Jan 31, 2021

Moving Into A 55 Or Older Community

When the time comes, there are many advantages to moving into a 55 or older community.  Though many of these communities are gated for security reasons with private streets paid for by Home Owner Association dues, others are not gated and have regular city streets paid for by property taxes.  Either way, these communities are likely to have club houses with lots of amenities sometimes even including golf.  In addition, the organized activities allow for lots of social interaction usually with people at a similar stage in life.  Living in one of these communities is like being on a cruise with daily activities.

While these communities are for people 55 or older, more often than not the majority of people living in them are usually retired or semi retired.  Though these communities exist all over the country often including rental apartments, condos and homes, the most desirable are in warm locations as people move from cold places to warm places when the retire.  Escaping winter snow is usually high on a priority list when facing retirement. 

Many people choose to be near children and grandchildren in retirement; while others decide that frequent visits are good enough.   In some instances, they are choosing life style over proximity to family.  This is fine until the day comes when aging love ones need help on a regular basis and there are no family members near by.  We sometimes think that day will never come; but if we live to be 80 or more, that day most definitely comes.  That is when living far away from family could become a real problem.

At Paragon Home Resources, we assist with making life decisions.  Whether moving a few miles away, or across the country, we help with selling and buying homes and the disposition of household goods along with many other services to making moving as easy as it can be.  We can also provide counseling on what makes sense today and what may make sense years down the road.  Moving into a 55 or older community is a solid option for many people.  

Medicare Advantage Programs Continue To Gain Members

About 40% of Medicare recipients, 24 million out of 62 million, including this Blogger are choosing Medicare Advantage PPO's and HMO's, rather than having straight Medicare alone, or with a costly Medigap supplement.  This means that they are signing up for part C of Medicare, which allows for private medical insurance companies to provide their benefits.  So the notion of single payer government health care for many Medicare recipients is just not true for lots of people.  The only people on single payer are people who just have Medicare with no private medical insurance one way or another and that is a dwindling number because there are high deductibles and co pays that are often avoided with private medical insurance in place.  In other words, it would be dumb to be on straight Medicare, which by the way many doctors will not take.  

Specific to Medicare Advantage, when the recipient opts for the PPO or HMO options, the government pays the insurance company premium, which is about $10,000 or more per year per person.  The recipient may then choose a Zero premium plan or in some cases choose to pay a low monthly premium, usually $40 - $80 a month, which comes out of the Social Security payment.  Zero premium plans generally will have higher deductibles related to hospital care.  

Medicare Advantage PPO plans allow the recipient to go to any doctor or hospital in network without the need for a referral from a primary care doctor.  Medicare Advantage HMO Plans require a referral from a primary care doctor to go to a specialists and there are fewer options related to doctors or hospitals in the program so it is more restrictive.  However, in general there is less out of pocket expense than in a PPO plan.  So lower income recipients are better off choosing the Medicare Advantage HMO plans.

Medicare Advantage Plans have gained in popularity because they typically cover dental, eye care and hearing aides and other benefits, in addition to regular doctor visits and hospitalization.  Seniors like the comprehensive coverage they get from these plans.  And, since this involves private medical insurance, there is lots of competition so these companies keep adding benefits each year to keep their customers from going to another company.  If current trends continue as 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 each day for the next 15 - 20 years, it is likely that the vast majority will choose Medicare Advantage Plans.  

Jan 29, 2021

Selling A House - Starts With Curb Appeal

Before a buyer will even walk into your home to see if it meets their needs, there must be curb appeal that causes them to get out of the car.   There is not much you an do about the architectural style of your home.  It is what it is.  If it happens to be an attractive style, you are that much more ahead of the game.  Either way, the landscaping is important.  Depending on the season, planting some flowers to add color is always good.  If the front door needs paint or refinishing, it is probably a good idea to get it done.  The same is true about any wood work that needs paint or stain.  

Assuming the outside of your home shows well, now you have to work on the inside.  It goes without saying that the home must be neat and clean when buyers walk through.  And, there cannot be any clutter in any room.  Pet smells are a real turn off to most buyers.  And, believe me a dog or cat in the home always results in smells that are not pleasant even to pet lovers.  Many people have way too much furniture anyway.  It is time to get rid of furniture you will not want after the move, or perhaps put it in storage.  Removing furniture is a way to make rooms look bigger, which is always a plus. 

If the home is vacant, it may be a good investment to paint and put new carpet in the home in neutral colors.  Even if the home is not vacant, if there are vivid colors in various rooms, a coat of beige paint may be a good idea.  Check with your real estate agent as to which renovations will return the most money in terms of attracting a buyer.  

Since home inspections always occur as part of a sale everything must be in good working order.  So if anything is not working, it will need be fixed prior to the sale closing.  In some cases, your home could be sold as a fixer upper.  If so, the buyer will need to agree to buying the home in "as is" condition.  Even so, it would be a good idea to pay for a home warranty insurance policy that will cover most repairs that come up after the sale closes as lawsuit mitigation.  Most important, the whole process starts with curb appeal.  Make the exterior of your home as attractive as possible to get the buyer out of that car.   

At Paragon Home Resources, we work with clients all over the nation to sell homes at the highest price possible.  We can provide valuable advice related to little things that can attract a buyer in the shortest time possible.  Selling a home quickly involves some good thinking.  We are there to help.  

Jan 28, 2021

People Moving From High Cost, High Tax States

While this trends has been happening for years, now that more people are working from home and can work from anywhere, they are moving from high cost, high tax states like California, Illinois and New York to low cost, low tax states like Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Florida.  So much so that the high cost states are losing population, which will result in them having fewer members in Congress as the low cost states gain members of Congress.  And, why not.  Housing prices are much less and some states like Nevada, Texas and Florida have no personal income tax at all.   So moving not only results in a higher quality of life; but more money in the pocket.  People are voting with their feet.

