Atlantic Eye Doctor

February 11th, 2014
Family Vision Center in Atlantic

Family Vision Center in Atlantic

Once again I was in search of a local professional to work with.  When you move to a new city it’s like starting all over again with the everyday things, like finding a new eye doctor.

Throughout my life I have always has 20/20 vision, but then I turned 40 and things started going downhill in that area.  I started out with cheaters, buying several inexpensive pairs of reading glasses to leave all over the house,my car and office.  But… it quickly became inconvenient to be showing houses, needing reading glasses to read the details of the house on an MLS sheet, then not needing them to walk around and look at the house.  Glasses on the top of my head became the norm and I didn’t like it.  I decided that would try bifocal contacts.  Now, this isn’t something that is easy to get used to.  At first I hated them, feeling like I was giving up some of my distant vision (which is still pretty good) for the ability to read up close.  My doctor at the time said to give it at least a month to allow my eyes to get used to them.  So I did.  And I have to say that after a year of wearing them, I would find it hard to not wear them now.  They allow me to read a menu or a text message without having to put on reading glasses and I can see far away as well.

I needed a check up recently to make sure my prescription was still what I needed and to order new contacts.  So I called Dr.Tom Thomsen, a licensed Optometrist, of Family Vision Center in Atlantic.  Tom was very professional and gave me a full eye exam and prescriptions for contacts and new glasses for when I was at home.  Then I had Jan Namanny help me find the perfect frames for my face and she got me set up with the right lenses.  All in all, it was a great experience with knowledgeable, friendly people helping me.  I would happily recommend them to anyone looking for a new eye doctor.

Family Vision Center is located at 4 West 5th Street, Atlantic IA  50022.  Their phone number is 712-243-1965.   Website is: http://visionsource-fvcatlantic.com/about-us/

Family Vision Store

Family Vision Store

Jan Namanny

Jan Namanny

 

 

A New Experience-Ice Fishing!

January 27th, 2014

Mark has been telling me how much fun ice fishing is for the past couple of years.  In the winter months he and his buddies get their fishing poles ready, bundle up in cold weather duds, grab the ice hut and beer and head to a local lake or farm pond on a pretty regular basis.   He always comes home in a good mood (maybe it’s partly the beer) bragging about how many fish he caught compared to the other guys.  They tell the story differently, of course.

It’s always sounded like fun and I wanted to try it sometime, but I truly don’t like be to cold and thought that sitting on a frozen lake getting wet fish off a hook would be miserable.  But this past Sunday I decided to give it a try.  The temperature was a balmy 46 degrees, which after the sub-zero temps we’ve had lately felt like a heatwave.  Yes, it was really windy, but the ice hut would block the wind.  So we went.  We went to a local farm pond, parked the truck and put our gear (fishing poles, bucket for the fish, auger, wax worm bait and beer) into the ice hut bottom and pulled it all out onto the ice.  Mark used the auger to drill three holes in the ice.  It was about 15 inches deep.  We set up the ice hut, climbed in, zipped it shut and got the poles out.  I got a lesson in ice fishing…letting out the line, watching for the bobber to pull, setting the hook and reeling one in.  I caught my first fish fairly quickly, within about 5 minutes of putting my first line in the hole.  Pretty exciting!  I caught my second fish shortly after that, then about 10 more within an hour or so.  Mark was catching them too and we had quite a haul when we left 2 hours later.  It was fun!   My feet were the only part of me that got a bit cold at the end of the outing, but otherwise I was comfortable and warm the entire time.  Who knew that I could actually enjoy ice fishing!?  We packed up and came home.

Mark set out to clean the fish and I offered to help.  So he filleted them and I ribbed them.  I think he was surprised that I would actually handle a fish.  Please…I was a girl scout!    We had about 25 fish total, mostly bluegill and a couple of crappie.  Last night we fried some up and had them for dinner.  Delicious!

