Realtor’s Work to Find the Best Homes Not Limited to People

What if, instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on designer dogs, everyone in this country adopted pets that desperately need homes? What a wonderful world it would be.

Cindy Andrew has taken on the challenge of helping orphaned pets find their forever homes. Through her work with Heartland German Shepherd Rescue (HUGS), Cindy provides foster care for dogs while also volunteering in an administrative role by processing applications for prospective adoptive families. HUGS is a 501c3 nonprofit, launched in May of 2015, dedicated to saving and rehoming German Shepherds and German Shepherd mix dogs.

Fostering and application processing are only two of the roles required at HUGS. Among other things, volunteers also coordinate veterinary exams, they interview applicants and conduct background checks on prospective families. 

Cindy fostered her first dog in February of this year and adopted one herself. Sissy came to Cindy’s home waiting for a family to find and accept her. “Sissy came from South Dakota running around on a reservation. Many of our dogs, including my current pups, came from there. Another volunteer group finds and traps the dogs, but they aren't able to find them homes. That's where we come in and make several trips to Valentine to save them. Without us, many of them would starve, or freeze to death.” Within two months, Cindy knew she couldn’t let Sissy go. Sissy’s story is one of many wherein innocent animals are found abandoned, dropped off at a shelter, or taken by police due to abuse or neglect. The more fortunate ones find their way to an agency like HUGS where people are willing to welcome them into their homes, care for them, and prepare them for their forever family. “We treat dogs like they are our kids. They are so well taken care of. We want the dogs placed in forever homes so we do everything possible to place the right dog in the right home so everyone will be happy,” she said.

Growing up around her grandpa’s German Shepherds, Cindy always had a love of dogs and was notorious for constantly bringing home strays. She’s also been known to stop in the middle of intersections to save dogs from traffic dangers. Naturally, she would eventually turn that love of dogs into a volunteer experience. Her career as a realtor with Nebraska Realty meshes well with her volunteer work as she spends time in both spaces helping others find homes. Though she began her career in television as a news reporter, Cindy found her true happiness and helpfulness in real estate. Cindy is proud of the progressive technology tools Nebraska Realty provides the agents, and at no charge. Speaking about Nebraska Realty owner, Andy Alloway, Cindy said, “Andy is a genuinely nice and caring person who treats all the agents here very well. With so many agents coming to us from other agencies, why would I go anywhere else?” Cindy commits a portion of her profits from each house sold to be donated to HUGS to help with caring for the dogs. She gives $200-$1,000 depending on the price of the home.

HUGS conducts events throughout the community for adoptions and fundraising. At one public event held at Nebraska Realty, lunch was grilled in the parking lot, while realtors came and brought along househunting clients that were looking for pets. A dog was adopted that day. Cindy encourages everyone to first consider adopting when looking for a pet. “Get dogs from rescue groups or the Humane Society before you do anything else. Rescues and the Humane Society have purebreds, too.”

HUGS Facebook Page

Nebraska Humane Society Facebook Page

Nebraska Realty: 34% Growth Driven by Culture

Nebraska Realty has created a unique space in real estate that looks decidedly different from the rest. Owner Andy Alloway’s humility, passion for people, professionalism, and concern for the customer experience is precisely what makes Nebraska Realty different. When an organization’s leadership has these qualities, it naturally attracts agents with similar values. Nebraska Realty can be described as “agent-centric” with the agents being the agency’s primary customer. Alloway believes that providing the best tools to provide excellent customer service are the key to attracting and developing the best agents. “How you treat people is what makes you successful, not the sign on the building,” he said.


In the past several years, Nebraska Realty has seen a surge of growth in both sales volume and agent count. In fact, they’ve increased from 300 agents in 2015 to 402 today. Alloway attributes agent growth to organic, word-of-mouth testimony which is the best marketing any company could ask for. While growth is important, the main focus of Nebraska Realty is two-fold. First, to attract the most professional, customer-oriented agents and commit to their success through consistent continuing education, and second, to provide potential clients with personalized customer service by professional agents who can provide a first-rate experience for all real estate needs. According to Alloway, Nebraska Realty is “always looking to evolve with what’s happening tomorrow,” by being on the front of technology and providing ease of access to that for their agents.