Those living in cold climates facing retirement are also following the trend to move for the very same reasons.  Very often people living in the Mid West retire to Arizona.  People in the Northeast often end up in the Carolinas or Florida.  And in many cases, people making these moves are looking at second tier cities that offer various amenities without the traffic and grid lock that is common in bigger cities.  School are important to younger people with kids.  Seniors are looking for low crime rates and security. Gated communities with lots of activities for those 55 or older have become very popular.

Since our company,  Paragon Home Resources operates throughout the United States, we are assisting our customers with these life decisions to sell and buy homes, as well as, deal with the disposition of household goods and many other services to make moving easy.  We seen the national trends as people move from high cost, high tax states to low cost, low tax states.  As baby boomers turn 65 at the rate of 10,000 a day for the next 15 - 20 years, this mass migration will continue and only grow larger.  

Jan 27, 2021

Right Sizing Your Home - Dealing With Life Events

Very often young people will buy their first home, whether single, married, or just living tenants in common when they are tired of paying rent.   It is a wise move because homeownership begins the wealth ladder.  In general, real estate appreciates over time; though there can be up's and down's in any market.  Buying a home should never be seen as a short term investment.  And, buying at the top of a market can be really perilous because if there is a downturn, it could take years to rebound.  In any case, a first home is usually a starter home or condo.  Perhaps 1,000 - 1,500 square feet, but certainly enough for someone who is single, or a young couple.   

When the stork visits and the first baby is born, life changes forever.  It is not so bad from a space requirement until the child is two or three.  The first home could still work; but when baby number two comes along, the space that worked just fine for a young family all of a sudden is just too small.  That is when Right Sizing starts to be a discussion.  Buying a home that will be big enough for a growing family preferably in a good school district now starts to make sense.  The only question is how big.  It might be that home number 2 is a ten year plan.  Just maybe there could be a home number 3 that is bigger later on to accommodate a home office and the needs of older children.

The good news is that eventually those children go off to college and with some luck never to return home again.  Though based on the economics of the moment in recent years we have seen kids come back home after graduating from college.   But eventually, Mom and Dad will be empty nesters so that now that 4,000 square foot home is just too big for two people.  So in this case Right Sizing is about Down Sizing.  Maybe 2,500 to 3,000 square feet is enough to provide a home office and good entertainment space until retirement.  Speaking of retirement, down sizing could be part of a couple's retirement planning to take money tied up a bigger home and invest it in a mutual fund, or some other stock investments to begin planning for those retirement years when income will be necessary to supplement Social Security.  

Right Sizing is all about life events over a 40 or 50 year period.  The odds are that most people will live in 4 or 5 homes that reflect their needs along the way.  The notion of a "forever" home is not too likely because things change.  At Paragon Home Resources, we assist families during all stages of life; buying the first home, Right Sizing, empty nesters, people moving to retire, people moving into senior living and families dealing with end of life issues.  We can speak to all the issues that come up based on our client's stage of life because we assist with life decisions.  


Dealing With End Of Life Issues - Hospice Is Wonderful

The day will come for all of us when our time is up.  The only regret anybody should have at death is that they did not live a meaningful life.   This has nothing to do with money.  In fact, the rich have an even bigger obligation to give back to help others along the way.   What is most important is meaningful relationships with family and friends while we are alive.  It is amazing how many family members seem to be estranged from one another for one trivial reason or another.  Long before the end is near, it is time to end these animosities that may have existed in life.  This Blogger watched my Italian grandmother say to my grandfather while he was lying in his coffin, "you never said you were sorry".  I was all of 19 years old and I never forgot those parting words. 

All I could think was how could this be.  My grandparents were solidly middle class maybe even upper middle class; yet they never found happiness together.   It was very sad and unnecessary.  The lesson I learned was don't sweat the small stuff in life because life is short.  Nothing is so important that family relationships should be ruined over money, or other material things.  

We have precious little time on earth and it goes by so quickly.  We each have to make the best of the time God has given us.  What really matters is that we each made a difference so that our life was not in vain.  And, when the end is near, my experience with my parents related to Hospice was wonderful.  Hospice usually kicks in when it is determined that someone has less than 6 months to live.  It can be extended, but doctors usually can tell when the body starts to shut down.  At that point, it is really about making the loved one comfortable until the end comes.  No more taking someone to the doctor.  They come to them.  The good news is that Hospice is covered by Medicare at no cost to the patient.  

At Paragon Home Resources, we often work with families dealing with end of life issues.  In many instances, there is a home to sell and household belongings to deal with.  It can be a lot of work. but we make it as easy as possible during trying times.   Dying is part of living.  The day will come for all of us.  It is only sad if we have not made a difference in life.    

Jan 26, 2021

The Sandwich Generation - Caring For Young & Old

There are many people in the United States caring both for children and aging parents.  They are called the Sandwich Generation.  To make this even more challenging, 65% of couples are duel income families with both spouses working.  So, this can become an incredible juggling act with demands on time coming from both directions.  The problem is there is only so much time in the day.  The only way to succeed is planning ahead and great organizational skills. 

This means taking control of events and not allowing events to control life.  To do this, people have to see the train coming before it runs them over.  So specific to aging parents making sure that where they live is safe and secure and outfitted to prevent falls.  So grab bars in the showers and baths.  Getting rid of throw rugs that often cause tripping and falls.  Making sure that their shoes are sensible with the right no slip soles.  Stocking up on foods in the freezer to diminish shopping needs.  Scheduling doctors appointments at times that work for all concerned.  

Specific to dealing with the kids.  They have to do their fair share of work at home.  Even younger kids can do house and yard work.  School projects must be planned weeks in advance, if possible.  After school sports requires coordination with other parents to share in rides.  Convenience foods are a must because spending hours cooking meals is probably not possible. 

The Sandwich Generation has reasons to be exhausted.  Dealing with multiple generations can be a 7/24 responsibility.  Even so, people taking care of both aging parents and kids must find time for themselves.  Book time in the calendar that is sacred and don't let anybody take it from you.  Set limits so the people you are caring for understand the times when you are off the clock.  And, learn to just say NO.  

