Real Estate News

Updated: Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What You Should Know Before Buying A Condominium

Condos were once thought of as homes that attracted singles or couples, often without children. But today, condos are growing in popularity and attracting families of all sizes.

Condos can be an excellent choice for the right buyers. Here are a few things that should considered before purchasing a condo. Most buyers start with the condo itself. That may be a good place to begin but, before they buy, buyers should also consider other factors outside of the condo.

Some developers are building condos that have a look and feel like single-family homes. These modern condos have great rooms and open, flowing floor plans that look and feel like a single-family home rather than an apartment or condo.

One of the major attractions of condos is the low maintenance. The community area is maintained by an association funded by the dues that homeowners pay into it.

Thats why buyers first consideration should be to explore the development and make sure they like the look and feel of the complex and surrounding community. There are codes and restrictions, often referred to as CCRs covenants, codes, and restrictions that buyers will have to abide by once they purchase a condo. Buyers should ask to review them before making an offer to purchase a condo. These regulations help ensure that the community maintains its general appearance and any necessary repairs of the external areas.

Review the associations budget. It may be necessary to get the seller to provide this information because it may not be >Find out how many owners in the development are delinquent on their dues. A condo complex that has a high level of delinquencies can cause problems for buyers when it comes time to get a loan or sell the condo. Some loans are not approved if delinquency rates are higher than 15 percent.

Review the minutes from the associations board meetings. They will reveal the day-to-day issues that occur each month and give an indication of how the development is run. For instance, lots of complaints and filings about noisy residents, loud parties, or dog droppings on the lawn reveal potential problems with neighbors. The minutes will also reveal if the development is engaged in any lawsuits.

Understand what your responsibilities are for the upkeep of the condo. Find out what the association takes care of and what the homeowners have to maintain. Look at the associations property management team and see how many times the association has changed management companies. Find out why. This will may reveal how responsive the association will be should residents need its assistance.

Ultimately, buyers need to ensure that when they purchase a condo theyre not buying into any legal battles the association is in the middle of and that they will be able to live in their condo the way they want. Study the CCRs and do due diligence before buying.
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Childrens Heart Foundation Receives Generous Donation From Realtor Dertrez Pressley

PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Dertrez Pressley of Simply Vegas Real Estate in Las Vegas, Nevada recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to the Childrens Heart Foundation on behalf of his client, Francis Engel.

"We are very appreciative of Dertrezs dedication to giving back to his community through our Agent with Heart Program," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. The Agent with Heart Program was created to assist in the growth of communities nation-wide by connecting local realtors to nonprofits within the community.

"I would personally like to thank Dertrez for his involvement in our Agent with Heart Program. Agents like Dertrez are the reason our program was created, and we are honored to have a partner like him in our agent community," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Dertrez Pressley who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Dertrez Pressley, please call 702-963-6424.

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Three Percent Or 20 Percent - Which Is The Smarter Down Payment Strategy?

The minimum down payment on an FHA loan is 3.5 percent, which makes it a popular choice among those who dont have the funds for a large down payment and also those who dont meet the higher credit score requirements for other types of loans. And thats not even the lowest you can go. Loans like this one require only three percent down, and if youre a veteran or are buying a home in a rural area, you may be able to buy a home for nothing down. But should you go that low just because you can, or are you better off making a larger down payment? Were breaking it down.

The case for 20 percent

There are several advantages to putting down 20 percent when buying a home, like:

  • Since the bank will generally consider you a lower risk because you have "more skin in the game," you may be able to get a lower interest rate than you would with other types of loansas long as you have the credit score to support it.
  • Youll have built-in equity as soon as you move in.

    You can avoid paying private mortgage insurance PMI.

  • Its that last part that drives a number of people to strive for that 20 percent down payment since PMI can add several hundred dollars to a new homeowners monthly payment, and it can be hard to get rid of it. "If you can put 20 down and avoid PMI, that is ideal, said certified financial plannerSophia Bera on Business Insider.

The case for as little down as possible

The biggest roadblock to homeownership for many people is coming up with the down payment, so minimizing that expense sounds great, right? "The good news is a first-time buyer can purchase a home for a little as three percent down - and even no money down in some cases," said U.S. News.

But is that a smart move?

"The less you put down, the higher the mortgage insurance is," Casey Fleming, author of "The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage" and a mortgage professional in the San Francisco Bay Area, told them. "With five percent down, the mortgage insurance is quite high."

Yep, theres that pesky PMI again, which, for many first-time buyers, pushes their monthly payment to a level theyre not comfortable with. Another bummer about PMI: "If you need to pay PMI, the size loan you can get will be slightly smaller, to allow for the bigger payment," they said.

You may also have trouble qualifying for a loan even if you have a high enough credit score because you dont have enough cash reserves; if you are using all your savings for the down payment and the lender questions where the funds for your closing costs, taxes and insurance, and any needed repairs are coming from, you could have a problem.

But, on the flip side, a smaller down payment will up your rate of return, said The Mortgage Reports. "Consider a home which appreciates at the national average of near five percent. Today, your home is worth 400,000. In a year, its worth 420,000.

Irrespective of your down payment, the home is worth twenty-thousand dollars more. That down payment affected your rate of return. With 20 percent down on the home - 80,000 - your rate of return is 25 percent. With three percent down on the home - 12,000 - your rate of return is 167 percent."

Even when you add in the PMI and a higher interest rate, the equation comes out in favor of the lower down payment. "With three percent down, and making adjustments for rate and PMI, the rate of return on a low-down-payment loan isstill 106 percent - much higher than if you made a large down payment. The less you put down, then, the larger your potential return on investment."

The case for somewhere in between

Finding that balance between down payment and savings is a challenge for many homebuyers, and the sweet spot will be different for everyone depending on their unique circumstances and financial situation. Most financial experts will say that saving and scrounging to get together 20 percent at the risk of depleted savings and zero emergency funds is a shaky strategy, at best.

"If putting 20 percent down means that you use all of your savings, then dont do it I would much rather see people put five percent down, wipe out all their other debt with cash, and still have three months of emergency savings versus putting 20 percent down on a house," said Bera.

Especially when you consider all the added costs you may be facing once you buy: "yard work, home repairs, renovation costs, property taxes, insurance, etc. Its important to consider all of the costs and not just compare the monthly mortgage payment to your current rent amount," she said.

Another thing to consider when evaluating how much you should put down is what would happen if you had an emergency. Its easy to lose sight of real-life issues that can arise when you are so driven to buy a home and focused on saving the money to get there.

"Afinancial eventcan leave you wishing you had access to the money without selling," said The Mortgage Reports. "Say you lose a job for three months. An extra 20,000 would be a nice safety cushion. And, if you lose your source of income, you cant take home equity out via acash-out refinanceorhome equity line of creditHELOC. Lenders wont approve a new loan to someone between jobs. In short,the more you need to get at the money, the less access you have to it."
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What to Do With That Spare Wall In The Kitchen

Does your kitchen have a wall or a nook thats too far away from the action to be part of the work zones but could be perfect for something? The question always is what. These designers have made the most of that extra wall, outfitting it with all kinds of useful and well-organized elements. See if any of these ideas provide inspiration for your kitchen.

1. A hardworking hutch. With a small bar sink, a coffee maker and extra countertop space, this piece has a free-standing furniture look and is versatile. It can be set up for morning beverages and pastries, as a buffet or as a wet bar. It also has plenty of storage space for glassware and serving pieces.

2. A wine bar. Side-by-side wine refrigerators topped by a counter provide a great place to uncork a bottle and let it breathe. Open shelves for glassware overhead make pouring and serving easy.

3. A streamlined built-in espresso bar. The big pantry barn doors dominate this wall but leave enough space for a built-in espresso machine and cabinets. The clever pullout shelf makes it easy to pour a cup, then tucks away. Cabinets in the same area provide space for beans and other java supplies.

Photo by Von Fitz Design - Browse kitchen ideas

4. A china cabinet. These lovely floor-to-ceiling cabinets recall a traditional china cabinet. The clear glass allows the homeowners to display their favorite things, bringing blues and greens into the white kitchen. This is a great way to provide display space for your favorite serving pieces, china and glassware.

Photo by LINCOLN BARBOUR PHOTO - Search kitchen pictures

5. A complete beverage center. A beverage refrigerator and pullout liquor cabinet make mixing up drinks easy along this home bar. Also worth noting are the wine racks overhead and the lighting that highlights the glass cabinets. Low beverage fridges are good for making items such as juice boxes easy for little ones to reach. But lock up that liquor cabinet Other elements to consider for this kind of home bar are a small sink and an ice maker.

Photo by Evalia Design, LLC. - More home bar ideas

6. Extra pantry storage. This nook was too far from the appliances to serve them. So the architect outfitted it with racks for hanging stemware, shelves for staples, and drawers and cabinets for extra storage. The countertop here is mostly used for display and allowed for a beadboard backing that harks back to the homes original architecture.

Photo by JWT Associates - Look for kitchen pictures

7. Multifunctioning space. This kitchen renovation >

Photo by New England Design Elements - Look for kitchen design inspiration

8. Bay window. This beautiful window lets so much natural light into the kitchen that its hard to imagine the room without it. A floating countertop transforms it into a work area-breakfast bar with a lovely view.

Photo by Joseph Fowler Homes - Browse kitchen ideas

9. A well-organized wall with a little bit of everything. This custom wall combines pantry cabinets, a wine rack, glassware storage, a work station and even the dogs bed. The balance between light and dark stains and strong vertical and horizontal lines creates a pleasing composition.

Photo by McKinney Photography - Look for kitchen pictures

Photo by Joseph Fowler Homes - Look for home bar pictures

Also See:

  • Wine and Bar Cabinets Perfect for Happy Hour
  • Display Glassware in a Floor-to-Ceiling China Cabinet
  • Kitchen Decorating Ideas to Fill Empty Spaces

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Introducing Your New Color Obsession

Is it gray? Blue? Green? Its all of them wrapped up in your new color obsession, and its going to have you running to Home Depot for a can or 10 in 3hellip;2hellip;1. Behrs first-ever Color of the Year, dubbed "In the Moment," isnt just a great option for refreshing your interior or exterior, its also an invitation to bring a little calm to your place.

"In the Moment" is a "restorative blue-green hue meant to soothe and >

House Beautiful describes the color as, "spruce blue, soft gray and lush green that coalesce to evoke a sense of sanctuary and >

To that end, Behr provided a "palette of 20 trend colors for 2018"nbsp;to help with pairing, alongside the announcement of the Color of the Year. All colors are available exclusively at The Home Depot.

"This lsquo;neutral blue, as Woelfel describes it, takes on a very different tone depending on the colors with which you pair it. When used as a bright pop in a mostly dark room, it feels calm and formal," said House Beautiful. However, when paired with white and light natural wood, the color comes off as energetic and vibrant, which makes for a welcoming statement on the exterior of a home."

In this dining room, the color reads blue and green and gray, changing with the light and complementing the mid-century modern deacute;cor.

Against the creamy white of the countertops in this kitchen and with the light streaming through the window and French door, the hue goes green.

Ditto for this front door frame, which looks amazing against all that luscious stone.

A subtle pop of color that brings in depth while introducing an overall sense of calm is a perfect choice for a window seat.

Have an ocean or at least a pool outside? Youll love how the water affects the wall color, bringing in more of a sea-blue effect.

Thats it. Weve found the perfect exterior color. We especially love how it deepens against the white trim.

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Clever Ways To Create More Storage In Your Kitchen

Who doesnt need more storage in the kitchen? You may not have a massive space with dozens of cabinets and yards of countertops, but that doesnt mean you dont have the space you need to store all your stuff. Use a few of these clever tricks and you might be surprised how much extra room you can create.

Dining table storage

Getting creative with your dining space doesnt have to mean adding another piece of furniture. In a smaller space that cant accommodate a server or sideboard, how about a table with hidden storage under the eating surface?

Spice it up

Limited cabinet or countertop space can make it hard to store and view your spices, but a simple drawer hack can change that.

"Storing spices in a drawer rather than a wall-mounted rack ensures seasonings are handy for cooking while preserving their delicate flavors by protecting them from sunlight, moisture and heat," said HGTV. Use the 3.99 VARIERA spice insert from IKEA for an inexpensive solution.

Build in a wine rack

Dont have space for the wine cellar you want? Build a cool wine rack right into your island.

Transform your pantry

A small pantry space can be difficult not just from a space perspective but also because a narrow but deep space can make it hard to see whats there and access all of your goods. For as little as a couple hundred dollars, you can transform your pantry into a pull-out, which maximizes your space and gives you easy access to everything inside.

Add a retractable pot rack

Perhaps the issue isnt so much about lack of space but lack of usable space when it comes to your pots and pans. Oftentimes, the cabinet intended for these items is one large box that makes it hard to keep the area neat and be able to easily find what you need without making a bigger mess. This DIY rack solves that problem and frees up space at the bottom of the cabinet for other items.

Creative pot racks

Dont have the space for all your pots and pans in a cabinet? Many homeowners choose to go the overhead pot rack route, but, if you dont have the headroom for that or just dont care for that solution, how about this one: "A floating shelf that can also double as a floating pan rack," said Architecture Art Designs. Not only does this allow

you to display your nice cookware prominently and keep it within easy reach while bringing in a natural element, its perfect for a space in need of a focal point.

Banquette storage

If youre doing a custom banquette, its easy enough to incorporate drawers underneath - the perfect place to keep all those things you dont need every day but dont want to store in the garage, like fancy dinnerware and silverware, tablecloths, and holiday serving pieces.

Easily accessible drawers that slide out from the end also make a great place to keep kids art supplies.

You can also buy ready-made pieces for your dining room or breakfast nook, like this bench with a seat that lifts up to accommodate your storage needs.

Home Depot

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Seller Cancellation Must Be Done By The Book

Breaking up is hard to do. So is cancelling a California real estate purchase contract. Especially if you are the seller. That is why, a little over a year ago, the legal department of the California Association of Realtors CAR produced a memorandum titled, "How a Seller May Cancel a Purchase Agreement: Checklist and QA".

The need for such an advisory arises out of the fact that a non-performing buyer may still want to buy. Sometimes buyers miss performance deadlines due to nothing more than sheer inefficiency. Sometimes it is because things have not gone as planned e.g. they dont yet have the money for the increased deposit that is due. And, sometimes, they stall the closing in an attempt to squeeze the seller for a further concession. In each case, they still want to buy -- just not on exactly the terms that had been agreed to.

The CAR memo notes: "Many sellers and agents are impatient. They want the contract canceled yesterday. But rushing the process of cancellation will often lead to a defective or questionable cancellation. What good does it do to cancel a contract if the buyer can come back and possibly claim a right to buy?"

For what reasons may a seller cancel? In a typical situation, the standard purchase contract RPA provides exactly ten reasons. The CAR memo provides the following list: 1 buyer failure to remove an applicable contingency; 2 buyer failure to deposit the earnest money, or an increased deposit; 3 funds for money deposited are not good; 4 buyer fails to deliver prequalification letter; 5 buyer fails to deliver verification of down payment and closing costs; 6 seller has reasonably disapproved of the verification of funds; 7 buyer fails to return the Transfer Disclosure Statement, Natural Hazard Disclosure, lead disclosures or other disclosures if required; 8 buyer fails to sign a separate liquidated damages form for an increased deposit; 9 buyer fails to deliver notice of FHA or VA costs or terms if applicable; and, finally, 10 buyer does not close escrow on time.

The ten reasons listed are in a standard transaction. Other possibilities could be added, such as a contingency for short sale approval, or the purchase of another property. Also, there are common law legal reasons such as fraud or duress.

When a buyer has failed to comply with one of the conditions in 1 -- 9 above, the seller must, before canceling, first give the buyer a Notice to Buyer to Perform NBP. In such an instance, it is important that the seller and his agent are careful to calculate correctly what is the buyers deadline date for compliance. The NBP can be delivered no earlier than two days before that date.

If the buyer has failed to close escrow on time condition 10, then the seller should use the Demand to Close Escrow DCE, not a notice to perform.

It is also important that the seller has fulfilled all of his obligations with respect to the buyers contingencies. "The [Purchase Contract] specifies that where the seller has sent out disclosures, reports or other information late, then the buyer will have an additional 5 days after receipt to remove contingencies if those 5 days go beyond the [contractual] contingency period."

Sellers will often want to retain some or all of a buyers earnest money deposit. In cases where an NBP has been used, this is not possible. The purchase contract gives the seller the right to cancel if the buyer has not performed after receiving an NBP, but it also provides that the seller will >If the buyer has not conformed with a Notice to Perform, or has not closed after receiving a Demand to Close Escrow, the seller may then deliver a Cancellation of Contract CC to the buyer. This form comes in two parts: one cancels the contract, the other cancels escrow and provides for disposition of the deposit money. It is important to note that the first part, unlike the second, does not require the signatures of both parties. It is >"Cancellation is a unilateral act regardless of whether there is an open escrow. The ten reasons for cancellation as outlined confer upon the seller a right to cancel unilaterally. It is ir>It goes on to say, "Escrow may require signatures from both parties to cancel the escrow, but the fact of an escrow being open does not affect the validity of the sellers cancellation." And further, "The fact that there is an open escrow does not by itself mean that the initial buyer retains a right to buy. If the contract was properly cancelled, then a seller may sell the property to a subsequent buyer."

Of course, there are still issues to be discussed. What happens to deposit money if the buyer balks? Can the property be put on the market if escrow isnt cancelled? What is the prudent thing to do? etc. But those are all for discussion some other day.

Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .
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Savvy Buyers Search Out Visual Disasters

Instead of shopping for your dream home, why not search out your dream discount?

First-time buyers can be distracted by the superficial. They can be enticed to pay for dream-home fantasies or, alternatively, encouraged to walk away from a hidden gemmdash;a visual disaster.

  • Buy a home which was cleverly staged and marketed to make buyers rush to put in an offer, and you may be paying for more for hype and distracting "veneer."
  • Dismiss a property because its a visual disaster, without assessing its true value to you, and you may lose a lot more.

Visual disaster is my label for a solid, well-located home that is structurally-sound and in >Smart sellers and their real estate professionals know the magic of fresh paint, the allure of professionally-staged interiors, and the appeal of cosmetic make-overs.

  • They understand which current "hot" features local buyers are willing to pay more for.
  • Generating multiple offers has become commonplace, pitting buyer against buyer to drive purchase prices higher.

A few thousand dollars worth of touch-ups and problem solving by sellers, can convert into tens of thousands more paid by buyers. Great for sellers, but is this really how you want to spend your hard-earned dollars?

Buyers who would prefer to invest their money in the best possible location and a solid, sound structuremdash;not superficial trimmings and flash done to someone elses taste and standardsmdash;may benefit from shopping for a visual disaster.

Caution: Thorough home inspection, ideally by a structural engineer, is essential to verify the home is structurally sound without any super-expensive repair necessary. Search out a reputable, skilled inspection firm before you start looking at properties. Other experienced "eyes"mdesign;contractors, designers, renovation-experienced property owners, your real estate professionalmdash;will also be helpful when viewing visual disasters.

Tasteless decor, scary color schemes, extreme pet-smells, overwhelming clutter...these are just a few ugly turnoffs that discourage buyers. For savvy home buyers these negatives may signal hidden value and money-saving opportunity.

A house, townhome, or condominium unit that does not look like something out of a magazinemdash;has not had the benefit of professional repainting, staging, or cosmetic overhaulmdash;will sell for some markets, considerably less. These properties may also take longer to sell, so there can be more room for negotiation.

Buyers who are ready to contribute "sweat equity" to their purchase can end up thousands and thousands of dollars ahead. "Sweat equity" involves getting your hands dirty to uncover "good bones" and hidden

value, paying a professional to do the necessary design or physical work, or a combination of both approaches.

Depending on what the superficial "disaster" problems are, buyers have choices once they become owners:

  • They can overhaul the "visual disaster" themselves before moving in or hire professionals to tackle the more difficult aspects and then take on the rest.
  • New owners can decide to live with some or all of the "visual disaster" for a while. Then, hire professionals to make the necessary changes. Having lived in the home a while, owners discover what will really work for them.
  • If new owners have friends or family with renovation skills and knowledge, learning how to cost-effectively uncover the value in their hidden gem can be less daunting.

Here are a few common visual disasters to keep an eye out for:

  • Color Me Crazy: Many listed homes are painted white or in pale neutrals to make it easier for buyers to visualize the property with their own furnishings. Loud, clashing, or just plain "wrong" color schemes can make rooms seem smaller, darker, and less appealing. Many buyers cant think past strong colors to consider the true potential of spaces. Learn to visualize beyond crazy decor to discover value.
  • Tired and Seve> If an older home is wall-to-wall "original everything," that may be a buyer turn-off. But scrape away the dust and grime, deal with wood paneling overkill, paint with your color choices, and refinish floors or add new carpeting, and the refreshed property will sparkle. Your cost should be significantly less than what youd pay for the sellers version of their "for sale" make over.
  • Stinky Premises Animal smells cat urine is a killer and discoloration from long-term smoking are two definite buyer turn offs. Many cant get past a dirty property. Remove the broadloom and have the building professionally sanitized or tackle some cleaning yourself. Theres value under all of that ugh.
  • "What Were You Thinking" Design: What odd personal improvement or layout change has the seller made that is a total turn off to everyone else? Badly-installed spiral staircase? Transformed the diningroom into a bedroom? If its one bad feature and the home is otherwise sound, get a couple of quotes on fixing this problem. Your real estate professional will understand how your offer to purchase can reflect this extra costmdash;either a lower offer price and you pay for it or ask the seller to make the repair or at least share the cost.
  • Street De-faced: If the yard is a mess and the property is unappealing from the curb, many buyers will stay in their cars. Concentrate on where value lies: location and structural soundness. Get a quote or two on improving landscaping or correcting the street face to back up your offer price. Later you can decide how much to do yourself.

