Category Archives: Home Improvement

COVID-19 Scams

A man and woman chat in an office

As if fearing the health-related consequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus wasn’t enough, there’s also a fair amount of financial uncertainty related to recession and an unstable economy. People all across the United States are wondering how they’ll pay their bills and make ends meet as they file for unemployment and wait for a one-time stimulus check that may not cover the bills.

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It’s unfortunate, but some bad actors will always take advantage of situations like coronavirus. In addition to everything else, individuals also need to be on the lookout for COVID-19 scams that are cropping up. In fact, there are so many coronavirus scams out there right now that the FTC created an FTC Scam Bingo game to try and spread the word.

Read up on what COVID-19 scams to look out for and how you can protect yourself and your finances.

COVID-19 Stimulus Check Scams

Some scammers are tricking people into thinking they need to provide personal information to obtain their government relief check. Consumers do not need to sign up for the federal stimulus checks. The government plans to distribute them based on consumers’ 2018 or 2019 federal tax returns starting April 2020. Keep in mind that the IRS does not initiate contact by email, text, or social media.

How to Protect Yourself

Do not respond to any correspondence claiming to be the IRS or other branch of the government requesting personal information in exchange for access to your stimulus check. For accurate information about the federal relief checks and when you can expect yours, visit the IRS’s coronavirus resource.

Student Loan Scams

Americans owe over $1.64 trillion in student loan debt, so it’s no wonder that scammers are preying on this financially vulnerable population. Watch out for offers to forgive your student loan debt in its entirety or change your repayment plan for a fee, or requests for other personal information in order to suspend your payments in response to coronavirus. There is no such thing as instant student loan relief, and you should not need to pay a fee for help from your loan servicer. All federally backed loans have automatically suspended payments and set interest to 0%.

How to Protect Yourself

Do not accept unsolicited offers to help you with your
student loan payments and never give out your personal information. If you are
having trouble making payments because you’ve lost your job, reach out to your
loan servicer for options.

Social Security Scams

Social Security scams are common, but coronavirus has put a new twist on the scam. Now, in addition to watching out for scammers claiming that your Social Security number is about to be suspended, you also need to watch out for calls or letters claiming that your benefits will be canceled due to coronavirus-related office closures. Social Security offices are closed, but officers are still working, and your benefits will not be suspended. And your Social Security number will never be suspended.

How to Protect Yourself

If you are unsure if a call or email is from the Social Security Administration, reach out to them yourself for confirmation before sharing any personal information. If you have already given you Social Security number to a scammer, visit IdentityTheft.gov/SSA for steps on how to protect your credit and identity.

Medicare Scams

Because older individuals are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, scammers have been targeting them with Medicare scams. Be on the lookout for fraudulent Medicare representatives asking you to verify personal information, like your bank account, Social Security, or Medicare numbers. Medicare representatives will never call you to verify your account number, offer you free equipment or services, or try to sell you anything.

How to Protect Yourself

If you’re
not sure if a phone call is legitimate, hang up and call Medicare yourself.
That way you can confirm that you are talking to an actual Medicare
representative. To reach the Medicare office, call 1-800-633-4227.

Fraudulent Charities

Whether it’s a natural disaster or worldwide pandemic
like the coronavirus, legitimate charities work hard to aid people in need.
This can include providing food, funds, housing or other forms of assistance. Unfortunately,
fake charities can crop up too. They might use names that sound similar to real
charities and may even have emails, websites and phone numbers that seem
legitimate but aren’t.

How to Protect Yourself

Donate to charities that you are already familiar with. If you’re questioning the legitimacy of a charity, you can use third-party websites to check credentials. Options include Charity Navigator and Give.org, which is maintained by the Better Business Bureau.

Protect Yourself from COVID-19 Scams

As you continue to navigate the uncharted waters of a
worldwide pandemic, be on the lookout for COVID-19 scams. If you’re ever unsure
about something, you can consult trustworthy government resources or well-known
news outlets to verify information. Share this information about scams with
others so they know what to be on the lookout for as well.

More resources on scams:

  • Senior’s Guide to Avoiding Scams
  • Tax Season Scams
  • Student Loan Scams
  • Common Scams

The post COVID-19 Scams appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

It’s a Shake-Up! These 10 Drastically Different Design Trends Will Be Everywhere in 2021—and Beyond

2021 design trendsInterior Obsession/Houzz

We’re finally closing the book on 2020, and many of us have never felt more desperate for a fresh start and a new beginning. And since it’s not like we’re leaving the house anytime soon, it makes perfect sense that the first place to start anew would be at home. (Plus, decorating and home renovation projects are a pretty good distraction from ever-present existential dread, if we do say so ourselves.)

