Real Estate Information

Wauwatosa Living

Beth Jaworski

Blog

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 32

Thrifty Thursdays #7 - How to Save Money

by Beth Jaworski

Today's tip is a basic one, but one many people overlook. Don't eat out as much as you are tempted to, and take a lunch with you to work. I see so many people eating out, or going through a drive through, pretty much every day. While no one loves to dine out more than I, I also realize how expensive it can really be. Even the most budget-conscious will spend $4-6 for lunch. That means that by simply eliminating buying two lunches per week, you will save a minimum of $416/year ($4 x 2 times per week x 52 weeks). If you usually spend closer to the national average of $8/lunch, bringing your lunch from home twice per week will save you $832/year.

And after a long day, it is always tempting to go out to eat or to grab some carry out, instead of going home and cooking. If you are disciplined enough to go home and make dinner, you will save money however. And you might just end up losing some weight also, as restaurant food is notorious for being high in sodium and fat. So do yourself a favor this weekend. Take a look at the grocery store sales online and plan a few meals off of those ingredients for next week. You might even want to buy enough to make double what you need so that you can freeze the extra for another week. Then when you have an especially busy day or week, you will have a meal already made for you.

 

Thrifty Thursdays #6 - How to Save Money

by Beth Jaworski

Anyone that knows me knows that I love to read. And because I read so much, I would certainly go broke if I purchased every book I read. This is why I love my local library. Utilizing your local library is definitely a thrifty thing to do. You can check out books, music and movies, all for free!

 

The Milwaukee County Federated Library system has a phenomenal app for the iPhone, which allows me to plug in a title as soon as I hear about a great book. Whenever I read a review of a book that sounds interesting, or a friend or a speaker recommends a book that I want to read, I open the app and enter the title. If it is not available at my local library, I can order it right on the app and have it delivered to my neighborhood library.

 

I can even renew my book if I am not finished with the it by the time it is due right on the app, plus I can order music and movies on the app too, in addition to being able to directly download eBooks and audiobooks from it. 

 

And did you know that in addition to music, books, and movies, the library has so many other resources. They include: 

 

Free wireless internet and computer access

 

On-site copier that allows you to scan items in to a USB at no charge

 

Online interactive courses for personal enrichment and professional development 

 

tutor.com - free academic & career resources for students and adults

 

Free access to local papers, national magazines and to the New York Times

 

ValueLine and Morningstar Investment Research Centers (online info on stocks, mutual funds, and financial news). 

 

Online language instruction with a conversational focus for over 70 languages

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

Take advantage of all your local library has to offer, and download their app if they have one. Stop buying books, magazines and movies and start checking them out for free instead!

 

 

Thrifty Thursdays #5 - How to Save Money

by Beth Jaworski

As a Realtor I can spend a lot of time in my car. I now drive a hybrid but used to drive a 8 cylinder car that only took premium, so gas prices were very important to me. I, of course, learned all the tricks to stretch my gas mileage: fuel up early in the morning (gas is cooler earlier in the day and more dense, so you get a little more of it then), keep the engine tuned and the tires at the proper pressure, etc.

The biggest savings have come to me through the GasBuddy iPhone app however. GasBuddy is a free app that shows all the gas prices at all the gas stations around me. Whenever I need gas, I simply open the app and see who has the best price in the area. By doing this I normally save .10 per gallon and sometimes even more. 

I realize that .10 does not sound like a lot, but it definitely does add up. I also like that the GasBuddy app will tell me the trend in gas prices, along with having drawings for free gas. And don't forget to charge your gas purchases with a card that gives you cash back. Make every penny count!

Thrifty Thursday's #4 - How to Save Money

by Beth Jaworski

There is no way around it. Part of being thrifty is using coupons. There is just so much money to be saved! The trick is to find coupons on items you would buy anyway, with minimal effort on your part. That way the reward really is worth your time.

Part of being thrifty is also knowing your prices on items you buy all the time. You would be surprised at how many items you purchase on a regular, continual basis. I am talking about shampoo, toothpaste, tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, coffee filters, soup, pasta, etc. Pay attention to sale prices at different stores for these items and get to know what is your "buy" price. For example, my "buy" price for a box of Kleenex is $1. Once you know the best price available, your "buy" price, you only purchase these items only when you can get them for that price. I will always stock up on non-perishables when I see them offered at my "buy" prices, and then if I also have a coupon for that item and so I get an even better price, all the better.

