Real Estate News

Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Do Energy-Efficient Windows Really Save You Money?

An energy audit of your home is often the best option for evaluating your homersquo;s insulation and the efficiency of your major appliances, and your local utility companies can often arrange such an audit for you. However, note some vital information about new thermal windows and other energy-saving features in the home so that you can make the best decision for your house and your utilities budget

What Are Thermal Windows?

Simply put, thermal windows are windows that have energy-efficient properties. These windows are often made of multiple panes versus a single pane, or they are manufactured with specialty glass designed to offer more insulating features than standard window glass.

Double-glazed and triple-glazed windows are made with two or three panes of glass, attached with a layer of argon gas between them. Argon gas offers excellent insulating properties, keeping heat or cold out of the home while not allowing your own heating and cooling to escape from inside the home
Low-E glass is covered with a thin coating that transmits light but blocks heat. Low-E glass is an excellent option for homes in tropical environments as it allows lots of light into a home but not uncomfortable heat.
Energy-efficient windows often have frames made with dense and durable materials that donrsquo;t conduct heat or cold, also improving their overall insulating materials. Vinyl and PVC are popular choices for frames, adding to the energy efficiency of those windows.

How Much Do Energy Efficiency Windows Save?

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that most homeowners save an average of 126 to 465 per year by choosing thermal or energy savings windows. While this may not seem like much savings, note that upgraded windows also help to create a more comfortable interior environment. When windows are old and outdated and allow drafts into the home, or donrsquo;t block outside heat and humidity, your homersquo;s interior might always feel chilly or hot and stuffy no matter how often you cycle on the furnace or air conditioner.

New windows also improve a homersquo;s overall curb appeal, potentially even increasing your property values. Scratched, nicked, chipped, or otherwise damaged windows often look yellowed and streaky. Upgraded windows look clean and streak-free from both inside and outside the home

Choosing new windows also allows you to opt for an updated window >

Why Do Older Windows Get Drafty?

In addition to considering the benefits of upgraded, thermal residential windows, itrsquo;s also good to note the disadvantages of keeping old windows in your home First note that window glass tends to become thin and brittle over time. This thin glass does a poor job of keeping heat and cold outside the home

A house will also shift and settle on its foundation so that its framework is no longer perfectly level and even. In turn, window frames pull away from the structure itself, leading to cracks and leaks that allow in cold drafts in wintertime and overly hot, humid air in summertime

New double-glazed or triple-glazed windows are without outside nicks, scratches, and other damage, and are strong and thick against exterior temperatures. New thermal windows also typically install with their own frames, closing up those leaks and cutting off resultant, bothersome drafts.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Home Energy-Efficient

Selecting new thermal windows for a home is an excellent means of adding to your overall comfort inside your home and for lowering your utility bills. However, new windows are not your only option for increasing energy efficiency in your home and saving money on your heating and cooling costs. Note five tips for creating a more energy-efficient home environment:

bull; Add window attachments designed for energy efficiency in particular. For example, solar shades are thin enough to allow sunlight into the home while still blocking uncomfortable outside heat. The thermal window experts at EnerPro Window Replacement of Denver note that these window attachments even reduce glare on computer and television screens while blocking unwanted heat
bull; Poorly-fitting doors allow drafts into the home while also letting out your heating and air conditioning. A carpenter can note if your homersquo;s entryway doors are uneven with gaps around its frame and can usually tighten or otherwise rehang the doors to seal up those gaps. Draft guards at the bottom of entryway doors also block lots of outside heat and cold.
bull; Weatherstripping is an easy and affordable means of blocking drafts around movable parts in the home, including doors and windows. A line of weatherstripping over a window sash and around a doorframe will close up gaps and reduce drafts and the loss of heating and cooling in the home.
bull; Water heaters cycle on when the water in the tank reaches a certain temperature. If your homersquo;s water heater is in the basement or a chilly utility room, consider installing an insulating blanket around the tank. This will keep the water warmer and reduce the number of times the heater cycles on.
bull; Ensure that your homersquo;s attic or crawlspace is properly insulated and the roof vents are in good condition and never obstructed. As heat rises in summertime, it tends to get caught in homes with poor insulation and low-quality vents, creating a hot and stuffy home interior. High-quality insulation in the attic or crawlspace also keeps out wintertime cold, especially vital in snowy areas when a homersquo;s roof is often covered with cold snow and ice

Consider all these tips when yoursquo;re in the market for energy-efficient windows. By adding weatherstripping and checking your homersquo;s insulation, along with choosing upgraded windows, yoursquo;re sure to see a reduction in your utility costs and enjoy a more comfortable home environment as well


nbsp;Luis Rios is the owner of EnerPro Window Replacements of Denver and his company as been installing energy efficient windows and doors for over a decade. For new home owners, energy efficient windows and doors are a huge selling point, especially in colder climates and giving his customer the best energy efficient products has saved his customers money on their electricity bills while increasing their home values.

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How to Scam-Proof Your Roof

Wersquo;re talking about those who show up at your door unannounced with an offer to check out your roof or repair/replace it for a price that seems too good to be true, and then run off with your money without fixing anythingmdash;or doing a shoddy job.

ldquo;Some of the most unbelievable home improvement rip-offs come from scam-artists disguised as roofers,rdquo; said Mosby Building Arts. ldquo;Reputable roofing contractors have to deal with an unfairly tarnished reputation because consumers are too often taken in by unlicensed pretenders.rdquo;

We tapped several top roofers to get their advice on what to watch out for and how to protect yourself from costly scams.

Ignore unsolicited offers

ldquo;Even if you really are in need of a new roof, do not work with a roofer who knocked on your door uninvited,rdquo; said Mosby Building Arts. ldquo;Reputable roofers only engage when you have made the first call to request their services.rdquo;

Donrsquo;t sign anything

ldquo;Some roofers, especially the storm chasers, like to use high-pressure tactics to get you to sign a contract,rdquo; said Excel Roofing. ldquo;They may even hand you a document and claim it gives them permission to inspect your roof and contact your insurance company. Bottom line is this: donrsquo;t sign it. Donrsquo;t sign anything a roofer hands you unless you are 110 sure you want this person and his or her company to roof your home.rdquo;

Do your research

ldquo;You want to do your homework before you waste your time talking to a roofing contractor who wonrsquo;t make the cut in the end,rdquo; said Peak Roofing Contractors. ldquo;There are many places you can do research these days including countless sites on the internet. When you look at reviews, remember that you canrsquo;t please all the people all the time so reviews should be looked at in their totality. It may be even more important to see how a company responds to a bad review. Donrsquo;t forget to ask your friends and neighbors about their experiences with local companies and check the Better Business Bureau. When you visit a companyrsquo;s website, make sure they have a local address and talk in detail about the service you need.rdquo;

Never, ever give a roofer any money upfront

ldquo;You donrsquo;t get your paycheck until after yoursquo;ve punched the clock, so why pay a roofer before any work gets done? A roofer has no incentive to follow through with the work once the cash is already in his pocket,rdquo; said Absolute Roofers. ldquo;Make sure you sign a contract first, stating that hersquo;ll get paid once the work is done. If he still tries to get you to pay up front, itrsquo;s time to tell him to hit the highway.rdquo;
Asking the right questions can help you narrow down roofers and choose the best one. A few things to ask, according to Tadlock Roofing, are:

bull; Is the company properly licensed for the job?
bull; Does the company carry liability insurance and workersrsquo; compensation insurance?
bull; Are there more than three testimonials or references you can check?

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Tips For Redecorating While On A Budget


Before you start buying new furniture, bedding, and fixtures that will quickly eat through your budget, start by taking an inventory of what you already have. Think about ways that things can be reused. Simple furniture pieces can be painted or even just have the hardware changed out that will change the way a piece looks.

Many types of furniture can serve a different purpose. An unused dining table can become a desk. That old sofa table can be used as a mobile bar if wheels are added. Even a broken dresser can be salvaged and transformed.

Simple Appearances

Bigger is not always better. Sometimes a few simple changes can make a big impact, with minimal expense. Updating paint colors or just adding an accent wall is one way. You can also change out throw rugs and light fixtures. A small thing, like changing lamp shades or the glass covers on your ceiling fans or overhead lighting, can have a big visual impact as well.

Add covers to pillows and duvets to bedspreads. But what is a duvet? Think of the duvet like a pillow case for bedspreads. You can put an existing bedspread inside the duvet and create an enti>

Thrifty Shopping

If you still plan to make some purchases, consider used pieces. Second-hand or thrift stores are often great places to buy deacute;cor items without spending a fortune. Wholesale, liquidation, and salvage places can also help save some money. Remember to consider possible alternate uses for items as well.

Keep your eyes open for things that people are trying to sell, too. Visit yard sales and flea markets. You can find a wide variety of items that people are selling for low prices. Swap meets are also good places to locate what you might need, while giving you the opportunity to get rid of something that no longer suits your tastes or needs.


An alternative to pricey reprints, or even more expensive originals, is to create your own artwork to display. Try your skill at painting or decoupage. Frame your childrsquo;s latest art piece. You can even find free artwork to print and use at home. Spruce up some old wooden frames. Things like foiling and sponging can help you turn drab frames into decorative displays.

One at a Time

The most important thing to remember is to take it one step at a time. Try not to redecorate every room at the same time. You may need to divide your budget into chunks for each room that you want to redecorate. If you go room by room, you may find that you have some money left over that can be used for other rooms. By going one room at a time, you can avoid getting overwhelmed because you have taken on too much at once.

There are numerous options for redecorating on a budget, regardless of how small that budget might be. In your redecorating efforts, you can make huge changes just as easily as you can make small ones, both impacting the final result of a room. In the end, your home can be a display of the things you enjoy in an atmosphere that best suits you.

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3 Ways to Reduce Your Closing Costs

Saving up for a down payment is probably the biggest challenge, especially for first time home buyers, but closing costs also need to be addressed. Here are three ways buyers can reduce or eliminate these costs.

The first way is to have your lender quote you an interest rate that provides a lender credit toward your closing costs. When your lender quotes rates and fees to you, yoursquo;ll get a range of rates from lower to higher. Lower rates will require upfront interest in the form of a discount point. One discount point equals one percent of the amount borrowed. On a 300,000 loan, one point is then 3,000.

For example, if your lender offers 4.25 with no points on a 30 year loan you might also be able to get a 4.00 by paying one point upfront. The lender really doesnrsquo;t care if you pay points or not, itrsquo;s completely your call. You have the option of paying interest upfront in the form of a point or you can pay the interest over the term of the loan without paying a point.

If you take that 4.25 rate one step further, say to 4.50, the lender may offer a one point credit. Your monthly payment goes up by a little, but you also saved on closing costs. On that same 300,000 30 year loan, the 4.50 rate gave you a 3,000 credit at the settlement table. There is some math involved to determine which rate is best in your situation and your loan officer will walk you through the process.

Another way to reduce your closing costs is to have the sellers pay them for you. This involves you and your real estate agent making an offer that asks the sellers to pay for all or some of your fees. Your offer might include verbiage that asks the sellers to pay a certain percentage of the sales price, say 1 or 2 of the sales price or you might ask for a specific amount, such as 3,000.

Different loan programs place certain limits on how much the sellers can pay so yoursquo;ll need to check with your loan officer before making the offer. Most such limits are ra>

Finally, if the sellers decide to decline your request, you can adjust the sales price upward. If the sales price is 300,000 and closing costs are 3,000, you can offer 303,000 while then asking the sellers to pay 3,000 of your costs. The sellers net the same amount at the closing table and you donrsquo;t have to come up with an additional 3,000 for closing costs. One potential issue with this method is making sure the property will appraise at the higher amount, but a one percent increase usually wonrsquo;t cause any problems. And yes, when making a higher offer that also means your loan amount will also go up the difference in monthly payment is ba>

Closing costs will need to be addressed just as a down payment needs to be. Your loan officer will provide you with an initial cost estimate that will generally match up with your final settlement, so yoursquo;ll know what to expect. You can adjust your rate upward, have the sellers pay for them as part of your offer, or increase your offer slightly to include an amount reflecting your expected settlement fees.

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How to Determine a Sellers Market

What the Heck is a Sellers Market?

There are no better words in the English dictionary that can make a home owner do their infamous happy dance than these four little words: ldquo;itrsquo;s a sellerrsquo;s marketrdquo;.

Sohellip;.you askhellip;.how do you know if it really is a sellerrsquo;s market and what exactly does that mean?

Irsquo;m going to bring you back to ECON 101 for a moment. Remember when your professor spent two weeks explaining the concept of supply and demand? Well, I hope you took notes.

In a sellerrsquo;s market, there are fewer homes for sale with more buyers out there looking to purchase. nbsp;The factors that lead to more buyers in the market could be: nbsp;sustained low interest rates, high employment rate, legislative changes which make it easier to purchase a property ndash; events and conditions that make buyers think it would be a good time to invest in a home.

In my experience, there are some advantages to the sellers in this kind of market. Typically, home prices will rise, buyers will quickly make offers and sometimes, buyers will compete for a property. This can lead to a bidding war, ultimately driving the price of the home up above expectations

Now on to your next question. How do I, as a potential seller, know when it really is a sellerrsquo;s market?

How to Recognize a Sellers Market

There is a thing called "Absorption Rate" that many REALTORS and economists alike will use to determine whether the market is in a buyers or sellers favor. First, a REALTOR will use the MLS to determine the number of homes closed in your market over a specific period. Next, they will divide the number of homes by the number of months in the period. This gives a per month absorption rate. Lastly, they will divide the rate into the number of current listings. This will yield the months supply of homes. A six months supply is considered a balanced market - when the number of listings roughly equals the number of buyers. Numbers over six represent a buyers market and those below, a sellers market.nbsp;

Absorption Rate=nbsp; Current Listings/ of homes closed in a specific period/number of months in the period nbsp;

How to Price a Home for Sale

After a REALTOR determines the absorption rate for a specific area or neighborhood, they will create a Comparative Market Analysis CMA of the subject property. This report will be based on the recent usually within six months comparable homes sold in the neighborhood or surrounding area usually within one mile radius. This analysis will give the REALTOR an idea of what comparable homes are selling for, and how quickly. Using this information, along with the absorption rate, the agent will be able to come up with a listing price that will guarantee that the home sells quickly for top dollar.nbsp;

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The Biggest Hurdles When Renovating Old Homes and Buildings

Developers, home owners, and businesses alike all have a vested interest in purchasing the best properties within their budgets. Especially true in older communities and cities, a variety of high-quality buildings and homes can be found, many of which use more solid building >

Youve probably heard the phrase ldquo;this home has good bones.rdquo; Particularly important when renovating or remodeling an older home, many owners find that the underlying structures allow for great customization and a plethora of new possibilities.

Nevertheless, there are many potential hurdles facing those who want to renovate or change older buildings. Lets take a look at the biggest obstacles here today.

Historical Building Regulations

In many cities and towns, historical societies exist to protect various historical buildings and features in neighborhoods. For those purchasing, or who are planning to purchase an older home or building, the very first thing they should do is verify whether the building has any historical significance.

The consequences of attempting to renovate or remodel an older building can range from public campaign pressure tonbsp;binding legal requirements. In some cases, remodeling an older building ndash; such as one within a designated neighborhood or with certain historical >


Any major renovation poses a variety of challenges but obtaining the proper permits and permissions can be a nightmare. Especially in the case of older buildings, there may be an enti>

Having the proper understanding of the building in question ndash; and therefore what will be required ndash; may take several trips to your local zoning or building agency. Because of the complexities often faced with renovating older buildings in urban areas, owners may decide to source assistance from qualified compliance officials.nbsp;


Obviously, a huge roadblock to renovating an older property ndash; or any property, for that matter ndash; is the cost associated with the endeavor. All too often, renovations for older properties can become expensive very quickly, exceeding that of more contemporary projects.

Due to a variety of concerns >

Environmental Issues

In many jurisdictions, older buildings may enjoy exemptions from modern building codes and environmental regulations. From wiring and plumbing to insulation, many raw materials may create environmental hazards once removed during a remodel.

As such, securing the proper permits and disposal situations for components such as lead pipes and asbestos can be a logistical nightmare. Through agencies such as the EPA, owners can determine what requirements and risks exist when renovating older properties.

These hurdles are not insurmountable but are definitely challenging. Because of this, no purchase of an older home or building should be rushed: it is imperative to do your homework and evaluate the conditions of the property and the requirements needed for renovation. This can help minimize the chances of financial ruin, legal action, wasted time and stress.

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What Is Considered an Official Mortgage Application?

Lenders must also determine affordability. When issuing a preapproval letter, itrsquo;s typically after the borrower and the loan officer have had a conversation about monthly payments, down payments and closing costs. This prequalification is the result of a general conversation between the two regarding current credit status, employment, assets and other items. When these items are reviewed and confirmed, itrsquo;s at that point where a preapproval letter can be issued.

Borrowers can also request a Loan Estimate, formerly known as the Good Faith Estimate, which will itemize various potential costs of obtaining a home loan. Costs both from the lender and third parties. But the loan estimate isnrsquo;t considered binding until the mortgage application is considered a valid loan application according to regulations. There are six things that do turn a prequalification or preapproval into an official loan application which will then trigger a host of required disclosures the borrowers need to review, sign and return to the lender. These six items are:

bull; Name
bull; Income
bull; Social Security Number
bull; Property Address
bull; Estimated Value of Selected Property
bull; Mortgage Loan Amount South

When this information is provided to the lender, either over the phone, in person or in writing, the application becomes an official one and the lender then is required to supply an official Loan Estimate to the applicants within three business days. It is this loan estimate that will be used to compare the initial estimate with the final numbers at the settlement table. For example, lender charges cannot vary from the initial estimate to the final settlement statement. Third party charges can have an aggregate variance of 10 percent from the initial estimate. For required services where the borrowers select the provider, which is rare by the way, there is no regulation limiting changes to the final number. If any one of the required six items is missing, the loan application is not an official one and loan disclosures will not be delivered. Most often this is a property address.

Itrsquo;s important to note here that just because one item is missing doesnrsquo;t mean the lender doesnrsquo;t have to provide you with an estimate of closing costs. Your loan officer certainly will upon request. But when a completed loan application withthe minimum six pieces of information are provided, things get official and various loan disclosures will be issued and the clock begins to tick.

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An Insiders Look at the Reality of Home Staging

But just how do those two contingents break down? The National Association of Realtors NAR 2019 Profile of Home Staging provides some insight. The study separated the study into three categories: Buyersrsquo; Agent Perspective, Sellersrsquo; Agent Perspective, and Buyer Expectations. Wersquo;re taking a closer look at the key points.

