Real Estate News

Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Guide for San Diego Seniors Planning to Downsize During Retirement

Costs to Include When Planning Out Your Downsizing Budget

Remodeling Expenses

When looking for a new home, yoursquo;re not likely to find one with all of the aging-in-place features to make your golden years safe and comfortable. So factor the costs of making those home changes on your own into your budget. You can use online tools to quickly find out how much home projects cost in your area. For instance, an average bathroom remodel runs 10,332 to 24,516 in San Diego, but project specifics can drive those costs up or down.nbsp;

Costs of Selling a Homenbsp;

You may have already thought about local home prices when planning your downsizing move, but many seniors are surprised by the costs of selling a home. Two of these costs that tend to take homeowners by surprise are the expenses of preparing a home for sale and the fees involved with selling a home. Closing costs can vary according to your location, but seniors should be prepared to pay for at least a portion of closing costs when selling a home. Plus, you may need to cover closing costs on your new home. The best way to prepare for these transaction expenses is to consult your real estate agent when buying or selling a home.nbsp;

Moving Expensesnbsp;

To help your downsizing move go smoothly, you need to anticipate all potential moving costs. A local San Diego move can cost you anywhere from about 365 to 1,255 depending on your homersquo;s size, but you may also need to factor storage costs and professional moving fees into your budget. Hiring professional movers may be an added moving expense, but having that extra help can help you avoid the headache of packing and moving heavy boxes on your ownmdash;especially since it can take time just to declutter and downsize your home before you even think about packing.nbsp;

Things to Consider When Searching for Your Perfect Golden Years Home

Location and Sizenbsp;

If yoursquo;re not sure which San Diego neighborhood is best for your retirement, you could always rent a vacation home to test out different neighborhoods and home types. Per Turnkey, San Diegorsquo;s 70 miles of gorgeous coastline and mild average temperatures make it a perfect retirement spot, and test-driving homes in areas like La Jolla and Torrey Pines can help you find your perfect retirement neighborhood. There are also quite a few San Diego County cities, such as La Mesa and El Cajon, where you may be able to stretch those retirement dollars further without sacrificing access to all of the perks that San Diego has to offer.nbsp;

Floorplan and Featuresnbsp;

Aging-in-place modifications can make any home safer for your retirement years. These modifications are specifically tailored to prevent falls and home accidents that can reduce senior independence, all while adding comfort to your golden years home. While you may not be able to find a San Diego home with all of the aging-in-place features you need, you can look for senior-friendly design elements, such as no-step entries and slip-resistant flooring. Also, pay attention to the floorplans of potential homes, since open floor plans may make it easier to move around and provide enhanced lighting throughout all of the living areas in a home.nbsp;

The whole point of downsizing is to simplify your golden years. So donrsquo;t let the process of downsizing and moving to a new home cause you more stress than it needs to. Keep this guide handy every step of the way, and be sure to get the help you need with downsizing tasks. These are some of the best years of your life, and you deserve to enjoy them


Full Story >

Now That Its Fall, Did You Miss the Home Selling Boat?

But that doesnrsquo;t mean you canrsquo;t offload your home now, or that you wonrsquo;t get a good price if you do. If you have to list now and you want to get your home in the best position to sell quickly and for a good number, heed these tips.nbsp;

Make sure your home is market ready

Buyers at this time of year tend to be serious. They may not be any more excited about buying right now than you are about selling, but theyrsquo;re in the market because of a >

A home thatrsquo;s not in great shape is typically going to take longer to sell at any time of yearmdash;unless itrsquo;s a super bargain. When there are limited buyers out there and yoursquo;ve got competition from other area homes, your place has to show well.nbsp;

That doesnrsquo;t necessarily mean you need expensive or extensive renovations. But a >

bull;nbsp;Scour and tidy up

Your real estate agent may have some other suggestions to make your home more sellable.

Celebrate the season

A few pumpkins, a fall wreath, a couple of candles with an autumnal scent or a simmering pot of cinnamon sticksmdash;theyrsquo;re little touches that can help your home feel more inviting and more fall-like for showings, without going overboard. Your Halloween deacute;cor may be stellar, but real estate agents steer sellers away from over-decorating so buyers arenrsquo;t distracted or turned off.nbsp;

Put in a little extra effort for great photos

"According to one study done by a real estate photography company, top-notch photos cannbsp;make your house sell 32 fasternbsp;than a house with low quality or average pictures,rdquo; said Homelight. ldquo;Thatrsquo;s not just for million-dollar mansions, either. The study, conducted by VHT Studios, took houses of all values into account.rdquo;

It might be a little more challenging to get those photos in fall, however; Natural light is preferable for listing photos. ldquo;Fall and winter photos run the risk of looking drab, but well-timed summer photos are bright, clean, warmmdash;really everything you need to stand out to serious buyers. So take advantage of the seasonrsquo;s best days and include those photos in the listing when you go to sell in the fall,rdquo; said

If good natural light is hard to come by at this time of year in your area, using a professional photographer is even more important. They will have tricks to help overcome the challenges.

Let There Be Light

Emphasizing the natural light in photos is one thing. You also want you home to look as light and bright as possible for showings and tours. ldquo;Retract blinds, and widen curtains, so therersquo;s minimal window coverage,rdquo; said HGTV.nbsp;

ldquo;The windows will look bigger, and itrsquo;ll encourage daylight to flow into your space. Experiment with your lightbulbs to find the most flattering hues for your space. A bathroom looks great with daylight bulbs 5,000-6,500K and living spaces, such as bedrooms and living rooms, look best with soft white bulbs 2,700K. In general, your homersquo;s design and color palette will play a part in what looks most appealing. Go for cozy and bright. If yoursquo;re upgrading bulbs in hard-wired fixtures, consider going all LED. Let the buyers know yoursquo;re leaving the bulbs for them.rdquo;

Be mindful of your curb appeal

Falling leaves are inevitable in autumn. You may not be able to rake or remove every single one of them in time for a surprise or last-minute showing, but making sure you take a walk around your house every day to address any areas that need clean-up can help you from having to make a big effort when an agent calls with an interested client.

You know what they say: You only get one chance to make a first impression. ldquo;Rake dead leaves and debris in your lawn,rdquo; said The Balance. ldquo;Dont let overgrown vegetation block the windows or path to the entrance. Cutting bushes and tree limbs will let the sun inside and showcase the exterior of your home. Cutaway summer vines and cut down dead flowers. Make the most of the autumn weather in the fall real estate market.rdquo;nbsp;

Adding a few fall flowers is another good idea that will up your curb appeal. ldquo;The most popular autumn flowers are chrysanthemums or mums, and they bloom for a long time. Marigolds are another idea for fall. Both mums and marigolds are available in yellow, which is my number one home selling color. Plant them in pots. Place pots on the steps and along the sidewalk.rdquo;

Key in on your target market

Your agent should be able to help you pinpoint who the most likely buyers are. Armed with that info, you can tailor your home to specific target markets.nbsp;

ldquo;If you have a hunch your house may appeal to empty-nesters, herersquo;s how to play up that attraction: Emphasize multipurpose spacemdash;for instance, stage one bedroom as a home office-cum-hobby roommdash;because empty-nesters crave flexibility for the future,rdquo; said Bob Vila. ldquo;Provide a map to points of interest within walking distance. To the extent possible, aging baby boomers wish to integrate exercise into their daily habits.nbsp;Showcase quality. Without teenagers around, empty-nesters can enjoy more delicate finishes and fine details, so give them something to brag about. They want to upgrade as they downsize.rdquo;


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How to Solve an Ant Problem

If you are interested to know about how you can get rid of ants naturally, then you are at the right place. Ants can be found anywhere and everywhere. You can see a trail of ant army in your kitchen. To successfully get rid of these ants, you need to try some of the best and most effective methods.

Tips to Get Rid of House Ants:

  • Homemade Ant Bait

  • Borax can be an excellent compound for killing house ants, and at the same time powdered sugar will attract them. To make a homemade ant bait, you need to mix one part of the borax thoroughly with 3 parts of powdered sugar. You can fill the bottle caps with this homemade ant bait and place these at the places where you suspect the invasion of ants.

  • Spraying Vinegar

  • You can take a little bit of white vinegar and spray it in the cracks and on the kitchen countertops. These are the places where the ants mainly travel through or walk around for the search of food. You need to allow the vinegar to dry on the surfaces or you can also wipe it with a clean cloth. This can eliminate any chemical trail.nbsp;

  • Keep the Place Sanitized

  • One of the best ways to keep ants out of your house or kitchen is by practicing good sanitation practices. Do not let the bread crumbs and food spills to stay in the kitchen. Clean them immediately. Make sure to clean the garbage too on a regular basis. Keep the sweets in zip-lock bags or in air-tight containers so that the ants cannot get into them.nbsp;

  • Peppermint Essential Oil

  • Another great method that can deter the ants from entering into your house is the peppermint essential oil. You can either spray it all over the places where it is infested by the ants including the cracks from where they enter. You can also put some drops of peppermint essential oil in a cotton ball and place them near the areas where ants move or crawl through. Make sure to find 100 pure essential oils.


    So, these are some of the best prevention methods on how to solve an ant problem. You can try all these ways to effectively eliminate the ants from your house. All these steps can be effective, but if you still see ants in your house, it is better to call for professional help.nbsp;


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    5 Questions You Should Ask About Senior Apartments

    Moving to a retirement residence could be the answer to senior housing thata yoursquo;re looking for. Older seniors who are considering the next stage of their retirement have a lot of reasons to downsize into a retirement residence. Today, housing options like these offer benefits such as:

    gt;gt; Active living amp; social life>

    gt;gt; More convenience and greater affordability

    gt;gt; Flexible care options that help seniors age in place

    gt;gt; Accessibility without costly renovationsnbsp;

    Finding senior apartments that will fit your needs and expectations will take research. You may want to get family members involved or make the decision independently. Whatever you do, make sure to ask lots about the facilities and get your questions answered while you take the tour. Making an informed decision will help you stay where you are years down the road. These are just some of the questions everyone should remember to ask the residence, their family, and themselves.

    1. How much will it cost to live there?

    Understanding the full costs of moving to and living in a retirement residence will help you put together your complete financial picture. Find out about the cost differences of different suites, as well as the cost of more intensive future care. You can also ask residences how they raise the rent; costs will have to go up to keep up with inflation.

    Look beyond your immediate expenses and try to see how much it may cost years down the road.

    You should also ask about how the residence might terminate a lease, or what kind of financial penalties might apply if you terminate your lease.

    2. What kind of activities does the facility offer?

    Find out about what kind of activities, >

    3. Are the suites right for you?

    Are you looking for a 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, or studio apartment? Find a residence that offers all the space you want and might need. If yoursquo;re looking for something budget-friendly, studio apartments are an affordable option. Many seniors would rather downsize their space for more convenience to walkable neighborhoods or for a more vibrant social life.

    4. Are the care options you need available to you?

    As you get older, the possibility that you may require care increases. Donrsquo;t neglect this fact when you are looking for a senior apartment. Make sure the place you live offers the kind of care you may need later, allowing you to age in place and remain where you are.

    5. What are housekeeping services like?

    One of the perks of moving into a retirement residence is shedding some of the chores yoursquo;ve been doing your whole life, including home maintenance and housekeeping. Find out if the residence offers housekeeping services to your liking.

    As you prepare for this next stage in your life, you need all the information. Donrsquo;t be afraid to ask questions and get answers.


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    4 Ways to Save When Selling Your Home

    Selling your home can be a thrilling and very lucrative experience. But for the first-time home seller, it can also be nerve-wracking and deflating.nbsp;

    Thatrsquo;s because selling the largest investment of your life can be counterintuitively expensive. Getting your home ready to be scrutinized by strangers takes a lot of cash and elbow grease.

    As the saying goes, it takes money to make money.

    However, there are some easy ways to cut down on your front-end expenses to make your home sale more profitable. Letrsquo;s look at five of the best.

    Stage Your House Yourself

    Professional home staging is expensive. The average cost of staging a home is just over 1,000, and renting furniture can add more. Thatrsquo;s the bad news. The good news is, you can do a lot of home staging yourself.

    At base, the art of home staging is simply making a home as appealing as possible to prospective buyers; therersquo;s a reason that real estate agents say that people ldquo;buy with their eyes.rdquo; You want to show your home in the best possible light, and help buyers envision the potential of your living space. Thatrsquo;s easier for a trained, objective expert to do, but you can get a great result if you follow a few general rules.

    If you hired a professional stager, theyrsquo;d likely deep clean your home before they staged it, so start with that. Clean the floors, walls, windows, appliances and trim; if your home needs a lot of work, hiring a professional cleaning crew might be a good investment.

    Next, consider that the key to a beautiful photo or film is the lighting. Remove all window coverings, like blinds or drapes, to admit natural light.nbsp;

    Now consider your furniture. If itrsquo;s out-of-date or in poor condition, put it in storage or throw it out. Even if your furniture is up-to-date and in great condition, keep in mind that having too much furniture crammed into a space is just as bad as not having any at all. You want to have enough furniture in your home to make it warm and inviting, but keep enough open space so that prospective buyers can project their own tastes onto the home.

    The ldquo;less is morerdquo; rule definitely applies here; above all, make sure your home doesnrsquo;t look cluttered.

    Pre-Sale Inspection

    A pre-sale inspection can save you money and a lot of potential stress. If you wait until the buyerrsquo;s inspection to discover problems with the house, that could mean choosing between a price reduction, or paying for a list of repairs on the buyerrsquo;s timeline.nbsp;

    The average cost of a pre-sale inspection is just over 300, and covers everything from the roof, foundation, plumbing, HVAC systems, the chimney and fireplace, and exterior features of the home like sidewalks.nbsp;

    Discovering problems with your home ahead of time allows you to perform repairs at your own pace, shopping around for the best contractor rates, instead of having them done in a panic.nbsp;

    Itrsquo;s also a great marketing advantage. Telling prospective buyers that your home has undergone a pre-sale inspection, followed by repairs and remediation, encourages them to bid with confidence.

    Low Cost Repairs

    Even if your home doesnrsquo;t require any major repairs, freshening it up a little can pay huge benefits when it hits the market. And wersquo;re not talking about a new roof or an in-ground pool; some of the most effective repairs are also some of the cheapest.

    A Fresh Coat of Paint

    A new paint job can make a home look warmer, cleaner, and brighter; itrsquo;s also a job that can be done in a weekend, for the cost of paint, some drop cloths, and a few rollers.

    If you decide to paint the interior of your home before you put it on the market, choose your colors carefully. Though white may seem like the obvious choice, it can seem harsh and institutional, and shows dirt easily. Opt for a softer, off-white tone for more aesthetically pleasing walls.nbsp;

    White does work for ceilings, though. Painting the ceiling a lighter color than the walls makes the ceilings seem higher, which makes the entire room seem larger. Just remember to invest in high-quality paint; the smoother, more uniform texture makes a big difference.

    Clean Carpets

    Carpets can take a beating in a busy, family home, and worn or stained carpets can make a hugely negative impression on prospective buyers. But a lot of staining, matting, and apparent wear can be cured by a thorough cleaning.

    Even if your carpet still looks good, it might have a faint odor that yoursquo;ve become nose-blind to, so a deep cleaning is always a good idea.

    The easiest way to thoroughly clean your carpets is to rent a steam cleaner. Make sure you follow the directions, and donrsquo;t use too much cleaning solution, which can leave unsightly residue. Afterwards, opening windows and using fans can speed up the drying process.nbsp;

    Fixing the Roof

    A new roof isnrsquo;t exactly ldquo;low cost,rdquo; considering it can be the single most expensive home repair of all, but if you do have roof problems, itrsquo;s better to deal with it before you put your home on the market, rather than let it become an issue down the road.

    In 2017, the U.S. Census found that Americans spent an average of 6,800 to replace their roofs. Considering that 50 of that cost is labor, you could assume that the materials for replacing your roof cost about 3,400.nbsp;

    If itrsquo;s a >

    List with a Flat Rate Agent via Referral Network

    One of the biggest single expenses of selling your home is the commission, which traditionally comes to 6 of the final sale price, split between the listing agent and the buyerrsquo;s agent. For the median American home valued at just under 230,000, that comes to about 13,800.nbsp;

    Selling with a flat fee agent from a referral network ensures that yoursquo;re working with a pre-vetted, top agent, unlike if you worked with an in-house agent from a discount brokerage, and gets you a full-service experience for a low, flat fee, instead of a big chunk of your profits. That can save you thousands of dollars in commission, and yoursquo;ll be sacrificing nothing on the service end.


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    Effective Social Media Strategies for Realtors

    The results are conclusive: social media is a great tool for real estate agents. However, first agents must understand the ways in which this medium should be harnessed for this particular industry. Herersquo;s all you need to know:

    Utilize social media demographics

    Platforms such as Facebook have detailed targeting tools which can really help you hit that required demographic, so if you are listing a property which is great for a first home for those looking to climb onto the property ladder, or alternatively a perfect downsize for an older couple whose kids have left home, then you can reach out specifically to these age ranges by using targeted demographic campaigns. Understand your audience first, and then utilize the tools which can help you reach out.

    Use images and video

    Instagram is obviously a great platform for marketing properties with its focus on pictures, but donrsquo;t forget video too. In fact, all popular social media channels, as well as LinkedIn, allow the opportunity to share video content, and when selling or renting properties itrsquo;s a perfect opportunity to show people around both inside and outside.nbsp;

    ldquo;You can even save yourself considerable time and effort in terms of physically showing people around, so put the resources into making great videos and this tactic really pays off,rdquo; says Tanya Maher, a real estate SMM manager atnbsp;Writinitynbsp;andnbsp;LastMinuteWriting.

    Use hashtags

    See whatrsquo;s trending in terms of real estate circles and follow popular hashtags online yourself to make sure you are on the ball in terms of the topics that people look out for when searching for properties online. For example , JustListed and DreamHome are two such popular options.nbsp;

    ldquo;Hashtags are part of the bigger social media picture for a real estate agent which means conducting thorough social media research and having active accounts where you follow other real estate agents in order to stay up-to-date,rdquo; suggests Kirk Forrester, a tech journalist atnbsp;DraftBeyondnbsp;andnbsp;ResearchPapersUK.

    Promote the area too

    As any real estate agent worth his salt knows, promoting a property is as much about promoting the neighborhood and town/area in general as it is about promoting a physical building. As part of that bigger social media picture, utilize links to events, local promotions and any other activity in the place the property is situated to show off a vibrant community or peaceful oasis of calm, or whatever it is about the area that you believe complements the property itself. For example, if the property works as a family home, include links to popular family events which really showcase how family-friendly the location is.

    You can also flip this around by actively posting on online community pages that you know attract the types of users who would be interested in the property. Donrsquo;t just wait for the audience to come to you, but actively go out and seek that audience by ascertaining the best places to find them. Local community online noticeboards are a great example.

    Include reviews

    In fact, you shouldnrsquo;t just include reviews, but build your who advertisement around the reviews themselves, as these really help convince viewers that the property and area is right for them. Use the reviews coming from and directed at your target audience, and be sure that the review includes key words and key topics that you know >

    And make sure your profile is optimized

    This is a simple point but often overlooked. Make sure that with any posts your contact details are overtly clear so users can quickly engage you about the property. In the world of real estate, things can move quickly, so ensure efficiency of communication with optimized profiles.


    nbsp;Professional writer and real estate agent Ashley Halsey can be found contributing her insights at LuckyAssignments and GumEssays, where she has established her reputation as an erudite and intelligent observer of real estate marketing trends.


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    How to Find a Real Estate Agent: A Few Things You Might Not Have Thought Of

    Their reviews

    We live in an era where you can find as much information as you want about just about anyone, with just a few clicks. Itrsquo;s imperative these days to read reviews, whether yoursquo;re looking for a good air conditioning technician or someone to help you buy or sell what is likely your largest asset. But donrsquo;t just depend on the reviews on the realtorrsquo;s website. Google any agent yoursquo;re considering, and check out whatrsquo;s being said about them on Yelp and on social media. Look to see if any complaints have been made about them. And keep in mind that every Realtormdash;even the best of the bestmdash;can have a negative review here and there from a disgruntled client. What yoursquo;re looking for is an overwhelmingly positive consensus.

    Their listings

    If yoursquo;re selling your home, you want your agent to be active, and that means having listings. But the number of listings can be telling. If they just go on and on and on, it could be an indication that the agent doesnt have the time to give you the level of service yoursquo;re looking for.nbsp;

    Their affiliation

    Is the Realtor yoursquo;re considering affiliated with a real estate company yoursquo;ve never heard of? This may or may not be of importance to you, depending on their qualifications. But you will want to make sure you do your due diligence to make sure the company is legit.

    Their experience

    Are you thinking of using a real estate agent who is newly licensed and has never helped anyone buy or sell a house before? Everyone has to start somewhere, but you might not want to be the guinea pig. You may have pressure from family or friends to use their daughter/cousin/uncle/next door neighbor, but itrsquo;s OK to politely tell them that yoursquo;re going with someone elsemdash;someone with many years of experience.nbsp;

    Their area of expertise

    Just because a Realtor has tons of experience doesnrsquo;t mean they have experience thatrsquo;s >

    Their attitude

    Even if the real estate agent in question checks all the other boxes, there may still be something off. Maybe they come off as aloof. Maybe theyrsquo;re so serious yoursquo;re afraid to ask questions. Maybe theyrsquo;re not serious enough. You donrsquo;t have to gel with your Realtor. Itrsquo;s perfectly finemdash;and perfectly normalmdash;to get through your transaction and never do business with that agent again. But an agent you really mesh with could end up becoming your agent for life, and maybe also become a friend.nbsp;


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    Improved Canadian Housing Data Helps With Real Estate Decisions

    Yoursquo;ve probably heard this one before: ldquo;There are three types of lies ndash; lies, damn lies and statistics.rdquo; ndash; attributed to Benjamin Disraeli. Or how about this one: ldquo;Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.rdquo; ndash; Mark Twain.

    You would think that compiling housing data would be a fairly straightforward process, but in Canada itrsquo;s been anything but. Through the years, housing stats have been called incomplete, inadequate and part of a plot by organized real estate designed to hide agentsrsquo; commissions.

    When it comes to real estate statistics, for years consumers and the government have >

    But ldquo;average or median prices can change a lot from one month to the next and paint an inaccurate or even unhelpful picture of price values and trends,rdquo; says CREA. Thatrsquo;s why in 2009, CREA and five of the countryrsquo;s largest real estate boards hired Altus Group to develop the MLS Home Price Index.

