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How to Simplify for a More Peaceful Life

by The Hat Team


With summer in the rear-view mirror and the holidays approaching, life has likely gotten a lot more hectic. Chances are you have multiple schedules to juggle and little free time.  Now is a good time to simplify your life and eliminate as much stress as possible. Get started with the following steps:

  • Let go of extraneous possessions.  Having too many "things" can be detrimental to a peaceful life.  They cause clutter, drain your bank account and use energy and attention that could be elsewhere.  Take the time to remove unnecessary possessions from your life and you will not regret it!
     
  • Learn to say no.  Too many commitments will not only take up time, but will leave you feeling like you can’t really give 100% to anyone or anything.  Prioritize what is most important to you, whether it’s a book club or a hobby or volunteering.  After working and taking care of your family, you want to make the most out of the free time you have. Filling it with activities you don’t really care about out of some sense of obligation will leave you feeling tired and unfulfilled.
     
  • Get organized.  There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to find something when you need it.  Imagine the time and energy that will be saved if you don’t have to search for your keys or the phone charger or your child’s permission slip that you signed last week.  Having a place for everything and knowing where it is when you need it will make your life much less stressful and free up more time for fun and relaxation. How Clutter Affects Your Health
     
  • Reduce screen time.  How many times have you run late for something because you just had to read one more article on the internet.  It’s easy to get sucked in when so much information is available so easily.  But too much screen time means too little REAL time.  Don’t let the screen dominate your life.  Make a conscious effort to unplug and free up more time for other activities.
     
  • Stop multi-tasking.  It may seem unavoidable when life is so busy, but research indicates that multi-tasking increases stress and lowers productivity.  Focus on one task at a time, give it 100% of your attention, and when you are done move on to the next task. How Multitasking Affects Productivity and Brain Health
     
  • Ask for help.  Sometimes life is hard.  Trying to do everything yourself can leave you feeling defeated and deflated.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

These are just a few ideas for ways to simplify your life.  If you are buying or selling a home, you can count on Sandra Nickel and Her Hat Team of professionals to make the process as simple as possible for you! Give them a call today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: frugalfamily.co.uk

616 Clayton Street: Historic Cottage Hill Beauty!

by The Hat Team

616 Clayton Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36104

MLS# 454962 

2 Bedrooms | 2 Bathrooms | 2,057 sqft | Cottage Hill

This marvelous Queen Anne-style historic Cottage Hill home features wide wrap-around front porch perfect for relaxing with family and friends. Stunning architecture inside includes heavy moldings, 12 ft ceilings, decorative mantles, and large wood pocket doors. Spacious rooms and great restorations add to the charm of this vintage home. Just minutes away from booming downtown and all it has to offer. 

Tying Up Loose Ends When You Move

by The Hat Team

Let’s face it - moving is overwhelming no matter how well you prepare.  There are what seem like a million little pieces that all must fall into place to make a move go smoothly. And even then, it is stressful.  You are upending your life; putting everything you own into boxes and bags, and making big changes.  So, it’s easy to understand how some tasks fall through the cracks and are forgotten.  Here are some important things that many people forget to do (or don’t even realize need to be done) when moving:

  • Cancel recurring charges for local memberships. During the chaos of moving, the last thing you are likely to think about are membership fees for things that may not transfer to your new place of residence, like a gym membership.  And if those fees are automatically charged to your credit or debit card you need to cancel those memberships at least a month before you move so that you don’t continue to get charged even when you’re not there to use them any longer.
     
  • Call your car insurance company. Per the Department of Motor Vehicles,  it is vital to check on your car insurance when moving, as states have varying levels of required coverage.  In fact, insurance rates can even vary from neighborhood to neighborhood in the same city.  So, make sure you call your insurer before you move to see if you need to update or change your coverage at your new address.
     
  • Change your address early.  Changing your address is easy using the Online Form provided by the U.S. Postal Service, but don’t wait until the last minute to do it! If you want to be sure that your mail arrives at your new home in a timely manner, complete the form about two weeks before you move. 
     
  • Take care of your finances.  During the whirlwind of moving, it’s easy to forget the everyday tasks that are a normal part of your routine…like paying bills.  It’s also easy to lose track of paper bills among all the boxes you’ve packed.  Take the time to set up auto pay for things at your new home like mortgage/rent, phone, utilities etc.  This can help assure an on-time payment during a hectic time.  Designate a spot for mail both in the home you’re packing up and in your new home so that paper bills aren’t lost in the shuffle.
     