Just another fun Iowa adventure!  Oh yeah…and I think I caught more than Mark.  🙂


Joining a Book Club

January 24th, 2014

I have always loved to read and when someone I recently met found out that I was a reader, she asked me to visit her book club.  So I went!

We read “The Shoemaker’s Wife” by Adriana Trigiani.  I tried to read the entire book in the two weeks prior to the first meeting, but didn’t quite finish it.  No matter, I went to the meeting anyway.  We had delicious appetizers, candies, and wine while we visited and discussed the book’s characters, plot and ending.  I loved it!  I enjoyed the connection of fellow book lovers, coupled with the lively conversation and diverse points of view.

I asked if I could become a full-time book club member, and after they sent me out of the room for a vote (not really), they all said I was in.   🙂  Our next book is “Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver.  I’ve read a few of her books in the past and have enjoyed them all so I’m looking forward to this one.

Are there any other readers out there?

 

New Updated Website and Blog

January 16th, 2014

I’m excited that my website has now been updated to showcase my new home town of Atlantic, Iowa and the community and surrounding areas.   I moved here last September and have made this area my home.  I’ve met so many incredible people and really like the friendly atmosphere here.  Please browse my site and let me know what you think!

If you’ve been following my blog at www.JulieDiscoversAtlantic.com.blogspot.com, I invite you to please add this new site to your favorites to stay up with my blogs.  Just look to the bottom left of this page, type in your email address and click ‘subscribe’.  You’ll get an email notification each time I post a new blog.   I will be posting here from now on.

I’m very excited about starting a real estate career here and have been enjoying developing new connections and friendships.  If you know of anyone who is considering a move, either buying or selling, I would be happy to help them.

Thanks for visiting my site!

Julie

What Do the Letters After Your Name Mean?

January 16th, 2014

Over the years you’ve probably received a few business cards from real estate agents, or have seen their ads in newspapers or online. Most agents who have been in the business for awhile have several letters or acronyms after their names. Have you ever wondered what they mean?

In addition to belonging to organizations such as the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and local organizations like the Iowa Associate of Realtors (IAR) and the West Central Iowa Board of Realtors (WCIBR), real estate agents in Iowa are required to take 36 hours of continuing education classes every 3 years. As part of this education, most agents will acquire certificates or designations relating to the industry.

Some of the most common designations include:

GRI- Graduate Realtor Institute — Developed for members of the National Association of REALTORS® and offered through State REALTOR® Associations, the GRI program includes 90 hours of coursework on topics from marketing and servicing listed properties to real estate law.

CRS- Certified Residential Specialist – Offered by the Council of Residential Specialists, this course requires 60-90 hours of classroom instruction in a variety of real estate topics as well as field experience working with Buyers and Sellers.

ABR- Accredited Buyer’s Representative – Developed by the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Countil (REBAC), this designation involves a 2 day intensive course, as well as one elective class and actual experience with Buyers in the field.

e-PRO- Developed ten years ago by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) the e-PRO® certification program teaches members how to effectively use real estate technology to grow their business and help their clients.

CSP- Certified New Home Sales Professional – Offered by the National Association of Home Builders, this course is designed for specialists in new home sales to increase their knowledge and marketability.

There are others, but this gives you a general idea of the education most experienced agents have. We don’t just get our license and do nothing! We stay educated within our industry with required continuing education classes and designations. We strive to learn more, be a better resource and keep you, our clients, informed.

Sincerely,
Julie May, ABR, GRI

Top-10 List of New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

January 4th, 2012

This is a great article about taking care of your home this year! Enjoy!
Julie

HouseLogic’s Top-10 List of New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

By: John Riha

Published: December 30, 2011

When the new year arrives, promises and resolutions abound. Here’s the top-10 list of what the resolute home owner should accomplish this year.

Ready for 2012? Here it comes:

1. Lose weight (cut energy use)
2. Quit smoking (purify indoor air)
3. Get out of debt (budget for improvements)
4. Learn something new (educate yourself on home finances)
5. Get organized (de-clutter)
6. Volunteer (support your community)
7. Drink less (curb home water use)
8. Spend more time with the family (share home improvement projects)
9. Get fit (exercise your DIY skills)
10. Be less stressed (use maintenance-free materials)

1. Lose weight (cut energy use)

Your house is a glutton, gobbling energy like a starved elephant. Gain control by trimming energy use.