Home Staging: Buyersrsquo; Agent Perspective

According to the study, ldquo;40 percent of buyersrsquo; agents cited that home staging had an effect on most buyersrsquo; view of the homerdquo; and ldquo;83 percent of buyersrsquo; agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.rdquo; Buyers agents also noted that, ldquo;Staging the living room was found to be most important for buyers 47 percent, followed by staging the master bedroom 42 percent, and staging the kitchen 35 percent.rdquo;

Home Staging: Sellersrsquo; Agent Perspective

Per the study, ldquo;28 percent of sellersrsquo; agents said they staged all sellersrsquo; homes prior to listing them for sale,rdquo; and ldquo;13 percent noted that they only staged homes that are difficult to sell.rdquo; The living room 93 percent, kitchen 84 percent, master bedroom 78 percent, and the dining room 72 percent were the most commonly staged rooms.

Sellersrsquo; agents offered to do the staging 26 percent of the time, and, ldquo;The median dollar value spent on home staging was 400.rdquo;

Buyer Expectations

Call it the HGTV effect: ldquo;A median of 10 percent of respondents cited that buyers felt homes should look the way they were staged on TV shows,rdquo; while ldquo;38 percent of respondents said that TV shows which displayed the buying process impacted their business.rdquo;

The real effect of staging

Now that we have the buyerrsquo;s agent, sellerrsquo;s agent, and buyerrsquo;s perspective, letrsquo;s look at some real data about staged homes. According to the NAR study, 22 percent of sellersrsquo; agents ldquo;reported an increase of one percent to five percent of the dollar value offered by buyers, in comparison to similar homes,rdquo; and ldquo;17 percent of respondents stated that staging a home increased the dollar value of the home between six and 10 percent. 28 percent of sellersrsquo; agents stated that there were slight decreases in the time on the market when the home is staged, while 25 percent reported that staging a home greatly decreased the amount of time the home was on the market.rdquo;

Of course, time on market and sales prices can range depending on a number of factors, like age of home, location, square footage, and price point. The Real Estate Staging Association has found, overall, that staged homes sell ldquo;73 faster, on average, than their non-staged counterparts,rdquo; said The Mortgage Reports.

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New Program Allows Short-Term Rental Income to Be Used for Refinances

The new program, from Quicken Loans, uses ldquo;rental income earned through VRBO to be used to qualify for a mortgage refinance,rdquo; the lender said in a news >

Typically, investment property income can help a borrowerrsquo;s debt-to-income ratio, but being able to show income from short-term rentals is a sign of the times. "Vrbo helps homeowners use one of their biggest assets as a source of income.nbsp;Now Quicken Loans can accurately review that income and consider it when calculating the debt-to-income ratio ndash; a major data point considers when qualifying for a mortgage," Jay Farner, CEO of Quicken Loans, said in a >

This evolution makes sense when you consider how closely tied the income generated by these short-term rentals is to ongoing living expenses. ldquo;Rental income and mortgage payments are often intertwined,rdquo; said Inman News. ldquo;A June 2018 market report from Vrbo found that more than 50 percent of short-term rental owners utilizing the platform use income generated from their property to cover at least 75 percent of their mortgage payment.rdquo;
The rental income can come from a primary residence or a second home, and primary residences, vacation homes, and investment properties can all be refinanced under the program.

The Vrbo partnership with Quicken comes on the heels of competitor Airbnbrsquo;s announcement last year that itrsquo;s working with both Quicken and Fannie Mae to ldquo;allow anyone who has rented out property on Airbnb for a year or longer to count some or all of that money as incomerdquo; when applying for a refinance, said MarketWatch.

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Whats New in Residential Roofing Styles

Knowing your options for residential roofing materials before repairs are needed also allows you to decide on the best choice for your home and then plan and budget for that new residential roof Check out whatrsquo;s new in residential roofing >

Slate Roofing

Slate roofing is valued for its durability and >

Slate roofs are also very attractive, with a natural look that enhances a homersquo;s overall curb appeal. Donrsquo;t believe the myth that slate roofs are noisy as a roofrsquo;s underlayment and other materials absorb sound and keep a slate roof quiet, even in inclement weather.

Flat Roofing Materials

Flat roofing materials are very durable and easy to maintain and offer a unique look for homes. The PVC or TPO materials used to create flat roofs are watertight and very dense so that the roof isnrsquo;t likely to leak or blow away in a storm

Cool Roofs

A cool or white roof is a reflective coating added over roofing materials. The lighter color of a white roof helps to reflect sunlight and keep a home cooler in summertime.

Not only does cool roof lower your air conditioning bills significantly but it can also reduce wear and tear on the roofing materials underneath it. Overexposure to harsh sunlight and heat often cause asphalt shingles and other roofing tiles to become brittle and crumbly, leading to premature cracking, splitting, and otherwise unnecessary repairs, whereas a cool roof helps avoid that damage.

Metal Roofs

Metal roofs are not new, as metal has been a favorite roofing material for centuries; however, metal is quickly becoming a popular option for homeowners versus standard asphalt shingles. A metal roof is far more durable than asphalt and can last for decades, even outlasting the home itself

The experts and local roofing contractors in Boston note that many homeowners mistakenly assume that a metal roof is heavy and might damage a home, but this is not the case. Metal roofing tiles are lighter than shingles and an excellent option for older homes and structures that have weakened with age.

Synthetic Roofing Materials

Synthetic roofing materials, including plastic, rubber, and other polymers, are increasingly popular with homeowners today due to their low cost, lighter weight, and durability. Synthetic roofing materials are shaped and formed to resemble other materials including wood and slate, and are often highly fire-resistant.

If considering synthetic roofing materials, note the reputation of the manufacturer and any warranty offered. Ensure that your roofing contractor has experience installing synthetic materials, and itrsquo;s even helpful to see a sample of these materials side-by-side with asphalt or slate shingles, to compare their >

Solar Shingles

Todayrsquo;s innovations in solar technology have allowed roofing materials manufacturers to incorporate solar wiring into shingles themselves. Opting for solar shingles allows a homeowner to enjoy solar power in the home without the bulky appearance of full solar panels

Solar shingles can be somewhat costly and itrsquo;s good for homeowners to note the pitch and angle of their homersquo;s roof and how much sunlight the shingles might realistically absorb throughout the day. Remember, too, to check for rebates, tax credits, and other incentives that help to offset the cost of solar shingles when deciding on a new roofing material for your home.

Concrete Roof Tiles

Concrete might not sound like an attractive material for a homersquo;s roof, but concrete is a very versatile substance that can be shaped and formed and then painted, stained, and buffed so that it resembles many other architectural materials. Concrete roof tiles often look just like their more expensive slate counterparts or they might resemble wood roof tiles, while being far less expensive than slate and much more fire-resistant than wood

The downside of concrete roof tiles is that they are often heavy and cumbersome to install. Not every home is a good candidate for concrete roof tiles and their installation might require a specialty contractor, so keep those considerations in mind when shopping for a new residential roof.

Green Roofs

A green roof combines soil, compost, and living plants to create an actual ecosystem on a homersquo;s roof Live plants on a homersquo;s roof adds a protective layer of insulation between the house and outside elements, keeping a home cooler in summertime and warmer in winter.

A green roof also improves surrounding air quality since plants clean the air around them naturally. Some homeowners even grow edible vegetation on their homersquo;s roof, reducing their grocery bills as well as their utility costs. While green roofs have many advantages, they are best suited for sloped roofs, to allow proper water runoff and to prevent water pooling on the homersquo;s roof.

Colored Roofs

No matter the residential roofing material you choose, todayrsquo;s homeowners have more options for color than ever before. Roofs in a red tone offer a rustic charm while a dijon yellow roof can add a splash of subtle color above a white home. Roofs in a slight blue tone are an excellent option for homes painted blue, as the color is often difficult to match and complement.

When choosing a new residential roofing material, consider adding a bit of personality to the house exterior with a splash of color. You will then have a roof that is not only durable and strong but which also enhances your homersquo;s appearance and reflects your own personal >

nbsp;Sean King is a leader in the industry and offers full roof replacements using the best materials. His New England based company, Risk Free Roofing Boston has changed the industry by never asking for deposits, installing roofs in a day and giving quotes in 5 minutes or less. He also warranties his roofs for the entire lifetime of the home.

Full Story >

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Why Is Everyone Moving to Austin?

Migration to Austin has skyrocketed over the last decade; according to MagnifyMoney, ldquo;60 of the cityrsquo;s current residents moved here since 2010.rdquo; That increase in population has put pressure on housing, resulting in diminishing inventory and skyrocketing home prices. Yet, still they come. At a rate of nearly 150 people per day

So what makes Austin so ideal? Wersquo;re breaking it down.

The jobs

Austin has the fastest job growth in the nation 40 since 2006,rdquo; according to MagnifyMoney, along with ldquo;>

The city has been called ldquo;the next Silicon Valleyrdquo; and is even referred to as ldquo;Silicon Hillsrdquo; thanks to the many tech and tech->

bull; Facebook
bull; Apple
bull; Google
bull; eBay
bull; Hewlett-Packard
bull; Dell
bull; IBM
bull; Cisco Systems
bull; 3M
bull; Intel
bull; Samsung

Itrsquo;s weird

The cityrsquo;s motto, ldquo;Keep Austin weird,rdquo; originated as a promotion for the Austin Independent Business Alliancersquo;s small local businesses in the city, and stuck. Today, itrsquo;s representative of a culture that remains a little hippy, a little creative, a little more evolved, and decidedly more liberal than much of the rest of the state of Texas.

Itrsquo;s welcoming

ldquo;The creative, collaborative hub still feels like a small town,rdquo; said Culture Trip. ldquo;Street art, local fashion and jewelry designers, art galleries, and studio walks ndash; Austin is a community that values art and working together. In fact, Austin was ranked the number one place in the U.S. to start a business by CNBC in 2016. Though nearly every chain imaginable is available, Austin runs on small businesses, meaning itrsquo;s possible to eat, shop, and explore for months before stopping by a chain store or restaurant. Food, fitness, and clothing brands join forces most weekends with ample flea markets, farmerrsquo;s markets, and pop-ups to attend.rdquo;

An abundance of events and activities

There is always something to do here, from hanging out in Zilker Park to checking out the live music scene. Events like SXSW in March, the Austin Food amp; Wine Festival in late April, and Austin City Limits in October draw more attentionmdash;and more visitors who then become residentsmdash;to the city.

Great restaurants

ldquo;This ever-expanding city is the epicenter of oak-smoked barbecue and the greasy foothold of Tex-Mex fare,rdquo; said Eater. ldquo;While longtime restaurants keep a close eye on the surprisingly abundant bounty the hot climate provides, new restaurants just keep coming due to Austins >

Plenty of housing

ldquo;There are two things that drive population growthmdash;jobs and affordable housing,rdquo; said Medium. ldquo;Austin has bothhellip;and although housing prices and property values in the city proper continue to rise, cheap land and little regulations in surrounding areas make it easy for developers to build large scale projects quickly. For the past few years, Austinrsquo;s home sales hit a record high according to the Austin Board of Realtors, with little signs of stopping.rdquo;

Home values

Despite the aggressive rise in home prices over the last decade-plusmdash;up 54 since 2006mdash;homebuyers still enjoy appreciation in their homes thanks to the popularity of the city. According to Zillow, Austinrsquo;s current median home value is 365,600. ldquo;Values have gone up 7.6 over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 3.6 within the next year.rdquo;

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Dealing with Bully Offers in a Hot Market

Canadian real estate markets have generally cooled down during the last year, but there are always popular neighborhoods where bidding wars between buyers end up frustrating potential homeowners.

Recently the Ontario Real Estate Association OREA called on the provincial government to outlaw the practice of ldquo;bully offersrdquo;, also known as ldquo;pre-emptive offersrdquo; on real estate listings. In a hot market itrsquo;s common for sellers to delay all offer presentations to a specific time and date, as a way to increase interest in the property, create multiple offers and push up the price of the home.

A bully offer is when someone makes an offer ahead of the predetermined presentation date. Generally, the offer is for a limited time only so the seller does not get to compare it to whatever offers may come in on the set date.

get themselves into trouble if they donrsquo;t handle them correctly.

Last year, the Real Estate Council of Ontario RECO, which regulates salespeople in the province, fined an agent 10,000 in a bully offer case. The agent listed a property with a note stating that there would be a delayed offer presentation, and that all offers had to be registered with the agent by Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. The note said the seller reserved the right to consider pre-emptive offers.

On Feb. 19, a buyerrsquo;s representative contacted the listing salesperson to book a viewing appointment. Later the representative left a voicemail with the listing salesperson for more information about the property but did not get a return phone call.

The listing salesperson showed the property to another of his clients and prepared a bully offer. The offer was accepted and the other sales reps who had booked appointments were informed that the property had been sold and all viewings were cancelled.

RECO fined the agent for violating the industryrsquo;s Code of Ethics by failing to notify all the buyers who had expressed an interest in the property that an offer had come in, and that the offer was from his own client. He was also fined for not returning the voicemail message within a reasonable amount of time and for failing to tell the buyerrsquo;s representative that a written offer had been received for the property when they made the appointment to view the property.

There was nothing illegal about this transaction but it was bound to leave a bad taste in the mouths of all the would-be buyers.

ldquo;If a home listing includes an offer date, thatrsquo;s the date on which all offers should be considered; an offer made before that dateOuml; should not be allowed,rdquo; says OREA president Karen Cox. ldquo;This will ensure that all interested buyers of a particular home get a fair shot at making an offer. For sellers, it means they will have a chance to work with their Realtors to carefully and thoughtfully consider all offers without feeling like they are in a pressure cooker.rdquo;

OREA is also urging the elimination of escalation clauses, which can be used to top any better offer with a previously stipulated amount.

ldquo;A clause that allows a buyer to automatically bump all other offers out of the running in a multiple offer situation makes for a very uneven playing field,rdquo; says Cox. ldquo;Further, for an escalation clause to kick in, a Realtor must reveal private financial information, such as the highest offer on a home, to the buyer using the clause, which violates the Realtor Code of Ethics. Eliminating contradictory rules like this will strengthen consumer confidence in the provincersquo;s real estate market.rdquo;

So why would a buyer make a bully offer, and why would a seller accept one?

ldquo;Buyers sometimes do not want to get into the hassle of bidding and out-bidding other potential buyers during the sale of a property,rdquo; writes salesperson Hani Faraj of Re/Max Little Oak Realty in Vancouver on his blog. ldquo;Sometimes, once theyrsquo;ve settled on the decision to buy a house, they want to close the deal without any fight. A bully offer assures a clean slate from any competition or fight.rdquo;

In a 2013 blog, Toronto broker David Fleming of Bosley Real Estate says, ldquo;I have submitted several bully offers in the past few years that have been accepted, and all of them were at prices lower than what we would have offered on offer night. Thatrsquo;s the whole point, in my opinion. You get to test the waters, see what the sellerrsquo;s expectations are, and maybe yoursquo;ll get lucky.rdquo;

But Fleming says in his experience, less than 10 per cent of bully offers are successful.

ldquo;Irsquo;ve also been on the receiving end of several bully offers, as a listing agent, and I have never encouraged my sellers to accept them. Each and every time Irsquo;ve received a bully offer, Irsquo;ve always sold the house at a higher price on offer night. And more often than not, the agent who submitted the bully offer has come back with something higher on offer night.rdquo;

Faraj says bully offers sometimes seem attractive because they generally offer a good price and no conditions. An anxious seller may believe the price offered is the best they will get. He says sellers should consult with their Realtors and make sure they understand the valuation of the property.

ldquo;If the idea of receiving and dealing with bully offers gives you too much stress, inform your Realtor that you do not accept any such offers,rdquo; he says.

Full Story >

5 Things That Can Do Double Duty When Cleaning Your House

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers

Dirty baseboards. Scuff marks on sneakers. Crayon or pen on painted walls. Shower scum. What do they all have in common? They can be cleaned with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Theyrsquo;re good in a pinch and also as a regular addition to your cleaning regime, so do like we do and buy them in bulk

Dryer Sheets

The sheet that keeps static cling away from your clothes while theyrsquo;re drying can also be useful in a few other areas of your home. Have company coming over and just realized yoursquo;re out of Swiffer Dusters? Run that Bounce over your surfaces, instead. The bonus: If you have scented dryer sheets, theyrsquo;ll leave a fresh smell behind. You can also use them to wipe window casings, baseboards, and doors that tend to collect dust and dirt in the grooves.

Sponges and Dishwashing Gloves

Forget those pots and pans. Sponges and dishwashing gloves can also help clean dog hair off of upholstered surfaces. This tip could come in very handy for a last-minute cleanup when you donrsquo;t have time to vacuum. For regular cleaning of dog hair on a stubborn surface like a low-pile rug, try a dog brush. The short, stuff bristles make it easy to gather the hair.

White Vinegar

Itrsquo;s not just for salad dressing Vinegar is a multi-purpose cleaning agent, and one you can feel good about if yoursquo;re looking to stay away from harsh chemicals and commercial cleaners.

ldquo;If you could invent a green-cleaning lsquo;wonderrsquo; product, it would probably end up being a lot like white vinegar,rdquo; said The Spruce. ldquo;Safe, readily available, and really cheap, there are perhaps hundreds of uses for vinegar. There are at least two great uses for vinegar in your automatic dishwasher. First, it can be used as a cheap, effective rinsing agent to get your glasses, plates, and other dishes sparkling clean. Second, it can help to clean the dishwasher itself: Once a year or so more if you have hard water, pour a cup of white vinegar into an empty dishwasher, then run it for a short cycle to get rid of the lime and soap build-up that can prevent your dishwasher from working at peak efficiency.rdquo;

White vinegar is also great for cleaning tile and caulk, ldquo;windows, hardwood floors, carpet stains, fireplace bricks and irons, CDs and DVDs, shower curtains, upholstery, mattresses, wood furniture when combined with olive oil, and glassware. If its in your house, you can probably clean it with vinegar.rdquo;


Pick up a few extra lemons at the market because yoursquo;ll get more use out of them than just as a squeeze in your water. ldquo;High in citric acid, lemon juice is one of the best natural cleaners due to its low pH and antibacterial properties,rdquo; said Networx.

These are just a few of the ways you can use lemon to clean your place:

bull; Spray on chrome faucets
bull; Rub on cutting boards
bull; Squeeze on an old toothbrush to scrub grout
bull; Add two tablespoons to a bowl of water to steam clean your microwave
bull; Place half lemon on a saucer to make your refrigerator smell fresh
bull; Spray a mixture of lemon juice and water onto windows to get them streak-free and clean
bull; Use half a cut lemon to remove hard water stains from glass shower doors

Lemon can also breathe new life into tarnished brass. ldquo;Its no secret we think this citrus fruit is one of the hardest-working cleaners when it comes to stains and smells, but it can also banish tarnish on brass,rdquo; said Good Housekeeping. ldquo;Sprinkle problem spots with salt, then run a lemon juice-soaked sponge on top, and rinse it off with water.rdquo;

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What Exactly is a Manual Underwrite?

Today, loans are preapproved with an Automated Underwriting System, or AUS. When someone fills out an online application, the digital file is downloaded by the lender, reviewed and then entered into the AUS. This process is a rapid one, as the ldquo;findingsrdquo; of the submission are returned within a matter of moments. This speeds up the loan approval process tremendously. Prior to the advent of automated underwriting systems, the loan file was documented prior to submitting for an approval. With an automated system, the process is reversed. The loan is submitted for evaluation and documented afterward.

