As the days grow shorter and we creep toward autumn, parents eagerly look forward to the time-honored tradition of sending their kids back to school. With kids finally out of the house and accounted for, maybe there’s even a little bit more time to linger over that last cup of coffee in the morning. Unless you’re in the midst of a global pandemic. In which case the longest commute your child will most likely have this fall is downstairs to the breakfast table. Yes, parents, students, and educators find themselves in the midst of remote learning once again. It’s Zoom calls galore, at-home work sheets, projects and three-square meals a day all in the confines of your home. So, in an effort to mitigate some of the stress this scenario will undoubtedly bring, we’ve put together a list of things to make your house more conducive to at-home learning.
Before even determining the space you or your kids will use, make sure everyone has a clear idea of their daily schedules and routines. Everyone should get up and get ready as if they were leaving the house and know what each hour will bring. Something as inexpensive as a dry erase wall calendar from Target can do the trick. Additionally, desk organizers or files can go a long way in keeping students motivated and on task.
Create Usable Space
Your pre-pandemic home improvement punch list probably looked a bit different than it does today. Perhaps you dreamt of a bathroom rehab or kitchen facelift. But with everyone tripping over each other, functional space is at a premium. Fixing up lower levels, spare bedrooms and sunrooms has become essential. And while rehabbing an unfinished attic or basement might be a little more costly and time consuming, it can ultimately provide more sharable space while adding long-term resale value to your home. If you’re not up for a major overhaul, small enhancements can do the trick. Bookshelves can offer more space for storage while also dividing up a room. Wayfair offers several affordable options.
Let There Be Light!
Are you adequately using the natural light in your home for yourself and your newly minted e-scholars? Are bedroom desks placed near windows? Are shades lifted during daylight hours? Maybe you have some heavy drapes that are blocking natural rays and confining space. Smith and Noble can offer a quick fix for custom window treatments, allowing you to spruce up your space while getting a little more vitamin D as the days grow shorter and kids are outside less.
Call The Help Desk
The one thing you’ll be most dependent on in your new role as proctor is, without a doubt, technology. Make sure your router is up to date and you’re getting the best service and deal from your internet provider. There are a bevy of plans and packages, so do your research. If you have internet dead spots in your home, look into internet boosters that plug in to electrical outlets and improve signal strength. Also consider noise cancelling headphones for Zoom calls or to block out ambient noise (Might we suggest getting yourself a pair as well?).
This may seem basic, but you’ll probably find the need to stock your fridge and pantry a little more generously than you would during a ‘normal’ school year. Keep healthy snacks that are easy to reach at eye level – string cheese, yogurt, individually packaged Goldfish. A lovely bowl of fresh fruit is a welcome addition to any kitchen countertop and allows kids to easily choose a healthy pick-me-up.
Although the 2020-2021 school year is shaping up to be rather unconventional, the kids are alright. Patience and humor can go a long way to maintaining your sanity. And once those classroom doors do open back up and your schoolhouse is vacated, pour that extra cup of coffee, put on the noise cancelling headphones, close those window treatments and dance like no one is watching. Because finally, they won’t be.
With several weeks of social distancing under our belts, many of us have already tackled boredom-curing activities like spring cleaning, exercising, baking, and doing puzzles. We’ve previously shared ways to keep the kids amused, but we couldn’t forget about the adults! From organizing a virtual murder mystery party to learning how to bartend, here are nine activities you can enjoy now.
Host a Game Night
Organize a virtual Jeopardy! night with friends using an online template. You can build your very own game with custom questions or use templates created by other people. All you have to do is share your screen with players on Zoom and keep track of their scores. Rotate who hosts each week, and you’ve got yourself a standing game night.
Attend a Virtual Event
Join a virtual festival, watch a live comedy show, or learn about wine from the comfort of your couch. Businesses and leaders throughout Chicago are hosting an array of virtual events that give you the opportunity to meet new people, learn something new, or just be entertained. Checkout Choose Chicago’s roundup of upcoming events here.
Grab your sleeping bag and tent and head to the backyard for an evening under the stars. If you do not have outdoor space, convert your living room into a campsite. Set the ambiance by streaming a campfire on your TV or phone, and don’t forget about the s’mores, which you can easily make in the oven.
Become a Better Bartender
Miss your favorite bartender’s perfectly crafted cocktails? Bartenders across the country are helping you up your at-home bar game by teaching you all the tips, tricks, and recipes you need to elevate Happy Hour. When all else fails, you can always order a cocktail kit from a local restaurant or bar.
