10 Simple but Powerful Ways You Can Support Vets Even After Memorial Day


America devotes two national holidays annually to the recognition of military service, yet American vets deserve our gratitude and support 365 days a year. Here are 10 ways to lend your support—many won't cost a penny!

1)Offer your time

You may not have enough time to pull off one of these 10 nicest ways people have said thank you to veterans, but with what little time you do have, volunteering is the gift that gives back. It can be incredibly fulfilling to extend your gratitude to those who deserve it most, and it can fill your heart at the same time. Consider volunteering for organizations that assist veterans such as Disabled American Veterans (a nonprofit that offers vets free transportation to VA medical facilities), or Canine Companions for Independence (a nonprofit organization that provides therapy dogs to veterans). Here are more veteran-related organizationsworthy of your time and energy.

2)Shop for good

Why not pay it forward with the way you shop? Several businesses are finding ways to support veterans by offering post-deployment job opportunities, employment for military spouses, and remaining committed to hiring and retaining veteran employees. Businesses such as Walmart, Home Depot, Hilton hotels, and StateFarm Insurance, are among those that made Business Insider's list of the 100 most military-friendly companies in America. The next time you find yourself in need of a hotel room, a credit card, or anything else, check the list to see if the business you'll be using made the cut—it's one easy way to make your dollar count even more.

3)Support worthy causes

If donating financially is more your speed, there is no shortage of organizations that can use your support. Worthy organizations include Hope for the Warriors (founded by military wives for post–9/11 service members bearing psychological and physical wounds), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (supporting the 2.4 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan for their lifetime after deployment), The Gary Sinise Foundation (led by celebrity Gary Sinise with a mission to create unique and effective programs that serve veterans and their families in a variety of ways), and Wounded Warriors Family Support (with the mission of supporting the family of those injured or killed in combat situations). Here's a more extensive list of charities that support veterans.

4)Pay a visit

Visiting a wounded veteran in the hospital is a meaningful way to express gratitude for their service on your behalf. Not every veteran has family who is able to visit, and days spent recovering without others to talk to or visit with can feel like years. Consider visiting a veteran as a family to teach your children about the true sacrifices of those who serve, as well as to provide a history lesson. This is one small act of kindness that will last beyond the moments spent at the bedside of someone who has served. These random acts of kindness have changed people's lives.

5)Send a care package

During deployment, a package filled with useful and familiar items can feel like a hug from home for service members. Several organizations such as Operation Gratitude, Hero Box, and Operation Shoebox provide civilians with care package kits to send items requested by deployed military members. Items such as sunscreen, lip balm, and knitted or crocheted scarves and hats, frequent the wish-lists of service members. Many, if not all of the organizations that provide the kits to be sent to military members accept them year-round, with the exception of seasonal items such Halloween candy. Sending a care package to an active service member is one way to include the entire family in an act of kindness—children of all ages can help pick out requested items as well as include a personal note or drawing to express their appreciation.

6)Raise grateful kids

One way to ensure that support of our military members extends long into the future is to raise the next generation with a sense of appreciation, understanding, and gratitude for what those serving our country have sacrificed for America's freedom. There are many ways to introduce children of all ages to what military service entails, some of which include reading children's books (H is for Honor by Devin Scillian is a great one for young children), visiting military themed museums, and including them when visiting veterans or preparing letters and care packages. It is never too early to introduce the idea of gratitude to children for the service of others on their behalf—and make sure to exemplify appreciation yourself, as they will imitate what they witness.

7)Offer your talent

The world is a better place when we use our gifts to help others in need. Sometimes the best way to serve a veteran is by using your passion and talents for a greater purpose. Why not use your career or vocation to assist veterans with tasks like completing taxes or providing much-needed home improvements? Whether you're a counselor or a financial planner, a cab driver or a lawyer, there is a veteran that could use your help. To find specific areas of need, visit milserve.org.

8)Do little things

The simplest acts of kindness often mean the most. If you find yourself living near a veteran, why not offer to ease the burden of yard work or running errands? Mowing a veteran's lawn every week, or spending some time pulling stubborn weeds means so much more than just helping with the landscaping—it's a tried and true way to physically show your appreciation for the sacrifice their service required. If lawn care or grocery shopping isn't your thing, why not bake cookies or invite them over for a meal? Going outside of your comfort zone to show appreciation often reaps rewards you never saw coming.

9)Help them record their legacy

For veterans with no family close by or at all, recording the story of their service can provide a sense of peace and comfort that cannot be underestimated. The Veterans History Project collects audio and video stories of veterans spanning every war from WWI to present. War-time letters, diaries, and journals of veterans are also accepted, as well as artwork and photographs. This is an incredible way to encourage children to learn more about the life of service members (by including them in the video or audio interview process), and also works well as a service project for Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or as a bar or bat mitzvah project.

