Jun 16, 2021

Growing Older - Making Your Home & Life Retirement Friendly

During the last three years, we have watched many of our friends deal with serious illnesses requiring hospital stays and or even die.  We too have had minor surgeries that were not as serious.  What we have learned is that people over 65 really need to be prepared for what may come their way.  My grandfather used to say in Italian that growing older was like the bull poking you with his horns everyday.  In many ways, it is true.  So, thinking that life will go on business as usual is not realistic once we turn 65 or older.  

It is time to look around at your home to make it retirement friendly.  It may even be time to move to a one story house preferably in a warm climate if you live in a place that gets a lot of snow.  Falling is the biggest risk for older people that often leads to major health issues and surgeries.  So at all costs everything must be done to avoid falling.  If you live in a two story home, as much as possible, you should try to convert it to one story living.  So bringing the washer and dryer upstairs is a good idea if it is currently in a basement. Not hard to do with stackable units.  

If you can create a master bedroom suite on the first floor that would be good too.  Some people install the stair elevators to allow for going up stairs easier.  That can be done quickly so no real need to do it sooner than necessary.  However, bathtubs should be converted to showers with grab bars and a bench.  You are probably saying, I don't need any of these things right now.  Sadly, we have learned that everything can change in a day.  

Next, simplify your finances.  Make sure that both husband and wife can deal with your finances if the one managing them today is suddenly gone.  There are so many situations where a remaining spouse is clueless about their finances.  And, once the spouse managing their money is gone, it can become very stressful.  It should not be that way and with a little planning it does not need to be chaotic.  The time to deal with growing older is NOW.  So, make a check list of To Do's and get them all done.  

Jun 15, 2021

Quality of Life - Different For Everyone

Quality of Life can mean very different things to different people.  After working very hard their whole lives, we moved my parents to a very nice 55 or older gated community.   They were able to pay cash to buy a new 1,600 square foot patio home, which was actually much nicer than the older 1,200 square foot home they left behind in North Hollywood, California.  This community had an 18 hole putting course and and a great club house and pool for activities.  For my parents, who never traveled except to go to funerals back in Ohio where they were from, quality of life meant paying their bills without worry, having plenty of food, golfing on the putting course for my Dad who never golfed in his life and activities for my mother with new found friends at the club.  My mother used to attend the garden club luncheons even though she never gardened in her whole life.  Oh Yes and they discovered baseball on TV.  That was it.  They were comfortable and content.  They did not need anything else.  My Mom was still cooking until she was 87 years old.  

Most important, no matter where people live, I believe that family and friends are critical to quality of life.  Interaction with people seems to be what makes people happiest.  It is not about money; but rather the ability to share life experiences.  And, this becomes really important when people need moral support to deal with life's challenges; mostly health issues as we grow older.  While family may be there when these life events occur, friends often provide the most support.  

We often hear people say, "when I retire I am going to travel".   Unfortunately, travel often requires mobility.  As we grow older, it could be that many trips that require a lot of walking may not be possible.  So as someone who has traveled all over the world, I would suggest that if traveling is on your bucket list, if you have the means to do it sooner than retirement, go for it.  You can always go on cruises later in life, which require less mobility.  

Everyone needs to define Quality of Life for themselves.  To many, it may be a very simple life.  For others, they maintain a busier calendar in retirement than when they worked.  Not so sure that is the best idea; but if it works for them; then fine until it does not work for them.   

Jun 14, 2021

Buying A Tiny House

We are starting to see a trend especially among younger people to buy  "tiny" homes.  These are usually custom built homes on wheels that can be transported anywhere.   They are a cross between a manufactured home and a mobile home.  These tiny homes are usually between 500 and 700 square feet including second floor space.  The cost can be somewhere between $60,000 and $100,000 depending on amenities.  Sometimes, they will have a pull out deck once parked. 

There is only one problem and that is where to park a tiny home to connect it to electricity, gas and sewer.  Tiny home parks are springing up all over the country and or it is possible to park a tiny home in a mobile home park.  Either way, unless somebody owns a lot to park it on, there will be monthly payments to rent a space.  Those spaces could cost $500 or more a month depending on location.  The good news is that since a tiny home is on wheels, it can be moved.  However, it would usually require a large truck to haul it to a new location and that can cost $3,000 or more depending on distance.  

