6 Must do’s for Brain Health!

Lifestyle has a profound impact on your brain health. What you eat and drink, how much you exercise, how well you sleep, the way you socialize, and how you manage stress are all critically important to your brain health.

YOUR BODY: GET MOVING. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise improves blood flow and memory; it stimulates chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood and thinking. Be fit. Be smart.

EAT SMART, THINK BETTER. You are what you eat. As you grow older, your brain is exposed to more harmful stress due to lifestyle and environmental factors, resulting in a process called oxidation, which damages brain cells. Rust on the handlebars of a bike or a partially eaten apple gives you an idea of the kind of damage oxidation can cause to your brain. Food rich in antioxidants can help fend off the harmful effects of oxidation in your brain.

CONTROL MEDICAL RISKS. Hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, head trauma, higher cholesterol, and smoking all increase the risk of dementia. You can control and reduce these risks. Get your annual check-up, follow your doctor’s recommendations and take medications as prescribed. Get engaged in a brain healthy lifestyle for your body and your mind.

REST WELL. Sleep energizes you, improves your mood and your immune system, and may reduce buildup in the brain of an abnormal protein called beta-amyloid plaque, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Practicing meditation and managing stress may help fend off age-related decline in brain health. Stay positive. Be happy.

YOUR MIND: USE IT OR LOSE IT. Mental exercise is just as critical as physical exercise in keeping your brain fit and healthy. Mental exercises may improve your brain’s functioning and promote new brain cell growth, decreasing your likelihood of developing dementia. Like your muscles, you have to use your brain or you lose it.

STAY CONNECTED. Leading an active social life can protect you against memory loss. Spending time with others, engaging in stimulating conversation, and staying in touch and connected with family and friends are good for your brain health. Studies have shown that those with the most social interaction in their community experience the slowest rate of memory decline.

What Credit Score is Needed to Buy a House?

If you’re in the market to buy a home, knowing what kind of shape your credit score is in can give you an idea of whether you’ll qualify for a loan and what kind of interest rate you’ll pay. Loans are necessary for most future homebuyers because they cannot afford to pay cash upfront.

While lenders look at your income, debt and savings when making mortgage decisions, your credit score is the biggest factor in determining whether you get approved or rejected for financing. That’s why it’s so important to check your credit report regularly so you can gauge the overall state of your financial health.

If you want to buy a house soon or are looking into house refinance for an existing mortgage, checking your credit score should be at the top of your to-do list. Here’s a look at just how important your credit score is for mortgage lending decisions.

Find out how your credit score compares to people who have a mortgage loan. (Data is based on nearly 140,000 People who have a mortgage; 67,000 People who have an FHA mortgage.)

• People who have a conventional real estate mortgage: Average score is 682

• People who have an FHA mortgage loan: Average score is 649

• People who do not have a mortgage (or FHA loan): Average score is 613

Before we get into the details of buying a house, getting a mortgage, and what your credit needs to look like, let’s back up and lay out exactly what a mortgage is. A mortgage is a loan specifically used to finance the purchase of a home.

A house mortgage is likely the largest loan you will ever take on and that is why they have multiple parts and they can last 15-30 years. Mortgages include collateral, a down payment, taxes and insurance. It is important to keep these different parts in mind before deciding whether you can take on this much debt. Once you’ve decided to take the plunge, you’ll need to know what it’s going to take to get your dream home.

The minimum credit score needed to buy a house isn’t set in stone and in fact, it can change quite often especially during and after a recession when the economy is on a downturn. It’s not unusual for lenders to enforce tighter restrictions on borrowing when the economy is shrinking instead of expanding.

In the wake of the housing collapse, for instance, applicants with credit scores of 720 and above were getting rejected for mortgage loans.

Fortunately, the real estate market has improved dramatically since 2008 and lenders have eased up a bit in terms of the minimum credit score they’re looking for. The minimum score also depends on the type of loan you’re applying for.

Lenders will also look at the area you are looking to purchase a home in because there are outside factors that might make increase the risk thereby increasing the credit score needed to secure a mortgage loan. As you can tell, there are many different requirements to buy a house so do not take the decision to become a homeowner lightly. Get to work !!!