Talk to your real estate professional, friends, family, and local contractors to get a feel for what may work in your area. Collect a few ballpark quotes for painting, cleaning, and other possible undertakings to get an accurate feel for costs before you start looking at properties. Pull together a team of experienced people you can call on for knowledgeable input, so youll be ready when a possible "visual disaster" appears.

Do your homework and you can turn a visual disaster into your dream home at a great price
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4 Tips for Keeping Your Rental Property Secure

Burglaries are a concern for all home owners, but for landlords, they are an even bigger risk. Households living in rental properties experience burglaries at a higher rate than other households, Department of Justice statistics show. Households living in rental properties are more likely to be burglarized both when no one is home and when the property is occupied. This holds true across all categories of properties, regardless of income level, race or whether the household is composed of single or married persons.

This higher risk makes security an even more urgent priority for landlords than it does for typical homeowners. A high rate of burglary can make your property harder to rent and less valuable, while strong security features can be a strong selling point. Here are four tips to keep your rental properties secure.

Make It Look Like Someone Is Home

Burglars prefer to break into a property when no one is home. Almost all burglars will avoid breaking into a property when there are signs of someone home, such as a car in the driveway or a loud TV or radio, a survey of 86 convicted burglars found.

You can help protect your properties by taking steps to make it appear as if your tenants are home. This is especially important during holiday seasons when many tenants are away on vacation. If tenants will be away for a prolonged period, coordinate with them to arrange to have mail and newspapers picked up and snow shoveled while theyrsquo;re away. Encourage them to leave a radio or TV on loudly while theyrsquo;re out.

Deny Opportunities for Concealment

Burglars seek concealment and hate to be seen, so taking away opportunities for concealment can serve as an effective deterrent. One way to do this is by maintaining landscaping so that there are no bushes or trees burglars can use to hide behind as they approach properties. Landscaping can actually have a bigger deterrent effect on burglars than doors, locks and windows, police officers interviewed by the Sun-Sentinel advise. Keep all bushes and hedges trimmed to no higher than three feet so that they are not tall enough to provide concealment. Plant low, thorny bushes beneath windows, and make sure there are no tree branches near windows that can assist burglars trying to scale properties. Add loud gravel to make it hard to conceal the sound of footsteps.

Another way to deny concealment at night is to install motion sensors that trigger lights. Adding a visible camera will let burglars know their actions are being seen.

Use Locks Effectively

Locks are a crucial part of any security approach, but in order for locks to be effective, they need to be used correctly. For properties with many renters, commercial-grade mortise locks will stand up to frequent use better than other types of locks, advises Lock Blog locksmith expert Ralph Goodman. Anti-drill plates and security pins will reinforce basic locks.

At a minimum, locks should be rekeyed after each new tenant. However, some locks that are designed to be easy to rekey, such as the Kwikset SmartKey cylinder and the U-Change Lock, are also less secure, warns Goodman. For this reason, it is often better to change locks than to rekey them. Using a patented key will prevent a locksmith from making a duplicate key without your permission.

Install Secure Barriers

In addition to locks, itrsquo;s also important to install other strong barriers. Seventy percent of break-ins are done through the front door, FBI data shows. In 80 percent of these cases, the door frame fails when it is kicked or battered in. Strong doors and doorjambs will prevent doors from being kicked or rammed in. Security screen doors provide the strongest door defense. Window bars and reinforced glass or plexiglas will help buttress window security.

Itrsquo;s also important to use strong barriers for outdoor areas of properties. Security gates and fences from a fully-licensed and insured provider such as Tampa fencing supplier Florida State Fence can help protect the perimeter of your properties. Make sure that garage doors and windows are also secure. For automatic garage door openers, use a zip-tie to secure the safety >
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Escaping Condo Jail
Question: The president of our condominium association acts alone and has previous members of the board on the bank account of the Association. He has been on the board for over 3 years. He harassed all the secretaries and treasurers that had been elected by the unit owners.

The President doesnt have meetings with the board or include them in any decisions for different projects, nor does he let the treasurer handle the money. He decides what projects he wants to do and he works on the projects than he pays himself. He also is a custodian/ janitor and he pays himself a 800 per month.

Please we need help. Where should we report, without hiring an Attorney. I am the current secretary for the association but the President doesnt even talk to us. He buys apartments from owners that are behind with the Association dues, he owns 5 apartments in a 20 unit building and he comes at the meetings with his votes plus with proxy votes from the unit owners that are renting their units. Ana.

Answer:Dear Ana. My first reaction was "you gotta be kidding; this was a false news email. But then I remembered reading "Escaping Condo Jail", by Sara Benson and Don DeBat, so my next reaction was "welcome to the wonderful world of condo living".

Are you the only one concerned about this? Have you talked with other owners to see if you could mobilize a group that would start to challenge the President? Have you advised the absentee owners of these problems so they would no longer give the President their proxy?

The best approach, in my opinion, is to try to "throw the rascal" out of office. Your Bylaws contains the procedure for recalling an elected board member. Keep in mind that the board can terminate an officer but only the unit owners -- in the percentage of vote required by your legal documents -- can remove a director.

If you can prove even only half of the facts in your question, there is a strong case that the President is breaching his fiduciary duty to the association.

So why dont you want to get an attorney? A lawyer can help, and I suspect that most lawyers would >Contact the Community Association Institute Thats a national association that represents community associations all over the country. There are local chapters, and you will get some names of local attorneys who practice community association law. I strongly recommend you talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

You are the secretary of the board. You also have a fiduciary duty to the association, and in my opinion, that duty requires you to take immediate appropriate action to remove the President -- either by vote of the membership or by court order.

Question: A contiguous owner in a three level apartment->How can a condo board deter or prevent such behavior that presents grave safety risks to all condo residents? Is it possible to declare the condo a "non-smoking" condo. Al.

Answer: Al, smoking -- which now includes marijuana -- is the hot-button issue today in almost every community association throughout the country.

You cant stop stupid people from doing stupid things. I hope the smoker if she survived -- has learned an important lesson, But the association cannot be the hand-holder of each and every unit owner.

However, you can restrict smoking -- of any kind -- in the common elements as well as in the units. While some of my lawyer friends believe the association can enact a rule prohibiting smoking in the common areas, I believe that the safe harbor is to get a ByLaw amendment on this issue. I recognize that it often is very difficult to enact Bylaw amendments.

To restrict smoking in units, you have to amend not only the Bylaws but also the Declaration. Such a restriction will be controversial, which is why the Declaration should be amended. Now would be a good time to present such a proposal, because owners may be concerned there may be yet another fire due to smoking.

Case law around the country is very clear: community association owners are legally bound not only by the legal documents in effect when the owner took title but also as to any properly enacted amendments to the legal documents in the future.
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37 Ways To Make Your Home Safe And Healthy

Tips from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Safety Council, Health Canada and more for how to keep your home safe and healthy.

1. Open some windows and let the fresh air into your home, especially if you are painting or installing new carpets or building products.

2. Use exhaust fans that vent to the outside when cooking, frying, sauteacute;ing or boiling water. Use the fan in the bathroom when having a shower. Removing the moisture will help prevent mould and exhaust pollutants.

3. Use low-emission products and building materials in your home.

4. Dont allow smoking in your home.

5. To prevent scalding, set your water heater to below 50 C.

6. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher and that its easy to reach.

7. If you have a woodstove, make sure the doors close tightly and its the proper size for the space. Clean the chimney every year, to ensure that particulate matter isnt escaping into the home. Clean fireplace chimneys yearly as well.

8. Keep your furnace and ventilation systems properly maintained and change filters regularly. Furnaces should be inspected by a professional once a year.

9. How can you prevent a bedbug infestation? Check anything new that you are bringing into your home, particularly used books, antiques or used furniture or a new mattress that may have been transported in the same truck as used mattresses. Make sure new mattresses are sealed. Get rid of clutter in the home and vacuum often. Remove peeling wallpaper and seal cracks on walls that you share with neighbours or where pipes or wires enter your home.

10. Ask everyone to remove their shoes when entering your house.

11. Keep all household chemical products out of the reach of children and away from pets. Make sure medications are secured where children cant reach them.

12. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, near sleeping areas. Test them regularly and replace weak or dead batteries. If you have hardwired smoke detectors, consider installing back-up battery operated units.

13. Install a carbon monoxide detector next to every sleeping room, especially if the home has a working fireplace or fuel-burning appliance, or if theres an attached garage.

14. Make sure there is no snow or ice blocking the vents to dryers, fireplaces or stoves.

15. Plan and practice a fire escape plan with everyone who lives in the home.

16. If an appliance smells like its burning, unplug it and get it repaired or replaced.

17. Dont overload electrical outlets or run extension cords under rugs or carpets. Dont use fuses that are the incorrect size. Keep electrical cords away from heat and water. Replace cords that have cut, broken or cracked insulation. Put safety caps on unused plugs.

18. Dont leave cooking unattended. Be alert when cooking and keep children away. Keep handles turned inward. If a pot catches fire, cover it with a lid and turn off the burner.

19. Keep portable space heaters at least one metre away from anything that could burn.

20. Never use a charcoal or propane barbecue indoors.

21. If using candles in the home, make sure they are far from anything that could catch fire. Dont leave burning candles unattended when children are around. Make sure candles are out before you leave the room or go to bed.

22. Make sure your house number is visible both day and night, so emergency teams can find you if necessary.

23. Dont store ladders or tools on the outside of your home -- its too tempting for would-be thieves.

24. If you just bought a new TV or computer, dont advertise the fact by leaving the boxes outside in plain view.

25. Always lock your car, even when its in your own driveway or garage. Close and lock all the windows and doors of the house when you are not home.

26. Dont talk about vacation plans on social media. While you are away, have someone collect the mail, shovel the driveway or mow the lawn and park in your driveway.

27. The police say lighting is the most effective crime prevention tool. Use timers on indoor lights and motion sensor lights outside your home.

28. If you live in a condo building or apartment, dont let strangers in. Check your storage locker frequently to make sure nothing has been stolen or tampered with. Install a door viewer so you know who is knocking.

29. Get to know your neighbours.

30. Do a home inventory of all your items. Take photos of the most valuable pieces and record serial numbers of electronics.

31. Consider installing a home monitoring system.

32. Have a first-aid kit handy.

33. Keep electrical cords out of walking pathways. Check your home for tripping hazards. Dont pile things on the stairs. Avoid using scatter rugs. Use night lights.

34. Make sure indoor and outdoor stairs are in good repair and have handrails.

35. Consider adding grab bars beside toilets and in the bathtub or shower. Use a rubber mat in the bathtub and a non-skid mat beside it.

36. Keep curtains away from fireplaces, lamps and space heaters.

37. Every home should have a kit prepared in case of a prolonged power failure. It should include a flashlight, batteries, a three-day supply of water, canned food, a manual can opener, candles, waterproof matches, a battery-operated radio, an extra set of keys for the car and house and money. For a more extensive list, visit

For more safety tips, visit:

  • Canada Safety Council
  • Health Canada
  • Region of Waterloo Public Health
  • Toronto Fire Services
  • Hydro One
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police

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How To Tune Up Your Media Room

Most households have a room where the main activity is watching television. Were well beyond needing simply an electrical outlet and a pair of rabbit ears to entertain ourselves at home -- now, game consoles, cables, satellites, computer networks, streaming systems and stereo components can all communicate with your television. Be prepared for new devices incorporating cable management and methods of communication that will become "standard" in the future. Whether youre renovating your media space, building a new one or considering a quick upgrade, here are the elements to consider so you can make the most of your media.

Screen Space

The more invisible the technology, the more able you are to immerse yourself in the media experience, but the beauty of a media room is that you dont have to hide the TV. So, splurge on the screen that suits your fancy and feel free to make it the centerpiece of the room in this case. On the other hand, if you would like to create a space thats a little more understated, yet visually dramatic when viewing media, consider a projector with a retractable screen. The screen hardware mounts to the ceiling, and the screen rolls up when youre not watching. Be sure to get a TV system that will handle all your media interests--Internet access, gaming, DVD or Blu-ray, and the components of your particular home theater set-up.

Sounding It Out

Most of our clients who build media rooms enjoy their screen time so much that we recommend they invest in audio equipment thats on par with their video equipment. Technology has thankfully advanced enough that you dont have to fill the room with tiny speakers for a surround sound effect. Install them flush to the ceiling or walls so you can keep your attention focused where you want it. If you want speakers to be truly invisible, you can go wi>

Command Center

Finally, you need to create a space where you can house all of the electronic components of your new media center. Hard drives, DVR and cable equipment, gaming consoles and stereo equipment need a space to live that wont clutter up the room. The best solution for cable management is to have a small cabinet installed in the most convenient space to your equipment, yet is easily accessible. Youll need ventilation, but can easily install a media cabinet with a panel door thats ventilated.

Bringing It All Together

Now that youve got all your technology worked out, its time to bring in your people Consider the other functions the room will serve. If the room will function as more than a media room, break up the space to accommodate your other pastimes. Will you need a simple game table with seating for four, or a pool table that converts to a ping pong table and crafting station? Create those spaces behind the seating in your home theater so the whole family can spend time together without everyone having to watch "Rambo" again or rock out to some "Guitar Hero."


A sectional sofa is a versatile choice for a multipurpose space. They seat a lot of people comfortably, or just a few when folks want to sack out or snuggle up. If, however, your home theater is going to be dedicated solely to showing your favorite films, individual seating can really up the experience. Consider something that reclines -- recliners have come a long way in terms of attractive design. You can even get them with wi>

Color and Texture

For designers, this really is a case of saving the best for last. This space is your retreat from the world, and an indulgence youve earned. Make sure you love the way it looks. In terms of color, go deep and bold for the best cinematic effect. If you cant handle deep navy on all four walls, consider adding it as an accent color on the wall behind the screen for maximum viewing effect. Add some texture and theatrical flair with draperies that block the light and add to that sense of indulgence. If soundproofing is an issue, make those draperies wall to wall, and have some fun with the fabric. Remember, more than any other room in the house, this is room where you should feel free to make it your own.

Now, hit the lights and pass that popcorn

As a talented interior designer, Kerrie Kelly is always coming up with new ideas to fit home electronics into the design of a room. She likes to share her expertise for The Home Depot on topics like managing your cable clutter and making speakers inconspicuous. Visit for a full line of cable management products.

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6 Important Things To Know About New-Home Upgrades

Getting ready to buy a brand-new house? Moving into a home that no one has ever lived in before is incredibly exciting. So is picking out all your finishes so everything really suits you. But there are several important factors to keep in mind when it comes to the upgrades and options that are offered by the builder, starting with the fact that anything you choose beyond what is considered "standard" will raise the price of the home.

The home price is just the starting point

Have you fallen in love with a model home thats all decked out with sleek countertops and fancy appliances and hand-scraped floors and elaborate window coverings? Depending on where youre buying, you may have to pay more for some - or all - of what you see in the models. The "standard" home is typically a much more stripped-down version than what youre shown in the model complex.

Want to make changes to the floorplan or select higher-end finishes? Be prepared to pay for them. "A surprisingly large amount of the money you spend on your new home will be determined by thenbsp;options and choicesnbsp;you make," said NewHomeSource.

You may be limited in the options you can choose

If you have something specific in mind and you dont see it offered by the builder, always ask your real estate agent or the sales professional in the new-home community. Depending on how flexible they are, you might be able to negotiate custom-ordered items into your home. Or, it may turn out youll have to compromise, or add in the items after the home is finished... which isnt always such a bad thing.

It might make sense to hold back a little

Two more great benefits of adding upgrades from the builder:

  • The work is done before you move in.
  • The upgrades are included in the builders warranty.
  • However, you definitely pay for those conveniences. If you price compare some of the items youre looking at adding, like countertops or flooring, you might find that you can get them for much less elsewhere. Many of the upgrades offered by builders are huge profit centers for them. If youre willing to go through some renovations after you take possession of the home and either pay out of pocket or finance those options elsewhere, you could save some money.

    You can roll your upgrades into your mortgage

    But, having to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket for upgrades after youve just spent so much money on your new house may not seem ideal. An added benefit to handling your upgrades through the builder is that you can roll the added costs right into your mortgage instead of having to deal with a separate payment that might have a higher interest rate. The payment may be nominal - 10,000 in upgrades could cost you about 50 a month. But, youll have to make sure that the additional cost doesnt push you over your loan approval amount.

    You may have to go back to your lender for more money

    If the new home youre buying is already at the top of what youve qualified for and youre raising the overall price with thousands of dollars of upgrades, a conversation with your lender is in order. If you cant raise your qualification amount, youll have to whittle down those upgrades.

    Not all upgrades will bring you ROI

    Making smart choices is key when picking your upgrades, because not only do you want to create a home that suits your needs, >

    When considering where to spend, concentrate on the kitchen first. "The kitchen is the heart of the home, the spot where you will spend the majority of your time and make the most memories," said NewHomeSource. "It can never be overly well equipped. Pay special attention to cabinets and appliances, as this is what future buyers will focus on, as well as the tools you will use every day."nbsp;

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    Some Dangerous Conditions Are Just Plain Obvious

    The good news is that a California Appellate Court has upheld a grant of summary judgment essentially, a dismissal in favor of a real estate company that was being sued for negligence. Jacques Jacobs et al. v. Coldwell Banker, Second Appellate District Court of Appeal, July 25, 2017.

    The not-so-good news is that the opinion has not been certified for publication.

    Well discuss both.

    Coldwell Banker had listed a vacant, bank-owned property. The backyard had an empty swimming pool with a diving board. According to the court record, Dianne Garnett, the agent, conducted a visual inspection of the property.

    "After examining each room in the house, Garnett spent 20 to 30 minutes inspecting the backyard, including the diving board. She did not observe any breaks, cracks or other visible damage in the diving board. The only dangerous condition she observed was the empty swimming pool.

    "Garnett retained Clearflo Pools Clearflo to inspect the swimming pool and >"Before the property was viewed by any potential buyers, Garnett prepared an MLS listing for the property. The listing stated: Please use CAUTION around the empty pool."

    The record goes on to say that Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs were interested in purchasing the property. On August 30, 2014, they met with their agent to view the property. "Jacques [Mr. Jacobs], a licensed contractor who regularly performs tile work in and around swimming pools, noticed that the backyard swimming pool was empty. Jacques knew he should stay away from the edge of the empty pool because it would hurt if [he] fell in.

    "Jacques wanted to see over the fence to assess whether someone from the adjacent road could jump over the fence into the backyard. To get a better view, he stood on the base of the diving board. After standing on the diving board for 10 to 30 seconds, Jacques felt the board break loose from its base. The board slid forward and Jacques fell into the empty swimming pool, sustaining serious injuries."

    Naturally, the Jacobs sued Coldwell Banker. They alleged negligence and argued, among other things, that Coldwell Banker had failed in its duty to warn Mr. Jacobs that the empty pool was a dangerous condition.

    The trial court granted Coldwell Banker its motion for summary judgment, and the case was appealed. The Appellate Court spent some time discussing the issue of Coldwell Bankers duty, or the lack thereof, to protect Mr. Jacobs from "the open and obvious danger of the empty pool"

    The court noted that whether or not a duty exists is determined by a variety of factors, among them "... the foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff, the burden to the defendant and the consequences to the community of imposing the duty."

    The court then turned to a variety of earlier cases. It noted this: "Foreseeability of harm is typically absent when a dangerous condition is open and obvious... Generally, if a danger is so obvious that a person could reasonably be expected to see it, the condition itself serves as a warning, and the landowner is under no further duty to remedy or warn of the condition In that situation, owners and possessors of land are entitled to assume others will perceive the obvious and take action to avoid the dangerous condition." [my emphasis]

    Next, it pointed out an exception to that rule: "... obviousness will not negate a duty of care when it is foreseeable that because of necessity or other circumstances, a person may choose to encounter the condition." Examples were given, such as a case where walking across a narrow plank was necessitated by a job requirement that a person had to access a faucet on the other side.

    In this case, though, there was no such necessity. "Although [Mr. Jacobs] wished to look over the fence, he was not compelled to do so It was not reasonably foreseeable that he or anyone else would use the diving board for that purpose." "Accordingly," the Appellate Court said, "we agree with the trial courts conclusion that the undisputed facts indicate that it was not reasonably foreseeable that [Mr. Jacobs] would expose himself to the risks associated with the empty pool, as he was neither required nor invited to do so."

