Real Estate News

Updated: Friday, February 22, 2019

Junior Liens Who Choose to Foreclose

Many private lenders may choose to fund a junior lien where the first mortgage is >

In looking at a foreclosure, a lender has to strategize. In the case of the second mortgage, it is imperative that the first does not foreclose out the second as there is usually nothing left over from the foreclosure to pay the second. In California, the foreclosing party gets to ldquo;credit bidrdquo; its loan. This means that it can simply bid [at the auction/trustee sale] what it is owed. Non foreclosing parties need to come up with cashierrsquo;s checks in order to bid. This can be a potential hardship for the second mortgage if the first is the foreclosing party.

For example, if we look at a situation where the property has a value of 1,400,000, the first is 800,000 and the second is 200,000 and the first is the foreclosing party, the first would most likely credit bid its entire 800,000 [it does have the right to bid less than what it is owed, but, if the value is reasonably higher than what is owed to the first, it will normally credit bid what it is enti>

Any bidder at the auction/trustee sale would need to come up with 800,000 at the auction itself or more should any bid exceed 800,000 if the bidder wants to be the highest bidder. In this instance [where the first mortgage is the foreclosing party], the second is not allowed to credit bid its 200,000 balance. It would need to come up with the 800,000 to pay off the first and its 200,000 second mortgage in order to be made whole. True, the second would just get its 200,000 back because that is what it is owed, but, unfortunately, in this case, since it was not the foreclosing party, it has to come up with cash just as any other bidder. Only the foreclosing party is allowed to credit bid.

For this reason, it is important for the second to have a strategy in place. The second wants to be the foreclosing party in most instances, driving the bus, so to speak. Borrowers usually go into default for two main reasons.

First, they stop making payments to the lender. Second, the lenderrsquo;s loan is due, and the borrower has not refinanced or sold the property. In the case where payments have not been paid, junior lien holders have the right to ldquo;curerdquo; the first. One can usually do that simply by making the payments to the first. Since foreclosure in California normally takes three months and 21 days, one strategy is for the second to cure the first and start its own foreclosure.

However, this may be cost prohibitive, especially if the first is large and the arrearages on the first are a few months. When the first files for foreclosure, junior lien holders are to be notified. This gives them notice, so they can have the opportunity to cure the first. The second then files its own foreclosure [either because the borrower has probably also not made payments to the second mortgage or because most loan documents state that if a borrower is in default on any mortgage associated with the property, its loan is also in default whether or not the borrower has kept the second current with payments].

One strategy for the second lien holder is to cure the first as soon as possible to allow the second to be the foreclosing party. That way, the second would be allowed to credit bid its loan, but would not eliminate the first; it would have to take the property subject to the first and have to deal with them post foreclosure. However, what happens in the case where the second pays just enough to get the first to stop its foreclosure for the time being, the second starts its own foreclosure, and then does not make any more payments to the first and allow the first to start its own foreclosure?

Letrsquo;s look at an example and see how this might play out; in our previous example, the property was worth 1,400,000, the first was 800,000, and the second was 200,000. Letrsquo;s presume that the borrower stopped making payments on both the first and second mortgages. Both loans have a maturity date five years in the future. If the first files foreclosure, the second could cure the first by making only one mortgage payment to them. Now it is true that most lenders will not immediately file a notice of default after 30 days, but the point here is for the second to make the first mortgage cancel or delay [even temporarily] its foreclosure, so the second mortgage can start its own foreclosure for two main reasons; it puts the second in a situation wherein the first does not foreclose out the second, and it allows the second to credit bid its loan at the time of the trustee sale.

Now it is true that, if the second does not make any more payments to the first [other than the one to get the first to stop its foreclosure], the first may start a foreclosure again, but, the firstrsquo;s foreclosure will be after the second mortgage has completed its foreclosure, buying time for the second to deal with the first [or sell or refinance the property] if the second is ultimately the high bidder at auction. If another bidder outbids the second, the first would get paid, the second would get paid, and the owner [borrower who defaulted] would pocket the difference.

If there is enough equity in the property, either the property will receive a high enough bid to pay off all of the liens, or the second [the foreclosing party in our example] should be able to flip the property fairly quickly or decide to keep the property, as it would be the new owner. If the second chooses not sell the property, it should very quickly discuss with the first some sort of agreement to either refinance [a new loan to the second who is now the owner] or make payments for a period that will allow time for a new lender. The above information is for discussion purposes only and, as always, one is advised to discuss real estate >


Edward Brown is an investment expert and host of the radio show, ldquo;The Best of Investing.rdquo; He has multiple published works, including an interview with the Wall Street Journal, and has also served as a chairman of the Shareholder Equity Committee to protect 29,000 shareholders representing 500 million REIT. Edward is also a recipient of a prestigious MBA Tax Award.

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Mortgage Rate Locks: What You Need to Know

Such volatility has been rare over the past year or so but thatrsquo;s how rates can be higher in the afternoon compared to earlier in the day. What consumers also may not know is that mortgage rate quotes mean little until yoursquo;re able to lock that rate in.

Years ago, a borrower could call up multiple lenders over a period of time and not only get a rate quoted over the phone but also lock that rate in. Without even submitting a loan application or any documentation at all. Those days are long gone and today lenders take interest rate locks just as serious as consumers do. When a lender locks in a clientrsquo;s rate, it essentially reserves those funds from its credit line.

As part of the initial loan disclosure period when someone first submits a completed loan application, consumers receive a Rate Lock Disclosure document. It is this document that spells out when someone can lock and what happens if a rate lock expires. Most lenders today wonrsquo;t accept a lock until and unless the lender has a completed loan application package. Lenders can also decline an interest rate lock request if there is no sales contract or subject property selected. However, when consumers do arrive at a point in the process where they can lock in a rate, they do have options.

Rates and fees will be the lowest for shorter term locks. How short can a lock be? Some lenders offer a lock period of 12 days but others ask for a 15 day lock. Once the rate is locked, and itrsquo;s usually different than the one initially disclosed, then another round of disclosures are required showing the newly locked rate, APR and other features of the note. Perhaps the most common lock period is 30 days, but borrowers may also be offered lock periods of 60 or 90 days. Remember, the shorter the lock period the lower the rate. Conversely, the longer the lock period, the higher the rate.

The lock period gives the lender sufficient time to prepare your closing papers and deliver them to your settlement agent. The lock period must be long enough to cover this processing time as well as reviewing your final, signed closing papers. Sometimes a rate lock is set to expire soon and the lender is not certain there will be enough time to fund the loan without a rate expiration. The general rule is this: if a rate lock is broken, the consumer is typically saddled with the higher of previously locked rate or market rates. It doesnrsquo;t do the consumer any good to slow down the documentation process because rates in general have fallen below the original locked rate.

Lenders can however offer lower rates even if a rate was locked, but there are some lender requirements for a ldquo;float down.rdquo; First, to get a rate lock extension, the extension must be issued before the rate expires and second, for a float down, market rates must have fallen by a specific amount. Donrsquo;t expect to nab the lower rate if rates have only fallen by 0.125 for example.

There are also times when a lock expires due to no fault of the consumer and lenders can then provide a courtesy extension for enough time that it takes to fund the loan. Such a concession is typically when the loan process is taking longer than usual or the lender is taking more time than it should. These concessions are completely up to the lenderrsquo;s internal guidelines and not necessarily universal from one lender to the next. To do your part, make sure you act swiftly when providing documentation and answering any questions the lender might have while your loan is being moved through the approval process. If not and your rate lock expires, the lender can point to your delays in providing requesting documentation.

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Four Rooftop Owners: Three Want to Repair; The Fourth Says No

Question continued This case has four homes sharing common walls between them and all under one continuous roof. The roof is at replacement age and should definitely be replaced within the next year as it shows heavy wear per a contractor that made minor repairs. The 4 owners involved were approached, 2 owners agree that it should be replaced, one said wait till next year and the last neighbor refuses totally. He feels that the roof is good for many years and to wait till it starts to leak. Due to it being a continuous roof, the job needs to be done as a whole. There is no way to do a partial job 1,2 or 3 homes and if it were possible it would look rather shoddy. I believe the hold out is trying to leverage a free roof out of the other 3 owners, which will not happen as one owner has stated hed pay only his share. How can this be resolved without waiting until there is actual water damage from a leaking roof? If there is damage the holdout has a 3 out of 4 chance it will not involve his property. This is quite a dilemma; can we legal John.

Answer: John. Tough question, and an even tougher answer. The developer may have anticipated this. First, I would review the title history to your property. When you bought the house, you should have obtained a title report. You may be lucky and find some easement language among the land records that addresses situations such as yours. If your settlement file does not contain any such information, perhaps the three of you should chip in and have the title searched.

But it is possible that there is no language in your title that assists you. Accordingly, you really have only two alternatives: first, wait until the roof leaks and then all four of you will have to hire a roofer. Clearly, this is not acceptable for several reasons, the main one is that the rain may cause damage to your property and based on the fact that you were trying to deal with this earlier and know that there are problems, your insurance carrier may reject any claims.

Your second alternative: the three of you should hire an independent engineer to assess the condition of the roof and its useful life. If the report indicates that you have to deal with the roof now, I would send a formal letter to the holdout neighbor, send him a copy of the report, and put him on notice that he will be held responsible should there be any damage to any or all of the three other houses.

And if the neighbor still balks, and if the report indicates that the roof needs immediate work, your attorney may be able to file suit against the neighbor seeking a permanent injunction, thereby forcing him to cooperate.

Itrsquo;s not a pleasant situation and unfortunately therersquo;s always one person who stands out in a crowd.

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Important Things To Know About Home Inspections

1. You can choose your home inspector.

Your real estate professional can recommend an inspector, or you can find one on your own. Members of the National Association of Home Inspectors, Inc. NAHI, must complete an approved home inspector training program, demonstrate experience and competence as a home inspector, complete a written exam, and adhere to the NAHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

2. Home inspections are intended to point out adverse conditions, not cosmetic flaws.

You should attend the inspection and follow the inspector throughout the inspection so you can learn whats important and whats not. No house is perfect and an inspection on any home is bound to uncover faults. A home inspector will point out conditions that need repair and/or potential safety->

3. Home inspection reports include only the basics.

A home inspector considers hundreds of items during an average inspection. The home inspection should include the homes exterior, steps, porches, decks, chimneys, roof, windows, and doors. Inside, they will look at attics, electrical components, plumbing, central heating and air conditioning, basement/crawlspaces, and garages.

They report on the working order of items such as faucets to see if they leak, or garage doors to see if they close properly. Inspectors may point out termite damage and suggest that you get a separate pest inspection. The final written report should be concise and easy to understand.

4. Home inspectors work for the party who is paying the fee.

The NAHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics clearly state that members act as an unbiased third party to the real estate transaction and "will discharge the Inspectors duties with integrity and fidelity to the client." A reputable home inspector will not conduct a home inspection or prepare a home inspection report if his or her fee is contingent on untruthful conclusions.

The inspector should maintain client confidentiality and keep all report findings private, unless required by court order. That means it is your choice whether or not to share the report with others. If youre a seller, you dont have to disclose the report to buyers, but you must disclose any failure in the systems or integrity of your home.

5. Inspectors are not responsible for the condition of the home.

Inspectors dont go behind walls or under flooring, so its possible that a serious problem can be overlooked. Keep in mind that inspectors are not party to the sales transaction, so if you buy a home where an expensive problem surfaces after the sale, you wont be able to make the inspector liable or get the inspector to pay for the damage. In fact, you may not be entitled to any compensation beyond the cost of the inspection.

As a buyer, you need the home inspection to decide if the home is in condition that you can tolerate. You can use the report to show the seller the need for a certain repair or negotiate a better price. You can also take the report to a contractor and use it to make repairs or to remodel a section of the home.

One thing you should not do when buying a home is skip having the home inspected because of cost or undue pressure by the seller. A home inspection is reasonable, it can save you money in the long run, and its required by many lenders, particularly for FHA loans. Theres a reason why buyers should beware, and a home inspection gives you the information you need to make a sound buying decision.

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Following the Green: How Legalized Marijuana is Transforming the Traverse City, MI Real Estate Market

Part of the reason for the ultra competitive environment is the lack of inventory. But this isnrsquo;t simply an availability issue; itrsquo;s also a licensing issue. ldquo;In Traverse City and Acme Township, only a limited number of licenses are available for certain types of medical marijuana businessesmdash;and only within certain districts,rdquo; they said.

ldquo;While Traverse City has unlimited licenses available for grow operations, processing facilities, testing laboratories, and secured transportation companies, the city capped dispensary/retail store licenses at just 13mdash;with a lottery scheduled for May 3 to distribute them. Acme, which held its first lottery last year, had 20 total licenses available: five each for grow operations and processing facilities, three each for testing laboratories and secured transportation companies, and four for dispensaries/retail stores.rdquo;

Limitations on what type of properties can be used for marijuana->

Those whose numbers come up are, quite literally, winning the lottery. After all, the stakes are exceptionally high. The marijuana industry in Colorado has brought in 6 billion since recreational use was legalized in the state, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue and making millionaires out of many of those in the industryrsquo;s inner circlemdash;and those who have properly navigated the real estate environment.

Traverse City property owners are already reaping the benefits. ldquo;Everything has gone off the charts with value,rdquo; Tom Krause of Krause Realty Solutions told them. ldquo;Wersquo;ve had people from California to Colorado flying in. Wersquo;ve done seven deals so farhellip;four of those were for dispensaries, and a couple were for growers.rdquo; One of those deals was for a property owned by Krause himself; ldquo;While the sale was being finalized, he received another offer that was 200,000 higher,rdquo; he said to The Ticker.

The lack of available properties in high-target areas is creating a speculative environment in which ldquo;buyers are not just targeting whatrsquo;s for sale, but approaching owners of eligible sites and making offers. ldquo;Theyrsquo;re enticing them to sell with high priceshellip;it can be a 50 percent premium to purchase a building above what the market rate would be,rdquo; they said. The Ticker added that other sellers are accepting offers from multiple entities on a property to insure there will be a deal with a licensed buyer.

Despite the potential profits for sellers now and potential windfall for buyers later, disagreements between state and federal laws around marijuana are creating some challenges that give cash buyers a leg up. ldquo;Buyers face the most riskmdash;particularly mom-and-pop businesses and individuals without major financial backers,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Banks typically wonrsquo;t touch marijuana deals since the substance is still illegal federally, so buyers are on their own for financing.rdquo;

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Going Up? Home Elevators Offer Independence

Home elevators, once thought to be a luxury feature for large new builds, are becoming a more common addition to smaller homes.

Residential elevators are a brilliant idea, and not just for seniors or those with mobility issues, but for everyone, every day, says Jeffrey Kerr of Re/Max Unique in Toronto. He specializes in accessible real estate.

A wide selection of elevators is now available, and with the smallest having a footprint of just 12 square feet, theyrsquo;re suitable for urban home retrofit projects, says Katrina Maheu, marketing director of Savaria Home Elevators. The smallest model has a 36x48-inch cab and requires a 41x56-inch hoistway.

Savariarsquo;s least expensive model is the Eclipse, priced from 22,000. The company says it offers a smooth ride and doesnrsquo;t require a separate machine room.

The space-saving Telecab17, a two-stop elevator that travels through the ceiling/floor, has a vanishing effect. It can be installed in the corner of a dining room, for example, to connect it with a master bedroom above. When visitors arrive, it can be ldquo;parkedrdquo; on the upper floor, out of sight in the dining room.

Traditional elevators require a hoistway which supports the weight of the elevator to be constructed by a contractor, with installation of the elevator separate, Maheu says.

Itrsquo;s important to find a qualified contractor to construct your hoistway, says Amedeo Barbini of Barbini Design Build. An architectural technologist will determine how to accommodate the retrofit some projects may require structural work or the >

Cabs for traditional elevators can be tricked out with a variety of finishes, colours and types of doors, and are even available with a glass wall for extra light and views. A super modern MDF finish has a high sheen for a modern look, while paneled wood cabs offer a more traditional touch. Or cabs can be left unfinished, and the homeownerrsquo;s contractor can finish it to match the rest of the house, Maheu says.

A traditional two-stop elevator costs about 25,000, not including the hoistway construction. The cost to install the hoistway can vary greatly depending on the work required, but Maheu says the average is about 25,000. It takes less than a week to install the elevator once the hoistway is in place.

The Vuelift is a futuristic glass elevator in either a cylindrical or octagonal shape that has a self-supporting hoistway, so therersquo;s no need to hire a separate contractor. The Vuelift is modular, with small components that fit through traditional doorways, she says. Prices start at 70,000.

They can be installed in less than a week.

Safety features are built into all of the elevators, with back-up systems in case of power failure. They can be lowered manually, Maheu says. As with all elevators, regular maintenance is important part of safety.

When shopping around, Maheu says to ask the following:

1. How long has the company been in business? An elevator is a big investment and once itrsquo;s installed, you want to have it properly maintained in order to be safe. You donrsquo;t want to go with a company you canrsquo;t count on down the road.

2. Does the company have more than one type of product? If it has just one, it may try to sell you their only product whether itrsquo;s good for you or not.

3. Can I try before I buy? Can I ride the lifts to see what they feel like?

Residential elevators are a new trend. More people are installing them when they are middle aged and can afford them, even though they donrsquo;t need them, Maheu and Kerr say.

Thatrsquo;s what one client, who is in his 50s and is mobile, active and not ready to use an elevator, had in mind when he installed one. It came in handy when he suffered a sports injury and wasnrsquo;t able to use the stairs for several months, Maheu says.

Kerr says people in their 30s are installing elevators so their home is ldquo;visitablerdquo; by everyone they know, regardless of their age and mobility.

Elevators offer a lot of benefits, safety being number one. ldquo;Most falls occur around stairs,rdquo; Kerr says. ldquo;An elevator will allow people to stay in their home.rdquo;

The trend is being driven by an aging population that doesnrsquo;t want to move or go to a retirement home.

Although the cost may seem prohibitive, itrsquo;s a great option for those who love where they live and want to stay in their neighbourhood. The cost to move is substantial. It may be wiser to put that money into retrofitting the home rather than moving and paying land transfer and other moving costs. And when compared to the substantial cost of a retirement home, installing an elevator may even leave you farther ahead, Kerr says.

If possible, try not to take space away from a bedroom. If you dedicate a full bedroom for the elevator, it could affect future property values, he says.

Professionally renovated and modified homes increase in value when marketed and sold to the right buyers, Kerr says, provided, of course, that a bathroom and entrance are accessible.

ldquo;Plan ahead. Be proactive, not reactive and make decisions rather than having them made for you,rdquo; Kerr says.

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The Importance of Not Losing Money in Your Portfolio over Extended Periods of Time

For example, if one were to invest 100,000 and lose 20 the first year, the ending balance of the account would be 80,000. The following yearrsquo;s return would have to be an increase of 25 [80,000 X 25 = 20,000] just to break even. This does not include making a profit over the two year period; it just means that, over a two year period, the return would be zero. If the same 100,000 earned 20 per year compounded for three consecutive years and then suffered a 20 loss, the annualized compounded rate of return would be less than 8.5 rather than 10 [3 years X 20 = 60, less 20 = 40 / 4 years =10];

Here is how the figures work:

Original investment 100,000

Year 1 20 increase 120,000 [Value at the end of year 1]
Year 2 20 increase 144,000 [Value at the end of year 2]
Year 3 20 increase 172,800 [Value at the end of year 3]
Year 4 20 decrease 138,240 [Value at the end of year 4]

The time value of money shows that a 100,000 investment turning into 138,240 in four years equates to compounded rate of return of less than 8.5.

Thus, the effect of losing money, even after gaining three years in a row [in our example] is worse than a steady increase. If, in the above example, the investment simply increased 10 compounded per year, after four years, the account would have grown to 146,410. The difference of 8,170 [more than 2 per year on average] represents the severe hit the investment takes when there is a loss of any real magnitude; thus, the importance of a steady positive return per year versus the ups and downs that an investment may experience over time.

The main reason for the powerful downside impact of losing money is that, if the loss happens before any gains [early in the investment years], there is less principal to work with to achieve a significant increase. If the losses happen after significant gains, then there is a fairly sizeable loss of investment as seen in the above example between years 3 and 4.

The larger the swings in increases and decreases, the more significant the difference in risk adjusted rates of return. The example above showed 20 increases for three years and then a 20 decrease. The difference in a fluctuating return [of both positive and negative years] reduced the return of a potentially steady rate of 10 down to less than 8.5; however, what if the first three years were 40 positive and then a loss of 40 in year four?

Here is how the numbers would look:

Original investment 100,000

Year 1 40 increase 140,000 [Value at the end of year 1]
Year 2 40 increase 196,000 [Value at the end of year 2]
Year 3 40 increase 274,400 [Value at the end of year 3]
Year 4 40 decrease 164,640 [Value at the end of year 4]

Rather than a 20 return per year [40 X 3 years = 120 less 40 = 80 / 4 years = 20/yr], the return is 13.27 per year [100,000 turning into 164,400 after four years at 13.27 compounded annually]. The difference in interest rates of 6.73 is significantly higher than the previous example due to the higher percentages of rates of returns [both positive and negative]. In summary, the higher the rate of returns involved, the wider the gap in total rate of return when looking at an investment that has both positive and negative potential returns.

Since no one can accurately predict when investments will have their up and down years, it would appear that a more conservative, steady, return is more beneficial, as long as the return is not insignificant, and one needs to evaluate how an investment should be risk adjusted for comparison. For example, comparing a T-Bill, which is considered essentially riskless, might produce a return of 1 per year over a specified period of time, to an over the counter stock that might have wild fluctuations [as in our example{s} above] is not appropriate. The aggressive investment produced either the roughly 8.5 return or 13.3 return, so one might presume that one should always invest in the riskiest vehicle because of the huge gap between the riskless investment [1] and the aggressive investment [8.5-13.3]; however, nobody knows if the aggressive investment will be a net positive return over a specific period. For example, what happens if the aggressive investment consistently losses money every year and never recovers; or maybe so much time has elapsed that the compounded rate of return is fairly small?

For such an example, one might look at the NASDAQ. By the beginning of 2000, the NASDAQ was about 4,200. 15 years later, the NASDAQ was about 4,600. A 400 point increase over 15 years turned out to be a paltry .61 compounded rate of return. The NASDAQ experienced a lot of volatility over those 15 years. The point here is not to presume that all investments that have a wide swing in returns will always, over time, produce a better return than a more conservative investment.

One clicheacute; that is always heard is that, ldquo;Over a long period of time, the stock market has produced a good return for investors; you can allow for swings in the market, sometimes producing gains and sometimes producing losses, but, as long as you stay in the market, you will have a good return on your moneyrdquo; [or some such quote]; however, which indices is this quote referring to? The Samp;P 500? The Dow Jones Average? Small Cap Stocks?

Also, what other types of investments is this quote comparing to?

For example, for the last 30 years ending December 31, 2018, the Dow Jones Average produced an annualized compounded yield of about 8.2. This obviously includes the incredible run up in the market from 2002 to 2007; the Great Recession starting in 2008, and the bullish years that followed. One might want to compare this against the Prime Rate. Although the Prime Rate is not necessarily indicative of what an investor could or should earn, it is a widely accepted interest rate in the market place; mostly for the cost of borrowing, but it gives a general idea of prevailing rates of interest and the direction of where they are headed. The Prime Rate during this last 30 years started at 10.5 in December 1988 and immediately rose to 11.5 by the end of February 1989. The ldquo;lessrdquo; Great Recession that started in June 1989 pushed interest rates lower until July 1992, when the rate dropped to as low as 6. Rates increased thereafter until they peaked again in May 2000 when the Prime Rate stood at 9.5. It continually dropped until it hit a low of 3.25 in December 2008. It started to increase again in December 2015 and steadily went up until December 2018 where it hit 5.5. The average annualized compounded yield for the Prime Rate over the last 30 years [if one could invest in such a benchmark], would have been just short of 7, so, the Dow Jones Average over the past 30 years produced a greater return than the Prime Rate by a little over 1 per year.

However, what if we look at another >

Many people believe the real estate market crashed during the Great Recession, but, in reality, real estate had a slow, steady decline. In the San Francisco Bay Area [a strong real estate market by most standards], the real estate market took four years to decline about 25 in total. Investors who stayed true to investing only in conservative mortgages did not see a loss of principal, and, in many cases, earned more than what they envisioned as a trouble borrower was mandated to pay late fees, and, in some cases, default interest that added upwards of 4-5 more than the note rate. Of course, the downside to this was the delay in receiving interest, but, in some instances, the investor received a windfall if the borrower failed to pay and the investor/lender acquired the real estate through foreclosure. Most lenders would prefer to just receive the intended interest they signed up for, but the notion of additional interest and possibly owning the real estate that was collateralizing the loan is a potential benefit. Lenders need to make sure they are willing and wanting to potentially owning the real estate they are lending on should there be a time when the borrower can no longer make the interest payments.

