Real Estate News

Updated: Saturday, March 28, 2020

5 Species of Wood Ideal for Your Flooring Needs

Here is a list of the most common types of wood species for hardwood flooring.


The most common species of wood found in North America is oak, making this hardwood less expensive. Since most homes have this type of hardwood, it is very easy to match them with your pre-existing dcor.

The dent and scratch resisting quality of the material also contributes to its popularity among homeowners. People who do not want area rugs in their home, choose oak hardwood flooring instead.nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;nbsp;

The one problem with oak floors, however, is that it can start to appear old after using it for a long time. The best solution is to look for the signs that tell you thatnbsp;your flooringnbsp;needs refinishing.nbsp;


One of the toughest woods around, ash wood flooring is perfect if you like having a light-coloured floor that is stain absorbing and shock resistant. The product is lighter in colour with colour tones available in white, yellow, tan and brown. This superior quality hardwood is widely abundant in North America and is a popular alternative to oak. Ashwood is less expensive than oak but has some similar characteristics, such as the unique grain.


Among all hardwood species available, this probably has the hardest exterior. The colour and graining of hickory wood floors are quite similar to oak. It is most suitable for, but not limited to, rustic settings and log homes. This is perfect for high foot traffic, especially if you have pets or a lot of children. With some proper maintenance, you can expect an ash wood flooring to last a lifetime. As if thats not enough, it does not require refinishing as frequently as Oak flooring.


Pine is a very common type of wood found in the US and Canada. Though it is not typically hardwood, it does come in beautiful textures, for which it is popular. If you want hardwood flooring, but are concerned about the rough sensation on your feet, then pine can be a great option.

The hardest variant of this type is the Heart Pine, which is the centre of the tree, with a rating of 1225 pound-force lbf on the Janka Hardness test.

It is neither the most expensive nor the cheapest option though.


Cherry is the most common domestic species grown in the northern region of the US. The most significant characteristic of this type is that it darkens with age, giving it a rich finishing, and it is easy to maintain as well. Cherry is an expensive wood variant due to its soft nature, which makes it difficult to work with. Since it is more prone to scratches and dents, it is better to have this type of flooring in low traffic areas, such as bedrooms. The best thing about this material is that it does not get affected by humidity and temperature changes very easily.

Although hardwood floors are very popular, the softer flooring options have their usefulness as well. Many of the differences may not always be visible to you, but the distinct characteristics can help you choose the ideal flooring for your home.

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What Is a Home Renovation Loan and Should You Think About One?

For many homebuyers, a picture-perfect, move-in ready home is the dream. For others, a project house they can get for a discount and then put their personal stamp on is too good to pass up. The problem with many of these project houses, though: coming up with the money to complete the projects.nbsp;

One youre depleted your savings to gather the funds for your down payment and closing costs, there may not be much left over to knock down that wall between the kitchen and living room, redo the counters and cabinets, and put in new hardwood flooring. Add in the costs of new furniture and hiring movers, and it could be years before youre finally ready to make those improvements.nbsp;

This is where a home renovation loan can help.nbsp;

What is a home renovation loan?

Although they are growing in popularity, home renovation loans are not anywhere near as prevalent as FHA loans for first-time buyers. According to thenbsp;Mortgagenbsp;Bankers Association MBA,nbsp;first-time home buyersnbsp;account for more than 75nbsp;percentnbsp;ofnbsp;FHA homenbsp;purchases, said FHA Handbook.nbsp;

But maybe they should be.

After all, a home renovation loan can scratch a few different itches:

1. It feeds into that tempting renovation craze, offering an opportunity to redo a home with funds that are tied into your loan.nbsp;
2. It allows buyers who cant afford a move-in home, or who are making offers and losing out on those homes, to purchase something that is likely more affordable.
3. It gives buyers a chance to build equity quickly.

Heres how it works. Renovation loans bundle funds for the home purchase and renovation. There are a few different options from which to choose. Here are the most popular:

Fannie Maesnbsp;Home>

The Fannie Mae Home>

FHA 203kSimilar to the Home>

There are two different FHA 203k loan options:

Full LoanThe Full Loan is intended for a primary residence that needs serious or significant repairs.
Streamline LoanThis can be used for smaller repairs and caps out at 35,000.

FHAs 203k loan requires a minimum credit score of 500 with a down payment of at least 10; a credit score of 580 or higher allows a down payment of 3.5, said MarketWatch. These loans cant be used for work that the FHA deems a luxury, such as installing a swimming pool.

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Single Homeownership Is at Record Levels. Is It for You?

According to the National Association of Realtors, single individuals made up 25 of home sales in 2019. A whopping 17 of that 25 was single female buyers, many of them older. However, new data shows that single homebuying may be an even more substantial number.

The share of U.S. homeowners who are single hit a record 38.4 in 2018, the latest data available, according to annbsp;analysisnbsp;of Census Bureau data bynbsp;Haus, said USA Today. The trend largely reflects rapid growth in the portion of Americans who are single. It also highlights an improving economy and job marketnbsp;and the willingness of buyers to set up households in untraditional ways to overcome sharply rising housing costs.

Filter the single homebuying trend down to millennials and the number is even more eye-popping. At a time when a lot of young adults are postponing marriage, the number of Americans buying a house on a single income is substantial, said Investopedia. Ellie Mae says that as many as 47 of millennialnbsp;homebuyers last year were unmarried.

If youre considering buying while single, here are a few things to think about.

How much can you really afford?

Those who dont even consider the possibility of buying a house as a single person may be waiting because they want to be more settled in their life firstmarried, starting a family, in a job with a solid trajectory, etc. But many people may also think they need more money set aside for a down payment or more income to support a monthly mortgage payment than they actually do.nbsp;

According to NerdWallet, Most lenders require that youll spend less than 28 of your pretaxnbsp;incomenbsp;onnbsp;housingnbsp;and 36 on total debt payments. If you spend 25 of yournbsp;incomenbsp;onnbsp;housingnbsp;and 40 on total debt payments, theyll consider the higher number and the amount younbsp;cannbsp;qualify fornbsp;willnbsp;be lower as a result.nbsp;

When you break down those numbers, it may be that youre already at or above that percentage with rentespecially if youre in a market where its escalating quickly. This new report from Apartment List shows that rent is up 1.7 over last year. This is a modest increase and rent growth is lagging behind the growth in average hourly earnings, they said. However, when renters are paying top dollar for a place that isnt even theirs, and that will likely continue to become more expensive, it creates instability while excluding them from the advantage of equity growth.

Are you prepared for an emergency?

According to experts, qualifying for a mortgage as a single person shouldnt be any more difficult than it would be if you were married, as long as you have the credit, income, and employment history necessary to get approved for your loan. The main challenge of homeownership on a single income is the potential of job loss or some other financial hardship that could put your home at risk. On two incomes, it might be easier to absorb a financial hit. This makes a substantial emergency fund even more crucial.

While the size of your emergency fund will vary depending on your life>

Look to your friends

Just because youre single doesnt mean you have to live aloneor even buy alone. Many singles team up with partners or friends, said USA Today. Unmarried couples made up 9 of home purchases last year, up from 8 in 2018, according to an NAR survey. Other arrangements, such as roommates, comprised 3 of purchases in 2019, up from 2. In some cases, both occupants own the home. In others, one owns while the other pays rent or contributes to household expenses.

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Appraisal Management Companies’ Role in the Industry

The Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law soon after the housing debacle in 2008-2009. Part of this sweeping legislation was aimed directly at mortgage lenders and mortgage brokers. Prior to the Act, a mortgage company needing a property appraisal would call an appraiser from its approved appraiser list, provide the borrowers estimated value of the subject property to the appraiser and wait for the report to be delivered. The Dodd-Frank Act introduced an important firewall to change this process.

The reason for this change was providing a higher value than what market conditions might report could negatively impact the local real estate market. Say the lender needed to reach a certain value before a loan could be approved. The lender would contact the appraiser and ask if that value could be reached. If the appraiser didnt think so, the lender could move onto the next on the list and present the same question. It could even mean the lender could contact multiple appraisers until the right value was found. Note, this wasnt a common practice but a practice, nonetheless. Appraisals could even feel some pressure to come in at a particular value just to get the appraisal order.

The impact could be that falsely generated valuations might have a negative result. What if the owners of a home who took advantage of an inflated value were forced into making some crucial financial decisions, including selling the home or going directly into foreclosure? With the higher initial appraised value, selling the home on the open market might not bring in enough to cover the outstanding loan balance. In such an event, the only option would be forcing a foreclosure. A foreclosure can affect not just the owners of the property but homeowners in the surrounding neighborhood. The AMCs were created to address this.

Now, when a mortgage lender wants to order an appraisal, it contacts an appraisal management company. The lender places the order with the AMC who then orders the appraisal directly from a list of approved appraisers. The distribution of appraisal orders to its database of appraisers should be equal among its list. The lender has no say with regard to valuation. In fact, the lender isnt even allowed to speak directly with the appraiser assigned to the order. The only exception might be when there is an obvious mistake on the appraisal or the appraiser missed some recent comparable sales that is affecting the final value Even then, lenders might prefer to object with the AMC and let the AMC take it from there.

The final result is an independent, influence-free report. Now, when a lender receives a completed appraisal from the AMC, lenders and investors alike can feel confident the value provided was based on completely unbiased data. It took a while for lenders to adjust to the new process. Adding another layer to the lending process could potentially delay a loan approval. Lenders soon discovered there was in fact no noticeable delay and today its just another part of the process.

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3 Steps to Creating a Healthier Living Space

Step 1: Clean Out

Spring cleaning is nice and all, but organizing your living space once a year isnt going to cut it. The healthiest way to live is to clean up after yourself daily and organize often. If you let the clutter build up, its going to drag you down. The mere act of taking time to clean up will bring a sense of control to your life. And if youve already had a stressful day at work, youll be able to come home to a pleasant, >

First of all, get rid of what you dont need. If you can develop the self-restraint not to buy or keep things you dont need youll find it easier to focus on the best and most essential parts of your life, rather than getting lost in an avalanche of extra stuff. Take a good look around you and ask yourself what you dont use. Consider which possessions have outrun their sentimental value. Rest assured, once you throw it out or give it away, youll never notice its gone.

Keep all the things you do use well-organized. Have a place for everything. Being able to put things away and have a space for them is essential to a keep up with your clean home. An extra toy chest, storage units, or attic boxes especially for things you only use ra>

Step 2: Spruce it Up

If you make the space your own, you are more likely to find it refreshing and keep it clean. The goal is not to go out a buy a bunch of things to replace what you just threw out. Just personalize your space by including some elements that will help you recognize it as your own. A healthy living space will be one your mind recognizes as home. Candles, family photos, throw pillows, plants on the windowsill, or a healthy snack on the coffee table are all popular ideas, but this one is about you and what you find familiar and comforting. Everything still has a purpose, but its ok to have a few things that have a purpose specific to you.

When cleaning and sprucing up your home, remember to delegate the areas of your life to different spaces. You have your eating and entertainment space, your sleeping space, your workplace, grooming space, etc. Try not to let them bleed into one another. If you do this right, youll find it easier to work, sleep, and do whatever it is you want to do because whenever you walk into a room your brain will jump into the mode it has come to associate with that space.

Step 3: Improve your Sleeping Space

Your sleeping space deserves particular attention. Weve all heard the lectures on why its healthy to get adequate sleep, but that doesnt really help when you find yourself tossing and turning for hours. Luckily, a few tweaks to your sleeping space can make it easier for you to fall asleep. To increase healthy sleeping habits, youll nbsp;have to create a sort of controlled environment controlled temperature, light, and noise. Once youve done this your senses can >

Sixty to sixty-seven degrees is the temperature range you should be shooting for. Get a fan, get a heater, find some way to keep your rooms temperature steady. Blackout curtains or a sleeping mask can help when there is too much light. nbsp;And white noise machines can help block out any noise from next door that may be keeping you up.