Agents are viewed as franchisees at Nebraska Realty. They’re provided with the education and the ability to run their business without management or corporate interference. Freedom to make decisions tailored to each customer’s best interests is crucial to a positive real estate experience. As a whole, the agency’s success can be attributed to open communication and team effort among their agents, staff, and management. Social engagement through activities such as tailgate parties, pool parties, and grilling lunch in the parking lot during the summer develops relationships and support systems among the agents who largely work independently.


As the Nebraska real estate market continues to evolve, so too will Nebraska Realty. With a focus looking ahead at new construction and continued work with the 21 builders they represent, adding agents in Lincoln and Iowa, and potential franchising opportunities in outlying areas, Nebraska Realty’s growth is truly in the hands of a dynamic, forward-thinking team of professionals.


Nebraska Realty’s agents are not only committed to helping people find a home, they’re also dedicated to helping Omaha’s homeless. The agency is a very enthusiastic and involved supporter of The Shelter Fund, hosting a golf tournament and Christmas party every year with all monies raised being donated for the benefit of the homeless.


Angel Starks, a realtor with Nebraska Realty since 2012, told us, “Nebraska Realty has a culture that can't be replicated. You can't teach it or define it, you just feel it.” Nebraska Realty cultivates a culture that is felt not only inside the walls of the building but in the community as well.

11th Annual "The Shelter Fund Open" Continues Successful Run

Over 140 golfers convened at the Indian Creek Golf Course in Elkhorn in support of the Eleventh Annual The Shelter Fund Open, hosted by Nebraska Realty along with sponsoring partner, First Mortgage Company. While the spirit of giving lifts everyone’s mood, the weather certainly helped as early June couldn’t have been a more perfect time for golf. A top ten day set the stage for a day of comradery, excitement, and genuine fun for everyone.  Several generous sponsors provided Pin and Flag Prizes which helped to nudge the competitive edge among participants.

Nebraska REALTOR, Brian CarlinGolfers helped to positively impact many of Omaha’s thousands of homeless. The Shelter Fund provides resources for local organizations including The Open Door Mission, Siena Francis House, Project Homeless Connect Omaha, and many others. Speaking about the benevolence of the Nebraska Realty support of The Shelter Fund, Realtor Brian Carlin said, “We sell homes to people who can afford them, and here we get a chance to help people who can’t afford a home. There’s a lot to that.”

Nebraska Realty’s values are in line with those of First Mortgage. They’re both in the business of helping people buy homes, but it goes beyond business. Supporting The Shelter Fund comes naturally for Nebraska Realty and they have a real passion for it. “No one has taken it, embraced it, and run with it like Nebraska Realty has, and they’ve raised a lot of money to benefit The Shelter Fund,” said Amy Hayes of First Mortgage.

We are humbled to announce that this year we raised over $10,000 for The Shelter Fund. [First Mortgage has generously offered to provide matching funds.] Through these donations, vehicles are purchased to help transport kids to school, to provide transportation for job interviews and doctor’s appointments, much-needed beds, food, and supplies are purchased for shelters, and blankets, water, and food are distributed to those on the streets.

“Nebraska Realty’s annual golf outing gives us an opportunity to have some fun with our partners, customers, and Realtors while at the same time raising money for The Shelter Fund. All of the money we raise each year goes to help local homeless organizations. The funds are matched by our primary sponsor First Mortgage Company, and 100% of the money is given to the organizations there are no administrative costs,” said Andy Alloway, President of Nebraska Realty.

This was the largest tournament in the eleven-year history of The Shelter Fund Open. If you are interested in joining us next year to help us make it even bigger, let us know, we’d love to include you!

Nebraska Realty Now Offers 3D Virtual Tour Services

Nebraska Realty now offers 3D Virtual Tour services to all of their agents! We have a long standing tradition of being innovative and pro-active in the real estate market. We've proven to be trendsetters and bring new technology to our agents and clients throughout Nebraska and Iowa. Now available to Nebraska Realty agents! Our 3D Virtual Tours collect accurate visual and spatial data to map entire areas in minutes. Your clients will see their space in a whole new way!