Even so, this could be a great alternative for a young person, or couple seeking a starter home especially now with home prices going through the roof.  A tiny home is probably not a good alternative for a family with children.  There just is not enough room to accommodate more than 1 or 2 people. It is not "real property" in the sense that it is real estate because it is not attached to the land.  Instead, it would be considerer personal property just like owning a car or truck so that probably means some kind of license fee each year depending on the state.   Tiny homes could be the wave of the future for retired people, as well, just seeking a little space to call home.    

Jun 12, 2021

Fixing Up Your Home

Years ago, when I was a school teacher and had more time than money, I hired some kids and together we landscaped our new home entire yard.  I hired a landscape architect to complete the design, which we followed.  I did have cement poured for the patios in front and back; but otherwise, we installed sprinklers, a railroad tie retaining wall, about 40 trees,  hundreds of plants and sod.  It was a huge job that took two summers to complete.   I was young then and had lots of energy and took the time to learn how to do the job right.  It was a tremendous amount of work; but our yard looked great once done.  Though we don't live there anymore, the home is still there and the yard still looks great; though a little over grown.  We probably could have planted half the number of trees and it would have been enough.  Remember, plants grow.  

I never attempted a major renovation within the home.  And today, I have a guy for everything; electrician, plumber, handy man, gardener etc.  I am just not that handy with tools and I don't have the time or the energy to take on big jobs.  That ship sailed long ago.  However, younger people can save a lot of money by attempting small jobs around the house.  Of course, the trade off is time.   Time you spend doing a renovation is time you don't have to spend with your family.  Years ago, when our sons were young, I hired a gardener to avoid spending my Saturdays dealing with the yard so I could spend more time with my family.  

But be advised, projects always take longer than you anticipate and usually cost more because you will need to factor in screw-up's.  If you don't get it right, most likely it will either need to be done again, or you will call in a professional to get the job done right.  If you are handy with tools, you could find doing a renovation enjoyable.  There is a lot of information on the Internet to provide instructions and or stores like Home Depot and Lowes some times offer classes.  So if you have plenty of time and energy, go for it.    

Jun 11, 2021

Costco & Trader Joe's - Got To Have Them

Far be it for me to do a commercial on this blog for Costco and Trader Joe's, but I love both stores and find them necessary to daily life.  Costco is wonderful for big families because most things they sell come in bulk sizes. If nothing else everybody can take advantage of their paper products, can goods, drugs and many other items that have a long shelf life.  Trader Joe's is just perfect for young couples and Seniors who don't need bulk products. 

We probably would not buy a home in a community that did not have a Costco and Trader Joe's nearby.  Trader Joe's is really good for couples, young or old because the foods they sell are ideal for quick meals with proportions that make perfect sense for two people.  I get lost in a Costco going and down every aisle.  And, since I am an impulse buyer, I end up buying things just to try them. 

There are so many convenience foods, which are great for both seniors and working couples.  Today, it is all about making a meal in 30 minutes or less.  When a single mom or husband and wife come home from work and the kids are waiting to be fed, making dinner happen quickly is critical. However, some of this shopping means having sufficient freezer and storage space to keep purchases.  We have lots of cabinets for our Costco storage and plenty of freezer space for cold items.  The days of cooking things from scratch are pretty much over thanks to Costco and Trader Joe's.  

Flipping A Home - Beware

HDTV has many shows with personalities focused on flipping homes as investment income.  I would tell anyone thinking about doing it, Don't.  Unless you have the skills and plan to do a lot of the remodeling yourself, by the time you hire contractors and deal with all the unexpected expenses that will come up, the odds of making a lot of money are minimal.  Plus in this market, homes are selling for top dollar.  The chances of finding a bargain fixer upper that can be renovated for a profit just got harder.  

Let the professionals with deep pockets work on flipping homes for a living.  They better understand what they are getting themselves into.  And, we are only seeing the ones on TV that worked out for them.  My guess is that they lose money on some number of homes.   So, mind your own business.  

