Real Estate News

Updated: Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ask the HOA Expert: Time Limits On Board Meetings

Question: What do you think about placing a time limit on the board meetings? There are some members that believe that there should be no time limit and others that believe there should be.

Answer: Generally, board meetings should not go longer than two hours. This seems to be the average time limit for sustained human concentration. Board meetings should always have a set agenda together with proposals, information and recommendations circulated in advance to the directors for review. In other words, the directors should not arrive at the meeting cold and clueless. They should have a good idea about the topics of discussion and be prepared only to clarify the issues before an up or down vote. Board meetings should never involve rambling discussion. Board meetings are intended to transact business. Stick to the agenda, get business done and adjoin the meeting in two hours or less.

Having short board meetings is an effective recruiting tool for good board members. Successful business people value their own personal time and will be more inclined to volunteer if the meetings are run in a businesslike way.

Question: In our HOA, many of the original old wooden fences need to be replaced. The governing documents address fence design and material but do not mention height. The board has issued fence guidelines which state that the maximum height is five feet. Some of our members have challenged the boards policy since they want a six foot fence.

Answer: Architectural and design policies like fences are often enacted by the board. If the board has a reasonable basis for setting the five foot limit like that has been the standard for years, it has every right to do so. The fact that some may not agree is no surprise. Welcome to America. But the board has the authority to set such policies and amend them later if there is a compelling reason to do so.

Question: Our HOA has a strict policy in order to preserve the streetscape and prevent clear-cutting. The board gets requests from time to time from members asking permission to cut trees. We will inspect and sometimes approve the cutting if there is disease or damage. If not, the requests are denied.

We now have a resident who is requesting to cut two tall pine trees that are close to his house due to the potential of the trees falling. He is stating that the HOA will be liable if the tree falls. Is the HOA exempt from such liability if the governing documents state that significant trees cannot be cut?

Answer: Besides the falling tree issue is the potential fire hazard. Trees should be located at least 30 feet from the structure, especially if they are highly flammable like pine trees. There is also the issue of tree limbs damaging the roof and the trees causing foundation damage when they sway in the wind.

But to address a specific request, it would be prudent to get a licensed arborist to review the trees in question. If the arborist believes they are a danger, they should be removed. Otherwise, they should not. The board is not responsible for acts of God, only for handling business in a prudent manner. Use experts to your advantage.

Question: Our condominium has a member that is eight months delinquent in HOA fees. He says he has declared bankruptcy, but he has renters in his unit and is collecting rent every month. The renters use the facilities and utilities gas, electricity, water, trash. Is there anything the board can do when someone has declared bankruptcy yet is collecting rent every month?

Answer: Yes, there is a lot the board can do and the sooner the better. The board needs to enact a comprehensive Collection Policy which allows "assignment of rents" from delinquent landlord owners. The Collection Policy could also include interruption of HOA provided utilities in the event of delinquency. The HOA would have to have individual utility unit shut off capability but this is an extremely effective way to get the attention of the unit owner.

If the board is going to enact a new or amended Collection Policy, it should be circulated to all members in advance with a notice that it is going into effect on such and such date. This may encourage delinquent members to pay up before it does.

And the board should identify and work with an attorney that is knowledgeable in HOA collections to deal with delinquencies in the early stages. If this member has truly filed bankruptcy, the bill may be difficult or impossible to collect. A basic of all HOA collection policies is to act early and aggressively to secure the HOAs debt. For a sample Collection Policy, see Policy section.

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Patios Can Appeal To Buyers

Depending on where you live, a patio might not be the kind of thing you think about during the cold, and maybe snowy, winter months. But a patio is what many people enjoy on a sunny warm afternoon. It just feels good to sit outside and sip some iced tea or lemonade. Thats the picture your real estate agent would want to capture when listing your home for sale.

Patios are appealing because they can create a sense of peace, open space, freedom, and they can seem to extend the square footage of livable space on those good weather days.

Set out on your patio some simple but comfortable patio furniture when youre listing your home and you might find that prospective buyers take a seat and think about your home. Good Let them soak in the energy of the home. The way it feels. The way it allows them to >So, what if you have a backyard but no patio; is it worth investing in one? The answer depends on your financial situation but theres no doubt that having a patio or a deck - a space outdoors to >However, here are a few tips about creating that patio space. If you have a small backyard, you dont necessarily want to take up the entire space with a concrete patio. The reason? Greenery is also appealing. Basically, you want to have the patio proportionally sized to your yard. So you dont want to have a huge yard and tiny patio nor the opposite.

Your patio should be located close to an entryway to the home, typically the kitchen. This is so that if there is grilling or eating outside, people can easily access the kitchen as opposed to walking through some other room in the house first.

Patios also should be located in areas where there is some level of privacy. A patio is most appealing when you can sit back, >Buyers often consider a well-built and maintained patio a plus and may create a higher selling price for your home.

To cover or not? Often when homeowners put in patios, they question if adding a covering would help increase the value of their home. That really depends on many things such as if the covering is well built and maintained and if its aesthetically pleasing, not blocking views, etc. In the case where its crafted and maintained well, the patio and its covering can increase the appeal of your home. That could translate to a higher selling price as well as a faster sale.
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Ten Mistakes That Will Keep Your Home From Selling

When youre selling your home, you need every advantage you can get. And there are few homes that are magically market ready without a little help. If your home needs a touch more than a little help, its time to get focused. After all, listing your home when its not in the right condition to sell will probably only end in frustration. And, in this case, frustration means: your home sitting on the market for months with no offers or the errant, offensive, lowball.

If you want to make sure you get home sold quickly and for the right price, youll want to avoid listing it with the following:

1. Excessive damage

Maybe the home youre selling was used as a rental and trashed by frat boy tenants, or maybe you just havent kept it up as you should. Either way, those holes in the wall that look like the living room was used as a boxing gym, the scratched-up wood floors on which dinosaurs have clearly been racing, and the yard thats barren except for those two-foot-tall patches of weeds are not what buyers are looking for. Unless youre planning to offer your house for a price that will make buyers emphasize the good and ignore the bad and the ugly, its going to need some attention.

2. Carpet in the bathroom

Its just gross. And everyone who walks into that bathroom is thinking one of two things: 1 Theres gotta be mold under there; 2 Theres gotta be pee on the floor around that toilet. This is one update youll want to do before you list. Or, if youre already listed and your homes not selling.

3. Big, nasty stains

A buyer shouldnt know where your dog likes to mark or where your kids spilled the entire bowl of holiday punch. If the stains on your carpet are that bad, potential buyers will stroll in and run right back out. No one wants to buy a pigsty. Invest a few bucks in new carpet. Youll make the money back since you wont have to drop your sales price.

4. Pet smells

Speaking of petsthey smell. You probably dont notice since you live with them everyday, but buyers will, and it might be enough to turn them off. Deep clean the carpets and the upholstery, invest in some air fresheners, and remove cat boxes from the house for showings. The last thing you want is a potential buyer referring to your house as "the stinky one."

5. Loud dogs who bark every time someone approaches the home

One last word on pets. Barking happens, whether its your dog or one that belongs to a neighbor. But you dont need that on the day of your open house. Offering to pay for doggie day care for a neighbors pooch can eliminate the issue and help create the serene setting buyers want.

6. Your dead lawn

Lack of curb appeal wont necessarily kill a deal. In many cases, you wont even get potential buyers to get out of the car. If the front yard is a mess, buyers will naturally think the mess continues inside.

7. A bad agent

Face it. Not all of them are winners. If your agent is: rude, uninformed, lazy, uncommunicative, belligerent, or unwilling to take your opinions into consideration, get a new one. An agent who isnt giving their client the right type of attention probably isnt going to get the job done.

8. Your sloppiness

Those drawers and cabinets you shoved everything into when you cleaned off your kitchen and bathroom cabinets could be a deal breaker for picky buyers. We all know buyers open stuff. They look in drawers, they open cabinets, they examine closets. If these spaces are messy and overstuffed, they may assume theres not enough storage space.

9. Unreasonable sellers

Big problems in your house can be deal killers, but they can also be deal sealers, if you are reasonable. If your inspection uncovers plumbing, electrical, or roofing problems or all three and youre unwilling to negotiate, you can kiss that sale goodbye.

10. Bad Taste

Your poor decorating choices and failure to keep up with trends from this year - or century - may haunt you when its time to sell. If its true that many buyers have no visionand all you have to do is watch House Hunters and observe a buyer getting hung up on a paint color to know thats true - then you are really in for it with your crowded house full of ugly, outdated crap. A few simple updates can help it to look fresh and give buyers something to fall in love with. Not sure where to start? Check out FrontDoors 15 Updates That Pay Off and HGTVs 10 Best-Kept Secrets For Selling Your Home.
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Sneaky Ways To Find A Home Thats About To Be Listed For Sale

Coldwell Banker just rolled out some exciting new tech thats meant to help determine when someone is about to list their home for sale. What may sound Big Brother-y to some is being lauded by others as the Big Data answer to next-level real estate success. Call it the high-tech version of going door-to-door asking if owners are looking to sell their home. Also, call it a great lead source for agents and a potential boon for buyers looking for an "in" after repeatedly getting shut out of homes thanks to ongoing inventory issues.

"In a real estate market facing a severe lack of homes for sale, agents could really use a secret weapon - something to shake up the status quo of the listing and selling gamehellip;something to help them compete in a low inventory market," said RISMedia.

Coldwell Bankers solution: CBx Seller Leads, which can identify homes that are most likely to be sold before an agent ever becomes involved. "Coldwell Banker has taken it to the next level, expanding the value of big data for real estate by adding proprietary algorithms and machine learning to the data in the original CBx product to fuel the entire CBx Technology Suite and give brokers and agents access to market intelligence they cant get anywhere else."

Skeptical? Consider this: "Coldwell Banker piloted CBx Seller Leads in 16 different markets; during the pilot, leads converted at twice the industry average."

The potential advantage to the agent is undeniable, but we also love the benefit to buyers. Agents who nurture those leads may be able to find a gem for a client without having to fight other buyers in a crowded market where inventory is at a premium. But CBx Seller Leads isnt the only way to get an early beat on new homes that havent yet been listed. Here are some more tips that could help you find that elusive home.

Stalk your preferred neighborhood

Sure, the workmen outside that cute corner Colonial could mean the homeowners are doing some updates to make the house function better for them. Or, it could mean theyre making updates to get the home in better shape so they can list it. You dont know until you ask. Your real estate agent may recommend leaving this task to them for best results, and, you never know - it could turn out that you end up shaking on an as-is property that gets you into a desired neighborhood, gets you a great deal, and gives you the opportunity to fix it up the way you want to.

Work with a connected REALTORreg;

If a listing doesnt get posted to the MLS or the big listing sites like Trulia and Redfin, how do you find out about pocket listings? The first step is to ask your real estate agent. Tell them that youre interested in pocket listings and that youd like to expand your search beyond the homes on the MLS. Encourage them to reach out to other realtors to see if there is a hidden gem on the market. Its a lot more work than scouring the online listings, but sometimes it can really pay off. In addition to working with an agent, there are also sites getting into the pocket listing game, such asnbsp;PocketList, which specializes in unlisted homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Zillow also hasnbsp;a "coming soon" search feature, which allows you to check out homes that have not yet been posted on a listing service.

What youre looking for in a real estate agent is someone who is going to work hard for you, obviously. But, especially when youre trying to find a home in a hot market where there arent a lot of available homes, working with someone who has a large base of connections in the industry and a great working >

Look for an unkempt yard

Could be an overwhelmed homeowner, could be the owners are on an extended vacationhellip;or it could be that the home is about to be foreclosed on.

Track "Notices of Default"

Finding a pre-foreclosure property isnt as easy as driving down the street in your preferred neighborhood, looking for signs on the lawn. There is no complete list that aggregates listings of homes subject to a notice of default, and it can be a process to find these potential buys. A savvy agent who hustles to find properties in default can be a real asset to a buyer, especially if they are able to cultivate a >

"The easiest way to buy a pre-foreclosure home is to help the seller to make up the back payments and then arrange to buy the home directly from the seller," said The Balance.

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Finally an Answer to One of the Most Commonly Asked Questions Homeowners Ask a Real Estate Agent

The bluehammer home improvement calculator allows you to provide estimated costs for home improvement and repair projects for your clients. Its easy to use and can be accessed on all your connected devices. You can use it in a variety of ways to benefit your clients and gain business.

Give clients an accurate cost of ownership, while they tour

With bluehammer, agents have the opportunity to use the home improvement calculator to provide cost estimates for any home remodels or repairs that a prospective buyer may want while they tour the home. bluehammer offers real estate agents the unique ability to provide clients an overall potential cost of ownership. By combining information from the home improvement calculator with their expertise, real estate agents can successfully assist clients in negotiating the absolute best price for their home.

Anticipate client questions on a new listing

Touring a home thatrsquo;s new to you? As you walk through a new listing, look for potential upgrades or repairs that buyers will want completed. The bluehammer home improvement calculator will assist you in providing estimated costs for these repairs so yoursquo;ll be prepared when your client asks.

Impress sellers with a property repair estimate

Set yourself apart from the pack and wow potential sellers by offering a free bluehammer package that includes a property repair estimate. Walk through their house using the home improvement calculator and assist them by pointing out potential repairs and renovations that would increase the value of their home, all while providing an accurate estimated cost for those improvements.

Take advantage of the ldquo;renovation boomrdquo;

Now more than ever, buyers are looking for homes that need a little bit, or a lot, of TLC, and nothing stresses a homeowner out more than surprise renovation costs. With bluehammerrsquo;s home improvement calculator, clients can feel secure knowing that your estimates are gathered from real, local estimates right in their neighborhood.

Step ahead of the competition and start being known as the go-to agent for renovation purchases in your neighborhood. Become a bluehammer agent today. Click to learn more and get started.nbsp;Realty Times readers can save 20, use this link to subscribe.

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The Cohan Rule: Estimate Your Expenses For IRS Deductions
Question: I built my own house. At first I stuffed receipts into a folder but toward the end when things got hectic, I forgot. I probably have receipts amounting to a quarter of what I believe I spent, land included. How can I establish a credible basis when it comes time to sell? The good news is the house is probably now worth a million and I think I spent less than 150k. Warren.

Answer: Warren, We all have those stuffed receipts, although usually they are in a shoe box and not a folder. But all is not lost. Remember the song "Im a Yankee Doodle Dandy". Its author was George M. Cohan. Why do I mention this? Because the so-called "Cohan rule" will assist you.

Oversimplified, Mr. Cohan did not keep good records; in fact, it appears that he did not keep any records, based on his busy schedule. When he included lots of expenses in his tax return, it was rejected. However, on appeal, Judge Learned Hand reversed the IRS. The Cohan rule basically means that you can estimate your expenses so long as you can show there is some basis for the deduction; in other words, can you prove you made improvements to your house?

In the words of the Court: "it is not fatal that the result will inevitably be speculative; many important decisions must be such."

Additionally, I have heard tax lawyers point out that section 274d of the tax code only requires substantiation for gifts, travel and entertainment. Since home improvements are not included in that list, you can >However, discuss your situation with your own financial and legal advisors. I cannot provide specific legal advice.

Question: With all of the difficulties being experienced in the real estate marketplace and by >Answer: Jon. Thats a great question. First, lets provide some definitions.

There is a title company. In the West, they are called "escrow companies". The title company conducts the settlement, arranges for all legal documents promissory note, deed of trust, truth in lending, etc to be signed and notarized, gathers in the funds from the buyer and the mortgage lender if applicable, records the legal documents among the land records in the jurisdiction where the property is located, and then disburses the settlement proceeds according to the settlement statement which is called a HUD-1.

There is also a title insurance company that writes the title policy for both owners as well as lenders. The title or escrow company is an authorized agent for a title insurance company and has the right to issue the policies on behalf of that company.

If the title company goes out of business for whatever reason, you still have the protection under your title policy by the insurance company on which the policy was written. They are what is known as the underwriter.

But what if the underwriter -- the insurance company itself -- goes out of business? Every such company is regulated in every state in which they do business by the State Insurance department. The underwriter -- just like any other insurance company -- is required to maintain reserves, which are monitored carefully by the state insurance commissioner. And to my knowledge, most -- if not all -- states have policies in place to protect the insured in the event the company goes out of business. In many situations, other insurance companies have to take over and assume the obligations of the failed company.

If you have more questions, I am sure that your states insurance department will be able to provide specific details about your states policies.

But your question prompted me to remind all homeowners: when you went to closing you probably purchased an Owners title insurance policy. Typically, the title escrow company will want to record the legal documents first. Then when they are finally received back from the Recorder of Deeds, you will get the original recorded deed plus a copy of your title insurance policy.

It often takes months to get the documents back from a Recorder of Deeds. So dont forget to make sure that ultimately, you get a copy of your title insurance policies.

Question: My father added my brother and I to the deed of his house he bought back in 1979. Now that he did his living trust, he wants to remove us from title Deed so we dont have to pay taxes in case something happens to him. I understand his property taxes will go way up is that correct. Should he leave it like it is or remove us from title? Martha.

Answer: Dear Martha. Property taxes will not go up me>However, in most cases, I dont like parents putting their children on title; that is considered a gift and the tax basis of the giftor your dad becomes the tax basis of the giftee you and your brother. That means that on his death, and if you want to sell the property, you potentially will have made a profit -- albeit a phantom profit.

On the other hand, if you and your brother inherit the house on his death, you get what is known as the "stepped-up" basis -- ie the value of the property on the date he died. Thus, if you sell it shortly thereafter, you will probably make no profit and thus not have to pay any capital gains tax.

Question: I have a similar situation; my mother bought a home by herself about 10 years ago and has recently added my name to the deed. I was told that when my mother passes away I will have to pay a higher tax because I was added to the deed rather than my mother granting me the house through her will/estate. I am not living in the house either. I am very confused about what steps we need to take to make this a smooth and least costly event for my mother and me. Thank you. Erika.

Answer: Dear Erika: See my response to the question above yours. Yes, lets say your mother bought the house for 100,000 and made no improvements. When she dies, the property is valued at 500,000. If you inherit the house, your tax basis is stepped up -- in other words, the value of the house on your mothers death is that basis. So if you sell for 500,000, you have made no profit and thus do not have to pay any capital gains tax.

But if she gave you half of the house, your basis is 50,000. Now she dies. You get the stepped up basis for your mothers half -- ie 250,000, but you overall tax basis is ow 300,000 250,000 50,000. If you sell for 500,000, you will have made a profit of 200,000 and unless you will have owned and used the house for two out the five years before it was sold, in which case you can claim the up-to-500,000 exclusion of gain or up-to-250,000 if you file a single tax return you will have to pay capital gains tax on your gain.

The bottom line: in most cases, it makes no sense for a parent to gift a portion of the house or all of it to their children. But talk with your own financial advisors about your specific situations.

Question: I recently got engaged and have plans to have my new fiancee move in to my house. I am currently the sole owner of the home. We have a wedding date scheduled for over 2 years from now. He makes much more money than I do and has a greater tax liability. Would it be advisable and/or beneficial to add him to my mortgage and title to allow him to attain the tax benefits? I believe the right off would be much more meaningful to him, but I dont want to make a mistake that will cost me more money in the future. Tori.

Answer: Dear Tori. Congratulations. I never want to break up a >I dont think it is a good idea to put him on title. And it will cost you or him a lot of money to do it. You will have to pay your state and possibly local recordation and transfer tax, and your lender will want a brand new settlement closing/escrow in order to put his name on the deed and the mortgage.

If you do decide to do this anyway, talk with a lawyer and enter into a written partnership agreement with him before his name is added to title. And title should be held as "tenants in common"; so that you preserve at least half of the property should you split up or should one of you die before the marriage.
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Steps To Building Wealth

Its never too late to secure your financial future. At, a public service offered by the Dallas Federal Reserve, you can learn how to reach your life goals by budgeting, saving and investing, building credit and controlling debt.

When you understand the difference between assets and liabilities, you know that owning a home, contributing to a retirement plan, and creating savings are all assets in the making because they increase in value or provide a return. Automobiles, clothing, smartphones and furniture are not assets because they depreciate in value. Liabilities are debts that you owe to credit card companies, mortgage lenders, hospitals, etc.

It doesnt make sense to go into debt to buy possessions that arent assets, unless it serves a necessity like a car that gets you to and from work. Thats why lenders look at your credit history to see how sensibly you spend money and if your finances fall within their income-to-debt guidelines. You dont want them finding that all your free income goes to eating out and mall shopping. No matter how much money you make, you shouldnt have more than 42 percent of your income going to pay liabilities and that should include credit card debt, rent, car payments, student loans, etc.

So the first step is creating a budget that enables you to save money. Track your spending and see where money is wasted so you can cut back and create savings. If your company offers a 401K plan, contribute as much as you comfortably can. Give yourself a goal to eat out once a week instead of five times a week. Youll be surprised at how quickly youll build savings.

Owning a home is one of the foundations of wealth. With rare exceptions, the longer you own your home, the more equity, or ownership youll have. Equity is created three ways - when your home rises in market value, when you pay down or pay off your liability, and when you make repairs and improvements that raise the value of the home.

Home ownership is like a forced savings account. Until you sell the home, youre not going to touch the equity youve built unless you take on a liability by refinancing your mortgage to make improvements.

To figure out what you need to do to buy a home of your home, you should create a budget and a gameplan and then calculate how long it will take you to save the amount you need. If you want to save 20,000, that will give you a 10 percent downpayment on a 200,000 home. Saving 200 a month, youll be able to buy a home in just over eight years, but its likely that youll save much more per month with as your income increases, your spending habits improve, and your investments start to show returns.

All it takes is time and money.

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The Fed Just Raised RatesSo What?

Every six weeks or so the Federal Open Market Committee, or the FOMC, holds its two-day meetings to discuss the current economy with an eye on the future. The FOMC has various responsibilities but one of the actions it can take is to adjust the cost of funds.

More specifically, it can adjust the Federal Funds rate. The Fed Funds rate is the rate at which banks can charge one another for short term lending. Short term as in overnight. When a bank makes such a move for a short-term loan itrsquo;s to shore up its reserve requirements. Banks are required to keep a specific amount of liquid funds available to meet customer demands for cash or credit.

The Fed did indeed make such a move at its most recent round of talks and the committee members unanimously agreed to hike the Fed Funds rate by another 0.25 while also hinting at two more such moves before the end of this year. If that holds, that rate will have increased by a full percentage point in just one year. And thatrsquo;s a lot.

But for those looking to buy and finance a home with a brand-new mortgage, these moves donrsquo;t affect mortgage rates. At least the most popular, fixed mortgage rates. When the Fed Funds rate is increased by 0.25, that is eventually passed onto their bank customers in the form of higher rates for automobile loans, credit cards and other non-mortgage consumer loans.

Instead, mortgage rates are tied to a specific mortgage bond. For your average 30 year fixed conforming loan, the rate is tied to what is called the FNMA 30yr 4.0 or the FHLMC 30yr 4.0. Thatrsquo;s a bit technical for most but thatrsquo;s what nearly two out of every three fixed conforming loans are tied to. And because itrsquo;s a bond it acts just like any other bond. Bonds arenrsquo;t bought by investors for high returns but for safety. When an investor buys a bond, the returns are known in advance.

If investors in general think the economy is starting to roll and gain strength well into the future, theyrsquo;ll pull money out of bonds and put more into stocks and mutual funds. When there is less demand for a bond, the price goes down just like with any other commodity. Less demand, lower price. Higher demand, higher price. The yield on the bond acts inversely to its price.

Okay, letrsquo;s come up for air for a moment. In plain talk, as it >
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10 Places That Will Pay You To Move There

Close to job. Great schools. Projected growth. Theyre all reasons why someone might consider buying a home in a certain area. But heres one more important reason: Because someone wants to pay you to move there.

Thats right. You could actually make money moving to a new areahellip;if youre willing to go where the interest is.

"The idea has spread where a strong economy, an aging population and an exodus of younger workers have triggered severe labor shortages - often places with very low unemployment rates and higher-than-average wage growth," said MSN. "Thats why small towns across America, instead of offering incentives to employers, such asnbsp;Amazon.comnbsp;Inc., are giving it to workers - one by one.

Were talking about places like:

North Platte, Nebraska

The city offers incentivesnbsp;"from student loan helpnbsp;and home buying grants, to gifted parcels of land and even town-wide ceremonies in your honor," said Inc. "Last year the North Platte chamber of commerce started offering up to 10,000 to anyone who movesnbsp;there for a job, in the hopes of helping the town of 24,000 fill some of itsnbsp;hundreds of job openings.nbsp;Theyll evennbsp;present you a large check during a ceremony in your honor."

St. Clair County, Michigan

This city has its eye on a student population who they hope will then stick around and pump money into the economy. They recently upped their student-loan scholarships from 10,000 to 15,000.