    That this opinion was not certified for publication means that it cannot be cited or >Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .
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    Personalize Your Entryway With These 8 Budget-Friendly Ideas

    Its always tricky to prioritize decorating dollars, and I tend to funnel most of mine to interior improvements: furniture, fabric, tchotchkes. But lately Ive been thinking that the outside of the house - and especially my front entry - deserves its share of the love. The entry may be the first impression of a home, and my entry is best described as mousy.

    Fortunately, jazzing up a front entrance doesnt have to cost a fortune. Try these eight strategies to create a showstopper entryway without blowing your budget.

    1. Create a mini room. Here a bench with cheery outdoor pillows, a hanging paper lantern and a framed chalkboard combine to turn a plain entrance into a sitting space all its own - all without breaking the bank. Mix and match furniture to suit your homes architecture and >2. Spell out a welcome. A stencil, a can of spray paint and presto A plain concrete stoop turns into a hospitable howdy. If you cant or dont want to paint directly on the surface, try stenciling a plain cotton or sisal doormat instead.

    Photo by Wind and Willow Home - Look for entryway pictures

    3. Invest in showstopping hardware. Swap out bland doorknobs and knockers for instant pizzazz on the cheap. You can search flea markets and architectural salvage stores for one-of-a-kind vintage models, but even home centers carry eye-catching >

    Photo by Sterling Publishing - Look for porch design inspiration

    4. Pile up plantings. Plants are one of the easiest and most affordable ways to give your entrance a polished look, and they can enhance any effect youre going for. Mass tumbles of old-fashioned blooms in weathered tin or tole tubs for a cottage; stick with variegated greens and sleek containers in a modern setting. For a traditional house, create a symmetrical grouping of palms, ficus or roses in ceramic or terra-cotta planters.

    Photo by Glenna Partridge Garden Design - Search patio pictures

    5. Light the way. Why settle for a boring outdoor light fixture when you can hang a piece of eye candy? Outdoor chandeliers are delightfully unexpected. If you want to use it for illumination, look for a model thats designed for outdoor use, but if you just want the decorative effect, you can mount an indoor fixture without wiring it.

    Photo by Megan Buchanan - Discover porch design ideas

    6. Paint the door an unexpected color. It sounds obvious, and yet so many of us take the easy way out and go with brown, black or white. If the task of choosing a bolder hue throws you for a loop, try this trick: Snap a photo of your house, then take it to the paint store so you can see how different colors work with your exterior.

    Photo by Garden Studio - Browse entryway photos

    Choose a shade that contrasts strongly with the primary paint color: bright pink paired with pale gray siding, turquoise against rusty red brick, plum on khaki stucco. Lipstick red in a field of crisp white is a >7. Decorate the doorway surround. Set off your front door and give it greater presence by adding a decorative frame. If the architecture will accommodate such a treatment, line it with decorative tiles or a mosaic. If not, you can achieve a similar effect with paint.

    Photo by Latin Accents, Inc. - Browse entryway photos

    8. Have fun with house numbers. Forget hardware-store numbers on the mailbox. Make yours pop: fun colors, funky fonts, creative placement. Just be sure that you dont sacrifice clear visibility and readability for the sake of visual interest.

    Photo by Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture - Discover home design design inspiration

    Also See:

    • Colorful Outdoor Cushions For the Front Porch
    • Designer Doorknobs That Make a Statement
    • How Chartreuse Can Make Your Front Door Stand Out

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    10 Best Housewarming Gifts For New Homebuyers

    Yes, a plant is a considerate gift for a friend or family member who just moved into a new house. But you know whats better? A whole lot of stuff. If you want to come up with a thoughtful, useful, and memorable gift for a new homebuyer, weve got some ideas.

    1. Housecleaning services

    Presumably, the house your loved ones are moving into is nice and clean when the moving truck arrives. But what is it going to look like after theyve been emptying and breaking down boxes and walking in and out of every room multiple times? A certificate for housecleaning services a few days or a week out from their move-in will be a much-appreciated gift.

    2. A home-cooked meal

    In all the chaos of packing and moving and unpacking, it can be easy to forget to do "normal" daily things... like actually eat a meal. Show up with dinner and youll be a superstar. And dont forget to bring serving pieces, disposable dishes and silverware, and a package of napkins since the kitchen boxes may not be unpacked yet.

    3. Groceries

    Or, show up with groceries and stock the fridge right after everything is moved in and the electricity is turned on. Getting to the market may be a priority for them, but with so many other conflicting priorities, it may have fallen to the bottom of a long list.

    4. A meal kit delivery service

    If your new homebuyer friends or family members are busy professionals and/or parents, theyll undoubtedly appreciate being able to simplify dinner. Blue Apron, Plated, and Hello Fresh all offer their own version of "a freshly prepped meal-in-a-box," as Forbes calls them, and many of them have introductory specials you can get in on.

    5. Help with unpacking

    Theres nothing like the gift of time when it feels like the moving-out and moving-in process is never-ending.

    6. Find landscapers

    Super organized people may have already taken care of finding a landscaper in their new neighborhood, but, for many others, this is one of those things that can fall through the cracks, and the next thing you know, the HOA is sending you notices about your overgrown lawn. You can be a great friend by helping to find a landscaping service in their new neighborhood and setting up an appointment for the lawn to be cut just before or after the move, as needed.

    7. Offer babysitting services

    Sometimes, just making sure the kids are taken care of and entertained is all someone needs to get through a stressful event like moving.

    8. A move-in care package

    Hit Target and put together an "essentials" bag full of things you know will come in handy the first few days/nights in the house. You can personalize to your friends and familys tastes and include things like: a bottle of wine and disposable glasses, high-protein snacks like nuts and bars, toilet paper, Ibuprofin, and light bulbs and batteries.

    9. A cleaning basket

    A package of Swiffer floor cleaners. A box of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. A new broom. Dish and laundry detergent. A toilet plunger. A couple of bottles of cleaning spray and a few rolls of paper towels. Theyre all the cleaning items your loved ones may not have thought to buy or bring with them or may not know which box theyre in, if they did.

    10. Gift cards

    Not sure if you should go this route because it might feel impersonal? A gift card to Target, Home Depot, the local supermarket, or a hot new restaurant in their new neighborhood will always be appreciated, especially when those unexpected costs of moving to a new place start to catch up with your friends.

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    Its A Dogs Life For Millennials: Whats Really Driving Their Desire To Buy A House

    Is the millennial homebuying surge about finally "growing up" and giving up moms home-cooked meals and laundry services? Is it about finally having student loans paid off and feeling secure enough to take on the financial burden? Perhaps its really about getting ready to marry and have kids. Nope. Turns out none of these things could convince millennials to buy homes like their little furry friend could.

    Yep, when it comes to millennial homeownership, these are the dog days.

    "A third of millennial-aged Americans ages 18 to 36 who purchased their first home 33 say the desire to have a better space or yard for a dog influenced their decision to purchase their first home, according to a new survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of SunTrust Mortgage. "Dogs ranked among the top three motivators for first-time home purchasers and were cited by more millennials than marriage/upcoming marriage, 25 percent, or the birth/expected birth of a child, 19 percent."

    There were only two factors that rated higher than dog ownership: 66 percent cited a desire for more living space, and 36 percent were interested in building equity through homeownership. Presumably, they want to do so with a pup by their side.

    "Millennials have strong bonds with their dogs, so it makes sense that their furry family members are driving home-buying decisions," saidDorinda Smith, SunTrust Mortgage President and CEO of the survey. "For those with dogs, renting can be more expensive and a hassle; home ownership takes some of the stress off by providing a better living situation."

    The survey also showed how strongly homebuyers that have not yet jumped into the market feel about this issue. Among millennials who have never purchased a home, "42 percent say that their dog - or the desire to have one - is a key factor in their desire to buy a home in the future, suggesting dogs will also influence purchase decisions of potential first-time homebuyers," they said.

    Those statistics could have a real impact on multiple aspects of the real estate industry, from the way sellers stage their home; to the types of homes that builders and developers concentrate on in pockets where millennials may be looking; to pet->

    Looking to sell your home and think you have a millennial target in your sights? Perhaps pointing out a good spot for a doggy door, if you dont already have one, and adding a picture of you and your dog fake it if you need to, a dog bed, and a basket with dog toys on the fireplace hearth before showings will help.

    Pets before kids

    Homeownership isnt the only thing millennials have delayed. Marriage and kids - if theyre in the cards at all for millennials - are waiting. Pet ownership is not.

    Millennials are in age brackets that are commonly associated with the idea of "settling down," said Pet Business. "But, rather than starting families with children, millennials are instead opting for buying or adopting pets to satisfy their caretaking needs."

    Pet ownership is up overall, led by millennials. The latestAmerican Pet Products Association APPA National Pet Owners Survey shows that, "Sixty-eight percent of American households now own a pet, accounting for 84.6 million pet-owning households, up from 79.7 million pet-owning households in 2015," said Pet Food Industry. "Gen Y/millennial pet ownershiphas officiallysurpassed baby boomer ownershipby three percentage points to now account for 35 percent of all pet owners."
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    Chimney Liners: Does Your Home Have One - Do You Even Need One?

    You >

    Chimney liners are a protective barrier usually made of metal or ceramic. Liners insulate heat moving through the chimney, protecting flammable areas of your homes structure. They also protect flue masonry from cracks or crumbling mortar due to repeated heating and cooling.

    Why worry about your chimney liner?

    Cracks or damage can lessen the effectiveness of the liner, which make burning anything in your fireplace or wood stove risky. Plus, if your liner is damaged, you may have a hard time passing a home inspection and selling your house until its repaired or replaced.

    In the "olden days," chimneys were completely unlined or only lined with clay tiles, which could crack or break >

    Do you burn wood in your fireplace regularly? You should definitely have your chimney liner inspected as part of an overall maintenance plan performed at least once a year. Cleaning is a good idea as well: The products of burning wood, called creosote, can build up in your unlined or improperly lined chimney, and may eventually cause a fire. Cleaning and inspection from a chimney professional, sometimes called a chimney sweep,nbsp;averages 298 in the US, according to HomeAdvisors surveys of homeowners.

    How do you know if your liner needs to be repaired or replaced?

    Because its hard to see into your chimney, you may be uncomfortable determining whether your chimney professional is accurately assessing your needs. There are two options for confirming a diagnosis of damaged chimney liner:

    1. See for yourself. From inside the house, open the flue and look up as far as you can. Next, check the chimney from the roof by removing the cap and doing a visual inspection. Any signs of cracks or rough edges can signify an issue and confirm your chimney professionals assessment.

    2. Hire a chimney professional with a camera. Most modern chimney companies run a scope with camera down the length of the chimney as part of their inspection. Upon request, theyll likely be willing to record the video and share it with you, detailing the issues they see.

    What if you dont have a chimney liner at all?

    If your home is older and youve determined that your home only has the stone or brick of the outer chimney, you need to decide whether a liner is necessary. First, check your citys fire code. This may mandate that you install a liner if youre making any changes to or installing a wood-burning stove or fireplace. If you burn wood in your fireplace or in a wood-burning stove, its recommended that you have a stainless-steel liner to prevent overheating your chimney and risking a fire. In some locations, your citys fire code may mandate that you install such a liner if youre making any changes to or installing a wood-burning stove or fireplace.

    However, if youre not using your fireplace and your chimney acts solely as a vent for your furnace or water heater, you may not need to have a liner installed. Cracked masonry should be addressed from an energy-savings perspective -- a lot of air could be escaping from your home, depending on where the damage to the chimney is located -- but its not likely to be a fire hazard.

    Homeowners with gas or electric inserts most likely do not need a new liner because those types of fuel dont produce enough heat to damage a masonry chimney.

    Do you have questions about your chimney and whether it needs a new liner? A chimney professional can answer your questions and schedule an inspection for your home.


    • HomeAdvisor: Chimney Maintenance Keeps Your Family Safe
    • Chimney Safety Institute of America: About Chimney Liners
    • Why Do I Need A Stainless Chimney Liner?

    Full Story >

    Tax Free Exchange: A Valuable Alternative To A Home Sale

    Congress is currently talking tax reform. Two very important real estate benefits are on the so-called "chopping block", either to be completely eliminated or significantly curtailed.

    It is doubtful that the home owner exclusion of up to 500,000 or 250,000 if you file a single tax return of profit will be impacted; there are too many homeowner voters who will forcefully object. But investors do not have the same strong lobbyist who can make the case for preserving the "like kind" exchange. So if you have an investment property, now might be the time to consider doing an exchange.

    Residential homeowners have a number of tax benefits, the most important of which is the exclusion of up to 500,000 or 250,000 if you file a single tax return profit made on the sale of your principal residence. But real estate investors -- large and small -- still have to pay capital gains tax when they sell their investments. And since most investors depreciated their properties over a number of years, the capital gains tax can be quite large.

    There is a way of deferring payment of this tax, and it is known as a Like-Kind Exchange under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code. In my opinion, these exchange provisions are still an important tool for any real estate investor.

    The exchange process is not a "tax free" device, although people refer to it as a "tax-free exchange." It is also called a "Starker exchange" or a "deferred exchange." It will not >The rules are complex, but here is a general overview of the process.

    Section 1031 permits a delay non-recognition of gain only if the following conditions are met:

    First, the property transferred called by the IRS the ">Second, there must be an exchange; the IRS wants to ensure that a transaction called an exchange is not really a sale and a subsequent purchase.

    Third, the replacement property must be of "like kind." The courts have given a very broad definition to this concept. As a general rule, all real estate is considered "like kind" with all other real estate. Thus, a condominium unit can be swapped for an office building, a single family home for raw land, or a farm for commercial or industrial property.

    Once you meet these tests, it is important that you determine the tax consequences. If you do a like-kind exchange, your profit will be deferred until you sell the replacement property. However, it must be noted that the cost basis of the new property in most cases will be the basis of the old property. Discuss this with your accountant to determine whether the savings by using the like-kind exchange will make up for the lower cost basis on your new property. And discuss also whether you might be better off selling the property, biting the bullet and paying the tax, but not have to be a landlord again.

    The traditional, >Congress did not like this open-ended interpretation, and in 1984, two major limitations were imposed on the Starker non-simultaneous exchange.

    First, the replacement property must be identified before the 45th day after the day on which the original >Second, the replacement property must be purchased no later than 180 days after the taxpayer transfers his original property, or the due date with any extension of the taxpayers return of the tax imposed for the year in which the transfer is made. These are very important time limitations, which should be noted on your calendar when you first enter into a 1031 exchange.

    In 1989, Congress added two additional technical restrictions. First, property in the United States cannot be exchanged for property outside the United States.

    Second, if property received in a like-kind exchange between >In May of 1991, the Internal Revenue Service adopted final regulations which clarified many of the issues.

    This column cannot analyze all of these regulations. The following, however, will highlight some of the major issues:

    1. Identification of the replacement property within 45 days. According to the IRS, the taxpayer may identify more than one property as replacement property. However, the maximum number of replacement properties that the taxpayer may identify is either three properties of any fair market value, or any larger number as long as their aggregate fair market value does not exceed 200 of the aggregate fair market value of all of the >Furthermore, the replacement property or properties must be unambiguously described in a written document. According to the IRS, real property must be described by a legal description, street address or distinguishable name e.g., The Camelot Apartment Building."

    2. Who is the neutral party? Conceptually, the >3. Interest on the exchange proceeds. One of the underlying concepts of a successful 1031 exchange is the absolute requirement that not one penny of the sales proceeds be available to the seller of the >Generally, the sales proceeds are placed in escrow with a neutral third party. Since these proceeds may not be used for the purchase of the replacement property for up to 180 days, the amount of interest earned can be significant -- or at least it used to be until banks starting paying pennies on our savings accounts.

    Surprisingly, the Internal Revenue Service permitted the taxpayer to earn interest -- referred to as "growth factor" -- on these escrowed funds. Any such interest to the taxpayer has to be reported as earned income. Once the replacement property is obtained by the exchanger, the interest can either be used for the purchase of that property, or paid directly to the exchanger.

    The rules are quite complex, and you must seek both legal and tax accounting advice before you enter into any like-kind exchange transaction.
    Full Story >

    Small Claims Court Manual Is Helpful To Real Estate Agents

    Over the course of a career, a real estate broker or agent may find himself in small claims court in connection with a dispute arising out of a real estate transaction. He may be there as a defendant, as a witness, or even as a plaintiff. Sometimes, he may be involved just in an attempt to help a client, even if he doesnt have a role as a witness.

    While small claims court may lack some of the trappings and formalities of higher venues, it can be intimidating enough to those who are not "regulars." Moreover, its procedures may be such as to confuse and/or hinder even those with a meritorious case to present.

    Thus it is that the Small Claims Court Assistance Manual for REALTORSreg; and Their Clients, can provide valuable assistance to members of the California Association of REALTORSreg; CAR. The manual was created by the CAR legal staff. Its declared purpose is "to help REALTORSreg; and their clients prepare for and present a case in small claims court."

    The rules for small claims courts vary from state to state. In California, as of January 1, 2012, small claims court jurisdiction is up to 10,000. Small is bigger than it used to be. Even if a plaintiff is owed, or thinks he is owed, more than 10,000, he can choose to waive his rights to the excess and proceed in small claims court. Suppose there is a dispute over a 15,000 earnest money deposit. The plaintiff could waive the 5,000 excess over the courts jurisdiction. It is understandable why someone might want to do this. The case will be heard in a much shorter time frame than would be likely in a higher venue. Also, in small claims court there are minimal legal costs. That is because, with very limited exceptions, attorneys are not permitted to represent a party in a small claims court action.

    The CAR small claims manual is designed to provide help for typical real estate >Create a folder with tabs, so that if the judge wants to see, for example, the purchase agreement, he or she can quickly flip right to it. The easier it is for a judge to find and view a document the more likely that judge will actually examine it

    Watch several cases before going to court.

    State the most important part of your case first and follow up with your key points.

    Definitely do not interrupt the judge. When the judge begins talking, you stop talking. Dont attempt to talk over the judge. The judge can interrupt you, but you cannot interrupt the judge.

    Chapters 3 -- 6 of the manual address a variety of scenarios. They are grouped around four categories:

    Chapter 3 -- Claims by a listing broker for compensation

    Chapter 4 -- Claims by a buyer for return of a deposit or damages

    Chapter 5 -- Claims by a seller for >Chapter 6 -- Defenses by a broker against claims made by a buyer

    The scenarios have a sample opening statement, a list of suggested documents, a list of the >CAR members can access the Small Claims Manual at the legal section of the organization web site, It can be downloaded, or one can just use the link. The manual is a valuable member benefit.
    Full Story >

    Home Buyer Regrets Are A Reality

    Home buyers have regrets about the home they purchase. Thats the reality of home buying. There will be regrets. Hopefully, theyll be regrets you can learn to live happily with.

    If you were to buy a pair of shoes or a car without more research than quickly hearing their statistics and then slipping into them for an amazingly-short tryout, do you think youd have regrets about the shoes and the car you purchased?

    • When it comes to shoes, you try them on in the store and stomp around or, if ordered online, you stomp around at home. The shoes may be comfortable during this short artificial exploration, but when you spend a full day walking in them, your feet may experience regret.
    • Same is true for a car. After the initial, new car thrill, there may be things about the car that you wish youd noticed or realized would be important to you before you bought it.
    • The lower the amount of research and thought that goes into buying decisions and the greater the emotional impulse that rules decisions, the more regret that results.

    Why is anyone surprised at the outcome when very complex real estate purchases are approached in a way similar to shoe and car shopping? Real estate buyers can be left with "woulda, shoulda, coulda" regret.

    Thats the buying experience.

    Thats buyer beware.

    One major difference in home buying is the support and expertise of real estate professionals who can reduce regret when buyers take advantage of this professional edge.

    Here, were concentrating on purchases where everything is completely fine with the house, townhome, condominium unit, or recreational propertymdash;legally and structurally. Even when all is well, buyers may have regrets about how a home functions for them and their family.

    Buyers become owners once they move in and live in their new residencemdash;an obvious fact, but a shift in perspective that many buyers seem to ignore. New owners will discover things about a home that they may not have realized during their "purchasers viewing" many weeks or months beforemdash;especially in a cleverly-staged property:

    • New owners may decide their home feels too small, too large, too expensive, too far from workhellip;too something that becomes obvious after living there a while. Sometimes there are acceptable solutions; sometimes there are very pleasant surprises; sometimes there are only regrets.
    • Alternatively, the home may lack something buyers assumed would be there or they had expected to be better. For instance, front hall or foyer closets are often overlooked during viewing. After move-in, all the family "stuff" that must go in that closet may not fit. The same can be true for functionality of the back entrance. In either case, sometimes adding storage or completing a small renovation solves the problem. Other times, buyers must live with regrets.

