Sustainable Lifestyle

7 Things To Look For In A Sustainable Fashion Brand

By | Sustainable Fashion, Sustainable Lifestyle | No Comments

Greenhouse gases are heating up the planet, entire species are dying out, and our supply of clean water is dwindling. The fact is that fashion takes up more than its fair share of the planet's resources. But right now we have the opportunity to make real, meaningful changes. By rethinking our practices and adopting new, sustainable ways of consuming, we can reverse this dead end course. Slow fashion is not just the latest hot trend. It is a transformation that is changing the way we create and consume. Read on to discover seven things you should look for in a sustainable fashion brand.

1. Quality


One of the most unsustainable practices is throwaway or ‘fast’ fashion. More than half of fast fashion winds up in a landfill in less than a year. You can make a big difference by buying from brands that create pieces that are designed to last, and that includes jewelry. Invest in products from smaller companies that are committed to sustainable practices. In doing so, you’ll find items that are not only more durable, but also more valuable, like unique engagement rings. You want your gems to look as good on your 30th wedding anniversary as they do on your 1st.


2. Recyclability


When you’re shopping, it is important to consider not only how many times you will use a particular item but where it will go once you no longer want it. Synthetics are very difficult to recycle, and that includes blends. Whenever possible, choose 100% natural, organic fibers. More and more brands are offering store credit to consumers in the form of ‘take back’ programs. Other options include the rapidly-growing niche of online resale. Make a few bucks while keeping your stuff out of landfills, a winning solution all around.


3. Emissions


The fashion industry is one of the most polluting sectors in the world. Apparel and footwear alone create more waste than all airline flights and maritime shipping combined. Seek out brands that not only know what their carbon emissions are, but are taking steps to mitigate them. You can cut your own carbon footprint by wearing your clothes for longer. Just one year of extra wear can cut your personal carbon emissions by about 30%.


4. Chemicals


Have you ever considered what went into making your clothes, like chemicals, dyes, or an excessive quantity of water? Creating a pair of jeans uses an incredible amount of all of these. Look for businesses that participate in sustainable organizations such as the Better Cotton Initiative. Take a pass on any brand that isn’t willing to share its practices


5. Fairness


What you don’t see when you cozy up in your favorite pjs is that many crops are grown using forced and child labor. Also, cotton frequently requires large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides, exposing farmers to toxic doses of chemicals. Sustainable practices in the fashion industry include fair wages and safe working conditions for the workers everywhere in the world. Seek out products that prove their commitment to living wages and job safety.


6. Transparency


We truly are a global community. Your clothes and accessories have likely traveled farther than you ever will. But this far-flung production has the result of hiding the true cost of an item. If a company won’t tell you about its supply chain, meaning where it gets its base materials or how it ships goods, track down the information online. Through the power of the internet, consumers have become informed. They can also let other know when businesses behave badly.


7. Values


There’s talk and then there’s action. Businesses that put their money where their mouth is are the ones to invest in. When the beliefs of brands and consumers align, that’s when real change happens. Solid values that help the entire planet thrive will always come out on top.

5 Tips to Travel Sustainably With Your Dog

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Bringing your furbaby to different destinations would be a fun and memorable way to build a stronger bond between the two of you. 

However, to make sure your travel plans would work according to plan, you must consider more things than usual. 

To make the planning easier for you, here are 5 tips to travel sustainably with your dog.

Bring All The Essentials

If you’re thinking, ‘Ah, we’ll only be out for a weekend, just a few packs of food and water would be enough.’ You’re actually under-packing.

It doesn’t mean you have to bring more food. It just means there are more things than food that should always be with you, especially when you’re traveling far. 

Some essential travel items to be brought for your dog are:

  • Your pup’s medications
  • Dog grooming items - you never know when ‘muddy accidents’ happen
  • A dog harness - a multipurpose one that you can use for walks or a dog car harness helps!
  • Contact info of your dog’s vet along with your dog’s medical records and health certificates - it would save you from ending your vacation prematurely and going back home with a sick pup
  • Your dog’s first aid kit
  • Dog food, treats, and water bottle along with their feeding bowls
  • Waste bags
  • A leash and a collar indicating where you’d be staying during your trip
  • Dog crate or kennel
  • Your dog’s favorite toy
  • A dog bed

Check Pet Guidelines

This is especially important when using public transportation.

Do extra research and make sure that your chosen mode of transport is pet-friendly.  

Some public transportation would allow dogs that are properly leashed. Others would require dogs to be placed in dog carriers, kennels, or crates for maximum security. 

It’s also best to mention you’re bringing a dog with you when booking a flight. In this way, the airline would be able to properly accommodate you and give you a better explanation of their pet policies.

