Myrtle Beach Real Estate Blog

Dec. 14, 2018

Where to Find Myrtle Beach's Best Coffee

Photo: The Roasted Bean

 

We're not going to lie, some of us like to linger over a cup of coffee. And for some of us, it's as essential as the air we're breathing! Wherever you reside on the coffee spectrum, here are a few of our favorite spots around Myrtle Beach to grab a cup of joe.

The Roasted Bean

Market Common

2954 Howard Ave  | Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 29577

HOURS: Mon-Sat  6:30 am - 3:00 pm | Sun  Closed

Recommended: Dragonfly high caffeine blend with a shot of sugar-free hazelnut syrup.

 

Fresh Brewed Coffee House

Downtown

933 Broadway St | Myrtle Beach, SC 29577

HOURS: Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri, Sat 9:00 am - 7:00 pm | Wed, Sun  Closed

Recommended: Mocha cappuccino with a side of open mic night.

 

Boardwalk Coffee House

Myrtle Beach Boardwalk

104 9th Ave N | Myrtle Beach, SC 29577

HOURS: 8:00 am - 11:00 pm 7 Days

Recommended: Zombie Roast, avocado toast with stellar views of the beach.

 

Croissants Bistro & Bakery

Central Myrtle Beach

3751 Robert M Grissom Pkwy | Myrtle Beach, SC 29577

HOURS: Mon-Fri  7:00 am - 6:00 pm | Sat  8:00 am - 6:00 pm | Sun 9:00 am - 2:00 pm

Recommended: House blend with an amazing brunch.

 

Good Day Cafe

Downtown

819 Main St | Myrtle Beach, SC 29577

HOURS: Mon-Sat  11:00 am - 4:00 pm | Sun Closed

Recommended: Iced coffee and a lobster roll.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dec. 11, 2018

Keeping An Eye On Your Fireplace

There's nothing like a fireplace to make your home feel extra cozy when the weather is chilly! Keep your home safe by being on the lookout for these signs that your fireplace may need some maintenance.




Backdrafting
If you find smoke stains above the fireplace, that's a major indicator of a backdrafting problem and means that excess smoke is going into your house rather than up and out the chimney. understand backdrafting we must first understand the basic physics at work in your fireplace.

A Draft is the force pulling air from inside your house up through the chimney. Draft is primarily a result of the difference in temperature between your fireplace and the outside air, as warm air from inside is drawn up the chimney to meet the cold air outside the chimney stack. An implication of this is that it will be more difficult to properly start a fire on a warm day since there won’t be a significant temperature difference to kick-start the draw of the chimney. It also means that when you first use your chimney after it’s been idle for a while, you might have trouble getting the entry to the flue warm enough to get the smoke moving.

 


If this happens, try holding a lit piece of newspaper or kindling up to the flue entrance right by the damper for a minute or two to quickly warm the flue and establish a draft. This can also be helpful on cold, damp days; humid air is heavier than dry air, so your chimney has to work harder to overcome that resistance.

But if your backdrafting problem is persistent, you need to call a professional to help identify the source of the problem and to make any repairs or modifications necessary to prevent the backdraft.  

Creosote
Creosote is a combustible chemical mass of carbon formed when wood, fossil fuels, or tar is burned. Creosote distills and lingers commonly in a fireplace or a masonry chimney. When it is not removed, it can build a thick, hard coating of debris up the flue and chimney, posing a threat to your fireplace.

Creosote comes from unburned fuel that can eventually cause a chimney fire if not periodically removed. Creosote restricts the airflow of your chimney, preventing proper circulation and lowering efficiency. It is a combustible material that is also toxic. You don’t want to be breathing this in, or letting it catch fire.

There are three main types of creosote.

First Degree Creosote is soft and sooty, not really all that different than wood ash.

Second Degree Creosote is kind of like honeycomb toffee only not tasty. It is soft and crumbly and indicates that you may have had a chimney fire.