As with all investing strategies, an investor needs to do proper due diligence before investing money; this includes the stock market as well as real estate. That being said, as pointed out earlier, one needs to think about whether a more conservative, steady, positive return investment is more advantageous than one with wild swings of both positive and negative returns, especially if the conservative, steady investment outperforms the wild one.


Edward Brown is an investment expert and host of the radio show, ldquo;The Best of Investing.rdquo; He has multiple published works, including an interview with the Wall Street Journal, and has also served as a chairman of the Shareholder Equity Committee to protect 29,000 shareholders representing 500 million REIT. Edward is also a recipient of a prestigious MBA Tax Award.nbsp;

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HELOC or Home Equity Loan: Which One Is Right for You?

While there are definite advantages to accessing your equity over taking out a personal loan or using credit cards, especially if yoursquo;re intending to use the funds for home improvement, the No. 1 thing to consider before you take any money out of your home is whether you can really afford it. Take out a home equity loan or use the funds from a HELOC and your monthly obligation will increase. But thatrsquo;s not all. Should you have a change in circumstances like a job loss or simply extend yourself beyond your financial comfort zone, causing you to miss payments, you could be putting your home at risk of foreclosure.

ldquo;Because the loans are secured against the value of your home, home equity loans offer extremely competitive interest ratesmdash;usually close to those of first mortgages. Compared to unsecured borrowing sources, like credit cards, yoursquo;ll be paying far less in financing fees for the same loan amount,rdquo; said Investopedia. ldquo;But therersquo;s a downside to using your home as collateral. Home equity lenders place a second lien on your home, giving them the right to eventually take over your home if you fail to make payments. The more you borrow against your house or condo, the more yoursquo;re putting yourself at risk.rdquo;

Should you want to move forward, itrsquo;s important to know the difference between a home equity loan and a HELOC so you can make the decision that best suits your need.

ldquo;HELOCs and home equity loans extract value from your home but add to your debt,rdquo; said NerdWallet. ldquo;The loan is a lump sum, the HELOC draws money as you need it.rdquo; Both loans typically offer a shorter term than borrowers have on their mortgage. ldquo;Home equity loans and HELOCs are paid off within five to 20 years, while 30 years is typical of a first mortgage,rdquo; said Bankrate.

Letrsquo;s break that down a little further.

About home equity loans

Borrowers who choose home equity loans often do so because of the fixed interest rate. The stable payment schedule means they donrsquo;t have to worry if rates go up. But, the fact that this type of loan is given in one lump sum doesnt necessarily track with everyonersquo;s needs. If you are the type that wants more flexibility in your loan, a HELOC may be the better choice. If you get a loan for 25,000 and only use 5,000, yoursquo;re still required to pay on the total amount loaned.

A home equity loan can also be problematic if your homersquo;s value drops after you have tapped all your equity. In this situation, you could find yourself underwater, or owing more than the home is worth. Homes in some hard-hit areas remained underwater many years after the market crash, with ldquo;more than 820,000 underwater homeownersrdquo; who owed more than double what their home was valued for, according to CBS News.

About home equity lines of credit

With a HELOC, you are still borrowing against the available equity in your home, however the funds are provided differently. Instead of having a lump sum, you use a HELOC like you would a credit card, accessing money as you need it and only paying interest on what you use.

ldquo;As a line of credit, a HELOC allows for flexibility around both borrowing and paying back the money you borrow,rdquo; said Credit Karma. ldquo;But it can also require borrowers to stay especially disciplined when it comes to taking out the funds and repaying their lenders.rdquo; Thatrsquo;s because HELOCs typically offer adjustable rates; if the interest rate rises, so does your payment.

ldquo;A HELOCrsquo;s interest rate is usually variable and can change. The interest rate is often tied to the prime rate and can be affected by market forces that could change quite a bit over the life of the HELOC,rdquo; said Credit Karma. ldquo;There may be limits to those changes though, like a periodic cap a limit on rate changes at one time or a lifetime cap a limit on rate changes during the loan term.rdquo;

Most HELOCs also have ldquo;two phases,rdquo; said Investopedia. ldquo;During the draw period ndash; typically 10 years ndash; you can access your available credit as you see fit. Many HELOC contracts require small, interest-only payments during this period, though you may have the option to pay extra and have it go against the principal.rdquo;

At the end of the period, borrowers have to start repaying the principal in addition to the interest, and, ldquo;From here on out, you can no longer access additional funds and you make regular principal-plus-interest payments until the balance disappears. During the 20-year repayment period, you must repay all the money yoursquo;ve borrowed, plus interest at a variable rate.rdquo;

Payment shock often hits at this point because, ldquo;The monthly payment can almost double. According to a study conducted by TransUnion, the payment on an 80,000 HELOC at 7 annual percentage rate will cost 467 a month during the first 10 years when only interest payments are required. That jumps to 719 a month when the repayment period kicks in.rdquo;

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HOA Landlord Rules

Rules Enforcement.

The HOA has the right to expect all residents, whether owner or renter, to play by the rules. But with renters, its up to the landlord to enforce them, not the HOA. So, the board should adopt a policy that requires all landlords to provide a set of the governing documents and all rules that have been adopted that affect the renter. The Board can also require that all rental agreements specifically make reference to and be subject to those documents. If a tenant violates a rule, the landlord should be informed of it immediately along with the expectation of enforcement. If there is a fine or penalty, the landlord should be levied for it as if he did the dirty deed himself. Its up to the landlord to get reimbursement from the tenant.

There are several exceptions to the landlord middle man enforcement process. If a tenant parks illegally in a fire lane, the HOA has the authority to have the car towed and the tenant will, naturally, pay to retrieve the car. There are some things the HOA should not interfere or get involved with. When a renter crosses the line between HOA rule and civil law infraction, the HOA has the right to call in proper authorities. Those authorities include the police, fire safety, FBI and drug enforcement.

Short vs. Long Term Rentals.

Most HOAs deal with renters who have entered into long term rental agreements 30 days or more. Most governing documents, in fact, require that the rental agreement be long term to avoid what would be a hotel operation. In resort areas, mountains, beach, etc. the HOA may have been expressly built and sold allowing owners to rent their homes short term. These homes or units are owned outright and are not timeshares with professional site management. However, unless virtually every owner has that in mind, there will be an ongoing clash between permanent residents and short term renters. Short termers have no allegiance to the community, dont know the neighbors and frequently are in party mode.

These factors point to ongoing problems with the locals. If this is a reality, its important for the board to press for consensus among the owners. If the majority want the flexibility to short term rent, it makes sense to have an onsite manager to control these issues and others like key exchange and housekeeping. The manager could be funded partly by the HOA to handle regular maintenance and partly by landlords to care for rentals. Its a win/win.

Controlling Tenants.

Renters generally are no better or worse than owner residents. Ongoing problems result from lack of landlord standards or enforcement of those standards by the HOA. Here are Landlord Standards, which all HOAs should adopt:

bull; Landlords must provide a set of governing documents CCamp;Rs and rules to renters before move in.
bull; HOA rules amp; regulations must be a condition of all rental agreements.
bull; Landlords are held accountable for renter infractions.
bull; Renters must communicate requests to the HOA through the landlord.
bull; Board may demand termination of a tenant with multiple rule violations.
bull; Landlord must provide a copy of each rental agreement to ensure compliance with the HOAs standards and for emergency contact purposes.

Renter Surcharges amp; Fees.

Some HOAs impose a Move In/Move Out or Renter Fee on landlords. Unless this fee is imposed on all residents, owner or renter, it is discriminatory. If a particular renter causes damage to the common area moving in or out, the landlord should be charged for it. Never surcharge >

Communicating with Landlords.

All tenant violations should be directed to the landlord in writing along with specifics, including date and time. The communication should be clear on what the landlords course of action should be. It should also reinforce that its up to the landlord, not the HOA, to deal with a renter.

Limiting Rentals.

At one time or another, someone may press to limit rentals. There are right reasons for doing so, but avoid the wrong one: The belief that renters are undesirable. While some tenants may be problems, so are some owners. Each must be dealt with as individuals, not a >muster with most lenders. Falling below that level causes closer scrutiny by some lenders. When lenders scrutinize, it usually means the interest rate or fees go up. Restricted financing options cause market values to fall.

Limiting rentals to protect financing is a worthy rationale for doing so. However, placing a system in place that allows some owners to rent but not others has many problems. The board must oversee the rental restriction policy and establish guidelines for who gets to rent and when. Also, there will be hardship cases disability, job loss, down real estate market, etc. that will press the board to bend the policy.

And consider if a landlord simply ignores the restriction and rents his unit. The HOA has control over the owner but not tenants who are protected by Landlord-Tenant laws. For a variety of reasons, if limiting rentals is desirable, it should apply to all owners. A total ban on rentals doesnt completely eliminate the boards oversight, but it at least makes it fair to all owners. For a sample Rental Restriction Policy, see

Renters Have Rights.

After considering the various issues, its important to remember that renters have rights that must be respected. Besides the state Landlord-Tenant laws, the Fair Housing Act speaks to unreasonable rental restrictions. Never impose restrictions based on sex, faith, culture or race. When it comes to HOA renters, do the right thing.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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Staged Property: Buyers Beware

Would you like to unload your house faster and for more than you expect? That, in rough terms, is what home stagers promise.

All the Homes a Stage

My farmhouse house, I will disclose, is as backstage as it gets. Books fill the bookcases. This is a big no-no in the staging profession. A vice grip is as likely to be on the dining room table as a floral centerpiece. A vice-grip is not a character flaw. My idea of decluttering is to straighten the pile of reading newspapers by the couch.

Now I find nothing wrong with a seller doing clean up, paint up and fix up before offering a property for sale. I would not be the first to do any of those activities, but I endorse putting onersquo;s best foot forward, given the alternative, with which I have had more experience.

Staging property is like set design in the theater. It leads the audience to look at focal points in ways that lead to certain feelings about the play. Good sets invite the audience to them by invoking emotional responses.

House stagers do the same. They use props like plants, smells, visual accents, space, angles, lights, colors, textures, airiness, and furniture to lead a buyer to imagine living in this set.

They deploy tactical rental furniture and art in empty houses to create the imaginative magic of theater. Staged properties are clean, clutter-free, spruced up and depersonalized. Staging is intended to draw the buyer into its pretend world.

The object of this mind-tweak is to get buyers to become emotionally invested in a staged house, then make a spontaneous offer, then pay more than they should.

A Growing Industry

Staging is now an industry that describes itself as ldquo;self-regulating.rdquo; Stagers can become trained, accredited and join a professional group, such as the Real Estate Staging Assn. At the Real Estate Staging Association, hundreds of thousands of real-estate agents and others have been trained.

Staging is sophisticated, customized marketing. It works. Itrsquo;s not dishonest in the sense of pulling a rug over termite damage in hardwood floors.

But it is intentionally manipulative. Stagers orchestrate the presentation of space to twiddle with a buyerrsquo;s mind so that he does something that he might not otherwise do. Admittedly, our way of doing business with each other often tries to convince buyers that the sellerrsquo;s deal is better than it is.

So how can buyers defend against a Martha Stewartly correct Ficus Benjamina in the entrance, a potted tree so disgustingly symmetrical and repulsively tasteful that sunbeams dance in marching-band formation on its just-spritzed leaves?

Educate yourself about staging, its purpose and how itrsquo;s done. An Internet search will lead buyers to informative articles. Stagers have written books. An agent working for the buyer should be asked to ring a staging alarm when entering a magic kingdom.

Identify stage props as a way to strip them of their persuasive power. Note fluffy bath towels, linens, greenery, wildflowers in dark rooms they suggest sunlight, yellow roses on a dining-room table, compulsive decluttering, clean-plate closets, new furniture, non-casually tossed toss pillows, items arranged in threes, cleared-off counter tops, furniture angles that draw you into a room, a bowl of limes and lemons and other focal points that thrum ldquo;Look at merdquo; using a low C in a harprsquo;s bass clef.

Outside note fresh paint, recently whacked shrubs, new shutters, fancy grill, ceramic yard frogs, rope hammock, an antique-looking weathervane and a new picnic table. The last five vanish at closing, if not before.

The Power of the Prop

The power in these props is that, together, they represent the life>

The stager scrubs away dirt and traces of the current occupants. The stager wants the buyer to think of the sellerrsquo;s house with all props in place, not empty and not full of the buyerrsquo;s stuff.

Once a buyer recognizes staging, it becomes transparent and funny. ldquo;My, my, what a fetching woven rug with bulging knots Is it pre-Columbian? The limes, the limes. [Kiss your fingertips.] Quel limesrdquo;

Consider not looking at staged properties. Stagers boast that their properties get three to ten percent more than unstaged properties. I believe them. On property that is worth 500,000, staging puts an extra 15,000 to 50,000 of buyer money in a sellerrsquo;s pocket. Some of that extra might go for paint and shrubs, things that convey to the buyerrsquo;s benefit.

But the buyer pays most of this staging premium for looking at props like candlesticks and couch pillows that will disappear like a traveling peep show. Staging succeeds in getting buyers to pay for something that often amounts to nothing.

Since all of us are equally vulnerable to the stagerrsquo;s skills, perhaps a buyer should tell agents to eliminate staged properties from his
look list.

Consider the Bare Bones

Agents working for buyers might discuss ways to evaluate staged properties with their clients. Donrsquo;t look at the props. If a buyer visits a staged property, imagine the house buck naked and empty. Thatrsquo;s what yoursquo;re buying.

Working farms usually are well organized with a few rough edges. If you find no edges in a farmyard, piles of weathered materials, pieces of equipment, scrap from the last century, Irsquo;d be suspicious. Farmers always need such backup.

Some farms are perfectly maintained in every nip and tuck. These farmers take great pride in neatness and upkeep. If you see every fence as tight as a prison door, every road newly graveled, every gate painted thatrsquo;s great. Be prepared to pay for perfection. This isnrsquo;t staging; itrsquo;s compulsive-maintenance disorder.

The reasons to cross off staged properties is that you will pay too much for what yoursquo;re getting, and yoursquo;re likely to be competing against stage-struck buyers who have fallen under stagerrsquo;s Spell.

The seller has paid for the stage show, usually a minimum of several thousand dollars but often much more. Statistics from Home Gain indicate that for every dollar invested in staging, a seller gets 4 to 5 back in additional sales price. Where, a buyer must ask, do those extra dollars come from?

Staging raises seller expectations. Itrsquo;s hard to negotiate with a seller whorsquo;s both out hard cash and hopeful to boot.

Since staging works, it is ever more common. My advice to buyers is to factor out staging and stick with a price that makes sense to them.

For buyers: All of what you see is not all of what you get.

Curtis Seltzer, land consultant, is the author of How To Be a DIRT-SMART Buyer of Country Property at his website.

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Simple DIY Projects That Will Increase the Value of Your Home

Modernize Fixtures

Replacing outlet covers can cost less than a dollar each, but if they have paint or other things on it, its a good change. While youre at it, consider updating the outlets themselves. For about 25-30 you can buy an outlet that also includes two USB charging ports. With all the smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices lying around, just a few of those, well-placed, can make a big difference. Think about the rooms in your home that dont have enough outlets and the rooms that are most used for charging.

A less expensive upgrade? Doorknobs. Mismatched, broken, and dingy doorknobs can be a major deterrent. For a small amount of money per knob, you can update the look and make the whole house more visually appealing.

Lighten It Up

The more light you can add to your home, the better. Freshening up or removing curtains can brighten your home and make it more inviting.

Replacing windows is also a great way to add value to your home, particularly true if you live in an older home that has a lot of windows that stick or that let in the heat or cold. Installing energy efficient windows can also get you a nice tax break. However, poorly-installed windows can let in water, which can lead to mold and cracked foundations, so this isnt for everyone.

Old light fixtures, or light fixtures that are dim or unappealing should be replaced to brighten the house.

Makeover the Bathroom

Bathrooms consistently get a high return on the investment. If you have a small budget and youre DIYing, start small. A new vanity. New sink. A nice ceiling light. A spa-like shower head. A nice towel bar. None of these things have to cost over 100, but they all add value to your home by freshening it up, providing simple conveniences, and making it nicer. Who doesnt want one of those fancy shower heads?

If your bathroom floor is falling apart, suffering from water damage or is just outdated, you can restore it yourself pretty inexpensively. Many home improvement stores offer a >

Freshen Up the Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the biggest things that will turn potential buyers on or off to a house. Its also one of the places where you can get the most money back for your investment. Whats the single best DIY change to make in the kitchen? A fresh coat of white paint on the cabinets. Go ahead and change out the knobs, too.

Storage is another change to consider. Add more shelves, possibly with space underneath to hang coffee mugs. Kitchen islands are in demand now and building one with storage will add value.

Keeping Up on Maintenance

A home in good repair is always going to be more valuable than one with a leaky roof. If the siding is old or falling apart, replace it. Consider getting a home warranty, to ensure the value of your appliances. Also make sure to maintain the appearance outside, sweep up the leaves, trim the bushes, and keep fences in good repair.

Adding value to your home doesnt have to be expensive or difficult. Sometimes, the simplest DIY can be the best place to start. Start by considering your budget and your homes most pressing needs, and update from there.

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Use Corporate Sales Strategies to Sell Your Home

Lets start with Apple and Samsung. Apple distinguished its products by going white when other hardware producers had black or metallic casings. Samsung imitated the success of Apple products by copying their interfaces, then took the inside lane by creating a bigger viewing screen. So what does that have to do with selling a home? Here are three ways you can use world->

Paint it white. One reason Apple products are so hot is the cool factor. Their products are streamlined, minimalistic and great-looking. Thats the same thing you should strive to do when selling your home. Like Apple did away with the hard drive, get rid of anything you dont absolutely need for a clean, uncluttered look. Paint your home a single color like white so your buyers can see the bones of the house.

Make it unique. Theres a reason you cant shop anywhere else to get the fit you want. The great retailers like J Crew tell a story by creating their own branded clothes and accessories around a theme. You can do the same thing. Make your home stand out from the neighbors with a feature they dont have like a treehouse or a koi pond. Greet visitors with a tableau -- a porch swing decorated with fresh pillows and a tabletop with a tray of lemonades.

Add value. Recognize that competition is stiff, so you have to do something to make your home a little more attractive to buyers. While you cant supersize your home like a McDonalds burger and fries, you can offer more for the money like a meal deal -- a burger, soft drink and fries for less than they would cost separately. Offer touring bikes for the next family to enjoy around the neighborhood. Throw in the first year of HOA fees in exchange for a full-price offer.

You want your home to be memorable and inviting. Let the big corporations show you how its done.

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HOA Volunteer Pheromones

Develop a communication system.

A frequent complaint of members is not being kept informed. To draw out volunteers, itrsquo;s critical that they know whatrsquo;s going on. Also, some members develop a suspicious nature about board motives when kept in the dark. Suspicion breeds volunteer resistance. The board should strive to do business transparently. Let them know what yoursquo;re up to early and often A newsletter and flyer distribution box the kind used by real estate agents is an inexpensive and convenient way to get the word out. Email is free.

Give credit where credit is due.

People love recognition.

Make sure that directors, committee members and volunteers are given formal recognition for their efforts at meetings, in the minutes and newsletters...every opportunity where there is an audience. Seek out particular members that show superior abilities. Award certificates of achievement at the annual meeting.

Provide social opportunities.

People tend to want to help those that they know personally. However, many are shy and donrsquo;t make friends easily. The HOA can promote several social events each year to facilitate the process. Consider a spring clean-up party, pool party or just plain old potluck. It will help create real "community".

Assign real jobs to do.

Itrsquo;s been said, "A committee takes minutes and wastes hours." There is nothing more frustrating than a job with no substance. There is real work to do at each homeowner association. Directors and committee members should have clear marching orders detailing exactly what the objectives are, the time frame and the money available to help get the task done.

Get organized.

Have meetings scheduled well in advance. Have a proper agenda, run the meeting in a businesslike way and limit your meetings to two hours. Save cocktails, if any, until after the meeting to avoid endless rambling meetings which are a real turnoff to successful people the kind you want as volunteers. Your meetings should be decision oriented so things get done.

Be an encourager.

It is incumbent on the board to take the lead in promoting volunteers. The successful leader motivates by persuasion and not authority. A servant leader does not lower himself but elevates others.

Since common scents donrsquo;t work with humans like they do in the animal world, use common sense by making the volunteer position too attractive to a moth to a flame.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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Working With Professional Real Estate Agents

License Required

State licensing law requires anyone acting as a broker or salesperson to first obtain a real estate license this involves taking real estate >

Common examples of violations would be a misrepresentation, false advertising, undisclosed dual agency, secret profits, and commingling of client monies.

An agent is one who represents another, called the principal, in dealings with third persons. The best way to create an agency is using an express written contract, although agency can also be created after the fact through "ratification" by the principal of the agents acts.

The agent owes the principal fiduciary duties of good faith, full disclosure, confidentiality, obedience, accounting, and the exercise of reasonable skill and care.

An agency >

A listing is a written employment contract in which the owner authorizes a broker to deal with prospective buyers on behalf of the owner. The listing is a personal service contract that can neither be recorded nor assigned. The amount of commission is negotiable between owner and agent.

The main types of listings are the exclusive listings, open listings, and net listings. The Multiple Listing Service MLS is an organized "pooling" of listings by broker members.

The listing agent represents the seller; in some cases, the listing agent may offer to represent the buyer as well in what is called a dual agency. In other cases, the buyer may decide to retain the services of a buyers broker to represent the buyer exclusively in most cases, the buyers broker will be paid from an authorized commission split with the listing broker.

Key Words in a Real Estate Transaction


AGENT- One who is authorized to represent and to act on behalf of another person called the principal. A real estate broker is the agent of his client, be it the seller or buyer, to whom he owes a fiduciary obligation. A salesperson is the agent of the broker and does not have a direct personal contractual >

ATTORNEY-IN-FACT- One who is authorized by another to act in his place under a power of attorney.

BROKER- One who acts as an intermediary between parties to a transaction. A real estate broker is a properly licensed person who, for a valuable consideration, serves as an agent to others to facilitate the sale or lease of real property.

BROKERAGE- That aspect of the real estate business that is concerned with bringing together the parties and completing a real estate transaction. Brokerage involves exchanges, rentals, trade-ins, and management of the property, as well as sales.

CODE OF ETHICS- A written system of standards of ethical conduct. The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Realtors, first written in 1913, establishes the high standards of conduct for members of the Realtor community.

COMMINGLING- To mingle or mix; for example, to deposit client funds in the brokers personal or general account. A licensee found guilty of commingling can have the license suspended or revoked by the Real Estate Commission.

COOPERATING BROKER- A broker who joins with another broker in the sale of real property; sometimes called the selling broker.

COURTESY TO BROKERS- The practice of sharing commissions with cooperating brokers.

DEFERRED COMMISSIONS- Commissions that are earned but not yet fully paid.

DUAL AGENCY- Representing both principals buyer and seller to a transaction.

EXCLUSIVE AGENCY- A written listing agreement giving one agent the right to sell the property for a specified time, but reserving to the owner the right to sell the property himself without payment of any commission.

EXCLUSIVE LISTING- A written listing of real property in which the seller agrees to appoint only one broker to sell the property for a specified period of time. The two types of exclusive listings are the exclusive agency and the exclusive right to sell.

EXTENDER CLAUSE- A "carry over" clause referred to as a safety clause contained in a listing provides that a broker is still entitled to a commission for a set of period of time after the listing has expired if the property is sold to a former prospect of the broker.

FARM AREA- A selected geographical area or one specific building to which a real estate salesperson devotes special attention and study.


FINDERS FEE- A fee paid to someone for producing a buyer to purchase or a seller to list property; also called a referral fee.

GENERAL AGENT- One who is authorized to perform any and all acts associated with the continued operation of a particular job or a certain business.

INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR- One who is retained to perform a certain act, but who is subject to the control and direction of another only as to the end result and not as how he performs the act. The critical feature, and what distinguishes an independent contractor from an employee or agent, is the right to control.

LICENSEE- A person who has a valid license. A real estate licensee can be a salesperson or a broker, active or inactive, an individual, a corporation, or a partnership.

LISTING- A written employment agreement between a property owner and a broker authorizing the broker to find a buyer or a tenant for certain real property.