Since I don't have a lot of time to invest in looking for coupons, I will usually search for coupons online shortly before I will shop. I keep an eye on the grocery store circulars delivered to my house also, along with browsing the weekly sales on store websites while eating breakfast or while eating lunch. Once you become aware of your best or "buy" price on an item you buy repetitively you will also start to notice that stores will actually advertise those same items at a much higher price, and even say they are "sale" prices! You will know better, and you will start to realize how much money you are saving by knowing your prices.

Online coupons are great money savers also. Check in on Yelp at a restaurant or business, and you might just get an offer for a free item or some other type of discount. Googling a product you are about to buy can also produce coupons or other discounts in the search results. By using coupons, and even more importantly, being aware of what are the best or "buy" prices on products you always purchase, you can save hundreds of dollars a year, with minimal time invested. Until next week, happy savings!

 

Thrifty Thursdays #3 - How to Save Money

by Beth Jaworski

One of the best ways I know to save money is to shop consignment/Goodwill/thrift stores. You can find so many bargains, you will be amazed at how much money you can save. Many people say shopping at these types of stores are "too much trouble/effort/takes too much time". Somehow the same people who say that still find hours upon hours per year to shop in the mall/at department stores however! 

Great quality exists at absurdly low prices, if you shop at the right places. You really do not need to spend a lot to look like you did. I think many people would be surprised to know how little I pay for most of my clothes. On our recent cruise I received numerous compliments on a skirt, and on both of the dresses that I wore for the "dress up" dinners onboard. I had paid $10 for the skirt and $30 for one of the dresses, purchasing both at a local consignment shop (U-turn). And I paid $25 for the other dress at Divine Consign (a local traveling consignment sale). Grand total for all 3 items was $65, while I could have easily spent that much on just one item if I had gone to a boutique or a department store.

It is HIGHLY unusual for me to spend more than $20-40 for an item of clothing. (The one exception I have to make is for pants. Because I am 6'2" it is very difficult for me to find pants at regular stores, much less at consignment or thrift stores, so I do have to pay more for those.) I just went to Goodwill the other day and found 7 tops that fit well and that I liked. One even still had all the tags on it, so had never been worn. Total price for the 7 tops was $42! 

But don't limit your consignment/thrift store shopping to just clothing. You can also find seasonal decor, housewares, books, small electronics, lamps and furniture at a fraction of retail cost. When I was at Goodwill I also found an adorable Thanksgiving table decor item for $6.99 that still had the Kohl's price tag of $16.99 on it. And I needed some more baskets for shoe covers at my listings, so I bought two, at $1.99 each. I would have easily paid $7-$12 per basket at Target or Walmart.

And keep in mind that you can also turn your unwanted items into cash. When we moved and no longer had a place for some art, I sold it through a consignment store. Facebook groups are also another great way to sell things you no longer want or need, along with being a great place to find bargains as a purchaser. I have sold chairs and lamps that I had no room for in the new house through a Facebook group, and among other items, I have purchased a refrigerator, a kitchen island, a patio table and 6 chairs, and our front porch swing, all at greatly reduced prices. In fact I did not even pay $450 for all of those items combined.

Bottom line, you can save a lot of money by checking thrift and consignment shops and resale groups first. Why pay retail if you don't have to? Save that money instead! 

Thrifty Thursdays #2 - How to Save Money

by Beth Jaworski

Today's Thrifty Thursday Tip is to get a good cash back credit card. I do not believe in carrying any credit card debt, but I do believe in making my money work for me, along with saving money any chance I can. The right credit card can do both. You just have to make sure that you pay the balance off each month, no exceptions.

I personally like the Discover card for a number of reasons. First there is no annual fee. I will not pay for a credit card. Secondly, I get 1% cash back on all purchases and 5% back on purchases in categories that change quarterly. This January through March the 5% cash back was available on all purchases at gas stations, from April through June the 5% cash back was on purchases for movies and at restaurants, from July through September the 5% was on all purchases at home improvement stores and at Amazon.com, and now from October through December the 5% cash back bonus is on all purchases at department stores, Sam's Club and at Amazon.com. Please be aware however, that the 5% cash back is limited to the first $1,500 charged on those purchases each quarter. What an easy way to earn up to $75.