Third Degree Creosote is a black, glassy, tar-like substance, also called glaze creosote. It requires a special piece of equipment with rotating chains to remove.

Depending on how well maintained your fireplace is and whether or not you’ve had it professionally inspected recently, you can always attempt a DIY Fireplace cleaning. But it’s hard work, potentially dangerous and can be extremely messy if done improperly and we do recommend leaving it to the professionals.


Cracks
Cracks and deteriorated mortar joints are dangerous fire hazards. Any visible crack should be sealed - for tiny hairline cracks, there are caulk tube repair sealants specifically for chimney fireboxes. You will find that most Chimney Sweeps do this sort of repair, as do Chimney Masons. Be sure the repair includes inspection for additional unnoticed cracks - in the firebox or elsewhere on the chimney, because this may or may not be an indication of more extensive problems. Very commonly just an aging thing or erosion of the mortar due to heating and cooling, but you never know till you inspect.

A fireplace is usually built with several layers of fire protection, but one crack can bypass all of the protective measures and start a house fire.   


Efflorescence
To end on a lighter note - If you notice any white streaks / white crystalline deposits in your firebox, don’t fret. White deposits on the interior of the fireplace aren’t safety hazards and don’t necessarily represent an immediate threat.  But they’re not just ugly stains. Efflorescence indicates that there is moisture penetration which eventually will cause your fireplace to deteriorate over the course of a few decades. If you notice these streaks make a note and bring it up with a fireplace inspector next time you have one over.

Dec. 6, 2018

Take Care of Your Trees Now to Prevent Any Future Damage

 

Prevent Tree Damage This Winter

It’s winter and that means its a good time to cut down any dead trees that may become a problem due to ice or heavy winds during hurricane season. 
The best time of year to prune or remove a tree is during the dormant season, which is when all the leaves have fallen off the branches.

How To Tell If A Tree Is Dying

 

It’s important to know the difference between a dead and declining tree. Usually, sick trees can be saved, but a dead tree can be a big risk to you and your home.

One of the first things you can do is visually inspect to see if the tree has developed any sudden leans, which is your first major indicator that the tree is dead or dying.

Scratch a branch/twig to see if any are fresh green underneath.

Check the trunk for peeling bark, cracks or splits.

Look up into the canopy for hanging branches, deformed leaves or missing leaves

See if there are mushrooms or other fungi growing at the tree’s base. Fungus growing on a tree generally indicates that it is rotting on the inside. Also be on the lookout for mushrooms growing under a tree. These can sometimes be a sign of root disease.

Taken together, these signs point to a dead tree. If your tree failed the scratch test and you see one or more of these signs, call your arborist as soon as possible so that they can take a look and remove it if necessary.

When to Cut Down a Tree

Just because a tree is dying doesn’t mean it needs to be removed right away. Trees are hardy lifeforms that can continue to live for years even when sick or damaged. To determine exactly when to cut down a tree, ask yourself these questions:

Is more than 50% of the tree dying?

A tree that’s currently only dead in a few spots can continue to be of environmental benefit for years. But Princess Bride rules don’t apply to your landscaping: a mostly dead tree should be cut down before it becomes a hazard. 

Is the trunk damaged

A damaged trunk puts a dying tree at high risk of falling. If a tree trunk has developed vertical cracks, large seams, and/or large wounds, it’s time to cut it down.

Is the tree becoming hollow?

Since a tree’s life support systems are located at the trunk’s outer edges, a tree can continue to live while hollow. But when a significant portion of a dying tree is hollow, it no longer has the structural integrity to prevent it from falling. Cut down a hollow tree before it causes injury or property damage. 

We have some beautiful, old trees in the Myrtle Beach area...and it's always important to save a tree if possible. But if that tree poses a threat, it's best to have an arborist take it down.

 

Dec. 3, 2018

Checklist: Get Your Home Ready for Holiday Guests

Are you hosting a crew during the holiday season? Having a plan and a clean, organized home when you've got guests coming is a great feeling...especially during the holidays when your schedule gets packed with so many things to do.

