Dec. 11, 2017

Avoid the Frustration: Stress-Free Holiday Shopping Tips

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, making family memories and reminding ourselves about what is really important in life. But sometimes, the pressure to have just the right gift for everyone and the sheer madness in stores and on the roads can make it hard to focus on the goal and in some cases, causes high stress levels.  Before you buy another gift or make another trip to a store, read these tips to avoid the frustration and get back to spreading holiday cheer!

  1. Find inspiration online - If you're trying to keep local stores in mind when shopping this Christmas, you can still get a lot of help from browsing the Internet. Having solid ideas for each gift recipient can come from many places, but if you get stuck, check out gift buying guides on sites like or just Google "gift guides" for over 12 million results in less than half a second.
  2. Make a list and do some research - It seems obvious but how many times have you had a great idea for someone, only to forget it later? We love the AnyList app because the list is at hand any time during the year so whenever inspiration strikes, its immediately noted in the "Christmas Gift Ideas" list that's sorted by giftee.  
  3. Consider a gift of an experience - Everyone has that person who stumps you when it comes to giving gifts. Maybe they say they don't want anything or they already have everything. One thing everyone needs is time. Whether it's time spent with family using a Groupon for a movie night or a spa gift card for that person that doesn't normally take time for themselves, giving the gift of time is giving that person an experience that they'll remember. What better gift than that?!
  4. Shop on off hours - With just under two weeks to go, just accept that stores will be a little busier than normal and get down to business. If you have an extra vacation day laying around, now is a great time to use it to shop during the day when crowds are generally lighter. Caveat: every place is crazy busy all day December 23rd and 24th. If you've waited that long, you might actually enjoy the crowds and the pressure of last-minute shopping!
  5. Pace yourself - Even though time is getting tight right about now, you can still make it easier on yourself by spreading out the gift buying, especially if you're not one to have a lot of stamina for shopping. Start with gifts you know you need to purchase online (and get a move on unless you want to pay for expedited shipping!) and move on to those you'll buy locally. This is where that list and the research you did really come in handy!
  6. Let the stores do the wrapping - A major perk of shopping at brick and mortar stores is the perk of free gift wrapping. Trust me when I say it's worth it! 
Posted in Tips and Tricks
Nov. 13, 2017

Have a Collection Collecting Dust? Here Are 5 Tips to Turning a Collection into Cool Home Decor

Literally everybody has a collection of something and chances are, it's sentimental.  Too often, our collections are packed away and rarely seen but that doesn't have to be the case. With the following five ideas, you'll be able to pull that collection out of the attic and display it proudly as interesting home decor.

  1. Two words: Floating Shelves. These are your friend when it comes to displaying oddly shaped or large items...or a large collection of items. They come in a variety of finishes and sizes, can be easily acquired at big box stores and decor sites, aren't too difficult to install and make any collection cohesive and polished.  Only downside: dusting required.
  2. Think smart about built-ins. If you're lucky enough to have built-in shelving, it's easy to go a bit overboard and pack them full of multiple small collections or a random hodgepodge of stuff you've collected over the years. If your collection is really big, pare it down to just the most prized members to allow plenty of space for each item to breathe and shine on its own. When a shelf is cluttered, the eye doesn't know where to land so it just bounces away to something else.
  3. Be creative about placement. Plates don't have to always go in the dining room or the kitchen. Plates can flank a mirror in a foyer or have prime placement above a window seat. Sometimes an unexpected location can give a collection more prominence, which enhances your enjoyment of it.
  4. Frame it. This one can be a bit more time consuming but what a difference it will make! Frames draw the eye in to the item inside it so they make a great option for displaying collectibles. Shadow boxes and floating box shelves also provide the same effect and really make each piece stand out.
  5. Group things by an interesting attribute. And by interesting, we don't mean color. That's been done a million times! By choosing an attribute that is unexpected - height, frame shape, texture as examples - the individual items become more in focus and the collection appears more cohesive. 
Posted in Design Ideas
Oct. 25, 2017

Is Job Satisfaction Important to You? It's Important to Us!

