What to do with an unfinished basement [5 Quick Ideas]

Although currently dimly lit and a little rough on the eyes, your unfinished basement still has a lot of potentials. With just a little love and the help of the following ideas, you can spice it up in no time and get some great use out of the space.

  1. Add a pop of color. Give your basement a whole different look without a big renovation by adding some color to space. Consider painting and sealing the floors, opening up the room by painting the rafters white or a light color, or creating a bold accent wall. 
  2. Divide the space. Want to make your basement a multi-use room? Partition out the area by installing an inexpensive curtain system. This can be done either with a curtain track or a simple wire, some hooks, and curtains will suffice. 
  3. Add foam mats. Whether you’d like to use the basement as a home gym to get a quick workout in or a place for the kids to play and rough house, adding some foam mats into the mix is a great and easy solution. They come in various colors and can quickly be picked up and tucked away if need be. 
  4. Use a large rug. As an alternative to adding mats, find a large, eye-catching rug to be used as a focal point, and furnish the area around it.
  5. Add lighting. Basements often offer very little built-in lighting and few outlets around the room. Consider stringing café lighting across space from the rafters to give a nice ambiance and glow without any difficult electrical work.

/ Content provided by Breakthrough Broker /

Spring Weather Forecast [Southeast U.S.]

Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted six more weeks of Winter earlier this week, but before we run out to stock up on supplies, let’s take a look at a more scientific prediction.

While Winter may linger in other parts of the country, AccuWeather predicts that some areas of the south will miss out on most of the precipitation, with the potential for short-term drought concerns. Their 2022 US Spring Forecast stated, “We believe the drought will linger, more focused on southeast North Carolina, eastern South Carolina to northern Florida.” However, that prediction could be affected by the possibility of an early tropical system. The Atlantic hurricane season does not officially start until June 1, but lately, there have been named storms as early as April and May. 

“The regions where tropical development is most likely are anywhere from the northeast Gulf, northern Florida Coast to Carolina Coast in May or early June”

-AccuWeather, 2/2/22

The Farmer’s Almanac predicts average temperatures of 60° (5° above average) and precipitation of 4.5” (average) in March for North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. For Florida, the Almanac forecasts average temperatures of 71° (4° above average) and precipitation of 1” (2” below average) for March.

How do you think the weather will be this Spring… and are you ready for Winter to be over? Leave a reply and let me know.

/ Top photo credit: Aniket Bhattacharya on Unsplash /

Getting Ready for Retirement [Checklist]


For most people, retirement feels like a long way off. But, if you don’t start preparing as early as possible, you may find yourself in a place of financial insecurity when the time does come. To avoid this, consider implementing the following tips. 

  1. Calculate your target savings. In general, it’s recommended that you save between 10 to 15 percent of your income for retirement. However, you can always use an online savings calculator to determine the amount you need to save for your specific needs and goals.
  2. Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan. Does your job offer a 401(k), traditional IRA, or Roth IRA? Sign up and start saving as soon as they allow you to. It’s recommended to set up automatic paycheck deductions and, once the money is in your retirement fund, don’t touch it. 
  3. Take advantage of employee benefits. Many employers offer matching which generally requires you contribute a certain percentage of each paycheck and your company will then contribute a matching amount with funds of their own. They might also offer health savings or flexible savings account. By contributing to these accounts, you reduce your amount of taxable income, allowing you to save more money.
  4. Pay off your debts. Start by paying off any high-interest credit card debt first. Then look at other debts, such as student loans and car payments, and make a plan for paying those off incrementally.
  5. Reduce daily spending. Although this feels like a no-brainer, spending your money thoughtfully now can make a big impact later. Seek out areas of your life where you can

/ Content provided by Breakthrough Broker /

Richmond, VA City Guide [Real Estate]

Richmond is one of the oldest major cities in the United States and the capital of Virginia. With a 2020 city population of 226,610, it is the fifth-largest city in the state behind Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Arlington, and Norfolk according to Virginia-demographics.com. Livability ranked Richmond 27th on their Top 100 Best Places to Live in America list in 2021, just behind Tampa, FL and Durham, NC. Among the details Livability noted, Richmond is home to more than 900 restaurants and a widely recognized foodie scene, tons of amazing amenities, and a relatively low cost of living.

According to North American Moving Services Relocation Guides:

  • Although the median age of its residents is 33.4 years old, Richmond has an energetic vibe. This is especially so from September to May, when the city is filled with college students. 
  • Richmond provides the ideal environment for healthy living, with many advanced medical facilities, specialist hospitals, clinics, and assisted living communities to meet the health care needs of people of all ages. 
  • Richmond is home to many parks, trails, and natural spots, which offer virtually endless opportunities for physical activities. 
  • Richmond is a great place to raise a family, with numerous public and private schools to choose from. 
  • Richmond has a wide array of family-friendly attractions to provide entertainment and education for your family, from museums to amusement parks. The vibrant art scene and numerous cultural events can contribute to your children’s creative development.