    Examine several Buyer-regret surveys and youll realize that home buyer reactions have not changed dramatically over time. Responses can vary with real estate and life experience and with economic conditions, but most are >Surveys isolate one aspect of one issue, so dont adopt results without further research of your own. For instance, how survey questions are asked matters. Regrets about a home and regrets about the process of buying a home are two different things. Survey questions about regrets were not counterbalanced with questions about the pleasant surprises a home held or whether the positives outweigh the negatives. Ask yourself how survey generalities are >Savvy buyers can consciously turn the potential for regret into "Buyer BE AWARE"

    • When youve spent a few hundred dollars on shoes or several thousand on a car, regrets hurt and frustrate, but youll bounce back on your next purchase. With each of many purchases, you learn more about what you are paying for and what works for you.
    • In real estate, the bounce back may be harder. The purchase usually involves hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many people only make three or four home changes in a lifetime. Since these moves may be decades apart, what buyers learn is forgotten or no longer >

      Dont get discouraged. Home buyers have many resources to call on to minimize the number of regrets regarding home functionality and to reduce the negative effect on daily living:

      Consider a property for its functionality, not just its decor. Staging shifts the emphasis away from design flaws and on to superficial decor. Dont just stand in a rooms doorway "oo-ing" at the yummy furnishings. Step in and try the room out. Before you start looking at properties, create a Key Functions Checklist on paper or on your phone of three to five key functions your family expects to carry out in each room or section of the home over the four seasons. Then, while viewing, physically or mentally walk through the details to check for fit. With a written checklist, this is simple to keep track of. Comparing properties based on functionality becomes easier.

      Design flaws may not stop a purchase, but they may impact purchase price. When viewing a listing, concentrate on visualizing what it would be like to live there with your family and furniture. For each room, consider projecting your Key Functions Checklist a step further. Quickly assess the potential for affordable, practical solutions to shortcomings. After the viewing, sort out the details and decide which deficiencies matter and which can be overlooked. Call on contractors or interior designers for clever professional solutions for more involved issues. Create lists of what must be dealt with before you move in and then within the first year. If there is only one area of the home that falls short, life>Location and "the immovable object". The one thing about a home that cannot be changed or "renovated" is its location. If you are considering an area further away from work, avoid assumptions about commute time. Drive the distance or take public transit a few times. Talk to commuters to learn the greatest inconveniences and other practical realities. Expect commute times to increase. Talk to real estate professionals with experience in your desired locations to learn about available transportation alternatives.

      Invest time and effort in selecting the best real estate professional to help you achieve your regret-minimized home purchase. The transportation example in the previous bullet reveals how to accomplish two research goals at once. Do the work to make sure the professionals knowledge and expertise are put to good use heading off regret.
      Full Story >

    Trend Alert: Rounded Furniture

    Over all those hard edges? We have some good news for you. After many years of being dominated by straight lines, curves are making a comeback in interior design. Business Insider called rounded furniture one of the hottest design trends this year. "The furniture is a lot more substantial and rounded off where it was feeling very squared," Caitlin Murray, founder and CEO ofnbsp;Black Lacquer Design, told them.

    Theyre not alone. Everyone from Elle Deacute;cor to Architectural Digest has been touting this trend, which is now starting to settle in as a "must-have."

    "A boxy item here and there is fine, but 2017 will be the year rounded edges and circular furniture return," said Elle Decor. Patti Carpenter, a "global ambassador and found of carpenter company," told them, "Its all about finding a place of calm and comfort in this constant chaos and information that we constantly have coming at us." In short, they said, "its all about comforthellip;not edginess."

    Dont be afraid to take your whole room to a curvy place. You may want to mix up the color palette a little, but the three-piece set looks chic together. The faux marble wallpaper behind the seating area? Thats another top trend.

    Or, incorporate one great piece, like this tufted couch from West Elm featured on the Today show during a segment on this years design trends. On the show, Amy Astley ofnbsp;Architectural Digestnbsp;embraced the round furniture trend, saying the curvier shapes bring in a romantic, softer, prettier feel - especially when executed in velvet, like below.

    Worried about how rounded furniture will look in your existing space, especially if it already boasts a strong design >

    Keeping your straight lines and incorporating rounded furniture, too, looks great in this breakfast nook. The round table is a great choice because it fits in snugly in a small space and allows everyone to gather lsquo;round literally and enjoy each others company.

    Going the round route in your outdoor space immediately reads: resort. With these cocoon-like chairs, you may never go inside.

    Full Story >

    Giving Back Is Good For Business; REALTOR Dana Roberts is Celebrated as She Makes Her Tenth Donation

    In just over three months, Dana Roberts of Coldwell Banker Residential in Irvine, has proven that giving back is actually good for business as she has made ten donations after each of her real estate transactions. Most recently, CHOC Foundation was the recipient of her special donation on behalf of her client, Wendy Yen.

    "When Dana Roberts first partnered with our Agent with Heart Program we were inspired by her drive to give back, but as she has just completed her tenth donation in such a short span of time, we are truly moved by her dedication," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. "Our program hopes to attract realtors who are willing and excited to give back to their communities, so when Dana joined us on our journey to assisting communities everywhere, we couldnt have been more excited."

    In addition to her recent donation to CHOC Foundation, Dana has also given back to: SPCA-LA, Hope for Paws, St Judes Childrens Hospital, Desert AIDS Project, American Cancer Society, Red Hill Lutheran Church School, Second Harvest Food Bank OC, and Childs Play.

    "Ten donations is not an easy feat to accomplish, by any means, so to say that we are grateful to Dana for her generosity would be an incredible understatement," continues Mr. Giaimo. "All of us at PinRaise would like to extend our deepest appreciation for Dana and all of her efforts to give back to her community, but I would especially like to thank Dana for becoming our strongest partner in giving within the Agent with Heart Program," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Dana Roberts who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Dana Roberts, please call 949-433-6694 or visit her website at
    Full Story >

    How to Help Your Parents Downsize and Declutter

    When the child is the one charged with helping the parents downsize, these guidelines can smooth the process.

    Many seniors eventually need to downsize to a smaller space, whether to a retirement community, a nursing facility or a room in a family members home. Often, the task of decluttering and packing falls to their children.

    If youre the person faced with going through an aging parents belongings, it may be tempting to rent a storage unit and just pack it all away. However, that can be an expensive way to me>

    1. Acknowledge the true magnitude of the task. Moving from a home filled with years of memories can be a very emotional process for your parents. Not only do they have to downsize the physical memories of perhaps as long as a lifetime, but moving may also summon unwanted reminders of their mortality.

    For both parent and child, decluttering takes patience. And for the child especially, it can be difficult to stay motivated, since you wont directly reap the rewards of a tidier space. Further, your decluttering standards may be different than those of your parents. What you consider trash may be your parents treasures, and this can sometimes lead to friction. Its important, though, to involve your parents in the decision-making process rather than taking over completely. Soliciting their input and accommodating their desires is a way to show them you value their decisions and respect their belongings.

    So before you get started, mentally prepare yourself for whats to come. Know that some items may be easy to declutter, such as clothing that doesnt fit. Others will take more time, patience and thought.

    Photo by >

    2. Schedule bite-sized work sessions. Decluttering is time-consuming, and it can be tiring for aging parents. If time permits before the move, space out your sessions so you and your parents can maintain the energy to complete the entire house. I recommend no more than four hours at a time, and perhaps just two to three times per week. This schedule allows for a balance between making efficient use of your time and not exhausting your parents.

    3. Understand your parents life>. Getting a snapshot of how your parents plan to live in their new home will help you narrow down what they keep - with the goal of retaining only what they actually love or need. Even if you think you understand their life>For example, if your parents typically launder their clothes once a week, then 10 to 14 sets of clothing for each season would be more than enough to last between washes. If they wont be entertaining at their new location, they may feel confident donating their punch bowls and tablecloths. If formal events are few and far between, then three to four comfortable formal outfits may suffice.

    Photo by Tamsin Johnson - More sunroom ideas

    Below are some questions you could use as a starting point for your discussion with your parents. You could even use their answers to guide a first pass at eliminating ir>

  • What type of clothing do you need? Daily comfort wear? Weekly church outfits? Occasional formal outfits?
  • What is your current range of clothing sizes? Is it OK to donate all clothing outside of this range?
  • To what extent will you be cooking and baking?
  • Will you be entertaining? If so, what would be the maximum number of guests?
  • Which suitcases and bags are no longer practical for travel too large to manage, lacking wheels?
  • Will you want to decorate seasonally?
  • Which books do you still read and which music do you still listen to?

    4. Start with the least sentimental items. As with most things, practice makes perfect. My clients have found that the decision to keep, toss, sell or donate becomes easier the more you practice. Starting your decluttering process with the least sentimental items, such as linens and clothing, and working your way toward the most sentimental, such as photos and letters, can be a helpful way to ease into harder decision-making territory.

    5. Declutter by category rather than room. Separating your decluttering into categories is helpful in terms of keeping your parents - and yourself - motivated and focused. Its easier to make decisions when items are grouped, as this helps you see all at once how many belongings youre dealing with. Also, you can all feel a sense of accomplishment with the completion of each category. I recommend separating items into the smallest categories possible. For example, instead of creating a category of tops, separate the items further into short sleeves, long sleeves, sweaters. Accessories can be separated into belts, hats, scarves and handbags.

    Photo by Croma Design Inc - Look for closet design inspiration

    6. Keep only sentimental items that will be displayed. Many of my clients have a hard time parting with sentimental memorabilia. But the truth is, some of these items have been buried in their houses for decades. I usually encourage them to keep only the items theyll have out. After all, memorabilia cant be enjoyed while hidden away, and disposing of the items doesnt diminish the memories associated with them.

    One possible way to ease the permanence of losing sentimental items is to take photographs of them. However, I dont recommend this in cases where the photograph cant be filed away immediately, whether in a digital album or a physical scrapbook. If there is no defined location for the photograph, whether digital or physical, then it becomes clutter. Also, if its likely that looking at these photographs will bring on feelings of regret for your parents, I also dont recommend this method.

    Photo by - Look for bedroom design inspiration

    7. Take charge of your childhood items. If your parents have saved all of your childhood memorabilia, they may be willing to turn those items over to you for sorting through. This can be quite helpful for parents who are overwhelmed with culling their own possessions. Now is also the time to remove any of your adult possessions that have been stored in their house.

    Photo by LUX Design - More living room ideas

    8. Remove unwanted items from the property. You havent truly finished decluttering until all the unwanted items are no longer in your parents house. Consider ordering a dumpster for trash, scheduling a charitable organization to pick up donations and selling items at a consignment store or online. Although it would be wonderful to earn money by selling some items, if you dont have time to list them or your items dont sell quickly, permit yourself to donate instead. Its important to keep unwanted possessions moving as you continue the decluttering process, as storing them in the house may hinder progress.

    Photo by Sarah Greenman - Look for home design design inspiration

    9. Treasure this quality time with your parents. Decluttering is undoubtedly hard work, and tensions often arise amid differing viewpoints. So try to adjust your perspective when these moments inevitably come. Instead of viewing the task as a chore, consider it a special time spent with your parents. You may even hear some priceless stories about their youth and your childhood - especially if you maintain a patient attitude, and if you take the time to ask.

    Also See:

    • Pick Up a Clothing Rack to Organize Their Garments
    • Clean Out and Sort Through Storage Cabinets
    • Consult a Professional Organizer For More Help

    Full Story >

  • Inspired Ways To Create A Guest Space When You Dont Have A Guest Room

    Not all of us are blessed with enough bedrooms to accommodate every member of the family plus a home office and a man cave and a theater room and a guest space. And, its that last one that often ends up as a challenge when friends and family come to visit and you either have to break out the blow-up bed or give up your room and hunker down with the kids. You dont need to add on or buy a new home to provide a comfortable space for guests. These smart solutions will help you create a great space for guests with minimal effort.

    Murphy beds

    Part of the appeal of a Murphy bed is the ability to hide the sleeping surface away instead of having it be the main focus of the space, which can limit the usability of the room. A home office with a hidden surprise provides great function for those who need a room to do double duty.

    "A Murphy bed neatly folds away when not in use, providing room to use a desk and store home office necessities," said Houzz. "When guests arrive, just tuck in your desk chair and pull down the bed."

    You might not want to fill this small space with a guest bed, but hiding one behind the couch works just fine.

    Even in a super modern space, a Murphy bed can be hidden creatively. Would you ever think there was a bed behind those art panels?

    Photo by Studio Becker- Bespoke Cabinetry amp; Millwork - Browse bedroom photos

    If youre handy, you may even be able to make one yourself.

    Wall bed

    A similar idea but with a little different execution, a wall bed is another great space-saving solution. You may not think you have room for a guest spacehellip;until you see one fold out from under the TV. Voila. Happy family hunkered down at your house.

    This one looks like a couple of built-ins. Nope. Its a wall bed.

    Pull-out couch

    The knock on pull-out couches: Theyre uncomfortable. And ugly. But todays versions are far from your grandfathers pull-out couch with the flimsy mattress, non-existent support, and limited design potential.

    "Forget what you always knew about sofa beds, because you actually can get a good nights sleepnbsp;andnbsp;have a stylish sofa these days," said Apartment Therapy.

    This modern version will give you the >

    Rich, traditional leather can also serve an additional function. Even better, this loveseat is small enough to work in a smaller space while still providing ample space for snoozing.

    "This top-grainnbsp;leather sleeper sofa is just as luxenbsp;as it looks," said Best Products. "A raised base with roomy, springynbsp;seating makes it just right for movie nights, while the interior pull-out bed ensures that it is always at the ready for overnight use.

    Day bed

    A variation on the pull-out couch, a day bed is a chic design choice for many homes, especially because the >

    Also, choose right and youll have a piece that looks like a cool place to lounge, but is all ready to accommodate a good nights sleep.

    Want to double your guest space? Look for a daybed with a trundle, like this one.

    Full Story >

    7 Reasons To Stop Renting Today

    Still renting? You must have a good reason. Although, were not really sure what it is. With rents continuing to rise across the country, interest rates staying around historic levels, and new loans lowering down payment requirements, it just makes sense to take the leap to homeownership. Maybe youve got terrible credit and dont want to take the time to improve it or dont know about loans that accept lower scores? Or, maybe you just like giving your money away. If youre still not on board, these 7 reasons might change your mind.

    Because owning a home is still less expensive than renting across the country

    GOBankingRates annual survey of "the cost of renting versus owning a home in all 50 states and the District of Columbia" just came out, and, while they "found that the number of places where its more expensive to own than rent has increased," the number went from 9 to 11. That means that, in 39 states, it still makes more financial sense to buy.

    Rates are near historic lows

    Were spoiled. Seriously. Anyone who has been paying attention to the market over the last few years and has seen interest rates with a 3 or 4 before that decimal point may just think itll always be that way. But history has a way of repeating itself, and while we may not see rates in the teens again anytime soon, most industry experts have been predicting rates moving into the 5s sometime this year, with a pattern of rising rates beyond. Buying a home while money is cheap is a smart move.

    "A difference of even 1 percent can have a major impact on your total payments over time," said ZACKS. "For instance, a 200,000 mortgage for 30 years at an interest rate of 5 percent would require a monthly payment of 1,073.64. By comparison, the same mortgage at 4 percent interest would result in a payment of 954.83." That might not seem like a big deal every month, but, consider the long-term potential: "Over 30 years, the total difference between the two would be 42,771.60."

    FHA loans and the like make it easier to qualify

    Dont have an 800 credit score? You dont need to today. FHA requirements are lower than conventional loans, and you may already be where you need to be to qualify. "The average FICO score for buyers who finance FHA loans is 683, according to Ellie Mae. Thats considerably lower than the average score of 753 for conventional, non-FHA financing," said "Most lenders have a...minimum of 600."

    A little thing called equity

    Rising rents may or may not equate to rising property values in your area, but either way, youre not going see any financial benefit from it. When you own your home and your equity rises, that equity is yours. And so is the choice of what to do with it. Whether you decide to let it sit and continue to grow or tap your equity for home improvement projects, the money is yours to decide how to use.

    The days of the 20 percent down payment are all but gone

    Does 20 percent down make it more likely that youll qualify for a loan? Sure. Does that mean you have to come up with that huge chunk of money? No. Nor do you have to come up with 10 percent down, which, for some reason, the majority of new buyers seem to believe. "87 offirst-time buyers think they need 10 or more down to buy a home," said The Mortgage Reports.

    TheFHA loanis one of the most popular loans available to first-time buyers because, not only can you qualify with a fair credit score, but the down payment is as low as 3.5 percent, and, "100 percent of the down payment can be a financial gift from a >Rents keep rising

    Unless youre in a rent-controlled apartment and, bless you if you are since there are so few left, your rent is just going to keep going up every year. Apartment Lists monthly NationalApartment ListRent Report shows that, "Our national rent index is continuing to climb, with month-over-month growth of 0.5 percent for June. Rents grew at a rate of 0.5 percent between May and June,which is generally in line with the monthly growth that weve seen over the course of this year thus far. Year-over-year growth at the national level currently stands at 2.9 percent, surpassingthe 2.6 percent rate from this time last year.In addition to the growth on the national level, rents are now increasing in nearly all of the nations biggest markets."

    When you own your home, your payment is your payment is your payment. Unless you take out a home equity loan or refinance to take cash out, your payments not going to go up.

    Tax breaks

    Heres another bit of fun for renters: nothing you pay comes back to you. I mean, except for that security deposit, but that all depends on what effect your dog and those few parties you threw had on the condition of the home. As a homeowner, you get to write off all kinds of stuff, which lowers your overall costs. "Your biggest tax break is reflected in the house payment you make each month since, for most homeowners, the bulk of that check goes toward interest. And all that interest is deductible," said Bankrate. "Did you pay points to get a better rate on any of your various home loans? They offer a tax break, too.The other major deduction in connection with your home is property taxes."

    And think about it this way: Even if your house payment is going to be a little bit higher than what youre currently paying in rent, its not an apples-to-apples comparison. How do those numbers look when you calculate the tax savings?
    Full Story >

    5 Ways Telecommuters Can Reduce Household Energy Use

    As someone whos devoted to reducing their homersquo;s carbon footprint, youre likely already adhering to some of more common suggestions. Case in point: You turn off the lights when you leave a room. Youve purchased blackout window shades. And youve made sure not to set the A/C too high during those hot, summer months.

    While you may want to boost your energy savings even more, as a telecommuter, some of the >

    1. Run Sleep Mode on Your Computer

    Your computer features a number of power modes to save you money on your energy bill. As House Logic notes, these include active/on, active standby and passive standby/off modes. Set up your computer to automatically go into one of these low-consumption modes when youre away from your home office for extended time periods.

    For example, this feature would bode well for your computer mdash; and monthly utility bill mdash; when you take a phone call with a client or go on lunch break. When you return to your desk, your computer will immediately power up and be ready for use. Then, at the end of the workday, completely shut off your computer. This approach can save you between 25 and 75 annually per computer.

    2. Use a Single Backup Server

    If you have multiple servers in your home, you can easily decrease your energy consumption by switching to one central server. To protect your computers mdash; and all your important work mdash; back up everything on the server through a cloud-based service provider like Mozy.

    Mozyrsquo;s user-friendly, energy-efficient software allows you to decide when to perform any backups and which specific files you want protected. Many utility companies charge less if you use a bulk of electricity at certain times of the day; if this is the case for you, schedule your backups to run when rates are at their lowest.

    3. Consider Switching to a Laptop

    Laptops offer more than easy portability and user-friendly designs mdash; theyre also much more energy efficient than their desktop counterparts. As notes, laptops use up to 80 percent less power than desktops. So, if youre in the market for a new computer, investing in a laptop will help save you money on your electric bills.

    4. Invest in a Power Strip for Easy On/Off Savings

    Your computer, printer and other home office electronics continue to use energy, even when theyre turned off. Solve this issue by plugging all your electronics into a power strip instead of an outlet. As a bonus, you wonrsquo;t have to go around turning off multiple machines at the end of the day. Instead, simply flip on the switch to your power strip and immediately start saving money.

    5. Think Before You Print

    While you might be accustomed to printing your invoices, important emails from the boss and other documents, cutting back on this practice will save energy, along with protecting trees. Store your invoices and work->
    Full Story >

    Real Estate Professional Dana Roberts Makes Donation to Childs Play on Behalf of Her Clients Through the Agent with Heart Program

    PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Dana Roberts of Coldwell Banker Residential in Irvine, California, recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to Childs Play on behalf of her clients, Adam Hart and Courtney Knapp.

    "Having Dana Roberts as a partner in giving back within our Agent with Heart Program is something we truly cherish," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. "Our program was created to connect local realtors to nonprofits within the community with the hope of aiding in the growth of local communities, and Danas generosity makes that possible," continues Mr. Giaimo.

    "Giving back is second nature to Dana, and that is a noble quality that all of us a PinRaise greatly admire and appreciate. Thank you, Dana, for being a driving force within the Agent with Heart Program and for being so dedicated to giving back," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Dana Roberts who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Dana Roberts, please call 949-433-6694 or visit her website at
    Full Story >

    Critiquing The 15-Year Home Loan

    Question. I bought my first home in the early 2000s when interest rates were much higher then now, and got a fixed, 30 year loan for 6.25 percent. This is a small condominium unit. I am 50 years old and will need to work at least 15 years to be eligible for retirement.

    For some time I have been wondering if I should consider getting a 15-year mortgage, as I do not want to be burdened with a mortgage in addition to condominium fees.

    Assessing how and when to consider such a change is confusing to me. I would appreciate your advice on the advantages and disadvantages of the 15-year mortgage compared with the 30-year mortgage.