OFFICE EXCLUSIVE- A listing in which the seller refuses to submit the listing to Multiple Listing Service, even after being informed of the advantages of MLS, and signs a certification to that effect.

OPEN HOUSE- The common real estate practice of showing a listed home to the public during established hours, frequently on Sunday afternoons.

OPEN LISTING- A listing given to any number of brokers. The first broker who secures a buyer ready, willing and able to purchase at the terms of the listing is the one who earns the commission.

OVERRIDE- A commission paid to managerial personnel e.g., the principal broker on sales made by their subordinates, usually calculated as a percentage of the gross sales commissions earned by the salesperson.

POCKET LISTING- A listing which is retained by the listing broker or salesperson, who does not make it available to other brokers in the office or to other Multiple Listing Service members.

POWER OF ATTORNEY- A written instrument authorizing a person the attorney-in-fact to act as the agent on behalf of another to the extent indicated in the instrument.

PRINCIPAL BROKER- The licensed broker directly in charge of and responsible for the real estate operations conducted by a brokerage company.

PROCURING CAUSE- That effort which brings about the desired result, as in producing the buyer for the listed property.

REALTOR- A registered word which may only be used by an active real estate broker who is a member of the state and local real estate board affiliated with the National Association of Realtors. The use of the name REALTOR and the distinctive seal in advertising is strictly governed by the rules and regulations of the National Assn. of REALTORSreg;.

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How to Find a Living Space That Works for Your Disability

According to a US Census Bureau report, 12.6 percent of non-institutionalized Americans were living with a disability in 2015. While your situation is a unique one that requires special attention, you are certainly not alone. However, the average home might not be the right dwelling for you. Instead of staying in a place thatrsquo;s not suited to your life>

Finding Your Next Home

With the Internet serving as a haven for home listings, a world of options is at your fingertips. Just about every home listing site has a search feature that allows you to filter results for accessible housing. Try searching ldquo;handicap accessrdquo; or ldquo;disability accessrdquo; to see whatrsquo;s on the market and which house offers the best features. Since each individual has unique needs, you might not find a house that has everything to accommodate your life, but you might find something close. It could help to find a home that was lived in or designed by someone with a similar condition as yours. The more similar your condition and impairments, the less yoursquo;ll need to modify.


Before you move into your new home and start making modifications, prepare your new home for your arrival. Safety should always be the top priority. Secure your home by having your locks changed. An online search tool can help you find a trustworthy locksmith, along with other vendors for various jobs around the house. Hire a cleaning crew to deep clean the place of toxins and allergens, especially if you suffer from a condition that can be triggered by poor indoor air quality. Find a flooring company to rip out the carpets and replace them with non-slip floors, such as laminate, vinyl, hardwood, and ceramic tile. Other modifications can be made once yoursquo;re living in the home, but these things are easier to handle when the house is empty.

Buy a Home and Modify It

Sometimes, you canrsquo;t find a dream home that features the accessibility you need, but you can turn your dream home or your current one into an accessible home with a little work. If yoursquo;re unable to climb stairs, the main thing to avoid is having a second floor; thankfully, therersquo;s no shortage of single-story homes on the market. Some houses come with small steps leading from one room to the next or at the entrances, but a ramp can alleviate the difficulty of getting up and down the stairs.

Wider doorways can make it easier for you to get around, as will an open floor plan. Aim for fewer hallways and walls so that there are fewer obstacles to navigate around. To make daily living easier and safer, look into design modifications such as grab bars in the bathroom and a walk-in shower with a bench instead of a step-in tub.

It may seem overwhelming to embark on a big move, but itrsquo;s manageable with the right resources and a reasonable plan. Recruit some help from family or friends, and start making those moves. Whether yoursquo;re disabled and require accessible accommodations or yoursquo;re simply in need of a change, your new home awaits.

Full Story >

Why You Should Just Say No to FSBO

Well therersquo;s an oversimplification. While we await a follow-up sometime NEVER saying the home has been sold, without a Realtor and for asking price, we thought it was a good time to examine again why itrsquo;s not a good idea to try to sell your own home. It just so happens that the National Association of Realtorsrsquo; NAR 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers was just >Data from the report shows:

The number of homes sold by owner decreased in 2018 to ldquo;the lowest share recorded since this report started in 1981.rdquo; Just seven percent of home sales were logged as an FSBO. This is likely due to: fewer homes being listed FSBO overall; and homes listed FSBO not selling and ending up, ultimately, with agent representation.

ldquo;The median age for FSBO sellers is 55 years.rdquo; Could this be a factor of people thinking they have enough life experience and knowledge to play real estate agent?

ldquo;Seventy-one percent of FSBO sales were by married couples that have a median household income of 98,800.rdquo; Regardless of marital status or income, itrsquo;s not a stretch to say that those who opt to try to sell their own home are doing so to try to save some money.

However, ldquo;FSBOs typically sell for less than the selling price of other homes; FSBO homes sold at a median of 200,000 last year up from 190,000 the year prior, and signicantly lower than the median of agent-assisted homes at 264,900.rdquo; While itrsquo;s not possible to make a straight-up comparison between the 200,000 and 264,900 number, that is a GLARING difference.

The report nbsp;also showed that among the ldquo;most difficult tasks for FSBO sellersrdquo; were ldquo;getting the right price,rdquo; at 17.rdquo; This makes sense considering agents have access to comparables, historical data, and a network of other real estate professionals to provide pricing counsel and context, whereas sellers havehellip;Zillow.

Full Story >

Your VA Loan the Second Time Around

Yet just checking that box isnrsquo;t enough for a lender to verify the applicant is eligible for this special program. Instead, the lender contacts the VA directly the borrower can but it takes too much time and asks for eligibility. This eligibility is verified by receiving a copy of the applicantrsquo;s Certificate of Eligibility.

The certificate is received almost momentarily after the request. The interesting part of this process is how much eligibility the applicant has. For someone that has never used their VA entitlement to buy a home, that individual will have full entitlement. But the certificate will show the entitlement amount is 36,000.

Thatrsquo;s not much, is it? However, because there is a 25 guarantee to the lender, the maximum VA loan amount is four times 36,000, or 144,000. Still, thatrsquo;s much lower than what many want to borrow. In 2019 for example the maximum VA loan limit is the same as the conventional one. In most parts of the country, that amount is 484,450 for a single family home. So, whatrsquo;s the point of the certificate?

Guidelines have changed over the years and today, VA loan limits match conforming ones, regardless of what the eligibility certificate says. If a veteran buys a property and finances 300,000 with a VA loan, that uses up all of the eligibility. Stay with me here.

Now letrsquo;s say a veteran sees a house for 80,000 and uses the VA loan. The 25 guarantee would be 20,000. If you subtract that from the original 36,000, that leaves 16,000. Four times that is 64,000. Again, not many properties would fall into that category. However, that is possible and any remaining entitlement would be listed at 16,000 on the certificate. But this is only an issue if the borrower keeps the existing home and buys another. In that scenario, the VA loan isnrsquo;t an option and full entitlement canrsquo;t be restored.

Instead, the veteran can sell the existing home which would restore the original entitlement and use the VA loan once again. The VA home loan benefit is not a one-time deal. It can be used again. One final note, when using the VA loan the second time around, let your lender help at the outset to make sure there wonrsquo;t be any entitlement amount issues as your loan is being processed.

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Can Experian Boost Turn You into a Homebuyer?

ldquo;The first thing most lenders look at when you want to buy a home is your credit history. Most people have traditional lines of credit such as credit cards, auto loans or a current mortgage that form a track record of how they manage debt,rdquo; said NerdWallet. ldquo;But if you have no credit history or whatrsquo;s sometimes called a nontraditional credit history, which is one with no credit card debt or other kinds of loans, it might be harder to establish a set of credit stats. That could make it tough to find a mortgage lender who will work with you.rdquo;

A just-launched program from Experian intends to help would-be buyers become better qualified. Called Experian Boost, the free, online platform allows consumers to ldquo;instantly influence their credit scoresrdquo; by using data from telephone and utility payments. ldquo;Itrsquo;s a first of its kind program designed to give more consumers access to credit,rdquo; said Experian.

How it works is: consumers grant permission to Experian Boost ldquo;to connect to their online bank accounts to identify and access utility and telecommunications payments,rdquo; per the companys >

ldquo;The amount a consumerrsquo;s score will be boosted depends on many factors, including current credit history,rdquo; Rod Griffin, Director of Consumer Education for Experian, told us. ldquo;Ultimately, the mortgage lender will make the final approval decision. The new self-reported accounts, or trades, will flow through the tri-bureau process for mortgage underwriting, giving lenders the view of new trades that were not visible before Experian Boost.rdquo;

According to the company, those with ldquo;thin credit files less than five trade lines and scores between 580 to 669 will benefit the most from Experian Boost.rdquo; Testing of the platform on a sample FICO reg; Scores showed an increase in two of three credit bureau scores and:

bull; ldquo;10 of thin-file consumers became scoreable
bull; For consumers with a score below 680, 75 saw an improvement in their credit score
bull; 14 of consumers with a credit score at or below 579 moved to a near prime score between 620 ndash; 679
bull; Depending on credit tier, 5-15 moved into a better score categoryrdquo;

The benefit to homebuyers is twofold: 1 Those who may not have been able to qualify for a home loan otherwise may end up with scores that are high enough to satisfy lenders; 2 A lower interest rate may be available for those who previously had subprime scores. This can save them tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a loan. ldquo;According to Credit Builders Alliance, having a subprime credit score will cost the average consumer approximately 200,000 more over the course of their life,rdquo; they said.

You can sign up for Experian Boost on their website.

Full Story >

HGTV is Bringing Us a New Breakup-Inspired Design Show, and We Cant Wait

ldquo;The share of homebuyers in the U.S. who are single women has been steadily increasing over the last several decades and is now at an all-time high,rdquo; said WTOP. Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Veritas Urbis Economics, told WTOP that, ldquo;In the early 1980s, it was about 9 percent. Itrsquo;s about 19 percent now, so almost one-fifth of all homebuyers in the U.S. are single women, and thatrsquo;s a significant jump.rdquo; The overall ldquo;share of homebuyers made up of single-person households, men and women, has increased from 15.3 percent in 1981 to 21.2 percent in 2017,rdquo; said WTOP.

But what if yoursquo;re already a homeowner who finds yourself single after having shared the home with the person who is now your ex. If you are willing and able to hold on to the home, you likely donrsquo;t want to it to look and feel the same. Keeping a home after a split may be necessary for financial reasons or to keep the kids in their schools, but that doesnt make it easy, especially if there are memories literally around every corner.

ldquo;Thatrsquo;s where HGTVrsquo;s new series Unspouse My House comes in,rdquo; said HGTV. ldquo;In this new renovation series, designer and self-proclaimed breakup artist Orlando Soria works with newly single clients to completely overhaul their homes and heal their lonely hearts along the way.rdquo;

File this under, ldquo;Why didnt we think of that?rdquo;

While single folks are sprinkled into HGTVrsquo;s programming, its popular House Hunters series is typically dependent on the friction created by a couple whose wishes are diametrically opposed Him: ldquo;I like mid-century modern and clean lines with no fluff.rdquo; Her: ldquo;I like Victorian architecture with lots of built-ins where I can display my hundreds of collectibles.rdquo; This is the first time the channel has specifically targeted this kind of demographic.

ldquo;The concept of Unspouse My House is totally different than anything wersquo;ve done before on HGTV,rdquo; said Loren Ruch, senior vice president, programming, projects and specials for HGTV in the announcement for the show. ldquo;Orlando Soria is an established designer whose online fans love his humorous, lighthearted take on home design. We believe the series will be a fun new addition to the HGTV lineup next year.rdquo;

No details yet on exactly when the show is going to premier in 2019 or exactly how it will be formatted, but we can tell you this:

bull; Per the >bull; Participate will need to provide the budget.
bull; Unlike so many shows that shoot in Canada, this one is based in Los Angeles, so, listen up, L.A. recently-single folks

Also, we checked out Soriarsquo;s Instagram and his work with Homepolish and we are feeling his casual, contemporary vibe. We also love the super-realness of his blog, like on this post from 2017 that he titled, ldquo;My Life Burnt to the Ground So Irsquo;m Building a New Onerdquo; in which he muses on having lost his job and being dumped at the same time. And now he has a design show about recovering from being dumped. Life, right?

Full Story >

Using Independent Contractors

Our legal documents require our Board approve an expenditure before it is incurred. For this reason, I am asking you 1 Do you think that the board should proceed with a legal opinion of our procedure for hiring contractors to work on our Common Element? 2 Can you give us an estimate of the cost that we would incur for you to proceed with this matter? Jimmy.

Answer: Jimmy. Thanks for asking for my assistance, but I do not mix my column writing with my legal practice. I am competent community association attorney in your area to assist you ndash; if you really need such assistance.

Frankly, I donrsquo;t think you have to spend any money on a legal opinion. It is ldquo;condo 101" ndash; or for that matter ldquo;common sense 101" ndash; that when anyone hires a contractor, he/she/it must be licensed in your state and must have proof of insurance.

The associationrsquo;s insurance agent ndash; who handles your master policy ndash; should be able to provide you with the guidance you need to protect the association, including all board members.

And when you hire a contractor, for jobs over an amount ndash; say 3000 ndash; a written contract must be entered into. Too many contractors use what I call the ldquo;two page specialrdquo;; it spells out a price, gives little detail as to the scope of work, and states that the association or the homeowner will be responsible for attorneys fees should they default in payment.

Thatrsquo;s not adequate. Good contracts can be obtained from the American Institute of Architects They should contain, at a minimum, 1 exactly what work will be done, 2 when it will start and when it is projected to be completed, 3 how payments will be made, 4 what rights do you have if the contractor is in default, and 5 should you litigate or arbitrate if there is a dispute -2- and in either situation, the prevailing party will be entitled to attorneys fees and costs.nbsp;

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What to Actually Look for When Buying a House

According to studies, 26 of people view their home once before buying it, while 43 viewed the property twice, 21 three times and 11 four or more times, proving that most house buyers feel the need to go back multiple times to make sure the house is right for them.

RubberBond have acknowledged how frustrating this can be, and have come up with a few graphics that outline EVERYTHING you need to consider when buying a home, looking at both the interior and exterior as well as the surrounding area, so you can simply refer to these any time you need to, and hopefully, yoursquo;ll only have to visit a property once to find out everything you need to know before you consider buying.


bull; Roof ndash; Age / Flat or Pitched / Missing Tiles
bull; Windows ndash; Double Glazing / Frame Cracks / Condensation
bull; Orientation ndash; Which way does the house face?
bull; Cracks ndash; Bricks / Plaster / Wood
bull; Extensions ndash; Is there any room for developments?
bull; Parking ndash; Garage / Drive / Road Side
bull; Weeds ndash; In particular, Japanese Knot Weed


bull; Attic ndash; Access / Space / Could it be improved?
bull; Power Points ndash; Where are they situated? What condition are they in?
bull; Cracks ndash; Plaster
bull; Damp
bull; Phone Service
bull; Safety ndash; What are the Locks like on the Doors and Windows?
bull; Floors ndash; Any unusual dips or sagging, especially in the bathroom
bull; Whatrsquo;s Included ndash; Fridge / Washing Machine
bull; Plumbing ndash; Are the pipes insulated?
bull; Storage Space
bull; Room Size ndash; Are they big enough and is there room to grow?

Surrounding Area

bull; Are you under a flight path?
bull; Dilapidated Buildings nearby?
bull; Is there a local Dump?
bull; Crime Rates
bull; Is there a reputable school nearby?
bull; Is there local transport nearby?
bull; Trees ndash; Could they block sunlight or views?
bull; Shops in walking distance
bull; Building work / scaffolding
bull; Pubs / takeaways / bars nearby

Image sources: RubberBond

Full Story >

Agency Mess Report: Are You Doing Enough?

When intent on delivering real estate services rated ldquo;excellent,rdquo; itrsquo;s not only what goes right that counts.

How you explain what you do and what clients can expect from you is an essential and valuable part of excellence.

What term do you use to describe and define your level of expertise and service delivery? If you donrsquo;t continually raise the service bar, what will stop yours from sliding down to ldquo;ordinaryrdquo; or lower?

Customers and clients expect consistent, committed professionalism from those who are licensed to trade real estate and who want to be well-paid for this service. On the other hand, real estate professionals expect to be paid to put buyersrsquo; and sellersrsquo; money and financial security at risk on their professional ldquo;say-so.rdquo; That is what licensed real estate professionals do, right?

ldquo;The Agency Mess,rdquo; a recent report by the Consumer Federation of America CFA, calls for state officials to improve and enforce agency law and to undertake a prohibition of dual agency, which is a situation where buyer and seller are represented by the same agent.

Do yourself a favor and read the 14-page ldquo;The Agency Mess: Home Buyer and Seller Confusion and Costs >

Three key misconceptions contribute to the Agency Mess and revolve around three vital questions that consumers must have clear answers to before launching into buying or selling:

1. Who is each real estate professional involved working for?

According to the reportrsquo;s author Stephen Brobeck, a CFA senior fellow researcher: ldquo;Today, many home buyers and sellers do not know whether their agent is representing their interests, those of the other party, or those of neither. Given the huge expenditure of a home purchase and the conflict of financial interests between seller and buyer, it is important that consumers know who their real estate agent is actually representing.rdquo;

Report Results: ldquo;Two-thirds of consumers believe that real estate agents are always or almost always required to represent the interests of the home buyer or seller with whom they are working.rdquo;

Report Solutions: ldquo;The report also includes advice to home buyers and sellers about dealing with a real estate agent. At the outset, both should ask the agent whether that agent will be representing their fiduciary interests, those of the other party in the transaction, or those of neither party as a transactional agent/facilitator. If their agent is not representing their financial interests, buyers and sellers should consider employing the services of an attorney.rdquo;

Business Building Insight: The problem is that ldquo;believe,rdquo; which really means ldquo;assumerdquo; not ldquo;knowrdquo; or ldquo;are positive,rdquo; is where the problem starts and, subsequently, the long-term referral process is undermined. Clear communication of whorsquo;s interests are being served is an important legal responsibility and an essential part of trust-earning sales.

2. Is state law understood and complied with by real estatenbsp;professionals?

ldquo;Every state has a law that requires real estate interests to disclose their >

Report Results: ldquo;The laws define agent roles - agent, subagent, transactional agent, designated agent, dual agent - that most consumers, according to the national survey, say they donrsquo;t understandrdquo;hellip;rdquo;The disclosures have not always been made conscientiously by agents according to past research and CFArsquo;s recent mystery shopper survey of listing agents in many states. These calls revealed that, when the caller asked if they could work with the agent, three-quarters of agents called failed to mention dual agency issues.rdquo;

Report Solutions: ldquo;These roles often do not serve the interests of home buyers or sellers. For example, a subagent working with a buyer owes fiduciary allegiance to the seller. And the term dual agent is an oxymoron. No one agent can represent the fiduciary interests of both buyer and seller. The effectiveness of the laws is diminished by the fact that these disclosures may be only required orally, may not require the use of a standard form, and may not be required at an early stage in the home purchase.rdquo;

Business Building Insight: Compliance is a legal requirement that also opens the door for >

3. How will laws and legal responsibilities be enforced to protect consumers?

ldquo;State officials have made little effort to enforce the disclosure laws. Violations usually only come to light when agent practices are so egregious that they lead to litigation. The ineffectiveness of the disclosure laws has harmed many consumers.rdquo;

Report Results: ldquo;The CFA report urges reforms that would greatly improve the content and timing of disclosures to home buyers and sellers. For example, it recommends that: 1 Dual agency be prohibited, as it is in eight states; 2 There be a clear written and verbal communication from agent to consumer at the first substantive contact about whether the agent will function as a fiduciary agent, a subagent, or transaction agent/facilitator; 3 State real estate commissions work both with consumer and industry representatives to develop an effective disclosure document then enforce its use. If they refuse, state attorneys general should take on this responsibility.rdquo;

Report Solutions: ldquo;These reforms would benefit both consumers and real estate agents,rdquo; noted CFArsquo;s Brobeck. ldquo;More informed home buyers and sellers will make better decisions. They will have a higher regard for, and complain less about, real estate agents. And agents will not face the risks and ethical dilemmas of dual agency and undisclosed subagency.rdquo; Further CFA research, advocacy, and development is planned at the state level.

Business Building Insight: Proactive activity at all levels of the real estate profession and industry will ensure improvements that are practical and beneficial for all parties concerned.

Self-Test: Do you see yourself in any of these CFA examples? Whatnbsp;actions by you ensured no ldquo;agency messrdquo; resulted?

1. Home buyers and sellers who think their subagents or transactional agents are fiduciaries have mistakenly believed that their agent is seeking, respectively, the lowest or highest house price.

2. Home buyers who think subagents are working for them often have disclosed information about their finances and house price ceilings that the subagents are legally required to share with sellers.

3. Home sellers working with fiduciary agents may face pressure to allow dual agency when buyers are interested in working directly with those agents. They may not understand that, under dual agency, their fiduciary interests are no longer being represented. They also may not understand that a [full] 5-6 percent commission captured by one agent usually represents very generous compensation for services rendered.

In real estate, the more you, the real estate professional, understand about the process and the profession, the more you will gain and the less you will lose.


Additional resource: Visit PJ Wadersquo;s blog ldquo;Whatrsquo;s Your Point?rdquo;

Full Story >

The Ultimate Guide to Using Ambient Scent to Sell Real Estate

For sellers within the residential and commercial real estate industries, clean, fresh smelling air translates into a positive first impression for potential buyers, and Air-Scent, a global leader within the ambient air-care industry, offers many odor control and commercial-grade air freshener solutions to help sellers and realtors transform their properties into desirable, fragrant nirvanas.

Successful realtors are learning every day how they can tap into the minds of potential buyers by thinking outside that proverbial box. They understand the hidden powers of persuasion that lay within the folds of the proper scent in the proper place ambient marketing. Studies indicate that despite the import of a home buying decision, buyers know right away whether or not they are interested in a particular property.

One report issued by the BMO Financial Group entitled: The Psychology of House Hunting indicated that within seconds of stepping inside a residence, a whopping 80 of prospective buyers know if a home is what they want. The theory is that research has not yet caught up to the speed in which the human mind processes sensory information.

There is a caveat here and it concerns attempting to fragrance a house or commercial property strategically without the help of outside ambient air-care professionals.

The impact of complex aromas such as potpourri, on a prospective buyer can actually be confusing and non-productive. There is also a fine perception line between a clean and a deodorized smell. Scented candles and plug-ins are alluring to many, but they can also turn off and/or distract a buyerrsquo;s inclination to make a decision.

Using Scent To Increase The Perceived Value Of Real Estate

Ambient marketing provides the highly competitive real estate agent with a way to diversify and stand out among cutthroat competitors. It offers that elusive and sought after extra edge of persuasion based on human olfactory capacities.

Ambient air-care specialists know how to harness this fact to a realtorrsquo;s advantage, no matter what type of property is up for sale. They understand that prospective buyers, whether high end residential or first time homebuyers, are also unconsciously seeking a reinforcement of their life>

According to scientists, we humans can detect at least one trillion diverse scents. One little key to understanding real estate sales is the realization that women are usually the main decision maker when it comes to real estate transactions. Can it be an accident that they have a better sense of smell than men?

In some ways, real estate sales can be compared to the success of a Broadway play. Staging, costumes, lighting and colorful sets please the audiencersquo;s all-seeing eye, but the right scent in the right place seduces viewers even more powerfully than a handsome protagonist or beautiful female in distress. Ambient scenting is anther sales-pitch; a new bag of tricks, so to speak.

One way a scent can work in selling a home or commercial space is to match the fragrance with the location. For example, a scenic home in the mountain that evokes the scent of fresh pine or cedar can evoke pleasant associations and emotions >

For a realtor with many listings, working with a company that specializes in creating marketable, proven, trend-worthy scents with an in-house fragrance manufacturing division can work very well with national and regional real estate companies.

A Texas-based home developer provides the best example of thinking outside that proverbial box. A few years ago, this developer broke sales records by matching fragrances to room themes in the model homes. This realtor even went so far as to challenge potential buyers to identify the fragrances they experienced. This approach could work anywhere.

In addition to the strategic placement of scents, creating a seasonal ambiance by varying chosen scents is an effective sales tool. Warm, winter vanilla, pine and cedar would not fit well in the warmer months of the year when lighter and fresher scents should be utilized.

Understanding That First Impression and The Halo Effect

Whether the property in question is a co-op, condo, office building or private residence, when it comes to realtors selling them, they all depend upon a positive first impression, whether it is generated by a salesperson, word of mouth reference, catalogue or reception area.