    Altus says the index ldquo;analyzes all of the sales data from a board or associationrsquo;s MLS system, applies a value to the lsquo;typicalrsquo; home for various types of dwellings for each submarket, and tracks the >

    The index has grown to include 18 boards across the country. Recently CREA and Altus Group announced an agreement that will expand the index to include all of CREArsquo;s 90 real estate boards and associations. However, the news media still prefers to report average prices, likely because itrsquo;s easier to understand than the index.

    Another popular statistic is days on market DOM, which is used to track how long it took an average home to sell via the MLS system. One would assume that the shorter the DOM, the hotter the listing or the local market.

    But in Toronto, it became common practice for Realtors to >

    The Toronto Real Estate Board says that in February 2019, 20 per cent of sold listings had been listed, terminated and then >

    The board is now providing members with a new statistic, average property days on marketAve. PDOM, which includes the time a property has been on the market, regardless of the list-terminate->

    CREA has been criticized for double-counting some sales in their national numbers when the same sale was reported by two different boards. However, the association says that impacted a very small percentage of transactions.

    Statistics provided by the real estate boards are based on sales via the MLS system, and do not include private sales, transfers to family or corporations and sales of new homes and condos where the builders marketed directly to consumers. New home sales have traditionally been provided by local branches of the Canadian Home Builders Association.

    A few years ago, when various governments started looking at the issue of foreign buyers and how they could be taxed, there was little data about just how many foreign owners there were in the marketplace. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. was tasked with coming up with some hard numbers to support government housing policies.

    In 2017, Statistics Canada also upped its game with the introduction of the Canadian Housing Statistics Program, with a mandate to gather information about residential property ownership. In June, it >

    For example, it found that 95.5 per cent of residential property owners in Ontario were individuals and residents of Canada. The same goes for 92.7 per cent of owners in B.C. and 92.1 per cent in Nova Scotia.

    Statistics Canada says 6.8 per cent of Nova Scotia owners had two or more properties, and that Nova Scotia owners were about one-third more likely to own a second property than those in Ontario and B.C.

    There were slightly more female owners than males: 51.9 per cent in B.C., 51.9 per cent in Ontario and 51 per cent in Nova Scotia.

    The largest share of owners in B.C. and Nova Scotia was born from 1950 to 1959, while in Ontario, those born from 1960 to 1969 held the largest share. Millennial owners, which Statistics Canada says were born from 1980 to 1999, accounted for one in eight owners in Nova Scotia and one in seven in Ontario and B.C.

    As more information is collected about homeownership and real estate, governments should be better able to form housing policies, and home buyers and sellers will become more equipped to negotiate the real estate market.

    Full Story >

    The Basics of Mortgage Fraud

    In the interest of protecting the typical consumer, we put together a brief post about the basics of mortgage fraud. If you are buying or selling property, be sure to educate and defend yourself starting with this basic knowledge.

    What Is Mortgage Fraud?

    Fraud is deliberate misrepresentation and deception using false facts, information, and figures. Mortgage fraud, then, is deceptive lending, buying, and selling practices in real estate. Itrsquo;s more than predatory lending; mortgage fraud includes an array of misdeeds that can hurt lenders and consumers alike.

    Industry bad actors see mortgage fraud as the path to a huge payday. Most cases involve millions of dollars. For borrowers, the goal is real estate ownership, and if a legitimate loan is out of reach, some individuals with the help of an insider leave out or misrepresent details about employment, debt, income, and other metrics used in loan applications to secure mortgages.

    The list of individuals who commit fraud is a long one. It includes everyone involved in the sale of a property, from the builder, realtor, and insurance agent to the title company and escrow agent. Occasionally, a complete shadow network of professionals conspire to commit mortgage fraud, and the one that takes the blame is often the buyer or seller of the property. He or she may not realize fraud was committed in their name.

    Common Types of Mortgage Fraud

    Fraud can be carried out by various methods. Here are four common types:

    bull; Occupancy fraud - a borrower misrepresents how the property purchased will be occupied. Loan rules differ depending on whether the property is a primary home, second home, or investment property. Mortgage and interest rates vary as well.nbsp;

    bull; Income fraud - the borrower misrepresents the amount, source, or continuance of income. Lenders fail to verify false employment documents and pay stubs from non-existent employers.

    bull; Transaction fraud - the nature of the transaction itself is misrepresented. The down payment is falsified, or there is a secret agreement between a buyer and a seller. The straw buyer is a common trope, sometimes coupled with identity theft. The identity of someone with good credit is used to hide the real buyer with bad credit. Then, when the title is transferred to the bad creditor, the lender is left holding the bag, and the straw buyer may get blamed.

    bull; Appraisal fraud - Usually in cahoots with the appraiser, the seller inflates the appraisal value of a property to set a higher price. House-flipping may involve both appraisal fraud and income fraud with inflated numbers for both.

    Other ways fraudsters profit off real estate transactions is through foreclosure rescue schemes, loan modification schemes, and equity skimming or stripping. Air loans, according to the FBI, involve victims who fund a non-existent property loan where there is no collateral. Reverse mortgages are a popular way to trick senior citizens so that a scammer gets most of the money.

    How to Protect Yourself from Mortgage Fraud

    Obviously, donrsquo;t falsify documents, donrsquo;t lie on the mortgage application, and avoid aggressive lenders. If a lender is hounding you for your business, stay away.nbsp;

    Always read and understand every document you sign. If you dont understand something, ask, and if you dont like the answer, stop the transaction until you are satisfied.

    Get the property inspected by a third party you can trust and check out the title history. Most lenders require a title report, so keep an eye out for it among the many documents you have to sign. If not, get it done before finalizing the purchase.

    Be thorough and cautious when buying or selling a property. A major purchase like this deserves your time and attention. Dont let anyone railroad you. Educate yourself about loan and property practices. Use reputable lenders. And look out for red flags that indicate potential trouble.

    Referencing Co>


    nbsp;Paul Cones is the President of, a technology company that provides legal record search products and services. Since 1982, their online repository of courthouse documents has helped real estate agents and other professionals find the documents they need.


    Full Story >

    Trend Alert: Socially Conscious Real Estate on the Rise

    The pull is stronger among some demographic groups than others, with millennials largely driving the trend. Chief Learning Officer stated that, ldquo;By and large, baby boomers sought workplaces that offered stability and high pay. Millennials, however, have different priorities. Millennials have high expectations for the actions of business when it comes to social purpose and accountability; and they want to work for companies that uphold these values.rdquo;

    According to a report titled ldquo;Millennials at work ndash; Reshaping the workplace,rdquo; corporate social values ldquo;become more important to millennials when choosing an employer once their basic needs, like adequate pay and working conditions, are met,rdquo; they said. ldquo;The report states that lsquo;millennials want their work to have a purpose, to contribute something to the world and they want to be proud of their employer.rsquo;rdquo;

    ldquo;Social purposerdquo; goes beyond philanthropy and charity and ldquo;encompasses much more than the terms lsquo;corporate social responsibilityrsquo; and lsquo;community investmentrsquo; evoke.rdquo; But when it comes to real estate, many of todayrsquo;s buyers and sellers are seeking out agents and companies whose beliefs track with their own. If yoursquo;re looking for a socially conscious company when buying or selling a home, here are a few to consider:

    Give Realty, Austin, TX

    ldquo;Give Realty is a full service real estate brokerage with two passions: Real estate and the community,rdquo; they said. ldquo;We donate 25 of our commission to the 501c3 nonprofit of the clientrsquo;s choice.rdquo; So far, they have donated almost 900,000 to various charities.nbsp;

    Giving Tree Realty, North and South Carolina

    ldquo;Giving Tree Realty is built upon a foundation of giving back,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Our unique charity platform was designed to ensure that a portion of every sales commission our Realtors earn is donated to the charity of their choice. When a Realtor joins Giving Tree Realty, they chose a charity that is near and dear to their heart.rdquo; The company has donated more than 500,000 to local charities since 2010.

    The Conscious Group, Denver

    ldquo;Our Colorado real estate agents donate 10 to the nonprofit of our clientrsquo;s choice,rdquo; they said. ldquo;We are Denver and the Front Rangersquo;s only residential real estate agency social enterprise. Our real estate agents contribute 10 percent of agent commissions to the nonprofit of your choice.rdquo; The company also specializes in ldquo;eco-friendly homes and business practices.rdquo;

    Windermere, Western United States/Mexiconbsp;

    ldquo;For the past 30 years, the Windermere Foundation has donated a portion of the proceeds from every home purchased or sold using a Windermere agent towards supporting low-income and homeless families in our communities,rdquo; they said. ldquo;What started in 1989 as a grassroots foundation serving families in need innbsp;Washington State, has grown to encompass ten states and has raised over 38 million for programs and organizations that provide shelter, food, childrenrsquo;s programs, emergency assistance, and other services to those who need our help most.rdquo;

    There are also a number of individual real estate agents who make it a point to give back to charity, and programs like PinRaise help support those efforts. PinRaisersquo;s Agent with Hearttrade; program ldquo;is a platform designed to support local nonprofits and recognize the generosity of real estate agents and brokers who give back to the community they serve,rdquo; they said.nbsp;

    Agents in the program donate to the nonprofit of theirnbsp;clientrsquo;snbsp;choosing when their home closes escrow. You can find a participating agent here.

    Full Story >

    Rules for Halloween Dcor When Selling Your House

    After a long, hot summer, the arrival of fall and everyonersquo;s favorite candy-hoarding holiday is a welcome gift.

    But if yoursquo;re getting ready to sell your home, all that deacute;cor could get in the way, and be a distraction for buyers instead of a delight. Taking a more measured approach is key; These tips will help.

    Dont overdo it

    Yoursquo;re excited about Halloween. We get it. And yoursquo;re not alone. Last year, Americans spent 9 billion on Halloween, of which 2.7 billion was spent on decorations. This year, you donrsquo;t have to put out every one of your Halloween-themed items. ldquo;You donrsquo;t want the decorations to detract from features of the house,rdquo; Kevin Lawton, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Schiavone amp; Associates in Bordentown, New Jersey, told Homelight.

    Consider your existing deacute;cor >

    If yoursquo;re planning to extend your Halloween deacute;cor into the interior of your home, be mindful of the colors you bring in. Yes, you could load up on orange pumpkins, or you can purchase faux pumpkins in navy blue and emerald green velvet to match what you already have going on.nbsp;

    Keep safety in mind

    If people are going to be walking from the street to your home, you want to make sure itrsquo;s clear of hazards. ldquo;Safety first. Always,rdquo; said Revival Property Group. ldquo;Keep the walk in front of and to your home clean and debris-free. Make sure the walkway is well lighted to avoid accidents.rdquo;

    Limit the inflatables

    Yes, your giant Halloween-themed Snoopy inflatable is adorable. But it might be best to keep it packed away in the garage this year. Unless you live in a neighborhood where most or all of the houses go all out for Halloween and your place will stand out for all the wrong reasons if you DONrsquo;T cover the lawn with blow-up stuff, itrsquo;s probably best to go a little tamer this year. And if you do happen to live in that exuberant neighborhood that warrants a parade of inflatables, be sure to keep them inflated all day. You dont want people driving by or coming for showings with a limp Snoopy spread out on the lawn. You also want to make sure that your ldquo;For Salerdquo; sign is still easily visible no matter what kind of decorations you use.nbsp;

    Do a day-after check

    That perfect curb appeal may take a hit on Halloween, so be sure to take a few minutes to look around the perimeter of your home before you leave for work on November 1.nbsp;

    ldquo;The day after the decorations go down, check your property for trash, trampled flowers and stray candy,rdquo; said Revival Property Group. ldquo;Freshen your landscape again by trimming bushes, raking leaves, washing the driveway and adding a beautiful autumn wreath on your front door.rdquo;

    Keep an eye on those pumpkins

    Like we said, there are so many ways to decorate with faux pumpkins these days. But if you insist on the real deal, make sure you check them every couple of days to make sure they arenrsquo;t going bad and havenrsquo;t turned into critter food.nbsp;


    Full Story >

    Why Maintenance Tracking is Beneficial to HOAs

    Schedule Preventative Maintenance Easier

    Preventative maintenance is a key component of ensuring the proper working order of all your systems and equipment. This includes things like pest control, pools, filter changes, water pipes, and monthly landscaping tasks to ensure the continual beauty of the community for your homeowners. When people are part of an HOA, they long for beautiful and serene common areas and do not like to see signs of wear and tear on their community.

    When you add a maintenance tracking program to your HOA, it makes preventative maintenance, like monthly lawn care, easier to schedule. Maintenance tracking software, like a CMMS, allows HOA property management teams to have the ability to schedule maintenance on an easier timeline. These programs allow you to input manufacturer maintenance schedule information and will automate scheduling for the team allowing management to focus on the many other important tasks.

    Reveals Drains on the Maintenance Funds

    It may not seem like it is worth the expense, but preventative maintenance is very valuable to a controlled maintenance budget. With maintenance tracking, your HOA can easily see the time and expense used on each preventative maintenance task, like servicing the water pipes or pumps on a regular basis. While it might seem like a drain on expenses to keep maintaining the pool in cooler months, it can be a task that saves money. This is especially true when you can see the cost in a maintenance tracking form that identifies that information for you easily.nbsp;

    In addition to tracking the cost and hours spent on preventative maintenance tasks like checking and changing pool filters, you can also track the hours and cost of things like repairing broken water pumps due to neglected preventative pool maintenance. This in-depth tracking allows homeowners associations, to easily give examples of why preventative maintenance is a key component of keeping track of the budget to all members of the HOA and maintenance workers.nbsp; This way you can show how monthly maintenance has saved thousands of dollars compared to the cost of having a plumber repair burst water pipes.nbsp;

    Helps Reduce Maintenance Costs

    In addition, to helping to reveal drains on your maintenance budget and remove them, you can help to reduce costs. If you have the groundskeeping crew and another separate crew checking on the various maintenance needs of your grounds, like the storm drains, you may find that two different people are being paid to inspect the same items. This will inflate costs significantly over time. To reduce this, you need to schedule maintenance tasks better based upon who is more likely to be better at doing the task.nbsp;

    With the example of storm drains, rather than send out an enti>

    Improves Efficiency of Maintenance Team

    With the addition of maintenance tracking, especially the type of software programs that allow for team collaboration and review, you can allow the team to see what places are needing more care than others. Some places will need more care and others will have fallen behind in care because of lack of oversight. However, with the addition of maintenance tracking, each team will have the opportunity to see where they have spent more time than others.nbsp;

    This additional layer of oversight takes pressure off of management and allows the teams to see how to better serve the community in their efforts. For example, a maintenance team might spend a lot of time ensuring the pristine beauty of community gazebos while only thinking of the roofing of community property on occasion. After a while, the gazebos will still look amazing while the community property roofs sit in disrepair. With proper maintenance tracking, you can see the amount of hours spent on a particular problem and adjust levels of care to ensure that all problems get the level of care they need to be perfect for your community.nbsp;

    By adding maintenance tracking you are able to change your community for the positive. It can make problems easier to see with the constant stream of trackable data. It alleviates pressure from management and allows teams to coordinate easily. Overall, if you arenrsquo;t tracking your maintenance, you arenrsquo;t being as efficient as possible.


    Warren Wu leads growth atnbsp;UpKeep, a CMMS software company that was designed to empower empower maintenance teams to make better decisions from data-driven insights.

    Full Story >

    Home Builders: Do They Get Buyers?

    ldquo;There is no mystery to what consumers want,rdquo; said Tim Costello, President and CEO of BDX, Inc., a provider of digital marketing and sales solutions for the home building industry. ldquo;The mystery is why our [home building] industry has been so slow in adopting this.ldquo;

    bull;nbsp;Do you want to buy a brand-new homemdash;one that nobody has ever lived in before you?nbsp;
    bull;nbsp;Are you excited about experiencing the step-by-step thrill of the build and the delight in selecting each tiny thing personally to put your stamp on the home?nbsp;

    Buying a brand-new home can be an exhilarating experience, but donrsquo;t be surprised or put-off if your contact with home buildersmdash;at least initially and digitallymdash;does not meet your expectations and draw you into this world of wonder.

    Costello went on to contrast the quality and quantity of online content that savvy buyers now take for granted when shopping online, with an admittedly-extreme but not uncommon version of home builder online offerings. To demonstrate differences in what home buyers expect from home builders versus what they find, Costello compared the depth of interactivity and >

    The difference was visually dramatic and unnervingly disorienting. The point was made, at least for this attendee. The Mixerrsquo;s multi-dimensional, engaging online profile met and probably exceeded todayrsquo;s buyer-content expectations. The barebones home-builder offering was neither dazzlingly inviting, nor did it stimulate curiosity to learn more.

    Arenrsquo;t new houses worthy of having their unique excellence celebrated to buyers at least to the degree that appliancesrsquo; receive marketing attention?

    Costello, who stressed that there are ldquo;2.5 million permutations that we actually build to create something that is uniquely [the buyerrsquo;s],rdquo; also shared BDX home-building-industry research which revealed ldquo;19 friction points.rdquo; Any one of these frictions may cause buyers frustration that can result in themmdash;thatrsquo;s you toomdash;being turned-off a builder or turning to resale homes. Common deflectors are:

    bull;nbsp;Not knowing who to trust when print and digital information do not create clarity
    bull;nbsp;Finding the new-home buying process harder than expected, and
    bull;nbsp;Not being able to visualize their desired kitchen when faced with a contrasting color and >

    When buyers hit at least one friction point, then:

    bull;nbsp;Ten percent of buyers switch home buildersnbsp;
    bull;nbsp;Buyers are twice as likely to engage a real estate professional and then 35 of those buyers will ldquo;never see a new home againrdquo;
    bull;nbsp;Buyers are four times more likely to buy resale Which helps explain why 90 of home purchases are resale homes.

    If you let go of long-held dreams of a new-build home because builder online postings arenrsquo;t interactive phone-friendly resources, model homes donrsquo;t say it all, or you have to push to be heard, you may be doing yourself and your family a disservice by giving into frustration:nbsp;

    bull;nbsp;You expect to find all you need online and to have 24/7 access to ask questions and discuss details.nbsp;

    The Fix: Ask who does know whatrsquo;s going on. Go up the management chain if necessary. Persist until you discover a >

    bull;nbsp;You expect home-building companies and builders to be authentic.

    The Fix: The problem is many home builders are being authentic, just not in the online way yoursquo;re used to. Decide what this means to you and what would resolve the quandary.

    bull;nbsp;Home builders are in the business of building homes, not in the business of building parallel online experiences of what a home will be like to design, have built, and to live in.

    The Fix: Ask how can you acquire the degree of detail you require to proceed. Who ldquo;getsrdquo; what you want to know or see?

    bull;nbsp;You live in a ldquo;digital-firstrdquo; world, phone at the ready.

    The Fix: Not all homebuilders understand the significance of this fact. What do you want from home builders so you can trust them and make confident decisions throughout the buying process?

    Two Sides to Home Buying

    The two home-selling industriesmdash;resale and new homesmdash;are two very different real estate industries, with two very different histories, and two very different buyer journeys:

    bull;nbsp;How Does It Work? The resale industry appears to listen to buyers. Resale real estate professionals strive to meet and exceed communication expectations, online and off. Have resalersquo;s digital efforts spoiled buyers for less interactive, less phone-friendly new-home purchasing?

    bull;nbsp;Who Is Selling What? Resale professionals do not sell productmdash;itrsquo;s homeowners who are selling their home. Home builders sell their own new-home product, no one elsersquo;smdash;they are sellers.

    bull;nbsp;Digital Transformation: Resale professionals succeed by mastering communication, online and off. They are trained to convey the delights of home ownership to buyers who have never owned that particular listed house. The resale goal is to remove friction points and make the buying journey a positive, engaging experience.nbsp;

    Some experienced home builders, who have constructed homes for years or decades, may not have taken their company through digital transformation or internalized the speed at which online shopping has changed and will continue to transform real estate buying. Builders who concentrate on construction may miss opportunities to communicate in the manner buyers prefer to receive and deliver informationmdash;online and through their phones.nbsp;

    bull;nbsp;Managing Expectations: You have expectations of and experience with what your phone can connect you to. If home builders are on a ldquo;build it and they will comerdquo; track, perhaps they may not feel obligated to invest significant effort into digitally communicating what they offer and what they can do for a buyer.

    The obstacle for buyers is communication, not new home quality, nor diversity of design. New homes can be customized to deliver what you want and need. When new-build ownership or working with a particular builder matters, you may have to use different approaches to gather the new-build information you require and to accurately >

    bull;nbsp;Yes, home builders need to understand how todayrsquo;s shoppers shop online or buyers will not buy.
    bull;nbsp;Yes, home builders will benefit from meeting online-shopping expectations or theyrsquo;ll lose business.nbsp;

    But here my focus is younbsp;

    What does your dream home mean to you?nbsp;

    Do you really want to compromise your ldquo;forever homerdquo; because communicating with you, digitally and otherwise, is a challenge for some home builders?

    Shouldnrsquo;t this selling-communication gap spell opportunity for savvy home buyers?

    If you want a new build, but change your mind and search out resales that are a close match for your dream, donrsquo;t you want to be sure you are responding to what is genuinely better for you and your family, not simply reacting impatiently to having to adapt your shopping >

    Absolutely move on if your new-home research reveals that the house which can be newly built for you will not meet or exceed expectations, stay within your budget, and fit your timeline.

    Either waymdash;new build or resalemdash;what you learn in the process will turn you into a buyer to be reckoned with.