The 6 Best Home Flooring Ideas and Options

1. Hardwoods

Costs: Depending on the type of hardwoods you go with, it could cost you anywhere from $3 to $12 per square foot. Engineered wood will cost you a little less. On top of the cost of materials, you will need to pay to get it installed which will likely run you in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Pros: Hardwoods look very nice and have a great resale value. They are easy to clean and maintain and usually only require vacuuming.

Cons: The cost is the largest drawback. Like tile, hardwoods are also loud to walk on. Real hardwoods also need refinishing occasionally in high-traffic areas. Standing water can also ruin hardwoods.

Best Rooms: The best place to put hardwoods is in a living room. It looks good and is stylish. It is not a high-traffic area such as a foyer so the would can remain protected. You can also use a rug to muffle the noise a bit.

2. Tile

Costs: There are many different types of tile. It can range in price from $1 to $20 a square foot. Professional installation can run into the hundreds of dollars depending on the size of the area.

Pros: Glazed ceramic tile is very durable and resistant to scratches. It is water resistant. Tile comes in a variety of sizes and materials, such as marble, porcelain, travertine, slate, and granite. Additionally, tile is fairly easy to clean, and stains are not much of a concern.

Cons: Tile can be very loud to walk on and echos. It can also be cold, and heating systems for tile are very expensive. Tile can crack and can be difficult to repair. The grout gets stained and needs to be cleaned.

Best Rooms: Since tile is water resistant, it is perfect for a bathroom or a kitchen. It may also work well in a dining area where food and drinks tend to be spilled frequently.

3. Laminate

Costs: Again, this ranges in price, but I have seen it anywhere from $0.50 to $3 a square foot. You will also have to pay for installation.

Pros: My favorite thing about laminate is that it does not easily scratch. And if it does, a little vegetable oil rubbed on the scratch will get it right out. It also can look like real wood or tile, and it can even be difficult to tell if it is real or not. Like hardwoods, laminate is easy to clean. You can even make your own cheap and natural house cleaners. It is also great for pets because they can’t scratch or stain it.

Cons: Standing water will ruin laminate flooring. I learned this the hard way after having a refrigerator leak, and I ended up having to replace all the flooring in my kitchen. If the laminate does get ruined, unlike read hardwoods, laminate can not be refinished.

Best Rooms: Laminate is great for high traffic areas such as a foyer or any room with a lot of activity because of its durability. I highly recommend not putting it in a kitchen, bathroom, or a laundry room since laminate should not get wet.

4. Carpet

Costs: The cost of carpet varies greatly depending on the quality. However, standard carpeting and padding is between $2 and $5 per square foot. There are usually decent installation deals at Lowe’s and Home Depot for around $50.

Pros: Carpet not only feels soft, but it also gives a soft look to a room. It is quiet to walk on and prevents echoing throughout a home. Carpet is quick and simple to install and can go over uneven subfloors.

Cons: Although advancements in fiber technology have enabled carpet to be more stain-resistant, it still gets stained. Even when vacuumed frequently, it still may contain hidden dirt. When my husband and I tore up our old carpet, it had mounds of dirt underneath it. Carpet also needs to be steam-cleaned occasionally to keep it fresh. Additionally, carpet is not good for people with allergies.

Best Rooms: The best location for carpet is low traffic rooms, such as bedrooms, to minimize the dirt that gets trapped in it. It also gives bedrooms a more cozy look and feel.

5. Vinyl

Costs: Vinyl can cost less than $1 per square foot on the low end but can cost up to $5 per square foot on the high end. Installation is a couple hundred dollars.

Pros: Like carpet, vinyl is quiet and easy on your feet. It is inexpensive compared to some of the other flooring types.

Cons: Although vinyl has come a long way and can be made to look like wood or tile, it still does not look as good as the real thing. Vinyl dents and tears easily, and I have found that it can be a challenge to clean.

Best Rooms: Vinyl is great for a laundry room as it can shield a lot of the sound from your laundry machines. It could also work well in bathrooms and the kitchen because of the warmth it adds.