Train Your Dog For Travel

If it’s her first time to travel, it is possible for a well-trained dog to misbehave. To prevent this, you can have a dry run of what it would feel like traveling, especially before a long trip.

Take her out on a short ride at first and observe her behavior. Is she enjoying the sights or is she feeling nervous and motion-sick?

To prevent her from panicking, it’s best to bring a companion that would keep her calm and help her clean up if ever she gets too sick during the ride.

Properly Secure Your Dog

Restraining your dog may give her less freedom while traveling, but it is for the best when ensuring everyone’s safety.

Just like us, a sudden movement of any moving vehicle may cause minor to severe injuries to a dog. It’s also dangerous if you let her be free enough to bring her head out of the window. For this reason, a dog-friendly seatbelt should be worn at all times. 

May it be a harness or a kennel, make sure that your dog is comfortable with it prior to a trip. This will prevent unnecessary panic to your dog, and would not make her think that she’s trapped or is being punished. 

Give Your Dog Maximum Comfort

Dogs can get motion-sickness too. So it's best to give them maximum comfort while on the road. 

Make sure that she isn’t full to reduce feeling sick. However, water should be available to keep her hydrated.

Moreover, keep her area well-ventilated. If there is no air-conditioning on the back part of your car where you decided to secure her, it would be recommended to roll down the windows to give her enough fresh air.

In addition, make sure to stop every now and then for some stretching, and potty breaks. Do not forget to give her light meals especially when on a long journey.

Traveling with your furbaby would mean adding more things to your to-do list prior to the trip. But if it means more memories to tell and laugh about, wouldn’t that be worth it?

The Ultimate Shopper’s Guide To Sustainable Fashion

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The Ultimate Shopper’s Guide To Sustainable Fashion

So, you want to be a more conscious consumer & shopper, but where do you start? Learning all you can about fast fashion and ethical brands is great – but it can also be time-consuming, especially when you just want to buy a pair of jeans or a great swimsuit without devoting hours to the search. Luckily, breaking down the main issues and finding key things to look for can help. This way, we can feel a little more enlightened about all things “eco-fashion”, do good for the planet, and still enjoy shopping for great sustainable fashion. To learn more about why eco-friendly clothes are so important, and the best ways to shop sustainably while still have fun with it all, we invite you to delve into this important topic. Armed with this high-level information, you may feel compelled to dig deeper into the issues that matter most to you – and to that, we say, go for it!

Why is sustainability important?

Sustainability in fashion is critical for many reasons. Did you know that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual carbon emissions globally? That is more than all maritime shipping and international carbon emission combined! On top of that, the fashion industry is said to produce 20% of the world’s waste. According to scientists, the next 10 years could be the most critical for reversing the course of these concerning realities. This is serious stuff.

Today, many leaders in the industry are calling out important ways to improve fashion’s footprint, including areas of focus such as; utilizing regenerative agriculture, decreasing c02 emissions, ending the use of toxic materials such as microplastics, harnessing alternative energy, recycling waste products, and turning them into usable fibers and products, increasing the prevalence of fair trade practices and ending human exploitation, as well as reworking business models into circular economy systems. Sustainability is important in order to support the planet and to also support those who create what we wear with fair wages and safe working conditions.

The main takeaway? Sustainability benefits everyone. We can all affect change and make a real difference by investing in companies and brands that are forging a sustainable path forward. Feel good and do good with fashion? Sounds like a win-win scenario.

What is sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion applies to the fashion system in its totality, ranging from ecological, financial, cultural, and social issues. It is a framework that addresses the need for integrity throughout the many facets of textile and product production and explores and finds ways to improve upon aspects of the material, production, design, and more.

When figuring out how to shop sustainable fashion, here are a few areas that are most commonly focused on:

  • Responsibly-Sourced Materials
  • Low Carbon Footprint
  • Responsible & Alternative Energy Consumption
  • Fair Trade Policies
  • Regenerative Agriculture
  • Transparency in Supply Chain
  • Quality & Product
  • Indigenous and Localized Community Impacts
  • Slow Fashion vs. Fast Fashion

Where can I shop for sustainable clothing & accessories?

From high end to budget-friendly, sustainable fashion has become more accessible than ever. And once you find your favorite brands or shops, we recommend having fun with recycling your clothing, trading garments with friends, and getting as much use out of the pieces you love, rather than over-buying. You may be surprised how long your well-loved pieces last, and how much more meaning they carry when you put more thought into your sustainable fashion purchases. If you are wondering how and where to buy sustainable clothing, then look no further.


  • Footwear
  • Shoes that are designed with social and environmental responsibility, while also being stylish and functional. Sneakers work for streetwear and exercise, sizing for children and adults.
  • $$$
  • Utilizing a significant amount of eco-friendly materials and limiting chemical, water, and wastewater in production, Veja continually improves their sourcing and production methods to reflect highly sustainable principles. Some refer to Veja as ‘the world’s most sustainable sneaker brand’.