Grant County, Indiana

Move to Grant County with "advanced trainingnbsp;or a college degree" and you could getnbsp;5,000 toward a home from the economic development office. You have to stay for at least five years.nbsp;You could also get a 9,000 scholarship from thenbsp;chamber of commerce to help repay loans.

Hamilton, Ohio

Or, move to Hamilton, instead. The citys student loan repayment incentive is 5,000.

Marne, Iowa

You can even get a free piece of land when you move to Marne. "The small town of 120 has a free-lots programnbsp;that offers any newcomers a free piece of land to build a home on," said Inc. "The state of Iowa has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 2.8 percent."

But its not just small American cities that are enticing new residents to move there. You can opt to move to Canada, Switzerland, Chile, or even Italy, and get paid to do so.

Candela, Italy

"It pays to live in Candela, Italy. The once-bustling town in Puglia has dropped from more than 8,000 residents in the 1990s to just 2,700 today, so the mayor is offering up to 2,000 euros about 2,350 to lure people back to the picturesque Medieval village of winding streets and restored palazzos surrounded by hills and forests," said Moneyish.

To qualify, you must "live inside Candela, rent a house and have a job paying a salary of at least 7,500 euros 8,800 per year. Singles will receive 800 940 euros from the town coffers, couples will get 1,200 euros 1,400, three-member families will get 1,500 to 1,800 euros 1,760-2,100, and families of four to five people will get more than 2,000 euros 2,350. Candela may also give tax credits on city waste disposal, bills and nurseries in the future."


"If youve graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution and you live in Saskatchewan, you can qualify for a tuition rebate of up to 20,000 under the provincesnbsp;Graduate Retention Program," said Slice.nbsp;

Pipestone, Manitoba

In the rural municipality of Pipestone, Manitoba, you can get a grant worth up to 32,000, buy a home with just a 1,000 deposit, and buy a lot for just 10.nbsp;

Albinen, Switzerland

Last year, residents of Albinen in southern Switzerland pushed for an incentive program to attract some more folks."According to the proposal, anyone who decides to move to the village and buy, refurbish or build a home should be paid an incentive: CHF 25,000 per adult and CHF 10,000 per child," said Swissinfo. "There arenbsp;conditions though: applicants must be below the age of 45 and commit themselves to living in Albinen for at least ten years. They will also need to invest a minimum of CHF200,000 in the property, with the financing approved by the bank. If someone moves away or sells the property within these ten years, they will have to pay back the money received from the village."


Chile fancies itself the future business center of South America, so its efforts are geared toward startups. "In this scenario, Chile will pay a company 50,000 through their program Start-Up Chile," said Nomadapp. "In order to qualify, the startup must have the potential of becoming global and largely successful. In addition, they will provide you with a one-year work visa and business contacts. The support system is completely in English despite the country being primarily Spanish speaking."

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The 7 Worst Mistakes You Can Make While Renovating And How To Avoid Them

Everyone wants to renovate. And now more than ever, they want to do it themselves. According to Remodeling magazine, "Big-ticket remodeling activity, already enjoying record economic conditions, is growing at its fastest pace in four years and should rise 5.1 this year alone." Those numbers are based on Metrostudys latest Residential Remodeling Index RRI.

In addition, "TheRRIas of the first quarter of 2018 stood as 112.9, its highest reading ever. That number means the economic conditions known to influence remodeling activity are 12.9 better than the old peak in early 2007, just before the Great Recession. The RRI has shown year-over-year gains for 24 consecutive quarters, and as of 1Q18 it was 5.2 above the year-earlier levelthe highest such annual growth since the first quarter of 2014--and was 1.4 better than it was just three months prior."

While all that remodeling is great for the economy and also, presumably, for individuals home equity, problems can arise when homeowners take on tasks themselves without the proper training or preparation. Keeping renovations on track is simple - if you know what to look out for so you can avoid big mistakes.

Overestimating your skill

Tiling looks easy, right? Why not do the entire bathroom, floors and walls. And who needs to take a >How to avoid mistakes:

Take on something small, first. Test your skills, and your patience, before embarking on the tough stuff.

Underestimating your budget

Its a universal truth that no one ever puts aside enough money for their renovation. And it seems that the tighter your budget, the more likelihood there is that issues will arise to bust it The last thing you want is a problem that changes your entire plan last minute or makes you stop mid-renovation to make alternate plans or find more money.

How to avoid it:

Experts recommend setting your budget amount and then adding 20 percent, but, the more novice you are, the more you may want to add to that cushion.

Minimizing the timeline

Homeowners looking to do their own renovations can wildly underestimate the amount of time needed to make the changes. This is mostly due to inexperience but is also shaped by individual needs. Just because you only have two weekends to completely tear down and renovate your kitchen before your in-laws arrive doesnt mean its going to happen within that timeframe. Its more likely that theyll arrive to a mess and no functional place to prepare a meal, let alone the pretty finishes you wanted to show off.

How to avoid it:

Do some research. Listen to what the professionals say. Read some blogs from homeowners who have already done the DIY reno kitchen thing and absorb what they have to say. Really hear it instead of dismissing them as amateurs. Let the mistakes and experiences of others shape how you go about your renovation so your open eyes and open mind can guide you toward success.

Swinging the hammer without a plan

Demo sure looks fun on TV, and it can be fun. But it can also be seriously damaging to your property if you swing away without knowing what youre swinging away at, and you dont have a plan for what to do next, or what to do if you encounter something unexpected.

"Work on older buildings can yield a lot of unforeseen events," said Architectural Digest. "Who knows whats behind that wall youre opening up? New construction is more controlled, but that doesnt always mean smooth sailing. Be prepared for the unexpected. We all hope and pray everything goes according to plan. Trust us: Nothing will."

How to avoid it:

Hire a structural engineer who can tell you exactly whats going on in the wall you want to take down there and ensure you dont do something crazy, like compromise the entire structure of your home.

Not asking for help

Congrats on that whole, "Im so independent" thing, but when it comes to renovating, the more the merrier. You want someone there to to help with the heavy lifting, to bounce ideas off of, and to confirm suspicions, when necessary.

How to avoid it:

Call your friends, call your fam, call your coworker whos the self-proclaimed Queen of Reno. If nothing else, having another human in the room will make the reno go quicker and will give you someone to talk to, other than yourself.

Thinking you can just do it on weekends

Sure, there are weekend warriors who can power through their Saturday and Sunday renos and go back to work on Monday, but, lets be real. Is that you? The last thing you want is to have to live in a mess for months while you figure out how to finish what you started.

How to avoid it:

One of the most important tips to consider before you embark on any renovation is to just get real honest with yourself about your natural tendencies. Some of us like spending 18 straight hours hammering and sawing and caulking, and some of us are tired and over it after the first 20 minutes.

Not considering the impact on your marriage

Theres a reason home renovation is one of the leading causes of divorce: The stress it causes. "Its not necessarily that the renovation process causes problems; its more that the process exacerbates whatever issues already exist in the >According to the publication, up to 17 percent of couples consider splitting up while fixing up.

How to avoid it:

Keep the communication going. And go into it knowing it will be stressful so youre prepared when things get testy. "Perhaps the best antidote to home renovation-
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When It Comes To Fair Housing, What Can You Say?

The column that follows below, has appeared before on these pages screens?. It was last published four years ago. But, like false news, the real estate myth of prohibited language continues to be circulated. The persistent influence of uninformed people is, indeed, a force to be reckoned with. So, here we go again.

Some myths take on a life of their own. Not only do they refuse to die, but also, they grow and expand. Recently, it has come to our attention that this seems to be true of what we might call the real estate myth of prohibited language. Like most myths, it began in a truth. The truth was, and is, that Section 804c of the Fair Housing Act "prohibits the making, printing, and publishing of advertisements which state a preference, limitation or discrimination on the basis of race, color, >What is the myth? It is the belief that the Fair Housing Act prohibits the use of any words or phrases that could conceivably offend someone or that could in any way, shape, or form suggest that describing the >It has been more than twenty years now since the Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD issued a memorandum,HUD Guidance Regarding Advertisements Under Section 804c of the Fair Housing Act, which was designed to put the myth to rest. Alas, the myth seems to have had greater staying power. While the memorandum is still official HUD policy, many people in the real estate community -- including those who police the MLS -- seem to be oblivious to it. Fortunately, the memo is readily available as an appendix in the National Association of REALTORSreg; NAR publication, Fair Housing Handbook. Or, you could Google it.

The memorandum addresses wording issues as they arise with respect to the various seven protected >1. Race, color, or national origin: "Use of words describing the housing, the current or potential residents or the neighbors or neighborhood in racial or ethnic terms i.e., white family home, no Irish will create liability under this section. However, advertisements which are facially [apparently] neutral will not create liability. Thus, complaints over use of phrases such as master bedroom, rare find, or desirable neighborhood should not be filed."

2. >"Advertisements should not contain an explicit preference, limitation or discrimination on account of >do not on their face state a preference for persons likely to make use of those facilities and are not violations of the Act."

3. Sex: " Use of the term master bedroom does not constitute a violation of either the sex discrimination provisions or the race discrimination provisions. Terms such as "mother-in-law suite" and "bachelor apartment" are commonly used as physical descriptions of housing units and do not violate the Act."

4. Handicap: "Advertisements containing descriptions of properties great view, fourth floor walkup, walk-in closets, services or facilities jogging trails or neighborhoods walk to bus stop do not violate the Act"

5. Familial status: "Advertisements describing the properties two bedroom, cozy, family room, services and facilities no bicycles allowed or neighborhoods quiet streets are not facially discriminatory and do not violate the Act."

So, there you have it. Straight from your government. Something sensible. Savor it and pass the word. Myth busters, unite.
Full Story >

Custom Built-Ins Make The Most Of Every Inch

Whether you live in a house or condo, chances are you dont have enough storage space. Custom built-ins are a great way to make the most of every inch, to solve design problems and add a sense of order.

Built-ins around the fireplace open shelving on top and closed on the bottom and systems to accommodate media components are among the most common. However, the skys the limit for a creative designer who can come up with stylish and personalized storage solutions. Designer Sabrina Bitton built a lit, glass-front shelf to display a beautiful shoe collection. Builder Amedeo Barbini designed speciality storage for a client who loves expensive wreaths and "needed a special place to store and organize them."

The design of built-in units depends on what you want to store -- the actual pieces, their >Homeowners life>Built-ins can also conceal bars and media centres, or house Murphy beds so rooms can do double duty as >Putting otherwise wasted space to use is key. A bookshelf can be added to the end of a hallway, along its length or beside and around a door to add usable space. Nooks between studs provide a place to store towels in bathrooms, display treasures or even house spices in the kitchen.

Built-ins with doors are the perfect way to store unsightly items, adding a sense of calm to a space.

With or without doors, built-ins also make great room dividers. In one master bedroom project, Bitton placed the bed in the middle of the room and used a closet as a headboard.

Half walls that separate space are popular, especially in large lofts. Low built-ins are a modern approach, Stepanek says.

Placement is key to ensure that views, light and flow are not blocked, Bitton says. Shelving thats open front and back keep the space open. Built-ins divide and ground a space and are particularly useful in breaking up a long, narrow space.

Theyre are also a great way to solve design problems such as large columns in condominiums. Stepanek says the column in her friends condo had only a foot of space between it and the window. She built open shelving in rings around the column so her friend could display keepsakes. It solved a problem but created unique shelving.

If there is a mechanical stack, built-ins can be used to square the room.

A gym bag was the catalyst for another of Barbinis storage solutions. "The individual gets up early, takes his gym bag and goes to the gym, comes back and wants a place to store it," he says.

The solution? Barbini built three drawers under the stairs. One accommodates the gym bag, another the central vacuum hose and the other is for keys.

Wasted space around a see-through fireplace on a 10-inch-thick wall that separates the master bedroom and ensuite bathroom offers shelving and drawers. "It was space that would otherwise have gone to waste," Barbini says.

Stepanek says the smallest built-in they have designed was just eight-inches-deep. It has to be at least that size because "you still want to be able to store stuff in it," she says.

Bitton, also a fashion designer/fashionista, needs lots of storage for clothes. In her 1,800-square-foot condo, she built floor-to-ceiling cabinets in the kitchen and dining room. The uppermost cabinets open to reveal pull-down racks so clothing is stored away yet is easily accessible.

Accessibility -- storage versus everyday use -- is another consideration when considering what will be stored where.

Custom cabinetry is also a great solution for rooms with dormers or sloped ceilings because the cabinetry can be designed to follow the shape of the ceiling. Extending cabinetry to ceiling height also maximizes storage space.

In her living room, Bitton sliced a corner wall and used open shelving in its place. The open shelves create a softer "corner" and dont block views and light, giving the space an airy, brighter feel.

Built-ins are part of the architecture or are an architectural component in North American homes, unlike in Europe where freestanding cabinets are built and taken with them when people move.

Theyre a feature that homeowners love.

Its important to hire a professional, Bitton says. A professional designer can provide personalized creative solutions, suggest the proper placement and recommend materials that will take your room from ordinary to extraordinary.


Designer Sabrina Bitton created a lit, glass-front shelf to display a beautiful shoe collection.

Builder Amedeo Barbini created built-in shelving on either side of a dining room doorway so the owners could display colourful glass treasures.
Full Story >

8 Ways To Lower Your Water Bill This Summer

When the temps rise, so does water usage. And that means a larger impact on areas that are already struggling with drought conditions, not to mention the impact on your wallet, regardless of where you live.

"Summers rising temperatures often coincide with rising outdoor water use, primarily due to an increase in lawn and landscape watering," said WaterSense. "While using water efficiently is important throughout the year, sometimes the timing of water use can make a big difference for community water supplies - and your water bill."

In most cases, there are easy fixes you can make to be more water efficient. Here are 8 you can incorporate into your daily habits immediately.

Turn off the faucet

Did you know that you waste a good four gallons of water every time you leave the faucet running while youre brushing your teeth? This one easy change can make a big difference in your water usage and conservation efforts.

Check the toilets

"It may seem like a slow drip, but those drips add up to gallons faster than you might realize," said Maximum Yield. "To diagnose a silent toilet leak, place food coloring in your toilet tank and wait to see if the color makes it into the bowl. If you see color seeping in, its time for a fix."

Set a timer

Have kids or spouses that take impossibly long showers? Even cutting back on a couple a week can dramatically curb your water usage. Shave off two minutes to save as much as 1,750 gallons of water per person a year Set a 10-minute timer on a waterproof shower clock so your water-wasting offender can see how much time they have left to rinse, lather, and repeat.

Use the dishwasher

Heres a surprising fact: You actually use far more water handwashing dishes than if you run the dishwasher. How much more? "Doing a full load in your machine is far more efficient than washing the same number of dishes by hand," said This Old House. "This is especially true if you have an Energy Star dishwasher, which requires an average of four gallons of water per load, compared with the 24 gallons it takes to do them in the sink. Using one will save you 5,000 gallons of water, 40 in utility costs, and 230 hours of your time each year."

Go to the car wash

Yes, you can save a few bucks by washing your car at home. But if you think youre saving water, too, this may come as a shock: You use two and a half times more water handwashing the car than you would at the car wash

Check your sprinklers

Malfunctioning sprinklers could be costing you money and wasting water. Sprinkler heads that dont properly deliver an even spray could cause parts of your lawn to die. If the heads dont lower properly, they can be damaged or broken easily.

You may also be overwatering. "If the environmental argument for conserving water doesnt appeal to you, heres a financial one: According to the city of Cleveland, the average cost of water starts at around 13 per 1,000 gallons," said Schill Grounds Management. "This may not seem like a ton of money, but volume quickly adds up when youre irrigating a large property. At this rate, the average sprinkler spraying just one zone it shouldnt be for 12 minutes/day at 12 gallons/minute can waste over 680 per year The simple truth is that only annuals need to be watered daily. Trees, shrubs, and turf can all be watered less frequently for massive water savings."

A check of your system could save you money and hassle.

Water in the morning or at night

Letting your sprinklers go during the hottest time of the day minimizes the benefit of watering. "Water evaporates quickly when the sun is high, so sprinkle when its more likely to stay in the soil," said the National Resources Defense Council NRDC. "And make sure youre watering your yard, not the sidewalk or driveway. A drip irrigation system works better than sprinklers, as it sends targeted amounts of water exactly where you want it. Check to see if you qualify for a rebate to make your irrigation system more water efficient."

Mulch it

Mulch doesnt just make your yard look fresh, but it also helps keep moisture in. "Mulched gardens are healthier, have fewer weeds, and are more drought-resistant than unmulched gardens," said Good Housekeeping. For the best results, consider rubber mulch. "Rubber is a step up from the bark-like texture youre probably used to seeing," said HGTV. "Made from 100-percent recycled tires, rubber mulch is suitable to use on most landscapes. It has several benefits: a safe play surface for children, prevents weeds, does not attract insects and water and air can easily flow through it."
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10 Things To Do After Relocating To A New City

Free at last The backbreaking work of moving large furniture from one side of the house to other is finished. No more packed boxes line the house. Its a great feelings of accomplishment. Enjoy your reprieve for a night as youve earned it. After giving yourself a day of rest its time to get back to work

1. Get Connected to your New Neighborhood: Probably the most anxious part of moving is meeting your new neighbors. Its essentially a crap shoot as they could be wonderful people that you will eventually trust and perhaps they will become a vital asset once you become settled in. Or possibly they could be the Neighbor from Hell. Regardless going out of your way and introducing yourself to the neighbors will go a long way as we know first impressions last a lifetime.

2. Update your address with the important contacts: Emergency contacts, banks, family members, and collectors must all be made aware of your address change. This can be a bit tedious, but you must make sure everything is in order as you would hate for some meaningless bill go into collections due to sheer negligence.

3. Register your vehicle: Go to and get new tags, a license plate, and a registration card. If you dont and you get pulled over you will be very sorry. You will most likely have to waste a day in court to appeal whichever fine may have been levied on you.

4. Re-register to vote in your new location: Follow http://www.eac.go. Its important that you do this as states rules and regulations vary when it comes to establishing residency.

5. Find a doctor/dentist: Click here to find a Doctor or Dentist near you. Make sure to do a quick check of ratings as well.

6. Update your insurance: Compare Auto Insurance now You would be surprised to see how much auto insurance can vary state-to-state, but it certainly make sure you get the best and most advantageous rate.

7. Check your commute to work: Try at least two different routes and time how long it takes you to go each way. As good as Google maps is becoming, its still better to be prepared and know multiple ways to get to work in case an unfortunate event were to happen causing you to be late to work during your first week.

8. Get acquainted with your new city Try new things: Go to new grocery stores. Check out and see which restaurants are the best in your area. Look up TripAdvisor and see which attractions are closest to you.

9. Review your moving company: Perhaps it was a pleasant experience perhaps it wasnt. If you indeed had a bad experience make sure other people dont make the same mistake that you did.

10. Schools: If you have children make sure to get them registered and set to go for school. Also make sure to check for sports leagues, clubs, or extracurricular activities to get them involved.

Full Story >

Build Your New Construction Commissions on Referrals, Not Skills.

The following is Part 3 of a four-part series.nbsp;
Part 1: Builder/Realtor >Part 2: What Experienced Realtors Like Abut Selling New Homes

Realtor Ed called to tell me he sold a new home, after showing resales for six weeks.

ldquo;Irsquo;ve been doing it wrong for 16 years,rdquo; he said, but I did something I learned recently, and it worked.

ldquo;What did you do?rdquo; came the obvious question.

ldquo;I introduced my prospects to the builderrsquo;s onsite agent and did not say another word.

ldquo;They bought the same day. I am stunned. The onsite consultant was terrificrdquo;


Did Ed lsquo;sellrsquo; this home? No. The onsite sales consultant sold it.

What did Ed do? He referred his prospect in person to the onsite agent. Is that what todayrsquo;s production builders are doing? Yes. Most.

In a real sense, he referred his prospect to the agent, just as he would a resale referral, with one important exception, the prospect will remain his prospect throughout the process.

What nails it as a referral is the fact that the builders write the contracts.

Itrsquo;s time Realtors stopped lsquo;sellingrsquo; new homes and started lsquo;referringrsquo; their prospects to new home consultants. Training new home agents to sell new homes is redundant. To ask them to learn construction is a complete waste of time and distraction.

Realtors introduce qualified home shoppers to onsite agents, and the agents do the rest. That is the way it works with most production builders.

And it works as well as the Realtors allow it to work.

When onsite agents tell Realtors to bring their prospects to the sales office, and they will do all the work, they mean it.

So, if it is a referral fee, why do builders pay commissions that compete with resale fees paid to the local Realtor community, and sometimes more?

It has been customary for years for builders to consider themselves the listing broker and Realtors co-brokers, paid for the sales side of the commission.

Thus, the lsquo;how to sell new homesrsquo; mentality, but it needs to be called what it is- a nbsp;referral. Why? Because more Realtors will start showing more interest in new homes.

Helping qualified, motivated resale home shoppers find a home is what Realtors do. About half of their prospects come from referrals.

If Realtors start to think lsquo;new home referral,rsquo; instead of lsquo;sale,rsquo; they soon understand why they have nothing to prove or impression to make, other than being honest and helpful.

The sooner the Realtor community grasps the lsquo;new home referralrdquo; concept, the sooner it will start suggesting that their agents farm for new home prospects.

There is nothing about construction, incentives, or anything else one needs to learn to refer a new home shopper to a new home builder.

Onsite sales consultants do not need or want your help during the sales process.

Thatrsquo;s the way most production builders think of your service, not because they disrespect you, but because they do not need your services during the sales and construction process. They have professionally trained, highly motivated staffs to provide every task in the process, better than you can.

Except one.

Todayrsquo;s builders are acutely aware that Realtors provide the one thing builders cannot deliver in quantity and cannot do without ndash; ready, willing and able prospects.

According the National Association of Realtors, Realtors sold ninety percent of all homes sold last year.

As Builder Homesite Inc BHI Founder and CEO Tim Costello said five years ago at the 2013 International Builders Show. ldquo;Buildersrsquo; are starting to understand that their competition is not the builder across the street. Their competition is the resale and who controls these potential buyers? Realtors.rdquo;

Here is what homebuilders can do better in most cases than you can:

  • Sell the benefits of the homersquo;s features
  • Sell the value
  • Sell the urgency incentives
  • Sell the location
  • Sell the builderrsquo;s reputation
  • Sell the amenities
  • Sell the construction quality
  • Sell the design features
  • Help them understand the money, starting with a fixed price
  • Explain financing
  • Coordinate mortgage application/approval
  • Provide answers to all construction questions
  • Explain the construction process
  • Write the contract
  • Provide all transaction management
  • Close escrow
  • Provide other services as requested by the buyer.
  • Pay referral fee sales commission/fee
  • Welcomes you as someone who has a strong >

These builder services beg a question. ldquo;What do Realtors do to earn their fee?rdquo;

They get paid if the referred prospect purchases the builderrsquo;s home and the Realtor is the referring agent of record.

Finding qualified resale or new home prospects in new home price ranges is not easy. Every member of the local Realtor association, and it could be thousands, are competing for these buyers.

Homebuilders understand this.

What many builders donrsquo;t understand about Realtors- and itrsquo;s a turn-off, is when they say, lsquo;bring them out, and we will do all the work.rdquo;

Realtors dont like the idea of not working for their commission. They hear a lack of respect for their hard work.

What if homebuilders said:

ldquo;Refer your new home prospect to me. They are always treated with respect and courtesy, as you will be, and yes, you are welcome to participate in any stage of the process.rdquo;

This approach is respectful, honest and implies that the onsite agent is to do all the work.

Herersquo;s the game changer.

Realtors understand referrals. They are encouraged to build their business on referrals. They are not trained to lsquo;referrsquo; prospects to onsite sales consultants. But it is what they are doing when they introduce their prospects to an onsite consultant.

If homebuilders asked for referrals instead of sales, they would be speaking the Realtorsrsquo; language.

If Realtors were taught to refer, instead of lsquo;sellrsquo; new homes, there would be no need for Realtors to fear working with new home shoppers.

Here is what matters: At the closing, your clients should be singing your praises.

You provided the most important service for them.

You not only helped your buyers find the home of their dreams, you introduced them to a builder and a team of professionals that held their hand every step of the way.

You earned a healthy referral fee because you referred the one thing the builder needed most ndash; your prospect.

Next: Part 4 Best Practice Recommendations For NAR and NAHB

Full Story >

8 Tips For Creating The Perfect Home Office

Home office are one of the most in-demand home features today and continue to rise in popularity as more and more people work from home or bring their work home. A new report from Upwork found that nearly two-thirds of companies today have remote workers, and, according to Forbes, more and more Americans are quitting their day jobs to start their own businesses.

But creating a home office that functions well takes more than simply dragging an old desk out of the garage and pulling up a dining chair. The right elements can help you work better and more efficiently.