6. Cork

Costs: Again, there is a range of prices: $2 to $8 per square foot.

Pros: Cork is a good insulator. It is warm, soft, and absorbs sounds. Cork is a natural material, so it is environmentally friendly. Also, since it’s antimicrobial and resistant to mold, it’s safe for the family.

Cons: Since cork is a natural material, it will fade in direct sunlight. It also has been known to turn yellow with time. Because of the moldable nature of cork, it may get damaged underneath furniture pressure points. It will also swell when it is in standing water.

BestRooms: Cork would work great in bedrooms because of it softness and warmth.

Top 8 House-Hunting Mistakes

Mistake 1: Falling in Love With a House You Can't Afford
Once you've fallen in love with a particular home, it's hard to go back. You start dreaming about how great your life would be if you had all the wonderful things it offered — the lovely, tree-lined streets, the jetted bathtub, the spacious kitchen with professional-grade appliances. However, if you can't or won't be able to afford that house, you're just hurting yourself by imagining yourself in it. To avoid the temptation to get in over your head financially, or the disappointment of feeling like you're settling for less than you deserve, it's best to only look at homes in your price range.
Start your search at the low end of your price range — if what you find there satisfies you, there's no need to go higher. Remember, when you buy another $10,000 worth of house, you're not just paying an extra $10,000 — you're paying an extra $10,000 plus interest, which might come out to double that amount or more over the life of your loan. You may be better off putting that money toward another purpose.

Mistake 2: Assuming There's Nothing Better Out There
Unless you are a high-end buyer looking at custom homes, chances are that for any home you find that you like, there are quite a few others that are nearly identical to it. Most neighborhoods have multiple homes that are the same model. Further, most neighborhoods are full of homes that were all constructed by the same builder, so even if you can't find an identical model for sale, you can probably find a house with many of the same features. If you're considering a condo or townhouse, the odds are also in your favor.
Even when you have a long list of must-haves, there are probably several homes out there that can meet your needs. If there are snags with the home you've decided you like – such as major repair issues, an inflexible asking price or a difficult possession date – consider moving on. Being open to keep looking will save you from making rash decisions you might regret later.

Mistake 3: Being Desperate
When you've been looking for a while, and you do not see anything you like — or worse, you're getting outbid on the houses you do want – it's easy to get desperate to get into your new house now. However, if you move into a house you'll end up hating, the transaction costs to get rid of it will be costly. You'll have to pay an agent's commission (up to 5-6% of the sale price), and you'll have to pay closing costs for the mortgage on your new house. You'll also deal with the hassle and expense of moving yet again. If you decide not to move but to try to make the best of what you have, remember that alterations and renovations are expensive, time-consuming and stressful. If you have time on your side, it's OK to wait until something that suits you comes along – as long as your demands are realistic for your budget, you are bound to find something you live with.

Mistake 4: Overlooking Important Flaws
For any of the three reasons we just discussed, you might be tempted to ignore major problems with the house that will be difficult, expensive or impossible to change. Carefully consider your options before you make a commitment, and consider waiting until something better comes along. New houses come on the market every day.

Mistake 5: Overestimating Your Handyman Skills
Don't buy a fixer-upper that's more than you can handle in terms of time, money or ability. For example, if you think you can do the work yourself then realize you can't once you get started, any repairs or upgrades you were planning to make will probably cost twice as much once you factor in the labor – and that may not be in your budget. Not to mention the costs involved to fix anything you may have started and the fees to replace the materials you wasted. Honestly evaluate your abilities, your budget and how soon you need to move before purchasing a property that isn't move-in ready.

Mistake 6: Rushing to Put In an Offer
In a hot market, it may be necessary to pull the trigger very quickly if you find a home you like. However, you have to balance the need to make a quick decision with the need to make sure the home will be right for you. Don't neglect important steps like making sure the neighborhood feels safe at night as well as during the day and investigating possible noise issues like a nearby train. Ideally, you'll be able to take at least a night to sleep on the decision. How well you sleep that night and how you feel about the home in the morning will tell you a lot about whether the decision you're about to make is the right one. Taking the time to consider the decision also gives you a chance to research how much the property is really worth and offer an appropriate price.