Vivida Lifestyle

  • Swimwear & Activewear
  • Bikinis, surf suits, and activewear designed to perform exceptionally and look incredible on. Beautifully designed while offering superior performance, pieces are built for action while still feeling feminine and sexy. Subtle, thoughtful features and a loyal eco-conscious community make this brand especially noteworthy and earth-friendly.
  • $$
  • Vivida’s swim and activewear line is made from recycled, post-consumer plastic bottles. They also work with the United Nations to help drive industry sustainability initiatives globally. Other areas of focus include utilizing GOTS certified cotton, wind energy, eco-neoprene made of recycled rubber tires, and the use of low impact dyes and non-toxic glues in high-performance gear built for the water and beyond.


  • Lounge & Streetwear
  • Comfortable basics in simple colors to mix and match and wear anywhere. Easy fit, affordable, and made for all ages.
  • $

    PACT works with a Fair-Trade certified factory that creates products from GOTS certified organic cotton, which means no harmful chemicals. A great example of how to make sustainable fashion affordable.

Stella McCartney 

  • Women’s High Fashion
  • High-end clothing and accessories designed and created with extreme attention to detail and tailoring.
  • $$$$
  • Working on numerous initiatives to ensure their products do not exploit natural resources, Stella McCartney has reduced the use of oil-based synthetic material and makes sure to use cotton that is not sourced from endangered forests. They also keep an extensive supplier database that meets only the highest standards in sustainability and quality.

Outland Denim

  • Denim Clothing
  • Clothing for men and women that ranges from tees and dresses to jackets and pants, with an emphasis on denim. Easy, wearable, and high quality.
  • $$$
  • Outland utilizes a high proportion of eco materials, including low impact dyes and GOTS certified cotton to produce their denim products. They also limit water usage and harmful chemicals. Additionally, they provide employment opportunities to women of Cambodia who have been trafficked, offering them a fair living wage.


Brothers We Stand

  • Men’s Fashion
  • Ethical clothing for men, including t-shirts, coats, jeans, sweatshirts, and more.
  • $$
  • This company focuses on creating a positive social and environmental impact by working with wind-powered factories, operating with transparent supply chains, and ensuring fair and safe labor conditions.


  • Knitwear

  • Luxurious, but more affordable than your average high-quality knitwear. From sweaters and matching sets to dresses and elevated loungewear.

  • $$

  • Focused on improving transparency, especially in the often, over-priced cashmere market, the founders pay nomadic herders 50% more than industry standards and cut out middlemen in their direct-to-consumer model.


  • Leather Goods, Accessories & Clothing

  • A combination of chic apparel and accessories for a modern wardrobe. Women’s bags, jewelry, and items easily integrated into any wardrobe as go-to staples.

  • $$

  • Cuyana works with global craftspeople to support local communities and minimizes their carbon footprint by sourcing materials in close proximity to their manufacturing facilities.

Alternative ways to dress sustainably on a budget

  • It’s not difficult to learn how to clothes shop sustainably. Once you learn a few hacks and mix and match strategies, you’ll find it can be quite fun. Aside from buying new clothes & accessories, here are some other ways to score great finds, sustainably.


  • Spearhead regular meetups with your friends and acquaintances to bring clothes you no longer love and swap for new-to-you items.


  • If you’re feeling creative, discover new ways to wear old items you’ve outgrown or become tired with. Pants can become shorts, old cotton tees can be reimagined into a cool headscarf, and that boyfriend shirt could be cropped and cinched at the waist for a fresh look.


  • If you’re looking for sustainable fashion cheap, this is the place to go. Not only is it an ultra-affordable option, but you’ll also find unique and one of a kind pieces that will elevate your wardrobe in cool and unexpected ways.


  • Services such as Rent the Runway and Nuuly have become the new go-to sources for great fashion that you don’t need to own to wear. These are especially great when you need that killer black dress or meeting attire that you know you’ll only wear once.

About The Author

Vivida Lifestyle seeks to build the best and most sustainable activewear and accessories for watersports, yoga, and life. Vivida supports a global community of like-minded individuals that inspire and empower one another to live balanced, healthy, and fulfilling lifestyles doing what they love. Focused on supporting the earth and serving as an example for the industry, Vivida has signed on with the United Nations in helping to create a Global Climate Action Plan for the Fashion Industry. They also work with some of the most sustainable, innovative, and transparent manufacturing methods, materials, and facilities available today.

Make Sure The Mask You Use To Protect Yourself Doesn’t Harm Our Nature

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The other day I was reading an article published in a renowned news website which said that soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the oceans and other water bodies.