    Additional Resources:

    For an insider view of the home building industry:nbsp;

    bull;nbsp;Herersquo;s the link to the 54 minute webcast referred to in PJrsquo;s article: ldquo;Technology in Homebuildingrdquo;nbsp; The segment featuring Tim Costello of BDX begins at 29:42 -25:11.
    bull;nbsp;BDX University mdash;ldquo;a resource for builders to explore the latest tips, trends and eventsrdquo;nbsp;
    bull;nbsp;BUILDER Online mdash;ldquo;provides home builders with home building news, home plans, home design ideas, and building product information, helping them manage their home building operations efficiently and profitably.rdquo;

    For professionals: ldquo;Get Out of Your Own Wayrdquo;hellip;visit PJrsquo;s blog: Whatrsquo;s Your Point?nbsp;

    For buyers: Visit PJrsquo;s ldquo;Decisions amp; Communitiesrdquo; Realty Times blog for more tips, suggestions, insightshellip;.For example:

    bull;nbsp;Construction Nightmare?nbsp;
    bull;nbsp;4 "Big Regrets" to Avoid When Buying a Home


    Full Story >

    Scary Issues That Can Kill Your New Home Joy

    Buying a home is full of challenges, and the one that might be the most frustrating of all is finding out therersquo;s something wrong after yoursquo;ve already closed escrow. In many cases, you may have recourse against the seller if there is an issue that wasnrsquo;t disclosed, or against the home inspector if he or she missed something serious. But even recompense, yoursquo;re still left with a problem you have to deal with when all you want is to be enjoying your new home.nbsp;nbsp;

    Here are eight things to look for before signing on the dotted line.

    It smells moist

    If you tour a home on a rainy day, donrsquo;t automatically think that the moist smell is because of the weather. If it smells moist inside, yoursquo;ll definitely want to make a return trip when the rain has passed to make sure therersquo;s no moisture issue in the house.nbsp;

    Therersquo;s a telltale pet odor

    That could mean damage to carpet or floors. It might be something you can work out while negotiating, but you definitely want to be aware of what yoursquo;re dealing with so that there are no surprises later on, like pet urine that has seeped down through the wood floors into your sub floor, costing you thousands.

    The neighborhood is iffy

    Maybe therersquo;s more crime than yoursquo;re comfortable with or too much of a commercial presence. Itrsquo;s all about whatrsquo;s acceptable to you.

    Neighborsrsquo; homes are unkempt

    If yoursquo;re not looking in an area that has a homeownersrsquo; association, pay special attention to what the neighborsrsquo; homes look like. If yoursquo;re seeing curious paint choices, cars on the lawn, and grass thatrsquo;s waist-high, you might want to think hard about whether this is the neighborhood for you. Some buyers appreciate the character of a neighborhood but doesnrsquo;t have the strict rules governing what they can and canrsquo;t do. But a neighborhood without an HOA can also have issues when neighbors donrsquo;t take care of their homes, and this can affect your property values.

    It took you a long time to get there

    Have a serious conversation with yourself about how much is too much when it comes to the commute. If it took you an hour and a half to get there from work, is this something you can live with every day?

    Itrsquo;s dirty

    There are times when a home goes in the market and itrsquo;s clear the seller didnrsquo;t make the effort to get it in shape prior to listing. Itrsquo;s not just about a lack of updates but a lack of upkeep, as well. While you may not know the circumstances behind the home, and while it may seem like a great deal if you can get it for a good price, be cautious. A home that is in bad shape on the surface may have a bunch of issues you canrsquo;t see.

    Itrsquo;s dark in the house

    Sellers will typically open up all shades and blinds and turn on all the lights for showings, but nothing is stopping you from flipping those light switches off to see what the natural light situation is really like. If the place is dark even with all the blinds open and lights on and natural light is really important to you, it might not be the house for you.nbsp;

    Itrsquo;s too perfect

    A home thatrsquo;s really well staged can look super appealing. But buyers have to train themselves to look at the home, not the furniture and furnishings. What will the house look like without that staged furniture? Does the floorplan work for you? Are the pieces scaled for the room or for real families? Are there any curious configurations like a chair blocking access to a fireplace. Getting past the stagerrsquo;s tricks to see the house for what it is will help you to decide if itrsquo;s really for you.

    Full Story >

    Top Remodels and Renovations That Actually Pay Off

    People are fascinated with having nice homes.nbsp;What about when itrsquo;s time to sell? Is it worth remodeling or renovating your home before putting it on the market?nbsp;

    Letrsquo;s take a look at remodels and renovations that actually pay off when itrsquo;s time to sell your home.nbsp;

    Remodels vs Renovations

    First, you should understand the difference between remodeling and renovating.nbsp;

    Renovation is required when something is in disrepair. Replacing rusty pipes or a leaky toilet in the bathroom is a renovation.nbsp;

    When you remodel, things may still be in great shape, but you want them to look different. That toilet is working just fine but you decide to swap it out for a more modern >

    Pros of Remodeling

    Your home may be in great shape, but that orange shag carpet in the rec room will narrow your pool of interested buyers. Outdated or bold accent colors or >

    In a slow market, it can be even more challenging. Removing these elements and replacing them with something more neutral can improve your chances of a faster sale mdash; and for a higher price.nbsp;

    Cons of Remodeling

    Unfortunately, there are few remodeling projects for which yoursquo;ll recoup your entire investment. If your goal is to raise your asking price, remodeling is not the way to do it. You could end up spending more money than it raises the value.

    Plus, remodeling is a huge inconvenience. Your home could be torn apart for weeks and yoursquo;ll have workmen tromping through your house all day.nbsp;

    If yoursquo;re going the DIY route, be prepared to spend more weekends on the project than you think. Remodels are always more expensive and take longer than you think they will.nbsp;

    Pros of Renovation

    Many buyers donrsquo;t want to deal with repairs. By renovating the home beforehand, yoursquo;ll have a larger pool of buyers to work with. This can facilitate a faster sale.

    A newly renovated home can also fetch a higher price. Necessary repairs can substantially lower the price buyers are willing to pay for your home. Plus, homes that sit on the market for longer tend to sell for less.nbsp;

    Cons of Renovation

    There is a better ROI for renovations than for remodels. However, depending on what is necessary it can still get expensive.nbsp;

    Remember that selling a home can be expensive. If you donrsquo;t have the cash on hand for renovations, it may be better to take a lower sale price and skip the expense of renovating.

    As with remodeling, renovations require workmen tromping through your house for days on end or hours of your free time spent on DIY projects.

    Most Valuable Remodels amp; Renovations

    There are times when the effort put into updating your home pays off. So how do you choose projects that are worth it?nbsp;

    Look for projects that are inexpensive >

    Curb Appeal

    Within 30 seconds of seeing your property, buyers start forming their opinion of the home. Simple things like raking up leaves or cleaning Fidorsquo;s treasure off the lawn can have a big impact. Try adding window boxes full of flowers to liven up the space.

    If the siding or roofing is in disrepair, consider renovating the exterior. While these are big projects, they can have a significant impact on your ability to sell.nbsp;

    Unresolved problems like these can scare buyers away. If you do get an offer, they can slow down your home sale as the buyer may ask you to complete the repairs after seeing the inspection report.


    Painting projects, whether interior or exterior, are excellent ways to boost your homersquo;s appeal. Paint is inexpensive, especially when you do it yourself.nbsp;

    For the interior, choose light, neutral colors. This helps the space appear bigger and brighter as well as appeals to a variety of personal preferences. You want buyers to be able to envision themselves living in your home. Your beloved bold purple accent wall in the den might look great but if your buyer hates purple with a passion it could cause you to lose the sale.

    Be sure to repair any dings in the walls and donrsquo;t forget the ceiling.


    The kitchen is an important room. Everyone loves to eat and this is where the deliciousness comes from.nbsp;

    However, an expensive kitchen remodel has a bad ROI. It adds value to the home, but not enough to warrant the cost. Plus, your idea of a designer kitchen may not match your buyerrsquo;s idea.nbsp;

    However, there are a few updates that are worth the trouble.nbsp;

    Reface dinged-up cabinet doors. This is a much cheaper option than replacing them.nbsp;

    Update old appliances with modern, energy-efficient models. Buyers love the prospect of saving on their monthly energy bills. However, stick with the low- to mid-range models. Fancy, high-end models likely wonrsquo;t fetch the same return.


    The bathroom is another spot that buyers will pay close attention to. Again, designer updates normally donrsquo;t bring a high return. However, a minor bathroom remodel is beneficial.nbsp;

    Update the tub and replace the fixtures to give the room some extra sparkle. Thoroughly clean up any moldy areas.nbsp;

    If your tile is still in good shape, consider replacing the grout. This will freshen the appearance of your tile without having to replace it. Most mildew and soap scum build up in the grout anyway.

    A Market-Ready Home

    When is your home ready for the market? It depends on the state of your home and the current market conditions. Talk to a local real estate expert to get an idea of what the market requires in your area. While most homes can benefit from a few renovations, most large remodels will not be worth the cost.nbsp;

    These remodels and renovations will actually pay off when yoursquo;re ready to list your home, but you should always figure out the cost before you take on any home improvement project.nbsp;

    Feel free to continue browsing our blog for more fantastic real estate tips and tricks


    Full Story >

    The Basics of Down Payment Assistance Programs

    While that may not sound like very much, and itrsquo;s certainly a lot less than 20 percent down, 3.5 percent of 300,000 is still 10,500. This is on top of closing costs and cash reserves. First time buyers save money each month to go toward a down payment. But there are Down Payment Assistance Programs available in most areas. Where do you apply for down payment assistance and how do these programs work?

    Down payment assistance can come in the form of a grant. A grant is actually free money. It does not have to be paid back. Most such grant programs do ask the borrowers to own the home for at least three years after at which point the grant is forgiven. A grant is typically reserved for first time home buyers and lenders will independently verify first time status.

    Although the lender will ask if someone is a first time buyer, the existence of a mortgage showing up on a credit report will also be dated. However, if the mortgage is more than three years paid off, some grant programs consider the applicants to be first timers. Grants have no monthly payments during this period.

    Down payment assistance can also be in the form of a second mortgage. A second mortgage is a loan that is recorded and subordinated to an existing mortgage. The existing mortgage is the one that finances the home. A down payment assistance second lien can carry a very low rate or even no rate at all. At the end of a specified period, typically three years, interest can accrue, and payments are due. Like a grant, such programs also require the borrowers be first time buyers.

    Down payment help can come as a tax credit. A tax credit, commonly referred to as a mortgage credit certificate, or MCC, reduces the amount of income tax someone pays which in effect increases monthly income. Tax credits are typically issued through state and local governmental agencies. Itrsquo;s the mortgage company that can provide a list of providers. This is something you want your lender to help you with.

    How much money will you need? Your loan officer will provide you with an estimate regarding how much yoursquo;ll need to come to the closing table with. This is also depending upon the type of loan program you select, other financial resources and any assistance from the mortgage company. While the mortgage company wonrsquo;t typically offer the program and service the loan, the mortgage company can help out with closing costs which would then funnel more money toward a down payment.

    Full Story >

    Choosing the Right TV For Your Home


    According to Digital Trends, modern TVs are now incredibly consistent when it comes to picture quality across different sizes. If all else is kept the same between the TV yoursquo;re looking for, size is completely up to your personal preference. Make sure to measure your space and consult with any other decision-maker in your home before you purchase.

    High Definition

    nbsp;Image quality has progressed a lot in the last several years. Almost every TV out there is some form of HD now. The tricky part is digging deeper into HD. Make sure to take a good look at the actual number of pixels your prospective TV displays in. While the standard 1080p is pretty great, there are now TVs that display in Ultra HD or 4k, which is 4 times as many pixels. If yoursquo;re looking to make the transition into higher pixel HDTVs, pay a local store a visit to see if the difference is visible to your eyes. Then yoursquo;ll have to decide if the price point is worth it.

    I am part of the school of thought that most TVs nowadays are plenty good in terms of screen resolution. However, I recently started using my small non-fancy flat screen TV as a second monitor for my computer and noticed that the resolution was too low to display some of my text documents and spreadsheets legibly. If you plan to do something like that, yoursquo;ll want to check and make sure you have the screen resolution you need.

    LED or OLED

    LED TVs are generally more popular than OLED because they offer great quality for a lower price. OLED TVs are top-of-the-line, so if you need the absolute best picture quality available or just love being on the cutting edge of technology, go for an OLED. LED TVs have everything that most TV watchers need, so if yoursquo;re just a recreational viewer, you should be just fine with a standard LED TV.

    Refresh Ratenbsp;

    The refresh rate of a TV is usually expressed in Hertz Hz. This refers to the number of times the monitor will rebuild the image in a second. At 120Hz, the screen refreshes at 120 frames per second. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother your images will appear.


    There are tons of extras available on TVs anymore. Some of the standouts fall within the Smart TV realm. If yoursquo;re considering a TV with ldquo;Smartrdquo; features, yoursquo;ll need to make sure your internet connection is strong enough to take advantage of them.

    There are also a lot of options to make your TV smart which only require an HDMI port. If you stream your shows frequently, something like a Chromecast or Roku will work great and might save you a lot of money on buying a fully ldquo;smartrdquo; TV.

    Even with all of the innovations that have come out over the years, most TVs are still accessible for the hearing-impaired. If you or a family member is hard of hearing, most TVs and channels are still integrated with captioning services to make the viewing experience more accessible and enjoyable for all.

    When buying a new TV, there are a lot of options to consider. Try to keep it simple and only be picky on the features that will really make a difference for you and your family. If you spend too much time agonizing over features that you didnrsquo;t know existed, yoursquo;ll just end up frustrated and confused.

    Full Story >

    Tips to Buying a Home Out of State

    Buying a Home Out of State

    The first step you should do is hire a buyerrsquo;s agent. Buyers Agents are incredibly useful in assisting you in the home buying process in general, but especially if you are looking to purchase a home out of state. In addition to knowing your new area, they can also:

    - Build a solid >- Represent your best interests, without disclosing any personal information
    - Help you make the right decision on a property.
    - Often enough, they know the neighborhood well and can show you around the area.

    How to Find a Buyers Agent Out of State

    Generally speaking, most buyerrsquo;s agents are referred to by friends, family, and co-workers. However, buyers in a new area usually donrsquo;t have the resources to get a trusted referral source. Here are a few things you can do to find a buyerrsquo;s agent in another state.

    1. Perform a Web Search

    One of the best ways to find a buyers agent who specializes in your chosen region is by doing a quick online search. To do this, enter a specific keyword following the formula: chosen neighborhood/area buyers agent. This will help you to locate all of the agents who work in your chosen neighborhood. You can also use niche searching websites like and On these sites and others like them, agents from around the country can create their own profile to draw in new business. You can easily find an agent or an exclusive buyer brokerage that only handles buyer representation.

    2. Visit Open Houses

    The agent who is hosting an open house may be the listing agent or they may be a buyers agent. Chat with them to ask what their job is. An open house provides a great opportunity to talk to a buyers agent and learn more about them. Ask for a business card if they appear to be knowledgeable and you get along together. From there, you can head home and gather more information about them by scanning their website. Check out how many homes they have sold and read reviews from past clients. If they still seem like a good fit, give them a call.

    House Hunting Out of State

    Your real estate agent can email you with daily or weekly updates about new homes for sale in the area and price reductions straight from the MLS. Most, if not all of these listings will contain plenty or photos and a virtual tour. If you see a home that you are interested in, you can email the agent to obtain more information. All communications can be completed through emails, phone calls, and faxes.

    Then, if you so choose, you can visit your chosen destination and view a few of your top favorite homes in person. If you are unable to see the homes in person, that is alright as well. You can get a feel for the home on a virtual tour and sign all the paperwork electronically.

    Simultaneous Closing in Different States

    If you are buying a home and selling your current home in different states, it can be almost impossible to orchestrate a simultaneous closing. Many banks will refrain from funding a loan for an out of state buyer until they receive the HUD on the sale of the buyerrsquo;s current home. Typically this is how the situation plays out:

    1. The sale on the buyers current home closes.
    2. The funds are wired to the closer who is handling the purchase of the buyers new home. The HUD is then faxed to the bank.
    3. The lender funds the new purchase.
    4. The new home closes. You can begin making moving arrangement, obtaining homeowners insurance, getting a home warranty plan, and more.


    Full Story >

    Baby Boomers Unprepared for Retirement? An Inside Look at the Generation Gap conducted a generational survey and found that, overall, boomers are woefully underprepared for retirement, and many are experiencing financial difficulties that could put their homes at risk. The report is a jumping-off point that can provide insight into this critical portion of the population, especially as it >

    Among their key takeaways:

    bull;nbsp;ldquo;3 out of 5 Boomers have less than 100,000 saved for retirement; only 4 have more than 1 million set aside.
    bull;nbsp;Nearly one-third have struggled to keep up with housing costs in the past year.rdquo;

    According to anbsp;Vanguardnbsp;report, 45 of Boomers have no retirement savings. Perhaps not surprising given that financial uncertainty, ldquo;Close to 1 in 3 older adults donrsquo;t plan on ever fully retiring.rdquo;

    The good news is that ldquo;approximately 60 of those older than 65 are living mortgage-free,nbsp;and Boomers are expected to pass on aroundnbsp;48 trillionnbsp;in assets in the next 25 years,rdquo; they said.nbsp;

    Staying put

    The study also found that ldquo;more than half of those 45 and older want to remain in their current homes for their senior years,rdquo; which jives with a recent Chicago Tribune story.nbsp; ldquo;Baby Boomers, the 75 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, are clogging up the housing market,rdquo; said HousingWire of the article. ldquo;Instead of moving to retirement communities like many of their parents did when they got older, Baby Boomers are opting to agenbsp;in place. The ldquo;near-gridlockrdquo; is keeping about 1.6 million houses off the national market, the Tribune story said, citing anbsp;Freddie Macnbsp;analysis.rdquo;

    A significant portion of Boomers own their homesmdash;76, according to a study by Chasemdash;and intend to hold on to them. Part of the appeal of paying off their home, aside from living mortgage-free, is being able to pass it down to family members. Interestingly, though, some of the changes they are making to their homes to make them more comfortable for advancing age may not be attractive to those who stand to inherit the places. Talk about a generation gap.nbsp;

    ldquo;An older bathroom retrofitted with grab bars is ra>


    Full Story >

    Paint Colors that Help You Sell Your House Backed By Science

    But before you buy gallons of paint at the hardware store, itrsquo;s important to choose your colors wisely. According to a Zillow study, certain colors can help you sell your home mdash; and for a bigger price tag mdash; while others could leave you seeing red.nbsp;

    How can painting help you sell your house?

    When done effectively, a well-staged mdash; and painted mdash; home invites prospective buyers to imagine themselves living there. A fresh coat of paint covers the scrapes and marks that inevitably come from daily use, making a home appear fresh and new. Paint can also create a more open and inviting home. Using the same paint color in adjoining rooms gives the illusion of space. Likewise, darker colors can close off rooms, making them appear smaller.nbsp;

    Neutral colors offer buyers a blank canvas mdash; a place where they can move in and make themselves at home with their own furniture and >

    Herersquo;s a breakdown of what colors could put more money in your pocket when you list your home.

    Paint Colors that Scientifically Sell for More

    The color potential begins before a buyer ever steps inside a home. ldquo;Greigerdquo; exteriors mdash; a mixture of gray and beige mdash; sold for 1,526 more than homes painted white. At the same time, houses with a charcoal or black front door sold for 6,271 more.

    While it may be tempting to bulk buy paint for your homersquo;s interior, the Zillow study found that buyers may prefer variety from room to room.nbsp;


    While the on-trend kitchen wall color varies from year to year mdash; with pale yellows selling best in 2017 and light blues in 2018 mdash; one constant has been in cabinet colors. Tuxedo cabinets gave sellers the most bang for their buck. By pairing light upper cabinets with dark lower cabinets and kitchen islands, homeowners saw an average of 1,547 more in their home sale. Try painting the top tier of cabinets white with a dark navy or black paint below the counter. Put a light color on your wall for more contrast and to give your room a welcome pop of color.


    Buyers are looking for a >


    When it comes to setting a tone for bedrooms, prospective buyers are looking for peace and serenity. Blue is a calming color, and homes with blue-tinted bedrooms sold for 1,856 more on average. Look for a matte soft cerulean blue accented by white baseboards or light natural wood to create the ultimate Zen setting that will send the homeowners off to a restful dreamworld.

    Dining Room

    We arenrsquo;t done with blues just yet. Zillowrsquo;s study found that blue dining rooms earned an average of more than 1,926 during a sale. This time, go for a more gray- or slate-blue color to make a clean and formal room for hosting dinner parties. A word of caution. If a blue dining room isnrsquo;t your >

    Living Room

    Branch out in your living room with a light taupe color on your walls. Taupe living rooms netted an average of 2,793 more than white walls. Go for a warm tan with pink or peach undertones. If you want an accent, pick a darker, complementary shade.

    How to Choose the Best Paint Colors for Your Home

    Ultimately, when it comes to painting your home to sell, itrsquo;s best to leave personal preferences aside. While you may love your barn red kitchen, leaving it that color could cost you. Zillow found that red kitchens sold for 2,310 less than white kitchens on average. Likewise yellow exteriors went for 3,408 less.

    You should also avoid picking colors because they are this yearrsquo;s hottest tone. While avocado might have been the height of sophistication in the 1950s and 1960s, by the 1980s, everything was mauve and teal. Going with a more neutral color palette will speak to more buyers and give your home a timeless, >

    To choose the best neutral color to help your home sell, draw inspiration from your surroundings. If you live in the Southwest, sandy neutrals will pair well with your surroundings both on interior and exterior walls. You might also consider checking other listings in your area. If you see homes with certain wall colors selling faster than others, yoursquo;ll have a good idea. To save yourself the research, you can also seek out the advice of an experienced agent who will tell you more about expectations in your local market.

    Itrsquo;s also important to remember that some Homeowners Associations have strict rules about color, particularly with exteriors. In some cases, you could be fined for painting outside of their requirements, which will also affect the bottom line. If you belong to an HOA, find out if they have suggestions on paint color.

    Whatever you decide for paint color, know it can pay to do your research before you invest the time and elbow grease into your home.


    Full Story >

    Hot Wallpaper Trends to Transform Your Space

    ldquo;Wallpaper is one of those things that fell out of the zeitgeistmdash;hard,rdquo; said >

    Todayrsquo;s wallpaper is a world away from the stuff people went running from decades ago. The ldquo;revival,rdquo; as >

    Wersquo;re taking a look at a few of the biggest trends.