Coffee brewing and pie baking in an oven are often present at open houses because they are two aromas that are like no others when it comes to conjuring memories of home sweet home in the mindrsquo;s indelible eye.

For realtors to experience the sweet smell of success, ambient scenting is the most powerful selling tool in their arsenal. The perfect luxurious scent evenly diffused via commercial-grade, ambient scent marketing diffusers is a highly effective tool to gently trap potential buyers by influencing their perceptions about a property. Once that first impression takes hold, the halo effect comes into play.

This psychological phenomenon applies to all selling situations. It can be defined as a mental reaction to sensory information. An example would be the perception of positive qualities upon entering a pleasant-smelling lobby that then unconsciously and automatically gives rise to the discernment that an entire building has ldquo;nicerdquo; qualities. Research of the benefits of scent marketing also indicate that using scent cannot only close a sale on a property, it can also increase the perceived value of that home or commercial space by up to 100,000

Social psychologist, Richard Nisbitt, studied the halo effect back in the 1970s. His goal along with his colleague, Timothy DeCamp Wilson, was to demonstrate how little insight we actually have into the way our minds work. Their experiment which was titled: The Halo Effect: Evidence For The Unconscious Alteration of Judgments conducted at the University of Michigan, was focused on discovering human awareness of this powerful phenomenon.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Retailing was conducted by Eric Spangenberg, renowned researcher on olfactory cues in retail environments and the current dean of the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California-Irvine.

The study concluded that sales in retail stores decrease with the introduction of complex scents. While those buying homes are not in the retail orbit, they are still buyers and the findings are still viable. Blending vanilla with chocolate can artfully conjure memories of home, but they also require thought to identify, which interrupts decision-making.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he said: ldquo;When you are in the real estate business, you want someone to walk in and want to stay in the house, so you want the scent not to be overbearing, but familiar. You want to encourage revisiting because sometimes it takes several visits to decide to buy. And if you are stuck on baking scents, skip the chocolate chips in favor of a simple scented cinnamon bun. Some homes for sale are scented with a potpourri blend that may be very pleasant, but itrsquo;s just too complex...rdquo;

In another interview with the Wall Street Journal, Spangenberg stressed: ldquo;They are not there to process the smells. They are there to process whether this is a place they want to live.rdquo;

His study recommended using simple scents such as the following:

bull; Citrus

This category includes lemons and oranges primarily because they are clean and fresh scents and their fragrance lasts for longer periods of time than other fruits. They also induce energy and uplift moods making them ideal for residences, exercise centers, gyms and spas and office complexes.

bull; Herbs

Using scented herbs, such as rosemary, thyme or basil in a home slated for sale, particularly in the kitchen, will create a warm and welcoming feeling for potential buyers of residential real estate.

bull; Vanilla

Vanilla is a powerful memory inducer and it also renders a home or office cozy and warm. It should always be strategically placed in areas such as kitchens. For high-end residential properties, vanilla helps to create feelings of luxury and exclusivity.

bull; Green Tea

For commercial property developers, the crisp, lively aroma of green tea helps to restore harmony. Its clean and fresh properties are often appealing to first time homebuyers where price is the ultimate issue.

bull; Pine and Cedar

These two fragrances are complex and particularly effective in residential sales during the winter months. They work well because by nature they are easy to identify and less distracting.

Other scents that can heighten value perception include White Tea, Green Tea and Lemongrass, Sandalwood blends, Amber blends and Tonka Bean or clean fresh scents such as Green Bamboo, Fresh Breeze and Lavender Blossom to name a few. All of these are more effectively dispersed via commercial air fresheners that provide even, linear diffusion no matter how large or small the interior space.

In conclusion

A successful realtor must use ambient scenting to immerse every potential buyer, whether for a residential or high-end commercial property in a sensory adventure that will encourage him or her to imagine living, or working in that particular space.


Air-Scent International has well over 70 years of experience in manufacturingnbsp;commercial-grade, ambient scent marketing machines, high quality fragrance refillsnbsp;that are RIFM safe, pure and free from dyes as well as molecular vaporous odornbsp;neutralizing solutions for the enhancement of any-sized interior.

Full Story >

How Color Helps Sell Your Home

The color scheme of your home, from the outside in, sets the tone. Its like going to see a theatre play and seeing an intricately crafted and appropriately painted set for the production. It can immediately intrigue youndash;before the play has begun and even if you know few details about the play.

When it comes to color, be sure to consider the location. A peach-pink home in a retirement community might be okay, but that same color in an upscale, urban city may be unappealing to younger city dwellers.

The outside of your home is one of the largest areas potential buyers will see. So make your decision carefully and be sure to have a professional paint job done. If you choose white for the exterior, your home is likely to appeal to the masses, according to one study that indicated upwards of 40 percent of people liked white homes.

The great thing about a white home is you have plenty of options to make the home stand out by using an accent color for the trim. The downside is that white gets dirty very fast and shows it more than other colors. So before you list your home, make sure that you have a fresh coat of paint applied or pressure wash the exterior to bring back that newly painted look.

Also take into consideration the color of other homes on the block. Typically, white will not look out of place. However, if you had a purple home on a block where the homes are mostly beige and neutral colors, youll get noticed but wont likely get the kind of attention you want.

Beige with neutral-colored trim is another popular color scheme. Both beige and white are safe exterior colors. They dont turn buyers off.

Theres also been a trend to paint just the front door a deep, rich color like red. This may not be appealing to all. However, buyers would tend to overlook it because its a simple change as well as one that can easily and cheaply be changed to the new buyerrsquo;s choice. As long as the colors look good together, this wouldnt necessarily turn buyers away.

The paint inside your home is equally important. In fact, one good tip for sellers is that if they can do nothing else, they should get some fresh paint up on the walls. The new paint helps showcase the home and gives it a new-home feel.

There are a wide variety of interior colors. Dont feel like you have to go with only beige. You can be a little more daring, using bold accent colors. Just make sure the paint colors you choose dont give a dark, closed-in feeling. Aim to create comfort, a sense of calmness, >

For a more chic and sophisticated look, interior designers often choose from the grey palette. A dark grey color can create a bold statement and attract the eye to a particular area.

Whatever colors you choose, remember that your aim is to appeal to the masses. Test the colors out first. Get opinions from the experts.

Your real estate agent has likely been in hundreds of homes and can offer you some very good guidance.

Full Story >

How Do You Find a Good HVAC Company?

To find the best HVAC company, choose one with a history of positive online reviews, that offers a fast response time with free quotes, and that specializes in HVAC maintenance and repairs.

Before you call any heating and cooling contractor to visit your home or office, check out some quick suggestions for choosing the best HVAC company in your area. These tips will ensure your residential or commercial HVAC system is fixed as quickly as possible, and that you opt for the right upgrades and replacements when needed.

How to Find a Good HVAC Company

Some general contractors might be qualified to make minor repairs or perform some routine maintenance on a residential air conditioner or furnace or replace some parts of a commercial HVAC system, such as the wall thermostat. However, many general contractors are not as skilled as actual heating and cooling technicians when it comes to diagnostics, technical repairs, and upgrades to a residential or commercial HVAC system. If your furnace or air conditioner needs more than just a simple cleaning, hire a company that only performs HVAC repairs.

A history of positive online reviews is a good indicator that youll opt for the best HVAC company in your area. If a companys quality of work or response time were poor, they would probably have a history of negative reviews Whether you are in a smaller population market or a more competitive area like HVAC in Houston, when a companys HVAC customers take the time to leave a positive review for an installer or repair technician, this is a sure sign that they are >

The best HVAC company in your area will also offer a fast response time, and especially for emergencies. Successful air conditioning repair and maintenance companies will be able to maintain adequate personnel to meet the demands of local customers, including hiring more repair technicians during the middle of summer and winter, when air conditioners and furnaces suffer the most wear and tear. If a company cannot offer a prompt visit to your location, they might not be the best choice of HVAC companies for your needed repairs or maintenance.

What to Expect When You Need HVAC Repairs

High-quality HVAC systems often last for years, if not even decades, before they need repairs, so a homeowner or business owner might not know what to expect when they call an HVAC company in their area for service. Note a few tips that can ensure your call or request for a quote is as hassle-free as possible:

bull; Many technicians will ask detailed questions over the phone about the issues youre experiencing with a residential air conditioner or commercial HVAC system. For example, they might ask if you heard any odd sounds or noticed unusual smells before your unit stopped working and if any symbols or wording are flashing on the front of the thermostat. This type of information often allows the technician to pinpoint a potential problem even before they arrive at your location

bull; During the diagnostic and repair process, HVAC technicians might need complete access to your home or commercial property, to check for blocked ductwork or vents, leaks in the system, and areas of your home or office that seem overly hot or cool. All of these factors can indicate the repairs needed for a residential air conditioner or commercial HVAC system. Dont be surprised if the repair technician requests access to your homes attic or crawlspace or all the areas of your commercial facility

bull; A heating and cooling technician might recommend you replace your HVAC unit, even if he or she can make repairs. Improperly sized units suffer lots of added wear and tear and are likely to break down sooner than they should, and might not heat and cool your home or office sufficiently. A new unit will be more energy-efficient and offer more effective climate control throughout your structure.

During their visit, its also good to ask a heating and cooling technician for suggestions on how to keep your HVAC system functionally optimally. He or she might recommend erecting a barrier around the air conditioner condenser, to keep it clear of leaves and other debris. Consistent cleaning of a residential or commercial furnace will also remove dust and debris from its internal parts, reducing wear and tear.

Ductwork in a residential or commercial facility collects layers of dust and other unhealthy debris that then slows down airflow through a structures vents. Regular cleaning of that ductwork and attached vents removes unhealthy debris and reduces wear and tear on your HVAC system. These simple suggestions can extend the life of your HVAC system and even allow it to run more efficiently, saving you money on your heating and cooling costs


Is a larger or more powerful air conditioner the most effective for cooling?

An oversized air conditioner is less useful for cooling any structure, as larger A/C units will cycle off before they can remove humidity. Your home or office might then feel cold and clammy. Opt for the size A/C recommended for your structure, for maximum cooling and comfort.

How long does a residential air conditioner last?

The expected lifespan of every residential air conditioner will vary, but a heating and cooling technician can note if youre putting undue stress on your homes A/C unit, and then also make recommendations for ensuring that it is as energy-efficient as possible.

How much does it cost to get a furnace repaired?

Heating and cooling contractors often charge by the hour for repair work, as it might take several hours to pinpoint the area needing repairs. However, typical charges range from 160 to 400 in total, with average furnace repair costs totaling around 300.


nbsp;Andrew Young is the owner of Total HVAC Houston with 18 years of experience serving the greater Houston market. His team is ready 24/7 with affordable and effective HVAC products to suit the needs of his friends and neighbors.

Full Story >

Insurance and Animal Bites

Answer: Over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention CDC almost half were children. And 1 out of 5 bites become infected, with such diseases as rabies, MRSA ndash; a type of Staph infection, or different types of bacteria such as capnocytophaga or pasteu>

In fairness to dog owners, the CDC reported that during the early part of this century, more cats than dogs were determined to be rabid. ldquo;The majority of these cases were associated with spillover infection from raccoons in the Eastern United States,rdquo; CDC said, ldquo;and the larger number of rabies-infected cats might be attributed to fewer cat vaccination laws, fewer leash laws and the roaming habits of cats.rdquo;

Typically when a person is bitten ndash; and is infected or seve>

Because of the volume of claims, many insurance companies are now refusing to insure homeowners or community associations where certain brands of dogs are present. Dogs such as pit bulls, rottweilers, akitas and chow-chows are often labeled as ldquo;dangerousrdquo; and insurance companies will either exclude injuries from these dogs or significantly increase the annual premium. You should immediately confirm with your insurance agent whether your policy covers dog bites, and from all kinds of dogs.

For years, the law around the country was called the ldquo;one-bite rulerdquo;. Owners ndash; regardless of the kind of animal ndash; would only be held responsible and liable for injuries caused if the owner knew or should have known the dog has dangerous propensities abnormal to its >

Virginia still follows this rule. However, the owner may face criminal penalties if a ldquo;dangerous dogrdquo; causes injury or death. And all of the surrounding counties have some form of ldquo;leash lawrdquo;, requiring a dog to be on a leash at all times when outside of the home environment. Additionally, all dogs over four months old must be properly registered with the local county.

In the District of Columbia, dogs must be leashed, vaccinated and registered. The Mayor ndash; acting through one of her agencies ndash; has the power to impound a dangerous animal, defined as an animal that because of specific training or demonstrated behavior threatens the health or safety of the public. The ldquo;one-biterdquo; rule does not apply; if a dog injures a person while at large, lack of knowledge of the dogs vicious propensity will not necessarily be a defense; the court will look at all of the facts in order to determine if the owner was negligent.

Maryland has an interesting dog law history. In 2012, the highest court in the state ruled that pit bulls are ldquo;inherently dangerousrdquo; and such a dog owner could be held to strict liability in the event of a dog bite. According to the court, ldquo;it is not necessary that the pit bulls owner have actual knowledge that the specific pit bull involved is dangerousrdquo;.

Pit bull owners ndash; and many other dog lovers ndash; rose up in arms, claiming this law unfairly singled out specific breeds. Accordingly, the Maryland legislature enacted a law that in essence repealed the high court ruling, thereby adopting a strict liability approach for any dangerous animal. According to the new law, a dangerous dog is one, that without provocation, has killed or inflicted severe injury on a person. The law does, however, allow the dog owner to claim the defense of contributory negligence; the plaintiff cannot win if he contributed in any way to the dog bite.

Maryland is unique in that the state law governs the specific licensing and other regulations certain counties may adopt or enforce. And many of the local counties, have, in fact, determined certain dogs as ldquo;dangerous.

What can your association do? Adopt a rule that all dogs must be leashed when outside of the homeownerrsquo;s property, and require that all dogs register with the association, and show proof that the dog has been properly vaccinated. Furthermore, the rule should state that if any one is bitten by a dog, regardless of whether it was on a leash, the owner will be subject to a hearing and a possible fine. Furthermore, if any more incidents occur, unless the dog owner agrees to muzzle the dog when outside, the dog can be permanently removed from the area. In some cases, legal action may be necessary.

And most importantly, the Board should confirm that the association has the necessary insurance coverage. People sleep better knowing there is insurance.

In Maryland, the state dog is the Chesapeake Bay Retriever; the American Foxhound is the Virginia state dog. There is no such ldquo;Staterdquo; dog in Washington.

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How to Make More Sales in 2019 as a Real Estate Agent

The goal of every real estate agent or broker is to learn how to close more deals. The solution to this common problem in the real estate industry has two parts: 1 Getting more traffic, i.e., more leads, your way and 2 Closing the deals with them at a higher rate, i.e., enhancing your productivity. Here we offer you 8 absolutely practical and doable tips on how to tackle these two issues to give your career the boost it deserves in 2019.

1. Start Generating Qualified Leads Only

As a realtor, you already know that not all leads are created equal. Some have their finances figured out, have a mortgage pre-approval, know exactly what kind of house they want, and are ready to buy the moment you provide them with the right property. Meanwhile, others are just looking around, still exploring their financing options, and having no clue what home they want. The latter might need months or even years before they feel prepared to move forward with the purchase process.

If you want to increase your productivity as an agent, you have to focus on working with the former type of leads only, which means that you have to establish a lead generation and qualification system for your business. One option is to learn how to qualify the leads which come your way. You should put down a series of questions which you ask a client when they first approach you in order to understand how serious they are about the purchase. You need to be careful about the questions which you ask and the way you ask them because you donrsquo;t want to sound intimidating, condescending, or uninterested as thatrsquo;s the fastest way to lose leads and clients. Some questions you can ask nicely and politely include:

bull; Have you previously bought or sold a home?
bull; Whatrsquo;s your budget and what are your financing options? Do you need help in this regard?
bull; What type of home are you looking for? What size? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? What other features are you interested in?
bull; Whatrsquo;s the exact location where yoursquo;d like the house to be?
bull; Whatrsquo;s your timeline?

Another approach you can take is to sign up for a lead generation program. While paying for leads has many opponents in the real estate industry, thatrsquo;s one of the most efficient, fastest, and ndash; ironically ndash; cheapest time is money after all, right? way to grow your business, especially if you are still a new agent struggling with the tough competition for qualified leads. Of course, you should not just go for the first lead gen program which comes your way, as there are many of them out there. You should select one which allows you to evaluate and qualify the leads they send you and work only with those whom you consider fully qualified. This is the only way to guarantee satisfaction with the program.

2. Consider Working with Investors

Working with real estate investors is a frequently underestimated niche in terms of importance. However, if you are in search of qualified leads who will not only close deals faster but also close more deals, you should consider property investors.

A recent study by the National Association of Realtors Research Department nbsp;shows that currently people buying homes plan to live in them for a median of 15 years before moving to a new home, while 18 of homebuyers plan to not change their home at all. This means that generally speaking once you close a deal with a homebuyer, you cannot expect to do business with them any time soon, if at all. Letrsquo;s you do the math. If you stay in real estate for 30 years, you can only sell two houses to an average homebuyer.

Meanwhile, investors aim to buy as many properties as they can. They use the rental income and the appreciation from the properties they already own to add new ones to their real estate investment portfolios. This means that if you opt to specialize in working with investors, you are much more likely to have repeat clients than if you work with homebuyers. Many investors buy a new property every 2-3 years, while others purchase multiple properties every single year.

Another benefit of selling to qualified investor leads is that investors tend to close deals faster than homebuyers. They have no emotional attachment to the property, regardless of whether they are buying or selling. For them itrsquo;s all business, so as long as yoursquo;ve found them a profitable investment property property, they are ready to move forward. Some of them would not even want to see the property, provided that the rental property investment analysis looks good. In addition, property investors have more access to finances such as conventional mortgages, cash, equity, hard money lenders, private money lenders, syndication, crowdfunding, partnerships, etc. than homebuyers. Thatrsquo;s another reason why you can close sales faster with investors.

3. Focus on Referrals

Another strategy with which you can secure more sales in 2019 is to actively seek more referrals. Look at this as another way to get better qualified leads. Referrals could be clients you get from other agents or from other people you know. The first step in this regard would be to agree on and formalize a referral program with some of your colleagues in the area and beyond. This should be an agreement which is of mutual benefit.

Another thing you can and should do is to start keeping in touch with your past clients, particularly those who were very satisfied with the services which you provided to them. Put efforts into sending your past clients messages and cards on holidays or even randomly. They will appreciate the fact that you are still thinking about and remembering them even though you are not working together anymore. And the moment they are ready to buy or sell again or hear of someone else who is about to engage in a real estate transaction, you will be the first agent who will come to their mind. Keep in mind that these referrals will be highly qualified. This small investment in terms of your time will be worth every minute.

In addition, anyone who wants to succeed as an agent or a broker needs to start working on building a strong network from their day one in the business. This network should include other real estate professionals as well as random people who know about your business. Once again, the members of your network with soon start sending qualified leads your way.

4. Ace Your Digital Marketing Strategy

We live in the 21st century, and thatrsquo;s a fact. This means that most homebuyers or investor buyers will first check the internet before going to any other place when they need an agent to buy or sell with. What that means for you as an agent who wants to enhance the sales process in 2019 is that you need to build a strong online presence for yourself and your business. Start out by creating a specialized real estate website hire a professional to do that for you and publishing good content on it on regular basis, preferably daily. On your website you can not only promote your active listings but also showcase your successes, have testimonials from past clients, talk about the current state of the local housing market, and share local events and news. Donrsquo;t forget to make the best out of high-quality, professional-looking photos for any content which you publish.

However, having a good website will not be enough nowadays. You also have to have a strong presence on social media including all various channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, etc. Each one of those attracts a different audience and suits different types of content, so do good research on the topic and put together a social media strategy for your real estate business.

5. Become an Expert

No one can be the best real estate agent for every single type of property and all kinds of buyers and sellers across the entire state. Maybe early in your career it makes sense to try out a few different niches in order to find yours. But put efforts into selecting your own real estate niche >

6. Build a Real Estate Team

Once your business starts growing with more sales, you will need to build a strong team to support you in your day-to-day tasks. Building a team is not simply about hiring a few professionals and putting them to work together. It is about choosing the right individuals and helping them function as one. When you have different people taking care of different aspects of your business, this will push up your productivity and allow you to close deals faster and more efficiently.

7. Continue Learning All the Time

Donrsquo;t become one of those real estate agents or brokers who erroneously assume that the learning process ends the moment you get your license. To the contrary, being a successful agent is a never ending learning process. You should dedicate a special part of your budget to take >

Another crucially important part of the learning process is to always stay on top of trends in the housing market. You have to be extremely knowledgeable not only of the local real estate market but also of the national one, and even the international one. There are so many free sources of information and data out there that you simply have no excuse to remain ignorant.

8. Utilize Technology

The final thing which you should do in order to boost your productivity is to use the technology available to real estate agents. This refers to communication, customer >

If you feel ready to give your real estate career a boost this year, just follow the 8 tips above. In this way, you will soon start making sells faster and more efficiently and grow your business beyond your own targets.

Daniela Andreevska is Marketing Director at Mashvisor, a real estate analytics tool which helps real estate investors and agents quickly find lucrative traditional and Airbnb investment properties. A research process thatrsquo;s usually 3 months now can take 15 minutes. Moreover, we connect investors ready to buy a property with top performing agents in the local housing market.

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What Does a Benchmark Interest Rate Halt Mean for Homebuyers?

ldquo;Officials voted to hold their benchmark rate steady and delivered an about-face from their policy stance six weeks earlier,rdquo; said the Wall Street Journal. ldquo;Last month they raised their benchmark rate by a quarter percentage point to a range between 2.25 and 2.5 and signaled two more rate rises were likely this year.rdquo; Instead, the Fed just signaled they were going to slow down, applying patience to the equation.

Reaction was swift. Immediately following the Fedrsquo;s announcement, the stock market rallied. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 435 points and the Nasdaq rose by 155 points.

Impact on mortgages

So how will this surprising announcement affect homebuyers?

ldquo;Many people think mortgage rates are tied to the Fedrsquo;s short-term rate, but there isnrsquo;t a direct link,rdquo; said the New York Times. ldquo;Most 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are priced off the 10-year Treasury bond, which is influenced by a variety of factors, including the outlook for inflation and long-term economic growth here and abroad.rdquo;

While interest rates on mortgages arenrsquo;t necessarily a product of benchmark rates, consumer confidence certainly plays a role. A new CNBC report shows just how sensitive buyers can be to the slightest increase in mortgage interest rates. ldquo;Mortgage application volume decreased 3 percent last week from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association,rdquo; they said. This was in response to average interest rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rising ever so slightly, from 4.75 percent to 4.76 percent.rdquo;

Of course, ldquo;The biggest drop in application volume was for refinancing, which are most rate-sensitive week to week,rdquo; they saidmdash;and also the most impacted by benchmark rates.

Earlier expectations

Interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate conventional loans were expected to surpass 5 this yearmdash;a number that hasnrsquo;t been reached in yearsmdash;but it remains to be seen whether this will still occur. While industry experts were previously pretty unified in their predictions of where rates were going this year, theyrsquo;re largely conflicted now. In fact, they canrsquo;t even seem to agree on what will happen seven days from now.

ldquo;, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found the experts it surveyed were evenly split on where rates are headed,rdquo; said the Washington Post. ldquo;Half said rates will decrease, while the other half said rates will remain >
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Dont Do This on Your Own

All of those moving parts are beyond your mortgage lender including your real estate agent, an appraiser and other third parties yoursquo;ll never meet. Theyrsquo;re all needed to make sure the loan file is up to standards and meeting all lending guidelines.

Yet before all of this takes place the buyers speak with a lender, get preapproved and have an idea what they can qualify for. But a big mistake comes into play when consumers ldquo;prequalifyrdquo; themselves without the assistance of a loan officer. And thatrsquo;s where things can get a bit unwound.

So much so that the buyers decide not to buy because they visited a website somewhere, ran some numbers and found out they couldnrsquo;t qualify for the amount they needed to buy where they wanted to live. Donrsquo;t be those people.

Herersquo;s a scenario for you. A couple does more than their fair share of research about the neighborhood they want to buy in, the different types of loan options and the advantages of one over the other and more. Theyrsquo;ve spent quite a bit of time gearing up to go shopping for their first home.

One of the things they kept reading about was ways to save on mortgage interest. Because of this information they decided on a 15 year fixed rate loan. Then entered all their general information on a prequalification site, selected a 15 year loan but it showed the debt ratios were too high for an approval based upon the information submitted. Dejected, they gave up, resigned to being renters for a little longer.