Working hard at a job you love is a realtor's daily reality and we think we're lucky to be able to help people fulfill their dreams. But have you ever felt like your brokerage is limiting your success?  Not giving you the tools you need or the return you deserve? At SRE, agents are supported as much or as little as they need and the commission caps are competitive and allow you to keep more of your hard earned commission in your pocket. 

Wouldn’t it be great to work with a brokerage that knows how to help you achieve even higher job satisfaction? And wouldn’t you rather keep more of your hard-earned commissions? If you are looking for a better arrangement for yourself and want more control over it, consider making a Smart Move to SRE.
How does SRE help agents achieve higher job satisfaction? By offering you:

  • Attractive commission caps
  • Support from 3 full-time brokers
  • Sales training – as much or as little you need
  • 40+ years of experience mingled with young voices to keep ideas fresh!


Make a Smart Career Move

Our Sales Manager is happy to arrange a confidential meeting so you can see for yourself how the SRE atmosphere attracts both experienced and newly-minted agents.
Click here to take the first steps towards a Smart Career Move!


Posted in Recruitment
Oct. 12, 2017

Backyard Bonfires: 7 Fire Rings You Can Build in a Day

The cool fall air has arrived and what better way to celebrate and extend your enjoyment of the outdoors than sitting around a fire? We've compiled instructions for seven different fire rings that can accommodate various-sized budgets, yards and abilities so you can get an idea of just how easy it can be to DIY a safe and contained fire into a new sweet spot for Autumn. Bust out the graham crackers and marshmallows, backyard s'mores are just a fire pit away!

  1. Convert a fireplace bowl into a permanent fire pit. Do you already have one of those small fire bowls from Lowe's or Home Depot that just sits in the yard looking lonely? The instructions and handy step-by-step photos on this page show you how to use that fire bowl as an insert into a landscaping block fire ring that not only looks professional, but creates a safer space for a small fire than a naked fire bowl.  
  2. Only four supplies needed. Similar to the first fire pit, this one uses landscaping blocks.  The instructions for this basic fire ring include only four supplies: landscaping blocks, gravel, a shovel and a rake.  It's an inexpensive but super nice fire containment ring that could also be easily disassembled, if needed.
  3. No yard space but still want a fire centerpiece? No problem with this page's DIY concrete fire bowl! Using simple materials and a bit of finesse (working with concrete takes some patience!), this fire bowl fits in a small space and doesn't burn wood but gel canisters. Better than a candle but sized right for smaller spaces (please still make sure you are allowing enough space for safety), you'll love the modern look and the mesmerizing flames!
  4. Repurpose an old Weber. This DIY fire pit is ingenious in its use of repurposed items. They use pre-fabricated concrete tree rings to build a "container" and then insert an old Weber grill for a quick and easy fire pit that can also be quickly moved or removed, when the time comes.
  5. Nothing but bricks & gravel. If you don't have a big budget or a lot of time on your hands, you can still make a super fire pit with just a few bricks and gravel. Bricks can often be found for free and depending on how large you make it, not much gravel will be needed either. The hardest part is digging the hole!
  6. Simple square pits are easy too. Have a few concrete blocks laying around and have the urge to warm your toes by a fire tonight? Follow this step by step tutorial to create a square fire pit that looks like you spent a ton of money!
  7. How much time & money do you have? Because this page links you to 31 MORE ideas for DIY fire pits that are anywhere from simple and easy to mega-WOW factor. 
Aug. 23, 2017

Agents: Do you want the perks of a virtual office without the isolation?

Did you get into real estate so you could work in an office from 9 – 5? Or did you love the flexibility it offered? Nowadays, real estate offers flexibility with the hours you work but also where you work. Virtual offices may be the latest trend, but they can often leave you hanging with no in-person support and no professional space in which to meet your clients.  Wouldn’t it be great to have the freedom of a virtual office with the conveniences of a brick and mortar office?
Are you looking for a real estate company that offers agents the technology of a virtual office with the in-person broker support and professional space you want for your clients? If you like the idea of a coffee house meets real estate office, consider making a Smart Move to SRE.
How does SRE offer the perks of a virtual office without the isolation? By offering agents:

  • User-friendly technology
  • Training and support
  • A boutique office space with professional appointments
  • Attractive commission caps
  • Full-time support from 3 experienced brokers

Our Sales Manager is happy to arrange a confidential meeting so you can see for yourself how the SRE atmosphere attracts successful agents.