10)Say Thank You

Perhaps the easiest way to extend your gratitude to our men and women in the military past and present, is to say "thank you"—two magical words that literally lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and strengthen relationships. We can express our gratitude a multitude of ways, and yet a simple verbal acknowledgment of the great sacrifice veterans have made for this country should not be overlooked. A simple thank-you, a gesture of buying a meal or a cup of coffee, can mean more to those we owe our freedom to than we can understand in the moment.


Homeownership Builds Wealth & Offers Stability

The most recent Housing Pulse Survey released by the National Association of Realtors revealed that the two major reasons Americans prefer owning their own home instead of renting are:

  1. They want the opportunity to build equity.
  2. They want a stable and safe environment.

   Building Equity

John Taylor, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalitionexplains that those who lack the opportunity to become homeowners have a weakened ability to reinvest their wealth:

“We traditionally have been huge supporters of homeownership. We see it as a way to provide stability for households but also as an asset-building strategy. If you continue to be a renter, locked out of the homeownership arena, increasingly those things are further and further out of reach. They’re joined at the hip. They perpetuate each other.” 

Family Stability

Does owning your home really create a more stable environment for your family?

survey of property managers conducted by rent.com disclosed two reasons tenants should feel less stable with their housing situation:

  • 68% of property managers predict that rental rates will continue to rise in the next year by an average of 8%.
  • 53% of property managers said that they were more likely to bring in a new tenant at a higher rate than negotiate and renew a lease with a current tenant they already know.

We can see from these survey results that renting will provide anything but a stable environment in the near future. 

Bottom Line

Homeowners enjoy a more stable environment and at the same time are given the opportunity to build their family’s net worth.

5 Reasons To Hire A Real Estate Pro

Whether you are buying or selling a home, it can be quite an adventurous journey. You need an experienced Real Estate Professional to lead you to your ultimate goal. In this world of instant gratification and internet searches, many sellers think that they can For Sale by Owner or FSBO.

The 5 Reasons You NEED a Real Estate Professional in your corner haven’t changed but have rather been strengthened due to the projections of higher mortgage interest rates & home prices as the market continues to recover.

1. What do you do with all this paperwork?

Each state has different regulations regarding the contracts required for a successful sale, and these regulations are constantly changing. A true Real Estate Professional is an expert in their market and can guide you through the stacks of paperwork necessary to make your dream a reality.

2. Ok, so you found your dream house, now what?

According to the Orlando Regional REALTOR Association, there are over 230 possible actions that need to take place during every successful real estate transaction. Don’t you want someone who has been there before, someone who knows what these actions, are to make sure that you acquire your dream?

3. Are you a good negotiator?

So maybe you’re not convinced that you need an agent to sell your home. However, after looking at the list of parties that you need to be prepared to negotiate with, you’ll realize the value in selecting a Real Estate Professional. From the buyer (who wants the best deal possible) to the home inspection companies, to the appraiser, there are at least 11 different people that you will have to be knowledgeable with and answer to, during the process.

4. What is the home you’re buying/selling really worth?

It is important for your home to be priced correctly from the start to attract the right buyers and shorten the time that it’s on the market. You need someone who is not emotionally connected to your home to give you the truth as to your home’s value. According to the National Association of REALTORS, “the typical FSBO home sold for $208,700 compared to $235,000 among agent-assisted home sales.”

Get the most out of your transaction by hiring a professional.

5. Do you know what’s really going on in the market?

There is so much information out there on the news and the internet about home sales, prices, and mortgage rates; how do you know what’s going on specifically in your area? Who do you turn to in order to competitively price your home correctly at the beginning of the selling process? How do you know what to offer on your dream home without paying too much, or offending the seller with a low-ball offer?

Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, advises:

“When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.”

Hiring an agent who has their finger on the pulse of the market will make your buying/selling experience an educated one. You need someone who is going to tell you the truth, not just what they think you want to hear.

Bottom Line

You wouldn’t replace the engine in your car without a trusted mechanic. Why would you make one of the most important financial decisions of your life without hiring a Real Estate Professional?

Sales Contracts Hit Highest Level in Months

Sales Contracts Hit Highest Level in Months | Keeping Current Matters

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) just announced that the February Pending Home Sales Index reached its highest reading since July 2015.

What is the Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI)?

NAR’s PHSI is “a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings”. The higher the Pending Home Sales Index number, the more contracts have been signed by buyers that will soon translate to sales. February’s Index rose 3.5% month-over-month to 109.1.

What does this mean for the market?