Four Ways to Use a Roth IRA That Have Nothing to Do With Retirement

A Roth IRA is a great retirement savings vehicle, but that's not all you can use it for.


The Roth IRA is one of the most widely touted retirement accounts, and for good reason. It’s one of the only accounts that offers tax-free money in retirement, and who doesn’t love that?

But what most people don’t know is that the benefits of a Roth IRA go far beyond retirement.

In fact, the Roth IRA is one of the most flexible accounts you’ll find, making it a great place to save money no matter what financial goal you’re working towards.

Here are four powerful ways to use your Roth IRA for something other than retirement.

Quick word of caution: While you can use a Roth IRA for ANY of these goals, you can’t use it for ALL of them at once. Every dollar can only be used for one thing, so be careful not to double count this money as available for multiple purposes.

College Savings

I often encourage my clients to max out their Roth IRA before contributing to a college savings account like a 529 plan or Coverdell ESA. Here’s why:

  1. The tax-free growth is similar to what you get within a dedicated college savings account.
  2. With a Roth IRA, you always can withdraw up to the amount you’ve contributed both tax-free and penalty-free, no matter the purpose.
  3. You can also withdraw the earnings without penalty for qualified higher education expenses, though they will be taxed as ordinary income. (Your earnings are the amount above what you’ve contributed.)
  4. Money within a Roth IRA is not counted when considering your child’s financial aid eligibility. (Though any money you withdraw from a Roth IRA for college will be counted as income in the next year’s financial aid application, which can hurt eligibility.)
  5. If you don’t end up needing the money for college, you can simply leave it in your Roth IRA and use it for retirement.

In other words, a Roth IRA is a great way to save money tax-efficiently for college while maintaining the flexibility to use it for retirement if your goals or needs change.

House Down Payment

Your Roth IRA is also available tax-free for use as a down payment on a house, up to a point.

As always, the amount you’ve contributed is available at any time for any purpose, including a down payment.

But you can also withdraw up to $10,000 in earnings both tax-free and penalty-free if it’s used to purchase a home under the following conditions:

  • The Roth IRA has been open for at least five years.
  • You are a first-time home buyer, which according to IRS Publication 590-B means that neither you nor your spouse have owned a home within the last two years.

If you are married, your spouse can do this as well. Which means that you may have an extra $20,000 available to you.

Keep in mind that this is a lifetime limit, so once you’ve used the $10,000 exception, you can’t use it again.

Emergency Fund

Ideally, you should have an emergency fund that’s separate from all your other savings accounts. That way you can use the money if needed without sacrificing your other financial goals.

But what if you simply don’t have enough money to both build an emergency fund and save for retirement?

In that case, a Roth IRA can be a great way to keep the money available for either need. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Contribute to your Roth IRA.
  2. Invest it in something very conservative that won’t lose value, like a money market fund.
  3. If you have an emergency, you can withdraw up to the amount you’ve contributed at any time without tax or penalty. And because it’s invested conservatively, you know the money will be there if you need it.
  4. If you never have an emergency, the money can stay in the Roth IRA and grow for future use.

It’s a great way to make sure the money is available if you need it without losing that valuable Roth IRA space.

Launchpad for Your Child

Here’s a great way to give your child a head start on their own financial freedom:

  1. Encourage her to get a job or even start a mini business.
  2. Agree to match some percentage of her earnings with contributions to her own Roth IRA.
  3. When she’s an adult, she’ll already have some tax-free savings built up and it will be because of her own hard work!

Moral of the Story: Use Your Roth IRA!

The deadlines around contributing to a Roth IRA are strict. You have until April 15 to make your contribution for the prior year, and after that the opportunity is gone.

So the main point here is this: Contribute to your Roth IRA, even if you don’t yet know what you’ll use the money for.

There’s so much flexibility built into the Roth IRA that there will always be a good use for the money. And the tax breaks are so great that you don’t want to miss out.

So, what are you waiting for?

Matt Becker is a fee-only financial planner and the founder of Mom and Dad Money, where he helps new parents take control of their money so they can take care of their families. His free book, The New Family Financial Road Map, guides parents through the all most important financial decisions that come with starting a family.