I try to charge all my purchases and all my monthly bills (cell phone, internet, etc) to maximize the cash back bonus each month. Another feature of the Discover card that I love is that I can redeem that cash back bonus when making a purchase on Amazon.com, I can use it to pay my bill, I can donate it to charity, or I can redeem it for a higher dollar amount in gift cards from select partners. For example, I frequently redeem $45 cash back for $50 gift cards to Chipotle, Panera and Starbucks. This allows me to eat lunch at two of my favorite places for free. And remember my mentioning in my first blog that I also get most of the coffee I brew at home for free? My redeeming my cash back for a Starbucks card and then using that card to purchase ground coffee allows me to do just that.

A bonus tip is to sign up for the loyalty programs at any merchants or restaurants that you frequent. By doing this in combination with the free gift cards from Discover, I really am able to make my dollars stretch. How nice to get a free bakery item at Panera, or a free coffee at Starbucks, from making purchases with a free gift card!

Discover also has other money saving features I enjoy. They have "Discover Deals" that allow me to save even more money. Currently they have 198 merchants offering these "deals" for cardholders, ranging from 5% cash back on purchases to offers like $15 off a $100 purchase at Wayfair.com, 40% off a $75 purchase at the Limited, $10 off a $25 purchase at JC Penny, etc. Discover also does not charge any foreign transaction fees, a real bonus when traveling.

A high credit score will allow you to save money too, by allowing you to get the best rate on your mortgage or car loan, and Discover allows you to keep track of your FICO score by reporting it to you monthly on your statements.

And in double checking the rewards on their website for this post, I learned that they also have a "Refer a Friend" program. If I refer someone to Discover and they get the card and make a purchase within three months of getting the card, both they and I will get a $50 cash back bonus! A nice feature I had not been aware of. If this post has made you interested in getting a Discover card, please let me know. I will register your email and then we can both receive $50. I also see on their website that they will double the amount of cash back earned at the end of the year for new card holders. That could really add up!

Of course there are other credit cards that have reward programs and some may be a better fit for you. I encourage you to investigate what benefits you are currently getting from your credit card(s) and also see how that compares to Discover and other cards out there. Make sure you are really maximizing every dollar you spend and that you are getting the best benefits for you. Here is a link featuring some of the best credit card deals currently available: https://www.nerdwallet.com/the-best-credit-cards

Looking forward to sharing more tips next week. 

Thrifty Thursdays #1 - How to Save Money

by Beth Jaworski
We just took a dream vacation last month to Europe, to celebrate my turning 50. We obviously spent a good amount of money on this vacation, but had saved for it for a long time. I do not believe in carrying any type of debt, other than mortgage debt, so always save for what I want before I buy (or travel). I realize this is not easy for most people. I was raised by a divorced mom who was terrible with money and as a result, we never had any! I saw firsthand what spending money you did not have could do to a person and vowed never to be that way myself. When I first moved out on my own, I was naturally very poor and had to watch every penny, so I learned to save money every chance I could and became very thrifty.
 
Luckily I found my passion in my 20's, selling real estate, and I have been able to build a very successful business. I also have saved for and purchased investment properties over the years that supplement my income. However, I have not outgrown my thrifty ways. In talking to people about saving money for things like a trip to Europe, it occurred to me the same thrifty ways will help you save for a house (or for an investment property). There seemed to be interest in my sharing tips to save, so I am starting this blog series "Thrifty Thursdays" here today.
 
Each week I will share one or two of my top money saving secrets. Use what you will. Hopefully some of these will make you think, oh yeah, I could really save a lot of money here. I will guarantee that if you follow all of these tips, and always put your savings into a separate savings account instead of spending it somewhere else, you will be able to afford a new home, an investment property, and/or a fabulous trip to Europe. You also will have the peace of mind of knowing you are putting your hard earned money to work for you. And the more you save, the more addictive saving money becomes!
 
Watch here each Thursday for money saving tips. They will go from very basic to hard core savings tips only a few are aware of. Here are the first two:
 
1.) Cut the cord on cable. I have NEVER paid for cable tv since I left college in 1987. In my opinion, this is the biggest waste of money there is. I am astounded when I hear of people paying $100-200/month for cable tv. First of all there really is not that much quality programming to watch, much less who really has the time to watch all that tv? Secondly, sitting in front of the tv is an unhealthy pastime, both for your body and your mind. Read a book, take a walk, go for a run, do some yoga, lift weights or ride your bike instead. All free and all will make you feel better than the tv. And because I know sometimes you really do just want to lay on the couch and relax by watching a movie or show, keep in mind that "free" tv has greatly progressed in the last few years. We get 40+ channels with our antenna. All FREE. Most tv shows are also available online, plus Netflix has tons of movies, past seasons of tv and cable shows and original programming for only $12/month. Eliminate your cable bill and you will save $700-2400 per year!
 
