Real Estate News

Updated: Wednesday, June 19, 2019

What Happens When Your Sales Contract and Appraisal Dont Agree

An external influence might be someone forced to >

Most often the appraisal reflects the sales price. When an appraisal is ordered, the appraiser receives a copy of the sales contract showing the amount the buyers and sellers agree to. Before the appraiser steps one foot outside there is some initial research completed. The appraiser looks at recent home sales in the area that are similar to the subject property.

In most states, this information is readily available via entries in the public record. Some states however keep this information private. If someone has access to the Multiple Listing Service, this information is easily available. Either way, the appraiser does some initial homework before inspecting the property.

Itrsquo;s important to note there the appraiserrsquo;s job is to establish value and is not the same individual who will physically inspect the property for any seen and unseen defects that need some attention. The appraiserrsquo;s job is to establish value based upon recent sales of homes in the area. If the sales contract says the agreed to price is 250,000 then the appraiser will research other homes in the area and compare them all. Sometimes the appraised value comes in higher than the sales price.

But what some think is this extra value is immediately available to the buyers in the form of equity or even help out with the down payment. Neither applies. If the appraised value comes in higher, well, thatrsquo;s great for the buyers. Itrsquo;s when the appraisal comes in lower that can cause some problems.

The lender will always use the lower of the sales price or appraised value when evaluating a loan application. If the sales price is 250,000 and the appraisal 260,000, the lender still uses 250,000 as the value. If the price is 250,000 and the appraisal 240,000, the lender will use 240,000. This leaves the sellers with a dilemma. Either come in with the extra 10,000 or walk away from the transaction enti>

There might be another option which is to order another appraisal, but the new appraiser will be using the very same information the first one did. Or, the sellers will agree to a new, lower sales price. Most often this is the result because the sellers know theyrsquo;ll more than likely face the same issue with the next offer and understand their property might just be overpriced for the area.

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5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Kitchen Remodel Design Team

Before putting money down for a deposit on your new kitchen remodel, you need to look at several factors including the years of experience, previous customer reviews, availability, option for cabinets, flooring, and other components, and the cost.

1. How Many Years of Experience Does Your Kitchen Contractor Have?

It doesnt matter if youre doing a small kitchen remodel project or if youre looking at completing a total overhaul; in every situation, you want to hire a kitchen contractor that has the experience to get the job done the right way the first time. While every kitchen contractor and design team has to start from somewhere, you are taking a significant risk allowing someone that hasnt been in business very long to do the work.

The ideal way to select a kitchen remodeling company that has enough knowledge and skill to assist you is by looking at those that have at least five years of work in the industry. That says that they have been able to keep their operation up and going through providing quality work to their customers. If they werent capable of doing what they say they can, then the likelihood of them still being operational after five years isnt very high.

Additionally, if you select a kitchen design team that isnt well-established yet, you could be asked to pay for some or all of the cost of your new kitchen up front. While in some instances there is no issue with getting the work done that way, its another risk youre taking. After you pay your kitchen contractor, theres no reason for them to hurry up and get the work done, or do it all, unfortunately. You could be stuck with an unfinished kitchen remodel for much longer than you expected, or they could disappear with your money.

2. Are There Enough Positive Customer Reviews On Your Kitchen Design Team?

Thanks to technology, the internet, and social media, it isnt hard to find out what other customers experienced when working with a specific kitchen remodeling company. All you really have to do is type in the name of the kitchen contractor youre considering, and within seconds youll see anything positive or negative that others have said about them. While you have to be careful if the reviews seem like they might be scripted, if there are poor ones, you can trust that they are factual.

If there arent any reviews on the kitchen contractor at all, that should also make you leery of hiring them. They might not have as many years of experience as they claim, or perhaps they had to change their name because of all the negative things people were sharing about them. Negative reviews online are nearly impossible to get rid of, so kitchen contractors that have them have been known to change the name of their business instead of trying to get rid of them.

You can always skip the internet enti>

3. Will Your Selected Kitchen Design Experts Be Available?

Some of the best kitchen contractors near you are likely going to be booked out several weeks, months, or even longer in advance. Think about when you want the project done. Also, take into consideration how long you are going to want the kitchen design team in your home. There are plenty out there that will be able to give you an accurate estimate of how long its going to take from start to completion. If they hesitate on being able to share the details with you, then you could be looking at a company that isnt dedicated to completing the job promptly.

When do your research, look for kitchen contractors that have guarantees on their time projections. Many of them will even offer a discount or money back if they go over their time terms. Those are the ones that you can bet will get the job done when they say they will.

4. Does Your Kitchen Contractor Have the Options Youre Looking For?

You might be inclined to think that every kitchen contractor in your area can complete the same tasks and offer you whatever materials and products you want. That isnt necessarily true. Some kitchen remodeling companies will only handle cabinets and flooring, for instance, while others are capable of completely changing the footprint of the room. Here in the Treasure Valley area where our company operates, North Star Kitchen and Bath Remodels pride ourselves in being a full-service remodeling company, that can handle just about any kitchen remodelnbsp;customers are looking for.

Check for kitchen contractors that will give you personal attention, and preferably your very own design team or expert to work alongside from the start to the finish of the job. That way, you can have someone that you will be able to easily describe any custom kitchen cabinets, flooring options, countertop choices, and appliances you have in mind. They should be able to quickly offer you alternatives or let you know that its not something that they are capable of doing.

Select a kitchen remodeling company near you that starts you off with a free estimate. Thats when you can go over in detail exactly what you have in mind, and youll know right away if theyre going to be able to get the job done for you or not. With a free estimate, if they cant, youre not out any money.

5. What is Your New Kitchen Design Going to Cost?

The last thing you want to think about is cost. You dont want to pay prices that are way out of the ballpark compared to the other ones, but you should never go with the cheapest one you find either. If a kitchen remodeling company can offer you a meager price in comparison to the rest youve looked at, its likely they are cutting corners on quality, labor, or the processes that they use.

It is recommended to get at least three different quotes before choosing any one company to work with. That way, you can have a clear idea of how the kitchen design and remodeling industry works, and you can get the results you deserve for your investment.

Scott Merriman is the owner of North Star Kitchen and Bath Remodels which operates in Boise and the greater treasure valley area. nbsp;He has over 18 years of experience working in the remodeling industry and knows how to bring the most value to any remodel when a realtor or homeowner is looking to buy or sell.

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Summer Dcor Trends: What to Look for When Decking out Your Deck or Patio

This year, itrsquo;s all about color, texture, and a little something different. Here are the six looks we canrsquo;t live without for summer.

1. A fancy seating area

We love the intricacy of the pattern on this rattan set second chair not shown, and it was surprisingly comfortable. Beware red wine drinkers and those with kids: Those white pads may not stay white for long. Also, beware those with animals: itrsquo;s pretty delicate. Especially if you have cats that like to, you know, claw stuff. You might want to go with something more sturdy. Still, we love the idea of this for a balcony or private outdoor space that doesnrsquo;t see a ton of kid/pet traffic.

2. A fanciful umb>

Yeah, it may not hold up as well as something with Sunb>

3. Fun little pillows

If yoursquo;ve ever been to HomeGoods, you know itrsquo;s filled with aisles and aisles of pillows in every shape, size, and color. You can go the expect route with a neutral color story 100 different ways for your pillowshellip;or you can take a little leap this summer. After all, you can always go back to the store in the fall and change out this inexpensive item. Donrsquo;t you love how fun that palm tree pattern is and how the color gives you an unexpected punch?

4. A whole lotta color

Of course, why stop at just a little color? Seating in a rich huemdash;one that also happens to be inspired by nature, like this greenmdash;can give your outdoor space the jolt it needs.

5. Modern lines

The squared-off shape and gray color gives this set a modern, updated touch, while the worn, wooded touches bring that farmhouse chic vibe. This one is definitely Chip- and Joanna-approved.

6. A bushel of baskets

Woven baskets in a variety of colors and shapes are the perfect way to introduce a worldly, bohemian feel to your outdoor spacehellip;except that these arenrsquo;t woven at all. Like two of the seating areas above No. 4 and No. 5, these baskets are made of an easy-care material that only looks like fragile rattan.

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Top Tips for Repatriation

Whether you were hoping to stay or glad to leave, itrsquo;s important to try and make repatriation to your point of origin as painless as it can be. With that in mind, here are a few things to consider before you go, from bureaucracy and paperwork to dealing with goodbyes.

Plan your timeline

Yoursquo;ve already done at least one international >

Be prepared for as many eventualities as possible by starting your planning as far ahead as you can, and sitting down to make notes on what needs doing and when. Donrsquo;t just think about packing, flights and logistics ndash; be sure to factor in time for your farewells.

Dinners with close friends, farewell drinks and simple emails about your departure for those you arenrsquo;t as close to are all things to consider. If you have children in tow, prioritise their wellbeing and make time to organise farewells to their friends too.nbsp;

Your repatriation timeline should include everything from check-out days to immunisations, which brings us on to the next point.

Know the protocols

Itrsquo;s the least fun part of any move, but itrsquo;s crucial to understand any paperwork, laws and legislation around your repatriation. How much notice do you need to give at work, if any, and to your landlord? How far ahead do you need to organise the cut-off date for your household bills, and is an international forwarding address enough?

Depending on where yoursquo;re heading back to, you may also need proof of certain up-to-date immunisations in order to return easily, and you may no longer be entitled to things like national health insurance if yoursquo;ve lived abroad for several years. Find out about any periods for which you will not be entitled to healthcare or other public services, and ensure that your international health insurance plan continues on your return until this period ends.

Other things to watch out for are the weight limits for your flight luggage, or restrictions on shipped items. If you have any pets, theyrsquo;re going to need a passport of their own ndash; and itrsquo;s likely yoursquo;ll need to pay substantial fees for their flights and quarantine before they can finish their own journey on the other side.

Be financially ready

On that note, itrsquo;s also advisable to be really thorough with checking your finances when committing to a repatriation. The cost of >

The cost of living in your home country may well be very different to your expat home, and changes in the economy and inflation can mean that things are more expensive than you remember. If yoursquo;re returning to a particular job, or are negotiating a new role for your return, be certain of how far the salary will go and any areas where you need to save or can afford to splurge.

If you still have a bank account open in your point of origin then this is one less thing to take care of, but if your lack of local address has meant that you no longer have a local account, setting one up should be on your to-do list too. If you bank with an international bank like HSBC, transferring your account should be >

Capture memories

Something thatrsquo;s easy to forget in the rush and multi-tasking of an international move, is the simple act of taking photos, or storing other kinds of memories. Once yoursquo;ve lived somewhere for a few years, the idea of taking photos of your day to day life might seem a bit odd. But when yoursquo;re looking back at your expat experience in another ten yearsrsquo; time, simple things like photos of your home and of places yoursquo;ve visited can become cherished items.

In the run up to leaving, capture everything. Friends and family, favourite spots, local foods, anything that sparks a little joy. One of the sad truths of expat life is that unlike the goodbyes you say when you leave your original home, which are said knowing you will likely see the recipients again, often a goodbye to other expat friends really is a final goodbye.

Living a global life>

Understand what may have changed

Last, but not least, be ready for the things that may have changed since you last lived at your starting point. From people and >

Just as you will have changed and grown as a result of your time away, know that returning back to where you started from is not the same as having never left. See repatriation as another new chapter in your adventure, only this time in more familiar territory.

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4 Steps for Finding the Perfect Home

Moving is one of the most stressful things that you will need to do. It puts pressure on you, your spouse, and your children as you all try to find something that fits with each personrsquo;s expectations. You also have to consider the location of the new home, the size of the home, the size of the outdoor area, and the quality of the neighborhood. With all of these things that you need to consider, sometimes finding a house can seem like itrsquo;s impossible. The good news is that if you focus on these 4 main things, finding your home will be a whole lot easier.

1. Define Your ldquo;Perfectrdquo; Home

Get every in your family together and talk about what your perfect home would be. Your kids might want to have a big backyard and you want it to be close to your childrenrsquo;s school. If therersquo;s a room size that yoursquo;re looking for, make sure that you write that down as well. You want your list to cover everything that you need. Itrsquo;s also important to figure out what you need and what you want. For example, if your kids are big swimmers you might want to look at houses that have custom pools. However, this might not be something that you need in the house since a pool can be an easy addition to afterward. You need to realize which things can be compromised and which things cannot. Then, once yoursquo;ve defined what your perfect home is, give the list of needed things to your real estate agent and theyrsquo;ll be able to locate houses that fit the criteria much easier.

2. Stay in the Budget

You might find a home that fits everything that you want, but itrsquo;s out of the budget. Now, you have a choice. You can abandon the budget and get the house, or find something that sticks within the price range. This piece of advice comes from years of experience--always choose to stick with the budget. You will only regret spending more than you were planning on spending and it will create financial stress in your future. It might take longer, but you need to find something that actually works with the money that yoursquo;ve set aside for buying a house. If you do, you will be a happier family with less financial stress on your shoulders.

3. Think About Remodeling

Remodeling is always an option. Letrsquo;s say that you find a house that is perfectly in your budget maybe even a little cheaper but it has one fewer room or the layout of the house isnrsquo;t what you were hoping for. Donrsquo;t just pass up the house. You might want to factor in the cost of remodeling the house and if thatrsquo;s still in your budget, this might just be your dream house after all. Itrsquo;s perfectly fine to remodel aspects of your home right after you buy it. Again, just make sure that remodeling isnrsquo;t going to push you outside of your budget.

4. Picture Your Family in the Home

Your family is the reason why yoursquo;re moving. Maybe your old home was getting too small for a family thatrsquo;s always growing. Or, maybe yoursquo;re moving to a location that has better schools for your children. Sometimes, people move because they were offered a better job that will help them to better care for their family. Most of the time, the move is fueled by the desire to have a better location for the family. Because of that, the family should be at the heart of the home. Can you image your family happily living in the home? If no, then you should keep looking. If yes, then this might be the home for you.

Just make sure that your family is happy with the choice. Encourage your children to be apart of the move as well so that they know that their voices are valued in these big decisions.


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How Essential Oils Can Help You Sell Your Home

You want to make sure that your home is clean and that you have not just put out a deodorizing smell. If you put out a bunch of scented candles or plug-ins, a potential buyer might think you are masking a smell or they might not like the scent at all. In some cases, the smell may be so overpowering it distracts the people from being able to make a decision on the home.

Cleaning Your Home

The very first thing you want to do is clean the entire home from top to bottom. Make sure that you get every nook and cranny to ensure that there are no smells. If you hate cleaning, get the whole family involved. Ask them to help you clean the entire house to help you get it ready for sale. If you have trouble getting your family to help, consider using whatever reward necessary to help them get the house clean. Cleaning the house will help the overall smell of the home.

While you are cleaning your home, it is important that you use a simple fragrance. Using more than one fragrance can actually be unpleasant and overpowering. Using a cleaner with an essential oil not only helps to clean your home, but will also help with the smell. Here are some of the essential oils that you should use. Below are some ideas of essential oils that you may want to consider using for your home.


Citrus essential oils like lemon essential oil and orange essential create a pleasant smell that will last throughout your house. These oils also have a disinfecting quality that can help rid your home of bacteria that might cause smells.


Essential oils herbs cause an inviting smell in the home. Consider diffusing the essential oils of basil, thyme, and rosemary. This smell will create a warm environment for potential buyers.

Pine and cedar.

Pine and cedar create a warm environment for guests. You can use this essential oil to clean your home as well as diffuse when you have potential buyers looking at your home.

Green tea.

A mix of essential oils from green tea can help to restore harmony in your home and refresh the mind. This scent can give buyers clarity about whether or not they want to purchase your property.


This essential oil gives your home that warm cozy feel. People will be more attracted to a home that smells cozy and sweet. This fragrance is best to use in a diffuser, and can be mixed with other essential oil to bring in a fresh scent.

Consider adding these essential oils to your cleaning routine as well as diffusing them or using candles created with them throughout your home. You want to make sure that your house is clean and smells nice for when a potential buyer comes to visit. There are many options when it comes to essential oils so make sure that you take your time and find the one that most benefits your home. Remember to make sure that is not too overpowering as overpowering fragrances can make a person not want to purchase your home.

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Advise and Consent: Business Advisors in the Real Estate Industry

Which is to say the real estate industry is in the midst of ldquo;tech-tonicrdquo; change: a shift above ground as great as any movement below; as serious, economically, as the costliest collision of tectonic plates, because the quake that will strikemdash;the Big Onemdash;will be more fiscally disruptive than physically destructive.

Its epicenter is within the ethereal realm of technology: everywhere yet elusive just the same, because there is no one location for the algorithms that govern electronic commerce, including real estate advertising, sales, and the rankings of individual agents or brokers.

Without the help of a business advisor, who can interpret data, there is only one interpretation about the near future of the real estate industry: passivity. That is, technological change is so conclusive, its casualties so clear, one cannot help but conclude that inaction is inexcusable.

According to Nick Chini, Managing Partner of Bainbridge, technology is at the forefront of the rise of smart cities, innovations in urban planning, and the development of various commercial real estate projects.

In turn, the role of a business advisor is to avoid generalities. To abjure restating the obvious, albeit in the vernacular of white papers and PowerPoint presentations, and offer real, measurable value.

By value, I mean a straightforward answer. An answer based on the wisdom of a particular advisor. An answer based on that advisorrsquo;s analysis of intelligence, with the aid of artificial intelligence AI, so he may extrapolate from what technology shows but does not tell: a course of action about where to invest, or when not to invest, thanks to that advisorrsquo;s ability to read what few can ba>

Make room for that business advisor.

Include a team of similar advisors, since the real estate industry will need these people.

The real estate industry needs people with the independence to speak truth to power. To go beyond the power to compute. To have the power to do what no computer can do on its own: persuade.

A business advisor must persuade an executive to act, not for the sake of doing something in lieu of nothing, but for reasons of prudence.

The evidence is in the rationale behind a recommendation, complemented by an advisorrsquo;s appeal to facts instead of feelings. The evidence makes it easier for an advisor to be persuasive, provided his argument is direct, his directive unambiguous, his position unequivocal.

A business advisor of that sort deserves a spotmdash;an important onemdash;in the real estate industry of today, and tomorrow, because now is the time to prepare for the changes described above.

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The Refi Boom Goes Bombastic

ldquo;Mortgage applications surged an impressive 26.8 WoWmdash;the largest jump since Jan 2015mdash;led by a massive spike in refis as mortgage rates tumbled alongside the Treasury market. 30-year rates ldquo;dropped back below 4.00mdash;the lowest since Jan 2018,rdquo; said Zerohedge.

So whatrsquo;s all the hubbub about? There are a few other key pieces of data at play:

bull; Refinances jumped 47 for the week last week and and are up 97 for the year.
bull; Mortgage volume rose by 41 over the same week a year ago.
bull; Real estate purchases also rose, by 10.

In fact, for the week of June 13, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is averaging 3.82. ldquo;Nearly halfway through the year, the popular product has managed a weekly increase only six times,rdquo; said MarketWatch. ldquo;It now stands at about a two-year low. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.26, down from 3.28. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.51, down 1 basis point.rdquo;

That has led to a cavalcade of refinances by savvy homeowners and investors who are paying attention to the market and falling ratesmdash;and/or who have a good lender whorsquo;s reaching out to customers when they have a unique chance to save some money.

ldquo;Consumers saw an opportunityhellip;and took it mdash; in a big way,rdquo; said CNBC. ldquo;Will rates stay this low or move even lower? Impossible to predict, but there are definite signals.rdquo; Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of Mortgage News Daily, told them, ldquo;Wersquo;re in a consolidation phase now where markets are coming to terms with the longer-term move lower that began in late 2018. The next move will depend on how economic data evolves and whether there are any more trade policy bombshells.rdquo;

The Federal reserve was expected to raise interest rates several times this year, and many experts thought mortgage rates would follow. ldquo;Markets and some analysts now predict that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates this year,rdquo; said MarketWatch.nbsp;In addition, ldquo;Demand for home loans has been so robust that mortgage lender profit margins turned positive for the first time in nearly three years.rdquo;

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Five Opportunities to Supercharge Sales Communication

What could supercharge your sales communication without requiring you to spend big or make big changes?