    Go deepnbsp;

    Wallpaper trends this year have embraced deep, rich hues including ldquo;navy blue shades, burnt red, mustard yellow, and forest green,rdquo; said Prime Walls. ldquo;Colors can affect the mood of the space, and dark color tones are no exception. Lighter colors tend to create a welcoming, optimistic aesthetic. Darker colors create a cozy atmosphere and depending on the chosen color, can range from romantic to mysterious.rdquo;

    Bring in some texture

    Yes, deep, rich color can transform a space, giving it moody appeal and allowing deacute;cor to stand out. But therersquo;s something satisfying about a subtler approach, said House Beautiful. ldquo;Translation: Beige does not have to be boring. That is, so long as there is real or perceived texture, interactions with light, or even a two-dimensional design. That means using textures like grass cloth and faux suede, ldquo;which are particularly well-suited for the color-averse. These will bring depth a space without insisting upon the spotlight.rdquo;

    Manage metallic

    You can bring in metal in all kinds of areas in your housemdash;lighting is the obvious choice for a glam touch. But going metallic on such a large expanse is boldmdash;just like the patterns the golden, silvery, or coppery colors adorn. This gold and blue wallcovering is a standout, ready to transform a dining room or create a haven in the bedroom. We also love this contemporary, art deco-inspired gold geometric wallpaper from Home Depot that ldquo;gives walls the appearance of a glistening mountain scape.rdquo;

    Go graphic

    ldquo;Create a feature out of a recessed wall with graphic wallpaper,rdquo; said Deacute;cor Aid. ldquo;This is a great way to craft a warm and inviting nook; perfect for a kidrsquo;s bedroom, a reading area, or a grand master suite. An area like this doesnrsquo;t need to be filled with busy and bold wallpaper, it can be simplistic, while still giving you the desired effect of a well-decorated, cozy space.rdquo;

    We love this Pick-Up Sticks Wallpaper from Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines, which is not only chic and subtle, but also easily removablenbsp;

    Embrace the palm

    "Whether embroidered on a pillow, perched askew in a vase, or replicated on wallpaper, palm imagery is a major trend right now,rdquo; said Elle Decor. ldquo;The look is lush, natural, warm, and most importantly, versatile. With palms, your surrounding design can be opulent and raised to the heavens or more down to earth, an organic oasis."

    You cant go wrong with House of Hackneys Palmeral print, which references 1930s Palm Springs with its ldquo;explosion of palm leavesrdquo; and chic black and green color story.nbsp;

    Just do you

    The great thing about wallpaper is how it can make a space come alive and speak to your individual taste and >


    Think kitschy


    Wallpaper also offers an opportunity to have a little fun. This Hipsters Paradise print from Y.S.D. London print ldquo;takes you on a jaunty trip into the most happening streetmdash;care to suit up and join in with the best dressed in all the city?rdquo;


    Want a daring, fun look without the commitment? This Drop It MODERN Femmecopy; Wallpaper from West Elm gives off a Picasso-ish vibe and is removable, for when the whim passes and its time to go in a different direction.nbsp;


    Add interestnbsp;


    Buyers love new construction for so many reasons, but brand-new spaces can sometimes lack character. ldquo;This brand-new townhouse at Pierhouse, Brooklyn was a gorgeous space, but was crying out for some personalization to reflect our clients vivid, sophisticated and lively design aesthetic,rdquo; said threshold interiors on Houzz. ldquo;Bold patterns and colors were our friends in this fun and eclectic project.rdquo;nbsp;


    Full Story >

    Mortgage Loans: What You Can Do On Your Own and What to Leave to Your Lender

    Yoursquo;d be surprised about how much it takes to get a loan from application status to final approval. There are multiple steps involved and many of these steps canrsquo;t be taken unless a previous step has been completed. To help, borrowers can take on some of the load to help streamline the entire process. There are some initial requirements that borrowers must complete without the assistance of anyone else. Applicants are required to complete a loan application. That can be done with the assistance of the loan officer, but most often itrsquo;s the sole duty of the borrowers.

    Borrowers are also asked to provide certain documentation upfront before the loan gets too much further into the process, like providing paycheck stubs and tax returns, for example. But when it comes to third party services, there are some limitations on what the borrowers can and cannot choose. For certain credit documents, borrowers are not allowed to provide their own credit report. Itrsquo;s the lenderrsquo;s job to run credit. That certainly makes sense as to why a borrower canrsquo;t provide a separate credit report. The lender orders the credit report as part of the initial package. A credit report and credit scores are one of the first things ordered to see if the loan can be approved as requested.

    Lenders provide a Settlement Service Provider List, or SSPL, which lists third party service providers the borrowers can select. Title insurance, for example, is one such service. Lenders can open up title but so too can consumers. Title insurance is indeed insurance and protects interested parties from fraud and previous claims of ownership on the property. States regulate insurance companies so itrsquo;s likely that title insurance from one title company to the next will be the same. For areas where the title company also works with a settlement service provider, the title company can also suggest the closing agent. Services that the borrower can order independently of a lender are listed on the initial Loan Estimate.

    But the twist with this is the borrower really has no experience selecting one title company over another. Title insurance is a mortgage lender requirement. Lenders order title reports day in and day out. Borrowers ra>

    The fact is that while borrowers can choose some third party providers on their own, itrsquo;s often best to leave that up to the individual lender. Mortgage loan approvals can have different requirements for different situations and sometimes a full appraisal isnrsquo;t even needed. Instead, an automated valuation model is accessed which arrives at an appraised value based upon digital research regarding sales of homes recently sold in the area. Itrsquo;s the automated approval that dictates whether an automated valuation model, or AVM can be used, or a full appraisal is required.

    Lenders establish working >


    Full Story >

    Co-Living Projects a Rising Trend in Canada

    Co-living is a rising trend in Canada, says the new Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2020 report by PwC and the Urban Land Institute.

    ldquo;Blending features of apartments, dorm rooms and hotels, co-living accommodations offer residents the opportunity to have their own space within common areas at a more affordable price,rdquo; says the report. ldquo;Some developers are developing multigenerational co-living projects, in which separate buildings accommodate the needs of a particular generation, but there is also common community space shared by all residents.rdquo;

    Node, which operates rental co-living spaces in the U.S. and Europe, recently announced plans to build a 38-unit building in Kitchener, Ont.

    Node founder and CEO Anil Khera, who grew up in Toronto and now splits his time between Canada and the U.K., says, ldquo;We have big things planned for Canadardquo; and hopes to enter every major Canadian city one day.

    The company says co-living embraces ldquo;the three Crsquo;s of cost affordability, convenience and community.rdquo;

    The units reduce costs with smaller, efficiently designed units and by making use of shared communal spaces. Itrsquo;s convenient because the units come move-in ready, with all the furniture in place. Utilities, including high-speed wi-fi and smart home technology, are included. The company says the sense of community is fostered in the communal amenities, which include co-working space, a residentsrsquo; lounge and an outdoor patio area.

    Node also offers a community curator, who assists with roommate matching and co-ordinates social and volunteer events.

    ldquo;Kitchener is the perfect destination for Nodersquo;s first Canadian community,rdquo; says Khera in a news >

    The project will house about 50 people in the 38 units. Starting rental prices will be 1,000 per month per person sharing a two-bed unit and ldquo;upwards of 1,600/month for a one-bed unitrdquo; the company says. Leases will be 12 months with ldquo;flexibility given to tenants who have to >

    In Ottawa, Common and Dream Unlimited are planning a 252-bed project named Common Zibi. It will be part of a 34-acre master-planned community.

    ldquo;Cities are facing similar housing challenges throughout the world ndash; urban populations are rising, and housing supply is not keeping up,rdquo; says Brad Hargreaves, founder and CEO of Common, which is based in New York. He says Commonrsquo;s entrance into its first city outside of the United States ldquo;is a testament to the growing need for high-quality rental housing options.rdquo;

    The 24-storey building will include both co-living suites and traditional apartments, along with shared lounges and large shared kitchens, community rooms, in-unit laundry, a roof deck and a gym. Rents are expected to start at about 1,225/month for a one-bedroom in a co-living suite. The company says thatrsquo;s 31 per cent less than the market rate for a one-bedroom unit in the area. The rents for the traditional apartments will start at about 2,065/month.

    The rental rate includes utilities, high-speed wi-fi, weekly cleaning of shared spaces, shared kitchen and bathroom supplies and hospitality-grade amenities, the company says.

    Hargreaves told REM: Real Estate Magazine that in traditional shared arrangements, roommate disputes often focus on details such as who is going to buy supplies. ldquo;One person is always going out and buying the toilet paper,rdquo; he says. Shared supplies eliminates the problem. The company also takes care of lease arrangements, utility bills and rent cheques to make life easier for tenants, he says.

    The Emerging Trends report says that ldquo;despite the continued desire of many people to own, much less stigma is attached to renting than in the past.rdquo;

    It says, ldquo;Another important aspect of these trends is the blurring of lines between property types and uses. In the past, for example, office space was designed and built to address traditional notions of office-based work. But the new environment, shaped by technology and customer preferences, is changing that approach significantly. With access to a good wi-fi connection, a traditional office is no longer necessary. Once again, flexibility is key as form follows function.rdquo;

    But Hargreaves says in the companyrsquo;s 30 co-living buildings in seven U.S. cities, 85 per cent of the residents work at a traditional office. ldquo;They are not students or freelancers working from home,rdquo; he told REM. The median age of the tenants is 30.

    ldquo;Much like the introduction of cloud computing revolutionized the software sector, the rise of real estate as a service REaaS is transforming all areas of real estate,rdquo; says the PwC/Urban Land Institute report. ldquo;Although co-working is the most common example of REaaS, the concept cuts across property types. As the gig economy becomes more prevalent in Canada, all space ndash; whether residential, office or retail ndash; will increasingly be viewed as a service that is rentable.rdquo;

    The report says that in the growing movement toward temporary spaces, some consumers now focus more on the monthly cost than the total purchase price of a property.

    ldquo;While affordability is a factor, the REaaS trend also goes back to changing consumer behaviours as people look for more flexibility as their life>
    Full Story >

    Dont Miss These Top Home Design Trends in 2020

    Prep Pantries

    Similar to butler pantries of the past, prep pantries are closed-off utility spaces designed to accommodate countertop appliances. This allows the kitchen itself to continue as an attractive hub for entertaining. The benefit of a prep pantry is that you can use it to prepare food out of sight from guests rather than prepping everything in your kitchen.nbsp;

    If the kitchen is located near an attached garage, as many are, the prep pantry may occupy or share the space of the mudroom. Keeping the mess out of view gives you more room to focus on what matters, such as entertaining guests or hosting a >

    Command Centers

    Say goodbye to designated computer centers and kitchen desks. Now that the world has gone mobile, itrsquo;s all about the command center.nbsp; The ldquo;command centerrdquo; is an easily accessible space designed for storing tablets, chargers, and smart home control devices. Command centers can also serve as a base camp for backpacks, keys, loose paper files as well as a family calendar and chalkboard for writing notes and reminders.nbsp;

    The best place to put your command center is an out-of-the-way spot near your front or back door that is easily accessible for family members - a mudroom near the garage is an ideal location. You can also dedicate counter space in a laundry room as a command center ndash; or space in a large foyer. Organization is key and a family command center can help you achieve it.nbsp;

    Current Home Trends That Will Continue in 2020

    Along with the new home design trends for next year, here are some current trends that will continue to remain popular in 2020.nbsp;


    Being environmentally conscious is in vogue, and more people are beginning to examine their impact on the planet. ldquo;Eco-homesrdquo; or ldquo;eco-housesrdquo; are designed with the environment in mind, incorporating low-impact materials and technology to reduce their carbon footprint. An eco-home typically has the following features:

    bull;nbsp;A window-to-wall ratio of less than 30 percent
    bull;nbsp;Heavy insulation
    bull;nbsp;Tight building envelope to prevent unwanted air leakage
    bull;nbsp;Energy-efficient HVAC
    bull;nbsp;Water-efficient plumbing and appliances

    Zen Dens

    With mindfulness and meditation on the rise, homeowners are becoming more cognizant of incorporating mindfulness into the home. As the name suggests, ldquo;Zen Densrdquo; are rooms or spaces that are specifically dedicated to tranquility. Zen den offers a respite from 24/7 social nature of open floor plans. Zen dens may serve as a place to do yoga, meditate, or simply escape from too much activity and noise. Expect to see meditation pillows, yoga mats, candles and soothing decor in these spaces.nbsp;nbsp;

    High Ceilings

    If yoursquo;re limited on space area-wise but you still want the feel of a big home, a high-ceiling house plan may be exactly what you need. High ceilings give the illusion that a house is larger than it actually is. Tall ceilings also promote a sense of openness mdash; in a chaotic world, we can all use a little more of that.nbsp;

    Flex Spaces

    Homeowners are becoming more deliberate with their spaces, and sometimes, this means having a dedicated space for whatever you want. A ldquo;flex spacerdquo; is a designated room or space in the home that can accommodate the homeownersrsquo; needs on a day-to-day basis. Need an office during the day, but also want to work out in the evenings and weekends? You can have both with a flex space. Flex spaces can also serve as art studios, childrenrsquo;s playrooms or reading nooks mdash; the only limit is your imagination.nbsp;

    Open Floor Plans

    Open floor plans offer a sense of freedom and spaciousness without compromising on actual square footage. Open floor plans also provide a sense of cohesiveness rather than using walls to close off different areas of the home. Typically, an open floor plan will include the living room, kitchen and dining room as one large, open area.nbsp;

    These top house design trends of 2020 demonstrate that homeowners want to make space for things that personally matter to them. Whether itrsquo;s self-care, family bonding or being more environmentally sound, these trends prove that a home can serve as a reflection of onersquo;s values.


    Tim Bakke is Director of Publishing for With more thannbsp;30 years of publishing experience in magazines, books and online,nbsp;Tim regularly writes on house plans, home design, new home construction, home remodeling and achieving your dream home.


    Full Story >

    Interest Rate Locks: What You Need to Know

    Mortgage companies all follow the very same set of indices when setting mortgage rates. This is why interest rates from one mortgage lender to the next are very similar. One wonrsquo;t find a rate at one lender for 3.0 percent and everyone else is at 4.0. Instead, differences in mortgage rates are typically very small, and usually, itrsquo;s the difference in cost in the form of discount points or origination fees. Still however, rate quotes arenrsquo;t any good when itrsquo;s time to lock unless yoursquo;ve met the lenderrsquo;s lock-in guidelines.

    Most lenders wonrsquo;t allow an interest rate lock unless the applicant has a completed loan application on file. A completed loan application means the applicant has submitted all necessary documentation such as paycheck stubs and W2 forms, tax returns and a credit report, among other items. There are no universal guidelines that all lenders follow that set rules when you can and cannot lock. Lenders instead set their own standard.
    Interest rate lock periods can vary from as short as 10 days on up. Lock periods can be for 60, 90 days or more. The longer the lock period, however, the more expensive the selected rate will be. A 10 day lock means the loan package is fully approved and all thatrsquo;s needed is the rate lock. Important note however: if the newly locked rate is different than the initial rate, the lender will then be required to run the loan through another automated approval at the new rate along with a brand new set of loan disclosures. This can add a few days to your closing, so keep in close contact with your loan officer.

    A rate lock protects consumers should interest rates go up. Typically, this means the lock should be no longer than the settlement date. An interest rate lock is essentially a mortgage rate insurance policy; the borrower is protected. On the other hand, however, if rates go down, the consumers donrsquo;t get to ldquo;float downrdquo; the lock to get the new, lower rates. Lenders take locks just as seriously as consumers do. There are lenders that do allow for float-down locks, but again itrsquo;s up to the lender to establish its own rate lock policies. A common requirement is a minimum amount of rate change. For instance, if rates have gone down by 0.25 percent, a lender might allow a one-time adjustment to a locked rate. In such an instance, applicants can get a lower rate but not the lowest the lender offers.

    If rates have fallen and the chosen lender does not honor a lower rate request for a locked loan, the consumer can think that just cancelling the loan and going with another lender can be a solution. However, this means the entire loan file will need to be changed. The appraisal will need to be updated, for example. Other credit documents will need to be re-ordered. And until someone resubmits a loan application to a second lender, there is a critical time period where the loan file is not in a position to be locked in with the new lender. Switching mid-stream can be a dicey proposition.

    Your loan officer can explain lock policies and even send you a disclosure form which spells out when you can lock in and when you canrsquo;t and under what circumstances. Again, lenders can have different requirements so make sure yoursquo;re clear at the outset about the timing of rate locks.

    Full Story >

    October Maintenance Tips for Keeping Your Home Safe

    Examine your outdoor lightsnbsp;

    Turn them all on and walk around the perimeter of the house. Replace any burned-out bulbs and make sure you dont have any broken lights. It might also be a good time to invest in some upgrades. Motion-sensor lights in the front and back of your home can help keep it safe from burglars, as can uplights in the yard.nbsp;

    Attend to your dryer vent

    When is the last time you had your dryer vent cleaned out? Never? Oh boy. Yoursquo;re way overdue. If you think cleaning out the lint trap every time you do a load is enough, this may be sobering: ldquo;Every year, firefighters across the country respond to around 14,630 home fires caused by clothes dryers, according to the National Fire Protection Association,rdquo; said Consumer Reports. ldquo;One-third of these fires is caused by an accumulation of lint.rdquo;

    Seal your outdoor surfaces

    ldquo;Cold temperatures and snow can cause your paint to peel, leading to moisture intrusion and wood rot, Brian Osterried, a product manager at paint company PPG, said on ldquo;Protect your exterior surfaces by applying a stain and sealant.rdquo; Taking this step can not only extend the life of your home but also help keep dangerous mold away.

    Protect your outdoor furniture

    Storing or covering your patio furniture will help extend its life. Protecting the finish could also help to keep your family safe. Metal finishes exposed to the elements could get rusty and cause injury.nbsp;

    Check out your gutters and downspouts

    Leaves and debris can collect here, creating a hazard. If water canrsquo;t drain properly, it could cause damage to the home. Be careful when you go to take a look, however. It would be slightly counterintuitive to injure yourself by falling off a ladder while yoursquo;re trying to take protective measures with your house.nbsp;

    Safely store your lawn mower

    After your last mow of the year, itrsquo;s time to put away the mower and edger. Before you do, however, make sure to take the proper safety precautions. ldquo;Unused gas left in a mower over the winter can get stale, gumming up the carburetor and inviting rust,rdquo; said This Old House. ldquo;First, add fuel stabilizer to the tank, then run the mower to distribute it through the system. Turn the mower off and allow the engine to cool, then siphon excess gas into a clean can. You can put this gas in your car, provided it hasnt been mixed with oil. Restart the mower and run it until it stops; repeat until the engine no longer starts and the fuel lines are empty.rdquo;

    Test for Fire Safety

    ldquo;Did you know that National Fire Prevention Week is in October?nbsp;According to the National Fire Prevention Association, firefighters respond to an average of one house fire every 86nbsp;seconds, said improvenet. ldquo;Itrsquo;s for this reason that National Fire Prevention week serves as a good reminder to test your home fire prevention system. Check your smoke detector battery and test your fire extinguishers. Review your fire escape plan with your family. You might even considernbsp;adding a sprinkler system to your home. You canrsquo;t ever be too preparedrdquo;

    Safewise reminds that an escape plan should include an exit strategy from upper floors. ldquo;Itrsquo;s important that everyone in your home have an additional exit in case of a fire, so install ladders for any second-story rooms,rdquo; they said.

    Clean out the fireplace.nbsp;

    A buildup of creosote in your fireplace can be dangerous, causing everything from breathing issues to disorientation or dizziness, to damage to vital organs in some cases. ldquo;If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you should have a professional chimney sweepnbsp;annually inspect and remove creosote inside the chimney,rdquo; said Porch. ldquo;A professional can also inspect the outside of the chimney to make sure everything is in good working order.rdquo;


    Full Story >

    Does a Finished Basement Add Value to the Appraisal?

    Of course, a finished or remodeled basement will add to the overall value of the house, but itrsquo;s important to understand this type of project doesnrsquo;t necessarily create a net profit for the homeowner.

    Remodeler Magazine put together a national cost vs. value study showing a city-by-city comparison of the average return on investment for a finished basement. Surprisingly the national average came in right at 79. In other words for every dollar spent on finishing or remodeling your basement, you got 0.79 back.

    Although 0.79 cents on a dollar is not a great investment, in many cases, its an acceptable investment for people to make based on their situation. For example, if the homeowner desperately needs additional space, it costs significantly less to finish a basement as opposed to adding main level square footage.

    Understanding Cost and Value


    Below grade square footage costs 50 to 60 less to build than above grade square footage. This difference has to do with the elimination of exterior cladding and windows. Additionally, the Plumbing and HVAC usually originate in the basement so those runs are less expensive.

    So, if you need room to grow the basement makes a great alternative for adding some low-cost space.


    The value side of the equation poses a potential problem for the homeowner. Appraisers donrsquo;t value basement square footage at the same rate as above grade square footage. As a matter of fact, Appraisers donrsquo;t even count below grade square footage in the total square footage of a home on an appraisal.

    The appraiser does give the basement and any finished portions of the basement value based on the quality of the improvements as well as the ldquo;Functional Utilityrdquo;. ldquo;Functional Utilityrdquo; is a term an appraiser will use to determine if something can adequately provide for its intended purpose. Bedrooms and bathrooms are great examples of functional utility...when done right.

    Appraisers will generally value finished basement space at 50 to 60 of the value of the above grade square footage. This is why market experts recommend keeping the basement budget below 10 of the existing homersquo;s value. Staying between 5-10 is a great plan.

    Moving above this percentage doesnrsquo;t help with the appraisal, itrsquo;s like over improving the basement.

    Other Factors That Add Value

    There are other factors beyond the control of the homeowner that can positively impact value.

    Location is one, there are certain parts of the country where finished basements return a higher value. For example, as we stated earlier the National Average rate of return is 79 while finishing a basement in Washington D.C. returns 119.

    Another factor that impacts appraisal value is the type of basement. There are essentially three types of basements and some are more valuable than others:

    Full Basement - This type of basement is most commonly used on flat lots. The wall heights are equal all the way around the basement. The entire basement is actually below grade. Because itrsquo;s completely below grade, the entire space is valued at a lower rate.

    Garden Level Basement - This type of basement is found on a moderately sloping lot. Some of the space is actually above grade, this means that any of the above grade space gets valued at a higher rate than the below-grade portion of the same basement.

    Walkout Basement - The Walkout Basement is found on a sloping lot. This type of basement has a good portion of space above grade. The above grade space includes windows and doors. This type of basement actually allows for ingress and egress. Since this type of basement has the most above grade square footage of the three types, it receives the highest valuation of all three.