Checks the quality of your mattress and pillows too. If youre going to spend 8 hours of every 24 with them, they should be comfy.

Creating a healthy living space is not just a chore, its a life>
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5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Condo

If a condo sounds like the right option for you, ask yourself these five questions before you go through with the purchase.

1. What is the Breakdown of the Monthly Association Fees?

Condo association fees are calculated based on several factors, such as the cost to maintain the property, the number of units, the funds set aside for repairs and litigation, and whether the community is self-managed or professionally managed.

Before buying a condo, get a breakdown of the monthly dues and make sure that you can afford this payment.

Look at the Repair Fund, too. Every association must set aside a certain portion of dues for major repairs. For communities that are less than 10 years old, the repair fund should have 10 of the cost of major items. Communities that are 10-20 years old should have 25-30 set aside for major repairs. Communities that are 20 years old should have 50 of the cost of major items.

Keep in mind that if the Repair Fund isnt well funded, you may be hit with a major repair bill in the future.

2. What is the Management Team Like?

Take the time to sit down and talk to the condo manager personally. Talk to your potential neighbors while youre at it. A poor manager can make condo living a terrible experience.

Some communities are self-managed, which means that there are no property managers. The residents themselves make decisions. These communities often have lower HOA fees, but keep in mind that youll have to manage the community alongside your neighbors.

3. What are the Rules?

What are the community rules? Are you allowed to have pets? Do you have the option to rent out your unit if you want to? Can you plant a garden?

Go over the community rules with a fine-tooth comb, and avoid communities that have rules you cant live with.

4. How Does the Budget Look?

Check out the associations budget before you buy. The association probably wont give a prospective buyer a copy of the budget, but the seller should be able to get a copy and provide it to you.

Take a look at the total outstanding debt owed to the association, and the percentage of owners who arent paying their monthly fees.

5. What is the Delinquency Rate?

Many prospective buyers dont realize the importance of the communitys delinquency rate when buying a condo. Youll have little chance of getting financing if you want to buy a condo in a building where most of your neighbors arent paying their dues.

Most lenders wont approve mortgages for condos with delinquency rates above 15. Even if youre buying with cash, the delinquency rate should still be important.

If the association is starved of cash, it will have to make cutbacks. That may mean that the community pool will no longer be maintained.

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5 Tips for New Homeowners

1. Inspect Your Foundationnbsp;

A homes foundation can become damaged due to various factors, such as the soil around the homes base becoming drenched due to snow or rain. If there are existing cracks, then they can become even bigger, which can lead to more complex and costly issues. The ground around the base of the home should slope away from the home, preferably by around 7 inches over 12 feet.nbsp;

Check for obvious damage, too. Are there visible cracks? If so, then fix them as soon as possible.nbsp;

The chances are you already had your foundation inspected by a professional, but you still want to do it yourself. Although rare, there may be something that was missed during the initial inspection. If you havent gotten your foundation inspected, then you definitely need to go out and take a look at it now.nbsp;

2. Create A homeowners Journalnbsp;

Another thing new homeowners should do is create a homeowners journal. This can be as simple as buying a ring binder and using it to keep important stuff in. This includes repair receipts, the insurance paperwork for the home and anything else that is >

3. Get A Warranty

Just like there are warranties for cars, there are warranties for home. Generally speaking, a home warranty in Texas can cover many things ranging from electrical work to plumbing issues to garbage disposals to duct-work to central vacuums, appliances and much more. If you have a warranty that covers such items in your home, then you can have them replaced or repaired if something goes wrong with them.nbsp;

The bottom line is when it comes to a home warranty, homeowners like yourself will receive peace of mind. You will be thankful to have it if the time comes that you need to use it. Just remember, different warranties cover different things, but as a homeowner you will definitely want to look into getting a warranty.nbsp;

4. Change Your Locks amp; Add More Protection

This may be something you dont think is necessary, but it is. You want to change your locks as soon as possible. Hire a locksmith to do this if youre not sure how, and make sure you choose durable locks that are hard or nearly impossible to break.nbsp;

While youre at it, add more protection as you change the locks. For example, adding an alarm system at the front door can give you additional peace of mind. Another option you can do is invest in smart locks for certain doors, and this will allow you to control the locks via a single remote.nbsp;

5. Locate Your Main Water Shutoffnbsp;

The fifth and last tip is to locate your main water shutoff. Knowing where this is will come in handy during the event of an emergency. These emergencies include a leaky faucet, a busted water pump or a leaky washing machine pipe or another type of plumbing pipe. Shutting off the main water supply will stop the water from continuing to run.nbsp;

After you locate the main water shutoff, turn it off and on a few times. This will help you react fast when the time comes. Trust us, you dont want to be confused on how to turn it off when an emergency does arise.

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Loan Guarantees: What Are They?

Mortgages that are guaranteed fall into the government-backed category. A government-backed loan does have a degree of guarantee, but the guarantee is in favor of the lender, not the borrower. There are definite advantages for borrowers who qualify for a government-backed loan, but the recipient of the guarantee is the mortgage company issuing the loan.

There are three such national government-backed mortgages, VA, FHA and the USDA program. VA loans are reserved for veterans of the armed forces, active duty personnel with more than 180 days of service, National Guard and Armed Forces Reserve members and unremarried surviving spouses of those who have died while serving or as a result of a service->

With the VA loan, should the loan ever go into default which is rare for VA loans, btw the lender is compensated at 25 percent of the loss. This guarantee is financed by what is referred to as the Funding Fee. This fee can vary but for first time buyers with no down payment, the funding fee for 2020 and going forward is 2.30 percent of the loan amount. This fee is rolled into the final loan amount and does not have to be paid for out of pocket.

FHA loans also have a guarantee to the lender. FHA loans ask for a down payment of at least 3.5 percent of the sales price. The guarantee is financed by two separate forms of mortgage insurance, an upfront policy rolled into the loan amount and an annual policy paid in monthly installments. With the FHA loan, the guarantee applies to the entire defaulted loan amount, unlike the VA guarantee of 25 percent. Again, the Federal Housing Administration does not handle an FHA loan application but provides guidelines lenders follow. There are no requirements of the applicants other than qualifying for the loan based upon income, credit, debt and other factors. Anyone can apply for an FHA loan. And because the down payment is only 3.5 percent, its very popular with first time homebuyers.

USDA loans contain guidelines issued by the United States Department of Agriculture. It might seem a bit out of place for the Department of Agriculture to have anything to do with home loans whatsoever. Yet the program was and is still today designed to help buyers finance properties in rural areas where conventional financing might be more difficult to find. The USDA keeps a database showing eligible areas. USDA loans also have household income limitations. Your loan officer can provide the details.

Like the VA program, the USDA loan doesnt need a down payment. Like the FHA program, the guarantee is financed by two separate mortgage insurance policies, a one-time upfront premium equal to 1 percent of the loan amount and an annual policy at 0.35 percent of the outstanding loan balance. In case of default, the lender is compensated for the loss.

Government-backed guarantees allow buyers to obtain competitive financing with less cash to close compared to similar conventional low-down programs. These guarantees also allow lenders to approve loans that might otherwise be turned down. As long as the lender follows the proper guidelines, the guarantee will be in place.

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Coronavirus and the Housing Market: What You Need to Know

But what impact is coronavirus and its rapid spread having on the housing market in this country, and what can we expect? A lot remains unknown at this point, but there are a few things you should be thinking about if youre looking to buy, sell, invest in real estate, or refinance an existing loan.

Carefully consider new construction

One of the fears associated with coronavirus as it >

About 30 of building products imported to the U.S. come from China, including both residential and nonresidential construction, according to Richard Branch, chief economist for Dodge Data amp; Analytics, said MSN. The products include wallboard, lighting, and other materials. Homebuildernbsp;Toll Brothers recently saidnbsp;the coronavirus outbreak in China led to shortages of lighting fixtures and small appliances, forcing it to delay the sales of 11 homes in California.

You also may want to look to builders and communities that have standing inventory. That means homes were built before they were sold, so they are move-in ready, brand-new, and have never been lived in. You will have to live with the finishes that were pre-chosen, but, in many cases, youll get nicer and more expensive finishes than you may have been able to afford otherwise.nbsp;

Think twice about remodeling or renovating

Those same supply chain issues that are impacting new-home construction may also make it more difficult and/or expensive to renovate.nbsp;

Reconsider open houses

As the coronavirus continues to spread, people are reconsidering their exposure to multiple people. If youre selling your house, that may mean limiting showings to individual families instead of holding open houses. You may feel its necessary to follow the same precautionary measures if youre looking for a home, opting to tour homes individually instead of attending open houses.nbsp;


Mortgage rates in the United States have fallen to the lowest level ever on the heels of concerns stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 3.29 during the week ending March 5, a major decrease of 16 basis pointsnbsp;from the previous week, said MarketWatch. The decline in rates presents a major windfall for millions of homeowners across the country, who stand to save thousands of dollars in interest by refinancing. Furthermore, an estimated 44.7 million homeowners have 6.2 trillion in home equity that they could access through a cash-out refinance,nbsp;according to real-estate data firm Black Knight, and now they have the chance to access that cash at a lower interest rate.

Put your money in a safe place

Treasuries are hot, stocks are not. As Yahoo Finance pointed out, The coronavirus hasnbsp;sent stock markets plummetingnbsp;and no industry, including housing, is immune.nbsp;Mortgage rates are hitting multi-year lows as investors, fearful of a possible coronavirus pandemic, have flocked to safe havens like Treasuries, sending thenbsp;10-year Treasury note to a record-low yield.nbsp;

Look at rental homes as investments

Thats what foreign investors are doing. With instability in the stock market and overseas investments, Investors are looking for the calm in the coronavirus storm, and U.S. residential real estate appears to be it, specifically single-family rental homes, said CNBC. These investors are not, however, coming to the U.S. to tour the homes themselves. Theyre buying them online.nbsp;Roofstock, a 5-year-old California-based fintech company, lists single-family rental homes for sale on its website, most with tenants already in place. It also offers management services, so the investor never has to visit the property. In the last few weeks it has seen traffic from investors in Asia on its site jump 500. Roofstock noted a 450 jump in traffic on its site from investors in Germany, a 250 surge in traffic from Australia and a 100 increase from the United Kingdom.nbsp;

But reconsider short-term rentals

If you were in the midst of looking at purchasing a short-term rental, you may want to take a step back for now. With the potential for summer vacation plans being canceled, owners of Airbnb,nbsp;VRBOnbsp;and other short term rental platforms facing cancellations could be in a quandary, said HousingWire.nbsp;

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When You’re Forced to Move...

When a move is dictated by reasons beyond money, the major mental shift required may get pushed aside by a natural urge to perpetuate the beloved home and its life>

Dont be surprised if you feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start and how to proceed.

The emotional turmoil and stress of having to move out of a home you love because of health problems, >

Having to suddenly find a new place to live because of permanent injuries, a medical crisis, or > The major mental shift required involves letting go of dreams of preserving status quo. Reproducing the current home is usually not a possible or practical goal. The trauma of the unexpected health crisis or the unwelcome reality of a > Will the pressure of significant disruption of your life combine with being ejected into the rental or buying market at a time that is not favorable to you? If you are home shopping when theres a shortage of practical property options or when prices are on a steady rise, you may have some serious strategizing to do. Reach out to the right experienced real estate professional and youll find the move more palatable.

Time is essential to absorb new considerations >

Can you gain time to think by making a temporary or short-term move? Is it physically and financially feasible for you to > Since this move is caused by circumstances new to you, count on the expertise of professionals to gain time for yourself. Depending on whats the driving force behind your move, you may benefit from consulting professionals who work with issues >

What is your principal criterion in deciding on a new home?