Mistake 7: Dragging Your Feet
It's a tough balancing act to make sure you make a careful decision, but don't take too long to make it. Losing out on a property that you were almost ready to make an offer on because someone beat you to it can be heartbreaking. It can also have economic consequences. Let's say you are self-employed. Perhaps for you more than anyone else, time is money. The more time and energy you have to take out of your normal activities to search for a house, the less time and energy you have available to work. Not dragging out the home buying process unnecessarily may be the best thing for your business, and the continued success of your business will be essential to paying the mortgage. If you don't pull the trigger quickly, someone else might, and you'll have to keep looking. Don't underestimate how time-consuming and routine-disrupting house shopping can be.

Mistake 8: Offering Too Much
If there's a lot of competition in your market and you find a place you really like, it's all too easy to get sucked into a bidding war – or to try to preempt a bidding war by offering a high price in the first place. There are a couple of potential problems with this. First, if the house doesn't appraise at or above the amount of your offer, the bank won't give you the loan unless the seller reduces the price or you pay cash for the difference. If this happens, the shortfall on your bid as opposed to your mortgage will have to be paid out of pocket. Second, when you go to sell the house, if market conditions are similar to or worse than they were when you purchased, you may find yourself upside down on the mortgage and unable to sell. Make sure the purchase price for the home you buy is reasonable for both the house and the location by examining comparable sales and getting your agent's opinion before making an offer.

5 Ways to Deal With Difficult Clients

1. Listen

“When I have a difficult client, my biggest priority is listening. I let them talk until they finish. This serves two purposes: One, they get their concerns off their chest and they know I care. Two, I find out if any of their concerns are legitimate. Many times the concerns have no ground, but if it's important to the client, I need to give them a place to express those concerns. Then once they're finished, I reassure them and get back to work! This method has served me well in previous occupations as well as in real estate. Even controlling and aggressive people will be react differently when you listen!

2. Prescreen for personality conflicts

“Prior to working with any clients, I like to conduct a pre-client interview with each potential client to ensure that we can work well together. As we all know, each individual has different needs and wants, and it's important to know that theirs are in line with yours. After our interview and determination by both parties that it's a good fit, we then proceed.
“Nowadays — as we all know — we can't always pick and choose our clients or the other parties involved in the transactions. When situations like that come up, I always try to put myself in the shoes of the party with whom I am working with. What are their struggles? What are their challenges? And how can I help?

3. Educate

“Now, more than ever real estate professionals are more inclined to put up with difficult buyers. But really all real estate professionals should put their foot down and educate the difficult buyers as to how the interactions should go between the agent and buyer. For this to work, all real estate professionals need to do this, so the difficult buyer has to change his or her behavior and not be able to go and manipulate the next real estate professional they seek out.”
“As real estate professionals, we need to be proactive rather than reactive. We continue to further our education in the fields of our practices so that we can properly address the concerns of our clients and give them the confidence they need to proceed. I think once clients have a clear understanding and appreciation of all the efforts put forth by their real estate agent, they will then be much less difficult to work with and a pleasant transaction for all parties.”

4. Find creative solutions

“I recently had a client who wanted to do do everything! Controlled everyone! Was angry at all the professionals involved in the transaction. The entire transaction required a lot of listening, biting of my tongue and reassuring. I just always tried to imagine myself in his place, and tried to envision what would make me feel better at any given point in the transaction.”

5. Put yourself in their shoes

“Often, when we’re not able to connect with a client, it’s because we are trying to convince them to see things our way, from our perspective. Unfortunately, this attempt is futile. In fact, it works just the opposite. You need to communicate your position through their perspective.

Understand what the client’s challenge is and continue to be at peace, even if they want war.