Take a Tour
Your travel plans may be on hold for now, but Google Earth still has your back. Tour dozens of national parks and see some of the country’s best views and natural landscapes without leaving the house. Take note of your favorite spots and start planning a future in-person trip.
Learn Something New
There is no time like the present to learn a new skill or subject. Whether you want to take on a new language, master the art of stand-up, or become a poet, there are plenty of online resources to help you take advantage of your free time. Learn from the best of the best in acting, writing, photography, leadership, entrepreneurship, and more from classes taught by the likes of Robin Roberts, Serena Williams, Annie Leibovitz, and Sara Blakely on MasterClass.
Catch a Live Show
Although our favorite music festivals have been cancelled or postponed this summer, you can still take in some live music courtesy of Lollapalooza’s Lolla From the Vault. Streamed on YouTube, Lolla From the Vault brings a different iconic performance from past years’ festivals every Thursday at 7:00 pm CT. You can also check out live performances from the Millennium Park Summer Music Series and Ravinia Festival.
Organize a Murder Mystery Party
You can’t invite your friends over for a murder mystery party right now, but you can use Zoom to experience a thrilling evening of mystery and crime with the help of Red Herring Games. Pick from Red Herring’s many, and often hilarious, storylines such as “The Great British Bump Off” and “Death Actually,” and choose the virtual option when you download the game. From there, assign characters to your participants, and you are ready to go.
Netflix and Enjoy Together
Take movie night to a new level by downloading Netflix Party, which synchronizes everyone’s videos so you and your friends can watch your favorite films or shows at the same time. Netflix Party even adds a group chat feature so you can easily express your “oohs,” “ahs,” and “no ways!” throughout your viewing.
Home has taken on a whole new meaning as of late. It has transformed into a haven, a classroom, a workout studio, an office, and everything in between. As we spend more time at home than ever, we’ve learned a thing or two about the four walls around us.
For some of us, the pandemic has reminded us of all the reasons we fell in love with our homes. And for others, it has revealed all the reasons why it may be time to move on. Here’s how COVID-19 has impacted what we want from our homes.
Home Offices Have Become a Necessity
As telecommuting becomes more commonplace, so is the need for quiet, distraction-free spaces. These rooms or areas have become essential during the pandemic, helping with productivity and providing a more distinct separation between work and home life. So, for those lacking a designated work space, home offices have shot their way to the top of the checklist.
Outdoor Space Is a Plus
Social distancing has made it more difficult to experience the outdoors like we normally would, which is why the desire for private outdoor space has become so prevalent. Whether it comes in the form of a yard, balcony, or terrace, outdoor space is a major draw for homebuyers. And for those with a little more space, front porches have the added benefit of increasing social interactions between neighbors during warmer months.
Healthy Materials Are Desirable
While there was demand for new construction before the pandemic, more homebuyers may start looking to new construction – as well as renovation projects – for features that promote healthy and sustainable living. These include high quality filtration systems for air and water; indoor air quality monitoring; germ-resistant, anti-microbial countertops and flooring; smart toilets; self-sanitizing door handles; and health monitoring systems for homeowners.
Flex Space Sounds Nice
With fitness routines impacted by gym closures and class cancellations, people have switched to at-home workout regimens. As buyers embark on their search, they’re most likely going to look for homes that will help them maintain their current lifestyle. For some, that means space for a home gym that can also be converted for other uses is an extremely attractive feature.
If you’re ready to take the next step on your home buying journey, contact Maureen who can help you check off all your boxes.
Coronavirus has undoubtedly had a significant impact on our day-to-day lives. It has affected everything from how kids are learning to how we do our jobs and complete once-basic tasks like grocery shopping. We’ve put a lot on hold, but there are some things that absolutely cannot wait. So, what do you do if you have to move during the pandemic?
We’ve outlined all of the steps you need to take to make your move as safe as possible.
Purchase New Packing Supplies
According to USA Today, coronavirus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard, so play it safe by ordering new boxes and supplies from Home Depot or U-Haul. UBoxes.com even helps you build your own moving kit, which comes with various box sizes, heavy duty tape, bubble wrap, and textile blankets, among other necessary supplies. You can also rely on suitcases, laundry baskets, and reusable grocery bags to transport your belongings.
When it came to moving before the pandemic, you could easily tempt friends to help you pack and schlep boxes with the promise of pizza and drinks. Nowadays, it’s important that you tackle your move with as few people possible to avoid unnecessary contact with each other and your belongings. Try to pack and move as much of your stuff on your own, saving the largest and heaviest items for movers. And if you are moving to or from a multi-unit residential building, ask building management about their policy on reserving elevators so that you can limit contact with neighbors.
