Sous Vide Cooking

How do professional chefs consistently recreate great food with such confidence? They use an industry art perfected in the finest restaurants called sous vide, and you can easily try it in your kitchen. 

Sous vide simply means “cooking under vacuum” in French. How it works is that the food to be prepared is vacuum-sealed in a reusable container, then immersed into a “water bath” until done to the correct temperature. Cooking sous vide is a slower preparation method, making it ideal for fish, vegetables and tougher cuts of meat. You’ll use less oil, fat, and salt and the food will retain more nutrients for a healthier lifestyle.

You don’t need much in the way of equipment and can start with immersible ziplock freezer bags, mason jars or silicone cooking pouches and a pot to hold the water. But you’ll get more uniform results with a standalone immersion circulator designed for home chefs, such as the Anova Precision Cooker. It clamps onto the side of any pot to circulate the water and regulate the temperature. There are countertop appliances approximately the size of a microwave also include the water bath or water oven. Some home chefs get their own vacuum sealing system, such as the Miele vacuum drawer, to get the air out of each seal for longer-lasting freshness.

While there’s nothing new about submerging a sealed packet of food into water, sous vide techniques allow you to cook, freeze and reheat food with the ease of a master chef.


What is Fair Market Value?

If you’re buying or selling a home, the concept of fair market value is important. Each home, even if it were built identically to its neighbors, is unique. Variables such as physical condition, improvements or damages, location and overall desirability can each affect the perceived value of any property.

According to Smartasset.com, fair market value is the price a property would sell for in an open and competitive market where the buyer and seller each have adequate information of relevant facts. Buyers and sellers must act in their own interests and not be compelled by outside forces. They must agree to the price without coercion as well as give each other a reasonable time period to complete the transaction.

So how do buyers and sellers agree to fair market values? Since there’s no exact figure to begin with, most people rely on a lender’s appraisal of a given property. The appraisal utilizes information from tax records, recently recorded sales of properties, and comparable homes for sale as provided by the local real estate multiple listing service. Your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty professional can also provide you with a comparable market analysis of homes similar to yours based on recent closed sales, pending sales and current listing prices.

Keep in mind that these professionals are providing you with an educated starting point. You won’t know the true fair market value of your home until it’s offered on the open market and you reach an agreement with a willing buyer or seller.


Using Drones for Real Estate

Whether you intend to fly a drone for fun or for professional use (such as real estate photography to help market your home), there’s a lot to know about using this technology. All drone users need to know the laws, courtesies and safety practices of drone flying.

The FAA requires a drone operator to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate. The only exception to this rule is for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft, which is only available to drone operators flying for hobby or recreational purposes. Drone operators should register their drones with the FAA.

The FAA also provides a helpful list of safety and privacy rules:

  • Fly your drone at or below 400 feet
  • Keep your drone within your line of sight
  • Respect FAA airspace restrictions. Never fly near other aircraft or airports.
  • Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people
  • Never fly near emergencies or disaster relief efforts
  • Respect the privacy, safety and property of others
  • Never fly a drone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol

In addition, there may be local laws for you to follow. Dartdrones.com explains that local restrictions can “prohibit flights anywhere from state parks to state infrastructure.” Local ordinances can even restrict the areas where you can and can’t launch your drone in certain cities.

Despite precautions, drone accidents happen. Check your liability insurance carrier, or you may prefer a drone-specific insurance policy. Dronetrader.com offers lists of insurance carriers for both recreational and professional drone use.


Down Payment Assistance and Resources

It’s a great time to buy a home, so now is the time to start lining up resources to help you make a down payment. There’s plenty of assistance available if both you and the home you want to buy meet eligibility requirements.

While most programs are designed for first-time and/or low-income homebuyers, some are reserved for workforce personnel such as teachers, firefighters and police or for those who meet other criteria for the community.

According to TheMortgageReports.com, there are four types of down payment assistance:

  • Grants which don’t have to be repaid
  • Loans (second mortgages) that have to be repaid
  • Loans (second mortgages) that can be deferred until the property is sold
  • Loans (second mortgages) that are forgiven over a period of time

The gold standard in down payments is a minimum of 20 percent, but you can put as little as three percent down through Freddie Mac’s Home Possible® or HomeOne federally guaranteed mortgages. You’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance until your home reaches 20 percent equity, either through making mortgage payments to reduce the principle, or through the increased market value of your home over time.