A good place to start is your HVAC ductwork. Ducts are notorious energy-wasters, leaking your heating and cooling air through holes and loose connections.

Sealing and insulating your ductwork can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20%, saving you $200 per year or more, according to Energy Star. You’ll make your home more comfortable, and a more-efficient system helps extend the life of your furnace, air conditioner, or heat pump.

Because ducts are usually hidden inside walls, ceilings, attics, and crawl spaces, sealing and insulating them may be a difficult and time-consuming DIY job. If you can’t reach all your ducts, concentrate on those that are accessible.

Use duct sealant — called mastic — or metal-backed tape to seal the seams, holes, and connections. Don’t use the confusingly named “duct tape,” which won’t provide a permanent solution. Be sure to seal connections at vents and floor registers — these are likely places for leaks to occur.

After sealing your ducts, wrap them in fiberglass insulation. Most hardware stores and home improvement centers have insulation wrap products made for ducts.

A professional heating and cooling contractor will charge $1,000 to $4,000 for the work, including materials, depending on the size of your home and accessibility to your ducts.

Insulating your ductwork may qualify for a rebate from your state or local municipality. Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

2. Quit smoking (purify indoor air)

The EPA lists indoor air quality as one of the top environmental health hazards. That’s because indoor air is full of potential contaminants, such as dust, mold spores, pollen, and viruses. The problem is at its worst during winter, when windows and doors are shut tight.

You can help eliminate harmful lung irritants in your home with these maintenance and improvement tips:
Maintain your HVAC system and change furnace filters regularly. Use the highest-quality filters you can afford ($10-$20) and change every month during peak heating and cooling seasons.
Keep indoor air pristine by using low-VOC paints when you remodel your rooms.
Use localized ventilation in kitchens and bathrooms to remove cooking fumes, smoke, and excess humidity. Make sure ventilation systems exhaust air to the outside of your home, rather than your attic crawl space or between ceiling joists.
In fireplaces and wood stoves, burn real firewood rather than pressed wood products that may contain formaldehyde.
Use a portable air cleaner to help cleanse the air in single rooms. Portable air cleaner types include mechanical air filters, electrostatic precipitators, ion generators, and ultraviolet lamps.

Note that each type of air cleaner is designed to remove specific pollutants; no portable air cleaner removes all pollutants. Be wary of air cleaners that generate ozone — a known lung irritant.

3. Get out of debt (budget for improvements)

Creating a yearly budget for home improvement and maintenance helps prevent overspending, and encourages you to put aside money for major replacements — such as new roofing or a kitchen appliance — that come up every few years.

Protect your home finances by knowing how much you’ll probably spend each year. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau says that average annual maintenance and home improvement expenditures are about $3,300 per household. Leading lending institutions agree; HSH Associates and LendingTree.com place average costs of yearly maintenance and upkeep at 1% to 3% of your home’s initial price.

That means the owner of a $250,000 home should budget between $2,500 to $7,500 each year for upkeep and replacements. Have extra at the end of the year? Save it for more costly upkeep and replacement items down the road — you’ll probably need it then.

4. Learn something new (educate yourself on home finances)

Want a little education that goes a long way toward your financial health? Learning how to improve your insurance score can help you keep your home insurance premiums from getting out of hand. Here are a couple of easy lessons:
Letting credit card debt build up is a black mark on your credit history — and an indicator that you’re likely to file an insurance claim. The more claims, the higher risk you appear to be to insurance agencies, which lowers your insurance score. Low scores mean higher rates for home insurance.
Keep payments on loans up-to-date. Don’t miss payment deadlines; if you do, notify your lender that your payment is forthcoming. Delinquent payments signal insurers that you can’t manage your money — resulting in a lower insurance score.

