Winter Home Upgrades

Cold weather may not make the most ideal conditions for a large home renovation, but there are ways to take advantage of all the time indoors with simple updates that can increase your home’s value. Here are a few home projects perfect for the winter months.

Replace kitchen countertops

New countertops can make a big difference in the overall look and feel of your kitchen. Plus, once you have the materials, this task doesn’t require too many trips outside the house, so it’s a great upgrade to consider during the colder months.

Add new light fixtures

Replacing light fixtures is a simply way to add updated, modern touches to a room without needing to spend a great deal of money or time.

Paint a room

Paint dries faster in the dry winter air, making this task a bit easier to do when it’s cold outside. Fresh paint is also one of the best ways to quickly increase your home’s value. If you’re thinking of selling in the near future, neutral walls offer a fresh, clean look for potential buyers.

Install a new faucet

Small changes can have a big impact, especially in a small space like a bathroom. If you want to spruce up your bathroom, but aren’t ready to commit to a total renovation, try replacing the faucet for a new look.

Update safety features

This isn’t exactly the most glamorous house project, but the new year is the perfect time to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and test your carbon monoxide detectors. Make this a winter habit and mark you calendar for another check in the summer.

Refurbish a door

With some new hardware and a fresh coat of paint, sprucing up a door is another great way to transform a space. Upgrade your door knobs or repaint your front door for an eye-catching change.

Fall Real Estate Trends

and what they mean for you

Like many businesses that rely on face-to-face interactions, the Lincoln real estate market was hit hard this spring and summer as Covid-19 took hold in the U.S. While restrictions have made it difficult for prospective buyers to see homes in person, many buyers are still showing interest. Here’s what these trends mean for you as we look forward to the fall and winter.

What current market trends mean for sellers:

Despite the many challenges brought on by the pandemic, now is a great time to sell your home. Historically low interest rates are pushing more prospective buyers into the market, while inventory remains low. In fact, the number of homes for sale in Lincoln has decreased by about 20% compared to last year. This makes for a competitive market as prices continue to slowly rise and homes sell fast.

For sellers, these conditions could be quite profitable, but it’s also crucial to price your home right — something a real estate agent can help you with. You’ll also want to put in the work to make your home stand out from similar ones in the area. Bump up your curb appeal by trimming hedges, planting flowers or adding some fresh paint to your front door.

What current market trends mean for buyers:

Interest rates are historically low, hovering around 3.5%, compared to 6% in 2008. This is great news for buyers but could mean a lot more competition than in the past. You may need to be prepared to offer more than the asking price to compete with other buyers.

The good news is with some preparation and a little bit of patience, you can find the right home for you and lock in a mortgage that has you paying less interest over time. Start by researching different neighborhoods and comparing lenders before going to look at listings so you have an understanding of the home’s value and your financial standing.

This year has brought many challenges to the real estate market and the overall economy. But despite all this, the Lincoln real estate market has remained steady, making now a great time to buy or sell a home.


Fall Family Fun — Ways to Enjoy the Season While Social Distancing

Fall traditions will look a little different this year as we continue to adjust to a different way of life with Covid-19. But with a little extra planning, this year’s season can still be just as memorable and meaningful. Here are five ways to enjoy fall family fun near Lincoln while still reducing your risk of Covid-19 and protecting the community.

Take a nature walk

Health experts agree that when it comes to possibly contracting Covid-19, spending time outdoors is safer than staying inside. Take advantage of the beautiful fall scenery in Nebraska and get your family outside. Grab a jacket and go for a hike at Wilderness Park or round up the kids for a nature scavenger hunt. See who can gather the most pinecones or find the reddest leaf. You can even bring some of your finds home to use as fresh fall decor.

Pick apples

Apple picking is another great outdoor fall activity, and local orchards are taking precautions to keep people safe. Check out Martin’s Hillside Orchard located in Ceresco and make sure to bring your mask for adults and children five years and older. Take your apples home and bake a fresh apple pie or cut them into pieces to dip in caramel.

Have an outdoor pumpkin carving contest

If you have older kids, this can be a fun way to encourage their creativity. Let them carve their own pumpkins (with some assistance if necessary!) and decide which one is the spookiest or funniest. You can even include your neighbors in the contest. Take turns viewing the pumpkins on each porch and ranking them in different categories.