    Answering the questionrdquo;How Much Value Does a Finished Basement Add?rdquo; is really difficult. But, the homeowner that consults their Real Estate Agent before starting a basement project is wise. It takes an understanding of both the local market as well as appraisal guidelines to be able to give valuable advice on this topic.

    Full Story >

    Signs That It Is Time To Renovate Your House

    Check out these tell-tale signs:

    Your Home is Deteriorating

    The rate at which your home deteriorates depends on many factors, such as the quality of its construction, the materials used, and the type of climate you live in. Deterioration is a major reason for renovating a house. However, it isnrsquo;t always easy to spot deterioration because not all signs can be seen directly.

    So what are the signs that your home has gotten substantial wear and tear?

    bull; The tiling system in your home starts to detach. This is most common in areas like the kitchen and the bathroom.
    bull;nbsp;The roof is leaking.
    bull;nbsp;The wall paint is chipping, plumbing fixtures are damaged, and the floors are creaking.

    As mentioned, other structural problems are not noticeable. Itrsquo;s a great idea to enlist the help of a professional home inspector at least every year to spot problems early on and have them repaired.

    You Have Enough Funds

    Every renovation project - big or small - requires money. According to Home Advisor, the cost of home remodeling ranges from 18,466 - 75,350. Yes, it can be very expensive thatrsquo;s why you need to be financially prepared. To save on the cost, consider tackling necessary projects first, such as home repairs. Note that a lot of times, you might go overboard with your budget. Itrsquo;s inevitable. But you want to at least keep the unexpected costs at a minimum. If you have sufficient equity in your home, you can use that to finance your home renovation project.nbsp;

    You Need More or Less Space

    You could be expecting an additional member in your family soon, your teens wanted a little more privacy and ask to have their own bedroom, or your grownups may have decided to move out. Renovating your home is a great way to meet the changing needs of your family.nbsp;

    You Lack Enough Storage

    Is your kitchen looking crowded? Do the contents of your cabinet fall out whenever you open its doors? Has it come to the point when you rather order takeout because cooking at home has become incredibly difficult? Renovating your home to add more storage space can make you stay organized and keep your home clutter-free. Thankfully, modern designs of cabinets and storage systems are not only stylish but also space-saving. Examples are hanging cabinets, multifunctional furniture, built-in wall shelves, and the like.

    Your Home Becomes a lsquo;Homersquo; to Pests Too

    Pest infestations could mean that low-quality materials have been used in your home or they are already deteriorating. Additionally, it could mean that your home is in a very untidy status. In whatever case, it only means that your home needs some renovating. Pests like ants, termites, and rats may not only cause damage to your home structure, they can also pose health risks to your family. Mold is another major issue. Minor mold infestation on surfaces can be removed using commercial cleaners but mold buildup in between walls, behind counters, or around pipes is best addressed by renovation.nbsp;

    Your Home Looks Outdated

    When was the last time you gave your home a facelift? Maybe your living room has become unwelcoming or your kitchen looks like itrsquo;s one from the 1960s. Beautifying your space may not be an immediate reason to renovate your home. But if your home interiors are becoming a source of bad vibes or negativity, and that being at home makes you feel more stressed than being outdoors, you should really consider renovating it.

    There are many reasons to renovate your home. If you notice one or more of these signs in your property, itrsquo;s time to start planning your renovation project.


    nbsp;Ana-Maria Sanders is a content writer and marketing manager at In her current role, she is responsible for managing the finance and operations of securities. Expect from all these, she loves writing blogs on various topics to give insights for managing finances and loans

    Full Story >

    Tips to Get Back Your Security Deposit in Full

    Read your Apartment Lease

    Before you do sign your lease, read it thoroughly. Everything you will need to know regarding your stay will be in this document. Now while it wont point out specifically what the security deposit can be used for, chances are you will come across the terms normal wear and tear.

    In almost all cases we have heard of, renters will never be responsible for wear and tear. Here are some examples

    bull; worn carpeting from daily use
    bull; door handles or knobs that have become loose
    bull; cracks in the ceiling cause from the normal settling of the house
    bull; washer or dryers that dont seem to clean as effectively as they use to

    As one can see, these arent damaged but have just worn down over time. Landlords expect this sort of thing to happen and they plan for it as well

    nbsp;However, items that have been damaged are the responsibility of the tenant to repair. Here are some examples.

    bull; heavy scratching in wood floors
    bull; cracked windows
    bull; cracked tile in the bathrooms or damaged granite counters
    bull; trash left behind yes you can be charged for this

    What to Do Before You Sign Your Lease

    Walk through the apartment home to check its status. Its not uncommon for renters to refuse acceptance of the apartment home due to its condition. If you see any damage at this point it is time to notify the owner or maintenance crew. You might also want to take photos of anything you believe might be suspicious, just in case

    A good landlord will notify tenants of the differences between normal wear and tear and damage because most tenants wont bother to read their lease. This is one reason why there is so much confusion. The main takeaway here is to take care of your apartment home.

    What to Do Before You Move-Out

    Schedule a walk-through with the management team. They can give you an idea of what damage they see. This may give you time to attempt the repairs on your own if you so desire, but just because there isnt damage doesnt mean that you should expect all of your deposit money back.

    Some leases forbid that you leave any trash behind. This means the apartment unit should appear just like you probably found it. If you left a bag of trash in the bathroom dont be surprised if you are assessed a fee. You might even hire a cleaning service to give the rental a thorough cleaning. Cleaning fees are commonly assessed; you might even go so far as showing the manager the bill you paid for the service.

    When to Expect your Deposit to Be Returned

    When you can expect your check will depend on the state youre living in, but a good landlord should send your check in a week or two depending on how long it takes for the inspection. We will cover the state of Texas rules because it is a huge state with lots of renters who live in Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

    Here are some of the key points

    bull; the landlord must refund the security deposit within or on the 30th day after the tenant surrenders the apartment home
    bull; the landlord cannot keep the deposit or apply it to normal wear and tear
    bull; the landlord can use the deposit for unpaid rent
    bull; the landlord doesnt have to return the security deposit until you provide a forwarding address.

    In Review

    Keep your place free of damage and abuse. Schedule a walk-through before you take possession of the apartment and before you leave. Make sure you leave a forwarding address. Then you can expect your full deposit to be returned.




    Full Story >

    Cleaning Your Home Before Selling? 5 Surfaces to Leave to a Professional

    1. Upholstery

    Cleaning your upholstery can help get rid of stains, dirt, and even bad smells. However, many cleaning solutions on the market can damage fabrics and leave them discolored or ruined. When you hire a professional to clean instead, theyll use gentle yet effective cleaning solutions that will refresh your upholstery beautifully. This can be done on your ottomans, couches, chairs, and even pillows. More importantly, most cleaning companies guarantee their work so you are protected from damage. This is one of the best solutions if you have antique furniture or fabrics that you just need to have deep cleaned.

    2. Stone

    If the stone in your home, such as the granite or marble on your countertops, is beginning to look worn, then hiring a professional is a great way to go. They will use time-tested cleaning solutions and techniques to carefully clean and seal your surfaces so they are restored to their natural beauty once again. This can even help get rid of scratches, stains, and other signs of wear and tear, making it especially beneficial to the value of your home.

    The equipment that professionals have is expensive and difficult to find, so youll be saving money by hiring someone instead of taking on the job yourself. Whats even better is the fact that the professionals will do all the work so you can avoid the physical distress that can come with a large stone cleaning job.

    3. Tile

    Professional tile and grout cleaning can get rid of deep down stains and even make your grout look like new again. While you could try to do this on your own, it would take hours of back-breaking work and its very unlikely youd end up with results that would mimic those of a professional. By hiring an expert, you save time and enjoy the look of new tiles without having to do any renovations in your home.

    If you dont think your tile and grout needs to be cleaned because you sweep and mop often, get down on the ground to take a closer look. Chances are, youre going to see many areas that are discolored and some that are completely stained. While this can be disheartening if you clean often, professional service can resolve these issues.

    4. Windows

    Cleaning your homes exterior windows can be difficult and even dangerous if you have more than one story. When you hire a professional instead, they use special equipment and cleaning solutions to wipe these clean in the safest manner possible. Most companies even include interior window washing in their price, which can make your windows shine like new again.

    5. Wood Floors

    Regular mopping and sweeping will help keep your wood floors in good condition for years to come. However, even with weekly cleaning, they can begin to fade and look scratched due to daily use. If you want to restore the appearance and overall condition of your hardwood floors, then hiring a professional is crucial. They have the experience that ensures your floors will be deeply cleaned and restored with zero mistakes. In just a short amount of time, their professional techniques will transform your floors with no effort on your part.

    Give Yourself a Break

    Some surfaces in your home are just better left to professional cleaners. Not only do they know how to carefully treat all types of materials but they also have higher quality machinery and solutions. Their help can make your home shine and save you from unnecessary cleaning throughout the year.

    Full Story >

    September Real Estate Roundup

    Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Surveyreg; shows that "With both the unemployment rate and mortgage rate below four percent and near historic lows, it is no surprise that the housing market regained momentum with home sales and construction at or near decade highs. The fall housing market is poised to continue with steady gains in prices and solid sales activity."

    bull; 30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.64 percent with an average 0.6 points for the week ending September 26, 2019, up from last month when it averaged 3.55 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.72 percent.

    bull; 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.16 percent with an average 0.5 points, up from last month when it also averaged 3.03 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.16 percent.

    bull; 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 3.38 percent this week with an average 0.4 points, up from last month when it averaged 3.32 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.97 percent.

    Full Story >

    Want to Feel Safer at Home? Follow These Tips

    If you arenrsquo;t feeling safe on the premises of your home, your fun experience can quickly turn into a nightmare. That is why you should never compromise on the safety precautions of your house, whenever you are deciding to live alone.

    Make sure to look into the following tips to help you manage the security of your home and keep yourself safe from any future threats.

    Increase the Brightness

    Brightening up your home makes people feel safer and prevents burglars from intruding into your house.

    It is mostly under cover of darkness that thieves prefer to rob a place-so the shade itself is what we should be careful about during the night. You can connect motion detectors with lights that are pretty inexpensive and work like a gem to spot out any incoming intruders. You can install these lights around your house, especially in the dark corners, so that you have an advantage of the extra layer of defense.nbsp;

    You can also try out some apps or devices that put a timer on your home lights. You can have them on a timer, so it looks like you are always at home even when you arenrsquo;t or if you are feeling unsafe at your residence at night.nbsp;

    Increase Home Securitynbsp;

    It is vital to install the best home security system in your house so that it can permanently take care of any lurking burglars and ease your anxiety at the same time.nbsp;

    Check out the existing security system of your house, and if you still donrsquo;t feel safe with it, then you can add a new layer of protection with combined security systems to boost your safety precautions. Previously, security systems were expensive and difficult to use. But now they have become much more affordable and user-friendly. These security systems can monitor your house, detect any suspicious activity, and alert both you and the authorities as soon as possible.nbsp;

    Devices such as doorbell cameras and motion detectors can be super helpful as well. They are some of the best accessories that can detect any activities of the criminal from the start. Plus, burglars usually tend to avoid approaching homes layered with these kinds of security systems.nbsp;

    Get to Know Your Neighborsnbsp;

    When you donrsquo;t know anyone in your surroundings, it is sure to put you on edge every time you are home alone.nbsp;

    You can start by being friends with your neighbors. This way, you can evaluate the type of people they are and eliminate any fear you feel from their side. And thatrsquo;s not all. You can also count on these people to offer some security for your home whether you are away or inside the house.nbsp;

    Nosy neighbors can be your best extra layer of defense. If they know when you are at work and when you arenrsquo;t, they will have the right to interrogate anyone suspicious roaming around your house when you arenrsquo;t around.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

    Check the Safety in Your Housenbsp;

    Evaluating the security of your home helps to eliminate any threats that endanger the safety of your home and yourself included.

    You should do a thorough check of the safety of your home, preferably before you move into your new home. Since every house has its quirks, it can be helpful if you familiarize yourself with them.nbsp;

    Check out to see if whether there are deadbolts added to every entrance. Investigate entry points such as your windows and look into how secure they are.nbsp; Assess the condition of your house and let your landlord know about any creaking doors or any continuous suspicious sounds so that they may look into it and fix the problem.

    Be Smart with Your Keysnbsp;

    One of the things that many home dwellers forget is that they arenrsquo;t the only ones that have the key to your house. People such as landlords or previous owners might also have the key, and that puts your safety and the security of your home at risk.nbsp;

    Make sure that you change the locks of your house and that you are the only one with the key to your home. If you wish to make a spare key, donrsquo;t hide them under the rug or a pot plant. Give them to a close friend or a >

    There is also another factor most people donrsquo;t realize when they are standing outside their doorway. If you fumble with your house keys before entering your home, it can be seriously dangerous for you especially if you come home after work at night or live in a quiet town.

    Criminals can take advantage of the darkness and rob you while you are searching which key you use to enter your home. Make sure that the house key is separated from others so that you can swiftly enter and lock your doors within a matter of seconds.nbsp;

    Be Careful Onlinenbsp;

    We know that you canrsquo;t help but keep posting stuff like anyone else- but you need to be careful about the things you put up online that can threaten your security.nbsp;

    Posting your current location can be the biggest giveaway you can provide to potential criminals. They know when you arenrsquo;t at home, and that helps them to pick out the time when they can invade your home.nbsp;

    Make sure that you donrsquo;t hint out to others online when you are going out, if you are living alone or when you plan to come back home etc. The more privacy you control, the safer you will be from any criminals approaching you.

    Emergency Exit Strategynbsp;

    Despite having a proper security system, there are still times when you feel uncertain about your safety. And whatever you do or act in the face of danger can determine your future safety, so having a backup plan is an essential part of your protection.nbsp;

    For worst-case scenarios, you must create an emergency exit response strategy. Practice your fire escape strategies, the know-how to inform authorities and who to connect with in case of any emergencies.

    When you have a backup plan set up in the back of your head, it can help you respond better to emergencies. Your anxiety will be kept at bay once you have a clear idea of what you can do to keep yourself safe against the odds.nbsp;


    Full Story >

    Understanding the Hidden Fees and Costs of Selling Your Home

    On top of that, therersquo;s an avalanche of transaction costs, surcharges, fees, and various taxes that can take home sellers by surprise. In fact, the average cost of selling a home is just over 15,000. Knowing what to expect before you actually start the home selling process can be the difference between a satisfying, stress-free selling experience, and what can feel like a frustrating, draining ldquo;death by a thousand cuts.rdquo;

    Letrsquo;s go over some of the obvious and less obvious costs of selling your home.nbsp;

    Expected Costs of Selling a Home

    Realtor Commission

    The first thing that most people think of when they hear the phrase ldquo;costs of selling your homerdquo; is the real estate commission. Traditionally, a real estate commission comes to 6 of the final sale price. How much is that in practical terms? The median home value in the U.S, according to Zillow, is 229,000. If you sold a home at that price, the commission would come to 13,740, which is no small amount of money.

    So where does it go, and what does the seller get for that 6 payout? Generally, the listing agent and the buyerrsquo;s agent split the commission, with each of them taking home 3. The idea behind the commission is that, by pegging your agentrsquo;s compensation to the final sale price of the house, yoursquo;re incentivizing them to get the highest price possible. The more you make, they more they make.

    Does it work? In general, yes. Agent-assisted sales consistently sell faster, and for more money, that non-agent-assisted sales. According to an analysis by NAR, the median value of agent-assisted home sales is 250,000, while the median value of FSBO for sale by owner listings is only 190,000. The real estate commission is one of the biggest costs of selling your home, but it also brings some of the highest value.nbsp;

    Closing Costs

    Closing costs is a catchall term that includes many smaller costs, from the ownerrsquo;s title insurance fee, to half of the escrow fee the seller splits it with the buyer, to prorated utility costs, document preparation fees, transfer taxes, and prorated property taxes.nbsp;

    How much are they? Itrsquo;s hard to say, since they can vary from state to state and even from city to city. But generally, sellers pay 1 to 2 of a homersquo;s sale price in closing costs.

    Moving Expenses

    It can be tempting to think yoursquo;ll just pack all your stuff into boxes yoursquo;ll get for free from the grocery store, and drive it over to the new house in your car. But when yoursquo;re in the middle of actually selling your home, yoursquo;ll probably find that you simply donrsquo;t have the bandwidth to deal with moving yourself.

    Your options when hiring movers range from a single truck, to a full-service interstate shipping company. Depending on what level of services you opt for, you can expect to pay between a few hundred dollars and several thousand.

    Hidden Fees and Costs

    Letrsquo;s be honest; few sellers are likely to be taken by surprise by a real estate commission or moving costs. But the expenses listed below are more obscure, which is all the more disturbing when you consider that some of them can potentially dwarf the expenses wersquo;ve already covered.

    Renovations and Repairs

    Yoursquo;ve probably spent years living in your home, and as with a favorite old t-shirt or a significant other of several years, you even see its flaws as endearing. This probably wonrsquo;t be the case with strangers. The scuffed hardwood floors and quirkily painted walls in your house will end up being liabilities when your home hits the open market, and any experienced real estate professional will advise you to renovate before you have that first showing.

    How much it costs will depend on whether you just need a fresh coat of paint, or a new roof and refinished floors. But nearly every house will benefit from a refresh, so you can expect to invest several hundred dollars, at least, in pre-sale renovations.


    ldquo;Curb appealrdquo; refers to the very first impression your home makes on a potential buyer, as they get out of their car or walk up your driveway. And the features that surround your house have as much impact on your homersquo;s curb appeal as the home itself. Just as you wouldnrsquo;t show up to a job interview in a new suit, but with uncombed hair and dirty nails, your property should be thoroughly landscaped before itrsquo;s listed. That means trimming the lawn, hedges, pruning trees, and even planting flowers.nbsp;

    How much this costs is going to depend on the size of your lawn, and how much maintenance it needs. But make no mistake, a manicured lawn can help a home sale as much as a new kitchen.


    Where landscaping is about the external presentation of your property, staging is all about making the inside of your home as appealing as possible. In this context, staging can include everything from decluttering your shelves to buying a new dining set.nbsp;

    Fundamentally, staging is about showing your home in the best possible light, sometimes literally. Yoursquo;ll want to allow as much flattering natural light as possible to penetrate into your home, which means removing heavy drapes and window coverings. Visual clutter is distracting and can even cause low levels of anxiety, so yoursquo;ll want to take all your family photos and collectible plates, and put them in storage. Worn or shabby furniture can make the rest of your home seem equally threadbare, so you may need to get rid of old furniture, and possibly buy new furniture.

    Your agent can advise you on staging, and there are even professional home staging experts who you can hire to prepare your home for open houses. Sellers can expect to spend a few hundred dollars on staging their home or, if they opt for a professional home stager, a fee in the low four figures. The median amount of money spent on staging in 2018 was 400.

    Professional Photography

    In 2019, the reality is that before a prospective buyer even sets foot in your home, theyrsquo;ve already looked at photos of it online. That means that including high quality photos with your home listing is of the highest importance. And as anyone with an Instagram account knows, taking a good, flattering photo is much harder than it seems.

    The data is unambiguous; listings with high-quality photos sell faster than listings with mediocre photos, and the more photos a listing has, the better. A professional photographer isnrsquo;t cheap, but itrsquo;s a great investment.

    Capital Gains Taxes

    If your home sells for more than you bought it for, you may owe capital gains taxes to the federal government. This can be an extremely significant amount of money; a 20 bite out of your profits from capital gains wouldnrsquo;t raise an eyebrow in a room full of tax professionals.

    But luckily, many home sellers will be able to exclude up to a quarter million dollars of profit or a half million, for married couples filing jointly from tax liability. The only conditions on this are that the home has to be have been your primary residence for two out of the previous five years, and you canrsquo;t have used the capital gains exemption on another home sale in the previous two years.

    Saving When Selling Your Home

    Surveying this list, itrsquo;s clear that some of these expenses are reducible, while others arenrsquo;t, or shouldnrsquo;t be.

    Anything involving taxes is going to be hard to bring down. Property taxes, title fees, and transfer taxes are generally non-negotiable. Therersquo;s an exemption for capital gains taxes, but there are restrictions on how often it can be used. Sellers looking at a large capital gains tax bill could consider delaying their home sale, so they can take advantage of their exemption.

    Some expenses, though, can be cut down. Staging, landscaping, and renovations can be done cheaply, especially if you enlist family and friends to help paint, mow, buff, and polish. Even moving can be done cheaply, if you donrsquo;t count sweat and time as expenses.

    That brings us to the real estate commission. There are certainly low commission agents out there, but sellers should keep in mind that theyrsquo;re usually getting less services by paying less money. If you save 13,000 by not using an agent, but your home sells for 40,000 less than it would have in an agent-assisted sale, you havenrsquo;t actually saved a penny.nbsp;

    However, there are a growing number of companies offering a full service selling experience for a flat fee. Full disclosure: wersquo;re one of them. These companies allow sellers to partner with top agents in their markets, and get all the benefits of their expertise at a fraction of the usual price. Why, you might ask, would a top agent sell one house for a flat fee, if they could be making 6 on another house? Well, the agentrsquo;s getting high-quality leads from the referral company, which means much less time and effort spent hustling on the front end. Itrsquo;s a true win-win. Considering that the 6 commission is usually the largest single cost of selling a home, flat-fee real estate companies are probably the best way for home sellers to bring their costs down.nbsp;


    Full Story >

    Live Like Youre on Downton Abbey: Five Castles You Can Buy Now

    We have a few suggestions.


    Edinburgh, Scotland

    Seton Castle, which Savills calls, ldquo;one of Scotlands most significant and ravishing buildings, with eight centuries of historyrdquo; and ldquo;undeniably one of Robert Adams finest achievements,rdquo; is located close to Edinburgh. The Neo>

    Everything from the ceilings to the ironwork to the dumbwaiter to the 10,000-bottle wine cellar was reimagined. In addition, the castle was ldquo;sensitively and richly refurbished to fit todays world, including the installation of a full security system, creation of a state of the art gym, playroom, huge double AGA kitchen, magnificent silk-lined dining room, extensive billiard room, traditional olde world bar, cinema, guest cottages, apartments and helipad.rdquo;

    The opulent estate is surrounded by 13 acres of private gardens and parkland, and includes the main seven-bedroom castle, two cottages and an additional guest suite, plus working stables, a coach house, and, the piece de resistance: ldquo;the characterful Stable Barmdash;the castles authentic private tavern, situated in the original tack room of the stable block.rdquo;

    Thatrsquo;s a pub. Well worth the nearly 10 million price tag, if you ask us.

