Tips for More At-Home Storage Space

Enjoy this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409). Looking for mortgage loan advice to help you purchase real estate in Michigan’s  Lenawee, Jackson and Washtenaw Counties? Contact Kacie today!

After the hectic holiday season, the beginning of the year provides the perfect opportunity to take stock of the changes you would like to make in different areas of your life. One place where many people focus is on their home, clearing away clutter so they can benefit from a more streamlined and organized living space. This is often when homeowners have to face the reality that they could use more storage space!

According to Realtor Magazine, not having enough storage space is the source of buyer’s remorse for 80 percent of homebuyers. If you feel the pain of insufficient storage space in your home, use the tips below to help you maximize the space you already have. If you are considering moving this year, keep these tips handy so you can quickly evaluate the homes you are considering in terms of the storage space you need.

1. Turn steps into storage. You may not think about it right away, but the space under your stairs can be opened to create a closet or to accommodate shelves. In a basement where staircases are often open anyway, adding some shelves or storage chests in this alcove can give you additional places to put toys, off-season clothing and sports equipment.

2. Install ready-made shelves. Whether you’re staying in your current home or moving elsewhere, using ready-made shelves in your closets, garage, hallways or basement is an easy way to exponentially expand the space you have to put your possessions.

3. Accessorize your bedroom. Headboard storage units, modular closet shelving, under-the-bed storage boxes and divided trays that you can slide into your dresser drawers all provide additional locations to stash clothes, books, jewelry and other items.

4. Clear up kitchen counter clutter. It’s so easy to let papers, dishes and other items pile up on kitchen counters, but allowing it to happen will ultimately leave less room for the things you really need to have on hand. Once you clear the counters, employ other space-saving strategies such as putting small appliances on shelves above the counter, using inside-the-cupboard hanging knife trays and hanging pots and pans from a ceiling-mounted rack that is within easy reach.

5. Make the garage a go-to storage space. Instead of trying to keep everything inside your house, consider storing seldom used items in your garage. Hanging items on walls, putting boxes on shelves and using overhead storage spaces can make the most of your home’s storage capacity.

When you first think of reorganizing your current home or buying your dream home, it’s likely that the practical matter of storage space is not the first issue that comes to mind. However, with recent statistics showing that the average home contains about 300,000 items, you’ll likely find these tips helpful for making sure you have a spot for all of your belongings. Another tip: If you are considering moving this year, reach out to Kacie Eberenz, OSB’s Mortgage Lender/Lead Personal Banker (#1458409) today!

Simple Fall Decorating Tips to Help You Celebrate the Harvest Season

Enjoy this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409). Looking for mortgage loan advice to help you purchase real estate in Michigan’s  Lenawee, Jackson and Washtenaw Counties? Contact Kacie today!

Now that Halloween is over, many of us are looking to transition from spooky to more seasonal fall décor. Fortunately, decorating for fall occasions and family gatherings like Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean spending hours on Pintrest or lots of money, especially if you try these simple tips for fall home décor which tap into the bounty of the harvest season.

1. Hold on to your pumpkins (and gourds)! If you already have uncarved pumpkins and gourds from Halloween or a trip to a fall fair or orchard, then you can easily transition these items into your Thanksgiving and fall decorating scheme to frame your doorway, accent your porch or interior areas of your home. Small pumpkins and gourds look great on a mantle or dining table, too.

2. Take a fall stroll and gather foliage and other natural items. The best fall décor may be right in your own backyard, or as close as a local park. Beautiful fall leaves, acorns and pinecones are in abundance right now and make lovely additions to centerpieces, so round up the family and take a walk to enjoy the autumn weather while scooping up these natural (and free) decorations. If you are worried about insects or allergies, you can also use artificial leaves and decorations, many of which can be found at your local dollar or discount store.

3. Get your groceries and beautiful autumn decorations. With all of the fall fruits, veggies and flowers in season, your local grocery store can be one of the best places to find décor to bring the fall season into your home. A few ideas: Place a gorgeous display of apples in a wicker basket or seasonal-themed bowl on your Thanksgiving buffet; tie colored corn in a bundle to use in place of a wreath on your door, or to accent a pumpkin display on your porch; and don’t forget some hardy chrysanthemums which can brighten up your home inside and out.

