Wednesday, February 25, 2015

19 Indoor Activities to Combat the Winter Blues

Winter has hit hard here in Lexington and the kids are probably saying “We are bored” Here are just some general ideas to keep you and the kids from going stir crazy this winter.

1. Camp out inside. 
 Susan G. and her kids, from Stratford, CT, set up tents and sleeping bags in the living room. They make hot dogs, popcorn and s’mores and watch a movie or listen to their favorite music. “Instead of going upstairs for bed, the kids just camp out. The next morning, it’s pancakes for breakfast served tentside!”

2. Serve up a living-room BBQ. 
 Relive the warm and lazy days of summer by cooking up a batch of favorite summer foods usually done on the grill. Try burgers, potato salad, lemonade/iced tea and more. Enjoy everything together while dining on a blanket spread out on the floor.

3.Snuggle up. 
 Daphne R., from Portland, OR, explains how her family will “take advantage of the cozy factor and snuggle up with lap robes…reading good books in front of the fire.” Take the opportunity to read a book out loud with the kids taking turns too!
 Andrea has five children and tells us they gather together and take turns reading chapters from their favorite books. They also play board games and sing songs. “Winter is a wonderful time for togetherness. I love it!!” she says. 

4. Puzzle Time. 
 Kim T., from Topeka, KS, has her family of six (ages six to fourteen) do a puzzle together, usually 500 to 1,000 pieces. “We don’t try to do it all in one night. We leave it up for several days and work on it little by little. It’s amazing how into the puzzle the kids will become, even over watching TV.”

5. Game Day. 
 Turn off the TV and video games and get together for an old-fashioned game night. Let the kids take turns picking a game for the whole family to play, or resurrect half-forgotten (or never-learned!) card or board games.

6.Try a no-repeats weekend. 
 Make a game of trying something new every weekend, with no repeats! Eat new foods, learn something new as a family or go places you’ve never been before. 

7. Try a game of sock volleyball. 
 Betsy M. and her boys, from Westmoreland, OH, clear off the family-room floor and blow up a couple of balloons for “sock volleyball.” They mark off the court and, wearing only their socks or playing in bare feet, “play volleyball using our feet instead of our arms….It keeps us laughing hysterically.”

7. Feel the rhythm. 
 Put on some great music and dance, dance, dance. You’ll have a great time introducing the kids to your favorite moves, and they’ll be able to show you what they’re into now. You could even take the opportunity to learn some partner dancing (waltz or mambo, anyone?) together! 

8. Family Time. 
 Cheryl has “Family Time” once a month. “We all gather at my house to have a quick meal and then we play games like bingo.” She also gets inexpensive prizes from the dollar store to add to the fun! It doesn’t really matter what you do just that you do it as a family.

9. Relive old memories. 
 Break out the photo albums! Chrissy V., from Greensboro, NC, plays family videos and she and her family “are all entertained for hours!” They especially love “the older videos of when the kids were really small. They can’t get enough of seeing themselves.”

10. Host a film festival. 
 Introduce your kids to old movie greats. Or take turns choosing a genre (comedy, scary movies or adventure). You can extend the theme by cooking meals that fit the films. What could be more fun than eating spaghetti and meatballs as you watch Lady and the Tramp during your “Doggone Great Dog Movies” weekend?

11. Pamper and primp. 
 Tamera finds that her two little girls, ages three and four, are easily bored when they’re stuck in the house. “We have a few things we do…but a fun one is Beauty Parlor Day! We style hair, paint nails, put on dress-up clothes, and have an indoor picnic on the floor.” 

12. Let’s Get Cookin’. 
 Jennifer E., from Oradell, NJ, bakes with her three children (ages ten, seven and two) whenever it’s cold or nasty outside. She gives each of them a job so everyone can help in his or her own way. “Cookies, cakes or brownies…we always have so much fun!”

13. Learn more about your family. 
 Margaret Z., from Westland, MI, has “Scrapbook Weekends” in the winter months for grown-ups and kids. She says they learn a lot about their family history, especially from older family members, and the kids can tell stories using their latest vacation pictures. If you do this, consider videotaping it for a visual record of your family’s history.

14. Put on a play. 
 Work together to make up a story, create costumes and design a set with things you have at hand. Then sit back on the sofa and get ready to applaud the entrances and exits that will be treasured memories for years to come. Videotape this too! 

15. Craft it. 
 Annie G., from Spencer, IA, taught her daughter how to crochet last year. “We now make afghans out of all the leftover yarn from other projects and donate them to the women’s shelter.”