How to handle unrealistic seller pricing on a home for sale

As agents, in the course of preparing to meet with a homeowner, we can sometimes spend hours running comps to put together an accurate comparative market analysis (CMA) on the property. So, we get pretty good at determining a list price on a home for sale that’ll generate offers quickly, yet not so low as to leave some of our clients’ money on the table.
Even with the hours that we spend comping a property with the client’s best interests at heart, it’s inevitable that we will have to defend those suggestions time and time again.Even with the hours that we spend comping a property with the client’s best interests at heart, it’s inevitable that we will have to defend those suggestions time and time again.

The truth is, most homeowners have an unrealistic dollar amount that they think their home is worth, and it’s our job to educate them properly. Sure, we want a listing, but in pursuit of it, we shouldn’t take an overpriced suggestion that will ultimately leave a uninformed seller wondering why the house is still on the market months later.
Here are a few ways that we deal with sellers when we encounter resistance on our listing price recommendation:

It’s our job to educate potential clients when they are wrong about price — don’t cave in.Build trust and loyalty with your potential clients before discussing price
Trust has always been a vital factor in any real estate business transaction, but it’s the timing that we’re going to look at here. The listing appointment or first face-to-face meeting with a seller is typically preceded by an initial phone conversation with the homeowner.
I’ve found that it’s in that first conversation that I have the greatest (and possibly the only) opportunity to build long-lasting trustworthiness and credibility with the homeowner.
Why? Because I don’t think there’s ever another time when homeowners are as attuned to what you say as in they are in that initial fact-finding phone call. It’s within the first conversation that the interviewing process begins, so it’s crucial that we accurately convey our credibility from the get go.
So, how do we convey credibility to build trust during the early stages?
Start by building rapport, just as you would in the initial stages of a friendship.
Share some of your accomplishments as they relate to the specific town, geographic area or subdivision.

Find commonalities in the seller’s personal story and situation and relate them to your past experiences and successes.

Be very specific about your knowledge of the hyperlocal area and even relate past clients’ (if nearby) stories and successes.

If you try to incorporate some of these ideas into your initial phone conversation with your potential client — rather than going for the jugular and vying for the listing right away — then the credibility and trust that you’ll have built will aid you in your discussion of price.Handle the price objection before it becomes an objection.
How do you handle a price objection before one even exists? You’ll need to do some preliminary fact finding and then anticipate a homeowner’s reaction to your list price recommendation before you give it.
During the several talks that lead up to the conversation on price, simply ask sellers what they think the home is worth and why. Don’t be afraid to ask how they arrived at that number.
In any case, before you discuss price, you need to know what sellers believe their house is worth, so that if you should have to burst their bubble in a future conversation, you can anticipate what their exact response will be.
If you can accurately predict the response to your listing price recommendation, then you can craft a well-prepared rebuttal instead of looking shocked that anyone would disagree with your well-researched analysis. Show sellers exactly how you arrived at your recommended list price

I don’t need to tell you to print full-color comps in the best quality (high DPI) possible because I’m sure you’ve already done that. It’s much harder to convey the condition of comparable homes to a seller when there are 10 different shades of gray on the paper. So use the best paper and color printer that you can find — it’s worth the few extra dollars.
Remember, you already know what the seller believes the value of the home to be and why, and you know how he or she arrived at that number. Now it’s time to show the seller why that number might might be inaccurate.
Pride is an issue here, because who likes to be wrong about what they say? It’s much easier to accept that you’re wrong once new information is brought to light. When we show sellers new information, it allows them to make a new decision freely without sacrificing their pride.
It’s much easier to accept that you’re wrong once new information is brought to light.Consider a simple phrase along the lines of, “I can understand why you would have thought that you’re home is worth X amount of money. But based on what we’ve gone over, do you see how listing it at X amount of money makes sense?”
The truth is, with many homeowners, proof of sold inventory isn’t enough, which is why you also need to print some comparable overpriced expired and withdrawn listings.
Give sellers expired and withdrawn listings that are similar to their property.At this point in the conversation, if the homeowner still doesn’t agree with your recommended list price and refuses to budge, you can gently reveal what happened to other listings that were overpriced and in the same general condition and location as the house being sold.
I like to print out a detailed history for each expired listing that shows how many price reductions need to be made, until the seller finally withdraws the listing.
At last resort: Take the seller to see the competition. To be clear, I’ve never really had to employ this last resort strategy, but I can see how it could be powerful in proving your point. As professional homebuyers ourselves, we often look at current available inventory before we list one of our fully renovated homes because we need to know what we’re up against.
Sure, it’s more work and time on your part to show sellers some of the would-be competition at their proposed list price, but it’s sure to drive your point home, pun intended.
Try these tips next time you are dealing with unrealistic pricing expectations, and see if you can’t get that seller to budge a little quicker and easier. By James Vasquez

What We Need In An Era Of Accelerating Change !