Once limitations dictated by affordability are established, buying or renting a home can focus on one or more main issues, depending on your priorities. In what is probably a very emotional time, the focus can be on short-term reactions when the emphasis should be on long-term comfort and flexibility.

Your immediate and long-term choices may be very different from those you expected to face at this stage of life. For instance, a medical crisis that results in limited mobility or required use of a wheelchair or other mobile devices may dictate a move from a house, condominium unit, or an apartment that is not barrier-free or wheelchair accessible. A significant health change like this may also determine which locations will be more practical and which amenities would be beneficial.

Try zeroing in on the following top three issues to clarify your essential and preferred priorities and practicalities when choosing your next residence when you must move:

1. Location and its local community

Your new neighborhood could enrich your life, perhaps in ways the current one hasnt. How can your life be improved by the local connections you could make? Will you have a car, be dependent on public transportation, or prefer living within a village->

2. Personal space essentials and "love to haves"

Joy at home will provide you with energy to brave your new world. Dont underestimate the value of finding loveable elements in your new space. Sunlight, views, outside space, gardens, welcoming communal areas...what would give you pleasure?

3. Amenities and accessible facilities

Take a close look at amenities before you let them add value to a housing option. An accessible therapeutic pool may be a significant benefit, but a pool you cant get in and out of just adds cost or monthly fees. Having a grocery store on-site or near-by may be a plus, but online grocery ordering and delivery may reduce that importance for you. What would you like to have just outside your door? What would entice you out of your space to enjoy your new world?

Take a deep breath. Focus on making decisions based on reason, not on frustration or disappointment. Concentrate on the directions that matter when faced with forced change: Onward amp; Upward

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Add Luxury to Your Home with These 7 Affordable Hacks

Go by the Quality of Fixtures and Finishes

Expensive homes are nearly flawless Youll know how expensive something is by how solid and seamless the craftsmanship is. You can apply this in your home by really discerning between quality finishes and subpar ones. You need to learn how to pick out fixtures that are timeless, >

Less is More

It is easy to go overboard and think that the more luxury touches you add, the more expensive your house may seem to everyone. This is a common mistake. Try to add luxurious details sparingly. Remember that you want timeless elegance, not gaudiness and tackiness. Stay with >

Quality Flooring

You dont have to fully carpet your home or buy expensive marble for flooring. The key is to choose well-made and timeless materials that require little to almost no upkeep. If you really like the look of marble floors, you can opt for marble pattern ceramic tiles for a lot less. Glazed ceramic tile is particularly great for high traffic areas such as the kitchen or the mudroom.

Use the Midas Touch

If used sparingly, good gold paint can mimic gold leaf and can serve as an inexpensive yet elegant detail in your home. Try to use it for design details that are above eye level to give you that golden look without breaking the bank.

Keep Backgrounds Neutral

To make sure that the luxury details you add will truly stand out, try to keep your backgrounds simple and neutral. For example, if youll be using a rare stone for a bathrooms countertop, try not to have a mural or install wallpaper in the same bathroom. You want your luxury finishes to shine so make sure that they have room to do so.

Speak with Carpets and Rugs

A beautiful large rug for the hall and perhaps faux fur rugs for some bedroom will go a long way in making your home feel cozier and a lot more expensive.

Stay on Color, Be Adventurous with Texture

Play with textures to add richness to a space without veering off your color palette. By doing this, youll also hide small flaws and have an easier time maintaining your home.

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Should You Consider a Reverse Mortgage?

What is a reverse mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a way to tap the equity in your home once you reach the age of 62 and eliminate your monthly mortgage paymentsfor now. When you have a regular mortgage, you pay the lender every month to buy your home over time. In a reverse mortgage, you get a loan in which the lender pays you, said the Federal Trade Commission FTC. Reverse mortgages take part of the equity in your home and convert it into payments to youa kind of advance payment on your home equity.

What are the advantages of a reverse mortgage?

First, you get to use the equity youve built up to supplement your monthly income, pay bills, go on vacation, or anything you need.nbsp;

In addition:

You get the money up front, but the interest is deferred until you move out, said the FTC.
The money is usually tax-free.
You dont have to pay it back until after you have moved out of your home.nbsp;

Are there any disadvantages?

For starters, you wont be living in the house Scot free. Owners must pay the property taxes and insurance costs and keep the house in good condition when they agree to a reverse mortgage, said If they dontand many have fallen into that trapthe lender can foreclose.

In addition:

There are fees. Reverse mortgages differ from other types of home equity loans in a number of ways, one of which is higher costs, said NerdWallet. Fees will include mortgage insurance premiums, both initial and annual; third-party fees for closing costs; a loan origination fee, capped at 6,000; and a loan servicing fee. Its also worth noting that reversenbsp;mortgage ratesnbsp;tend to be higher than traditional home loans, and will vary depending on how much you borrow, how you withdraw your proceeds, the homes appraised value and your credit profile, among other factors.
If you get sick and have to permanently move out of your home, the loan will come due. Seniors plagued with health issues may obtain reverse mortgages as a way to raise cash for medical bills, said Investopedia. However, they must be healthy enough to continue dwelling within the home. If an individuals health declines to the point where he or she must > If you want to leave your home to an heir, having a reverse mortgage on the property could cause problems, said Investopedia, if the heirs do not have the funds needed to pay off the loan.nbsp;

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Ask the HOA Expert: Can We Keep A Rep From Our Management Company From Attending Board Meetings?

Answer: The management company works for the board and if the board doesnt want the manager there, thats the way it is. But its ill advised. The manager is hired to advise the board about HOA operations. Since the manager is more involved in day to day issues, she knows things the board doesnt. The board should enjoy the benefits and the avoid problems that will result by making decisions that do not include manager input.

Question: Our condominiums were built in the 1970s. When units sell, the inspection report frequently requires extensive and expensive repairs to the common elements attached to the subject unit like siding, paint, decks, etc. Since we have no reserves, each of these sales triggers a 2000-5000 special assessment to take care of these repairs. Can we charge these costs to the unit seller?

Answer: If the repairs are the HOAs responsibility, a unit owner cannot be charged for them. But there is another issue to consider. Just because a lender says a common element needs to be fixed doesnt mean the HOA has to fix it right away. Even if the HOA has maintenance and repair responsibility, the board does have discretion when the event takes place. Usually a letter to the lender from the board stating that the repairs will be accomplished according to the boards scheduling suffices for the lenders file. Of course, if there is a safety issue, it should be taken care of as soon as possible.

An even bigger issue to consider is the lack of reserves. A 30 year reserve study is needed to assess long range repairs and replacements and their costs. When the 30 year plan is adequately and regularly funded, special assessments are avoided and costs are fairly shared by all members along the 30 year timeline. For more on this topic, see the Reserve Planning section at

Question: Our HOA wrestles with speeders on our community streets. Some members want speed bumps, some want stop signs. What alternatives are best?

Answer: Installing additional traffic control is a sensitive issue and should be discussed in an open meeting with owners. Is this a general problem or are there >

Speed bumps are an option if allowed by the local jurisdiction. In some cities, an extra deep and >

Why not inquire with your local jurisdictions street department for traffic slowing options?

Question: Our board has adopted additional rules and regulations. Doesnt this require a vote of the members to amend the governing documents?

Answer: Governing documents in their original form are often generally worded to allow customization Typically, issues concerning pets, parking and money collection need "fleshing out" to work properly. The board generally has the authority to promulgate rules and regulations that are in keeping with the governing documents.

The board, however, cannot enact a rule that contradicts specific rules or policies in the governing documents. And even though the board has authority to make rules, those proposed rules should be reviewed for comment by the members prior to enactment to achieve "buy-in".

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8 Reasons You Can’t Sleep and Easy Fixes for a Good Slumber

These eight things are making it hard to get that shuteye. But theyre all also surprisingly easy to fix.

Outside light

Natural light is a huge selling point when youre buying a home and something youll enjoy during the day. But streetlights and other light pollution are not exactly desirable at night.nbsp;

People who live in more densely populated areas that are lit at night withnbsp;bright street lights or signs are more likely to report trouble sleeping,nbsp;suggests new research from Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center in California, said the Cleveland Clinic. People with high nighttime light exposure, for example, were more likely than those in low-lit regions of the country to be dissatisfied with their sleep quantity or quality, the findings showed.

A good window covering like blackout drapes can mean the difference between a restful sleep and a restless night, limiting the light that gets in so your natural circadian rhythm, which causes you to feel more alert or sleepy, depending on the time of the day, can do its thing.nbsp;

Inside light

Many a bedroom has a bright overhead light and nothing more. But that can mean a room that isnt properly lit for function or feeling. Knowing how to layer your lighting is the key to creating the best lighting your bedroom, said Y Lighting. This means finding the right balance between ambient, task, and accent lighting. By creating this balance, you will be able to create the lighting for any mood and any activity with the flick of a switch.

If your bedroom is lit from above and you dont want to change it, at least get a dimmer.nbsp;

The wrong color paint

Are there any colors you should avoid painting your bedroom walls? People with gray, brown, or purple bedrooms regularly slept unhealthy amounts of fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night, according to a new study, said Tuck. At 5 hours and 56 minutes of sleep, purple is the worst color for sleep. Its a mentally stimulating color, boosting your creativity and contributing tonbsp;more vivid nightmares. Gray is said to be depressing and uninspired, while brown is drab, gloomy, and anything but cozy. It tends to create a sense of restlessness instead of calm. On the other hand, Red is a passionate, energetic color that can increase your blood pressure andnbsp;inspire you to move faster. Neither of these are physical sensations that promote sleep.nbsp;

Your desk

Sometimes, we have no option but to incorporate a workstation in our bedroom. But doing so can cause unnecessary stress if you dont create a separation between your workspace and your sleep space. The more serene you can make your space, the more you can set yourself up for a good nights sleep.

Curio Cabinets and Display Furniture

Your bedroom should be quiet and serene, a place to >

Excessive noise

Outside noise can also keep you from getting to sleepor staying that way. You may not be able to do anything about the car traffic on your street or your noisy teenage neighbor, but there are some ways to mitigate the noise from inside your home.nbsp;

It may surprise you to learn that even when youre sleeping, noises can still benbsp;disruptive enough to wake you, said SleepScore Labs. Whats more surprising is these sounds dont even have to wake you to interfere with sleep, since the sleeping brain remains aware of sounds in the environment. Because of that, you might suffer from a restless sleep that leaves you tired because you did not spend enough time in deep and REM sleep, the deepest and most restorative sleep cycles.

Two viable suggestions for lowering the noise quotient: Get a white noise machine. White noise machines are a wise investment for those who struggle to sleep due to noisy sleeping environments. For example, those moving from a rural to an urban setting can benefit from white noise machines that cover sudden loud noises with a continuous sound. There are also pink noises, like the sound of steady rainfall, and brown noises, like the roar of a river, which work well, too. You can also consider modifying your bedroom layout. This involves moving furniture to optimal locations to reduce noise, adding sound-proofing panels to the walls where noise enters, and insulating floors, windows, and ceilings safely.

Watch the busy patterns

Yes, wallpaper is back. And it can look great everywhere, including on the walls of your bedroom. However, going with a busy pattern in what is supposed to be a restful space may end up keeping you up at night.nbsp;nbsp;

An uncomfortable bed

For sleeps sake, splurge on the good mattress. Isnt it funny how well spend a months salary on the fancy couch or the dining table that seats 10 and that we only use once a year, but when it comes to our bed, we cheap out? After all, the average American spends 11 hours a day lying on their bed thats nearly half of our lifetime, according to the New York Post.

An uncomfortable bed can keep you from getting to sleep, staying asleep, and getting restful, restorative sleepand that can have a real impact on our health, both physical and mental.nbsp;

Put some money into it. Your mattress doesnt have to cost as much as your car, but an investment in a good bed is an investment in your sleepand your health.