If you’re looking to do a design overhaul, you’re probably also looking for some inspiration—so we asked real estate and design experts to weigh in on what they anticipate will be the biggest home trends of 2021. It turns out, with all the stress that 2020 brought to our lives, it also influenced some defining changes in the way we decorate, design, and live in our homes.

So get cozy on your sunken-in couch cushion—you know, the one you’ve barely left since March 14—and join along for some inspiration as we prepare for the new year.

1. Dedicated home offices

Photo by Gina Sims Designs 

We can probably all admit: Working from the kitchen table was kind of cute when you thought you would be doing it for only a few weeks. But now? Not so much. That’s why, in 2021 (and beyond) home offices will be more important than ever.

“One of the most prevalent design trends currently is adding or renovating home offices. People are working from home and do not want to field calls from the kitchen table,” says Simon Isaacs, owner/broker of Simon Isaacs Real Estate.

If you don’t have a spare room for an office, there are plenty of ways to get creative and set up a space with some personality. In fact, one of the biggest trends on Pinterest this year is the rise of the “cloffice,” a portmanteau of “closet” and “office.”

“I’ve seen clients transform hall closets into amazing offices with high-gloss paint, some wallpaper, and a few shelves,” Isaacs says. “A can of paint can go a long way.”

2. Clearly delineated spaces

Photo by Nicholas Design Collaborative 

It’s quaint to think back on our obsession with open floor plans. They’re not completely passé (yet), but people are increasingly interested in closing off those wide-open spaces we so used to covet.

“The pandemic has completely shaped home design trends for 2020 and 2021,” Isaacs says. “Not only do people want to create a cozy shared living space, but they also are carving out areas to have some space to themselves.”

“The trend will be to create different living spaces within the open floor plan so people will have pockets or nooks in the home for e-learning, Zoom calls, a conversation, lounging, exercising, etc.,” adds Julie Busby, founder of the Busby Group at Compass in Chicago.

The need for separate spaces is also shifting home buyers’ priorities in the new year.

“New buyers are asking for homes with more separation, as sometimes multigenerational families share a home and need space and privacy amongst themselves,” says Yorgos Tsibiridis, a Hamptons broker at Douglas Elliman.

3. Houseplants and indoor gardens

Photo by Chris Barrett Design 

“During the pandemic when it was difficult for some to get their daily dose of nature, people started bringing the outdoors in with natural materials in their home,” Busby says.

With the pandemic raging on, the pros say the indoor houseplant trend is here to stay—which is good news for your collection of monsteras and air plants.

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Watch: Exclusive: Lindsay Dean of Frills and Drills Dishes on DIY

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“For houseplants, definitely do your homework before investing,” she says. “Take into account your natural light, exposures, and how much you will remember to water.”

4. Rattan accents

Photo by studio three beau 

In line with the houseplant trend, natural materials are having a “huge moment,” Busby says. In particular, rattan is the material du jour, appearing everywhere from drink holders to bed frames.

Try out the trend by choosing a rattan accessory or accent piece that you love; just don’t go overboard.

“Rattan is best in small doses, so pick your favorite piece and work from there,” Busby suggests.

5. Wood-grain kitchen cabinets and counters

Photo by Buckminster Green LLC 

Organic touches are also sprouting up in the heart of the home: the kitchen.

“For the kitchen, our designer members are seeing more minimalist styles with touches of organic and natural materials such as wood grain—perhaps as part of a desire to connect with nature,” says Bill Darcy, CEO of the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

Instead of painted kitchen cabinets or the ubiquitous all-white kitchen, expect to see homeowners embracing a more natural look with wood-grain cabinets and wood countertops on islands.

6. Next-level playgrounds

Photo by RVM Construction Inc.

Speaking of connecting with nature, 2020 has taken our cabin fever to record levels. Experts say enhanced outdoor spaces will continue to trend in the new year—including elaborate custom playgrounds, which Isaacs says are one of the hottest trends he’s seeing right now in South Florida.

To create the ultimate kids’ club, homeowners are even going beyond store-bought swingsets and adding zip lines, adventure courses, and climbing walls to their backyard playgrounds.