And it is a clear indication that the coronavirus pandemic is not only a threat to humans but marine life as well.

Heaps of gloves, masks, hand sanitizer bottles, and other medical wastes are piling under the waves. This is an indication of the onset of a new type of pollution if nothing is done.


Since there is clear evidence that wearing a mask can lower the chances of contracting the coronavirus, masks are the new normal for all of us.

The earth is already in distress due to pollution and global warming; thus, we must not transfer our troubles (the pandemic) to it now.

The lockdown during the pandemic is giving the earth time and a chance to heal itself. We must not mess it up for once. And it is time to make sure the mask we use to protect ourselves doesn’t harm our nature.

Disadvantages of Using Single Use Masks

Single-use masks are usually manufactured using polypropylene which does not break down or decomposes easily.

Polypropylene is a thermoplastic polymer and is widely used due to its chemical resistance. This plastic is the safest of plastics and is considered safe for human use, but it is not eco-friendly.

This plastic causes severe harm to marine life as it does not disappear but breaks down slowly into micro-plastic. This micro-plastic enters the food chains when marine animals accidentally ingest it.


The toxins from the plastic can kill marine animals causing their population to reduce and ultimately disappear. This can cause an imbalance in the ecosystem.

Using multi-use masks is the way forward. Masks made of fabric can be used more than once and can be washed if dirty.

Multi-Use Fabric Masks

The first fabric that comes to my mind is cotton. It is a breathable, absorbent, and comfortable fabric that is easily available to us.

Cotton masks advantages

  • It is easy to
  • Cotton fabric is hypoallergenic. This means that cotton does not trigger or cause skin or breathing
  • This fabric lasts longer as it is
  • Cotton doesn’t emit odors and is
  • Cotton if not blended with any other material does not stretch and lose

Although cotton is good fabric, the cultivation process involves steps that are harmful to us as well as the environment.


Here are a few things that make cotton cultivation unhealthy for humans and the ecosystem:

  • Cotton crops require a lot of water to
  • The amount of chemicals sprayed on the cotton plant is the highest in the cotton

Also, when they mix with the soil it can strip its nutrients away.

A better alternative for cotton is the lesser-known hemp fabric. It is a misunderstood crop due to its classification under the Cannabis Sativa family.

Why use Hemp Masks During This Pandemic?

There are several reasons to do so. Although this fabric from the hemp plant has been in use for several centuries, due to its connection to the marijuana family, several misconceptions surround it.


Here are a few facts that make hemp a super crop:

  • It can grow anywhere in the world, and in many types of
  • It can be cultivated without pesticides, insecticides, and
  • It kills weeds, purifies soil, and is perfect for rotation use, due to its short harvest cycle (120 days).
  • It flourishes in rainwater and does not need excess water to
  • The roots of the hemp plant go deep into the soil and act as a natural soil aerator and prevent soil
  • Hemp plants can be grown in the same soil for at least twenty years without adding any fertilizers or crop rotation. Interestingly, this super crop enhances the soil richness than before the plant was
  • Once the crop is harvested, the farmer mixes the roots and leaves back into the soil to keep the soil rich in
  • Hemp crop is ready for harvesting within four months of planting
  • It can grow on small pieces of land suitable for
  • Hemp crops can be harvested several times a
  • Hemp plants are the only plant species that can capture high amounts of carbon from the environment making it pollution-free.

325 kgs of carbon can be easily absorbed by a ton of this plant.

All parts of the hemp plant from seeds to roots can be utilized. In fact, hemp fiber can be used to generate strong, durable, and environment-friendly plastic substitutes such as masks.

How are hemp masks better than other fabric masks?

Hemp is a clear winner when it comes to sustainable masks because of its versatility and durability. Hemp plants utilize less than 50% of water than cotton crops making it an environmentally favorable fabric.


That hemp has the strongest and the longest plant fiber in the world - has been the biggest learning of my life in the past decade. Hemp is also resistant to rotting and abrasion. And during ancient times it was used to manufacture sails of boats.

Another very important reason for adding hemp masks in your wardrobe is that it is biodegradable. It hardly takes a few weeks to a couple of months to decompose, while cotton masks may take more than five months to biodegrade.

So here is a fabric that is not only eco-friendly to cultivate but easier to decompose.