    Answer. You have asked two very important questions. One deals with comparison between a 30-year loan and a 15-year loan, but the second one -- equally important -- goes to the question of when and whether to refinance.

    Lets take the refinancing question first. You indicate that you have an 6.25 percent loan. To switch to either a 15-year or 30-year new loan means you will have to refinance. Before you even consider switching mortgage loans, go out and take a look at the interest rates in the marketplace.

    Interest rates are about as low as anyone can remember. It certainly would make sense for you to shed the 6.25 percent loan and get a new loan for a rate that might be as low as 4 percent.

    But do not forget that you will have to pay closing costs for your new mortgage, although some lenders currently advertise "no closing costs". Be ware of getting anything for free; always shop around.

    Thus, under current market conditions, I believe you should seriously consider refinancing. The general rule of thumb used to be that until rates come down at least two full percentage points below your current mortgage, it does not make sense to refinance. This rule of thumb is, in my opinion, no longer applicable. When you do the numbers, you will see a dramatic saving to you -- even if you take into consideration all of the closing costs associated with a refinance loan.

    You also asked about the advantages and disadvantages of a 15-year loan compared with a 30-year loan.

    I must state at the outset I am biased against the 15-year loan. While there have been many commentators who have praised what they perceived to be the benefits of a 15-year mortgage, in my opinion, such a mortgage ra>Lets look at some examples. Consider a 300,000 loan to be amortized on a 30-year basis compared with a 15-year basis. While there are lenders who will give you a lower interest rate if you take a 15-year loan rather than a 30-year loan, for comparison purposes, let us assume the 30 year rate will be 4 percent while the 15 year rate will be 3.5 percent.

    To amortize the loan over 15 years, your monthly payment of principal and interest is 214.5. On a 30-year basis, the principal and interest is 143.40 There is a 71 cash savings per month on a 30-year loan. On a yearly basis, this is a savings to you of 853.20.

    Keep in mind that the interest deductions for tax purposes will, by and large, be the same for the first few years, but as your principal balance goes down faster with the 15-year amortization, accordingly your interest payments will also be smaller.

    While no one can guarantee at this early stage in the Trump Administration what Congress will do with taxes, it seems fairly clear that the Federal Reserve Board will in fact raise the tax rate. This means that the home mortgage deduction will also be higher, thereby giving you additional benefits for a 30-year loan.

    Thus, the major benefit of the 15-year loan is that you will save a lot of interest over the life of your mortgage. Additionally, you are also putting more dollars toward principal, thereby reducing your mortgage balance and building up your equity.

    Equity is the difference between the market value of your house and the mortgage or mortgages that you owe. In good real estate market conditions, property values increase on a yearly basis as much as 10 to 15 percent. Even in bad times, we all hope that property values will at least keep up with inflation, although obviously there will be dips and decreases in the market values on a periodic basis.

    But assuming we anticipate growth over the next decade, the equity in your house will grow regardless of the amount of your mortgage. This equity is "dead equity" and, in my opinion, you might as well be taking that extra money and burying it in your backyard. In effect, this is my analogy of the 15-year mortgage.

    I would rather take the extra money I pay each year and invest it somewhere. I could put it in a pension plan, I could invest it in the stock market, I could give it to my children or I could spend it on a vacation with my family.

    After all, what will you do with your house 15 years from now when your mortgage is paid in full? I know of too many people who are currently house rich and cash poor. When you are in retirement, you may not keep that condominium unit, or if you do, you want to make sure you also have some sort of nest egg to be able to enjoy your retirement years. If you have put all of your money into your house, and then you retire, you may not be in the financial position to tap into that equity at that later date.

    Accordingly, in my opinion, take the extra money you pay a year and invest it in a conservative, long-term investment for the next 15 years. Even without any computation for interest, this will grow in the next 15 years. That will be the start of this important nest egg for the rainy day.

    There is one other important consideration that should be addressed. Generally speaking, most mortgage loans do not contain a prepayment penalty. This means you can pay your loan -- in whole or in part -- as you see fit, and when you make that decision. If you take a 30-year loan, you always have the right -- but not the obligation -- to make additional payments each and every month so as to reduce your principal balance. Indeed, if you want, you could make a 214.50 payment each month the amount of a 15 year loan and use it to reduce your mortgage, if you have no other investment opportunities.

    But the 15-year loan obligates you legally to make the higher monthly payment.

    In my opinion, you get the benefits -- but not the detriments -- of the 15-year loan by opting to refinance on a 30-year basis. Some day in the future savings accounts may be paying a higher rate of return. You may want to consider investing that extra money in a savings account, rather than being obligated, each and every month, to make the 15-year monthly mortgage payments.

    However, the advice I give is obviously general. You are advised to discuss your specific needs, plans and tax considerations with your own advisers.
    Full Story >

    Real Estate Professional Michelle Ratajczak Makes Generous Donation to the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund on Behalf of Her Clients

    PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Michelle Ratajczak of All/Pros in Virginia Beach, Virginia recently closed a transaction and made a donation to the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund on behalf of her clients, Erick and Stacy Sweimler.

    "We are so appreciative of Michelles continued generosity within our Agent with Heart Program," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. The Agent with Heart Program aims to connect local real estate professionals to nonprofits in the community with the goal of assisting in the growth of communities nation-wide.

    "Thanks to Agents with Heart like Michelle, we are able to assist nonprofits local to the communities of our agents, like the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. We thank Michelle for her participation, and look forward to seeing how her donations will continue to impact her community, and the communities of her clients, in the future," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Michelle Ratajczak who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Michelle Ratajczak, please call 757-472-0944 or visit her website at
    Full Story >

    Real Estate Recovery Account Is Useful, Though Limited

    Many people have learned that it is one thing to go to court and obtain a judgement against someone; to collect is quite another matter. The legislature and the Bureau of Real Estate BRE know this too, and that is why the Recovery Account, often referred to as the "recovery fund", was established.

    The BRE states it this way: "The Recovery Account is a fund of last resort for a member of the public who has obtained a final judgment against a real estate licensee based on fraud or certain other grounds and who has been unable to satisfy the judgment through the normal post-judgment proceedings."

    A variety of requirements must be met in order to have a valid claim against the Recovery Account. They are set forth in the Business and Professions Code Section 10470 and following.

    1 A final judgment must already have been obtained, either in court or through an approved arbitration procedure. That is, one does not go to the account in order to argue the merits of the case itself.

    2 The claimant must already have pursued collection efforts against the judgment debtor, and, in situations where it is appropriate, against "all other persons liable to the claimant in the transaction that is the basis for the underlying judgment." One does not obtain the judgment and then proceed directly to the Recovery Account.

    3 The judgment debtor must have been a real estate licensee at the time the underlying transaction occurred. Although this requirement seems simple enough, it has sometimes been an occasion for dismay. For example, suppose the judgment debtors license had been expired at the time of the transaction, or that the person never had a license in the first place -- that he was an imposter -- the Recovery Fund could not pay on the claim.

    4 The judgment debtor must have been performing acts for which a real estate license was required. The judgment must have been based on a real estate transaction. You couldnt go to the Recovery Fund because a real estate licensee had stolen your car.

    5 Not only must the acts have been >

    By todays standards the Recovery Account is not a very deep pocket. The code sets forth a limit of 50,000 payment for any one transaction, and 250,000 for the total of claims against any one licensee.

    Funding for the Recovery Account is derived from real estate license fees. If the account drops below 200,000 the commissioner is authorized to add seven dollars onto every brokers license fee, and four dollars to that of each salesperson. The real estate commissioner is also authorized to transfer funds from the general real estate fund into the account as deemed necessary.

    The overwhelming majority of real estate Recovery count cases have to do with mortgage fraud and conversion of trust funds. As we have seen, the application of Recovery Account funds is strictly limited. It doesnt solve all the problems, but it has provided a lot of help over the years. Since its inception in 1964, the Recovery Account has paid out in excess of 50 million to claimants.

    Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .

    Full Story >

    Canadian Housing Policies Could Hurt Economy, Analysts Warn

    Recently the provincial government in Ontario and Canadas federal government implemented housing policies designed to slow down the housing market in the Greater Toronto Area and put the brakes on climbing levels of household debt. The measures have worked, at least in the short term, as the real estate market in Toronto took a breather.

    But a proposal by the federal regulator of financial institutions would require that anyone applying for a mortgage would have to pass a "stress test" of 200 basis points over their qualifying rate before they could be approved. Currently this rule applies only to those who apply for insured mortgages with a down payment of less than 20 per cent. Critics say this is an over-reaction and could put the countrys economy in jeopardy.

    Despite record levels of household debt in Canada, most people are handling it well, particularly those who have a mortgage. The Canadian Bankers Association says the percentage of mortgages that were in arrears as of April 30 of this year was 0.26 per cent.

    Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. CMHC reports that in the fourth quarter of last year, there was a drop in the delinquency rate for all types of loans. "The average credit scores of mortgage holders improved in the fourth quarter, in addition to a decrease in their likelihood of bankruptcy," says the CMHC report. "In contrast, consumers without a mortgage continued to follow a declining trend in their average credit scores beginning in 2015, as well as an increasing likelihood of bankruptcy."

    The agency says the number of mortgages that are 60 to 90 days past due dropped, which "bodes well for the next quarters as fewer loans are showing early signs of difficulty."

    A recent report says, "Canadians are regularly inundated with news stories about policy concerns over household debt. These concerns, however, can be seen to be overblown once we properly account for the other side of the balance sheet."

    The report, by Livio Di Matteo, a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and Professor of Economics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., says, "Debt is a tool and the concern should not be with debt itself but debt that is not manageable in the economic circumstances facing households and government. The greatest risk to the management of household credit-market debt are economic shocks that lead to job losses that make debt servicing difficult, or increases in the interest rate that raise debt-servicing costs. To date, interest rates have remained low and the Canadian economy has performed adequately, with >The Bank of Canada recently raised interest rates for the first time in seven years. More small increases are expected.

    "It is quite possible that interest rates will increase to some degree over the coming years, but it seems unlikely that interest rates will increase to the level assumed by the stress test," says Will Dunning, an economist with Mortgage Professionals Canada, a mortgage brokers association. "On the other hand, if the stress test policy works as intended and reduces homebuying, it would weaken the Canadian economy."

    Dunning says most people would be able to cope with an increase in mortgage rates by extending the amortization periods of their loans. "It would take them longer than hoped-for to repay their mortgages, but at least they could stay in their homes, and continue to retire their mortgages. Meanwhile, they will have been able to meet their own housing needs. On the other hand, if the stress test does achieve its intended consequences, it will unnecessarily prevent them from meeting their own legitimate needs at costs that they can afford," Dunning says.

    "The bottom line is obvious. The government should not be pursuing a policy which, if it works as intended, will impair the Canadian economy."

    If government policies result in a decline in house prices, he says the entire country would be impacted, not just Toronto and Vancouver.

    "The initial negative effects would emerge in communities that are already weak economically and have weak housing markets, and their reductions in spending would spread their pain across the country. The housing market data we have now hints that this initial, localized pain may be present in some areas of the country."

    Another economist urging caution is Benjamin Tal of CIBC Economics. He says higher interest rates are "unlikely to lead to a surge in default" but they will slow the pace of mortgage originations.

    "The proposed changes to apply a 200-basis point increase to the qualifying rate of the non-insured mortgage segment of the market could be more significant," Tal says. "We estimate that such a move, if implemented, could cut growth in mortgage outstanding by two percentage points from the current six per cent annual growth. Add to it the possibility of a reduced average size of mortgage due to lower house prices and its not unreasonable to assume that within a year or two mortgage growth in Canada would be half of what it is now."

    Tal says, "Too severe rate-induced slowing in consumer spending and real estate activity could be recessionary and eventually turn the growth story into a credit quality story."

    Di Matteo says that "despite the high levels of household debt, there are also record high levels of net worth," much of it in real estate. He says that could be a concern if theres a significant housing correction, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto where house prices have soared in recent years.

    A decision on whether the new stress test guidelines will go ahead is expected late in 2017.
    Full Story >

    Cant Sleep? Why Your House Might Be To Blame And What You Can Do About It

    Not being able to get sufficient sleep isnt just annoying. Beyond making you grouchy and causing you to yawn all day, it can threaten your immune system, impact your memory, and injure your back. There are a number of potential reasons for your sleeping issues, but your house probably isnt helping. With a few fixes, you may be sleeping soundly in no time.

    Clean your house

    What? Yes, it turns out cleaning can have a positive impact on your sleep patterns. Not only will it make you tired with all that physical activity, but a messy house can give you anxiety, and anxiety can cause insomnia.

    "Women who described their homes as lsquo;cluttered or full of lsquo;unfinished projects were more depressed, fatigued, and had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than women who felt their homes were lsquo;restful and lsquo;restorative,nbsp;according to a studynbsp;in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin," said Shape.

    Darken the room

    That streetlight on the corner that allows light to shine through your windows isnt doing you any favors when it comes to your slumber. "A darker room when trying to sleep is important for everyone,nbsp;especially shift workers and younger children," said Victor Shade. "For shift workers, especially if you work nights or irregular schedules, having the ability to control the amount of light coming into the home will help you get to sleep easier and prevent health issues like insomnia."

    But, for anyone with trouble getting to sleep, the right window coverings can make a big difference. Try changing them out tonbsp;rollernbsp;shades,nbsp;roman shades, ornbsp;honeycomb shades, or get blackout drapes that can block any sign of light when its bedtime.

    The right noise

    Youve probably heard of white noise, but pink noise might be even better in helping you sleep.

    "A small new study published innbsp;Frontiers in Human Neurosciencenbsp;suggests that one easy way for older adults to get deeper sleep and stronger memories is to listen to a certain soothing sound called lsquo;pink noisemdash;a mix of high and low frequencies that sounds more balanced and natural than its better-known cousin, lsquo;white noise," said TIME. "It may sound strange, but previous studies have found that playing so-called pink noise during sleep improves the memory of younger adults," too.


    Turn the temp down

    Want to get to sleep easier and doze all night long? It may be as easy as turning your thermostat down. "Dr. Christopher Winter, Medical Director at Charlottesville Neurology amp; Sleep Medicine, told simplemost that, "Your bedroom should be between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep. Temperatures above 75 degrees and below 54 degrees can disrupt sleep. Over a 24-hour period, our body temperatures naturally peak and decline. When we fall asleep, our bodies naturally cool off. Helping keep your body get to that lower temperature faster can encourage deeper sleep."

    Another benefit: "Its been shown that sleeping in temperaturesnbsp;between 60-68nbsp;degreesnbsp;will allow your body to >

    Control the stink

    Dirty clothes in the corner, animal scents on the bed - theyre just the realities of everyday life. And they may be, quite literally, keeping you up at night. Bring in a known >

    Change the layout

    Are you paying any attention to the principles of Feng Shui? There are said to be 33 ways this practice can help you sleep, from choosing the right location for your bedroom to the placement of your bed," said Feng Shui nexus.

    Get a new mattress

    If your mattress is just not comfortable, youre having trouble getting to sleep, are tossing and turning during the night, and/or are waking up with a sore back on a regular basis, it may be time to go shopping Experts recommend getting a new mattress every six to eight years. Keep in mind that many newer mattresses only have a pillowtop on one side, making them unflippable, but if your existing mattress is flat on both sides and or has pillowtop and bottom, flipping it every three months, as recommended, will help keep it in its best shape, which can help you sleep better.

    Think about the 5,000 pounds of dead skin and bugs in your mattress

    OK, maybe not quite that much. But the longer youve had your mattress, the more gross stuff is building up in it. "Old mattresses are filled with bed bugs and dust mites. These microscopic creatures eat the dead cells your body sheds. The process sounds gross, and it is," said ELITE DAILY.

    Sorry to get so graphic about dust mites, but, "Your bed is Disneyland for those little critters," said Apartment Therapy. And, the allergies they can cause may be the reason youre having trouble sleeping. If youre still not ready to get a new bed, there are fixes to help keep the bugs at bay. "Vacuum your room with a HEPA filter and clean your bedding as often as you can - including your pillows, which you can throw in the dryer for 15 minutes to kill off any existing bugs," they said. "Instead of scented detergent, use a few drops of eucalyptus oil in your laundry. Put hypoallergenic protective covers on your mattress and pillows."

    Get new bedding

    While youre examining your mattress, dont overlook your bedding. If nothing else has helped your insomnia, the Gravity blanket might do the trick," said Elle Deacute;cor. This blanket is weighted and "simulates the feeling of being hugged. The pressure in the blanket is evenly distributed to target specific pressure points throughout your body thatnbsp;have been shownnbsp;to help >
    Full Story >

    Curb Appeal Problems And Easy Ways To Fix Them

    Just how important is curb appeal? Real estate industry legend Barbara Corcoran has said, "Buyers decide in the first eight seconds of seeing a home if theyre interested in buying it." What are buyers going to see in the first eight seconds after driving up to your place?

    If youve walked around the perimeter of your house recently, youve probably seen at least a couple of issues that need to be addressed before you sell. And your plan probably depends on how much time you have available. If youre listing your house today and expect immediate interest, you may have to pick from a few quick tips to get it in the best shape you can. Have a little more time? You can make a real impact in improving the curb appeal so potential buyers will drive up and want to see more.

    Everything just looks a little shabby

    It may be time to bite the bullet and repaint the house, or, at least, address some peeling trim. If your windows, walkways, and ornamental details are looking drab, a power washer can help transform the area easily and inexpensively. This is a >Your open house is today and your yard is looking pretty boring

    You may not have time to do any new plantings, but that doesnt mean you cant make the yard look tidy and pretty. Fresh flowers in pots placed near your front door will bring the eye up from the street to your entry and give the impression that your home and your yard is well cared for. Add a new welcome mat to finish the look.

    Your front door is janky

    If youre looking at making a few smart updates before listing your home, dont ignore your front door. A new door can return between 75100 percent of your investment, and its a >

    You have a last-minute showing and the landscaper hasnt done his thing in the yard yet

    Get in the car, drive to Lowes, and pack up the trunk with mulch. Its one of the easiest ways to transform your yard and make it look fresh and neat. Lawn and bushes a little overgrown? Nextdoor is a great resource for finding last-minute landscape help or, in a pinch, a neighborhood kid with some developing gardening skills and a need for pocket cash.


    Leaves. Everywhere

    Get out the hose and spray those suckers away from sidewalks and walkways. Even if the hardscape is wet when the prospective buyers arrive, the area will look nice and clean. Now corral everyone in the house for some fire drill leave-bagging fun. An abundance of leaves in the yard can be a turnoff to those looking to buy as it may make them think the home is unkempt or that the yard is hard to take care of.

    Your mailbox iswow. How did you never notice that?

    If its old, worn, rusty, or has just seen better days, buyers will notice. This seemingly little thing can make them question the quality of your home. Thankfully, its an easy fix that you can do yourself for almost no money. "It doesnt matter if you have a regular mailbox by the road or if you have a box mounted to your house, adding a new mailbox can add curb appeal. You can find a new mailbox starting around 20," said DIY Network. "When you install your mailbox, make sure that you are following the regulations that are set forth in the city that you live in. If you have a simple mailbox mounted on your house, this home improvement project should take less than an hour to complete. If you have a full-size mailbox at the road, plan for at least two hours or so to complete the project."
    Full Story >

    Real Estate Professional Fran Bakst Makes Her Agent with Heart Donation Debut with a Donation to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance Inspires Client to Give Back, Too

    PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Fran Bakst of Realty ONE Group in Mission Viejo, California recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance on behalf of her client, Oscar Oo.

    "Fran Bakst is a recent agent to join our program and has already turned around her first donation Realtors like Fran, who are dedicated to giving back, are precisely why our program was created," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. The Agent with Heart Program connects local realtors to nonprofits within the community with the goal of being able to aid in the growth of communities nation-wide.

    "On top of Frans generous donation, her giving spirit inspired her client to also make a separate donation on behalf of someone close to him This circle of giving is what we hope to inspire through our Agent with Heart Program, and we are very proud to include Fran amongst our agents who are assisting in doing that," continues Mr. Giaimo. "We look forward to seeing how Frans generosity will continue to assist her community, and the communities of her clients, going forward."

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Fran Bakst who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Fran Bakst, please call 949-923-0334or visit her website at
    Full Story >

    Real Estate Professional Kristina Vanderpool Makes Her Agent with Heart Donation Debut

    PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Kristina Vanderpool of Century 21 Fairway in Apple Valley, California recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to Hope for Paws on behalf of her client, Kellie Farris.

    "Kristina Vanderpool is a new agent to our program, and we are very proud to see that she is already taking off with her first donation," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. The Agent with Heart Program connects local realtors to nonprofits within the community with the goal of being able to aid in the growth of communities nation-wide.

    "We are looking forward to seeing how Kirstinas dedication to giving back will positively impact her local community," continues Mr. Giaimo. "Id like to personally thank Kristina for her generosity and for being a partner in Agent with Heart Program. I know that, together, we will be able to do great things in the Apple Valley and surrounding communities," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Kristina Vanderpool who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Kristina Vanderpool, please call 760-617-8026.