Jan 24, 2021

Renovations That Make Sense and Pay - Off

Many people are hooked on HDTV as various shows take fixer uppers and turn them into great homes.  There a couple of things that everyone should keep in mind, if that is your plan.  First, these renovation projects always take longer than anticipated and generally cost more than planned.  If buying a fixer upper always do a comprehensive home inspection to make sure electrical, plumbing, foundation and roof are sound and that there is no significant termite damage.  If what is in the walls is not in good shape, pass on the home because it could cost thousands of dollars just to remediate basic requirements and systems.  

Usually, the best return on investments involves renovation of kitchens and baths. The cost to do any of these rooms could vary dramatically based on the materials selected.  Don't go crazy and don't over improve for the neighborhood.  Adding storage space, a walk in pantry and bigger closets are always desirable.  Always be thinking about what a buyer would like if the need ever arises to sell the home.  Nobody will pay more than 20% above the average value of a home in the neighborhood no matter how good it looks.  Today, people like open concept so getting rid of walls to open up space is attractive to buyers; but it comes at a cost because in many instances load bearing walls must be removed, which requires beams, either wood or steel hidden in the ceiling depending on the span that must be addressed.  Sometimes, this will require a building engineer's approval to get it right.  

Sticking to neutral tones with accent colors is safest in terms of adding to the value of the home.   Paint accent colors are fine because they can easily be changed out by a future buyer; but if bold colors are used in tiles or counter tops, a buyer could see it as a negative and walk away.  Most people like wood or ceramic tile flooring, which can be done cost effectively today with the many choices that are available.  

As you consider your budget for a major renovation always add 10% for contingencies.  Once the contractor starts opening up walls, there are bound to be some unforeseen issues.  Finalize the plan after much thought and consideration.  Change orders cost extra money so decide what you want before the renovation begins and stick with the plan.  Major renovations could require an architect and homeowner association, city or county approvals.  Do Not start work without necessary approvals under any circumstances no matter how pressed for time you may be.  If you do so, you could be forced to tear out the work if not approved in advance.  If you need help purchasing a home, just call Paragon Home Resources.  We can help with all inspections to make sure your fixer upper does not become a money pit.  

Jan 23, 2021

Working From Home - A Trend That Is Here To Stay

When Covid hit and many companies were forced to shut down their offices and have their employees work from home, a trend that was already happening just accelerated.  There is no turning back. Given the choice, many employees working from home prefer it because they value the flexibility it provides and avoiding long commutes that diminish quality of life.   The implications of people working from home are enormous.  

Companies have realized that they can cut cost for commercial office space dramatically by eliminating some or all of it because people are working from home.  What companies have learned is that the technology is there to provide for all sorts of connectivity to clients, suppliers and customers.  Many commercial office buildings will need to be repurposed because the demand is going away.  

Next, in real estate we clearly see the need for an office in the home.  Going away in newer homes are formal dining rooms and living rooms in favor of open concept great rooms and designated office space, or more bedrooms so at least one can be used as a home office.  Builders already see the trend and are moving to deal with it to meet the needs of their buyers.  In other cases, home renovations are occurring to use square footage differently to meet the family's needs.  

The good news is that working from home means less traffic on freeways, toll roads, highways and city streets, so less pollution.  It also means that employees can choose to live anywhere. They no longer need to live in high cost, high tax states.  They are voting with their feet to move to states and cities that give them a high quality of life at lower cost.   As these changes occur, Paragon Home Resources is positioned to make moving easy.  We do it all.  So, if your life is changing because you are now working from home and your home is not meeting your needs, just call Paragon.  We are experts at assisting with life decisions. 

Jan 22, 2021

Moving Into A Senior Living Community

Most people that live in Senior Communities either in Independent Care, Assisted Living or Memory Care are single women, widows, divorced, or never married over the age of 80.  The ratio is probably 80 - 90% women based on the typical community.  The reason may be that women tend to out live men so the need for quality care for a longer period of time it greater for women that for men.  The average stay in a Senior Community is about 30 months.  People either die and or end up moving to a skilled nursing home if completely bedridden requiring a higher level of care. 

About 65% of older people living in Senior Communities qualify for Medicaid, which means the federal government pays the monthly fees.  This applies to low income individuals most likely living on Social Security with little or no savings.  When that happens the federal government takes the recipient's monthly Social Security payment and provides a small allowance each month for incidentals.  The other 35% of people living in Senior Living are either private pay, or paid by private care insurance.  

The level of care determines the monthly fee, as well as, the location.  In lower cost areas fees may range from $3,000 a month to $5,000 a month per person.  In higher cost locations, the fees may range from $4,500 a month to $8,000 a month per person.  Independent living, which is the lowest cost usually involves an apartment of various sizes, 2 to 3 meals a day, maid service once a week and access to activities in the community.  As higher levels of care are required like assistance with medications, bathing, escort to meals and activities, the fees go up to the highest levels in the community. 

Memory Care is usually at the highest fee level and generally is in a lock down unit to prevent the Senior from wandering off.  Generally, these are self contained facilities where the Senior has a bedroom and access to the dining room right outside the room door.  Staff is there in the common area 7/24 to provide whatever assistance is required.  Many times these Seniors are in wheel chairs and require diaper changes.  

What is important to recognize is that people who move into Senior Living do so first for the security that is provided.   Physical space is less of an issue.  The constant interaction with other people is a real advantage to dealing with isolation that can occur when living alone in a home, or apartment.  Senior Living Communities make perfect sense for many people.  Getting three nutritious meals a day is the key to better health.  And, interaction with other people is critical to living longer.  

In many cases prior to moving into Senior Living, the family may need to sell the home where their loved one is living.  If so, just call Paragon Home Resources for assistance.   We do it all including selling the home for the best price and dealing with the disposition of Household Goods.  With our help, this life transition can be easy and stress free. 

Jan 21, 2021

Good Schools Matter Related To Property Values

Not all Americans can afford to send their children to private schools.  Instead they look to buy homes in areas that have good or even great public schools primarily paid for by their property taxes.   School are rated on the Internet based on test scores and other factors.  Generally areas with schools that rate below 7 out of 10 or below should be avoided.  In fact, it would best if schools in the neighborhood rated 8 or higher.  And, don't think it does not matter if you don't have children.   At some point, you may want to sell your home.  You will want the highest property appreciation you can get.  Houses in areas with the best schools appreciate the most.  