Use this checklist from House Logic to get your home clean and organized without the last-minute stress. Plus, who doesn't love checking things off a list?

---- Get the printable version-----

Three (or More) Weeks to Go

Think big picture. Get anything that requires a pro or installation out of the way now. No one wants calamity to strike when guests are pulling into the driveway.

Get your HVAC maintained if it's overdue.

If you have a self-cleaning oven, clean it now. An oven is most likely to break down during the cleaning cycle, so don't save this task for last.

Replace any appliance on its last legs. You don't want your hot water to go out or fridge on the fritz with a houseful of guests.

Steam-clean upholstery. (Or hire a pro. It's a big job)

Hire a handyman for those repairs you've been putting off.

Check outdoor lighting. Replace old bulbs and call an electrician to address any bigger issues.

 

Two Weeks to Go

It's not panic time yet. Focus on decluttering and a few deep-cleaning tasks now, and you'll have a more manageable to-do list when the clock really starts ticking down.

Do a deep declutter. It'll make things easier to keep clean.

Dust ceiling fans, light fixtures, and high-up shelves.

Wipe down baseboards.

Clean out and organize the fridge.

Wash windows to make the entire house feel brighter and cleaner.

Toss washable shower curtains and drapes in the washing machine and re-hang. Easy.

 

One Week to Go

It's strategic cleaning time. Here's what to tackle now — things your family won't easily undo before your guests arrive.

Declutter again.

Vacuum and dust guest rooms. If they're low-traffic, the cleanliness should hold with just a quick wipe-down right before they arrive.

Wipe down walls.

Wipe down kitchen and dining room chairs and tables, including the legs. You’d be surprised how grimy they get.

Deep clean the entryway — and make room for your guests' stuff.

 

72 Hours to Go

The final cleaning stretch is on the horizon.

Do another declutter.

In the kitchen, toss stove burners, drip pans, and knobs into the dishwasher for an easy deep clean.

Wash kitchen cabinet fronts.

Scrub the kitchen floor.

Clean and shine appliances.

 

48 Hours to Go

Now it's time to get serious.

Clean and sanitize garbage cans to banish mystery smells.

Wipe down doorknobs, faceplates, and light switches. They're germ magnets.

Clean the front door.

Deep clean the bathroom your guests will use, and close it off if possible.

Wash guest towels and linens.

 

24 Hours to Go

Your guests' bags are packed. Time for final touches.

Do a final declutter - by now it shouldn't take more than five minutes.

Give one final wipe-down to toilets, tubs, and bathroom sinks.

And another final wipe-down in the kitchen.

Do all the floors: mop, vacuum, sweep, etc.

Make guest beds and set out clean towels.

Plug in nightlights in guest baths.

Put out guest toiletries so they're easy to find.

Add a coffee or tea station in the guest room or kitchen.

Get your favorite smell going, whether it's a scented candle, spices in water on the stove, or essential oils.

Use rubber gloves to wipe off pet hair and dust from furniture. It works.

Do the full red carpet: Sweep or shovel porch, steps, and outdoor walkways.

And most importantly...

Keep in mind in the long run, your guests aren't going to remember how clean your house was, they're going to remember the great times spent together!

 

Nov. 28, 2018

How To Price Your Home Like the Smart, Savvy Sellers Do

Pricing a home for sale is based on hard data and information, but many sellers still insist on inserting their own emotions into the equation.

Smart sellers understand that math is the most important factor and that crunching the numbers is always going to be the best route to an accurate home price. 

Here's how to do it:

#1 Don't Overprice

Many times, homeowners think it's OK to price it high at first, because, "who knows? Maybe we'll get it! And we can always lower it if not." But you're going to sacrifice alot in the process.

Sellers have to keep in mind the location. The prices of other homes in your neighborhood are going to have the largest impact on your home's sales price, regardless of almost anything else.  Buyers looking in your neighborhood are looking at a particular price range. Pricing your home outside of that price range means you won't even get a look.  Sellers have to keep in mind "Who are going to be the likely buyers?”