Do you spend time and money searching for the ldquo;hot new tech or social mediardquo; instead of continually perfecting what you have already invested in?

Overlooked or underestimated room for improving communication effectiveness surrounds real estate professionals.

Prioritize the following Five Opportunities to Supercharge Sales Communication to align with your sales goals and reveal where your untapped room for improvement lies:

1. Listen Instead of Talking

No salesperson listens themselves out of a sale. Talks themselves out, yes. Too many get used to telling their stories and forget to listen to those of prospects and clients. Professionals who know a lot about real estate can always think of something to say, but random chatting is not effective professional sales communication. Increased use of email and texting, can leave professionals distracted and intent on responding quickly, not being strategic.

The opportunity=talk less, listen more.

Do you periodically record your presentations and client conversations to confirm what value you add and to learn what you miss? After years on the job, you can fall into conversational habits instead of remaining sharply conscious of what you ask about, say, and respond to. During accelerated exchanges through email and texts, do you concentrate on thinking ahead to anticipate challenges and seize opportunity for your clients and yourself?

2. Questions Sharpen The Sales Edge

Is it the prospectrsquo;s and clientrsquo;s job to know what they need? Often buyers, especially first-time buyers, are not fully aware which property features or benefits will best deliver on their needs and dreams. They ra>

The opportunity=tell less, ask more.

You understand the importance of asking questions to demonstrate your genuine interest in serving buyer and seller needs. Do you prepare questions and query sequences in advance to achieve specific communication goals during the sales process? Remember, you know what is coming next, but the sales process may be a surprise to buyers and sellers. Questions are not only information gathering tools, but opportunities to help prospects and clients increase their awareness of why and how they make decisions. Ask a wide variety of questions to learn exactly what will attract or repel buyers. What realities about what a buyer or seller wants versus the market realities facing them, will they need your help adjusting to?

3. Anticipate Objections amp; Build Rapport

When preparing a listing contract or an offer to purchase, what potential objections from the seller or buyer are you considering? Real estate is a very popular ldquo;media star,rdquo; where everyone seems aware of and at ease with real estate transactions. Some real estate professionals overlook the fact that individual buyers or sellers can be nervous about signing a binding contract or may have little experience with large financial decisions. In hot markets, professionals may be swept up in the competition, so they brush aside client uncertainty and >

The opportunity=anticipate resistance and prepare

When resistance increases, are you aware of whatrsquo;s not working for the seller or buyer? Whether expressed or not, objections persist to undermine real estate decisions. Instead of dodging resistance, have you honed your communication skills to draw out client fears and objections, so they can be dealt with effectively and without pressure? From first contact, do you work to build rapport and establish your fiduciary role to help prospects and clients feel comfortable voicing any and all concerns to you? Which buying and selling objections do you anticipate and deliberately prepare for to ensure prospect or client hesitation is replaced with clarity, confidence, and intention?

4. Identify The Decision Making Process

In a hot market, when there may not be time for a second or third viewing or time for a lawyer to review the buyerrsquo;s offer, professionals may have to scramble to keep the deal on track when faced with fulfilling last-minute requests. Down-to-the-wire requirements for a >

The opportunity= Identify the decision makers.

Learn, in advance, who you are dealing with. Ask who, ultimately, is or are making the decisions. Clarify how many others must be involved in the sales processndash;who must view the property and who must approve or sign any offer or contract involved. At the start, and while explaining why, confirm the signing process and everybody involvedndash;including their contact information, location, and availability during offer time. If others must view the property, attempt to include them in initial showings to save time and ensure everyone has the same real estate experience for evaluating ldquo;the best buy.rdquo; Further prepare by asking yourself ldquo;what ifhellip;?rdquo; questions, that will also reduce surprises and impress clients with your think-ahead professionalism. Keep track of your objection-handling strategiesndash;successes and failuresndash;to always be prepared.

5. Ask For The Offer

When I was just out of university and knew nothing about real estate, I wanted to buy an income property. The real estate professional took me out to see properties. A few I said I liked. One I said I loved and wanted to see again. I was never asked to make an offer, so I bought nothing with that real estate professional. This experience did catalyze my interest in communication though. Real estate professionals can get so caught up in not being high pressure and in showing homes that they forget what they are paid to do: get the offer.

The opportunity=ask for the offer or the listing.

Buyers and sellers can be naturally subject to what I call informed inertia. They know more than they did when they met you, but not enough that they feel driven to take the frightening next step of making an offer or signing a listing. How do you take them from informed inertia to informed action? What are the approaches you have developed for asking for the offer in a manner and >

Prioritize these five opportunities in line with your strengths and weaknesses. You may decide to improve on what you do well or to dig into areas that need more attention.

Eventually, branch out to supercharge your entire sales process and your complete listing procedure.

Donrsquo;t just chase whatrsquo;s new. Continually invest in what yoursquo;re good
at to become a supercharged communicator.

Also available: PJrsquo;s Whatrsquo;s Your Point?nbsp;Blog.

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How to Make Your Backyard Feel Like a Resort

Multiple seating areas

An area for dining, another for lounging, maybe some seating around the fireplace or fire pitmdash;now you have an outdoor space thatrsquo;s perfect for entertaining, but also useful for every day. Creating a layered backyard will make it more useful, but will also make it feel more luxurious.

Cover it up

You can spend several thousand dollars on a pergola or patio cover, creating a permanent structure that extends your living space. But, a covered outdoor space doesnrsquo;t have to be expensive. Take a cue from resorts and put up a big articulating umb>

Add a bar

Sidle up to this three-piece bar, currently on sale for just 209, and your intimate get-together is now a party. Itrsquo;s also perfect for hanging with the family. Pack an outdoor fridge or cooler with drinks or drink fixinsrsquo; and no one has to go inside and get the floor wet.

Up your barware game

You canrsquo;t have a cool bar without cool barware. Part of the fun of being on vacation is ordering a cocktail, which arrives in a fancy glass. You can replicate that feeling with a visit to Tuesday Morning or HomeGoods or to a site like Wayfair. The best partrdquo; Theyrsquo;re plastic, so you dont have to fear a broken glass situation.

Spring for the good towels

If the towels at the hotel yoursquo;re staying in are old and hole-y, it might be time to find a new hotel Same goes for your towels at home. Plush, oversized towels can make the experience of swimming or lounging so much more enjoyable.

Light it up

Good lighting is key both indoors and out, and that simple patio light probably isnrsquo;t cutting it. Why not string some twinkle lights over your dining table or across the fence? Accentuate an outdoor living room with mood lighting on a tabletop or opt for something wall-mounted. And donrsquo;t forget the task lighting for outdoor kitchens

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Preparing your Home for Pets

House training

Possibly the single most important element in protecting your house is investing in training your pet well. It can be a serious time commitment, but it is essential to keeping a happy balance in your house. If you donrsquo;t have the time to train your pet, it is likely worth investing in hiring a professional. Housetrain your pets as soon as possible to avoid stains on your carpet. Some accidents will be unavoidable. Fortunately, there are a wide range of products and pet carpet cleaners designed to quickly remove stains and dissipate odors.

Happy pets are also less likely to >

Cat scratch fever

If yoursquo;re considering a cat, you should go in knowing that cats have an innate need to maintain their claws, and they do this by scratching. Some cats are declawed to avoid scratching damage, but several animal organizations consider this inhumane. The simplest way to protect your furniture from cat claws and simultaneously keep your catrsquo;s paws healthy and intact is to invest in a scratching post. Depending on your catrsquo;s personality, they might prefer a scratching mat or another surface. Experiment to find what your cat likes best

Reward your cat for scratching where you want him/her to, and gently discourage scratching furniture. Scolding a pet retroactively is not effective, so itrsquo;s best to keep a close eye on your pet until yoursquo;re confident that they will only scratch where you want them to. Also, keep in mind that most cats will want a tough surface to scratch, not something soft or too easy to destroy. Cats love a challenge, and a rough surface to scratch does their claws the most good.

Dog destruction

Just as cats have a need to scratch, many dogs have a deep urge to chew, dig, or otherwise do some destruction. Keep your dog happy and healthy and your home and shoes intact by keeping a steady supply of dog toys on hand. Many dog toys are designed to endure a serious chewing, and will last for a good amount of time. Make sure to replace them as they are destroyed, though, or your dog might resort to chewing other things.

Another very effective way to protect your home is to keep your dog well-exercised. Depending on the breed, some dogs, particularly those with high energy levels or who are very intelligent, need to be kept busy or they will often resort to destruction. Exercise your dog thoroughly as often as you can, and with some luck they will be tired and content afterwards, and will have less of a desire to take out their energy on your house. On this note, it is important to do your research before adopting a dog. If you donrsquo;t have a lot of time to devote to exercising your dog, this is a crucial aspect of dog ownership to keep in mind. Some dogs just wonrsquo;t be happy with little exercise or a small yard, and will likely act out because of it. Make sure you know your dogrsquo;s breed before you bring it homenbsp;nbsp;

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Buying a For Sale By Owner Home

Nowadays, everyone is trying to save money and sell their house on their own. You can save money buying a for sale by owner home. You can also get yourself into a lot of trouble if you are not sure what to look for.


The first thing to check into if you are buying a for sale by owner home is the price. Many people will price their house based on how they think their house compares to their neighbors house that may be for sale.nbsp; Sellers often get emotional over what they perceive is the value of their house.

Sellers always think that their house is way better than any other house in the neighborhood. They have all of the great memories there. The kids first steps, Christmas mornings, kids graduations, etc.


Even though you may think the house is perfect for you, do some research on the price. Unless you are paying cash for the house, an appraiser from the bank is going to come out. You may think "no big deal". The problem is that the bank will be charging you for the appraisal. These appraisals can cost from 600-1000. Nobody wants to spend 1000 on a house that they are not going to buy

If the appraiser says that the value is lower than what you have agreed to pay, you now have a situation with the seller. They can either agree to now sell you the house at the price that the appraiser came up with, or the bank will make you come up with the difference before they will give you a loan. For example, the bank will not lend you 250K on a house that appraised for 230K even if you qualify for that amount. Basically, the bank is buying the house, so they want to make sure they can get rid of it if you quit making your payments.


This is something that you can negotiate. When you write up the purchase agreement or buy-sell, you can ask for the owner to pay for the appraisal if it comes in low. If he is so confident of his price, he should be willing to pay for the appraisal if it comes in low.

This brings me to another point. Always remember that EVERYTHING is negotiable. You should hammer out every detail before you get too far down the line with the sale. The last thing that you want to have happen is that you are a couple of weeks away from closing and something comes up that will cost money to fix. This is where many deals fall apart. Emotions can run high if the seller is half moved out of the house and you start asking for repairs or discounts on the sale price.


Another huge thing to keep in mind, is that if the owners are not using a realtor, they probably have not filled out a property disclosure form. When a house is listed by a real estate company, the company will require the seller to fill out and sign a document that discloses every issue with the house that they are aware of.

The document covers everything about the house and property. For example, if they put on a new roof 3 years ago, if they remodeled the kitchen, etc.. The document also has them disclose if there ever was a water leak or any other kind of damage to the house. They must disclose if they ever had to treat the house for mold, or radon.

I am not accusing anyone who is trying to sell their house on their own of lying, but if they dont have to fill out one of these forms, they may forget to tell you about something that could cause problems in the future for you.


This is where the home inspection becomes so very important when buying a for sale by owner home. You may hit it off with the seller, you may totally trust the seller, but you must do an inspection The seller may not be aware that his attic is full of mold. The seller may not be aware that the foundation of the house has issues. There are so many things that may be wrong with the house that will turn into your problem if you dont do an inspection.

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection will probably cost around 400. This is the best money you can ever spend. That 400 could save you thousands in future repairs.

Ask Questions

One thing that I would ask the seller right out of the gate is why are they selling? What is their motivation? Are they having financial troubles, or do they just need to move. Think about it, if someone is in desperate need to sell due to financial problems, they may be more likely to forget to tell you something that may be wrong with the house. Again, I am not saying that all FSBOs are dishonest or that they are all trying to screw you. It would be in your best interest to find out as much as you can about the seller. If they have nothing to hide, they should be very open about their past and the homes past.

Water Rights

Another thing to research if needed, is the water situation. In Montana, water rights are a huge deal. If you are buying a place on a larger piece of land, look into the water rights. The last thing that you want is to find out that you dont have access to much water or you have to pay someone for more water.

You can call the local DNRC office and find out if there are any water rights that go with the land. If the land that you are buying is on a lake or a stream, you cant just pump water out of it without the proper water rights.

Septic Systems

If there is a septic system, this should also be addressed. When buying a for sale by owner home, you should go down to the sanitation department and get the septic permit for the house. With an older house, there may not be a permit at all. If this is the case, some banks or loan programs will not work. If you can find all of this out in the beginning, you wont be out all of the money for the inspection and appraisal just to find out that you cant buy the house.

Another thing to look for on the septic report is the size of the system. The systems are approved for the amount of bedrooms in the house. If someone has added on to the house, the permit might be wrong. The septic permit might be for a 3 bedroom house, but the house now has 4 bedrooms. This can also be an issue with some of the loans that you may be using for the purchase. It can also be an issue if you have problems with the system in the future. If you have to do repairs you will need a permit from the sanitation department. They may require you to put in a whole new system that can handle the extra bedroom. This is not a cheap project.


Obviously, every house is different. There are many, many things that you need to check into. When buying a for sale by owner home, the main thing that you need to keep in mind is to do your homework on these things up front. All of these things can be negotiated before you get too far into the deal. The key is to do your homework Find out about all of these things before you spend a bunch of money on inspections and appraisals.

When you are doing the negotiations, you will also learn a lot about the seller. You will be able to figure out what type of person he or she is and how much you should trust them going forward with the deal. This is all up to you, the more work you do up front, the more you will benefit.

If you are thinking of buying a for sale by owner home or if you are in the middle of one of these deals, feel free to contact us with any questions.

Full Story >

What to Do with a Flooded Basement

After the power has been turned off you should try to identify and stop the source of the water.

Common Causes of Basement Floods

bull; Broken Sump Pump: A sump pump removes water from your basement and pumps it away from your home. These are installed in situations when the water table is above the foundation of the home. If this pump fails during a big rainstorm you could find yourself with a flooded basement overnight.
bull; Frozen Pipes: Every winter brings cold temperatures and possibility of a frozen pipe that can burst. Burst pipes can cause a substantial amount of damage in a short amount of time. The best ways to prevent this from happening is to insulate piping under your home and to run the water regularly during extremely cold periods.
bull; Appliance Failure: As your appliance get older, especially todayrsquo;s appliances with more complicated electronics and water connections, the risk of a failure increases. In addition, todayrsquo;s modern homes have more appliances with water connections than ever before. Unfortunately, if an appliance like a water heater goes it can >bull; Poor Drainage: Clogged gutters or drain pipes that do not funnel water away from your foundation can also lead to a flooded basement. This type of flooding is easily avoided by making sure to keep your gutters clean and that your downspouts are not dumping water at the edge of your foundation.

Check Your Insurance

While your homeowners insurance policy may seem like it covers a lot, it usually does not include water damage from floods or negligence. Most policies have wording that requires the flood to be ldquo;sudden and accidental,rdquo; which includes things like burst pipes and appliance failures. Though your insurance company may try to avoid paying for an appliance failure that it believes is due to neglect. You homeowners insurance does not cover basement flooding from regional flooding, storm surge, heavy rainfall, or water seeping in from the ground. It also likely does not cover a broken sump pump unless you paid for a extra ldquo;endorsementrdquo; on your policy.

Call a Water Restoration Professional

If you have a flooded basement itrsquo;s best to call in professional help. Water restoration professionals utilize heavy duty drying equipment and have years of experience dealing with water damage repair. Time is of the essence when it comes to water mitigation in order to prevent mold and other structural damage. Water restoration companies also have experience dealing with insurance companies. This experience can come in handy youre dealing with an insurance company that doesnrsquo;t want to pay for a full and complete repair.

Most individuals simply do not have the training, experience, or equipment to properly dry out and repair a flooded basement. Unlike professionals, homeowners do not usually have the high-tech equipment, including infrared cameras, to measure moisture levels behind walls or under carpet. This causes many do-it-yourself repairs to miss these hidden areas, which can lead to more damage down the road. Hiring a reputable restoration company will provide peace of mind that you wonrsquo;t have a nasty mold issue down the road.

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REALTORS Know What Dads Want In A House

In my experience, when couples look at a house, dads head straight to the backyard, particularly if there is any kind of water or a pool. Men also focus on the potential of the garage, which comes in at a close second.

Itrsquo;s not at all uncommon for garages to be carefully evaluated for their ability to store a specific length of boat, jet skis or other toys, upright tool chests and a workbench, or that mountain of kidsrsquo; sports stuff.

Agents are seeing an increased interest in kitchens both indoor and outdoor as the number of male celebrity chefs grow. Those same dads who hotfoot it to the yard are also scoping out shaded space for their BBQ grills or a soon-to-be brick pizza oven.

Other common home features desired by dads include a split floorplan, tech-ready man space, and a private office. Dads also like porch cabinetry to hold a small refrigerator and a tucked-away storage shed for those giant pool inflatables.

Then therersquo;s that uncommon request. Our agents have been asked to search for homes with a separate snack kitchen, cigar lounge, and even a quiet napping room just for dad. Wersquo;ve also seen an uptick in recent years of requests to consider space for a home brewery.

Proximity to their favorite activities ndash; such as golf courses or ball fields ndash; are important considerations for dads, while moms tend to weigh in on factors such as school quality and the number of like-age children in the neighborhood.

Men also closely consider the degree of maintenance required to keep a prospective homersquo;s landscaping looking good. Those who enjoy spending their free time with their hands in the dirt wonrsquo;t be put off by complex layers of ornamentals, while those who would rather not sweat in the sun every Saturday prefer a simple lawn with a few trees.

Holiday decorations are yet another surprising factor the dads bring to the home search. There have been numerous occasions where Irsquo;ve heard a man say, ldquo;Therersquo;s no way I can string lights along that pitched roofline,rdquo; or ldquo;The kidsrsquo; favorite blow-up Snoopy would look great posed next to the brick mailboxrdquo;.

Finally, every father wants to make sure their loved ones are safe and secure. Many prospective paternal homeowners carefully scrutinize properties for safety features ranging from street traffic to pool barriers to the latest in detectors and device-ready wiring. Those with family members on far ends of the age spectrum will cast an eye on potential hazards such as outdoor stone flooring that may become slippery when wet or sharp-edged stairs that pose a threat to unsteady toddlers.

But, of course, what most dads want is whatever makes their wives and families happy, within a decent commute to work and at a bargain

Jeffrey M. Fagan is the president of the Orlando Regional REALTORreg; Association and is regional vice president of Watson Realty Corp.

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Getting a Condo Just Got Easier

Getting a Condo Just Got Easier
by Kevin Graham
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Is It a Good Time for You to Remodel? It May Depend on Where You Live

Increased prices on many items, ldquo;from tile to counter tops, laminates to lighting,rdquo; said CNBC, are painful, thanks to the trade war with China. ldquo;Nearly three out of four remodelers this year reported higher prices for customers due to higher costs for labor, according to a new survey from the National Association of Home Builders,rdquo; they said. And that was before tariffs went from 10 to 25.

ldquo;Annual gains in improvement and repair spending on the owner-occupied housing stock are projected to continue decelerating through early next year, according to thenbsp;Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity LIRAhellip;by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University,rdquo; they said. ldquo;The LIRA forecasts that year-over-year growth in homeowner remodeling expenditure will slow from about 7 percent today to 2.6 percent by the first quarter of 2020.rdquo;

Chris Herbert, Managing Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, stated that, ldquo;Cooling house price gains, home sales activity, and remodeling permitting are lowering our expectations for home improvement and repair spending this year and next. It should be noted that none of the major metropolitan markets are expected to decline, ldquo;However, growth in remodeling is expected to fall below the marketrsquo;s historical average of 5 percent for the first time since 2013,rdquo; he said.