  • Change your billing address on credit cards.  Don’t get caught by surprise when your billing address doesn’t match the address on your credit card because you forgot to change it when you moved.  Some transactions now require that you put in your billing zip code when using your card, so if that has changed, then you need to change it on your credit cards as well.  The last thing you want is to deal with a transaction being denied and then finding out it was simply because you hadn’t changed the address on your card.

Yes, moving is stressful. But taking care of these often overlooked tasks will make it a little bit easier!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: braybray.co.uk

Seller’s Checklist for Home Inspections

by The Hat Team


It’s very exciting when you accept an offer on your home and you are ready to sell. But that excitement can go away quickly if the buyer’s home inspection doesn’t go well.  Smart homebuyers will never make a purchase without having a property professionally inspected first, so you can pretty much count on that happening.  So, it’s important for you, as the seller, to be prepared for the home inspection.  By identifying potential problems beforehand, you can make the repairs needed to avoid unpleasant surprises during the inspection. Find Out What Home Inspectors Look For

Use this checklist to help you prepare for the home inspection:

 - Make sure that all lights are working and all switches are covered. The same goes    for electrical outlets.  A general home inspection will include a visual review of the electrical system.  If the inspector finds that a light isn’t working, there is a likelihood he will recommend that a licensed contractor to check it out.

 - Take care of routine maintenance.  Put new batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and be sure they are working properly. Also, put fresh air filters on your air conditioning units and furnaces.  If buyers see that small things aren’t being maintained, they will be worried that big things aren’t either.  Home Maintenance Checklist

 - Clean out areas around appliances so they can easily be inspected.  It will be difficult for the inspector if your laundry room is full of clothes or the dishwasher is full of dirty dishes.  If you have a gas fireplace, be sure the pilot light is lit so that the inspector can turn it on.  If the inspector is not able to do that, he may suggest to the buyer that you show them the fireplace works before the sale is complete.  That just adds one more thing for you to worry about.

 - Check out the exterior of your home.  View your house the way you would if you were buying it again. Is there peeling paint or hanging gutters?  If so, you can fix these problems prior to inspection so that they are not issues for the buyers.

 - Test windows and doors.  Inspectors are going to be looking for windows and doors that open and close easily.  If you have windows that are sticking, you can fix this with very little money. Simply purchase a silicone spray from a home improvement store.  Clean out the tracks of sliding doors and lubricate them as well, if needed.

 - Paint over old water stains.  Even after you have fixed a leaking pipe or roof, water stains can be left behind.  And even after the inspector has assured them that there any current moisture issues, old stains will scare buyers off just as much as new stains will. 

 - Look for mold.  Mold will scare a buyer away fast!  So be sure to check basements, attics, bathrooms and garages for any signs of mold.  If you find any, deal with it before the inspection…and before you lose your buyers. How to Test For Mold

 - Declutter before inspection.  The inspector isn’t going to care how messy your house it or how it’s staged, but he will appreciate being able to easily access everything he needs to inspect.

 - Don’t try to hide issues.  Honesty matters. If you find something prior to inspection that is going to need to be fixed, notify the prospective buyer.  You don’t want the buyer to think you are trying to hide something.  If you don’t have the money on hand to make necessary repairs, you may be able to negotiate by offering a credit at closing so the new owners can do the repairs themselves.

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

How to Host a Fantastic Game Day Party!

by The Hat Team


Football season is here and whether you are cheering for Alabama or Auburn, that means party time!  Gathering with friends and family to watch your favorite team will be all the more fun with these game-day party tips!

GUEST LIST: Make sure to invite people well in advance so that you know how many to plan for.  If you are a die-hard football fan, you may want to consider only inviting other die-hard fans, but if you are just using the game as an excuse to have a party, invite anyone and everyone you enjoy socializing with. The more the merrier!  You also might want to make it an adult only affair. A day of watching tv and eating junk food might not be the best idea for little ones, especially if there isn’t a lot of space for them to run around and burn off energy. 

PARTY LOCATION: If you live in a tiny apartment with one small couch, you are going to want to either limit how many people you invite to just a few or you might want to totally steer clear of hosting a party at your home.  The optimal setting for a football watching party is a large room with lots of seating and a casual atmosphere.  Oh…and don’t forget…a BIG television!

WHAT TO SERVE: As far as drinks go, make sure to have a variety. Remember that some people don’t drink alcohol, so you should have non-alcoholic beverages available.  Now, for the most important aspect of a game day party…THE FOOD!  Creating a game day menu is one time when you can be a junk food junkie and feel good about it!  Think finger foods that are easily consumed while sitting on a couch watching the game. You can’t go wrong with chips, dips and nachos, but if you want something a little more substantial, great options are wings, ribs and chili.  You want to stick with foods that can be prepared ahead of time and served up easily so that you don’t have to miss any of the game.  Have some sweets on hand for dessert. They should be portable and easy to eat - like cake pops, cupcakes and brownies.  If you really want to impress your guests, make some football shaped food.  Whether you keep it simple, or go all out in terms of presentation, just make sure you have enough for everyone! 8 Football-Shaped Foods for Your Game Day Party

USE TEAM COLORS FOR YOUR THEME: Make things festive by adding decorations in your favorite team’s colors.  Think streamers, paper plates, napkins, and cups. Decorating can be the difference between a gathering and a true PARTY!