Check In With Movers
Movers are considered essential, so should you need them, check on your chosen business’ current operating procedures. Ask them if they are sanitizing their truck(s) before and after moves and inquire about any additional safety precautions employees are taking, such as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to slow the spread of the virus.
If you have to be physically present for the move and are not able to supervise via video chat, make sure you maintain six feet between each other. You can also minimize contact by turning on lights and opening all doors, cabinets, and gates ahead of time.
Put Boxes and Packed Belongings In One Area
Limit the contact movers have with your home by placing all of your packed items and smaller furniture in a low traffic room or garage. This will keep any potential germs confined to one area of the home, making it safer and easier to clean and disinfect. If your movers must go into other rooms to pick up larger objects, be sure to clean those areas before and after they enter.
Get Your Sanitizing Materials Ready
When move-in day has arrived, you should be armed with sanitizing materials and enough personal protective equipment for everyone involved. Have hand soap stocked at both locations and hand sanitizer for any contact that’s made along the way. Disinfectant should be used to lightly spray boxes before and after the move as well as any objects (car doors, doorknobs, elevator buttons, and light switches) or surfaces (counter tops, toilets, faucets, and sinks) that are touched.
Deep Clean Your New Digs
Before you move your belongings into your new home, be sure to deep clean every room. The CDC recommends wearing disposable gloves while you clean, throwing them out after each use and washing your hands immediately after the gloves are removed. If you are not able to find or purchase household disinfecting sprays and wipes at the store, you can make your own using bleach and water.
Wait To Unpack
Just as you put your items in one low traffic area when you moved out, you’ll want your movers to take a similar approach when you move in. Confine items to the garage or one room of your home and then be sure to disinfect and wipe everything down. You are advised to wait at least 24 hours to open the boxes, so pack an overnight bag with your essentials separately!
It goes without saying but is definitely worth repeating: We are so grateful for all the healthcare workers who are saving lives and fighting this pandemic around the clock to keep us safe.
While you are hunkered down at home, there are still ways you can help those supporting patient care on every level, from doctors and nurses to technicians and pharmacists to EMTs and transporters.
Aside from social distancing, here’s what you can do:
With blood drives cancelled, the need for a stable supply of blood, platelets, and AB Elite plasma is still a reality for hospitals and blood banks around the country. Volunteer donors are the only source for those in need.
Healthy individuals can donate in areas that have issued Shelter in Place declarations by scheduling appointments with The Red Cross, which is following strict protocol for safety and infection control. Schedule an appointment with your local donation center here.
Help with Childcare
Many health workers are struggling to find care for their young children as schools and childcare programs remain closed. If you know someone in this situation, offer to watch their child while they are at work. You can also volunteer as a sitter with Sittercity, which is connecting first responders with free sitters in partnership with the city of Chicago.
Order Takeout or Delivery
If you know someone working on the frontlines, consider buying them delivery or takeout from a local restaurant that could also use your support. If you don’t know anyone but would still like to help, several restaurants in Chicago will send meals directly to healthcare workers. Happy Camper and Homeslice have an $11 “Buy a Meal for a Healthcare Worker/Volunteer” option on their menu, and sister restaurants Mott St. and Mini Mott are offering to deliver meals to medical professionals for $15 with a note of appreciation.
Shop for Their Groceries
Healthcare workers who are pulling extra hours may need help running essential errands. Offer to head to the store and check items off their list. Drop off groceries, essentials, and supplies at their home, and be sure to practice safe social distancing guidelines.
Healthcare workers across Chicagoland are in need of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and gowns.
The following area hospitals are taking donations:
- Advocate Health Care is accepting a variety of PPE donations. Email email@example.com to see if your supply qualifies.
- Edward-Elmhurst Heath is in need of N95 masks, surgical masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, nitrile gloves, isolation gowns, goggles, and thermometers. Donations can be made at the loading docks of Edward Hospital and Elmhurst Hospital.
- Northwestern Memorial Hospital is calling for factory-made, hospital-quality supplies such as N95 masks, face shields, gloves, gowns, and hand sanitizer. You must fill out this form first in order to donate.
- Rush University Medical Center is accepting various PPE contributions. Email their Associate Vice President for Supply Chain Operations, Quincy Stanley, for more information on how to coordinate your donation.
- University of Chicago Medical Center is looking for disinfectant wipes, surgical masks, N95 masks, and sterile cotton-tipped swabs. Please submit an intake form prior to donation.
The state of Illinois also needs N95, earloop and surgical masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, goggles, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes in original, unopened packaging. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are able to donate any of these items, and they will determine the best drop-off spot based on your address.
