debt you have that may be converted to a new loan with a lower interest rate, as well as auto loans, personal loans, and more.

Refinancing student loans can also make sense if you’re willing to transition student loans you currently have into a new loan with a private lender. Make sure to take time to compare rates to see how you could save money on interest, potentially pay down student loans faster, or even both if you took the steps to refinance.

Get Started and Compare Rates Now

Still, it’s important to keep a close eye on policies and changes from the federal government that have already taken place, as well as changes that might come to fruition in the next weeks or months. Currently, all federal student loans are locked in at a 0% APR and payments are suspended during that time. This change started on March 13, 2020 and lasts for 60 days, so borrowers with federal loans can skip payments and avoid interest charges until the middle of May 2020.

It’s hard to say what will happen after that, but it’s smart to start figuring out your next steps and determining if student loan refinancing makes sense for your situation. Note that, in addition to lower interest rates than you can get with federal student loans, many private student lenders offer signup bonuses as well. With the help of a lower rate and an initial bonus, you could end up far “ahead” by refinancing in a financial sense.

Still, there are definitely some negatives to consider when it comes to refinancing your student loans, and we’ll go over those disadvantages below.

Should You Refinance Now?

Do you have student loan debt at a higher APR than you want to pay?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes: Go to next question.

Do you have good credit or a cosigner? 

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes:  Go to next question.

Do you have federal student loans?

  • If no: You can consider refinancing
  • If yes: Go to next question

Are you willing to give up federal protections like deferment, forbearance, and income-driven repayment plans?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance
  • If yes: Consider refinancing your loans.

Reasons to Refinance

There are many reasons student borrowers ultimately refinance their student loans, although they can vary from person to person. Here are the main situations where it can make sense to refinance along with the benefits you can expect to receive:

  • Secure a lower monthly payment on your student loans.
    You may want to consider refinancing your student loans if your ultimate goal is reducing your monthly payment so it fits in better with your budget and your goals. A lower interest rate could help you lower your payment each month, but so could extending your repayment timeline.
  • Save money on interest over the long haul.
    If you plan to refinance your loans into a similar repayment timeline with a lower APR, you will definitely save money on interest over the life of your loan.
  • Change up your repayment timeline.
    Most private lenders let you refinance your student loans into a new loan product that lasts 5 to 20 years. If you want to expedite your loan repayment or extend your repayment timeline, private lenders offer that option.
  • Pay down debt faster.
    Also, keep in mind that reducing your interest rate or repayment timeline can help you get out of student loan debt considerably faster. If you’re someone who wants to get out of debt as soon as you can, this is one of the best reasons to refinance with a private lender.

Why You Might Not Want to Refinance Right Now

While the reasons to refinance above are good ones, there are plenty of reasons you may want to pause on your refinancing plans. Here are the most common:

  • You want to wait and see if the federal government will offer 0% APR or forbearance beyond May 2020 due to COVID-19.
    The federal government has only extended forbearance through the middle of May right now, but they might lengthen the timeline of this benefit if you wait it out. Since this perk only applies to federal student loans, you would likely want to keep those loans at 0% APR for as long as the federal government allows.
  • You may want to take advantage of income-driven repayment plans.
    Income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income-Based Repayment let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income each month then have your loans forgiven after 20 to 25 years. These plans only apply to federal student loans, so you shouldn’t refinance with a private lender if you are hoping to sign up.
  • You’re worried you won’t be able to keep up with your student loan payments due to your job or economic conditions.
    Federal student loans come with deferment and forbearance that can buy you time if you’re struggling to make the payments on your student loans. With that in mind, you may not want to give up these protections if you’re unsure about your future and how your finances might be.
  • Your credit score is low and you don’t have a cosigner.
    Finally, you should probably stick with federal student loans if your credit score is poor and you don’t have a cosigner. Federal student loans come with fairly low rates and most don’t require a credit check, so they’re a great deal if your credit is imperfect.

Important Things to Note

Before you move forward with student loan refinancing, there are some details you should know and understand. Here are our top tips and some important factors to keep in mind.