The most obvious pitfall of overpricing: A house that remains on the market for months can prevent you from moving into your next home. Or if you've already purchased your next home, you're going to be looking at two mortgages and/or household expenses. 

And worse: Continually lowering the price could turn off potential buyers who might start wondering just what is wrong with your home.

Buyers are smart, educated, and have a ton of data at their fingertips. If you don't price correctly from the start, you're going to lose them.

#2 Don't Expect Dollar-for-Dollar Returns

It's easy to fall into two common traps:

Conflating actual value with sentimental value...how much they assume their home is worth because they lived there and the time they spent there is special to them. 

And assuming renovations should result in a dollar-for-dollar increase in the selling price...or even more. For instance, putting in new flooring may seem like a huge impact if you've been looking at old-outdated flooring for a while. So it's easy to think that putting in a few thousand dollars worth of new flooring would impact on the home's value into the tens of thousands.  In reality, buyers may be looking at a range of homes, including new homes, that all have nice floors. Therefore, decent flooring becomes what is expected in the price range, not something that makes a home worth a much higher price. 

Another issue may be "over renovating." Major additions may inflate the square footage... and the price...to a point that it no longer is practical for the surrounding neighborhood. Potential buyers who might be interested in the upgraded home at the higher price are likely more interested in a neighborhood with a higher price point to begin with....and less affluent buyers likely won't be able to afford the asking price.

"Don't buy the nicest home on the block" is common real estate advice for this reason.

That's not to say that renovations aren't worth it. You want to enjoy your home while you're in it, right? Smart renovations make your home more comfortable and functional but should typically reflect the neighborhood. A REALTOR® can help you understand what upgrades have a better recoup value when you sell and which appeal to buyers.

Another culprit for many a mispriced home is online tools, like Zillow's "Zestimate.  The estimate is often wildly inaccurate. 

#3 Use Comps (Comparable Sales)

The best pricing strategy? Consult a real estate agent, who will use comps to determine the appropriate listing price. They're not just looking at your neighbors;  they're seeking out near-identical homes with similar floor plans, square footage, and amenities that sold in the last few months.

Once they've put together a list of similar homes and the actual prices buyers paid, they can make an accurate estimate of what you can expect to receive for your home. If a three-bedroom ranch with granite countertops and a screened porch down the block sold for $359,000, expecting more from your own three-bedroom ranch with granite countertops and a screened porch is pretty much a pipe dream.

After crunching the data, they'll work with you to determine a fair price that will bring in potential buyers. The number might be less than you had hoped for, but listing your home correctly...not idealistically...is a sure way to avoid the aches and pains of a long, drawn-out listing that just won't sell.

#4 Adjust the Price When Needed

Once your home is on the market, you and your agent will start accumulating another set of data that will serve as the ultimate price test: how buyers are reacting to your home.

There's an easy way to tell if you've priced your home too high: No showings are occurring. If your home is priced way too high, then it is priced way too high. If you're getting lots of showings and no offer...it likely means it's likely being marketed well, but it's overpriced once people get inside.

One thing is for certain, when it comes to finding a buyer, pricing your home according to data...and the right data, at that...is crucial to making the sale.

At BRG, we're committed to giving you the most recent, relevant information available regarding home sales in the Myrtle Beach area.

Use our 

Neighborhood Market Value Reports

to find the most recent sales figures in your neighborhood.

And call us for a no-obligation, no hassle estimation of your home's current market price.

843.883.8800

 

 

 

 

 

Nov. 19, 2018

DIY Fireplace Cleaning

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DIY Fireplace Cleaning

The warm glow of a fireplace is one of the greatest gifts of winter. To keep things safe, be sure to clean the fireplace regularly and know that it is in good repair and safe to operate. It's always a good idea to have a professional inspect the fireplace, especially if buying a previously lived-in house, but if you’re feeling particularly brave and industrious this winter season - we’ve got a guide to help you clean your fireplace yourself.