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Imagine Your Real Estate Business Five Years from Now

My business as a real estate speaker, trainer, and coach primarily involves working with people who are seasoned, successful veterans in our industry. Most of the people I work with have at least seven years of experience in our business, and many of them have 15-30 years or more of their time invested in our industry.

So what can happen then sometimes is a person who has 10-20 or more years of experience in real estate can sometimes be mulling over questions and issues that are really more appropriate ones for someone with far less experience in the business. This is a common result from people learning our business a particular way when theyre brand new in it, and then not updating their approaches many years later when theyre far more successful.

As an example, a number of my clients have told me recently that they need to stop working on smaller transactions -- and that they find themselves sometimes working on transactions where the commission theyll be paid is far less than what their time is now worth. But they somehow constantly have an abundance of smaller transactions coming their way, and they find it difficult to say "No" to people.

Because of the nature of our business, its very easy to get wrapped-up in the activity thats right in front of our faces, and cost ourselves a lot of money in the process, too. But being busy doesnt necessarily mean that youre doing the activities that will maximize your income, but sometimes we can delude ourselves into thinking that this is the case. Despite the fact that most agents in a real estate office will look busy throughout the day, the ones making the most money year-after-year are busy doing far more productive activities than everyone else. And these activities normally dont involve wasting their time working on smaller transactions.

With this in mind, an exercise that Ive given to a number of my coaching clients recently is asking them to describe what they want their life to be like five years from now. I suggest that they ask themselves questions like, "What will you be doing with your time?" And, "What activities will you be focused on doing in your business?"

While an exercise like this may sound simple, the results it can lead one to can be quite profound. In summary, it can lead you to easily identifying the activities youre now doing that are completely wasting your time.

When you see yourself five years from now doing business at a much higher level, the activities youre now doing that are incompatible with this new higher level become very apparent to you, and you realize that you really need to stop doing these activities NOW.

Sometimes this will involve no longer working with people on a nonexclusive basis, sometimes it involves no longer working with people you dont enjoy working with, and sometimes it means from now on youll only work on transactions that meet a new minimum level of anticipated commission for you.

Whatever the case, moving to the next level of production in your business involves letting go of your less productive activities and embracing new activities that will make you more money. And with this in mind I recommend that you spend 15 minutes to an hour describing what you want your business to be like five years from now. Consider asking yourself questions like:


  • What kind of clients will I be working with?


  • What kind of transactions will I be working on?


  • What will the minimum or average commission amount be on the transactions Im closing?


  • Will I only be working with people on an exclusive basis?


And if your game plan in five years involves investing in and/or developing properties, ask what youll now be doing in this arena also.

If we dont watch out for ourselves, we can get wrapped-up in doing activities and working on transactions that served us well in our early days in the business, but continuing to do so now is no longer appropriate. And if we dont recognize this and implement the appropriate changes, we can end up paying for it dearly.

But when we clearly identify the person we want to become in our industry and how we envision spending our time and energy five years from now, the unproductive activities that are holding us back from this new level will often jump right out at us, making it easier to remove them and replace them with new activities that will propel us forward in the direction of the agent we really want to become.

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Mortar: It's Not Just Gray Stuff Between The Stones

Ive been talking recently about some of the things home buyers should consider before taking on an older home, and I believe Ive mentioned that a successful approach to restoration involves a considerable amount of detective work.

For example, the exterior of your house is made of stone, but some of the mortar between the stones has deteriorated to the point that water is beginning to find its way into the cracks, and causing the mortar to fall out. More water gets in behind the stones, deterioration occurs at a faster rate, and the cost of repair skyrockets.

Yet, just slapping some new mortar between those stones isnt usually the answer. Mortar fills in the gaps between stone and brick, helps distribute the weight of the stones and helps gravity keep the whole thing together. So, if the old mortar is falling out, simply running down to the home center, buying a bag of mortar, mixing it up and slapping it between the stones is not the right answer.

Mortar in older houses is either soft or hard, depending on when those houses were built. Changes in the building industry, especially in the days before mass marketing, came slowly, so you wont be able to determine the hardness of the mortar by knowing when the house was built. Youll actually need to conduct a simple test on a piece of the mortar to find out, but well deal with that later.

Let me first explain the difference between soft and hard mortar, since I learned it by making the common bag-of-mortar-from-the-home-center mistake on the basement walls of one of my past houses.

What makes a mortar soft or hard depends on what is used as a binder. For instance, in the 19th century, when my first house was built, I found that the mason had pointed the bricks with a mixture of sand, water and lime. Quicklime, or calcium oxide, is a soft binder, and is what results when calcium carbonate limestone is burned. The quicklime, which kind of looks like beaten egg whites when it is dumped in water, was combined with water and sand.

In my situation, it had been mixed with sand excavated from the building site and used to point -- fill the spaces between the stones -- the walls of the basement. In addition, lime was mixed with water and soil from the excavation and coated on those walls like plaster.

The advantages of using lime as the binder in this case were that it takes years for the mortar to harden, it doesnt expand all that much and does it so slowly that it doesnt crack and, best of all for basements, its porosity allows water vapor to escape.

In the 20th century, Portland cement replaced lime as the binder. Portland cement is what makes the mortar "hard." Its chief asset is that it cures quickly, which was a huge help when I re-pointed the base of a chimney into which the furnace was vented on a cold weekend in early December. The base of the chimney had fallen apart after years of moisture intrusion, and the pipe from the furnace fell out with it.

Unlike lime, Portland cement shrinks, wont let water vapor escape and wont permit any movement in the stone.

What you need to remember is that if your stone walls were pointed with lime mortar and you repair them with harder mortar, the new mortar may crack as the softer mortar underneath flexes or cause the softer mortar to fall apart because the harder mortar wont flex.

Water vapor will not pass and the interior walls will be damp. Think of moisture issues in the basements and youll see that the price of ignorance, in this case mine, can be costly.

How can you tell whether the binder is lime or cement? Vinegar. A little dab will do you. Just put a little on the mortar and see if the vinegar bubbles a bit. If it does, lime is present. There is a little bit of burned lime in Portland cement, but, from my testing, it doesnt seem to react with the vinegar.

The proportion of ingredients in your mortar mix is as important as knowing what binder was used with the original.

Think of pancakes. Batter thick, thick cakes. Batter watery, crepes. It is all in the proportions. You may have to work with the ingredients to make your mortar exactly right, and dont expect to get it the first time.

One thing Ive found is that Portland cement mortar is much easier to work with than lime mortar. A small amount of Portland cement added to lime mortar improves the situation, but you have to be careful not to overdo it.

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Common Tenant Issues And How To Avoid Them

No matter how well you maintain your properties, when working in property management, some common problems are still bound to crop up. More likely than not, it will involve a tenant not paying their rent on time. However, there are other issues that frequently occur, and as the property manager, its your responsibility to resolve them. Handling tenant complaints in a respectful, timely manner can go a long way in alleviating their concerns, as well as boosting your tenant-retention rates. The following are some of the most common tenant complaints and how best to handle them.

Maintenance Complaints

Maintenance problems are one of tenants biggest complaints, and the best way to deal with them is to have an effective maintenance request and complaint resolution system in place. All leases should provide instructions for the tenant to follow in the event that they experience a maintenance issue. Whether its a leaky pipe or faulty thermostat, tenants need to know the proper procedure to request maintenance and a timeline for how long it will take to get issues resolved. Many property managers now utilize an online maintenance request system tonbsp;track maintenance orders. Make sure all landlord-tenant communication regarding maintenance complaints is documented in writing, and keep receipts for any work performed. Follow up with the tenant to confirm their issue has been fixed.

Noisy Neighbors

From pets who bark all night to parties or arguments, another common complaint of tenants is dealing with noisy neighbors. Often the solution isnt one the property manager can remediate, especially if it involves neighbors who dont live on the property. Installing carpeting, soundproofing, adding insulation, and adding shrubbery can help minimize noise issues. If its a specific tenant creating the disturbance, contact them and let them know they are causing a problem. If the issue is music or partying, remind them of your policy on when they need to turn it off. If the issue is a tenant who is overly-sensitive to noise, offer to allow them to move to another area in the complex. If the problem continues, and your lease has a clause dictating rules about quiet hours or noise violations, it may be time to issue a Cure or Quit notice ornbsp;create an eviction notice.

Pest Issues

Unfortunately, when many people live in close quarters, pests always seem to find their way in. Whether its fleas from pet-owning tenants, ants invading the pantry, cockroaches scurrying through cupboards, or worse a bedbug infestation pests are a massive problem for property management teams. The first line of defense is to have a schedule for routine preventative treatments for insects. Regular inspections and treatments from a professional exterminator will prevent pests from settling in. Make sure all exterior accessnbsp;rodentsnbsp;may have is blocked. Encourage your tenants to report any sight of pests immediately so the issue can be resolved before it gets out of hand.

Keep Communication Respectful

It is impossible to avoid problems and conflicts when you manage rental properties. What you can do is resolve issues calmly and respectfully. Let your tenants know when is the best time to contact you, what to do in case of an emergency, and who to contact after hours. Always be professional and pleasant, and enforce your leases fairly and consistently.


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How Many Moving Boxes do I Need?

How Many Moving Boxes do I Need? - Factors to Consider

An effective moving day tip is to ensure your boxes are packed in advance. This post highlights the factors to consider when determining the number of boxes you need for a move. While you may be able to score free boxes, you will still have to know how many you need in case you have to buy some. Ultimately, you should be able to get the right number of boxes.

Determining the number of packing boxes you need for a move can be a tricky process. For instance, you might live in a one-bedroom apartment but you have plenty of items to pack. Similarly, a family could live in a massive house and only have minimal belongings. To get an accurate estimate of the number of boxes you need for the move, consider factors such as the number of people living there, the square footage of your home and many more. Here are some of the most critical questions you should be asking yourself.

How Many People Live in Your Home?

Generally, a family of five will have more belongings than a single person. So, when trying to determine the number of boxes you need to move, first consider how many people live there.

How Long Have You Lived in Your Home?

If youve lived in one place for a long time and havent had to move, youre likely to gather things over the years. After collecting these items, you probably wont empty your closets or get rid of items you dont need. If you feel you have a lot of items to pack, you can reach out to professional packers, they may be able to help you fit more items per box as well.nbsp;

What Is Your Life>

Everyone typically has a threshold for stuff they can handle in their home. So, your life>

How Many Bedrooms Do You Have?

The number of bedrooms you have in your house is also a critical factor to consider when thinking about the number of packing boxes youll need to move. This is an important question to ask yourself because bedrooms contain both personal belongings and clothes. As a rule of thumb, youre going to need about 5 large, 8 medium and 10 small packing boxes per room.

Whats the Square Footage of Your Home?

Large homes will usually have more items, making it important to consider when determining the number of packing boxes youll need for your home. If you have a larger home, a benefit from hiring movers is you can >

Size of The Packing Boxes

Although there may be small differences in sizing, packing boxes usually come in four main sizes. If youre trying to estimate the number of boxes youll need, you should be aware of the boxes available. Here are the most common sizes of packing boxes:

- Small packing boxes: 1.5 cubic feet

- Medium packing boxes:1.5-3 cubic feet

- Large packing boxes:2.5-3.5 cubic feet

- Extra-large packing boxes: 3.6 cubic feet

Bottom Line

Packing boxes is an essential part of moving. With the tips mentioned and a little organization, you can answer the question: how many moving boxes do I need? Make sure not to pack the boxes too heavy in case the boxes are moved upstairs and/or downstairs. Start by downsizing, prepare to pack tricky items and always pack a box of essentials that youll need for the first day or two.

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I Am Selling! Why Would I Put Money into a House I am Leaving?

Who is Buying?