Metros that are expected to experience the ldquo;most pronounced slowingrdquo; include San Antonio, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Dallas, while, ldquo;Remodeling gains should remain strong and even accelerate through year-end in some areas of the country including Orlando and Las Vegas where remodeling permitting, house prices, and homebuilding have picked up,rdquo; said Elizabeth La Jeunesse, Senior Research Analyst in the Centerrsquo;s Remodeling Futures Program. ldquo;Regionally, the strongest growth in 2019 is expected to be among metros in the West, paced by projected growth of 8 percent or more in Sacramento, Denver, Seattle, Tucson, San Jose, and Las Vegas.rdquo;

If you plan to live in your home for several years and immediate return on investment isnrsquo;t critical, proceeding with a renovation may be prudent, regardless of geography. If yoursquo;re renovating to sell, or if yoursquo;re not sure how long you plan to say, you may want to take a beat. According to Cash Money Life, these are the three reasons renovation makes sense:

1. You have a functionality problem.

ldquo;When your home disrupts your ability to sleep, eat, or get to a bathroom, it warrants a renovationmdash;if the cost fits your budget, of course. Making a few renovations can really enhance how you feel about your home and make it a place you want to stay in for the long-term.rdquo;

2. Reno will save you a few bucks.

Think energy-efficient features that will pay for themselves.

3. ldquo;Your home isnrsquo;t competitive in the marketplace.

If you do want to sell your home now, or in a few years, and know that itrsquo;s outdated compared to similar homes nearby, doing a remodel can help you get a leg up on the competition.rdquo;

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Save or Splurge? Where You Can Scrimp and Where You Should Put Your Sheckells When It Comes to Home


This is a mixed bag. You can get away with an inexpensive coffee table, and you may be able to score a killer deal on a dining table that looks far more expensive than it is. But when it comes to upholstery, proceed with cautionmdash;especially with large pieces. Cheap textiles can pill, rip, wear out easily, and stain permanently. Plus, the material is often scratchy and uncomfortable.

ldquo;The sofanbsp;is one of the most significant items yoursquo;ll ever buy for your home. It takes up a lot of visual space, itrsquo;s important for comfort purposes, and itrsquo;s something you could have for two or even three decades,rdquo; said The Spruce. ldquo;Look for something made with high-quality materials such as kiln-dried hardwood and eight-way hand-tied spring construction, and purchase a >


Many designers will tell you that money is no object when it comes to art. ldquo;Unlike a rug that may get dirty in a couple years or a glass that could end up breaking at your next dinner party, the art you invest in is likely to stay with you for many years, or maybe even a lifetime,rdquo; said Real Simple. ldquo;The key is to take your time finding art you love, that yoursquo;ll want to spend years living with, and that fits your >

We agree with all of that, except for the ldquo;need to splurgerdquo; part. Itrsquo;s gonna be awhile before wersquo;re playing with Picasso money. In the meantime, we love finding great new resources to buy inexpensive artmdash;especially those that allow us to support emerging artists instead of buying stuff thatrsquo;s mass-produced. From Society6 to Minted to to Etsy, there are a number of places you can find great stuff without a great expense.


Skimp out on your flooring and you might find yourself having to redo it soonmdash;or living with the consequences of a poor choice. Everything from a wood product that is made too thin, and therefore is damaged easily, to poor adhesive, to carpet that doesnrsquo;t have the quality to stand up to kids, pets, or everyday use can cause problems sooner than you may expect.


ldquo;One of the best items to buy cheap is an area rug, Gen Sohr, one half of the husband-and-wife team behindnbsp;Pencil amp; Paper Co., a Nashville-based interior design firm, said to Real Simple. ldquo;I think there are so many wonderful area rug options that are a complete steal. And really who wants to break the bank on something thats going to eventually get soiled and need to be replaced?rdquo; she says. For an option thatrsquo;s both affordable and durable, she recommends a natural sisal rug, which also hides the appearance of dirt. A flatweave wool rug is another popular option, and Sohr recommends finding deals on or Rugs USA.rdquo;


It can be tempting to go cheap on a mattress simply because it so expensive. But, if you really spend a good third of your life in bed, itrsquo;s worth it to pay for quality. If you canrsquo;t pay outright, itrsquo;s usually possible to get a zero-interest payment plan from a mattress stores if you have decent credit.

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VA Loans and Closing Costs

Today, for those who are eligible, the VA loan is the best option for those seeking to buy a home with as little cash as possible. The VA loan does not need a down payment but at the same time limits the types of closing costs the veteran is allowed to pay. No down payment and reduced closing costs make for a powerful combination.

Your loan officer will provide a list of expected closing costs yoursquo;ll see at the settlement table. These costs are close estimates with little to no variance allowed. For services which the borrower can choose the provider independently there are no restrictions on how much the initial estimate varies from the final settlement statement. Which closing costs the veteran canrsquo;t pay for?

There can be many but itrsquo;s probably easier to identify the ones the borrower is allowed to pay. Any other charge must be paid for by someone else such as the sellers in the form of a seller contribution or even the mortgage company by issuing a lender credit.

The veteran can pay for an appraisal, credit, title insurance and title->

Sometimes there can be an issue where the lender wants another appraisal completed beyond the initial one. The veteran is allowed to pay for the extra appraisal as well. Common fees the veteran canrsquo;t pay for might be an escrow fee or an attorney charge or document preparation. Again, your loan officer will provide this list.

Still, that leaves the third party fees the veteran isnrsquo;t allowed to pay for. Who pays those? The seller can contribute as much as 4.0 percent of the sales price to go toward buyer closing costs, which should more than cover whatrsquo;s left over. The lender can also contribute by adjusting the interest rate on the loan slightly higher and then provide a credit at the closing table. Or, a combination of both. The better option is to have the seller pay the necessary charges in lieu of taking a higher rate. But thatrsquo;s completely between you, your agent and the sellerrsquo;s agent.

All mortgage loans, VA included, come with needed closing costs. There are multiple third party services and documents needed to close a mortgage. The difference is whorsquo;s going to pay for them. Veterans are restricted from paying certain types of closing costs, but without the additional third party services needed, the loan wonrsquo;t be able to be approved.

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How to Make Time for Remodeling

1. Cut the Shopping Time

For those of you who like to have a week of dinners planned out ahead of time, you know how much time grocery shopping for those items takes. You walk into the store with a list of groceries and you wander around the store from one aisle to the next picking up things here and there. It can take an hour or two just finding the ingredients. By looking into a food delivery to do the shopping for you, yoursquo;ll be able to have an extra couples hours every week that you could use to rearrange your home.

2. Assign Chores to the Kids

How many hours a week do you spend cleaning? A study done by the Australian Institute of Family Studies showed that women spend anywhere from 16 hours a week to 25 hours a week doing household chores. That means that every week, women are spending up to an entire day cleaning the house and cooking the food. You can assign your kids chores to alleviate some of the time that you spend on chores. Everyday assign each kid a set of easy chores and assign one of them to help with dinner for that night. Chores will get done faster and you gain an extra 5-6 hours every week. While yoursquo;re at it, you could even enlist your children to help you with the remodeling since yoursquo;ve saved enough time to start.

3. Itrsquo;s Okay to Say ldquo;Nordquo;

You might be overly busy because when someone asks you to do something, you canrsquo;t say no. You spend hours every week going out and having lunches and dinners with friends or helping people move but you need to remember that itrsquo;s okay to have some ldquo;you-timerdquo;. Next time you feel overwhelmed by your plans, know that itrsquo;s okay to say to the next person who asks you to do something. Itrsquo;s important to take advantage of your time and use it in the way that you want to.

4. Donrsquo;t Set Unattainable Goals

Itrsquo;s tempting to set goals that seem easy but are actually completely unattainable. Then you spend hours and hours trying to reach it only to come out frustrated that yoursquo;ll never be able to finish it. Instead, set small goals that you can easily reach one at a time. Yoursquo;ll be able to save time because you wonrsquo;t be frustrated as often and you wonrsquo;t be spending time on things that you wonrsquo;t be able to accomplish.

5. Spend Less Time on Social Media

Social Media is where you get ideas for creative DIYs and cute remodeling ideas. It also can take up hours and hours on end. Try taking a ldquo;social media fastrdquo; for a few days every week where you donrsquo;t allow yourself to go on Facebook or Instagram. Be strict with yourself and tell yourself that no matter what, you are not allowed to open up the app on your phone. Instead, focus on other aspects of things that you need to do. If yoursquo;re feeling bored and yoursquo;re tempted to go on social media then focus your attention instead on the projects that yoursquo;ve been meaning to do around the house. There isnrsquo;t a reason why you should be bored.

By cutting time from other less-important aspects of life, yoursquo;ll find that you have a plethora amount of time available for you. Yoursquo;ll be able to put that time into the other things that you have been hoping to accomplish. So, take a break and allow yourself the time that you need to make your home into the home that you want.

Full Story >

How to Make Sure Your Home Closes EscrowSellers Version

1. Carefully consider your sales price

If yoursquo;re working with an experienced real estate agent, he or she should have a recommended pricing strategy based on area comparables. Pressuring your agent for a higher sales price could cause the home to sit on the market and, if you do get an offer, the appraisal may not match the sales price. ldquo;If the appraisal comes in too low, the seller will have to lower the selling price or the buyer will have to pay cash for the difference,rdquo; said Investopedia.

2. Look for liens

Overall title issues account for 11 of closing delays and may come to you as a surprise,rdquo; said Homelight. ldquo;Sometimes clearing up title is as simple as verifying that a debt has been paid and recorded correctly, the same way you would clear up errors in a credit report. Other times, addressing outstanding debts can take months to settle. Before you put your house on the market, be sure to pay off any debts, loans, and taxes that may show up as a title defect against your property.rdquo;

3. Disclose, disclose, disclose

Sellers are legally required to disclose all material defects in the home, so trying to hide issues can backfire. ldquo;Any problem with the property will be uncovered during the buyers inspection, so theres no use hiding it,rdquo; said Investopedia. ldquo;Either fix the problem ahead of time, price the property below market value to account for the problem, or list the property at a normal price but offer the buyer a credit to fix the problem.rdquo;

4. Be reasonable and willing to negotiate

Itrsquo;s easy to get stuck on your list price and not want to come down even one dollar. But if things show up in the aforementioned inspection reportmdash;things the buyer has a legitimate reason to request fixesmdash;sticking firm to that price could cost you this the deal.

5. Limit contingencies

If yoursquo;re having trouble selling your home and the only buyer whorsquo;s come along in three months has two dozen contingencies, thatrsquo;s one thing. If you have a couple of offers, with one who doesnrsquo;t need to sell their other home before securing financing on yours, itrsquo;s an easy call, right? Obviously the offer price and other factors like the overall financial strength of the buyer are important, but the great thing about having limited contingencies is that you have a clearer path to closing.

6. Stay friendly with neighbors

The last thing you need is for the grumpy guy across the street to make a fuss because of increased traffic on the street during showings, inspections, appraisals, etc. and scare off a timid buyer. Maybe the situation warrants a knock on the door of neighbors who have a rep for being testy. Bring a plate of cookie or a gift card to Target for their troubles and you may be able to pacify them.

Full Story >

What Do You Need to Know about Congestion Pricing?

Soon, if you dare get behind the wheel of a car in a city like Manhattan, congestion is about to get a little worse. Not necessarily because of more cars, mind you, but more expense.

Let us explain.

New York City is on its way to imposing congestion pricing, which will make it more expensive to drive within the designated hot zonemdash;Manhattan south of Central Park.

ldquo;New York will likely become the first major city in the U.S. to implement a charge for motorists entering its most traffic-clogged streets,rdquo; said National Public Radio NPR. The plan? To reduce gridlock while generating revenue for the citys stressed transit system.rdquo;

The deal has been approved by lawmakers in New York, however, the exact cost to motorists has not been finalized. What has been announced is that ldquo;new tolls are slated to go into effect in 2021,rdquo; said NPR. The tolling is expected to generate 15 billion, dedicated to funding the MTA, New Yorks transit authority.rdquo;

Around the world

Notice that NPR said New York is the first major ldquo;Americanrdquo; city. Thatrsquo;s because congestion pricing has proven successful in other key cities around the world. ldquo;New York City is set to become the first American metropolis that seeks to ease traffic congestion, cut pollution and boost mass transit by charging motorists a hefty toll for the privilege of driving into its most crammed areas,rdquo; said USA Today. ldquo;So can it work? If the experience of other cities around the world that have tried it is any indication, the answer appears to be yes. London, Singapore and Stockholm have all reported that lsquo;congestion pricingrsquo; systems similar to the one now being planned for Manhattan led to initial reductions in traffic and improvements in air quality, while creating a steady stream of revenue to support public transit and other infrastructure.rdquo;

Back on U.S. shores, New York may be first, but the city is not the only spot considering this type of toll.

Los Angeles is weighing its own similar plan. ldquo;A new study looked at a so-called congestion pricing proposal to charge a 4 fee during rush hour for drivers who enter one of the regionrsquo;s most gridlocked corners: the space between two intersecting freeways in western Los Angeles and eastern Santa Monica,rdquo; said Governing. ldquo;The money raised from the fee would be used to improve transit options and to subsidize access to the area for low-income drivers.rdquo;

A study conducted by the Southern California Association of Governments SCAG ldquo;estimates that incoming traffic to the tolled area would drop by 19 percent during rush hour periods. Transit trips would increase by 9 percent during peak hours, while the number of people biking and walking would increase by 7 percent. Travel times and greenhouse gas emissions would both drop by about 20 percent.rdquo;

San Francisco has been looking into congestion pricing for about a decade, with no formal plans in place but a serious eye on whats happening in NYC, and heavily-congested Seattle also recently announced plans to explore its options when it comes to reducing traffic in the city.

ldquo;Last year, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan directed the Seattle Department of Transportation SDOT to study congestion pricingmdash;most simply, targeted tolls to reduce car traffic on city streets,rdquo; said Curbed. ldquo;Last week, SDOT >
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What You Can Expect When Renting Your First Apartment

Credit and background check

As much as you may want to, you canrsquo;t run and you canrsquo;t hide from a background check. Theyrsquo;re just part of the normal routine landlords and property management companies undergo when deciding if someone is an eligible candidate.

Of course, from a renterrsquo;s perspective, this can be a vulnerable situation when it comes to handing over private information, such as social security numbers or account information to a stranger, and sometimes, certain credit check systems can even negatively impact a renterrsquo;s credit.

However, reputable credit check screening companies protect prospective tenants through a secure, online process, which generates screening reports delivered to the landlord, keeping personal information private and having no impact whatsoever on credit score - a major win for all parties

Free listing sites for landlordsnbsp;nbsp;are a great way to find local listings in your area. Therersquo;s always Craigslist as well ndash; a >

Expect inspection

Both pre move-in and move-out you should expect your landlord or property management company to conduct an inspection on the property. Your landlord will likely take note of any existing deterioration, such as water damage, chipped paint or worn appliances, and itrsquo;s in yournbsp;best interestnbsp;nbsp;to do so as well. Why? The last thing you want is to be held responsible for any damage thatrsquo;s pre-existing.

The good news is therersquo;s lots of amazing services out there that can help.nbsp;Happyco, for example, is an app which uses data-capture technology so you can take itemized pictures with both a time-stamp and automatic caption. So if therersquo;s ever any question surrounding damage you have a record to back you up

The cost of rent can be deceptive

Because finding a place that checks all the right boxes can be so difficult, itrsquo;s tempting to just skip all the fine print and jump right to the ldquo;where do I sign?rdquo; Before making any final decisions itrsquo;s critical to understand whatrsquo;s realistic for your budget. The advertised price often doesnrsquo;t reflect the security deposit thatrsquo;s required, utilities not covered by the landlord, or any additional pet or service fees. Some landlords even require tenants to pay first and last monthsrsquo; rent in addition to a security deposit. Bottom line is, it can add up fast. Make sure you know what yoursquo;re willing to spend

Neighborhood matters

You may love your new space, but your dream home can quickly turn into a nightmare if itrsquo;s located in a shady area. Do your research before making any final decisions. Visit your prospective neighborhood more than once and make sure to do so during different times of the day and night, and during both the week and weekend.

You may find that while the area seems sleepy during the week, it can be a party scene by the time the weekend rolls around. And donrsquo;t just settle for asking the property management company about your new hood. For one especially when it comes to property management versus private ownership the primary interest is getting vacancies filled, so they may be a little less than transparent when it comes to the less-than-rosy details of a neighborhood. Two, therersquo;s certain quirks you canrsquo;t really know about a place unless you actually live there.

Introduce yourself to a few neighbors and get the local scoop, or consider visiting a few nearby coffee shop and retailers to get a feel for community. Ask questions Itrsquo;s better to know more than you need rather than be faced with unhappy surprises after move-in.

You need renterrsquo;s insurance

One great thing about renting is that when it comes to maintenance and upkeep yoursquo;re off the hook. However, itrsquo;s on you to protect your personal property. Your landlordrsquo;s insurance covers damage due to accidents, theft or inclement weather, but their property insurance doesnrsquo;t extend to your personal belongings.

Make sure you have protection in place as soon as you move in, or if possible, a few days before your move-in date - especially, since thefts often take place during a move when tenants are distracted with the chaos of transition. Most insurance companies also offer bundling options with other types of insurance, such a car and even life insurance so you can get all bases covered in one swoop.


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Weather Is No Longer a Safe Topic

For real estate professionals, talking about the weather may carry an extra layer of complication: legal liability.

In the rush to nail down all the details of offer generation or offer presentation, could casual ldquo;ice breakerrdquo; assurances like ldquo;this sure is not our normal weatherrdquo; come back to haunt the professional?

Many buyers and sellersndash;and others for that matterndash;mistakenly believe that real estate professionals know more about the ups and downs of interest rates than banks. Consequently, real estate professionals must be on the alert to head off misunderstandings. They must be equally careful wording answers and opinions on many topics, so as not to mislead the public, inadvertently or through lack of care.

Is it time for weather and >

bull; ldquo;This weather is not normalrdquo; could lead an out-of-town buyer to believe this weather either very bad or very hot will not be part of their lives in this location. However, ldquo;not normalrdquo; has increasingly, become the pattern, occurring repeatedly and annually.

bull; Could this leave a buyer feeling misled when they move and weather
reality sets in?

bull; 50-, 100-, and 500-year storms are coming more frequently than those historic time points. In 2017, north New York State experienced record-breaking severe flooding along Lake Ontario. Now, two years later, flooding and property damage appear ready to exceed 2017 levels. How do emerging patterns like this affect the value and practical use of waterfront properties?

bull; Disaster clean-ups and property reconstruction are ba>

bull; Annual short-term weather events like Mississippi River flooding have extended to immobilize vast areas for many weeks.
bull; Historically-isolated events like tornadoes are combining into serial threats.
bull; The California Department of Insurance reported that, as of April 2019, insurance claims from Californiarsquo;s Camp, Hill, and Woolsey wildfires in November 2018 already exceeded 12 billion.

How are changing weather patterns going to affect ldquo;best places to liverdquo; choices and >

bull; An October 2018 study of the exposure of real estate investment trustsrsquo; REITs to climate risk evaluated 73,500 properties owned by 321 listed REITs. Results revealed that, globally, 35 of REITs are exposed to climate hazards including inland flooding 17, hurricanes or typhoons 12, and sea level rise and coastal flooding 6. These hazards can translate into millions in damage. ldquo;Hot spotsrdquo; for damaging weather hazards like New York, Miami, Boston, and San Francisco are also ldquo;hot spotsrdquo; for real estate investment. Real estate professionals will be among those evaluating how this overlap will affect real estate values. Will this pattern reduce tourism and buyer interest in these currently-favored vacation and life>

Real estate professionals are not meteorologists, but they arenrsquo;t lawyers, contractors, and a host of other professionals either; however, they are responsible for understanding all that impacts real estate value. Real estate professionals work to be clear and accurate about real estate issues they are responsible for.