Go for a drive to look at leaves

Nebraska is beautiful in the fall and what better way to take in the fall foliage than a scenic drive? The Lincoln Highway Scenic and the Historic Byway offer incredible views of fall trees, and with 400 miles stretching across the state, you could make your drive as long or as short as you’d like. Another option is Heritage Highway or Highway 136 — one of the most popular scenic routes in Nebraska, beginning in Edison and ending in Brownville. For peak fall foliage viewing, plan your drive for late October or early November.

Leave treats on neighbors’ doorsteps

Trick-or-treating won’t be the same this year, but you can still take part in a version of this beloved holiday tradition by leaving treats on your neighbors’ porches. Bake a batch of pumpkin muffins and distribute them or encourage your kids to leave candy at your neighbors’ doors instead of the other way around. If everyone participates, you’ll have treats on your doorstep too!

Dreaming of a Road Trip? National Parks Within One Day’s Drive

As anyone who lives in Nebraska surely knows, there are many benefits to calling this state home. One of which: Thanks to its central location, you can road trip to nearly anywhere in the country within one or two days of home—including some of this nation’s greatest gems, the national parks.

If you want to pack up and roll out this year, here are a few national park destinations to consider.

Rocky Mountain National Park

8 hours from Lincoln: Just beyond Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park is a majestic welcome to the Rocky Mountains. Featuring everything from an extreme 14,000-ft. mountain that should only be hiked with serious preparation to family-friendly trails or fishing spots, RMNP is iconic for a reason.

Badlands National Park

7 hours from Lincoln: Located in South Dakota, Badlands National Park is known for its dramatic rock formations, beautiful views and roaming wildlife. From there, it is just over one hour to Mount Rushmore National Monument.

Yellowstone National Park

13 hours from Lincoln: The very first national park, Yellowstone is a good drive from Lincoln—but well worth every mile it takes to get there. From geysers to waterfalls and opportunities to spot majestic wildlife, you could spend more than one week here and still barely scratch the surface of all it has to offer.

Hot Springs National Park

10 hours from Lincoln: Down in Arkansas, Hot Springs National Park has been federally protected land since 1832. Surrounded by shops and other attractions, Hot Springs National Park itself allows for soaking in two designated bathhouses or hiking by 47 thermal springs on 30 miles of trails.

Gateway Arch National Park

7 hours from Lincoln: Located in St. Louis, the famous “Arch” is a tribute to the westward expansion of the United States. Today, visitors can explore the new museum, learn about the Dred Scott trial in the “Old Courthouse” and view the city from the top of the Arch.

Arches National Park

13 hours from Lincoln: Arches National Park in Utah is home to a very different kind of arch—or, rather, 2,000 windblown, sandstone arches. With plentiful sightseeing opportunities both within Arches or nearby Moab, it is also a great launching pad to visiting any of Utah’s four other national parks.

How to Get Your Home Ready for Some ‘Screen Time’ While Selling

Virtual showings are not a new phenomenon: Before this spring, real estate agents used this method to show off houses for out-of-town clients, to increase interest in an online posting and more. However, whereas virtual showings were once a nice-to-have option, they are now basically essential for homebuyers and sellers in the age of COVID-19.

In one week alone at the end of March, real estate brokerage firm Redfin reported a nearly 500% increase in the demand for agent-led home showings. Meanwhile, Zillow reported that homes with 3D tours available were saved by 50% more users and sold an average of 10% faster than homes without 3D tours.

With more houses getting the “screen-time treatment” for the foreseeable future, here’s how to make your listing stand out online.

Take staging even more seriously:

With more buyers depending on pictures, videos and 3D tours to make their decisions—or at least help determine which houses are top contenders—clutter can make or break the experience. Not only do buyers like to picture themselves in the home, but packing up pictures and knick knacks can help the space feel more spacious.

Do a video tour test run:

Beyond just looking at how well rooms will photograph, consider enlisting a friend to give you feedback as you navigate from room to room. Make sure there is nothing underfoot to trip over, the rooms are well-lit and there is a natural route to follow from room to room.

