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Tips for Remote Team Management

In 2020, when the pandemic lockdown first started, we were forced change up our lives QUICK. Everything went remote…starting with work.

I’ve observed a ton of creativity in integrating home offices in kitchens, living rooms and even in closets (yes cloffices are a thing now!).

In the beginning it was new and even fun. Bonus Zoom meeting points if someone is balancing a baby on one hip or has a sourdough starter fermenting on the counter.

Now we’re all complaining about Zoom fatigue like it’s the new PTSD.

Our team was 80% remote even before the pandemic, so we weren’t as affected as most, but we evolved our team processes quite a bit as a result of the pandemic.

So, if you are looking to start a brand new business, grow your office, figure out how to improve your existing operations remote situation, or just want an article to show your boss that there may be a better way other than using mouse movement tracker software, check out these tips for remote working.

Best Apps for Remote Working

If the remote working trend continues, you’ll want to lean into virtual collaboration tools like Slack, Zoom, and Asana. More than just remote team management apps, these tools make it possible to continue to work together like a well oiled machine…provided you have:

  • electricity
  • an internet connection
  • a reasonable typing speed (50+ WPM or we’re sending you back to Mavis Beacon)
  • and on my team, a solid emoji game is essential to be on our Slack 🔙 2️⃣ 🟦 1️⃣

Oh and speaking of Slack…this is an incredible way to get a conversation going between larger groups of people. Surprisingly, it is more effective than if all these people were in the same room talking. We’ve been on slack channels with 300+ people involved. Imagine trying to do that IRL. I’m getting stressed just thinking about it!

Remote Project Management Challenges and Solutions

Remote project management is tough because people don’t generally like to be tracked – it feels too much like micromanagement. When you’re operating virtually, you want a management tool that, if used well, can make up for the lack of physical interaction BUT not make everyone feel like they’re reliving 1984. It’s a fine balance that we’re still perfecting, but tools like Asana and Basecamp make it much easier to track status without dealing with a revolt.

We’ve mentioned Asana twice already and it’s definitely worth checking out. Oh and it’s got a free tier which can meet most team’s needs…

Training Remote Employees

This is a challenge. So much of the onboarding process is about communication and when people are remote, the communication is handicapped significantly. What makes up for that?

We’ve found that structure helps. It ain’t sexy, but bringing on a new team member requires a easy-to-follow schedule of activities that can get a new hire up-to-speed asap. A loose agenda leads to confusion and that leads to frustration especially when everyone’s sitting alone in their cloffice.  This is a process where task management tools like Asana and Basecamp can be invaluable btw.

Lastly, we realized that when you know your teammate is going to be starting off in a remote setting, raising the bar in terms of experience and skill level is important. While it’s not good news for the entry level youngsters, we recommend hiring self motivated people that require minimal training when you know it’s a remote position.

Best Remote Team Building Activities

When you’re virtual, there’s less opportunity for team-building activities to boost team morale. But we’ve found that hosting things like a remote team lunch or an after-hours team happy hour can be a fun way of bonding. Yes, it’s another video conference, but there’s no work expectations, just laughing. The benefit to these informal get-togethers is that everyone gets to have exactly what they want, unlike when you have in-person team lunches and you’re at the mercy of whoever was in charge of catering it.\

The pandemic created a whole new way of working and even as we recover, the world will never go back to working the old way.

So if you are one of the many companies and teams that are planning to evolve your definition of “work”, make sure you get the right tools, have the right focus, and communicate changes thoroughly so you can thrive in your new work environment whether it’s virtually, physically, or whimsically (our fave).

…oh and if your boss is still trying to track your mouse movement, try this out.

What to know about building an ADU in Los Angeles County and Surrounding Areas in California

Stylish Backyard ADU with nice kitchen

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is an extra living space you add on to an existing residence

Often times called a “Granny Flat” or a “mother-in-law” suite, but relax: most of the time (if you’re lucky) your mother-in-law is not going to reside in the ADU.

In fact, most homeowners use them as a source of rental income or as a supplemental living space. In this article, we’ll focus on the rental property potential because that’s why ADU construction in Los Angeles has become so popular. The massive demand for housing in LA and surrounding areas, has made it so local laws have welcomed ADU development as a way to manage the housing crisis.

So if you’re an owner that’s asking Why should I build an ADU?

It is simple. ADUs increase property value and add potential for rental income!