7. Outdoor kitchens

Photo by E2 Homes 

Multiseason spaces that feature “fireplaces or fire pits, patio/deck areas, or screened-in porches that can be used year-round” are on the rise, Darcy says. That includes outdoor kitchens, which have become more popular than ever during the pandemic.

An outdoor kitchen can be as elaborate (read: expensive) or as modest as you like. Some homeowners may simply add an outdoor refrigerator and dining area to the backyard to create an expanded entertaining space. Others will invest in a stovetop, ample counter space, and appliances to create a fully equipped outdoor kitchen.

8. Smart bathroom innovations

Photo by Change Your Bathroom, Inc. 

We won’t soon forget the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020, when grocery shelves were cleared of Charmin and bidets sold out at home improvement stores.

Never embraced the bidet in your home bathroom? Well, hold on to your butts: That’s just the start of things—you can expect to see a slew of new bathroom innovations in 2021 as homeowners continue to focus more than ever on hygiene (and perhaps prepare for the next Great Toilet Paper Shortage).

“Touchless appliances, including motion sensors for lighting, and smart temperature control for bathroom floors will be more popular in the next year,” Darcy says.

9. Retro furniture and color palettes

Photo by Elad Gonen 

The pandemic brought on a serious wave of nostalgia for people seeking comfort from the past, and Busby says that wistfulness will influence our home decor in 2021.

Expect to see funky color palettes (think mauve, forest green, and burnt orange) and furniture throwbacks like ’80s curves and ’90s traditionalism.

“I think people are nostalgic for simpler times, and we are seeing this desire reflected back in home design,” Busby says.

An easy way to try the trend for yourself is with a quick coat of paint.

“Pick a bold color and one wall, or a smaller bathroom, and paint your way back to the ’80s or ’90s,” Busby says.

10. Cozy, layered vibes

Photo by Urbanology Designs

“Overall, the design pendulum is swinging to be more traditional,” Busby says.

That means warm colors and natural wood in lieu of cool grays and blues. Instead of stark white minimalism, expect to see more color and personality in 2021’s home decor—less uber-modern and more boho chic.

So go ahead and pile on those mismatched blankets and throw pillows, and don’t be afraid to embrace a design that reflects your personality.

“People want to feel at ease in their homes now more than ever,” she says. “Before the pandemic, people may have put form before function to create the out-of-a-magazine look for their living room. Trends now lean toward a more casual and layered aesthetic.”

The post It’s a Shake-Up! These 10 Drastically Different Design Trends Will Be Everywhere in 2021—and Beyond appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

5 Things You Should Pay Premium for as a Homeowner or Renter

Being a homeowner on a budget is nothing to be ashamed of, if anything, most people prefer to keep their expenses low, especially after recently purchasing a home! But,there are some things you shouldn’t cheap out on, and we’ve got you covered.

The post 5 Things You Should Pay Premium for as a Homeowner or Renter appeared first on Homes.com.

Source: homes.com

The ABCs of Multifamily Cash Flow

You hear the term all the time. After all, it’s an essential concept for apartment investors because it not only reflects the viability of your investment but also its value. 

But what really is cash flow? How do you compute it, and more importantly, how can you increase the cash flow of your multifamily property?

Cash flow is simply the money that moves in and out of your business. For apartments, the cash coming in is in the form of rent, and the cash flowing out is in the form of expenditures like property taxes and utilities. 

Cash flow – or lack of it — is one of the primary reasons businesses, or real estate investments,  fail. Without sufficient cash flow, you’ll run out of money. That’s why it’s essential that you have sufficient capital to not only purchase an apartment property but also sustain it in the event that cash flow fails to be what you projected – for example, if units turn over more often than you expect or rents decline. 

Here are some ways you can improve the cash flow of your apartment investment:

  • Increase rents. This is perhaps the fastest and easiest way to improve cash flow. Consider repositioning the property – investing some capital to improve the units and then bumping rents.
  • Reduce utility costs. Fix leaky shower heads and faucets, which waste water. Install energy-efficient appliances and lighting fixtures. 
  • Decrease expenses. Renegotiate your property management contract, or put it out to bid at the end of the term. Use free rental property listing sites rather than paying a broker to rent apartments.
  • Encourage residents to stay. Moveouts are expensive, so when tenants renew their leases you’ll save time and money on prepping the unit.
  • Add additional streams of revenue, such as pet deposits and rent, garage rentals, vending machines or valet trash. 

The post The ABCs of Multifamily Cash Flow first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com