16. Volunteer. 
 Linda K., from Nyack, NY, says her family volunteers at a soup kitchen once a month and the kids serve meals. “It feels good to know you are helping someone who has no place to go and who really appreciates the hot meal on a cold day!”

17. Donate. 
 Roseanne K., from Warminster, PA, sometimes gets her husband and kids to sort through their clothes and toys when the weather is bad. They then donate whatever they can to a local charity-run thrift shop.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta get outdoors—even when it’s cold. Here are a couple of fun ideas to help everyone focus on something besides the weather.

18. Make snow paintings. 
 Brenda G., from Sheridan, IN, tells us her daughters are older now, but they used to play inventively outside on snow days. “I would save squeeze bottles and fill them with water colored with food coloring. We would take them outside and draw pictures on the snow.”

19. Go on a photo scavenger hunt. 
 If it’s not too cold, hand out some disposable cameras, assign a topic and roam the neighborhood. For example, if the subject is lions, you may be surprised at the number of door knockers, statues or team mascots that fit the bill.

Now you have some great ideas to bet those winter blues, Lexington.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mortgage Rates Start 2015 at Long Term Lows

Mortgage rates improved significantly to kick off the new year.  The gains are a combination of actual improvement in bond markets and lenders lowering their guard from conservative holiday pricing strategies.  In other words, lenders had been holding back a bit during the holidays.  That's normal and we'd discussed it as a factor.  And now, not only are those conservative strategies fading, but underlying bond markets (which drive mortgage rates) are improving to boot.  

The positive double-whammy brings rates in line with--or lower than--anything else in the past 19 months.  The most prevalently-quoted conforming 30yr fixed rate for top tier borrowers is now easily 3.875% and an increasing number of lenders are at 3.75%.

All that having been said, it's important to keep in mind that markets aren't fully back up and running in terms of participation and volume.  While the holidays are behind us, many market participants won't be back in the office until next week.  We'll have to wait until then to see if today's strength is the start of a new trend.

Loan Originator Perspective
"Happy New Year!!! Prior to the Christmas break, i advised readers to float through the volatility that year end brings and look to lock once 2015 is here. If you followed that advice, you will be happy when you speak to your loan officer today. Rate sheets this morning are about as good as i have seen in over a year. I rarely advise to lock on a Friday, but if you are within 15 days of closing, i would strongly consider locking. If you choose to lock today, i would wait until later in the day to allow lenders time to pass along the morning gains. As of noon eastern, a handful of lenders have already repriced for the better." -Victor Burek, Open Mortgage

"The first day of 2015 has been kind to mortgage rates as we continue to incrementally improve on the best pricing we've seen in over a year and a half. Is this a sign of things to come in the 1st quarter of the year? Perhaps, but if I haven't locked my rate yet and my closing is coming in the next few weeks I would be inclined to protect what's in front of me now and lock. If my closing is much further out, floating may be safe but be wary of the market and the many landmines that have a tendency to surprise us from time to time and stay tuned in." -Hugh W. Page, Mortgage Banker, Seacoast Bank

"Rates improved again, on the first trading day of 2015 as manufacturing data pointed to slowing US growth. We're near our best pricing since May, 2013, and floating borrowers might want to lock up the gains. The long term trend still points downward, and those who missed the refi boat when rates rose quickly in 2013 may want to call their favorite originator to check pricing. Great time to be a borrower!" -Ted Rood, Senior Loan Originator, MB Financial Bank

Today's Best-Execution Rates
30YR FIXED - 3.75 - 3.875
FHA/VA - 3.25
15 YEAR FIXED -  3.125
5 YEAR ARMS -  3.0 - 3.50% depending on the lender

Ongoing Lock/Float Considerations
The hallmark of 2014 was a narrow range in rates.  Too many market participants bet on rates going higher in 2014, and markets punished that imbalance with a paradoxical move lower.  This continues to serve as a reminder that prevailing beliefs about where rates will go won't necessarily be correct simply because they're the most prevalent. 

European bond yields trended constantly lower in 2014, thus playing a prominent role in keeping US rates lower than they otherwise might be.  Many feel that Europe will continue to slide until their central bank engages in US-style quantitative easing.  Some see this happening in early 2015.  In any event, we're looking for a turn in Europe, first and foremost, before worrying about the longer-term trend in bond markets being at serious risk of reversing.