One of the few win wins when it comes to mother-in-laws, right?

(ok no more jabs at the in-laws from here on out)

The three most common types of ADUs are: attached, detached, and interior conversions

A detached ADU is a separate structure from the main residence. It increases the property’s square footage and appraisal value without the same limitations that the other categories might have. In Los Angeles, adding 1,000 square feet can raise the property value by almost half a million dollars.

An attached ADU is an extension of the main residence, but it cannot exceed 50% of the current square footage of the property. Within this category of attached ADUs is the “Junior Accessory Dwelling Units” aka JADU. This is what you get when you add a small kitchen and exterior door to a space in an existing single family. It may include a bathroom OR may share a bathroom with the primary dwelling.   

Another type of ADU is a garage conversion, which is usually the least expensive style to build, but it does have some drawbacks. Most obviously, you’ll lose some/all of your garage…and that may hurt the property value. Having said that, a garage conversion can generate significant income.

What to consider when building an ADU

So now you’ve got your options for adding an ADU, but choosing the best path is really going to depend on the physical layout of your property, your goals for the space, and your budget. Here’s what to consider before building an accessory dwelling unit:

  • Assess the total cost of the construction. Now add 25% to that estimate because construction usually has unexpected costs and last minute updates that require more money.
  • Review the current ADU guidelines and code specifications – they will vary by local zoning ordinances. For example if you are building an ADU in Los Angeles and you don’t have an egress window, it’s gonna be a problem. 
  • Don’t think that watching 10,000 hours of HGTV gives you the skills to complete this project without professionals. If you have that DIY itch, start on a birdhouse. If you come back to find at least one bird that’s made it a home, then you have our blessing to put hammer to nail on your ADU. Until then, LEAVE IT TO THE PROS because unlike that birdhouse, this ADU is gonna have to attract a tenant that will actually pay you one day.
  • Insulate the ADU appropriately because cold tenants light fires to stay warm…and nothing decreases property values like the fire department
  • Soundproofing, natural light, and ventilation will all be important factors when making the ADU feel like someone’s home. Just because it’s called a mother-in-law, doesn’t mean you can get away with making it feel like a dungeon.

Accessory dwelling units are easy ways to increase property value while also increasing income or privacy. And remember, that Granny’s can be cool too…so think hip and modern when designing your Granny Flat. Get creative with your architect and contractor…but don’t forget to have a convo about permits before it’s too late. Not every ADU must be permitted, but if you get caught running afoul of some of the stricter local guidelines, even Granny’s Antique Elvis Plate collection won’t save you from the costs to get things back up to code. 

Need more creative home tips? Head over here to learn about the best suburbs in LA, and here for our favorite date nights at home. And if you’re looking for something we haven’t mentioned, contact our team here – we provide friendly finance advice with no commitments and absolutely no hair pulling!

Now we must bid you ADU

How to Get Free Financial Advice From Friends or Family

free financial advice

If you’re looking for financial advice, you have two options. First, you could make an appointment to chat with a financial advisor who will give you specific steps to take to understand your finances a bit better. Then they’ll give you strategies to lower your financial risk and build wealth. And guess what, it will only cost you about $150 to $400 an hour! 

Don’t have an extra couple thousand dollars hanging around? The second option is to ask the people around you. 

Financial Advice from Family and Friends is Free

…which can be a great financial decision all on it’s own. But don’t pat yourself on the back too quickly because you gotta pick your free financial advisors carefully. 

Here’s how to choose a financial advisor from within your friends and family: 

  • Have they demonstrated the kind of financial success that you want to achieve?
  • Do they have a track record for smart and responsible personal financial decisions?
  • Can you trust them with the most sensitive details of your financial picture?
  • Are they willing to take the time to advise you in improving your financial situation on an ongoing basis?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions you’re in luck – you just found yourself a free financial advisor. Now give yourself a swift pat on the back before we burst your bubble.

Finding out where to get Financial Advice for Free, is just the First Part of the Process…

Now it’s time for the person you’ve picked for free financial advice to ask you a bunch of borderline offensive questions so that they understand the nitty gritty of your situation. It’s an important step before getting any practical advice, but buckle up.

These are the questions that a financial advisor should ask 

  • What are your financial assets and liabilities aka how much money do you have, make, and owe?
  • Where does your income come from?
  • What’s the nature of any debts?
  • What’s your credit score?
  • What are your loftiest financial goals and your most terrifying financial fears? 