Richmond Real Estate:

Similar to almost all areas in the U.S. home prices increased in the Richmond area in 2021 compared to 2020. According to the Annual Report on the Central Virginia Regional Multiple Listing Service Area, which covers residential real estate activity in Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, and Richmond City, the overall median sales price increased 11.3 percent to $325,000 for the year. The average sales price was $366,460, up 11.2% from 2020. Single-family home prices were up 12.0 percent compared to 2020, and condo/townhome prices were up 9.4 percent. On average, sellers received 103.1% of their original list price at sale, a year-over-year improvement of 3.1 percent. Inventory in the area ended the year at 815 active listings, down 42.6% from the 1,421 active listings at the end of 2020. In comparison, inventory at the end of the year averaged close to 2500 homes from 2017 through 2019. The Annual Report noted “This year [2022] looks to continue the trends seen in the last 18 months, pushing home prices higher still. As mortgage rates are likely to continue to rise over the year as well, housing affordability will remain an important factor to watch.”

Historic residential homes near downtown Richmond, VA. Photo by Stephanie Rhee on Unsplash

Richmond compared to:

Richmond is in the Richmond metropolitan statistical area, which is the 45th largest MSA in the United States. The Richmond MSA population was 1,314,434 in 2020, an increase of 10.78% from 2010, according to the Visual Capitalist website. 

Here is how the Richmond MSA compares to other MSA’s in the southeast [Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida] that are around the same size (ranked 25-65):

RankMSAPopulation (2020)Change since 2010
38Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC1,799,6745.00%
40Jacksonville, FL1,605,84819.34%
43Raleigh-Cary, NC1,413,98225.08%
45Richmond, VA1,314,43410.78%
61Greenville-Anderson, SC928,19512.63%

Richmond vs. Raleigh:

In a comparison on BestPlaces.net on January 17, 2022, here’s how Richmond compared to Raleigh, NC a city in a similar-sized MSA about 2.5 hours south-southwest of Richmond:

  • The Median Age in Raleigh is 0.1 years younger than in Richmond.
  • Raleigh housing costs are 22.6% more expensive than Richmond housing costs.
  • The average commute for residents of Raleigh is 1.5 minutes longer than it is for residents of Richmond.
  • Raleigh is 7.6% more expensive than Richmond.
  • Health related expenses are 5.0% less in Raleigh.

Data from BestPlaces.net:

 Richmond, VARaleigh, NCUnited States
Median Income$41,331$54,581$53,482
Median Age32.632.537.4
Avg. Home Price$282,800$346,600$291,700
Avg. Commute Time21.8723.3926.38

*Metropolitan Areas (metro areas) have at least one urban core area of at least 50,000 population. These are the largest population centers, sometimes encompassing many counties. 

Top image credit: Derrick Brooks on Unsplash

Leading Economic and Housing Experts Predict Multiple Fed Interest Rate Hikes, Slowing Inflation and Home Price Growth in 2022

/ National Association of Realtors MEDIA RELEASE /

WASHINGTON (December 15, 2021) – Expect slower housing price appreciation, easing inflation and rising interest rates in 2022, according to a survey of more than 20 top U.S. economic and housing experts. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist and senior vice president of research, unveiled the consensus forecast today during NAR’s third annual year-end Real Estate Forecast Summit.

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com

Housing prices are expected to climb 5.7% and inflation will rise 4% – both increases less than in 2021.


For 2022, the group of experts predicted that annual median home prices will increase by 5.7%, inflation will rise 4% and the Federal Open Market Committee will twice increase the federal funds rate by 0.25%.

“Overall, survey participants believe we’ll see the housing market and broader economy normalize next year,” Yun said. “Though forecasted to rise 4%, inflation will decelerate after hefty gains in 2021, while home price increases are also expected to ease with an annual appreciation of less than 6%. Slowing price growth will partly be the consequence of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.”

Yun forecasts U.S. GDP to grow at the typical historical pace of 2.5%, barring any major, widespread transmission of the omicron COVID-19 variant. He expects the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to increase to 3.5% as the Fed raises interest rates to control inflation but noted this is lower than the pre-pandemic rate of 4%.

Dallas-Fort Worth, Knoxville, San Antonio, Spartanburg and Tucson join five other metropolitan areas among NAR’s top 10 housing market “hidden gems” in 2022


The housing market performed better than it has in 15 years in 2021, with an estimated 6 million existing-home sales. As mortgage rates tick up slightly, Yun predicts existing-home sales will decline to 5.9 million in 2022. He also forecasts a modest increase in housing starts to 1.67 million as the pandemic’s supply chain backlogs subside.