Here are a few facts to prove that hemp is the fabric to use to protect ourselves and the earth during this pandemic:

  • Fabric made from hemp is stronger and durable than cotton. And the best part is that the more you wash hemp fabric the softer it gets, unlike other fabrics that may start withering with each
  • Hemp fabric is resistant to bacteria and mold growth. Thus, masks made from hemp can be worn multiple times without the need to wash it immediately. This can help save water (usable), which is slowly disappearing from the
  • Highly resistant to termite, chemical, and to a great extent fire as
  • UV resistant. This characteristic of the hemp fabric saves your skin from skin burns and darkening.
  • Low elasticity makes it retain its shape at all
  • Hemp fabric can easily blend with other fabrics and synthetic
  • Long lifespan due to the strength of the
  • Resistant to
  • Hemp fabric has thermoregulation abilities that mean that you can wear this fabric around the year. It keeps your skin cool during winters and warms during
  • The tensile strength of this fabric is quite high due to which it does not tear or stretch
  • Last but not the least, hemp is a biodegradable fabric. If your hemp mask reaches the end of its life, cut it, and throw it in the compost It will decompose within a few weeks.

Hemp fabric can be reused until you want because it does not easily tear. Using hemp masks is the most effective way to promote sustainability.

There isn’t any other fabric that can be used multiple times for several years without wear and tear and can quickly decompose when added to the compost pile.

With so many advantages of using hemp masks, we must go the hemp way as soon as possible.

Author Bio: Vishal Vivek, Co-founded the NGO Hemp Foundation to increase awareness about hemp which is the most misunderstood plant on the planet. He believes that we can fight climate change, water crisis, and plastic pollution with Hemp. Times Group recognized him as a legendary entrepreneur and published his biography in I Did IT- Vol 2 at the age of just 30!


Creative Ways to Shop on a Budget

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A survey by Gallup in 2019 found that only 32% of Americans maintain a household budget. Roughly half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, meaning many of us have to get creative in how we shop for things like groceries, clothes, and entertainment. 

Living on a shoestring budget can be stressful, but it is possible with some of these creative tips to shop and make the most of what you have. 

Grocery shopping on a budget

Food tends to be one of the biggest spending categories in anyone’s budget. The USDA estimates that Americans spend an average of 6% of their budget on food; 5% of income also goes to dining out. How can you stretch that grocery shopping budget to go even further?

First, time your shopping trip to capitalize on sales and promos: 

Wednesdays: The middle of the week is often when grocers release their weekly circular. “You'll have first dibs on sale items for the week ahead and, if you're lucky, the store may still honor price reductions on items you forgot to pick up from the previous week's sale,” says one expert.

Avoid Tuesday and weekends: Weekends tend to be busier as people shop on non-workdays. Tuesdays can also be crowded as other shoppers try to take advantage of last week’s expiring deals, and therefore sale items go quickly. 

Shop late or early: The hour before closing is when some grocers reduce prices on bakery items or produce items that won’t last until the next day. Early in the morning is also when there is less competition for sale items. 





Next, before you head to the store, download an app. Not just any app, but one that gives you discounts: try Food on the Table, an app that lets you type in your food preferences and then generates a list of recipe options based on current promotions at your go-to grocery store. Or, try Ibotta, an app that lets you retroactively apply coupons to items you purchased by scanning your receipt and claiming deals.  Many grocery stores also have apps that deliver exclusive offers and digital coupons. 

Finally, put your dining out budget into your grocery shopping budget. A meal at a fast-food restaurant costs around $8; if you stop eating an $8 lunch every day during the workweek, you can save $40 a week ($160 a month!). 

How to budget for an apartment

Rent is a big budget item for most people, and there are lots of hidden costs in budgeting for an apartment. Whether you’re on the hunt for a new lease or looking to reduce your utility costs and other apartment expenses, there are a few key things to consider when budgeting for your apartment. 

First, if you’re looking to sign a new lease, try to find an apartment that’s close to public transportation. Longer-term leases (a year or more) tend to be cheaper, as the landlord doesn’t have to search for a new tenant or spend on renovations as often. If there are fixes that need to be made, offer to do them yourself in exchange for a discount on the security deposit. 

If you’re in an apartment and hoping to save on utility costs, go beyond basic steps like turning off lights and turning down the heat. Think about turning off the devices that consume energy in a passive way, like your microwave and water heater that you aren’t using constantly. Winterize your apartment to cut your cooling and heating bills (winterize is a bit of a misnomer, as many of these steps can also keep your apartment cool in the summer). And, avoid running your energy-intensive appliances – washing machine, dishwasher, or dryer – during “peak hours”. Electricity companies tend to discount rates during the night when fewer people are using their grid.

Thrifting and other shopping ideas

What about other expenses: clothes, gifts, and entertainment? There are creative ways to shop on a budget for these items too. 

Thrifting is an obvious choice for saving your clothing budget. Many shoppers also turn to fast-casual brands like H&M and Forever 21 – but be aware that those retailers may be more expensive in the long-term. Spending $10 on a t-shirt that lasts fewer than 10 wears is worse than spending $50 on a shirt you’ll own forever. “Unless it's practically free, you're better off buying clothing items from good brands with a reputation for well-made items,” wrote The Simple Dollar.