Their professional intent is directed at not giving opinions or advice outside their responsibilities or control which might unduly or unfavorably influence buyers or sellers:

bull; Buyers moving into an area unfamiliar to them, willnbsp;increasingly want details on weather patterns and areas vulnerable tonbsp;weather hazards like flooding. Where should they get that accuratenbsp;information?

bull; Sellers of waterfront property want to understand how their land values may be affected by changing high-water patterns. Who knows the real answers?

bull; In both cases, property insurancendash;availability and affordabilityndash;is an expensive element which impacts on what buyers can afford, what sellers net from a sale, and what lenders will lend. How much of this knowledge is essential to gaining listings, generating transactions, and to enabling real estate professionals to fulfill their obligations?

bull; Professionals must know what happens to a real estate transaction if bad weather damages a sellerrsquo;s listed property or destroys the house after the buyerrsquo;s offer is accepted and before closing. Once ldquo;long shotrdquo; events, the escalation of bad weather makes ldquo;donrsquo;t spend your commission until itrsquo;s in your accountrdquo; advice worth heeding.

Hurricane Season: Predicting the Unpredictable

June 1 marks the start of hurricane season for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. According to Co>

ldquo;Early predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA indicate a near-normal year for the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season,rdquo; reports Co>

HEADS UP: NOAArsquo;s Weather-Ready Nation initiative includes public education services like hurricane preparedness and the Storm Prediction Center.

ldquo;It is essential to understand and evaluate the total hazard exposure of properties at risk of storm surge prior to a hurricane event, so insurers can better protect and restore property owners from financial catastrophe,rdquo; said Dr. Tom Jeffery, Co>

ldquo;Damage from storm surge and inland flooding has proven to be far more destructive than wind in recent years, so we cannot >

In view of shifting weather patterns, if you canrsquo;t think of something useful to say, skip the weather and, instead, listen attentively.

For more on effective communication, visit PJrsquo;s Whatrsquo;s Your Point?nbsp;Blog.

Full Story >

How to Help Your Family Members Buy a Home Without Co-Signing

Sometimes first time buyers donrsquo;t yet have enough income to qualify for a mortgage. This is common when someone first gets out of school and has yet to find a permanent job or the entry-level job doesnrsquo;t pay enough. When that happens, the would-be buyers would either have to wait, save up more money or get someone to co-sign the note.

When co-signing, it needs to be clear to those helping out that the payment history on the new mortgage will be reflected on their own credit report along with the buyers. If payments are made on time, or at minimum no more than 30 days past the due date, a positive entry on both credit reports will be logged. This will raise credit scores for all involved. Conversely, should there be a late payment made more than 30 days past the due date, that negative mark will show up on both credit reports and drive down scores. This can happen without the knowledge of the co-signers until its too late.

Co-signing also hits both parties with the same debt. If the total monthly mortgage payment is 2,000, then both the primary borrowers and the co-signers can expect the monthly debt to appear on a credit report. This could potentially affect the ability of the co-signer to take on new debt such as qualifying for a new mortgage to buy a home or even when refinancing. Deciding to co-sign demands some serious consideration.

As it >

Funds can also be provided to pay off outstanding debt of the primary borrowers. Perhaps paying off an automobile loan or student loan. In doing so, monthly debt ratios will be reduced enabling the buyers to qualify for the mortgage they want. A family member might also agree to provide a second mortgage on a property. Borrowing from a family member means making sure the note is valid in the state its executed and properly spells out the terms of the note. The first lien lender will also want to take a look at the new second lien note to make sure it complies with state law and indeed subordinates to the new first lien.

Co-signing is one of the more common ways family members can help first timers buy a home but they can also help in other ways that doesnrsquo;t obligate the parents to be a responsible backup to more debt.

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How to Make Sure You Dont Fall out of EscrowBuyers Version

So how do you protect your purchase and make sure you get to the finish line? These four tips will help.

1. Prepare yourself for the inspection

Especially if yoursquo;re buying an older home, there are bound to be some surprises in the inspection report. The sale fail trend is particularly pronounced for older homes. ldquo;Homes built from 1959 through 1969 had the highest sale fail rate at 5.2, compared to homes built in 2016, with a dropout rate of only 2.6, which is among the lowest proportion of failed sale bands,rdquo; said The Truth About Mortgage.

While you canrsquo;t be prepared for everything, you can go into the process with a realistic understanding that the condition of the home may reflect its age. Expecting everything to be in tip-top shape will probably leave you disappointed.

2. Buthellip;dont be afraid to negotiate

That being said, the defects and recommended repairs that end up on inspection reports can be a lot to digest, and you have every right to expect a renegotiation for anything major. Your real estate agent should be able to provide guidance on how much seller cooperation is reasonable so it doesnt put your home purchase at risk.

3. Donrsquo;t be cavalier with your credit

Yoursquo;ve been pre-approved for a loan. Yay Maybe you should celebrate by buying a new car or a house full of new furniture. No Your preapproval is based on a number of factors, but credit score and debt-to-loan ratio are two of the big ones. Any change to those figures during escrow and you could find yourself with no financing.

ldquo;The underwritermdash;employed by your mortgage lendermdash;will check your credit score, review your home appraisal, and ensure your financial portfolio has remained the same since you were pre-approved for the loan,rdquo; said Since underwriting typically happens shortly before closing, you donrsquo;t want to do anything while yoursquo;re in contract thatrsquo;s going to hurt your credit score. That includes buying a car, boat, or any other large purchase that has to be financed.rdquo;

You may think itrsquo;s rare that a financing issue hampers a closing, but, ldquo;In fact, 32 of settlement delays come from buyer financing issues which can crop up at the very last minute,rdquo; said Homelight.

4. Make sure you have all the required documents when you go to close

The last thing you want is to get to your closing and realize you forgot one of the documents you need. Donrsquo;t leave the house without:

bull; A driverrsquo;s license, passport, or some other government-issued photo ID
bull; Proof of your homeownerrsquo;s insurance
bull; A copy of your sales contract
bull; Any and all home inspection reports
bull; Any other paperwork the bank used for loan approval double-check with your lender in plenty of time
bull; A notarized document giving you power of attorney if your spouse wonrsquo;t be present at closing
bull; A bank check or wire transfer for the full amount of your closing costs check with your lender on the means of payment and final amount

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7 Ways To Get Your Home Ready to Sell

1. Declutter Everything

Organizing your space will help prospective buyers visualize the home with their own things in it. Clutter, knick-knacks, and stuffed closets make it much harder for buyers to see how they could make it their own.

2. Have Extra Light Bulbs On Hand

All lights will need to remain on when your house is being shown. Having an extra stock of light bulbs ensures buyers can see every corner and room that theyrsquo;re interested in.

3. nbsp;Deep Clean Your Home

Be sure that your home gives the best impression to interested buyers. Clean all floors, surfaces, toilets, rugs, and bathrooms. Some areas might need to be cleaned again while yoursquo;re in the middle of trying to sell. Do some research to find information about how to dust high ceilings or tips for cleaning your sink disposal. You can also make an appointment with a professional home or carpet cleaner to save yourself some time putting your house in immaculate shape.

4. Make an Appointment with a Handyman

If your home is older, you might need a handyman to come out more than once to fix toilets that run, faucets that leak, any cracks in walls or doors, malfunctioning locks, and appliances that might be broken. Buyers should never get the impression that your home hasnrsquo;t been maintained properly.

5. Do Some Touch-up Painting

Paint over any bright colors and make everything neutral. Light shades of white, greys, and beiges can make your house seem much brighter, more welcoming, and even bigger. New paint shows buyers that the home has been given a blank slate, and it also helps to hide any flaws. If you have kids and choose not to paint, be sure that fingerprints and smudges are cleaned up.

6. Try Staging Your House

Findings have shown that staging helps houses sell at higher price points much faster. Itrsquo;s an easy way to increase appeal to buyers. Donrsquo;t forget the outside: mow the lawn, ensure the landscaping looks attractive, and put random objects like toys or gnomes away. If yoursquo;re lucky, you can get away with skipping external paint; but if your house looks like it could desperately use it, work this into your plan as well.

7. Consider Depersonalizing Your House

Ensure that your home looks inviting and welcoming, but try to clean up a few unnecessary objects around the house. Most photos that are framed can be taken down along with bulletin boards that appear messy, personal objects like magazines, equipment, toys, photo books, and awards. A handful of nice photos can remain, but be sure that people arenrsquo;t bombarded with personal items when they walk through.

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Who are 2019 Home Buyers and What They Want in a Home, According to the Experts

Each year, Fixr conducts a survey amongst industry professionals as a way of uncovering useful trends that can aid homeowners and other industry pros. These reports include insights into single-family home trends, such as buyers and what it is that theyrsquo;re looking for. Realtors and home sellers looking for those trends that can help them get ahead in a competitive market can make great use of the information uncovered in this report.

While the entire report is filled with valuable information, the following 5 trends may be of particular interest to Realtors and homeowners hoping to sell in the near future.

Whorsquo;s Buying Homes

One of the things uncovered in the report is a unique look at whorsquo;s buying homes right now, and what identify features they share. According to the survey results, homebuyers right now are predominately married couples with children. Older millennials make up the biggest population of buyers, followed by members of Gen X.

Theyrsquo;re also more likely to have an average income above 200,000 and are most likely to finance their purchase through a home loan.

Knowing this information is important, since knowing your target audience means that you can make choices that can speak to them more clearly. When you know who yoursquo;re supposed to be reaching, you can get to them more effectively.

What People Want in a Home

When it comes to the homes that buyers are currently looking for, itrsquo;s houses that are between 2,500 and 3,000 square feet in size, and that feature open floor plans, three or four bedrooms and three bathrooms.

This information is of particular importance to sellers who may be considering renovating. Converting unused space to an extra bathroom or bedroom or creating a more open floor plan may help you attract more buyers if your current layout falls outside of these parameters.

Energy Efficiency

Homebuyers today are particularly interested in energy efficiency, but itrsquo;s where you invest in this area that really counts. HVAC systems are the most popular energy efficient appliances to add to a home. Considering that heating and cooling together make up 46 of most homeownerrsquo;s energy bills, this makes sense that homebuyers are going to look at this area first. The next most popular device to invest in an energy-efficient model for is the clothes dryer. While not all home sales include the laundry appliances, throwing in an energy efficient dryer as part of the sale can help to close the deal.

Smart Homes

Smart home popularity continues to grow each year. In fact, as many as 81 of people have indicated that they would be more willing to purchase a home that has smart technology already installed than a similar home without it.

When it comes to smart home additions, most people want to see lighting, followed by home security and smart home appliances. Upgrading any of these areas in your home to a smart version could be enough to attract more interest and can help result in a faster home sale.

Special Features

If yoursquo;re considering a remodel prior to selling or you just want to reach a wider demographic of buyers, there are some special features that homebuyers are more likely to be looking for in a home.

This includes rooms such as home offices, as well as accessibility features, like grab bars installed in the bathroom and shower.

These types of upgrades arenrsquo;t large, but they do increase the number of people who may be interested in a home, making them some of the most effective that can be done to a property prior to sale.

Make the Most of the Trends

Trends can be used to predict the future movements of homebuyers. Remember that a trend is considered anything popular that has a staying power of at least 10 years, so if yoursquo;re planning on selling within the next few years, these kinds of upgrades can help set your home apart. Take a look at the full report on Fixrrsquo;s blog to learn more, and start making more strategic choices to help get homes sold faster.

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Styling The Perfect Kids Bedroom

You dont want to disappoint your aspiring fairy princess or a budding astronaut and you certainly dont want to dampen their creative spirit. So the trick is to choose a colour palette and furnishings that can be permanent fixtures, then actually >

Here are a few ideas to help:

1 Bedding

nbsp;A cheap and easy way to alter a bedroom theme is bedding. Character emblazoned duvet covers, geometrical shapes, cute animals, outer space, snowy landscapes, and boy bands are all popular passing trends for kids. For older children, you could opt for plain white or coloured bedding but enhance the aesthetics by adding multi-coloured, metallic or textured cushions along with throw blankets and sequin hearts.

2 Flooring

Replacing flooring can be hugely expensive, but you could instead add rugs. When children are little, alphabet and number rugs not only provide an educational resource, they also add vibrant colours. Foam tiles can also be a wise choice, they are cheap and can be easily replaced in the event of getting too mucky or having things like glue spilled on them. In a teenagerrsquo;s room, a shaggy fur like rug can add opulence and a more grown-up ambiance, they can also cover a multitude of sins, such as hair straightener burns and makeup spills

3 Curtains

Licensed curtains can sometimes be fairly expensive, especially for characters and superheroes that are particularly on trend. If you are handy with a sewing machine you can purchase the material and create your own, otherwise, you can buy cheap plain material and create character tiebacks. Again a cheap way to add your Childs favourite superhero of the moment but also very interchangeable.

4 Lighting

When installing lights in your childrenrsquo;s bedrooms, take into account how often their tastes will change. By adding a simple ceiling light, the possibilities are endless. Light-shades are available in a plethora of colours and themes and as your prince or princess gets older, there are of course chandeliers, footballs and other more mature designs to choose from. If you are going to opt for a more permanent light fitting, ensure it is something they wonrsquo;t grow out of. A custom neon name sign, funky LEDrsquo;s or spotlights are all acceptable as they arent age dependent.

5 Wall hangings

Painting a mural on your kids bedroom wall is expensive if you get someone else in and time-consuming if you do it yourself. Also if you do it yourself, there can be an emotional attachment where you may never want it painted over Your 18-year-old son, will not appreciate his friends coming over to see Pooh Bear and Friends on the wall

Wallpapering is an option, but to save you time on future decorating, perhaps just paper one wall and have it as a feature. Busy wallpaper can be overpowering and look a little gaudy,
Choosing neutral colour paints as the wall and ceiling coverage allows you to adorn the walls with decals and prints. You can order personalised character prints from sites like Etsy or you can simply cut up your kidrsquo;s comics or print pictures direct from the internet and frame them to coincide with the theme of the moment.

When theming a room for your child, the cheaper the adjustments the better, then it wont be so much of a bind when they come begging for you to overhaul for the next hot fad

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Hard Money Isnt Always for the Credit Impaired

Hard money, or private money in some circles, are loans issued that fall outside the norms of conventional or traditional financing. With traditional loans, theyrsquo;re underwritten to predetermined standards with guidelines involving loan amounts, credit scores and income sources to name a few. When approving a loan in this manner the loan is then eligible for sale in the secondary market. This frees up more funds for the lender to continue making more loans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the most common but so too are FHA, VA and USDA loan programs.

But sometimes there is a situation where the applicant for some reason canrsquo;t qualify for a traditional mortgage. Many times its because the applicant has damaged credit. For example, someone may have recently declared bankruptcy and credit scores fell through the floor. Depending upon the loan program, the applicant must wait two or more years and reestablish credit before applying again. Or, someone may be going through a messy divorce and joint account payments are being missed during negotiations. Hard money lenders can look beyond a credit score.

Hard money places a lot of emphasis on the property and less so on credit. For example, a real estate investor sees a duplex that really needs some work. So much work that a bank wonrsquo;t place a traditional mortgage. If the repairs were made, then the bank would be more than happy to approve a new mortgage but not in its current condition. A hard money lender would look past the needed repairs and look more toward what the property would be worth once the duplex was repaired and remodeled. Someone with credit scores in the mid-700s couldnrsquo;t obtain a mortgage due to the condition of the home. Thatrsquo;s why hard money isnrsquo;t always for the credit impaired, instead itrsquo;s due to the condition of the property.

Letrsquo;s say a real estate investor takes a closer look at that duplex. The property in its current condition is listed at 100,000. Needed repairs include a new roof and plumbing issues amounting to another 20,000. The investor contacts a licensed appraiser and pays for a new appraisal but instead of appraising the property ldquo;as isrdquo; the appraiser takes into consideration what the duplex would be worth ldquo;as repaired.rdquo; The investor also hires an inspector to look for any other defects beyond the obvious. The appraiser reports back that if the duplex were brought back into shape it would easily sell for 200,000. If kept as a rental, a rent survey for the duplex will also be performed. The appraisal then reports the duplex could bring in 1,500 per unit, or 3,000 for the entire duplex.

If the investor bought the property with the intentions of ldquo;fix and fliprdquo; then the repaired home would then be eligible for traditional financing, further widening the potential of buyers. Hard money can be an excellent option for those who have damaged credit but by no means is hard money limited to those with impaired credit.

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Moving from Multitasking to Single Tasking

I am as guilty as anybody else at neglecting my own attempt to improve myself with Time Management by not Multitasking. Couple weeks ago, I had a social event to attend at 5:00, needed to run errands from 3:00 to about 4:30 so my plan was start preparing an appetizer to take to the event at 1:00. Made a killer Chipped Cream Beef Dip, let me know if you want the recipe. I had all the ingredients on the counter ready and the phone rings, itrsquo;s a possible client and asked if I had time to talk. What am I going to tell them? No, did I talk, yes for more than an hour. While talking to him I am knocking out the dip, muting the call so he wasnrsquo;t distracted by hearing my KitchenAid mixer and all the noise of preparing the appetizer. Yep, guilty as charged

We mostly all face dilemmas due to deadlines, we need to have accomplished or be someplace at a certain time. Thanks to todayrsquo;s communications we are accessible almost 24/7. The person attempting to contact us doesnrsquo;t know what is happening at that moment so yes, we add another layer to our nutty life not giving our sole attention to one thing at a time. We think we are good, trying to fake but we arenrsquo;t That Friday afternoon I should have been at my desk taking notes of our conversation, following up with an email highlighting important points from the discussion, did I? Hell no I had a party to go to, need to have our priorities

Let me introduce you to Cluster Tasking, which I should have done Friday afternoon. I do practice this when writing and building presentations, well at least I try to. I block out a certain amount of time normally 30 to 60 minutes which involves putting my phone on mute and placing it in another room and putting my computer on ldquo;Do Not Disturbrdquo; mode. Doing this I should be able to give 100 of my attention to what I am doing. Remember in an earlier article I talked about 40 drop in productivity when multitasking and 17 dumber? I canrsquo;t afford that By Cluster Tasking for one hour I have increased my productivity equal to 1 hour and 24 minutes. If you do this 4 times a day you have added more than 96 minutes to your day Think about it 96 minutes a day for either production or attending a party Please remember my slogan, ldquo;Donrsquo;t work harder work smarterrdquo;

Dick Betts
National Director of Seminars
New Home Co-Broker Academy


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Get Ready for the Freon Phase-Out: Why You Should Start Thinking About Buying a New Air Conditioner

An air conditioning unit that isnrsquo;t soon going to be useless. Collective ugh.

Mind you, its not the unit itself thatrsquo;s the problem; the Freon gas the unit uses is disappearing, as part of a ldquo;phase-out of ozone-depleting substances ODS.rdquo;

Letrsquo;s let the Environmental Protection Agency EPA explain.

ldquo;In the United States, ozone-depleting substances ODS are regulated as >

So, whatrsquo;s good news for the environment is potentially bad news for your wallet. New air conditioning units typically cost ldquo;between 3,350 and 5,912 with most homeowners reporting spending 4,631rdquo; on average after installation, according to HomeGuide.

ldquo;Freon is the common name for HCFC-22 and R-22, saidnbsp;WFAA. ldquo;Those chemicals are the most popular refrigerants that have been used in AC units, and more, over the past few several decades. In 2010, the EPA banned any new systems that used HCFC-22 and starting January 1, 2020, they will ban the manufacturing and import of the chemical itself. Therersquo;s no definitive timeline for when HCFC-22 will no longer be available, but as supplies start to dwindle, itrsquo;s likely that the price will increase. Put simply, at some point in the future anyone with an AC unit that uses HCFC-22 will have to get a new system.rdquo;

For now, you can check your system to see if it uses an offending refrigerant. ldquo;Look for a sticker on the side,rdquo; said WFAA. ldquo;If it says lsquo;HCFC-22 or R-22rsquo; your system uses the older coolant that the EPA is phasing out.rdquo; And then say a prayer that you donrsquo;t develop a leak.rdquo;

If yoursquo;re not the type to sit and wait for your AC to break down and need a pricey repair, you can be proactive, said Arista, by retrofitting or converting your existing unit. Or, go ahead and replace the unit altogether. The silver unit is that new AC units are more efficient today than they have ever been, so at least yoursquo;ll be saving a few bucks every month.