    Tuscany, Italy

    Itrsquo;s Under the Tuscan Sun come to life Check out this eye-popping castle in the Tuscan hills. Imagine spending afternoons exploring the Renaissance art of Florence and returning home, just minutes away, to your historic castle. Dating back to the 12th and 13th century, this architectural masterpiece is ensconced in the verdant Tuscan hills and surrounded by vineyards, with ample grounds that include the ldquo;castle itself, and its own hamlet,rdquo; which also features its chapel.nbsp;

    ldquo;Characteristic elements such as stone facade, enclosed courtyards, watch towers, battlements, arched windows, loggias, and porches are found in this prestigious building. Even the interior of this castle for sale in Tuscany exceeds your wildest expectations, featuring arched ceilings, ancient cotto-tiled floors, antique fireplaces, period furnishings and furniture accented by valuable stone finishes. All these elements harmoniously underline the intrinsic nobility of the place and cause the memory and imagination to wonder.rdquo;

    Marrakech, Morocco

    In Morocco, a castle is more properly referred to as a palace, but that doesnrsquo;t make it any less amazing. Palace Granada in Marrakech will do just fine. Located in the Palmeraie, a grove of hundreds of thousands of palm trees in the northern part of the city, this property is on nearly five acres and features view of the Atlas Mountains.nbsp;

    ldquo;Largely inspired by the Alhambra of Granada in Andalucia, this palace will seduce you with its proportions and its volumes,rdquo; said Christiersquo;s International Real Estate. There are numerous lounges, a library, two kitchens, five suites, and a basement with a spa, a Hammam, a bar, and a disco. ldquo;The garden will enchant you with its grandeur but especially the beautiful rose garden, its vegetable gardens, its pool area with pool house, its tennis court, and various friendly pavilions where guests can >

    Millbrook, NYnbsp;

    Prefer your castle stateside? Yoursquo;ve got options, like this Millbrook, NY estate. ldquo;In a world of culture lite McMansions, ra>

    Set on 200 acres 90 miles from New York City with views of the Catskill Mountains, Migdale Castle was built in 1927 and restored over four years to blend ldquo;princely interiors with the estates sublime landscape.rdquo; The castle measures an immense 34,500 square feet over four floors, with features including: a great hall, a drawing room, a grand terrace, a formal banquet room, 10 bedrooms, and an artists studio. There is also a gym, cinema, lounge and 5,000-bottle wine cellar, golf simulator, pool, massage/treatment room, tennis court, and a gate house. Phew

    And because no self-respecting castle would expect the Lord and Lady of the house to care for it on their own, there is also a10,000-square-foot, six-bedroom staff house.nbsp;

    Pasadena, CA

    If a turret, gothic windows, and a wall of stained-glass windows sounds good, you might need to check out the Robincroft Castle, circa 1900. ldquo;Calling all romantics If you are a sucker for history and crazy about character, then you might be the right owner for the The Robincroft Castle, a Pasadena Historical Landmark that screams of individuality,rdquo; said Patch. ldquo;It even has its own chapel.rdquo;

    The Victorian Moorish castle also has a gated entry, a huge lot, and skyline views, plus a courtyard with one of many of the propertyrsquo;s fountains, gold filigree ceilings, and a three-story tower. It also comes complete with a caretakerrsquo;s apartment as well as an additional studio apartmentmdash;perfect for visiting peasants.


    Full Story >

    New Savings Trick: Paying Your Rent With a Credit Card

    ldquo;Nowadays, consumers can pay most of their bills with a credit card,rdquo; said Experian. ldquo;Even stores that used to require cash or debit cards allow credit cards. But one hurdle remains: rent. Many tenants still have to use old-school checks to pay rent, even when credit cards are almost universally accepted elsewhere.rdquo;

    Itrsquo;s true, landlords are among the last to embrace credit cards. But that doesnrsquo;t mean it will always be that way. It might only take one conversation to get him or her to see the benefits of making the switch, like having a faster and easier way to collect rent instead of trekking to the mailbox or post office box every day, waiting for a check to arrive.nbsp;

    If your landlord wonrsquo;t budge, you can always use a service like Plastiq, which allows you to pay with a credit card, even in places where theyrsquo;re not accepted. Of course, yoursquo;ll want to keep in mind that there is a 2.5 fee for this service.

    The key to making rent payments with a credit card is taking advantage of bonus offers and points. ldquo;Many cards offer sign-up bonuses if you spend a certain amount with 90 days and for some people, that minimum can only be reached if they pay rent with the credit card,rdquo; said Experian. ldquo;If you sign up for a credit card with a 200 bonus if you spend 5,000 in three months, putting your 900 rent payment can help you reach that minimum spend.rdquo;

    The combination of bonuses and points help you earn rewards for things like travel and gifts, and may also be able to be redeemed for cash. ldquo;Credit card blogger Keith Rossonbsp;bought a 60,000 Teslanbsp;with a credit card last year using thenbsp;Chase Ink Business Preferred,rdquo; said CNBC. ldquo;That earned him 3 points per dollar on the purchase, which outweighed Plastiqrsquo;s 2.5 percent fee. Depending on how he redeemed those rewards, he estimated that they could be worth as much as 5,000.rdquo;

    Two of the top cards in terms of rewards are the Discover itreg; Cash Back, which offers up to 5 cash back ldquo;at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.rdquo; There is a 1 bonus on other purchases. The Blue Cash Preferredreg; Card from American Express has a more tiered cash-back bonus structure, with as much as 6 back, up to 6,000 then it drops to 1 and a 250 bonus.

    Managing your credit card

    Once you have secured a credit card with a rewards structure, yoursquo;ll want to use it to its best advantage. Pay attention to the small print; American Express isnt the only card with tiered rewards. It may behoove you to use it everywhere you can if yoursquo;re at least getting a 1 cash back reward, but, if yoursquo;re planning to use it more sparingly, get the best bang for your literal buck. It may be that you get a higher percentage of cash back at restaurants, so perhaps you reserve the card for when you eat out. Yoursquo;ll also want to check with your lender if you are thinking about buying a home so you donrsquo;t ding your credit by taking out a new credit card or running up your balance.nbsp;

    Look for added extras and stacked bonuses, too. There are often special bonuses for using cards at gas stations, and if there is one connected to your supermarket, you may be able to save money on gas once you get to a certain threshold with your grocery spend.nbsp;

    Once you do buy a home, you can pay your mortgage with your cash-back card and continue racking up those points. This couple ldquo;paid 100,000 of their mortgage with a credit card and earned 2,000 in rewards.rdquo;nbsp;

    They also found a creative way to get around that 2.5 fee for using Plastiq; ldquo;Plastiq waives the fee on 1,000 in purchases for every person you refer to the service who makes a qualified payment over 500,rdquo; they said on CNBC. ldquo;This strategy worked so well for me because I have referred almost 300 people now with my website. At 1,000 in fee-free dollars per referral, that is 300,000 in fee-free payments I have earned.rdquo;


    Full Story >

    You Might Still Qualify as a First Time BuyerEven If Youve Owned a Home Before

    How does a lender know if someone is a first time buyer? By asking. Lenders who have access to programs such as a Down Payment Assistance product, will ask the applicant at the early stages of prequalification. A lender will also want to know how many funds are available to close on a home purchase, which includes not just the down payment, but associated closing costs and cash reserves as well. If the applicant responds with ldquo;selling my homerdquo; then a first time buyer program wonrsquo;t apply.

    Depending upon where the subject property is located, there may be grants available to help with funds needed to close. Grants are funds issued to first time buyers that do not have to be paid back. Many such programs do ask that the applicants live in the property for at least three years and if thatrsquo;s the case, when the home is sold, the grant is forgiven. Various government agencies can also participate in the first time buyer market with loan programs that offer discounted interest rates. There will typically be certain income limitations for such programs, which limit the amount of household income of the applicants. Or, homes located in underserved markets may also work only with first time buyers. There are different variants depending upon the location of the property but most such programs do carry these guidelines.

    Someone can qualify for a first time buyer incentive even if theyrsquo;ve owned a home before. At first glance that doesnrsquo;t make a whole lot of sense, but most programs require someone to not have owned a home within the previous three years. If that litmus test is passed, someone may qualify for a first time buyer program after all. Lenders can ask about previous home ownership but can also look at a credit report for the applicants to see if there is a mortgage account listed. The credit report will report the mortgage account and provide dates when the mortgage was originally issued and when it was paid off. If the mortgage was retired more than three years ago, the report will say so. If the mortgage was retired less than three years, the applicant would not be approved for a first time home buyer loan program.

    Finally, if a couple buys a home together, therersquo;s the possibility one will be a first time buyer and the other having owned a home before. In this instance, the loan would not be considered for a first time buyer program because one of the borrowers was a previous homeowner.

    Full Story >

    Five Good Judgement Calls for Agents

    You are a real estate professional. You are expected to perform and communicate using competence, skill, and knowledge at professional levels that you maintain above the average:

    bull; In our continually-changing world, that also includes keeping up with >bull; In ever-changing real estate markets, that demands an in-depth understanding of listed, sold, and expired properties, including the pace at which different types of properties sell.
    bull; In continually-shifting financial markets, that requires knowledge of current interest rates, lender policies, and everything essential to buyers successfully arranging a mortgage and everything necessary to protect sellersrsquo; interests.
    bull; As a licensed professional that means knowing everything and anything necessary to serve clients and the public in the legal context of agency law and >

    Yes, thatrsquo;s a complex chain of responsibility and you may be the weakest link. To ensure your judgement is at its best when called on, consider our Five Good Judgement Calls:

    Good Judgement Call 1: Protect Your Brain

    If yoursquo;re sleep-deprived, dehydrated, super-hungry, or all of the above, your brain is not working as well as it can and your judgement may be dangerously off.

    The tremendous demands of delivering high-quality client services and juggling the realities of selling real estate can make sleeping, drinking water, and eating nutritiously seem like interruptions or time-wasters. Wrong

    Get organized to make it easy to stay well-rested, hydrated, and well-fed for maximum brain energy. Ramp up your self-discipline before you continue screen time into the bedroom, before you choose coffee over water, and before you turn to junk food over real food. You cannot survive being available 24/7, so carve out times when you will not be accessible. If necessary, enlist a colleague to fill in. Identify time-wasting activities and get rid of them. These good judgement calls should ensure you remain 100 ready for anything.

    Good Judgement Call 2: Shift to ldquo;Productiverdquo; from ldquo;Busyrdquo;

    When a colleague or peer asks how you are, do you answer ldquo;busyrdquo; and start talking about how stressed out you are?

    bull; Or, do you thank them for asking, answer ldquo;very productiverdquo; or words to that effect, and ask them how business is going for them? Take every opportunity to learn from others and build work >bull; For professionals, being stressed out should not be a topic of conversation nor remain a state of mind for long. Good judgement and action are required. Decide whatrsquo;s at the core of the stress and what you can do about it and act.
    bull; Too many challenges at once? Write down the top three things yoursquo;re stressing over right now or that are holding you back. ldquo;Top threerdquo; means fix them and significant changes occur. Use your best judgement to select which one to tackle first.

    Good Judgement Call 3: Self-Disruption

    Donrsquo;t confuse ldquo;my >Efficiencies exist around us, but everyday time pressures keep us repeating inefficiencies instead of investing a little to achieve significant improvements:

    bull; Do you continue to advertise regularly or to spend on marketing to a long-established farm area, even though your efforts do not generate enough revenue to cover costs and time spent? Let go and move on to marketing that gets results and feeds your bottom line.
    bull; Do you continue to consider everyone yoursquo;ve ever worked with, successfully or otherwise, as a ldquo;clientrdquo;? You may think of your client base as running in the hundreds, but how many individuals have you been in touch with to determine whether they are actually part of your current target market?
    bull; If yoursquo;re asking ldquo;what target market?rdquo; after reading the previous bullet, yoursquo;re long overdue determining exactly where your success lies. Identify the types of buyers or sellers yoursquo;ll benefit from investing your time inmdash;your target. Research to ensure selected target groups have the revenue potential you need.

    Good Judgement Call 4: I Am Not Indispensable

    Stop trying to do everything yourself. Back-off trying to help everyone at your own expense. Delegate whenever possible. Hire services or part-timers to handle tasks that do not require an experienced real estate professional. Build a network or team of colleagues who you can work-share with.

    bull; Take refreshing vacations.
    bull; Daily, weekly, and monthly breaks are essential.
    bull; Anticipate emergencies and put plans in place so your practice and clients are protected. Ask ldquo;What ifhellip;?rdquo; about all the things that matterhellip;from your phone, website, and social media profiles to your home, car/bicyclehellip;everything that keeps you going.
    bull; Back-up everything that matters. Save a copy of back-ups off-site.

    Good Judgement Call 5: Protect Your Reputation

    As a professional, yoursquo;re responsible for everything you did and should have done but didnrsquo;t. Good judgement protects you by ensuring you keep copies, diarize events, follow required procedures, back-up everything, and never post, email, or text comments, photos, or videos that you wouldnrsquo;t feel pleased to see as New York Times headlines.

    If you are asked for a recommendation, endorsement, or sponsorship consider what could go wrong or be misinterpreted about your involvement. There may be reasons why something went wrong, but there are no excuses you can make which will preserve your hard-earned trust and credibility after theyrsquo;re gone.

    When you are behind the wheel of a vehicle, concentrate on driving safely. Pedestrians and bicycle riders can be less than attentive to preserving their own safety, so drivers must do more. Preoccupation with a sales crisis and time pressures must be left at the curb. Hands-free use of mobile devices may still be too much of a distraction when trying to drive and keep a deal together where every word counts. Protect everyone.

    After your reputation becomes tarnished, there may not be much that can be done to reverse the situation. Thatrsquo;s why protecting your reputation through anticipation, maintaining focus, and thorough investigation reflects good judgement.

    How many of our Five Good Judgement Calls have you made already?

    Not making these calls requires judgement, toomdash;bad judgement

    Full Story >

    The Role of iBuying in Todays Market

    Large, institutional property investors traditionally focus on multi-family units. The great housing recession last decade, when the stock market was providing lack-luster returns, opened the door for big money to find its way into the single-family acquisition market. As hedge funds began buying large blocks of single-family homes, rehabilitating them with primarily cosmetic facelifts such as carpet and paint, and offering small investors shares in these behemoths, they created an investment vehicle that had the potential to beat Wall Street. If it could work in the ldquo;hold-and-rentrdquo; market, su>

    Many fortunes have been made buying, renting, trading and selling real estate. Historically, real estate values trend up, making it a smart investment, so large firms jumping into the real estate investment game made perfect sense. Will it make sense long term? What about the newest entrants to the iBuying fray? How long will they find this practice attractive? Frankly, there is no reason that this approach cant co-exist along with more traditional real estate ownership. Take ERA Real Estatersquo;s "Sellers Security Plan.rdquo; It has been in place for decades and survived both housing booms and busts. Why? Because the price that anyone will pay for a property is based on economics 101: the law of supply and demand. Not only this, but ERA is doing what many iBuyers are not, and that is keeping the real estate agent at the center of the transaction. While iBuying is certainly a buzzworthy term in real estate these days, there are many consumers across the U.S. who still donrsquo;t know what it means and are intimidated by its unfamiliarity and at the prospect of gambling with one of the biggest transactions of their lives. The components that enable iBuyer programs to cut through the clutter: simplicity, convenience and efficiency.

    So, as long as an institutional real estate buyer doesnt panic in the midst of a housing downturn and "dump" large blocks of homes on the market, driving prices down further, nor get too crazy when faced with a housing bubble and over-extend their financial resources, natural economic factors will drive prices up and down, allowing these new, large buyers to benefit from changing market values.

    What do traditional real estate professionals need to consider when advising their clients about iBuyer options? Here are some questions to ask:

    1. What is the clientrsquo;s motivation? MUST they sell by a particular date in order to move forward with their plans?
    2. What repairs are needed to get the most money for the property? Does the client possess the financial resources to make the home marketable for top dollar?
    3. Are home prices trending up, making waiting to sell a better option or is waiting simply costing the Seller time with little chance of bigger gain?

    If the client needs to sell in a hurry, lacks the funds necessary to make the property marketable or wonrsquo;t benefit financially by holding out for a better price, it might be in the clientrsquo;s best interest to take advantage of the iBuyer option.

    There is no doubt that there is risk. There is in most financial transactions. But isnt that where all big money is earned? As long as iBuyer companies are well-funded, take a long-term view of this business and focus on adding a measure of value to the end-user buyer and seller, there is no reason that this practice canrsquo;t be a permanent part of the new American real estate landscape.


    Greg Martin is the president and managing broker of ERA Sunrise Realty in northern Metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. Together with his business partner David Moody, they opened a new branch of ERA Sunrise Realty in 2002 and have since expanded the company to seven offices with more than 130 agents. He is very proud of the work ERA Sunrise Realty does, and of their recognition as the winner of the 2018 ERA ldquo;Jim Jackson Memorial Award for 1st in Service.rdquo; Greg has been in real estate since 1998, before which he served as a marketing and sales team leader for Union Pacific Railroad and Southern Pacific Railroad. Greg is also part owner of Sure Close Title Services LLC and is co-owner and school director for The Real Estate Productivity Center, a state-approved real estate school devoted to improving the knowledge and professionalism of real estate agents across Georgia.

    Full Story >

    Finding an Apartment Without Going Broke

    Utilize technology to avoid scams

    In the year 2019, you can do most of your p>

    Watch out for pet fees and rent

    If it seems like most apartments have started charging extra ldquo;rentrdquo; for pets in the last two or three years, yoursquo;re not imagining it. USA Today referred to pet rent as ldquo;the latest costly apartment fad.rdquo; Pet rent is not unreasonable by itself, but it can start to feel a bit much when combined with hundreds of dollars in pet fees and deposits. Paying several hundred dollars to move your cat into an apartment in the city is one thing, but for many people, paying an extra 30 or 40 a month on top of that is a bridge too far. You may feel like you donrsquo;t have a choice. But first, ask if therersquo;s any way to spread out the cost of a pet deposit. For instance, some landlords will let you pay out 600 in pet fees and deposits over a few months, while others will require you to pay everything upfront. Either way, therersquo;s no harm in asking.

    Look for public transit options

    Some apartments will advertise a unit as ldquo;close to the bus linerdquo; or ldquo;right by public transit.rdquo; If itrsquo;s not mentioned in the ad, feel free to ask when you tour the property. Better yet, you can pull up the address on Google Maps and search for nearby public transit options. Taking the bus or train can save you in a couple of ways. For starters, you donrsquo;t have to pay 50 or 100 a month for a parking spot. Even if your parking spot is free, you may still want to take the bus sometimes and save money on gas. Sure, going to the grocery store and buying a lot of food may require taking your personal vehicle, but not every errand or trip will. If yoursquo;re visiting a family member at an assisted living community in New Jersey, hopping on the bus or train will probably be less stressful than driving yourself there and attempting to find parking near the facility.

    Full Story >

    The 9 Best Tips on How to Find a Property for Profitable Investing

    Tip 1: Buy a Property in a Top Real Estate Market

    Anyone in the real estate industry will tell you that location is the first and foremost factor for a profitable investment. Where your rental property is located will determine the price you have to pay for it, the rental demand, the best rental strategy, the type of tenants you can expect, the rental rate, the occupancy rate and vacancy rate, and ultimately the return on investment. Thus, the first thing which any investor preparing to buy a property should do is to read about and research the best places for real estate investing in the US housing market. Donrsquo;t make the mistake of many beginners who focus on large cities only. Sometimes small towns and even villages offer a much higher return than major cities. For example, according to data from Mashvisor, a real estate data analytics company, the census-designated area with a population of about 7,000 people, Joshua Tree, has been one of the top locations for Airbnb rentals in the past few years.

    Tip 2: Donrsquo;t Spend More Than What You Can Afford

    As a beginner investor, you should always start with a small, cheap, easy-to-manage property. After all, the best investment property is the one which you can afford and which you can manage. To find such a property, you should prepare a budget. On the one hand, factor in your savings, the income from your full-time job and other sources, and the money you expect to make from your rental property. On the other hand, make a list of all the one-time and recurrent costs associated with buying, owning, and managing an investment property such as the property price, appraisal cost, home inspection fee, closing fees, fixes and repairs, monthly mortgage payments, property tax, insurance, property management, maintenance, and others. In this way you will be able to figure out exactly how much you can afford to spend on a property without risking a foreclosure.

    Tip 3: Find the Best Financing Method

    One of the great things about real estate investing is that you have many financing options to choose from. You can go for a conventional mortgage, a hard money loan, a private money loan, a syndication, or a partnership, to mention a few possible choices. You should study each option carefully and decide on the best one for your particular case, based on their pros and cons and your specific situation.

    Most probably, as a first-time investor, you will end up taking a mortgage loan. In this case, it is advisable to make the down payment as big as possible, without overspending on it of course. The higher your down payment is, the faster you will be able to repay your loan and the less money you will end up spending on repayment. Figuring out the best financing method is crucially important for profitable real estate investing.

    Tip 4: Use Different Sources for Your Property Search

    To find a property for profitable investing, you should put efforts into searching for properties for sale far and wide. Now that you know where you want to buy an investment property and how much you can afford to spend on it, start checking out local newspapers and real estate websites with both MLS listings and off market properties, talk to your friends and acquaintances, network with other investors in the area who might be selling a property, and connect with a local real estate agent. Each one of these sources will have access to a different kind of properties, and you should check them all out before deciding on the best type of investment property for you and narrowing down your choice.

    Tip 5: Consider Investing in a Foreclosure

    The most lucrative investments in real estate are those properties which you can buy below market value. Thus, you should consider investing in a foreclosed property. Forget the popular myth that foreclosures are always houses in a dire situation which makes them bad real estate investments. To the contrary, it is feasible to find a foreclosed property in a good shape which will bring you high return on investment. The reason is that you will most likely pay only a fraction of the fair market value of the property as the bank or other financial institution is trying to get rid of it quickly, while you can still charge full market value rental rate.

    To find foreclosed properties to invest in, talk to the banks in the area, search for specialized real estate websites with foreclosed property listings including government agenciesrsquo; websites, and look for agents who work with foreclosures.