If you love to host parties and relish the idea of going all out, then go for it!  But if you just want to kick back with people to watch the game, keep it simple and don’t stress.  Most importantly, enjoy the time spent with friends and family!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: mydish.com

Creating a Colorful Fall Garden

by The Hat Team

Fall gardens bring to mind vivid, jewel toned colors such as scarlet, deep purples and gold.  Planning for a fall garden needs to start early so that plants are established. Even if they bloom late in the season, they will be hardier and bloom best if they’ve been in the garden longer.  Before planting, research what kind of flowers and plants will do best in your area.  To help, here is a list of some that thrive in hardiness zone 8 (Montgomery, AL): Alabama USDA Hardiness Zone Map

Chrysanthemums:  Commonly called “mums”, these richly hued plants are true sign of fall. When buying mums, look for ones labeled “hardy mums” or “garden mums” for the best chance of having them thrive throughout the season.  Plant them as soon as you buy them.  Given the opportunity to develop a strong root system, they will last longer. Chrysanthemums: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Mums

Helenium: Part of the daisy family, this cheery flower blooms in yellow, orange and red bringing a vibrant ambiance to your garden. These tough, easy-to-grow perennials bloom late in the season and last a long time.

Asters: Available in a variety of hues in shades of pink, purple, blue and white, these perennials bloom from mid to late fall.  Loved by bees, butterflies and other pollinators, they provide a late feeding opportunity for them.   Plant them as soon as they are available in early fall so that they can establish a strong root system.

Pansies: One of the most popular cool weather annuals, pansies are favorites for fall flowerbeds. They are very hardy and can continue to bloom through winter and into spring, thereby adding lively color to your garden almost year ‘round! All About Pansies

Sedum (Stonecrop): Robust, carefree, pretty, and long-lasting, sedum is about as close to perfect as you can get for a fall flower.  Sedums comes in many various sizes and colors, including mat forming, creeping, and upright varieties. Easy to grow, they are great for beds, borders, or even a rock garden.  How to Grow Sedum

If you are thinking about selling your home this autumn, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with getting it on the market and sold for the best possible price!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

How to Stay Active When You Hate Exercising

by The Hat Team


Do you hate exercising?  Do you want to be healthier and more fit, but the thought of going to a gym fills you with anxiety?  Well, I am here to tell you that there are numerous ways to “exercise” that you will enjoy so much, you won’t even realize you’re exercising!

Seven Fun Ways to Stay Active:

  1. Hiking - Whether you like the solitude of hiking alone or you would rather go with family and friends, you will be surrounded by the beauty of nature and wildlife and you will walk miles before you know it.  There is no shortage of beautiful places to hike in and around Montgomery! Best Trails Near Montgomery, AL
     
  2. Walking - If you don’t have time for a hike, go for a walk instead.  Even a fifteen-minute walk can get your heart pumping.  Walk in your neighborhood, or during your lunch break at work.  One way or another, get those steps in! Our Free Self-Guided Walking Tour of Montgomery, AL
     
  3. Geocaching - For the adventure nerd in all of us…geocaching allows us to be real-life treasure hunters and get a great work out at the same time! Check out this Website for information on geocaching events taking place in Alabama.
     
  4. Dancing - So many types of dance, so little time!  You can try swing dancing, Latin dancing, tap!  The options are limitless!  Try some ballroom dancing lessons at River Region Ballroom or step out for some country line dancing at one of the many Country Line Dance Bars in Montgomery!
     
  5. Martial Arts - Just like with dancing, there are loads of different types of martial arts.  Not only will you learn to defend yourself, but the practice of martial arts can be a stress reliever. Try karate at the Family Karate Center or jiu-jitsu at Montgomery Martial Arts.
     
  6. Clean - I’m shaking my head as I type this, because really?  Who likes cleaning?  But by thinking of it as a great way to get fit, you can kill two birds with one stone (so to speak).  Blast your favorite music at max volume and see how much you can get done during one song. Make it a challenging game and before you know it you will not only have a clean house…but you will have worked up a good sweat too!
     