The right spot

You dont always have the option of choosing the location for your home office; your place may already have a dedicated space. But if you are choosing between a few locations, consider this: "Youll likely spend many hours in your home office, so dont stiff yourself on space e.g. squishing a tiny desk into a windowless closet to preserve the ra>The right privacy

Even if youre a "keep the door open" type, having one you can close when you need to mega-concentrate or take a phone call is key to creating a functional home office. If your home doesnt have a dedicated office space and there isnt a bedroom you can convert, a dining room may be your best bet. Many families today dont use their dining room, especially if they have a breakfast nook and/or an island with eating bar. Adding glass doors to the room will give you privacy without visually closing off the space.

The right chair

When youre sitting for hours a day, you want to be comfortable. A supportive chair is worth the expense to ensure youre not fidgety and distracted, and that you dont end up with a back injury. "Dont underestimate the power of a good chair," said Forbes. "The right support, while working, can help you prevent postural problems, like back pain, later on. If you want to be trendy, you can try to use a stability ball, or if youre interested in avoiding the problems with sitting in general, you can invest in a standing desk. In any case, you need a comfortable, healthy way to work."

The right color

You probably dont want to paint your home office a color that clashes with the rest of your decor, especially if its visible from other parts of the house. But expressing some individuality in the space can help fuel creativity and productivity. "Colors and moods are interconnected, and the psychological impact of color should be considered when interior designers work with home owners to select a color palette," said Harrington College of Design. "When chosen with care, paint colors can enhance the atmosphere of every room in the house. Blue is a great color choice for a home office or study because it creates a soothing, >The right storage

Remember you can use vertical space to make up for a lack square footage and give you more storage options.

The right mix of personality

Sure, your home office is a professional place where important stuff gets done. But dont forget to put a little "you" into it. Studies show that we work better when surrounded by things that make us happy. "Incorporate elements you love into the design," said Glassdoor. "Most corporate offices dont allow you to decorate your space. You might get to have a family picture at your desk, but not much else.

At home, though, you are at liberty to decorate your office any way you like."

The right light

Lighting is essential for being able to see properly, obviously. Too little light can create eye strain and headaches, so make sure you have a good mix of overhead and task lighting. But dont forget about the natural light.

"When putting a new desk into a home office, a lot of people kind of reflexively put it right up against the wall in the darkest corner of the room," said Linda Varone, author of The Smarter Home Office, on Fast Company. "What theyve inadvertently done is recreated the corporate cubicle. And who wants that? Move your desk close to the windows, but place it parallel to the panes. This ideal set-up gives you the happiness benefits of natural light, and a good reason to turn away from your computer every few minutes to take in the scene."

The right supplies

Just like you do a regular inventory of your kitchen essentials to keep the fridge and pantry well-stocked, you want to do the same in your office. "Dont let yourself get hung up because you ran out of printer ink or cant find a pen," said Small Biz Trends. "A functional office needs supplies and the proper equipment to function."
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How To Make Sure Youre Buying A Home In A Safe Neighborhood

"Crime levelshave declined sharplyin the US over the past two decades. According to FBI statistics, the rate of violent crimefell 50between 1993 and 2015, the most recent full year available," said Business Insider.

Yet, school shootings are increasingly on everyones minds and public perceptions are that crime is actually on the rise. "In 21 Gallup surveys since 1989, the majority of Americans said there wasmore crime compared to the year before, despite the downward trend in both violent and property crime rates in the US during that period," they said.

In and amongst all the other factors buyers need to consider when looking for a home - price and affordability, square footage, commute time, how much updating needs to be done - its more important than ever to feel safe in your home and neighborhood. Lists like WalletHubs 2018s Safest States in America Vermont, Maine, and Minnesota are the top three, and Niches Best Place to Live in America, of which safety is a key factor Naperville, Illinois, Irvine, California, and Thousand Oaks, California are a great place to start. But when you want to dig a little deeper, start here:

Map the crime in the area

The city you are looking at could be on the safest cities list, but what about the specific neighborhood? Using a crime mapping service can help. "CrimeReports and SpotCrimeare two services that collect police and crime reports," said "Enter the address where you plan to buy or build, and these two services will display a list of the crimes committed in the vicinity, complete with a breakdown of the dates and type of crimes. You can compare potential neighborhoods with these tools to see which ones have the lowest crime rates."

Check for sexual predators

The U.S. Department of JusticeNational Sex Offender Public Website NSOPWis a regularly updated database that allows you to enter an address and map sex offenders nearby.

FamilyWatchdogis another great place to look. "Type a location or address into the websites search box, and FamilyWatchdog generates a map pinpointing the address of nearby registered sex offenders," said Safewise. "Color-coded icons correspond to various sex crimes, including crimes against children, sexual battery, and rape. Click the icon and youll see a picture of the offender, learn their aliases, and find out what sex crime theyve been convicted of. If youre looking for a specific individual, you can search for them by name." With this free service, "You can alsosign up to be alertedwhen a registered sex offender moves in or out of your neighborhood."

Talk to people already in the area

This is a top tip for buying a home regardless of what your specific concerns may be. After all, you dont want to end up living across from the next Nirvana, who practice in the garage until all hours of the night, or the grumpy old man who spends his afternoons gazing out the window so he can run outside to yell at anyone who dares walk a dog by his house. A nosy neighbor and every place has at least one, can also give you some great info about potential concerns beyond the mild or not so mild irritations. If there are issues in the neighborhood, in the schools, or in a particular home, youre likely to hear it here first. What might seem like gossip can be great intel you want to take seriously.

Check Nextdoor

Perhaps nowhere will you find better and deeper insight into what a potential neighborhood is like than getting a peak at the local Nextdoor. Expect to see the typical Nextdoor postslots of "my dog or my cat, my lizard, or my turtle got out," and all kids of complaints about bad driving, complete with shaming pictures of license plates. Youll also see lots of posts about suspicious individuals/potential prowlers and questions about whether that "loud bang" that was probably fireworks was actually a gunshot. If you havent already had the pleasure of joining Nextdoor in your current community, this will give you a taste of what to expect.

But behind all of that potential paranoia is some real info that could give you important insight into the neighborhood and who you might soon be living near.

Choose the right school

New-home purchases are often made or broken on the quality of the area schools, but parents today are concerned about more than test scores. As youre doing your research, perhaps a one-on-one with the principal is in order. Knowing details of the schools anti-bullying policy may help you feel more confident in your choice. It stinks to have to think about things like evacuation plans and active shooter training, but knowing the school has elements in place to keep your kids safe is, unfortunately, crucial today.

And, just as you may want to talk to neighbors about the quality of the neighborhood, local parents take on the school, teachers, administrators, and how safe and protected they feel their kids are is also key.
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What Is The Home Sellers Staging Hiding From You?

When sellers stage their homes, theyre simply trying to make their homes as attractive as possible to buyers. Staging can include cleaning, decluttering, depersonalizing and decorating the home. It can be done by the seller, or by a professional who goes so far as to completely overhaul a home with glamorous rented furniture and accessories.

At its best, staging helps buyers see the possibilities so they can easily visualize themselves owning and living in the home. It can also distract buyers attention from real problems a home may have or that may be expensive for the buyer to handle.

Theres nothing wrong with a seller presenting a home for sale at its best - sparkling clean and ready for viewing. But before you let yourself be enchanted by the romantic table set for two, the aroma of cookies coming from the oven, and the spa robe and slippers laid out by the bathtub, ask yourself if those are the things that you should be noticing.

Instead, concentrate on the things that will impact your daily life -- how the home flows and functions, whether the home needs expensive repairs or updates, or buy all new furniture to make it work.

When you view homes for sale that are staged, ask yourself the following questions:

Does the home look too "decorated?" A sure sign a home has been professionally staged if everything in the home has a generic furniture store look all from the same manufacturer or era. If you see no signs of wear, or stickers under vases and glassware, then the home has been dressed to impress. That kind of perfection isnt achievable for most people, so dont look at the dcor, look at the bones of the home.

Does the staging make sense? Would you really put your own furniture as close to the fireplace or as far from the window? An attractive but odd arrangement is a tipoff that the room is either not well designed or that a problem is being minimized. For example, a heavy chair may be used to discourage buyers from lifting the area rug.

Is the staging hiding a repair that needs to be made? Bathrooms and kitchens are the most expensive rooms to repair and update. Move the bottle of bubble bath and look behind the shower curtain. Is the caulk fresh? Is the porcelain tub or sink stained? Is the finish worn off of the fixtures? Look under the sink for water stains.

Is the staging overdone? Candles burning in every room or tons of air freshener may be masking pet odors. Heavy drapes may cover ugly views. Go ahead and open them up and look outside.

Is the furniture proportionate to the rooms? Small-scale furnishings can disguise rooms that are too small, so go ahead and sit down. If your knees are under your chin, the room may be too small for your purposes. Furniture thats massive can mean a room is going to be difficult or very expensive to decorate.

If you like the home well enough for another viewing and to make an offer, ask the seller to leave off the air freshener and to move that heavy chair aside. Take measurements and make sure your things will fit. Get the home inspected, so you know what youre really buying.
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How To Fireproof Your Home

Many people perish in fires because there was simply not enough time for them to get out. A fire can move quickly, but with fire protection sprays and paints, the fire will move at a slower rate. This can allow people to get out of the business or the home before the fire destroys the entire structure. In a fire; you literally have only seconds to get out.nbsp;

A great thing about using a fire retardant spray or paint is that they are safe to apply. You have the protection that you need; without increasing the risk of other dangers. They are not toxic and they are easy to apply, helping you to take advantage of them in a simple, safe and straightforward manner.

When you use fire protection coatings, you can protect the entire structure from fire. This can help contain a fire in one small area and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the structure. If the fire is able to move around freely, and therersquo;s nothing to stop it, then the home or business is going to be lost. The protective coating can significantly slow the fire down to prevent further damage until fire crews can arrive on scene to put out the blaze.

There are a number of ways in which the self-sustaining combustion cycle can be interrupted. Whatever the method used, the end goal is to reduce the rate of heat transfer to the polymer and thus remove the fuel supply.

In total there are four processes involved in flammability: preheating, decomposition, ignition and combustion/propagation. Preheating involves heating of the material by means of an external source, which raises the temperature of the material at a rate which is dependent upon the thermal intensity of the ignition source, the thermal conductivity of the material, the specific heat of the material, and the latent heat of fusion and vaporization of the material. When sufficiently heated, the material begins to degrade, i.e. it loses its original properties as the weakest bonds begin to break down.

Gaseous combustion products are formed, the rate being dependent upon such factors as intensity of external heat, temperature required for decomposition, and rate of decomposition. The concentration of flammable gases subsequently increases until it reaches a level that allows for sustained oxidation in the presence of the ignition source. The ignition characteristics of the gas and the availability of oxygen are two important variables in any ignition process, and those characteristics are prevalent in this scenario.

After ignition and removal of the ignition source, combustion becomes self-propagating if sufficient heat is generated and is radiated back to the material to continue the decomposition process. The combustion process is governed by such variables as rate of heat generation, rate of heat transfer to the surface, surface area, and rates of decomposition.

Flameproofing, therefore, can be achieved by eliminating or improved by retarding any one of these variables. A flame retardant should inhibit or even suppress the combustion process. Depending on their nature, flame retardants can act chemically and/or physically in the solid, liquid or gas phases. They interfere with combustion during a particular stage of this process, i.e. during heating, decomposition, ignition or flame spread.

There are several options available. Regardless of what you have, you should be able to find something that will adequately protect it. There are a number of options you can choose from including everything from wood to steel fireproofing, thus making it possible to protect many different rooms in many different types of buildings. This is incredibly important for high risk buildings, such as businesses that deal with troublesome and dangerous equipment. You will be able to work, live, and do everything without worrying about whether there will be a fire or if it will claim everything you own. Your building will be much safer thanks to the work of flame retardant spray and paints.

By using these products, you can greatly increase the safety of your home or business. They are applied easily and the outcome is of utmost importance to you. Considering how damaging and dangerous a fire can be, you are going to want to use flame retardant spray and paints. Since they can be used on various types of materials, like wood and steel, you will be able to make use of them easily. They control the fire and reduce the chance of it spreading. This can literally save lives and a lot of money, helping everyone to get out of this with more than they would have had otherwise.


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The Risks of Smart Security Devices and How to Avoid Them

If yoursquo;re a current or prospective smart-home owner, then you know that there are potential threats associated with your automated home. There are tons of different smart security technologies for your home, such as security cameras or smartphone integrated appliances, each which has its own set of risks.

Due to their advanced technological features and data capabilities, smart homes are vulnerable to hackers and other forms of theft. Here are some of the different risks these smart security devices pose and what you can do to protect yourself and your home.

Security Cameras

Installing security cameras in and around your home is a great way to keep an eye out when yoursquo;re away and to help discourage any potential trespassers. However, older models and less technologically advanced security camera systems can pose a major risk to homeowners. This is due to the fact that outdated camera systems can easily be hacked due to lack of authentication or encryption, which means your security camera and footage can be intercepted by hackers. Once infiltrated into your security system, hackers can steal your information, trigger false alarms or disarm your system completely.

For your protection, its best to stay up-to-date with the newer smart security cameras, that are not as easy to compromise. For example, many of the more advanced security cameras on the market use fingerprint recognition and facial recognition in order to access the security camera. Newer security cameras feature 24/7 live remote streaming, motion detection and alerts, night vision, zoom, and more. This means that yoursquo;re able to see whatrsquo;s going on when yoursquo;re away from home and receive alerts if the cameras catch any suspicious activity. In addition, many security camera systems now have two-way audio so that you can send a verbal message to your intruders in real time and immediately notify the authorities if theyrsquo;re not deterred.

Door Locks and Doorbells

Smart door locks and video doorbells have become increasingly popular since they also double as security cameras and intercoms. With smart door systems, homeowners can both see and speak to their guests - or intruders - before unlocking their front door. In conjunction with a security system, smart doorbells and locks are an added layer of security for monitoring activity outside of your home. However, most people think that because they have multiple smart security devices, their home and data are impenetrable. But hackers can still breach your system i.e. using a malware app and get access to your PIN code to your front door. Itrsquo;s important to always keep your systems updated with the newest software versions and change your passcode every so often.

Other Risks

Smart-home owners typically turn to smart security devices to protect whatrsquo;s inside their home from being stolen but its also critical to consider other types of theft that can occur. Smart technology can be effective for home security, but it also opens up room for data breaches, personal information leaks, and other cybersecurity issues. This is because smart-home devices are connected to the internet, but lack protection from information hackers and cyberthieves.

Consider the big picture and protect yourself from all angles by investing in identity theft protection. That way, all of your data is secure and safe from hackers whose sole purpose is to steal your personal information, like your Social Security number, credit cards, bank information, and more.

Minimize Overall Risk by Being Proactive

Protecting your home with smart security technology is one of the best decisions you can make as a homeowner. But remember, with that comes risks like theft and fraud. By following these three suggestions, you can avoid those risks and stay safe from thieves of all types.

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Tenants From Heaven In Your HOA

The phrase "absentee landlord" in a homeowner association context conjures up images of the "tenant from hell" and an owner who could care less. However, generally speaking, both the landlord and tenant want the highest and best returns on their investments. What benefits the homeowner association will also benefit them.

Landlords should be required to provide the board with:

a. Name of the tenant and contact information.

b. Vehicles information make, model, plate number.

c. Copy of the Rental Agreement that references the HOA rules as a condition of the agreement. This is very important because it places the burden on the landlord to advise the tenant of rules and shows that the tenant received that information.

While the HOA cannot require it, common sense and good management practice indicate that landlords should also:

a. Perform credit checks on prospective tenants.

b. Check several previous landlord references HINT: The most recent landlord may have a vested interest in getting this tenant out.

c. Have read and understand the states landlord-tenant laws, and

d. Identify all occupants in the lease by name to avoid "musical" tenants.

While the landlord is the key to properly framing a tenants role within the HOA, its also important that the board, manager and owners refrain from treating tenants like second->For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to
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A Bridge To Your New Home

Question: My mother wants to buy a condominium, now that she is living alone and no longer needs the old four-bedroom family home. She prefers to buy a condominium first, and make the move from the house to the condo over a period of time. After she has completely settled into the new condominium, she will then put the house on the market for sale. Assuming the condominium will cost less than what the house sell for, what is the least expensive way to bridge the two sales? In other words, is it possible to obtain a mortgage for only three to six months?

Answer: Your question has raised a number of issues, which I will try to explore in this column.

First, in my opinion -- and if you can afford it -- it is always better to move into a new home before you sell the old one. This gives you an opportunity to do whatever renovation is needed, without having to immediately move all the furniture into the new place.

But, obviously, not everyone can afford the luxury of owning two houses, and sometimes having to pay two separate monthly mortgage and duplicate real estate tax bills.

In your mothers case, the family home is free and clear of any mortgage obligation. She should be able to obtain a "bridge" loan from a responsible lender, to enable her to have sufficient funds to purchase the condomimium. The loan will be secured by a first deed of trust a mortgage on the family home, and will be paid off in full when that house is ultimately sold.

Second, you ask whether short term loans are available. The answer is not simple, insofar as mortgage lenders do not want to spend a lot of time -- and money -- processing a loan application, only to have it paid off within a couple of months. Thus, while you might find such a short-term bridge loan from a mortgage lender, the interest rate may not be competitive.

On the other hand, your mother may be able to get a regular bank loan for the amount she needs, secured by a deed of trust on either or both the family home or the condominium unit. Much would depend on your mothers financial situation at the time of loan application.

However, there is another way that, in my opinion, makes the most sense. Your mother may be successful in selling the home immediately; it may also be on the market for a long period of time. She does not want to commit herself to repay a loan in just a few months time, when there is uncertainty as to when her house will sell.

Thus, she should consider obtaining a regular mortgage loan on the family home. If necessary, you could co-sign and guarantee payment of the loan. She should obtain an Adjustable Rate Morgtgage ARM for one year, and make sure there is no prepayment penalty. If she is lucky and sells the house quickly, she can then use the sales proceeds to pay off the new loan. If, for any reason, the house does not sell quickly, she will have a low rate of interest for a period of one year.

More importantly, however, your mother should carefully review her financial situation. If she uses all or most of the cash from the sale to purchase the new property, will she end up "house rich and cash poor"? Perhaps she should consider obtaining a mortgage on the condominium unit again your help may be required, and then keep the cash when the house is sold.

She should also review the tax situation before she sells. Will she have a large capital gain to pay? Is she eligible for the up-to-500,000 or 250,000 exclusion of profits? When did your dad die?

From a tax point of view, it makes no difference whether or not she uses any or all of the sales proceeds to purchase the condominium unit. She is either eligible for the exclusion or she is not.

There are two other alternatives which should be considered.

First, can she obtain a home equity loan on her current house and use these proceeds to purchase the condominium? Even under the new tax laws, so long as the money obtained from the loan is used to buy a new home or improve your present one, your mother will be able to deduct the interest she has to pay.

Second, are you in the financial position to lend her the money to purchase the condominium? If so, your mother can borrow directly from you, at a reasonable interest rate, and the loan will be secured by the new property. She can pay you interest only on a monthly basis, and you can decide at a later date if you want to gift her back a portion of the loan on a yearly basis, tax free.

Under no circumstances, however, should you consider going on title with her on the condominium unless you have fully explored all of the legal and tax ramification of such a move. There are significant negative aspects of putting your name on the deed, and obviously you want to maximize the tax benefits as much as possible.

Children often want to do right for their parents, and this of course is commendable. However, there are serious IRS repurcussions if the wrong steps are taken even for the right reasons, and you must explore the situation with your own tax advisors before signing any legal papers. Also, we all have to carefully analyze the impact of the new tax law.

Bottom line: your mother should first talk with a financial advisor to explore all of the options.
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Lien Priority Matters

When it comes to liens, California has adopted a "first in time, first in right" system of priorities. As authors Miller and Starr, the widely-acknowledged gurus of California real estate law, put it, liens, "have >Though, as we can learn from a recent appellate case MTC Financial v. Nationstar Mortgage, First Appellate District Court of Appeal, Jan. 22, 2018 it can still get complicated.

In 2003 a borrower obtained two loans from Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. Each loan was secured by the same residential property. One loan was a standard residential mortgage in the principal amount of 205,080. The other was a home equity line of credit HELOC for 15,000. This transaction was done as a refinance of an existing Countrywide first trust deed in the amount of 173,000.

The two new loans were secured by deeds of trust. Those two instruments were recorded the same day, Dec. 16, 2003. As is quite common, they were both stamped as deposited in the Recorders office at 8:00 A.M. on that day. As, no doubt, were a number of other documents un>Subsequently, the equity line was assigned to Bank of New York Mellon and the mortgage was assigned to Nationstar. Alas, the borrower ultimately defaulted on the equity line. The Bank of New York Mellon foreclosed. Apparently, by then, the value of the home had increased. After payment of all the funds due the Bank, plus the fees and costs of the foreclosure auction, there was a remaining surplus of 73,085. So, who should get that?

California Civil Code 2924 spells out how the proceeds of a trustees auction foreclosure sale are to be distributed. First, to the cost and expenses of conducting the sale; second, to payment of the obligations which were the subject of the sale; third, to the outstanding balance of any junior liens in the order of their priority; and, finally, if theres anything left, to the borrower.

Three parties made claim to the surplus: the borrower, a homeowner association a junior lien holder, and Nationstar. The trial court ordered distribution of 13,572 to the HOA, and the balance to the borrower. Nationstar appealed.

Nationstar argued that, according to the indexing numbers, it was junior to the equity line and, per the distribution priorities listed above, it was first in line to receive any of the surplus. But the appellate court said "no". In its decision it pointed to a 1936 California Supreme Court case where the Court said, if deeds of trust "were filed at the same time or in their proper order and the reverse order of recordation was an inadvertence, that mistake should not be permitted to alter the intended >Its really curious. Nationstar took the position that it deserved the 73,000 surplus because its 205,000 mortgage had been wiped out due to the equity lines seniority. The Court said, "No, you were in senior position. You werent wiped out. Your loan is still secured. The buyer at auction is taking the property subject to your mortgage." Nationstar should be happy with that result.

The foreclosure auction buyer, on the other hand, may be less than happy. We dont know. The buyer was not a party to any of these legal actions. We just have to hope he wasnt
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Paying it Forward Continues to Make a Difference in Communities Nation-Wide Thanks to Generous Real Estate Agents

Dawn Veronica Curry of Keller Williams in Fredericksburg, VA has made a donation to Leashes of Valor on behalf of her clients Caleb and Killian Brown, an additional donation to SPCA of Fredericksburg on behalf of her client Tim Breeden, and a final donation to Childhelp, Inc., made on behalf of her clients Mr. and Mrs. Hardings.

Dana Roberts of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Irvine, CA has made a donation to St. Jude Childrenrsquo;s Research Hospital on behalf of her clients Manuel and Olga, and an additional donation tonbsp;CA Labradors, Retrievers and More Rescue made on behalf of her client Peter Dobblesteyn.

Craig Carr of Quinlan Realty in Creve Coeur, MO has made a donation to Shriners Hospitals for Children ndash; St. Louis on behalf of his client, Daniel Gruber.

ldquo;All of us at PinRaise are incredibly pleased with the immense dedication to giving back that Dawn, Dana and Craig have each demonstrated throughout their time in the Agent with Heart Program,rdquo; says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. ldquo;It is because of agents like them that we are able to make a difference in communities nation-wide.rdquo; Through the Agent with Heart Program, real estate agents make donations to a nonprofit of their clientrsquo;s choice after closing. So far, the program has generated thousands of dollars in donations to nonprofits across the country.

ldquo;Our program is a success because of the generosity displayed by our agents. I would personally like to thank Dawn, Dana and Craig for being such remarkable partners in giving and for helping us to make a large impact in each of their local communities through their donations. We are truly proud and grateful to hold Dawn, Dana and Craig among our Agents with Heart, and we look forward to seeing the additional impacts they will su>

About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local nonprofits who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission 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 Dawn Veronica Curry, please call 571-436-8321 or visit

To contact Dana Roberts, please call 949-433-6694 or visit

To contact Craig Carr, please call 314-401-9286 or visit

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Ready For Social Media Change?

Change dominates social media. Yet, changes to how users are required to interact with social media platforms always seem to cause surprise and frustration, particularly from business users.

Often theres little point in complaining about significant imposed change. Platform owners like Google and Facebook believe users receive a "free ride" and plenty of benefits. In exchange, users must adapt to change, which is usually labeled "updating."

Platform owners work diligently to grow their user base, their revenue, and their valuations. Their "we love you" messages are designed to draw users in and mask owners intent to use everything at their disposal to grow and become more valuable.

Many real estate professionals and brokerage owners >Continual adaptation to platform growth is the norm for users.