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Best Practices for Credit Bidding at Foreclosure

As the foreclosing party, you are allowed to "credit bid", meaning that you are able to bid as high as your note [including accrued interest, late fees, costs of foreclosure, etc.] without having to come up with actual cash at the sale. In California, other bidders, including non-foreclosing junior liens, must pay 100 of their bid in cashiers checks or the equivalent. As a side note, this is the reason most bidders will ask their banks for many cashiers checks in varying increments, as the trustee handling the sale does not give back change at the sale. For example, if a bidder asks his bank for two 100,000 checks because he believes the bid will exceed the lenders credit bid of 100,000, and he bids 140,000 at sale, the trustee will not immediately give back the overpaid amount [in this case, 60,000]; the trustee will return the overpayment in about seven to ten days after the sale. For this reason, the bidder should obtain multiple cashierrsquo;s checks in various denominations so as not to overpay in the biding process.

At first glance, the foreclosing party may think to fully credit bid what he is owed, especially if the property is worth considerably more than the amount owed to the lender; however, there are other factors to consider. What if the lender is way off in what he believes the property is worth? Sometimes, a property that is a bit esoteric is much harder to value than one thinks. Does the lender want to keep the property if she is the high bidder? Does she want to sell it right away upon owing it [should she be the high bidder]? Was there a personal guarantee on the note that is being foreclosed on? What is the current condition of the property? Is there a recent appraisal on the property? Are there any IRS liens attached to the property? These and many other questions must be considered when you are the foreclosing party.

Below are some general ideas/concepts to discuss with your real estate attorney it is suggested that you hire an experienced attorney who is very familiar with the laws on foreclosure when embarking down the foreclosure path.

IRS/Government Liens

First, we believe that the only time to open with a full credit bid is if a federal tax lien exists in a junior position one needs to check with their attorney as to other government {or quasi government} liens, if the same rules apply. The reason for this is that, although the IRS lien may not have priority to the bidders lien due to the IRS lien typically being recorded after the foreclosing lien was in place, the IRS has a post-sale 120 day right of redemption; thus, if the end bid is less than what is owed, and the IRS exercises its right of redemption, the foreclosing party may experience a potential loss.

For example, lets assume the following:

a On February 1, 2018, a first position deed of trust is recorded in the principal amount of 500,000.
b On March 29, 2018, a second position deed of trust is recorded in the principal amount of 75,000.
c On June 29, 2018, the IRS records a Notice of Federal Tax Lien in third position in the amount of 50,000.
d On December 1, 2018, the borrower misses the first interest payment and fails to make any subsequent payment to the lender.
e On January 30, 2019, the lender starts the foreclosure process.
f The foreclosure sale is set for May 29, 2019.
g The foreclosing lender is owed 560,000 including principal, interest, late fee, and foreclosure fees
h The foreclosing lender believes the property to be worth 700,000.

If the foreclosing lender opens the bidding at 400,000 possibly to establish a low basis upon possession of the property if the property reverts, and no one else bids at the sale, the foreclosing lender now becomes the owner for 400,000. Typically, all junior liens are wiped out. However, with the post-sale right of redemption, the IRS has 120 days from the date of sale to redeem the property; that is, the IRS can pay the foreclosing lender only 400,000 and force the sale to the IRS. Now, where the foreclosing lender thought they were going to get a windfall, they will actually suffer a loss of 160,000 the amount they were owed less the amount they received.

When a junior IRS lien appears on the public record and there is significant equity in the property, a full credit bid 560,000 in the above example should be made in order to protect the foreclosing lenderrsquo;s interests.

What if there are no government liens on the property? There are some potential advantages to credit bidding less than the total amount owed. Below, we discuss a few. We will be using the same assumptions as above, with one caveat: no federal tax lien appears on the property.


Without a federal tax lien on the public record, it makes sense from an income tax standpoint to open the bidding lower than the amount owed to the foreclosing lender. With a full credit bid, the lender may be subject to paying income tax on the interest owed to the lender even though the lender did not receive any cash. By opening the bidding lower, the lender would not have to pay taxes on the unrealized interest and would have a valid argument that the property is worth less, resulting in a lower basis remember, the property reverted to the foreclosing lender for the opening bid. If the lender were to then sell the property after holding it for at least one year, the lender may have a long-term capital gain which is usually taxed at a rate considerably lower than ordinary income.

Insurance Proceeds

The foreclosing lender typically is unaware of the condition of the property when the foreclosure begins. There may very well be damage to the property. Well, you say, that is why I am listed on the certificate of insurance in the mortgagee section. And you would be right. As the mortgagee, you have an insurable interest in the property. The insurance is to ensure that the lender is made whole. Well, if the foreclosing lender uses a full credit bid, then the foreclosing lender has, essentially, been paid in full. If damage is found on the property after the foreclosing lender becomes owner of the property, the lender may very well be out of luck. The insurance company can deny the claim on the basis that the lenderrsquo;s full credit bid made the lender whole and that the lenderrsquo;s insurable interest terminated when the property reverted. Unless the lender can prove that the damage was intentional, the lender may have no recourse. If the property reverted to the lender for less than what was owed, the lender maintains an insurable interest in the property and can make an insurance claim

Personal Guarantee

With entity borrowers e.g, a corporation or limited liability company, lenders sometimes obtain a personal guaranty from the entityrsquo;s principals as a condition to making the loan. If the property reverts for the full credit bid, then nothing else is owed to the lender and they could not seek to collect additional monies from the guarantor. By underbidding, the lender may very well preserve its right to seek remuneration from the guarantor as the property was not worth what was owed. The lender may also be able to seek compensation from the guarantor for any damage done to the property, whether negligent or intentional.

Generalities and Summary

In general, keep in mind that a lower opening bid may entice others to begin bidding and create a true auction. The foreclosing lender is not prevented from bidding over and above the opening bid. In fact, the foreclosing lender is allowed to continue to credit bid up to the total amount it is owed; it does not have to accept anything less. Additionally, should the foreclosing lender desire to bid over what it is owed, the foreclosing lender can come to the sale with cashiers checks in the same fashion as the third-party bidders.

In summary, it appears that best practices dictate that the only time the foreclosing lender should make a full credit bid is when an IRS lien appears on title in a junior position. Even then, the lender needs to investigate the value of the property, the IRS lien, and the likelihood that the IRS would exercise its right of redemption. Many times, the IRS will choose not to exercise its right, and may possibly negotiate its claim, but only a thorough and thoughtful analysis should come to the correct conclusion as to the correct course of action.

Other than potential government liens against the property, most foreclosing lenders would be prudent to start off credit bidding less than the entirety of what is owed. Remember, the credit bidder can always increase his least, up until the time the trustee says, "Sold" Again, please consult with competent counsel prior to determining the correct amount to underbid in order to preserve as many rights as possible.

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Should You File a Homeowners Insurance Claim? 4 Factors to Consider

To protect your home against financial loss due to property damage, theft, or liability claims, having the right homeowners insurance policy is a must. Unfortunately, knowing when an incident warrants filing a claim isnrsquo;t always black and white, and the process can differ due to individual values, needs, and expectations from an insurance policy. Here are a few guidelines professionals use as criteria to know when itrsquo;s time to file a claim.

Losses that exceed a certain amount

The concept of filing any claim that would exceed deductible costs is controversial and divisive, and it comes down to personal preference. Some homeowners will automatically file a claim for any damage that will exceed their deductible, no matter how small the amount. Others say itrsquo;s not worth documenting the incident in their claims history or running the risk of the insurance company raising their premium.

Itrsquo;s up to the homeowner to make an informed decision about their baseline for filing a claim. Before any incidents occur, determine how much money yoursquo;d be willing to pay out of pocket for various home mishaps and how much money after deductible costs justifies going through insurance.

Any incident that could become a liability claim

Any incident that could turn into a liability claim should be reported to your insurance company promptly. The insurance contract typically dictates that the policyholder must report liability incidents, such as injuries, as soon as possible. Even if the claim seems >

For example, letrsquo;s say your kids have a sports match with their friends in the backyard and someone gets injured. The insurance company will thank you for reporting the incident, even if the case gets dropped after they contact the other childrsquo;s parents. Therersquo;s always a chance an injury could be worse than it appears at first glance, and if surgery is required, therersquo;s a higher chance insurance will have to pay.

Property damage that seems minor but has a risk of being worse than it appears

Sometimes, property damage can seem inexpensive and easy to fix at first glance, but upon deeper investigation, turns out to be much worse. Water leaks are a prime example. Itrsquo;s easy to evaluate surface-level damage, but until a professional inspection has been done, itrsquo;s impossible to know the full extent or the cost of repairs.

Any property damage that canrsquo;t be fully assessed immediately should be filed as a claim. Itrsquo;s ultimately better for both the integrity of your home and your finances to have a professional evaluation done.

Costly damage that you canrsquo;t cover enti>

One of the more obvious reasons to file a claim is in the event of a major incident that will require financial assistance from the insurance company. For example, if a bad storm causes a large tree to fall on your property, your insurance company can assist you with the fees for both the tree removal and the damage caused to your property. Filing a claim for larger incidents also gives you the advantage of the insurance company arranging a professional evaluation to determine the extent of the damage.

How to file a claim

If you decide to file a homeowners insurance claim, start by contacting your insurance agent. Your agent will be able to give you an overview of the insurance companyrsquo;s process, soothe any fears you may have, and answer your questions. They will also provide you with an estimated timeline for each step of the process.

After yoursquo;ve spoken with your agent, wait for your insurance company to reach out to you. Theyrsquo;ll talk you through everything required on your part and update you on the progress on their end, too. The insurance company may have to investigate the claim you file, which could include getting statements from a third party or conducting a damage appraisal.

Be patient during the process. Some claims can take a year or more to be fully resolved. In the meantime, keep your agent in the loop with any updates along the way.

Paul Martin, CPCU, is an insurance professional for Trusted Choice with over 30 yearsrsquo; experience in the field. Throughout his career, his mission has been to advance the insurance industry through education to be better equipped to serve the public.

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What You Dont Know About Power Lines Can Kill You

Every year, homeowners or contractors who are working on basic home maintenance chores ntilde; trimming trees, cleaning out gutters or washing windows ntilde; come in contact with power lines, sometimes with fatal results.

In Ontario, 19 people have died during the last decade due to power line contact. The province had 1,248 contacts reported during the last 10 years. B.C. Hydro reports that almost 400 incidents with power line contact were reported from 2013 to 2018, causing power outages or line damage, and many more went unreported. Most of these contacts were by ldquo;weekend loggersrdquo; doing yard work.

The scary thing is, you donrsquo;t even have to touch a power line to feel its impact.

ldquo;Electricity can jump and activate areas up to 10 metres away from the source,rdquo; says Joel Moody, chief public safety officer for the Electrical Safety Authority ESA. He says although simple work and yard tasks may seem danger-free, you should always look up and look out for overhead wires before beginning a project.

A B.C. Hydro survey last year found that many people have dangerous misconceptions when it comes to power lines. More than three in 10 people surveyed thought that tools or ladders had to touch a power line to be dangerous and were unaware that the power can arc to people or objects ntilde; such as a pruning tool or ladder ntilde; that come too close.

Eight per cent of those surveyed said if the tool they are using touches an overhead line, the tool will absorb the shock and keep them save. Eighteen per cent donrsquo;t believe trees can conduct electricity. Thirty per cent said the wearing rubber-soled shoes or gloves will protect them from electric shock. In fact, the ESA says even safety boots rated for electrical work donrsquo;t necessarily provide 100 per cent protection from shock. Normal wear and tear and even a lot of dirt can compromise their ability to protect you, says ESA.

Some examples of what can happen when you work too close to power lines:

- A B.C. contractor installing new eavestroughs was electrocuted when his metal ladder came in contact with the line.

- An Alberta farmer was killed when a grain auger hit an overhead power line.

- An Alberta homeowner was attempting to move an overhead cable that was rubbing on his garage. He received a shock from the wire.

- An Alberta forklift operator struck a power line. He stepped out of the forklift to the ground and incurred burns on both feet.

Back in Ontario, the ESA says power line contact while working accounted for 33 per cent of all occupational electrical fatalities between 2008 and 2017. One of the most common incidences is when dump trucks with raised boxes contact an overhead power line.

Here are some essential power line tips from Canadian electrical authorities:

- Look up, look out and locate power lines before doing landscaping, cleaning eavestroughs or washing windows. Stay at least three metres away from power lines. Have someone watch you work so they can give a warning if you or your tools are getting too close.

- If you encounter downed power lines, stay back 10 metres 33 feet, or the length of a school bus. If a power line falls on your car, stay inside the vehicle until the utility workers tell you itrsquo;s safe to get out.

- Donrsquo;t hang things over power lines or use them to brace anything. Donrsquo;t use a power line for balance when working on a ladder or roof.

- When carrying ladders or other long equipment, carry them horizontally, not vertically.

- Donrsquo;t plant trees under power lines. If you have existing trees growing around power lines, do not trim them yourself. Call your utility or a professional arborist to do the job.

- Remember that not all power lines are overhead ntilde; if you are installing a deck, fence or other landscaping project, call your utility before you dig to determine where the underground infrastructure is located.

- If there is a green transformer box on your property, keep plants, trees and fencing at least three metres away in the front and 1.5 metres on the other sides.

- Make sure you and your children respect power lines. Donrsquo;t fly kites or drones near them, and if something becomes tangled in a power line, never try to remove it yourself. Donrsquo;t climb trees that are near power lines and stay away from transformer boxes.

The ESA says that ldquo;even a low-voltage shock like a zap from a toaster or a buzz from an outlet can have serious long-term effects like memory loss, anxiety or the feeling of pins and needlesrdquo;.

B.C. Hydro says prolonged exposure to a 120-volt household current, ldquo;something that can happen when muscles in hands and arms euml;freezersquo; or continue to hold on as a reflex to shock, can lead to respiratory paralysis to the point where breathing stops.rdquo;

If you have any questions about power line safety, check with your local or provincial electrical authority.

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Designing a Kitchen That Will Sell Your House For You

Keep It Clean

Because the kitchen is a room that sees significant use, it can get grimy and worn down easily. Upkeep your kitchen in order to upkeep its value. When it does come time to sell, make it a point to deep clean it. Polish all surfaces and metal, including countertops and faucets. Go at tile to clean out grout. Keep a kitchen clean and well-maintained and it will be a major asset when you do go to sell the house.


All appliances should be energy-efficient because energy efficiency is desired in modern homes. This is not only because it is good for the environment but also because it saves money over time. Look for appliances with Energy Star labels when shopping and consider estimated average yearly operating costs. Many modern kitchen designs also hide appliances, so a design incorporating that may be worth considering as well. Consider brand too, because at least in certain areas, brands that are considered too thrifty can bring down the perceived value of the property.


Cabinets are another major item in the kitchen that buyers pay attention to. Their color and how well they blend into the rest of the kitchen are important, as is their size. It is amazing what a difference painting your cabinets can make. You can undertake this project yourself or hire a professional to do it. Another thing you can do is replace cabinet handles, which is a smaller upgrade but will still make them look better.


There are a number of color schemes you can choose for your kitchen. You can also change those colors anytime you want with paint, for the most part. White and gray is in right now, as is wood and more natural-looking colors and surfaces. You can also get more creative and use brighter colors such as teal or yellow. Most colors can work in the right combination, but at the end of the day, more neutral colors are easier to sell down the road.


Lighting is also important to consider. Get modern light fixtures that will look good with the rest of the kitchen and provide strong lighting throughout the room. Ensure fixtures use energy-efficient bulbs. Remove broken or dim bulbs and replace them with new ones. Under cabinet lighting can be a good investment as it is >

Consider Utility

The kitchen is going to be a major place to entertain and work in most homes. For this reason, it needs to be designed with utility in mind. Most people nowadays prefer kitchens with plenty of space, both in general and on the counters. Islands are usually a good idea to put in because they give great places for preparation or entertaining as well as provide additional countertop space. Whether you are preparing a large dinner for the holidays or even if you skip lunch, you want a kitchen that will work with you.

Worth It To Remodel?

If you are considering remodeling your house, whether to sell or just to update, remodeling your kitchen is always an option. As with any addition to a property, look at it from the perspective of a cost-benefit analysis. Dont pour more money into a remodel than you expect it will increase the value of the home by, typically around 6 of the homes value. When remodeling your kitchen, you always want to find the right people for the job. Get referrals and quotes before making a final decision.

You are presented with a lot of options when designing a kitchen. Break it down to each individual aspect so you dont get overwhelmed and go in with a grand plan. You will end up with a gorgeous kitchen that will be the envy of buyers.

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Residential, Commercial and Mixed-Use Financing Explained

Every mortgage company around is in business primarily to provide financing for a home. Most such loans are those underwritten to standards set by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and can be used to finance a primary residence, a vacation home or an investment property. Loan terms can as long as 30 years or even longer with certain portfolio programs.

Commercial loans are used to finance income-producing properties. This can be for any variety of commercial enterprises. A commercial loan can be used to finance a pizza joint, a dentistrsquo;s office, a movie theatrehellip;anything that generates income for the owner. Commercial loans are primarily generated at a depository institution. Thatrsquo;s a bank or credit union. Commercial loans will carry slightly higher interest rates than those reserved for residential loans. These loans are typically available as adjustable rate loans tied to a specific index such as the Wall Street Journal Prime Rate, for example.

A mixed-use loan has a little bit of both worlds. A mixed-use property is one where both residential and commercial activity are taking place within the propertyrsquo;s boundaries. A common example might be apartment homes on the upper floors and a restaurant occupying the first floor. So, itrsquo;s not enti>

Financing for a mixed-use property can be loans underwritten or Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac guidelines which makes provisions for such property types. If the commercial space takes up no more than 25 percent of the total livable area, a conventional loan can be used. If itrsquo;s more than 25 percent, then a pure commercial loan looks like the choice.

A conventional mixed-use loan must also follow standard conventional guidelines such as loan limits, credit scores and down payment along with other requirements. An FHA loan may also be used. FHA loans are a bit more generous as it >

As it >
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The Cohabitation Conundrum: What Happens to the House When you Break Up?

By the numbers

If yoursquo;re thinking of moving in with a boyfriend or girlfriend, yoursquo;re not alone. Cohabitation rates are rising, especially among younger populations. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates, ldquo;The proportion of young adults who live with an unmarried partner continues to rise. Among those ages 18ndash;24, cohabitation is now more prevalent than living with a spouse: 9 percent live with an unmarried partner in 2018, compared to 7 percent who live with a spouse. In 2018, 15 percent of young adults ages 25ndash;34 live with an unmarried partner, up from 12 percent 10 years ago.rdquo;

There are a number of reasons an unmarried couple would look to buy a home beforemdash;or instead ofmdash;marriage, such as: getting ahead of rising prices and interest rates; because owning a home is as much ofmdash;or moremdash;a priority than marriage; or simply because yoursquo;re ready to start your lives together in a place that doesnrsquo;t belong to someone else.

But is it a smart decision? There are some risks involved you should be aware of. If yoursquo;re looking for the expert perspective, well, ldquo;Many financial planners advise against it,rdquo; said TIME: Money. ldquo;Thatrsquo;s because buying a home is often the biggestnbsp;and most financially complicated move a couple makes, and unwinding it can be especially difficult for unmarried partners if the >

Get it in writing

Yes, yoursquo;re all in love, and isnt it exciting that yoursquo;re buying your first home together? It is. But that love and excitement arent enough to legally protect you should something happen to the >

ldquo;Unlike married couples, the property rights for unmarried couples are not afforded the same legal protections,rdquo; said FindLaw. ldquo;Since this is the case, its in each persons best interest to write out a property agreement that spells out who owns what and how the property will be distributed should the couple separate. This is especially important if a couple acquires real estate together.rdquo;

When it comes to shared real estate, a cohabitation agreement is a contract that can provide each person with some legal cover in case of a split. Keep in mind that different states can have different requirements; the best way to make sure your agreement is legal is to consult an attorney.