Compare Rates and Loan Terms

Because student loan refinancing is such a competitive industry, shopping around for loans based on their rates and terms can help you find out which lenders are offering the most lucrative refinancing options for someone with your credit profile and income.

We suggest using Credible to shop for student loan refinancing since this loan platform lets you compare offers from multiple lenders in one place. You can even get prequalified for student loan refinancing and “check your rate” without a hard inquiry on your credit score.

Check for Signup Bonuses

Some student loan refinancing companies let you score a bonus of $100 to $750 just for clicking through a specific link to start the process. This money is free money if you’re able to take advantage, and you can still qualify for low rates and fair loan terms that can help you get ahead.

We definitely suggest checking with lenders that offer bonuses provided you can also score the most competitive rates and terms.

Consider Your Personal Eligibility

Also keep your personal eligibility in mind, including factors beyond your credit score. Most applicants who are turned down for student loan refinancing are turned away based on their debt-to-income ratio and not their credit score. Generally speaking, this means they owe too much money on all their debts when you compare their liabilities to their income.

Credible also notes that adding a creditworthy cosigner can improve your chances of prequalifying for a loan. They also state that “many lenders offer cosigner release once borrowers have made a minimum number of on-time payments and can demonstrate they are ready to assume full responsibility for repayment of the loan on their own.”

It’s Not “All or Nothing”

Also, remember that you don’t have to refinance all of your student loans. You can just refinance the loans at the highest interest rates, or any particular loans you believe could benefit from a different repayment term.

4 Steps to Refinance Your Student Loans

Once you’re ready to pull the trigger, there are four simple steps involved in refinancing your student loans.

Step 1: Gather all your loan information.

Before you start the refinancing process, it helps to have all your loan information, including your student loan pay stubs, in one place. This can help you determine the total amount you want to refinance as well as the interest rates and payments you currently have on your loans.

Step 2: Compare lenders and the rates they offer.

From there, take the time to compare lenders in terms of the rates they can offer. You can use this tool to get the process started.

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Step 3: Choose the best loan offer you can qualify for.

Once you’ve filled out basic information, you can choose among multiple loan offers. Make sure to check for signup bonus offers as well as interest rates, loan repayment terms, and interest rates you can qualify for.

Step 4: Complete your loan application.

Once you decide on a lender that offers the best rates and terms, you can move forward with your full student loan refinancing application. Your student loan company will ask for more personal information and details on your existing student loans, which they will combine into your new loan with a new repayment term and monthly payment.

The Bottom Line

Whether it makes sense to refinance your student loans is a huge question that only you can answer after careful thought and consideration. Make sure you weigh all the pros and cons, including what you may be giving up if you’re refinancing federal loans with a private lender.

Refinancing your student loans can make sense if you have a plan to pay them off, but this strategy works best if you create a debt repayment plan you can stick with for the long-term.

The post Should You Refinance Your Student Loans? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Tips And Services To Help Your Bookkeeping Go Paperless

The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a catalyst to shift businesses toward digital transformation, it merely sped up the process. Businesses needed to scramble to move much of their operations online so workers could efficiently collaborate with each other and maintain business continuity during a difficult time.

Fortunately, departments not traditionally associated with the digital universe, like Bookkeeping, had an easier time adapting thanks to online services like Bookstime.com, a provider of digital bookkeeping tools with unique experience in difficult areas like sales tax automation, health benefits administration, and more.

Advantages of digital bookkeeping

Keeping track of every business transaction is among the most important and perhaps underappreciated tasks. Failure to keep track of transactions in a professional manner can result in a business owner making wrong decisions because they have inaccurate information.

Even worse, they might think they end the year with a profit but in reality, a bunch of small bookkeeping mistakes over several months means the business owner really lost money.

A shift to a digital platform eliminates these concerns. Online digital platforms make use of the most up-to-date accounting automation software that erases nearly every careless mistake. This is especially useful for a business owner who does the tedious but necessary job of bookkeeping themselves to save money. The more time a business owner spends on ancillary tasks, the less time they have to generate revenue and keep clients happy.