Do not >Privacy and data usage policies have been under fire on and off over the years, but the recent Facebook admission of data manipulation has brought discussion out in the open. Platforms and tech companies offered free services to attract users and entice them to share personal data. Many users did not realize their digital information was widely-used by these platforms and their partners to generated millions in revenue. The backlash from Facebooks exposure has it[mdash;]and many other organizations[mdash;]making changes to privacy policies and data management which will affect users

and businesses. Will these updates alter the way you conduct business with prospects and clients on Facebook and similar social media platforms?

Algorithms are continually updated by search master Google, purportedly to ensure ranking fairness on its search engine results pages SERPs. Webmasters are required to be aware of and adjust to these updates, some very small, as part of blog and site management. Major changes like the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates had wide spread impact a few years ago. Are you confident your webmaster is alert to ongoing changes significant to your client base and practice or business?

Terms of use may be altered at will by platforms, but not by users. Conformity, not stand-out tactics, is required of users. The way things work changes as platforms gain users and as new technology emerges. In February, Google removed the "View Image" button from searches, a short-cut for viewing, and often capturing, the usually higher resolution image without visiting the host site. The href= target="_blank">"Visit" button remains, so users must go to the image hosts webpages to search for and view the original image. Is this a positive or negative for you? You can still access the original image without visiting the website, but many users may not know how to right-click and achieve this.

How users may communicate with their followers changes. Tweeter modified its terms of service earlier this year and ended "evergreen" and automated Tweets, which many online businesses and marketers >Brands before people, when adopted as market-expansion policy and priority, makes seemingly-illogical change inevitable. App Snapchat rolled-out a major redesign last November which seemed geared to an older demographic. In doing so, Snapchat apparently-unwittingly alienated its major younger-user groups. If you >Customized searches recently took a hit as Google discontinued a user practice of receiving localized search results for locations other than their own by using different Google domains mdash; like for England or for Canada. Last fall, Google switched to only delivering search results >Platforms are in business to rule the internet and reap rewards on their terms mdash; before their competitors do. They are driven to make money from their platform and their users. These strategically-directed businesses may not consider you their preferred target.

>Three Essential Strategies For Social Media "Back-up":

1. Social Media Plan B: Maintain a strong presence on the social media that is favored by your target prospects and clients, but stay alert. If the platforms reputation is tarnished, your reputation may suffer. Be

ready to change quickly when the platforms terms, methods, or services are "updated." Help any target clients who are also users adjust to this transition.

2. Independent Presence: Maintain your own blog or website to preserve your ranking, searchable identity, and flowing online traffic regardless of what happens on platforms. A prime goal is to continually earn the commitment of a growing audience of target prospects and clients, buyers and sellers. Build your list of target prospects and clients through your online ventures.

3. High Profile: Earn and sustain a reputation as an expert. Pack your blog and/or website with "authority content" to draw and retain targets. Ensure your community activities are all about targets and existing residents, not about you.
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2018 Pool Trends To Dive Into

Schools out, for summer. And that means one thing: Time to GET IN THAT POOL If youre spending another long, hot summer wishing you had a pool of your own, it might be time to take that leap. This quick guide will give you the latest updates on pool trends, whether you have a micro-budget or are shooting for the moon.

Beach entry or tanning ledges

Infinity edges continue to grow in popularity for their sleek look and resort feel, but theyre not always so practical if you have a family - which is why many homeowners are incorporating beach entries and tanning ledges to their pools. "Got kids? If so, you might want to consider incorporating a shallow section into your pool design," said Pulliam Pools. "A beach entry aka zero depth entry is a designed with a gradual sloped entry from the deck into the water, like a natural beach. No stairs or ladders are necessary to enter the pool." A tanning ledge is another option that both kids and adults enjoy because it offers a shallow stretch thats perfect for partially submerging yourself, or a lounge chair.

Color, color, color

One of the newest pool trends being embraced by homeowners is color. Were not talking red or fuchsia here, but deeper versions of the colors youre accustomed to seeing. "For pools, more intense or darker colors are being used, not just for the drama, but for their >Smart Pools

Of course the smart home trend would extend to pools, right? If youre getting ready to build a pool or at least researching options, this is one element you will definitely want to consider.

"With new Wi-Fi enabled products that connect to your smartphone, you can care for your pool from anywhere, at any time," said Sho>Mini pools

Who says you have to have a giant yard to be able to build a pool? Mini pools continue to grow in popularity, giving homeowners the luxury of a home swimming pool in a smaller size and at a lower cost. "The luxury of being able to enjoy a pool in the home is not constrained by space," said The Cool Pool. "In 2018, the pool will become a luxury domestic object, of a modest size, minimalist in design and made of materials that will fit in with the interior dcor of our homes."


According to Homeadvisor, "The base cost for a small pool is around 10,000. An average size swimming pool is around 14x28 feet with a typical depth of around 6 1/2 feet. Compare that to the average cost of a traditionally sized pool - 48,581 is the current national average - and its easy to see why this is an attractive option.

Splash Pad Play Surfaces

Maybe a pool isnt the answer for you or, in addition to a pool, you want a kid-friendly entertainment zone. Splash pads are a growing trend and one that pay themselves back in smiles. "A commercial waterpark element thats gaining popularity in residential markets is the splash pad," said Aqua Magazine. "Safe,
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Millennials and Their Housing Preferences

Millennials in the Global Housing Market

Buying homes is still a traditional thing to do, especially if you are planning to start a family of your own. According to some expectations, in the next five years, a big number of Millennials will buy a home. These home buyers, however, are driven by the internet. Millennials spend more time online looking at houses before contacting a realtor. The internet can provide all the information in that field, and they tend to know what it is that they want.

However, due to the bad economy, many do not have saved money for a down payment which often means that, in that case, they >

Millennials and Their Housing Preferences

Most Millennials do not see their first home as being permanent. Therefore, they are not looking for a fixer-upper. The lack of time and money in society today are driving these young homebuyers to choose a newly built home. Millennials who wish to entertain are looking for open plans where the kitchen, preferably new and up to date, flow into the other rooms. Home offices might be a high preference to those who bring their work at home or to those who work from home.

The green movement is making these home buyers aware of energy-efficient homes, which is a significant influencer in the buying decision. However, this is the type of upgrade they are willing to make in the form of solar power if wanted. As technology is a big part of our lives today, the use of smart technology is used in their daily lives, so a good internet and cellular reception are a must in all new homes.

Millennials and Financial Possibilities

As we already said before, many Millennials >

Mortgage arrangements can be made early, and the earlier, the better because it can be a time-consuming process. One way is to get a mortgage from an independent financial adviser or a mortgage broker or lender. Before applying for a mortgage, you should check your credit report to make sure you qualify. Sometimes a booking fee is required to reserve the mortgage product you wish to have, so be aware of the additional cost.

Also, hiring the solicitor is an extra cost, and it is a person who will handle the legal work around the property. Surveyor will see if there are any problems with the house which might affect the cost of the house. Another cost that will have to be considered by the buyer is the insurance cost that made after buying the property.

Millennials and Their Housing Choices

The choices Millennials have when it comes to buying homes depend on the area they wish to live. Many Millennials want to be close to work and other facilities, but at the same time outside the urban area. Even though many would like to have the possibility to live in a suburban home, this is not always possible due to their life>

Final Thoughts

The time for the Millennials to invest in homes are here and will be making a significant impact on real estate sales. However, the quest for the perfect home, whether it is permanent or not, is being influenced by the internet. Particular features which include new appliances, energy-efficiency, excellent location, and new technology are making demands higher. Those who want to sell homes nowadays should definitely take into consideration these factors if they want to live a modern quality life.

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College Dorm Room Must-Haves You May Not Have Considered

If your child is about to go off to college, if youre going to consult a number of dorm must-have stories, and have probably already been sent one from their college of choice. But there are a few little things that might be missing from the lists that could make a big difference in how they live. When youre doing your dorm shopping, dont forget these items.

Rolling storage

Between the tiny closet and the one dresser they provide in the dorm, your child is not going to have a lot of space to store their stuff. Many kids choose to loft their bed in order to create more floor space. They may decide to turn that under-the-bed space into a hangout zone, but, chances are it will also be a place to keep some of their things. When youre weighing your options, be sure to keep in mind how much easier it will be for them to have access to their stuff and keep everything tidy if their storage is on wheels.

Velvety hangers

Why? Because even though theyre more expensive, theyre significantly thinner than the plastic ones, meaning your child can actually cram about three times more clothes into their tiny closet.

Command Strips - brushed nickel

Command Strips are on most dorm must-have lists but these silver-toned ones at least bring a little flair to the space.

An over-the-door mirror

In our daughters dorm room, the only mirror is the dinky one above the shared sink, and theres minimal wall space to hang a mirror. Opting for one that goes over the door means they dont have to choose between the "art" theyve picked out for the one available wall and the ability to see their entire reflection.

A Dustbuster

Youre probably chuckling at the idea that your child will actually clean their dorm room, especially if youre not there to ask them 300 times. But when they do get the bug to clean, you want them to be well-prepared. In addition to a broom, mop a Swiffer Wet Jet is a good choice because its super easy to use and doesnt require a bucket, cleaning sprays, etc., invest a few bucks in a Dustbuster or other hand vac that can suck up all the dirt and dust they create. lt;pgt;The right mini fridge

You know how bad most hotel mini fridges are. They hardly cool anything, and that teeny area at the top that they say is for frozen items is a joke. Spring for a slightly better version that has an actual freezer at the top and youll be confident in knowing they have a place to store a frozen pizza or two. Be sure to check with the university first to make sure your choice meets their maximum wattage requirements.

A bedside tray

If your child is lofting their bed, they wont have a bedside table to keep their essentials on. This Bamboo Bunk Bed Shelf clips on to the side of the bed, is adjustable, holds up to 25 pounds, and has a larger shelf area than some other options, which will come in handy if your child is up late studying and doesnt want to climb down to put their laptop away.

A long phone charger cord

You know your kid is not going to be OK leaving their phone charging on their desk instead of by their side. A 10-foot cord gives them the option of having it close by.

A portable charger

Being in >

A good quality laundry bag

We all know our kids are going to stuff that laundry bag to its maximum capacity, whether theyre using the on-site facilities or carting all their laundry home whenever they visit. A sturdy bag with a reinforced handle is essential.

A Britta pitcher

Put an end to the "drink out of the bathroom sink or spend meal plan dollars on bottled water" debate with a pitcher they can use to filter water. If only for your own peace of mind.

A foldable chair

Depending on your childs dorm room and how clean they keep it, there may not be a ton of floor space for a decorative chair. But you still want them to be prepared for guests and hangouts. A foldable chair provides instant seating and can be stored away easily when not in use.

A custom first aid kit

You can buy pre-made kits that contain Band-Aids, first aid cream and the like. But maybe your child likes a certain kind Winnie the Pooh of Band-Aid. Create your own with all the standard items, and add in their pain >

A fan

Your little guy or girl may have a rude awakening when they realize theyre no longer in control of the temperature and cant make their room ice cold. A fan will help. At just 14.99, this option is inexpensive, and at just six inches, it wont get in the way. It also has a clip so it can be attached to the bed.

Full Story >

Home Improvement Projects That Will Last Long Periods Of Time

Thinking of remodeling your home? Before you splurge on a finished basement or a new kitchen, make sure you choose a home improvement project that will add to your homes lifetime value. Check out Remodeling Magazines Cost vs. Value report for projects with the highest ROI. Three home improvement projects we like:

Get a New Roof

Although adding a new roof isnrsquo;t as exciting as a major kitchen remodel or a new deck, this improvement can significantly improve the appearance of your home mdash; and, it boasts a national average ROI of 71 percent, according to the Remodeling Magazine report. Champion Home Exteriors offers lifetime shingles with advanced protection technology. The special shingles are specially constructed with materials that cause less harm to the environment than traditional types, and the lifetime shingles offer superior protection to your home as well. Plus, Champion Home Exteriors offers shingles in a variety of colors, from modern gray shades to light tan tones, to perfectly complement your homersquo;s >

Change Out Your Front Door

The door is the focal point of your home. Itrsquo;s the first thing that guests and visitors see when they come to your house. Adding a new door to your home can significantly boost its curb appeal, too; in fact, if yoursquo;re planning to eventually sell your home, the Remodeling Magazine report found that a steel front door can recoup 101 percent of the projects total cost when it comes time to sell.

However, if you plan to spend a little more time in your home and yoursquo;re not looking to sell, you can enjoy the perks of having a steel door. One example: Steel doors make your home more energy-efficient, reports. Most steel doors have a magnetic weatherstripping that seals up nicely when the door is closed, which can help to keep your energy use down. A steel door is also easily customizable, so if you decide to repaint your home a new color in the future, you can simply paint the door to complement the new exterior color.

Install New Flooring

Wood flooring can last up to a century. Itrsquo;s
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Safety Tips For Your Home When Going On Vacation

Among the fastest ways to kill a post-vacation buzz is returning home and discovering your house is in shambles. Maybe a water pipe broke and now youre trudging through ankle-deep sludge. Perhaps a burglar slipped inside, ransacked the place and gallivanted away with your most valued possessions. Or it could be that you forgot to clean out the fridge before leaving, and now mold has infested every nook and cranny. Just like its important to shop for an excellent vacation deal, its crucial to make sure returning from that well-earned trip isnt a headache or disaster. Here are six easily-skipped steps to keep in mind while youre planning that enticing itinerary.

Of Course Somebody is Home

Hiring a house or pet sitter is the best - albeit costly - method to ensure your home stays just like you left it. House sitters can vary from a trusted friend or family member, to somebody who is a professional. Typically a house sitter will take care of any pets youre leaving behind, water plants, collect the mail and sometimes other small tasks. Its challenging to trust somebody enough to be in your home for days on end, but their presence ensures burglars avoid your place and that your appliances and utilities dont decide to take a vacation of their own.

Celebrate on Social Media After the Trip

Booking a vacation is exciting. Its a break from the daily grind, and thats often something we want to share with our friends, family and acquaintances via social media. But you should probably hold off on announcing to the whole Internet that your home is vacant and ripe for the picking. Websites like Facebook and Twitter make it easy for complete strangers to gather your personal information and then find out where you live with a quick online search.

If you cant help yourself from announcing the trip and posting photos, then do yourself a favor and greatly restrict who can see and share the information. The same plan of action holds true for automatic email responses and voicemail systems. The rule of thumb is that if youre not comfortable with somebody being in your house when youre not there, then dont tell them - even indirectly - that youre heading off on some sweet adventure. Scound>

Burning the Midnight Oil

Casing a house is a common tactic for many home invaders. They spend days - sometimes even weeks - monitoring when youre home, what rooms youre in, what youre doing and who youre with. Theyll know your daily habits better than you do. The best way to thwart these folks is to make sure it genuinely looks like somebody is home. Set up an app-controlled light timer. You can even set up a timer-controlled power supply to stereos or TVs. But dont keep the same timer settings day by day. Vary when lights come on, which rooms they pop on and for how long everything is running. Also be sure to use compact florescent light bulbs to save electricity and your energy bill.

Lock it Down, Regardless of Where You Live

Its oddly common that in small, homey towns where "everybody knows each other" folks leave their homes and cars unlocked. If youre involved with this mindset, then you may very well leave your door unlocked during an extended absence. And unlocked doors are the biggest "burglarize me" signals out there. More than 30 percent of home burglaries happen from an unlocked entrance. Dont be the person who forgot to close and lock the windows or sliding glass door. Put a dowel rod behind any type of sliding entrance, and be sure to lock the deadbolt. Its easy to prevent an easy crime.

This Needs Power, This Doesnt

Imagine how devastating it feels to show up back home after your trip and discover a charred pile of rubble where your home once stood. Let that feeling sink in for a few moments, and then take a look around at what electronics and appliances you currently have plugged into the wall throughout your home. A power outage or surge could trip these devices and cause a fire if the device isnt plugged into a surge protector or turned off. Now since youre leaving certain electronics on timers to discourage home invasions, make sure what you do leave plugged in is plugged into a surge protector. You can group electronics and appliances close together to limit the number of protectors youll need to buy.

Otherwise, think about how much energy appliances like your refrigerator, water heater or climate control require and consume. If you dont have plants, animals or open food, then you can pretty much turn off your climate control depending on what the outside weather is like. Set your water heater to vacation mode to reserve energy consumption. And last, either remove perishables from the fridge, turn it off and open the door to prevent mildew, or make sure the appliance is completely full of non-perishable items. If you have empty space then fill jugs of water there to insulate your fridge and lower energy consumption.

Finally, if youre off on an adventure during the winter, ask a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to come by and run the facet for about 5 minutes every day or two. If your pipes are properly insulated, this should help prevent them from freezing over or breaking.

A Tidy Home is a Lived in Home

The final step that is extremely easy to skip on longer or seasonal trips is how your home looks. Sure, you have lights popping on and off at random times, but is your yard unkempt? Are mail flyers, newspapers and packages creating the next great pyramid on your doorstep? These are signals to anybody paying attention that youre not home. Either stop packages, the newspaper and your mail from being deposited, or get somebody you trust to pick everything up for you. Plus if youre leaving in the winter and it snows, make sure they shovel your driveway or sidewalk.

Full Story >

Unmarried Couples Need To Use Protection When Getting A Mortgage

"First comes love, then comes marriage?" Not always. There has been an increasing trend of young couples flipping the order around and going straight to buying a home together before getting married. This is perfectly fine -- theres nothing wrong with unmarried couples buying a home together -- but I would like to offer a few things to consider before they jump in feet first.

Just like marriage, buying a home is a big decision. Unmarried couples need to protect themselves and their investment since they have fewer legal protections compared to married homebuyers. Before you and your significant other commit to a 30-year mortgage, you should prepare. Heres what you should do:

Talk to a Mortgage Broker

For prospective buyers - regardless of marital status - the first step to buying a home should always be to speak to an independent mortgage broker. With more than 16,000 mortgage lenders in the U.S., mortgage brokers are local experts and can shop on the borrowers behalf to find the best loan terms that match each individual situation. Theyll get you pre-approved so you know how much you can afford, and then advocate on your behalf.

Brokers will also educate you regarding anything that might be complex with your situation, like having the option to purchase a home jointly or list one of you as a sole owner. This matters because after the initial purchase has closed you cannot just add someone to the mortgage without refinancing. Thats a different arrangement than married couples have because only one of you is required to sign -- but you have the option for both. For married couples, in a majority of the country, the spouse is required to sign, even if the home is only under one name.

Seek Legal Advice

Ask your mortgage broker to refer you to an experienced real estate attorney who can help you plan for taking care of all financial aspects >Speak Openly About Finances

Money is one of the leading causes of divorce -- and youre not even married yet. Talk freely about financial problems that could affect your loan, issues like poor credit history, bankruptcy and existing debt. Keep in mind that unmarried couples are assessed as singles, so if theres a problem with one persons financial history, it could significantly complicate matters.

Open a Joint Account

While you dont have to merge all of your finances, you may want to consider opening a secondary checking account to cover the mortgage, insurance, tax payments and home repairs. Set it up so a certain amount of money is automatically deposited every month that will cover the mortgage, plus a little more to cover any unexpected expenses that might come up.

Marriage and family has changed a lot in the past 25 years. So has home buying. Leave it to the experts - independent mortgage brokers - to help you through the buying process and, ultimately, put you on your path to happily ever after.
Full Story >

9 Killer Ways To Transform Your Kids Room When They Leave For College

Schools out for summer Although, this one may be slightly different if its your childs last summer before going off to college. Youre probably feeling wistful and sad in preparation for the pending empty nest. But if youre feeling a little bit of "woohoo" along with your "waaaaahhhh," dont feel bad. This rite of passage for your child is also a rite of passage for you. And while some choose to keep their childs room intact for their occasional visits and/or as some kind of shrine to their formative years, others have that measuring tape all ready to go the minute their kid walks out the door.

Yes, its time to reclaim that space and make it your own Channel that sorrow into productivity while turning your kids room into your own private haven. Sure, he or she will be returning home on holidays and summers, but who cares? Youve earned it, right?

Home office

If youve been working from the kitchen table or the couch, perhaps its time you had a space of your own. You could bring your laptop into your kids room and use their deskbut is that really going to inspire your productivity and creativity? Perhaps this type of thing would give you the motivation you need to succeed.


Game room

Celebrate getting your kid through high school and off to college with a game of pool or foosball or air hockey. Or all three Maybe think about adding a dart board with a picture of your childs least favorite teacher from high school in the middle, just to let them know youre thinking of them.

Art studio/craft space

Now that you dont have to supervise homework and spend the equivalent of at least a significant part-time job driving to and from and attending kid->Man cave

Your child wont be upset AT ALL when he comes home for Thanksgiving only to find your poker table and home brewery where the bed and dresser used to be. If youre going to splurge on a space like this, make sure you do it right. Obscenely large TV, check. Comfortable seating, check. Man cave sign, check. That last one is part of Buzzfeeds 32 Things You Need In Your Man Cave list. Read, digest, go forth.

Home theater

Nothing says, "Were so proud of you" like stripping away your childs memories and furnishing and replacing them with a ridiculously huge screen and a sound system that makes the walls shake. And the bonus: Home theaters are a coveted space for buyers should you decide to list your home down the line.

Guest room

If youre lacking a proper guest space, nows the time to create one. Sure, you could leave your kids walls full of cheerleading pictures and pom-poms and banners, but perhaps some dcor thats a little more guest-friendly is in order. If you are transforming the room into something a tad more neutral and you dont want to get rid of or store your childs memorabilia, you can always turn the closet into their own personal sanctuary.

Wine room

Keep in mind that 55 degrees is the sweet spot when it comes to the perfect temperature for storing wine, so you may need to invest in a separate air conditioning system if youre serious about this wine room thing. Here are a few more climate control tips from Sebring Design Build:

  • Youll need "full room insulation to keep temperatures at a steady range. Make sure the insulation is also a good vapor barrier."
  • For large wine cellars, "a wine cooling system may be necessary. This will also require an adequately sized exhaust room to absorb expelled heat."
  • Does the room stay really dry? "A humidifier will be required."

Master bath

Most of the other spaces mentioned keep the walls in place so the space could conceivably be turned back into your grown childs room. This one is a little more indulgent. And permanent. If your home has a shared wall with your college-bound childs room, its practically begging to be turned into a spa bath. You know that soaker tub and walk-in shower are calling your name.

Master closet

Does your childs bedroom share a wall with your master? Painful Now is time for a little payback for all those late nights with the TV blaring next door. Knock down those walls and create the master closet of your dreams. She can always camp out on the floor next to your dresses when shes home on break.
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What Experienced Realtors Like About Selling New Homes Part 2

The following is Part 2 of a four-part series.nbsp;Part 1: Builder/Realtor >

Today we are going to reveal what experienced Realtors like about selling new homes.

About a year agonbsp;New Home Co-Broker Academy fielded an unscientific survey to see what could be learned from Realtors already showing new homes.

We omitted one important reason as a survey choice because it may skew the results, and it is this:

Realtors like selling new homes because onsite consultants do all the work.

Kathynbsp; agrees.

Kathy sold resales for 16 years, then sold her first new home to a resale prospect she was about to lose. Renovation bids kept coming in too high.

Finally, she remembered to show them a new home in the price range of the resale and renovation budget.

ldquo;They needed to see, touch and feel what they could get for their money. The prospects liked the fact that the home was new. They purchased a new home and could not quit raving about me at the closing.rdquo; Kathy said.

Today she sells only new homes. Why?

ldquo;Because I like to travel, and the builder does all the work.rdquo;

Some experienced Realtors are learning there are other not-about- the house reasons to show new homes.

Troy said he had been showing resales for six weeks and running out of ideas. He remembered to suggest that they look at new homes in their resale price range. He said he advised his clientsnbsp; to ask questions and that he was not going to say a word.

ldquo;The onsite agent was amazing. As their coach, I was under no pressure to talk. My people bought that day. I have been doing it wrong for 20 years,rdquo; Troy said.

What follows is a summary of the surveyrsquo;s methodology and findings, with our comments. Your comments are invited.


In the last 27 months, 1562 Realtors completed a three-hour course called How To Build A New Homes Niche. Offered by ABD Developers on behalf of its six builders.

Realtors were asked to complete a survey to share their attitudes about working with builders.

The Academy wanted to find out how those were successfully selling new homes felt about working within a new construction environment with home shoppers.

Two hundred and seventy-seven Realtors completed the survey. The experience of those taking the survey was as follows:

Licensed less than a year5520
Licensed 1-3 years5219
Licensed 3-5 years249
Licensed five years or more14552
Total completions277nbsp;

Comment: We have constantly been surprised at the high percentage of experienced Realtors that take this course.

Never shown a new homenbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;nbsp;213nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;nbsp;17nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;
Had shown a new home4483
Total completions257nbsp;

Comment: No surprise here. Those completing the survey are about to take a new home seminar. Most have been selling new homes for at least three years.