Note, the result of a submission isnrsquo;t a loan approval. Instead, itrsquo;s provides the lender with guidance on how to properly document the loan in order for the loan to be eligible for sale in the secondary market. Itrsquo;s the lender that approves the loan, not the AUS.

Most findings run down a basic checklist of items needed and theyrsquo;re fairly standard. Most recent pay check stubs covering 30 days, W2 forms from the last two years, tax returns and other pieces of documentation are listed.

The lender reviews the list, includes the items mentioned in the findings, and then sends the loan to the underwriter for a final review. This final review makes sure that whatever is asked for by the findings matches up with what is included in the file. Once that determination has been made, loan papers are prepared for delivery to the settlement agent.

But sometimes therersquo;s a hitch. Sometimes the findings come back with a term listed as ldquo;refer/eligible.rdquo; A submission returned with a response means the lender must make the determination without the benefit of an automated approval. A loan with a refer attached does not mean the loan has been turned down, but there is something that is holding up an automated approval. The lender can review and approve the loan internally and still be able to sell the loan in the secondary market. That is, as long as the items causing the loan to receive such a status have been resolved.

A common reason for a refer status is having a bankruptcy listed in the credit history. For example, there is an FHA loan submitted and a Chapter 13 discharge is showing up in the findings less than two years old. A refer/eligible will be the result because the discharge was less than two years old. Another reason is a thin credit file. A thin credit file is a credit report with very few, if any, open credit accounts.

When a lender receives a refer/eligible, the task is to find other positive aspects of the loan file that compensate for whatever is causing the application to be returned without a preapproval. An extended job history is a compensating factor. Having cash reserves left over after the loan closes is another. Maybe there is another source of regular income that doesnrsquo;t have a long enough history of being received.

Borrowers donrsquo;t have to figure out on their own how to correct a refer/eligible, the loan officer will be able to provide a list of what is needed. Once the items causing the refer/eligible are included in the file, the loan can then be returned to the underwriter for a final review and ultimate approval.

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Ask the HOA Expert: Welcome to the HOA Board

What does it mean to be on the board? You have made a commitment that you will serve the HOArsquo;s interests to the best of your ability, be fair on matters that come before the board, will do your best to preserve and enhance the values of the common areas and that you will spend money in a prudent manner. Being a director also means that you have fiduciary duties which require making reasonable investigation into matters dealt with and acting in a businesslike, prudent manner when making decisions.

Who is going to teach you? Hopefully, you have several veterans on the board who will help you. Ideally, you will have the property manager who works closely with the board and is willing to offer guidance. Continuity is one of a boardrsquo;s greatest challenges. Ask questions. How have issues been handled in the past?. Current boards should carefully consider plans laid by previous boards and not change them impulsively. Take time to become familiar with your association grounds and facilities. Review the HOArsquo;s governing documents, the rules and regulations, and any other board policies to develop a familiarity with them. Keep a set handy for when specific questions arise.
Make a commitment to attend all board meetings and prepare in advance by studying the agenda and >

Budget time offers an opportunity to help build a sound financial future for the community. The two basic parts of the budget are Operating deals with routine maintenance and day to day expenses and Reserves long range, major repairs and replacements. As a member of the board, you will be asked to predict future financial needs by using both past budget history and new information accumulated for future repairs.

How much does the job pay? While no money is paid, there are many personal rewards to be had for a job well done. Dealing with people requires patience and flexibility. Remember that while disagreement is not always avoidable, you were elected to make decisions. Consider carefully those decisions put before you and do your best. If you serve as a committed member, it will be one of the more rewarding experiences that you will have.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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Preparing to Buy Your New Home 5 Things You Must Know

Location Location Location

Be sure to look into the local school district. If you have children, it goes without saying that the quality of the school is key to your childs educational experience. The school evaluation, however, also includes the quality of the grounds and facilities. This is a major structure in the neighborhood and its condition can affect the surrounding property values. For childless homeowners, the school districts are still a factor. Because the school quality influences home buying decisions, it has a direct effect on resale and property value.

nbsp;Proximity is not just about schools. Consider how close you need to be from modern conveniences like the grocery store, freeway entrance, the mall or a local watering hole. For prospective homeowners that prefer a rural life>

Financial Commitment

Purchasing a home is one of the largest decisions that most people make. It was once expected that nearly every individual buy a home, but today, that isnt necessarily financially feasible. Real estate is a long-term investment and your timeline must be considered. If you are moving within a few years, you might want to rent. Although real estate is a great investment, it is not a short-term investment. Having your money tied to property might affect your liquidity when you need to move.

If you are moving into an unfamiliar area, you might not want to buy immediately. Taking the time to look round, gives you the opportunity to learn about neighborhoods and community points of interest that will drive your property decisions.

Running the Well Dry

Most spend every penny to get into a new house, especially first-time buyers, but this is not the best practice. Be sure to have a contingency fund for all of the unexpected costs. Although the home warranty covers most of the house, most operate on a pre-payment reimbursement plan. But warranty aside, other costs will arise. For example, most power companies require a deposit. If you have money set aside in your home fund right from the beginning, you can add to it as you go for post-warranty work.

Loving Your Space

Your new home is more than indoor living. Your surrounding outdoor space will provide hours of entertainment for your friends and family. Landscaping the front yard for curb appeal is important. If you are not the hands-on type, you might want to consider a home with a functional landscape. Regardless, the front yard adds aesthetic value to the homes appeal.

But lets be real, the backyard is where the entertaining happens. If the home you are considering needs more zip, consider installing a pool or hot tub to guarantee hours of family fun. Try looking upnbsp;some great pool ideas that will fit your backyard. Also, having a barbeque area with dedicated conversation space, a kid play area, or a fun space for the dogs are all things to consider when looking at the perimeter areas of a home.

Untapped Potential

Visualizing beyond today is also key. If the area has undeveloped or underdeveloped land in the surrounding areas, research the community master plan or land ownership. It would be unfortunate to buy a beautiful home and have an industrial area built too close. This also goes the other way. Taking a risk on an older property with older buildings that are ripe for repurposing might be a smart investment too.

Whatever you decide when looking for your new home, be sure to think about what works for you. This is your investment. Are you ready to invest in your future?

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Great Exterior Tips for Selling Properties

Make Minor Repairs

One of the easiest and affordable things that you could do to improve the overall curb appeal of your home would be to make minor repairs to your property. If you have some past due maintenance needs or other repairs, making these repairs before you list your home for sale would be a great option. Any past due maintenance and repair needs will look like red flags to a potential buyer and making these repairs yourself could go a long way.

Clean Up Landscaping

When you are looking to improve the exterior of your home, one of the most important things that you need to do is clean up your landscaping. One of the biggest turnoffs that can occur when someone sees a new home is a landscaping plan that looks messy and disheveled. Not only will it look like a big project, but it would also hurt the overall curb appeal of the property. Because of this, you should spend cleaning up your landscaping all over the home before listing it for sale.

Pressure Wash

Nobody wants to move into a property that looks dirty and messy. Because of this, you should do everything you can to make the exterior of your home look as clean as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to use a pressure washer to clean all of your siding and walkways. This will help to make your entire home look fresh and clean and will give great curb appeal. When using a pressure washer, you need to make sure that you use the right setting for your type of exterior walls.

Pool Installation

Depending on where you live, one of the best things that you could do to your home would be to install a pool. A new pool will not only help to improve your outdoor living space, but it will give a great place to entertain. If you have a pool already, you may want to have it repaired and give it a face-lift. Both of these options will help to improve the overall appearance. When hiring swimming pool contractors, residents will be able to receive some additional ideas that could be used to make the pool look more attractive.

Structural Repairs

If you are selling your home, all of the potential buyers will likely want to have a home inspection completed. Because of this, you should look out for things inside and outside of your own could be alarming to buyers. For the exterior of the home, one of the biggest things that you should look for are structural concerns. If there are any structural issues that you see, you should hire a professional to examine them. This could help to prevent your home sale from falling apart during the inspection process.


If you have lighting on the exterior of your property, you should make sure that it is functional and turned on. This will help to ensure that your lighting system is working right. If you have a visitor at night, it will also give a great curb appeal improvement to any buyer.

When you are looking to improve the landscaping and overall exterior of your home, you should consider the individual needs of your property. A local real estate professional should be able to provide you with a fair assessment of your property to get you a better sense of what needs to be done.

Full Story >

5 Ways to Make Your Backyard Look Amazing

You have your dream house and it even has a nice backyard, yet you arenrsquo;t quite sure how to make your backyard stand out. Yoursquo;ve thrown around a couple of ideas but none of them have really stuck. This is normal and it takes some time to figure out what you want to do to make your backyard a place of refuge and enjoyment. Depending on your life>

nbsp;Here are five ideas that could be added to your backyard to make it look fabulous:


This can be a win-win situation because you get a great patio and you donrsquo;t have to water or take care of that part of your lawn anymore. A patio does require some upkeep, but it isnrsquo;t as intense as keeping a lawn looking pristine. A patio is a great place to invite friends over and have great late night evenings or afternoon tea outdoors.

If you have no idea where to start, let alone how to decorate it, there are a lot of patio ideas out on the internet to get your creative juices flowing.nbsp; nbsp;


If parties with friends every night isnrsquo;t really your thing, consider starting a garden. If you enjoy being out in the yard surrounded by nature and getting a little dirty, a garden could be perfect for you. There are a lot of benefits to having a garden because it provides you with fresh food that is straight from your own backyard.

Having a garden in your backyard is a beautiful way to give your yard some color. You can have a flower garden, a produce garden, or maybe even an herb and succulent garden if that is more your speed. Whatever you decide on, make sure it is something that is appealing and fun.


Bring the outdoors and camping to your own backyard with a barbeque or a barbeque pit. You can spend your summer grilling away and trying new recipes, letting you bring the camping food home without having to plan a camping trip and worrying about traveling. You can also enjoy the company of your friends as you host a summer barbeque. This is a great way to expand your cooking skills and add grilling to the list. You can try a variety of recipes and the list of foods to grill can seem endless.nbsp;nbsp;


Who doesnrsquo;t want a pool in their backyard? When taken care of and when it is well-maintained, pools can be a great way to beat the heat without having to go to the local swimming pool. There are a variety of pools that are made for each specific individual and their needs. Custom pools can be built by companies and will blow you out of the water with how gorgeous they look.nbsp;

Having a swimming pool in your backyard saves you time and the stress of loading family members up into a car every time they want to go to the pool. You and your kids can have the freedom of going to the pool whenever they want on a daily basis with a swimming pool in your backyard.


This is a perfect idea if you plan on having a family or if you have small kids. Treehouses are a fun way to add character to your backyard. Your kids or yourself can have the joy of decorating and painting the inside or outside of the treehouse. This will give your kid priceless childhood memories of being outside and enjoying something that is a somewhat rare find in backyardrsquo;s today. You can build one yourself or hire someone to build a treehouse for you.

Itrsquo;s time to turn your backyard into your dream backyard.nbsp;

Full Story >

3 Things to Consider Before Investing in a Rental Property

Of course, itrsquo;s not exactly passive income. Yoursquo;ll probably be managing renters, hiring yard care and cleaning, and taking care of repairs. Even if you hire a management company, you still need to ensure that these responsibilities are covered.

Itrsquo;s also important to make sure the investment property you choose sets you up for success. There are a lot of mistakes to avoid. With that in mind, here are three things to consider before investing in a rental property.

Understand the Numbers

Before you invest in any rental property, itrsquo;s vital to understand both your financial situation prior to the purchase, as well as, the financial results after the purchase. Letrsquo;s look at each one.

Your Starting Financial Status

Before you even think about property investment, make sure you have everything you needmdash;personally and professionally. Are you paying your bills easily? Are you in trouble with debt? Do you have enough cash flow for emergencies, insurance, and retirement for your personal life?

If not, now is not the time to invest in a rental property. You canrsquo;t buy a home and expect renters to arrive and bail you out of a difficult situation. You want to invest from a position of strength, not an area of desperation.

Once your personal life is in order, take a look at your savings. Do you have money for a down payment? Can you afford homeownerrsquo;s insurance, taxes, fees, and repairs? Remember, the more you borrow, the less your property will return to you.

The Rental Property Itself

Once yoursquo;re in the right position to invest in a property, you want to understand the numbers behind each purchase option you evaluate. You need to choose one where the return on investment is strong, to ensure that you will actually have an investment and not a burden on your hands.

Consider the location and size of the property to determine how much rent it will command. Think about whether quality tenants want to live in that area. Donrsquo;t overlook the repairs yoursquo;ll need to make if itrsquo;s not a turnkey property.

Compare your return against your expected expenses to make sure yoursquo;re receiving positive cash flow from the property over time. Think about taxes, fees, periodic repairs, and anything yoursquo;re paying to a management company. Donrsquo;t forget to factor in the mortgage payments as well

Look for a Desirable Location

High-quality renters are attracted to top-of-the-line spaces. It may seem like a great deal to invest in a run-down property or an undesirable part of town because you can get it for a low price. However, even if the expected lower rent is a good return, the truth is that you wonrsquo;t get quality renters.

You need to find an area that people want to live in long-term. Otherwise, your property will be a revolving door, and yoursquo;ll always be looking for new tenants. Each month of vacancy is money out of your pocket and dramatically reduces your return on investment.

Think about the good schools and transit routes in your area and look for desirable properties near those amenities. If you can find something near great restaurants, parks, and entertainment, thatrsquo;s even better.

Of course, these better properties will cost more. However, knowing that you have a desirable location with long-term tenants will make the financial outcome worthwhile. You will also have the added benefit of appreciation. In more desirable areas, the value of your investment will appreciate much faster than in undesirable areas.

Consider Your Risks

Any investment has a risk of loss. Thatrsquo;s why therersquo;s the possibility of a return When yoursquo;re considering an investment property, you need to think carefully about the risks of renting and be prepared to handle them.

Vacancy is probably the most significant risk. Having months of no tenants means having months of no income, but your expenses will remain the same. Itrsquo;s important to limit this risk as much as possible by choosing a high-quality property in a desirable area. You should also budget to have some additional cash available in case you face lean times.

You also want to be prepared for major repairs. Sometimes these can be planned, and sometimes they pop up out of nowhere. Having proper insurance and a reserve fund is vital.

Finally, you need to be ready in case you have difficult tenants. Some may pay late, promise to pay but never do so, or even need to be evicted. Handling these issues is time-consuming, so be sure to have a plan in place ahead of time.

Be Prepared Before You Invest

Having a rental property can be highly profitable if you do it well. Once yoursquo;ve taken these considerations into account, yoursquo;ll be able to tell if you have the right opportunity in front of you.

When you go in with a clear vision, yoursquo;ll set yourself up for success.

Full Story >

Seeing It All When Viewing Property

When buyers attend an open house or view a listed property with a real estate professional, itrsquo;s what buyers donrsquo;t see that may be most important.

When buyers >

To start with, itrsquo;s essential to view listed properties with a professional who is working for you, not the seller. At first meeting with a real estate professional, and before you share negotiated details like how much you have to spend, ask the ldquo;Who do you work for?rdquo; question. For instance, real estate professionals who represent the seller through the listing agreement work for the seller.

To create the best context for viewing suitable properties, your professional will explain location, including value based on the community, the street, and the >

Inexperience in viewing can cause buyers to make a misplaced emotional connection with the property or to emotionally turn-off before fully appreciating a propertyrsquo;s benefits.

Six Essential Questions for Seeing It All When Viewing Property
Before you enter or as you tour a property, ask your real estate professional:

1. How can I avoid being distracted by decor or a mess?

You understand that while the land cannot be moved, the house can be dramatically changed or replaced. That knowledge does not automatically make you great at seeing beyond sellersrsquo; choices and preferences. Real estate professionals have viewed hundreds of homes and have learned not to be distracted by decor or staging. Ask your professional to point out any thing that might distract you from true value or that would go unappreciated. Are there enough electrical outlets and storage in each room? Acoustics matter, especially with open concept.

For example, are main floor bathrooms sound insulated? Staging may use scaled-down furniture to make rooms appear larger or use striking furniture placement to camouflage awkward-to-decorate areas. If you have special furnishings to accommodate, like a large bed or dining table, be prepared to measure spaces yourself to verify fit and feasibility.

2. Are permits and receipts available for recent renovations?

Ask exactly what work, including energy-efficiency and environmental features, was done and by whom. Are copies of renovation receipts, permits, and warranties available? A sellerrsquo;s do-it-yourself DIY efforts may not be up to code or durable. If problems arise later, insurance companies may not pay your claim if DIY work by the previous owners is involved. While you view the property, ask your professional to point out details that demonstrate solid workmanship and those that reveal sloppy or amateurish work. For instance, laying the floor down first in a kitchen or bathroom renovation is the right approach. This ensures appliances slide out without damaging the floor when repairs are necessary and that a leak is visible on the floor not hidden under it.

3. Are there signs of water damage or flooding?

Sellers can cover up water stains, but other evidence, including smells, may linger. ldquo;When did the basement last leak?rdquo; is the right question to have sellers answer. Basements leak at sometime in their lives, so discover the history of the foundation and its walls and yoursquo;ll know what to base an offer on. If waterproofing or drainage management was done, are copies of receipts, warranties etc. available? Ask about area flooding and what was done on the property and street to protect the home in the future. If flooding was an issue in the past, flood insurance may be wise, but at what cost?

4. How old is...?

Ask how old the roof, furnace, air conditioning system, wiring, plumbing, windows, applianceshellip;are, so you can calculate what costs and repairs to expect in the first few years of ownership. For example, a five-year-old fridge may already be failing. An improperly-installed roof or one installed over a layer or two of shingles may not last the twenty-five years that roofs used to.

5. What future renovations would be practical and cost-effective?

Renovations, which may seem obvious as you walk through a listed property, may have been explored by current owners and found to be too expensive to undertake. That may be why they are moving or at least one main reason. Buyers intent on open concept may be surprised to discover that simply removing a wall can be a very expensive project if the wall is load-bearing and packed full of wiring and pipes. Structural engineers are the ones to ask when you need to know which walls are load-bearing since walls just look like walls to the rest of us.

6. Is what I see what I will get?

Property lines can only be accurately established through a professional survey. Is there an up-to-date survey available? Fences, hedges, roof gutters, and outbuildings may seem to be on the listed property but may actually be on neighborrsquo;s land. Open lawn may seem an ideal location for a pool or basketball court, but invisible easements and other rights of way may prohibit construction. Ask while your viewing. Donrsquo;t assume and get a nasty surprise when you move in.

Pictures and video may be helpful as you walk through a property, but ldquo;understandingrdquo; and ldquo;seeingrdquo; more than the camera may capture is vital.
Buyers who spend more time behind the camera than inspecting and observing for themselves may not learn as much about the value and suitability of the property as they could.

When viewing a property, remember, you are not there to document the visit or to take over someone elsersquo;s home. The purpose in viewing is to see beyond the obvious for value and potential from your point of view. What you see and discover with a professionalrsquo;s help will determine where value lies for you as the offer is created and negotiations begin.