Need some Home Owner 101? Any time is a good time to bone up on basic home maintenance skills.

5. Get organized (de-clutter)

No excuses — that clutter has got to go! Start by creating more storage space so you can stash stuff easily.

At wit’s end for new storage space? You’ve probably got storage solutions you didn’t know you had. Put up a high shelf between the walls of a narrow hallway, and tuck storage in out-of-the-way nooks, such as under-stairs spaces and between wall studs.

If your small home is pinched for space, don’t despair: There’s still room for storage. Shoe organizers ($20) do more than hold shoes — use them to store keys, notepads, and cell phones. At about $300 per drawer, have a cabinetmaker install drawers in the toe kicks of your kitchen cabinets for napkins, cookie sheets, and appliance manuals.

More: Resolution: Put Your House on a Diet

6. Volunteer (support your community)

In a world that often seems topsy-turvy, a little altruism helps restore balance. You can volunteer your time and energy to help others, and at the same time help promote safety and preserve the value of your neighborhood.
A neighborhood watch program fosters a sense of community and helps stop crime. Set up a meeting with neighbors to discuss concerns and priorities. Gather facts to present at the meeting: What kinds of crimes happen nearby? Are there patterns? Ask a local police representative to come to your first meeting to answer questions.
Start a community garden. Bring together neighbors for bonding, eating healthier, and saving on groceries. A 4-by-16-foot raised bed garden plot provides $200-$600 worth of food annually. As the organizer, you can expect to spend 20-30 per month for six months getting your community garden going.

7. Drink less (curb home water use)

Our houses are thirsty. The average household uses about 400 gallons of water each day, or almost $700 per year in water and sewer costs. Making a few simple changes, such as installing EPA-certified WaterSense products, could trim up to $200 from your annual water bill. Add to that energy savings from reduced costs to heat water, and your yearly savings could reach $300 or more per year.
Low-flow showerheads include technology that reduces the amount of flow yet keeps pressure up, resulting in shower streams that are powerful and satisfying. They cost from $10 to $150, and installation is an easy DIY job that takes only minutes.
Replacing your pre-1994, water-guzzling toilet with a low-flow toilet prevents $90 worth of water costs from being flushed away. HE (high-efficiency) toilets use compressed air and electric water pumps to flush with less than 1 gallon of water; older models required up to 8 gallons.

8. Spend more time with family (share home improvement projects)

Spending quality time with your family takes quality planning — but it’s worth the effort. Rally your family around these fun-to-do projects to make every minute count:
Plant a tree. Pile the clan into the family wagon and shop for a tree that’ll become a new member of your family. Have your kids name it and help care for it. You might have to dig the hole, but everyone can take turns adding mulch and watering it. A bonus: planted where its shade will protect your house from summer sun, a $50-$100 tree cuts your yearly energy bill by $100 to $250.
Make a home emergency preparedness kit. Make a scavenger hunt of gathering up all the necessary supplies, such as flashlights, toilet paper, and duct tape, and assemble your kit during an evening together. It’s a good, non-scary way to teach small children about what to do if there’s an emergency.

9. Get fit (exercise your DIY skills)

Looking to trim a little of the old spare tire? Routine home maintenance and repair is a double win — you’ll burn calories while keeping your house in tip-top shape. Try these essential fix-ups and improvements from CalorieLab:
Building a fence: 340 calories per hour
Caulking windows and doors: 280 calories per hour
Cleaning rain gutters: 272 calories per hour
Installing ceramic tile: 238 calories per hour
Interior painting: 136 calories per hour
Chopping firewood: 340 calories per hour
Mowing the lawn: 306 calories per hour
Planting shrubs: 238 calories per hour
General gardening: 204 calories per hour

10. Be less stressed (use maintenance-free materials)

If you want less to worry about, install low-maintenance materials and products designed for durability and long, trouble-free service.
Fiber-cement siding lasts for 50 years or more. It’s weather-proof, and resists dents, fire, insects, and rot. It’s exceptionally stable, even with changes in humidity, so that paint jobs last longer than on wood and wood-fiber siding products.
LED bulbs last a phenomenal 20,000 to 50,000 hours between changes, or about 18 to 46 years when used for 3 hours each day. Although the initial cost is high (about $40 per bulb), LED bulbs pay for themselves in energy savings in about 10 years.
Classic ceramic tile comes in many colors and textures, but at its heart it’s incredibly tough, stain-resistant, and impervious to moisture. You can count on ceramic tile’s good looks to last for decades on floors and walls without needing repair or replacement.