Never been trained to show a new home43nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;17nbsp; nbsp;nbsp;
Have not been trained to show new homes20783
Total completed250nbsp;

Comment: Our guess, former onsite agents, are part of the ldquo;trainedrdquo; group.

Always qualifies for new home prospects194nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;79nbsp; nbsp;nbsp;
Has never qualified for new home prospects5221
Total completed246nbsp;

Comment: This is a strong case for agents to qualify their resale prospects for new homes. The problem is that most would not know what to do if the home shopper showed an interest in seeing a new Home.

Has worked with builders internet advisor56nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;27nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;
Has never worked with builders internet advisors14973

Comment: This incredible inventory-finding, prospect- registering, appointment- setting service is about 15 years old. Only a small percentage of Realtors have ever heard of this service.

Mary said she likes working with internet advisors because they help her find the right new homes inventory.and, in most cases, set the appointment with the new homes consultant. ldquo;They also protect my commission at times when I am too busy to bring the agents out to the property,rdquo; Mary said.

Take a moment to see if you see anything that surprises you in the chart below. We have a suggestion for home builders and some help, we hope, for Realtors. Participants were asked to check all that apply and to skip this question if they had not sold a new home.

Remember, these are Realtors who are proactively selling new homes.

We have some good news for builders. For years you have touted the fact that you provide all transaction management. According to this chart, you might want to sell the fact that you also write the contract, because it scored higher than transaction management as a lsquo;like.rsquo;

For Realtors, we have some good news. We are not surprised that the fixed price comes in as the least favorable of the choices

.The fact is, however, the builderrsquo;s fixed base price is your best way to establish a price baseline from which home shoppers can compare new Home and resale values.

If experienced new home agents find lsquo;fixed pricersquo; the least favorable of these five, it is reasonable to assume that newly trained agents who have no new homes training would be even more resistant.

Showing a new home first on your showing schedule is a powerful trust-building strategy that helps home shoppers lsquo;understand the money - something they have a hard time doing with resales.

Again, before you read our comments, what is your reaction to the chart below? Any surprises here?

Only five percent had a problem with a builder. It is obvious that builder issues are not a reason to avoid selling new homes.

Experienced Realtors like a lot of things about selling new homes beyond the features of the new home itself.

Mainly, experienced agents like showing new homes and trust the builders to pay them. They donrsquo;t have problems with builders. They work within the system and do the simple things like letting onsite agents do their job, ask internet advisors for help, and understand how to use lsquo;fixed pricersquo; to help their prospects understand the money.nbsp;

Next: Part 3. What Builders Need To Do To Make More Co-Broker Sales

Full Story >

Ask the HOA Expert

Question: The board wants to have a special meeting with the owners to update them on what it has been doing, however, we assume that an owner who has filed a lawsuit against the board will be present. Should we let the unit owners know that there has been a lawsuit filed and that we have legal representation? If so, how much information should we offer or limit ourselves to?

Answer: How much you divulge about litigation depends on the subject matter. Your attorney should be helpful in giving you direction. Some highly sensitive issues should be kept confidential. But generally, the owners should be made aware of any litigation that is headed to court and when substantial legal costs are possible. The general nature of the litigation, the boards position on the issues and current status without

naming names is a reasonable approach.

Can the developer make exceptions to certain architectural restrictions? Our developer allowed some owners to enclose their decks and since turnover, the new board says it wont be permitted by others.

Answer: The developer has no special right to violate architectural restrictions established in the governing documents. However, it is commonly done because the developer wants to sell homes. If the developer has allowed certain exceptions, the board needs to decide if this is something which should be allowed by other owners. To avoid a double standard, the Answer is usually "yes" and the board should develop and approve the standard so all are done the same way with quality design and materials.

Question: We recently had the unit chimneys inspected for fire safety reasons. This required access to the units which was facilitated by the manager. One of the units was filled with garbage, furniture blocking hallways, piles of clothing, cases of empty cans etc. The manager informed the board since there was a potential fire hazard. Should the board get involved in this situation? No neighbors have complained. The area outside the condo is tidy, the resident keeps to herself, is pleasant and not a smoker.

Answer: There are several issues here. As a general rule, the board or management should not hold keys to units unless there is an emergency or a rental management contract in place. Otherwise, either the unit owner or their representative should be present to allow access.

However, assuming that the unit owner gave permission to enter, if there is a real fire hazard or sanitation problem, the manager should inform that unit owner in writing with specifics. That said, it is up to the unit owner to respond. In other words, the board and HOA do not have the authority to dictate resident life>In every HOA, there are certain individuals that are pack rats or live like slobs. That is their right as long as their life>For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to
Full Story >

About That American Dream And Homeownership

Any REALTORreg; will tell you: home ownership is an integral part -- maybe the most important part -- of the American Dream. Hence, any threat to home ownership -- whether it be high interest rates or, as is the case today, a lack of inventory -- is a threat to the American Dream.

Recently, Joel Singer, CEO of the California Association of REALTORS CAR, and one of the sharper tools in the real estate shed, delivered a talk to CAR directors entitled, "The American Dream Up in Flames?: Why Homeownership Really Matters." He offered up a plethora of studies and statistics that showed how individuals and families who own homes fare better in life than do those who do not own homes. Moreover, he shared survey results showing that 53 of those sampled thought that owning a home is a very important part of the American Dream. 18 thought it was the most important part.

I beg to differ. But, please, dont get me wrong. My wife and I are residential REALTORSreg;. We have been in this marvelous business for more than 40 years. The psychic and emotional rewards for helping people obtain a home are rich and appropriate. Moreover, it is certainly not my place to dismiss anyones dreams.

But The American Dream is a phrase with a history and a meaning that we do well to keep in mind. It is about much more than home ownership; indeed, home ownership may not even be a central part of that dream.

Historian James Truslow Adams coined the phrase The American Dream in his 1931 book, Epic of America. He said, "The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability and achievement." It was not, he wrote, "a dream of motor cars and high wages me>The essence of the American Dream was, and I think still is, the idea that America is a land where by effort one could better ones condition and ones children could live lives better than their parents. Moreover, the potential for doing so was not to be restrained by government or ones >To put it in more modern, and certainly less emotional, terms, the American Dream is the possibility of social mobility. When we ask how the American Dream is faring, we are asking about social mobility. And the answer is, "It depends on who you ask." Try googling social mobility in America.

There are articles upon articles that will tell you it has become significantly less likely that a wage-earner can move up the income ladder. A July, 2016 Atlantic article cites a study that "measured a given workers chances of moving between deciles [groupings of 10] during two periods, one from 1981 to 1996 and another from 1993 to 2008. They found quite a disparity. The probability of moving up from where you start has gone down [the author] said." No one seems quite sure what caused this, but increasing inequality is often cited. "In the presence of increasing inequality," [the authors] conclude, "falling mobility implies that as the rungs of the ladder have moved farther apart, moving between them has become more difficult."

On the other hand, there are plenty of those who see the Dream alive and well. Writing in National Review May, 2017 Scott Winship claims, "it seems likely that when all is said and done, 70 percent or more of todays 30-year-olds are better off than their parents were at the same age."

The state of the American Dream is important and we do well to pay attention to it. But home ownership is nowhere near being its central component. For many, owning a home may be a consequence of having lived the Dream; but it certainly doesnt define it.
Full Story >

The Right Questions to Ask the Broker

Stephanie M. Rhodes, MBA, GRI

ldquo;Irsquo;m so passionate about this subject,rdquo; says Rhodes. ldquo;We donrsquo;t hire everyone, so Irsquo;m willing to share what is important for provisional brokers to ask and understand.rdquo;

Rhodes is the first hurdle in the interview process. Like a sports agent, she is a recruiter, visiting schools and interviewing brokers-to-be before, during and after the licensing process. She looks for rapport-building skills, people skills, self-motivation and drive to succeed.

ldquo;We put >

Most people come into real estate from another industry like teaching, nursing or retail sales, so the broker or recruitment specialist will look at your education, work history, attitude and expectations, and of course, whether yoursquo;re licensed and when you can start.

North Carolina is a state that only licenses brokers. Following an approximately eight-week course, yoursquo;ll have to choose a broker to work under for two years, and complete three additional 30-hour courses before you can become a full-fledged broker. Until then, yoursquo;re known as a provisional broker.

You probably want to know how much money you can make, known as the split - how much goes to the broker and how much goes to you when you sell a home. While the split is important, that shouldnrsquo;t be the first question you ask, advises Rhodes.

ldquo;If a recruit leads with commission splits,rdquo; she says, ldquo;I respond that we make great neighbors. You donrsquo;t think about what yoursquo;re going to get, and Irsquo;m already thinking you donrsquo;t have the right mentality. If your lead question is ldquo;What leads are you going to give me?rdquo; I think yoursquo;re expecting handouts and you wonrsquo;t be able to build a long-lasting career. It gives me the wrong idea.rdquo;

Rhodes tells potential recruits that the brokerage can give you fish, or teach you how to fish so you can build a good career. ldquo;We do give leads, but we offer them their own personal coach. ldquo;Our managing broker is non-competing, so they focus on the new brokers. We help them with sales skills and how to build their sphere of influence.rdquo;

Then there are fees, which vary widely from broker to broker. ldquo;I do a lot of coaching; I just love to get people into the industry and I do tell them commission is good,rdquo; explains Rhodes. ldquo;You need to understand the fees - marketing, listing syndication to or Zillow, technology, franchise branding fees, errors and omissions insurance, MLS, etc. Most of these, yoursquo;ll pay no matter what firm you go to. You donrsquo;t know what you donrsquo;t know, so you might ask to see what a monthly invoice looks like or ask to see a commission check.rdquo;

For those reasons, Rhodes coaches recruits that theyrsquo;ll need to have six to nine months of savings and about 2000 in start-up costs to cover school, licensing, MLS, errors and omissions. The franchise branding fee isnrsquo;t paid until a transaction closes.

While splits and fees are important, 100 percent of nothing is nothing, which makes training among the first questions to ask. ldquo;If they donrsquo;t get good training, they wonrsquo;t have any business.rdquo;

The culture of the brokerage is also worth exploring. ldquo;You will work there every day, and if the fit isnrsquo;t right, you wonrsquo;t want to go to the office. You really need to interview at different firms and attend company events.rdquo;

You might ask, ldquo;What makes you different?rdquo; ldquo;What kind of support do you have?rdquo; ldquo;Tell me about your culture.rdquo; ldquo;We have an in-house mortgage company, attorney, IT staff, social media director, and sales director,rdquo; offers Rhodes. ldquo;You have to talk about it up front. Itrsquo;s all about the fit.rdquo;

Useful links and information:nbsp;

North Carolina real estate requirements
Interview questions all new agents should ask

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10 Real Estate Photography Tips

US rates for photography services

Lately we can observe a great boom in this >

The shooter can get from 100 to 300 for the survey in Georgia, Oregon, Utah, Boise, Idaho. The normal price in Phoenix, Maine and Dallas ranges from 170-200 to 380. Photographers from Miami and Charleston receive the highest payment - over 500. And the average photographer receives a wage bill about 40,000 dv per year and 25 per hour. Many photographers are looking for ways to increase income. Some of them use video shooting and increase their incomes at least twice. The video with different impressive effects makes an impression on potential buyers, so the cost of video is from 1000. The most expensive pleasure is video shooting with the help of a drone. Photos from different angles have a big effect, so the cost of this type of shooting is at least 2000. But for this it is necessary to have permission.

Donrsquo;t neglect studying

If you want to associate your life with real estate photography, but you do not have experience, I offer you several training options:
In order to improve your photography skills in real estate photography, I offer you several training options:

1. YouTube free real estate photography >2. Online free >3. Paid online >4. Scott Hargis >5. Universities/schools Architecture/REP in Atlanta.

Necessary gear

You need to have professional real estate photography equipment for taking high-quality photos. I recommend taking the following gear for about 4,500 for a good start:

Donrsquo;t forget about polarizing filter. I use the Hoya brand as the colors seem to be more faithful and clear. Especially good for window photos to remove blinks. To hold this gear you will need a photography bag with extra batteries even if you use them only once in your life. Cleaning cloths will simplify photo editing.

Camera settings

How to perfectly configure the camera? There are no perfect settings that you can use anytime for all property and interior photos. It is better to adjust the camera based on the circumstances and conditions of the photoshoot. It is necessary to adjust the shutter speed and ISO. Pay special attention to the diaphragm. If you want more light, make a wider lens. The standard aperture settings are between F/8 and F/11, and the shutter speed is from 1/60 to 1/2 a second. Configure ISO to 400.

Lighting: Exterior amp; Interior

The quality of your work, and therefore of photography, depends on real estate photography lighting.

Exterior real estate photography tips:

1. Photos of exteriors must be filled with sunlight.
2. Leave shadows when editing pictures.
3. Experiment with contrast in photos.
4. Explore the location of the object to create high-quality images.
5. Use day to dusk effect to make high end photographs.

Interior photography lighting tips:

1. A tripod helps to make the photos clear.
2. Arrange objects in the room for successful shots. Focus on attractive interior elements.
3. Use different lenses 24mm and 50mm for interesting interior details.
4. Use the LED panel for clear and vivid photos.
5. Us f/5.6-f/11 aperture to receive a bokehlicious look on your property shots.

Best time to make photography for real estate

Your advantage when photographing a property is a sunny day. Good lighting allows you to take a picture of the object.

Overcast weather will spoil your photo shooting and you will get additional costs. Therefore, plan everything in advance and create favorable conditions for good shots.

Photo editing tips and tricks

Photo editing is the final and most important step in creating a picture. You can make it at home singly, in online service, or use real estate photo editing services.nbsp;

1. RAW format is more preferable. It is suitable for better photo retouching.
2. Use vertical correction in your work
3. You can crop the photo if necessary. This will remove unnecessary elements
4. Use the High Dynamic Range when photo shoot.
I usually using Real Estate Lightroom Presets for photo editing, which will simplify it and make fast.

41 Lightroom presets will remove the shadows, change the brightness and color in the rooms, give natural High Dynamic Range adjustment, etc.

Full Story >

A Call To ARMs: Should You Get An Adjustable Rate Mortgage?

Question: We are first time homebuyers, and have just signed a contract to purchase a new home in Virginia. Interest rates appear to be reasonable, and the builder has given us a sizable credit to be used for closing costs. The builder has recommended we use a particular lender, and has strongly suggested we get an adjustable rate mortgage ARM. We are interested in this kind of mortgage, but do not really understand how it works. What exactly

is an ARM, and is this something we should consider?

Answer: Mortgage lenders are creative. When interest rates skyrocketed in the early l980s, the mortgage financing industry began developing new and imaginative loans to meet everyones needs. Many of these mortgages have acronyms, and over the years there were such mortgages as GEMS Growing Equity Mortgages, RAMS Reverse Annuity Mortgages, SAMS Shared Appreciation Mortgages and of course ARMS Adjustable Rate Mortgages.

Let us look carefully at the adjustable rate mortgage.

This was created in the early 1980s when lenders were affected financially because homeowners were repaying their mortgage loans at 8, 9 or 10, while the cost of borrowing that money was more than 15.

Lenders made a basic economic decision many years ago. The shorter the term of the loan, the lower the interest rate would be. Thus, today you can still obtain a fixed rate, 30-year mortgage, meaning that your monthly payment principal and interest is guaranteed to be the same each and every month. But the fixed rate, 30-year mortgage, although reasonably low today, still carries about the highest interest rate going.

Most adjustable rate mortgages are guaranteed to stay on the books for 30 years, but the interest rate is adjusted periodically. There are many variations on this adjustable rate theme. There is a 7-23, where the rate is fixed for the first 7 years, and then adjusts annually thereafter for 23 more years. If the rate is adjusted for 5 or 7 years, the initial rate will be lower than for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, but higher than an adjustable rate mortgage that is adjusted every year.

Today, the most common ARMS are the 1 year, or the 5 year. But even with these common ARMS, prospective home buyers must shop around for the best deal. Consumers must also carefully inquire as to all of the terms and conditions before they commit themselves to any kind of mortgage financing. And in addition to asking questions, you should insist on getting a written statement from the prospective lender reflecting all that you have been told-- and promised.

Here is what you should do:

Determine the initial interest rate. It is defined as the rate on which your loan will be based during the initial period - - whether it is 1, 3, 7 or 10 years.

Find out how many points the lender is charging. Each point equals one percent of the loan. Thus, if you are obtaining a 1 year adjustable rate at 6.5 percent, and the lender is going to be charging you 2-1/4 points, a loan of 150,000.00 will require you to pay 3,375.00 in points -- up front -- when you settle on your house. Points are not as common in todays marketplace, but some lenders are still requiring that points be paid. And if you want to reduce the interest even lower, you can volunteer to pay a point or two; but please do your homework and your math. You dont want to be throwing good money after bad. A good ballpark is that each point will reduce your rate by one-eighth of a percent. The ideal solution is to convince your seller to pay a point or two; you reduce your interest rate, and can deduct those seller-paid points on your income tax return.

Ask if the ARM is based on a negative amortization schedule. Although my experience is that most ARMS currently are not amortized on such a negative basis, I still have seen some loans with a negative factor built in. This means that although you may be paying a lower interest rate, perhaps 3 1/2 or 4 for the first few years, the interest still is being charged on your loan at a higher rate -- for example 5 or even 7percent. If this is the case,

the extra interest, which is the difference between what you are paying and what is being charged you, is added to your mortgage balance. I cannot recommend the negative amortization mortgage under any circumstances.

Determine what the rate adjustment will be. Find out if there is a cap on the periodic increases and determine what index the lender uses as a base for calculating changes in the adjustable rate.

Generally, lenders look at the Federal Funds Rate, which is published by the Federal Reserve Board. Some lenders use an index known as LIBOR London Interbank Offered Rate while others may use such rates as 1 the current prime rate, 2 10 year Treasury, or even Fannie Mae 30/60 . Ask your lender to provide youwith historical data comparing these various indices. Alternatively, you can find this information on the internet.

The lender then adds to that index number a rate adjustment, called a margin. If the adjusted rate is higher than the old one when your adjustment period comes due, your interest will be modified accordingly for the next set of payments.

For example, the current Treasury bill index for one year is 2.25. The rate adjustment offered by the lender the margin is 3 points. Even if the Treasury bill index stays at the same next year, if you have a 1 year ARM, and your current rate is 3.25, your new payment for the next year could be increased to 6.25 3.25 plus 3.

However, if there is an annual rate cap, all yearly adjustments on your mortgage payments cannot exceed that cap. Thus, even if the index increases substantially, your new interest rate can only rise the first year not to exceed the cap. Clearly, you should insist on having your loan documents include a yearly cap.

Another point to consider is whether there is a ceiling on the overall amount that your rate can increase. Lenders realize that an ARM without such a ceiling is a potential disaster for consumers -- and potentially bankruptcy and foreclosure for lenders. If you start with a 3.25 loan, for example, and there is a 2 point cap in the annual increases, it is conceivable that at the end of the 5th year, you would be facing a mortgage rate of 13.25.

Most lenders, therefore, impose an overall ceiling on the amount that your interest rate can rise. However, make sure you fully understand what these ceilings are, and get them in writing before you commit yourself to an ARM or to a particular lender.

You should also make sure that your loan is, in fact, based on a 30-year amortization schedule. You also want written assurances that so long as you are current in your monthly mortgage payments, your loan will continue for a 30-year period. Some lenders have created adjustable rate mortgages that balloon at the end of a particular period of time -- for example, ten years. This means that while the lender will probably renew your loan, it reserves

the right to call it due at the end of the 10th year, depending on many circumstances, all of which must be outlined in writing to you before you commit yourself to that particular kind of loan.

There are also serious problems with interpreting how the rate adjustments work after you get the loan. Anyone with an ARM is advised to carefully review their original loan documents, to determine whether the lender has properly and correctly assessed the new adjustable rate, when the adjustment period comes due.

There have been a number of economic analysis studies throughout the United States, which have concluded that lenders have made a number of mistakes. Ironically, not all of the mistakes were in the lenders favor.

You also indicated that your seller was recommending a lender. Make sure you shop around before you commit yourself to any loan.
Full Story >

The High Cost Of Canadian Development Charges

Measures to cool Canadas housing market and curb the rapid increase in house prices are working, but industry groups say housing will not get more affordable until governments find a way to help builders increase the supply of homes available.

"It is obvious that government action is having an impact on demand in the new home market," says David Wilkes, president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association in Toronto. "We have 115,000 new residents coming to the Greater Toronto Area every year and we need to be building 55,000 new homes annually to meet their housing needs. Government policy needs to recognize the need to increase housing supply as part of a long-term solution for our region."

In the next decade, pent-up demand from millennials will put much more stress on housing prices, says a recent study by The Centre for Urban Research Land Development at Ryerson University, funded by the Ontario Real Estate Association.

"Those waiting for baby boomers to downsize may be holding their breath for some time," says the report. "Boomers are not expected to downsize in a meaningful way until mid-2040."

In addition to higher house prices, the shortage will force millennials to take on higher debt loads to get into the market, it says. More millennials will "abandon the urban core for the suburbs in search of affordable housing. This will lead to longer commutes and more traffic congestion." The report says the combination of high housing costs and reduced income prospects "could make it difficult for the region to retain this highly talented and educated workforce."

Benjamin Dachis, who along with Vincent Thivierge recently wrote a study about barriers to housing supply for the C.D. Howe Institute, says, "Recent policies -- such as taxes on foreign buyers or new federal mortgage rules -- have focused on curtailing the demand for housing, instead of taking meaningful steps to increase the supply."

Their study says that excessive government regulation pushed up the cost of new single-family homes by an average of 230,000 in the eight most restrictive cities between 2007 and 2016. In Vancouver, it increased the cost by 600,000 on average, which the authors say is by far the highest in Canada and among the largest internationally.

These "barriers to housing supply" include zoning rules, restrictions on developing agricultural land and development charges, the authors say.

"Our evidence shows that policies that restrict the supply of these kinds of houses are a major cause of their high price, much more so than low interest rates and household growth have been," they say. "Across Canada, the current owners of single-detached homes enjoy higher prices for their homes at the expense of people looking to buy homes, such as young and growing families, people looking to move to another part of Canada and new immigrants."

Dachis and Thivierge acknowledge that land-use regulations have some benefits, such as separating housing from industrial uses that so that residents have a cleaner environment for their neighbourhoods. And "land-use regulations such as greenbelts can maintain local amenities, including views of natural landscapes. These regulations generate social benefits that might be more important for certain localities than the costs of building regulations."

But they say research has generally shown that "the cost imposed by housing regulations in many cities largely outweighs the benefits provided by land-use regulation. Our analysis >The restrictions now account for about half of the cost of housing in Vancouver and more than 20 per cent in Toronto. In those cities along with Kelowna, B.C., Abbotsford, B.C., Victoria, Regina, Calgary and Ottawa-Gatineau, the regulations pushed up prices by an average of 230,000, the study says.

Reducing zoning and approval barriers would go a long way to help create new housing, they say. The City of Toronto, for example, has not updated some of its zoning regulations since the 1950s, which means that most new development proposals must go through a long and expensive zoning review. Municipalities should also modernize their review and approval practices, says the report.

Cities like Toronto and Vancouver use the planning reviews to squeeze developers for more local amenities, such as providing more parkland or public art, in exchange for allowing zoning variances. Dachis and Thivierge say there may be an incentive for municipalities to keep their zoning bylaws out of date, to give them more leverage in negotiations with developers. But while the amenities increase the value of the housing, the developers simply pass this cost along to homebuyers.

"Development fees are politically popular because they are portrayed as money paid by profitable developers rather than by homeowners, who have little appetite for increased property taxes," says the report. The largest component of these charges is for water and wastewater construction, which accounts for more than half of the cost in some municipalities. The report authors argue that instead of development fees, it would be better to charge for these services based on end use, as electricity and natural gas is charged.

"When customers pay the full cost of using an asset on a life-cycle basis, they are making the choice of consuming the right amount of water every time they turn on the taps or flush the toilets. Water prices on end use are too low in many places, partly because of municipal
Full Story >

6 Easy Steps For Integrating A Dog Into Your Home... Without Chaos Or Clutter

So youre finally adding a dog to your household. Congratulations Youre about to bring so much joy to your world. But also hair and dirt and slobber. You can easily integrate a new dog into your home and still keep it clean and >Protect your floors

Your pups hairy chin probably means theres going to be water dribble. One of the best ways to handle this is with a tray under the food and water bowl. We love this Easyology Premium Pet Food Tray, which has a graphic design, comes in four colors, and has a lip that helps keep the food and water contained.