The Veterans Administration provides certificates of eligibility for veterans to present to their mortgage lender that may entitle them to a mortgage with little or no down payment required.

Check for assistance programs and grants in your state beginning with Hud.gov and FHA.com. These programs will typically require minimum credit scores of 580 and a 3.5 percent down payment.


Winning in Multiple Offers

It seems as if the real estate market has been on fire in several parts of the country. Interest
rates remain low and buyers are out in full force. That’s great news if you’re looking to sell your
house. Not so much if you’re looking to buy your house. Why? Because there is a lot of
competition for the houses that are for sale. In fact, a lot of the homes that are for sale, are
getting multiple offers.


If you find yourself in a situation where the house you want has multiple offers, talk with your
agent to see what you can do to win the bidding war. Asking your agent to start a dialogue with
the listing agent is a good thing. Find out if there’s anything in particular that the sellers are
looking for or anything specifically that could get your offer to stand out.
If the listing agent is reluctant to share or seems to be keeping their cards close to the chest,
here are a few tips to get your offer noticed and considered.

SALES PRICE
When it comes to the sales price, anything under full asking price probably won’t be considered.
You’re going to have to come in above or at least at the full asking price. Most offers will be
above asking price. If you choose to do that, don’t get too carried away. An above asking price
offer isn’t any good if the house won’t appraise for that value. Sellers and listing agents know
that. So unless you’re willing to waive the appraisal or pay more for the house than it’s worth
(and that’s ok too), keep your above offer price somewhat reasonable. But over asking price is
the way to go.


CONCESSIONS
Asking the sellers to pay all or even contribute to some of the closing costs should be avoided if
possible. If you’re in a position where you need some help with closing costs and it’s
unavoidable, that’s one thing. But if you can pay your own closing costs, you definitely should.
Seller contributions, whether it’s closing costs, home warranties, carpet allowances or any other
concession eats away at the sellers’ net profit. And that’s what they’re going to be looking at.
There will be other opportunities to negotiate things like that (after the inspection and/or
appraisal). Including concessions right off the bat with your offer will likely encourage sellers to
pass on your offer.


FINANCIALS
When submitting your offer, be sure to include your pre approval letter. You want to present
yourself as an excited, willing and able buyer to the sellers. You want the sellers to know that if
they choose you, the deal will close (and close on time). A pre approval letter shows that you’ve
been in contact with a mortgage lender and taken all the financial prerequisites. If you’re a cash
buyer, be willing to provide some sort of proof of funds, whether that’s a letter from your bank or
print off of your bank statement.
It can be tough out there. Buyers can find themselves discouraged after losing in multiple offers.
Hopefully, these little tips can help.


Sell Your Home Using All Five Senses

One of the best ways to get your home ready to sell is to remember to use the appeal of all five senses in your marketing. You want your home to look great and you want homebuyers to feel welcomed by attractive aromas, soothing music and other hospitable ideas so they appreciate the home’s environment on every level.

Sight – Focus on the first things homebuyers will see from the curbside to the living space inside. Make sure the yard is trimmed, flowers are planted, paint is refreshed, and the walk is freshly swept. Polish the front door hardware and sweep cobwebs from the entry lights. Provide plenty of light by opening curtains and blinds and turning on light fixtures. Neutral paint and décor help homebuyers visualize themselves in the home and removes the focus from the homeowner’s preferences.  

Sound – Put on some relaxing music to invite homebuyers to take their time and see the property thoroughly. Check built-ins, doors and floors for squeaks and creaks and get noisy fixtures repaired or oiled.  Remove and kennel raucous pets during showings. 

Touch – Homebuyers will open and close doors, open taps, and run their hands across countertops. Make sure doors, drawers and windows open smoothly and that all surfaces are sparkling clean.

Smell and Taste –Treat homebuyers to fresh-baked seasonal cookies and herbal teas in paper cups. Place a stack of flyers touting the home’s features beside the snacks. Carpets, curtains and fabric furniture should be steam-cleaned and all linens freshly laundered. 


Is It Wise to Refinance Now?

Over the summer of 2020, refinances of existing mortgages rose over 200 percent, according to Realtor.com. Driven by the lowest interest rates and the highest home prices in recent history, many homeowners are opting to skip the frustrations of moving in favor of lowering their current monthly mortgage payments.