Some of the other advantages associated with going online include:

  • Eliminating clutter: keeping a clean home office is challenging enough but a digital platform means more space for higher priority files.
  • Save time: A digital bookkeeping platform is always available online with a few short clicks of the mouse. It can be accessed as needed and when needed in a few short seconds.
  • Environmental benefits: It isn’t unusual for a company to use at least 10,000 sheets of paper each year. Shifting resources online may seem like a small benefit but everyone has a responsibility to do a little bit more to protect our environment.

Case in point: Fill in a W-4

Every business owner is happy to hire new workers because it means they are expected to provide value to the company above and beyond their salary. But that doesn’t mean that the formal process is enjoyable.

One of the more undesirable parts of the hiring process is the pesky W-4 form that every employer has to ensure is properly filled in before a worker’s first day. Simply put, the W-4 form confirms how much income tax a worker wants to have withheld from their recurring paychecks. Under-withholding taxes means a worker will likely experience a shock come tax season as they owe money to the government. Over-withholding taxes means a worker is paying the government too much money and has to wait for a refund.

Digital bookkeeping can help simplify this process so you're less prone to errors. When other people’s finances are at stake, small careless mistakes could impact a worker’s desire to give the business owner 100% of their focus.

Businesses that shifted their bookkeeping process online to better navigate through the pandemic quickly realized this was a move that should have been done years ago. The advantages of having access to a clean and organized online tool far outweigh the costs.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

‘I Lost My Job—and My Dream House’: How This First-Time Home Buyer Bounced Back

houseKaterina Rieckel

Imagine finding your dream home, then, a week before closing the deal, losing your job—and the house. House hunting during the coronavirus pandemic is no picnic.

COVID-19 has caused seismic changes not only to real estate markets, but also to the lives of home buyers hit with layoffs, furloughs, and other financial challenges. Just ask Katerina Rieckel, a digital strategist, knitwear designer, and first-time home buyer who, with her husband, was set to close on a glorious farmhouse in upstate New York in March.

But about a week before sealing the deal, Rieckel was laid off, which meant that she and her husband, a claims adjuster, could no longer afford the place.

As a part of our new series, “First-Time Home Buyer Confessions,” we asked Rieckel to share her story, and the hard-won lessons she wants to share with other first-timers.

Let her experiences show that even unemployment doesn’t need to spell the end of a house hunt—although it may require you to dust yourself off after a loss and try, try again.

home
Katerina Rieckel’s farmhouse in upstate New York

Katerina Rieckel

Location: Troy, NY
House specs: 1,544 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
List price: $249,900
Price paid: $245,500

2020 has been a wild one. How did you end up buying a home in the middle of a pandemic?

We started looking for a house a year ago, about halfway through the summer. At the time, both my husband and I had recently got new jobs, so the first issue we ran into was getting pre-qualified for the mortgage without a long track record at those companies. We also both felt pressure, as our jobs were very new.

What were you looking for in a house, and what was your budget?

We were looking for a house in the country that was move-in ready, private with at least 5 acres. We started off with a small budget, max $200,000, which made our choices more narrow.

Our search continued well into the winter, and around January 2020, we finally saw a house that was all we ever dreamed of and more. It was over our budget, at $229,000, but it had been listed for over a year, so we felt there was a good chance we could get it for less than the asking price.

What did you love about this house?

It was a beautiful, slate-blue farmhouse sitting on top of a hill, surrounded by woods. The house was warm and inviting, with chickens running around, as well as a big diving pool, and a workshop in the basement connected with a two-car garage. We got along with the owners really well, and we were going to keep the chickens. Everything went very smoothly, until just over a week before closing.

house
Rieckel and her husband almost bought this house, but it wasn’t in the cards.

Global MLS

So what went wrong?

It was March, and COVID-19 hit hard. The digital marketing agency I worked for had clients pause their work for unknown time. I was laid off, which meant we couldn’t afford the house anymore, and had to back out of the deal.