Sometimes this means longer commutes to newer areas farther from job locations.  Or it could mean enclaves closer in with great schools; but in those cases home prices are likely to be higher.   If home price is a factor and it always is, moving farther out to get great schools even though it involves a longer commute will provide the most return on investment over time.  

In reviewing areas to buy a home, parents should get as much information as possible about the school district, as well as, the schools in the neighborhood near the home in question.  Some districts are more conservative than others.   Schools are not just about education, they are also about values.  Sadly, many public schools have been politicized over the years tending to push a more liberal agenda.  Parents who don't want that orientation should look elsewhere.  You are not going to change the public school so rather than try, find a school district that is more in line with your thinking and values.  

Great schools are critical to property values.  If you can afford private schools, they are rated too so make sure you are getting your money's worth.  A good private school should rate no lower than a 9 to warrant the tuition that is charged.  Some public and private schools are even National Blue Ribbon Award winners.  Those areas would be the most desirable.  Like everything else, it is a good idea be an educated consumer.  Just know that great schools are important to property values.  

If you need help choosing an area that is right for you and your family, just contact Paragon Home Resources to assist with your home purchase.  We can help you make the right decisions.  

Jan 20, 2021

Owning Rental Property Can Be A Great Investment

At the moment, owning rental property in many markets can be a great investment.   The tax code for now anyway favors rental property.  The ability to depreciate the property over time actually creates a write off against income to help cut tax liability.  In choosing a house, or condo to purchase as a rental property always think it terms of, "could I live in this property".  Floor plans matter.  It's best that the property have at least 2 - 4 bedrooms and 2 - 3 bathrooms.  Buy in areas with good schools because that tends to be key to appreciation.

As always in real estate always consider location, location, location.  There are no bargains in real estate so choose wisely.  Renters prefer one story homes over two story homes; but both are workable.  If you can afford a single family home rather than a condo that is best because it will always appreciate more over the long run.  But if you can only afford a condo, it is ok to start there.  

You must be very selective in choosing your tenants.  Use a thorough rental application that you can find on the Internet.  It will scare away dead beats.  Run a credit report.  Check references and verify job information.  It is very important that your rent to someone who first of all can pay the rent and is responsible and will care for your property.  You can obtain a standard lease for your state on the Internet.  You must include rules in your lease as an addendum.  Require first month and last month rent and at least a month security deposit.  A tenant that cannot come up with three month's rents is not a good bet.  Be careful about allowing animals.  If you do allow a pet, keep it small and add $1,000 to the security deposit.  Animals can be very destructive and the smell permeates a property so be advised it is best to avoid them if possible.  

You will need to determine if the monthly rent will cover expenses, which could include mortgage, insurance, property taxes, maintenance, homeowners association and other expenses that are common.  If not the rent won't cover expenses, how will you cover the short fall.  Naturally if you have positive cash flow that would be best; but you will be able to write off any short fall so in essence the government helps pay for the property.  Think of a tenant as working for you because as the tenant is paying off the rental home, you are building equity in the property.  Owning a rental home is a long term investment.  It another good way to plan for retirement.  

If you need help acquiring a rental home and or for property management, just contact Paragon Home Resources.  We can advise you concerning your best options. 

Jan 19, 2021

Family And Friends Matter Most - Stay Connected

In these troubling times, the way to find relieve from the news is to focus on family and friends.  This has become more difficult with all the Covid shut downs causing a lot of isolation.  But there is no reason we can't talk, or Face Time regularly to stay in touch.  And, in most locations we can still gather in small groups for dinners and get togethers.  The key is making quality time for family and friends.  

We human beings are social animals.  We need interaction with others to feel good.  Sunshine helps too. This is true for young and old; but especially true as we grow older when isolation can become even more detrimental to our health.  Food is always a good place to start.  Breaking bread so to speak doesn't just provide nourishment, it provides a way to be together that is good for the mind and soul.

Regular exercise, taking walks with friends or family members is not only healthy, but it provides another excuse to interact.   I know people say that gossip is bad.  I would distinguish between malicious gossip and just catching up with family and friends.  It is also a fallacy that only women gossip.  The fact is that men gossip too, they just don't call it gossip.  Most important, talking is good.  

With the divisions in our country, there may be some topics that are taboo.  Religion and politics unless talking to someone of certain like mind is probably not the best place to start a discussion.  The weather always works to start a conversation.  Most people who have grandchildren enjoy talking about them.  And then, there is old people talk.  That usually involves doctors, health problems and things like Social Security and Medicare.  The fact is any talking at any age is good.  

Managing Money To Last A Life Time

Everybody knows that it is impossible to live on Social Security assuming it is there when the times comes.   The reality is that Social Security in the United States is headed toward insolvency.  In fact, if you look at the Social Security statement that comes out every year, you will see a little asterisk that says if Congress does not act soon sometime in the future Social Security will only be able to pay out 70% of what is indicated today.  But who knows for sure if that is even correct.  As a result, by the time someone is 50 and even before, we must plan for earnings in retirement to live comfortably until the end comes.  

Since many are living to be 90 or more, planning for at least 20 years after retirement seems like a safe bet.  It is ok to die with nothing if having enough to live comfortably requires it.  This means having the money to pay for food, housing and medical care and other essentials; but it could also mean the ability to buy home care and or pay for a senior living community.  Some people buy insurance to provide for home care or senior living; but it is expensive.  The policies in the market place today usually are good for 3 - 5 years of coverage.  Of course, the longer the coverage the higher the annual premiums.  Having a home paid off by the time of retirement is a good place to start.  Downsizing at 50 may make sense too.  In a worse case scenario the home can be sold to use the equity to buy services and or a reverse mortgage is possible to provide supplemental income.  