Whether you know, or believe it, it is true; the buyer will determine IF your house will sell, when it will sell and for what price. You can have your hopes, wants and dreams but ultimately the power lies with the buyer.nbsp; A great Staging professional is knowledgeable about which demographic is most likely to purchase your property and will make recommendations with that in mind. The largest property buying demographic today are Millennials. The younger members of this tribe may still favor renting, however once they hit their 30s and begin to settle down they want their version of a great house.

What they want is move in ready. Why? Pressing student debt is already a worry, they scrape together as much as possible for the down payment and simply dont have extra cashflow to invest in fixing-up the things you couldnt be bothered to do. The other factor to consider is this group of people do not want to be DIY weekend warriors; they want to have fun on the weekends Also, they dont have the skills to do the work- and they are not interested in learning how to do it

You may have finished with this property but to them it is their new home. They want it to look and feel like it from the outset. In fact, research shows they want the feel of new so much most of them are willing to pay more money to get it. What that means to you is this, if you choose to bring your property onto the market as-is you risk a being on the market longer than you want or b have offers for less than you expect.

Staging is the only service for selling property that has measurable value

Whether the market is hot, cold or indifferent, staging is a powerful marketing tool which should never be discounted because of the outlay of money. If you want to maximize your ROI, why would you not do for your house, what you would do if you were selling anything else Your car for instance? Wouldnt you clean, fix and polish it to make it feel new?

The largest investment most people ever make is in real estate. When selling, they want the most money possible in the shortest time for no effort and no money?? Really who does that? 97 of prospective buyers look on the internet first, which means you need amazing photos to capture interest, to get on the MUST-SEE list. Dont play equity jeopardy with your investmentnbsp; Your competition are new houses- yours must look and feel like one too

Failure to do so will have a millennial moving on.nbsp;

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5 Things to Know About USDA Loan Programs

The United States Census Bureau takes a count of the population once every 10 years. The last national census was taken in 2010 and the next will take place this year, starting this spring. USDA loans are used to finance properties in rural areas. The rural designation is made after review of the census data. For those looking at a rural property, provide your loan officer with the property address of the prospective property. The property must be located within an approved area in order to be eligible for this zero down loan.

In addition to location restrictions, there are also restrictions on household income. For homes with 1-4 family members, the maximum household income must be at or below 86,850 per year and up to 212,550 in high cost regions. For households with 5-8 members, the limits are 114,650 and 280,550 respectively. As for loan programs, the choices are a 30 or 15 year fixed. There is no adjustable rate option.

USDA loans do carry a guarantee, but the guarantee is to the lender, not the borrower. Should the loan go into default, the lender is compensated for the loss as long as the loan was approved using proper USDA protocol. This guarantee is funded by two separate forms of mortgage insurance. The first insurance premium is 1.00 percent of the sales price and is rolled into the final loan amount while the second premium is an annual one calculated at 0.35 percent of the outstanding loan balance. The annual policy is paid back in monthly installments along with the regular mortgage payment.

There is a minimum credit score for USDA loans set at 640. Lenders will request credit scores from each of the three main credit repositories, Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Of the three reported scores, the lender uses the middle score. If there are multiple applicants, the lender will use the lowest middle score of all those on the application. For those who do not have a credit score or have minimal credit, USDA loans allow for alternative credit to be used as a replacement. Alternative credit means utility bills or mobile phone payments. Most lenders ask there be at least one credit trade line listed on the credit report before allowing for alternative credit. Further, timely rental payments carry the most weight.

Finally, a property may be in an eligible area that is located in a suburban area and looks nothing like a rural region. This is because as towns and cities expand outward, eventually a suburban area can occupy a region that was declared as rural several years ago. Remember, the census is taken every 10 years which gives populated areas time to expand.

There are limits to USDA loans as to location and income but for those who want to finance a home in an area that appears to be rural, semi-rural or near a rural area, the USDA home loan program is going to be very hard to beat.

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Coronavirus 2020: Six Tips for Keeping Your House Clean and Germ-Free

Wash your hands. No, REALLY wash them.

It seems so easy, but the fact is that most people dont wash their hands properlyand somedisgustinglydont wash their hands at all. Proper handwashingnbsp;is particularly important because it is such a critical step in preventing the spread of germs, yetnbsp;a study foundnbsp;that 95 percentnbsp;of people are doing it incorrectly, said the American Cleaning Institute. They advise to scrub your hands, after lathering with soap, for at least 20 seconds. To make it fun, sing Happy Birthday twice while washing, or try a few of these options.

Use hand sanitizer

If youre in a place where soap isnt an immediate option, hand sanitizer is your friend. If you can find it, given the fact that its sold out everywhere and price gougers were charging up to 300 a bottle on eBay, youll want to use it liberally when youre out in public. Touch a table? Sanitize. Forget youre not supposed to be shaking hands? Sanitize. Remember that it has to have at least 60 percentnbsp;alcohol to be effective.

Give your house a good scrubbing

Now is the time to take your regular cleaning program up a few notches. Stock up on your favorite disinfectant spray and paper towels and get those surfaces spic n span. Counters, appliances, bathrooms, and floors should all be thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis. And surfaces that are touched often should be wiped down at least a few times a day.

Practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks with household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface, following label instructions, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC. Dont forget to observe safety precautions including spraying away from your face and wearing gloves. For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70 alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.

Keep those bleach wipes handy

Clorox wipes are among thenbsp;registered disinfectants on the EPAs list for killing coronavirus and theyre great to keep in every room if you can find them. If youre anything like us, youre more likely to clean off your surfaces with a wipe than you are with a bottle of spray.

To keep the germs at bay, use a disinfectant wipe to quickly sanitize those areas, said c
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Learn to Spot Telephone Scams, Identity Theft and Mortgage Fraud

Recently the RCMP announced they had arrested and charged a man and a woman in Brampton, Ont. in connection with various phone scams. These involve callers from India posing as RCMP or Canada Revenue Agency officials, threatening to arrest people if they dont pay non-existent back taxes or fines. In combination with computer tech support scams, the RCMP estimates that since 2014, more than 30 million has been lost.

Even the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre had its website spoofed with fake websites and its phone number phished by fraudsters.

A recent survey by Chartered Professional Accountants Canada CPA Canada found that 34 per cent of Canadians have experienced at least one type of fraud.nbsp;

With more of our daily activities going online, the ability of fraudsters to take advantage of unsuspecting Canadians increases, says Doretta Thompson, financial literacy leader at CPA Canada. Devices such as smart locks, home security cameras, laptops and even smart TVs can be infiltrated and compromised with access to the right information.

Once they have your information, the bad guys may be able to access bank accounts, open new accounts in your name, apply for loans and credit cards, buy things online and even obtain a passport or receive government benefits.

CPA says the No. 1 way to protect yourself is by strengthening your passwords. Create unique passwords for each of your accounts. Its okay to write down the passwords as long as they are stored in a safe place, or you can use a password manager to create and store them, says CPA Canada.

Screen your calls and texts and dont pick up if you dont recognize the number. Dont reply to a text or click on a link if you are not sure where its from. Dont give out any personal information.

Fraudsters use a variety of methods to steal your identity, not all of it high tech. Some get it from dumpster diving to find out personal information.

You should be in the habit of shredding personal documents that include information such as your name and address or other information such as your age or an account number, says CPA Canada. Check your wallet and see if you really need to carry all of those identity documents. Review your bank and credit card statements regularly so you can quickly spot any unusual activity. You should also check your credit score once a year by contacting Equifax or TransUnion Canada.

Haywood Hunt, a private investigator firm in Toronto, says mortgage fraud has risen dramatically in recent years. The unpleasant truth is that the way a mortgage is designed in Canada makes it easy for fraudsters to cheat the system, says the firm in a blog. For instance, the borrower process is too heavily >

If someone deliberately provides false information to get a mortgage such as lying about their income or employment or acting as a straw buyer and allowing their name to be used on a mortgage application for a home they are not buying then they are committing mortgage fraud.nbsp;

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says you should never accept money, guarantee a loan or add your name to a mortgage unless you fully intend to purchase the property. Always know who you are dealing with and dont sign anything unless you understand exactly what you are signing. Use licensed mortgage and real estate professionals.

CMHC says you should also get independent legal advice and talk to them about title insurance and other ways you can protect yourself. If you need to provide a deposit, make sure the funds are payable to and held in trust with the vendors real estate brokerage or by a lawyer.

If youre a victim of identity theft, you could end up being responsible for a mortgage without even knowing about it.

With low rental vacancy rates in many cities across North America, rental scams have been a big problem for several years.

A typical case was recently brought to the attention of a real estate agent in Cape Breton. Someone took an online listing of the agents and advertised it for rent, at a very attractive rate. The fraudster was hoping someone would agree to rent the home unseen because of the great rate and would provide a deposit. The agent found out about the scam when someone got her name from the sign in front of the house and called to see if it was still available for rent.

If you are renting a property, never deal in cash, wire transfers or hard-to-trace methods such as Moneygram or Bitcoin. Although some fraudsters have managed to get keys to properties and actually showed them to potential renters, most try to rent the homes without showing them another tipoff that it may be a scam. Make sure you meet the landlord in person. Beware of high-pressure sales tactics.nbsp;

As with many of these scams, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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What is Storage Unit Insurance and Do You Need It?

Billion-dollar disasters in the US increased two-fold between the years 2016 and 2018, hitting a record high of 15 catastrophic events each year. The total losses caused by these events, according to the CBNC, amounted to 91 billion. Valuable items in storage are often the most affected in the case of natural disasters.

It is highly recommended that you take up an insurance cover that would indemnify self-storage contents in case of such events. Considering the apparent increase of billion-dollar disasters, paying for storage unit insurance would be a worthwhile investment.

So recently, the salesperson at your storage space tried to sell you storage unit insurance. What is it, and do you need it? We give you an honest answer here.

What is Storage Unit Insurance?

Youve amassed lots of valuable possessions over time. Some no longer fit in your house, or maybe you need additional space for new items. While you do not want to forfeit some of this stuff, you may need to look for alternative storage options.

This is the premise on which storage units exist. 10 of all Americans have rented a self-storage unit at some point. However, the safety of the stuff in such storage units often comes to question whenever instances of extreme weather conditions hit the country.nbsp;nbsp;

Are your self-storage contents safe in the wake of these catastrophic periods? That answer can only be in the affirmative if you have an insurance coverage plan. Storage unit insurance covers the full extent of your stored property anywhere in the world.

You are entitled to full compensation for any losses or damage to such property in case of certain specified events. It may become a necessity to apply for self-storage content insurance in the future. This is especially >

What Makes Storage Insurance a Necessity?

Well, the answer is hidden in the original objective of insurance. You need to cushion yourself and your property against unforeseen risks. If you have opted to store some items in a storage unit, then they must be important.nbsp;

Most of the items stored in these units have timeless value to the owners. You will undoubtedly incur significant financial losses if specific calamities strike.nbsp;

The owners of storage facilities can prevent the occurrence of theft and malicious damage. However, other instances, such as fire, floods, and earthquakes, are beyond human control. You may never get to recover from such cases of extreme losses without indemnity.nbsp;

Having >

What Are the Named Perils Covered in the Self-Storage Insurance?

Depending on your insurer, storage unit insurance covers a variety of named perils. For easy categorization, these events fit into usual or unusual occurrences. Routine occurrences are events that are an orchestration of human beings. They include riots, theft, malicious mischief, or plumbing >

Unusual events include all acts of God, which the storage unit owners cannot control. Windstorms, hailstorms, floods, and snow are typical examples of such unnatural events. If you can find a >

Is There a Provision for Storage Units in Renters Insurance?

Yes, most renters insurance policies will cover your property while inside the storage units. But you need to ensure that your storage facilitys insurance covers the items you intend to store. Depending on the existing agreement, your renters insurance policy will likely protect up to about 10 of the stored items.nbsp;

The exception to this aspect is in the circumstances under which you decide to store such belongings. If you can validate your reason for seeking storage space, then it is likely that you may be fully insured. Such instances include cases where your home is undergoing renovation.