But what a loan officer would have told them is there are other, longer loan terms with lower monthly payments that could qualify them for the home they really wanted. As a plus, the 30 year mortgage didnrsquo;t have any prepayment penalties, those are rare today anyway, so they could pay extra on the mortgage each month, just as if they had a 15 year term.

Another scenario can occur when someone gets a copy of their free credit score and see that itrsquo;s closer to 590 instead of 680 or 700. In this instance, that person again sat on the sidelines not knowing they could qualify for an FHA loan which would not only get them in the home but also help reestablish credit through timely mortgage payments. Therersquo;s no reason to try and fly solo when shopping for a home. Take advantage of the experience thatrsquo;s out there.

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How to Build a Window Seat, Easily and Affordably

ldquo;Whether your petite space needs some extra seating or yoursquo;re craving a cozy nook, the window seat is a functional solution to many aspects of home design,rdquo; said Elle Decor. ldquo;Top it with a plush throw or surround it with a table and chairsmdash;the window seat shines in many ways and wersquo;re not just talking about the magnificent natural light.rdquo;

This cozy addition is easier than you think to pull off. In fact, you can build a custom-looking feature easily and affordably, and the whole DIY thing can be created in less than an afternoon. For the sake of ease and expediency, wersquo;re concentrating on simple solutions using ready-made items like cabinetry, but if you want to build a window seat from scratch, you can get a good tutorial here.

It should also be noted that, while wersquo;re calling this a window seat, it could just as easily bring interest and functionality to any old nook or niche in need of a little love.

Here are our best tips:

Use pre-made cabinets

You may love the idea of a completely custom built-in, but do your DIY skills match up to the vision? Pre-made kitchen cabinets may be the answer. Look for wall cabinets, especially those intended to go over the refrigerator, because they have more depth. The traditional 12-inch depth of a wall cabinet wonrsquo;t give you much tush space, and base cabinets tend to be too tall.

In this video, you can learn how to turn IKEArsquo;s SEKTION over-the-fridge cabinets into a dining bench. The same idea can be used to create a window seat. Itrsquo;s up to you whether you want to create a base to go under the cabinets, to raise them above their 15-inch height. Standard seating height is about 18 inches, but you donrsquo;t have to go that high, especially if you are going to be using a thick cushionmdash;and if yoursquo;re not intending for this to be used at a dining table.

You can see what cabinets will look like without a base here. Personally we love the low, sleek look and the fact that no sawing is involved. These in-stock cabinets from Lowersquo;s are another option. They come in a variety of sizes and are already painted gray.

Use a toy box

If yoursquo;re OK with or if you prefer the idea of a lid you can lift up instead of cabinets to open, a toy box makes a great base for a window seat. This one from Wayfair is >

Use a bookcase

Flip this KALLAX shelving unit nbsp;from IKEA on its side and you have a bench with cubbies for storage. Even better, itrsquo;s super affordable, comes in several colors, and can be customized with a variety of drawers, doors, and other storage options.

Make your own cushion

Now itrsquo;s time to top it. You have a couple of options for a homemade bench cushion, and it really comes down to whether or not you can sew. If yoursquo;re a whiz on the sewing machine, you likely already know what you want to do, but this version with box corners keeps everything neat and clean.

If you donrsquo;t sew, yoursquo;ll want to become friends with the staple gun. In addition to your fabric and stapler, yoursquo;ll need foam, spray adhesive, and plywood. Dont freak out about the plywood; you can have it cut to size for free when you purchase it at Lowersquo;s or Home Depot. Now itrsquo;s just a matter of putting it all together. Get the full tutorial here and here.

Get fancy with a French mattress

You can also top your budget window seat with one of these beauties and no one will ever know itrsquo;s not an expensive, custom built-in. Unless yoursquo;re a master sewer, yoursquo;ll probably have to buy one retail or outsource this, and it can get pricey. Driven by Deacute;cor was quoted as much as 2,500 by a New York company If you dont get lucky with a great seamstress the way she did, check out Urban Outfitters. Wersquo;re so in love with their Rohini Daybed Cushion and the 119 price that wersquo;re trying to figure out how to fit a 74-inch bench in our breakfast nook.

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Turn Your Ugly Urban Backyard into Something Beautiful

If your yard includes the wall of the building next door, a dilapidated garage or parking pad, a lack of privacy, or if you hear vehicle noise, it may seem discouraging. But with proper planning, the negatives can be minimized or even become positives as part of a beautiful landscape design.

You just have to view them as opportunities, says Jennifer Hayman, landscape designer/owner of Jennifer Hayman Design Group in Toronto. ldquo;Look at the existing landscape and think of ways to make the most of it.rdquo;

Limited space is a common problem for many urban properties, so use every inch by creating multi-purpose areas. For example, redo a parking pad and use it as extra lounge, dining or sports court space when you are entertaining.

The old garage was renovated into a three-season covered loggia and secure, organized storage inside. The columnar beech trees were planted along the fence line for privacy. Photo: Jennifer Hayman Design Group

Therersquo;s a trend to demolish neglected, full-to-the-brim-with-junk garages and rebuild them to provide not only organized storage areas, but sitting, dining or hang out spaces. Whether creating a tween or teen retreat, a she shed or a man cave, itrsquo;s all about maximizing space thatrsquo;s already there, the landscape designer says. ldquo;Real estate is valuable.rdquo;

If the garage is in reusable shape, remove two walls to convert it into a loggia or replace a wall with sliding doors to open it to the outdoors.

If you have another building at the back or side of the yard, put the wall to good use by planting some trees in front of it. Add up lighting.

At night, the light and shadows from the trees against the wall will create a warm ambiance.

Another idea, Hayden says, is to build a free-standing childrenrsquo;s art wall or chalk board in front of it, or if you have permission from the buildingrsquo;s owner, adding a mural may perk up your backyard space.

Use trees to provide privacy from tall buildings. In one of her projects, Hayman planted a row of cedar trees down each side to provide privacy and add a touch of green. Cedar trees also help muffle street noise.

The sound of trickling water is another way to dull the din. She says smaller budgets can employ a ldquo;plug and play fountainrdquo; while larger projects could include everything from water falls to reflecting pools. It doesnrsquo;t have to be a pond. One backyard she designed has a reflecting pool with floating light-up spheres to create nighttime drama.

Grade changes donrsquo;t have to be leveled. ldquo;Itrsquo;s not a good use of money,rdquo; she says. Use the different levels to create different zones. However, care needs to be taken to ensure water doesnrsquo;t flow from your backyard into the neighborsrsquo;.

If the existing landscape requires lots of maintenance, a new plan with low-maintenance plants and materials can help reduce the attention it needs. Drought-resistant plants that need less watering are one way to reduce the work. ldquo;You can choose materials that are low maintenance, but remember you canrsquo;t achieve no maintenance,rdquo; she says.

Hayman is a certified Fusion Landscaping Professional. ldquo;Fusion Landscaping combines the art and science of horticulture with the science of hydrology to design, build/install and maintain esthetically pleasing, water-efficient landscapes,rdquo; says the Landscape Ontario website. ldquo;These landscapes use established design principles including form, function and the environment to optimize lot level storm water management and enhance the environment.rdquo;

Boardwalk steps over reflective pond and down to garden at lower level. Photo: Jennifer Hayman Design Group

Landscape Ontario, the Region of Peel and Municipality of York combined forces to create the Fusion Landscaping Professional program.

Rain gardens, for example, include plants that can take both lots of water at once but also survive drought conditions, says Hayman. The rain garden is designed so water percolates into the ground instead of on to streets and into sewers.

Incorporating green space is always a good idea. Toronto is a heat island because there is so much concrete.

The city has percentages allowed for hard and softscaping so itrsquo;s important to check your local bylaws. Zoning and building department bylaws are something a designer can help with, she says.

Have a professional plan done and approved before construction starts to help optimize your budget. Otherwise, costs can be quickly eaten up on expensive changes made once construction begins.

Having a plan also reduces stress for everyone involved. Ditto for permits. Many contractors wonrsquo;t work without a permit and a plan with design materials and quantities that have been approved by the homeowner, she says.

If yours is a big job, you may also want to consider 3-D plans, which make it easier to see what the project will look like when itrsquo;s finished.

You can ldquo;walkrdquo; from point A to point B and live inside the space without it being built, she says. ldquo;Itrsquo;s a great tool for contractors to have too so they can understand the landscape designerrsquo;s vision. If yoursquo;re doing all the bells and whistles, spending 1,500 to 2,000 on 3-D is a fraction of the cost of making construction changes.rdquo;

Expect to answer a lot of questions as the landscape designer gathers information to determine the scope of work, the challenges, your needs and wants, and what can be achieved yoursquo;re your budget.

After a site analysis, a design is created and presented to the homeowners for feedback. Upon approval, quotes are requested from contractors.

Hayman provides her clients with a vetted list of contractors, chosen based on their skill set. ldquo;I match the project to the contractor to the homeowner,rdquo; she says. Start three, six or even 12 months ahead of construction, she says, because ldquo;contractors who are skilled, competent and strong book up early.rdquo;

Remember, there are lots of ways to turn your backyard lemons into lemonade.

Full Story >

Agent with Heart Kellie Bradt Kicks Off 2019 By Giving Back

Kellie Bradt of RG Realty Group in Coon Rapids, MN has made three generous donations. The first was to the Bhutanese Community Organization of MN on behalf of her client, Narendra Katel, the second was to the American Cancer Society made on behalf of her clients, Jeff and Tracy Gierman, and the last was made to Beyond Walls Urban Squash Twin Cities, made on behalf of Tory Johnson.

ldquo;Kellie is a dedicated Agent with Hearttrade; who is continuously giving back on behalf of her clients,rdquo; said Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. ldquo;We are truly honored that she has chosen our platform as a means to give back, and commend her for her incredible dedication to making a difference in her local community. It is because of agents like Kellie that we are able to assist nonprofits across the country, and I would like to personally thank Kellie for working to make a difference in her own community,rdquo; concludes Mr. John Giaimo.

About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the Agent with Heart program, real estate agents agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their commission from a home sale or purchase to the nonprofit of their clientrsquo;s choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit

To contact Kellie Bradt, please call 651-269-8435 or visit

Full Story >

2018s Fastest-Growing Housing Markets

Las Vegas, Nevada

Home prices are projected to rise 7.9 in 2019, but the demand for houses might not follow. At the end of November 2018, approximately 7,000 single-family homes were listed without offers, up 54 from the previous year.

Rising interest rates, skyrocketing prices and a surplus of inventory will likely create a housing market thatrsquo;s favorable for buyers in 2019.



Atlanta, Georgia

Home values rose 13.3 in 2018, second only to Las Vegas. While the Las Vegas sellers market is starting to slow, many experts predict Atlantarsquo;s market will continue outperform the national average.

Homes in Atlanta are extremely affordable valued around 215,000 in November 2018, and housing inventory was down in 19.7 from the previous year. Buyers should expect competition, even as the overall U.S. housing market cools.



Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis is quickly becoming a favorite city for real estate investors. A booming economy and strong job market helps support a healthy housing market for sellers.

Home values increased 12.7 in 2018 according to Zillow, yet the average home value was only 161,600 in November 2018. Affordable, reasonable Midwest home prices attract investors and first-time home buyers, while shrinking inventory ensures strong demand.



Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, ranking 22nd on U.S. Newsrsquo; ldquo;Best Places to Liverdquo; list, attracts a young, hip demographic thatrsquo;s starting to enter the housing market. The thriving city saw a 11.48 increase in home values over 2018.

However, Zillow estimates home values wonrsquo;t see such dramatic increases in 2019 estimated at a 4.5 increase year over year.



San Jose, California

While other tech-centric real estate markets, such as Seattle, have been slowing down in recent years, San Jose was just named the hottest housing market in the U.S. for both 2018 and 2019.

Zillow estimates home values will increase a whopping 19.22 in 2019. As tech companies flock to the area and salaries continue to rise, the San Jose real estate market will remain incredibly competitive for buyers.



About the Author: Tommy Orsquo;Shaughnessy is a Research Analyst at Clever Real Estate who conducts surveys, analyzes data and studies trends to understand the real estate market.

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Its a Whole New Zestimate as Zillow Announces 1 Million Winners - Or Is It?

Forbes commented last year that, ldquo;Online home value estimators are far better than they were a few years ago but they arent comparable to value estimates made by professional appraisers. Theyre great data points for home sellers to have as long as they realize that online home value estimates are just ballpark estimates.rdquo;

Zillow says their current median error rate on pricing accuracy is 4.5mdash;more in places like Seattle, where Zillow is headquartered and where the error rate is up to 4.7, ldquo;which amounts to 35,000 on the median home,rdquo; said the Seattle Times. Still, some remain incredulous. The Balance recently took a look at four real-world sales in central California to draw comparisons with their Zestimate:

bull; One property in Midtown Sacramento had a Zestimate of 380,733 and ldquo;sold at 349,000, after almost 6 months on the market, with plenty of exposure. In this case, the Zillow estimate was about 9 percent too high.rdquo;
bull; The second was a custom waterfront property in Sacramento with a Zestimate of 983,097 that sold for 1,085,000, 10 percent above Zillowrsquo;s number. ldquo;If the sellers had >bull; House No. 3 was near the University of California, Davis. ldquo;Zillow valued that home at 1,230,563, but it sold for 1,495,000. That Zestimate was more than 20 percent too low.
bull; The fourth home, in Elk Grove sold for 565,500, 16 percent more than its Zillow estimate of 488,711.

1 million on the line

To address discrepancies in home values and improve upon their algorithm, Zillow launched a contest two years ago that attracted data scientists from around the world.
They just announced the winners; Team ChaNJestimate, comprised of Moroccan Chahhou Mohamed, American Jordan Meyer, and Canadian Nima Shahbazi will split the prize money.

But, before you get too excited, consider this: ldquo;On average, Zillow said, the Zestimate is 10,000 off the actual sale price for a median-priced home of about 223,900, and the information gleaned from the Zillow prize winnings could shave 1,300 off that discrepancy,rdquo; said MarketWatch. ldquo;It also moves the Zestimatersquo;s national median error rate below 4.rdquo;

So, if the current Zestimate really is at 4.5, wersquo;re not looking at a ton of improvement. It begs the questions: Was it worth the million? Will we really get beneath 4? Would that be an acceptable error rate if we did?

Weigh in with your thoughts. Has this changed the way you think of Zestimates? Will they ever get to the point where they represent a real home value?

Full Story >

Think Curb Appeal When Remodeling to Sell

Some updates will return as much as they cost in hotter markets, but unless your home is in a rapidly inflating city, you may not get enough bang for your buck.

But the lesson isnt to avoid remodeling your home. Its to rethink your expectations. Do you want to enjoy your updates for a few years? Or do you want to make your home more immediately appealing to homebuyers?

If youre remodeling for your own household, updating a home has a legitimate purpose that is unquantifiable. When you add square footage, update systems and fixtures, or rearrange traffic flow, you improve the functionality of your home. Refreshing wall colors, window coverings, and flooring adds to the beauty and enjoyment of your home. Many would consider that money better spent, and if you decide to sell in a few years, youll be ahead of the game in terms of updates that will appeal to homebuyers.

But if youre remodeling strictly for the next buyer, theres some risk. Will you choose the right elements to appeal to the next buyer? What if they dont share your taste or appreciate the areas where you allocated your remodeling budget?

Start with what absolutely has to be done, whether you plan to stay in your home or not. You may be tempted to put off replacing the roof for an average of nearly 20,000, because Remodeling Magazine says it will only return approximately 72 percent of costs. But a new roof could make the difference in whether or not an FHA or VA buyer can buy your home and pass government inspection.

Otherwise, stick to smaller updates that can yield big impacts in terms of curb appeal, safety and building integrity. The top five cost-to-value projects that netted the most return in 2015 were:

  • Replacing the front door with a 20-guage steel door - 102 percent.
  • Manufactured stone veneer -- 92. 2 percent
  • Fiber-cement siding -- 84.3 percent.
  • Garage door replacement -- 82.5 percent
  • Wood window replacement -- 78 percent.
  • As you can see, the most lucrative projects for resale were all about curb appeal. Seal the deal with a new welcome mat, new sconces to complement the new steel door, and potted plants for color. Wow your buyers on the outside and theyll be more likely to choose your home over the competition.

    Full Story >

    A Picture of Productivity: Real Estate Agents as Models for a Model Home

    To capture that image on film, or to film that image as a video for prospective clients to watch, is an investment every real estate agent should more than consider; it is an investment they must make, if they want to further personalize their services and establish a bond with viewers. Put another way, a studio is more than a space for agents to list or an area for tenants to rent. It is a place for agents to communicatemdash;visually and verballymdash;on behalf of the work they do and the properties they represent.

    According to Sergey Kostikov, Founder and President of FD Photo Studio, a photography studio is a universal place. That is to say, it is a place open to transformation and interpretation. It can be a fashion showroom or a place to fashion a storymdash;to tell a story in pictures or through motion picturesmdash;so the viewer may >

    Telling that story is easier than ever, thanks to a reduction in costs without a reduction in quality.

    Thanks to making the essentials both accessible and affordable, photographers no longer have to avail themselves of a search that yields the unavailable. Not when choosing and booking a studio is simple. Not when a studio has what a photographer needsmdash;including lights, equipment, modifiers, Wi-Fi, and moremdash;to start and finish a shoot. Not when a studio is the medium a real estate agent needs to create and send a message.

    The sooner real estate agents do for themselves what they have donemdash;and continue to domdash;for the properties they represent, the better. What they do outside a house, they must also do inside a photography studio: introduce themselves. They should say what they believe and promise to do, not because they should tell us what we want to hear, but because they should never not tell us what we need to know.

    What we need to know is more.

    We need agents to speak to us through pictures. We need them to inform and inspire us. We need them to be agents of changemdash;people who lessen the stress of a change in housingmdash;so their clients can more readily turn a house into a home. We need them to be our allies, advocates, and business associates.

    We need their guidance, now more than ever.

    Full Story >

    New Home Training Needs a Good Dose of Salt, Part 2

    Realtorsreg; understand what is going on in their markets. They know Realtorsreg; who are making huge commissions working with new homes and new condominium communities.

    But the vast majority of the 1.3 million members of the National Association of Realtorsreg; have no taste for working with new construction.

    Studies show that Realtorsreg; donrsquo;t want to wait for their presale commissions, they resist not being able to negotiate the price, and opinion they would not know how to find the right new home for a new home prospect if they had one.

    So what is the solution to these concerns and fears? Offer training that teaches construction? Offer tours of construction sites? Lunch and learns?

    Unfortunately, a major study commissioned by Builder Homesite Inc said that 63 of the 3002 Realtorsreg; interviewed felt that builder training was ineffective. It did not say why.

    Excuse me for asking, but why should homebuilders be teaching Realtorsreg;? Should not Realtorsreg; be teaching Realtorsreg;? And, uh, why would a Realtorreg; need to know construction to introduce a new home prospect to the builder? What Realtorsreg; need is a clean car and a GPS if they donrsquo;t know how to get to sales centers.

    But wait, what would Realtorsreg; teach Realtorsreg;, especially when there is no thirst to do such a thing?

    ldquo;He who controls the inventory controls the marketrdquo; was the baseline philosophy of the Multiple Listing System until 2012 when and BDX partnered to offer home builders something they wanted and needed for a long time- access to the MLS without having to list their new homes inventory. BDX provided the new homes inventory feed, and 28 MLS associations around the country now access the same feed.

    At this point, something critical started to change the culture. Inventory access was available via the Internet to shoppers as well as Realtorreg; and buyers for both new homes and resales started contacting Realtorsreg;.

    A 2018 NAHB report showed that 38 of these shoppers up from 35 in 2013 are undecided, meaning they will buy a new home or a resale. This forced the Realtorreg;, ready or not, to start serving the needs of new home shoppers in addition to resales, especially now that they have access to new Home inventory.

    Homebuilders understood the lsquo;undecidedrsquo; market five years ago when the number reported was 35 and immediately targeted this market segment to convince resale shoppers to buy new homes.

    Realtorsreg; seem to understand the need for new homes training of some kind, but no one seems to be thirsty enough to take even a swig at meaningful new homes training. Those that do recommend learning construction and lsquo;stopping by some sales centersrdquo; it seems.

    The ldquo;trainingrdquo; reality should be obvious.

    The training needed is not about the builder

    It is not about the builderrsquo;s homes

    It is about the Realtorreg;.

    Realtorsreg; need a large bucket of myth-busting truth to help them overcome their wrong assumptions, negative thinking, and costly no-training approach to working with new home buyers, builders and onsite sales teams.

    To understand the need is to understand why more Realtorsreg; are not thirsty enough to attend builder events or get involved with new home shoppers.

    Especially, when the builder is providing the one thing Realtorsreg; need most: saleable inventory.

    Itrsquo;s a shame because from a practical standpoint, new homes are the easiest to sell and close. The builder provides the most saleable inventory on the market.nbsp; Many production builders offer a service that recommends which homes to show, sets the appointment at the onsite sales center, and registers the prospect on the phone. Only a small percentage of Realtorsreg; heard about this service, which has been around about 15 years.

    More than 50 percent of the 244 completing a New Home Co-broker Academy survey said they did not know that there is an important exception to the builderrsquo;s ever-present lsquo;first-timersquo; registration policy. Knowing how to resolve this one issue can be worth thousands in commission.

    The deeper problem is the fact that the Realtorreg; community does not know for a fact what to train or how to train its agents. Nor is it a priority.

    The solution: Provide an affordable online course with an exam that any agent in any state can take that quells their resistance to sell new homes and creates a thirst to serve new home shoppers at the same level they serve resale prospects.

    Once agents understand the benefits of adding the one thing they need most, saleable inventory, to their resalenbsp; showings and how easy it is to do, they will become more willing participants in new home events.-and sales.

    nbsp;Once they get a taste of a new home sale, with the builder writing the contract and providing transaction management, they will thirst for more,nbsp;



    Full Story >

    Ask the HOA Expert: Emailed Minutes, Proxy as Board Member, Forming an HOA

    Answer: Unless there is a requirement in your governing documents or state law to mail communications, using a website and email are marvelous ways to economize, improve and expand HOA communications. Since the majority of your members already have the ability to receive information by email, converting them should be >


    Question: At a recent annual meeting, a unit owner gave his proxy to his daughter who voted on behalf of her father. However, the daughter was nominated by another unit owner to run for the board and was actually voted in. Our governing documents say that only owners can be board members.

    Answer: Since the daughter is not an owner, she was not eligible to run for election or serve on the board. The proxy allowed her to vote on behalf of her father only, nothing more. This error should be corrected immediately.


    Question: A unit owner asked for permission to enclose his carport space like a garage. Is that okay?

    Answer: There are several concerns:

    1. Carports are not built to the same structural standards as garages.
    2. Since there are no side walls, carport spaces are typically narrower than what would be necessary for a garage door.
    3. Installing side walls on one carport space would restrict maneuvering for the neighbors.
    4. Will there be power and heating issues? If so, how will utilities be provided without the HOA paying for them?
    5. This will set a precedent that is likely to encourage other similar requests.

    While the desire for additional security and storage is understandable, carports are not designed to become garages and installing one would adversely affect the neighbors and curb appeal. The many downsides point against this kind of precedent.


    Question: I bought a home in a 27 lot subdivision several years ago. Now, some of the owners are talking about forming an HOA. Do I have to join or obey their rules if I dont? Am I grandfathered in?

    Answer: You cannot be forced to join a proposed homeowner association after you have bought already in. Homeowner associations are mandatory membership organizations that exist before you buy in. If you buy property in a pre-existing homeowner association, you are automatically subject to its authority.