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist explained:

"After some volatility this winter, the latest data is encouraging in that a decent number of buyers signed contracts last month, lured by mortgage rates dipping to their lowest levels in nearly a year and a modest, seasonal uptick in inventory."

"Looking ahead, the key for sustained momentum and more sales than last spring is a continuous stream of new listings quickly replacing what's being scooped up by a growing pool of buyers. Without adequate supply, sales will likely plateau."

So What Does This Mean For Buyers?

There is a lot of competition out there right now for your dream home. Prices are going to continue to climb, act now before you are priced out of your future home.

What Does This Mean For Sellers?

If you are on the fence about listing your home for sale and debating whether now is the time to move on with your plans of relocating… don't wait! There are more buyers that are ready, willing and able to buy their first, second, third, vacation, or investment property now than there has been in years! The supply of homes for sale is not keeping up with the demand of these buyers. Listing your home for sale now will give you the most exposure to buyers and the best sales price.

Bottom Line

Whether you are planning on buying or selling a house this year, waiting to act no longer makes sense.

One More Time, Real Estate is a Great Investment

In a recent on Marginal Revolution, economist Alex Tabarrok discussed homeownership as an investment.

Here is what Mr. Tabarrok had to say:

“Housing is overrated as a financial investment. First, it’s not good to have a significant share of your wealth locked into a single asset. Diversification is better and it’s easier to diversify with stocks. Second, unless you are renting the basement, houses don’t pay dividends. Stocks do. You can hope that your house will accumulate in value but don’t count on it. Indeed, you should expect that as an investment your house will appreciate less than does the stock market. You didn’t expect to get a great investment and a place to live in the meantime, did you?” 

Here is a rebuttal:

We have reported many times that the American Dream of homeownership is alive and well. Tomorrow, we’ll touch on the personal benefits to homeownership.

Eric Belsky, the Managing Director of the Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard University expanded on the top financial benefits of homeownership in his paper -The Dream Lives On: the Future of Homeownership in America.

Let’s use some quotes from Belsky’s study to address comments by Mr. Tabarrok:


“Housing is overrated as a financial investment.” 


“Since many people have trouble saving and have to make a housing payment one way or the other, owning a home can overcome people’s tendency to defer savings to another day.”


You can hope that your house will accumulate in value but don’t count on it. Indeed, you should expect that as an investment your house will appreciate less than does the stock market.”


“Homeownership allows households to amplify any appreciation on the value of their homes by a leverage factor. Even a hefty 20 percent down payment results in a leverage factor of five so that every percentage point rise in the value of the home is a 5 percent return on their equity. With many buyers putting 10 percent or less down, their leverage factor is 10 or more.”


“You didn’t expect to get a great investment and a place to live in the meantime, did you?” 


“Homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord.

Homeowners are able to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes from income...On top of all this, capital gains up to $250,000 are excluded from income for single filers and up to $500,000 for married couples if they sell their homes for a gain.”

Bottom Line

We realize that homeownership makes sense for many Americans for an assortment of social and family reasons. It also makes sense financially. If you are considering a purchase this year, contact Ingrid Dale (Davis) who can help evaluate your ability to do so.

Rents Still Skyrocketing

                                      Rents Still Skyrocketing | Keeping Current Matters

Zillow recently revealed that the 43 million renter households in the US spent $535 billion on rent in 2015. Aggregate numbers like these often make it difficult to truly assess a situation. For more clarity, we want to share some points that were made in a Wall Street Journal article earlier this month.

The article made two important points:

1. Rents are increasing faster than the last several years:

 “Apartment rents increased faster last year than at any time since 2007.”

2. Rent increases are accelerating

“Another report from Axiometrics Inc., a Dallas-based apartment research company, showed that rents increased 4.7% in the fourth quarter compared with the same quarter a year earlier, the strongest year-end performance since 2005”.

Here is a graph to illustrate the rate of increase over the last several years:

Average Effective Rent in the US | Keeping Current Matters



Obstacles to Homeownership: Perceived or Real?

Obstacles to Homeownership: Perceived or Real? | Keeping Current Matters

Yesterday, we discussed the belief Americans have in homeownership and their desire to partake in this piece of the American Dream. We also discussed some of the obstacles preventing them from attaining that goal. However, studies have shown that many of the obstacles mentioned are perceived, not real.

A recent study by Fannie Mae, What Do Consumers Know About The Mortgage Qualification Criteria?, revealed that many consumers are either unsure or misinformed regarding the minimum requirements necessary to obtain a mortgage. Let’s break down three such challenges.

Down Payment


Many renters have mentioned that the lack of an adequate down payment is preventing them from moving forward with the purchase of a home. According to the Fannie Maereport:

40% of all renters don’t know what down payment is required

15% think you need at least 20% down

An additional 4% think you need at least 10% down

The Reality

There are programs offered by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA that require as little as 3-3.5% down. VA and USDA loans offer 0% down programs. According to the National Association of Realtors, the typical down payment for a first time buyer is 6%.