Additional resources by PJ Wade
bull; ldquo;Home Buyer Assumptions Are Expensiverdquo;
bull; ldquo;Home Buying Checklist: What Else Does Location Mean?ldquo;
bull; ldquo;Buying: From Whose Perspective?rdquo;

Full Story >

How to Make Your New House Feel Like a Home

Have Big Projects Done First

Feeling comfy and cozy is all but impossible when there are major renovations to be done that may leave sections of the house blocked off and covered in sawdust, so get these done first. That includes knocking down walls for an open floorplan, replacing old flooring or remodeling entire kitchens and bathrooms. In fact, itrsquo;s probably better to have this completed before you move in.

Unless yoursquo;re an expert yourself, yoursquo;re going to need a contractor. This isnrsquo;t cheap, either, with their services ranging in price from 2,855 to 12,333 in Ft. Worth. That means you need to be careful in who you select. An expert at HGTV suggests getting referrals from friends and neighbors, then following up by checking the remodelerrsquo;s credentials and getting references.

Get Your Own Hands Dirty

There are a number of smaller projects that you can handle yourself, so keep a close eye on those power tools during the move. You may want to start with the basics, such as refinishing hardwood floors, setting down new tiles or painting. The latter especially helps with settling in, as you can choose a color that reflects who you are and your sense of >

Once thatrsquo;s done, why not get artistic? Consider using stones to create a mosaic walkway for your garden or cutting an old door in half to repurpose it as a shelf. When yoursquo;ve built up enough confidence in your skills, you can tackle that gazebo project that yoursquo;ve always wanted.

Add a Bit of Your History

By now, you should have some idea where to place those photographs of your family. Those and other personal items should give you a sense of continuity in your life even though you are someplace new. Yoursquo;ll get the same effect by incorporating heirlooms into the decor, even if theyrsquo;re not the best fit. As designer Phillip Thomas told The Wall Street Journal, ldquo;There are times when sentiment trumps everything.rdquo;

Other items yoursquo;ll want to put on prominent display to add warmth include old hardcover books and gifts yoursquo;ve received from loved ones. Hopefully, you havenrsquo;t left your childrenrsquo;s art behind, as that can be incorporated in numerous ways that donrsquo;t involve a refrigerator and some magnets. Collages and wall displays are just a few ways to give it a bit of pep.

Explore the Neighborhood

You need to know where everything is anyway, so you might as well take a drive, bike ride or walk with the family. Things to look out for include the practical, such as banks and grocery stores, as well as the entertaining, like restaurants and bars.

While yoursquo;re out and about, introduce yourself to the locals and neighbors, but be sure to be courteous.nbsp;For starters, if someonersquo;s quickly entering or leaving their home, theyrsquo;ve probably got something to do and donrsquo;t want to be disturbed. The best tactic may be to knock on their door at a less busy time and say hello. Donrsquo;t forget to invite them when you ...

Throw a Party

Itrsquo;s not only a great way to break the ice with the neighbors, your friends and family will learn the directions to your new dwelling. Besides, the liquor cabinet is still empty, and that could be easily fixed with a BYOB policy. Other ideas include throwing a local culture shindig in which everyone brings a local specialty.

After the party, itrsquo;s time to clean up, and thatrsquo;s when you know yoursquo;re really home.


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Gen Xers Driving Multi-Generational Housing Trend

This Is Us. Jane the Virgin. Black-ish. What do they have in common? They are all family television programs that have members of multiple generations living under one roof. But the reality of multi-generational living is more than storyline fodder.

According to the 2019 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report by the National Association of REALTORSreg; NAR, this continues to be a growing trend among homebuyers, and itrsquo;s being driven largely by Gen Xers. Not only does this group make up the second-largest band of homebuyers today at 24, one in six have purchased a multi-gen home.

That surpasses ldquo;younger Baby Boomers as the generation most likely to do so,rdquo; said Multi-Housing News. ldquo;Of the Gen X multi-generational buyers, 52 percent said they did so to accommodate adult children who moved back home or never left.rdquo; Nine percent of millennials purchased a multi-generational property they could share with aging parents, per the report.

There are a number of factors at play here, such as the rising housing prices encompassing both for sale properties and rentals, and the staggering amount of student debt holding that may be holding buyers back. According to the NAR report, ldquo;Gen Xers and older millennial buyers carry the highest median student debt balancesrdquo; at 30,000.

ldquo;The high cost of rent and lack of affordable housing inventory is sending adult children back to their parentsrsquo; homes either out of necessity or an attempt to save money,rdquo; said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR. ldquo;While these multigenerational homes may not be what a majority of Americans expect out of homeownership, this method allows younger potential buyers the opportunity to gain their financial footing and transition into homeownership. In fact, younger millennials are the most likely to move directly out of their parentsrsquo; homes into homeownership, circumventing renting altogether.rdquo;

If yoursquo;re looking to take the multigenerational plunge, these tips will help you find the right place and make it work.

Look for a home that was built with multi-generational living in mind

Schumacher Homes, Lennar, and Plantation Homes are just a few of the builders offering a multi-gen solution in a brand-new residence.

Tailor your home search

If a brand-new home or one thatrsquo;s already prepared for multi-generational living isnrsquo;t doable, look for a home thatrsquo;s easily convertible. A downstairs bedroom and bath is key for older residents, and if it has a bathroom en-suitemdash;even better A home with a basement or attic may seem like an ideal place to turn into a grandparentrsquo;s haven, but stairs can be dangerous. Also, if an aging parent uses a walker or wheelchair, the upstairs may become inaccessible to them.

A property with a guesthouse or enough land on which to place a granny suite or tiny home is another option. Just make sure the land is zoned properly to accommodate this type of structure.

Make smart renovations

Why not just renovate your existing home? Taking down walls to create an open floorplan is a smart move that can have a positive impact on your homersquo;s value. Creating a more open space can also help make a home more accessible for aging parents.

The National Association of Home Buildersrsquo; NAHB Aging-In-Place Remodeling Checklist recommends a ldquo;5-foot by 5-foot clear/turn space in living area, kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom.rdquo; Wide hallways that measure a minimum of 36-inches across, good lighting, and non-slip flooring are a few more key recommendations.

Full Story >

Ask the HOA Expert: Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Conflict caused by concealing the truth, bending others to your will, or seeking revenge is clearly counter productive. But conflict can also be fueled by good intentions in a desire to be understood, loved, respected, or vindicated.

Conflict can arouse different kinds of responses. One response is to run, hide or deny the problem exists. Another response is to attack either verbally, physically or legally. Neither of these responses diminishes the conflict and usually has quite the opposite effect. The only real long term solutions to conflict are peacemaking responses like:

1. Overlook the Conflict. Just because we get slapped doesn=t mean we have to get even. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves only the blind and toothless.

2. Reconciliation. Making amends is not only the right thing to do, it >

3. Mediation. Pride is a high mountain to climb. Sometimes, a little help from a friend is needed to build a bridge of reconciliation.

4. Accountability. Rather than stand idly by while a neighbor engages in self destructive or harmful behavior, intercede in a caring way.

Peacemakers do not avoid conflict but confront it directly with the goal of reconciliation. Reconciliation is not always easy to achieve because the human heart can be hard. But blessed are the peacemakers who point the way.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.netnbsp;

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Top Tips to Make Your Offer Stick

If yoursquo;re looking for an edge to ensure you get the home you want, we have some tips.

Work with the right real estate agent

You canrsquo;t underestimate the experience and skills of a quality real estate agent. Not only will a great agent be able to guide you toward the best properties for you, but also may be able to use their network to identify homes that arenrsquo;t even be on the market yet or to work closely with an agent to get your offer accepted.

Make sure your offer is first

Some sellers will hold off on accepting an offer to see if they get more offers. There might not be anything you can do to entice them unless yoursquo;re planning to make an offer thatrsquo;s over their asking price. But being the early bird can have its benefits. That may mean being ready to run to a listing at a momentrsquo;s notice, or giving the thumbs up via Facetime if one of you canrsquo;t leave work the minute the perfect home hits the MLS.

Go without an inspection

This is risky, and your real estate agent may advise you against this. We would only offer it as an option in cases where yoursquo;re being shut out of home after home and are looking to do extensive renovations anyway.

Up your budget

If yoursquo;ve made several offers on homes and have thus far been unsuccessful, yoursquo;ve probably already had a discussion with your real estate agent about increasing your budget. Herersquo;s another really good reason to go ahead and put more money toward your home purchase: It could allow you to move into another price bracket. If yoursquo;re a first-time buyer who is looking in a lower price range, yoursquo;re in the most competitive market there is. Adding even a few thousand dollars could make the difference, and the change to your monthly mortgage payment will be negligible.

Consider the associated expenses

If yoursquo;re worried about upping your budget, think about how you can save on associated expenses, and put that money into your mortgage, instead. Look for homes without a homeownerrsquo;s association. That could save you up to several hundred dollars per month. Look at areas where you donrsquo;t have to pay a toll for your daily commute. That adds up. If yoursquo;re looking at attached properties, front-yard maintenance may be included, and there may also be an on-site gym. There are two monthly expenses you can get rid of.

Watch the contingencies

ldquo;Sellers have the upper hand in a multiple-bid situation, and they want offers that are clean and concise,rdquo; said NerdWallet. Bruce Ailion, Atlanta-based Re/Max Town amp; Country Agent, told them, ldquo;Donrsquo;t include things like needing to wait for a spouse or partnerrsquo;s approval, asking the seller to purchase a home warranty or requesting that the seller leaves or repairs certain items. You also donrsquo;t want to ask the seller to pay your closing costs; find an affordable attorney or title company to represent you. Having too many of these items in your contract will make it likely that a seller tells you lsquo;norsquo; over another offer.rdquo;
Be flexible

In a multiple-offer situation, the seller is looking for the easiest path to closing. Provide that, and you just might be the homersquo;s new owner. The trick is finding out what they really wantmdash;beyond the right price, of course. It could be that a shorter closing would do the trick. Or maybe you can offer them the opportunity to rent back until school gets out so their child can finish up the year.

Write a letter

Yes, writing a sappy letter to the seller telling them all about you and why you love their home so much is shameless pandering, but sometimes shameless pandering works. Donrsquo;t forget to include pictures, and the cuter your kids look, the better.

Full Story >

Does Hardwood Flooring Increase Property Values?

Hardwood Floors Sell Homes With a Neutral Look

Many real estate agents advise their clients to keep their homersquo;s decor as neutral as possible when putting that house on the market. Prospective home buyers often have a difficult time imagining their own color choices and personal belongings in a home with an eclectic or unusual look, so a simple but warm decor often appeals to more homebuyers.

Hardwood floors sell homes with a neutral look that appeals to a wide range of buyers. For example, a prospective buyer who prefers a modern >

Hardwood Flooring, Durable for Years

People in the market for a new home donrsquo;t like to think of moving into a house and having to immediately make extensive or even minor repairs or updates. No matter their other features and even a homersquo;s price, buyers tend to overlook houses with sagging wood window sills, a dilapidated roof, outdated plumbing and electrical features, and other materials in poor repair, in favor of homes in good condition.

This is true for a homersquo;s interior floors; old and worn carpeting inside your house can cause a prospective buyer to move on to another property rather quickly. However, hardwood flooring is durable for years Even if itrsquo;s a few years old, wood flooring is likely to be in good condition when yoursquo;re ready to put your home on the market, ensuring that you donrsquo;t lose any prospective buyers simply because of the condition or appearance of your homersquo;s floors.

The Most Durable Wood Floors Withstand Wear and Tear

The most durable wood floors will appeal to a wide range of buyers who are looking for a ldquo;turn keyrdquo; home, meaning one in good condition, as said. However, many prospective homebuyers want a flooring material that will remain in good condition long after theyrsquo;ve moved in as well

Even if a house has >

The Ease of Cleaning Hardwood Floors

While carpet fibers are softer underfoot than wood floor tiles, those fibers are also notorious for trapping dirt, dust, mud, pet hair and dander, human hair and shed skin cells, insect droppings, cigarette ash, pollen, and a list of other irritants Regular vacuuming and consistent shampooing or steam cleaning by a professional is cumbersome and expensive but typically the only way to keep a homersquo;s carpets clean and hygienic.

Prospective homebuyers know that the density of solid hardwood floors makes them much more hygienic overall and easier to keep clean on a daily basis. Solid wood floors wonrsquo;t trap dirt and dust and typically need nothing more than a light dust mopping to stay clean. For prospective buyers who demand a clean flooring surface and donrsquo;t appreciate lugging a heavy vacuum around every day, hardwood flooring makes your home much more valuable in their eyes

Can You Paint Solid or Engineered Hardwood?

Another great selling point when it comes to hardwood floors is that you can paint or stain solid or engineered hardwood. The wood floor experts at Kansas City Flooring Pros note that a professional flooring contractor should first sand the floors properly before recoating, to create a surface that will hold paint or stain properly without removing so much timber that you damage the floor slats or create grooves and swirl patterns along the floor.

However, if left in the hands of a professional, painting solid or engineered hardwood floors allows you to change their appearance as often as you want, going from a light whitewash to a dark walnut stain and everything in between While you can dye carpeting, this process is not as versatile as painting or staining hardwood when it comes to giving your homersquo;s interior a fresh new look. Prospective homebuyers might appreciate the option of changing the appearance of a homersquo;s floor somewhat easily over time, making your home more appealing to them.

Hardwood is a Floor Option for All Seasons

If your home is located in an area with extremes in weather, hardwood floor tiles are an excellent option and one that many prospective homebuyers might appreciate. In colder climates, a dark paint or stain color will keep the homersquo;s interior warm. In tropical climates or areas with long, hot summers, a gray or whitewash floor color keeps a home cool and comfortable.

Prospective homebuyers might also appreciate that they can place a thick area rug over wood floors during cold weather and then remove that rug during summertime, to keep the homersquo;s floors comfortable no matter the weather. Changing the appearance of a homersquo;s floor this way is also an option if a homeowner tends to change a roomrsquo;s decor throughout the year, as they can also change the area rugs and their new homersquo;s flooring will always coordinate perfectly with the overall appearance of its surroundings.

Full Story >

Can You Skip a Payment When Refinancing?

Mortgage interest is paid in arrears. That means that on the first of every month when the mortgage payment is due, an amount goes directly to the outstanding principal balance and the remaining goes toward interest paid for the previous month. If last month had 31 days, the mortgage payment would include an amount to pay for accrued interest over the 31 day period.

Contrast this with prepaid interest. Prepaid interest is collected on all new mortgage loans whether the note is used to finance the purchase of a home or when refinancing. You may or may not remember but when you closed on your first mortgage the new lender collected prepaid interest depending upon the day of your closing.

If for example you closed and funded on the 20th of the month, the new lender would collect prepaid daily interest up to the first of the following month. In this example, 10 days of interest was collected. If you closed on the last day of the month, just one day of interest is collected. This by the way is why buyers are encouraged to close toward the end of the month to save on the amount of prepaid interest needing to be paid at the settlement table. Because you prepaid this interest, there is no separate mortgage payment needed on the first of the following month.

When refinancing there is both interest in arrears and prepaid interest involved. When a mortgage company accepts an application to refinance an existing loan, one of the first acts the lender will perform is to order a payoff amount from the current mortgage company. The payoff amount is the total amount needed to completely retire the previous mortgage. This amount includes both the outstanding loan balance and accrued interest that has yet to be paid.

If the closing takes place on the 20th, the payoff amount would include the outstanding principal balance, 20 days of accrued interest and 10 days of prepaid interest up to the first of the following month. Because this prepaid interest is typically rolled into the loan amount, there is no mortgage payment needed for the following month. This is where the phrase ldquo;skip a paymentrdquo; comes into play. But that phrase is false. There is in fact a payment itrsquo;s just rolled into the loan amount. Borrowers can elect to pay the prepaid interest out of pocket instead of adding it to the new loan but thatrsquo;s somewhat rare. Yes, the loan amount is increased but really by a very small amount and the monthly payment is only marginally affected.

When you hear of a loan officer explaining how someone can skip a mortgage payment when refinancing, thatrsquo;s really not true. There is a payment made- itrsquo;s just included in the new mortgage.

Full Story >

6 Ways to Update the Look of Your Bathroom Without Doing a Full Reno

Go frameless

Itrsquo;s not cheap to convert an outdated shower to something more updated. Frameless glass will give you the sleek look you want, but be prepared to spend a good thousand bucks for the glass and the installation.

But add frames here

Frames around your mirrors give the space a more finished look. Companies like Mirrormate offer a custom solution that allows you to choose from tons of finishes and have the frame made to the size of your mirror. Of course, you could save a bunch of money by doing it yourself with some molding and a miter saw.

Paint it

You can completely change the look of your bathroom by slathering a fresh coat of paint over tired cabinets. Brush on a couple of coats of white paint over that chipped and dingy dark wood but be sure to fill in those chips first and yoursquo;ll be amazed at how great your space can look.

Add some jewelry

Cabinet hardware can take boring, old cabinets and give them a little sparkle. Donrsquo;t be afraid to go bold or do something a little different. When you go to sell your home, you can always change them out for something more neutral for minimal cost and in a matter of minutes. This template will make installation easy.

Change out the faucets

You dont have to get a whole new vanity to give you space a newish feel. Swapping out old faucets for something a little fancier will give the bathroom a lift. Do yourself a favor and take a picture, and measurements, of the existing faucet to take with you when you go shopping. Ask a salesperson to help you match the size and configuration so you donrsquo;t have to create any new holes in your bathroom countertop during installation.

Get new lighting

Builder grade is builder blah. For as little as about 100 less if you catch a great sale, you could replace your boring light fixture with something thatrsquo;s really illuminating. Itrsquo;s not a top-to-toe reno, but little details like this are sure to make you smile.

Full Story >

The Bath: Enjoy It Before You Sell It

Once all the work was done, they sat back in their newly revamped dwelling and sighed: "Why didnt we do this sooner?" The investment was quite small when you consider the benefit, but many homeowners wait until its time to sell the house before they replace all the items of their home that have been bugging them for years.

Giving your home a facelift could be more affordable than you think.

This was especially brought to mind during a visit to one of my favorite restaurants. Visiting the restroom, I was appalled at the condition: old plywood, an old mirror losing its reflective backing, mildewed caulking, and a stench very unbecoming of this particular establishment.

A bathroom is probably one of the easiest and most affordable rooms to renovate and provide a "wow" factor for buyers coming into your home. Im not even talking about a complete remodeling, just a facelift that can change the rooms look and shift your personal feelings about the room.

Think about it -- when you walk into a 20-to-30-year-old home, would you be more excited about one with the original vanity, sink, faucet, shower door, mirrors and lighting? Or would you have a wow factor when seeing fresh paint, upgraded hardware, a modern vanity, and a dual showerhead found in most fine hotels? In addition, how would you like to create that wow factor for less than 1,000? It can be done.