If you want to invest in a nice home in a good location that needs minimal work to make it a rental, that makes better sense.  At Paragon Home Resources, we work with people all over the country to sell and buy homes.  If you need help buying an investment property, just call Paragon.  

Jun 10, 2021

Rooting In A New City - Do It Fast

Many people are moving from areas they may have lived in for years to new areas across the country.  Sometimes these are people retiring moving from cold places to warm places.  In other cases, younger people who can work from home are choosing to move from high cost, high tax states to lower cost, lower tax states.  The reason for the move does not matter.  What does matter is that once moved, people need to root fast in order adjust to the new area.  

Some things are obvious.  If you are on Medicare Medigap or Advantage Plans, your current health insurance may not be applicable in the new state.  You may need to change medical insurance companies.  Once done, you will need to find a doctor, dentist etc. to deal with medical issues.  If you have chronic illnesses, you may also need to identify specialists covered under your health care plan.  But beyond the basic stuff, unless lots of relatives are nearby and even if they are close, you will need new friends to replace the people you left behind in the old location to begin a great life in the new location. 

Friends matter so join clubs, or maybe a church or temple.  If you can, buy in an area with HOA or other Club facilities.  Most important, jump right in and get involved.  As soon as you get your home settled, knock on your neighbor's doors to introduce your family.  There will be neighbors that are not good options; but there will be others that will welcome you with open arms.  Life is what we make it.  Choose to makes yours a great life.  Don't be shy.  Other people are always looking for new friends too.  

Jun 8, 2021

Dealing With Bad Neighbors and Pets

For the most part, people usually have nice neighbors who take care of their homes.   But once in a while, a neighbor and or his pets can be devils from hell.  The first thing to do is not confront someone who is irrational.  Hopefully, you live in a tract with a Home Owners Association.  Odds are pretty good that a bad neighbor is violating some HOA rules.  If so, call the HOA and let them handle it.  They have the ability to fine a resident who is not following the rules.  They can make someone pretty miserable if they don't comply with the rules.  

Next, if you don't live in a tract with an HOA, there could be city or county ordinances that apply to what the neighbor is doing.  Call your city or county if you live in an unincorporated area and demand that they deal with the problem.  You can also call the police or sheriff if you think the neighbor is doing something illegal.  No one is allowed to come on your property and destroy any plants, trees etc.  They are allowed to trim trees that may be growing over the property line; but only up to the property line.  

Hopefully, your HOA or city/county law enforcement can deal with any neighbor that is violating rules or laws.  You certainly don't want to create a situation that could turn violent.  There are many people addicted to drugs or alcohol that could be very irrational.  Do not engage them under any circumstances. At some point, if the problem is not solved, you may need to move.  There is nothing worse than dealing with a crazy neighbor.  You could try chocolate chip cookies and see if that works.    

Reverse Mortgages - Could Make Sense For Some People

Generally people who are retired; but have little money in savings and not enough to live on with Social Security or other pensions, may be able to tap their home equity by getting a Reverse Mortgage.  Initial fees are pretty high; but the outcome could be a monthly check to supplement income to live on.  This option should be a last resort.  What will happen when the owner(s) die is that presumably the home will need to be sold unless the heirs can pay off the debt. 

While most people would like to stay in their homes until the end of life, the real question should be is it a smart thing to do.  Homes require regular maintenance.  Things break and will have to be repaired or replaced, which can be costly.  Just maybe it would be smarter to sell the home and use the equity to live on.  Depending on the persons age, renting in a 55 or older apartment complex, or moving into a senior assisted living community may be the best option.  As people get older they just don't need as much space.  A one or two bedroom apartment may be enough.  And, depending on income, it is possible to get a low income benefit offered in many rental buildings, which will result in lower monthly rents.  And, people with little income may be able to take advantage of Medicaid to pay for assisted living.  

Ultimately, it is about quality of life.  Spending a lot of money to maintain a home may not make much sense for someone over 75 years old.  At Paragon Home Resources, we work with Seniors and their families to assist with life decisions.  If you have a home to sell anywhere in the country, we can help you get top dollar for your home to give you the money you need to live a great life.  