I was crushed. We didn’t know what was going to happen, and the country was under a lockdown. We had plans for my parents to come visit us in our new house, but instead, I ended up with no job, no house, and I couldn’t see my family, since they live in Europe.

In the summer, I was very fortunate to get my job back. So we resumed our house hunt and began to search for a new contender.

When you started the search again, how had COVID-19 changed the market?

The housing market in upstate New York got totally crazy. I heard there were houses being sold within hours. The market was just incredibly competitive, and not many houses were being listed, as a lot of people didn’t want to let strangers in their house during the pandemic.

We saw about seven to 10 houses in person, but they usually ended up disappointing us, with some strange arrangements. For example, one house had around 25 acres, but half of that acreage was on the other side of the road, behind other people’s houses, which made it almost impossible to use.

home
The couple’s pet cat has settled into their new digs, too.

Katerina Rieckel

With such a competitive market, how did you end up finding the right house?

Finally, around halfway through the summer, I saw a house listed that I hadn’t noticed before. I called on it right away and set up a showing that evening.

The real estate agent told me we were really fast, as he had just relisted this house. Someone had been buying it, but backed out of the process because of personal reasons.

porch
Their house has tons of privacy and a great view.

Katarina Rieckel

How did you know this house was the one?

The house had over 10 acres, it was in the country, and about 35 minutes to Troy. It was move-in ready, but definitely needed upgrades, as it looked like it got stuck in the ’80s.

Even though we didn’t like the style that much, we felt instantly comfortable and decided to put in an offer that same evening. It was partly due to the pressure of the market, but in the end, we are really happy we made this decision.

house
This house was totally 1980s, but Rieckel has been slowly updating it.

Katerina Rieckel

What surprised you most about the home-buying process?

Nothing prepares you for the amount of aggravation you have to go through. Buying a house is like getting a second job for about three months.

living room
After a little work, Rieckel’s home looks lovely.

Katerina Rieckel

What’s your advice for aspiring first-time home buyers?

Don’t trust the photos! The photos got me a few times. For example, a lot of times, the photos of the house are taken so that you can’t see the neighboring houses.

You think, “Wow, that looks so private!” Then you drive there, and you realize there’s a house sitting right next to it. Since privacy was very important to us, we got disappointed a few times by this. We started doing drive-bys first, before going in with a real estate agent, whenever possible.

Christmas decorations
Rieckel moved in in time to enjoy her new home for the holidays.

Katerina Rieckel

Anything else home buyers should look out for?

Call the real estate agent and ask a lot of questions before you even go see the house, like what the property and school taxes are—very important around here.

You also want to know what kind of heating the house has, as electric bills can really add up over the winter.

The driveway can also be a huge issue, which is why I think the first house we were buying was for sale for such a long time. It had a pretty steep driveway, which was definitely an all-wheel drive kind of thing in the winter.

We also changed who we were financing with while we were going through closing. We needed someone well-informed about the economy, who knew what they were doing and was ready to act fast.

Our first mortgage broker didn’t tell us as soon as interest rates started to go up—and basically sat on the information for a while. This is when we stopped trusting this person and went to work with a bank instead.

Maybe the best advice is not to fall in love with a house too quickly, since there can be so many setbacks that you will not see coming.

Katerina Rieckel
It took a little longer than expected, but this family is finally happy in their new home.

Katerina Rieckel

The post ‘I Lost My Job—and My Dream House’: How This First-Time Home Buyer Bounced Back appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

9 Ways to Support Small Businesses Without Breaking the Bank

We all have our favorite small businesses, including our go-to date night restaurant and favorite thrift store. These places serve more than great food and looks — they build jobs in the community, put children through school, and are the realization of your neighbor’s dream. 

These stores are built on hard work and love, and supply some of the best quality products you can find. Small businesses are a great sign of a thriving economy, but they’re also the first to suffer from economic downturns, like 2020’s COVID-19 recession. This is why it’s more important than ever to find ways to support your community’s businesses.