Click here to take the first steps towards a Smart Career Move!

Aug. 10, 2017

Fannie Mae Makes Loan Qualification Easier

Fannie Mae recently announced new underwriting guidelines for debt-to-income ratios (DTI) that will help make it easier for some borrowers to qualify for home loans.

What is DTI?

DTI is an important risk measurement of a borrower's ability to manage monthly payments and repay debts. DTI is calculated by dividing total recurring monthly debt by gross monthly income.

What are the new guidelines?

The maximum allowable DTI will be 50%. Borrowers with DTIs between 45 and 50 percent will no longer be required to have certain additional compensating factors.

These changes apply to loans submitted via Fannie Mae's Desktop Underwriter on or after the weekend of July 29th, 2017. Previously submitted loans are not eligible to be resubmitted.

The good news is these new guidelines expand the potential eligibility for borrowers to purchase a home even if they have a relatively higher DTI.

If you'd like to learn more or have a question about home loan products, please get in touch with me today. I'm happy to help!


July 19, 2017

Paper Clutter Be Gone! Tips for Organizing Your Kids' School Papers & Keepsakes

Back-to-school is a busy time of year for families and often coincides with the beginning of an avalanche of paperwork that piles up quickly. From deciding what to keep and what to toss (or recycle), to storage solutions and organizational hacks, busy parents could probably really use these tips (and maybe an adult beverage)!

Decide Ahead of Time What to Keep 

Let's not kid ourselves: you'll be proud of everything your child brings home. But does that mean you should hang onto it? Should it take up valuable space in your home? Do yourself and your kids a favor and keep only the important stuff - awards, achievements, programs of activities they participated in - and throw away the quizzes and daily flyers. Keep the volume manageable and remember it's a long race to the end of schooling - there are many years to accumulate papers!

When it comes to art and other creative keepsakes, consider a separate storage solution that takes into account the three dimensional nature of different keepsakes. 

Get as Much Done at the Beginning of the School Year as Possible

Being organized in August gives you a better chance of maintaining that system throughout the school year. Designate a space that is easy for the kids to reach and remember and show them how to put the papers for parents in that spot for at least the first two weeks of school or until it becomes a habit. Using positive reinforcement (read: a healthy snack) always helps too.

And being realistic about the time you'll devote to maintaining the system doesn't hurt either. Keep it simple and use self-limiting storage - aka commit to one hanging folder bin per child and one folder per year per child and then work within the defined space. 

Make Sure Everyone and Every Paper Has their Own Space

The type of paperwork and papers that any given person contributes to the home depends on a lot of different factors. Each person's routine and needs should be considered when designating their space. School kids have homework, paperwork that requires parent action, info on school events, etc. Ideally, each child or type of paperwork will have its own spot and parents work together with the children to commit to a routine. 

Which sometimes means parents have to be flexible. If the routine you lovingly crafted and have tried to implement for four weeks is just leading to frustration, it might be best to try something different that accomplishes the same goals.

Learn from Others

There's no need to reinvent the wheel every year just because last year's system was abandoned by November. YouTube has hundreds of videos of people sharing their lessons learned and ideas for organizing hectic family life and the paperwork that accompanies it. Pinterest is practically overflowing with organizational hacks and tips for any specific problem. And there's always your parents and friends, ready with advice! 


Posted in Tips and Tricks
July 17, 2017

Clearing the Air: 5 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

It's hot out! And as a result, you're probably spending more time indoors. We often think the air inside is cleaner than the air outside, but the level of air quality in your home might surprise you. Anything from a new carpet to those little plug in air fresheners are releasing particles into the air you might not otherwise want to be breathing. Take the following five simple steps to improve the air quality in your home and breathe easier!