Jun 6, 2021

Are You A Hoarder - Warning Signs

If you have things all over your home sitting on tables, the floor, furniture etc., it could be a warning sign that you are a hoarder.  It has to be one of three things.  First, maybe you don't have enough storage for the things you own.  So, you have a choice, build more storage in the garage or where ever you can put it.  Or, if that is not possible, it is time to get rid of a lot of stuff.  Second, your home is just too small for your family.  If you have more things that can possibly fit in the closets, or cabinets, maybe you need a bigger home to accommodate your family.  Third, you are a hoarder and that will not change if you build more storage or you buy a bigger home because you will just fill the new space.  If that is the case, you may need help dealing with your obsession to keep adding to your things.  

Let's first start with the financial impact of having more things than you need.  If you are still buying things you don't need, you are trading dollars for things that eventually will end up at a garage sale, or donated to charity.  Why do it.  Save the money.  Put more in your 401K or other investments.  Most things don't appreciate in value.  They depreciate.  Whatever you pay for something, it is worth less the minute you turn over the dollars.  Why waste your money.  

Next is the health impact of hoarding.  Clutter attracts mold, dust and dust mites.  Your family is breathing the air in your home.  You could be living in a hazardous waste zone that can impact allergies and infections.   You can't fix this unless you get rid of the piles of things.  The rule needs to be if it does not fit in a closet or cabinet, you have too much stuff that could be impacting your health.  This is also applicable to all the toys kids tend to have these days.  For every new toy that comes in, two should go out.  So, look around.  If I am describing your home, maybe you need to take action.  

At Paragon Home Resources, we can recommend companies that will help you get rid of stuff.  Many things can be donated for a tax write off.  Other things that are just junk have to go.  Trust me, you will feel better if the clutter is gone from your home.     

National Electric Power Grid Is At Risk - The Two Week Rule

Given the cyber attacks we have recently seen,  the odds are pretty good that cyber terrorists will attack our electric grid sometime soon.  All people in our country should count on it.  So, the question is are you ready to do without electricity for days or weeks.   Everything we take for granted will stop if we lose power.  That includes everything in your home, heating, air conditioning, lights, refrigerators, stoves without a match to light the gas assuming the gas is still happening, TV's, computers etc.  Outside our homes, stores, gas stations, banks etc. will all be closed unless they have huge generators allowing them to operate, which is doubtful.  

So, you can only control what you can control.  Maybe it makes sense to buy a generator that will at least power your refrigerator, heating and some lighting.  Short of that have plenty of batteries on hand to power lighting if nothing else.  Canned food, which can include things like Chicken, Tuna etc can provide food for a while.  If you have pets, pet food is pretty easy to have on hand.  Assume at least two weeks of inability to go to a grocery store to buy food.  

And, you should also have two weeks of bottled water on hand.  It is possible that water will be gone too because it could be based on pumps that are not working.   Think through everything you would need to last two weeks in your home without power.  Don't think this can't happen because it already has happened many times related to natural disasters.  Assume the two week rule.  We may be on own for two weeks.     

Jun 5, 2021

Living In A Cold Climate - Not So Good

We moved to California from Ohio when I was 8 years old.  When we lived in Ohio, I remember my father and grandmother arguing over whether to use hot or warm water on my frozen little hands one winter after coming in from outside.  Now that my wife and I live in Reno, Nevada while the weather is pretty moderate, we do experience some cold months usually in January or February, when we can get several feet of snow at our 6,000 foot elevation.  I hate it, so we try not to be there in those months.  If we are there, I usually have to get the guys to come and clear my driveway at least enough so we can get a car out of the garage.  

I don't know how people live in cold climates with months of snow and bleak weather.  At least in Reno, we get 300 days of sunshine a year and blue skies even if it is chilly outside.  I guess this is the reason many people facing retirement move from cold places to warm places.  People in the Mid West seem to like Arizona or Nevada.  People in the Northeast usually head to Florida.   The snow is especially hard and dangerous for older people because of the possibility of slipping on the ice often causing a fall, which is the single biggest source of accidents for older people. 