When there is no longer any income coming in from work, the presumption is that monies invested in the stock market or real estate can be utilized monthly as income just like a paycheck.  Many people have IRA's or 401K's that must be tapped at 70 1/2.  The government requires that about 1/15 of the funds in those savings accounts start to come out in order for federal and state income taxes, if applicable, to be paid on what was tax deferred income.  Medicare is not free.   It is means tested and so the monthly premium for Medicare comes right out of Social Security checks.  There are many people paying more for Medicare with a private insurance supplement than they paid for company sponsored health care when they worked because of means testing.  So the cost of health care must be factored into the cost of living.   Planning for retirement is essential.  The time to start is now and the younger the better.  

Jan 18, 2021

Going To The Doctor - Important To Staying Healthy

There are many people who fear doctors.  The thinking is no news is good news.  So they often only go to see a doctor when they are sick.  That is a big mistake.  Everybody should have a primary care doctor.  And, since most medical insurance plans now cover preventative care with little or no co-pays, getting a physical once a year should happen every year.  From what this blogger is told, controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol are the two major factors to help insure a long life.  And, the good news is that drugs to deal with these ailments are usually generic so available at little or no cost through many insurance plans.  

This is not an age issue.  Even young people should have an annual physical.  Of course, as we get older it becomes even more important.  In addition, dental care is also important.  This blogger has been having my teeth cleaned regularly since I was 8 years old.  And guess what, I still have all my teeth 60 years later.  The bacteria that grows in the mouth can lead to other infections so regular teeth cleaning is also imperative.  Again, many insurance plans also cover dental.   And, believe it or not, dental procedures today are generally pretty painless.    

And, then there is eye care.  As we get older a once a year eye exam is also a good idea.  The eye doctor has machines today that can actually detect brain tumors.   Though it can happen much sooner, it seems that by the time we are 40, many of us will need glasses.  Being able to see really well impacts all aspects of daily life not to mention safety when driving.  Hearing issues can also sneak up on us as we get older.  Not being able to hear well limits interaction with others, which is not good.  

So, since we are the beginning of the year, if you have not scheduled your annual physical, do it.  The life you save may be your own by early detection of what could be a treatable medical ailment. 

Jan 16, 2021

Adjusting To Being Empty Nesters

When a couple has children, assuming they are good parents, it consumes their existence for 18 or more years. There are all the stages of raising children from infancy to when they leave the nest.  This transition is particularly hard in some cases for Mom's that were able to stay home and care for their children rather than work.  When the day comes that the last child is gone, the stay at home Mom, looks around and says, Now What.   The working Mom and Dad can feel some relief of not having to juggle both jobs and caring for children and the same time.   

So now the kids are gone and parents are alone maybe for the first time since they had their first child.  They are officially empty nesters.  This can require  an adjustment period.  Some marriage don't make it because the husband and wife realize that their marriage was totally based on caring for the children as the reason to be together.  When that task is gone, sometimes the marriage is gone.  For others it can be a wonderful opportunity to rediscover what brought them together in the first place.  

Many times empty nesters choose to downsize.  They don't need the big house anymore as they start to plan for retirement.  And life without kids often results in a life style change as well.   Fewer bedrooms, great room, home office, craft room, exercise room and great outdoor space.  Builders today are building homes that do just that.  There are also great 55 or older communities that offer all sorts of amenities geared to an active age group.  Living in one of these communities is like being on a cruise ship 7/24 in terms of activities at the club that happen everyday.  If this is you, just call Paragon Home Resources to assist with your life transition.  We do it all to make moving as easy as possible.  

Tomorrow Comes Every Day - Wake Up & Smell The Coffee

There is a saying that tomorrow never comes; but the reality is that tomorrow comes everyday.  I have heard people say that they will do something, like traveling for pleasure when they retire.  The problem is that waiting to enjoy life is a big mistake because we can't predict what life will bring us.  We certainly have seen the best example of this with the Covid Pandemic that has wreaked havoc on families and whole countries.  Many trips were canceled in the last 12 months because of Covid.  Maybe in a few years things will get back to normal; but by then it could be too late for some people.  

By the time someone is 50 years old, serious retirement planning should begin.  It is not just about money; though having enough to last the rest of someone's life is critical.  It is about recognizing that life is precious and putting everything in perspective.  It is about our Bucket List of things we want to do before we die.  Do we need the big house any more now that the kids are gone.   Experiences with family and friends are far more important than things in terms of spending money.  The ability to walk and get around does not last forever.  So anything that requires more strenuous activity should not be put off.  Many senior citizens are just one fall from away from the need to move into a senior community.  And, not everybody lives to be 90 years old.  

There is a tendency to keep buying things that one day will end up in a garage sale.  That money would be better invested for the day when we might need home care, or to pay for health care expenses as we get older.  By the time we reach 50, it is time to start simplifying life.   So many people work at retirement.  They think they have to be busy every day of the week when maybe just reading a book would be more relaxing.  It is amazing how quickly time goes by.  It is important to recognize that the clock is ticking.  We need to make every day count.  But sometimes it is the little things in life that matter most.  Wake up and smell the coffee.  Stop with the Iphone.  It is causing too much stress. 

Jan 14, 2021

Real Estate Values - There Are No Bargains

There is a saying in real estate that the three factors that govern real estate values are Location, Location, Location.  It really is true.  The same home with the same amenities will be worth a lot more in a desirable location.  Generally homes near the ocean sell for a lot more than properties further inland.  Homes closer to business centers nearer to job locations are usually worth more because a shorter commute is worth a lot to many people.  The fact is that there are no bargains in real estate just mitigating factors that impact value.

Since people value peace and quite, homes on busy streets, near airports, train tracks, or freeways usually sell for less than homes that are further away from noise factors.  Homes in good school districts, or more importantly that have good schools nearby in the neighborhood generally sell for more than homes in school districts with low academic scores.  Ratings are readily available on the Internet.  Even if you don't have kids, it probably not a good idea to buy a home in an area with schools rated lower than 7 out of 10.  A higher score would even be better.