You will still be eligible for insurance coverage for your stored items as long as these items are part ofnbsp;the renters insurance agreement.nbsp;

The Limitations to Renters Insurancenbsp;

You need to be fully acquainted with your storage facilitys approach to insurance coverage before committing. It is common for these facilities to use unfair means as a tool towards coercing you to buy into their insurance. However, when you observe keenly, you will realize that most of the renters insurance policies exclude certain critical items in their agreements.nbsp;

Such exclusions include motor vehicle coverage. You may need to purchase a separate auto insurance cover for your motor vehicle if your renters cover does not include such coverage. You may also need to seek alternative coverage for other risks, such as damage caused by rodents.nbsp;

You may also need to consider other insurance coverage options for your expensive items and documents because most storage facility insurance excludes such costly items such as collectibles and artwork. You need to be aware of these dynamics before settling on a suitable storage insurance option for your self-storage items.nbsp;

Where to Find the Best Storage Unit Insurance

Whichever your reasons for seeking a storage unit insurance cover, you must be keen to ensure that your coverage is inclusive. You may need to be extra vigilant before deciding on what works best for you. One of the easiest ways to access a reputable insurer is via online searches.

Websites for the specific providers will give you all the details you need about each company. This allows you a chance to go online and seek referrals through case reviews and testimonials.nbsp;nbsp;

With the changing dynamics around technology, you can be able to access and purchase storage unit insurance online. This option comes with the luxury to decide on your most preferred store facility.

Your Valued Possessions Are Safer With >

The inevitability of life makes insurance coverage an unavoidable necessity. Now that you are willing to pay an extra cost for the storage of your valuables, it is a statement of the attachment you have to them. The only other thing left to do is to consider a storage unit insurance to guarantee extended-term indemnity in the event of a calamity.

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Is an ADU for You?

Is an ADU the answer to the dilemma of where youre going to live during your retirement years? Or where to move your parent who wants his or her own space close to you? Thats the idea thats intriguing many across the country.nbsp;

So, what do you need to know about ADUs? Were breaking it all down below.nbsp;

Are they easy to build?

You would think so, given their small size and the fact that, presumably, they are being built on land you already own. States like California have passed laws to make them easier to build, resulting in tremendous growth. "At the start of 2017, a California state law went into effect that forced cities to >

However, not every state or municipality is quite so progressive. Barriers to the growth of granny flats include municipal statutes, zoning laws, building restrictions, neighborhood covenants, and other regulations, said The Spruce. New construction is more expensive as well, and homeowners may find it difficult to get financing. Connecting utilities can also be expensive. Some municipalities require that driveways and/or off-street parking be provided for the granny flat occupant, and that can add expense, or be completely unfeasible for certain properties.


Speaking of cost, part of the allure of an ADU is how affordable it is in comparison to a typical single-family residence. But its still in investment. A legal accessory dwelling unit which includes a kitchen and bathroom, costs typically start at 80,000 and quickly move up from there, said Maxable. For a stand-alone accessory dwelling unit expect the cost to start at 150,000 and increase from there.nbsp;

The cost of construction isnt all there is, however. Homeowners are often shocked at the cost of permitting, which is why there are so many illegal accessory dwelling units out there. In some cities, where development and impact fees for this type of construction has not been waived, homeowners can expect to pay upwards of 20K in fees.

That includes impact fees, which cities charge homebuilders to assist in paying for things like schools, parks, and roads. In Washington, for example, depending on what city you live in, so-callednbsp;impact feesnbsp;alone might total as much as 9,000, said Sightline Institute.

Another word on regulations

Regardless of the legality in certain areas, there are those other restrictions that may make it challenging to build an ADU on a specific property. Specifically, zoning restrictions can limit what you can do with your ADU, where you build it, and even who can live inside.

Many cities and counties permit ADUs in one or more single-family zoning districts by right, subject to use-specific standards, said the American Planning Association APA. Common provisions include an owner-occupancy requirement for one of the two dwellings, dimensional and design standards to ensure neighborhood compatibility, and off-street parking requirements. Other >

Before you move ahead with plans for an ADU on your property, check with your state and local authorities. In some states, localities must permit ADUs by right, under certain conditions. In some others, state laws preempt some aspects of local zoning for ADUs or actively encourage cities and counties to adopt permissive zoning regulations for ADUs.

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How To Deal With Collecting HOA Delinquencies

Establish a collection policy with teeth. While this sounds simple enough, many HOAs have nothing more in place than the often inadequate provisions of the governing documents. The collection policy needs to be clear and concise. Some of the basic provisions should include:

Date the fee is due
Date its late
Penalty for late payments
How late payments will be applied to outstanding balances
Legal procedures that may be invoked after a certain period or level of delinquency is reached
Who pays collection costs
Lien filing rights on an owners property if payment is not received and,
Foreclosure provisions.

The goal of the well written collection policy is to move the HOAs bill to the top of the payment pile. As with any policy enacted by the board:

Apply the policy consistently. Once the policy is agreed upon, do not deviate from it. While there are great excuses still to be heard, the board has a fiduciary duty to protect the HOAs rights. If one owner doesnt pay, other owners have to ante up the difference or services will need to be curtailed. The board must absolutely avoid selective enforcement due to a friends, family members or a personal default.

Apply the policy in its entirety. The typical collection policy is made up of a series of sequential events that are triggered by time and/or dollar amount. Once put into motion, allow it to run its course. This typically ends in placing a lien on a members property. Garnishing wages, seizing property and foreclosure are possible but usually not invoked unless the case is extreme.

Use an attorney well versed in legal collection procedures. While attorneys should not be the first line of defense, the procedure should include them once the size or age of the balance due reaches a certain proportions. Liens and foreclosures are an attorneys domain. The impact of an attorney letter alone may be sufficient to turn the collection tide.

Hire a property manager. Collections and rules enforcement are the main reasons folks dont want to serve on the board. A manager doesnt live there and for them, collections are business as usual. If your HOA is experiencing greater than normal collection problems, this may be the best step to getting collections back in line.

Lets face it, collections are an unpleasant but necessary part of homeowners association living. Rather than reacting or overreacting, prepare for them with a strong yet fair policy. If the members know the will of the board, most wont tempt the process.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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Coronavirus Watch: Is a Mortgage Holiday Coming to America?

Mortgage payments will be suspended across Italy as the Italian government places the population on lockdown because of the coronavirus outbreak, said Business Insider. The Italian government has placed Italys more than 60 million people under lockdown, extending emergency measures initially imposed only on northern regions as it struggled to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told everyone to "stay at home" and has banned public gatherings including sporting matches and weddings. In addition, most public spaces, save for grocery stores and pharmacies, are closed for the foreseeable future.nbsp;

Whats happening stateside?

Refinancing here is in the midst of a major boom. Applications to refinance a home loan jumped 79 last week compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, said CNBC. Applications for home purchase loans were up just 6 for the week.

Home buyers and sellers arent enti>

And, in fact, this might end up being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for savvy real estate buyers. Economists say that low mortgage rates could soften the impact on sales this spring. Although most people think of recessions with dread, it is worth keeping in mind that they can also be periodsnbsp;of opportunity, especially if you are prepared, George Ratiu, a senior economist at, said in REALTOR Magazine. As the last recession demonstrated, while asset markets declined, many prepared buyers found treasures, often in low-priced homes.

But the big real estate->

The short answer is: probably not, said HousingWire. Most American mortgages are packaged into bonds with legal terms that dictate what the servicers who handle the billing can and cant do. There are ways servicers can offer forbearancean agreement to let borrowers either pay at a lower interest rate or suspend payments temporarily because of a hardship. But its on a case-by-case basis.

Somebody owns those bonds, Mark Vitner, a senior economist withnbsp;Wells Fargo, told them. Who is going to make those interest payments?nbsp;

That likely wont stop distressed homeowners from trying, especially if widespread quarantines become a reality in the U.S. Some of Americas largest mortgage lenders are urging their borrowers to get in touch as soon as possible if they making home loan payments becomes difficult because of the coronavirus health emergency, said Newsweek. While none of the institutions who were approached bynbsp;Newsweeknbsp;and responded had a specific policy >
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Essential Renovation Tools To Help With Your Renovation

Below are the essential renovation tools thatll help you with your next renovation project.

Tape Measure

For any do-it-yourself renovation project, youll need a tape measure or measuring tape. Measuring tapes have a small slot located at the end hook, so you dont need help in holding one end of the measuring tape in place.

However, this essential item is easily forgotten. Make tape measure your lifetime partner to ensure that you take dimensions of surfaces, corners, and edges accurately. Also, choose one with a switch that stops the measuring tape from retracting back.nbsp;


For most woodwork projects, a hammer is an essential tool that youll need for driving and pulling nails. While youre used to using traditional old-fashioned hammers, spend some time researching pro tools for efficiency and precision. Itll save you plenty of time because it gets nail work done more comfortably and faster.

Here are some of the features and benefits of a professional brad nailer:

Impressive Magazine Capacity: Most brad nailers have the 60-nail capacity, and there are those with 100-nail capacity.
LED Light: Its used to help you see and focus on your woodwork with a clearer vision
Air Pressure or Pneumatic Nail Guns: These nailers are portable enough that you can carry it anywhere and anytimenbsp;


Without a ladder, its impossible to reach wall heights you want to reach. A sturdy and >

The most popular type of ladders are aluminum ladders because theyre lightweight, water and flame resistant, affordable, and fairly corrosion-resistant. Just make sure that you have one with an attachment for your other renovation tools with manufactured rungs so that you stay comfortable as you stand on it for hours, like painting the cornices of your bedroom.nbsp;

Hand Saw

While power tools are fast efficient, using hand saws still makes a difference. It can be used for multiple purposes. Instead of an old-fashioned hand saw, you can use a modern hand saw, which is more durable and faster. So, when do you use hand saws over power tools?

Here are some examples:

Undercutting Door Jambs: Japanese pull saws are highly recommended for undercutting door jambs than jigsaws. It can cut on the pull stroke, which makes it easier to start cutting and control. A Japanese pull saw has super thin blades that make precise cuts in door jambs for easy insertion of tile or vinyl.

Rigid Foam Insulation: Power saws can mess the rigid foam. Thats why hand saws are better in making curved cuts to help minimize the mess.

Screwdriver Set

Steel screwdrivers resist twisting and bending, which are usually cross or flat head with a handle, a tip, and a shaft. A screwdriver is inserted into the screw head, turning it.

When using a screwdriver, make sure to use the correct type to avoid damaging the head of either the screwdriver, the screw, or both.nbsp;

Drill Bits

You cant proceed to your renovation project without drill bits, which are cutting tools for removing material to create holes, such as holes in circular cross-section. Drill bits drill different materials like metal, wood, PVC, and fiberglass.

Here are the different drill bit materials you can choose from:

High-Speed Steel HSS: Its a popular material thats suitable for drilling wood, plastic, and soft steel.
Cobalt or HSCO: Its an upgrade from HSS with 5 to 8 percent Cobalt blended in the base material, which is used for drilling stainless steel grades and harder steel.
Carbide: This drill bit material is used for drilling the hardest materials.


Pliers are used to firmly hold, bend, and compress objects with accurate precision. While there are many types of pliers used for different purposes, having a pair of pliers at hand is crucial for any renovation project.nbsp;

Spirit Level

This tool is used to show how perpendicular plumb or parallel level a surface is >


For a successful renovation project, its important to have handy tools available for easier and faster work. Both traditional and power tools have their own features and benefits, so you have to choose the best ones that are most convenient for you.

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What It Means When Your Loan Goes Into ‘Processing’

This can mean sending copies of your most recent paycheck stubs, W2s and income tax returns. If youre self-employed you can be expected to provide both personal and business returns but also a year-to-date profit and loss statement. Bank and other asset statements will be forwarded to verify there are sufficient funds to close on your transaction. Once youve passed this initial stage, your loan application goes to the Loan Processor. What does your loan processor do and what can you expect?