Look to see if clothes are well made by checking the seams and material. Seams on a good quality item will be perfectly straight, with no dangling strings; any patterns should match up well. The material should be higher-quality. Look for natural fibers and blends like wool, and avoid synthetics like polyester. 

For gifts, go for something thoughtful rather than expensive. Find gifts that are unique to the recipient and require time, rather than cash. For instance, give someone the gift of time by babysitting or hiring a house cleaner. Give your family member a recipe book of meals from your childhood. Or, start a new tradition – holiday cookie-baking, for instance – that leads to memories rather than things. 

Shopping on a budget isn’t always easy. Sometimes, what you really need is a little Lift to cover a shortfall or meet a financial emergency. 

This article is contributed by LiftRocket.

Can a Messy Home Affect an Appraisal?

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An appraiser will look beyond the normal signs of life in your home to determine its value.


What You’ll Learn

Why you need an appraisal for home refinancing

The kinds of clutter that can affect a home’s value

How to prepare your home to get appraised


You probably had your home appraised when you first bought it, but if you’re looking to refinance, you’ll likely have to go through the process again. This time, you’ve lived in your home for a while and it’s showing basic wear and tear and other signs of life. You didn’t have to worry about this before, but now you’re asking: can a messy home affect an appraisal?

The short answer is “no, a messy home should not affect the outcome of an appraisal.” However, it’s good to be aware that there are circumstances in which the state of your home can negatively affect its value. Let’s go over what appraisals entail and what factors can influence them.

What is an appraisal?

First things first: an appraisal is an unbiased estimate of your property's fair market value. It's conducted by a licensed professional and requires a thorough inspection of your home and its surrounding area. Appraisals can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours to complete.

To determine your home’s value, an appraiser will consider everything from its structural integrity to its age, and the price of similar homes in the neighborhood. That’s why it’s necessary to get a new appraisal before you refinance. In the time since you purchased, any number of events could have changed the value of your home—including upgrades, damage, and changes to the housing market.

Why do I need an appraisal?

The purpose of an appraisal is to reassure your mortgage lender that they are not lending more than what your home is worth. If you were able to borrow a surplus, your lender would be at risk of losing money if you defaulted and they had to foreclose the property.

The appraisal process for refinancing a mortgage is similar to if you’re buying. In essence, you are switching out your old home loan for a new one, and your lender needs to know the value of your home to lend the right amount.

What do appraisers look for in their reporting?

An appraiser will thoroughly evaluate the quality of your home’s interior, including:

  • Square footage
  • Layout
  • Amenities
  • Structure
  • Potential hazards


They will count the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and note the size of the kitchen and living room. They will check that everything is structurally sound and that your plumbing and heating systems are in working order. They will pay attention to surfaces, appliances, handrails, flooring, fire escapes, and windows.

The exterior quality of your home will also affect its appraisal, including:

  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Siding
  • Guttering
  • Overall structure


Your appraiser will inquire about the property’s age and its construction quality. They will also research the prices of nearby homes, available parking, local attractions, and proximity to schools and busy highways. You can renovate some aspects of your home to improve your appraisal, but many will be outside your control.

Do appraisers follow a set of standards?

Appraisers in most states use the Fannie Mae Uniform Residential Appraisal Report—a form that was created to ensure standardized reporting across the industry. Among other conditions, Fannie Mae requires all appraisers to have experience reviewing similar properties in the same geographic area. This way, appraisers can more accurately determine your home’s value compared to surrounding properties in the neighborhood.

In addition to the Fannie Mae guidelines, appraisers must obtain state licenses, which may require additional certifications depending on their locations.

What kinds of mess can affect a home’s appraisal?

Appraisers are trained to overlook clutter. Stray clothes, scattered toys, unwashed dishes, unmade beds, disorganized closets, and other items that suggest you actually live in your house should not affect an appraisal if they don’t affect its structural integrity.

With that said, there are some signs of neglect that will influence a home’s value—including mold on the walls, peeling paint, and pungent odors from dampness or cigarette smoke. Extreme clutter may also make it difficult for an appraiser to assess the value of your house. If excessive mess prevents them from entering rooms or viewing everything they need to, they may deduct points.

How to prepare for your appraisal

If you are ready to have your home appraised, you should address any significant issues that may affect your home’s value—such as damaged flooring, outdated appliances, and broken windows. A messy home should not affect an appraisal, but signs of neglect may influence how much lenders are willing to let you borrow.

This article was originally published on

How to Pick a Real Estate Agent

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This article was originally published on

By Kurtis Rhee


Most homebuyers consider dozens of houses before finding the perfect one, but that’s not the case when it comes to picking a real estate agent. Seven out of every ten homebuyers don’t interview their agent before deciding to work with them.1 That’s pretty scary considering not all agents are created are equal -- as the industry saying goes, 20 percent of the agents do 80 percent of the business. If your real estate agent could make the difference between landing your dream home in a few weeks or losing bids, why wouldn’t you shop around?