Tap into your creative side and help out the medical community by sewing masks. Although not all hospitals can accept fabric masks, several home care and retirement communities can use your help. Initiated by the Sewing & Craft Alliance, WeNeedMasks.org offers simple instructions on how to properly sew both surgical-style and Olson masks, and provides a list of facilities that are in need by state.
Messages of support or appreciation can make the most trying days a little bit better, and can come in the form of a social media shoutout, text, or handwritten note. If you have children, recruit their help creating hand-drawn cards and expressing their own words of gratitude for those serving our most vulnerable. Many facilities cannot accept mail because of immunocompromised patients, so be sure to call ahead before you send anything. You can also take a picture of your card or note and send via email for the facility to print.
Thank you again to all of those who are fighting the spread of COVID-19.
Written by @properties
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve, volatility and uncertainty have swept through the financial markets.
Borrowers saw wild swings in interest rates over the last few weeks and were left to wonder whether they could still qualify for specific loan amounts and close on pending transactions.
Amidst the chaos, Guaranteed Rate has been a steady ship in rough waters. We asked them to answer a few questions pertaining to the impacts market volatility has had on the mortgage industry, and they responded with some helpful guidance. Read, share, enjoy and contact your trusted Guaranteed Rate loan officer with any questions.
@home: First of all, what happened with interest rates last month?
GR: Rates came down at the end of February creating a big refinance boom. Combine this with Spring homebuying activity that was already well ahead of last year’s pace and lenders nationally were dealing with huge pipelines of business. Enter COVID-19.
Increasing unease over the economic effects from the novel coronavirus spread forced The Federal Reserve to make significant moves in March. All these factors have led to extreme volatility in the secondary mortgage market. The lasting impact of COVID-19 and its impact on the economy forced the Fed to slash Fed Funds rates to zero. The expectation was mortgage rates would fall in response to the Fed’s activities, but they initially did the opposite. Whether this was due to concern the impact of the COVID-19 was more significant than originally feared, because financial insiders saw the Federal Reserve measure was a short-term fix, or other factors is uncertain. As a result, rates shot up amid a bond sell-off, and we saw national 30-year fixed rates jump from the low 3% range to the mid 4%’s range.
More recently on March 23rd the Fed announced their most aggressive market intervention to date. The new move represented an open-ended commitment to the Quantitative Easing program. This longer-term commitment allowed for rates to move closer to anticipated lower levels in the mid-3% range.
Without question, health and economic concerns have led to extreme market fluctuations. As this continues, the markets will continue to rise and fall due to a vast range of factors. What’s important is rates are historically low based on almost all standards, making it a great time to refinance, or purchase a home.
To learn more, our blog post provides a deeper explanation.
@home: So, can homebuyers get a mortgage now?
GR: The answer is yes. While our employees may be working remotely (to ensure social distancing), we are absolutely open for business. Through our proprietary technology, originally developed in 2015, we’re equipped to operate home loans end-to-end with almost no physical human contact. From digital mortgage applications to loan approvals to “No-Contact Appraisals℠”, and even hybrid or e-closings via our FlashCloseSM* platform whenever possible – we’re getting it done.
There is a functioning mortgage market that allows for homebuyers to get financing for their new home, and our loan officers are here to help them. To watch how we’re ensuring social distancing through digital mortgage tools, click here.
@home: How has this crisis changed the process of obtaining a mortgage?
GR: The mortgage industry has traditionally been recognized as “behind the times”, technologically speaking. However, Guaranteed Rate has been at the forefront of fintech evolution for years now – launching the first digital mortgage in 2015. Our key focus remains implementing tools that ensure the best possible experience for our customers, whether we are in crisis mode or not.
So, from a process standpoint, there really hasn’t been a major change for how we do business, aside from not being able to meet in person. Applications, approvals, underwriting, appraisals and closing – it’s all handled electronically whenever possible. As a local firm, we love to meet our clients face-to-face, but it’s not a necessary step in getting a loan – plus, there’s always FaceTime! We’re as prepared to handle this situation as any industry. We feel fortunate to be able to keep mortgage approvals and fundings moving.
@home: Back to rates. What advice would you give borrowers about when to lock in an interest rate?
GR: This is important. Based on recent market volatility, borrowers can expect rates to fluctuate from the time they get pre-approved, to the time they’re under contract, to the time they lock. We’ve seen that there are any number of factors that can drive rates up or down, and they don’t always behave predictably, especially in times like these. So, the advice we would give borrowers any time but especially now is don’t try to time the market. If you like your rate – and there’s a lot to like about rates right now – lock it in.