    If what your neighbors are proposing is a voluntary organization, you can join or not join as you please. If you donrsquo;t, the organization has no legal authority over you or your property.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

    Full Story >

    Why Marie Kondo Is Fueling Our Thrifting Goals

    ldquo;As the phrase goes, one persons trash is another persons treasure. And thanks to a new Netflix show, it seems a lot of treasure is showing up at thrift stores at the moment,rdquo; saidnbsp;Bustle. ldquo;As reported by BuzzFeed, Marie Kondo is responsible for an increase in thrift store donations made in light of her Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.rdquo;

    Ravenswood Used Books in Chicago said on Facebook that they ldquo;took in a months worth of books in 2 daysrdquo; because Marie Kondos show and ldquo;Leah Giampietro, a manager of a Beacons Closet consignment store location, told CNN that January is usually a slow time for people coming in to sell clothes, but that theyve gotten a ton of items this month,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Philly AIDS Thrift in Philadelphia had three people in one day come in with donations and specifically cite the show as the reason, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.rdquo;

    You know what this means: Itrsquo;s time to go thrifting Before you leave, review our curated list of the best things to buy at thrift stores.


    ldquo;If I donrsquo;t find anything at the thrift store, I almost always find a book or two. Childrenrsquo;s books are usually my favorite,rdquo; said Making Home Base. ldquo;You can find the sweetest vintage childrenrsquo;s books that are gently used and in great condition. Additionally, I look for books that have uniquely colored covers to use in decorating.rdquo;

    MoneyCrashers adds that, while individual books are typically not worth a lot of money, ldquo;Book lots traditionally sell very well at online auction sites. Take for example a set of lsquo;Harry Potterrsquo; books: Used box sets in good condition both paperback and hardcover sell for around 30 to 50 on eBay, and you can find them considerably cheaper if you happen to snag a set in the thrift store. Other popular box sets include lsquo;Anne of Green Gables,rsquo; lsquo;The Lord of the Rings,rsquo; lsquo;The Hunger Games,rsquo; and lsquo;Little House on the Prairie.rsquo; Even if you find just one or two books from these box sets, they can bring in more than a typical paperback, since collectors could be looking to add to their current library.rdquo;

    Wood furniture

    ldquo;Looking to upgrade your particle board living room set? Thrift stores are a great place to score solid wood furnishings at bargain prices if yoursquo;re watching your wallet,rdquo; said Mental Floss. ldquo;Even if you dont end up finding your vintage dream piece, items that are more grandma than retro-glam can still be transformed with paint, varnish, and brand-new fixtures.rdquo;

    Small Appliances

    ldquo;Have you always wanted a bread maker but arenrsquo;t sure how often yoursquo;ll use it? Buy it at a thrift store. Yoursquo;ll save a lot of money and it gives you a chance to try an appliance before investing in a more expensive model,rdquo; said Sparkles of Sunshine. ldquo;Some small appliances Irsquo;ve tried from thrift stores include a cupcake maker, pancake maker, waffle iron, popcorn popper and dessert machine. Irsquo;m so glad I only spent 10 to find out I wouldnrsquo;t use 60 worth of appliances All it took was one trip back to the thrift store to clear the clutter and give someone else a chance to eat popcorn and dessertrdquo;


    ldquo;Especially vintage dishes,rdquo; said Duct Tape and Denim. ldquo;Do some researchrdquo;mdash;some brands can be really valuable.


    ldquo;Buying mirrors at thrift stores is another money saver,rdquo; said Making Home Base. ldquo;Framed mirrors make your space feel bigger so they are the ultimately accessory for your walls. That said, framed mirrors are expensive 50 is about the going rate. You can save big bucks by finding one at a thrift store.rdquo;


    Candle holders, vases, and things like baskets and trays can cost almost nothing and add considerably to your deacute;cor. ldquo;Irsquo;ve had to ground myself from buying anymore baskets, buckets, and trays because I find so many cute ones all the time,rdquo; said Blessrsquo;er House. ldquo;Use baskets for extra small storage around the house, buckets for planters, and trays for coffee table decor.rdquo;


    ldquo;Glassware is long-lasting, so you can probably find a ton of it at your local thrift store,rdquo; said MoneyCrashers. ldquo;However, the difference between just another set of glasses and those that can generate real buyer interest is in their status as collectibles. Glassware lovers enjoy vintage Pyrex cookware, as well as glass in different shapes and colors, so keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. If you canrsquo;t find cool blue glass or decorated cookware, look for full glass sets. A set of tumblers is usually more of a local seller than mismatched glasses listed one-by-one online.rdquo;

    Full Story >

    Termites: A Gnawing Problem

    Termites -- or other so-called ldquo;wood boring insectsrdquo; -- can wreck havoc to both your home and your pocket book. Many parts of the country are affected by termites, and every homeowner -- or potential homeowner -- must be aware of the problems and the solutions.

    Since the late 1980s, when environmental concerns stopped the use of such chemicals as chlordane and heptachlor which had been proven effective to curtail termite activity, termite damage has been on the rise.

    Accordingly, most mortgage lenders insist on receiving a letter -- a certificate -- from a licensed termite inspection company indicating the house is free of active infestation. And even if your lender does not so insist, all potential homeowners must require their sellers to either furnish this certificate or allow the purchaser to obtain it -- before closing takes place on the house.

    Most states -- and many real estate agents -- have form contracts for the purchase and sale of real estate. Here is suggested language, which should be incorporated into any such sales contract:

    Seller warrants at the time of settlement that all dwellings and/or garages within the Property excluding fences or shrubs not abutting garages or dwellings are free of visible termites and other wood-destroying insects, and free from visible insect damage. The PurchaserSeller acceptable to the lender from a pest control firm. Required extermination and repairs shall be at the Sellerrsquo;s expense.

    In some contracts, the purchaser is required to pay the cost of this inspection. But regardless of cost -- this is too important an issue to ignore.

    Termites also known as white ants feed on the cellulose in wood. In some areas, property owners often find subterranean termites. These little devils hide below ground so as to obtain adequate moisture, but come to the surface to eat. The surface is the wood touching the damp ground. Termites create corridors in this wood, and then move freely through these passages happily eating their way, seeking additional food, moisture and shelter.

    Whether you are a buyer or a seller, you must carefully review the sales contract clauses dealing with termites. Here are some suggestions to be considered:

    1. Some sales contracts only refer to an inspection of the house. If this is the case, make sure that you add "garage and accessory buildings" to the language. The house may be termite free, but the garage may be completely infested.

    2. Watch out for language which only requires the inspection of ldquo;accessiblerdquo; or ldquo;visiblerdquo; areas. This often will not include basement crawl spaces or other inaccessible areas, which unfortunately carry the greatest risk of infestation.

    3. Demand that the termite company making the inspection provide a one year warranty against termite infestation. Some companies will offer such a warranty; others will not. Additionally, it is strongly recommended that after the buyer goes to settlement, the warranty be continued on a year-to-year basis. The cost for this should be nominal. This will not only give the new owner continued peace of mind, but will probably save a lot of time and money if and when the property is again put on the market for sale.

    4. If the termite inspection company finds damage caused by termites, often that company will also want to make the necessary corrections. Insist on obtaining at least two or three bids for any such work before authorizing the termite company to proceed. I have seen too many sellers pay sizable termite repair bills at settlement without having any opportunity to obtain comparable estimates.

    Finally, a note of caution. Many people buy firewood from strangers who drive around neighborhoods trying to make a sale. Beware and be cautious of this wood; it may contain termites. If you put the wood near your fireplace -- or rest it against the side of your property-- you may find those little creatures starting to eat into your most valuable investment: your house.

    Full Story >

    How to Pay for Winter Storm Damage If You Dont Have the Cash Right Now

    4 steps to assess your homersquo;s damage

    Before you worry about the cost, itrsquo;s always a good idea to inspect your home carefully to gauge the extent of the repairs needed. Get your smartphone out and document any damage, as that can help speed up your insurance claim if you file one.
    1. Walk around the exterior of your house
    Scan the perimeter of your home. As yoursquo;re scanning, look for things like missing shingles or bricks from your chimney that may have fallen to the ground from the storm.

    2. Check the roof
    Walk to your backyard and front yard to get a view of the roof.

    3. Check the attic
    If you have an attic, see if there are any water stains on the ceiling or walls.

    4. Call a professional
    Get the damage inspected by a professional so you can accurately figure out how much it will cost.

    This person may also be able to answer questions around repairs that may be covered by homeowners insurance or home warranty policy if you have one. Certain causes of storm damage such as wind, hail and lightning could be covered by homeowners insurance. Call your insurance or warranty company to see if yoursquo;re covered.

    Options to help cover the cost of repairs

    If yoursquo;re quoted a price thatrsquo;s well out of your means, what can you do? Some options include:

    1. Borrow money from The Bank of Your Parents, if they are even in a position to help you out. But letrsquo;s be honest, mixing money and family could be a disaster and added stress on top of the stress you already feel from the damage to your home. Next optionhellip;

    2. Turn to your credit cards mdash; but keep in mind yoursquo;ll have to deal with the interest rate. The average new credit card APR is 19 percent. If you used 10,000 to fix your roof with that 19 percent APR, and only made minimum payments to pay it off in 5 years, you could end up paying over 5,000 in interest Next option...

    3. Apply for a personal loan, which often has lower interest rates than a credit card. Some online lending platforms have interest rates as low as 7 percent. That same 10,000 roof repair with a 5 year loan may only cost you about 1,880 in interest, rather than 5,000. Thatrsquo;s a huge saving

    Details of personal loans

    The word ldquo;loanrdquo; can sound scary, but people use personal loans to pay for medical bills, purchase a car, pay off taxes, pay weddings, go on vacations and even cover the cost of Christmas presents.

    Personal loans must typically be repaid within one to five years. Keep in mind the rate and loan amount may be contingent on your credit and overall financial standing.

    What kind of credit do you need for a personal loan?

    If you have good credit, personal loans can work to your benefit because they are typically unsecured. This means the loan approval is based on creditworthiness, rather than collateral mdash; so you wonrsquo;t need to put your home or car on the line in order to get the loan.

    However, times are changing and some lending platforms are no longer looking at credit as the only factor. They may consider your education, area of study, and job history to get a better picture of your risk factor.

    Bottom line

    Even if your home doesnrsquo;t have significant damages, have a plan for how yoursquo;ll cover expenses in the event of an emergency. If you donrsquo;t have the cash on hand, a personal loan may be your best bet. In the meantime, set up an emergency fund and make it a priority to put away extra money just in case.

    Claire Tak writes for Upstart about all things personal finance. She has a background in finance technology, and her work has appeared in major publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg and FOX News. Claire is based in Oakland, California and enjoys traveling in her spare time.

    Full Story >

    Early Valentine, Real Estate Style

    Love and the >

    Love usually hits at unexpected moments, even randomly. Ask couples how they got together and, frequently, it was a surprise or an unexpected meeting.

    Keep improving your financial literacy, clarifying real estate goals, and improving your financial position and, when love pops in, you may be in good shape to go for it, love and real estate, that is. You may even move those real estate goals forward to accommodate your new love interest.

    The following Seven Perspectives on ldquo;Being in the Right Place, atnbsp;the Right Timerdquo; may help you bring love into focus:

    1. In The Right Company

    Love can hit randomly, so the people you associate with may dictate who you eventually connect with. One principal of business tells entrepreneurs to associate with those they want to emulate, whose path they would like to duplicate, or those who have visions for the future that drive them on. One school of thought tells us success lies in thinking of our lives and our interest in real estate as if it were a business. Aim to be the CEO of your life goals and you may be attracted to people with similar real estate dreams.

    2. Money Match

    If yoursquo;re a committed shopaholic, is your dream partner one, too? If you watch every penny, do you aim for a partner who duplicates your thriftiness? Those who are sold on working toward goals, like buying a waterfront property or a farm, may discover their match through a shared interest in the life>

    3. Overcoming Financial Baggage

    Ending up in debt after you graduate does not mean you are condemned to financial insecurity. Alone or with a partner you can learn how to improve your financial circumstances. Persistence is the key here. Those who have finally gained financial literacy and stability by working their way out of credit card debt, student loan debt, personal bankruptcy, or a difficult divorce settlement would usually not be attracted to someone who may be in the middle of financial problems like these. Thatrsquo;s why discussions regarding certain financial topics are not commonly considered ideal first-, second-, or even third-date conversations. But they should be. They can be. Try a gentle hint, an open-ended query, briefly >

    4. Avoid The Fixer Role

    People with financial problems often blame others or the economy for their situation. They may be right to some extent, but neither will get them out of their financial problems. Only they can do that. Therersquo;s a big difference between someone who is committed to changing spending patterns, who is actively improving their damaged credit score, or has mapped out realistic real estate goals, and someone who just talks, but changes little. Step back. Donrsquo;t rush to be the helper or caregiver for someone with financial problems. Wait and see if there is significant evidence that the individual has made a personal commitment to financial change. Therersquo;s a lot of fish in that sea, so donrsquo;t be shy about throwing a few back.

    5. A Work In Progress

    On the other hand, if yoursquo;re the one committed to recovering from recent financial disaster, kudos to you. Persistence pays. Donrsquo;t be embarrassed or ashamed about your past. Itrsquo;s what you do with your present and future that really matter. At first meetings or even after a date or two, honesty may be scarce. However, itrsquo;s no good spinning stories to stay in the dating game when therersquo;s a big financial truth to tell. >

    6. Taking The Financial Plunge Together

    If your >

    7. Love Is Expensive

    As February 14 approaches, the pressure to spend, spend, spend to demonstrate your love is going to be coming from all directions, online and off. Celebrate in ways that reveal genuine affection and love. Side-step marketing pitches. Consider saving the ldquo;big loverdquo; dollars to put your real estate plans in motion. Remember, the lower your credit card debt, the larger the mortgage yoursquo;ll qualify for. Now thatrsquo;s love actually.

    Full Story >

    Financing a Vacation Home

    A primary residence is one where the owners live in the home full time, year round. A second home, which is typically a vacation or beach home, is occupied by the owners at various times throughout the year or perhaps for a few months at a time. A rental property is never occupied by the owners but instead purchased for monthly cash flow and property appreciation. At each higher level of risk, rates will be a bit higher and require more down payment.

    A primary residence has the best rates and terms. That makes sense because should someone ever get into some sort of financial trouble where the owners are having trouble keeping up with the mortgage payments, a second home or rental property will have less priority compared to the home the owners live in full time. Should an owner decide which property to sell or let go into foreclosure, the primary residence will be held while non-owner occupied properties would be forfeited.

    A rental property will have the highest rates of the three property types. With a traditional 30 year fixed rate conforming loan, the rate for a rental property can be as much as 0.50 percent higher and can carry slightly higher fees. Yet in between the primary and rental property is a vacation home. How does a lender know whether or not a property is being financed as a vacation home and not a rental property?

    First, the transaction has to make sense. A lender isnrsquo;t going to be convinced that a home located across town is a vacation home. Instead, the property must indeed be located in an area where vacations are typically taken such as near the beach or a mountain retreat. The difference here is in the rate and fees. Rental properties will have slightly higher rates than a vacation home and will command more down payment. A rental property might need a down payment of 20 to 25 percent or more whereas a vacation home can ask for a down payment of only 10 percent in most cases.

    A vacation home can also generate rental income while not being occupied by the owners. And thatrsquo;s an attractive feature. The income generated from a vacation home will offset part or even all of the cost of the mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance. However, unless yoursquo;re an experienced landlord and own multiple rentals, income from a vacation home canrsquo;t be used to help qualify for a new mortgage.

    Where can you get this data? Vacation homes are marketed and managed by real estate agents. These agents have all the information regarding how often a home was rented out over the past year and how much revenue was generated.

    If yoursquo;ve ever rented a mountain cabin or beach house for a vacation and looked at how much you had to pay for that rental, donrsquo;t be surprised if you start wondering whether or not yoursquo;d like to own your very own vacation property. For many vacation property owners, thatrsquo;s how it starts.

    Full Story >

    The Millennial Home Buyer is Not Who You Think They Are

    79 of Millennials are first-time home buyers, but they donrsquo;t want starter homes

    Almost 80 of Millennials aged 18-34 are first-time home buyers. Theyrsquo;re unfamiliar with the home buying process, and 61 are working with a real estate agent nbsp;to help them learn. However, 39 of Millennials arenrsquo;t using a real estate agent. These first-time home buyers need help, but theyrsquo;re not tapping into agents whose fees are typically paid by the seller.

    These buyers are inexperienced, but they are also tech-savvy, using online resources to do their own research. 75 of Millennial respondents are using online listing sites like Zillow and Redfin to research and find homes.

    Millennials are thinking long term about their first home; most respondents prioritize neighborhood safety 38 and a quality school district 35 over walkability 11 and short commutes 11. Millennial rentersnbsp;might be looking for luxury amenities and locations near bars and restaurants, but Millennial home buyers very different.

    Many respondents were looking for ldquo;more spacerdquo; and ldquo;a forever home.rdquo;

    In other words, the Millennials buying 8 chai tea lattes and looking for cute 500 square foot downtown apartments arenrsquo;t the ones buying real estate.

    Millennials are looking for affordable homes they can fix up

    Millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 have an average of 42,000 in debt, so theyrsquo;re thinking realistically about their purchase. Over two-thirds of Millennial surveyed said theyrsquo;d be willing to put in an offer on a fixer-upper that required major repairs, and more than half are looking for a home thatrsquo;s less than 200,000.

    However, Millennials that arenrsquo;t handy might be getting themselves in trouble. Homeowners spent an average of 6,649 on home improvements per household in 2018, and the average kitchen remodel costs 22,145. Millennials eager to buy homes need to be aware of the true cost of homeownership.

    84 Millennials believe homeownership is part of the American Dream and a great investment

    While many Generation Xers and Baby Boomers are looking to settle down in a quiet single-family home, 14 of Millennials are planning on buying multi-family homes that can generate income and help cover their mortgage. Theyrsquo;re 52 more likely than older generations to purchase a multi-family home.

    Millennials understand real estate investing can be a viable path to financial freedom and help pay the bills along the way. 43 of Millennials believe buying a home is more affordable than renting, and another 43 believe real estate is a good investment.

    In spite of the challenges Millennials face, an overwhelming majority believe homeownership is part of the American Dream. Their path might be rocky, expensive and filled with holes in their roof, but Millennials are still finding ways to break into the housing market.

    About the Author:nbsp;Tommy Orsquo;Shaughnessy is a Research Analyst at Clever Real Estate who conducts surveys, analyzes data and studies trends to understand the real estate market.

    Full Story >

    Is Your HOA out of Control? Horror Stories to Be Aware Of.

    Drunk with power. Thatrsquo;s what more than one HOA board has been accused of being. And also, out of line and over the line. Stories abound about HOAs that have seemingly abused their power, enacted ridiculous rules, or bugged an owner over something seemingly innocuous, causing them to sell their home. Frankly, to many of us our family included, putting up with an HOA is well worth the occasional hassle. Irsquo;ll personally take the demand from our HOA to change out our torn basketball netmdash;that almost no one can see because itrsquo;s in the driveway at the back of the housemdash;because it means I wonrsquo;t ever have to worry about unkempt lawns or other unsightly things that could drag my property value down.

    But for some people, living under the strict and sometime illegal rules of an HOA can be maddening. Wersquo;re taking a look at some of the most egregious or outrageous examples.

    No Banksy allowed

    ldquo;The HOA board at the lsquo;family-friendlyrsquo; Stapleton neighborhood decided to crack down on a vandalism spreemdash;specifically, a three-year-old child drawing on a sidewalk with chalk,rdquo; reports Consumer Affairs. Yes, Innovations and Courtyard Traditions at Stapleton, a sub-association of the Stapleton MCA in Denver, banned kids from coloring in the courtyard in chalk, because it ldquo;is a shared space,rdquo; and ldquo;anything that offends, disturbs or interferes with the peaceful enjoyment isnrsquo;t allowed.rdquo; Making a note not to ever move there if >

    Forget about chalk, your kids canrsquo;t play outside PERIOD

    The HOA of a condo community in Fremont, CA distributed notices to tenants, ldquo;telling them that minors under the age of 14 were to refrain from riding bikes, skating, skateboarding, or playing outside, or else guardians could be subject to a fine,rdquo; said SFGATE. ldquo;The HOA reportedly said the rules were instated due to safety concerns.rdquo;

    Plaintiff Domenicka Lewis told KPIX thathellip;she was subjected to threats and warnings from HOA board members, and that she and her two children were harassed.rdquo;

    Thankfully, this particular example of HOA lunacy ended with a lawsuit. ldquo;The managers of the condo are being forced to pay 800,000 to the residents as the result of an effective >

    Your dog canrsquo;t pee here

    Did you know that an HOA can make a rule that says your dog canrsquo;t pee in your own yard? This is a reality in a gated townhome community in Calabasas, CA. The HOA canrsquo;t tell homeowners not to let their animals go out back and do their business on the small patio, but, if they take the dog for a walk, they need to sprint to the gate and off property. Cross those doggy legs

    A signhellip;but not of the times

    The best example of HOA insanity might be this issue from Olde Belhaven in Fairfax County, VA, a suburb of Washington, DC. ldquo;The Olde Belhaven HOA literally bankrupted itselfted itself after spending four years and over 400,000 in an insane effort to punish homeowners Sam and Maria Farran over a political yard sign,rdquo; said Consumer Affairs.

    ldquo;Herersquo;s the short version of the story: During the 2008 election season, the Farrans put an ldquo;OBAMArdquo; sign in their front yard. The HOA board got huffy because the sign was four inches too big according to HOA guidelines, so the Farrans cut it in half and made two signs, each under the size limit, reading ldquo;OBArdquo; and ldquo;MA.rdquo;

    Next came a slew of ldquo;illegal actions illegal not just under US or state law, but the HOArsquo;s own covenants and bylaws, including imposing punitive fines on the Farrans, passing special Farran-only building restrictions, even pushing what amounted to ex post facto rules against the couplemdash;and after four years of this obsessive nonsense, a judge finally ruled in the Farransrsquo; favor,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Olde Belhaven has to pay the Farransrsquo; legal costs in addition to their ownhellip;and the HOA association went bankrupt as a result.rdquo;

    The bottom line: Check out your HOA before you move into a new community. Do a Google search, ask current owners in the community, and have your real estate agent do their due diligence. While you canrsquo;t always know if therersquo;s craziness bubbling below the surface, and, obviously, you canrsquo;t predict every situation that could set someone off, you know what they say: ldquo;The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior."

    Full Story >

    How to Keep Your Home Safe During an Open House

    Get some cameras

    Security cameras in plain sight can keep thieves from making your home a target and also help you identify them should a burglary occur. You obviously want to place them at any entrance to the home, as well as in other key spots like home offices and bedroom closets where thieves may be lurking.

    Remove temptations

    While you canrsquo;t get rid of everything of value TVs can stay, taking other high-value items out of the house when strangers are going to be inside is a good idea. That means removing jewelry, expensive collectibles, and important papers, or locking them in a safe. Donrsquo;t leave bank statements or any other financial information around, and make sure things like passports and house keys are not left out or easy to find. Reolink recommends an area less obvious than the dresser drawer. ldquo;Donrsquo;t hide anything in your top dresser drawer a go-to spot for thieves.rdquo;

    Watch the medicine

    Doing a sweep of medicine cabinets is another important step. Thieves have been known to target open houses specifically for the purpose of finding prescription drugs.

    Watch the kids

    You canrsquo;t stop people from bringing their kids to open houses nor would you want to if yoursquo;re in a family area, but that doesnrsquo;t mean you have to be thrilled about them traipsing through your house. Unsupervised kids will likely be touching stuff, especially if toys are accessible. Limiting their access to your kidsrsquo; favorite things can help, and so can leaving out a toy or game specifically for the purpose of attracting and wrangling little hands.

    Make sure yoursquo;re insured

    Itrsquo;s a good idea to check with your insurance agent to make sure yoursquo;re covered should something happen in the home during an open house or showing. Going room to room and taking pictures can help with documentation should you need to provide it.

    Set the expectation with your real estate agent

    ldquo;Ask the realtor to walk through the home and yard before the open house, to ensure no one is there when the open house begins. Then, ask the realtor to check periodically during the open house to make sure rooms that are expected to be empty are really empty,rdquo; said Travelers. ldquo;When the realtor is taking prospective buyers through the house, suggest that he or she follow them and give directions from behind mdash; for example, lsquo;The dining room is on your right,rsquo; rather than having visitors follow. Additionally, turn on all lights throughout the house. This is better for marketing the home and provides another layer of safety. At the end of the open house, ask the realtor to again walk through the entire home and check that rooms and closets are clear before locking up and heading out.rdquo;

    Insist on staying home

    Real estate agents typically ask sellers to vacate the home during open houses and showings, but staying in the homemdash;away from the main entrance and the room where your real estate agent is set upmdash;could deter would-be thieves.

    Full Story >

    Ask the HOA Expert: Rules With Reason

    Since homeowner associations in their current form have only been around since the 1960s, they continue to evolve as life>

    Homeowner associations have the unique ability to customize how their business is done. This allows one HOA to do business very differently than virtually every other HOA if the board and members choose to. While most donrsquo;t, there are often policies, procedures, rules and regulations that vary somewhat from one HOA to another. These differences can range from minor nuances in parking and pet regulations to major policies on architectural design restrictions. And like other forms of government, what was the policy two years ago may not be the policy today if the board or members vote to change it. Caveat emptor. Buyer beware.