Get a crate

Youve probably heard that dogs love to be in a den-like area like a crate, but does it feel cruel to you? We get it And, truth be told, you wont find a crate in our house.. But, that doesnt mean we dont wonder if our free-range dogging was the right choice. The truth is that puppies are easily trained to sleep in their crates and hang out in them while youre gone, which makes potty training easier and also gives you the confidence of knowing they - and your home - are safe and secure while youre gone.

Heres what the professionals have to say: "Prison or cozy retreat? It all depends on perspective and on how you use the crate. Dogs have a natural denning instinct, normally preferring safe, enclosed quarters for their naps," said Modern Dog Magazine. "In the wild, a den is a secure place to get some shut-eye without becoming someone elses meal. If a dog is properly introduced to a crate as a young pup he will view it as a safe refuge from the hustle and bustle of the house and away from any pesky children - a place for peace and quiet and serious snoozing. Most domestic dog owners are surprised to learn that wild dogs spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping

Rest periods in snug quarters are a natural part of caring for our dogs needs. But... dogs have many other needs that crates interfere with. Dogs are social animals; they require interaction with other dogs or people. They also need exercise, mental stimulation, and appropriate potty opportunities. So, while some time spent in a crate is usually a positive element of dog rearing, too much time spent in a crate can have disastrous consequences."

If you do opt to get a crate, youll be happy to know you can find stylish options today that actually add to your homes dcor instead of the standard cage look.


The doggy dcor world is more varied and interesting than ever, and the options for your pup go far beyond crates. Just in the dog bed category alone, you can find everything from crushed velvet options to graphic patterns to match your >

Set some boundaries

"The big day comes when you pick up the dog. Everybody is excited and happy as you drive home, and you all come bounding up the walk, throw open the front door and let the dog off-leash and insideAnd youve just planted the seed for a lot of future issues. In human terms, youve unleashed a juvenile delinquent," said Cesar Milan. "In order to have a well-balanced dog, we have to teach her the house rules, and set boundaries and limitations from the get-go. The message you send your dog the moment she enters your home for the first time is critical, because it immediately establishes the ground rules in your dogs mind. If you just let her run in the door, the message is, Here Everything is yours, and you can do whatever you want."

Milan has eight essential steps for setting rules for a new pup. A good training program can help reinforce them.

Be consistent

Your four-year-old may think its adorable to invite the dog up onto the couch, but if you have established a no-dog-on-the-couch policy, this can be confusing. Consistency is key, and that means you probably have to spend at least as much time training your human family members as you do the dog.

Get a good vacuum

Unless you get a Chinese Crested hairless dog or a breed that genuinely does not shed, you can expect to have at least some dog hair collecting in the corners of your home. If you just have a simple broom and vacuum, it may be time for an upgrade.

Keep that dog hair in check with a vacuum that is built to suck it up. Experts like the Hoover REACT Professional Pet Plus and the Dyson DC39 Animal Canister Vacuum Cleaner. Also consider getting a microfiber dry mop. Hair loves to stick to microfiber, which can make quick cleanups easy.
Full Story >

10 Tips For A Pain-Free Renovation

Whether youre painting your kitchen cabinets or ripping the whole kitchen out, renovating is exciting. Not as exciting is the mess thats created, the potential issues with contractors, and the mad scramble to come up with more money when something goes awry. While you cant avoid every unpleasantry associated with home renovations, you can prepare well to keep yours as pain-free as possible.

Move out

Depending on how extensive your renovation is, staying in the home while its going on can be horrible. And, trust us when we say that this is one of those things you only think you can get through easily if youve never been through it before. A little time at a friends house or in a hotel instead of cramming your family into a bedroom or basement with one bathroom to share and a makeshift kitchen will make your world so much better.

Dont hover...but dont fail to check the work from time to time

True story: We had our floors redone last month Goodbye, ugly tile and concrete where where foundation work had been completed, Hello luxury vinyl plank and we had to face this reality head on. While we didnt want to be in their face all day, paying attention at key points uncovered areas that needed to be addressed. What we learned is this:

Finding that perfect balance is key to establishing trust with your contractor while also making sure the work is up to your standards.nbsp;And, in the end, having cookies and other treats in the house makes everything better.

Concentrate on safety

If you are staying in the home and you have kids or pets or both, youll want to make sure your contractors leave their work area as clean as possible and dont create hazards with their equipment. On the first night of our flooring installation, our contractor left his tools - including two saws - in an open area, which our dog quickly discovered Everyone is fine, but he got to spend the rest of the night in the bedroom.

"While working in your home contractors should be willing to remove all tools at the end of each day. At the least, equipment should be stacked out of the way and out of the reach of young kids," Art Donnelly, former chairman of the board of thenbsp;National Association of the Remodeling Industry, told Parents. "You can even request that your contractor set up temporary walls to shield your kids from the work site and reduce the amount of dust filtering into your living quarters."nbsp;

Budget more than you think youll need

Its always going to cost more than you think. Setting aside an extra 10 percent - at least - will help you avoid a freak out and a panicked search for more money in the middle of your reno.

Invest in a good vacuum

And a carload of Swiffer dusters. Whether youre having your floors done, adding a room, or redoing your kitchen, its gonna get dusty. And it doesnt matter how well your contractor cleans up after the job is donemdash;it still wont be up to your expectations.

Dont pay upfrontnbsp;

A contractor who asks for payment before work has begun could be a red flag. You dont want to get duped, nor do you want to work with someone whose cash flow problem becomes your problem. Paying for materials as they are purchased is common and payment arrangements that include paying for a portion of the work at certain completion markers are sometimes worked out, but if it feels off, dont be afraid to stand your ground.

Do your research

Even the most trusted referrals require further research. Perhaps the company is under new management since your friend used them or standards have dropped over time. Google the company and check reviews online before you move forward.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Our project was almost derailed by a simple miscommunication that was, thankfully, discovered and worked through but that could have derailed the entire flooring installation.

"Ninety-Nine percent of problems are caused by breakdowns in communication," said CAVDESIGN. "Dont overwhelm your contractor with bits of paper and random suggestions. Instead, organize your thoughts, schedule a time, and go over any questions point by point. Then send a line-item list of what was decided upon so there is a clear paper trail."nbsp;

Pack up your valuables ahead of time

Yes, you want to protect yourself from theft. But you also want the things that are important to you to be safe from getting bruised or broken. If your contractor is moving furniture for you, it behooves you to take care of anything thats an heirloom or that would devastate you if it was damaged during the renovation.

Check outside when the renovation is done

Some contractors clean up the work area better than others. There might be an errant piece of tile or a few wood pieces youre not aware of on your front lawn because you typically come and go through the garage. But you can be sure your neighbors will be aware If youve already pushed the limits of their patience with the constant sound of power tools, nows the time to make sure your front yard isnt an eyesore.

Full Story >

Five Steps To Furnishing Your New Home

Congratulations on your new home This is an opportunity to think holistically about the interior design and decoration of your home. Have you ever been in a house where nothing seems to go with anything else? A house with stylistic clashes in its furniture and decor can feel like a conversation in which no one is listening to anyone else. Follow these steps for a smooth decorating transition to your new home.

1. Planning

The first step is to survey the territory. Start by listing any furniture or decorative element a rug or framed art you are keeping from your prior home. Also consider design aspects such as wall color, textures and lighting. Some of these you can choose and others you will need to take into consideration as you plan.

Do you have a family heirloom piece of furniture that is coming with you to the new house? Your subsequent purchases will need to work well with the heirloom. Always take a moment and ask yourself why you are keeping a piece. If you dont love it, theres no shame in letting it go to a home where it will be loved.

2. Preparing

The perfect time to paint is before the furniture goes in. Dont make your paint purchases without thinking about the rest of the interior. For example, have you always wanted a bright red sofa? If you are going to pick a bold color for a major item of furniture, think neutral for the walls.

Another common preparation is refinishing wood floors. Take into consideration the color of the floors and moldings and how they will interact visually with the rest of your interior.

3. Prioritizing

You may be able to acquire all of your furniture before you move in. But that isnt always possible. Prioritize your furniture purchases around your familys needs. Especially if you have children, your first wish may be a dining or kitchen table and chairs. The table is a gathering place for the whole family, and being able to eat together will make the house feel like home quickly. Make sure the kids have a say in what their rooms will look like mdash; seeking their input can help ease their moving blues.

If you are a couple without children, you might find it an adventure to picnic on the floor for the first few weeks, and the bedroom might be the first room you want to furnish.

4. Purchasing

Consider buying all the major pieces in each room from one furniture line. These pieces are designed to go together, and once you find a piece you really love, see what else is available from that designer.

Celebrity brand lines of furniture are not mere gimmicks to capitalize on the stars name recognition. Rather, such brands are designed to evoke the mood and emotion most associated with that celebrity. A lot of work goes into the line to create a cohesive and evocative >

5. Getting Help

You dont need to hire an interior decorator. However, if you need some help, you can find many online tutorials on interior decorating and design, some of which are free.

Full Story >

Six Surprising Retirement Trends You Need To Know

Tiny homes. Rockin communities where Jimmy Buffet is your spirit animal. Rockin a strenuous hike minutes from home. Yeah, this is not your Grandfathers retirement.

Long gone are the days when people packed it in and moved to a nice, calm little home for the aging in Florida the day they turn 65. Not only are people working longer today, but they are looking for more out of their retirement - more fun and excitement, more job opportunities, and more opportunity to hang out with family. If youre getting ready to retire, these are the trends youll want to know about.


And were not just talking about weekly bingo. There is a wave of new retirement communities, most notably Jimmy Buffets foray into a new career path, that cater to a much more active life>

Other developments, like the new 100 million-plusnbsp;Rancho Mission Viejonbsp;in Orange County, CA is being developed "as annbsp;upscale mixed-generation development, with housing catering to older adults integrated into clusters of neighborhoods," they said. "Developments like New Yorks new community center for thenbsp;Morningside Retirement amp; Health Servicesnbsp;MRHS showcase anbsp;renewed focus on active, communal space. A cohousing development for seniors on Oaklands waterfront called Phoenix Commons has been compared to a lsquo;dorm for grownups."

Retiringhellip;but not all the way

Mid-size and larger cities are becoming havens for retirees because, among other positive attributes, they offer thriving job markets. So why would that be important to someone who is getting ready to stop working? Because, increasingly, retirees arent retiring all the way. Or, theyre embarking on secondary careers, often part-time, post retirement. "74 of working Americans plan to work past retirementnbsp;age, with 11 expecting to work full time and 63 expecting to work part-time," said The Street.

Chasing happiness

U.S. New amp; World Reports 2018 list of the Best Places to Retire compared the top 100 metros for their potential as retirement spots, using data including housing affordability, taxes, and access to healthcare facilities. Their overall desirability and average levels of happiness were also key to the rankings. "Several cities in Texas made the top 10," while "three cities in the mid-Atlantic region are highly rated." You can see the entire list here.

Multi-generational living

Multi-generational living is on one of real estates fastest-growing trend. "In 1940, about one-quarter of the U.S. population lived with three or morenbsp;generations in one home. After WWII, American families largely became two-generational, with parents and minor-age children under one roof," said Forbes. "The percentage of households with multiple generations started declining to 21, reaching a low of 12nbsp;by 1980." According to Pew Research Center data, 60.6 million people, or 19 percent of the U.S. population, lived in multigenerational homes, including 26.9 million three-generation households."

In fact, the trend is so pervasive today that builders are increasingly creating highly livable granny flats and tiny homes that can live on family land or in backyards. Theyre also building new construction homes like Lennars Next Gen, which is billed as a "home within a home" and includes "all the features youd expect in a separate unit a kitchenette, single car garage and full bathroom while giving you the freedom to pop in whenever youd like," they said.

Increasing the activity level

"The choice of recreational activities is gradually shifting as the baby boomer generation heads into retirement," said U.S. News amp; World Report. "A recent study by the Physical Activity Council revealed some interesting findings. Activities that are increasing in popularity include camping, bicycling, hiking and canoeing. Activities that are decreasing in popularity include golf, swimming for fitness and working out using machines or weights."

The AARP found that boomers are increasingly migrating to states "with mild climates and recreational options. "A newly >

Following family

Another of todays top trends has retirees moving closer to family. For many grandparents, moving toward their children and grandchildren is "the last chance to focus on family and to leave a legacy of special memories," says Christine Crosby, editorial director ofnbsp;Grandmagazine," to Kiplinger.

Full Story >

For Sale By Owner Dot Com...

This is Breaking News...wonder what the plan is? Media Company, Brokerage, and FSBO site combo..., LLC, a Delaware limited liability company the "Seller", an indirectly, wholly-owned subsidiary of tronc, Inc. the "Company", completed a disposition of substantially all of its assets used in its business of operating a for-sale-by-owner real estate market place, pursuant to an Asset Purchase Agreement, entered into on March 13, 2018 the "Purchase Agreement", among the Seller,, LLC, a Michigan limited liability company the "Buyer", Tribune Publishing Company, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company "Tribune" and In-House Realty LLC "IHR". The closing purchase price consisted of 2.5 million in cash, subject to a post-closing working capital adjustment, of which 700,000 is being held in escrow as security for specified indemnity obligations.

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Home Inspections Can Save You Money In The Long-Run

If youre hiring someone to inspect the home you want to buy, or youre a seller trying to find out if there are any hidden problems that need fixing before you put your home on the market, here are five things you need to know:

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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The Legal Ties That Bind With Your Down Payment

Question: We are both in our upper sixties and retired. Last October, we put money down on a condominium apartment that is to be completed around September of this year. We put down ten percent of the price in cash and the money is earning a modest amount of interest until settlement. We have some savings, but the balance would be paid in cash from the proceeds of the sale of our present home.

Although we believe the price of the condominium has gone up slightly since we signed the contract, we now have serious thoughts about apartment living and about putting most of our resources into this transaction because of some new and serious health concerns.

Is there any way we can cancel our agreement and not lose the down payment?

Answer: The lawyer in me says that a contract is a legally binding document that must be upheld. The humanitarian in me suggests that, at the very least, you should try to get out of the contract, especially with the facts you have described.

First, review the terms of the contract very carefully to determine your rights and responsibilities. Are there any contingencies in that contract, such as your ability to obtain financing or the necessity to sell your house? If any of these contingencies legitimately cannot be met, it is possible you have the legal right to declare the contract null and void.

Next, determine whether the contract can be assigned. Although most developer contracts are not assignable, it may very well be that you have the right to sell your contract to someone else. And even if you do not have that right, it never hurts to ask the developer.

For example, if the contract is for 100,000 and the market value now is 110,000, if you have the right to assign that contract, you may find someone who would purchase your contract for the contract price -- or even a few thousand dollars above the contract price.

The person who buys your contract would be obligated to follow through on all of the terms of your contract. In effect, the buyer would be stepping into your shoes, assuming all the rights and responsibilities you presently have.

As I have indicated, although most developer contracts do not permit such assignment, it is worth looking at this aspect of your contract.

Next, do not hesitate to discuss this matter with both the real estate firm representing the seller and try to speak directly with the seller. Explain your situation. They may be sympathetic. If the market for your condominium is anticipated to be strong, the seller-developer may be able to make more money by reselling the property to someone else.

Finally, you may want to consider buying the property and then trying to sell it yourself. Unfortunately, this is risky because there never is any guarantee you will find a buyer quickly and the duplicate settlement costs, financing charges and other settlement->You may also have to pay a real estate commission for that second sale. Realize that until the developer has sold most, if not all of the condominium units, you are competing against the house. And as we know, the dealer always wins.

You indicated you have put down a deposit of ten percent and you do not want to lose the money. However, there are times when a buyer would prefer to walk away from a transaction, lose the money and avoid subsequent aggravation.

Peace of mind sometimes cannot be measured in terms of dollars and cents. Although I cannot recommend forfeiting your deposit, if this is an option you are willing to consider, make sure you discuss the situation with the seller before deciding. Sign a >Basically, if a buyer defaults on a real estate contract, the seller has three options available:

  • Suing for specific performance, in effect, asking the court to require you go ahead with the transaction.
  • Suing for damages if there are substantial monetary damages involved as a result of your failure to live up to your part of the contract. For example, if the seller has to resell the property at a lower price than your contract price, this would be the measure of damages.
  • Electing to retain the deposit as the only remedy. Remember, if you decide to forfeit, make sure the seller agrees, in writing, that the only remedy will be the forfeiture of the deposit. This may also be spelled out in the form contract you signed.

Although I recognize that conditions often change and new circumstances often arise after a contract is entered into, it must be pointed out that, in most cases, the time to decide whether you want to purchase property is before you sign a contract.

After your signature is on the contract and you have given some money down as a deposit, you are legally bound to comply with all the terms and conditions of that document. Your fate basically depends on how the developer reacts to your situation.
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Remodeling Your Home Office To Increase Productivity

Working from home is both a luxury and a curse. Sure, you dont have to fight with traffic or even get dressed in the morning, but the line between home and work can begin to blur to the point where youre not sure if youre working from home or living at work. Additionally, it is much easier to get distracted when your office is part of your house. Kids, pets, phone, doorbell mdash; these distractions can add up to sensory overload and prevent you from working productively.

The key to overcoming this problem is to redesign and remodel your home workspace. With a few tips, you can have all the advantages of working at home and still achieve the level of productivity that comes with working in an office.

Create a Reasonably Comfortable Workspace

You want your home office to be comfortable, but not so comfortable that you are inclined to take a nap. You want it to be welcoming, but not so welcoming that your kids set up camp in there with you. The design of the space should be infused with elements of your personality, including paintings, furniture and decor, but these elements should not detract from the functionality of the space. These elements should take up as little floor and leg space as possible. Keep items like floating shelves, fold away desks and chairs, and wall-mounted cabinets in mind when considering how to best use your limited space.

You also want to make sure that your designated office or workspace is in an airy, well-lit domain in your home. An area with an existing heating and ventilation unit is ideal. However, if the only space available to you is in the basement, stock up on fans, an air purifier and a humidifier to counter the stagnant air.

Use Lighting Appropriately

In an ideal home office, three kinds of light should be available: task lighting, ambient lighting and natural daylight. Task lighting is light you can shine directly on your work, so a desk lamp or flexible floor lamp is a good option. Use compact fluorescent, energy-efficient bulbs for your task lighting because they stay cool, last longer and are available in different watts and color variants to best suit your individual needs.

For natural lighting, try to set up your workspace near a window. Natural lighting is the most effective and the cheapest of the recommended lighting types. Plus, being able to gaze out the window every so often as you work is good for the soul. Be sure to invest in some quality window treatments, though, to block out the distractions that the window might bring and also to monitor the temperature in the office area. A sheer curtain can also be implemented to create ambient lighting for performing tasks that do not require direct or natural light.

Control the Stimulation Level

When considering colors for your workspace, remember that some colors stimulate the brain more than others. Colors that are too dark or too vibrant may prove distracting or can even elicit anxiety. For the walls, choose a neutral color that is soothing in the warm months of the year and also warming in the cooler months. Shades like cream, lemon and pastel blue are smart choices.

Too much noise can also be a stimulant and a distraction when trying to work from home. The kids yell, the dog barks, the television blares. Your workspace needs to block out these noises while still allowing you to hear whats important. A good rug or carpet can absorb some of the noise; however, you can also install panels on the wall or add sound-proofing mats for added absorption. Simply upgrading the insulation in the room and the air sealing can cut back on noise pollution significantly.

So, if home is where the heart and the office is, a few remodeling and designing tips can help you boost your productivity and better enjoy your home office.
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Builder/Realtor Relationships Poised For Long-Term Win-Win

ldquo;I feel about as comfortable as a condemned man, lecturing the firing squad on marksmanship because everything I say can be held against me.rdquo;

Who would have the nerve to think what anyone had to say mattered to 1.3 million Realtors, most of whom are not encouraged or trained to work with homebuilders?

After thanking home builders for providing much-needed inventory, I can only think of two things to say to this hardworking, risk-taking group:

One, stop telling Realtors they wonrsquo;t get paid if they donrsquo;t bring the prospect to your sales office first. This 40-year policy became outdated about a generation ago the first time a home shopper completed a builders internet registration form. We both know you make exceptions on a regular basis. Why not say so up front?

Two, stop telling Realtors they need to learn construction because nothing could be further from the money ndash; or the truth. There no evidence to support this assumption. Case studies do, as we shall see.

What caused builder/Realtor >

The most important event by far happened in August of 2012, when and Builder Digital Index BDX announced a partnership whereby BDX would feed its national inventory of new homes to

Homebuilders now had what they had long lacked, access to the Realtors Multiple Listing System MLS. And Realtors had access to inventory of new homes in a format they are trained to use. Realtors can find inventory of new homes, floor plans, prices, amenities, and more side by side with resales.

The increased demand by new home shoppers forced Realtors to start showing new homes, whether they were trained to or not. It seems to be working big time.

ldquo;Millions of new home shoppers were drawn to this new service,rdquo; according to Senior Vice President of Channel Sales and Operation, Tricia Smith, speaking at the 2018 National Association of Home Builders International Builders Show in January.

In December 2013 the headline below appeared in Realty Times:

Bank of America Urging Home Builders and Realtors to Work Together.

ldquo;If you are a REALTORreg; looking for some unusual but timely business advice from a banker, E.J. Achtner, Senior Vice President of Bank of America, has some for you.

"Education, training and >

Why is a banker suggesting new home training to Realtors?

According to Achtner, "many builders, regardless of their size, are taking a much more collaborative view of partnering with Realtors than in the past and we encourage our builders to work with Realtors.rdquo;

It would be safe to assume that other lenders started encouraging their builders to do the same thing,

Then less than two years later, more than 25 MLS Partners were offering inventory of new homes from their local source.

BDX Announces 25 MLS Partners Providing Access To New Construction Inventory For 400,000 Realtors.

"With our partners in this effort, nearly 400,000 REALTORSreg; have direct access to New Home Source Professional through their MLS today," said Tim Costello, President and CEO of BDX.

"More than half of all home shoppers consider new construction, so its imperative that we continue this industry collaboration to help agents and brokers serve their clients.

ldquo;Today builders and Realtors are working closer together than ever,rdquo; Costello said.

Systems are in place to communicate clearly and accurately. Commission issues are few and far between.

While builders are finally working within the MLS system, they still have a way to go with their Realtor training. A study said they need to do a better job of bringing Realtors into their process.

Two Out Of Three REALTORS Say Homebuilder New Homes Training Is Not Useful

According to a study commissioned by Builder Homesite Inc, "nearly two-thirds of Realtors believe that builders are not offering useful training about how to sell new homes."

Why? Because what they teach does not engage Realtors in the sales process. The Builder Homesite study nailed it with this statement:

ldquo;There is a sizeable portion of Realtors that would welcome an outreach effort to engage them in a sales process and increase the proportion of new homes that they sell."

A national position on a few key issues would be helpful. We will get to those issues in Part 4.


Summary: Except for a lingering lack of trust, there is no excuse for Realtors to ignore inventory of new homes.

Homebuilders, your training question is this:

lsquo;Is what I am saying, or about to say, building more trust in my product or me?rdquo;

If you struggle with the answer, you need to rethink your message, which we will address.


Next: Part 2 How Experienced New Home Co-Brokers Feel About Selling New Homes

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Ask the HOA Expert: Restricted Activities

Question: One of our homeowners kids would like to raise chickens in the backyard. Our governing documents restrict this activity. Any advice to head off this public >Answer: Most HOA governing documents restrict raising poultry and other farm animals or local laws may do so. If this is something like a short term 4-H project, its probably no big deal. If it is an ongoing production facility for eggs and meat, not a good idea. The main issues are sanitation and noise particularly from roosters.

Question: I recently had a leak in my unit that damaged wall and flooring and I am in a battle with the HOA regarding who is responsible for the repair charges. My unit is in a mid-rise condominium. The leak was coming from a rooftop chiller pipe that feeds the air conditioning units for me and several neighbors. The plumber determined that the pipe was leaking because of improper soldering. The board says neither the plumbing repair or damage to my unit is the HOAs responsibility.

Answer: This is a >

Typically, the HOA is responsible for repairing common plumbing lines. Since the plumbing line in question serves multiple units, it is considered common. Damage repair to units caused by the leaking pipe, however, is usually the unit owners responsibility unless the HOA neglects to perform plumbing repairs in a timely manner when informed by a unit owner. For a sample Areas of Responsibility Policy, see

Question: A homeowner is requesting a copy of a violation letter that was sent to another homeowner. Are we required to provide that?

Answer: Unless state law requires sharing this kind of information, a violation issue is a private matter between the board, management and offender. Such information should not be shared with other owners.

Question: What is the proper protocol for a special assessment? Should the board hold a special meeting to announce it with the homeowners, then follow up with a letter to all of them?

Answer: If the board has decided to move forward with a special assessment, it should definitely hold an informational meeting to discuss the reasons and to answer questions. It is possible that there will be people that take exception to the special assessment and want to express that opinion. They have a right to do that as long as they are civil.