Think about virtual staging:

Research shows that staged homes sell faster, but that can be pricey if the home is currently vacant and furniture-free. With more people looking online at listings, it’s worth considering a virtual staging service, which can effectively place digital furnishings and more around the house to demonstrate how the space can be used.

Ask your agent about 3D tours:

With 3D tours, homebuyers can view every corner of a house—which means you can’t hide things away in corners and hope they go unnoticed. However, as the Zillow research shows, this option tends to be advantageous, so it’s worth asking your real estate agent to help you line up.

5 Interesting Ways COVID-19 is Affecting Real Estate — for the Long-Term

Even as we begin to settle into a new normal, the effects of COVID-19 are sure to still be felt throughout life for a while to come. More than how we socialize and where we work, these changes are affecting real estate—in ways that all potential buyers and sellers should be aware of as they think of making moves.

Here are a few predictions from the experts…

There may be an exodus from big cities:

According to a recent survey of homebuyers and sellers by Redfin, more than 50% of residents in four of the country’s most expensive cities would plan to move elsewhere if they are able to work remotely. With other evidence suggesting permanent remote situations are likely for many jobs, this could mean more people seeking lower-cost residences in states like Nebraska.

Homebuying may rebound—plus some:

With the majority of the country on stay at home orders during the spring, it was of little surprise that real estate transactions slowed down in comparison to 2019. However, what was surprising was how quickly they seemed to rebound to levels even higher than in April 2019, according to data from Zillow. Looking ahead, there is some conjecture that more people will be itching to move as they spend more time in their homes and want residences that really work for their families.

Mortgage lenders will tighten requirements:

Throughout the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, mortgage rates continued to hold at historically low rates. However, anyone looking to buy now should be prepared to answer some more questions and provide more documentation in order to qualify than in years past. According to HomeLight, lenders are “tightening eligibility requirements” to protect would-be buyers from getting in over their heads as the economy remains uncertain.

Don’t expect home prices to significantly drop:

Unlike during the 2008 recession, which was uncharacteristically marked by home values that sharply declined, experts predict that more locales will experience stable or slightly improving values in the next year.

Buyers’ wish lists will change:

Just as people may flock from expensive, big cities to wide open spaces, they are also valuing aspects of homes that they may not have given much consideration in the past—such as ample outdoor space or multiple family rooms for people to spread out.

What To Know About Refinancing Your Home During The COVID-19 Crisis

It’s never a bad idea to consider how you can save money—but especially right now with the COVID-19 crisis affecting many families’ financial situations. Although scaling back on impulse purchases and skipping lattes can help save some money, one of the most impactful ways to change your budget’s bottom line may be considering a home refinance. You could be a good candidate for refinancing your home if:

  • You still have steady income
  • Your credit score has improved since initially purchasing your home
  • You plan to stay in your home for an extended period

With mortgage rates running extremely low through the winter and spring, refinancing your home should be an attractive option to anyone whose existing mortgage interest rate exceeds 4%. Even if you are able to lock into a new mortgage with a 3.5% interest rate, that could still mean saving a substantial amount of money on a monthly basis.

For example, a 4% interest rate on $300,000 for a conventional 30-year mortgage breaks down to $1,432 per month. But if you drop that interest rate down to 3.5%, the new monthly mortgage payment would be $1,374—or a savings of $696 per year.

If you plan to stay in your house for an extended period of time, you can see how this is a pretty good deal. However, there is one notable catch: In order to refinance, you will have to pay closing costs with a lender yet again. According to real estate data firm ClosingCorp, the national average for refinance closing costs is $5,779 including taxes.

Some lenders have recently begun promoting no-closing costs refinances, but you still need to read the fine print: Generally, there will be a higher mortgage rate to compensate for the supposed “savings” or the fees will be tacked onto the final price. (Following the wisdom that if something seems too good to be true it probably is.)

If you still aren’t sure whether refinancing is right for you, the best next step is to inquire with a small sampling of lenders to learn more about their specific fees.

Our Company’s Response to COVID-19

We treat our obligations to you seriously. As President and CEO of HomeServices of Nebraska and our family of companies, I wanted to inform you of what we, as your real estate partner and market leader, are doing to address the situation surrounding the COVID-19 Coronavirus. In keeping with our core values, we believe it is our responsibility to be pro-active in both action and communication.