    Regardless of the tone and texture of rules and policies, there are some fundamental principles which all HOAs should follow when enacting and enforcing them. Some of these principles are common sense and others deal with the unique ldquo;neighborrdquo; aspect of HOAs:

    1. All rules need to be written. In days before the written word, laws were passed on by oral tradition. Since clans were closely knit, this system worked pretty well. But with modern fractured families living global lives, writing has a distinct advantage for keeping newcomers informed. Funny thing is, many HOAs have unwritten rules that offenders donrsquo;t discover until they break them. Judges, however, donrsquo;t like the idea of unwritten rules and often smite HOAs that have them. So all rules should be written in clear language.

    2. All rules should be available for inspection. Written records are usually controlled by those that keep the records, the board or manager. With the advent of email and the internet, humankind has been set free of the paper prison. HOAs can now make rules, policies, information and records available 24/7 by way of a self-help website. Prospective buyers can also access this information to ensure there is nothing that would create a problem after closing the sale like, the buyer has an RV and RV parking is not allowed..

    3. All rules should be consistently enforced. If a rule is important, it should apply to everyone, including the board and friends of the board.

    4. All rules should be necessary. In a world gone mad with regulation, having a whole new set to adhere to at home is an unnecessary aggravation. If there is a city ordinance to control wandering or defecating pets, the HOA doesnrsquo;t need the same rule. Only add the rules the HOA really needs.

    5. Never try to out rule scofflaws. Scofflaws love it when the board enacts rules to control them. They thrive on confrontation and rules are the line in the sand over which they must step. Fortunately, scofflaws are rare. If confronted by one, the board should address their special needs by other means which may include compromise.

    6. Rules can be compromised. Since all humans are unique, one size does not fit all. The board may have its rules challenged in a way that is headed to a judgersquo;s ruling that the board may not like. Since the board is elected to govern, the board has the power to compromise. If faced with the prospect of an expensive court battle or compromise, it is often in the best interest of the HOA to opt for the latter. Courtrooms are nasty places that often only further inflame disputes.

    7. Run new rules up the flagpole. HOA boards can get myopic about the need for rules. Problems that loom large to a board may be of little importance to the majority of members. The board can make much ado about nothing. Or worse, the board can fan the flames of rebellion by enacting an unpopular rule. Is that tar I smell?. There is no rule that is so urgent that couldnrsquo;t wait for a 30 day member review and comment. Proposed rules circulated to the members generally gain buy-in and compliance, rather than defiance.

    8. Provide for a right of appeal. Itrsquo;s very American to have an excuse. And extenuating circumstances may actually be legitimate. Appeals are not only fair, but expected. The board should never engage in a game of ldquo;Gotchardquo;. Look for ways to catch someone doing good.

    At the end of the day, HOA rule breakers are neighbors. So the tone and texture of HOA rules needs to take this into consideration to avoid ongoing skirmishes between warring neighbors. Rather than plan for battle, groom the rules to help neighbors be better neighbors.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

    Full Story >

    Because Its Ugly, and 3 Other Big Reasons Your Home Isnt Selling

    Ever wonder why some homes sell and others dont? There is no magical fairy dust that can turn a loser of a house into a palace. And, in fact, if there were such a think as magical fairy dust, sprinkling it in your home would make a big mess, and thats a big no-no if you want to sell.

    Getting your home sold is not all that hard if you stick to the basics. But if youve got some of the problems below, you may just be sitting on that unsellable home for a while.

    Problem No. 1: Because your home is ugly

    Yes, your home is ugly. If your Realtor didnt tell you that, let us go ahead and say what he should have. And just so were clear, "ugly" can also stand in for:

    bull; Cluttered
    bull; Outdated
    bull; Dirty
    bull; Messy
    bull; Tacky

    Very few people - investors looking for a deal aside - can walk into an untidy mess of a house and see the potential. If youre not willing to clean it up, clean it out, and maybe make a few overdue updates, you may not get it sold. That goes double for over-personalization that is so in your face buyers cant see past it.

    "Everybodys taste is different, so less is more when it comes to decor at sale time. Loud patterns and bold colors can be big distractions," said MSN.


    You need to de-ugly-fy that house but quick. Pretty places around you are selling. If you have similar plans, similar features, similar lots and theyre selling while youre sitting, its not hard to figure out why.

    Take a good long look. If you dont see anything wrong, bring in a few friends for their opinions. But only the ones who might actually tell you the truth.

    Problem No. 2. Because your price is unrealistic

    This is the No. 1 most common problem with homes that are not selling, says MSN. "If youre guilty of having "a what the heck are they thinking? price tag," they say, you can expect to sit on the market for a while.

    "Price is usually the overriding factor in any home that doesnt sell. Whatever its problem, it can usually be rectified by adjusting the price."

    Adds U.S. News: "Without question, the No. 1 reason a home doesnt sell is price. Sellers have an emotional attachment to their homes and tend not to be objective about the true value."


    If it is an emotional attachment thats getting in the way, take the emotion out of the equation and think of it simply as a business transaction. Many times the issue is a seller owes more than the home is worth or simply wants a higher price. But its the market that sets the price. And if its telling you your price is too high, its probably best to listen.

    When all else fails, listen to your agent, who should have provided you with comparables that spell out recent sales and market trends. Also See: Its The Price That Sells a Home

    Problem No. 3: Because its a project house

    Maybe youve made the decision to sell and you just dont want to put any money into a house thats no longer going to be yours. But a house that looks like its going to take too much work - or too much money - to fix up is a turnoff.

    "If a home looks as if its going to cost half as much to repair or renovate as it does to purchase, its going to take a long time to move," said MSN. "Todays buyer is a lot more >

    The Solution:

    "Fix it, or prepare to lop a large amount off the price," said MSN.

    Problem No. 4: Because youre not cooperating

    This is also the No. 1 reason houses end up overpriced. Uncooperative sellers also tend to ignore other advice from their agent, about keeping the home tidy see No. 1, being available when needed, being open to price reductions, being able to make the house available for open houses, and agreeing to terms when there is a contract discussion.

    "No offense, but maybe you arent showing your house off enough? If you arent using a real estate agent and work away from your home, your time might be limited, of course. But you should try to make your house as accessible and available as possible for a Realtor and a potential homebuyer to easily drop by and take a tour which means having the place clean, too," said U.S. News. "Having your home be shown only by appointment or only at designated times will seve>

    The Solution:

    Get in or get out. Or get in to get out. You have to commit yourself to a process that, quite frankly, can be inconvenient and a hassle in order to get your home sold, especially in more competitive markets. Being agreeable and available, however painful, for this finite amount of time, will pay off in the end.

    Full Story >

    Goal-Setting: When The Goal is Buying a Home

    Saving for a down payment can seem like an overwhelming task if youre on a tight budget. Its just plain not easy to make a plan, stay on that plan no matter what, stay motivated even when your plan goes temporarily awry, and - finally - achieve your desired result. So how do you get from "Broke wannabe homebuyer" to "Gimme those keys"? Its simple. Just set a goal.

    "The idea of goal setting involves establishing specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-targeted S.M.A.R.T goals," said Wikipedia. "On a personal level, setting goals helps people work towards their own objectives."

    So how does that >

    1. Make a plan and write it down

    Get out a piece of paper or type into your phone/computer a definitive statement that encapsulates your down payment goal - as long as its in a place you can easily access it. Then break down that goal by the amount you need to save weekly or monthly and a goal date for being able to buy that house. The simple act of putting your plan down on paper or on screen makes it real. Take out the piece of paper or pull up the email you wrote to yourself whenever you need a pick-me-up.

    Huffington Post recommends writing goals down in a brand-new notebook or keeping them "in Evernote download on your desktop and the app for your phone and tablet so that you can reference them weekly."

    2. Make some budget cuts

    It may not be easy. But saving for something as important as a new home is worth it. Look over your monthly bank statements for areas to cut back. Take out any set monthly expensesmdash;rent or existing house payment, car payment, and anything else that cant change.

    Then look at car insurance, health insurance, and anything else that could change if you made changes to your coverage.

    Then consider things like cell phone bills, cable, internet service. If youre not using all your data on your cell phone plan, that may be a place to trim. Perhaps you dont need such fast DSL service. Every little bit helps.

    And heres one that really hurts: cutting out your daily Starbucks latte. I know. Were crying with you.

    Cant go cold turkey? Cut back from five lattes a week to two. You just saved over 500 in a year.

    3. Let someone else make some cuts

    If youve gone through your budget carefully and dont see any or many easy places to cut, let a best friend or close family member take a look at your budget. They might see some things you dont, or might be able to ask some hard questions you arent willing to ask yourself maybe you dont need EVERY SINGLE MOVIE CHANNEL DISH OFFERS?.

    Cutting back on your cable or satellite TV doesnt seem like much. But paying 30 less per month less could save you 360 in a year. And you can always go to their house to watch Game of Thrones while youre in savings mode.

    4. Know how to bounce back

    So you went out to lunch with a friend and the next thing you know, youre at the mall dropping a couple hundred dollars on clothes. Or you went to the sporting goods store to buy a gift and walked out with 200 in non-returnable camping equipment.


    Go ahead and feel the pain of the buyers remorse. Slap yourself on the hand. And then tell your bad-influence friend they arent allowed to come around again until youre a homeowner. After all, you need somewhere to place the blame. And now you can move on and get back on your plan.

    5. Look for ways to make extra money

    Do you have skills you could use to bring in a few bucks? Perhaps you can put your Spanish fluency to good use and tutor high school kids. Maybe you can take that piece of furniture you refinished and turn it into a weekend business, hitting early-morning garage sales on weekends and selling your pieces on Craigslist.

    6. Cook your dinner

    Eat out five nights a week now? Cut back to two. If youre not a fan of cooking, sub in easy-to-make or already-made meals on the other three nights. Grab a roasted chicken from the supermarket plus a bagged salad, or a ready-to-nuke meal from a specialty market like Trader Joes or Costco.

    7. Not ready to give up your restaurant habit?

    Those coupon packs that come in the mail actually have some useful stuff inside, including restaurant discounts. If you can save 20 percent off your bill a couple times a week, you wont feel so guilty for dining out.

    Another great way to save when eating out is by timing it to nights when restaurants have specials, like kids eat free nights. Googling "kids eat free" should yield list of participating restaurants in your area.

    8. Dont become a hermit

    Cutting back doesnt have to mean locking yourself in your house, never using any gas, never going to any movies or seeing your friends socially.

    But make sure your friends and family know about your plan so they can support you while youre saving. And you can involve them in your plan by enlisting their help to plan fun and free or cheap get-togethers.

    9. Channel Stuart Smiley

    You dont have to stand in the mirror and repeat "Im good enough. Im smart enough. And doggone it, people like me" over and over but it would be hilarious if you did. By simply staying positive, you can keep on keeping on. If you believe at all in the power of positive thinking, this is the time to act on it. And if you dont, fake it

    10. Keep your eye on the prize

    When everyone runs off to the Caribbean for their summer vacation, youre probably going to want to chuck it all. But remember that the Caribbean isnt going anywhere. You can luxuriate on an island with turquoise water lapping at your feet while you drink something frothy out of a pineapple next year - after youve closed escrow.

    And itll taste so much better with the jangle of a new set of house keys in your pocket.

    Full Story >

    Your Prosperity Mindset: Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

    How often have you heard people say they want to investigate the thinking that got them the results they currently have? Probably .... never or at least very ra>

    It is critical that we investigate our own THOUGHTS and FEELINGS when it comes to our business and prosperity. How can we have a prosperity mindset if we dont even know what we are thinking and feeling? In our culture it is popular to look at our ACTIONS and start making a list of "to-do" items when we set our goals. Yes, action is critical, BUT so are our thoughts and feelings.

    Lets put it into play....

    What type of prosperity would you like to see in your life by the end of this year? Go ahead and jot it down or make a mental note of your answer.

    Now, what actions would you need to take to make that goal a reality?

    Feel free to jot those actions down too or make more mental notes. what feelings would you need to have to take those actions? Excited? Confident? Enthusiastic? Do you know what feelings you have about it currently? Time to get honest with yourself and contemplate this question. Understanding this step and diving deep will get you closer and closer to your ideal prosperity.

    And what thoughts would you need to generate those feelings? Most people have a hard time with this one - we are so "in our own stuff" that we cant imagine another way to think about our goal. So Im going to give you some examples to get the juices flowing. "I am confident in my knowledge and my ability to help people." "I have faith that when I put the work in, the results will come to fruition." "I can already see the balance in my bank account rising."

    When you are stuck, you can go back to this formula and start investigating why you are not getting the results you want.

    The more you understand your thoughts and feelings regarding prosperity, the less money you will leave on the table.

    When we continue to do the same thing over and expect different results....well, you know the rest of the story. So today you can use the above questions and shake it up. Each time you go through this process, you are increasing your awareness muscle. The more awareness you have of YOU, the more opportunities will be revealed and the more you will SEE the money on the table right in front of your eyes.

    When you are ready for a 6-pack think "awareness abs of steel" - go to where we specialize uncovering the limited beliefs that are standing in the way of the results you desire.

    Leisa Reid is a Speaker and Facilitator with Productive Learning, a boutique personal growth company founded in 1992, and has trained thousands of people on the power of the mindset. After 20 years of Management, Sales and Executive Leadership, Leisa has dedicated her life to guiding others in their personal development journey.

    Full Story >

    Why February 1st Just Might Be The Most Important Date for Mortgage Rates

    Markets both react to and anticipate economic reports. It seems there is always some economic data >

    The Unemployment Report for the previous month is >

    The unemployment rate actually increased in December but thatrsquo;s not because the economy is slowing down, and people are losing their jobs. Quite the opposite. The economy is rather healthy right now and that means more people will start to look for work once again having decided to get out of the workplace altogether. Unemployment numbers only look at those who are out of work and actively looking and doesnrsquo;t count those who decide to leave the employment scene enti>

    People are jumping back into the workforce due to higher wages, as well. According to recent data, wages grew by 3.2 percent in 2018 and while at first glance that doesnrsquo;t seem like very much, it most certainly is. Thatrsquo;s the largest increase in wages in 10 years. Further, there were 312,000 new jobs created in December which was much more than most anticipated. But, again, will January show some sort of correction to those numbershellip;or confirm them?

    Thatrsquo;s why February 1st is one of the more anticipated dates for investors in quite some time. If the economy shows another round of stout jobs numbers, itrsquo;s very likely we could see the Fed start to get back in the game. Fed Chair Powell has gone a bit back and forth over the past few months regarding when and if the Fed will raise the Federal Funds rate once again. Last fall, Powell suggested we could see two more rate increases in 2019 but later suggested that wasnrsquo;t necessarily written in stone and that the Fed would keep a close eye on the economy to see where it may be headed.

    With another month of strong jobs numbers to join Decemberrsquo;s count, itrsquo;s very likely wersquo;ll see rates in general begin to rise, and mortgage rates will certainly follow suit if investors decide itrsquo;s time to pull money from bonds and more into stocks. For those who are waiting for rates to fall a little more, they might be waiting for a while.

    Full Story >

    Marketing the Ultimate Property: Your Message

    It is a property whose ultimate worth is the product of a message. That message may be a motto or a collection of phrases that constitutes a philosophy; that is a personal constitution; that states a promise; that promises a specific good, be it exemplary care or concierge-like service; that is a promise to keep, in spite of whatever challenges may arisemdash;in spite of whatever may happenmdash;because an agentrsquo;s reputation rises or falls with every act that complements or contradicts that message; because that message is the purpose of marketing.

    Marketing that message is a professional responsibility. But few agents accept that responsibility, not because they disagree with its importance, but because they do not want to be irresponsible about how they market themselves.

    I understand that concern.

    I respect the concerns of anyone who invests in real estate marketing and logos, because building a career is like constructing a house. That is to say, craftsmanship defines a career in the same way it shapes a house.

    From the details most may not see, which nonetheless matter most to those who make it a point to see them, to the perspective that time allows and experience affordsmdash;craftsmanship is what someone does, regardless of what others do; regardless of what others too easily do: compromise.

    My advice, then, is simple.

    Do not compromise excellence for expediency. Do not compromise a property by cheapening its price. Do not compromise a message for the sake of money; for the quick buckmdash;from a fast-buck artistmdash;that will most likely lose its value and result in a loss of reputation.

    Do, however, build a career that is true to a message.

    To real estate agents, I say: Be men and women of integrity. Be true to what you said on paper. Be true to the best things people have read about you in their newspapers. Be true to what is notmdash;and must never bemdash;for sale, your character.

    By following these rules, a real estate agent can better communicate a message. That message can resonate with clients and reverberate throughout an agentrsquo;s community. That message begins with words, but it can only flourish with deeds.

    From an agentrsquo;s deeds to a clientrsquo;s deed to a house, the two are inseparable. The two are the fulfillment of a message and the means to repeating this process.

    The process is marketing, not in a formulaic sense but in a formative waymdash;in a way that builds character and strengthens it, too. The process is what every real estate agent should pursue.

    Janil Jean is the Director of Overseas Operations for

    Full Story >

    Thinking About Refinancing? Better Cradle That Credit

    1. If yoursquo;ve got good credit, keep it that way.

    This is no time to get lax. Even one late payment can impact your score and keep you from getting approved or securing a better interest rate. Stay extra alert while yoursquo;re waiting for your loan to close to make sure nothing can derail your refi.

    2. Donrsquo;t change your habits.

    Think that laying off your credit cards will look like responsible spending to the bank? Donrsquo;t assume. They look at your long-term spending habits and they want to see steady patterns of behavior. A sudden change could trigger a red flag, so be sure to ask your lender before you do anything different. That includes overspending on your credit cards. You can always go on a shopping spree after your loan is closed.

    3. Donrsquo;t open any new accounts.

    This is not the time to open an Old Navy account to save 20 on your winter wardrobe or apply for a Best Buy card to finance a new TV. Steady and stablemdash;thatrsquo;s what the banks want to see. They donrsquo;t care that your winter coat is two years old or that your TV is only 42 inches.

    4. Donrsquo;t close any accounts, either.

    If you close credit cards, your score can actually fall. ldquo;Thats because closing card accounts impacts a key credit scoring factor called a credit utilization ratiomdash;the amount of debt you have compared to your available credit,rdquo; said ldquo;As your debt levels rise >

    5. Be careful with the stuff you find on your credit report.

    Did you pull your credit report and find an old collection account or charge-off? You might think that paying these items off right away is the best move to get rid of them for good and raise your score, but charge-offs and the like can be complicated. Itrsquo;s best to talk to your lender first. He or she may think itrsquo;s best to leave them alone, or they may have a good strategy for having the items removed from your credit report.

    6. Donrsquo;t move your debt around.

    Balance-transfer credit cards are a great option for consolidating debt and potentially lowering your payment, but think twice before opening new cards see 3 above or moving balances around. Your lender will be able to lay out the best course of action for you.

    Full Story >

    How to Buy the Right Ceiling Fan

    Size matters

    A 36-inch fan isnrsquo;t likely going to do a great job of cooling your giant great room, and a 72-inch fan might look out of place in a tiny bedroom not to mention the fact that it might feel like a wind tunnel in there. Getting the lookmdash;and functionmdash;right has a lot to do with buying the right size fan for your space.

    Consider the lighting

    Does your space have decent lighting elsewhere or are you depending on the ceiling fan to provide good lighting for the room? Before you spend many aggravating hours searching online for the ldquo;brightest LED ceiling fan,rdquo; followed by an equally aggravating trip to a big box store that shall go unnamed, let us give you a little insight: Most fans without multiple exposed lights now have integrated LEDs, which means the light is built in to the fan and is not changeable.

    While this may be cost-effective and convenientmdash;especially if yoursquo;d have to climb a ladder to change the light bulbmdash;itrsquo;s not great if yoursquo;re looking for a brighter light than what is included in the box. If you want one of those snazzy modern-looking fans nbsp;and you need a super bright light, yoursquo;ll probably need to MacGyver it or buy a fan without a light and then get a separate light kit without an integrated bulb. Good times ahead

    Match your >

    Ceiling fans with integrated lights come in a variety of >

    Do the blades go in reverse?

    One of the coolest pardon the pun features of many of todayrsquo;s fans is the fact that you can run them in reverse, which forces rising hot air down and helps keep the room comfortable in winter. If this feature is important to you, make sure the fan yoursquo;re looking at has it, because not all do.

    Do you need a downrod?

    Downrods are necessary if you have tall ceilings. has a great graphic that shows you how long or short your downrod should be depending on your room, but donrsquo;t forget to take your personal preferences into account. If yoursquo;re in a room that tends to run hot or faces west, maybe you want the fan installed a little lower so you can feel the air flow.

    Read the reviews

    While this was not so helpful in determining whether or not a light was bright enough People have opinions, and, wow can they contradict each other, it was helpful in weeding out some options that were wobbly when installed, didnrsquo;t come with a decent remote or any remote at all, or didnrsquo;t look like their picture in real life. Yoursquo;re never going to find any product with a 100 percent approval rating nor will you agree with everything you read, but a ldquo;majority rulesrdquo; type of deal is usually a pretty safe bet.

    Full Story >

    Upcycling: If Its broken, It Can Be Fixed

    Yoursquo;ve seen the commercial ntilde; the forlorn lamp sits sadly by the curb in the rain. A man says, ldquo;Many of you feel bad for this lamp. That is because yoursquo;re crazy. It has no feelings and the new one is much better.rdquo;

    But to many, the old lamp is a treasure waiting to be upcycled into something special. Ditto for the old furniture and other discarded items in the trash, or at the local thrift shop. One manrsquo;s trash and all that.

    Treasures-to-be can also be found in your own home. ldquo;Learn to look at things differently before going out and buying something newrdquo; or throwing something away, says Adam Fullerton, Toronto fabricator and upcycler extraordinaire.

    Adam Fullerton

    Think outside the box. Can it be reused for another purpose? If itrsquo;s broken, can it be fixed or configured into something spectacular?

    ldquo;Reusing is better than recycling,rdquo; he says. ldquo;It can also save you pennies along the way.rdquo;

    Upcycling is a fun way to freshen up your space, create a conversation piece, exercise your creativity and help the environment at the same time. Just be careful not to hoard, Fullerton says.

    Itrsquo;s also a great way to spend time with the kids, with a variety of projects from beginner to pro.

    Fullertonrsquo;s upcycling career started with lighting. He would rescue lamps from the side of the road, flea markets or charity shops and reconfigure them, sometimes adding scraps to turn them into unique light fixtures or other decorative pieces.

    One of his early lighting projects was a wall sconce, made from chandelier parts, the base of a table lamp and interestingly shaped old jam jars.

    He bought a glass bottle cutter and began to upcycle colourful bottles into planters, glasses, bowls and dishes. ldquo;Itrsquo;s a great project for beginners,rdquo; he says. He collected corks and turned them into cork boards.

    He used his welding skills to create more elaborate pieces, and also began crafting furniture with found materials. When he lived in England, solid wood doors, discards of renovations of old houses, were scavenged and transformed into frames for mirrors. ldquo;I collected as many as I could carry to repurpose. The middle panels were removed and replaced with mirrors and sometimes lighting was added around the door,rdquo; he says.

    ldquo;I started upcycling in 2012, making stuff to sell but Irsquo;ve always been making something, taking things apart, and fixing them or taking the parts out to make something else.rdquo;

    He says various past jobs, from car painting and restoration to construction, gave him experience working with different materials.

    Fullerton grew up in a small village in the south of England and sold his light fixtures in London. In 2015 he moved across the pond. ldquo;I met a Canadian, now my wife,rdquo; he says. At first he worked in the garage, but most recently he moved up to a 1,200-square-foot studio of his own.

    He creates products for use in residential and commercial settings. One shelf design, which can be used in either setting, has radiators as the ends with shelves made from found hemlock lumber.

    His favourite go-to upcycling parts are from second-hand bicycles, where everything from gears to chains to handlebars are given new life. One of his first commercial projects was a bike rack made with racing handle bars to hold bike frames. ldquo;Inspiration comes from the piece that I find,rdquo; he says.

    His ldquo;bike and fall lightrdquo; includes bicycle parts and replicates the >

    The ldquo;bike and fall lightrdquo; can be raised and lowered by pulleys.

    Upcycling has also turned into a full-time business for Denis and Martine Chercuitte of My Old Cher on Wolfe Island, Ont.

    After 36 years in the military, Denis retired and went back to school to learn the basics of building furniture. ldquo;Denis and I learned together refinishing oil, paint and wax techniques and upholstery modern techniques,rdquo; Martine says.