Staying on budget

Looking over a few large home improvement web sites will give you a grasp of how attainable this face lift can be. What you want to spend on the bath is up to you. You can upgrade your showerhead for as little as 6 for a low-grade plastic energy saver model or as high as 3,750 for a multiple head shower tower. Well keep our budget a little in the middle for a run of the mill bathroom, that says is about 100 square feet.


  • Sinks: 150 - 400 This can be as bland or fancy as you want.


  • Vanity: 150 - 900 For every bland sink, theres a vanity to match.


  • Faucet Hardware: 30 - 100 There are hundreds of models from which to choose -- from chrome to polished brass.


  • Lights: 50 - 100 Again lots of choices.


  • Towel racks, etc.: 50 - 100


  • Paint/Caulking: 50 - 100


  • Flooring: 45 - 100


Obviously, you can push the budget up a lot higher than whats quoted above, however, Im talking about a budget-conscious facelift, complete with a wow-factor, not gutting the bathroom for a complete remodel.

Your facelift can be as low as a few hundred dollars, or a couple thousand bucks. But here are a few fix-its that are really really cheap, require a very minimal investment and just some good old-fashioned elbow grease:


  • Deep cleaning: maybe all this room needs is just a good cleaning. Think sanitizing. Really get down to the nitty-gritty and cut the grease in all the crevices.


  • Kill the mildew with a commercial spray. White caulk gleaming from underneath mildew can make all the difference.


  • Remove old caulk and recaulk the complete bath.


  • Regrout floor and shower tiles.


Before you invest a lot of money to make the next owner happy with your home -- work on a redo so that you enjoy it yourself.

Full Story >

Classic Living Room Items That Never Go Out of Style

When it comes to decorating a home, people want a look that will stand the test of time and still look great. Pick these items and youll always have a living room that looks modern but grounded and in tune with well chosen, thoughtful design. Theyre easy to integrate into any space. Use details like these to add pizzazz and bring it >

Light it Up With Plantation Shutters

Light makes it easy to see what youre doing in any room. You want to control the amount of light that gets in your home. One of the best ways to determine the amount of light getting inside is with the use of any type of shutters. Theyre easy to put in front of any windows. Paint them any color you like.

The Focal Point Chesterfield Sofa

A good sofa is a must in any living room. The ideal sofa offers plenty of support and comfort without sacrificing support. The Chesterfield adds all that and more. Its large enough to accommodate many people at the same time, making it a good choice for a larger room. The button back adds detail that makes the sofa that fits in with varied types of >

Romantic Fireplace

A fireplace speaks of romantic days in front of the fire when the cold air rushes around the room and snow falls. Using fireplace inserts provide an easy way to add that welcoming romance. Generations of homeowners have used these items to add instant >


Storage is important in the living room. This is where people store items they need to keep the living room in good shape such as cleaning products. A >

Statement Mirror

Every room needs a fabulous mirror. A mirror in the living room can add in extra light and make it feel lighter and bright at the same time. If you are thinking about adding a mirror to your living room, youll find many different >

Moroccan Poof

Any living room needs a place to put up your feet. You want something that you can move around the room with ease. This is where the Moroccan leather poof comes in. Its understated and fun as well as very useful. Put the poof against an easy chair and you have space to read or watch television. Lay it against a rocking chair and make the chair even more versatile. The leather is easy to keep in good shape all year long. They come in many sizes so you can always find one that fits right in your living room. Use more than one for even more versatility. They make it easy for guests to sit back and >

A well designed living room is an asset for any homeowner. Deciding where to begin your decor journey can be complicated. This simple basics will do it all for you in >
Full Story >

How to Ensure Decluttering Is a Delight And Not a Drag

Look on the bright side

Decluttering can take some effort. There is no denying that. There is much to gain from the effort though, so keeping the pluses in mind can be highly motivational. For instance, when you find things yoursquo;re ready to part ways with but those belongings still have life left in them, the second-hand economy is an opportunity to turn those unwanted goods into some spending money. And as Gumtree notes, itrsquo;s kind to the environment, keeps items out of landfills, and it gives others the chance to make affordable purchases.

Another option is to donate items to charity. There are several ways giving promotes your well-being, >

So how will you do this?

There are several effective decluttering methods, and you might need to try on a couple to see what fits your personality best. Some people like to pare down one item every day, and some choose to do as many as the day of the month, such as 15 items on the 15th. Another popular method is to use four boxes for sorting. Each box receives a designation, such as donate, throw out, put away, and undecided. Whatever method you choose, keep in mind some items that are no longer useful can be recycled, so you might want a separate area for those things.

Beware of bunnies

As you go about your business, yoursquo;ll likely discover your clutter is harboring a bunch of bunnies - dust bunnies, that is. The last thing you want when yoursquo;re rolling along through clutter is to have to drop everything and fetch various cleaning supplies, so consider putting together a handy cleaning caddy. As Clean Mama points out, a cleaning caddy can be somewhat personal, so think about what cleansers you like and what container is convenient. You can even DIY some nontoxic cleansers with products in your pantry, such as baking soda and white vinegar. A hand vac can also be a boon, as well as a duster.

Cleaning as you go will feel good, since each space will sparkle when yoursquo;re done. For further motivation, keep things moving by putting on some upbeat music If you donrsquo;t have one saved, House Beautiful offers their favorite cleaning playlist here.

Keep clutter out of your home

Once you get your home all tidied up, you wonrsquo;t want clutter coming back. One of the big culprits of returning clutter is paper. If you still have paper coming into your home, you can take steps to cut it out of your life almost completely. The Spruce suggests one way to reduce paper is moving to electronic billing statements. You can also scan important documents to the cloud, along with your favorite photos. And put an end to subscription services and junk mail, since all that is on the web anyway.

Of course, paper isnrsquo;t the only source of clutter. To maintain an uncluttered home, some experts suggest planning a 15-minute decluttering session each week, and yoursquo;ll be surprised how far you can get. Another idea to invite guests to your home for dinner regularly. When others will see your space, itrsquo;s surprising how motivational it can be to clear things out

Decluttering doesnrsquo;t need to drag you down. Think of all you can gain, put together your supplies, and crank up some music Your home will be clutter-free, and yoursquo;ll have a delightful time making it that way.

Full Story >

What Would a New Euro Debt Crisis Mean for Housing Markets?

Are We About to Witness Another Euro Debt Crisis?

Sparked in 2009, the European debt crisis began when several Eurozone members including Greece, Portugal, I>

In 2018, after imposing years of austerity in return for significant financial support, Greece finally exited the three-year bailout program it had entered in 2015. However, rather than creating market stability, political turmoil elsewhere in Italy led to significant instability in the foreign exchange market, with the euro vs dollar rate tumbling from over 1.2 dollar to the euro to under 1.15. This is significant because the EURUSD currency pair reflects the most important economies in the world, with Euro to USD trades commanding almost 23 of all forex transactions.

This tumble in the EUR/USD forecast is worrying for investors and traders, as further research by DailyFX shows that recent market developments look similar to those we saw in 2009. Although no two crises are the same, signs are pointing to new economic difficulties. At the close of 2018, the European Union threatened to levy penalties against Italy via the Excessive Debt Procedure EDP after rejecting its budget proposals twice. In addition, the European Central Bank has ended its euro;2.5 trillion net asset-purchase program, while investors are looking to move to lsquo;safe havenrsquo; assets such as the Swiss franc, the Japanese yen and gold, as the euro continues to fall against the dollar.

However, it can be hard to judge whether the next debt crisis is imminent, particularly as >

What Role Will the Property Market Play?

As rumours of another debt crisis swirl, many are looking to the housing market for signs of trouble. In Spain during the last debt crisis, credit of as much as 40 of GDP per year fuelled a housing bubble, driving private debt to 260 of GDP Spainrsquo;s private debt remains at 200 of GDP.

European Central Bank supervisor Daniele Nouy believes that because interest rates are at record lows, real estate prices have soared. As a direct result of this, some policymakers are warning that loose monetary policies risk inflating asset bubbles.

This means that, rather than me>

Looking to the future, nearly half of UK consumers predict we will see a financial crash worse than the one witnessed in 2009, with a third saying they expect to see a housing market crash in 2019. With worrying economic signs of a looming debt crisis and consumer sentiments negative, 2019 appears set to be a challenging year for investors and the housing market.

Full Story >

How Lenders Evaluate the Self-Employed Borrower

For someone who receives a pay check on the 1st and 15th itrsquo;s >

These borrowers must show proof theyrsquo;ve been self-employed for at least two years. For those who receive a regular pay check from their employers, they too must demonstrate theyrsquo;ve been in the workforce and receiving a regular pay check for at least two years. This is one of the reasons lenders ask for the last two years of W2 forms.

But self-employed folk donrsquo;t have W2s, they have 1099s sent to them by their clients. Self-employed borrowers can demonstrate theyrsquo;ve been at it for at least two years with copies of their federal income tax returns. Borrowers will submit these returns and also sign a form called the IRS 4506-T. The 4506-T is an authorization form that allows the lender to independently receive copies of tax transcripts for the last two years. Upon receipt, the lender compares the returns provided by the borrowers with the information provided directly by the IRS.

Borrowers will also be asked to provide a year-to-date profit and loss statement. To calculate qualifying income, the lender will average the two years of self-employed income plus the year-to-date amount. The result is the qualifying income lenders use when evaluating a loan application for someone who is self-employed.

When reviewing the year-over-year income, the lender also wants to see some stability. If year one the income shown on the tax returns is 60,000 and in year two the income is 70,000, the lenders will average these two amounts along with year-to-date totals. On the other hand, if the income is 70,000 in year one and 60,000 in year two, that can be a red flag. In this example the income dropped by more than 10 in one year.

Is the business doing okay? Does the Pamp;L also show declining income? In this instance, the lender will want an explanation for the declining income. If there is too much of a decline, the lender can make the determination the income is not likely to continue into the future. The continuation guideline is typically for at least three years.

Note, itrsquo;s a judgment call by the lender because no one can see that far into the future but if the person has been self-employed for the minimum amount of time and the business has demonstrated not just stability but growth, the lender can reasonably determine the business and the income that goes along with it will continue.

Lenders understand that self-employed income will be received at different times during the month. Thatrsquo;s why an average is used. And, more importantly, itrsquo;s not how much the business is bringing in this month or last or even this year. If yoursquo;re self-employed, keep this in mind. And if yoursquo;re not sure about your qualifying income, itrsquo;s time for a phone call to your loan officer.

Full Story >

Realty Times Remembers Long-Time Contributor, Benny L. Kass

It is with great sadness and reflection that we announce the passing of Benny L. Kass, a long-time Realty Times contributor and author of the weekly Housing Counsel column with The Washington Post for nearly 30 years. Mr. Kass was the senior partner with the Washington, DC law firm of KASS LEGAL GROUP, PLLC, and a specialist in such real estate legal areas as commercial and residential financing, closings, foreclosures and workouts.

Mr. Kass was a Charter Member of the College of Community Association Attorneys, and wrote extensively about community association issues. In addition, he was a member of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. In this capacity, he was involved in the development of almost all of the Commissionrsquo;s real estate laws, including the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act, which has been adopted in many states.

We thank Benny for his weekly contributions to Realty Times and for always being a >
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To Turf or Not to Turf

Pro: No maintenance

You donrsquo;t need to mow artificial grass, or edge it or seed it or water it. Once you lay it down, yoursquo;re done.

Con: It can be expensive initially

Like putting in a brand-new lawn, laying down turf can be pricey. Yoursquo;re talking about a range of 8ndash;14 per square foot, and while you can definitely find some sales and deals, yoursquo;ll want to keep in mind that, in general, you get what you pay for. The good news is that you wonrsquo;t need to replace it or re-seed it.

Pro: It can last a long, long time

That means that, depending on how long you live in the home, it might pay for itself. ldquo;The life expectancy of artificial turf can be upwards of 25 years,rdquo; said Gardenista, ldquo;making it a less costly alternative to real turf over its life span.

Con: It might be against the rules

If you live in a community with a Homeownerrsquo;s Association HOA, be sure to get permission first. Turf is becoming more common and more in-demand, which is convincing more HOAs to approve its use; but that doesnrsquo;t mean itrsquo;s approved everywhere. In certain communities, the HOA directs which types of real grass can be used, and which canrsquo;t. You dont want to make a big investment in turf only to be told you have to rip it out and replace it with grass.

Pro: Itrsquo;s eco-friendly

The water savings element is huge if yoursquo;re looking to live a litter greener. And, ldquo;Some manufacturers use recycled materials, such as old tires or plastic bottles,rdquo; said Gardenista.

Con: But, it is not biodegradable.

So, yeah. Itrsquo;s still going to end up in a landfill some day.

Pro: Itrsquo;s pet-friendly

ldquo;The good news is that pet waste wonrsquo;t negatively impact your artificial grass, and turf is easy to clean,rdquo; said Purchase Green. ldquo;Tight, but permeable backing allows urine and fluids to drain. In fact, smaller sections are often used for designated pet potties. Just as these can be lifted to clean throughout, your artificial grass lawn can be enhanced with dog-friendly features for optimum absorption and draining.rdquo; There are also specific types of turf that are designed for animals.

Con: Itrsquo;s hot.

In fact, it can really get up there. ldquo;Real grass has a cooling effect when the air temperature is high. Artificial grass lacks this cooling quality,rdquo; said SFGATE. ldquo;The grass itself may become hotter than the air and can make the surrounding air feel hotter.rdquo;

Pro: Itrsquo;s great for shaded areas

Say goodbye to that patchy lawn.

Con: Itrsquo;s never going to be grass

If the the smell, look, and feel of real grass does it for you, turf probably wonrsquo;t. While some of the better offerings can do a pretty good job of fooling the eye and the foot, plastic is still plastic.

Pro: It looks great all year round

If you live in an area where the lawn is dormant in the winter, it may take some time getting used to seeing your lush, green faux lawn, even in negative temps. But, wersquo;re sure yoursquo;ll get there.

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FHA Said to Be Tightening Lending Standards for Some First-Time Buyers

ldquo;About 40,000 to 50,000 loans a year will likely be affected by the tighter underwriting standards, or about 4 percent to 5 percent of the FHA-insured mortgages originated annually, Keith Becker, the FHArsquo;s chief risk officer, told The Wall Street Journal,rdquo; according to Realtor Magazine.

The FHArsquo;s reasoning for the change: Anxiety over too many potentially iffy loans to buyers whose financial picture isnrsquo;t as strong as theyrsquo;d like. ldquo;The Federal Housing Administration told lenders this month it would begin flagging more loans as high risk,rdquo; said the Wall Street Journal. Loans deemed riskiermdash;namely, those for applicants with lower credit scores, a smaller down payment, and/or a higher debt-to-income DTI ratiomdash;will ldquo;now go through a more vigorous manual underwriting process.rdquo;

That new process is intended to identify borrowers ldquo;who donrsquo;t have the ability to repay,rdquo; said Bankrate. ldquo;That may lead to a jump in loan defaults that will tax the agencyrsquo;s cash reserves.rdquo;

And that could mark a return to conditions that led up to the economic downturn. ldquo;Borrowing requirements had tightened considerably after the housing crisis but have loosened in recent years,rdquo; said Bankrate. ldquo;In 2016, the FHA eliminated a rule that required manual underwriting for borrowers with credit scores below 620 and a debt-to-income DTI ratio that exceeded 43 percent, according to the Journal.rdquo;

But, over the last year, almost 25 of FHA loans ldquo;were made to borrowers with a DTI ratio above 50 percent,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Meanwhile, the average credit score dropped to 670, the lowest level in a decade, the Journal reported.rdquo;

Previously, applicants could reasonably expect to be approved for an FHA loan with a down payment of 3.5 if they had a credit score of 580. For scores below that threshold, a larger down payment was required. Applicants with lower credit scores could ldquo;put down a 10 percent down paymenthellip;to qualify for a loan,rdquo; said First Click Mortgage.

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Understanding Interest Rate Locks

When calling around for current rates consumers can get an up-to-date rate quote but will also be informed that until an application is received and credit report reviewed, the quoted rate can vary between what was in initially quoted to the final rate at the settlement table. But what future borrowers cannot do is get that rate guaranteed over the phone. The quoted rate cannot be locked based upon a phone conversation or a standard prequalification.

One of the initial disclosures borrowers receive when first submitting a completed loan application is an Interest Rate Lock Disclosure. These disclosures can vary somewhat from one lender to the next but they all spell out the very same thing- when you can lock in your rate. Most lenders for example wonrsquo;t allow anyone to lock in a rate unless the loan application is considered complete. One of the factors that define a complete application is a property address. When someone is shopping around for a home with a preapproval letter in hand, the interest rate on the desired loan is dynamic and can change from day to day. Until therersquo;s a property address, the rate is still floating with the market.

Interest rate locks will also vary based upon the time needed to close a loan. If for example a new sales contract is signed and the closing date is 30 days away, a 30 day lock will be needed. If the closing is further out then maybe a 45 or 60 day lock will work. The longer the lock term, the more expensive the rate can be. A 60 day lock might cost the borrowers another 0.25 in point compared to a 30 day lock. On a 200,000 loan, a 0.25 point is 500. In addition, a 15 day lock would be less expensive than a 30 day lock.

Finally, know that lenders take locks just as seriously as you do. When lenders lock in a loan, they set aside the funds needed for your new mortgage and commit that loan for sale based upon the price that day. If you lock a loan at 4.50 for 30 days, the lender reserves those funds for you and prices the loan based upon current market conditions. If rates go up, yoursquo;re protected because of your lock. If rates go down after yoursquo;ve locked, well, thatrsquo;s what you locked in at.

There are those that will adjust your rate lower if interest rates have dropped quite a bit from when you first locked but getting a ldquo;float downrdquo; when rates have fallen say 0.125, yoursquo;re probably not going to get too much cooperation for lowering your rate. You can ask your loan officer about rate locking advice but experienced loan officers know that itrsquo;s a bad idea to advise clients on when to lock in a rate and leave that decision solely up to the borrower.

When you first receive your Rate Lock Disclosure, make sure you read it and understand it completely. Therersquo;s some important stuff in it.

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Canadas Emerging Tech Markets Attract Investors

When CBRE >

However, Toronto is also a world leader in another category ntilde; the high cost of housing. The 14th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey placed Toronto in the ldquo;seve>

Some of the fastest-growing Canadian tech markets are Ottawa, Quebec City, Hamilton and Quebec City, where housing prices are much lower.

Ottawa ranked No. 2 in the CBRE study. The city ldquo;is shedding its government town image. It is home to 1,700 technology companies and employs over 70,000 tech talent employees,rdquo; says Shawn Hamilton, managing director of CBRE Ottawa. ldquo;In the last five years, urban tech has grown to be the second-largest user group in downtown Ottawa, bigger than the accounting and legal sectors combined.rdquo; Ottawarsquo;s benchmark house price in February was 400,800.

ldquo;High-quality and well-educated tech talent, cost efficiencies and welcoming immigration policies are competitive advantages for Canadian tech markets,rdquo; says Paul Morassutti, executive managing editor at CBRE Canada.