    Tip 6: Hire a Real Estate Agent

    Avoid the mistake of many first-time real estate investors who think they can manage the whole process of finding and buying a property on their own. It is recommended to look for an agent who works mostly with property investors and hire him/her to help you along. Your agent will be able to help you find lucrative properties for sale, connect you with lenders, prepare the offer, negotiate the best price, and close the deal quickly and smoothly. Moreover, you donrsquo;t have to worry about inflating your budget as agent fees are usually covered by the property seller and not the property buyer.

    Tip 7: Conduct Thorough Property Analysis

    An indispensable step in the process of making the most profitable real estate investments is performing an investment property analysis. Once you have narrowed down your choice to a few top properties, you should study them in detail to calculate exactly how much return on investment you can expect from them, based on your preferred rental strategy. Find out the cash flow, the cash on cash return, and the capitalization rate which you can expect. To beat the competition in the local real estate market and find the best property for profitable investing, make sure to use real estate investment tools such as a rental property calculator. This will save you a lot of time in analyzing properties and allow you to make an offer before the other investors in the area.

    Tip 8: Choose the Best Rental Strategy

    You can rent out your investment property on short-term basis as an Airbnb rental or long-term basis as a traditional rental. The optimal strategy in each case depends on the location, the demand, the rental rates, and other factors. So, in your investment property analysis you should see which rental strategy will bring you a higher return on investment. If you decide to go for a short-term rental, donrsquo;t forget to study the local regulations carefully as many places have adopted major restrictions on this type of rentals in recent years. Ideally, you should look for a location where both owner-occupied and non-owner occupied properties can be rented out on short-term basis in all residential neighborhoods. For example, the Dallas real estate market is one of the major cities with the least Airbnb legal issues in the US at the moment.

    Tip 9: Select the Best Property Management Strategy

    Profitable investing in real estate doesnrsquo;t end with finding and buying a property with a high potential for return. Afterwards, you have to manage your rental property in the best possible way. If you invest in your local housing market, have some free time, and exhibit the right personality welcoming and kind but also assertive, you can become a landlord and deal with a rental property and tenants on your own. However, before you decide to manage your property by yourself, you should know that this can take a lot of time and efforts and can turn into a real headache.

    If, on the other hand, you invest out of state, have a busy job and a family to take care of, and/or are simply not fit to be a landlord, you can hire a property management company to deal with your investment property. You should be prepared to pay them a monthly rate, but it will be worth it as they will be able to maximize your profit while you can enjoy the positive cash flow in your free time.

    How to find a profitable investment property is the first thing you have to learn as a real estate investor in order to make money. The good news is that it is absolutely feasible and doable if you follow our 9 tips above.


    Daniela Andreevska is Marketing Director at Mashvisor, a real estate analytics tool which helps real estate investors quickly find traditional and Airbnb investment properties. A research process thatrsquo;s usually 3 months now can take 15 minutes. We provide all the real estate information in easy to understand visualizations.

    Full Story >

    USDA Loans: Theyre Not Just for Homes in the Boonies

    If yoursquo;re saying to yourself, ldquo;But USDA loans are only for homes out in the sticks,rdquo; we get it. Itrsquo;s true that the loans were designed to help buyers in rural areas. But ldquo;ruralrdquo; is a broader term than you may know.nbsp;

    On the USDA website, you can enter an address in the search bar and check if its eligible, or you can drop a pin in a location to find out whether USDA financing is available in the area. We tested a couple of locations with interesting results: Frisco, TX, currently the fastest-growing city in the nation, is not eligible for a USDA loan, but Prosper, just to the north and being called, ldquo;The next Frisco,rdquo; is. The popular Valencia, CA masterplan north of Los Angeles is not eligible, but areas of Santa Clarita, the city in which Valencia is located, are.nbsp;

    For single-family homes, there are two main options for USDA loans:nbsp;

    USDA Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program

    There is no down payment required for this type of loan and the low minimum credit score requirementmdash;scores as low as 620 make the cutmdash;make it even more attractive for buyers.nbsp;

    Your income must fall within the ldquo;moderaterdquo; category, which is defined as an amount below 115 of the arearsquo;s median income. You can check by state and county here. Loans are for 15 or 30 years, and there is no limit to the amount of square footage on eligible properties.nbsp;

    USDA Single Family Housing Direct Home Loans

    This program is intended for low-income homebuyers. Down payment requirements are low, and subsidies can take the down payment to zero. ldquo;Payment assistance, also known as subsidy, is granted to eligible very low- and low-income homeowners who obtain a Single Family Housing Section 502 Direct Loan from USDA Rural Development,rdquo; said the USDA.nbsp;

    ldquo;The borrower signs RD Form 3550-12, Subsidy Repayment Agreement, at loan closing. The agreement outlines the subsidy repayment terms, the requirement to repay all or a portion of the subsidy received over the life of the loan i.e., subsidy recapture, and how subsidy recapture is calculated.rdquo;

    Loans are for 33 or 38 years, and income limits are strict; you can see individual county limits here. In addition, the USDA mandates that properties generally benbsp;2,000 square feet or less. The direct loan typically requires a 640 minimum credit score.

    Full Story >

    Remodeling Stats and Spending Trends to Inform Your Improvement Plans

    The study found that, ldquo;Spending on improvements and repairs to the US housing stock continued on an upward trend in 2017, setting a new high of 424 billion. This represents a 10 percent increase from 2015 and more than 50 percent gain from the low in 2010.rdquo; According to their analysis, 22 million homeowners across the country completed at least one home improvement project in 2017, the last year studied.

    ldquo;The report, which charted changes in home renovation activity through 2017, attributed part of the increase to a shortage of new construction and a >

    The primary ldquo;spendersrdquo; are spread among three main sources: Homeowners using surging equity to make improvements; others playing catch-up on deferred maintenance and much-needed updates; and ldquo;a significant increase in spending by rental property owners,rdquo; they said. It should be noted, however, that owner-occupied homes made up the largest segment of the remodeling market, ldquo;accounting for fully 55 percent of total expenditures in 2017.rdquo; Not surprisingly, the average spend was higher in places where price appreciation was the most robust.nbsp;

    A fourth driver is the aging population, ldquo;given that households age 55 and over not only have higher homeownership rates, but many also have the resources to pay for renovations and replacements,rdquo; they said.nbsp;

    Spending breakdown

    The average expenditure on home improvement was rather modest; 40 percent of participants reported spending a total of less than 2,500, and almost 75 spent less than 10,000. ldquo;Even so, owners that completed large projects accounted for a significant share of the 233 billion homeowner improvement market in 2017,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Indeed, owners spending 50,000 or more contributed a third of national improvement outlays, while owners spending at least 25,000 contributed over half.rdquo;

    Most popular home improvement categories

    From a historical standpoint, homeowners typically allocate about 40 of their total expenditures on replacements and upgrades. In this study, the percentage was higher.nbsp;

    ldquo;Coming out of the last downturn, however, the replacement share climbed to almost 50 percent, where it has remained,rdquo; they said. ldquo;The growing focus on interior and exterior replacements and system upgrades likely reflects necessary investments deferred during the recession. The aging of the housing stock is also a factor. With homebuilding activity still below historical averages, the median age of owner-occupied homes nationally rose to 39 years in 2017, up from 32 years in 2007 and 29 years in 1997.rdquo;nbsp;

    Homeownersrsquo; desire for increased energy efficiency also plays a role. The report shows that ldquo;many common replacement projects are also directly >

    Most common improvements

    The most common project in 2017 was adding/replacing flooring, with 5.2 million homeowners, or 7 percent, reporting. The other most common projects included:

    bull;nbsp;Adding or replacing plumbing fixturesnbsp;
    bull;nbsp;New windows or doors
    bull;nbsp;Built-in dishwashers or garbage disposals
    bull;nbsp;New water heaters

    ldquo;Nearly 1 in 4 homeowners had some type of replacement project in 2017 to update home components or systems, compared to 9 percent of owners making improvements to their lot or yard such as driveways or walkways, fencing or walls, sheds, landscaping, etc. and 8 percent making discretionary improvements including kitchen and bathroom remodeling, room additions, and porches or decks,rdquo; they said.


    Full Story >

    Falls on Stairs Fill up Emergency Rooms

    Scary but true: there were more than 50,000 emergency visits for injuries from falls on stairs in Ontario in 2015, according to Ontario Injury Compass, which analyses and discusses injury issues in the province.

    ldquo;In B.C., stairs were involved in approximately 8.2 per cent of all hospitalizations for fall->

    And it gets worse: a 2011-2015 B.C. Vital Statistics report says, ldquo;On average, 38 people are killed every year in B.C. by falling on stairs.rdquo;

    Whorsquo;s at risk? The young and the old are most prone to stair->

    Whether itrsquo;s a long flight of stairs or just a step or two, falls happen.
    There are three main contributing factors to why people fall on or from stairs. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. CMHC says they are environmental factors such as poor design, construction and maintenance; health factors, for example loss of balance, weakness or vision problems; and behavioural factors including wearing unsuitable footwear or carrying something that obstructs vision when using the stairs.

    How do you prevent stair->

    - Experts recommend removing reading glasses when travelling up or down stairs. They also recommend caution when wearing bifocals or progressive eyeglasses.

    - Install handrails. CMHC says occupational therapists recommend handrails be installed on all staircases, even if they have three steps or less. Have at least one handrail. Two is even better. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety says, ldquo;You should be able to run your hand smoothly along the entire length without having to adjust your grip.rdquo;

    - Use handrails: Neglecting to use your handrails defeats the purpose of having them. Teach children to navigate stairs using the handrail so they can learn good habits early.

    - Proper lighting is crucial, especially for people with vision problems. Having a light switch at the top and bottom means stairs can be well lit whether a user is travelling up or down.

    - Make sure the edges of the steps are visible. CMHC recommends painting a contrasting colour on the edges of wooden or concrete steps, or on the top and bottom steps. Special strips that can enhance the visibility of each step are also recommended.

    - Wearing proper footwear helps reduce the chance of falling on the stairs. Heels may get caught on the edge of a step, says the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. ldquo;Such mishaps are a routine cause of twisted ankles, sprained knees or more serious injuries incurred by a total fall.rdquo; Slippers that are loose or slip-on footwear is also not recommended.

    - Pay attention when yoursquo;re using the stairs. This is especially important when yoursquo;re not familiar with the stairs or the staircase has uneven or narrower steps, such as those on a circular staircase.

    - Rubber, metal or slip-resistant paint can help reduce the slipping risk.

    - Make sure your stairs are in good repair and ensure stair treads are non-slip and are properly fastened.

    - Consult an occupational therapist for advice about changes that can be made to the home to reduce the risk of falling on stairs, CMHC says.nbsp;ldquo;Simple modifications can be made to increase the safety of stairs, for example, adding a second handrail or installing visual contrast strips at the edge of stairs for easier visual detection.rdquo;

    - Use baby safety gates at the top and bottom to keep very young children off of the stairs.

    - Ensure stairs are kept clear of clutter and other tripping hazards.

    - Do not carry bulky objects that block your vision.

    - If yoursquo;re building or renovating a home, ensure stairs are built to code, with uniform steps. Handrails should be on both sides and continue one foot past the top and the bottom of the staircase, according to Fall Prevention Programming, a book by V. Scott.

    - If stairs are too much of a challenge, install a stair lift or elevator.

    - The majority of stairway falls result from a loss of balance, so be aware and take precautions.

    - Experts also suggest removing loose carpets or throw rugs from the stairway landing.

    The World Health Organization says falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injuries worldwide after road traffic crashes.

    ldquo;Prevention starts by keeping in mind that there are risks in using stairs. Good planning and simple strategies can help prevent falls and injuries,rdquo; says CMHC.

    Full Story >

    Creating the Smart Home of Tomorrow, Today

    Real estate agents should champion these facts.nbsp;

    Real estate agents should apprise clients of these facts, so as to reveal how real estate appraisers consider these facts.

    On a practical level, homeowners should invest in technology that is as substantive as it is stylish. To distinguish between the twomdash;to know the two are not always the samemdash;is to invest in those things people want and need.nbsp;

    For example: Rather than buying an appliance that is expensive but no better than the cheapest product on the market, rather than wasting an egregious sum on an everyday itemmdash;something people use every day, for years if not decadesmdash;it pays to look beyond how a product looks and feels.nbsp;

    Forget the logo, the badge, and the emblem. Put aside the symbols of wealth, including the status symbols that have no currency among the wise and frugal, because a homebuyer is in the market for real estate, not products worthy of a high-end estate sale.

    The homebuyer has an eye for value, not personal validation.nbsp;

    The real estate agent, in turn, has particularly good eyesight. He sees what others do not notice; she notices what others may never see, that a costly appliance does not justify the advertised cost of a home, that the cost of an appliance does not always reduce the costmdash;in food and powermdash;of running a home, that less costly products match or exceed the features of the costliest appliance.

    Take, for instance, Fridge Eye: a durable, rechargeable via USB-C, water-resistant camera that transform a refrigerator or cupboard into a smart appliance. Install the camera and download the Fridge Eye app, and streamline food shopping instantly.

    I mention Fridge Eye not to tout a product, but to promote a way to shop and live more productively. I mention this fact to change the facts, because the average U.S. family throws out about 2,275 in food annually.

    We cannot afford such decadence. We cannot sustain so much waste amidst so much squalor. We cannot continue to fill our stomachs and starve our souls.

    We can, however, assuage our concerns.nbsp;

    If we concern ourselves with saving lives by saving money, if we have more money to feed the hungry and help the homeless, if we have the intelligence to know and the strength to do, if we have the smarts to apply ourselves, there will be no question about the value of smart appliances.

    The expense is minimal, the total expenditure minor, the benefit of maximum importance.

    The future awaits us.

    Full Story >

    Home Upgrades That Will Make Your House Worth Even More Moolah

    Replace the Windows

    Poorly insulated, drafty, or cheap windows can bring down the value of a home like nothing else. Todays discerning home buyers expect double or triple pane windows with elements like Argon gas, low-e coatings, and all the other elements that make good-quality windows look good and function well. According to, homeowners who replace the windows in their homes get a 73 return on investment when they end up selling their home.

    Replace the Roof

    A damaged or faulty roof is one of the biggest reasons that homeowners have to hand over money to buyers during the buying process. Inspections frequently turn up issues with cracked shingles, holes, old tiles and all the other roof damage that can put your house at risk. A faulty roof not only makes the outside of the house look bad, but it also raises the risk for damage inside your house.

    Do a Minor Bathroom Renovation

    Bathroom renos can often take quite a bit of money. If you dont have a lot of money, you can still do a renovation that not only looks good but offers a great return on your investment. Doing something like replacing old, dingy tile or adding a new bathtub can completely change how the bathroom looks. If your tile floor has seen better days, consider replacing it with high-end vinyl flooring or adding a heating element. With small changes like these, you could see as much as a 100 return on your investment when you sell, making these moves a good choice.

    Do a Little Kitchen Reno as Well

    The same way that a small bathroom renovation can make a huge difference is the same way that a small kitchen renovation can make a huge difference. Like a bathroom, a full kitchen reno can cost well over 100,000, something that you may or may not have. If you have it, go for it. If you dont have it, you can still make small changes that will make a huge difference and how your kitchen is perceived by buyers. When we say "small kitchen renovation", were talking about things like replacing the cabinet doors, replacing the apron on a farmhouse sink or redoing your countertops. One of the easiest things that you can do that will make it look like you have a brand new kitchen is to replace your sink and faucet. Simply upgrading those two elements can create a visual transformation that is a sight to behold. Small changes like these can result in a more that 80 return on investment, according to Nerdwallet.

    Replace Your Front Door

    Theres nothing like a shabby, broken-down front door to negatively influence a potential buyers opinion of your home. No matter how good the inside of your house looks, that shabby front door will always be the first impression. The buyer may even go so far as to assume that because the front door is shabby, the rest of the home is secretly shabby, even if it looks good Its in your best interest to replace that front door as soon as you can. Buying a good front door will not only make your home look good, but it will give you as much as an 85 return on investment, according to Consumer Affairs.

    By following the above home reno tips, youll not only be enjoying the way your home looks. Youll also feel confident that youve increased the value of your home as well.

    Full Story >

    Americans Obsession With Murder Spurs Intriguing New Design Show

    But is there a cap? Do we just want to see and watch and read about murder, or does it go further? How do you feel about buying a house where a murder was committed?

    Thatrsquo;s the question new mobile streaming platformnbsp;Quibi is posing. When the platform launches in April 2020, it will offer a new show featuring renovations of some of the countryrsquo;s most ldquo;infamousrdquo; homes. The show will partner builders and decorators with forensic specialists and spiritual healers, with the goal of transforming both the ldquo;homersquo;s physical appearance but also its spiritual energy,rdquo; said Inman. ldquo;Are you a fan ofnbsp;fixer-upper shows,nbsp;haunted or otherwise creepynbsp;houses and true crime TV? Then you will love the latest home renovation show:nbsp;Murder House Flip. ldquo;Thinknbsp;Flip or Flop, with a sordid, and in some cases, paranormal, twist.

    Over the years, there have been many stories of people buying ldquo;murder houses,rdquo; perhaps out of morbid curiosity, but also because, well, you might just be able to find a bargain.nbsp;

    ldquo;Homes where a high-profile crime or murder occurred can sell for as much as 10-25 under market ratemdash;an enticing invitation for intrepid bargain hunters,rdquo; said The Hustle. ldquo;The mere presence of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmerrsquo;s Milwaukee apartment building depressed the value of surrounding homes for years, until a community development group bought it at a premium just to demolish it.rdquo;

    In 2016, tech entrepreneur Braden Pollock purchased the ldquo;Los Feliz Murder Mansion,rdquo; where Dr. Harold Pe>

    Most recently, Zac Bagans, actor, author, and host of the Travel Channelrsquo;s Ghost Adventures, purchased the Charles Manson murder housemdash;the luxury L.A. residence where Lenonbsp;andnbsp;Rosemary LaBianca were slaughtered by Mansonrsquo;s followers in 1969.

    ldquo;Its unclear if the house is haunted, or filled with energy from the brutal murders, but Bagans is ready to find out,rdquo; said Newsweek. ldquo;He shared a story of dogs disappearing from the property, and said that past tenants have been spooked silly by seeming paranormal encounters. This isnt Bagans first interaction with objects or places >

    Bagans may take his interest to a more detailed level than the average American, but we predict hersquo;ll be in good company watching Murder House Flip when it premieres next year.


    Full Story >

    First Time Home Buyers: Your Six Month Plan

    Herersquo;s what to do financially when yoursquo;ve decided to stop renting and start owning.

    Month 1:

    Yoursquo;re still sort of in the exploratory phase but yoursquo;re still committed on buying your first home. Yet buying a home isnrsquo;t something you should do on your own, especially as it >

    Month 2:

    Now itrsquo;s time to get some referrals for financing. You can get them from your selected real estate agent, friends and family or your financial planner or CPA if you have one. Once you make your choice about where yoursquo;re going to get your first mortgage, yoursquo;ll then speak with your loan officer over the phone or at the place of business. This is the prequalification stage. After a >

    Month 3:

    Itrsquo;s getting closer. But now itrsquo;s time to submit a loan application to your loan officer. Most often this is done online but your loan officer might offer to come to your home or place of business and take the loan application face to face. Yoursquo;ll sign a list of documents, most importantly your loan application and authorization forms allowing the lender to inquire about your employment and credit history. Your loan officer will electronically submit your application to an automated underwriting system which will, within a matter of moments, provide a list of items needed to get your loan to the full approval state. You will then have a preapproval letter in hand. Itrsquo;s time to submit copies of your pay check stubs, bank statements and tax returns if needed.

    Month 4:

    Your loan officer told you not to make any sudden changes about your work, employment or make any >

    Month 5:

    By now yoursquo;ve likely looked at your fair share of homes and you may very well be in a position to make an offer. You should always keep in close contact with your loan officer as well. Interest rates move over time and itrsquo;s possible that rates have gone up which effectively lowers the amount you can qualify for. Conversely, rates may have gone down and your buying power received a boost.

    Month 6:

    Yoursquo;ve found a home. Wheels begin to spin rather quickly after the contract has been signed. Your lender will need an appraisal and many lenders ask for money to pay for an appraisal upfront. Your loan will be reviewed one more time and any expired documentation will need to be updated. Credit documents such as a credit report, pay stubs and bank statements need to be no more than 30 days old when itrsquo;s time to fund the mortgage. Once your loan has received full approval and yoursquo;ve met all your loan conditions, loan papers are orders. At your closing, you will sign a host of closing documents and have your down payment if needed and closing cost money wired to the settlement agent. After signing, the lender does one more review of your file, making sure all the documents have been properly signed. Yoursquo;re now a first time home owner.

    Full Story >

    The Many Steps You Can Take to Start Saving For Your First Home

    Find Out How Much You Should Save

    Many potential first time home buyers do not know how much they need to save in order to pay for a home. Now is the time to find out. In general, mortgage lenders expect all buyers to have at least ten percent in savings. A good mortgage will typically account for no more than a third of the buyers take home income. Its also important to keep in mind that lenders also do not want to see that youre carrying much debt. Now is the time to think about how to accomplish other goals such as paying off any credit card debt and student loans.

    Think About Your Time Frame

    Buying a first home can take time. Its good to start the process of thinking about it right now. Set up a short time and long term time frame. The short term should include thinking about your present housing situation and where it may fall short. Over the long term, it should include looking at potential neighborhoods in person. Stroll areas that appeal to you directly. Go to open houses and see whats on offer. Open houses let you see houses directly and examine them from attic to basement in great detail. Know where you want to be six months from now, a year from now and five years out.

    Create a Streamlined Budget

    Now is the time to create a streamlined budget. You can still travel now and then, however, its also important to pay close attention to all the little details that will add up over time. Avoid spending money you dont need. Make coffee at home rather than buying it on the way to work. Buying items like toilet paper in bulk can save money. The same is true of other changes. Put off buying that second car. Continue using your current model. Think about using public transportation to get to work or take a walk there and save on the fares.

    Bank Any Windfall

    If theres an unexpected windfall, its best to bank it rather than spend it. If you file for the Earned Income Tax Credit, take the money thats being deposited in your account and keep it right there. The same is true of any and all raises as well as an inheritance, a bonus check or any other funds that are not needed right now. Designate them as part of your home down payment plan by putting them into a separate account designed solely for this purpose.