Finding an agent who is both good at their job and easy to work with isn’t always simple. That’s why we suggest interviewing at least a couple of real estate agents before picking “the one”. Here are some guidelines for how to decide which agent is a good fit for you.

1. Experience


With markets getting more and more competitive, you want a real estate agent with a proven track record of putting people in their dream homes. Read online reviews, talk to past clients, and most importantly, ask if the agent has recently closed on properties similar to what you’re looking for. Pay special attention to their history with homes in the location and price range you are considering.


2. Expertise


Working with someone who is familiar with your desired area helps to ensure that you’ll only spend time and energy on houses that fit your criteria. First, decide on the factors you want to prioritize in your neighborhood search (schools, walkability, nightlife, etc.), and then, go through them with your prospective agent to get a feel for their local knowledge.


3. Empathy


Ultimately, you want to make sure your agent is someone you are comfortable working with. The house hunt can sometimes take months, especially in competitive markets. Working with an agent who shares your communication style can help make the journey enjoyable rather than stressful. Spend some time thinking about the type of person who you’ll be able to work well with. Do you want someone who is patient and will guide you through the process? Or do you want someone who works fast and is straight to the point? (Your answer will probably be different depending on whether or not you’re a first-time homebuyer or familiar with the area.)


Need help finding the right real estate agent? While there is no obligation to use our suggested agents, we can help you save time and energy by introducing you to one who has been vetted by our team. Every agent we suggest has a strong track record of success. Schedule a free consultation to learn more. 

How to build a healthier Mother-Daughter Relationship

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Listen without giving advice.

When your mother or daughter comes to talk to you about something going on in their life, it can be hard to stop yourself from telling them what to do. As someone who loves them, you want their life to be smooth and happy, and it can be hard when you see them acting in a way that you wouldn't choose to act. When they're telling you their problem, do the best you can to listen, observe, and reflect back what they're saying to you. Stay away from beginning statements with words like, "you need to," or "why don't you," as these tend to assign blame and put your loved one on the defensive.

Engage in a fun activity - just for the fun of it.

If you have a tough relationship with your mother or your daughter, it can be easy to make every time you see each other into an opportunity to hash out conflict. It's important to spend time just doing something fun together. Taking a painting class, going for a walk, or going out to dinner to talk about what's going on in your lives without getting into the nitty-gritty of your relationship can be a lovely way to strengthen your bond.

Chat it up in the car

If your daughter is young enough that she still lives in your house, spending time together in the car can be a great way to have conversations. The lack of eye contact can make it easier to bring up tough topics, and awkward silences don't feel awkward when you're enjoying the scenery. Don't force your daughter to chat, but feel free to ask her questions about what's going on in her life. Remember, give her time to think and process - it's ok if she seems hesitant at first. She may just need some time to open up.

Learn something new together

Sign up for a cooking class, try out a Groupon for a workout class that neither of you have done before, or volunteer together at a new charity. When you see your mom learning something, you'll begin to wrap your head around the idea that she's a regular woman, just like you - she struggles and overcomes when trying something new. You'll bond together over a new experience, and you'll have a few laughs along the way.

Above all, remember that at the root of most mother-daughter conflict is love

Mothers want the best for their daughters, and it can be hard to sit back and watch them make what the mother believes to be a mistake. Daughters want the best for their mothers, and they can feel frustrated when their mother gets stuck in her ways. When you communicate with your mother or daughter, always remember to speak from a place of love, and your message is more likely to be heard.

This article was originally published on DearAva.

What homeowners can do to prepare for hurricane season

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Hurricane season is squarely underway with Dorian making landfall in the Carolinas. You may have seen all the news coverage, photos, and videos. But if you live in a hurricane’s path, the experience is nothing short of harrowing.


If you are a homeowner during hurricane season, you’ll experience a whole different set of worries and concerns. Here’s some helpful information and resources as we enter this unpredictable time of year.


What to do first if your home is impacted by a hurricane

Register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency

You can register with FEMA online, in person at a disaster recovery center, or by calling 800-621-3362. FEMA also offers help and information for dealing with natural disasters. Visit for more information.

Find out if your homeowner’s insurance coverage includes flood insurance

Homes financed with a federally insured mortgage in a high-risk flood area, also called a special flood hazard area (SFHA), are required to buy flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), or as a separate policy through a private insurer. SFHAs are areas that have a minimum 1% chance of flooding in any given year.