According to Bankrate, these are the items that should be included in the cohabitation property agreement:

bull; ldquo;Type of ownership on the deed joint tenancy with rights of survivorship or tenants in common
bull; Percentage of the house each party owns
bull; Payment responsibility
bull; Buyout agreement
bull; What happens if therersquo;s a job transfer
bull; Dispute process
bull; Exit strategyrdquo;

The deed, indeed

Remember that a cohabitation agreement may not be enforceable in your location. The only way to ensure you have an equitable right to your property is to make sure your name is on the title.

ldquo;The house belongs to the person whose name appears on the legally recorded deed,rdquo; said MoneyTalksNews. ldquo;It doesnrsquo;t matter what verbal agreements were made or who paid the mortgage. So make sure both parties are named on the deed.rdquo;

Financial responsibility

How financially responsible are you? And how about your partner? Checking your credit should give you each a good idea of how well the other manages their finances, but itrsquo;s a good idea to dig a little deepermdash;especially if there are some dings on one or both of your credit reports. Given the repercussions of getting in over your head with a mortgage, you want to make sure you ask the tough questions upfront to make sure you share the same philosophy on finances and have a plan to manage debt responsibly as a team.


A key component of that discussion is what your current expenses look like. It might be that you need to delay your purchase for a bit in order to pay off some outstanding debts, or redirect down payment funds to existing accounts. Talking to a lender can help you carve the best path for your particular situation.

Figure out how to split costs?

You might think this will just work itself out, but the reality is that financial issues are one of the leading causes of breakups and divorces. And the ongoing expenses are just one element of this discussion.

ldquo;Owning a home means coming up with a down payment and closing costs, covering property taxes and utilities, and paying repair and maintenance bills. Ra>
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3 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Agents

1. Acknowledge Good Work

Showing your employees that you appreciate their hard work can lead to, yep, more hard work. Take the time to find a reward platform or appreciation platform that you can easily use on a monthly, weekly, daily basis so your agents know that you appreciate good work and that their efforts donrsquo;t go unnoticed. Not only that but so that their efforts are beneficial to your business. Some of the most successful companies use more than just great benefits and perks to show their employees how much their good work affects the business. Things like Nu Skin company reviews will show you just how beneficial it is to acknowledge your employees good, hard work.

If you donrsquo;t know where to reward or recognize, start with being attentive to the growth and output of your employees as this will show you exactly where the work is affecting your bottom line. This will allow you to give them the proper recognition. Reward platforms can also help you brainstorm creative ways to acknowledge and reward your employees in more ways than just a simple pat on the back or bonus. Sometimes a simple ldquo;thank yourdquo; can get old-hat and your agents may not feel like you really are noticing everything they are doing. Find special ways to not only say thank you to them but also show the rest of the company that this is what you expect and appreciate from your employees. This can then incite more of your agents to strive to try harder themselves.

2. Challenge Your Agents

Surveys have shown that employees of realty companies tend to be happier with their jobs and stay longer with a business when they feel challenged. This is because they feel like they have a future with the business and also that management cares about their career path and helping them further educate themselves. Although autonomy is important, without guidance or opportunities to push themselves, people may become complacent or unhappy in their positions. Provide your employees with things like the budget to attend conferences that could further their skills, or change their job description to give them more responsibilities if they feel like theyrsquo;re twiddling their thumbs most days.

Help your employees recognize why theyrsquo;re doing a specific task or why a certain project is needed. Push them to ask what else they could be doing, what more could they take on. Help your employees see that they can do what they may not think they could do. Yoursquo;ll find that the more you do this, the longer your employees will stay with you and the harder theyrsquo;ll strive to bring success not only to their positions but also to the realty company as a whole.

3. Recognize Differences

Not every person works in the same way. The hours of the day that you feel most productive or enthusiastic about your work, may not be the same ones that your coworker or VP does. You may be a morning person, while 20 other people are more early evening people. Acknowledging the different mods and work cycles that your employees have--and doing something about it--is one of the best ways to get the most out of your employees. Therersquo;s a large chance that not everyone in your business works at their best at a large table with 10 other people around it. Give your employees spaces where they can go off to work alone or in smaller groups.

Even better, change up the hours. If yoursquo;re not sure how to approach this, consider a results-focused work environment where you have policies that allow your workers to work from home if being in the office is distracting with constant pop-ins from other employees. Or if they can hunker down in a coffee shop and bust out a solid four hours of work without interruption--let them Recognizing the differences among your employees will give them the space to work during the times and in the places that work better for them. This kind of approach will guarantee more efficient and better productivity in your employees, ultimately resulting in better success for your real estate business.


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These Ideas Will Improve Your Basement and Make It More Livable

Lighting is a Must

Basements can be dank spaces with little light. Lighting is essential. This will help prevent accidents and make the basement much safer. There are lots of ways to bring lighting to your basement. Basement window wells bring in natural light and air. Other parts of the basement benefit from artificial lighting of all kinds. Begin with any stairs to the basement. Stairs should have enough lighting so everyone can see where theyre going even late at night. Overhead lights are a good choice as they can illuminate all parts of the basement. Set up a cozy corner in one part of the space with scattered uplights.

Storage Considerations

Many homeowners choose to use the basement for additional storage. Make this task easier with the right kind of storage. For example, consider lots of built-in storage. Use the staircase to put in extra shelving. Storage space can also be carved out of other spaces in the basement. Using awkward spaces such as little corners allows every single space to be used efficiently. Add in other options. A hanger with hooks for clothing and cubicles next to the door are good choices that help you stay organized.

Dress up Plain Drywall

The basement drywall can feel drab and unappealing. It can be hard to clean and get dinghy over time. Make the basement more appealing by redoing the walls. Wainscot paneling is a great way to add detail. Use them to help define the space better. Paint the bottom of the panels white to bring in more color. You can also consider adding a contrasting color such as vivid red or deep blue to help show off the panels fine details. This is also a good space to use your favorite fabrics. If you have a collection of scarves from your travels abroad, hang them across the walls. Theyll add color and pattern. Create a man cave feel in this part of your home with dark green walls and lots of pictures of your favorite sports teams everywhere.

The Flooring

Your basement floors need to be thought about carefully. You want flooring that can take a beating and still look good. This is a good place for options that are soft underfoot and easy to clean. Rubber tiles offer lots of give for a basement youre using as a family room. Tile is durable and stands up to potential water damage easily without staining. Tiles that look like wood offer a warm welcome and yet are also easy to clean and will take on water without a problem in the event the basement floods. You can layer on the texture and warmth with lots of different kinds of rugs. Place several in varied areas. This helps define each space and provide softness underfoot when you want to take off your shoes and snuggle up with your family as you all watch your favorite shows.

Extra space in any home is incredibly useful. The basement offers the space youll need to hold a party, welcome guests or just stretch out on a cold winter day. Making your basement more livable is easier than ever. Lighting, storage, and flooring help bring it to life.

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Tips to Finding a Pet-Friendly Rental

Start to Prepare Early


Ask Around

You might be surprised how experienced your >

Online Search

The best place to search for a rental apartment that allows pets is the internet. You can also like Facebook pages or join Whatsapp groups dedicated to rental services. You can also check the lists of apartments that allow tenants to move in with their pets with the Animal Humane Society.

Offer to Pay a Refundable Pet Deposit

Pets can damage rental properties, and property owners are responsible for ensuring tenants cover any damage caused by their pets once they move out. Your landlord is likely to ask for a pet deposit because it gives them a sense of security, so donrsquo;t hesitate to pay it. However, some, if not all of this money will come back your way because pet deposit is usually refundable.

Brush up Your Petrsquo;s Resume

Of course, you want to move with your lovely pet wherever you go, but pets arenrsquo;t welcome in all rental houses. Convincing a landlord why you have to move in with your pet can sometimes be difficult. Thus, itrsquo;s crucial for tenants to pitch not only themselves but also their pets. Consider reaching out to former landlords, vets, and obedience trainers for recommendation letters to show your landlord. You can also draft your petrsquo;s resume detailing its medical history, age, certification, and breed. You can also suggest to set up a pet interview if the landlord is still not convinced why they should allow you to move in with your pet.

Consult Your Vet

Your pet might need to undergo certain tests before you move with it across state borders. The USDA requires that every pet that will cross state lines to be vaccinated against rabies and obtain certification from a veterinarian. The same requirements apply to overseas travels but can differ based on the country yoursquo;re >
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5 Reasons Every Agent Needs Video Marketing

Anymore, agents are utilizing social media, newsletters, mailers, and so much more in their marketing plans in order to stay in front of past, present, and potential clients, but one of the most valuable tools that every agent needs to add to their marketing repertoire is the use of engaging videos. Donrsquo;t believe us? Here are five reasons why every real estate agent should be using video marketing:

5. Theyrsquo;ll remember you

According to Insivia, the average viewer retains 95 of a message when they watch it, versus when they read it in text. Take market conditions, for example. Market conditions can be difficult to swallow for the average consumer, but integrating a market conditions video will make them much more user friendly, all while providing useful information your clients will thank you for.

4. Yoursquo;ll go ldquo;viralrdquo;

Chances are yoursquo;re currently utilizing social media as part of your marketing plan, but if you arenrsquo;t seeing the engagement yoursquo;re hoping for from your followers, video could be the solution. Sharing videos to your social feeds generates 1,200 more shares than text and images combined. Plus, 92 of users watching video on mobile devices will share it. Consider posting more videos in order to engage your audience, get shares, and expand your reach. Try a video about real estate advice or home improvement ideas. Even if yoursquo;re camera shy or not savvy with a video camera, these videos can be totally done-for-you with your branding and agent info.

3. Videos help consumers buy

Forbes states that 90 of consumers use video to assist them with making buying decisions, while 64 of consumers say that watching a video makes them more likely to buy that product. Consider what those stats could do for a listing video; agents who utilize video as part of their listing strategy will likely see a rise in offers and viewing requests, thus, increasing the likelihood of increased sales.

2. Itrsquo;s great for your websitersquo;s SEO

Every real estate agent vies for the opportunity to be listed on the first page of Google search results ndash; adding video to your landing page can help. In fact, video drives up to a 157 increase in organic traffic from search engines to your website, and makes it 53 more likely to show up on page one search results. Not to mention that websites that include video on their landing pages have historically seen an 80 increase in conversions. Not bad at all


1. Video makes an incredible first point of contact

Whether you utilize an e-newsletter service, or simply want to get a better response rate in your everyday communications with potential clients, video can help. Including a video in place of a lengthy email text actually increases your click-through rate by 300. This is yet another place where a listing video can come in handy, or even an agent introduction video to give your potential client an idea of who you are as an agent, without having to spend time reading your digital ldquo;resume.rdquo;

If video marketing isnrsquo;t currently in your marketing arsenal, it should be. Not sure where to start? Wersquo;ve got you covered. Give the VScreen marketing suite a try with their free two-week trial. Yoursquo;ll be able to utilize their totally customized and done-for-you video products to see just how beneficial video marketing can be to your business.

Full Story >

Home Upgrades Millennials Love

In this article, wersquo;ll talk about a few of the home upgrades and modern features first-time younger homebuyers should consider.

Kitchen remodels

Older homes in the Portland area have one big mdash; or rather not so big mdash; drawback: small galley->

Ideas for your kitchen remodel:

bull; Kitchen island - Great place for hidden storage, a prep sink, extra counter space, or just a place to sit and eat
bull; Modern appliances - Reduce your electric bill and environmental footprint. Plus, modern appliances make cooking more enjoyable.
bull; Custom cabinetry and built-in storage - Custom cabinets can change how your kitchen looks and feels. Built-in storage is customizable to meet your needs and more flexible than standalone shelving.

Open floor plans

Just like the small kitchens common in these homes, older properties frequently feature heavily closed-off floor plans. Modern homeowners tend to prefer a more flexible open floor plan. Open floor plans make a home feel more airy, spacious, and brighter. More natural light in your home is always a good thing, especially during a long and gloomy winter.

Ideas for your open floor plan:

bull; Connect kitchen and dining room - Great for families who love to entertain.
bull; Create nooks and private areas - Use furniture or other design elements to help an open floor plan flow.
bull; Add larger windows for even more light - Big windows mean big light Custom window coverings add privacy when needed. Plus new energy-efficient double-pane windows are better at insulating your home.

Whole home transformations

Sometimes itrsquo;s better to start from scratch. If your fixer-upper needs a lot of work, you might get the most value out of a whole home remodel. You can create a cohesive design that checks all the boxes yoursquo;ve been looking for in your dream home. If you love your neighborhood but donrsquo;t love your home, think about a whole home remodel.

Ideas for your whole home remodel:

bull; Upgrade electricity and plumbing - If yoursquo;ve got an outdated electrical system or your plumbing needs some work, tackle those projects while yoursquo;re remodeling to save money down the road.
bull; Expand your closets - Buying an older home usually means fewer and smaller closets. Borrow a little space during your whole home remodel to make your closets bigger and more useful.
bull; Change your floor plan - Anything is on the table during a whole home remodel Donrsquo;t like where a bedroom is? Move it. Need an extra half bath in the basement? Do it

Finished basement space

Many older homes also feature a basement, but theyrsquo;re often unfinished, minimally insulated, and poorly waterproofed. Pest infestations, water damage, and mold growth are all common in unfinished basement spaces.

Younger homeowners may find that finishing their basement can pay off in increased resale value down the road, additional and useful living and storage space, and even improved energy efficiency.

Ideas for your basement remodel:

bull; Create an apartment or Airbnb suite - Earn extra income and build equity in your new home.
bull; Add a family room or playroom for kids - When your family grows, your kids will need space of their own.
bull; Build a home office, gym, or home theater room - Your home is your oasis. Find what brings you joy and make it part of your home

Outdoor living space

In places blessed with mild and beautiful spring and summer weather Take advantage of it. Wersquo;re seeing more and more Millennials looking to create outdoor living spaces like decks and patios. Outdoor living spaces are more than just a great investment, theyrsquo;re a way to feel more connected to nature.

Ideas for your deck or patio addition:

bull; Seamless integration with your master suite - Just imagine starting your day by stepping from your master suite onto your custom deck mdash; thatrsquo;s the life.
bull; Outdoor kitchen for summer dinner parties - Whatrsquo;s better than an evening BBQ or night around a roaring fire with friends and family? Smores anyone?
bull; Covered and heated seating - Now yoursquo;ll be able to enjoy your outdoor living space all year round.

Modernize your bathroom

Therersquo;s no better way to pamper yourself than with a truly luxurious bathroom. And itrsquo;s a great investment, too On average bathroom remodels provide a 70 return. But we find that homeowners love their new bathrooms far beyond the return on their investment. When your bathroom is more than just another room in the house, it becomes a place to >

Ideas for your modern bathroom:

bull; In-floor heating - Warm floors on a cold winter morning? Yes, please
bull; Soaking or jacuzzi tub - Who needs to make the trip to spa or hot springs when you have your own private heated soaking tub at home?
bull; Dual sinks - Save time getting ready in the morning by giving yourself and your partner the personal space you need. No more fights over whorsquo;s taking more time in the bathroom

Home additions

If your familyrsquo;s starting to grow, you run a home business, or you just find your home a bit too cramped, a home addition might be just what the doctor ordered. Younger homeowners find that added space helps them truly love and enjoy their homes that much more.

Ideas for your home addition:

bull; Add rooms - Home offices, extra bedrooms, or a guest bathroom are all popular home additions
bull; Make rooms bigger - With a thoughtful design and expert construction, an addition can look like a seamless part of your homersquo;s original design
bull; Add an ADU or MIL apartment - Great for guests or to use as a rental, a thoughtfully designed ADU can add a lot of value to your property.

I hope these ideas have inspired you to imagine the possibilities and create a home yoursquo;ll love.

Erin Davis is lead designer of Mosaik Design amp; Remodeling in Portland, Oregon.

Full Story >

Redfin Goes Direct with Buyers: The Future of Real Estate or Back to a Bad Idea?

At this point, the jury is out. But people have some feelings.

What is Redfin Direct?

ldquo;Real-estate broker Redfin Corp. will allow visitors to its website to make an offer on a house with a click of a button, marking a renewed effort to reduce the role of real-estate agents,rdquo; said the Wall Street Journal.

It works like this, according to MarketWatch: ldquo;Homes listed by Redfin in a market where the program is available get a banner ad on the online listing explaining that the home can be bought lsquo;online without an agent.rsquo; The listing agent, or person representing the seller, will be paid the standard Redfin commission, which is either 1 or 1.5 of the sale price of the home. Redfin Direct calculates 2 of the asking price of the home, which is the average of what a buyerrsquo;s agent might expect to be paid. That amount is split between buyer and seller, saving both money.rdquo;
Unrepresented buyers would answer 55 questions, which Redfin calls a ldquo;step-by-step guiderdquo; to generate the offer paperwork. A general inspection contingency is included.
So, in essence, Redfin is providing buyers with the tools they would have had if they used an agent, but without the guidance. Which is kind of important. Right?

Will it work?

The company first launched Redfin Direct back in 2006, but it was a bust. ldquo;Redfin didnrsquo;t have the huge volume of listings it does today mdash; 25,000 in 2018 mdash; nor the tech capabilities to make direct offers feasible,rdquo; said GeekWire.

Boston is the companyrsquo;s test market, so letrsquo;s take a look at whatrsquo;s happened there since the launch. ldquo;Of the 122 Boston Redfin listings that have accepted an offer since March 28, the company said, five were Redfin Direct offers,rdquo; said GeekWire. ldquo;Another 12 of those listings rejected a direct offer, though they were competitive. Redfin said 77 percent of the offers were within 5 percent of asking price and 30 percent were cash offers.rdquo;

Are we missing something?

But did the buyers feel taken care of? Listings and tech capabilities are great, but removing the element of representation feelshellip;scary? Bad? Sad? Not in line with the whole facilitating the ldquo;American dreamrdquo; thing?
Rob Hahn, a veteran real-estate industry consultant, echoes what many in the industry are saying about this program. ldquo;Most people buying a house would prefer to be represented,rdquo; he said to MarketWatch. ldquo;Given the current setup of compensation, buyers donrsquo;t feel like theyrsquo;re paying for it. My gut feeling is, most people when theyrsquo;re spending 200,000-300,000 or more want someone to hold their hand.rdquo;

Fast Company likened the program to ldquo;TurboTax for home buying,rdquo; which could either be a compliment or an insult; Wersquo;re not sure. It should also be noted that, on the earnings call during which Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman announced the program, he said ldquo;he believes the vast majority of people will still want an agent to guide them through the complex process of buying a home,rdquo; said Fast Company. ldquo;But the Direct program could appeal to a new kind of savvy consumer: People willing to do it themselves for a better price.rdquo;

So therersquo;s that. Redfin has said their expansion plans include heading to Virginia next.

Full Story >

What to Expect When Applying for a Jumbo Loan

A jumbo loan is one where the loan amount exceeds current conforming loan limits. Conforming loans are those that conform to standards issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One of the many requirements for a conforming loan is the loan limit which is currently 484,350 in most parts of the country. In higher cost areas where home values are much greater compared to the rest of the country, the conforming limit can be as high as 726,525. Beyond that is jumbo territory. When applying for financing to purchase a higher end home, jumbo approvals are issued in much the same manner as other types of loans, itrsquo;s just a bit more difficult to qualify for one.

Conforming loans can ask for a down payment for as little as 5.0 percent of the sales price. With a down payment of less than 20 percent however, private mortgage insurance, or PMI, will be needed. PMI insures the difference between 20 percent down and the actual amount of down payment. with a 5.0 percent down payment, the insurance would cover 15 percent. With jumbo loans however there is no PMI available. That means the loan amount for a jumbo loan should be no greater than 80 percent of the sales price. This equates to a 20 percent down payment, but slightly better terms are offered with a down payment of 25 percent or more. There are some niche portfolio products that ask for a lower down payment but in general this is what you can expect.