Getting out of the cold into a warmer place in retirement makes perfect sense.  Millions of people do it every year, which is why states like Florida, the Carolinas, Nevada, Texas and Arizona continue to grow and many cold states continue to shrink.  At Paragon Home Resources we work with people to sell and buy homes.  We are helping many implement this migration with one point of contact assistance, which includes dealing with all the services needed to accomplish a move.  Just go to paragonhomeresources.com to see what we can do for you.  

Jun 3, 2021

The Most Popular Home Styles

A recent study identified the most popular architectural homes styles in the country, which is highly dependent on region as follows:

1. Ranch; 2. Craftsman; 3. Contemporary; 4. Modern; 5. Cape Cod; 6. Colonial; 7. Tudor;  8. Cottage;  9. Mediterranean; 10. Farm House.

In my 40 years of real estate experience, younger people often gravitate toward more modern styles, while older buyers usually want homes with "charm" or more traditional styles.  Most important, buying a home that is out of character for the area may result in White Elephant syndrome.  That is the home might appeal to 1 in 10 buyers if you ever have to sell.  The goal is to buy a home in a great location that would appeal to 9 out of 10 buyers in case the need arises that you must sell the home.  

Like everything else architectural styles can be trendy.  The ones that are more trendy tend to look dated sooner.  You can never go wrong with more traditional styles.  And, the roof pitch matters particularly in climates with a lot of rain or snow.  Never buy a home with a flat roof in an area with lots of rain or snow.  You will eventually have leaks guaranteed.  And, roof pitch adds to the curb appeal of the home.  It does not need to be too steep; but visually having a roof with a nice pitch adds value to the home.  

So, choose architectural style wisely.  One day you may need to sell the home.  You should buy a home that will be attractive to most people.  Curb appeal matters.  

Jun 2, 2021

Homes Selling The Fastest In 10 Markets

Real Estate Markets are crazy all over the country; but homes are selling the fastest in 10 key markets as follows:

Ogden, Utah; Manchester, New Hampshire; Colorado Springs, Colorado: Reno, Nevada; Vallejo, California; Columbus, Ohio; Elkhart, Indiana; Austin, Texas; Topeka, Kansas and Rochester, New York. 

In these markets homes are sold within a week or two and often above list price in bidding wars.  No doubt, there is little inventory in these markets so supply and demand is driving quick sales at high prices.  These location are probably hot for different reasons.  States like Utah, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Texas and Indiana are attracting buyers usually moving from high cost high tax states.  These particular inbound states have thriving businesses so they are growing.  

Columbus, Ohio is a great university town with a good quality of life.  Not sure why markets are hot in Topeka or Rochester.  Vallejo, California is less expensive than closer in Bay Area cities.  But here we are.  Could be people downsizing, or maybe first time home buyers since homes in Topeka or Rochester would be relatively inexpensive.  

Many believe we have about 14 more months of crazy real estate markets.  However,  we need 4 million more homes to fill demand, which could takes several years to achieve.  In any case, right now it is a great Seller's Market.  Not so good if you are a buyer.  Be prepared to pay above list price to win a bidding war.  It is happening all over the country.  

Jun 1, 2021

Working From Home - People Can Live Anywhere

The trend of people working from home was happening before Covid; but after Covid when many people began working from home that had not done so before, the trend just further accelerated.  Since the technology is there to allow people to work from anywhere, more and more of them are choosing the life style they want and moving at their own cost.  In many cases, they are moving from high cost cities and states to lower cost cities and states where home ownership is more affordable.  

They are also escaping the high taxes and cost of living in states like California, New York and Illinois, which often provides an automatic salary increase by just crossing a state line.   It just makes sense.   The availability of Zoom meetings making working from anywhere easy.  This blogger recently did a Zoom meeting with client contacts and our employees based in Sweden, France, Singapore, Texas and Nevada.  We also did a Best and Final Presentation by Zoom that went very well.  In the old days, we would have all jumped on airplanes at considerable cost and time resources for an hour or two meeting.  Today, with all of us working from home, we had successful meetings for an hour that achieved our objectives.  Business life will never be the same again.  

If considering a move, it is really important to do your homework.  Make sure the city and state you are choosing has all the amenities that are important to you and your family.  At Paragon Home Resources, we work with families to sell and buy homes all over the country.  We can assist with your life decisions by providing information and an unbiased sounding board to help you choose just the right location and home.