The board should attempt to respond to all questions and concerns if possible. Trying to respond to "I dont have the money" is a waste of time even if true. Special assessments are never pleasant and there will always be some that have a problem paying them due to disability, unemployment, divorce, too cheap, etc. Going forward, the board should have a long range plan to avoid them in the future by setting aside adequate reserve funds to avoid special assessments. It would a good thing to point this out to the members now.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to
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New Forms To Be Released For Use By California REALTORS

In addition to the reorganized Statewide Buyer and Seller Advisory SBSA, three new forms will be >

The first one of these, the Tenant Flood Hazard Disclosure, satisfies a new requirement that in every residential lease or rental agreement entered into after July 1, 2018, the landlord or agent must disclose certain information regarding flood hazards including the landlords "actual knowledge." The TFHD informs the tenant that the property is in a special flood hazard area or an area of potential flooding if one or more of the following conditions are met.

1. The owner has actual knowledge of that fact.
2. The owner has received written notice from any public agency stating that the property is located in a special flood hazard or an area of potential flooding.
3. The property is located in an area in which the owners mortgage holder requires the owner to carry flood insurance.
4. The owner carries flood insurance.

There are no conditions under which either of the other two advisories is mandated by law; however, individual companies may choose to include them among their required documents.

The Disclosure Information Advisory is addressed to sellers. It provides them with some general information about required disclosures. It addresses many of the questions that sellers often ask their agents as to what is expected of them. The advice it provides for sellers is very similar to the advice that brokers often give their agents. For example, "you should not let subjective beliefs limit, qualify or downplay your disclosures. Avoid words such as lsquo;never, lsquo;minor, lsquo;insignificant, lsquo;small, or lsquo;infrequent as these terms may reflect your opinion but that opinion may not be shared by Buyers, professionals or others."

The DIA is 2 frac12; pages in length. It covers a lot of ground, much of which good agents already cover, although verbally. A particularly good piece of advice -- for agents as well as sellers -- is this:

"If you are unsure about whether something is important enough to be disclosed, you should probably disclose it. If you dont want to disclose a piece of information about the Property, think about your reasoning for why you do not want to disclose this information. If the answer is because you think a buyer will not want to buy the Property, or will want purchase at a lower price, that is exactly the reason why the fact ought to be disclosed: it materially affects the value or desirability of the Property."

Finally, there is the Buyers Homeowners Association Advisory. We have discussed in other contexts the fact that people who are buying a property subject to an HOA will receive a high volume of legally-required disclosures. Probably, there is a pretty low percentage of those buyers who have actually read all the documents they receive. This advisory provides a brief summary of the kinds of documents they should receive and emphasizes the importance of reading them. It also emphasizes that the buyers agent has not and cannot verify the information provided. It particularly notes, "Real estate agents are not qualified to assess the financial viability of any HOA."

Some of the advice, however, does challenge credulity. For example, "You should directly contact the HOA Board to determine whether the property can be used for your intended purposes."

Brokers and agents will do well to familiarize themselves with the new forms when they are made available. Theres no doubt that some will want to adopt them.

Full Story >

Home Buying Checklist: What Else Does Location Mean?

"Location, location, location" are the cornerstones of property value and neighborhood popularity. Evaluating this seemingly-simple, triple-impact factor goes beyond me>

Yes, proximity to the places you and family members regularly must or want to visit is an important factor in identifying an ideal location. However, theres more to accessing location than an address.


Below is a comprehensive checklist of LOCATION FACTORS many of which may be overlooked by buyers until they move in and discover that their chosen and paid-for location is not all they expected it to be. Many of these factors also affect market value, now and in the future. All these factors will not be an issue for every property. Check off the factors are >

Walkability has many definitions which largely differ by walking purpose: destination-driven, exercising, socializing, exploring, enjoying the outdoorshellip;. Measures of walkability can be useful and may add to market value, but these scores are not absolute, so investigate the reference source and measurement approach. Experiment by walking where you and family members would walk and when. There may be obstacles, like very busy streets, that would affect whether walking would be the best transportation choice.

Nearby Shopping used to be a big location factor, but online shopping has taken the shine off this convenience for many buyers. In some areas, malls are falling into disrepair and closing. Would that be a concern for you? In other locations, new large-scale commercial ventures are underway in or closer to residential areas. How would you feel about having a big box store on your doorstep?

Developments especially large-scale projects, condominium towers, multiple-housing complexes, and commercial ventures, increase density, traffic, noise, andnbsp; pressure on schools and community services. Years of planning and arguing proceed ground breaking, so todays quiet streets may reveal little sign of what will begin once you move in. Ask a lot of questions about local development.

Street Status exists in most neighborhoods, which themselves each carry different status. Certain streets confer status on residents. Which street, side of the street, or end of the street carries greater real estate value or status? One end of the street may be closer to shopping and the other to parks. What do you value regarding physical location?

Sunshine is valued by most buyers, even though they may appreciate it for different reasons, ranging from gardening to solar energy. In some areas, south-facing backyards are more popular and, in others, its south-facing fronts. What is blocking sunlight to the property now and what might block it in the future?

Teardowns or properties more valued as building sites than homes, exist in most established neighborhoods. How many teardowns surround the real estate? Teardowns are not all dilapidated

structures. In many areas, attractive bungalows and two-storeys are demolished to build mega-homes, perhaps like the one you are interested in. During the demolition and build, neighbors are plagued by noise, dust, lack of parking, and inconsideration that can mean restricted use of their own properties for a year or two. Whats planned around the property?

nbsp; Neighbors may include Airbnb hosts and other home-based business owners, some of whom may conduct their ventures in ways that end up disturbing neighbors. Many municipalities and police receive complaints from homeowners concerned about what businesses are doing around their property.

nbsp; Schools particularly popular ones, can be a big influence on a location decision for those with children to educate.

nbsp; Transportation carries different importance for different buyers. Have public transit and road systems kept pace with rising population in the area? Are neighborhood-changing transportation projects like rapid transit scheduled to begin in the next year or so? Will the bulk of >

nbsp; Infrastructure is an often-overlooked factor. How recently have bridges and main roads, essential for access to the area and downtown, been up-dated and up-graded? Have water and sewage

services been upgraded to serve growing populations? Or, will you face months, if not years, of "under construction" streets around your home?

nbsp; Break-ins tend to be more common in some areas than others. Who keeps the neighborhood safe? Whats their track record? Do most neighbors have their own home security system? Are community safety groups active?

nbsp; Water Supply and shortages can be an issue. Droughts seem more common and last longer. How prepared is the community to handle water shortage? Do summer shortages affect lawn watering and landscaping, making local drought-resistant plants and no-grass front yards essential? Are bush fires a recurring threat?

nbsp; Flooding in low-lying areas and drainage basins can be a threat. Could rising water plague that real estate or the immediate area or access? How affordable and attainable is property

flood insurance in this area? When was the last time flooding was an issue and what happened during clean up? If the property is waterfront, is shore erosion or rising water an issue? Is the waterfront often fouled with dead algae or other smelly matter?

nbsp; Traffic is more of a concern in urban areas. Is the residential area under traffic calming and speed-management strategies to reduce rush-hour traffic through the area? If there are speed bumps, how are fire and emergency vehicles affected? Is there a plan to add or remove traffic calming and why?

nbsp; Airplanes can disrupt family life even if a property is not close to an airport. The increase in frequency of planes taking off and landing at all hours has many neighborhoods, even those distant from airports, plagued by airplane noise. Circling a city to land, means planes travel over many homes drowning out conversations and disrupting sleep. Just popping in for an open house or viewing may not make you aware of a noisy flight-path problem.

nbsp; Landscaping and mature trees enhance neighborhoods. Large trees can present hazards as they age. Are trees downed in storms replaced? What invader species are working their way through the area to undermine outdoor enjoyment?

nbsp; History of the home or location may be a concern in special cases. Has anything happened on the property or near it that has led locals to consider the real estate less favorably?

nbsp; Pollution mdash; air, noise, or water mdash;is a problem in some areas? What is being done to reduce the ill-effects for residents?

nbsp; Taxes are a key location-driven affordability factor. All of the above can impact how quickly property taxes and municipal fees go up. Whats the pattern of increase in the area? How does local government raise the funds it needs to maintain quality of life in the area?

Dont panic. All these factors will not affect every property.

Our point is that buyers should find out which, if any, of these issues could significantly affect their new home, its market value, and their life at that location before they buy.

  • Concentrating too heavily on interior decor and not on >
  • What could buyers do about surprises like those listed above after they move in?
  • Would issues like these affect what buyers are prepared to pay for that real estate in the first place?

Who can possibly know all these details about a property?

  • The property owner, or at least the smart ones, keep up on what is going on at or near their location because all of this affects property value and enjoyment.
  • Neighors know a lot mdash;maybe more than sellers realize.
  • Local real estate professionals know this and more because local knowledge and market value are what their work centers on. Listing professionals spend time with sellers to explore the history of the property and the area. Between them they know whats going on locally and how that property will be affected.
  • The local real estate professional or buyers agent who assists you in finding the right real estate for your needs and budget has access to the owners knowledge and that of the listing professional through the Multiple Listing Service. This plus their own local knowledge should help you understand the listed factors >

Full Story >

9 Silly Little Things That Could Be Sabotaging Your Home Sale

If your home is in pretty good shape i.e. its decently updated and not in need of a total overhaul, you might think its ready to go on the market as is. But little things you wouldnt expect can end up being deal breakers. And, when youve got competition, you need your home to stand out for all the right reasons. Give your home a good look and address the little things now before they become big problems when buyers are balking.

Cords hanging from your mounted TV

This is one of those things that tends to fade into the background in a home we live in every day. But dont be surprised if new eyes go right to those dangling cords and wonder why you didnt take the next step and hide them in the wall. Anything that makes a potential buyer question whether you cut corners or were lazy elsewhere could spell bad news for your home sale.

An unkempt yard

So, you had your landscapers out to clean out your flower beds, trim the bushes, plant colorful new blooms and mulch everything. And then, the night before a showing, a storm blew a whole mess of leaves into your yard. Grab that rake and make it a family affair out on the lawn at dawn. You know what they say about first impressions. Buyers likely wont be forgiving of a messy lawn, and your house may stand out if they can see the effort made to clean it up when the neighbors yards are still 15-deep in leaves.

A dingy front door

Again with the first impressions. Your home may look great inside, but if the front door is chipped or faded, or the hardware is worn, your potential buyers may never get past it. This is an easy fix, and one that consistently rates high on the ROI scale.


While homebuyers in general may not mind if animals live in the home they are considering purchasing unless there are severe allergy issues, they dont want to see - and, especially, smell - evidence of them. You have probably gathered up and stowed away the overflowing box of toys and balls. But have you considered the smell? You might not notice it, but first-time visitors likely will.

You dont have to rehome your pets; Use these tips from petMD to make your home smell pet-free.


Even if you keep a pretty clean home, there may be areas that need attention, like ceiling fans or windowsills that are out of reach. You may not have a housekeeper on a regular basis, but doing a one-time, super deep clean before your home hits the market is a good way to make sure potential buyers dont nitpick and find a reason to question the homes condition.

Poor furniture arrangement

If youre rolling your eyes at the idea that the way you have your living room laid out could make a difference in whether or not your home sells, remember back to when you saw the home for the first time. Were you picturing your own furniture in the space? Thats what real buyers do, and if they cant picture how it will work because you have too much stuff in the space or its oddly configured - blocking a fireplace or doorway, for instance - youre keeping them from doing the thing that could make them buy the home.

"Square footage is important to homebuyers, so when youre selling a house its important to maximize the space to appear bigger and highlight each rooms dual functionality to enhance buyer appeal," said U.S. News World Report. "A home seller can do this by decluttering,lighting up the roomand especially by having your furniture strategically placed to show off the square footage. The layout will determine the visual size and flow of the room." You can learn more staging tips for arranging your furniture here.

Junk drawers and crammed cabinets

Buyers who are genuinely interested in your home are likely going to open everything and look everywhere. Its not snooping at least, we hope its not snooping - its an interest in how much storage there is in the home. You may be forgiven for one "junk drawer," but the neater and cleaner you can make everything else, the better. You want people to see the space, not your stuff.

Overfilled closets

The need to showcase the space, not the stuff, goes double for closets. "Whether its a hallway coat closet or a master suite walk-in, your homes closets will have a major big impact on prospective buyers," said Apartment Therapy. "Box up off-season appa>Cluttered countertops

Eliminating, or at least cutting down on, clutter in your home is key to getting it sale-ready, and this is especially important in kitchens and bathrooms. While people may be impressed by your professional mixer and juicer, theyre much more interested in knowing they have ample countertop space for their own stuff.
Full Story >

Recipient of the William R. Magel Award of Excellence Revealed

The most important and prestigious award Association Executives can aspire to in the real estate industry is the William R. Magel Award of Excellence.

ldquo;The William R. Magel Award of Excellence is presented annually to an individual who has truly excelled in his or her role as an association executive of a REALTORreg; association.rdquo;

This yearrsquo;s recipient is Walt Baczkowski. Walt is the CEO of the San Francisco Association of REALTORSreg;. He is a second generation Executive Officer with almost 40 years of service in the capacity of an Association of REALTORSreg;. His career path began as the Toledo Association Exec, followed by the San Diego Association, the New Jersey Association, the Greater Metropolitan Association in Michigan, and his latest position of the last 4 years, at the San Francisco Association of REALTORSreg;.

Walt is a dynamic leader who has made a difference in the real estate industry for many years.

Congratulations Walt...Well deserved

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5 Smart, Easy Ways To Add Smart Home Technology To Your Place

Has technology passed your home by? Its never too late to update it. Whether you just want to bring the homes function into this century for your personal use or are looking to put it on the market, incorporating some smart home items is, well, a smart strategy.

"The stock advice for homeowners putting a house on the market used to go like this: Give the exterior, or the front door, a fresh coat of paint; tame unruly shrubs; and swap out a few light fixtures. But todays homebuyers are expecting a little more," said Consumer Reports. According to Coldwell Bankers latest annualnbsp;smart-home survey, most potential homebuyers want smart-home tech preinstalled."

Specifically, "Seventy-seven percent wantnbsp;smart thermostats, 75 percent want smart smoke detectors, 66 percent want smart home security cameras, and 63 percent wantnbsp;smart locks, to name a few."

Smart thermostats

Not only will a smart thermostat make your air conditioner function better and make your house more comfortable, it will save you money in the process. "With anbsp;smart thermostat, easily control the temperature in your home from a central control panel, with the sound of your voice, or using your mobile device," said Vivint. "Combined with a smart assistant that intuits and learns your preferences and behaviors, your thermostat can automatically adjust the temperature - saving you valuable time, energy, and money."

The Nest Thermostat is one of the most popular options on the market. It "currently costs 249 butnbsp;projects an average savingsnbsp;of around 173 per year," said UpNest. We also love the ecobee because it has multiple sensors. The latest version, the ecobee4 249, also has built-in Amazon Alexa.

Smart door locks

There are lots of smart door locks out there, which eliminate the need for a key and replace it with a keypad and code that are used for entry. But, we love this August Smart Lock, which takes smart home capabilities up a notch.

"This battery operated device sells for 199, and communicates with your smartphone via Bluetooth," said Nerds on Call. "When the Smart Lock identifies your Bluetooth signal approaching, it unlocks your door, and can lock it behind you if you choose that setting. It also allows you to set up virtual keys for guests, with the ability to grant access for only certain dates and times for each key. The activity log keeps track of when each unique user comes and goes. Perhaps the best part about this smart home upgrade is that it goes over your existing lock, meaning that you can have strong security and an intelligent lock. If you choose, you can pair the Smart Lock with the lsquo;August Connect for 79, which lets guests in and locks the door behind them. The Connect also grants real time status of locked or unlocked, and alerts you instantly when somebody comes or goes."

The August Smart Lock Pro is also a Consumer Reports fave. "We tested the previous-generationnbsp;August Smart Locknbsp;and found that it offers a wealth of smart features that potential homeowners will appreciate," they said.

Video doorbell

The humble doorbell has come a long way in the past few years," said Business Insider. "Gone are the days when all a doorbell would do is alert you to the fact that someones at the door. These days, doorbells can connect to your Wi-Fi network to offer enhanced home security with built-in cameras and microphones. Of all the doorbells you can buy, thenbsp;Ring Video Doorbell 2nbsp;currently 199 is our top pick because it doesnt have to be hard wired and it has an excellent 1080p camera."

Smart smoke detectors

If youve ever dealt with a smoke detector going off in the middle of the night, this product should thrill you. But, of course, knowing your family is safe is obviously your No. 1 priority. And why not save a little money at the same time, right?

"Another smart technology product, the smart smoke detector, could not only save you money approximately 5 on yournbsp;insurance premiums, but could even save your life," said UpNest. "One 2014 CBS news report cites a figure of 2/3 of all home fire fatalities occurring in residences where the smoke detectors are missing or disabled -- which is something many of us have resorted to at one time or other out of sheer frustration when our typical lsquo;dumb detector insists on shrieking an alarm every time we try to fry up some bacon. A smart detector will allow you to keep on frying without fear of interruption. Two such products, thenbsp;Birdinbsp;and the Nest Protect, will not only monitor smoke but also carbon dioxide and general air quality. They can even send an alert to your smart phone or tablet if anything is amiss.nbsp;These products retail for 119 and 99 respectively."

Smart irrigation system

The SkyDrop: Smart Irrigation System Controller is a next-level automatic sprinkler system that allows you to control your irrigation from anywhere by using their app, and, "The best part is the irrigation will adjust itself based on your local weather," said Nerds on Call. "The SkyDrop can be programmed to adhere to local water restrictions in order to contribute to saving water. An amazing part about SkyDrop is that it can calculate how much water your lawn uses every day and adjust the amount of watering time to keep your lawn healthy. This device sells for 200 on Amazon, and connects to your existing irrigation system along with your WiFi network."

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Keeping Costs Down When Building Your New Pool

Having a pool can be one of the most enjoyable parts of homeownership, but building it can be an expensive undertaking. "If youre planning to install a pool, be prepared to open your wallet," said US News. "PK Data reports that the average cost of a residential in-ground swimming pool was 39,084 last year."

If you want a pool without the high price, there are ways to keep costs down:

1. Get multiple bids

Talking to only one company gives you no point of reference. Youll want to compare at least three bids from three different companies while youre deciding who is going to build your pool, even if the companies in the running are referrals. And, speaking of referrals, make sure you get them. Entrusting someone with that much money and responsibility without the recommendation of someone you trust - and without thoroughly checking them out - may not end well.

2. Think about the big picture

It might be that a larger upfront cost can lead to savings down the line. Consider this from Marc Sheridan of River Pools: "In the past, concrete, or gunite pools as theyre also called, were almost always more expensive or at least priced about the same initially as fiberglass pools. This year thoughhellip;Ive been witness to some of the lowest prices offered on concrete pool installations in over 10 years. For example, on large pools, Im finding that most concrete pools come in 5-10k less than a fiberglass pool."

The problem lies with using inexpensive surfaces that may not have lasting power. "Most consumers have no idea that theyll be shelling out an additional 8-12k minimum only a decade after install" of white plaster," he said. "When one compounds this number over the course of 20-30 years, the cost to the homeowner is even worse. This doesnt even account for the fact that most pool owners are now using salt chlorinators with their swimming pools, a technology of which I am a huge fan of but has been shown to be more abrasive on concrete pool surfaces than regular chlorine. This is also why I always recommend to my clients that decide to go with a concrete/gunite pool that they should go with a more permanent surface like PebbleTec. I always base decisions and recommendations on what is the best for the long-term, and not for the initial moment price. What good does it does to save a few thousand dollars upfront on a swimming pool purchase if these savings will cost you thousands and thousands more in the long run?"

3. Go with a simple design

A pool design with multiple curves, steps, shelves, and other add-ons will raise the cost. Keep it simple for the best chance of keeping the price down.

4. Limit the materials

Exotic tiles and finishes in the pool, and upscale materials used on the decking and patio, can add thousands of dollars to the overall cost.


5. Forgo the bells and whistles

A spa, a waterfall, a bubbler, and an Infinity edge... All are desirable pool features, and all will add to your bottom line.

"By some estimates, the actual construction of an in-ground pool is only about half of what you will eventually pay," said Pool Pricer.

6. Pay attention to size

The bigger the pool, the more expense youll have in piping, pumps, filters, chemicals, and energy used.


7. Do your own maintenance

Pools get dirty and have to be cleaned and maintained regularly. The monthly cost averages 130 to 378, according to HomeAdvisor, with pool cleaners charging 75 to 100 per hour or more. But, much of this cost can be eliminated if you choose to maintain the pool yourself.

"Maintaining your pool yourself will take less than two hours as long as you do it regularly. Routine maintenance not only keeps your pool clean for use, but it also allows you to spot problems early on - before they become big, costly repairs," they said.

8. Build a self-sustaining pond instead

The swimming pond is a growing trend that brings a natural look to the yard and limits the amount of maintenance that needs to be done. "One of the great benefits of a swimming pond is that it is chemical free. When managed properly, natural swimming pools have crystal-clear water and require no chemicals to maintain because they are self-cleaning mini-ecosystems," said Good Housekeeping.

9. Wait on the pool heater

"Adding a heater after having owned the swimming pool a season or more can be a great idea because pool owners can get a true gauge on just how much they need a heater, as well as what type of heater will suite them best," said Sheridan. This is especially useful in warmer climates where homeowners may not even need a heater in the summer.

10. Carefully choose the location

A pool that is located under trees may benefit from shade and therefore not need as much heating, however, it might end up with more leaves and debris, increasing the need for cleaning. The distance from the house is also a factor. "Well-planned pools are generally located close to the house, reducing costs associated with energy and water," said

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10 Tips To Upgrade Your Home Security

Keeping your home and family safe is a priority we all share. But beyond locking the doors and getting a home alarm, there are numerous steps we can take to protect who - and what - we love, and it doesnt have to break the bank.

1. Change your locks

Did you change your locks when you moved into your new home? Yeah. Neither did we. That means someone might already have the most important thing they need to get into your home: a key.

2. Upgrade your door security

While youre changing your locks, look for those that give you more secure options. If youre not sure how important this is, consider what Family handyman reports about FBI burglary statistics: "65 percent of break-ins occur by forcing in the front, back or garage service door."

3. Remove that extra key

The FBI also reports that 12 percent of break-ins are caused by thieves simply finding your hidden key. If you have one sitting under your welcome mat or in a planter, its time to remove it.

4. Use timers

"Put interior lights, TVs, and radios on timers so that you can create the illusion that someone is home when theyre not," said Bob Vila. "Modern digital light timers offer a key benefit over traditional models by having lights cycle on and off randomly."

Make sure to include motion detector lights in key spots around the exterior of your home. A light that pops on just as a burglar is approaching your back door may be enough to make him back away form your home. Home automation products make all of this easier than since you can control lights, TVs, and other items via Smartphone.

5. Get a dog

Seriously. Homes with dogs are less likely to be broken into, according to a study by The University of North Carolina, because they bark to create a ruckus and can also harm an intruder by biting.


6. Fake the alarm

If you cant swing the cost of an alarm, pretend you have one. "Thieves look for an easy mark; making your home look tough to crack will encourage them to move on," said HGTV. "You can easily put up security system decals - a clear deterrent - even if you dont have a system."

7. Install a camera

"Thanks to >8. Check doors and windows

You might think your home is more secure than it is. Maybe that backdoor is easy to open with a good push or the guest room window isnt shutting all the way. Eliminating easy access points by shutting doors and windows and locking everything up will cost you nothing, but if you need a backup for that easy-access slider door, a good old broomstick cut down to size will do the trick.

9. Call the police

In many areas, a police officer will visit your home to give you tips on how to make your home more secure, and it will cost you nothing.

10. Eliminate hiding spots

"If your shrubbery is too tall, bushy, or not well spaced, youre providing a nice hiding spot for a potential burglar," said Consumer Reports. "Trim and prune plantings."
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Theres A Color Of The Year For Everyone

Color experts such as The Pantone Color Institute, provide a number of services to companies all over the world to help them learn more about color and how to use it in their businesses. One of the most famous examples of color trending is Pantones Color of the Year, which "provides strategic direction for the world of trend and design."

To remain >The idea is to stimulate change and perhaps get comfortable with a color you might not normally try in your home. In other words, the Color of the Year is a stimulus to spend money. You might not buy the purple couch, but youll be tempted to go bolder on something. Youll try a new set of towels for the bath or buy a set of glasses in some bold shade to set off the dinner table.

There are other colors of the year that are getting plenty of notice.

Sherwin Williams put its 2018 money on "Oceanside," a bold, sexy teal blue thats not just for the coasts. You dont have to live on the water to appreciate its mysterious depths.