Your loan officer will then hand off your file to the processor. The loan officer is always there to talk about the progress of your application and answer questions as your file moves along, but its the processors turn now. The loan processor will review the automated underwriting findings to make sure that what is asked for is being provided and if not, when the needed items will be submitted. The processors primary job is to prepare your loan file for submission to the underwriter. If youre asked to provide your most recent paycheck stubs covering a 30 day period and there is only one in the file covering two weeks, the loan processor will ask for additional paycheck stubs to meet this 30 day requirement. The processor will also review the information youve submitted to make sure it matches up with what the lender needs.

The loan processor will also begin ordering information from third parties to complete the loan file prior to submission to underwriting. This means contacting the title company to get a p>

After the file has been completely documented, it is forwarded to the underwriter. The underwriter is the individual responsible for making sure the loan package conforms with the guidelines issued for the selected loan program. The underwrite will review the submission and in doing so may have additional questions or request more information or documentation. These requests go back to the loan processor who then contacts you to fulfill the underwriters request. You wont be able to speak with the underwriter directly, instead youll provide what is being asked for by the underwriter to your loan processor. After all questions have been answered and needed documentation supplied, your loan processor is no longer involved.

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5 Rules of Contemporary Home Design

nbsp;And somehow, you start thinking, How can I get that kind of home?

The combination of alluring simplicity, >

Be Deliberate with Mixing Colour and Texture

Begin your revamp by choosing muted color palettes for the larger portions of your house like the floor and ceiling. Neutral shades like black, white, and grey work well for starters. Then purposefully incorporate textural elements and pops of color to give an air of sophistication to your space. For instance, the clean lines and neutral shades of an all-white-walled living room can be broken up by matte black lighting fixtures or a colorful painting. Adding throw pillows of varied complimenting colors and prints, and throw rugs of a variety of textures fur, microfiber, etc to otherwise plain colored couches create a cozier and more liveable feel to your space, too. On the flip side, keeping your walls or ceilings bare and exposed can serve as your textured base as in industrial design, while your contemporary home accessories can be super sleek and smooth in contrast.

Go with Minimal Lighting

Generally, contemporary home design strongly espouses natural light. Floor to ceiling windows is a defining quality of this design discipline, letting natural light flood in to compliment all the contemporary home accessories present. There arent usually any drapes, either, but if youre more comfortable incorporating curtains, make sure the material is thin, light, and airy, and is in more or less the same color palette as another design element in your space. That being said, dont be afraid to incorporate one or two striking home lighting pieces, as these can set the tone for the entire theme of your room and can significantly liven up space.

Choose Contemporary Home Accessories

Its time to choose contemporary home accessories. Handpicking your furnishings can sometimes be the best part of redecorating, but it can also get overwhelming fast. To make sure everything you pick outstays harmonious with your spaces base, go for sleek furniture pieces with rounded edges and complementing colors to neutralize and strong and clean lines already present back home. Iconic pieces with pops of color or texture fit in nicely into all-brown or all-white spaces, and plants give a more liveable feel to your abode. Dont be afraid to incorporate a centerpiece or two large paintings or other interesting wall hangings can be a great conversation starter

Incorporate Negative Space

Maximize the use of shared space, not just horizontally but vertically as well. Open floor plans are another defining quality of contemporary home design, so keeping that in mind can help you arrange your contemporary home accessories better too Open spaces not only make it more efficient to move around, but it can encourage more interaction between housemates and guests, too. If your space is small, to begin with, create the illusion of negative space with simple, gold or chrome-trimmed wide, long, or round mirrors flush against your walls. If your space is more on the tall side than wide, making use of unusual but stylish home lighting pieces will round off your space nicely.

Be Flexible

At the heart of it all, contemporary home design is meant to be changed around, just as the tastes and whims of the people living in the space do. So keep your space moveable and liveable, as you never know when youll feel the need to add in another painting or throw pillow or change the colour or texture of your walls. It all boils down to striking the perfect balance of clean and quirky and finding the perfect combination of >

Home design inspiration is a dime a dozen in the whimsical world of the internet, so one bonus piece of advice and this may be the best one out of all of them, to be honest is to take the rules youve learned here and go out there and decorate Get your hands dirty with familiarizing yourself with shades, textures, fixtures, furnishings, and everything in between, because only then can you apply these rules on contemporary home design, and maybe even bend and break them for a truly contemporary masterpiece right in your own living space.

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Everything You Need to Know About Painting Stairs

What you dont see are the off-screen bloopers. You dont see how often the paint color doesnt look right with the wall finish.nbsp;And dont see how long the job really took.

Can we share a secret?

Painting interior stairs isnt the hardest home improvement job, but its not as easy as the Property Twins make it look. Before you sand down your stairs and slap a coat of paint on, read this post. Youll find out everything you need to know about stair painting. nbsp;

All About the Prep

Doing the prep work may seem tedious, but without it, the paint wont adhere to the wood.

Remove carpet and padding first, removingnbsp;any nails and staples left behind.nbsp;Get ready for lots of dust and debris carpets are messy and vacuum the area thoroughly.

Next, you sand the treads steps until you have a clean, smooth surface. You can use either a belt sander or sandpaper. Keep in mind youll need to sand the corners by hand.

Dont forget the risers and trim. Both need sanding before you start painting.

Grab your vacuum and a few damp cloths and get rid of the sanding dust.

Pick the Right Paint

When choosing thenbsp;paint and stainnbsp;for your project, you have an array of options.

For a weathered look, go with a light or medium tone stain. You could also choose a natural oil finish and leave out the stain altogether.

Not everyone likes the stained look. If youve decided to paint stairs instead of staining, using a porch and floor paint will give you a durable, slip-resistant finish. Youll also have a huge selection of colors

When selecting colors a dark color for the treads hides dirt. A light color for your risers adds a pop of visual definition. Consider color matching your tread and handrails and the risers to balusters.

Painting Stairs in Order

Yes, theres annbsp;order to painting stairs ideas. Of course, if you have a bit of rebel in you, do it in any order you like, but you may wish you hadnt.

If youre refreshing handrails, do them first, followed by the balusters.

Now, youre ready fornbsp;the steps and risers. Starting at the top of the staircase youll paint the underside of the nosing. Then paint the riser, followed by the tread.

Skip a step. Continue the process, skipping a step each time. Painting every other step lets you use the stairs why your paint dries.

Need a Stair Painting Professional?

While we cant share everything you should know about painting stairs in this short post, you should have an idea of the main steps youll take to complete the job.

If you prefer to enjoy the look of refinished stairs without doing the work,nbsp;call us today. Were happy to provide a free quote for your painting project.

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5 Home Projects to Enjoy Your Outdoor Space all Year Round

Having these kinds of spaces isnt always enough, however, if you arent able to use the space year round. Many homeowners who would otherwise want to invest in these types of spaces may end up putting it off, simply because they dont believe it will get enough use to be viable.nbsp;

Thats why adding some features to an outdoor living space that can extend their use can be beneficial; it adds value to the area, and increases homeowner use and enjoyment. The following five projects are designed to help make an existing outdoor space more usable at any time of year.nbsp;

Fire Pit or Outdoor Fireplace

Fire pits and outdoor fireplaces make great focal points for any outdoor living space. They create a gathering point, and allow you to extend the use of the space into the evening hours as well as into the colder months of the year with the heat and light they provide.nbsp;

Both of these features can add a lot of use and function to the area, but they are different in terms of operation and cost. A fire pit costs around 700 on average for a built-in model, or you can purchase a movable version for about 100. With a fire pit, you can gather around it on all sides, so it typically sits in the middle of your patio, which can mean its in the way when not in use.

An outdoor fireplace can be more expensive, averaging 5,000 - 10,000 if you use a readymade insert. You can only gather in front of it, so its a little less versatile, but its also tucked out of the way, so you arent using up valuable real estate on the patio as well. They make good additions to spaces that have other built-in features like outdoor kitchens, because you can typically add on in >

Hot Tub

Hot tubs can be used in all kinds of weather and temperatures, including during the snow. This makes them a great addition to outdoor spaces where a pool might not get a lot of use, but a water feature could be attractive.nbsp;

Hot tubs come in all shapes and sizes including some that can be sunk into the ground, some that can be placed on a deck or patio, and even some that can double as an endless exercise pool. Because of these many choices, youll also have a range of associated costs. The average hot tub installation will run around 6,925 for a tub that seats four people. Keep in mind that many hot tubs are heavy, so if you want to place it on the deck, you may need to have it inspected to ensure it can handle the weight, since there are many factors that go into determining whether or not a deck can handle the additional load.nbsp;

Hot tubs can be located alongside pools or on patios easily, however, so even if the deck isnt the best place to install one, its possible to find a good location elsewhere.


Sunrooms blur the line between indoor and outdoor spaces. They can be three-season rooms with walls made of screens or they can be four season spaces with highly insulated windows. Regardless of type, they can usually be designed to create wide-open views so you can feel like youre outdoors even when you arent.nbsp;

Sunroom additions have an ROI of just shy of 60, which means that they can add some value to the home, as well as recreation and enjoyment. Sunrooms cost between 35,000 and 55,000 for a three season room with fans and outlets. Costs do go up as you winterize and create a more year round space, with most four-season sunrooms topping out around 60,000 to 90,000. This is mostly due to the amount of insulation and tightly fitting windows that are required for the space.nbsp;

Add Good Lighting

Good lighting is important year round, particularly when you want to extend the use of your outdoor space into the evening hours. During the winter months, when the days are shorter this becomes even more important to the use of the space. Installing good landscape lighting to your patio, deck, or pool area can help make the space more functional while opening up more opportunities for things like entertaining.nbsp;

Outdoor lighting should ideally be customized to the space youre using. For example, if you have walking paths, youll want to ensure theyre well lit, while patios and decks may need additional lighting near seating and doorways to ensure the space is safe and functional. Outdoor lighting can therefore have a fairly wide range of associated costs, with the average being about 3,800 for 20 outdoor lighting fixtures.nbsp;

Consider an Awning

Most people associate awnings with creating shade on a hot day, but they also have use year round as well. Awnings can offer some protection from the elements, which can help keep snow and ice off of decks and patios, extending the amount of time they can be used. This way, you wont have to spend as much time shoveling out an outdoor area on a nice winters day.nbsp;

Not all awnings are going to work well for this; cloth awnings and those designed solely for providing shade may not be able to offer the protection you need. Look for aluminum awnings or have a custom, attached pergola with a solid roof added above your patio.nbsp;

A metal awning installation can be installed for as low as 600 to 1,000, while an attached pergola with a roof can run around 3,000 to 6,000.nbsp;

Get More from Your Outdoor Living Spaces

Outdoor living is becoming more important not only to homeowners, but also their properties. And the more versatile the space is, the more use it will get. Add any of these projects to your existing outdoor space to increase its value and the amount of use that the area will get and start expecting more from outdoor living.nbsp;

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1% Point, 1% Origination- What’s the Difference?

There are some basic guidelines you should follow when getting rate quotes to make sure youre actually comparing apples and apples. For instance, you dont want to compare rates from different lenders for a 30 year and a 15 year program. The 15 year rate will be lower than a 30 but the payments will also be higher. In addition, how long would the quoted rate be food for? 30 day locks are a bit more expensive than a 10 day, for example. And finally, and certainly just as important, compare not just the rate but the fees associated with getting that rate.

There are third party fees, which the lender wont really have any control over, and there are lender fees. Third party fees would be something like an attorney fee or title insurance. A lender fee would be an underwriting fee, processing or document fee. These fees the lender does have some control over. Two of the fees quoted might also be confusing- a 1 point and a 1 origination fee. Are they the same, just different language or are they different?nbsp;

Theyre different.