  1. Test It - You might be seeing signs of poor indoor air quality and not realize it. Runny noses, watery/itchy eyes, skin irritation can all be symptoms of an overload of allergens, but the signs can also be more subtle. Be safe and test the air quality in your home using a licensed contractor or DIY with a home test kit from Home Depot or Lowe's.  If nothing else, it will give you a good starting point for areas of improvement in air quality.
  2. Upgrade to a Vacuum with a HEPA Filter - If you're not using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, you're not doing your indoor air quality any good. A clean HEPA filter keeps the vacuumed dust in the vacuum and not swirling around the room. Increasing the frequency of vacuuming can help minimize allergens as well.
  3. Add Houseplants - One of the most effective ways to naturally clean indoor air is with the addition of houseplants. If you're intimidated at the thought of keeping houseplants, go for the low-maintenance spider plant or aloe vera.  The leaves, soil and roots all absorb and remove pollutants from the air and need very little light or attention to do their job. This article suggests 15 Plants that Improve Indoor Air Quality.
  4. Maintain the Humidity - Mold and dust mites thrive in environments with access to moisture. Be sure your home's interior isn't friendly to mold by maintaining an ideal moisture of between 30-50%, fixing any water leaks as soon as they're discovered, using a dehumidifier and venting areas that get exposed to high levels of humidity.
  5. Be Aware Of the Causes - Just because you don't have pets or don't smoke doesn't mean your indoor air quality is good. Air pollutants inside the home can also come from furniture, carpet, paint, and cleaning products. Be aware and take precautions. This slideshow explains the various common air pollutants and how best to mitigate them. 
Posted in Tips and Tricks
July 10, 2017

Fed Hikes Rates Again

For the second time in 2017, and the third time within seven months, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark Federal Funds Rate at its June 13-14 meeting. As expected, the increase was set at 0.25 percent, bringing the new target rate range to between 1 to 1.25 percent.

What does this mean ... and how could this impact you?

The Fed Funds Rate is the short-term rate at which banks lend money to each other overnight. So while a "rate hike" may sound negative, it's important to remember that long-term consumer products like purchase and refinance home loans are not directly tied to the Fed Funds Rate. This means consumers should not expect home loan rates to rise as a direct result of the Fed's actions.

Instead, home loan rates are tied to Mortgage Bond market performance. When Mortgage Bonds improve, home loan rates tend to improve as well. The reverse can also be true.

Following the meeting, Fed Chair Janet Yellen noted that in addition to forecasting one more increase to the Fed Funds Rate this year, the Fed also plans to reduce its $4.5 trillion balance sheet, which it expanded in order to fight the housing crisis. The news had a positive impact on Mortgage Bonds temporarily. Then, Stocks, Bonds and home loan rates steadied.

The bottom line is that now is a great window of opportunity for anyone considering a home purchase or refinance because home loan rates are still near historic lows.

If you have any questions about current rates or loan products and how they might benefit you, please don't hesitate to call. I'm here to help!


Posted in Melinda Movick
June 20, 2017

Agents: Are You Ready to Be Done with Franchise Fees?

Isn’t it annoying when you think you know how much something costs and then find out about a bunch of add-on fees? Airlines are a good example – they post a low-price fare and then tack on fees for choosing your seat, boarding priority, checked luggage, carry on luggage and even in-flight WiFi. What you thought was a good deal turns out to be twice your budget! The same thing happens with some real estate brokerages that are part of a corporate empire.  Franchise fees eat away at your bottom line and go straight into the pocket of some high paid CEO.  In some cases, there are even mandatory fees charged to your clients or you pay the difference!

If you are looking for a brokerage that rewards you with a more generous commission structure and fewer fees, consider SRE a Smart Move.

Need more reason to check out SRE? How about:

  • The full time support of 3 brokers
  • 40+ years of experience in the local Metro area
  • As much training as you want or need
  • No franchise fees!

Check out our list of agents here. SRE Agents come from all backgrounds and have the same real estate goal: to help our clients make a Smart Move

Our Sales Manager is happy to arrange a confidential meeting so you can see for yourself how the SRE atmosphere attracts  experienced agents. Click Here to take steps towards a Smart Move!