Print out your most recent home insurance policies for easy reference. You can also contact your homeowner’s insurance (HOI) provider, if needed. If your policy doesn’t have flood insurance, read on to learn how to apply for a disaster relief loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Take photos of all damage

Make sure to be thorough and to capture all angles of the damage. Keep in mind that if you have a mortgage, your lender must sign-off on claims above a certain dollar amount. This is because mortgage investors such as Fannie Mae need to ensure your home is restored to a condition comparable to, or better than, when you bought it.


What not to do after a natural disaster

Don’t stop making mortgage payments without talking to your lender

If your home is not livable or your job was affected by a natural disaster and you can’t make mortgage payments, the worst thing you can do is to ignore the bills without talking to your lender.

Don’t assume your lender knows the condition of your home or employment status

If you stop making payments without making a plan with your lender, it will affect your credit, you’ll rack up late fees, and it can put your house on the foreclosure track.


For anyone in the process of getting a mortgage from Better Mortgage

We work hard to ensure that everything for your home loan remains on track. If you’re affected by a hurricane or natural disaster and your rate lock needs an extension, we will extend it at no cost to you to help minimize disruption until after the storm passes. Contact your Mortgage Expert for more information.


Resources you can turn to for assistance

If you are having trouble paying your mortgage

Reach out to your lender as soon as you can to discuss the situation and see what can be done. Many lenders including us at Better Mortgage are able to enlist a temporary mortgage payment hold. That said, if you are able to make your payments as usual, it’s highly recommended you do so.

For emergency response centers in your area

Check FEMA’s website. They can provide information on disaster-related assistance and can often help people find grants to rebuild their homes.

For temporary shelter and medical aid

Your local Red Cross chapter can help with basic needs, such as evacuation shelters, water, food, first aid, and other medical care.

For disaster recovery loans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) can help homeowners, renters, and private nonprofits with recovery related to property, equipment, machinery, and business assets including inventory.

If Freddie Mac holds your mortgage

Visit this link for more information.

If Fannie Mae holds your mortgage

Visit this link for more information.

If your home is FHA-insured

Call the National Servicing Center at 877-622-8525.

For VA home loans

Call 877-827-3702 to speak with a loan technician.

We hope these tips are helpful. Please share with anyone you know who may benefit from having these links handy. It can be a long season, and the best preparation starts with being informed and ready.

This article was originally published on

How to Save: Discounted Medication

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Prescription medications can be very expensive. They can range from a couple dollars to even hundreds of dollars. Because medications can be so costly it can be very helpful to find any way to save money on them. You want to be able to support your health and needs without sacrificing being able to support yourself or your family financially. There are many ways to support savings on medications some include a pharmacy discount card, shopping generic instead of brand name, and medication payment assistance programs. Some options you can even stack on top of each other to add on the savings. For example, you could choose a generic brand and use a discount card to lower the price even further. All of these are great options to save money on prescription medications.  



Discount Card

A pharmacy discount card is a concept that has been around for the past few years. The card offers discounted prices on prescription medications. It offers you coupons on tons of medications and can save you a lot of money. The pharmacy discount card can be used at most pharmacies and typically gets you ten to seventy-five percent off of the traditional retail price of the drug. To get discounted medications this is a great option. It is also free to use and is at zero risk to you. It is very easy to sign up for one and takes only a few minutes. It is very secure because it does not share your personal health information with the company. A pharmacy discount card is a secure, fast, and free way to save money on your medications. 

Compare Locations

Another way to save that many people do not think about is to compare the prices of prescription medications at different locations near you. Sometimes you could even find your medication for cheaper on an online pharmacy that could deliver the medication to your door. It may not seem easy to compare the prices of medications, but it really is. The pharmacy discount card company also allows you to reach a search engine on their website to compare prices of different prescription drugs. Being able to see the different prices allows you to choose the one that is the cheapest and will save you the most money. This is a very easy way to save money and will make it easier on your wallet. 

Generic v Brand Name

Generic options sometimes get a bad reputation, but most of the time they are of the same quality and work the same as the brand name. Sometimes, the generic brand is even preferred. Shopping generic is a great way to save money because you are not paying for the name of the company that makes the brand name option. There is usually a pretty substantial price difference between the two. Choosing the generic option can save you a lot of money, especially if it is something that you take regularly. Make sure you check with your healthcare provider about making this switch, as they may have a professional opinion about which one they think will be best for you. Be open and honest about your financial situation and your desire to save money on prescription medications. 

Assistance Programs

Lastly, if you truly cannot afford your medications or the above options do not work for you there is one more thing to consider. There are assistance programs both through the government and the manufacturers of the drugs. These are usually offered to low income individuals and can pay partially or fully for the cost of the medication. Take a look into this as it may be a great option for people struggling to pay for medications. You should never have to go without taking your medications because you cannot afford them. Use these strategies to make it a little easier to manage financially.