We are, as we often hear, living in an age of transition. All over the world, there are massive changes that are shaking up millions of lives and virtually every industry. And not surprisingly, these changes are causing no shortage of pain and anxiety. But the answers we see being offered in our global conversation often don’t take into consideration the fact that people respond very differently to adversity. Some are overwhelmed by it, while others can grow through it. So what we all need in an era of accelerating change isn’t just new job skills, but deeper life skills–the ability to navigate not just sudden hardships that change our lives, but the process of constant change itself. 
Nobody is immune from the certainty of change. “I don’t know anyone who has been handed only roses,” Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant write in Option B. “We all encounter hardships.” But as they also write, the question is, “When these things happen, what do we do next?”
How you answer depends on your resilience, which Sheryl and Adam aptly define in the book as “the strength and speed of our response to adversity.” And as they also point out, science has proven that resilience isn’t fixed – it can be nurtured and it can grow. “It isn’t about having a backbone,” they wrote. “It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.”
And one of the things that strengthens the muscles around our backbone is regularly recharging ourselves. For me, this became abundantly clear when I had so completely exhausted myself that, on the morning of April 6, 2007, I collapsed, hit my head on my desk, and found myself coming to in a pool of blood. Option B, as it always does, asserted itself. I was left with a broken cheekbone and several stitches over my eye. But I also learned a life-changing lesson. 

Looking back at my life, I could clearly see how often I had reacted emotionally to challenges, overreacted to the inevitable hardships of life, and all too often lived in a fight-or-flight state. So what I Iearned the hard way–why do we keep learning lessons the hard way?!–is that when I replenish my own resources I can get through these setbacks much faster. And we can all do this by, as Sheryl and Adam write, avoiding what psychologist Martin Seligman calls the three P’s: personalization–thinking that it’s our fault, pervasiveness–thinking that one event affects everything in our lives–and permanence–thinking that these temporary hardships will last forever. That is, if we’re always connected to our inner resources of strength and resilience, we can move much faster beyond blaming ourselves, assuming we’ll always feel bad and allowing the adversity, whatever it is, to permeate our whole lives. 

But lessons of resilience are not just about life’s big, painful challenges, but also about the everyday setbacks that throw us off completely disproportionately to their significance. People have meltdowns because their flight is delayed, or someone cut them off on the freeway.

 How we relate to these everyday petty challenges and how quickly we can embrace Option B dramatically transforms the quality of our lives.

Every day we have a thousand opportunities to stress out and lose it. But if we’ve taken care to replenish our resilience reserves–to sleep, to breathe, to put things in perspective–we don’t. And that’s good, because there are going to come times of real crisis–divorce, illness, losing a job, or, as Sheryl writes about, losing a spouse. And that’s when we really need our resilience. 

“Tragedy does not have to be personal, pervasive, or permanent, but resilience can be,” write Sheryl and Adam. “We can build it and carry it with us throughout our lives.”
And as the pace of change itself accelerates in the coming years, building and carrying that resilience is going to be more important than ever. And the more we practice building our resilience muscle in our daily lives–being mindful about dealing with small setbacks–the better positioned we’ll be to deal with the big ones. Which, as Sheryl and Adam say, will surely come. “Life is never perfect,” they write. “We all live some form of Option B.”
So make sure you choose Option A for dealing with Option B. Prioritize your well-being, even when you think you don’t need to. Take care of yourself because at some point, we all inevitably need to.

Founder and CEO at Thrive Global

Arianna Huffington