Investopedia.com warns that refinancing could be a bad idea if it’s done for the wrong reasons, such as taking cash out of your home to invest or consolidating credit card debt. Refinancing comes with considerable costs and fees – typically three to six percent of your loan amount, which can take as long as three years or more to pay back. If you decide to move sooner than three years into the new loan, you’ll lose money. You must also avoid the temptation to “reload” your paid-off credit cards with new balances.

Trading your 30-year mortgage in for a new 30-year loan also doesn’t make sense, as you’ll be adding more years of interest to the term of your loan.  But it can work if you have an FHA loan with private mortgage insurance (PMI) that can’t be canceled and you go for a shorter term than your current mortgage. If you have more than 20 percent equity, you can refinance into a conforming loan with no PMI due.

The best outcome is a healthy break-even point where the costs of refinancing are covered by the monthly savings provided by your new loan.  Explore the numbers with your lender before deciding.


What’s the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary?

Two words widely used in interior design are modern and contemporary, which sound like interchangeable synonyms, but really have different meanings. What’s confusing is that they have some traits in common along with others that set them apart.

Thespruce.com defines modern design as representing an era that’s passed, while contemporary design is all about the present and the future. Both styles share common characteristics – clean lines, simple uncluttered spaces and artistic flair. But they differ in the following ways:

Modern design began in the early to mid-1900s, when society was excited by inventions such as the skyscraper, jet aircraft, the space program, the cross-country highway system and major scientific advances, such as antibiotics and polio vaccine. The most popular modern concept is mid-century modern, when post-World War II housing was revolutionized by the low-slung ranch-style suburban home. Modernism departed from traditional comfy elements like ruffled curtains and overstuffed chintz chairs and embraced space age simplicity, sleek furniture with exposed legs, geometric lines, and wood accents. Colorful abstract art was juxtaposed against warm earth-bound colors. It’s a great motif for anyone who wants a recognizable design scheme. 

Contemporary design began in the 1970s as postmodernism rose in popularity. It is not tied to a specific era but borrows from past movements such as art deco and modernism as well as adopts new ideas, building materials, and technology, resulting in an eclectic living space. It’s an ideal choice for the homeowner who enjoys change and likes to stay ahead of new trends.


Choosing a Housemate

To make your mortgage more affordable, consider temporarily renting out an extra bedroom or garage apartment to a tenant. Having a housemate can be a wonderful experience or a frustrating one, depending on how well you vet candidates, communicate your expectations and protect yourself with a written legal leasing agreement.   

Begin your search for a housemate by asking friends, family, coworkers, and church or professional organization members for referrals or visiting online roommate-seeking sites. Set the terms of the lease and screen potential tenants by credit-worthiness, personal references, pets, smoking and other criteria, but you must follow Fair Housing laws to avoid illegal discrimination and to protect the tenant’s rights.  As you interview potential tenants, discuss key issues such as schedules, habits, and other living preferences.

According to Lawyers.com, you can minimize disputes with a detailed rental agreement that covers rent, deposits, responsibilities, house rules, and which items can be shared, such as food and living spaces. You should also include a dispute resolution method agreeable to both you and the tenant.

Should you need to evict your tenant for not paying the rent, damaging your home, making too much noise or other violations of their lease, you’ll have to take the tenant to court where an eviction can be approved by a judge. Hopefully, it won’t come to that if you diligently check your tenant’s credit report and references and confirm their employment in advance. In the best case, you’ll make a new friend instead


Super Sleuth Your Next Home

You’re ready to make an offer on a home. You’ve got competing offers due to tight inventory and feel pressured to just make an offer with no contingencies. Before you sign your purchase offer, do a little quick research.

Get a loss history report. The Insurance Information Institute advises homebuyers to obtain a loss history report from the seller. This LexisNexis free service tracks hazard insurance claims. You’ll learn when the roof was replaced from hail damage but also if there have been any water leaks or other damage. During the home inspection phase, you can see how the damage was corrected.

Check Housefax.com. – Your first Property History Report is free and includes property details and building permits, among other information, so you can learn whether that room addition was done by professionals.

Visit DiedinHouse.com. For $11.99, you’ll receive an instant report that reveals if there’ve been any deaths in the home, because in many states, anything that isn’t a material fact doesn’t need to be disclosed to you. You’ll also learn if there’s been any fire damage, and whether the property was ever used as a meth lab. It also alerts you to nearby sex offenders.

Ask for an updated CMA. Your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty professional can provide you with an up-to-the-minute comparable market analysis (CMA) report. You’ll soon know if there’s been a change in the marketplace, such as new listings or solds that can help you decide how much money to offer.