$5000 Grants for Military First-Time Buyers

September 7th, 2011

Did you know that now Military first time buyers can apply for a $5000 grant toward a down payment and closing costs? The national nonprofit Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation is offering the assistance through it’s Dream Makers program, but you are able to apply the grant to a mortgage from ANY financial institution. There are some restrictions….this is for active duty personnel, veterans, retired members of the military or employees of the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security. You must be a first time homebuyer, or have not owned a home in the past three years, and there are income restrictions. Please read about this program further at www.PentagonFoundation.org. Click on the ‘Dream Makers’ link.

Definitely worth checking into for all of my military clients!

What to Do With a Low-Ball Offer

August 1st, 2011

You’ve cleaned, un-cluttered and staged your home precisely and yet you get a low-ball offer on your home. Ouch! How could they insult you that way?

I know it’s hard, but try not to take it personally. Most Buyers out there have seen the newspaper articles or heard the national TV reports about how horrible the housing market is right now. According to the news there are deals to be had everywhere and Buyers want one! The truth is the market in the Omaha Metro area isn’t awful, but Buyer’s are hoping to find that seller who is ‘desperate’ and therefore may sell their home at a very low price. Maybe they don’t understand the value of homes in your neighborhood, or they are just throwing a dollar amount out there to see if it sticks.

First…take a step back and try to see this from a Buyer’s perspective, without emotions getting in the way. Communicate. “Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Buyer for making an offer on my home.” Then take one of three approaches:

1. Accept it.
2. Reject it.
3. Counter it
.

Accept it. If you’ve truly got a low-ball offer, this probably isn’t your first choice. However if you’re on the verge of a short-sale, or foreclosure and you haven’t had any offers to date this may be a good final option.

Reject it. You don’t like this offer and are not willing to accept any of the terms. This response tells the Buyer in no-nonsense terms that there is not a snowball’s chance that you will come together on this deal. If the Buyer has just thrown out a low dollar amount to see if they can ‘steal’ your home, they will quickly learn that your home is not a contender. If they have offered low because they can’t afford to go higher, then they will know that they need to move on to a lower-priced property. If they DO qualify for the list price, but don’t want to pay it, then they will learn that you are too far apart to make a deal come together. But sometimes if a Buyer truly wants the property, they will come back with another higher offer once this line has been drawn.

Counter it. You don’t like the offer, but you are willing to come down in price some and the Buyer will come up in price some and hopefully you can meet in the middle. I will always encourage you to counter a low-ball offer. You’ve had several showings with no offers and this Buyer actually liked the house enough to write an offer on it. Let’s not let this ‘live’, interested Buyer get away without at least trying to negotiate an agreement. After all, if you don’t reach a mutually acceptable price and terms you are no worse off than before.

Now bring on ANY and ALL offers!

5 Things that Turn Home Buyers Off…and What a Seller Can Do to Prevent It!

April 27th, 2011


I’ve been showing a lot of homes recently, and it never ceases to amaze me at how some homes ‘show’ to a potential buyer. Sellers need to understand that they are competing in the marketplace with other properties and their home needs to stand out in order to get an offer. Here are 5 big turn-offs that make a potential homebuyer cringe at the thought of your home, and steps you can take to correct it!

1. Dirty, crowded and smelly houses. Ok so this is a no-brainer, but yet I consistently walk into homes that look like they just had a big party with children and pets and didn’t have time to clean up afterward.