Credit Score


Many renters have mentioned that the lack of an adequate credit score is preventing them from moving forward with the purchase of a home. According to the Fannie Maereport:

54% of all renters don’t know what credit score is required

5% think you need at least a 740 credit score

The Reality

Many mortgages are granted to purchasers with a credit score of less than 700. According to Ellie Mae, the average credit score on a closed FHA purchase is 687 and the average credit score on all loans is 722.

Back End Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)


Many renters have mentioned that they carry too much debt which is preventing them from moving forward with the purchase of a home. According to the Fannie Mae report:

59% of all renters don’t know what DTI is acceptable

25% think you need at under 25%

7% think you need under 39%

The Reality

Lenders like to see a back-end ratio that does not exceed 36%. Fannie Mae’s maximum total DTI ratio is 36% of the borrower’s stable monthly income. The maximum can be exceeded up to 45% based on credit score and other requirements.

Bottom Line

Don't let a lack of knowledge or misinformation keep your family from buying a home this year. Meet with a local real estate professional who can evaluate if your ability to buy now!

Top Reason to List Your House For Sale Now!

Top Reason to List Your House For Sale Now! | Keeping Current Matters


If you are debating listing your house for sale this year, here is the #1 reason not to wait! Buyer Demand Continues to Outpace the Supply of Homes For Sale The National Association of REALTORS’ (NAR) Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun recently commented on the inventory shortage: “While feedback from REALTORS® continues to suggest healthy levels of buyer interest, available listings that are move-in ready and in affordable price ranges remain hard to come by for many would-be buyers.” The latest Existing Home Sales Report shows that there is currently a 5.1-month supply of homes for sale. This remains lower than the 6-month supply necessary for a normal market and well below November 2014 numbers. The chart below details the year-over-year inventory shortages experienced in 2015: you are debating listing your house for sale this year, here is the #1 reason not toer Demand Continues to Outpace the Supply of Homes For Sale The National Association of REALTORS’ (NAR) Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun recently commented on the inventory shortage: “While feedback from REALTORS® continues to suggest healthy levels of buyer interest, available listings that are move-in ready and in affordable price ranges recessary for a normal market and well below chart below details the year-over-year inventory shortages experienced in 2015:

nced in 2015:

Housing Supply Year-Over-Year | Keeping Current Matters

Anything less than a six-month supply is considered a “Seller’s Market”. Bottom Line Meet with a local real estate professional who can show you the supply conditions in your neighborhood and assist you in gaining access to the buyers who are ready, willing and able to buy now!

Why You Should Hire A Professional When Buying A Home!

Why You Should Hire A Professional When Buying A Home! | Keeping Current Matters

Many people wonder whether they should hire a real estate professional to assist them in buying their dream home or if they should first try to go it on their own. In today’s market: you need an experienced professional!

You Need an Expert Guide if you are Traveling a Dangerous Path The field of real estate is loaded with land mines. You need a true expert to guide you through the dangerous pitfalls that currently exist. Finding a home that is priced appropriately and ready for you to move in to can be tricky. An agent listens to your wants and needs, and can sift out the homes that do not fit within the parameters of your “dream home”. A great agent will also have relationships with mortgage professionals and other experts that you will need in securing your dream home.

You Need a Skilled Negotiator In today’s market, hiring a talented negotiator could save you thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars. Each step of the way – from the original offer, to the possible renegotiation of that offer after a home inspection, to the possible cancellation of the deal based on a troubled appraisal – you need someone who can keep the deal together until it closes. Realize that when an agent is negotiating their commission with you, they are negotiating their own salary; the salary that keeps a roof over their family’s head; the salary that puts food on their family’s table. If they are quick to take less when negotiating for themselves and their families, what makes you think they will not act the same way when negotiating for you and your family? If they were Clark Kent when negotiating with you, they will not turn into Superman when negotiating with the buyer or seller in your deal.

Bottom Line Famous sayings become famous because they are true. You get what you pay for. Just like a good accountant or a good attorney, a good agent will save you money…not cost you money.


The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released their July edition of the Housing Affordability Index. The index measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national level based on the most recent price and income data. NAR looks at the monthly mortgage payment (principal & interest) which is determined by the median sales price and mortgage interest rate at the time. With that information, NAR calculates the income necessary for a family to qualify for that mortgage amount (based on a 25% qualifying ratio for monthly housing expense to gross monthly income and a 20% down payment). Here is a graph of the income needed to buy a median priced home in the count....Read On

Picking a Real Estate Agent through FaceBook

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