4. Raid the kids’ Halloween candy—or buy fall sweets on clearance. It just isn’t fall without candy corn, is it? If you agree, now is the time to sort through your kids’ Halloween haul for it (they won’t miss it!) and use it to decorate fall treats, or simply put it in a pretty bowl as a decoration. Check the kids’ candy loot for other treats, too, that are autumn themed but don’t “scream” Halloween. No kids around? Then head to the grocery or dollar store to get clearance-priced fall treats!

5. Hang up some hand towels and throw some pillows. Another easy and inexpensive fall decorating idea is to use throw pillows (or blankets) and hand towels featuring fall patterns and colors around your home. If you keep these items specifically for the season, they’ll last a surprisingly long time while adding a festive fall refresh to your home’s décor each year.

6. Surround yourself (and your guests) with scents of the season. Great fall décor goes beyond the visual to entice all of the senses. Try infusing seasonal scents such as pumpkin spice, apples, cinnamon and woodsy scents into your autumn decorating with candles, essential oils, air fresheners and fragrant room sprays. Before guests arrive you may want to mull some cider or bake an apple pie for a truly delicious addition to your fall decor that everyone will enjoy.

Beautiful fall décor sets the stage for memorable harvest season celebrations and family gatherings such as Thanksgiving. Using the simple fall decorating tips above will ensure that you don’t spend too much time or money on your autumn décor—so you can truly enjoy this special time of year with family and friends.

Worried About Data Breaches? Protect Yourself with these Tips

Recent data breaches have many of us worried that our most sensitive personal and financial information is at risk—with good reason.

For our part, OSB is continually working to ensure that your data remains secure. One way we are doing this is with the introduction of our new Community Checking Account options. Both our Advantage Checking and Advantage Plus Checking accounts feature IDProtect® which includes comprehensive identity theft monitoring and resolution services as well as other features to help you keep your identity safe. You can review these account options here.

Our Online Banking system is also designed to protect you from data theft. It has many safeguards to secure your account information including authentication, SSL, exclusive encryption software, high-end firewalls, and automatic sign-off. For additional details please review the security information on our website.

If you are not utilizing IDProtect® through our Advantage or Advantage Plus checking accounts, here are some other tips you can use to help keep your sensitive information safe:

  1. Monitor your accounts regularly. Keeping an eye on your bank and other financial accounts is part of being fiscally responsible and allows you to take prompt action if unauthorized activity does occur.
  2. Report suspicious account activity immediately. If you believe that your OSB Online Banking access ID or passcode has been compromised, or if an unauthorized transaction has occurred, let us know within two business days to mitigate your financial exposure. If you think that your credit information has been stolen, contact one of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) and the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338).
  3. Set up automatic fraud alerts. In addition to self-monitoring your bank and credit accounts, set up automatic fraud alerts using tools offered by financial services providers like OSB. The three major credit reporting agencies listed above all offer free fraud notifications, too.
  4. Consider a credit freeze if you are concerned. If you believe you have been impacted by a data breach, you may want to contact each of the credit reporting agencies to ask for a lock on your credit files to stop any new credit information releases until you can determine if your information was actually stolen.
  5. Check your credit report. Each year, you are entitled to one free credit report from all three major reporting agencies at Requesting these reports should be a regular practice to proactively monitor the security of your information.

Unfortunately, data breaches are becoming more commonplace in our digital world. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to take every measure you can to protect yourself from identity and data thieves. Choosing one of our Community Checking Accounts with IDProtect® services is a great first step as is implementing the tips above. If you have any questions about our Advantage Checking or Advantage Plus Checking accounts and the protection they provide or OSB’s commitment to your security please contact us.

Seeking Success? Start by Finding Your Sweet Spot

Mortgage season is definitely here, with the real estate market in full swing and interest rates poised to rise, making it the perfect time to refinance an existing loan. To help you make optimal decisions about your mortgage options, we’re featuring  this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409).