People are often willing to give up square footage, which could be attainable with a longer drive for homes with less square footage closer to job centers and with great schools and other amenities.   Buying a home in a master planned community with strict rules is usually a good idea in terms of property values.  The rules are there to protect property values by prohibiting people from doing dumb things that hurt property values like painting a home purple, or failing to maintain the home.  

It is important to realize that when you buy a home, you should always be thinking about resale value.  If you buy a "bargain", there is usually a negative reason that will make it more difficult to sell the home when the times comes.  Homes that have obvious negatives often don't even get a walk through.  And, be conscious of curb appeal.  If the home is a White Elephant in terms of its exterior design no matter how nice it might be on the inside, it will diminish value.  Think before you buy.  Buying wisely will result in a home that appreciates.  Buying a "bargain" could actually go down in value when a downturn comes.   

Real estate is a long term investment.  Generally, over a 5 to 10 year period homes in great areas appreciate based on the rate of inflation and supply and demand.  If you are only going to be in an area for a few years, it might be best to rent, particularly if the area is at the top of the market.  If you have to move sooner, you could get caught in a downturn and lose money, which is never pleasant.  Buy wisely and you will do just fine over time.  

Jan 13, 2021

Moving Household Goods - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Since moving household goods can be expensive often done with a mover charging by the pound and hour, or done with sweat labor in do it yourself moves, moving is a great time to take a hard look at our possessions.  Things of little value, or that we just don't use anymore need to be disposed of either at a garage sale, or by donation to a charity for the write off.  If it cost more to move something than it is worth, unless it has sentimental value, it probably needs to be disposed of one way or another.

Moving often involves life style changes.  Furniture that may fit in one home may not fit in a smaller home.  This is particularly true about large dining room sets with china closets.  Many newer homes just don't have big enough dining rooms to house these large sets.  The real question is how often do they get used anyway.  More and more, new homes have combined a kitchen, eating area and family room, or great room into one space.  Formal living rooms too have just disappeared to be replaced by a den, or home office.  

Homes are being built today, the way people live not the way they may have lived 30 years ago with much more open concept architecture.  In many parts of the country, homes do not have basements, which often serve as the place for junk storage.  As such, buying a home with extra garage space is a good idea.  So when preparing for a move, storage should also be a consideration in getting rid of items that just will not fit anywhere in the new dwelling.  Moving is a time to simplify life.  Possessions often become a weight around our necks weighting us down.  Sell old things that will not work in the new home and buy new things that will work.  

This is particularly true about old washers, dryers and refrigerators that are costly to move because of their weight and may not be energy efficient.  A good rule of thumb is that if a major appliance is more than 10 years old, probably a good time to sell or donate it and buy new after the move to the new location.  Better furniture can be sold at consignment stores; but be advised that used furniture will not sell for anything near the original purchase price.  Moving is a good time to reflect on the next chapter in life.  If you need help, just contact Paragon Home Resources.  We can assist with moves across town, or across the country.


Jan 12, 2021

Most Everyone Needs A Will Or Estate Plan

It is very surprising that many Americans do not have a will or estate plan, which should include medical directives in the event someone ends up incapacitated.  While this may not be as important for young single people who own little, it is critical for all people once they buy a home and or start having children.  Sadly, perfectly healthy people can die unexpectedly in accidents.  And or, not everybody lives to be 90.  People die all the time from cancer and other chronic diseases.  Dying without a will is dying Intestate.  That means that since there is no will, it usually requires going to court to have a judge determine the line of succession for purposes of inheritance and guardianship of children.  In addition to unnecessary attorneys fees that will be required, this process can take a year or much longer in cases of complex estates.   

In addition, if two parents are killed in a accident and there are remaining children; but no guardians named,  a legal battle could ensue as family members fight over guardianship, particularly if the kids come with an inheritance.  This situation could get ugly and is completely avoidable by putting a will or estate plan in place.  When naming guardians, it is important to get their approval so that they know that they are named in the event something happens to both parents.  Finally, when someone enters a hospital after asking for insurance and credit cards,  they will ask for medical directives.  These directives indicate whether someone would want to be kept on life support and or when to pull the plug. 

A simple will may cost a few hundred dollars in legal fees to put in place with medical directives.  A complex estate plan could cost several thousand dollars in legal fees; but it is the best way to implement the transfer of assets to the degree possible tax free for most people.   If you don't have a will and or estate plan, the time is now to get it done.  No one knows for sure when he or she will die, but one thing is certain, we all will die.  The only question is when.   If you need help finding an estate attorney, just contact Paragon Home Resources for a referral in your area.   

Jan 11, 2021

Moving A Senior Citizen Across Country Or Nearby

If there is no son or daughter close by to care for Mom or Dad, it may be time to move an aging parent closer to a family member.  This could involve selling the home that may have been in the family for years.  It is important to get this done while Mom or Dad is relatively healthy.  It gets that much harder to accomplish a move if there are serious health issues.  So the question is where.  If there are multiple siblings, it makes sense to move Mom or Dad closest to the one willing to take on primary caregiver responsibilities.  It would be good if the location is a warmer climate; but is not mandatory.  The real issue is proximity to a family member that can take on the responsibility.  This may be across country, or across town.   

Often an aging loved one may have years of accumulation to dispose of prior to a move.  Many people are hoarders.  This can be very emotional since everything acquired over decades is viewed as a treasure with memories; but it must be done.  Better furniture and or antiques can usually be sold through a consignment store.  Even so, it is important to recognize that used furniture usually sells for a fraction of the original purchase price even if it is high quality.  A series of garage sales can be implemented to get rid of things of little value.   Some things just need to be donated to a charity.  Fortunately, there are companies that specialize in donate and discard services to help get rid of things of little value.  

If the family can assist with packing household goods that will be shipped, it will provide some shipping cost savings.  Of course, time is money.  If family members must take off work to pack household goods, it may make more sense to pay the movers to get the job done.  The real question will be is Mom or Dad buying a home in the new location, moving in with a relative, or moving into a Senior Care Community, or 55 or older apartment building.  Most likely the age and health of the loved one will probably determine the housing solution that is the best choice.  