Yes, it’s gonna get real…real quick so be sure you trust this person with these sensitive areas of your life. Oh and you better have buy-in from your significant other too because they’re going to be exposed in this process. 

Truth Time 

A worthwhile financial confidant will be honest and unwilling to sugarcoat your financial reality.

Why? 

You don’t want to ask financial advice from family or friends who will tell you what you want to hear. 

The advice might be free, but don’t be penny smart and pound foolish

said in the voice of a Daddy Warbucks from Annie

Better to get the hard truth early so you can take the necessary actions and achieve your financial goals.

Have other questions about your long-term financial goals? Speak to one of our team members here…and our advice is always free.

Starter Home vs Dream Home – Dreamers Welcome

Starter Home vs Dream Home – Dreamers Welcome

You might be thinking that buying your dream home is out of the question. Maybe the down payment shock has you cowering in fear or your debt to income (DTI) ratio is a bit lopsided or you and your partner have seriously different ideas on the ideal place to settle OR you’re waiting for your dream partner before you settle into that dream home. Whatever is holding you back, the truth is, you’ve got options! Just know that the sooner you start planning, the better your chances are.

Reality Check Your Dream House

Sorry we’ve got to start by keeping it real. We are all about having dreams, but let’s pull our head out of the clouds for this exercise.

How Much Will My Dream House Cost?

Chances are that IF you’re reading this you already have something in mind for your dream house. Maybe an app on your phone where you’ve saved a few dozen homes that you’ve already imagined yourself in…having a relaxing morning scone in that breakfast nook. Yes thought so. Now do the following:

  • Take 20% of the average price point of those dream houses you’ve been saving on your app.
  • Now take 80% of that same dream house price point and plug that amount into a mortgage calculator using today’s 30 year fixed interest rate. Multiple the monthly payment by 3x. We can help with this part.
  • If your dream house still requires some TLC, put some extra aside for maintenance projects

Can I afford my dream house?

If you don’t have anywhere near the 20% down payment or the amount needed for the monthly payment – keeping in mind that you should only be spending 28% of your gross income on housing expenses – then the short answer is no. You are not ready at this moment to pull the trigger on that dream house.

BUT THAT’S OK. Dreams aren’t meant to be easily achievable. Otherwise they wouldn’t be dreams. Pep talk over. Skip down to the next section where we talk about your options.

However, if you are able to afford either the down payment and/or the monthly payment, then here’s the plan:

  • DON’T mention it to your friends because they may start to resent you
  • DO talk to a real estate agent or contact an expert lender (well didn’t you come to the right place) to see what you need to do to make this happen.

The general rule of thumb is that housing expenses (aka monthly mortgage principle, interest, taxes, and insurance aka PITI) should be no more than 28% of your gross income.

Now that you’re armed with this intel let’s start chasing your dreams.

Options for Making Your Dream Home a Reality

Here are a few solid paths to getting your dream home:

  1. If you survived our little math exercise above and found out that you have the down payment and income needed to responsibly buy your dream house, then huzzah! Your dreams are about to come true. Just call us and we’ll start putting together a dream loan for your dream home.
  2. Not there quite yet? Consider renting a home for a bit while boosting your savings and paying down any debt you may have. You may think you’re really far off from landing your dream house, but before you give up all hope, know that there’s a lot of flexibility in financing properties nowadays. For example the 20% down payment that we scared you with earlier is an outdated requirement. Sure we always still start the conversation with 20% down, but because that’s usually where the mortgage terms are most favorable, but you can get away with much less down…and that’s good to know even if you learn the 20% down payment still makes the most sense.
  3. Ok now we get creative: consider buying a starter home. A “starter home” is exactly what it sounds like – the first home that you’ll live in for a few years while you add to your savings, decrease your debt, and build equity in your current home to put toward your dream home. Now, buying a starter home doesn’t mean you are lowering all of your standards. Think long term because even if you are treating it as a stepping stone, you may decide to hang on to it as a rental property even after you get that Barbie Dream House (sorry Kens). Love that starter home, enjoy that starter home, and treat it like a home that someone else may one day fall in love with. Who knows, maybe your starter home is someone else’s dream home.
  4. Here’s the Macgyver option. If you’re on the brink of affording either the starter home or dream home, add a roommate to help cover the monthly costs. We’re all about having someone else pay your mortgage and over time your situation may improve so you can cover the costs without the roomie. If you want to put your real estate entrepreneur hat on, you can make the starter home a duplex and rent out the other unit to someone. This kind of passive income compounds as property values increase and opens up tons of opportunities down the line, not to mention tax benefits.