While everyone has a different definition of success, striving for it is a driving force for many of us. Setting and achieving goals, working to bring a vision to life and making progress in our personal and professional lives are all examples of the kinds of success we seek.

Success can seem elusive as we find ourselves facing challenging circumstances and setbacks. This can be frustrating, especially when you are looking to make a career move or reach a personal goal. While there are rarely many shortcuts to finding success, finding your sweet spot can help make it considerably easier.

Your sweet spot defined. What do we mean by “sweet spot”? It’s the intersection of the things that you are good at (usually these things come relatively easy to you) and the actions that will help you achieve your particular goal. Finding your sweet spot allows you to operate with efficiency, strength and, usually, positive results. So how do you find that special place in your heart and mind that can accelerate you on the path to achieving what you want? It’s not as hard as it sounds, especially if you follow these four steps:

Visualize and write down what you want to achieve. As legendary author and inspirational speaker Stephen Covey says, “Start with the end in mind.” Many of us want to achieve goals related to fitness, finances and family, but we keep our goals in our heads and in very general terms. Covey’s advice is to envision in your mind and articulate on paper (or your electronic device) in very specific detail, exactly what you want and the steps you need to take toward getting it. While this may seem simple, it is a very powerful principle, too.

Identify your inner strengths. Once you have a specific vision and goal in your mind and in written form, you need to leverage your core competencies—the strengths that make you unique and can help you achieve your goal. Make a list of the unique talents you have that you can use to help move you in the right direction. For example, maybe you want to increase your success in your professional life by finding a different job opportunity. Without knowing what your aptitudes are and looking only superficially at the kind of position you want, rather than what will use your best skills and personal characteristics, it is unlikely that you will be successful in finding a role where you can reach your full potential  and be truly satisfied.

Listen to your family, friends and fans. While you can’t let others determine your definition of success, don’t discount what people tell you about your strengths. If the praise you receive is sincere, it can help point you in the direction of your sweet spot. Consider writing down the actions that you have been recognized for doing exceptionally well and your positive characteristics that people often comment on, then look to find common themes. These will likely be indicative of what internal strengths will help you achieve your goal with relative ease.

Put it all together. Now that you have a clear goal and a clear idea of the strengths and internal resources you have to achieve it, it’s time to use your sweet spot to activate your success. Make a plan with specific action items of what you need to do to achieve your goals and then match them up with your greatest aptitudes that will allow you successfully complete them.

Final thoughts…Nothing is more rewarding than setting a goal and actually achieving it, but sometimes we stand in our own way by not doing the work required to know where our sweet spot lies in terms of being successful. Spending just an hour or two to envision what you want and tap into the internal power you have to achieve it can make your journey on the path to success easier—and your accomplishments that much sweeter.

Simple Steps You Can Take for a Smoother Mortgage Experience

Mortgage season is definitely here, with the real estate market in full swing and interest rates poised to rise, making it the perfect time to refinance an existing loan. To help you make optimal decisions about your mortgage options, we’re featuring  this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409).

If you think that applying for a mortgage loan is right up there with getting a root canal—you’re not alone. Many home buyers, and homeowners looking to refinance, find the mortgage application process frustrating—or even painful. At OSB, we strive to make your mortgage experience as simple as possible (see the infographic below for a complete picture of our mortgage process). In addition, taking the steps below can make your mortgage experience even smoother:

Step 1: Choose the right lender. If you’re not working with the right lender, securing a mortgage loan can be a painful process. It’s important to be comfortable with your lender. For example, if you want to have someone to guide you through the process and be able to answer your questions in a timely manner, an online mortgage option is probably not for you.

At OSB, we work to streamline your mortgage application and make getting a mortgage as easy as possible with personalized service to help you feel as comfortable and confident as possible.

Step 2: Provide your financial information promptly. Buying or refinancing your home requires that you provide significant amounts of financial and personal information to your lender. From bank statements to pay stubs your lender should let you know exactly what they need from you in order to process your mortgage application. To avoid delays, make sure you provide the specific items requested in a timely manner.