  7. Play – Get outside and play childhood games with your kids and their friends. Hide and seek, tag, red rover, kick the can.  These games will keep you moving…and probably laughing, while you enjoy quality time with your kids! 30 Unorganized Sports You Should Teach Your Kids This Summer

So, if “exercise” is a bad word in your book, remove it from your vocabulary and replace it with one of these fun and exciting ways to stay fit!

Photo Credit: nationalpost.com

3328 LeBron Road, Montgomery, Alabama 36106 

MLS# 457239 

2 Bedrooms | 2 Bathrooms | 1,842 sqft | Cloverdale/Idlewild

Bring your contractor and you can make this spacious Cloverdale/Idlewild home a showplace! She is in rough shape now, but with some imagination and $$ it has great potential. Excellent opportunity for an investor who is experienced in fix-and-flip. Sold strictly AS-IS, and seller has no knowledge of roof condition, systems, or structure. 

Understanding Important Tools in Real Estate: Comparables

by The Hat Team


If you are not familiar with real estate terms, the vernacular can be confusing and overwhelming.  It truly is like learning a new language!  But we are here to help. Today we will talk about comparables (or comps). 

Comparables (comps) is a real estate appraisal term that refers to properties that are similar to the property of which the value is being sought.  They are properties in the same area that are around the same size, in similar condition, and have similar features.  Whether you are buying or selling a home, you can learn a lot by comparing similar homes. 2 Important Facts About Real Estate Comparables or Comps

Buyers will use comps to help them decide what price to offer on a home, while sellers will use them to determine the best list price for their home.  Realtors utilize comps on a regular basis to keep track of the local market.

One major key for a comp is proximity.  When trying to price a home or find out its value, it’s vital that the homes you are comparing it to are close by.  The market can be different in other locations, so the comparable property should be as close as possible.  The same neighborhood is best.  If the same neighborhood isn’t an option, you can branch out, but not too far.

Homes that are currently “pending” make the best comps.  This is because a deal has already been made on a pending home, so it reflects current stats on the market, which fluctuates frequently.  When looking for comps, it’s important to stick with sales in the past three months and never more than six months ago.  If a home was sold over six months ago, that data is not up to date with the current market.

Another important aspect of a good comp is the home’s features.  It’s vital that the homes being compared have similar features.  Consider things like views, upgrades, number of bedrooms, location of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, square footage, size of lot, etc. How to Find Real Estate Comps to Determine House Value

Keep in mind that there may be information that your Realtor is privy to that you are not when it comes to comparables.  If you don’t understand why a similar home is determined to be worth more or less than yours, your Realtor can explain it to you.  There are many conditions that can influence the value of a home. Also remember that comps are estimates, not appraisals.  They are not written in stone, but they are a useful tool for both buyers and sellers.

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: mashvisor.com

Saving Money 101

by The Hat Team


The best way to save money is to live on a set budget.  Whether you are living paycheck to paycheck or you have some “fun” money left over each month, knowing where your money is going will allow you to see how much you can save each month. If you are new to budgeting, managing your money may seem complicated and overwhelming.  You not only have to be organized, but you must make challenging decisions about how to spend your money.  But there is good news for you.  You don’t need fancy financial apps on your phone or extensive spreadsheets with dozens of categories of spending to see where your money is going.  You simply need to follow the 50-20-30 rule!

The 50-20-30 rule assists you in building a budget by using three spending categories. 

  1.  50% of your income should go to living expenses and essentials including rent, utilities, groceries and transportation.
     
  2.  20% should go to savings, investments and debt-reduction payments.
     
  3.  30% of your income should be used for flexible spending. This includes everything you buy that you want, but don’t necessarily need such as travel, going out to movies etc.

Top Ten Debt Relief Programs 2019

Remember that the percentages for essentials and flexible spending are the maximum amounts you should spend.  If you use less income in these categories, you will have more to put into your other financial goals.

Here is how to start the 50-20-30 budget.  First, determine exactly how much money you bring home each month. This will be the amount on which you will base your 50-20-30 split.  Then track your spending. Every penny of it, from your rent payment down to the coffee you stop for on the way to work in the morning.  As you are analyzing your spending, split it into the 50-20-30 categories.  Once you see what you are spending where, you can make the needed adjustments to ensure you are falling into the 50-20-30 parameters.  If you find you are spending too much on things that you want, but don’t need, that’s when it is time to cut back. The 8 Best Expense Tracker Apps of 2019

The 50-20-30- rule works because it provides a simple way to track your spending so that you can pay your bills, add to your savings and have money left over for fun stuff.  It keeps you on the straight and narrow so that you can begin to meet your financial goals.  If you stay the course, you will eventually achieve financial stability.

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: Kiplinger.com

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