The study says that the strong U.S. dollar means companies can get high-quality tech talent at a >

ldquo;Taking both talent and real estate costs into consideration, the typicalrsquo; 500-person tech company needing 75,000 sq. ft. of office space can expect a total annual cost to range from US27.6 million in Montreal, the least expensive market overall, to US32.2 million in Ottawa, the most expensive Canadian market. In contrast, the cheapest U.S. market is Rochester, N.Y, which requires US36.3 million to run a similar operation,rdquo; says CBRE.

Recently Envoy Global >

The CBRE report says Ottawa leads North America with an 11.2 per cent concentration of tech workers, above the Canadian average of 5.3 per cent. ldquo;Waterloo Region and Quebec City also punch above their weight,rdquo; says the report. ldquo;While only comprising a combined 5.7 per cent of the Canadian tech landscape, these two cities have tech concentrations that are comparable to that of Toronto and Montreal, respectively.rdquo;

After Ottawa, CBRE ranked Montreal, Vancouver, Waterloo Region, Calgary and Halifax at numbers three to seven in the tech talent scores.

Quebec City, ranked eighth, has emerged as a leader in AI technology, thanks to Coveo, which has a large research and development team there. The cityrsquo;s primary tech industries are life sciences, optics and computer solutions. It is also home to Canadarsquo;s first technology park, which is home to about 100 businesses.

The average home price in Quebec City in February 2019 was 266,239. Hamilton, with a ninth-place ranking, received funding as part of the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network project. It also is home to the McMaster Innovation Park, which opened a 33-million biomedical research centre. More recently, McMasterrsquo;s tech start-up incubator received a grant of more than 1 million in federal government funding.

The benchmark price for Hamilton homes in February was 587,300, an increase of five per cent compared to last year.

A recent study by Victoriarsquo;s tech sector says it has a total economic impact of 5.22 billion and employs 16,775 people. The study says that before 2020, there will be more than 1,000 tech firms operating in the region, growing annual revenues to 10 billion. Software development, ocean science and advanced manufacturing are the major tech industries.

Victoriarsquo;s benchmark property sale price was 680,800 in February, a three-per-cent increase from last year.

ldquo;Canada may be in the tech spotlight, but that attention also reveals room for improvement,rdquo; says CBRE. ldquo;Tech talent markets can do more to grow the industry and attract investment from global tech giants. Quality of life, with an increasing focus on affordability, is an important differentiator.rdquo;

The report says Canadian cities should capitalize on their existing research institutions, access to capital and high living standards.

Cities must form tech ldquo;clustersrdquo; of small and large companies, working together with research institutions and among themselves, to develop a long-term competitive advantage, says CBRE.

Full Story >

Get Your Home Ready for Spring in 7 Simple Steps

1. Embark on a Deep Clean

It wouldnrsquo;t be a true spring-cleaning without a full house sweep. From dusting the fans to scrubbing the oven, deep clean your home at least once a year. Make this easier to manage by creating a checklist for each room. Which rooms need the carpets vacuumed and scrubbed or the floors mopped? Are there blinds and fans that need dusting or mirrors and windows that need washing? Along with cleaning, clear out closets, cabinets, and pantries. Toss expired food and anything broken, and donate gently used furniture and clothing you no longer need.

2. Dust Off the Air Conditioner

After months of hibernation, inspect your air conditioner to make sure itrsquo;s working efficiently. Run the unit and listen for strange sounds like squeals or rattling, which may indicate a part is wearing out. Test its efficiency by running it ten degrees below the outside temperature for ten minutes. Then place a refrigerator thermometer inside one of the air conditioning air ducts, as well as in the return air duct, to check the temperature. Lastly, look at the air filter and clean or replace it if itrsquo;s clogged.

3. Feed Your Greenery

With spring comes new growth, and with summer, rising temperatures. Make sure your yard is ready for the changes. Fertilize the lawn for a boost of nutrients and use a turf builder to fill in any barren patches of grass. Make sure to use a metal rake to first dethatch any dead grass and clear out twigs, leaves, and dead branches. If weeds start rearing their ugly heads, using a weed killer during a string of dry days will help it work better. You may need to apply it a few times to clear out more stubborn weeds.

4. Scrub the Grill

Your grill and outdoor furniture likely havenrsquo;t seen much use these past few months. Give them a thorough scrub down so theyrsquo;re ready for beautiful sunny days. To clean a BBQ grill, heat it at a high temperature for ten minutes, which will make it easier to scrape off any built-up grease or food residue in the cook box. Just make sure to let the grill cool before cleaning the grates, burners, and drip tray.

5. Reconsider Your Subscriptions

Along with cleaning your home, tidy up your subscriptions. You may find that you arenrsquo;t using all of them. Do you really need Hulu and Netflix, or can you cancel one? Are you still reading those magazine subscriptions arriving in your mailbox every month? By adding up the amount you spend each month on recurring subscriptions, you may be surprised to see just how much you spend. Play with your budget to see how you may be able to save by condensing or cutting back on your subscriptions.

6. Review Your Bills

While yoursquo;re reconsidering your subscriptions, run through your credit card statements and billsmdash;from utilities to cable servicesmdash;and make sure yoursquo;re being correctly charged. Reviewing your bills also helps you catch any subscriptions or services you forgot you had. This is also a good time to research comparable services and companies, as you can often save by bundling or switching carriers. For example, if you live in a rural area, check your internet plan to see if the speed yoursquo;re experiencing matches the plan you pay for. You may find that satellite internet offers higher speeds than your other options outside of cities.

7. Conduct an Energy Audit

With summer comes rising energy costs. Beat the heat money-wise by assessing your homersquo;s energy efficiency. While you can pay for a professional assessment, you can easily perform your own DIY home energy audit. Start by assessing major energy drainers, including air leaks from gaps along the edge of flooring, windows, or doors. Next, check ventilation near appliances and insulation in your walls and ceiling. You can make several small fixes too, like swapping inefficient light bulbs with LEDs and installing a smart thermostat.

Now is the season to get your home ready for summer so you can >

nbsp;Victoria Schmid enjoys writing about technology for the ldquo;everydayrdquo; person. She is a specialist in online business marketing and consumer technology. She has a background in broadcast journalism.

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Why You Should Buy a Home or Refinance Your Loan Right Now. Really, Get Going

And you should do it right now.

Mortgage rates just had their biggest one-week decline in more than a decade, and letrsquo;s remember that rates were already near historic lows. Letrsquo;s also remember that it seems like just yesterday that they were up over 5 and the Fed was promising more rate increases throughout 2019.

Last week, the average interest rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.28; this week, theyrsquo;re down to 4.06. A year ago, rates were averaging 4.40. Rates for less-popular 15-year fixed-rate loans are also down, from 3.71 percent last week and 3.9 percent last year to 3.57 this week.

The drop was due to a mixed bag of economic factors, according to Sam Khater, Freddie Macrsquo;s chief economist. ldquo;The Federal Reserversquo;s concern about the prospects for slowing economic growth caused investor jitters to drive down mortgage rates by the largest amount in over 10 years,rdquo; he said. ldquo;Despite negative outlooks by some, the economy continues to churn out jobs, which is great for housing demand.rdquo;

Buyers who have been unsure about getting into the market may want to take a good look now, according to experts. Todayrsquo;s rates are the lowest they have been in 14 months, and that means extra buying power. ldquo;Rates have fallen substantially in the past four months,rdquo; said the Washington Post. ldquo;After hitting a seven-year high of 4.94 percent in November, the 30-year fixed-rate average has gone down nearly a percentage point.rdquo;

Refinance explosion

The Real Deal notes that, ldquo;High mortgage rates in the fall pushed mortgage applications to a four-year low,rdquo; but that deficit has been quickly erased. Current falling rates have also boosted mortgage applications; according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, ldquo;The market composite index mdash; a measure of total loan application volume mdash; increased 8.9 percent from a week earlier,rdquo; said the Post. Not surprisingly, ldquo;The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 40.4 percent of all applications.rdquo;

Effect on new homes

The decline in rates have also impacted new home sales, as buyers look to take advantage of savings. ldquo;The housing market, damaged by a spike in mortgage rates last year that cut into affordability, is signaling that itrsquo;s getting some strength back. Two publicly traded builders, Lennar Corp. and KB Home, credited lower rates for better-than-expected home order,rdquo; said Bloomberg.

Full Story >

Ask the HOA Expert: Pruning Perfection

Skilled shrub pruning is one of the most important requirements of a sound maintenance program. Selective cutting sustains a natural form while removing twigs and branches that are getting too large or overcrowded. Knowledgeable pruning will allow plant size reductions with improved vigor in most cases. Plant shearing, shaping and hedge trimming, by contrast, ignores plant growth habit and ultimately destroys the branch structure.

Carving a sheared form into any shrub increases twig density at the surface, thereby shading out, and in many cases killing off interior growth. The sheared shrubs still continue to get larger with each passing season, until ultimately the only realistic option remaining is removal and replacement.

As you can see in this example, the landscape maintenance philosophy can produce vastly different returns for your investment. The recommended philosophy produces a maturing shrub that contributes more each year to the aesthetic appeal, enjoyment and value of your property. The other philosophy leads to overcrowding, property devaluation and requires correction by replanting a new, small plant. This replacement will take years to contribute much to the appeal of your association. What landscape philosophy does your HOA follow?

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

Full Story >

Neutral To Sell Your Home, But Color To Live In It

Its true. The experts love the idea of neutral. As if stripping every last bit of originality out of your home is a good thing.

Make it cookie cutter. Make it safe. Make it the same as next door, down the street and halfway across the country. Dont even think about offending anyone with a brightly painted wall, or, even worse, a bold backsplash how dare you.

Nope. You need a drone house. With robotic colors and textures but not too much texture. And by all means, keep the personalization to a minimum, would you? Dont even think about hanging any family photos - now youve gone too far.

The idea is that if you go too bold or too bright or too you, potential buyers could be turned off by your home. When you sell. If you sell.

But should we really be living our lives and enjoying our home - or maybe not so much enjoying our homes - according to when and if we might decide to offer it up to a new set of owners who will then have their own wrestling match with neutral?

While its true that none of us knows what the future holds and surprises happen every day, designing, decorating, renovating, and inhabiting your home while waiting for a "what if?" is as depressing as your beige walls.

Its the whole idea of neutral. Neutral is a bad word.

"You heard it before and youll hear it again - stay neutral to sell your home. If youre painting your house to get it ready for the market look at neutral colors so that youll attract the most potential buyers. In a world where its common to try to please everyone, this can work. There are, however, reasons why you shouldnt make everything neutral," said The Home Funnel.

"It has been proven time and time again that bright colors can lift your mood. You would think that a person that is walking in your home would be affected by the colors that surround him and will react to them. Therefore, you want to make sure that you can lift a buyers mood by offering some bright colors without overdoing at. You dont want buyers to feel humdrum about walking through your home and seeing neutrality almost attacking them."

No one wants to be attacked by neutral. But the safer choice is bland over bold.

Should you be safe? If you are actually planning to sell soon, yes. The choices you make can have a profound affect on how and when your house sells, and for how much. If youre making updates before you list, you should know that blue is the new red. That quartz is the new granite. That wood-look tile is the new hardwood.

But if youre just moving in or planning to stay awhile, how about this: do what you want.

That doesnt mean laying 70 square feet of fluorescent pink countertops - you still want to use some sense. But refinish your bathroom cabinets in that dark gray you love. Hang that bold wallpaper youre coveting. Put in that super modern crystal light fixture youve been eyeing for your entry.

Express yourself. If you cant do it in your own home, where can you do it?

Full Story >

Tips From a Realtor on Selling Your House After a Divorce

Make Agreements Ahead of Time

One of the best moves you can make is to put every agreement in writing before you put the home on the market. Make a binding agreement that you will sell the house, that you will ask for a specific price, and that you will only accept a bid that is over a certain amount. You should leave nothing to chance or agreement later on, as you never know whats going to happen during your divorce. Putting things in writing gives your attorney something to work with, and it can give you a shield behind which you can hide if your ex becomes unreasonable.

Because divorce and real estate laws differ from one area to another, make sure that your attorney is familiar with the local legal requirements. If you live in Utah, for example, a Salt Lake City divorce attorney will be able to give you better advice about the legal aspects of selling a home in a divorce case than an attorney based in Denver. Even if you have a connection to a lawyer somewhere else in the country, they may be able to refer you to someone local, who is more familiar with local legislation.

Work with an Agent

The months following a divorce are not the time for you to try to sell a house on your own. You need to work with an agent, and specifically an agent who has dealt with selling homes during a divorce. You do not need the extra stress that is involved with a For Sale by Owner arrangement, and putting all the responsibility in the hands of one party is a good way to spark another fight. Make sure your agent knows exactly what is going on and that he or she is prepared to deal with a situation that might not be all that pleasant.

Build Contingency Plans

What happens if something goes wrong during the sale? Who is responsible for making repairs if something comes up during the inspection? These are questions that need to be addressed before you put the house on the market. Making a general agreementmdash;in writingmdash;about responsibilities is the best way to avoid a fight when you are trying to sell the home. The key here should be efficiency, so make sure you are putting the responsibilities in the hands of the party who is best able to resolve issues quickly.

Present a United Front

Regardless of the reason for your divorce, you need to present a united front while you sell the home. That means working together to make sure that everything is taken care of and never trying to undermine the other party. This can be difficult if one party is forcing the sale, but its necessary. Remember, you have a very good reason for getting rid of the house, and selling of it will put money in your and your exrsquo;s pockets. This is something that benefits you both, so dont sabotage things due to raw emotions.

Stay Calm

Perhaps more than any other time in your divorce, this is a time to remove emotions from the equation. While your home carries memories both good and bad, youve got to move past them. If you are selling your home specifically to split the proceeds in the divorce, try to remember that you are satisfying a legal requirement. There will be plenty of time to feel emotional about the process after it is done, but during the sale is not the proper time.

Try to look at your home sale primarily as a financial matter. Keep emotions out of things, and always put your agreements in writing. Once you sell your home, you can begin to process your emotions and move on with your life. While you are selling, though, its best to remain professional and let the people with experience handle the business aspects. The sale will close before you know it, which will bring you one step closer to rebuilding your life.

Full Story >

5 Reasons to Add a Pool When Building a House

Great Form of Exercise

Finding time to get to the gym can be really difficult when life gets hectic, but you will never have to worry about that if you have a pool in the backyard. Swimming is an excellent source of exercise that can potentially burn over 900 calories in an hour. You burn so many calories in the pool because the body has to fight against the resistance of the water every time you try to move. In addition to losing weight, the pool will improve your flexibility, reduce your stress and increase your cardiovascular endurance.

Adds Value to Your Home

While you may never envision moving out of your new home, you still need to treat it as an investment. You want to be able to make money if you ever decide to sell the house. The best way to instantly add value to your home is by installing a pool, especially when living in an area with a hot climate. Home buyers are drawn to pools because they envision all of the great memories they can create in the backyard. Contact pool builders in Ft. Worth as soon as possible to increase the value of your home by at least five percent.nbsp;

Keep the Family Together

Getting the kids to put the phone down can be extremely difficult these days. This makes it nearly impossible to spend quality time with the whole family. You will not have to worry about bonding with the kids if you have a pool. The kids will have the time of their life every time they get in the pool, so they will not have a problem ignoring the phone for a few hours. They will even want to friends over on a regular basis, which is a great way to ensure they are not getting into trouble.

Excellent Source of Entertainment

There is nothing better than having a cookout with friends and family in the backyard. While these parties are guaranteed to be fun, they will be even more enjoyable with a pool. The water is the perfect place to liven up the party with a few games. Once the day is coming to an end, the pool is also the ideal spot for everyone to >

Beat the Summer Heat

Texas is the hottest state in the country with temperatures averaging over 81 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. It is also not uncommon for the hottest days of the year to reach triple digits. These scorching temperatures will drive everyone inside, which will lead to a lot of boring summer days. A pool is the perfect place to beat the heat. While everyone else is bored in the air conditioning, you will be able to have some fun outside. Jumping into cool pool water on a hot day is one of the best feelings you can ever experience.

Full Story >

Why Waste Money on Rent?

First of all, the real estate market has changed tremendously over the years and is no longer the solid, stable investment and status symbol that our parents and grandparents once epitomized. This is not to say that real estate is not a worthy investment. Actually, it is probably still the best investment out there when everything is taken into consideration.

The world has become a more accessible place and most of us want to see more of it. The commitments associated with home ownership - financial, physical, and even emotional are hindrances to those of us that want to spend more time exploring the planet and meeting the people. As our vision widens, we no longer have to limit ourselves to the housing our budget traditionally confines us to along with the realization that, as Americans, we still have more than most of the people on the planet whether we own real estate or not.

There is also the enlightenment of knowing the life>

Let me give you an example. Letrsquo;s say you have a million dollars in the bank and you know where you want to live and you have enough money to live there or at least think you do. The place you desire to live sits within an urban metropolis with a high walkability score in the climate friendly Los Angeles. The two bedroom, 3 bath condo that you desire has a price tag of 950K and it is not brand new so you would want to spend money on some updates and bring your total to 1M. Besides draining your bank account, you will also be responsible for association/maintenance fees 500-1K per month, property taxes appx 1K per month, insurance hundreds of dollars per month and repairs and maintenance costs hundreds or even thousands per month. In summary, you have spent all of your 1M savings and your housing expenses are thousands per month.

Now, let me share some outside-the-box thinking with the same scenario above that most real estate agents wonrsquo;t share with you because maybe they donrsquo;t know of it or choose not to share it because it may not translate into dollars for them. I donrsquo;t know. However, the unit next door to the 950K condo is available for rent for 4500.00 per month. This beautiful condo complex with a picturesque view of the mountains and you can literally walk to hundreds of restaurants, shops, entertainment venues, parks etc. You can literally live your desired life>

What could be better for your mental and physical health than living your desired life>

Just like your desire to see more of the world, you look at real estate globally and you no longer have to own the property where you live or live in the same city as the real estate you own. What if you bought 4-5 homes in Florida for a total of 1M or some other state where the property values that make better financial sense than maybe your desired locale? What if you rented them for a gross rent totaling 9-10k per month? The rental homes would have expenses and fees associated with each property but for the purpose of this example we are just dealing with gross numbers. Now, your 1M is bringing in 10K per month and your living your dream life>

The real estate market and rental market can give us actual figures to calculate benefits and liabilities to assess an investment but what value do you put on living the life>

There is also a freedom with leasing that homeownership does not grant us. If something isnrsquo;t working, tenants call the landlord. In most situations, landlords are good people that want to maintain their properties. When something needs repair, they will have to worry which vendor they will hire and how they will pay for it. Another freedom that renting affords us if we work from home and we also love to travel, we can live and work from anywhere. If you telecommute everyday and have a budget of so many thousands per month for your living expenses, why stay in one place. Why not move monthly or quarterly to places you have always wanted to live while you are still working and earning an income? You will learn places that you may want to live or not want to live when you one day retire.