When the chimney is professionally cleaned by a technician they will lay down a drop cloth, place lights, plug in a vacuum system, and will typically have a truck full of job-specific tools to help them. But, if you’re tackling this project DIY - you probably won’t have all those tools on hand.

Before cleaning, put on a respirator because it's unhealthy to have continued exposure to creosote dust.

Creosote is unhealthy for the chimney as well since it's a combustible material up in the venting portion of the chimney. In that part of the chimney, everything above the damper is designed for hot gasses but not actual combustion. If a combustible substance overheats and catches fire, it can cause serious damage to those areas.


For cleaning, you will need:
- A plastic tarp or painters drop cloth to protect the floor around the fireplace.
- Thick plastic sheeting and duct tape to isolate the fireplace from the room its in
- Goggles
- Respirator
- Chimney brushes
- A decent vacuum
- Flashlight
- Experience doing roof work

Step 1 - Spread tarp / cloth to protect floor surrounding your fireplace. Clear the ash and any leftover bits of wood from the firebox. Make sure you wait at least 24 hours from your last fire to begin cleaning or else you risk burning yourself / stirring up embers.

Step 2 - Isolate the fireplace from the rest of the room its in. Use thick plastic sheets and strong tape. Seal the front of the fireplace completely and make sure that the tape has created a complete and strong seal. Otherwise, you risk coating your entire house with fine white / black dust.

Step 3 - Put on all your safety gear, and climb up to roof. Warning though, if you do not have any experience doing roof work, now is NOT the time to learn.
Remove any hardware restricting your access to the top of your chimney. Whether it be a chimney cap or animal guard, you will be full access to begin brushing it.

Step 4 - Brush from the top down, working your way toward the smoke shelf—the flat area located in the “crook” behind the damper. Take your time and do a thorough job. When you’re done sweeping the flue, replace the hardware you removed, ensuring that all fasteners are properly secured. Make your way safely down the ladder.

Step 5 - Wait a while for the dust you’ve upset to settle into the firebox. Once you think it has settled, peel apart a small opening in the taped seal you positioned over the firebox. Using a smaller-diameter chimney brush, reach through the opening and scrub as far up into the chimney as the brush can reach. When you’re finished, cover up the fireplace again, and let any additional dust fall onto the floor of the firebox.

Step 6 - When you peel back the plastic sheeting, do so slowly and methodically. Stirring up the soot now would make a mess that’s even larger than the one already awaiting you. Another word to the wise: Be sure that no one opens any exterior doors, which would allow a sudden draft to send dust and ashes all over your living room carpet and furniture. The simple act of opening a door would defeat the purpose of having so painstakingly confined the dust and debris behind a plastic membrane. Move the sheeting carefully out of the way, then use a shop vacuum to clear the firebox. You may need to empty the vacuum midway through the job, depending on the machine’s capacity. The ashes and creosote can be sprinkled on flower beds since they are a source of calcium and other nutrients. With the vacuum running, a stiff brush is used to clean the fireplace walls. The damper ledge should always be cleaned since creosote dust builds up there as well.

Check out these tips for signs that indicate your fireplace may need maintentance: KEEPING AN EYE ON YOUR FIREPLACE

For more DIY articles check out our blog HERE

 

Nov. 12, 2018

A Quick Guide To Real Estate Escrow

A Quick Guide To Real Estate Escrow
What does Escrow mean?

Escrow is a legal concept in which a financial instrument or an asset is held by a third party on behalf of two other parties that are in the process of completing a transaction. The funds or assets are held by the escrow agent until it receives the appropriate instructions or until predetermined contractual obligations have been fulfilled. Money, securities, funds, and other assets can all be held in escrow.”


Escrow and Real Estate

“Escrow accounts are used in real estate transactions so that the buyer can perform due diligence on a potential acquisition while assuring the seller of his capacity to close on the purchase. For example, an escrow account can be used for the sale of a house. If there are conditions to the sale, such as the passing of an inspection, the buyer and seller may agree to use escrow.