    Five years ago, they displayed their wares at the Wolfe Island Christmas sale. As soon as people realized they could have their furniture repaired and redone, demand began to grow. Two people at one sale wanted the same chair, upholstered in a whimsical fabric pattern with faces one bearing a mustache and looking a lot like Denis, Martine says. Neither ended up buying it.

    Martine and Denis Chercuittte

    The couple now gives a second life to other peoplersquo;s cast offs and brings new life to pieces people want to keep. Many summer homes on the island are filled with furniture bought generations ago and now the owners want to upgrade the pieces.

    Although it may seem more expensive to reupholster than buy new, compared to a modern chair of the same quality, it is still less to have a piece redone, they say. ldquo;If the frame is good, it can be rebuilt and look good for a long time.rdquo;

    An upcycled chair by Denis and Martine Chercuitte

    Some people on the island donate items to the couple rather than paying to put them in the dump. One day after returning from grocery shopping, they found a cabinet sitting in front of a garage. Another time a man dropped off a chair he no longer had use for. After it was repaired and refinished, he was a little sorry he had given it up.

    In the summer, the Chercuittes sell from their small boutique. They have also sold pieces in nearby Kingston.

    For those contemplating an upcycling project, the Chercuittes suggest starting with a table or a chair that has an upholstered seat. As long as they are strong and steady, theyrsquo;re a good place to start. Denis suggests taking a half-day or day-long upholstery course.

    Never assume something is too old to be upcycled, Martine says. Ask before you scrap or dump it into a fire pit.

    Full Story >

    Ask the HOA Expert: Board Meetings and Members

    Answer: To address the complaints of this member, the board president should discuss the concerns in person with him. If he refuses to discuss specifics and continues to deliver unreasonable demands, a written response should state that his demands are not reasonable and the board will not respond to unreasonable demands. If he doesnrsquo;t like the decisions the board makes, he is free to run for election and get elected if he can drum up the support.

    However, members are entitled to view HOA records that do not violate other membersrsquo; privacy or compromise ongoing litigation, attorney-client privilege or contract negotiations. Arranging a reasonable time to review other records in the office along with charging him for someonersquo;s time to facilitate it and costs of copies is appropriate.

    And if your board has been holding closed meetings, that should change. The board should perform HOA business transparently. While there may be an occasional need for executive session behind closed door meeting to discuss topics like litigation, collections or contract negotiations, board meetings should otherwise be open to the members and held in venues that permit such. Those meetings should be noticed to all members well in advance along with the proposed agenda which allows members to request being part of the agenda. Draft minutes to the meetings should be distributed to the members within two weeks of the meeting.

    Question: Our board recently approved a plan to remove hundreds of mature and healthy trees with no input from the residents. No clear explanation has been provided about the need to do this. Many members are up in arms.

    Answer: There are good reasons to remove trees but before doing so, the board should be sensitive to the feelings of the members and provide clear and compelling evidence from experts that such is necessary. It is highly advisable to hire a licensed arborist who can provide credibility to a removal plan. If removal is being done for view purposes, it may be possible to achieve satisfactory results with ldquo;viewrdquo;pruning without having to remove the trees.

    Question: Our homeowner association failed to hold an annual meeting or elections for several years. This wasnrsquo;t done intentionally. The HOA was involved in a complex and time consuming renovation project and simply couldnrsquo;t arrange the meeting schedule Because of this, some directors are currently serving passed their terms. A couple of members have started to complain. What should we do?

    Answer: Not holding the annual meeting is a serious breach of the boardrsquo;s fiduciary duty and directors whose terms have expired are acting without the legal authority to do so. The board should schedule a annual meeting at the earliest possible date to hold elections which will either re-elect current directors or elect others to replace them. Tarry no longer

    Question: If a proposal for enclosing unit decks into sunrooms is voted down by the board, can the proposal be brought up again and again at the future board meetings? It seems like this is simply a strategy to wear the board down until it caves in.

    Answer: It depends what the repeated proposals entail. If the board initially voted down the sunroom concept in its entirety, it need not entertain the same concept again. If the board voted down the design and material details and not the concept, it is reasonable to revisit the issue although the board should not keep the applicants guessing what might be acceptable.

    In a case like this, it is reasonable to hire an architect to provide a standardized design and materials for the boardrsquo;s approval which can be replicated by other unit owners that have the same desire.

    The board controls the meeting agenda and is not obligated to discuss anything that a member has a mind to discuss. If a member persists in beating a dead horse, the board is not obligated to participate.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

    Full Story >

    Condo Property Assessment

    Question: I read your column faithfully and was hoping you could address a small issue/question I have. Recently, I received from my association a bill for property tax assessment challenges. It appears the association took it upon themselves to hire a property tax attorney, without notice to the homeowners or at least, I never received any notice via certified or any other mail that they would be assessed any amounts incurred in making the challenge. I was unaware it was legal for someone to protest your property taxes/property assessment without your consent.

    Can you please give me your opinion as to the legality of the action of thenbsp;Board? Did they have the authority to incur these expenses without my consent?

    Did they have the legal right to initiate this protest on my behalf without my consent? I did not provide them with any power of attorney. Paul.

    Answer: Paul. In a follow-up email, you told me that the attorney did, in fact, get your tax assessment reduced, and that you will pay the new assessment but are concerned about the process.

    I had never heard this was being done, so I checked with several colleagues who practice community association law. Apparently, some large associations ndash; as an accommodation to all owners ndash; retain an attorney versed in real estate tax assessments, and that attorney files appeals for everyone.

    However, I was advised that the attorney can only file an appeal for a homeowner who has authorized the appeal. Such authorization can be in a specific power of attorney that each homeowner signs, but apparently in some associations, the Bylaws specifically cover this by creating an automatic power of attorney.

    Paul, you advised me that you are absolutely certain that you never provided the power of attorney, but have you reviewed your association legal documents?

    If, in fact, you never formally authorized the attorney to appeal your real estate tax assessment, I am not sure what your next steps should be? Clearly, you canrsquo;t complain that your assessment was reduced as a result of the attorneyrsquo;s involvement. Should you pay the assessment? I suggest that you send a letter to the board of directors requesting them to provide you proof that you did, in fact, directly or indirectly authorize the attorney to file the assessment on your behalf. If there is no such proof, then you have to decide whether to pay the assessment.

    And, you may also consider sending a letter to the attorney asking for proof that you formally retained or authorized him to act on you behalf.

    If the attorney cannot provide such proof, you may want to consider filing a grievance against the attorney before your state bar association. Attorneys are required to have a retainer or other agreement with a client before proceeding on behalf of that client.

    Full Story >

    Realtors Need to Establish Preferred Builder Networks Part 1

    nbsp;Demand for new-construction homes should continue strengthening the next five years if the last five years are any indication.nbsp; Competition for saleable listings will remain extremely tight. More resalenbsp; prospects will consider new homes or at least become indifferent."nbsp;

    According to two studies, one >


    What the above pie charts mean:

    Existing means of the market is going to purchase an existing home, not going to consider a new home.

    New means market is going to purchase a new home and not consider a resale

    Indifferent is the home shoppers that will consider a resale or a new home.nbsp;

    What this chart means to homebuilders is clear: They need to continue targetingnbsp;the indifferent shopper to convince them to buy "new".nbsp;nbsp;

    What this chart means to Realtors is that competition among your association members for resale listings and sales will remain strong, and the time to start adding new homes inventory and prospects to your resale initiatives now could be perfect.

    The following recommendation is directed to broker/owners and those responsible within your offices to build your new homes presence.nbsp;

    We need to take a page from the builders book when they market to their preferred Realtor network and develop what we may refer to as a Preferred Builder network. Keep it simple, informal and fun. Use it as both a recruiting and retention tool, while building a reputation among your builder community that you and your office are in the new homes sales business for real.nbsp; New home shoppers would soon hear about your office and start calling.nbsp;

    Heres is how it could work:

    Establish a new homes team or division within your office.: The purpose of this team is to serve the members of your Preferred Home Builder network.nbsp;

    Members of your Preferred Builder network would be your sole discretion based on the criteria you establish, such as:

    1 The builder should attempt to keep buy now inventory in the pipeline

    2. Pay market rate commissions

    3. Allow a licensed home inspector to accompany your buyers on walkthroughs if buyers so desire

    4. Provide internet/concierge services smaller builders may not offer this service, but could still qualify

    5. Keep your office advised of builder eventsnbsp;

    6. Have a reputation for fair dealing.

    7, Feature his homes in MLSnbsp;

    You as the broker would provide an in house structure of those agents who want to be on your office new homes team: To be a member of your new homes sales team, your agents would be willing to:

    1. Make the comitment to add new homes to their resale business

    2.nbsp; Attend sales meetings or lunch and learns at preferred builder events

    3. Add the builder internet consultant or builders name to phone contacts

    4.nbsp; Research targetednbsp; builders to recommend network membership

    5.nbsp; Take new homes training required by the brokernbsp;

    6. Offer something special after first new homes sale, like add agents name to a list of Preferred New Home Agents in a company directory.

    You get the idea. Make it what you want, but add a statement that would disqualify agents from being members of this team. There is no membership form, and builders may or may not know they have been selected. Although it would be obviously beneficial for their selection to be made public. While it helps the builder, you are also letting the public know that your office is involved at a high level with new homes.nbsp;

    What does the builder need? He needs qualified, motivated prospects.and he needs to know that he is getting Realtor support at the important brand level, which helps build his most important asset. His reputation.nbsp;

    What do REALTORS need? They need saleable inventory,nbsp; And the Preferred Home Builder gives them a compass of builders who are not only constructing quality homes but will treat them and their prospects with respect, with mutual trust between the two growing with every prospect and sale.nbsp;

    According to NAR, Realtors control 90 of all home shoppers. "Builders understand that their real competition is not the builder across the street. It is the resale. And who controls this buyer? Realtors.." BHI CEO Tim Costello said in a speech at the 2013 International Builders Show.nbsp;

    Once home shoppers learn that you are offering a preferred builder network and home builders understand the new homes production your office is generating, both the builder and home shopper will be contacting your office and agents. Guaranteed.nbsp;

    Authors note: We have had great feedback from the few broker/owners we shared this idea with before writing this piece. What has become apparent to the author is if the builder/realtor >


    Full Story >

    Many Home Builders Make an Exception to the First-Time Registration Policy

    Realtors lose thousands of dollars every day because they donrsquo;t know what to do or say when confronted with this policy.

    There is a common but little-known exception to this policy under one condition. Call first.

    A simple phone call to the builderrsquo;s sales office can result in thousands of dollars in your pocket.

    Case study:

    Prospect Watson tells Realtor Smith that he has visited a new home and liked it. ldquo;While we are looking at resales today, may we stop by the buildersrsquo; subdivision? I would like to take another look at one of their models, which i really liked.

    Realtor Smith took Watson back to see the builder but did not call first. They walked in unexpectedly.nbsp;

    When the onsite agent saw Watson, he called him by name; then privately reminded Realtor Smith that he would not be paid a commission if Watson purchases, because Realtor Smith did not register Watson before Watson visited the first time.

    Watson bought the builders home, and as promised according to the builderrsquo;s policy, Realtor Smith did not get paid. Smith was livid and swore he would never take another prospect back to that builderrsquo;s homes. However, Smith was wrong. Unfortunately, he did not know or forgot to call first.

    Remember this: If you walk unannounced, you lose control.

    If you call first, you are in control of a hot prospect for that builderrsquo;s home. Builders know this.nbsp; What is the one thing that builders do not want you to do? Show this prospect another home, especially another new home.

    Had Realtor Smith called first, and asked the onsite consultant about the commission, he would have heard ldquo;Bring your prospect back. We will protect your commission.rdquo;

    Knowing what to do and doing it, in this case, would have put about 12,000 in Realtor Smiths pocket.nbsp;

    Here is a suggested script when you are working with a prospect who has already visited a builder and wants to return for a second look.

    ldquo;Hi Builder Jones, this is Realtor Smith. I have a prospect sitting in my office, who visited your sales office yesterday and liked the Palm model. His name is Watson. He really likes that model and wants to see it again today. .I was wondering what your commission policy is regarding a second visit.

    ldquo;My problem is this: I know you have a ldquo;first-time registrationrsquo; policy. Im sure you run into this situation before. What is your commission policy in a case like this.rdquo;

    Here is what the builder or onsite consultant will say,95 of the time.

    ldquo;Bring Watson back today. We will protect your commission.rdquo;

    Try it. Thousands of dollars are there for the asking.

    Full Story >

    10 Tips For a More Modern Living Room

    1. Paint

    We say it so much because its true: nothing transforms a room easier, more completely, and more affordably than a fresh new paint color. In a small space, use an airy modern color like Revere Pewter from Benjamin Moore. See more hot paint colors here.

    2. Swap out those accessories

    A simple update of a few knickknacks around the room can breathe new life into a space. Its also a good place to try out new trends, since accessories tend to be some of the least expensive items in your space and are easy to move around - and move out when you tire of them.

    3. Go seasonal

    Its easy to keep your home up to date all year long by going with seasonal deacute;cor. In your living room, introduce some beach chic for summer with a bowl full of shells and a sand-colored rug or a unique DIY vignette.

    In the fall, bring in autumnal colors with candles and throw pillows; for winter, a ruddy throw and some holiday-inspired deacute;cor can grace your mantle. In the spring, citrus colors reign.

    4. Dont sweep it under the rug

    Whether your rug is dingy and dirty, super outdated, or just plain blah, a new one can liven up a space with little effort and little cost.

    For as little as 100-200 try IKEA, Target, World Market, or Costco, you can transform the look of the room, introduce a new color, and take a boring room and make it more colorful and interesting.

    5. Ditch the dusty frames

    If your sofa table looks like a picture frame display at a home goods store, its time to pare it down. Pick a few key faves or create a gallery wall to free up space on flat surfaces for more updated arrangements of cherished treasures, accessories, and fresh flowers.

    6. Paper it

    It wasnt all that long ago that we were covering every surface in wallpaper we still have nightmares of a velvet flocked hallway. Over the last few years, its seen an insurgence, and todays patterns and textures offer a great opportunity to make an impact. If youre afraid of taking the leap, do one key wall or a small space.

    Still timid? Try a product like Targets Devine Wallpaper, which is repositional, so when youre over it, you just peel it off and toss it.

    7. Hang some drapes

    Not only will they inject some >

    8. Throw a pillow at it

    Pillows are the other easy fix we like to harp on. Theyre easy to find and easy on the budget, they allow you to layer multiple colors, patterns, and textures, and you can change them out on a whim. Plus, the right pillows can help a nice couch like nicer or deflect attention away from a tired one were lookin at you, big brown sectional in a certain living room.

    9. Light it up

    A dim room can be romantic, yes, but for those times when you actually want to see, good lighting is key. If you already have an overhead fixture, you can bounce light around the room with table lamps and wall sconces.

    Not keen to deal with wiring to hang something on the wall? Try a battery-operated sconce like this LED version from Home Depot.

    10. Rearrange it

    Sometimes, freshening up your space is as easy as moving stuff around. You may be surprised how much better your room can look with a new furniture arrangement. The keys are creating balance in the space and setting up areas for conversation. Get some more tips here.

    Full Story >

    Top 8 Estate Planning Mistakes

    Perhaps you have heard the expression: ldquo;If you fail to plan then you plan to fail.rdquo; This statement was never truer than for estate planning. By some accounts, 70 of adult Americans have no will or trust in place for their loved ones. Furthermore, others who initially did prepare an estate plan have failed to update it in light of changing circumstances in their lives.

    With this backdrop, I wanted to summarize what I have seen over the years as the most common estate planning mistakes that people make.


    You need to take steps in drafting your estate plan to assure that your assets are distributed to your grandchildren should your son/daughter die and not left to your daughter-in-law/son-in-law who could eventually remarry and end up using your inheritance with the new wife/husband and his/her step kids ndash; all of home have no familial >


    If you have children, have you considered who would raise them if for some reason you or their other parent couldnrsquo;t. While this is not an easy subject to contemplate, having a guardian arrangement spelled out as part of your estate plan will ensure they will be properly cared for by someone you trust and have chosen. A legal guardian is a person who is given the legal authority and responsibility to take care of your childrenrsquo;s needs, such as providing food, education, medical care, dental care and shelter. If you have minor children it is imperative to have a plan in place to protect them in the event you cannot.


    Did you know that most home refinancings require that your home be transferred out of a living trust back to your own names, at least until after the new lender has recorded its new mortgage or deed of trust on the property? The problem is that is most cases, no one ever thinks to transfer your real property back into the trust. This failure can result in an unforeseen probate of your home at the death of the second spouse.


    Everyone has an estate plan. It is either the one we have created or the default so-called Plan B of the state in which we live. In our experience, it is very unlikely that a statersquo;s default plan is what clients would really want. State laws vary, but generally they have it set for the assets go outright to the closest family members. Whom a state considers to be ldquo;closestrdquo; can be complicated in nonnuclear families. Nonfamily members, like an unmarried partner, will not receive any of the assets. This failure to act could cause family member fights over their inheritance.


    Having only a will is a just ticket to participate in the dreaded probate process costing your family time and money. Additionally, for those who donrsquo;t have a will, their assets will probably have to go through the intestate ldquo;no willrdquo; proceeding. Either of these scenarios will require that your assets go through probate before they can be fully distributed to the heirs. Probate proceedings vary from state to state, but many view the time, cost, and loss of privacy and control that come with probate as unnecessary evils which can ndash; and should be ndash; avoided.


    Many older people add an adult child or grandchild to the title of their assets especially their home as a joint owner in order to avoid probate. However, this type of property can create all kinds of problems, including:

    When a joint owner is added, the original owner loses control:

    Jointly owned assets are exposed to the joint ownerrsquo;s possible misuse of them;

    Part of these assets could be lost to the joint ownerrsquo;s creditors;

    The assets could become part of a joint ownerrsquo;s divorce proceedings.


    Many parents with a trust fear that an inheritance left to a child may be lost because of poor money handling skills or a drug, alcohol or gambling addiction of their children. With a living trust, you can instruct the successor trustee to retain personrsquo;s inheritance in trust and instruct the trustee to make payments, as needed, directly to third parties for rent, insurance, car payments, etc. to keep it out of their hands.


    Letrsquo;s say you have a college student or a young adult over 18 who is unmarried. Theyare no longer minors that you have the legal authority to make decisions for. The law now >

    1. Driverrsquo;s license or vehicle registration renewals

    2. Registration/admission for college

    3. Tax return filing

    4. Banking transactions

    5. Ongoing legal matters e.g., pending lawsuit from that fender-bender a few months back or speaking with childrsquo;s landlord

    6. Jury duty summons

    7. Passport renewal

    Many estate planners urge clients to prod their adult children to draft POA on or around their 18th birthdays. So donrsquo;t forget a POA and make it one of the most important things on your to-do list.


    A will or trust is not a static instrument. To serve its purposes, it must keep current with life changes, including an individualrsquo;s financial circumstances, and with some external factors, such as tax laws. With the help of a professional, you should periodically review your will, staying alert to new or different circumstances that might call for updates. Let us help you have the peace of mind you deserve

    Contact our office for a free analysis of your situation and receive a FREE estate planning session valued at 750.00 consultation or a trust review if you already have a trust to make sure it is current. Contact Mark Klein at or 949 453-7979 call to schedule an appointment.

    Full Story >

    Support Animals for the Disabled - Dos and Donts for Landlords

    A Broad Definition

    In order to qualify to have a support animal, the person requesting it must fit within the definition of "disabled." In California, the definition is quite broad. It includes physical or mental impairments or medical conditions which limit a major life activity or a record of disability or being regarded as being disabled. Although one qualifies as disabled, there are still some restrictions on the use of a support animal. The use of the animal must be >

    Residential Property

    Request. A housing provider may not inquire as to whether a person is disabled and needs special assistance such as the use of a support animal unless the housing provider is operating under a federally-subsidized housing program specifically for the disabled, which requires proof of disability to qualify for the program. After qualification, the procedure does not vary between subsidized and non-subsidized properties. All rentals are subject to HUD/DOJ guidelines.

    Those guidelines changed on May 17, 2004. Now, although the preference is to have the resident put the request in writing, the new guidelines indicate that the landlord may not refuse a request if the resident does not wish to put it in writing. In that event, we recommend that the landlord document the request and attempt to get the resident to sign or initial that the writing is a correct statement of what they want. If the resident refuses to sign or initial, it would be wise to make a notation to that effect on the request.

    Verification. Under the new HUD/DOJ guidelines, no verification is necessary if:

    bull; the disability;

    bull; the >

    bull; the need for the request is apparent.

    For instance, if a person is obviously blind and wants to have a seeing-eye dog, in violation of a no-pet policy, the landlord would not need documentation to prove that it was reasonable to allow the animal. If any of the three issues above are not apparent, the landlord can, and should, ask for written verification. If an accommodation is allowed without sufficient verification for some and not others, the landlord could be accused of differential treatment.

    Verifiers. The new guidelines also expanded the acceptable sources of verification. A resident may now verify from:

    bull; a doctor or health care professional;

    bull; a peer support group there is no definition, but we think it is reasonable to think that it may mean Alcoholics Anonymous or similar organizations;

    bull; a non-medical service agency perhaps a group like the M.S. Society;

    bull; a >

    "self-verification" it is likely that providing something such as written proof of receipt of Social Security Disability Income would suffice.

    Reasonableness. Once the verification is accomplished, the landlord should determine if the request constitutes a "reasonable accommodation." Reasonableness is determined by balancing the interests of the parties. How would denial of the request affect the resident v. how would approval of request affect the landlord? The landlord is not required to allow something that would create an undue burden or interfere with the nature of the operation of the business. Most requests for animals are deemed to be reasonable, notwithstanding a "no-pet" policy. Even if a landlord allows pets, the policies established for regulating pets do not apply to support animals:

    bull; Dont require that the animal is trained. Although Californias Unruh Act requires that business owners allow only animals which are trained, case law has included animals that provide emotional support as "companion animals" based on mental disability.

    bull; Dont charge a pet deposit or any additional deposit because of the animal. If the animal damages the premises, the damage costs can be deducted from the ordinary deposit, as with any other damage expenses.

    bull; Dont apply size, breed or quantity restrictions as you do with pets. Approval or denial should be based on whether having the animals on-site is reasonable. A support elephant or rattlesnake would not be reasonable, but many unusual animals could be. Monkeys have been trained to perform tasks for the physically disabled. Pit bulls or Rottweilers who are statistically more likely to bite are often used as companion animals.

    bull; Dont require compliance with pet rules, because a support animal is not a pet. However, landlords should be able to establish reasonable rules of conduct for support animals which should not be more stringent than the propertys pet rules.

    bull; Note that certified trainers of service animals for the physically disabled are entitled to the same rights about the animal they are training as disabled persons would be.

    Have written policies in place, and document interactions with residents to reduce the chance of a lawsuit based on failure to accommodate. Our firm has drafted forms for disability accommodation policies and procedures, including a lease addendum for animals, which sets out rules of conduct and requires the resident to warrant that their animal is not dangerous.

    Guests may bring support animals when they visit residents. If the disability, >

    Commercial Property

    Commercial properties have fewer specific regulations on the issue of animals. The Americans with Disabilities Act ADA addresses areas to which the public is invited, and Californias Unruh Act Civil Code section 51 and following addresses places that conduct "business" in the state. If you wish to read the text of the >

    In spite of the fact that there is not as much detail available in the codes, it is clear that tenants of commercial property and members of the public who visit the properties are allowed to be accompanied by support animals. Just as with guests in residential property, the landlord does not have much ability to control visitors to the commercial property who claim that the animal they bring on-site is allowed as a support animal. The issues that would be worth addressing would likely >

    With regard to tenants or employees of tenants, however, the landlord may reasonably exert some control. If a landlord wishes to establish rules which may be enforceable about the presence of animals, the rules should be in writing and should be part of the lease or addendum. If tenants or employees indicate that they are entitled to an exception to the rules based on disability, it is not clear that the procedure used in fair housing laws applies. Nevertheless, a landlord may be able to make a logical argument that to qualify for an exception, the tenant or employee should verify the right to the exception and, if that is so, the procedure used could resemble the one used for residents in rental housing.


    Disability is the most common basis for discrimination complaints in California housing. ADA and Unruh Act violations are common claims made by visitors or tenants in commercial properties. These lawsuits are very time-consuming and expensive. If management personnel encounter a fact situation that could raise such issues, it would be wise to seek the advice of a supervisor and/or an attorney before taking action or failing to take action

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