2.) Make your own coffee. I brew my own coffee at home every morning and take a "to-go" cup with me when I have morning meetings or appointments. I also brew my coffee in a good old regular coffee maker I got free years ago (yes I am too frugal to even spend money on a coffee maker). Often the coffee I brew is also free. And yes, I will share my tips on how to get free (or almost free) coffee in a later blog post.
 
Sounds so basic, but coffee really is a money drain. If you are a coffee house addict and buy one $4 coffee per day, 4 days a week, not including tax, you are spending $832/year on coffee. I also think I  am being very conservative here, in using only one $4 drink, four days a week. Mark works at the US Bank building downtown and he works with many people who buy 3 coffees per day, 5 to 6 days per week! That equals a MINIMUM of $1950 (3 cups at $2.50/day, which is probably a lot less than they are spending x 5 days/week x 52 weeks). And it could be as much as $3120/year ($4/cup x 3 per day x 5 days/week x 52 weeks). This is why buying coffee is so often used to explain the concept of compound effect. 
 
Again, I know these two tips are so very basic, but look at the savings. At the minimum you can save $1500/year by cutting out cable and making your own coffee. Depending on what you are spending on these two items, you could actually save $5,000/year or more! Definitely will pay for a vacation, or the closing costs on a new home. Happy savings until next week!
 
 

5 Tips For Buying a House in a Tight Market

by Beth Jaworski

You have probably read the headlines (and seen the Facebook & Twitter posts) so you already know that there are not a lot of homes for sale right now. At least not enough to keep up with current buyer demand. If you are considering selling your home, this is great news. If you want to buy a property right now, it is a little more troubling. Many buyers are currently getting a rude education through painful experience on how quickly the market can flip from a buyer's market to a seller's market. To ensure that you endure the least amount of pain possible, while successfully purchasing your new property in the current market, follow these 5 tips:

1.) Find the best buyer's agent for you. Notice I say for you. Interview more than one agent and find the one you feel most comfortable with. You want someone who knows the market where you will be buying, who will be honest with you and who has a good reputation among fellow agents. You also want an agent experienced in multiple offer situations and who will communicate with you in the method you prefer (text, email and/or phone). Lastly, they need to have a system in place to get you into new listings ASAP.

2.) Get a written pre-approval letter for the highest amount possible. Many lenders (and some agents) will tell you to get your pre-approval letter tailored to the property you want to purchase. Some loan officers do not even want to even put a dollar amount in your pre-approval letter and will just state that you are pre-approved to purchase that address. They will tell you this is for your benefit, but don't believe them! When multiple offers come in, they are often astoundingly similar. Sometimes the one thing that is different is that the first buyer  is pre-approved for a lot more than they will be borrowing & the other is only pre-approved for the amount they will need to borrow to buy the house. Guess which buyer gets the accepted offer?

3.) Drop everything to get to that new listing! This cannot be stressed enough. It will not always work, but sometimes simply being the first one in and the first one to submit an offer is what gets you the house. The minute you know there is a new listing you are interested in, you should schedule a showing with your agent.

4.) Make your offer as clean as possible. This is not the time to make the offer contingent on every test possible, nor is it the time to ask for closing cost credits or appliances the seller has not listed as included. For example, radon testing is a common contingency in my area, but not all buyers include one in their offer. To remedy high levels of radon, a mitigation system can be installed, usually for around $850. As a result, we see many buyers leaving this contingency out of their offer in a tight market, in hopes of gaining an advantage over any possible competing offers. (Of course the buyer then budgets $1,000 for radon testing and possible needed mitigation after closing).

5.) Put down as much earnest money as possible with the offer. We have all heard the expression, money talks. Sometimes it does! If you want it to speak for you, write a big earnest money check with your offer. Again, often competing offers are very similar and can be for the exact same price you offered. You don't want the only difference to be that the other buyer put down a nice earnest money deposit with their offer, and you did not. 

A great agent will have even more "tips and tricks" to get you the home you want. Please contact me if you would like to find out more. I love a challenge and have a great track record in multiple offer situations!