There are many reasons why small business success is vital. Not just for the economy but for our communities. That’s why Small Business Saturday (November 28) is one of our favorite times of the year, and why we collected these ways you can support small businesses without breaking the bank (or leaving the house!).

Shop Small Businesses

Shopping small is the easiest way to support community businesses and clear your holiday list. Shopping locally doesn’t have to drain your wallet, either.

Small businesses generate 44% of U.S. economic activity.

1. Skip the Hallmark Card and Support a Local Artist

Cards are a classic gift for any and all celebrations. They’re small, affordable, and easy to personalize. This year skip the grocery store and see what artists you can support while still getting beautiful and unique gifts for your family and friends. 

Most cities will have galleries, boutiques, and even tourist shops that display locally printed and designed cards to choose from. If you don’t have a shop near you, you can browse thousands of creators on Etsy to find the perfect design for each of your loved ones. 

2. Send Gift Cards

Gift cards are perfect for acquaintances, long-distance giving, and little acts of kindness every now and then. Instead of collecting Amazon and Starbucks cards, see what your local spots have to offer. 

Most restaurants and stores offer a gift card option, and you don’t have to waste the plastic! Send your gift via email to anyone, anywhere. So go ahead and thank your first mentor for their glowing reference with a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. 

3. Shop Throughout the Year

It’s true that handmade products can get pricey, but you’re ultimately paying for quality. If you’re already pinching pennies for the holiday season, start thinking about next year. Buying gifts for loved ones as you find them throughout the year is the best way to collect beautiful gifts without using credit. Plus, small businesses can use the boost year-round. 

Show Support From Home

Mockup showing someone fill in an instagram story template with favorite shops.

Download button for instagram story template.

Most of us have a budget that prevents us from buying a new wardrobe every month and eating out every weekday, so it just isn’t feasible to buy from all of our favorite local artisans all of the time. That doesn’t mean you don’t love them, you’ll just have to get creative to show your support from home. 

4. Share Your Favorite Products

When you do buy something new, take a photo! Sharing your favorite finds online and tagging the store is a great way to promote their products and quality to your friends and family. Even if you’re not buying, sharing a wishlist or their newest product could earn them another sale or new followers. 

“I think people forget that their voice has influence, whether they are a huge celebrity or a humble stay at home mom. It’s amazing just what one post can do for small business.” — Autumn Grant, The Kind Poppy

5. Write a Review

You should let the world know when you find a shop you love. From Google and Yelp to a company Facebook page, leave a review to let others know they’re in good hands. Positive reviews are some of the best tools businesses have to convert sales. 

“These types [local] of businesses live and die by word of mouth. Their reviews are everything to them. Now that everyone can look up the average rating of a business or service, it’s vital for businesses to collect positive, honest reviews.” — Dan Bailey, WikiLawn Lawn Care

If you do leave reviews, detailed thoughts and photos perform the best. These give the consumer plenty of information and help your review seem authentic. Plus, reviews can help platforms like Etsy and Google know the business is valued. 

6. Refer a Friend

Tell your friends when you find a new shop or service and share the love. Your friends trust you and likely have a lot of shared interests, so this word of mouth is a great way for businesses to earn customers. 

“A referral is the single best compliment to a business owner. Trust me.” — Brian Robben, Robben Media

If you have friends and family from out of town you may also want to keep your favorite businesses in mind for when they visit. Keep a list of local restaurants, cafes, services, and shops that they can’t get anywhere else and take your friends on a local tour. 

Keep in Touch

Businesses have more ways than ever to keep you in the know, so make sure you’re subscribed to keep in touch! Newsletters and social media are a good way to keep your local faves and their promotional offers top of mind. 

Mockup showing someone filling in their wishlist on instagram.

Download button for holiday wishlist instagram template.

7. Sign-up For Newsletters

Most businesses send regular emails to notify you and other customers of their store details and deals. Newsletters are great ways to find coupons, sales, and new items you’ll adore. Just subscribing isn’t enough, though. Make sure you actually read their news and whitelist the email so you never miss a thing. 