Top 10 Housing Market “Hidden Gems” in 2022

NAR identified 10 housing markets as “hidden gems” that are expected to experience stronger price appreciation relative to other markets in 2022. In alphabetical order, the markets are as follows:

  • Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
  • Daphne-Fairhope-Farley, Alabama
  • Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Arkansas-Missouri
  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida
  • Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, Florida
  • San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
  • Spartanburg, South Carolina
  • Tucson, Arizona

“The housing sector performed spectacularly in 2021 in many markets, with huge gains achieved in places like Austin, Boise and Naples,” Yun said. “Several markets did reasonably well in 2021, but not as strong as the underlying fundamentals suggested. Therefore, in 2022, these ‘hidden gem’ markets have more room for growth.”

NAR considered a market a hidden gem based on two categories: 1) if the market’s ratio of median home price to median family income is in the lower half of the 379 metro areas analyzed and 2) if the following seven indicators reflecting the strength of housing demand for that market are in the upper half of metro areas – wage growth, job growth, ratio of the change in population to the sum of housing permits, population growth, net domestic migration, percentage of the population ages 25 to 44, and the percentage of households with broadband service. NAR’s top 10 list only includes metro areas with populations of at least 200,000.

To view NAR’s Top 10 Housing Market Hidden Gems report, visit https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/2022-housing-market-hidden-gems.

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.5 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Planning to Buy a New Home in 2022? Four Things You Need to Do Now.

A home that is for sale.

Whether you’re currently renting, and home ownership is one of your goals for 2022, or you’re planning on selling your current home and buying a new one, here are four quick tips to prepare you for the home buying experience:

Make a new home wish list.

Try to rank your priorities. If real estate inventory is tight in your area (likely) and houses are selling quickly, you’ll want to know what you’ll consider and what you won’t without needing days to ponder a decision.

Be flexible.

Again, based on tight inventory, you may not be able to get everything on your wish list. What could you initially do without, then add/remodel later? Keep in mind that as always, location is the one thing you can’t change later.

Do research.

Not everything you read on the internet is true (shocker!), and that includes ‘available’ listings you may see on some websites. However, spend time getting to know the real estate market in your area, and also investigate some areas a little outside the area you ‘think’ you want. You might discover a town or community you had not previously considered that will expand your available options.

Talk to a real estate agent and a lender.

In this market you need to know from a lender how much house you can afford before most agents will show you properties, so they are a good place to start. If you have any questions about the buying process, ask an agent – it’s one area that you shouldn’t research with Google. Real estate procedures and laws vary from state to state and county to county, so Google or friends’ information may not be accurate for your specific question. Real estate agents and lenders are happy to talk to you and provide you with information without you making any commitment to them.

Need an agent? Get in touch with me and I would be happy to refer you to some great ones in your area.

My Gift to You: FREE Magazine Subscription!

Every other month I mail a printed magazine, American Lifestyle, to homes across the country.

American Lifestyle is a celebration of the flavor and flair of life in the United States, which takes the reader on a journey of the nation’s sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. This 48-page publication features articles on interior design, travel, technology, restaurants, and culture. Entertaining writing coupled with gorgeous photography makes this magazine a must read.

If you are interested in receiving your own free subscription to this magazine, please complete the form on this page with your name and home address, and I will add you to my mailing list. The magazine will be delivered to your home every other month with no obligation.

I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone Happy Holidays and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!


American Lifestyle has great articles on interior design, travel, cooking, and culture.

Complete this form to receive your FREE subscription:

Which Downpayment Strategy is Right for You?

Buying a Home

You’ve most likely heard the rule: Save for a 20-percent down payment before you buy a home. The logic behind saving 20 percent is solid, as it shows that you have the financial discipline and stability to save for a long-term goal. It also helps you get favorable rates from lenders.

But there can actually be financial benefits to putting down a small down payment—as low as three percent—rather than parting with so much cash up front, even if you have the money available.

The Downside

The downsides of a small down payment are pretty well known. You’ll have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance for years, and the lower your down payment, the more you’ll pay. You’ll also be offered a lesser loan amount than borrowers who have a 20-percent down payment, which will eliminate some homes from your search.

The Upside

The national average for home appreciation is about five percent. The appreciation is independent from your home payment, so whether you put down 20 percent or three percent, the increase in equity is the same. If you’re looking at your home as an investment, putting down a smaller amount can lead to a higher return on investment, while also leaving more of your savings free for home repairs, upgrades, or other investment opportunities.