So, now you have the financial justification for living in your dream location, are you still not convinced? When I made the move from suburbia to urban, I reduced the square foot of my residence by 75. This factor along with drastically minimizing my possessions brought other benefits that I had not calculated. With my new apartment living, I totally eliminated any outdoor maintenance that would take 10-20 hours of my time monthly. I also reduced my house cleaning time by 80 not to mention actual maintaining or improving my home. All of this time saved on the mundane and/or detested chores, was now allocated to things I enjoyed more like hiking or walking to the library or writing. What value do you put on more time for fun in your life?

Are you still skeptical and need more evidence? According to a recent finding, the average life span has decreased to 78.7 years and the cited reason: despair. We spend approximately 1/3 of our life in bed or sleeping. Letrsquo;s assume for most of us that is in our home. At a minimum, most of us are spending 40 of our life in our home. If you are like me and work at home, the decision to live in a place you love is even more critical due to the additional time you spend in your home. Donrsquo;t we owe it to ourselves to figure out a traditional way or creative way to live in a place that makes us happy?

In the end, have I made a good case for throwing money away on rent or am I justifying a decision that I think Irsquo;ve made prudently? All I know is that I wake up happy every day and hope you do too.

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Green Spaces Taken For Granted?

nbsp;Are you often deeply surprised or shocked when construction begins on what was a treasured piece of neighborhood nature?

You love your local green spaces. They may even define quality of life for you and your family. Do you keep an eye on whatrsquo;s planned for these spaces, or are you among the last to know the green space is being developed?

Whether your ldquo;green cornerrdquo; is a park, a treed cemetery, or a golf course, existing green space may be a target for real estate development. If this is the landownerrsquo;s intent, by the time you see bulldozers, it may be too late to do much about this environmental loss.

One community was shocked to discover that the iconic, almost 300-acre golf course that residents believed defined their community was slated for real estate development. Acres of greenery will be transformed into more than 3200 homes, 9 apartment buildings, and thousands of square feet of commercial/industrial space. As the community fought this development, politicians and residents were surprised to learn that the owner of the golf course has every right to undertake this land-use transition for its business, subject to local building and development codes.

Green spaces, especially those with large mature trees, look permanent, but they may be vulnerable to change.

Golf courses look permanent, but they are businesses ready to respond to changing markets.

Unless the golf course deed contains a conservation or deed restriction stating that the land cannot be used as anything but a golf course, the owner is free to pursue changes in land use. In the example above, the owner believed greater financial gain lay in real estate development rather than in operating a golf course.

Buyer Tip: Those interested in an estate house, vacation town-home, or condominium on or near a golf course should verify with their lawyer that golf course land use is protected in the deed. Gated and master-plan communities are often built around golf courses and individual house or condominium real estate values are >

Cemeteries seem permanent, but that may not be true.

Who owns the cemetery? Does the deed restrict land use to that of a cemetery? Addition of crematoria or enlargement of parking lots can affect adjacent properties. Older cemeteries can be consolidated or moved to make way for new roads and developments. Many cemeteries are beautiful green spaces, prized beyond their main function by locals as places to walk, run, and commune with nature. If proximity to this type of green space enriches the value of your home to you and in real estate terms, check with municipal offices to be sure about the future.

Parks are believed to be permanent, but changing politics may be a threat.

Government mandates have recently become more fluid, so keep in touch with your government representatives at all levels to be sure your green spaces are not vulnerable to development.

Whatrsquo;s Happening In Your Community?

You may have discovered a great green space near home, but have you investigated other close-by options? Walk or drive the area or check out a good map to find a new ldquo;green cornerrdquo; to explore and enjoy.

Many cemeteries, parks, and green spaces have ldquo;Friends ofrdquo; groups that work to protect and preserve these cherished areas. Does your favorite have such a support group? If you want to get involved in preserving local green spaces and, perhaps, real estate values, too, here are a few starting points:

1. Golf Courses

Audubon International AI, not >

bull; Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses

This award-winning education and certification program helps golf courses in the United States and internationally protect the environment, preserve the game of golf, and improve their bottom line. AIrsquo;s Standard Environmental Management Practices and approaches are applicable to all golf courses and help manage mosquitos, landscape naturalization, water use efficiency, and much more.

bull; Sustainable Communities Program

This is an international, science-based certification program that guides communities ldquo;through a customized journey to become healthy and vibrant places in which to live, work, and play.rdquo;

2. Cemeteries

The history of cemeteries shadows the history of urban development. Cemeteries were the first American urban parks and have continued to evolve into interactive environments where people share nature and much more:

bull; Brooklynrsquo;s Green-Wood Cemetery achieved arboretum status to draw more birders and build up the cemetery as a historic attraction.
bull; Atlantarsquo;s historic Oakland Cemetery is a vibrant space filled with gardens, history, art, music, and architecture. Events bring thousands together to keep Atlantas history alive.
bull; Cincinnatirsquo;s Spring Grove Cemetery is even larger than Green-Wood and approximately 300 of its 733 acres, which include a wooded preserve, are undeveloped.

3. Parks

Large parks can be amazing places to live in or near as I explained in ldquo;Should You Park Yourself In a National Park?rdquo; Your local park may not be on this scale, but explore and you may find connections to green spaces that enrich your life and your community.

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Signs That There May be a Hidden Leak

Plumbing leaks can be obvious. They can also play hide-and-go-seek like a pro.

ldquo;A hidden plumbing leak can not only lead to a higher water bill, but it can result in potentially hazardous conditions, like a loss of structural integrity or even black mold,rdquo; says Steve Lewis, president and CEO of Plumbing by Jake.

There are a few ways to tell that you might have a plumbing leak. Look for these signs.

Ceiling Spots and Stains

Apartment dwellers and people with upstairs bathrooms might notice this sign first. The ceiling might sag, as well. The stain may appear dark, brown, or copper colored. The stain may be further away than directly below the bathroom as well.

Musty or Moldy Odors

Sheetrock, wood, and drywall all begin producing a musty odor when they get wet. If you have such an odor that persists, then you might have to play ldquo;follow the smellrdquo; to locate the leak.

Loose Tiles

Water can get beneath tiles found in bathrooms and make them loose. Finding the source should be >


Bugs love water. An influx of roaches, silverfish, or earwigs might indicate that you have a leak, especially if you havenrsquo;t had any problems before. Wet wood from cabinets and drywall attract them, and theyrsquo;ll make themselves at home.

Rust Particles or Other Sediment

If you notice that your water has sediment in it, it could be indicative of a leak. Finding rust in your water can also indicate that your pipes are aging and while you might not have a leak yet, a leak can develop if they are not replaced.

Testing for a Leak That is Not Obvious

If yoursquo;re sure that you have a leak, but none of the above telltale signs are present, therersquo;s a simple way to test. Begin by shutting off all water in your home. This includes water running to outdoor areas like water hoses, and indoors to your refrigerator, washer, and dishwasher. Once that is completed, go outside and check your water meter and write down the number. Keep everything turned off for at least three hours and go back and check the water meter again. If it has changed, you probably have a leak.

Many leaks are fixed by tightening washers or adding caulk or grout. However, some leaks require the knowledge of an experienced plumber to root out and repair. If you notice any of the signs listed here and are unsure of how to proceed, contact a licensed plumber in your area for a diagnosis.

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Energy-Efficient Experts Talk about Best Ways to Save Energy and Boost your Homes Value in 2019

Energy efficiency is one of the hottest growing trends in home design today. According to a recently >

If yoursquo;ve been wondering how to make the most of your homersquo;s potential and ensure more interest with new home buyers, be sure to pay attention to these top findings.

Renewable Energy

When it comes to renewable sources of energy, solar panels are still topping the lists of homeowners. Solar energy has a lot of benefits, including the ability to reduce or even eliminate your electric bill.

Experts also reported that Millennial homeowners are the ones most likely to invest in a form of renewable energy. In fact, Millennials, in general, have become the driving force behind renewable energy, including solar energy for the home. In turn, Millennials are beginning to include them in their preferences when purchasing new homes.


The way that you heat your home and the water you use can greatly impact your energy usage. The most popular method of heating in an energy efficient home utilizes heat pumps, which reduce electricity usage by 50. Heat pumps transfer heat between your home and the outside air, which is more efficient than using a traditional furnace.

To further the energy savings, experts also added that to heat your hot water for bathing and cleaning, a tankless hot water heater makes the most sense. Tankless hot water heaters only heat water as you use it, rather than heating and storing the water constantly, so they result in lower bills as well.

Air Sealing

Air leaks in and around the home can mean a serious loss of energy. Air sealing is recommended by as a way to help combat energy loss and to make homes more comfortable. According to experts pooled, it seems that windows and air ducts are the two areas of the home that will see the biggest benefit from sealing. Homeowners wanting to make the most impact on their energy loss should look to these areas of the home, which may include replacing windows with Energy Star rated models.


Many homes are underinsulated, meaning that they donrsquo;t have enough insulation to help prevent energy loss and keep homes comfortable. Today, homeowners have a lot of choices for how theyrsquo;ll insulate their homes, including foam, tight building envelopes, >

Experts report that both fiberglass and cellulose fiber are tied in popularity amongst homeowners for attic insulation. Both forms are efficient and fairly easy to install with little in the way of retrofitting, so homeowners can start seeing improvements in comfort and efficiency right away.

Smart Lighting

With the rapid growth of smart home technology and the increase in numbers of homeowners using devices like Amazonrsquo;s Alexa, experts were asked how they felt that homeowners would benefit most from this technology. 44 replied that they felt that smart lighting was going to be the way that most homeowners used this technology in order to save energy. Smart lighting involves bulbs that sense a personrsquo;s presence and digital timers that can ensure the lights arenrsquo;t on when people are home.

Whatrsquo;s Motivating Homeowners

Itrsquo;s likely not a surprise to most homeowners that experts are saying that the biggest driving factor behind efficient design is the monetary savings it brings. The cost of electricity in the residential sector is expected to rise to 13.45 cents per kilowatthour by 2020, with the costs of gas, oil, and other fuels rising as well. Homeowners wanting to offset these costs will be wise to make improvements to the efficiency of their home design in the near future.

Rising Awareness about environmental concerns

While most homeowners are predominately motivated by potential energy savings, this doesnrsquo;t mean theyrsquo;re unaware of their personal impact on the environment. The survey shows that most people are more aware of environmental concerns today than they have been in the past. Since most people report that the country should be taking steps to help the environment, it makes sense that some of that awareness is trickling down to how people view and work on their homes as well.

Make Your Home More Efficient in 2019

By paying attention to trends, such as those uncovered in Fixrrsquo;s Energy-Efficient Home Design Trends of 2019, you can make better choices for your home. This is important because it can not only save you money now, it can make your home easier to sell. Homebuyers are also looking for the same savings and energy efficient designs, so investing is a smart way to capitalize both now and in the future. Be sure to check out the full survey for more information, and make sure that your home is up to date and efficient before energy costs begin to rise again.

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Seven Steps for Spring Storm Preparedness

Stay informed

Have you downloaded the aps for your local news and government? Theyrsquo;re critical lifelines for information in an emergency situation. You can also sign up for alerts with the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA, who send out text message updates during storms.

Clean out your storm shelter

Did your pantry or walk-in closet become cluttered and overrun with stuff that belongs elsewhere over the past year? Same. This should be No. 1 on your spring cleaning list. Sure, having a nice and tidy garage would be great, but thatrsquo;s not where yoursquo;re heading when a storm is coming your way. Getting the area you use as a shelter in order is crucial; you donrsquo;t want to have to scramble to clear the space when the sirens are blaring.

Stock up

Do you have sufficient water for everyone in the house and a first aid kit and emergency batteries and all the other stuff you need in an emergency kit? Great Yoursquo;re halfway there. Now ask yourself, Where are they?rdquo;

Stocking up on safety items and must-haves is only half the battle. Making sure theyre accessible to you in a storm is key. Experts recommend having everything you need in a storm in one place, and making sure you can reach them easily should you lose power and access to other parts of the home.

Check the exterior

You should be doing a thorough evaluation of your homersquo;s exterior at least once a year, and, if yoursquo;re in an area that is prone to spring storms, nowrsquo;s the time. Here are a few things to look for, according to American Family Insurance:

bull; ldquo;Loose shingles that look rippled or ones that have already fallen to the ground.
bull; Check the siding to see if itrsquo;s firmly in place.
bull; Tree branches extending over your house or dead branches that could fall in a storm.
bull; Note loose patio furniture and deacute;cor that should be secured or pulled inside when a storm comes.
bull; Gutters should be firmly attached and all downspouts need to be in place.
bull; If you have shutters, make sure theyrsquo;re secure.
bull; Check to see if your fence needs repair.rdquo;

Yoursquo;ll also want to make sure your gutters are cleaned out so water flows through them smoothly when the rain is heavy and your home doesnrsquo;t flood.

Make a plan

Family meeting time Every member of the household needs to know what to do and where to go when a storm hits. ldquo;Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know which types of disasters could affect your area,rdquo; said; Know how yoursquo;ll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Establish a family meeting place thatrsquo;s familiar and easy to find.rdquo; FEMA has a great template for a family emergency communication plan.

Check your insurance coverage

Did you have any changes to your policy in the last year? Wersquo;re all guilty of ignoring the small print sometimes. It wouldnrsquo;t hurt to give your insurance agent a call as a double-check. ldquo;Every homeowner should know exactly what their policy covers, or doesnrsquo;t cover, so there are no surprises in the event of storm damage,rdquo; said Farmerrsquo;s Almanac. ldquo;Damage to your swimming pool, for example, may not be covered.rdquo;

Prepare for power outages

Having a bunch of candles and a lighter is just the beginning. If you lose power, it could last for just a few minutes or hours, or several days or longer. Farmerrsquo;s Almanac has some great tips for dealing with an outage.

bull; You can make an ldquo;old time iceboxrdquo; by filling up empty soda bottles with water and freezing them. Yoursquo;ll also want to make as much ice as you can.
bull; Get a battery-operated radio.
bull; Use a cooler. Fill it with that ice you make to keep food cool and closeby, without having to open the fridge.
bull; ldquo;If you have an electric garage door opener, be sure to disconnect it before yoursquo;re stuck in the dark, without a vehicle.rdquo;
bull; Think like a camper. ldquo;Either get a camp stove always use it outside, or use the grill to cook if yoursquo;ve lost power. If you have a lot in the freezer and itrsquo;s going to be a long time without power, you may just want to invite the neighbors over and grill up as much as possible before it goes bad.rdquo;
bull; Keep cell phones, laptops, and tablets charged.

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Staging Tips for Selling to Specific Target Markets

To differentiate your home today, you may need to think like a model home interior designer. When you walk through a model, itrsquo;s very clear who they think their buyer is. One home features a train theme in the bedroom that screams little boy. Another is merchandised for a millennial couple through and through. In yet another model, there is no sign of children; instead, therersquo;s a wine room where the play room would be. And the downstairs bedroom has been decorated as a warm and inviting guest space.

You can apply these ideas to your own home to get it sold.


When trying to attract millennials buyers, ldquo;This shouldnrsquo;t be your grandmarsquo;s house,rdquo; said Zing by Quicken Loans. ldquo;The knickknacks, flowery wallpaper and dust need to go. Staging is a must, specifically when marketing to the millennial home buyer. For many of this generation, this will be their first time buying a home. Staging will give them a visual on how they could live in this space.rdquo;
According to Paige Elliott, a real estate agent at Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate in Park Cities, Texas, millennials ldquo;want that glamorous, this-could-be-a-movie-set look,rdquo; said the Minnesota StarTribune. ldquo;They like that because theyrsquo;re young and they want the life>

Young families

A tricycle in the yard. A stylish high chair pulled up to the kitchen table. A crib in a themed bedroom. Theyrsquo;re all signs that a home is family-friendly. If yoursquo;re in an area with lots of young families or thatrsquo;s who yoursquo;re trying to attract, but your home is not giving off that feeling, there are some steps you can take.

Start with that tricycle, the high chair, and the crib borrow if you need to. Then take a cue from those model homes and get out the paint brush. Create a nursery or young childrsquo;s room that brings the ldquo;Awww,rdquo; and yoursquo;re halfway there.

It also helps to have a handout of local school info including area preschools and recommended daycares. While buyers can do their own research to find some of this information, they will su>


ldquo;Baby boomers are either retired or reaching retirement age, and they are quickly becoming empty nesters,rdquo; said HGTV star Christina El Moussa on Irish Realty amp; Cooreman Properties. ldquo;These aging Americans are looking to downsize because they no longer want or need their five-bedroom, two-level homes. A home that better fits their current life>

That gives you a golden opportunity to stage your home as a magnet for this target. A first-floor master suite is key, but if you donrsquo;t have one, maybe you have a guest bedroom that could be turned into a master. A first-floor guest bedroom could also be staged as a mother-in-law suite to appeal to a multi-generational household, which is a growing trend across the country.

While making updates to attract baby boomers, concentrate on low-maintenance features. ldquo;Boomers love modern appliances that they wonrsquo;t have to repair, a yard thatrsquo;s easy to maintain, energy-efficient windows and doors to save on their heating bills, and a large, open floor plan that provides lots of space and natural light,rdquo; said El Moussa.
While your home may not meet that standard 100, there are things you can do to make it more appealing, particularly in the yard. Changing out grass to turf or changing it to pavers to ldquo;cut down on yard workrdquo; is a good start.

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The True Definition of a First Time Buyer

The biggest obstacle first time home buyers face is coming up with the necessary cash for a down payment, closing costs and cash reserves. Even the FHA program, favored by first time buyers, which has a minimum down payment of just 3.5 of the sales price can still keep future homeowners on the sidelines.

With a 200,000 home the minimum down payment amount is 7,000. There are also closing costs that have to be considered plus funds for an insurance policy, property taxes and impound accounts. When everything is all said and done the minimum cash to close could exceed 10,000 or more. Thatrsquo;s a number that first time buyers look at and it can seem a bit formidable for many.

For those who buy their second or third home the down payment and closing costs are typically paid for with proceeds from the sale of the previous property. Once someone gets in a first home, the real estate wheels begin to turn.

First time home buyer grants are free money. A grant can be used to cover the down payment and contribute toward closing costs. Typically, the grant does not have to be paid back as long as the buyers own the home for at least three years. Second liens are also available to help out with a down payment. These funds are in the form of a loan and not a grant. Again, if the owners keep the home for at least three years, the loan is forgiven.

But for those who have owned a home before and are looking at buying another but are looking for the type of loan available for first time buyers, there is an opportunity to qualify for a first time buyer grant or loan, even if theyrsquo;ve owned before. How?

For most of these programs the standard definition of a first time home buyer applies. To qualify as a first time buyer, the borrowers must not have owned a home within the past three years. This means someone who owned a home four or five years ago may still be eligible for down payment assistance reserved for first timers. How does a lender know if someone qualifies as a first time buyer? Unless someone paid all cash for a previous home, there will be a mortgage listed on a credit report. The report will show when the mortgage was opened and when it was paid off. If three years have passed since the previous mortgage was retired, the buyers qualify for a first time home buyer loan.