Remember, there is no definite right or wrong answer to the starter home vs dream home decision…just like some super weird person once said “there are many ways to skin a cat”.

Just like any life altering decision, this one requires weighing the pros and cons while taking a close look at your unique circumstances. 

If you need help weighing the options further, head over to our Mortgage FAQs and Financing Resources page. We have a plethora of articles and fast facts on mortgages, including what different types of mortgage loans are available, including advice for couples that are planning to buy a home and get married, and first time home buyer FAQs. And of course, you can always speak to our team here – friendly finance advice with no commitments and absolutely no cat skinning!

Credit Score Dating Doesn’t Mean Romance is Dead

Dating apps and websites have been around for decades now and the popularity is undeniable. Yours truly even got her man on the internet and he hasn’t murdered me yet…so I’m going to call it a success. What appealed to me about online dating was the efficiency of learning how compatible someone might be before going out IRL. If I went on a first date with every dude I swiped through, I would have died single and bitter with the most aggressive red wine teeth stains on earth.

Julie Aragon and Ajay on couch with neon sign

Nowadays online daters are playing an impressive long game. Many are posting their credit scores into their dating profiles, alongside their age, height, weight, and occupation, for any potential partner to see. And there are even credit score dating apps, like Credit Cupid, that specifically cater to selective singles seeking relationships exclusively with those who have good credit.

This open disclosure is a relatively new phenomenon that seems to stem from the number of people who realize that financial difficulties and poor money management habits are serious problems in long-term relationships. Or maybe it’s because these younger generations are crippled by intense student loan debt and are hoping to partner with someone who will make positive financial decisions with them. 

Most people in a relationship find it awkward to discuss personal financial issues like debt. Individuals who are starting new relationships might place a lot of pressure on only pursuing partners who won’t hinder their long-term financial plans. Do they want to own a home? Buy a new car? Save for retirement or plan for a child’s future college education? 

Or, if they prefer up-front and open discussions about their current credit status and debt outlook, they might only be hoping to avoid investing a lot of time into a relationship with someone that demonstrates irresponsible financial behavior. 

Whatever their reasoning, the younger generation is definitely putting effort into securing a better financial future by using credit score dating apps to ensure their partners are on the same page. Hopefully, if they are already in a loving relationship, they don’t decide to suddenly drop their partner just because of their credit score. Remember, with a bit of effort, any credit score is redeemable. 

Have other questions about how your credit score might affect your financial future? Wondering whether a spouse’s bad credit would affect your mortgage qualifications? Or who’s credit score will be used for the purchase? For all your credit score questions, check out our post on Common Credit Score Questions.

Julie was a breath of fresh air. She’s smart, experienced, easy to communicate with
If you're in the market for a mortgage broker... seriously, look no further

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My hubby and I worked with Julie to purchase our first home and it was awesome
We actually screened a bunch of lenders before we decided to work with Julie, and we are really happy we did the research. Julie kept the process simple for us.    

She was able to help us understand the entire process
I would say without her and her team we probably would have lost our minds worrying over every little thing but she was able to help us every step of the way.

Julie!!!!!! You are the bomb.com!
You made it happen! When others always denied us... Thank you so much for helping us refinance our home! You are a miracle woman!

Her professional yet enthusiastic demeanor immediately put us at ease
...and actually turned an intimidating process into an exciting one. She sent us frequent updates, answered our questions quickly and thoroughly, coordinated with our realtor and escrow and just overall made everything run so smoothly.

THANK YOU JULIE AND TEAM for everything!
Julie not only gave us a great new rate, lower monthly payment but also the confidence that we were in great hands.

Julie is a ROCKSTAR!!!
This has been a positive experience from day one. Julie walked us through the process and was extremely communicative!

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Los Angeles, CA 90013
(310) 340-6606

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The Turnkey Foundation, Inc. d/b/a Arbor Financial Group is an Equal Housing Lender. In all jurisdictions, the principal {NMLS: 236669} licensed location is 2932 Daimler Street, Santa Ana, CA, 92705. {Julie Aragon MLO #250691}