In this case, the buyer of the property deposits the payment amount for the house in an escrow account held by a third party. This assures the seller, in the process of allowing the house to be inspected, that the buyer is capable of making payment. Once all the conditions to the sale are satisfied, the escrow transfers the payment to the seller, and the title is transferred to the buyer.” - Read more: Escrow | Investopedia

In short: The purpose is twofold, it guarantees the seller that the buyer has the funds needed for the purchase and that the money will be over once the title is transferred and it guarantees  the buyer that they won’t be scammed by a fraudulent seller who doesn’t actually hold any claim to a title for the property they are selling. Ultimately, it ensures trust in transactions that can take a while to finalize.

Escrow Agents
To set up a Real Estate Escrow, you must contact an Escrow Agent - sometimes known as a Title Agent. An Escrow Agent is a neutral party who is entrusted with holding payments until certain conditions have been met - Usually the transfer of a title. Typically, your broker or lender will facilitate the process of finding an escrow agent for you. As a principal member of the transaction, you do have the right to choose your own escrow agent though the seller typically has the final say on which company is used for escrow.


Earnest Money
Earnest money and escrow are both terms that always end up near each other, but they’re not really the same thing. Earnest money is an amount paid to the escrow account early on during the home purchase process. This is essentially to place a hold on the property for the buyer. It shows that the buyer has serious intent to purchase. This helps the sellers from having to deal with buyers putting out multiple offers on different properties. At closing, the earnest money is usually taken out of escrow and applied to the down payment.

Final Points
The Escrow amount generally ranges from 1% to 3% of the total sale price and is deposited into escrow after an offer is accepted by the seller. Whether you are the buyer or the seller is important to read through all escrow-related documents and make sure that you fully understand them. If you need clarification or have a question, feel free to ask your agent or lender to help you understand. Be available to respond to any questions and steps as the process moves forward and make sure to hold on to all your escrow related documents for tax and legal purposes.

Most of the work regarding your escrow will be done behind the scenes and the only real burden on the principal parties is to make sure they’ve fully read and understand the terms of the escrow agreement and have supplied the funds.

If you're in the market for a new home and would like information about finding a neighborhood that fits your lifestyle, click HERE.

Nov. 4, 2018

How to Find a Neighborhood that Fits Your LIfestyle

Choosing your new neighborhood can be a little overwhelming...how can you be sure you're choosing the right spot to put down your roots? Here are a few ideas that can help you make the most informed decision possible.

START WITH A LIST OF THE THINGS THAT MATTER TO YOU

Are options for outdoor activities important to you? Do you want to be able to walk to shops and restaurants? What about schools? Make a list of the things that are important to you so you can narrow down on some particular areas. Here are a few things you might want to consider:

Commute times - How far are you willing to commute? If you're concerned about commute times, put this at the top of your list. You'll want to start your search in neighborhoods close to your workplace and neighborhoods with a lower traffic and/or direct route to your workplace.

Schools - Do you have children? Or do you have plans for children in the future? If so, you'll likely want to move somewhere with community parks and play areas, zoned into a good school district that feels safe to you.

Home style - What kind of home do you want? Are you interested in a condo, townhome or single-family home? Along with this initial determination, knowing if you prefer new construction, older or historic homes, or transitional styles will help your realtor point you in the right direction.

What do you not want in a neighborhood? If noise, traffic or lack of walkability are deal breakers for you, be sure you add those items to your list.

NARROW YOUR SEARCH TO A SPECIFIC AREA

Once you have a general idea of what area you want to live in, it's time to start looking more closely at the specific neighborhoods and streets you may be interested in.  Reaching out to friends and colleagues who may know someone in your new town may be helpful, as they are likely familiar with the personalities of each area. Also, finding an experience Realtor who is knowledgeable about all the various areas should be a priority.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

We live in an age where information and data is easily accessible online. Once you know what area you may want to live in, you'll want to check as many statistics as possible to see if it's a good fit. While real estate agents can recommend things to do nearby, you'll need to look at the data yourself to decide if the area is safe enough for you. Here are a few things to take a look at: 

School information. Be sure to research the public and private schools nearby, as well as daycare programs.