Credit score minimums are also higher for most jumbo loans. Conforming loan programs can go as low as 600 or so but jumbo loans need higher scores. Minimum scores can vary from one lender to the next but not by very much. Many jumbo loans ask for a minimum credit score of 700 while a few programs need a score of 680. Better rates and terms are typically available with a credit score of 740. If there are two borrowers on the same application, the lender will use the lower of the two qualifying scores.

Finally, jumbo loans typically require a bit more documentation both from the borrower as well as third parties. For example, a jumbo loan program might need two appraisals instead of just one. Again, if there are two appraisals, the lender will use the lower value for approval purposes. Jumbo loan applications are also fully documented. There are no ldquo;statedrdquo; type loans where income or employment is not verified via third parties. There are a couple of programs out there that review 12 months of bank statements in lieu of paycheck stubs or W2s, but the bank statements must show regular monthly deposits from a verified source.

On these statements, there needs to be sufficient cash to close for the down payment, closing costs and cash reserves. Lenders can separately mail a Verification of Deposit to the financial institution asking the bank to verify how much cash is in the bank as well as an average of recent balances.

Jumbo lenders can set their own guidelines because theyrsquo;re not bound to conforming rules which means qualifying at one lender may be easier or more difficult compared to another. Your loan officer will tell you what types of documentation yoursquo;ll need to provide, but once submitted, your jumbo loan application will be processed just like any other.

Full Story >

Dont Judge a House by its Photo

If you spend hours on the internet trying to find your dream home by searching through photos or video of properties, you may be overlooking important flaws in this superficial approach to evaluating real estate.

The big question is: What percentage of time are you incorrect in your decision to discard a property based on a photograph?

Judging a property by its photograph may prove expensive when you discard poor photos without knowing if they represent excellent real estate opportunity for you. Just ask yourself, how many selfies does it take to achieve a great and, therefore, accurate picture of you?

Even when you eventually find photogenic real estate to visit, how many better choices or better bargains did you miss out on because you did not approve their visuals?

bull; Have you studied photography and earned the advantage of knowing how to evaluate second-rate equipment or poor photographic technique that results in failure to present a homersquo;s good bones or reveal a hidden gem worth a closer look? Even a good photo may present poorly as an online image through bad decisions regarding lighting, resolution, cropping, coloration....

bull; What percentage of properties are discarded because the photo is unappealing? Listing photos are not intended as works of art. Was this a drive-by photo where the photographer did not get out the car because they had so many photos to take? Was it raining or snowing that day? Just like people, houses have a ldquo;good siderdquo; and a ldquo;bad side.rdquo; Which side is in the photo?

bull; Do you have a magazine or Instagram pic in mind that you are intent on matching? Houses that are beautiful from the curb earn high-value ratings >

bull; You canrsquo;t live in a photograph or even a video. Ideally, a photograph or short video of a property should reveal all the benefits of the buildings and the land. In reality, most photographic representations fall short of this goal. Some are more successful that others, but none are a substitute for experiencing ldquo;the big picturerdquo; first-hand: the feeling of being there, the volume of rooms, the acoustics of the building, the effects of daylight, the flow through the buildinghellip;the reality of inspecting the property yourself. In addition, street-face photos cannot reveal interiors that are in marked contrast to facades: a house with a renovated, ultra-modern interior may maintain its historic exterior.

bull; What percentage of the time are you attracted by a great photo of a house, which you later discover has ldquo;a lot of uglyrdquo; going on outside the photo i.e. beside the house is a high-rise building, auto body shop, shopping mall, night clubhellip;? Or, did you discard a property which, invisible to you, had wonderful green space around it? Since location is the most important value factor in real estate, how
can a photo of a property in isolation enable you to fully evaluate its location value without knowing context?

The above list of flawed reasons for discarding properties based on photographic representations explains how you may allow your lack of knowledge, on many levels, to limit your ultimate success identifying desirable real estate. Select only the ldquo;pretty picturesrdquo; and you may inadvertently eliminate properties that would be ideal and perhaps less expensive purchases for you and your family.

The Smart Approach

Wersquo;re not advising that you view every listed property. Instead, work with experienced real estate professionals whorsquo;ll process listings, visit properties using your criteria, and, therefore, save you time by selecting the best prospects for you to view.

Describe what yoursquo;ll want in a new home and the professional will converse with you to clarify that description for you and for them. Buyers are often surprised when these conversations reveal how much they had not realized about what they thought they wanted and needed.

Search out a professional who makes it their business to know area product from the outside in. Theyrsquo;ll share their insider view, so you wonrsquo;t miss out on what could be your dream home. This informed culling of properties will save you from having to view too many properties that are a poor fit for your needs and dreams.

ldquo;This house was a big surprise inside; from the outside, it looked much smaller,rdquo; is a common buyer observation. Most buyers, particularly first-timers or first-time-in-a-long-time buyers, are not experts at architecture or construction, nor have they inspected as many properties as experienced real estate professionals.

Your secret weapon is your real estate professional who makes it their business to keep up-to-date viewing area listings. They understand the advantages of knowing the whole property and its entire potential, not just its street face. They appreciate the difference between a real estate dream and a home thatrsquo;s a dream to live in.

Professionals are also aware of smart buying strategies based on poor photos or less inspiring facades. For instance, if yoursquo;d like to invest in the best location your budget will allow, there may be advantages to viewing properties in choice neighborhoods with less attractive street faces. When there is value in the location, interior, and backyard, over time the curb view can be improved on, increasing property value in the process.

Online buyers of clothing who >
Full Story >

What Happens When Tariffs Hit Home?

ldquo;Tariffs on goods traded between the U.S. and China have already increased in several stages since early 2018,rdquo; said CNBC. ldquo;Now, President Donald Trump has added a 25 tariff up from his original proposal of 10 on another 200 billion worth of Chinese imports, and China hit back with 5 to 10 percent duties on another 60 billion worth of U.S. goods.rdquo;

Experts say we could be seeing higher prices as a result of this escalation as early as this summer, and that has economists yelling, ldquo;Buy, buy, buy nowrdquo; in order to avoid what a report from Oxford Economics estimates will be an 800 hit to every U.S. household.

There is some question as to how the tariffs will play outmdash;after all, Trump said that China will suffer most of the economic impact. ldquo;Yet experts say the burden will land squa>

So what can you do? Ramp up future spending now, if possible.

ldquo;To get ahead of the next waves of tariffs, University of California, Davis, professor of economics and specialist in international trade Katheryn Russ recommends buying some items now, if possible mdash; such as backpacks and other back-to-school supplies mdash; rather than holding off until later in the year,rdquo; said CNBC. Ditto for things like iPhones; ldquo;The price for an iPhone XS would rise to 1,142, up from 1,000, if the White House implements a 25 tariff on the rest of China imports, J.P. Morgan said in a note to clients.rdquo; Expect a ldquo;similar impact on TVs and everyday purchases, ldquo;where consumers will be harder hit, such as frozen food and paper goods, including diapers and paper towels.rdquo;

Phil Crone, Executive Officer of the Dallas Builders Association, warns of the effect on the housing market. ldquo;From tile to countertops, laminates, lighting, and furnishing, about 450 products commonly found in new homes and remodeling projects are seeing tariffs rise from 10 percent to 25 percent,rdquo; he said. ldquo;According to the National Association of Home Builders NAHB, homeowners and homebuilders nationwide will be paying an additional 2.5 billion.rdquo;

Full Story >

Replacing Your Roof? Now You Can Use Shingles That Improve Air Quality

The new smog-reducing roof Granules from 3Mnbsp;will ldquo;harness the power of the sun to improve air quality, a first of its kind roof type,rdquo; said the company. ldquo;The smog-reducing granules are mixed with standard roofing granules allowing shingles to maintain their trusted performance and visual appeal while improving our climate.rdquo;

The science behind the product looks like this: The patented granules ldquo;contain a photocatalytic coating layer that >

That photocatalytic coating was designed to be used with asphalt roofing, which, by some accounts, is used on the roofs of at least 75 percent of homes today.

3M has gone to some length to prove their claim of improved air quality, conducting their own in-house tests and also taking the product to Lawrence Berkeley National Lab to have the granules evaluated for their effectiveness in absorbing various gases and pollutants. ldquo;They found that an average-sized roof coated in granules removes around as much pollution from the air as three trees could,rdquo; said Fast Company. ldquo;One company that sources from 3M, Malarkey Roofing, has pledged to incorporate the smog-reducing granules into all of their shingles. So far, Malarkey shingles have pulled the equivalent amount of smog from the air as 100,000 trees.rdquo; In fact, Malarkey Roofing Products has announced the inclusion of 3M Smog-reducing Granules to the Highlander NEX laminated architectural roofing shingle line.

For their efforts, 3M was also named to TIME Magazinersquo;s list of Best Inventions of 2018 in the Sustainability amp; Social Good category.

ldquo;Smog-reducing technology, embedded into mainstream roofing materialsrdquo; are a ldquo;great step forward in addressing air quality and climate concerns,rdquo; said Jonathan Parfrey, founder and executive director of Climate Resolve, a U.S. non-profit organization ldquo;focused on local solutions to global climate change.rdquo;

The product could have huge application in the residential roofing market, which has not been as robust as commercial building when it comes to conservation. ldquo;Commercial buildings for many years have had solutions such as solar-reflective granules and lsquo;green roofs,rsquo; which grow grass or gardens on top of buildings to help with the environment,rdquo; said the Star Tribune.

Full Story >

4 Hazards Facing New First-Time Homebuyers

In a market inundated with realty advertising , letrsquo;s look at 4 critical areas where first-time homeowners run into trouble.

  • Pre-Approval is Not Approval

  • Homebuyers are inundated with commercials on TV and the internet telling them that they can get pre-approved for a certain amount and shop with the confidence of a cash buyer. This is a bit of an exaggeration. Pre-approval is a good first step. But, itrsquo;s important to understand that a pre-approval is different from an approval.

    Pre-Approval is when a lender tells you that you are approved for a certain loan, with general terms, but does not require you to provide paperwork and other supporting documentation.

    Approval is when the lender has completed the underwriting process and offers you a firm loan offer that can be executed.

    The easiest way to know the difference is to consider what information the bank has required of you at this stage. First time homebuyers are understandably upset when they select a home based on what they thought was an approval, only to find that some information came up during the underwriting process that cancelled out their pre-approval.

  • Digital Verification vs. Manual Verification

  • In the final stages of becoming approved for a mortgage, yoursquo;ll need to provide proof of income and other financial disclosures. Most mortgage lenders offer homebuyers the option of enrolling in digital verification. This means that the lender can digitally access your required documentation on your behalf. Some of this information will need to be manually uploaded, but the ability to digitize these records will allow the entire underwriting process to be expedited.

    Manual verification involves a loan officer giving you a long checklist of documents theyrsquo;ll need in order to verify your identity, income and existing financial obligations. Manual verification can take three-times as long because you need to gather the documents, submit them to the lender and then the lender needs to manually verify their authenticity.

    If you are given the option, enroll in digital verification.

  • How much home can you really afford?

  • If yoursquo;re used to paying rent, the idea of a less-expensive mortgage payment may seem appealing. After-all, landlords price-in the various additional costs they have into your monthly rental payment. If you could just pay the mortgage, it seems that yoursquo;d lower your overall housing costs.

    This is not exactly true. Just because you can afford the mortgage payment does not mean you can afford the full cost of homeownership. Be sure to inquire into the real costs, including:

    bull; PMI: Private Mortgage Insurance

    bull; Homeownerrsquo;s Insurance Premiums, Deductibles and Coverage Limitations

    bull; Maintenance Costs: While renting, your landlord took care of all the costs associated with your residencersquo;s maintenance. As a homeowner, if a major appliance fails, or therersquo;s structural wear and tear, itrsquo;s your financial responsibility.

    bull; Natural Disasters: Hurricanes, tornadoes and forest fires can cause substantial damage to your home. Homeownerrsquo;s insurance can help with this, but there are policy exceptions. The average ranch->

    bull; Property Taxes are often rolled into the monthly mortgage cost, but itrsquo;s important to understand the various fees and assessments yoursquo;ll be required to pay for your property.

    Just because itrsquo;s on the internet, doesnrsquo;t make it true.

    Most homeowners turn to their smartphones or laptops when home shopping. Online listings for homes and properties are filled with heavily enhanced photos of the property - from the best angles, of course.

    Future properties, or areas that are still being developed are impossible to see in-person. But, itrsquo;s important to dig deeper than an architectural rendering or an artist impression. This article about off-plan purchases highlights a few examples where the mock-ups provided to potential residents were way off the mark. This includes:

    bull; Amenities, like pools, which are far smaller once constructed - an important consideration for apartment buildings with hundreds of residents.

    bull; The perspective is enhanced to make a future high-rise look far larger than other surrounding buildings - implying that views will be more breathtaking than they will be in reality.

    To avoid getting taken advantage of, they recommend visiting the construction site yourself, viewing the surrounding area on Google Maps and take advantage of Google Earthrsquo;s features that show building shadows and other factors that could impact your future home.

    In conclusion, there are many pitfalls for first-time homebuyers. A pre-approval is a great first step, but itrsquo;s only the beginning of the actual approval process. Donrsquo;t make the mistake of selecting manual verification when digital verification is available - especially if timing is a factor. And just because you can get a loan, does not mean you can afford the total cost of home ownership. And, as always, trust but verify. If yoursquo;re looking at an online listing or prospectus, nothing can substitute an in-person visit to the construction site.


    Full Story >

    10 Reasons Why Your Home Isnt Selling

    Here are the top 10 reasons why your home isnrsquo;t selling and donrsquo;t worry, most of them are fixable.

    1. You Lack Marketing

    ldquo;If we build it, they will come.rdquo; This doesnrsquo;t prove true for many new and sometimes, useful products. And same goes for when you put your home up for sale. Just putting it up on the market isnrsquo;t enough. You need to post your listing in as many places as possible. Most of these places are online. Online is the first place potential buyers check out.

    Real estate agents can also be great resources for this. If you havenrsquo;t hire one, think about it. If you have, make sure they are doing their job. Ask questions regarding where your house is listed. And if they arenrsquo;t doing a good job, it might prove best to switch agents - Find someone that knows what they are doing and has ample experience.

    2. Your House is Priced Too High

    This is a common mistake. Too high of a price wonrsquo;t exactly woe any buyers. It can deter people from even viewing your home - Itrsquo;s not in their budget. And it may be obvious that the home isnrsquo;t worth the price tag. You should do your market research before determining a price for your home. Compare your home to others currently on the market. Again, a real estate agent can help you out with this

    3. Your Home is In Serious Need of Repairs

    A lot of people donrsquo;t want to buy a home that needs work. It isnrsquo;t ideal. So, what can you do? You could have someone come in and do a pre-listing inspection. From there, fix the problems. It will help you sell your house faster.

    4. Your Home Isnrsquo;t Prepared For Showings

    That first impression matters If you havenrsquo;t done it yet, get an expert to set up or make suggestions to switch things up so your house shows better. You might have to move furniture around. But it is enti>

    Other ways to make your house show worthy? Make sure it is tidy and clean. If you have pets, clean up after them. Pay attention to the temperature. If itrsquo;s winter, make sure it feels warm and inviting. If itrsquo;s summer, make sure you have the A/C on and working.

    5. Your Location is Anything But Ideal

    This is a tough one to fix. If the location isnrsquo;t exactly sought-after, be prepared to play the waiting game. It might just take more time to find that perfect buyer.

    6. It Smells

    We get used to the smell of our own home. And unfortunately, it can be hard to detect. Some of the most common odors that throw buyers off include cigarettes, pets, food, and moisture. Do a smell test. Have a friend or neighbour come by to make sure you are good to go.

    7. Bad Timing

    In real estate, there is a good time to sell and a bad time to sell. If the market isnrsquo;t looking good to sell, it may be best to wait and there are tons of reasons that this may be the case. Do your research. Ask your local real estate agent. Find the right time for your area and location.

    8. The Local Market is Working Against You

    Itrsquo;s not just timing you have to worry about. Are a lot of people selling around you? Is it a buyers market in your area? That might be why your home isnrsquo;t selling. Again, your real estate agent should be able to point you in the right direction for this one. The time of year plus the number of houses on sale play a huge role in whether your house sells or not.

    9. You Hired The Wrong Real Estate Agent

    This can be a major problem. You want someone with experience, who is >

    10. You Arenrsquo;t Flexible

    You stand your ground on your asking price. But everyone is putting in offers that are lower. You donrsquo;t bother with repairs even though itrsquo;s the main reason your home inspection fell through. These could potentially be reasons why your home isnrsquo;t selling. Get those repairs done. Be flexible and realistic when it comes to pricing and offers. Or else yes, it will take a lot more time for your house to sell.

    Go through the above reasons and be honest with yourself. Determine why your home isnrsquo;t selling - then, find ways to fix the problem. Or at least come to terms with it. Donrsquo;t make selling your home more of a hassle or process than it has to be.

    Kurtis Forster is a real estate agent for Team Forster in London, Ontario. He brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise about buying and selling real estate.nbsp;


    Full Story >

    Top Pros and Cons of Real Estate Investing

    The Positives:

    Direct Control ndash; When investing in real estate, you have direct control over your asset. You select the property ndash; value, size, neighborhood. You decide what repairs to make. You select your contractors. You choose to flip or choose suitable tenants. hellip;. You get the picture? Itrsquo;s in your hands to control and not up to the fickle markets or what some talking head or politician said in a news conference yesterday.

    Insurance ndash; You can insure your property. In fact, if you take out a mortgage, your lender will most likely require that you have property insurance. This easily mitigates potential losses from fire, theft, etc. Although the FDIC insures your money sitting in banks, there is no comparable insurance for monies invested in your employerrsquo;s 401k or other investment accounts. If your investment property goes up in flames, yoursquo;re covered. If the market and your 401k tank, your money is gone. You can even get insurance against loss of rents if you find yourself without a tenant for whatever reason.

    No ups and downs ndash; Traditional stocks are known to shoot up one day and plummet the next, leaving your nest egg empty and your nerves fried. And to the first point, you have no control over what will happen next. Real estate tends to be steadier and more predictable. As long as yoursquo;ve done your research, you will know what to expect in your market. Property values do not usually plummet overnight; you see it coming as the market slows and can change course as needed. If your market is slowing, you can speed up your current projects and start making lower offers on new properties you are reviewing. If your market is growing, you can ramp up purchases at higher prices knowing yoursquo;ll be able to sell or rent at higher prices as well.

    Tax Deferral ndash; When you sell a property, you have to pay taxes. However, using the 1031 Exchange program, you can sell one property and purchase another of equal or greater value and defer the tax liability. Think about the power in that If all you can afford today is a small house that generates 100 per month cash flow, buy it. It will probably appreciate over time. Sell it for more than you bought it, and buy a nicer house that generates 200 per month cash flow. Repeat, repeat, repeat increasing your cash flow and equity as you go.

    Rentals have some special pros to highlight, specifically dealing with your income and wealth.

    bull; You can increase your monthly income. As long as your rent covers PITI principal, interest, taxes, insurance plus a little for maintenance, the rest goes into your pocket. Use it how you want, but I suggest investing in more rentals.
    bull; Your wealth increases via equity build up / principal paydown. A portion of each rent check goes towards principal which increases the equity you have in the house. You donrsquo;t pay your mortgage; the tenant does.
    bull; You can decrease your taxes. You can spend a little or a lot to repair a house. The losses on paper that you make while renovating a property can be used to reduce your tax liability. Check with an experienced accountant who is familiar with real estate to find out exactly how this can be done.