    Full Story >

    8 Aerial Views of Popular American Housing Patterns

    Even before Google allowed anybody with an Internet connection to see a satellite view of anyplace on the globe, I loved looking at books with aerial photography. A few favorites that focus on natural and human-made landscapes of the United States are Alex S. MacLeans Designs on the Land: Exploring American from the Air, Dolores Haydens and photographer Jim Warks A Field Guide to Sprawl and Alan Bergers Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America.

    Flipping through these books again recently prompted me to look at Americas housing patterns in Google Maps, particularly places for which high-resolution, 45-degree aerial imagery is available. The collected views reveal the diversity of the countrys suburban housing in terms of scale and form, but also that much of it is what MacLean describes as "monotonous, sterile, inefficient and pedestrian unfriendly. It is missing a larger plan that goes beyond the responses to market forces, finances and restrictive regulations."

    But all hope is not lost, as well see. So come along on a trip over America, taking in the good and the bad, the normal and the weird. All the views are at the same scale a little less than 1/2 mile across.

    Suburbia. The suburbs in the United States take many forms, having evolved, like cities, over time from the 19th century to today. This image of Katy, Texas, near Houston is of the type that often comes to mind when we think of the suburbs. It is actually a layout that is fairly indicative of developments in the 1960s and 70s. Instead of following a grid, like earlier suburbs did, the streets are curved. But unlike later suburbs, where the cul-de-sac predominates, the streets are interconnected and have only the occasional cul-de-sac.


    Suburban-urban grid. As cities grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they tended to follow the grid that Thomas Jefferson laid down in the 18th century. This view of Buffalo, New York, illustrates the adherence to the grid as well as >


    Fairway housing. This view of Bend, Oregon, is fairly typical of suburban houses bordering golf courses. Their fronts face the streets that serve them, while the backs face the fairways and greens of the golf holes. Developments with houses and golf courses are now fairly common. The design of the streets, houses and golf courses have to work together, even though each has its own needs. As I pointed out in an article on walkability, golf course developments are extremely car dependent, given that it is necessary to drive a great distance to get to retail, commercial and other services.


    Multifamily island. In the middle of this aerial shot of Bloomington, Indiana, is a multifamily housing development made up of about a dozen apartment buildings. Typical of much of the suburban landscape, the development is segregated from everything that surrounds it, such as the retail on the left. Residents must drive to it via one of two access roads. Note the recreation center with a pool that serves the apartment buildings, as well as the enormous amount of surface parking.


    Greenfield housing. One of the most criticized aspects of sprawl is how land previously used for forests and agriculture is developed for housing and roads. This view of Columbus, Ohio, shows some houses that are pushed to the edge for the time being, probably serving homeowners that cant afford houses closer to urban or other commercial cores. One way to tell this is the "end of the line" is the fact the power lines dont extend to the right.

    Correction: The power lines do extend to the right, angled to the south and east.


    Fly-in houses. At first this view of Cameron Park, California, may look fairly typical of the suburbs, but a couple of odd things come to the fore: Those roads are mighty wide compare them with the road at the bottom, and the left-to-right road in the middle of the photo is connected to a runway. Yes, this is a community of fly-in housing, as Alan Berger calls it in his book Drosscape. After landing, residents can park their planes in hangars attached to their houses.


    Canal houses. A variation on fairway housing, though not nearly as popular, is canal housing. Just picture the waterways between these houses in Palm Valley, Florida, as fairways. While this sort of plan mdash; where water is used for both recreation and to a lesser degree transportation mdash; makes some sense on the Florida coast, it can also be found in the desert Southwest and other areas where water scarcity would point to more suitable alternatives.


    Houses on the water. Canal housing may offer the appearance of living on the water, but the previous example shows how the suburban norms roads, yards are still maintained. Houseboats, on the other hand, offer the reality of life on the water waves and all as well as the ability to move from one slip to another, or even to another city. This "neighborhood" of houseboats in Sausalito, California, is closer to the form of boat docks than suburban sprawl hellip; although I guess each walkway could be seen as a cul-de-sac.

    Also See:

    • Unique Exterior Home Design Ideas to Break the Mold
    • Modern >
    • How to Create a Clean and Safe Community

    Full Story >

    Nathan Grace Real Estate Is Hosting An Open House Extravagaza You Dont Want To Miss

    Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex: Nathan Grace Real Estate, a boutique real estate company dedicated to the client, community and industry, is blowing the top off the traditional open house format with a massive 22-home open house extravaganza on Sunday, July 23rd from 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.

    Prospective buyers will be welcomed to these beautiful homes sprinkled across Dallas and surrounding communities with custom balloons, delicious treats and a chance to win prizes to favorite local restaurants - the more you visit, the more opportunities you have to win

    Nathan Grace Real Estate prides itself on thinking outside of the box and like to say they "We are not your mommas real estate company, but shed be so proud". This not-to-be-missed event is just one example of these principles in action, so if youre looking for properties in the area, plan to visit as many of these homes as you are able, they are stunning

    Watch the video below for a preview of the homes, including addresses, and listing agents:

    Full Story >

    How Technology is Changing the Way Real Estate Leaders do Business

    In recent years, real estate developers, builders, and brokerages have been faced with rapidly changing social, demographic, and technology realities, and all of which have had an enormous impact on how the real estate industry markets and sells both listings and new developments.

    The combination of changes in technology and the speed of social media have meant organizations must quickly adapt to an online and mobile world, ready to meet client expectations for the delivery of multimedia property information, while still retaining an informed and engaged sales staff with strong client >The ever-evolving market is creating opportunities unlike any weve seen in the past. Real estate organizations that plan on staying ahead of their competition will quickly adopt digital technologies, enabling them to reach more prospects, close more deals faster, and gather more >As technology and competition in the global real estate market come together in real time, real estate organizations need more enhanced tools to manage and grow their business, without adding significant complexity and/or cost. Organizations traditionally have a website, and CRM tools; however there is a big gap in-between, which means its likely that the marketing and sales teams are not properly equipped to meet todays digital display property information challenges, all of which are designed to engage clients and capture leads.

    The industry needs the ability to bring this together, so agents are able to share and follow properties, find and connect with other agents across multiple languages, in a manner that is both easy and accessible. The solution does exist and it is called a collaborative real estate sales platform.

    Here, real estate companies can automate and enhance their marketing and sales processes, improve the creation, control and distribution of property information, accelerate the sales cycle, and track results in real time.

    Proxios Collaborative Real Estate Sales Platform is an enterprise-wide solution producing consumer-facing marketing for every property in inventory, and then leveraging a collaboration model, by enabling agents to "follow" and "share" these listings, and connect with each other via a LinkedIn-type model. The marketing is branded so leads come back to them, thus creating a motivated virtual, global team that promotes listings and properties, while providing new opportunities for connected agents.

    Real Estate is a traditionally non-techie field. As a result, Proxio was designed to reside in the cloud so organizations dont have to worry about additional technology to run the platform. It provides valuable feedback by tracking and revealing the activity of both agents and consumers, as they engage with and share inventory. It is genuinely user-friendly from all perspectives.

    For example, Coldwell Bankers new luxury brand, Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, recently adopted Proxios Collaborative Sales and Marketing Platform as its underlying technology for its 8,000 luxury agents around the world. Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, which was recently introduced to the public this past April, encompasses 8,000 agents, representing 12,000 exceptional listings globally.

    Agents connected to the platform now have the ability to leverage their client networks to find buyers for distinctive properties in some truly amazing places. Agents listings are shared and promoted by this large, vibrant network of talented luxury agents from all over the world. In a space that is traditionally more local than global, the way we do business has truly changed -- for the better.

    Succinctly put, traditional sales processes in real estate havent kept up with the speed of business or the speed of the enterprise. Digital presentations and extensive visuals have become the new norm, while global has become the new local. Real estate developers, builders, and brokers can finally take advantage of the technological advances that could not be utilized in the past. Going 100 digital means more control and lower costs; while multi-lingual capabilities increase reach and maintaining a collaboration model, which delivers more qualified leads in real time. In todays world, where everything is changing so quickly around us, its reassuring to know there are solutions enabling both the real estate enterprise and the real estate leaders to stay ahead of the market, rather than be left behind.

    About The Author: Janet Case lives and breathes the real estate industry. Before founding Proxio, Janet was CEO of two of the largest Associations of Realtorsreg; in the U.S. simultaneously providing services to over 7500 agents in hundreds of brokerages; she also ran an online real estate forms company and participated in the governance of Silicon Valleys MLS. Today Janet is a recognized speaker at industry conferences and real estate associations on the topic of internationalizing real estate practices and building professional referral networks. Janet previously held senior management roles in Fortune 500 companies Varian Associates and Tencor Instruments, where her responsibilities included international marketing for Europe, Asia and North and South America, and launching new products worldwide. Janet holds a BA in Economics from the University of Maine and an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

    Full Story >

    Maintaining Your Hot Water Heater

    Water heaters generally have a lifespan of 8-12 years, but as with anything, the better care you take of it, the longer it will last. There are several easy "set it and forget it" tips that you can use with your water heater, like keeping the thermostat at 120 degrees, and always maintain two feet of clearance around the appliance. You can also conserve money on your gas bill by setting your heater to its "vacation" setting when leaving town. This will keep the pilot light going without heating the water.

    Water heater maintenance goes well beyond just checking the thermostat, however. Here are some detailed tips for making sure your water heater lives a long, full life.

    Draining amp; Cleaning

    The bottom of the tank can contain all manner of sediment, calcium deposits, rust and bacteria. Drain a quarter of the tank a few times a year to remove this debris. Hook up a garden hose to the drain valve and run until the water is clear.

    A once-a-year full cleaning should include draining the appliance completely, removing the drain valve and then scrubbing the bottom with a long, narrow brush. From there, screw on a nipple, pump 15 or 20 seconds worth of fresh water into the tank, then drain, repeating the process until the water runs clear. This is the best chemical-free way to clean a water heater.

    Testing the TPR Valve

    Most experts recommend testing the temperature and pressure >

    To perform the test, slowly raise and lower the test lever so that it lifts the brass stem. At this point, hot water should rush out of the end of the drainpipe. If you get no water, or only a trickle, be sure to replace the valve. The main thing to watch for immediately after testing the TPR valve is a leak. If you do catch a leak, operate the test level a few more times to loosen the debris that could be preventing the valve from working correctly. If the valve is functioning properly, turn down the temperature on the water heater controller and turn down the water pressure.

    Examining the Sacrificial Anode

    Sacrificial anode is the fancy name for the rod of metal located in your water heaters tank that rusts easily so that the steel wont; it takes the fall, essentially. Sacrificial anodes in water heaters are made of highly corrosive metals like magnesium and aluminum.

    To examine your heaters sacrificial anode you must first remove it. Start by shutting off the electricity or gas to the water heater, as well as the water supply. Drain a few inches of water from the tank via the tank valve. Locate the top of the anode rod or connecting hardware - it may be under a cap about halfway to the center, or it may be under a pink top nipple. Loosen the anode very carefully with a wrench. Here, it may be necessary to apply penetrating oil to the connecting nut or threads.

    One you remove the anode, inspect it carefully. If it is covered in rough metal that looks like its been chewed, thats normal and your anode is functioning properly. If you can see six inches or more of the steel core wire inside the anode, replace it. If not, put it back in place and check back in a year.

    Insulating Older Units

    When you insulate the walls in your house, you increase its energy efficiency, and the same is true with your water heater. Although newer units are optimized for insulation, many older units are not, and by insulating them, you could reduce heat loss by 25-45. If youre not sure whether or not to insulate your appliance, simply touch it; if its warm to the touch, its time to insulate.

    Before purchasing a water heater insulating blanket kit, check with your utility to see if they offer blankets at discounted rates. Some companies even install them for little-to-no cost.

    To self-install, turn off the electricity to your heater at the breaker or for gas, switch the valve to "pilot" position. Wrap the blanket around the heater and tape it temporarily, leaving open areas for the access panels, valves and for gas heaters, the burner areas. Then tape the blanket permanently, and be sure to never set the thermostat above 130 degrees because the wiring could overheat.

    When to Replace?

    If you own a conventional storage tank water heater and its getting into the double digits in age, its time to replace. However if your water heater is only a few years old, there are a few things that would only take about 150-300 to repair. These things include extinguished pilot lights, burner or heating elements failing, thermostats breaking, or valves sticking. The two precursors to replacement are usually either old age or a leak. When your water heater springs a leak that usually means its time to face the music and buy a new one.

    What are some other ways you care for your water heater?

    Sarah Kellner writes about home heating appliances, including water heaters, for Home Depot. Sarah provides tips to homeowners on DIY energy efficiency and maintenance. A selection of water heaters available at Home Depot can be found on the companys website.

    Full Story >

    Is This The Ultimate Example Of What Not To Do When Listing Your House For Sale?

    Theres a new home listing thats been making the Internet rounds this week, and its a must-see for anyone who is selling their house, considering selling their house, or just wants to do a little point-and-stare. Oh, and for mannequin lovers. Let us explain.

    The house in question is a large, gated estate on Jones Creek in the desirable Houston-area city of Richmond. Its listed for 1,275,000. At five bedrooms, five baths, and 7,406 square feet, with two acres of pastoral grounds backing to a scenic creek with a cattle ranch on the other side, and features including an art studio, game room, trophy room, swimming pool, outdoor kitchen, and a garage apartment, its seemingly a gem.

    But that assumes you can actually see any of what the home has to offer. The owner of the home, whose identity is undisclosed, is an artist. And the home is her canvas. Oh, and her tools arent paint, theyrewell, see for yourself.

    Did you notice the figure hanging on the stair railing? Thats a mannequin. And hes not alone. In fact, one notable real estate insider has even teased a contest to guess the number of mannequins in the home. "Our team has been chatting about this house now for a few days," said CandysDirt. "Home stagers are running for Xanax."

    It definitely begs the question, "What is art and what is clutter?" It also makes you wonder what the initial conversation was like between RE/MAX FINE Properties agent Diana Power, whos listed the home, and her seller. We assume it, at least, included the words, "decluttering," and "staging" and "storage."

    It goes without saying that this array of art and accessories may be just a tad excessive and perhaps also a little bit distracting. And maybe also kind of weird, or at least eccentric. It makes for a great spectacle - and certainly brings a lot of attention. But will it sell the home? "She has lots of collections," Power told Huffington Post. "Its not hoarding or clutter; its art."

    But thats hardly the end of the discussion, and it brings up a few more keys for selling your home.

    Mind your curb appeal

    A house thats picture-perfect on the inside but questionable from the street isnt doing a seller any favors. It takes just a few seconds to to form a first impression. If the mannequin standing at the front gate presumably, the communitys HOA either limited the number of mannequins to one or made sure it was inside the gate, or both doesnt raise an eyebrow, perhaps the knocked-down and haphazardly restacked mailbox will. I mean, we presume it was knocked down and haphazardly restacked. It could be "art," after all.

    Dont creep people out

    Yes, the clutter in this master bedroom is overwhelming. But beyond the sheer amount of stuff in the space, why is there a mannequin at the foot of the bed? Even more curious: all the dolls stuffed into the bookcases. One look and Im heading right back out the door. You?

    Bonus question: Where do you even get all those mannequins?

    Wait. Foot-of-the-bed mannequin has a friend. Or two? Whos that climbing under the table?

    Show off the goods

    Most sellers, and, certainly their agents, would insist on framing that view out to the pool and creek. But, between all the taxidermy real or faux, pelts, knickknacks, dolls, blankets, and furniture, its hard to even focus the eye, even with that grand expanse of glass.

    Maybe this serene view of Jones Creek makes it all better? Is that a mannequin riding the lawnmower?

    This home has great features throughout. In the living room, there are beautiful built-ins, gleaming hardwoods, an elegant fireplace, and detailed dental molding all around. But you have to look hard to notice any of it.

    "You can see the charm of the house underneath it all, from its 300,000 foundations to the way the windows are framed in cement and stone," Powers told ABC13. "I think that the person who will end up buying this house can see the forest from the trees."

    Lets test that theory in the kitchen. This gourmet space has professional grade appliances and a huge island - and every inch of it has been covered with something to distract potential buyers from the great features.

    At least the seller staged a mannequin at the island to showcase the eating bar. That is a mannequin, right?

    Look at the features in this library. Behind all the books, papers, rugs, birdcages?, and a mannequin that is WALKING ON THE CEILING, there are some stunning bookcases, and French doors that lead out to a patio and pool - if you can manage to get to them.

    Does it make you more interested in seeing the home, and, if you do want to see it, is it only to count the mannequins?

    And, P.S., dont get any ideas about trying to buy the home with everything in it. The owner has stated shes "taking everything" with her when she moves on.
    Full Story >

    Maintaining Your Hot Water Heater

    Water heaters generally have a lifespan of 8-12 years, but as with anything, the better care you take of it, the longer it will last. There are several easy "set it and forget it" tips that you can use with your water heater, like keeping the thermostat at 120 degrees, and always maintain two feet of clearance around the appliance. You can also conserve money on your gas bill by setting your heater to its "vacation" setting when leaving town. This will keep the pilot light going without heating the water.

    Water heater maintenance goes well beyond just checking the thermostat, however. Here are some detailed tips for making sure your water heater lives a long, full life.

    Draining Cleaning

    The bottom of the tank can contain all manner of sediment, calcium deposits, rust and bacteria. Drain a quarter of the tank a few times a year to remove this debris. Hook up a garden hose to the drain valve and run until the water is clear.

    A once-a-year full cleaning should include draining the appliance completely, removing the drain valve and then scrubbing the bottom with a long, narrow brush. From there, screw on a nipple, pump 15 or 20 seconds worth of fresh water into the tank, then drain, repeating the process until the water runs clear. This is the best chemical-free way to clean a water heater.

    Testing the TPR Valve

    Most experts recommend testing the temperature and pressure >To perform the test, slowly raise and lower the test lever so that it lifts the brass stem. At this point, hot water should rush out of the end of the drainpipe. If you get no water, or only a trickle, be sure to replace the valve. The main thing to watch for immediately after testing the TPR valve is a leak. If you do catch a leak, operate the test level a few more times to loosen the debris that could be preventing the valve from working correctly. If the valve is functioning properly, turn down the temperature on the water heater controller and turn down the water pressure.

    Examining the Sacrificial Anode

    Sacrificial anode is the fancy name for the rod of metal located in your water heaters tank that rusts easily so that the steel wont; it takes the fall, essentially. Sacrificial anodes in water heaters are made of highly corrosive metals like magnesium and aluminum.

    To examine your heaters sacrificial anode you must first remove it. Start by shutting off the electricity or gas to the water heater, as well as the water supply. Drain a few inches of water from the tank via the tank valve. Locate the top of the anode rod or connecting hardware - it may be under a cap about halfway to the center, or it may be under a pink top nipple. Loosen the anode very carefully with a wrench. Here, it may be necessary to apply penetrating oil to the connecting nut or threads.

    One you remove the anode, inspect it carefully. If it is covered in rough metal that looks like its been chewed, thats normal and your anode is functioning properly. If you can see six inches or more of the steel core wire inside the anode, replace it. If not, put it back in place and check back in a year.

    Insulating Older Units

    When you insulate the walls in your house, you increase its energy efficiency, and the same is true with your water heater. Although newer units are optimized for insulation, many older units are not, and by insulating them, you could reduce heat loss by 25-45. If youre not sure whether or not to insulate your appliance, simply touch it; if its warm to the touch, its time to insulate.

    Before purchasing a water heater insulating blanket kit, check with your utility to see if they offer blankets at discounted rates. Some companies even install them for little-to-no cost.

    To self-install, turn off the electricity to your heater at the breaker or for gas, switch the valve to "pilot" position. Wrap the blanket around the heater and tape it temporarily, leaving open areas for the access panels, valves and for gas heaters, the burner areas. Then tape the blanket permanently, and be sure to never set the thermostat above 130 degrees because the wiring could overheat.

    When to Replace?

    If you own a conventional storage tank water heater and its getting into the double digits in age, its time to replace. However if your water heater is only a few years old, there are a few things that would only take about 150-300 to repair. These things include extinguished pilot lights, burner or heating elements failing, thermostats breaking, or valves sticking. The two precursors to replacement are usually either old age or a leak. When your water heater springs a leak that usually means its time to face the music and buy a new one.

    What are some other ways you care for your water heater?

    Sarah Kellner writes about home heating appliances, including water heaters, for Home Depot. Sarah provides tips to homeowners on DIY energy efficiency and maintenance. A selection of water heaters available at Home Depot can be found on the companys website.

    Full Story >

    How To Safely Remove Window Glass

    Why would you need to remove glass from your window? In most cases, its because the glass is cracked or broken, or it is an insulated pane thats no longer sealed properly. Or maybe its time to upgrade your windows with tinted or smart glass. Professional glass shops can help you choose and size the right glass for the job, but first youll have to remove the window glass and bring in the sash. If there is a break on a stationary window or the sash and it isnt budging, you may need to hire a professional glass installation expert.

    Getting the glass out before you visit your glass installation shop can help save money and time, and its not too complicated. The most challenging part is to avoid being injured by broken glass.

    Taking the Proper Safety Precautions

    The No. 1 rule in working around glass is to wear protective gear. If glass is broken or you accidentally break it, even smaller glass shards can cut deep and cause injuries. Wear heavy gloves with leather palms, thick shoes or boots and safety glasses when youre working around glass. Long sleeves and long pants are also highly recommended.