8. Follow and Interact With Their Social Channels

Social media is another easy way to stay in the know; it can also organically promote a business. When you follow a business, platforms learn more about who else may be interested in their offers. Stay active and like and comment on their posts, too, to increase their visibility and trust with other shoppers. 

9. Swing By the Shop

Ultimately, the best way to support a business is to stop by and visit. You never know when something will catch your eye, and it’s a great way to share your find with friends. You may also get the chance to talk with the owner and learn more about the business while sharing your support. 

“Drop a note to them of encouragement. Tell them why you love them and what they mean to you and the community…We’ve been absolutely floored when people have taken time out of their day to write us a note, telling us how much they like us/our product.” — Meaghan Tomas, Pinch Spice Market

No matter the product or service, small business owners will appreciate hearing that you love their shop and can benefit from your support. Tag a friend, buy a gift card, or write a review to help your favorite stores without busting your budget. 
Small Business Administration | G1ve 

The post 9 Ways to Support Small Businesses Without Breaking the Bank appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How COVID-19 is Affecting Auto Loans

COVID-19 is having a massive impact on the global economy and very few industries have been untouched by it. If your business relies on employees working in a physical space and profits only when people are willing to shop and spend, there’s no escaping it. 

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the auto industry has been so negatively affected. In a recent guide, we looked at the many auto loan relief options that manufacturers offering in light of the coronavirus. In this guide, we’ll highlight the ways this industry has been stung by the pandemic and look at what it means for the future of the US automobile and car financing sectors.

How is the Coronavirus Affecting Car Sales?

The automobile manufacturing industry experienced a minor surge at the beginning of 2020 but COVID-19 began to impact sales heavily in March. Many companies, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors included, began the year with strong momentum behind them, but March hit them hard and negated all the gains made during the first two months.

Both of these companies recorded losses for the first quarter of 2020, with Fiat Chrysler losing 10% in total.

Toyota, one of America’s biggest manufacturers, also recorded massive losses for March, with daily sales dropping by nearly a third during this month.

All of this is to be expected. The US has yet to announce the sort of national lockdowns we have seen in countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Greece, but many citizens are in self-isolation, countless businesses have shut their doors, and there are fewer cars on the road as a result.

Combine this with the fact that people are losing their jobs and worrying about their futures, and it’s easy to see why car sales have been affected so severely. 

What are Manufacturers Doing About It?

Automobile manufacturers have moved quickly to stem the rising tide of financial devastation caused by COVID-19. Fiat Chrysler, for instance, is offering improved auto loan conditions to convince consumers to make sizeable purchases and keep the wheels turning. It has also made it easier to purchase a car for those in self-isolation or lockdown.

You can now buy a Fiat Chrysler online, with options for trade-ins, auto loans, and pretty much everything else you would get when buying in person.

They’re making it easier for you to buy because they need you to make that commitment. At the same time, the production of many new vehicles has been halted.

While some plants and showrooms are still open in the United States, Europe has experienced an almost continent-wide shutdown, leading to a decreased demand. 

Manufacturers are also anticipating that things will get worse, as many experts predict that the USA will experience a spread similar to that of Spain and Italy.

How Has COVID-19 Hurt the Automobile Industry?

We have already touched upon some of the ways that COVID-19 has impacted the automobile industry, but the problem goes far beyond people not being able to make it to their local showrooms. Furthermore, if events in Europe are anything to go by, the problems will only get worse and it could be several years before the automobile sector recovers.

Here are a few reasons the industry has been hit hard:

Uncertainty

There is a genuine fear that the COVID-19 pandemic will remain for all of 2020 and even beyond that. It seems unlikely that it will last for that long, but if the country doesn’t go into lockdown and a vaccine isn’t produced, it’s possible. 

With this in mind, many consumers are putting off buying new cars out of fear that they simply won’t need them. New cars depreciate rapidly and can lose 20% in the first year. What’s the point of spending $30,000 on a new car if it will be worth $24,000 by the time you actually get behind the wheel?