Property Tax Assessments - How to Contest Them

by Beth Jaworski

Many people grumble about their property tax bills, yet few do anything about them. One way to lower your tax bill is to get your property assessment lowered. As a property owner you always have the right to contest your assessment. I recently attended a panel made up of three local assessors: the chief assessor for the city of Milwaukee, an assessor from the city of Brookfield and an assessor from West Bend. It was very interesting to hear what they had to say. All three agreed that assessments are supposed to reflect market value. However, because the real estate market can move so quickly, both up and down, assessments rarely do reflect current market value. That can be okay however, as long as all of the assessments in the municipality are off by the same percentage. Uniformity is the goal. In other words, if all assessments in a municipality are 10% above market value, that's okay, as then all are paying taxes at the same ratio.

Often when you look at two comparable properties you find a large discrepancy in their assessed values however. That is a problem, as the owner with the larger assessment is paying more than their fair share. If you think your property is over assessed, it may well be worth your time to contest. If you are not sure of area market values, please contact me. I am happy to help and can supply recent sales in your area.

Keep in mind that you only have a limited amount of time to contest each year (deadline varies by municipality) but the sooner you do so, the better. You will need to contact your local assessors office and follow their procedure. It usually involves filling out a form (in Wauwatosa it is called a "Request for Review" and is available online) and then allowing the assessor to walk through your property. This makes many homeowners nervous, but if you do not allow the assessor through the property, you lose the right to contest your assessment.

The walk through can actually be a good thing, as many times the municipality has inaccurate date for your property. For example, in 2011 I contested the assessments of two of the properties that I own. Turned out the city had a much larger living space listed in the attic of one than was actually there. The other property also had an error in the room count. Both assessments were lowered and as a result, I ended up paying about $1,700 less in property taxes at the end of the year. Well worth my time and effort! Hopefully you will enjoy the same results.

Tour the Christmas Fantasy House this Weekend!

by Beth Jaworski

If you are not familiar with the American Cancer Society (ACS) Christmas Fantasy House, you are missing out. Each year, local designers decorate a beautiful home and transform it into a "Christmas fantasy". The public is then able to tour it for a small fee, and the proceeds go to help fight childhood cancer. 

This all began in 1993 because of Loretta Thomson. She was a dedicated ACS volunteer who loved both Christmas and children. Loretta wanted to share her Christmas collection with others, but sadly died before she saw her wish come true. For the last 19 years however, her friends and family and the ACS have worked together to make her dream a beautiful tradition, raising over 1.5 million dollars so far.

Elm Grove is home to this year's Fantasy House. To get there however, you need to go to Bluemound Plaza at 15800 W. Bluemound Road in Brookfield. There you can park and take a shuttle bus to the home. The house is open for touring this weekend, Friday 11/11 from 11 am to 8 pm, and on Saturday and Sunday, 11/12 and 11/13, from 10 am to 6 pm.

You will not believe your eyes as you go from one incredible room to another. The designers really do go all out and transform the house to a true wonderland. Be sure to plan on spending some extra time at the end of the tour in the lower level also. There you will find a sweet shop with lots of treats for sale, a memory tree, and a raffle sale with two rooms full of incredible gift baskets, decorated wreaths and trees, all donated and available to win.

My friends and I so enjoy touring the house every year, that this year we decided to also volunteer. Yesterday we worked the 11-2 pm shift and it was very rewarding to see the amount of people coming through. Imagine my surprise when the co-chair of the event told me that it will take 900 volunteers to run the house this year. If you enjoy touring the house this year, you may want to consider volunteering next year!

You can find out more information on the website, along with a preview of the (undecorated) house: http://tinyurl.com/d3xcaqw. Hope you can make it through this weekend. You will not be disappointed! 

 ‚Äč

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 32

Contact Information

Photo of Beth Jaworski Real Estate
Beth Jaworski
Shorewest Realtors
11622 W. North Avenue
Wauwatosa WI 53226
Direct: 414.844.1118
Cell: 414.520.8555
Fax: 262.782.1551

I hope that this website was able to assist in your search for a Wauwatosa, Milwaukee County or Waukesha County home, or for information about buying or selling a home.  If you need any questions answered, please do not hesitate to contact Beth Jaworski of Shorewest Realtors at sold@bethjaworski.com or (414) 844-1118.  Have a great day!