Our customers, agents and employees have always been, and will remain, our top priority. Unlike many businesses, ours is uniquely personal, as it takes us into your home. In this time of unprecedented health news, we want you to have peace of mind as we continue to conduct business safely and help you find your new home or sell your current one. We are more mindful than ever of the commitment we have to you, your health and safety, and your home.

Over the past few weeks, all of our lives have been impacted by the spread of the coronavirus. As a company, we have transitioned more than 90% of our 500 REALTORS®, employees and core services partners to remote working. We have stayed one step ahead of government mandates by swiftly enacting protocols for social distancing, increased cleaning and disinfecting procedures across all our sales offices, and eliminating all in-person gatherings and meetings to ensure the safety and security of our community.

We are grateful for our robust business continuity plans, and best-in-class technologies, services, and staff. Recent events have proven the strength of these investments. Our doors—whether physically or virtually—will remain open and our talented associates and affiliates are ready to serve you.

Our sales professionals and core service partners are receiving the most up to date guidance from the CDC, the National Association of REALTORS® and local health officials on the best way to conduct their business safely during this time. Real estate transactions absolutely can and are still taking place, they are just being handled a bit differently. Here are some things you should expect:

  • Your agent may ask that you drive separately and meet at the properties being shown. During showings, you’ll be asked to practice CDC recommended hygienic guidelines.
  • You and your agent may discuss holding Open Houses for your listings virtually over social platforms and other video streaming options. For in-person showings or open houses, we have provided a list of recommended practices to our associates to help better keep you, your home and prospective buyers safe.
  • Showings of your listing will come with new best practices, including guests sanitizing before entering, removal of items are commonly touched, and instructions for not touching any surfaces without use of disposable gloves or tissues.
  • You may choose, at any time, to “go virtual” for all showings.
  • While closing is always a time for celebrating, your agent will likely wait to celebrate with you until a later time. We also will be asking only those people who have to sign documents to attend the closing, in order to minimize the exposure of all parties to potential health risks. Our doors—whether physically or virtually—will remain open, and we may ask you to take additional measures at the closing.

We are proud to be part of the HomeServices of America and Berkshire Hathaway family of companies with a commitment to Trust, Integrity, Stability and Longevity. As we mark 131 years of conducting business in our area, we are reminded of the wars, recessions, natural disasters and other challenges this great company has seen. In many of those moments—things were uncertain, but our sales professionals, employees, and partners steadied their course and continued to be a preferred and trusted real estate partner. This time will be no different. Mortgage rates have reached all-time lows and the window of opportunity is open for real estate!

On behalf of all us at HomeServices of Nebraska and our Real Estate Brokerage and Core Service Partners–HOME Real Estate, Woods Bros Realty, Prosperity Home Mortgage, HomeServices Title, HomeServices Insurance, Larabee School of Real Estate, American Home Shield and 2-10 Home Warranty, we thank you for trusting us with your home.

We will continue to provide you and our teams with meaningful updates as we learn more, but for now, we hope you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy.

From our family to yours,

Shannon Harner

President and CEO

HomeServices of Nebraska

To view this in a PDF format, click here:  Covid-19_ClientLetter

How Is Your Work / Life Balance?

Content Provided by American Home Shield

How’s Your Work/Life Balance?

Balancing work demands with daily life responsibilities can be challenging for busy people, especially for real estate professionals who often work evenings and weekends. Being available and responsive to clients is a big part of real estate success, which can easily morph into round-the-clock working mode for motivated agents. That’s why it’s important for people with real estate careers to adopt consistent habits for maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Here are some tips:

Maintaining a healthy work/life balance



Take regular digital breaks.

Put phones, computers, and tablets away during certain hours of the day so you’re not tempted to perform work-related tasks when you’re relaxing or spending time with family and friends. You’ll feel more refreshed and recharged if you disconnect for occasional periods.

Cultivate networks at home and at work.