This can be a lot of work, but there are companies like ours, Paragon Home Resources that can manage all the details to make a move as easy as possible.   Whether moving across country or across town, Paragon has all the services in place to make it happen efficiently and cost effectively.   

Jan 10, 2021

Caring for A Loved One

There is an old Italian saying that 2 parents can care for 10 children; but that one son or daughter cannot care for one parent.  It is the Italian version of Jewish Guilt.  In many ways, it can be true.  While many people age 65 or older are able to care for themselves fairly well for years, others struggle with aspects of daily life.  When that happens members of the family need to step in; yet the reality is that many families are dealing with their jobs, divorce, financial issues, drug and alcohol addiction and issues with their older children at a time when an aging loved one needs help.  

Unfortunately, not all families that have the means to buy home care, or to pay for senior care communities so that means regardless of what else may be going on in the family, somebody needs to take responsibility for an aging parent.  In some cases,  Mom or Dad ends up moving into a son or daughter's house because there is no other alternative.  Either way it may require 10 or more hours a week dealing with shopping, doctor's appointments,  managing money and many other issues that require attention.  More and more everything is done on the Internet and sometimes aging parents just don't have the skill set or even a computer to make things happen.  While technology can help monitor what is going on with a parent living alone and there are life alert systems, which are good, there is no substitute for being there a few times a week.  

If there is more than one sibling, it may be possible to divide responsibilities to share the workload.  Sometimes this works; but more often than not, it is one sibling that ends up doing everything.   With people living to be 90 or more, this care giver role can go on for years.  Families need to make the best of a difficult situation seeking out support services whenever needed.  It is not a shame to ask for help.  

Jan 9, 2021

First Time Home Buyers - Do It Now

Anyone who has never owned a home should buy one now.  Mortgage interest rates are so low that with tax deductions that come from making a mortgage payment, it might be cheaper in many markets to own a home than to rent.   Either way, homeownership is the beginning of the wealth ladder for most people.  Real Estate tends to appreciate over time.  And, with each payment, the homeowner is building equity in the home so it is like a forced savings account.  While it is true that real estate does have it cycles, so it is not totally risk free,  over the long haul, it should work out just fine. 

The good news is that first time homebuyers can often buy a home with just a 3% down payment, which should make it easier for many to make it happen.  In making any purchase always look to potential resale value.  Even if you don't have kids, buy in areas with good public schools.  You can check out school ratings on the Internet.  If you can afford a single family home, it will always have the best appreciation and resale value.  If not, starting with a condo in a good area can work too.  If you do buy a condo, it should be at least two bedrooms and two bathrooms with a garage for best resale value.  Buy as much house as you can afford comfortably.   Even if a little big for you now, you will grow into it.  Getting a home with a home office is almost mandatory today with so many people working from home.  

Think about the future.  If later on you can keep your first home as a rental investment property and still buy the next home, that would be ideal.  Having a renter make your mortgage payment, it is a great way to build wealth over time.  The time is right to become a homeowner.  Do it now.  

Jan 8, 2021

Medicare - What You Need To Know

Medicare was originally enacted into law in 1965 to provide medical care for Seniors at age 65 and beyond.  Since prescription drug coverage was not included at that time, it was added in 2003.   Everyone working and paying taxes has withholdings taken out of our paychecks to pay for Medicare, presumably when we retire.  Everyone must sign up for Part A of Medicare to cover hospitalization no later than turning 65 even if we have private medical insurance.  There is no premium for Part A provided we contributed to Medicare during our working life.  It is probably best to sign up few months before turning 65.  Failure to sign up for Medicare at age 65 will result in a life time penalty so it is really important not to miss the initial sign up.  

However even though we pay for Medicare while working, Medicare is not free during retirement unless someone has little income and also qualifies for Medicaid.  For most people, there are premiums that are means tested based on your income for Parts B, regular doctor care and D to cover prescription drugs.  The premiums are taken out of monthly Social Security payments for those on Social Security, or must be paid by check or debit card.   Most people on Medicare do not just have straight single payer government Medicare because it does not provide full coverage.  Instead, many people buy private insurance Medigap policies to cover those thing and deductibles that Medicare does not pay.  In doing so, additional monthly premiums are paid to the insurance company for the overlay coverage.  

Or, they opt for a private insurance company Medicare Advantage Plan, which can be either an HMO, or PPO with, or without monthly premiums.  This option is Part C of Medicare.  The amounts that are paid for premiums typically determine various deductibles and co-pays.  The higher the monthly premiums, the lower the deductibles and co-pays.  The zero premium plans have higher deductibles and co-pays.  These plans have become the most popular because they cover more benefits.  

Medicare is a wonderful entitlement; but it is very complex.  By the time someone turns 64, it is time to study all of the features that Medicare provides to determine the best plan for the particular person.  There are pro's and con's to various options.  Most important, if and when the time comes to enter the hospital for surgery, or some other chromic disease, all the pieces of the puzzle come into play.  The more the family knows about Medicare before that time comes the better in order to take advantage of all the benefits that are available.  

Jan 7, 2021

Downsizing Your Home - When Is It Time

Many Americans live in big homes because they can; but does it makes sense.  Married couples often buy their first home in their 20's.  They continue to move up buying bigger homes as the family grows and more space is needed.  But then around 50 years old, once the kids leave for college, it is not uncommon to become empty nesters.  It is true that some will have their kids come home after college for a while; but now that the economy is getting better, that trend should start to diminish.  So, why sit on a big four bedroom home any more once it is no longer needed.  Property Taxes, Maintenance and utility expenses are high on a per square foot basis. 

By the time we are empty nesters, it is time to start planning for retirement from a financial standpoint.  It could be that we just don't need that big home anymore.  Sometimes, downsizing occurs when we retire as people often move from cold places to warm places.  But maybe it should happen sooner while we are still working.  Why not buy something smaller while we are working to invest the money from the sale of a home in other rental real estate, or safe investments in the stock market.  Many qualify for Roth IRA's that allow income to grow tax free.  