Another aggressive choice is Pittsburgh Paints "Black Flame," a smokey hue that connotes drama and sophistication. Its a good excuse to wean homeowners away from the neutral and safe light greys and whites of the past few years.

Too strong? Then try Pratt Lamberts soothing blue "Heron," or Behrs blue-tinged green "In the Moment." These are still a far cry from white, beige or grey.

The only paint company not to go in the direction of blues, greens or greys is Benjamin Moore. Its Color of the Year is a spicy hot red called "Caliente."

Does the color of the year mean you should run out and buy a purple couch or paint your babys room black? No, the color is an inspiration for the year, and may be completely different from the color of the year from the year before and the year to follow. Its only this years inspiration to give you ideas to think about, sort of like runway fashion introduces new silhouettes.

Most products for the home are designed to have a longer use than a year. But, you may see the color and be tempted to try it in a small way or in a more muted tone. A fresh new color looks modern and takes you away from colors that may date your home, like ashes of roses from the 50s, avocado green from the 70s, or Tuscan gold from the 90s.

If theres one takeaway from the colors of the year, its that they give you permission to go bolder. You can still stick to the safety of white, grey or beige, but you might use an eye-catching color on an accent wall or in a throw pillow or in a piece of art. And if you want it in a mixer or crockpot, you can have it.

Think of color as an expression of your personality and the mood you wish to convey -- both great places to start when designing and decorating your home.
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Eight Signs Its Time To Move Up

The starter home. It was so cute and quaint and sweet when you bought it, right? But, that was before kids and dogs and overnight quests and holiday dinners that require mathematician-level logistics to finding everyone a seat in a dining room that bursts at six people.

Lets face it: Its probably time to move up. Lack of space is the No. 1 reason people start looking for a larger home. Families expand, life>But running out of room not the only reason to consider moving up.

Youve got the equity

You may have had to scrimp and save for the down payment on your first home, but, if your home has appreciated, you may be in a completely different financial position this time around. If youre the type who envisions paying off your home and being free and clear, moving up may not be on your mind. But, for the rest of us, having equity in our current home means greater buying power to buy something bigger or get into a neighborhood we covet.

Youre at each others throats

Feeling cramped and living in clutter and hating that you dont have a space of your own or even a minute to yourself? That can create stress and leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed. And, it goes against the general principle of homeownership since your home is supposed to be your sanctuary Having some extra room to spread out and yard for the kids and dogs to play in can make a real difference in the way your family functions.

Ask yourself if "your quality of life is suffering," said Unpakt. "This category can include many things: your ever-growing pack of dogs or cats who are driving you crazy. Your cascading piles of fabrics that you use for quilting, but just cant keep organized in your current space. The lack of a guest room means that when family visits, youre stuck on the couch. Whatever it might be, if your quality of life has taken a nosedive because your house is too small, well, the answer is pretty clear."

The neighborhood is changingand not for the better

One of the reasons you may want to start looking at a new house is because your neighborhood is starting to evolve. Maybe there are new restaurants and bars that have attracted a different crowd or plans for a huge mixed-use project that, while great for the economic potential in the area, could mean more traffic than you want in your quiet little town. Even something like a change in the flight patterns from the local airport can get you thinking about that next home.

Remodeling is price prohibitive

A good real estate agent should be able to give you an idea of what necessary or wanted renovations would cost to your existing home. It could be that the amount of work you would need to do on your home to get it where you want it - or get it into tip-top shape for a sale - is beyond what you want to spend. In that case, it might make better financial sense to make small improvements, put it up for sale, and put your money into a new home that better suits your needs.

You dont want to over-improve for the neighborhood

The other important factor to consider when deciding whether to move or improve your home is how the redone home would sit in your neighborhood. You dont want to run the risk of doing a bunch of expensive renovations only to have the home sit on the market because its overdone and considered overpriced.

"Weighing against renovation is the risk youll over-improve your home comparedwith others on the block," said Bankrate. "When you are in a neighborhood that has starter homes and smaller homes, adding a large addition or doing an extensive renovation may not yield the return one would expect."

Everyone else has moved on

So, your kids were young and bicycles and basketball nets lined the street when you first fell in love with your home. At the time, it was everything you were looking for. But now, so many of those families have moved on, and the lively street you loved has turned rather sleepy. If youre still holding on to the memories of what your neighborhood once was, maybe its time to find one that better meets your life>Youve crunched the numbers

Presumably, a move-up home is going to be more expensive. Beyond the equity you can use to make the purchase doable, you have to consider the monthly expenses, too. "Its not just the sticker price on the house; its thelong-term costs associated with it," said "When you go up in square footage, you get higher property taxes, higher utilities, and more maintenance." And acquiring more rooms means shelling out for more furniture, too.

You can make sure you can afford a move-up home without becoming "house poor" by "using onlineaffordability calculatorsto figure out how far you can stretch your dollar.
Full Story >

Rapid Transit Project May Call For Eminent Domain
Question: I understand that our State government has plans to expand our rapid transit railway system and many of us are concerned that they will take our houses in order to complete the project. What is the law on this? Do they have the absolute right to do this? Joseph.

Answer: Joseph. You are referring to a concept called "eminent domain" -- also known as "condemnation". The short answer: if the taking of the property is for a "public use" -- such as road or a rail transit -- the government has the absolute right to take your house or even your business.

The Fifth Amendment to our Constitution reads, in part: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation". And the Fourteenth Amendment applies that same concept to all States. That means that while you have very little chance to fight the taking, you can challenge the amount the government initially offers you. You have the right to a full jury trial to have the court determine what is "just compensation".

Although the process may differ from state to state, typically once the government makes a determination that it needs certain property for its "public use", it may actually hold hearings where the pros and cons are discussed. In fact, often you -- the effective homeowner -- may not even be aware of the facts until you get a formal notice of the taking. In many states, the government does what is known as a "quick take" -- they immediately record the title to the property in the name of the government.

What is a public use? A 2005 Supreme Court opinion muddied the waters somewhat when it ruled that the City of New London, Connecticut, could condemn private property and give it to a private developer to be used a part of a comprehensive redevelopment plan. According to the Court, "the governmental taking of property from one private owner to give to another in furtherance of economic development constitutes a permissible public use under the Fifth Amendment." Kelo v City of New London.

As a result, many States have reacted to the high courts decision by enacting legislation that prohibits a state from taking property and giving it to another private land owner, even for example in the case of job creation.

I suggest that you and your neighbors immediately retain experienced local counsel so that you will be prepared in case that condemnation notice comes your way. There should be a lot of advanced preparation, such as getting your own appraiser, so that you will be able to challenge -- if necessary -- the dollar amount that the government will initially offer you as compensation.

Question: I read your informative articles and I have a question concerning condominium organization. First we have an association in "title" only, since it is run by one lady who collects the fees. Problem one: shes too tired to collect the fees from the owners that have abandoned their units. Problem two: how do we collect the fees from bank owned units. I am trying to organize the other owners, and plan to schedule a meeting with them. Hopefully we can move forward. Jilma.

Answer: Dear Jilma. I doubt that this will be any consolation to you, but you are not alone. Many, many community associations have the same problems. There is a lot of apathy since many owners bought into the community so that others could cut the grass and shovel the snow.

And where there is apathy, someone -- such as your lady -- sees an opportunity to be called "madame president", and basically takes over the association. Unfortunately, it is an ego trip on the part of many board presidents.

I do want to make it clear that the great majority of associations are run by boards of directors who take their positions seriously and are working without pay for the good of the entire community.

What should you do? There is a provision in your legal documents that allows for board members to be recalled. There are requirements, such as giving the board member adequate notice and an opportunity to defend him or herself before the community votes on the issue.

I would contact the Community Association Institute and find an attorney in your area that practices and understands community association law. Your group should retain a lawyer to guide you through the process.

To answer your questions, there are two ways to collect -- whether it is from bank owned units, current or abandoned owners: you either file a lawsuit against the delinquent owner or you foreclose on the unit.

You need a lawyer to represent your interests. Your condo unit is your investment; dont lose it.

Question: If I rent a house from owners whose house is paid off, are they required to have and keep homeowners insurance on their property? Antonia.

Answer: Dear Antonia. Thats a great question, and I dont really know the answer. However, I do not believe that your landlord is required to have any insurance. But regardless of whether one is legally required to have homeowners insurance coverage, it is -- in my opinion a foolish decision if you do not have the protection that such an insurance policy can give you.

You should get what is known as "renters insurance". This will not insure the physical structure of the building or the apartment in which you live but will cover loss of your personal property because of such catastrophes as fire, theft or vandalism.

You should ask your landlord if he has sufficient insurance coverage should there be problems in the building. If not, you should first contact your insurance agent and discuss your options. You might be wise to move out unless the appropriate coverage is available.
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California Association of REALTORS To Release New And Revised Forms

Twice a year, in June and December, the California Association of REALTORS CAR >

Three new forms will be >As its title indicates, the SBSA is an advisory given to both buyers and sellers, though its provisions are generally more >A significant improvement is that the new SBSA will be divided into categories. The earlier and present versions were pretty much a hodgepodge, making it somewhat difficult for most people to locate quickly any particular section among its twelve single-spaced pages. By presenting a table that shows how the topics are arranged within various categories will make it considerably easier to find ones way around the advisory.

Seven general categories are presented. They are: A. Investigation of Physical Condition; B. Property Use and Ownership; C. Off-Site and Neighborhood Conditions; D. Legal Requirements Federal, State, and Local; E. Contract >There are, of course, a number of specific revisions and additions that have also been made to the SBSA. These include:

1. There is new language on page one informing the parties that different reports may not be consistent with one another and that brokers have not verified the information in the reports.

2. There is new language regarding hiring proper professionals if square footage and boundaries are material to the buyer.

3. A new paragraph addresses Accessory Dwelling Units.

4. A new paragraph addresses the Buyers Intended Use of the property.

5. Additional language has been added to the section regarding marijuana use and California law.

6. There is a new paragraph regarding short-term rentals and the possibility of local restrictions on short-term rentals.

7. Added to the current very long paragraph addressing "Neighborhood, Area, Personal Factors, Buyer Intended Use, High Speed Rails, and Smoking Restrictions" is some language and references regarding drones.

8. To a section on advertising new language has been added regarding staging and explaining that some furnishings and decorations may not be included in the sale.

More generally, it is highly beneficial that a number of web sites have been added that will provide helpful reference material.
Full Story >

How A Housing Shock Would Impact Canadas Economy

Last year various Canadian governments took measures to slow down the booming housing market, imposing new taxes and strict mortgage qualification requirements. The governments feared that homeowners were sinking too far into debt and that runaway house prices in Vancouver and Toronto were unsustainable.

Some people who are struggling to get into the market say they hope theres a "housing crash" that will bring prices down to an affordable level. But a recent report by the British Columbia Real Estate Association BCREA says we should be careful what we wish for.

"The desire of some well-meaning British Columbians for government to drive down the price of homes through demand-side policy may sound practical at first blush. However, when you consider the broad and deep economic toll that a negative shock to home prices would exact on both homeowners and renters, it quickly becomes apparent that such an approach is at best, a mugs game."

The association estimates how much a shock of 10, 20 and 35 per cent on home prices would impact the economy.

"Nearly 70 per cent of British Columbian households own their home. A >The Canadian Real Estate Association CREA commissioned Altus Group to determine the impact of resale housing transactions on the economy. It says between the period of 2014 to 2016, 61,600 was spent in an average transaction on items other than the actual house and land.

This includes renovations, conducted both before the sale to make it more marketable and afterwards as homeowners tailored the property to their needs; new appliances and furnishings. It also includes fees to real estate agents, lawyers, appraisers, home inspectors and appraisers.

The ancillary spending added up to more than 31 billion per year across Canada.

CREA says that during the same period, 220,065 jobs are estimated to have been generated each year. "Canada-wide, the finance, insurance, real estate, construction and professional services sectors benefited the most from MLS system home sales," says CREA.

"If home prices fell 35 per cent, a level some activists are championing, the B.C. economy would collapse into recession," says BCREA. "The average homeowner would have lost 245,000 in equity, housing starts would fall by half, 64,000 jobs would be forfeited -- sending the unemployment rate to 7.5 per cent with 4.4 billion in forgone retail sales and a colossal 8 billion loss to GDP in the first year."

Not everyone agrees that a housing shock would have such a dramatic impact on the economy.

Laura Cooper, an economist with RBC Economists, wrote in 2017 that "tallying up the contributions of everything from the building of new homes to the costs of maintaining and running a home, housing->But she says not all that activity would be vulnerable to a downturn in sales, estimating that "close to 15 per cent of the economy has a degree of exposure to a drop in home sales, but only five per cent has a strong >Based on historic declines in housing, Cooper says the impacts on the economy "tend to be limited and occur over different stages of the housing cycle. This implies a one-time blow to the economy resulting from a sales slump is unlikely."

She says rising home prices make homeowners feel wealthier, contributing to all types of consumer spending. "Vehicle purchases, eating out at restaurants, spending on recreation, cultural events and financial services all have a tendency to slow somewhat against a backdrop of declining home sales, but tends to occur over a period of six to nine months following the beginning signs of a housing downturn," she says.

Cooper says although renovation activity is susceptible to a housing downturn, historically "the drop in the value of home renovations tends to be less pronounced than that of home sales, declining by about one-third of the sales drop."

But she adds, "There is always the risk that households pull back more on spending now than in past downturns given elevated levels of household debt and prospective increases in interest rates." She adds, "A broad 30 per cent drop in home resales, and attendant spillovers to building activity, house prices and consumer confidence could translate into a hit on the economy of one per cent to two per cent, with a drop in ownership transfer costs and new home construction accounting for two-thirds of the decline."
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Why Do So Many HOAs Fail To Properly Plan For Predictable Expenses?

A fortune teller asked me to gaze into her crystal ball. "I see wear and tear in your condominiums future. I see a new roof will be needed. I see cracking paint and asphalt in need of repair. I see gasp no money to pay for these things"

It doesnt take a fortune teller to predict that common elements are going to wear out and it doesnt take a crystal ball to predict that HOAs are going to need money and a plan to fix them. So why do so many HOAs fail to properly plan for these predictable events and expenses?

The truth is that too many HOA boards are busy putting out this years financial fires and havent the time to think about next year and beyond. Remember, "its hard to drain the swamp when youre up to your behind in alligators". In other words, its easy to lose track of long term goals

when you get sidetracked by more immediate demands. Putting out fires is what HOAs do, right? The poorly run ones seem to do just that.

HOAs are no different than any other business. Those that are successful engage in long range planning. Those that fail to plan fend off disaster after disaster and board members come and go through a revolving door. No real magic here. To know where you are going, you have to have a destination in mind. In spite of bumper sticker wisdom, those that wander really are lost.

So back to the HOA scenario. When a homeowner association doesnt have the funds to handle a major repairs, they defer those repairs until the funds are available. Of course, money doesnt grow on trees and without a plan to collect more money, band-aiding and deferring become the default reality and slippery slope.

How do you steer your HOA back up to high and stable ground? The first step is to review your reserve study. "Whats a reserve study?" you say. A reserve study identifies all common element components that have useful lives between 2 and 30 years like the roof, fences, decks, paint, paving, etc. The average condominium has 15-30 components. The average high rise condo can easily have 100. And HOAs that own golf courses and marinas can have many more. Regardless, a reserve study is customized to the HOA in question.

SIDEBAR: "But our condominium is small", you say meaning, "why is a reserve study even necessary in our case?" Its basic math: The more people you have to share the cost, the less the cost per person. Smaller HOAs have a greater need for reserve planning because the cost per person is greater.

After the component list is determined, a current repair or replacement cost must be determined for each as well as the remaining useful life. With this information and the current inflation factor, a funding plan can be made to instruct the board how much money to collect and set aside each year to meet future financial needs.

While there is no state or federal requirement, the reserve study should be performed by a professional since evaluating condition of components and establishing useful lives and current pricing takes special training that few boards have. The professionals carrying the highest credential in the industry, the PRA Professional Reserve Analyst, belong to the Association of Professional Reserve Analysts. A list of members and contact information can be found at

Rather than crystal ball your future, get a proper reserve study done and follow the funding and schedule recommendations. Leave the crystal balling to Lady Luck.

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Summer Savers: 9 Things You Can Do Now To Protect Your Home Before The Heat Hits

Things are heating up and school is winding down. That means summer is right around the corner. But its not all flip-flops and sunglasses and smiles. Summer is also hot and sweaty and often expensive when youre trying not to be hot and sweaty, or you just want your home to run more efficiently. There are things you can do and changes you can make now to save money this summer.

Have your sprinkler system and outdoor faucets looked at

You could have sprinkler heads that are malfunctioning or not working at all, which could harm your grass and cost you money to replace it. Leaky outdoor faucets could also be costing you in increased water bills.

Do a leak check inside

Cold air escaping and hot air intruding - its the reality of many a home, and not only can it make you feel uncomfortable, it can make your air conditioner work overtime. "For a thorough and accurate measurement of air leakage in your home, hire a qualified technician to conduct anenergy audit, particularly ablower door test," said the U.S. Department of Energy. "A blower door test, which depressurizes a home, can reveal the location of many leaks."

Do an appliance check

Have a mixer, blender, and knife sharpener plugged in on your kitchen countertop? How often do you really use any of these items? The more you unplug, the less energy you use.

Have your A/C unit checked and serviced

Not only do you not want your air conditioning to conk out in mid-summer when its blasting hot outside, but you also want to make sure you catch little issues before they become giant, expensive ones - and before youre A/C guy books up. "There are two main reasons to schedule annual air conditioner maintenance with your local HVAC contractor: saving money and saving money no that isnt a typo," said HomeAdvisor. "For starters, you greatly increase the chances that your A/C technician will catch small problems before they become big ones by schedules regular check-ups. Repairing a small refrigerant leak shouldnt cost much more than the service call. Buying a new compressor when low refrigerant levels burn your current one out, however, can cost a thousand dollars or more. The other way an annual check-up saves you money is by ensuring that your A/C unit is working at optimal efficiency. When your A/C is running well it uses less energy to cool your house, and lower energy use means bigger savings for you on your monthly utility bills."

Remember to change your filters regularly, too. According to, "The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency ofyour air conditioneris to routinely replace or clean its filters. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a cleanonecan loweryour air conditioners energy consumption by 5 to 15."

Use the toaster instead of the oven

The heat from the oven can raise the temp in your home, causing your air conditioner to turn on. Using smaller appliances - your slow cooker is another idea - can help keep the temperature lower. Even better, use your outdoor grill, instead

Cover up

Windows that are exposed to afternoon sun can heat up the house quickly, undermining your A/C and making everyone in the house uncomfortable.

"Air conditioning is blissful during the summer, but running it nonstop during a heat wave will have you cursing when you get your utility bill," said Consumer Reports. "Fortunately, clever use of blinds, curtains, and other window treatments can help keep your house cool and your bills in check. The Department of Energy says that smart management of window coverings can reduce heat gain by up to 77 percent."

Cover up inside and out for the best protection. "Studies show that medium-colored draperies with white plastic backings can reduce heat gain by 33 percent,according to the DOE.Because of the horizontal slats, its difficult to control heat loss through interior window blinds, although they do offer some flexibility. Unlike shades, you can adjust the slats to control light and ventilation. When completely closed, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45 percent, says the DOE. They can also be adjusted to block and reflect direct sunlight onto a light-colored ceiling, which diffuses the light without much heat or glare."

Outside, consider solar screens, or awnings."Window awnings can reduce solar heat gain by up to 65 percent on south-facing windows and 77 percent on west-facing windows,according to the DOE."

Turn up the temperature

That goes against the whole "keeping the house cool" thing, right? But, if you can stand it, a few ticks up on the thermostat can lower your costs. "According toEnergy Star, almost half the energy used in your home goes toward heating and cooling. Even making small adjustments, such as turning up your air conditioning by only one degree, can make a huge difference," said Huffington Post. "For each degree you reduce your air conditioning, its estimated youll save 3 percent on your utility bills. You can also save money by using a programmable thermostat. When used correctly, a programmable thermostat saves the average family 180 per year."

Get a learning thermostat

Unlike old-school thermostats that you can program for different times and days, products like Nest actually learn from you, and your house, which can then save you money. "Why should you have to figure out your thermostat? The Nest Thermostat learns from you," said Nest. "Just turn it up and down for the first few days. The Nest Thermostat will get to know the temperatures you like and when you like them. Then it programs itself and creates a schedule for you. The Nest Thermostat even learns from your home and figures out how it heats or cools, because no two homes are exactly thesame."

Add insulation

The upfront expense will will pay dividends later when your energy bills go down. "Adding insulation to prevent leaky ducts, walls, windows, and doors can improve your homes energy draw by 20 to 30 percent," said Real Simple.
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Easy Ways To Lower Your Energy Usage At Home

California just became the first state to require solar panels on every new home starting in 2020 in a landmark move for state building regulations and "government controls over climate-warming carbon emissions," said NBC News. This will be a huge plus for homebuyers who were already looking for ways to be greener, but there is a downside, albeit one with a long-term potential upside: the cost.

"The average estimated cost of a solar system is 9,500, or 40 a month when amortized over a 30-year mortgage," they said. "But the systems are projected to save customers an average of 80 a month on their utility bills."

Thankfully, there are a number of other options out there for eco-friendly living that are low cost, and many of them are also low effort.

"To reduce energy consumption in your home, you do not necessarily need to go out and purchase energy efficient products," said Energy Sage. "Energy conservation can be as simple as turning off lights or appliances when you do not need them. The behavior adjustments that have the highest potential for utility savings are turning down the heat on your thermostat in the winter and using your air conditioner less in the summer. Heating and cooling costs constitute nearly half of an average homes utility bills, so these reductions in the intensity and frequency of heating and cooling offer the greatest savings."

Here are some other easy ways to save energy and money:

Ditch the plastic

Some states have already banned plastic bags at the supermarket and many places are also in the process of changing over from plastic straws to paper straws. You can apply the same concept at home. An easy way to start is by ditching your plastic bottle habit. Instead of buying 36-packs of bottled water, grab a Britta filter instead.

Go meatless on Monday

"The one single factor in our diets that contributes the most to our carbon footprint is meat," said Tastemade. "Those who eat a lot have double the carbon footprint of those who are vegan. Animals, and livestock, in particular, require a lot more resources like water and grain to raise and process than, say, a head of lettuce." Experts say that a family of four who regularly eliminates meat from one meal a week can have the same environmental impact as driving a hybrid.

Use less water

If you cant break your long shower habit, think about other easy ways you can conserve water, like: turning off the faucet when youre brushing your teeth and only running your washing machine when its full. Lowering the water temp from high to medium or even cold, where possible, is another great way to lower your energy usage.

Use the dishwasher

You might think youre saving water by doing dishes by hand, but the opposite is often true. "Doing a full load in your machine is far more efficient than washing the same number of dishes by hand," said This Old House. "This is especially true if you have an Energy Star dishwasher, which requires an average of four gallons of water per load, compared with the 24 gallons it takes to do them in the sink. Using one will save you 5,000 gallons of water, 40 in utility costs, and 230 hours of your time each year."

Donate to declutter

"By some estimates, for every item of clothing donated, 27 pounds of carbon emissions are reduced based on the fact that you dont another item being produced while one is headed to the landfill," said Real Simple. Take your things to a thrift store or donate to a charity, instead. Your donations will be tax deductible, and youll feel great as you start to declutter your place.

Get a Costco membership

There are so many great reasons to shop at Costco, like the free samples and the 1.50 hot dog and soda combo. Buying products in bulk also "reduces the amount of packaging needed, thus providing considerable benefits to the environment," said Conserve Energy Future.

Get to stepping

"Walking is simply the most environmentally-friendly way of getting from A to B," said "It uses no fossil fuels, produces no air pollution, and is generally a pretty quiet way of getting about. So if youre keen to go green, switching from driving to walking for short journeys is one of the easiest ways to make a real difference." And, its good for your heart, too

Switch out your household cleaners for something greener

Switching to green cleaners can reduce pollution in the air inside and out of your home, "minimizing exposure to both asthma and allergy triggers as well as chemicals that can be harmful to your health," said Real Simple. "Look for plant-based products from companies that have a complete list of ingredients on their labels."

Learn basic composting

If you do want to get your hands a little dirty, composting offers multiple benefits, including reducing the amount of waste in landfills lowering theemission of methanewhile food is decomposing. "An awful lot of people have said an awful lot about composting," said Attainable Sustainable. "Mostly, they make it sound like an awful lot of work. Let me clear the air:composting is easy. You do not have to do anything to turn your kitchen scraps and garden waste into compost.Mother Nature will do it for you. Passive composting is an easy way to turn your waste into a useful product without much work on your part at all. You do not have to have a fancy composter. All you need is a place to put your compost pile. And thats all it has to be: a pile. Dump your kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, and leaves in a pile and forget about it."
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Updated: Sunday, June 17, 2018

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