You can’t do it all every day, no matter how hard you try. Everyone needs help once in a while, so have a safety net of friends who can help pick up the slack occasionally at home as well as colleagues you can call on when you need help at work. For example, set up a mutual arrangement with a friend or family member who can step in if a showing interferes with carpool pickup time, and do the same with a fellow agent who might be able to handle an open house that interferes with a personal commitment. You can repay the favors when they have a conflict or need extra help.

Meditate or designate quiet periods for reflection.

In today’s society, our senses are constantly being bombarded with sights, sounds, and messages. It’s important to take even a few minutes each day to clear your mind and enjoy the calm.

Get a hobby or take up a sport.

Participating in a regular activity that you enjoy will encourage you to take needed breaks as well as help you focus on something besides work. It can also help you meet new people and foster increased social interactions.

Join groups.

Connecting with like-minded people can create social opportunities and be good for your spirit. Join a book club, a political campaign, a religious organization, or volunteer at a charity.

Eat well and exercise.

When your diet isn’t ideal and you aren’t moving enough, it’s harder to handle stress and daily demands. Making good food choices and making time for regular exercise can be good for your overall health and help you cope better.

Schedule regular social outings.

If you don’t block out time on your calendar, you’ll likely get busy and skip opportunities to build relationships. Make friendships and family ties a priority by scheduling them just like you would a business meeting.

Have an American Home Shield® Home Warranty Plan for your own home.

Having this important protection can help reduce stress when covered items break down. With access to the American Home Shield network of qualified repair professionals, it can also save time when you need covered repair help, giving you more time to work or play.

Remember, nobody has a perfect work/life balance all the time. Certain periods require a tilted scale and one facet can get shorted for a while. When that happens, just strive to even things out and get yourself back on track as soon as possible.

Unusual Nebraska Destinations

Unusual Nebraska DestinationsWe Nebraskans know our state has a lot to offer — from the largest sand dune formation in the United States to the contagious energy that washes over Memorial Stadium when the Cornhuskers take the field and so much more.

But even locals may be surprised to learn about some of our state’s more unusual destinations. Next time you are planning a staycation in Nebraska, add a trip to one of these places off the beaten path. You’ll be guaranteed to have some interesting wisdom to share at your next party!

Monowi, Nebraska — “America’s Smallest Town”

3.5 hours north of Lincoln, this teeny town consists of little more than a tavern, and a small library. If it doesn’t sound like a big enough economy to support a significant population, that’s true. In fact, there is only one resident, Elsie Eiler — who pulls multiple roles as bartender, librarian and, naturally, mayor. Thankfully, she’s always up for company. Recent passersby included folks from Switzerland and Myanmar!

Old Lincoln Highway

Way back in 1913, the transcontinental Lincoln Highway was completed, connecting New York City and San Francisco, with a route that cut straight through Nebraska. But unlike the highways we all know today, this was paved with bricks. As time went on, the highway was largely replaced — except for a 3-mile stretch between Omaha and Elkhorn. You can visit it today for a taste of how people traveled more than a century ago. (Hint: It was a lot bumpier!)

Harold Warp’s Pioneer Village

About 2 hours west of Lincoln and just a dip down from I-80 is a replica pioneer town founded by self-made millionaire Harold Warp in 1953. With an appreciation for rags-to-riches stories inspired by his own humble beginnings in a sod house, Warp sought to give others a sense of life on the prairies in the 19th century. Today, there are 28 buildings spread out over 20 acres — including a replica of Warp’s childhood soddy.

The Hasting’s Museum Kool-Aid Exhibit

The Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History is worth a visit all on its own, but who can resist a walk down memory lane with none other than the Kool-Aid Man himself? Kool-Aid was developed in 1927 after Nebraskan Edwin Perkins was inspired by Jell-O. You can learn more about that and anything else you’ve ever wondered about Kool-Aid’s history by visiting the museum, which also bills itself as the largest municipal museum between Chicago and Denver.

Ashfall Fossil Beds

If you find yourself heading north, schedule a stop off in little Royal, Nebraska. The town isn’t particularly lively today, but it was a different story 12 million years ago when prehistoric creatures flocked to the watering hole. That was until ash from a volcanic eruption in modern-day Idaho killed off the rhinos, horses, small camels and more. We know this because the same ash that killed them preserved the remains in impressive condition — which we can now view and learn from today.

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