    Be Flexible

    While working hard and saving money for a down payment are good, keep in mind that life may have other plans. You may face other bills such as car payments, health issues or a sudden layoff. Its crucial to have an emergency fund on hand that youve built up in advance. This will make sure you can meet such expenses with ease. Any sudden financial issue should also not push you away from your ultimate goal. Your goal is to keep saving up enough money for the kind of first home youd like to live in going forward.

    Taking the long view is crucial. Saving up enough money for a first home can take lots of time. You should never lose sight of what youll get in turn. Youll have a first home where you can set down roots and enjoy life.


    Full Story >

    Clever and Simple Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

    Use Less Electricity

    One of the easiest ways to lower your carbon output is to use less electricity. You can easily start by turning off lights when youre not in a room and unplugging devices when you are not using them. You may think that turning off your devices is enough, but electronics like your television still use electricity even when switched off. You can also save power by running your air conditioner and heater less and hanging your clothes on the line instead of using the dryer.

    Use Solar Power

    If you really want to use less electricity, consider installing solar panels. These panels can drastically reduce the amount of electricity you use. While there is a cost associated with solar panels, you will eventually save money on your electric bill. You can also easily learn how to clean solar panels, so upkeep is minimal.

    Reduce the Amount of Meat You Eat - or Go Vegetarian

    The meat industry produces more carbon emissions than any other industry, so reducing the amount of meat you eat can help to lower your carbon footprint. Red meat is the worst offender, so if you are not ready to give up all meat for good, consider eating less red meat and you will still make an impact.

    Walk When You Can

    Fossil fuels are another major cause of carbon dioxide emissions, so the less you can drive, the better. If you live close enough to your work, shopping and restaurants, it is easy for you to walk or ride your bike. As an added benefit, you will be getting in some extra exercise while you are helping the environment. For those times you have to use a car, make sure your car is well-maintained with proper oil changes and tires with the right amount of air pressure. A well-maintained vehicle uses less fuel. If you are in the market for a new car, consider an electric car or a hybrid.

    Use Less Water

    Using less water is important for many reasons. It can reduce your carbon footprint, and, as water is a finite resource, it is important to conserve it. There are many ways that you can conserve water. Avoid watering your lawn, take shorter showers and turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Surprisingly, using your dishwasher actually uses less water than washing dishes in the sink.

    Create Less Waste

    There are many ways to avoid waste in your everyday life. Look for ways to reuse things you may throw away, such as cardboard boxes. Use fabric bags instead of paper or plastic bags to carry your shopping. Try to avoid buying large amounts of "stuff" that you do not need. When possible, buy items that are used.

    Plant a Garden

    The agriculture industry has a huge carbon footprint. By growing your own food, you can help reduce carbon emissions. Growing your own fruits and vegetables has the added benefit of encouraging you to eat healthier. If growing a garden is not an option for you, you can still make an impact by buying foods that are locally grown.

    Climate change and global warming are important issues that we as a society must address. While you may think that as an individual there is little you can do to help or make a difference, if everyone would follow the simple steps listed above, we could greatly reduce carbon emissions and help slow down global warming.

    Full Story >

    Are You Ready for Some Football? Move to One of These Top NFL Cities

    Yes, for some people, there is no greater motivator to move to a city than whether or not therersquo;s an NFL team to root for, and the chances of them actually ending up in the Super Bowl. Now that the new NFL season has started, wersquo;re taking a look at the best places to live for football fans.nbsp;

    We used WalletHubrsquo;s study of the Best and Worst Cities for Football Fans, which compared more than the 240 U.S. cities with at least one professional football team or college, but that didnrsquo;t rate on our list across 21 key metrics, as our base. Then we weaved in some additional info about each of the top 4 cities on their list. Is one of these cities a touchdown? Depends on what yoursquo;re looking for.nbsp;

    No. 1 Pittsburgh

    WalletHub has Pittsburgh at the top of their list. The city came in third for their best-performing team metric, was fourth for most accessible stadium, and tied with Green Bay for most engaged fans. ldquo;The six Super Bowl titles for the Steelers are the most for any NFL franchise,rdquo; said CheatSheet. A list of the teamrsquo;snbsp;greatestnbsp;players includes a fair share of the NFLrsquo;s best all-time players. Throw in the devotednbsp;fans,rdquo; and itrsquo;s no wonder Pittsburgh leads the pack.

    So is this a great place to move? Livability thinks so. They ranked the city No. 8 on their new list of the Top 100 Best Places to Live in America. ldquo;The Burgh scored high in the studyrsquo;s economy category, as well as infrastructure,rdquo; said CBS Pittsburgh. ldquo;Editors also say that Pittsburgh has seen an influx of young people and tech companies in recent yearshellip;with local universities including Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh driving innovation and nurturing talent. Editors also talked about Pittsburghrsquo;s climate, home values, brewers, dream jobs and weather.rdquo;

    No. 2 Boston

    Not surprisingly, Boston is at the top of WalletHubrsquo;s best-performing NFL city list, and is ranked No. 3 for the most engaged NFL fans. ldquo;Boston College and Boston University play football within the city limits, and Harvard plays just across the Charles River in Cambridge,rdquo; said CheatSheet. ldquo;But college football isnrsquo;t why Boston makes the list. It has a little something to do with the New England Patriots and their five Super Bowl titles. Those [six] championships and the legions of fans who live and die with the Patriots will keep Boston high on the list of top football towns for a long time to come.rdquo;

    U.S. News amp; World Report has Boston ranked No. 27 on its national list ofnbsp;Best Places to Live and No. 25 innbsp;Best Places to Retire. ldquo;Boston often feels like a small town with all the perks of city life,rdquo; they said. ldquo;The metro area features a diverse culinary scene, access to the cultural institutions, and proximity to world->

    The downside? ldquo;Boston is a notoriously expensive metro area. If you are looking to purchase a home in Boston, prices can vary drastically based on the neighborhood, though they tend to be higher than the national median.rdquo;

    No. 3 Green Baynbsp;

    This city has fervent fans, as evidenced by their No. 1 ranking in a tie for most engaged fans in the WalletHub study. Green Bay also ranked first for most accessible stadium. ldquo;The Green Bay Packers are the No. 1 reason people in northern Wisconsin leave the house in autumn and early winter,rdquo; said CheatSheet. ldquo;OK, that might be stretching the truth, but not by much. At least the team givesnbsp;Packers fansnbsp;something worth watching. Their topnbsp;quarterbacksnbsp;are among the best to ever play the game. The team has four Super Bowl titles, and itrsquo;s always a contender to win another one.rdquo;

    Green Bayrsquo;s median household income is a bit higher than the state and U.S. median, but rising home prices have taken a bite out of affordability. Prices are up in the hot Green Bay market by more than 15 over last year, and many homes get multiple offers and sell for over asking price. Still, the average sales price is only 190,000mdash;significantly more attainable than homes in other parts of the country.

    No. 4 Dallas

    Dallas has five Super Bowl titles and a loud and proud legion of fans across the country and around the world. WalletHub has the city ranked as the No. 4 best-performing NFL team. ldquo;Theyrsquo;re called Americarsquo;s Team for a reason, and the Super Bowls have something to do with it,rdquo; said CheatSheet. ldquo;Theyrsquo;ve been better at crushing fansrsquo;nbsp;dreamsnbsp;recently, but their legacy of success makes Dallas a great football city.

    Dallas has been growing at a rapid rate for several years and shows no sign of slowing. The job market is strong, and, while home prices have risen alongside population gains, transplants from places like New York, California, Seattle, or Chicago will be surprised at the >


    Full Story >

    A Checklist for the New Homeowner

    1. Notify the Post Office and the Bank

    The first thing that you should do is make sure that you contact the post office and make sure that theyrsquo;re aware of the change. All you have to do for this is fill out a change-of-address form. Head into the closest Post Office and fill out the form. Then, call your banks and make them aware of the change as well. This would mean that you should also change your billing address for credit cards and for any online shipping like Amazon.

    2. Switch Your Utilities and Services

    Step two is just as easy. After yoursquo;ve taken care of the important things with the Post Office and the bank, call your utilities to let them know that yoursquo;ve switched addresses. This will stop you from receiving any bills from your old address which is important if yoursquo;re renting it out and ensure that you are receiving the bills for your current address. If you had any pest control services, lawn care, or any other service performed on your old home, give them a call and make sure that they know yoursquo;ve moved. Hopefully, they can still service in your new area and the change will be quick and easy.

    3. Make Sure Yoursquo;re Safe

    Once most of the finances are taken care of, itrsquo;s time to make sure that yoursquo;re as safe as possible. If yoursquo;re buying a home from someone else, itrsquo;s possible that they still have copies of the keys used for the house. To be safe, contact a locksmith and get all of the keys remade and changed. Change all the codes for the home and garage as well. Then, head inside and make sure that all of the safety features of the home are working. This means checking the Carbon Monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers. It doesnrsquo;t hurt to hire someone to come out to double check the home for mold or termites either this should have been done before the house was put up for sale.

    4. Fulfill Promises to Your Family

    Things are going to feel weird in the new home for a couple days. The fastest way to move in and get settled is by making the home feel like itrsquo;s really home. If there was anything that you sacrificed to the get the new home, make plans with your family to get it. For example, if all your kids wanted was a new pool but the house didnrsquo;t have one, create a financial plan to get there and think it out step by step. Start by researching for a company that does custom pools in nbsp;your city.. Then, work with the company to create a financial plan to put in the pool. In order to help your children best adjust to the idea of moving to a new place, make sure that yoursquo;re honest with them the entire process.

    5. Review the HOA Rules

    If yoursquo;ve purchased a home in an HOA area, make sure that you review the rules a few extra times. Hopefully, you already know what to expect from your HOA, but reviewing the rules will help ease any stress while yoursquo;re figuring out the area. The Home Owners Association usually has very strict rules for what you can and canrsquo;t have outside in the area. They can also be strict about the upkeep of a property and the >

    After yoursquo;ve taken care of the important things, go ahead and do the fun steps. Go out and meet your neighbors, explore the area, decorate the inside of the home, and >


    Full Story >

    Reasons to Power Wash Your Home Before Putting It On the Market

    Soft wash pressure washing dramatically improves the overall curb appeal of your home. Safely yet adequately cleaning away dirt, mold, mildew, and other debris will make your property look brand new. You dont have to stick with just your homes exterior either. Pressure washing decks, patios, driveways, walkways, fencing, roofing, and everything else you can see is a guaranteed way to increase your property value and sell your home faster.

    Power Washing Makes Your Home Stand Out Against the Rest

    Chances are, there are several homes for sale in the city or town that you live in. When people start talking with a realtor to find their next home, they will explore all of the properties within the area they have an interest in. By having a professional pressure washing company come in and properly clean away years of dirt and other blemishes, your property will look like it was just resided or had a fresh paint job.nbsp;

    The draw for you is that its a lot less expensive than actually completing one of the more significant projects. You might think that your homes exterior needs to be replaced because youve been looking at all the problem areas for so long. However, you might be surprised to find out that what you thought needed to be updated only needed a proper power washing.

    Someone cruising around looking at houses for sale will notice whether or not your property has been taken care of. People want to have the feeling that theyre getting something brand new even if it isnt. Pressure washing your home gives the look and feel of a just-built home for a fraction of the cost.

    Step out into the street or drive by your house and take a look at it in its current condition. Is it something that you would get a good first impression looking at? If you havent had power washing done within the past year or so, the answer is likely no. Get it pressure washed by a trusted company, and you might find yourself reconsidering even selling it in the first place because it will look so stunning.

    Going Beyond Pressure Washing Your House

    When you think of pressure washing your house, do you only think about siding, shutters, and maybe windows? While thats what plenty of homeowners will have done regularly by a power washing company, there are so many more options that are going to work in your favor.

    A pressure washing company that has the proper tools, equipment, and experience will be able to offer you other cleaning services for your home pre-sale that will make it look even better. Some of the other features you should think about having professionally power washed include:

    bull; Decks
    bull; Patios
    bull; Driveways
    bull; Sidewalks
    bull; Roofing
    bull; Gutters

    This information was given to us by a local Michigan pressure washing company called ProClean Pressure Washing West Bloomfield. The more dirt, mold, debris, salt, algae, and other blemishes you can wash away, the more attractive your house will be to those driving by. Its a small investment that you can make now. It comes with a high probability youll get a 100 return on your initial cost because of how great your house looks.

    Power Washing Before Inspection

    Unless someone walks up and offers you an all-cash payment for your home, you will be seeing a lending house inspector at some point during the sale process. Banks and mortgage companies have to go out to the location to ensure the money they are borrowing to a homeowner is worth it.nbsp;

    By having your professional power washing done before the inspector gets there, it will cut down on the amount of time it takes them to go over your property thoroughly. Not only that, but they will be able to easily see that the siding, roof, windows, and other surfaces that have been washed are in good condition.nbsp;

    When there is dirt or debris stuck to these areas, they have to take the time to do a closer inspection. If you want to sell quickly without a lot of questions being asked, professional power washing is one of the most effective ways to reach that goal.

    Power Wash the Outside to Improve the Inside

    Experts suggest that serious homebuyers are more attracted to homes that have an open and well-lit interior. Before you power wash your home, you might not even realize that the natural light that was once coming in has been obstructed. Time passes, and dirt and grime on the windows and the rest of your homes exterior build up.nbsp;

    After you have your favorite pressure washing company show up and do the cleaning of your homes exterior, the interior will shine a lot more brightly. The debris that was blocking the sunlight from coming in has been blasted away. Afterward, youre left with a much cleaner and fresher environment that buyers look for.

    Well-Maintained Homes Sell Faster

    People dont want to buy someone elses problem. If you lived in your house for 20 years and never took care of the power washing of the roof, siding, or other surfaces, expect buyers to keep driving on by. They dont want to have to do everything that you neglected for so long to get their new house livable.nbsp;

    After pressure washing is complete, your home instantly looks like its been taken care of. Even if you didnt replace the windows or fix the roof, just by it being cleaner, the problem areas arent as noticeable. People that see a clean house on the outside will automatically believe that everything on the inside was taken care of the way it was supposed to be as well.

    There are people out there that look for homes that need a little bit of work so that they can get it at a lower price. If you arent worried about how much money youll get for the sale of your home, then go ahead and sell it as-is. If you want to get the most out of your investment, then proper professional power washing is a no-brainer.nbsp;

    Make sure to request pressure cleaning of your siding, windows, roof, gutters, driveway, sidewalks, and other surfaces when you call a power washing company near you. It will increase your chances of getting that higher asking price faster.


    Nate Knebl of ProClean Pressure Washing West Bloomfield has been offering his wide range of exterior cleaning services through Michigan for over 15 years. Over the years he has earned himself a 5 star reputation and consistently gets referrals from clients looking for his spotless cleans. He stays in touch with the industry and is always on the cutting edge.

    Full Story >

    How Lenders View Retirement Income

    Social security is a given. You can apply for social security up to three months before you turn 62. However, if you wait until 65 your monthly social security income will be higher. There are arguments on both sides as when to take social security, so itrsquo;s important that you have a discussion with your spouse and financial planner. And yes, social security income is considered taxable income.

    Dividend income and interest come from savings and retirement accounts. Therersquo;s a special section on the loan application labeled ldquo;Interest and Dividend.rdquo; As it >

    Borrowers will need to provide the last two years of federal income tax returns showing the amount of interest income received during that time frame. Lenders will average those two years together and then divide by 24 months to arrive at a qualifying amount. At the same time, lenders must also make a general determination that the interest income will continue into the future. Itrsquo;s a judgment call but lenders typically want to be assured the income will continue for at least three years. Borrowers may also be asked to provide copies of statements from these accounts showing the account balances issuing interest as well as the terms of the amounts being paid. Itrsquo;s important to show that the accounts providingnbsp;interest payments are sizable enough to make these payments without directly withdrawing from the account balance. This would reduce monthly interest income.

    Dividend payments are a bit trickier because they may not come on a regular enough basis where borrowers can use the dividend payments to service debt and monthly expenses. If a dividend payment comes once per year, it wonrsquo;t be available year-round for debt service. For dividend payments that come quarterly, it can be assumed the funds will be available to help pay the bills in retirement. As with any other type of income, there needs to be at least a two-year history of receiving it and the lender makes an internal determination the income will continue into the future for at least three years.

    A 401k account will also pay dividends. Borrowers should be prepared to fully document the terms and payouts of a 401k account, when the borrowers expect to withdraw funds from the retirement account and if there are enough funds available to help service any type of monthly debt.

    In essence, any income outside of social security needs to have a history prove the likelihood of continuance well into the future. Even though someone is receiving some type of retirement income, therersquo;s the possibility it canrsquo;t be counted toward qualifying income. For this, yoursquo;ll need to speak directly with an experienced loan officer.

    Full Story >

    NAR Report Emphasizes Agent Must-Haves for Strong Digital Presence

    ldquo;The world we live in today is a digital one and searching for a home is no different,rdquo; they said. Buyers now have apps that let them search by location and neighborhoods. Online searching maximizes the ability to compare and contrast homes on the market by selected features. Most of this is done before a potential home buyer connects with a real estate agent. In the Real Estate in a Digital Age report, we examine the process home buyers go through in the initial online search and how REALTORSreg; are connecting with customers in the digital space.rdquo;

    Wersquo;re running through some of the most important data points in the NAR report.

    Are your properties showing up online?

    The wider the net you cast with property listings, the better. Homebuyers search first for properties online a whopping 44 of the time.nbsp;

    Social media more important than ever

    Whatrsquo;s your Facebook page looking like? Do you even have a business page on the social media site? Have you mastered Instagram or are you still writing it off as unimportant to your target market? You may be surprised. On the report under ldquo;top tech tools that give the highest quality leads,rdquo; social media was the leader by far, at 44. Coming in second was MLS site at 32, followed by the brokeragersquo;s website at 29.

    Is your website mobile optimized?

    It isnrsquo;t enough to have a great website if it only works on desktop. The majority of buyers today are using their mobile device to search for homes, across all demographics. The NAR Infographic showed that, ldquo;81 of Older Millennials, 80 ofnbsp;Younger Millennials and 78 of Generation Xnbsp;found their home on a mobile device compared to 68 of Younger Boomers.rdquo;nbsp;

    nbsp;Photos rule

    Itrsquo;s no surprise that buyers want to see pictures of listings, but the percentage of buyers who made this the most valuable feature about online properties in the report was compelling: 87. No. 2 was detailed property information, and No. 3 might be surprising: floorplans. Realtors may have an opportunity to set themselves apart by showing property floorplans along with the other identifying information in online listings.nbsp;


    Full Story >

    Its a DIY World out There. Are You Game?

    Wersquo;re looking at five of the most popular projects to determine whether you can have at it or you should turn it over to the pros.

    New floors

    The cost to install new wood floors can range widely, and is largely dependent on the cost of the product itself. HomeAdvisor estimates the cost of installation at 3ndash;8 per square foot; You can save thousands by installing it yourself, but it can be challengingnbsp;

    ldquo;Installing wood or wood-like floors can range from a fairly easy DIY project to one that requires a good bit of carpentry and finishing skills,rdquo; said Todayrsquo;s Homeowner.

    Truth be told, installation is hard on the knees, hard on the back, tedious, and seemingly never-endingmdash;and also incredibly satisfying if you pull it off. ldquo;Flooring is one of the most popular home improvement projects because itrsquo;s a way to transform the look and feel of the home without spending a fortune,rdquo; Dan DiClerico, home expert at renovations website HomeAdvisor, told Money. ldquo;Wersquo;ve seen the project really take off in the age of open-floor plans in contemporary homes.rdquo;

    Be sure to invest in good products, good tools, and take breaks as needed to keep your bodymdash;and your mental statemdash;in a good place.

    New lighting

    A sparkly chandelier over the dining table, some new pendants that illuminate the kitchen islandmdash;the right lighting can make a huge difference in how your house looks and feels. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of lighting to make a space look fresher or give it some personality. But, while wersquo;re all about picking out the good stuff, we donrsquo;t mess around with anything that can electrocute us. If you have basic wiring skills and feel confident that you wonrsquo;t set the house on fire while installing a new sconce, have at it. This post will give you some good info.nbsp;

    For the rest of us, count on an hourly rate of ldquo;40 to 100 per hour with a 75 service call-out fee,rdquo; said HomeGuide. ldquo;Small electrical projects range from 141 to 419 with most homeowners spending 280 on average. Project and hourly rates depend on thenbsp;electriciansnbsp;experience level and the type of work.rdquo;

    New plumbing fixtures

    Plumbing is the other thing we donrsquo;t mess with. Wersquo;re happy to pay a professional to do the job right. But for those in the know, the savings over hiring a plumber can be well worth it. Adding a shiny new sink and faucet to a kitchen can give the whole space a lift. Ditto in the bathrooms, where changing out a shower head and faucets can make it appear that the space has been updated.nbsp;

    Expect to pay a plumber ldquo;from 175 to 450 for a typical job with the average costnbsp;per hour ranging from 45 to 200,rdquo; said HomeAdvisor.nbsp;

    Replacing windows and doors

    New windows and doors can add curb appeal, improve energy efficiency, and provide pretty good ROI while theyrsquo;re at it. For most people, however, this is a professional job. ldquo;Window replacement is a bigger job than most homeowners may expect,rdquo; said The Spruce. ldquo;Window installers, after all, replace windows every day of their life; what is difficult for the DIYer is rote for them.rdquo; In addition, ldquo;it is difficult for homeowners to buy their own replacement windows for self-installation.

    According to HomeAdvisor, ldquo;labor will runnbsp;150 to 800 per window,rdquo; so the savings can be substantial. If you want to take a chance, there is some good how-to info here, and Window E-Store is a good place to start looking for windows.nbsp;

    Painting your kitchen cabinets

    Weve talked a whole lot about painting kitchen cabinetsmdash;because itrsquo;s one of homeowners most-wanted renovations. The cost of hiring a professional can make the project price prohibitive; yoursquo;re looking at several thousands of dollars to get a fine finish. Scrimp on someone without the experience, or who isnrsquo;t going to do all the prep or skip steps, and you might save a few bucks, but you might also end up with drips, cracks, peeling paint, or all of the above.nbsp;nbsp;

    That having been said, painting your own cabinets is a tremendous undertaking. It will test your patience, your resolve, and maybe even your marriage. So consider this one carefully.nbsp;


    Full Story >

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    Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2019

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