Of course, just because someone qualifies as a first time home buyer it may not always the best choice. Thatrsquo;s a conversation that needs to be had between the buyers and their loan officer. But if someone is buying a first home and is wanting a little financial help with the necessary cash to close, first time buyer programs more than fill that need.

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Realty Times Remembers Long-Time Contributor, Bob Hunt

It is with great sadness and reflection that we announce the passing of Bob Hunt, a long-time Realty Times contributor, former director of the National Association of Realtorsreg;, author of Ethics at Work and Real Estate the Ethical Way. A graduate of Princeton with a masters degree from UCLA in philosophy, Hunt served as a U.S. Marine, Realtorreg; association president in South Orange County, director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;, and was an award-winning Realtorreg;. For the last 20 years Bob has been a weekly contributor to our website, educating agents and brokers alike as an expert in his field; we thank Bob for his many years of dedication to our publication. We will miss his colorful and sage advice. Our hearts are with his family at this very difficult time.nbsp;

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March Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Surveyreg; shows that "mortgage rates have dipped quite dramatically since the start of the year and house prices continue to moderate, which should help on the homebuyer affordability front. The combination of improving affordability and more inventory than the last few spring selling seasons should lead to improved home sales demand."

bull; 30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 4.28 percent with an average 0.5 points for the week ending March 21, 2019, down from last month when it averaged 4.35 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.45 percent.

bull; 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.71 percent with an average 0.4 points, down from last month when it also averaged 3.78 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.91 percent.

bull; 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 3.84 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, the same as last month when it averaged 3.88 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.68 percent.

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Ask the HOA Expert: Rental limitations, Board Meeting Minutes, Increased Interest

Answer: Hardship provisions are meant to be exceptions to the rule so the fact that there are ldquo;too many rentalsrdquo; is immaterial. Members of the US military are entitled to an exemption due to deployment. If the board is unwilling to grant your hardship exception, an attorney letter on your behalf will help.

Question: We are a self-managed HOA. Over the years, the board has only distributed minutes of the annual meetings. Should we be sending minutes of board meetings and if so, should we wait until they have been approved?

Answer: Distribute minutes clearly marked DRAFT within two weeks after each meeting along with the caveat that they are subject to additions and correction at the next meeting. Distributing DRAFT minutes is important since there may be action items that will take place before the next meeting and members need to be informed before the fact, not after. Get email addresses for distribution purposes to eliminate cost and improved efficiency.

Question: The board has begun to charge 12 interest on past due balances. This is in conflict to the governing documents which state 8 per annum.

Answer: The board cannot institute a collection policy that contradicts the governing documents. Only an appropriate vote of the members as defined by the governing documents can change or eliminate the stated percentage.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

Full Story >

Spring Cleaning with an Eye Toward ROI

ldquo;Spring cleaning is the perfect opportunity for home owners to de-clutter and organize their home,rdquo; said Keller Williams. ldquo;It is an especially important task for home owners who currently have their home listed or plan to list in the near future. Taking the time to spruce up the home can help increase value and make a good impression on potential buyers.rdquo;

Clean out your closets

Whatrsquo;s one thing everyone always wants more of: closet space Buyers will open every door and look through every closet to assess whether or not their stuff will comfortably fit inside. Pack up your out-of-season stuff to make it look more airy, and not only will you impress buyers, but yoursquo;ll get a jumpstart on your packing.

Clean out your kitchen cabinets

Theyrsquo;ll go through these too, and if therersquo;s clutter or anything looks sloppy, poorly organized, or out of place, it may give them pause. You donrsquo;t want a buyer questioning whether the house is in good shape because your dishes were mismatched or you had too many junk drawers.

Clean out your garage

Yoursquo;re moving anyway, so you might as well get the garage nice and tidy now. The impression you make here could make a difference in getting a sale or staying on the market.

Spruce up your front yard

ldquo;Prepare the lawn and trees: Itrsquo;s time to bring out the lawn mower and plant nice flowers for a better curb appeal,rdquo; said Keller Williams. While yoursquo;re at it, lay down a fresh layer of mulch, which gives the yard a ldquo;done,rdquo; well-cared-for look, and make sure your door, doormat, and front windows are clean and inviting. Nothing is more important than the first impression your home makes. If the front yard and exterior look shabby, potential buyers may not even venture inside.

Get your yard in order

Outdoor living is more important than ever, and buyers are looking for a space where they can envision themselves >

Concentrate on the kitchen and bathrooms

Even if yoursquo;re not making updates, you can make these key spaces look brand-new with a good scrubbing. Use stainless steel cleaner to make your appliances shine and remove all fingerprints. For bath fixtures, ldquo;Simply add a squirt of a mild soap to a bowl of warm water,rdquo; said The Pink Plumber. ldquo;Use a soft cloth or nonabrasive sponge and clean the fixtures well, rinsing with warm water. Use an old, soft toothbrush to clean any crevices that are hard to get to with the cloth or sponge. Rinse the fixtures well with warm water and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.rdquo;

Steam clean the carpets

Dirty, dingy, or smelly carpets are a real turnoff. You may not notice theyrsquo;ve lost their luster because yoursquo;re seeing them every day, but they wonrsquo;t likely get past a potential buyer. A good cleaning can make them look new and smell fresh.
ldquo;Old grime, pet dander, settled moisture, and other particles can all serve to not just make your carpet dirty but also to weigh it down and cause the fibers to stick to each other,rdquo; said Kaufman Realty amp; Auctions. ldquo;When yoursquo;re done and the carpet dries, it will be softer and fluffier than ever.

Full Story >

Why Home Buyers Should Hire a Professional

To negotiate todays challenges, you need a real estate sales professional to help you close the deal. A good real estate professional understands current market conditions. He or she has house-by-house neighborhood experience and can help you obtain the right home at the best price and terms.

Your agent can help you find a home quickly. Not only do real estate agents have access to the local multiple listing service, they also share knowledge of homes coming onto the market with their colleagues. Your real estate professional will tell others about your requirements for a home so they can also be on the lookout for you.

In fact, networking is one of the biggest industry advantages. Many homes are bought and sold without a sign ever going into the yard. But, for buyers to be shown the latest homes on the market, or to hear about homes about to come onto the market, there has to be a strong >

If you want to be the buyer positioned to make first and best offers on the most desirable homes, make certain your agent knows you are committed. How do you show youre serious? There are several ways.

Get prequalified with a lender. Share your financial records so you know exactly how much home you can buy. Your agent wont go over your limit because it would be a waste of time to show you homes you cant afford to buy.

Work with only one agent. You can do this by signing a buyers representation agreement, if its customary in your area. If not, show your loyalty by telling other agents you may meet at open houses or socially that you are represented and give them your agents name.

Dont shop for homes without your agent. If you want to look at open houses or builder homes, invite your agent to go along. If your agent cant go, make sure you register your agents name with builder sales reps and open house sellers agents.

Be loyal. Real estate professionals work primarily on commission. If the deal of the century is about to come on the market, who do you think your agent will tell first - the buyer with five other agents or the buyer who is loyal? If youre playing agents against each other thinking youll get people to work for free and that youll have your pick of homes to choose, youre wrong. Agents talk, and theyll find out theyre working for the same buyer. If you want great service, show appreciation, confidence, and commitment.

Once you find the house you want, the work really begins. Youll have to navigate negotiations, loan approval, sellers disclosures, inspections with environmental and structural reports, and so on. From helping you make a reasonable offer, to providing for the discovery and disclosure of material facts, your agent can help protect your interests.

Buyers and sellers are natural adversaries. Agents must be skilled negotiators and problem solvers, as well as anticipate problems before they happen. Pride, ignorance, or stubbornness can get in the way of a fair deal for both sides.

Your agent will share your risk, and will make sure you go into any home purchase with your eyes wide open. Take advantage of the greatest homebuying resource available -- your own real estate agent.

Full Story >

How to Beat Sellers Stress

Three things are certain in life: death, taxes ... and undue stress caused by moving. Whether or not you use the services of a Realtorreg; to help you wade through the uncertain waters of the buy-and-sell process, moving is stressful, period. And theres not much you can do to avoid it. And were not just talking about packing and paperwork. Moving is an emotional process. If youre not calming down your nervous children, youre trying to reassure yourself that youll meet people in your new neighborhood, that you bought the best house within your means, and that your kids new schools will measure up.

Its easy to forget while were dealing with all of these jitters that moving actually can represent an exciting adventure, a growth opportunity and the prospect of new beginnings. Once the dust settles after your move, youre entering one of the most memorable times of your life. With any luck, youve recruited a Realtorreg; whos familiar with the obvious stresses as well as the insidious and subsequently more detrimental ones. Depending upon your >

Its important to remember throughout the entire selling and buying process, however, to reserve time for yourself and your family. Its not a waste of time, but rather an insurance policy for your sanity and continued happiness. Stress is sneaky, as weve all discovered. It can eat away at us during what are supposed to be the happiest of times, because after all, any major change in life is stressful. If its supressed, it can wreak havoc both emotionally and physically and spread throughout the family. And theres nothing worse than moving a grumpy family across the country. For the sake of your continued family unity, keep in mind the following stress->

First, remember that its perfect normal to feel unsure of your decision right now. Youve just made a major commitment, and all of us experience those last-second "What on earth did I just do" worries after signing contracts and making life-changing decisions. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with "what ifs" and dread, reframe this decision as a prime opportunity to begin your lives in a new environment. The old saying "When one door closes, another one opens" definitely applies here. Trust that your Realtorreg; is looking out for your best interests, ask as many questions as you need to throughout the entire process thats part of what your Realtorreg; is paid for, and look forward to the adventure that lies ahead of you.

If you can, keep an emergency fund in case you run into any unexpected costs. One example: If your buyer comes forward after a home inspection is completed and requests a series of repairs prior to move-in, youll be prepared. Chances are good that you wont necessarily agree with the buyers requests, but at least you wont face the additional stress of being short the money for repairs if you plan ahead and save some extra cash no set amount -- just as much as you can handle. A goal you might try to shoot for would be in the range of 2,500. Its probably in your best interests not to try to guess what the buyer will want to repair, and then fix it ahead of time. Thats because buyers have a habit of isolating areas of your home that you never considered having repaired, and not even noticing the ones you expected them to pinpoint. So save yourself any expenses until youve determined their requests.

And while were on the subject of finances, try to anticipate and prepare for the initial expenses youll face upon move-in. Resign yourself to the fact that during the moving process, youre going to feel as if youre holding your wallet upside down, and everyone -- movers, contractors, buyer, etc. -- is sitting underneath, catching the windfall and demanding a larger share. Keep in mind that this is an investment for the good of your family, and that these costs are a one-time inevitability.

Remind yourself of why youre moving in the first place. A job transfer, or is it a voluntary choice? Obviously, whether or not you had some degree of control over the decision will affect your outlook. Regardless of your answer to that question, round up as much information as you can about your new hometown. What kinds of cultural offerings does the town/city offer? What are its landmarks and natural attractions? Research some possible day trips you might take with the family once youre settled. Is your new hometown near state borders, giving you the opportunity to explore different regions of the country without much effort?

Envision your new home. Where will you place the furniture? Remind yourself of the homes primary selling points. Will you have more space? More closets? A large backyard and/or swimming pool? What does your new streetlook like? Do a lot of young families reside there? If so, your children are likely to be reassured by that knowledge. As often as possible, try to picture yourself and your family fully adapted to your new environment.

Remember to have a little fun occasionally. Youre still allowed, even if you feel as if you dont have a penny left to your name. Take the family out to dinner, to a movie or a picnic -- anything that gets all of you out of the house and away from boxes, paperwork, emotions and all of those pre-move concerns. Keep a regular "date" to get out together -- for example, every Friday night leading up to the move. Take your mind off your stress for a few hours, and remind yourself that your family members are experiencing many of the same emotions. Like misery, stress often loves company, so enjoy your time together and remember that this stress wont last forever. Regardless of what youre feeling now, the move will happen and everything will eventually fall into place. Journeying into the unknown is what makes life rewarding, so trust in your Realtorreg;s expertise and in your familys resilience, and look forward to the journey ahead.

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FHA High Balance Home Loans

FHA loans are easier to save up for because the minimum down payment is only 3.5 of the sales price. Credit requirements are lower for FHA loans. The minimum credit score for an FHA loan is 580 whereas a minimum credit score for a conventional loan is 620 for most programs.

However, FHA does issue home loan limits which will vary based upon the location of the property. FHA loans nationally are set at 65 of the conforming loan limit for the area. The current conforming loan limit for 2019 is 484,350. That puts the FHA loan limit at 314,827 for a single family home and higher for multi-unit properties.

Each fall when the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA reviews the median home values for the entire country, they compare those numbers with the previous year. Because the 2017-2018 review showed an increase in values the conforming loan limit was increased accordingly for 2019. Since the conforming limit went up so too did the FHA limit.

But what about areas where the property values are much higher compared to the rest of the country? In many places, mostly coastal in high-density urban areas, the 314,827 is simply too low to finance a home. However, many of these areas are officially labeled a ldquo;high costrdquo; and higher conforming and FHA loan limits are also adjusted to address these areas. In high cost areas, there are ldquo;high balancerdquo; FHA loans that allow borrowers to take advantage of the FHA loan program instead of taking out a higher-cost jumbo mortgage.

In high cost areas the maximum FHA loan is set at 150 of the national conforming loan limit. This can put the maximum FHA loan as high as 726,525. For an owner-occupied fourplex the maximum FHA high balance loan limit is 1,397,400.

If someone is shopping for a home and not sure if the area is deemed high cost, a quick phone call to a loan officer can help. The loan officer will need the exact location of the home, including the county, in order to research the maximum loan limit. Note that maximum high balance limit is not automatically 726,525 for a single family home. It can be lower than that while higher than the standard FHA minimum.

Underwriting guidelines for FHA high balance loans are mostly the same for a traditional FHA mortgage. The home must be owner-occupied, income and employment history is verified and minimum credit scores will be reported along with verifying there are sufficient funds available for the down payment, closing costs and cash reserves. In areas deemed high cost, the FHA high balance mortgage deserves a look.

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How to DIY Abstract Art

Yes, you can scour the internet for abstract art in every color, shape, and size, and yoursquo;ll pay a pretty penny for a lot of it. Or, you can D-I-Y your A-R-T. Itrsquo;s easier than you think to create something that looks like you dropped some serious cash to dress up your walls, and you might even have a good time while yoursquo;re at it. Here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing.

Create dimension

Ever see those abstract paintings that have texture and dimension and wonder how they got such a layered look? This tutorial uses a clever trick to approximate the look of ldquo;elevated brush or painting-knife strokesrdquo;: tissue paper Who ever thought an item you use to blow your nose could be so beautifully useful.

Get the right tools

Yoursquo;ll need a canvas, some paint, and at least one paintbrush, obviously, to make your art. But incorporating some other tools can give it a unique, professional look. Drywall spatulas give this painting nbsp;its textural flair without the brush strokes. Varying the usage and pressure of the spatulas and paint brush allow you to create as muchmdash;or as littlemdash;texture as you want.

Pass the alcohol

The alcohol inks, to be exact. If you havenrsquo;t heard of this before, itrsquo;s about to become your favorite craft item. ldquo;Alcohol inks are an acid-free, highly-pigmented, and fast drying medium to be used on non-porous surfaces,rdquo; said Create for Less.

While the finished product of this abstract art looks complicated, itrsquo;s actually a simply process, and one that creates cool-looking art that can be done and hung in a matter of minutes. Watch the tutorial to see how easy it is, but beware: Yoursquo;re dealing with fire here, so, if yoursquo;re accident prone, you might want a chaperone.

And more alcohol

Using rubbing alcohol to blur the lines helps create the ldquo;splash effectrdquo; on this painting. It looks like fluffy clouds to us. One thing is for sure: No one will ever know you did this yourself

Go all Jackson Pollock

Your masterpiece may not end up in the Museum of Modern Art MoMA, but itrsquo;ll sure become the centerpiece of your space Get your splatter on and create a piece yoursquo;ll love.nbsp;This tutorial shows you how. It also shows you how to create your own canvas, but, unless yoursquo;re super keen on this part of the DIY experience, you can save yourself some time and hassle, and maybe even an injury, by picking up a finished, framed canvas at a store like JOANNs, Michaels, or Hobby Lobby.

Dont restrict yourself to just paint

Canrsquo;t find the perfect shade for your art? Tint it yourself This dreamy abstract painting is part paint, part food coloring

Think outside the lines

Animal print is the inspiration for this spotted art. Black and gray paint on a white background keeps it neutral, and the gold-sprayed framed provide a pop. Do like the artist and use watercolors to ldquo;vary the depth of the spots to make it look more natural.rdquo;

Make it fancy

A little touch of metallic takes this art to the next level. This cool painting uses golf leaf, but you can also experiment with metallic paint if yoursquo;d rather.

Full Story >

Septic or Sewer: Whats the Difference?

All of these functions >

1. Sewer system

2. Septic system

Sewer systems are different than a septic system because one >

Why Many Homeowners >

A sewer system requires no maintenance, but youll need to pay monthly fees for using the system. Local governments allow the homeowner to hook up the local sewer system, which will ensure all of your waste is gone forever.

Youll pay monthly, but you never have to worry about septic system costs and repairs.

Sewers can become clogged and they may backup over-time. This happens when neighbors and others in the community are flushing wet wipes or pouring grease down their drains. When major blockages occur, everyone is impacted.

You may not pay for the unclogging upfront, but your fees may rise to cover the expenditures.

Why Homeowners are Moving Back to Septic Systems

A septic system is your own system, and this is a tank system thats often able to hold 1,000 gallons of water. The three-layer system connects to the home, and the system is placed in the ground on the homes property.

Often seen as an eco-friendly option, you wont pay monthly fees to use your septic system.

Clogging of the system is also your fault. If the system becomes clogged, this is due to your actions: i.e. youre flushing items that cannot breakdown in the system.

Septic systems can be costly to install, and all of the maintenance and repair fees must be paid by the homeowner.

But "sewer betterment" fees are often imposed on homeowners, with some fees being in the 10,000 range. This may include fees for installation and repairs. When these fees are considered, this is often higher than the cost to install a septic system on the land.

Septic systems do need to be pumped, and this can cost 200 - 300 every 3 ndash; 5 years.

Concrete tanks can last 40 years with proper maintenance, while steel tanks have a lifespan of 15 ndash; 20 years.

"Septic systems should be inspected and pumped a minimum of once every three to four years. You may not be experiencing any problems now, but a full septic tank may allow unwanted solids to flow into the drain field, which is the part of the system that consists of a distribution box and a series of connected pipe," explains Apollo Drain.

Septic systems also offer the benefit of being able to build a home in a remote area, which may not have a sewer system connection close by. But when sewer systems are close to the home, theyre often chosen because they can handle large amounts of waste at a time. During storm periods where heavy rains occur, sewer systems are able to handle the water with much greater ease than a septic system.


Full Story >

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Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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