    Safely Removing Broken Glass

    Youll want to minimize the spread of glass pieces when you remove broken glass from a window frame, and get those stubborn pieces that dont come out easily without cutting yourself. Heres how:

    Step 1: Use tape.

    Apply masking tape over the window pane, including the broken area. Dont press hard against the glass, but cover it completely with strips of tape on one side. The tape will keep pieces of glass from flying away from the window as you work. You want to be able to carefully take the glass pieces off the tape, so dont use duct tape or something extra sticky.

    Step 2: Protect the area.

    Put down a tarp or dropcloth that you can dispose of if glass breaks over it. Its best to do this on both the interior area around the window and the exterior area.

    Step 3: Loosen the glass with a hand tool.

    Some people use the butt of a hammer, but a pry bar or other heavy hand tool will work effectively. Your goal is to loosen the glass pieces through gentle taps. Then you can remove those larger pieces and dispose of them properly.

    Step 4: Remove old glazing from around the frame.

    The last bits of glass will be stuck in the window frame. With the help of a chisel or even a stiff putty knife, clear away the glazing that is holding those stragglers in place. If caulk or tape was used to hold the window in place, you may need to use a slightly more flexible putting knife to cut between the frame and the glass. Cautiously pull the glass pieces out of the frame and dispose of them.

    SafelyRemoving Intact Glass Panes

    Window glass is typically installed in one of three ways: With caulk, with a gasket, or with adhesive tape.


    Removable stops, or very thin pieces of wood or vinyl, line the window. Youll have to get these out in order to make a bit of room where you can cut through the caulk seal. Unfortunately, often the stops get caulked a bit and can be hard to remove. Use a thin, flexible putty knife or utility knife to cut through any caulk you see and get the stops out. Then you can flip the window and slip the knife between the window and frame to loosen or cut through the caulk. You may have to break the glass out if this task becomes too difficult.

    Adhesive Tape

    Instead of caulk, double-faced tape is used to stick the frame and glass together and a removable stop is positioned on the other side. Youll be able to use a flexible putty knife to loosen the stop, starting from the top. Turn the window over and use that putty knife between the frame and the slightly loosened glass panel to cut the tape and >Gaskets

    The glass edges are held by grooves in the window frame and contained in a vinyl or thick plastic gasket. Youll need to disassemble the frame, which is held together with screws on each corner. This is good news because it will be the easiest to take apart; then you can remove the entire pane and replace it before screwing the frame back together.

    Any glazing between the glassand frame can usually be scraped off or pulled off in small stripsif needed.

    Cleaning Up Broken Glass

    If you have broken glass, be sure to wear safety gear before you try to clean up. Vacuum carefully around the window area and use duct tape or a lint roller to pick up tiny pieces. Put one thick black trash bag inside another so you have two layers, and use that to put your glass pieces into. Label the bagwith a sticker or tag that says, "Broken Glass for Disposal" so any handlers know to use caution.

    If you have any questions about removing glass, or youre simply not comfortable working withthe glass in your window, call a professional glass installer to take care of the job. A pro can also advise you on the best replacement glass for your window and budget.
    Full Story >

    Mortgages: When You Are In Financial Trouble

    Question: We have owned our house for many years, and currently owe several months of mortgage payments. The equity in our house is somewhere in the neighborhood of 80-90,000, but since I lost my job recently, I can neither make the mortgage payments nor do I want to move somewhere else. I have heard about a deed in lieu, but do not understand how it works. Can you explain? We never thought this would happen to us.

    Answer: None of us can appreciate -- nor anticipate -- the future. Although we always believe it will never happen to us, once in a while, calamity strikes, and then we have to address these very hard and difficult questions.

    Before addressing the deed in lieu issue, let me outline for you a number of steps on how to deal with your mortgage lender, if you start to get behind on your mortgage payments.

    If you want the lender to cooperate with you, there has to be an equal level of cooperation on your side. Indeed, according to the FreddieMac guidelines on alternatives to foreclosure, the secondary mortgage market gives a mortgage lender broad discretion to extend >The first possible >Another approach is a repayment plan. Here, the borrower is given a fixed period of time -- usually not to exceed one year -- in which to bring the mortgage current by immediately making and continuing to make payments in excess of the monthly mortgage payment. It is important to get this repayment plan reduced to a written document, signed by both the lender and the borrower.

    Lenders also can enter into what is known as a special forbearance >In this case, the lender will make a determination that the default is curable, and based on the current financial and appraisal data, the lender must be satisfied there is a likelihood that the borrower will be able to comply with the repayment plan. Clearly, the burden is on the borrower to document and justify the plan, so as to satisfy the lenders requirements.

    If you are in the military, the Soldiers and Sailors >Another avenue that may be available to you is known as a "short sale". Here, the lender will authorize you to sell the property for what it is really worth, and the lender will get all the proceeds. Let us look at this example. The house can probably be sold at 95,000, but the mortgage is 125,000. The lender may allow you to sell the property for 95,000, giving a real estate broker a three percent commission. The lender gets all the remaining sales proceeds; you get nothing from the sale. However, under this "short sale" approach, you will be >The deed in lieu of foreclosure is another remedy that may be available to you. Under this arrangement, you deed your property to the lender or to whomever the lender designates and this is in lieu of instead of foreclosure proceedings. This arrangement is an acceptable and customary procedure when, for example, the borrower is deceased and the estate is willing and able to transfer the property, or the borrower has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and the trustee has abandoned interest in the property.

    There are a number of requirements in order to accomplish a deed in lieu, and each lender will have their own set of guidelines. Generally speaking, however, the following requirements are usually imposed by a lender that is willing to accept the deed in lieu:

    1. The borrower has a valid and documented reason for default which is beyond the borrowers control;

    2. The borrower has demonstrated that he or she has and can make prudent financial decisions since the default;

    3. The borrower has been cooperative and has provided all necessary documentation to the lender. Additionally, the borrower must permit the lender to have reasonable access to inspect the inside of the property;

    4. The borrower must be willing to make a financial contribution, if this is at all possible; and

    5. If the lender has escrowed monies for the payment of future taxes and insurance, the borrower must be willing to forego reimbursement of these escrowed funds.

    Additionally, in most cases, the lender will not even consider taking the property as a deed in lieu unless the property has been listed for sale at market value, and all attempts to sell the property have failed. Finally, there can be no outstanding liens or other encumbrances on the property, since the lender wants to be able to take the property free and clear of any other claims against it.

    When a lender takes property as a deed in lieu, presumably the borrowers credit history has already been tarnished; after all, the borrower has probably not been making mortgage payments for several months

    It is strongly suggested that you contact your lender immediately, and have a face to face discussion with them. If your lender is no longer in your home town, send them a letter and then pick up the telephone and make arrangements to talk to the most senior official at that mortgage lending company.

    The final option, of course -- which should be used only as a last resort -- is for you to file bankruptcy. When someone files for bankruptcy, there are many protections that automatically apply from the day the bankruptcy petition is filed with the Bankruptcy Court. The most important protection under the bankruptcy law is known as "the automatic stay." If you are in bankruptcy, no legal action can be taken against your house unless the lender requests the Court for permission to "lift the stay." This means that the lender goes before the bankruptcy judge, in open court, and petitions the Court to permit the foreclosure to take place. Depending on the circumstances, including the amount of equity you have in your house and the possibility of getting back on your feet financially, the Bankruptcy Court may or may not lift that stay.

    Finally, I want to address your specific situation. You have indicated there is equity in the house. I cannot recommend a "short sale" or a "deed in lieu" in your case. However, I do suggest you will probably have to sell your house -- and do so as soon as possible. Clearly, you do not want the lender to foreclose on you, since you will probably lose most -- if not all -- of that equity to a real estate investor or speculator. Even if you sell the house at a "bargain sale", at least you will keep some of that equity.

    You cannot ignore the problem, hoping you will win the lottery or find some other immediate source of funds. The level of your cooperation is the most significant aspect that will determine how willing the lender is to similarly cooperate.
    Full Story >

    The Need For Signatures - All The Signatures

    One of the basics that real estate brokers teach new agents is that they need to get signatures on contracts. They also want to be sure that they get all the signatures needed, which is not always clear. The recent case of Jacobs v. Locatelli, California Sixth Appellate District, Feb. 18, 2017, provides a case in point.

    On April 9, 2013, Bernice Jacobs, who is a licensed real estate broker, signed a listing agreement with John Locatelli, granting Jacobs the exclusive and irrevocable rights to sell a parcel of property in Marin County. The duration of the contract was one year. The listing price was 2,200,000. If Jacobs procured a buyer for the property, she was to receive a commission of 200,000.

    Locatelli signed as trustee of the John B. Locatelli trust. There were signature lines naming four other persons plus one corporate entity. They were not signed. Jacobs said that Locatelli told her when he was signing the agreement that he was authorized to act on behalf of the other owners. She believed that there was a written agency agreement between Locatelli and the other owners. In the listing agreement, the owner is identified as John B. Locatelli, Trustee of the John B. Locatelli Trust, et al. Moreover, Jacobs says that two of the individual owners subsequently acknowledged her employment, were impressed by her performance, and inquired about working with her on other projects.

    The listing experience was not a happy one. Not long into the listing period, Jacobs contacted Locatelli to tell him that she had been in contact with a representative for the Trust for Public Land TPL and that TPL was interested in purchasing the property. Locatelli told Jacobs that he had been speaking with TPL for years, and that it should be excluded from the listing. The TPL representative denied this. In any event, sometime in 2013 the owners and TPL entered into a purchase agreement. The sale, however, was never consummated.

    On April 4, 2014, Jacobs filed an action against the owners. The Appellate Court noted that the failure of the sale was not addressed as a cause for Jacobs not to receive a commission. Hence that issue is not discussed. The action was for breach of contract and for specific performance, among other charges.

    The owners filed a demurrer - essentially, a motion to dismiss - on the grounds that they had not signed the listing agreement. The trial court sustained that motion. Jacobs appealed.

    At this point, it is >But Jacobs also >If Locatelli had authorization to sign a listing agreement on behalf of the other owners, he would have been given authorization to sign something that was required to be in writing. According to the equal dignities rule, then, that authorization would also have to be in writing.

    When the Appellate Court reviewed this case, they seemed to find too many anomalies in the circumstances to allow the case simply to be dismissed. For example, they felt that Jacobs should be given an opportunity to introduce extrinsic evidence regarding Locatellis claim that he was authorized to act for the other owners. So, the case was sent back, and we dont know at this point how it will turn out. But we do know that a lot of grief and lawyer fees could have been saved if there had been a concerted effort to obtain all signatures in the manner necessary.

    Indeed, there may be a lesson here for California real estate agents who have come to >Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .
    Full Story >

    Agents: 5 Tips for Successfully Pursuing Social Purpose

    Are you searching for social purpose to enrich your work, contribute to obvious local need, and reach out to new target groups? Not as a marketing pitch or sales promotion campaign, but with real social purpose that can right wrongs and improve lives.

    Real estate professionals grow to love the communities they work in and often look for ways to give back to the families and neighborhoods that help these committed professionals realize business and personal goals.

    Blending social purpose with business can enrich existing connections and open the door to new >

  • Challenges: Sometimes a cause or purpose arises out of things gone wrong or service gaps that newly emerge within a community. Existing charities or nonprofits may fully or partially cover these issues, but there is always more that can be done. Real estate professionals have unique perspectives to contribute.
  • Technology: Increasingly, technology enables a mission or passion to affordably, practically take form and reach out to a target group. Networking with existing service organizations brings benefits to all involved.
  • Revelation: Often a chance meeting or a new client introduces a fresh perspective on work or life which snaps a social issue or solution into focus and the mission begins. An epiphany of clear connections can occur in the midst of common routine. Revelation unearths new purpose.

    How do you blend a business venture with social purpose?

    A recent podcast interview posted on my blog offers one example of integrating social purpose into a business start-up. Entrepreneur Lino Falotico of Inner Balance Wear, interviewed on his launch day, candidly revealed the driving force of social purpose.

    Falotico began as a successful caterer with a long-term interest in fashion design and a son who suffered from mental illness. One morning driving to a catering job during a particularly colorful sunrise, Falotico had his epiphany. Suddenly, he understood how to help his son and others like him while indulging that long-held design interest.

    Listen to Falotico share his personal story of struggling to understand his sons fight against anxiety disorder and of learning how to help him. Youll realize that the right purpose ignites passion. This drives individuals to believe they must take on a cause to help others.

    Faloticos story is not without humor. The combined mental-health and fashion statement he is making is with underwear - or more exactly on underwear.

    Nothing disrespectful there. His slogan for this motivational variation on days-of-the-week undies is "Let the first thing you put on be you." Each pair of chakra-color-coded, super-comfies in a 7-pack displays one of seven powerful "I AM" self-actualizing statements on its waistband. This means that wearers start the day concentrating on an "I AM" theme that brings vitality to the day ahead. Faloticos son works at Inner Balance as part of the team intent on ensuring the messaging works as an invisible-to-others personal reminder.

    Falotico promises to donate 7 of the net proceeds to Mental Health Awareness and Research. This is not a launch gimmick, but a long-term commitment to mental health organizations and their causes. He is adamant that his success will mean success for others.

    However your new purpose comes to you, finding practical ways to integrate it into your work routine can be a challenge. Wherever you start, your expertise with implementation and communication will determine your success, just as comparable skill will determine Inner Balances.

    The point is this...your social purpose or solution may seem odd to others until your new way of thinking about the problem and solution gains acceptance. Your goal is to develop a unique approach that guarantees this new commitment works for you and everyone concerned.

    Before you plunge into a new social venture, consider these 5 Tips for Successfully Pursuing Social Purpose:

    1. Slow Down

    Remember the previous long-term projects you started and couldnt sustainthe newsletter, the blog, the door-knocking campaign? Here "failure to stick" can do more than embarrass you. The very people youre intent on helping will be let down.

    2. Research Is Essential

    Ask real estate colleagues and others with established social purpose projects what the long-term positive and negative considerations are. Reach outside your area to learn from professionals who have adopted a purpose that intrigues you. Volunteer on others projects to learn how to engage volunteers, fund raiseand the list goes on. Construct a very practical strategy to achieve your goals within your current real estate workload before you jump.

    3. Scale Down The Start-Up

    Start small. Begin with a manageable event or a campaign to see if this is really for you. Fine-tune practical considerations before you expand commitment. An annual event may be all thats necessary.

    4. Understand Target Needs

    Invest time and resources listening to those you intend to help. They know what will and wont work for them. Stereotypes, labels, and "common knowledge" are usually wrong. You may discover targets would prefer an enti>5. Put Your Real Estate Strengths To Work

    Incorporate your real estate skills into the design of your organization and project. Your powerful communication, problem-solving, and implementation expertise can ensure your project succeeds. The more you incorporate aspects of your social project into your business routine, the more youll achieve for both.
    Full Story >

  • How To Create A Statement Ceiling

    Are things looking up in your home? How about people? If theres nothing to draw their eye up, you may be missing out on a great decorating opportunity. Today, the ceiling is being called the "fifth wall," and its a great place to add color, texture, and interest to a space that is often ignored.


    Who doesnt love a rustic beam or 10? Its the >

    Living in a more modern space? Maybe you want to go a little sleek instead of rustic. Keep in mind that beams today dont have to be pricy. Finding reclaimed beams - inexpensive reclaimed beams, for that matter - you can reuse is the dream of many. But when thats not a reality, or when the size and weight of the beams is a concern, "faux" beams may be the answer. Faux beams look like the real thing but are hollow, allowing them to be much easier to install and, often, more affordable.

    Paint it

    The right hue up above can take a good space and make it amazing. This dreamy sea blue makes walking down the hall a pleasure, but with so much allure in what could just be a "pass-through," you might actually want to have a seat and stay awhile.


    In a large space without a lot of architectural detail, moldings on the ceiling can create just the right amount of interest.


    You dont need a Parisian pied--terre to create historic-feeling character in your home. A medallion and some intricate moldings on the ceiling can transform a room. You can find vintage medallions at architectural salvage stores, and a variety of newer versions at Lowes.

    Or, use a stencil and some metallic paint to create a one-of-a-kind ceiling, like this one from Apartment Therapy.

    Kim R. McCormick via


    Wallpaper on the ceiling? Its the perfect accent for this sweet New York nursery.


    You may not be up to recreating the Sistine Chapel a la Michelangelo, but you may be able to reference another masterpiece. This ceiling in a London townhouse looks like a Mondrian come to life.

    Elle Decor

    Paint it dark

    "To make this dining room comfortable and intimate, the designer painted the ceiling black and added a very low paper lantern," said Build Direct. "Large, open spaces can also benefit from a dark ceiling if you want to make it look a little more defined."

    Keeping the ceiling white in this chic kitchen could go a little country paging Joanna Gaines with that shiplap look, but painting it black creates contrast and drama, while showcasing the high-end features.

    Go graphic

    Graphic patterns have invaded pretty much every other surface, and now its time to look up to them. This office/homework space benefits from the patterned ceiling, which adds even more interest and vibrancy to a space that could be dull or clinical. Who says the "work" space has to be boring?

    Stop just short of mirrors

    This glossy finish is a much more sophisticated way of creating a reflective surface on the ceiling that gives the room a touch of >

    Full Story >

    The Fall Colors For Home Youll Soon Be Seeing Everywhere

    Already thinking about how to jazz up your home with the latest fall trends and newest colors? Even in the dead of summer, its hard to keep from thinking ahead, especially because autumn deacute;cor can be so dreamy. This year, get a head start on the new season with the fall colors youll be seeing a lot of soon.

    "At thenbsp;International Home Housewares show,nbsp;Pantonenbsp;Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman made a long-anticipated announcement when she sharednbsp;the upcoming color trends for 2018," said Martha Stewart. "Eight color groups were announced: Verdure, Resourceful, Playful, Discretion, Far-fetched, Intricacy, Intensity and TECH-nique."

    This Elderberry Wine paint from Benjamin Moore falls under "Discretion," and is an unexpected hit of color in a built-in that brings new life to the space.


    Millennial pink isnt gone, and, in fact, its still going strong with demographics far beyond millennials. But a hot new shade of pink is gaining on it. Benjamin Moores Tissue Pink is a good place to start to incorporate this hue into your home.

    We love the rosy bed in this room from Decoholic, especially with the pink contrasted against the grey and metallic accents.



    Speaking of metallic, its not going anywhere, according to International Color Expert Leatrice Eiseman. "Metallics we know are >

    If youre looking to bring metallics into your home for fall, todays finish du jour is brass.


    Dark green

    Tired of that all-white kitchen? Thisll give your place a boost. Show off that marble with a dark contrast by splashing deep, rich green - a top color trend for fall - on the walls and cabinets.


    "Dark paint"

    "Forget farmhouse white and gray This season, its all about drama," said House Beautiful. "PPG Paints, Glidden Paints, and Olympic Paints amp; Stains all announcednbsp;cozy shades of black as their 2018 Color of the Year - nbsp;Black Flame PPG1043-7,nbsp;Deep Onyx 00NN 07/000, andnbsp;Black Magic OL116, respectively."

    Matte black

    Moody black is included under the dark paint umb>

    Not ready to take the plunge on the walls? Black matte home deacute;cor is everywhere right now.

    Chocolate brown

    Chocolate brown is also on the rise, providing a rich alternative to all that grey thats been everywhere over the last several years and "the all-white, minimalistic homes that have taken over Pinterest," said CountryLiving. Their article titled "Brown is the new black" notes that, "trends are cyclical, and now, were seeing homeowners embracing earthier shades and a morenbsp;maximalist >

    Full Story >

    7 Key Things That Help You Qualify For A Mortgage

    In an environment where lenders are highly regulated and risk-averse, borrowers are rightfully a little nervous when they apply for a mortgage. But with the right preparation, qualifying for a home loan can be a rewarding experience in your journey toward homeownership.

    "In a lot of ways, lenders have gone back to the basics, looking at fundamental personal finance criteria to decide who qualifies for a loan," says Rick Sharga, chief marketing officer of Ten-X, an online real estate marketplace in Irvine, California.

    At the same time, Sharga says lenders have been more risk-averse than ever since the housing bust.

    A.W. Pickel, III, Midwest division president of AmCap Mortgage in Kansas City, Missouri, recommends finding a loan officer you can trust and sticking with that person during your entire homebuying process.

    "A good loan officer is like a pilot flying you and your loan from Kansas City to Hawaii," Pickel says. "There are several ways to get there and several things that can happen on the way. A good loan officer has seen the turbulence and knows where the smooth air is."

    7 steps toward a loan approval

    The back-to-basics approach by lenders means that borrowers can take steps that increase their chances of a mortgage approval.

    Improving your credit, reducing your debt and gathering your documentation are among the many things you can do long before a loan application to increase the likelihood of getting a "yes" from a lender.

    1. Maintain a high credit score. The average FICO score for an approved borrower is around 720 for a conventional loan and close to 700 for an FHA-insured loan, says Sharga. He says borrowers should find out their FICO score before applying for a loan, make sure their credit report is correct and take steps to improve their score if necessary. Pickel says he recently reviewed a loan file with a high debt-to-income ratio of 49 percent but a credit score over 800, which resulted in a loan approval.