Crime statistics. Most jurisdictions have crime statistics based on zip code. It can be helpful to compare neighboring zip codes to be sure you're moving to an area where you feel comfortable.

Neighborhood associations. Does your potential community have a neighborhood association? If it does, familiarize yourself with its restrictions and yearly HOA fees if there are any. 

VISIT THE NEIGHBORHOODS

This may be easier said than done if you live out of town, but make the time for this important task. Do as much research of your own prior to visiting and spread your visits out if necessary. If you don't have a chance to do some preliminary visits, be sure to make a list of the neighborhoods before visiting so your real estate agent can take you to see each of them. 

Make note of your first impression. What is your gut feeling when first driving into the neighborhood? Is there curb appeal? Are the houses well-maintained? If you feel good when first visiting the neighborhood, chances are you'll be more comfortable calling it home. 

Visualize your daily routine. If you lived in this neighborhood, what would your daily routine look like? 

Visit at different times of day. If at all possible, try and visit the neighborhood at different times of the day. A neighborhood can have a completely different feel during the day than it does after the sunset.

Talk to other residents. If you run into neighbors on the street, don't be afraid to strike up a conversation. 

Picking a neighborhood takes time, thought and planning, but these tips will help you pick the best area for your lifestyle and needs. At BRG, we're lucky to have Realtors who love living here and are happy to share their knowledge of all the great amentities available here...besides the obvious...living at the beach!

Oct. 23, 2018

8 Tips for Carving the Perfect Pumpkin

These pro tips will have your gourds looking and smelling good the entire trick-or-treating season.

1. Choose a pumpkin that is fresh, with a sturdy stem, no bruises, and a flat bottom so it won't roll while you carve.

2. Cut out the lid on an angle, not straight up-and-down so the lid won't drop inside the pumpkin when you replace it. A boning knife works best for this.

3. Scoop out all the pulp, and then some. Thin the inner wall of the "face" area to 1 ¼-inch thick so it will be easier to pierce the shell.

4. Hold the pumpkin in your lap. It's easier to carve features when the face is gazing up at you. And don't cut on a slant — clean up-and-down slices look best. To make intricate designs, try using a small saw.

5. Use your scraps creatively. Make a tongue, pipe, or hair accessories out of a discarded piece of pumpkin shell, for example.

6. Spread petroleum jelly on the cut edges to seal in moisture. If your pumpkin still shrivels a few days later, you can revive it with a facedown soak in cold water for up to eight hours.

7. Create a chimney. First, leave the lid on for a few minutes while the candle burns. Then make a small hole where the lid has blackened. Or, save yourself the stress and go with battery-operated votives instead.

8. Sprinkle a little cinnamon inside the lid. When you light the candle, your jack-o'-lantern will smell like a pumpkin pie. Yum.

Oct. 22, 2018

Some Relief from Mortgage Rate Increases for Buyers

After weeks of gradual increases, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage decreased a bit this week. This slight dip offers potential buyers a small window of opportunity to possibly lock in a lower borrowing rate.

From Freddie Mac:

"The modest decline in mortgage rates is a welcome respite from the rapid increase in rates the last few weeks," says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's chief economist. "While the housing market has clearly softened in reaction to the rise in mortgage rates, the economy and consumer sentiment remain very robust and that will sustain purchase demand, particularly in affordable markets and neighborhoods."

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages in mortgage rates for the week ending Oct. 18:

30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.85 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week's 4.90 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.88 percent.

15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.26 percent, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week's 4.29 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.19 percent.

5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 4.10 percent, with an average 0.3 point, rising from last week's 4.07 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.17 percent.