Much of 2014 could be considered "sideways to slightly lower" in terms of mortgage rates.  All things considered, it actually has been a remarkably gentle drift lower.  Things became less gentle in mid October when rates briefly broke into the high 3's.  They came back for a more gradual, determined push into the 3's in December.  Some of the late-year strength was chalked up to an epic slump in oil prices.  This drags inflation expectations lower, which is a net-positive for interest rates, but it could be debated as to whether oil prices were a chicken or an egg in the global growth story.

As always, please keep in mind that the rates discussed generally refer to what we've termed 'best-execution' (that is, the most frequently quoted, conforming, 30yr fixed rate for top tier borrowers, based not only on the outright price, but also 'bang-for-the-buck.'  Generally speaking, our best-execution rate tends to connote no origination or discount points--though this can vary--and tends to predict Freddie Mac's weekly survey with high accuracy.  It's safe to assume that our best-ex rate is the more timely and accurate of the two due to Freddie's once-a-week polling method).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Simple Tips to Avoid Frozen Pipes

Burr!!! It’s Cold Outside. Here are a few simple tips to prevent frozen pipes in your Lexington home.
• Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.

• Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.

• When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.

• Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.

• If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
Stay Warm Lexington Massachusetts!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Why to Sell Your Lexington Home before Spring!

The groundhog decided that we have six more weeks of winter. Does that mean you have to hold off on selling your home in the Lexington real estate market? No! In fact, most real estate experts suggest that you sell sooner than later. So, as your Lexington real estate agent, I’m here to tell you to sell your Lexington home right now, before spring, and why that will work in your favor.

1.  Homebuyer demand is strong. Mortgage rates have been falling every week since the beginning of the year, with the exception of one week that they rose. Because of this, serious Lexington homebuyers are out to buy! They want to score a low mortgage rate. That is why foot traffic among prospective buyers is higher right now than any time in the last 12 months! Take advantage.

2.  Home seller competition is weak. While there are lots of Lexington homebuyers out on the market, there are not a lot of Lexington home sellers selling right now. Nationally, housing supply dropped to 4.4 months, which is under what is considered a normal housing market, which is a six months’ supply. This means that more buyers will be looking at your home, because they have fewer to choose from!

3.  The process is quicker. Because there are fewer Lexington home sellers selling this time of year, there are fewer mortgage loan and closing contracts happening right now. That means the time it takes from contract to closing is quicker, because banks aren’t completely swamped, like they typically are in the spring and summer markets. If you want to sell your Lexington home fast, now is the time to do it!

4.  The time to move up is now. Remember what I said about Lexington homebuyers taking advantage of low mortgage rates right now? Well, if you’ve wanted to sell your Lexington home so that you can move up to a bigger or better home, or you’d like to relocate to a new area, now is the time to do it! By selling now, you too can take advantage of low mortgage rates when you go to buy your next home.

5.  The time to move on is now. As a Lexington home seller, you’ll always be able to find reasons to wait to sell. But think about why you want to sell. Do you want to relocate closer to family or friends, or for a new job? Do you want to grow your family, or expand your living space? Do you want to downsize and retire? There is a reason you want to sell. Move on with your life and just do it! It’s a good time!

For more information on why now is the time to sell, check out this KCM Crew article. When you’re ready to sell your home in the Lexington real estate market, contact me, your Lexington real estate agent. I’d love to help you accomplish your home-selling goals this winter!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Thursday, February 12 from 6:30pm - 10:30pm; $130 per person

Looking for a unique and special way to celebrate Valentine's Day this year? Join Chef Raymond for a five-course romantic Alsatian Game Dinner. You and your sweetheart will be transported to the French countryside at this feast for the senses! The menu includes:

·  Baby spinach and poached baby winter vegetable salad with warm duck confit and white balsamic vinaigrette
·  Grilled marinated quail, roasted radicchio and oyster mushrooms with pomegranate vinaigrette
·  Roasted peppered venison saddle with poached seckel pears, wild mushroom flan, and sauce grand veneur
·  A chocolate dessert trio with vanilla & raspberry sauce. Chocolate dipped strawberry on a chocolate centerpiece.
Each course will be expertly paired with a special wine selected by Chef Raymond. In addition, guests will enjoy champagne and hors d'oeuvres, a cheese course, amuse-bouches, and a decadent chocolate dessert! Finally, each couple will be gifted with a perfect red rose.

This event is sure to sell out! Call us at 781-862-3900 to register in advance or for more information