@home: Do buyers need a pre-approval?
GR: A pre-approval is absolutely essential. First of all, any seller in today’s market is going to insist that a buyer walking into their home at least has the wherewithal to make the purchase. Second, because of rate volatility, buyers should be approved for a loan amount within a range of interest rates. A preapproval shows the seller that you are a very serious buyer and assures them that no matter what the market conditions the borrower can still qualify and close.
And all of this brings us to another point, which is that it has never been more important to work with a mortgage lender who is in constant communication with the borrower and their real estate agent, and who can actually deliver what and when they say they’re going to deliver. It’s not just about interest rates. It’s about meeting deadlines, being able to deal with any issues that come up and ultimately making sure the homeowner closes on their home. On top of all this, we want to ensure all parties experience a successful transaction in a safe and healthy environment.
Have more questions? To speak with a trusted Guaranteed Rate loan officer near you, click here.
Guaranteed Rate Disclaimers:
- *FlashClose eClose is not eligible in all states and is not eligible for all loan types or investors. Conventional loans only. Eligible for primary, 2nd home and investment properties. Title company restrictions may apply.
- Residential mortgages are packaged together and sold to investors as mortgage backed securities. This is known as the secondary mortgage market.
- Applicant subject to credit and underwriting approval. Not all applicants will be approved for financing. Receipt of application does not represent an approval for financing or interest rate guarantee. Restrictions may apply, contact Guaranteed Rate for current rates and for more information.
- All information provided in this publication is for informational and educational purposes only, and in no way is any of the content contained herein to be construed as financial, investment, or legal advice or instruction. Guaranteed Rate, Inc. does not guarantee the quality, accuracy, completeness or timelines of the information in this publication. While efforts are made to verify the information provided, the information should not be assumed to be error free. Some information in the publication may have been provided by third parties and has not necessarily been verified by Guaranteed Rate, Inc. Guaranteed Rate, Inc. its affiliates and subsidiaries do not assume any liability for the information contained herein, be it direct, indirect, consequential, special, or exemplary, or other damages whatsoever and howsoever caused, arising out of or in connection with the use of this publication or in reliance on the information, including any personal or pecuniary loss, whether the action is in contract, tort (including negligence) or other tortious action.
What happens when the lines between work life and home life become blurred? It’s a question many of us are facing as we practice social distancing and the art of working from home.
Maybe you’re someone who runs into distraction after distraction – the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, the laundry needs to be folded, the dog needs to be walked. Or perhaps you’re the type of person who ends up answering emails way beyond normal office hours and working into the wee hours of the morning. Wherever you are on the spectrum, it’s important to find a healthy balance. Here are our tips:
1. Set Your Normal Alarm
Since you aren’t doing your morning commute, you have more time to exercise, tackle household chores, or make breakfast. However you choose to use that extra time in the morning, be sure to wake up when you normally would. It’ll be easier to follow your regular routine than it would be to, let’s say, roll out of bed five minutes before the work day begins. Plus, you can always sleep in on the weekends!
2. Ditch the PJs
While the occasional pajama day may be acceptable, you should stick to your routine of getting dressed for work every morning. No, you don’t need to put on your business best, but you should wear something that’s acceptable for your boss, clients, or colleagues should you need to do a video conference.
3. Have a Dedicated Work Space
Avoid having your work life (physically) spill into your personal life by designating an area of your home for work. Rather than conducting business from the couch, try to find a quiet, low-traffic place where you can set up and recreate elements of your actual work station. If you have a home office, be sure to set boundaries with other members of the household and remind them that this is a work-only zone.
4. Minimize Distractions
Now, more than ever, we feel the pressure to be constantly connected, whether it be to our family, friends, or the news. Set aside specific times to address social media notifications and communication with loved ones, and take some time away from the endless news cycle. Close out of unnecessary tabs on your browser and really focus on your work. Before you know it, it will be time to take a break or shut down for the night.
5. Take Breaks
Just like you normally would, give yourself a midday break to decompress from the morning’s happenings. Eat lunch, check in on a loved one, read a few chapters of a book, or take the dog out for a walk. At the end of the day, allow yourself to fully recharge by signing off and keeping notifications to a minimum.
6. Complete Personal Tasks Outside of Work Hours
Tackle the tasks around the home when you normally would: before or after work. Addressing them while you’re in the middle of an assignment will make it difficult to give your all to either effort. If you’re at a loss for things to do, check out our post on eight ways to make the most of social distancing.
And above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Communication is key during a time like this, so keep the dialogue open with your colleagues on how you are feeling and any challenges you are facing.
Please remember to stay safe and look out for those around you.