What a seller should do: Only show your house in tip-top shape. Think back on when you looked at homes and how one home stood out above the others. Dishes need to be done and the kitchen counter should be free of clutter. Put the coffee maker, mixer or canister set away for now…even store it in the dishwasher during the day if you have to! Dirty laundry should be off the floor. Rooms need to feel open…take out a piece of furniture from a room and store it if it looks too busy. Remove the figurines and knick-knacks from the desk tops. And above all else, control pet odors. I have had buyers step into a house only to turn around and walk out without even looking at the property because of pet smells. We love our pets, but this is a time that you have to be super-diligent. If you can let someone else watch them while you have your house on the market, great! If not, vacuum often. Clean the backyard and litter box every day. Use Febreeze!

2. Seller in the home. I know you personally want to show the buyer how you just painted your bathroom lime green and talk about how great the neighbors are, but buyers want time alone to talk between themselves or their agent. And what you find lovely about your home may be a negative to them.

What a seller should do: Leave the home for showings. Or step onto the back porch or take a walk around the block (take your pet with you) while a potential homebuyer is looking. If they have questions, they will ask their agent and you will be notified through your agent.

3. Irrational pricing. Yes, you want to make money on your home. And yes, you spent a lot for the new landscaping, you want a trip to Europe and you want to get a certain amount of money from the sale of the house to pay for your new dream home. The next buyer doesn’t care. What they see is an overpriced property in a market where the buyer has their pick of homes. They will just move on to the house down the street that IS priced well.

What a seller should do: Do your research. Get real. Get a few opinions from multiple agents. Hire an agent who knows the neighborhood and the market, and don’t take it personally when they suggest a list price that is lower than you expect. If you owe more than your home will most likely sell for, consider working with your bank on a short sale. If your home needs paint or a new roof, don’t price it the same as the one down the street that doesn’t need those things and still expect it to sell. Go look at homes in your neighborhood and see for yourself what other comparable homes are selling for. Does yours compete? Don’t be tempted to price it higher for awhile thinking that a buyer will lowball you anyway. Buyers are smart and will just wait until the price drops and you become ‘desperate’ for any offer. Price it competitively from the beginning.

4. Photographs of your home. Keep them real. Make them relevant. Buyers want to see the home online before they go see it in person and it should look similar when they do!

What a seller should do: Take a lot of pictures of your home, or have your agent or a professional photographer do it. Post them online. Photos should be clear, in focus, and should show a particular feature of the home. Please don’t show the corner of each bedroom so that the buyer can say, “Yep, that’s a corner!” And don’t take a picture of the laundry room with dirty clothes on the floor, or of the kitchen with food or dishes out. I recently saw a picture in the MLS with eggs in a frying pan on the stove. Obviously breakfast was a priority…not selling their home. Make sure there are plenty of pictures of the outside of the house, the kitchen and the living areas. If you live on a lake or walking path, make sure you have pictures of the views from your yard.

5. Ugly home improvements. Not everyone has the same taste in decorating. I’ve had buyers walk into a property expecting to see these great home improvements that were bragged about in the MLS listing only to have their heart sink when they find that the marble flooring in the bathroom is bright pink, or the new carpet in the living room is a lovely shade of kelly green (and the buyer hates golf). I understand that a seller wants to make these improvements with frugality in mind and maybe the carpet was on sale, but there is a point that you are hindering, not helping the selling process.

What a seller should do: If you’re getting the house ready for sale, check with a professional before making any home improvements. Realtors and Stagers have a good feel for what buyers in the current market are wanting when it comes to colors and materials. They may suggest a few minor improvements that will make a big impact over a major remodel. And remember that neutral finishes will appeal to the largest possible range of buyer tastes.

Now I hope I don’t see these mistakes this weekend when I’m out with buyers! Let’s get them sold!

NP Dodge knows how to have fun!

February 13th, 2011

It took some planning and coordination, but look at the result! I am so proud to be a part of this energetic, forward-thinking and fun company!

Check out this video featuring all of the NP Dodge Real estate offices!