    The Negatives:

    Time/Research ndash; Unlike your 401k or the stock market, you canrsquo;t just review a brochure of curated investments and buy something todayhellip; and you shouldnrsquo;t. Not to say you canrsquo;t get started quickly, but real estate investing takes a little time and research to get up to speed. You donrsquo;t need to know it all, but you should think about where you want to purchase property, what are the values doing going up or down, do you want to flip or rent, how big of a renovation are you willing to do? On the bright side, there are lots of books, blogs, and websites to peruse. An even better place to get started is your local real estate investing groups that can be found on-line. Just do a google search and go meet people who are already investing.

    Contractors ndash; The saying lsquo;herding catsrsquo; is absolutely appropriate here. A fast, affordable, quality contractor can be difficult to find. Donrsquo;t get discouraged, but do prepare to go through several contractors before you find the right fit for you and your goals. Once you find them, be clear with what you want done, treat them well, pay them on time. You need them for your next job, too

    Not liquid ndash; Real estate is, again, not like a 401k or stock. You canrsquo;t just click a button or sign a piece of paper to get your money out. You have to prepare it and then list it either for sale or renthellip; and wait. So, if you anticipate needing your money for something else at any given moment, real estate might not be for you.

    To summarize, while real estate investing takes some work, the pros outweigh the cons. If you decide to dive in, do your homework, be patient, and watch your income and net worth grow. When you have questions or run into problems, network Someone else has already been through it and can help you along.

    Full Story >

    Preparing Your Home For Long Term Travel

    Set Your Thermostat

    If you will be leaving your house unattended during the winter months, make sure your thermostat is set to 55 degrees. This will keep your house warm enough to prevent freezing and bursting water pipes, which can cause severe flooding and water damage. If your travels take you away from home during warmer weather, you should leave the AC unit on in order to prevent mold, mildew, and other conditions caused by heat and humidity. Adjust your thermostat to 85 degrees or less to regulate usage of the air conditioning. If you can, invest in a smart thermostat, which can be controlled via a handy smartphone app wherever you are. This is a great, convenient way to make sure your home is always protected from weather->

    Turn Water Off

    When you are going to be away for an extended period of time, its a good idea to turn off your main water line. This can prevent plumbing leaks from occurring in your absence, which can result in significant water damage and costly repairs.nbsp;After shutting off the main water valve, let your kitchen and bathroom faucets run dry, ensuring that no water is left in the pipes.

    If you have a sprinkler system that needs to run while you are away, or if your heating system works with steam radiators or hot water, it is not a good idea to shut your water off at the main valve. However, anyone who doesnt have these special considerations should turn it off to avoid future problems upon your return. By turning off the water before you leave, you are saving yourself a potential headache when you get back

    Wrap Toilet Bowls With Plastic Wrap

    No, this isnt an elaborate prank for your family and friends By wrapping your toilet bowls, you are preventing sewer fumes from entering your home. Leaving your toilets unwrapped can result in a less-than-pleasant "welcome home" when you walk in the door. Just be sure to mark the cling wrap with a big black "X" or other warning symbol to prevent anyone from accidentally using the toilet with the wrap in place.

    Empty the Fridge

    Apart from the main reason of not wanting the food in your refrigerator to turn into a moldy, stinky science experiment while youre away, its also a good idea to empty the fridge of all perishables in order to completely defrost and unplug it if youre going to be gone for a very long time. This will save energy and not force the fridge to keep running when its not in use.

    Travel is one of the most enriching things we can do in life- an ideal opportunity to meet new friends, share new experiences, and learn new things. By knowing how to properly take care of your home in your absence, you can have one less thing on your mind while you are away from home having adventures

    Full Story >

    Garage Organization: A Chore No More In 5 Easy Steps

    1. Plan of Attack

    Dont enter alone. And use the buddy systemmdash;if for no other reason than you may get overwhelmed and lost in your own sea of debris. Friends, family, and the kids can all lend a hand to get the job done quicker and to help keep you on track: its easy to get distracted rooting through the objects of your past.

    The first goal of any garage organization is to create more floor space, so thats where you should begin as well. Get all the knick-knacks, the holiday decorations, and any other indoor->

    2. Divide and Conquer

    Give each helper a section to cover. This should help the garage organization run smoother. And dont be clingy. If you havent used something in over a year, or if you forgot it even existed, its time to say goodbye. Give your stuff to charities, thrift stores, or maybe even make a trip to the dump. Or, better yet, make a separate pile for a future garage sale, allowing you to reap all the awards of your excavation. However, dont procrastinate on this chore either. Its easy to say youll have a garage sale and not follow through so as to keep putting off the inevitable. Then, divide up the remaining possessions into categoriesmdash;sports items, seasonal deacute;cor, gardening tools, car maintenance, etc.mdash;to help with the next step.

    3. Get Vertical

    Once everything is cleaned and categorized, now its time to rearrange. The best way to store your things is to make use of your vertical space.

    • Get a pegboard for your tools.
    • Put up some shelves for boxes.
    • Heavy-duty hooks are great for shovels and rakes.
    • Buy a magnetic strip for stray metal items, such as steel rulers or chisels.

    If you have bikes, skis, or ladders, put them overhead in the rafters or if you have a drywall ceiling, once again, heavy-duty hooks are great for hanging these heavy-duty items.

    Remember that a garage is mainly used to store or work on your car or other vehicles so make sure you clear enough space to make this possible. Garage car lifts provide a great way for you to store a vehicle whilst still giving you floor space to move around in. You can get 2 post lifts which make it easy to work on your car and 4 post lifts which allow you to store 2 vehicles in one space.

    4. Compartmentalize

    Once you have as much as you can off the floor, its now time to find additional storage. The easiest answer to this dilemma is a garage organizer.

    • A multiple tier shelving unit is great for storing paint or varnishes.
    • A cabinetry system for miscellaneous items is always handy.
    • Maybe buy several Rubbermaid baskets to hang on the wall to help separate the recycling.
    • Buy a crank to roll up that hose.
    • Use garbage ties or bungee cords to keep your extension cords in line.

    Whatever the need, investing in some form of garage organizer helps to maintain the floor space youve just created.

    5. Items Big and Small Dont forget the little things.

    If you save glass baby-food jars, clear film canisters, or milk cartons to be cut in half, youll now be able to store smaller items, such as nails, screws, or tacks. If these small containers arent see through, they can also be easily labeled with masking tape. Another alternative garage organizer is an inexpensive tackle box to help contain the confusion. But what if its your bigger items that are getting in the way? What if its the necessary tools, such as snow blowers, lawn mowers, or edgers creating the clutter? Then consider building an extra shed in the backyard or a lean-to against the outside of the garage in order to produce additional square footage.

    Donrsquo;t Let It Happen Again

    The main thing to keep in mind is never let it get to this point again. If you take these steps, you should be able to keep up with your garage organization in the future. This is not to say that you wont have some occasional maintenancemdash;some sweeping, scrubbing, or washing. But by simply taking the time to arrange the space, at least youll no longer dread entering into it.

    Full Story >

    9 Practical Tips in Handling Plumbing Emergencies

    Plumbing affects several areas in your home from the bathroom to the kitchen. Plumbing problems can arise suddenly, without warning. While some minor issues are easily fixed, some difficulties can quickly escalate into a major crisis that causes damage to your home. If this isnt taken care of immediately, you can suffer thousands of dollars in loss, with lasting consequences.

    How can you potentially limit a plumbing disaster? Here are some helpful tips that you can apply to protect your home:

    Shut off the Water

    As soon as emergency strikes, turn off the source of water immediately. It can be as simple as turning off the valve at the base of your commode. However, if larger emergencies like flooding occur, turn off the main valve in your home. Most water valves usually have to be turned off clockwise.

    Turn Off the Electricity

    Electricity and water will always make a deadly combination. If there is any chance that the flooded water does come into contact with any electrical circuit, then, stay away from the leaking or flooded water. If you can reach for the main switch without touching any of the water, the better. The next thing you can do is to turn off the power switch and disable the circuits.

    Check Your Water Heater

    After youve stopped the flooding and flow of water into your home using the main switch, you will have to turn off your water heater as well. Its crucial to note that once the all the water in your home is shut off, there is a tendency that the pressure and the water levels inside your water heater will start to rise. This situation is potentially dangerous once the pressure increases above the heaters limit, the unit can burst, making the whole situation even more hazardous.

    Wear Protective Rubber Gloves

    For your safety and protection, wear rubber boots and gloves if the leak is contaminated by the sewage or is in a drain line. Even after the whole area is cleaned and dried, you still need to disinfect it after thoroughly.

    Assess the Damage

    Before you call a professional, try to asses the damage first. Providing the plumber with sufficient information over the phone gives them a good idea of the problem at hand. As a result, they can quickly fix the problem.

    Open Drains and Spigots

    You have to understand that there will still be water in the pipes even after youve turned off the main valve. To move this water away from your home, turn on spigots and open drains. Also, give the hose in your garden a few extra squirts to ensure that you clear out the water as well. If youre experiencing a small clog, open the drain using >

    Avoid Using Chemicals on Pipes

    Try not to use chemical cleaners in your pipes as it can make the situation worse. If youre experiencing a backed-up drain, avoid using a bottle of drain cleaner. Drain cleaners will erode the pipes, and if your home is older, this can cause lasting devastating effects. While these chemicals can usually wash away debris and dirt, they still cause significant problems. As an alternative, try using a plunger. If it still doesnt work out, its time to call an expert.

    Handle Small Leaks

    Small leaks are quite easy to identify. The best thing that you can do about it is to stop them as soon as possible. You can try stuffing rags and towels around the pipes. Also putting buckets under those dripping leaks can help as well. Let your plumber know about these leaks the moment they arrive so that they can be addressed in the safest order.

    Call a Plumber

    When youre facing a plumbing crisis, its essential to call a plumbing professional or a plumbing company. Doing so gives you peace of mind that your safety and the overall condition of your home is well-taken care. Call a plumbing company that offers 24-hour, emergency service. Try to give the plumber as much information as you can about what fixtures are affected and what you have done to fix or stop the problem.

    Full Story >

    May Real Estate Roundup

    Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Surveyreg; shows that "despite the recent rise in mortgage rates, both existing and new home sales continue to show strength ndash; indicating the lagged effect of lower rates on housing demand. This, along with improved affordability, should push housing activity higher in the coming months."

    bull; 30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 4.2 percent with an average 0.5 points for the week ending April 25, 2019, up from last month when it averaged 4.06 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.58 percent.

    bull; 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.64 percent with an average 0.5 points, up from last month when it also averaged 3.57 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.02 percent.

    bull; 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 3.77 percent this week with an average 0.4 points, up from last month when it averaged 3.75 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.74 percent.

    Full Story >

    To Roommate or Not to Roommate? Things to Consider Before Bringing Another Person Under Your Roof

    Defraying the cost of a mortgage is great, and, in some cases, taking in tenants can be lucrative, more than covering your entire payment and putting money in your pocket every month. But, inviting roommates into your home also comes with its share of potential downsides. Here are a few things you may want to weigh before you hand over the keys.

    Say goodbye to your privacy

    Having someone else in your home probably means you canrsquo;t walk around naked unless yoursquo;re in that type of thing. It also may mean there will be people making noise in the living room when you want peace and quiet or making a mess in the kitchen when you just want to make a sandwich.

    About that messhellip;

    Speaking of messes, how another person lives should be a consideration before you invite them to live in your home. Have you seen their current place? Did it lookhellip;normal?

    If yoursquo;re a neat freak and your potential roommate like to leave behind items of clothing like breadcrumbs, you could have an Odd Couple situation. On the other hand, if yoursquo;re a little more casual about how you keep the house and your potential roommate likes things just so, you might end up feeling out of place in your own home.

    Someone elsersquo;s romantic life

    Arenrsquo;t you a little old to be living by the ldquo;sock on the doorrdquo; rule? Bringing in a roommate may mean compromising your privacy in even more egregious ways, or having to tiptoe around in order to avoid an uncomfortable run-in.

    Financial issues

    Ultimately, itrsquo;s your finances and credit at risk no matter who you invite into your home because itrsquo;s your name on the mortgage. If yoursquo;re taking in a roommate to help make your mortgage payment, you need to know you can depend on this person to pay his or her share. No matter how well you think you know this potential roommate, itrsquo;s imperative that you do a background check and check their credit. What you donrsquo;t know could hurt you.

    Full Story >

    How Transit-Supported Development Could Solve Affordability Issues

    A recent survey of young urban families in Canada found that proximity to public transit is one of their top considerations when purchasing a home. The survey found that 28 per cent of families rank transit-friendly neighbourhoods as a priority, while 17 per cent considered car-friendliness is a priority. Four per cent cited cycling-friendly neighbourhoods.

    ldquo;Transportation and housing have always been inextricably linked. Investments into any transportation infrastructure, whether rapid transit, bus lines, roads or bike lanes, not only have a direct impact on a communityrsquo;s quality of life, but often, real estate values,rdquo; says Brad Henderson, president and CEO of Sothebyrsquo;s International Realty Canada, which conducted the survey with Mustel Group.

    ldquo;The importance that many of todayrsquo;s young families are placing on neighbourhood public transit access when home buying reflects changing attitudes and values, the strains of cost of living, as well as improvements to transit infrastructure made to date,rdquo; says Henderson.

    ldquo;These priorities also point to what this influential group of buyers will deem prime real estate locations in the future.rdquo;

    The young families cited safety as the No. 1 priority for their neighbourhoods. Transit-friendly neighbourhoods were a priority for 30 per cent of respondents in Vancouver, 29 per cent in Toronto and Montreal and 21 per cent in Calgary. Having a location that was car-friendly was most important to Calgary residents at 20 per cent, followed by 19 per cent of Montreal families, 17 per cent of Toronto families and 13 per cent of Vancouver respondents.

    Montrealrsquo;s families were most interested in cycling-friendly neighbourhoods at seven per cent, followed by Vancouver and Calgary at five per cent and Toronto at two per cent.

    A shortage of housing options in Toronto and Vancouver, in particular, continue to price young families out of the downtown real estate markets and push them further to the suburbs. Several recent studies suggest that building more transit-supported development ntilde; homes within a 10-minute walk of public transit ntilde; could help provide more affordable housing options and >

    A report from the Pembina Institute says that the population in the Greater Toronto Horseshoe Area is expected to grow by 110,000 people every year, to more than 10 million by 2041. The City of Toronto will get about 20 per cent of this growth, but the outlining suburbs will grow the most dramatically.

    The Pembina report has three examples of how people living in transit-supported developments could save significant money.

    A young professional making 75,000, which includes most first-time home buyers, could lower housing and transportation costs by 10 per cent to 11 per cent by getting rid of their car and taking transit instead, says the Pembina report. Families with a 120,000 yearly income could save 40 per cent to 45 per cent by moving from a detached home to a two-bedroom condo and from two cars to one, replacing that car with transit use. A retiree with a 25,000 income could go from a detached home to a one-bedroom condo and get rid of their car, resulting in a saving of 50 to 56 per cent.

    A study by the Centre for Urban Research amp; Land Development CUR identified almost 200 existing or under-development major transit modes across Ontario. It says there is almost 1,500 square km of land within 800 metres of a major transit mode that could support more development.

    ldquo;Outdated city bylaws protect much of it from higher transit-supported density development,rdquo; says CUR. ldquo;Carefully implementing as-of-right zoning along transit corridors is likely to be an effective action governments in Ontario can take to make room for additional housing supply.rdquo;

    The study says, ldquo;A conservative estimate would suggest that re-zoning could encourage yearly construction around under-zoned transit nodes and lines by up to 25 housing units per square km at a minimum. That could translate into a minimum of 20,000 more units per year along transit corridors in Ontario,rdquo; says the CUR report.

    The CUR and Pembina report both recommend that municipal bylaws and zoning be reviewed to allow for transit-supportive zoning.

    ldquo;Public policy interventions are needed to ensure equitable transit-supported development, which means ensuring there are housing options to meet the needs of low-and moderate-income households,rdquo; says the Pembina report, adding that providing mixed-income housing near transit stations ldquo;can give families with low and moderate household incomes an equal opportunity to live near work or commute by transit, thereby saving money on both housing and transportation.rdquo;

    Recently the Ontario government introduced a housing action plan that includes ldquo;making it easier to transform commuter parking lots at transit stations into places with homes and businesses.rdquo;

    It says it has already introduced development plans for two Toronto transit hubs ldquo;and this is just the startrdquo;. But there has already been opposition to the governmentrsquo;s plan from municipal councillors, who say the plan is just a way for developers to make more money and wonrsquo;t provide more affordable housing.

    Full Story >

    Are You Grown Up Enough to Be a Homeowner?

    Do you know the true costs of homeownership?

    Yes, you have a handle on what your principal, interest, taxes, and insurance are going to cost. But have you factored in the other costs? Homeownerrsquo;s association fees, tolls, gas, and other commuter costs, landscaping help, and increased utility costs could all add to your monthly expenses and push the affordability factor out of reach.

    Are you aware of closing costs?

    Many first-time buyers arenrsquo;t prepared to pay thousands of dollars on top of their down payment. Getting an estimate upfront is key to making sure you have what you need to close.

    Are you being realistic about home appreciation?

    Homebuyers love to look at home appreciation over a period of time and then use those numbers to project how much their home value will increase in the next few years. Itrsquo;s human nature. But it can also be dangerous if yoursquo;re counting on that appreciation to move up or on in a few yearsrsquo; time.

    Itrsquo;s important to remember that the real estate market is cyclical, and, while short-term gains are great, historical long-term gains also make real estate one of the safest and most successful investment strategies. ldquo;Housing was the worldrsquo;s best investment over the last 150 years,rdquo; said Quartz.

    If your home does increase in value, what will you do with the equity?

    Hope your answer wasnrsquo;t, ldquo;Go shoppingrdquo; or ldquo;Buy a new carrdquo; That kind of thinking can get you in troublemdash;in fact, it did get a lot of people in trouble during the last downturn. Responsible use of home equity is key to remaining financially stable. When you use your equity for things other than home improvement, yoursquo;re increasing your monthly costs but not your home value. Now it costs more to live in your home, and itrsquo;s at risk if you get in over your head and default on your loan.

    Are you planning to run out and furnish every inch of the home right away?

    Doing so could put you several thousand dollars in additional debt just as yoursquo;re transitioning to homeownership. Financial experts recommend easing into your new home and making sure the monthly output is what you expect and can manage before taking on too much additional debt.

    Do you pay your bills on time?

    There are those of us who like to pay bills right when we receive them and those of us who pay them when we get a notification that wersquo;re about to incur a late fee. Wersquo;ve been both of those people. If yoursquo;re not used tomdash;or fond of or good atmdash;managing your bills, you may find yourself with no water or electricity. Investopedia has some great tools to help you get more organized.

    How good are you at facing your issues?

    We can procrastinate with the best of lsquo;em and we have. We can put off fixing a problemmdash;personal, professional, or otherwise and we have. We can wait too long to take care of a little problem in the house and turn it into a big, huge, much more expensive problem and we have. Being a homeowner means stepping up when the house needs you. And it will need you at some point. Are you ready to make it a priority?

    Would you rather take a bucket list vacation or fix up your kitchen?

    A trip to the see the Northern Lights would be amazinghellip;but would it be better than being able to run your hands over your new Quartz countertops every day? You may need to make some hard decisions as a homeowner. Whether or not itrsquo;s worth depends on how important the goal of buying a home is.

    Do you have a solid support system?

    Sometimes you just need someone you can vent to, sometimes you need someone to come fix a smoke detector 20 feet up thatrsquo;s going off in the middle of the night. If yoursquo;re used to living at home, where parents take care of everything, or in an apartment where you can call the manager, the realization that this is all your responsibility now can be a shock to the system. There are a few things you can do to make sure yoursquo;re prepared for whatever comes your way:

    bull; Mine Nextdoor ahead of time for resources plumber, electrician, garage door expert you can reach out to when needed
    bull; Find a good handyman as soon as you move in
    bull; Meet and exchange contact information with your neighbors
    bull; Consider getting a home warranty, especially if your home is older and yoursquo;re concerned about the large expense of a new hot water heater or air conditioning unit

    Full Story >

    Copyright© 2004 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved

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    Updated: Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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    All Rights Reserved.