Struggling Stock Markets

The stock market doesn’t just impact big companies and investors. It also affects average American families who have their money tied into savings accounts, stocks, and pensions. Savers have lost a lot of money and are worried that they’ll lose even more in the near future, making buying a $30,000+ vehicle incredibly reckless. 

Price of Gas

One of the few things that the automobile industry has on its side is the price of fuel, which has plummeted in the past few weeks. The problem is, no one cares about the price of fuel when they’re stuck inside the house worrying about their health and their jobs.

Closed Plants

Automotive plants can’t simply shut down for a few weeks and then start up again when everything has cleared up. Many plants were already struggling to keep things together and once production stops and their profits disappear, they may close down entirely, taking hundreds, if not thousands of jobs with them. 

Bottom Line: Car Sales After COVID-19

It’s highly likely that the hard times will continue for the manufacturing industry. As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, manufacturing plants will struggle to retain employees, showrooms will shut, and fewer Americans will be willing to pay the $30,000+ required for a new vehicle.

Whether this impacts the future price and availability of automobiles remains to be seen, but it’s highly likely that we’ll see some massive changes in this industry. America’s best-loved manufacturers will lose millions and could be sent to the brink of financial destruction, while many salespersons and mechanics will likely lose their jobs as demand drops and garages/showrooms close down. 

 

How COVID-19 is Affecting Auto Loans is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Homie’s Boise, Idaho Housing Market Update December 2020

The real estate market is getting hotter and hotter. The local Boise market is no exception. Here’s your monthly update on what’s happening.

Data from Intermountain MLS from December 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

Monthly Sales

According to data from the Intermountain MLS, Boise home sales are dipping monthly but higher year-over-year. At 1,245 units sold, there were 91 fewer monthly sales in December than in November, a 6.8% decrease. This follows seasonal real estate trends. Looking at yearly changes, there were 28 more homes sold in December 2020 than in December 2019. That’s an increase of 2.3% from last year.

ID Monthly Sales Dec 2020

Data via Intermountain MLS.

Sale Price

At $452K, Idaho’s average sale prices continued to rise last year. The average home price in December 2020 was $87K, or 23.7%, higher than in December 2019. The monthly trend follows the yearly move upward. Average home sale prices were up by $3.7K, or .8%, from November 2020.

Idaho Sales Prices Dec 2020

Data via Intermountain MLS.

Days on Market (DOM)

Homes in Boise are going off the market faster than ever. December’s average number of Days on the Market was 18. The previous month’s average DOM was 17, so the average DOM has stayed steady with a one day, 5.5% increase. The average DOM in December of 2019 was 48. That means a 30-day (a whole month!) decrease year-over-year–a staggering drop of 61.9%. Homebuyers will need to jump to make an offer quickly when they find a home they like.

ID DOM Dec 2020

Data via Intermountain MLS.

Analysis from Max Coursey, Homie Head of Idaho Real Estate

“Boise is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Since COVID-19, this trend has only accelerated. There are roughly 2,000 (79%) fewer houses on the Boise market now than there were last year, and we already had a housing shortage a year ago. I have personally never seen numbers this low in my 18-year career in the Treasure Valley. This lack of homes for sale and tremendous population growth has led to a very strong seller’s market. It’s not unusual to hear of a seller receiving 20 offers on a property.

Because of the fierce competition and lack of inventory, many homes are selling significantly above the asking price. To sweeten the pot further, buyers often waive inspections and appraisals and offer generous seller leasebacks and other concessions. Sales price data typically lags, as it usually takes 30 days for a home to close after listing, and reports come out monthly. I believe Boise’s median average home prices are actually higher than the numbers stated in the reports.

The good news for buyers is that interest rates are at or near their lowest levels in the last 40 years. This has made home buying more affordable. Buyers can procure a strong hedge against future inflation by securing low interest rates that are fixed for 30 years. If inflation ever comes back, these buyers will be repaying depreciating dollars. In other words, they get more bang for their buck.”

Turn to a Homie

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The post Homie’s Boise, Idaho Housing Market Update December 2020 appeared first on Homie Blog.

Source: homie.com