Everybody knows the living the good life on Social Security is unlikely.  So, we all need enough money in savings and or various investments to allow us to live a great life in retirement.  And, as we get older, we will probably have additional medical expenses, or need to buy home care.   So wasting money on utilities, taxes, maintenance that come with a bigger home that we no longer need; just may not make any sense once we don't need the larger square footage anymore.  Inertia often prevents downsizing.  It is work to get it done.  And, very often people get stuck on their belongings because it often means getting rid of furniture that just will not fit in a smaller home.  Fortunately, there are consignment stores that will take better furniture and sell it for you.  Once we are empty nesters, downsizing should be a smart option.  

Jan 6, 2021

The Aging Process - What To Expect

Many have said that we are at our prime at about 18 years old.  That may be true physically; but since at 18 life experiences are limited, I would put prime age at around 40 years old.  Unless we have some debilitating disease, we should be physically vibrant at 40 year old and have lived long enough to have some life experiences to provide knowledge and wisdom.  After 40, we start to experience the typical stages of aging.  Eyesight may not be quite as good requiring glasses.  Stamina begins to erode; though exercise can mitigate the loss of physical strength to some degree.  

Once we hit our 60's, the odds are pretty good that we will not be better tomorrow than we are today.  Of course, we can still have a very good quality of life for years and in many ways retirement could be the best time of our lives.  For many people that is the case; but for others ailments begin to take their toll.  This is when chronic diseases tend to slow us down.  Fortunately, since everyone in the United States over 65 years old has some form of Medicare, it is possible to get needed medical treatments and medications to prolong life provided we take advantage of the services that are available at little or no cost except for premiums that are means tested.  

In our 70's, very often crap starts to happen.  We start to slow down a bit.  There may be some physical or mental impairment.  Mid Day naps are common.  This is often when families need to begin their involvement in Elder Care.  Lots of issues come up related to Estate Planning if not already in place, which should happen sooner.  It could be that family caregivers need to get involved in medical treatments, nutrition, home living options and a million other issues that come up as we get older.  And, it is important to understand that not everyone lives to be 90.  People do die in their 70's and sometime suddenly.  One of the things we must worry about most are falls, which can cause a whole sequence of unpleasant events to occur.

While some may be able to live independently into their 80's and 90's, many need help.   Whether family members devote more time to care giving and or home care services are used, very often Mom or Dad need help for some number of hours every week.  And, when it becomes 7/24, it is probably time for a full time caregiver, or moving into a Senior Care Community.   The aging process is inevitable for all of us.  The more we understand the phases of the aging process, the better.  Families often struggle with aging more than their parents do who they remember as being young and vibrant.  This is a normal aspect of denial because no one wants to see a loved one grow old and helpless.  

Jan 5, 2021

Senior Communities - Levels of Care

Senior Care Communities are often referred to as assisted living; but that label does not fully describe their service options.  Many people move into Senior Care Communities and only need to buy Independent Living.  So typically, the Senior will choose a studio, or one or two bedroom apartment, moving in their own furnishings.  Independent Living usually provides two or three meals a day and maid service once a week in addition to all the activities available within the community.  No other level of assistance is provided at this lower price point, which is essentially just room and board.   Often the decision for the individual or family is made to move into Independent Living because driving is no longer an option; but mobility and mental capacity are still good.   Very often a fall may also have motivated the decision.  One mistake families often make is waiting too long to make this move, which just makes the transition harder when more care is needed later on.  

As someone gets older requiring more assistance, it is usually provided in packages or Levels of Care.  This is more commonly known as Assisted Living.  It could involve anything from assisting with bathing and taking medications to escort services to walk to meals or even having meals brought to the apartment, rather than going to a common dining room.  Since buying additional assistance raises the monthly fee, this could be a good time to downsize the apartment because services become more important that physical space.   Assisted Living assumes less mobility and perhaps even somewhat less cognitive skills.  

At some point should someone residing in Assisted Living develop dementia or Alzheimer's, many communities offer Memory Care Services.  Usually, this involves moving into their lock down unit, since there could be a danger of someone wandering off.  Rather than going to the larger common dining room, meals are either served within the bedroom, or much smaller apartment, or in the group dining area in the Memory Care unit.   The Senior may or may not be bedridden; but there usually is the ability to get out of bed for at least some part of the day.

Generally, since different licensing is involved, Senior Care Communities do not offer skilled nursing home services on site; though some some communities do have that level of service available within the complex.  When someone is completely bedridden and requires other daily medical services, it is time for a Skilled Nursing facility.  Should a Senior remain in a Senior Community for a number of years, it is very feasible that he or she will experience all these levels of care.  In doing so, monthly fees will continue to go up to provide for higher levels of service.   

Jan 4, 2021

Elder Care - What Families Need To Know

Many families are not prepared to deal with providing Elder Care for an aging parent that can last for many years.  Nor do families understand what could be involved related to 7/24 care that is sometimes necessary.  With people living to be 90 or more, it is very feasible that as someone ages, he or she will experience all the phases of aging including Independent Living, Convalescent Care, Home Health Care, Home Care, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing Care and finally Hospice.  Each of these levels of care has its own language that requires understanding in order to best utilize services in the Market Place.  

Some of these services may be covered by Medicare, or Medicaid for lower income individuals under certain conditions and rules.  Most require private pay, or senior care insurance to pay for what could be a very expensive level of care.  For seniors remaining in their homes, Reverse Mortgages are possible to help cover some of these expenses.  And, or for others selling a home and using the home equity, other savings and income to buy care is another option that often works to pay for these expenses.  

The key is to make sure that the money is there one way or another to buy care for an extended period of time.  This becomes even more complex if both aging parents are still alive requiring different levels of care.  The average stay in an assisted living community is about 30 months; though many seniors live a lot longer.  And, some may just move from assisted living to skilled nursing care when they are totally bedridden.  Most important, families need to learn as much as they can about the various levels of care before they are needed to prepare for Elder Care Assistance.  As we get older, we are all just one fall away from needing additional care.