The Happy Medium

Of course, your home payment options aren’t binary. Most borrowers can find some common ground between the security of a traditional 20 percent and an investment-focused, small down payment. Your trusted real estate professional can provide some answers as you explore your financing options.

/ Content provided by Breakthrough Broker /

Need a referral to a great real estate agent? Request a free, no-obligation Home Essential Analysis and I would be happy to connect you with one! If you have any advice or stories about home buying, feel free to share in the comments below.

Nine Winter Vacation Ideas if You Live in the Southeast U.S. (Closer to Home)

Top photo: Nashville, TN. Maybe not your typical winter vacation spot, but there’s plenty of iconic indoor attractions to explore in any weather. Photo credit Chad Morehead via Unsplash

I could really use a vacation, and I’m not the only one. According to Expedia’s Annual Vacation Deprivation study earlier this year, 81% of working adults worldwide are placing more value on vacation. Here in the U.S., 64 percent of respondents reported they felt vacation deprived, and 26% noted they haven’t taken a vacation in over a year, compared to 16 percent in 2019. If you live in the southeast U.S. like me, and you want to avoid long plane trips and overcrowded destinations, this article is for you. I did some research on the best Winter vacation destinations near the east coast, and this is what I found:

The PlanetWare travel website has a few good cold-weather suggestions, including:

• Cross-Country Skiing in Vermont: “You will find hundreds of trails throughout the state crossing natural and pristine woodlands that you can explore with your own skis or rentals. Many resorts offer ski excursions that include a hot lunch or other perks to complement your day in the snow.” PlanetWare

• Skiing in the Finger Lakes, New York: I grew up skiing in the northeast, and there are some great options that are easy to get to from major highways. Likely, this area won’t be as over-crowded as the major resorts in Vermont or Colorado, too.

• Take in Iconic Sites in New York City: There is nothing like NYC, and you’ll find some of the best travel deals after the holidays.

The PureWow website adds some warmer-weather destinations, including:

Naples, Florida: “Sun-seekers looking for a more subdued, relaxing alternative to Miami and Key West should consider Naples. This upscale vacation destination on Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast is one of the best towns in the Sunshine State and has a lot to do for families with kiddos, couples and retirees.” – PureWow

Photo: I have never been to New Orleans, but it’s on my vacation wish list!

New Orleans, Louisiana: This is one of the destinations on this list that I have never been to. If you’ve been there, please share your thoughts in the comments below! I know the sites are legendary, and the winter temperatures are mild.

Charlottesville, Virginia: “Charlottesville puts wineries, farm-to-table fare and history within easy reach. It’s chilly, but far from frost-bite status so that shouldn’t be a deterrent from doing things outdoors. Just pack a coat and you’re ready to go…” – PureWow

Travel & Leisure’s website adds a few more interesting options:

Boston, Massachusetts: Boston has so many great historic sites, shopping destinations, dining options, and more… just be sure to bundle up!

Nashville, Tennessee: “Armed with a scarf and some hot cocoa, you’ll be ready to take on the Music City. Many of Nashville’s most iconic attractions are actually indoors (think live music in the city’s famous honky-tonks, the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and the National Museum of African American Music).” – Travel & Leisure

Miami, Florida: If you want warm temperatures and sunny skies, you can’t beat Miami for a winter vacation!

I hope this gave you some ideas for destinations that are not too far from your home in the southeast U.S.

Have any suggestions to add to the list? Leave a comment below!

Tips for Storing Wine at Home

If you are a big wine connoisseur or just saving a few bottles to crack open on special occasions, it’s important to understand how best to store them safely until you’re ready to partake. Follow the guidelines below!


To ensure each wine bottle maintains the proper flavor and aroma, storing it at the correct temperature is essential. Regardless if it is red, white, or sparkling, storing your bottles at 53°F to 57°F is most ideal. Keeping your bottles in a room where the temperature is much warmer than that may cause the flavor to become flat. Keep your wine in the dark and away from direct UV rays as much as you can to protect the wine’s flavor. 


Controlling the humidity in the room is important if you plan to store bottles for more than a couple of years. The ideal humidity for storage is between 50 to 75 percent and anything below that could cause the corks to dry out, letting air seep into the bottle.

California makes 85% of all US wine.

The National Assoc. of American Wineries


Generally, it is advised to store wine bottles on their sides. This allows the wine to stay up against the cork which should aid in keeping it from drying out. However, if you don’t plan to store the wine for long or if the bottle has a screw top or plastic cork, this is not required for safe storage.


Not all wine is designed to have a long shelf life or be aged. Make sure you know what the winemaker’s intention was for that particular bottle. It is always better to open it a little early and enjoy it!

Have any wine suggestions? Share them in the comments below.

/ Content provided by Breakthrough Broker /