Step 3: Tackle your taxes. You will need to provide current tax returns as part of the mortgage application process and you must have your taxes filed for the past two years. If you have any delinquent tax payments or unfiled taxes, you’ll need to ensure that they are taken care of so the processing of your mortgage application can proceed.

Step 4: Manage your account balances and credit. Your bank balances and credit score will be evaluated by your lender as part of the mortgage loan decision so it is wise to make sure they are in good order.

Tip: When it comes to your bank account, it’s best not to make large deposits during your loan application, as it may affect your loan decision. In addition, avoid taking on any new debt during the loan process (e.g. Hold off on buying new furniture and appliances until after your mortgage closes.), since all of your debt will influence your debt-to-loan ratio which is a critical aspect of any mortgage loan application.

Let OSB help you smooth out the mortgage application process. Applying for a mortgage shouldn’t be a burden. OSB is dedicated to making your loan process simple and streamlined—and these tips can help you take the right steps to make your mortgage experience even smoother! Need help with a mortgage loan? Contact me at 517.592.1058 and we’ll get started!

mortgage path to the american dream




OSB’s SBA Financing Helps Small Businesses Adjust to Market Changes

Michelle Brasseur, an OSB Community Bank Senior Commercial Lender, tells how the flexibility of  SBA loans can provide financing relief to small businesses.

“There are so many fantastic advantages for businesses who access SBA financing solutions through a local community bank. Early in my lending career SBA was the primary loan product that I worked with, but for the past 18 years I would say that SBA, and specifically SBA 7A, is one of the loan products that I would consider when structuring loans for clients.

This year I discovered an amazing servicing opportunity that was truly a lifesaver for one of our clients at OSB Community Bank. As a family owned business in an industry that has been experiencing declining sales and margins, this client was facing financial challenges. The stress of these conditions was showing on the client’s income statement and balance sheet. When our client requested additional financing, we had to explain that what they really needed to do was reduce expenses to align with the reduction in their current and projected sales. We encouraged them to work with their accountant to see what expenses they could reduce.

Soon after, the client came back to me with solutions to significantly reduce their expenses, showing their commitment to making the changes necessary for their survival. As a result, the bank felt comfortable looking at what financing options we could offer to them. After doing some research, I discovered that you can extend the maturity of any SBA loan up to 10 years. Doing this allowed us to provide payment relief to our client, whose business continues to do well today.”

Reinvesting in Our Community, One Organization at a Time

OSB’s President & CEO, Rick Northrup shares what’s at the heart of OSB’s passion for helping small businesses grow.

As a community bank, OSB understands what makes our neighborhoods, villages, and towns unique. We focus on lending to the small businesses and organizations that make us who we are.

A recent example illustrates this:

A charter school in our community was looking to grow and move into a new facility.  The school had been operating in a rental building and the administration wanted to own a building in order to control the school’s future and growth. Although the school and staff had been in operation locally for many years, the only financing available to them was from large, out-of-town financial institutions, which was expensive with very disadvantageous terms. The school could not afford this type of financing without inhibiting its growth. In fact, the school would have had serious financial struggles under the terms, placing its long-term success in jeopardy.

At OSB, we looked at the situation and found that the school’s students had very high academic results; the school’s staffing was strong and experienced; and the school also had committed parents. The building that the charter school wanted to purchase was an old elementary school, which would allow the school to double in size. At the time, the school was serving over 140 students, representing over 100 local families. The school and its plans made sense to us.

The team at OSB got to work, examining the school’s track record, business plan, staff, and education philosophy.  We also investigated the school’s collateral, learning about the potential for reestablishing a school there for the long-term, and understanding its value. When all was said and done, OSB offered a package of term loans and line of credit financing that allowed the school to meet its goals, without placing its financial future in jeopardy.

Since purchasing the building, the charter school has grown and is on track to double its size, as planned.  For the current academic year the school is serving over 200 students and 150 families. Soon the school expects to serve 300 students.

This is how OSB Community Bank reinvests in our community, making things better for all of us who share this little corner of the world—one organization at a time.