    Keep a vigilant eye on your credit profile while you wait for your loan to close, too.

    "Once the application process has begun, borrowers shouldnt do anything that might negatively impact their credit rating -- no new accounts, no late or missed payments," says Sharga.

    2. Save for a bigger down payment. One way to minimize risk for a lender is to make a higher-than-minimum down payment. "The average down payment today is around 10 percent; historically the standard has been 20 percent," says Sharga. "Anything above that lowers the loan-to-value ratio, which is viewed positively."

    3. Choose the right loan. If you have less money for a down payment but have good credit, you may qualify for a conventional loan with private mortgage insurance and a down payment requirement of 3 to 5 percent.

    You may want to look for a lender who issues FHA loans, which are often available to borrowers with less cash or a lower credit score and require a down payment of 3.5 percent. Keep in mind these loans require a monthly mortgage insurance payment in addition to principal and interest, Sharga says.

    4. Manage your debt. Lenders are >Paying off credit card balances or at least reducing debt before applying for a home loan is helpful.

    5. Buy within your means. "Be realistic with your monthly income," Pickel says. "Buy a house with a monthly payment you can afford. Buying a house that needs the income from two or three future raises will only cause stress."

    It matters that you can afford your payments and have remaining income after those payments are made, he says.

    6. Demonstrate stability. Lenders look for signs of personal and financial stability, such as whether youve saved three to six months worth of expenses in the bank, whether you have a steady employment record and how often youve moved over the past few years, Sharga says. Your good credit score and a pattern of saving money are both indicators of financial strength.

    7. Respond fast to lender requests. The CFPBs ability-to-repay rule requires lenders to verify whether a borrower has the means to handle loan payments, says Sharga. This requires you to have all your financial records in order, including pay stubs, bank records, tax returns and more. Sharga says incomplete documentation is a common reason for loans being declined.

    "If the loan officer asks for it, then bring it," says Pickel. "Sometimes people dont want to say they cant find something or they dont want to look for it, but it really helps to have all the information that the loan officer requests. This will help expedite the process."

    While it should go without saying, honesty is an essential component of a loan approval.

    "No one likes surprises, especially loan underwriters," says Pickel. "Tell the truth, even if it hurts. It will help even if it means that you dont qualify today."

    Michele Lerner has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades and contributes articles about mortgages at Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and online at Fox Business News, Forbes BrandVoices,,, and
    Full Story >

    A Heartfelt Way to Say Hello to Your New Neighbors

    Dont worry about a perfect presentation - a heartfelt note and a simple treat create a wonderful welcome to the neighborhood

    A few months ago our neighbors moved away. We had gotten to know them only recently, when we were rebuilding after our house fire. That was one of the good things that came out of that hard time. During construction we rented just a few doors down, right next to this nice family. But, alas, they found a house that suited them better.

    When I drive by their empty house every day, I glance over to check for the for-sale sign and to see if anyone is looking at it. Some days I say a prayer for my old neighbors that they will sell the house quickly and for the new neighbors, whoever they may be.

    Paul and I talked about how we wanted to make a point to welcome the new neighbors. When we moved into our first home, our next-door neighbors brought over a plate of cookies with a note welcoming us to the neighborhood. I had a newborn baby and was trying to get back in shape, so I wasnt thrilled to be delivered a plate of temptation. But I was delighted to meet our new neighbors, and their thoughtful gesture had the desired effect.

    When we bought our second house, there was a gap between the day we took possession and when we actually moved in. We shuttled between the two houses for a few weeks. One day I found a mason jar set by our front door with a simple bouquet and a note from our neighbor up the road. She gave her name and her husbands, as well as their phone number, and welcomed us to our new home.

    Last week I drove by our neighbors house, and when I did my reflexive look I didnt see the for-sale sign. A few days later I drove by and saw cars in the driveway and all the lights on in the house. It was clear someone was moving in.

    I told Paul the next day, "I think Ill make cookies and write down our name and numbers. We can walk over and introduce ourselves later this afternoon." He thought that was a great idea. Eden heard us and asked if she could please, oh please, make the card. There was no question of us saying anything but yes. She and I set to work.

    By Alison Hodgson - See more Home Design Photos

    The cookies didnt turn out the best. The first batch was slightly undercooked, and the second was half burned. I hate my new oven The third batch was inedible.

    In general I consider "Its the thought that counts" shabby thinking and simple excuse making. If youre going to do something for someone, you should do it well.

    And yet too often Ive failed to make a kind gesture because Im concerned it wont be perfect. I mean, what if the family eschews white flour and refined sugar? What if?

    Im done with that sort of worrying. The first batch I left on the cookie sheet, and they continued to bake. They werent pretty, but I knew they would taste good.

    Edens card, of course, is fantastic. Im only going to add a small card listing our names with our home and mobile numbers. I know this isnt necessary, but Id like them to know were good for a cup of sugar or a tablespoon of garam masala.

    By Alison Hodgson - See more Home Design Photos

    Eden remembered these little candy boxes I bought last Christmas and never used. She thought they would be perfect, and I agreed. Never mind that its a gingerbread house with candy cane trim and this is November. Theyre cute and happy, and its a little house welcoming our new neighbors to our neighborhood and their home. Thats our thought, and I think it counts more than enough.

    Also See:

    • Say "Welcome Home" With a Fun Doormat
    • Stock Up on Dining Chairs for Your Next Neighborhood Get Together
    • More Ways to Be a Good Neighbor

    Full Story >

    When It Comes To Disclosures, How Much Do You Really Have To Tell?

    You call her Gladys. For the six years you lived in your charming little 1909 Craftsman home on your charming little 1909 street, she appeared in hallways. Open and shut doors. Moved things from one place to another. She was your friendly family ghost, and now youre moving. Can she be your little secret, especially since, while she freaked people out from time to time, for sure, you never felt unsafe?

    The answer is: Maybe. It depends on if its considered a "stigmatizing factor." Beyond the obvious things you would disclose about a home, like any known defects, repairs, and renovations, there are other other important factors that need to be disclosed per the National Association of Realtors, which defines stigmatized property as: "That which has been psychologically impacted by an event, which occurred or was suspected to have occurred on the property, such event being one that has no physical impact of any kind," said HomeGuides. "Examples of stigmatizing factors include murder, suicide and other deaths, serious crime, proximity to registered sex offenders, hauntings and other paranormal activity. According to NAR, only 15 percent of potential homebuyers would pay full market value for a psychologically impacted home. A further 19 percent would expect a 31 to 50 percent discount."

    Death in the house

    Did someone die in the house while you were living there, or are you aware of a death in the house prior to your moving in? Whether or not you have to disclose this information will depend the state in which you live different states, different laws and the "type" of death were talking about.

    "Each state will have slightly different requirements for disclosure," says Jim Olenbush, a Texas real estatebroker, on Investopedia. "In Texas, for example, deaths from natural causes, suicides, or accidents un>A murder in the home would typically have to be disclosed, however. The good news is that, depending on the type of murder and especially if it was especially gruesome or attached to a notorious crime, it might actually be a selling point. "Penny-pinchers are lured by the steep discounts," said "Entrepreneurs see business opportunities. Some house hunters hope that they can transform the gory karmaof these abodes. Others are true crime and haunted house junkies. And some buyersare simply not perturbed by what happened, no matter how horrific."

    Your financial situation

    No, you dont need to include your bank balance and retirement accounts in your disclosures. But if someone has placed a lien on the property or if youre involved in bankruptcy proceedings, that information would be necessary.

    Bad neighbors

    A neighborhood kid who rides his bike past your house a couple times a day is no big deal even if it drives you, and your dogs, crazy. One that is stalking your teenage daughter or playing loud music deep into the night, or a neighbor who is harassing you and/or has become outright dangerous, is another story.

    "In the 1992 Alexander vs. McKnight case, the court held that sellers have to disclose their neighbors pattern of offensive and noxious activities, including operation of noisy equipment, late-night basketball games, and a plethora of cars parked on the property, even if the conduct had stopped," said Silicon Valley, CA-based law firm Rossi, Hamerslough, Reischl, Chuck. "Given the nature of the disclosure forms now required by both the state of California and many real estate groups, including the California Real Estate Association, the seller is required in many instances to be more than forthright with regard to prospective buyers. Full and complete disclosures must be made. If not, the buyer will move in, and one of the first things that will happen is that a neighbor will tell them about all of the problems, and then the buyer will sue the seller for failing to make complete and adequate disclosures. If you want to be rid of your bad neighbor problem, disclose, disclose, disclose"


    Reputable Realtors will generally recommend you disclose any repairs that were done to the home, beyond what may or may not be required on your disclosure sheet. "Be aware that buyers may be able to find out about the repair whether or not you tell them," said "A home inspector may find evidence of the repair work, but another possibility is that the buyers may request that you provide a CLUEHome Sellers Disclosure report,which reveals all insurance claims on your property. If insurance helped pay for your leak and tub replacement, then that claim will stay on your report for up to seven years."

    Hiding work that was done ra>Lead-based paint

    You know when youre watching one of those renovation shows and the new owners want to tear down walls but then their contractor finds out there are layers of old lead-based paint underneath and now everyone has to vacate the premises while its taken care of? That might make for great TV, but, in real life, the existence of lead-based paint absolutely needs to be disclosed.

    "Lead paint is a mandatory disclosure in all states," said Maximum Exposure Real Estate. "If you fail to comply with lead paint disclosure requirements, the buyer can sue you for triple the amount of damages suffered. Accuracy on lead paint is one of the most important disclosures for any seller."


    Paging Walter White Good news if you have a Breaking Bad situation going on in your home for sale and you live in certain areas. This is another area where state-by-state disclosure laws vary greatly. According to, "Kansas doesnt require a seller to disclose if the home was previously the site of an illegal meth lab, while Missouri does."


    Paranormal activity

    Back to Gladys. The question when it comes to paranormal activity in a house is whether it falls under the umb>Does haunting qualify? "In most areas of the country, a home seller would not need to disclose whether their home is haunted, but laws differ by state or even local ordinances," said Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School Professor Chris Trudeau on RISMedia.

    But, that also depends on how "famous" the haunting is.

    "In a famous 1991 New York case, a buyer sued the seller and the sellers Realtor for failure to disclose the houses ghostly reputation," said LegalZoom. "Prior to putting the house up for sale, the seller wrote about her bumps in the night for the local paper andReaders Digest, but the buyers were unaware of the homes reputation. Although the court did not rule nondisclosure of the houses reputation as fraudulent, it did allow the buyer to back out of his contract and get his down payment back."
    Full Story >

    Buying a Vacation Home: The Questions Before The Purchase

    Whether its an oceanside bungalow or a luxury cabin in the mountains, many people dream of buying a vacation home. Financial advisors call a purchase like this "life>Take a Close Look at Your Finances

    Before even looking at listings, its important to assess your finances. To determine whether you can actually afford a vacation property, consider the following questions:

    • How strong is your income stream? Will it hold up during an economic downturn?
    • Will you be able to write off some, or all, of your mortgage? The IRS caps write offs for mortgage indebtedness at a maximum of 1 million between your primary and qualified second home.
    • Will you need to finance the vacation property? If so, keep in mind that banks are quite strict on limiting borrowers for a vacation property to a 42 debt-to-income ratio or less. For example, if your gross income is at 10,000 a month your total debt payments including the new mortgage will need to be under 4,200.
    • What is your current asset allocation? Its typically not a good idea for anyone to have more than 50 of his or her net worth in any single asset >

      Sit down with an advisor and answer these questions. If you still think a vacation home makes sense, keep reading.

      Retirement Retreat or Raking It in With a Rental?

      Once youve determined that a vacation home is economically feasible, the next big question to think about is how you want to use your vacation property. Are you planning to rent it out, fix it up and sell it, or retire there?

      If youre thinking about becoming a landlord, make sure the vacation home has rental income potential. If youre looking to eventually profit from a sale, are you prepared to own the home for five years? Youll likely want to keep it for at least that long in order amortize the high transaction costs associated with buying a vacation property. On the other hand, you may see the home as part of your retirement dream, which makes it more of a life>Making the Move

      Once you know what youll use your home for, its time to figure out where to buy. Anyone who has ever bought a house has heard the adage about the three most important factors: "location, location, location." This is even more critical when buying a vacation home.

      First, look closely at the local market. As the Great Recession showed, real estate doesnt only go up. An array of factors can drive a local market up or down, including: major employers coming or going, damaging weather events, and changing zoning laws. By working with an agent knowledgeable about the area, you can get a good idea of market activity and pricing trends.

      Its important to analyze the pros and cons of the kind of community in which you want to live. For example, a beachfront house will make it easy to find tenants if you choose to rent, but it may come with complicated insurance requirements. Mountain getaways typically offer lots of land at lower costs, but they are often located in rural communities with roads and utilities that may not be well maintained.

      As you scout locations, be sure to consider the distance from your primary residence to your vacation home. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors, the average vacation homebuyer purchased a property that is a median distance of 200 miles from his or her primary residence. How often will you be willing to make that drive? And have you factored in the costs associated with the journey?

      The Final Decision

      Once you know where you want your vacation home to be, you may be faced with the choice of buying a pre-existing home or building a new home. While many experts consider location to be the most important factor for buying a property with long-term appreciation potential, expanding a property gives you another way to make money, as the ultimate sale price can be significantly more than the construction cost of an expansion.

      However, this approach isnt without its downside, as expansion projects can often take longer and cost more than expected. There are also tax implications to consider. Before beginning a home investment process, you should run realistic worst-case cash flow numbers to see how long you can survive before your money runs out. Having two years in cash flow is a good guideline.

      Another option is to buy an older home, then remodel or renovate. While a renovation or remodeling likely wont get you a huge return on investment when you sell, it can save you money by allowing you to buy a less expensive home and then improving it over time as opposed to shelling out more money up front. Renovations can also enable you to charge more should you choose to rent out your home.

      While buying a vacation home can be a dream come true, its important to look at it with clear eyes, just as you would with any other investment. Make sure to do extensive research and think hard about why youre making the purchase before signing on the dotted line.

      Amin Dabit is a Senior Vice President and Financial Planning Manager with Personal Capital and author of the companys Vacation Home Buying Guide
      Full Story >

    Drone Technology Beneficial To The Real Estate Game

    Real estate agents and home inspectors are always looking for innovative ways to keep their clients informed. One of the latest tools in the home buying and selling process is drones. Drones are remote-controlled pilotless aircraft that allow aerial shots and different views of the property and can provide an added benefit to real estate transactions.

    Here are three key ways drone technology is enhancing the real estate industry:

    Additional Images and Video

    Before drones became accessible to real estate professionals, aerial photos and videography were limited to grainy satellite images or expensive photography sessions. Drones provide a cost effective and visually stunning alternative -- and can be used as a buzz worthy mention to move the sale along. Drones also provide a way for prospective home buyers to experience a video or photo tour in an online home listing before taking the time to physically visit the house. Using this technology can help to diminish the extensive time it takes to tour available homes and can speed along the home transaction.

    Catch Potential Property Problem Areas

    While home inspectors are trained to uncover potential problems of a home, drones can offer another layer of enhancement to the inspections. They may be useful when inspecting steep/high roofs, chimneys and areas that might otherwise be inaccessible. With the recent changes by the FAA allowing commercial use of drones after going through a licensing process, this technology helps a qualified home inspector to reduce the unknown and potentially save homeowners the cost of previously undiscovered issues.

    A Clear View of the Land

    Drones have the capability to show an entire property, which is especially beneficial when the area is expansive and includes additional features like stables, acreage, farmland or even a second dwelling. This also benefits home inspectors when looking for things that can sometimes be challenging to identify when conducting inspections on foot.

    The industry continues to explore ways to leverage drone-collected data to better assist real estate professionals. This includes increased use of infrared scanning, site modeling and property analysis.

    While drones are providing a competitive advantage, it is important they are always used properly. Operating a drone takes extensive practice as misuse can lead to unexpected injuries to people and property. It is critical that the drone operator, whether the real estate or home inspection professional, is properly licensed by the FAA, has a commercially registered drone, understands any local or state guidelines and is properly covered by insurance. As drones are new to the insurance world as well, not all polices automatically cover their use in commercial applications. With the use of real estate technology on the rise, the industry will continue to evolve and become more competitive than ever.

    AUTHOR: Scott Johnson, Director of Operations of WIN Home Inspection, one of the fastest growing franchised home inspection companies in the United States with more than 150 operators in more than 190 designated markets in 32 states.
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    REALTORS Giving Back Like Never Before As a PinRaise Agent With Heart

    If, as Zig Ziglar once said, "Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful," Virginia-based Realtor Michelle Huber Ratajczakof ALL/Pros Realty should be his real-world model. From one-time "struggling single mom" to thriving real estate agent today, Ratajczak has seen both the challenges and triumphs of life. And, today her measure of success goes far beyond the number of real estate transactions she makes.

    "Giving back is one of the most important aspects of my business," she said. "Many years ago I had three children with no child support and was trying to make a career in this business. I had help from so many individuals and organizations. I knew I would make giving back a priority when I was in a place to do so."

    Ratajczak is one of many real estate agents who have discovered the advantages of partnering with charity app PinRaise, which connects non-profits with the local business community, in their Agent with HeartTM program AWH. AWH allows Realtors to direct a portion of their commission toward a charity of their clients choosing at closing. Clients can select from hundreds of non-profit charities in the PinRaise system all 501c3 organizations are welcome to participate, with no out of pocket expense. Whether agents are simply looking for a new charitable outlet or are "paying it forward" like Ratajczak, PinRaise and AWH give them an easy and gratifying opportunity to use their position for good.

    As a breast cancer survivor, Realtor Terri Repetto of Realty ONE Group in San Diego is committed to giving back, and has been fundraising for many years. Now as an Agent with Heart, she is able to do so with every property sale she makes, creating even more good will among clients. "Its nice to have my clients choose something they are passionate about," she said.

    Making charitable giving easier than ever for real estate agents

    Charitable giving continues to rise across the board; "American individuals, estates, foundations and corporations contributed an estimated 390.05 billion to U.S. charities in 2016, according toGiving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016." Thats up 2.7 percent from 373.3 billion in 2015, which was the highest donation amount in history, until last year.

    Charity work and real estate "have long gone hand in hand," said REALTOR Mag, the official magazine of the National Association of Realtors, who detailed the "creative ways" brokerages are leveraging "their philanthropic role in their communities as a source of name recognition and business growth" while recognizing that, "for each and every one of these brokers, doing good is its own reward."

    However, while charitable giving offers personal satisfaction in addition to the vast benefits it provides to the recipient of that giving, there is sometimes a roadblock to participation: not knowing where to go or how to make the right kind of impact. PinRaise and AWH ease the process so that participating agents can focus on the goal.

    "At the beginning of 2017, we my hubby and I wanted to find a way to give back and donate to more charities but we werent quite sure what path to take and how to be held accountable," said Irvine, CA-based real estate agent Dana Roberts of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, who has so far donated to her clients chartable cause on seven separate occasions. "Then, one day I received a call fromPinRaise - funny how God works It was a perfect fit. The client chooses the charity then I make the donation at the close of the sale. Its a win-win. Its only been six months but I see this as a long term partnership."

    Through AWH, Realtors are able to increase their charitable contributions and raise awareness of their philanthropy through an easy process that makes donations seamless and cost-free for the client. Agents choose how much to donate. And, PinRaise also provides a complete marketing kit and promotional support to help real estate agents get the word out, grow their network, and connect with more potential clients.

    "I advertise AWH everywhere I can and wear my lapel pin," said Repetto. PinRaises "help with promoting, flyers, emails to clients, etc. is a tremendous benefit to participating in the AWH program as a Realtor."

    How the Agent with Heart program works

    Agent with Heart taps into a natural instinct to give back, especially when you realize that, "Everyone has something or someone they care about and want to help," said Ratajczak. "It may be children, pets, cancer, homelessness - deep down, we all care and want help others." For agents looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of others - beyond helping families make the dream of homeownership come true - and build their business through referrals, word of mouth, and the promotional opportunities provided by PinRaise, AWH is a no-brainer," she said.

    "Clients love this because it feels like they are making a difference and it isnt costing them anything," said Ratajczak. "You can connect with them by letting them know that you care and helping with something that is important to them. They are always excited, in a little bit of disbelief, and very appreciative. I believe we are meant to live and conduct our business by the Golden Rule, and giving back and being affiliated with a company such as this enhances what being a Realtor stands for. Can you imagine if all Realtors were Agents with Heart? We could make such a huge difference in the world and help so many people."

    About PinRaise

    PinRaise is a charity-based app that is designed to generate income for its nonprofits. There are more than 600 agents and merchants signed up to give back through PinRaise, in just Orange County alone, with a portion of the purchase of goods and services going to the givers choice. They include numerous shops and stores, restaurants, day spas, entertainment, and services, each of which makes a donation for every purchase or service rendered.

    As an Agent with Heart, real estate agents receive marketing materials they can use in print and online, including listing inserts, press >For more information about PinRaise, or the Agent with Heart program, please visit the website.
    Full Story >

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    Updated: Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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