A point, commonly referred to as a discount point is expressed as a percentage of the amount borrowed. If the loan amount is 200,000, the 30 year rate at 4.00 with one point, the additional point would then be 2,000. Lenders offer various options among rate and fee combinations and quite frankly really dont care if you pay any points or not as the net to the mortgage company is essentially the same.

nbsp;If you pay one point on a 30 year loan the quoted rate might be 0.25 lower compared to a loan without any points. Conversely, that same rate with no points will be higher than the one with points. Its completely up to you and your loan officer will be happy to provide you with a monthly payment and cost breakdown. In general, the longer you intend to keep the mortgage you may want to pay some in point to get the long term benefit. For short term financing options, dont pay any points while also exploring a no point, no fee program. Again, points are expressed as a percentage.

So too are origination fees. An origination fee is a charge by the lender or broker for originating the new mortgage in the first place. The most expensive costs for lenders when finding and processing mortgage loans is the overhead of personnel.nbsp; Loan officers spend time and money establishing a consistent referral base and at closing there could be a 1.00 origination fee. Of course, this fee should be disclosed to you early on in the Cost Estimate. But while both the point and origination fee are expressed as a percentage, theyre for two totally separate functions.

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Isolation Opportunities

Whats a real estate professional to do now?

Your professional and personal worlds have been upended and they promise to continue changing dramatically over the next weeks and months.
Even if you are not in self-isolation to help slow the spread of COV-19 virus, many connections and networks in your workplace and in the community have been temporarily severed by closures and social distancing policies like sheltering in place.
The worldevery media outlet, online and off, and almost everyoneis super distracted by COV-19. Collective and individual attention has shifted to worrying about what to do about whatever happens next.
Lots of voices are telling youand everyone elsenot to panic, but are you listening to that cool reasoning in this time of large-scale uncertainty? This may not be the time for a buy now or sell now marketing campaign, so what can you do to help yourself, clients, and your community calm down, refresh, and refocus?

Dont be distracted by the commonality that the label global pandemic projects. The most dramatic changes are driven by a united effort to slow virus spread, but the experiences and impact of this global redesign remain very personal, individual experiences for each person, each family, each business.

If you suddenly have free time, which would otherwise have been devoted to work, how can you turn that unexpected freedom into something beneficial? Whether you decide to invest time in your family, community, or in growing or redirecting your practice, this giant pause is an opportunity to apply your unique professional communication skills, real estate knowledge, and community connections:

Real estate professionals who have spent a few years or decades in their community or selling a particular type of real estate, have accumulated impressive lists of past clients. The forced slowdown may offer time to contact these past buyers and sellers, investors or lessors to find out how they are weathering the crisis and its resulting isolation.nbsp;

Instead of me>

Ask how you can help and listen to their response. Some past clients may benefit from learning how loss of income can be dealt with without jeopardizing their mortgage, lease, or real estate. Others may welcome ideas on contacting resources in the community. Many may just want to chat with a friendly voice who is interested in them and is not selling anything.

Stress has ramped up in many different ways, including through forced confinement and lack of social interaction.

On the other extremewe love home but enough is enough when entire families are all at home at the same time for the whole day, week, month Additionally, layoffs and business closings are leaving many with financial worries.

nbsp;Isolation does not have to be lonely or unproductive. What can you do to create or support shared experiences that respect social distancing, but let people laugh together? Have you seen videos of those under lockdown in Italy singing to each other from their balconies? In Spain, residents regularly give healthcare workers a balcony-version of a standing O Hi-rise neighbors joyfully engage in group exercises from their balconies. Many professionals are offering free webinars to help small business owners and entrepreneurs build skills while self-isolating. More and more are using connection platforms like Facetime and the free version of Zoom to safely share time with other isolated individuals and families over a meal, watching the same movie, learning a language

Your knowledge of social media, effective communication, and your professional skills may combine well to sponsor a social-distancing event like a porch concert, an online real estate Q amp; A, how to webinars, a silly YouTube series, or. What would de-stress, amuse, or inspire your neighbors and past clients? Do what you do wellthink of others and their needs. Let people see you as the resourceful, committed individual you are.

Life goes onpeople still need to move and many still want to buy a home, but?

Have you studied the details for proper and fun hand washing, social distancing, and other health safety measures so you can safely show a home or assist sellers or buyers while reducing or eliminating virus exposure for all concerned?

This may be the time for more and better video representation of listed homes. How could more be appreciated and better understood about each listing when viewing the online profile, videos, layout diagrams, photographs, seller testimonials?

Helping buyers understand that you have visited all the potential homes they might consider. Using their specific buying criteria, youve professionallynbsp; evaluated each property in their price range and location. That means you can thoroughly present each property to them without having to take the buyers there. Instead of visiting dozens of homes, buyers can view all the listings in their chosen location and price range without having to leave the safety of their home. Help them narrow their choice to three buyable properties worth visiting.

What have you always wanted to do but felt you never had time to dive into?

Dont put this off any longer. If you have time on your hands now, heres your big opportunity. Indulge in fulfilling those interests and reduce stress and boost your immune system in the process. With a wealth of how to videos online, along with digital and phone access on a grand scale, theres no excuse not to start now with that exercise goal, creative outlet, guided >

Our instinctive reaction when we see others in pain or under stress is to reach out and give them a hug. The darn virus has robbed us of this natural reaction, but dont let it win. Reach out in every other way to benefit yourself and others.

Stay safe and healthy nbsp; nbsp;

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Coronavirus and Real Estate: The Latest News

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD suspend foreclosures

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been directed to suspend foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days due to the coronavirus national emergency, said the Federal Housing Finance Agency FHFA.nbsp;

This announcement comes on the heels of the Presidents press conference, during which he proclaimed that the Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD would suspend evictions and foreclosures until the end of April. The effort is geared at stabilizing the housing market and avoiding a repeat of the spike in foreclosures witnessed in the 2008 financial crisis, housing experts said, according to CBS News.

According to Denver-based real estate attorney Jeff Friedman of national law firm Hall Estill, this action by the government could protect homeowners at a critical time and ward off a potentially disastrous economic downturn.nbsp;

"Its no surprise that the coronavirus is wreaking havoc throughout our markets and the economy, he said. But, the CFPB, HUD, and FHFA have reached an elegant solution to an enormous problem at a critical phase in our nations current circumstances. In a typical down real estate market, the daisy-chain, domino-effect reaction goes as follows: apartment renters lose their jobs or take significant pay cuts and can no longer afford to pay their rent; owners collect less rent and cannot make their debt service payments to their lenders; and lenders are not collecting enough on the debt service, with their loans now on distressed real estate assets. Evictions and foreclosures follow, with distressed assets available to vulture buyers. Here, however, the CFPB, HUD, and FHFA have stopped this process before it starts, giving renters and financial institutions the opportunity to address claims through a dispute resolution mechanism administered by the CFPB.

Bank of America announces mortgage payment pause

We talked last week about the possibility of a mortgage holiday in the United States after Italy announced it would suspend mortgage payments, and now Bank of America is the first institution to make it a reality.nbsp;

The bank announced additional support for consumer and small business clients experiencing hardship from the impact of the coronavirus. Included among those support options is the ability to defer mortgage payments, said HousingWire. According to the bank, Bank of America mortgage and home equity customers can request to defer their payments while the virus crisis rages. The payments would then be added to the end of their loan. According to the bank, the payment deferral will be available on a case-by-case basis and can be extended on a month-to-month term.

President considers mortgage holiday

The Trump administration is considering a plan to allow homeowners whose income was cut by the coronavirus to delay mortgage payments. Still to be decided is a mechanism for borrowers to catch up, said Bloomberg. The government also will have to determine how to advance money to mortgage servicers so that investors in mortgage-backed securities get their guaranteed payments.nbsp;

Homeowners impacted by disasters in the past have been able to take advantage of forbearance programs. Per Bloomberg, The White House has been in touch with mortgage lenders to discuss their views on policy responses, according to an official who requested anonymity to speak about internal matters.

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Top Tips for Working From Home

But working from home takes a certain kind of discipline. And flexibility. And finesse. Especially if your spouse is also working from home and your kids are out of school. If youre new to this, we have a few tips that will help it go smoothly.nbsp;

Eat and drinkthe right stuff at the right time

Its easy to get caught up in work and forget to eat or get enough water during the day. Its also easy to take too many trips to the kitchen for snacks, and, before you know it, your healthy habits are going down in a hail of potato chips. Stocking up on healthy food and limiting the high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie snack foods can help you resist temptation.

Build in exercise

Working from home means youre out of your regular pattern, which means youre not getting to the gym. You may also find yourself sitting for longer periods while at home without the normal daily office realities of meetings and trekking to different parts of your workplace. There are tons of ways to get in a workout from homeespecially now, since a number of gyms and fitness experts have put their workouts online. Many of them are also free.nbsp;

Entrepreneur suggests you take walking meetings when you can.nbsp;If you have a phone call that you dont need to be in front of a computer to take, pick up your Bluetooth headphones and getnbsp;outside. Its great for your muscles, your heart, your happinessnbsp;and your overall well-being.nbsp;

Be one with the mute button

It might be cute one time to hear the dog or kids in the background, but you dont want to make a habit of it, especially if youre in for a prolonged working-from-home situation. Even small noises that you think nothing of, like ruffling papers, can be amplified over a cell phone. Get used to hitting mute when youre on calls from home to eliminate the background noise and you wont have to worry about your three-year-old announcing she just went pee-pee in the potty while youre on a call with your boss and 10 other executives.nbsp;

Designate a work-only space

This may be easier said than done. In some homes, there just isnt a dedicated home office or even a bedroom with a door you can close. You may find yourself having to work at the kitchen table or in the backyard just to get a little privacy. If you can, however, find a private space you can make your own while youre working from home. It can increase productivity and also allow you to separate work from life so, when you shut the door at the end of the day, you can be present for your family.

Get dressed in the morning

Or dont. Its totally up to you. Many people who work from home feel it makes them more productive if they get up, take a shower, and change into work-appropriate clothes. Others think working in their jammies is the best thing ever We tend to agree. The trick to successfully working from home is figuring out what works for you.

Make a schedule

Set a schedule, and stick to it...most of the time, said PCMag. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps many remote workers maintain work-life balance. That said, one of the benefits of remote work is flexibility, and sometimes you need to extend your day or start early to accommodate someone elses time zone. When you do, be sure to wrap up earlier than usual or sleep in a bit the next morning to make up for it. Automatic time-tracking apps, such asnbsp;RescueTime, let you check in on whether youre sticking to your schedule. They can also help you figure out what times of day youre most productive versus when you slack off. You can use that information to your advantage by reserving your hours of high focus for your most important tasks.

Give yourself a break

Set an alarm to get up once an hour, stretch, and walk around the house for a few minutes. Know your companys policy on break times and take them. If youre self-employed, give yourself adequate time during the day to walk away from the computer screen and phone, said Buzzfeed.

Be social

Working from home can feel isolating, especially if you get energy from your regular workspace and colleagues. One undeniable loss is the social, casual water cooler conversation that connects us to people, said NPR. To fill the gap, some co-workers are scheduling online social time to have conversations with no agenda. Use Slack chats and things like that if you miss real-time interaction.

Inc. has a few good ideas for how to be social during your break time. Walk around your home while chatting on the phone with a friend. Move to a separate areaaway from your emailto eat lunch for 30 minutes. Breaking up the day and moving your body enables you to refresh and can increase your productivity when you return to your work. When the weather is nice, I like to do conference calls while taking a walk outside.

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Cabinet Styles Perfect for Different Types of Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home. This place is one of the most favorite places of moms, and for them, it is important to maximize the kitchen space so as to represent their personality and to serve their culinary needs efficiently.nbsp;

Whether the space is big or small, there are definitely plenty of ways to spice up the kitchen and do all their duties without the hassle With that, it is important to select a suitable type of furniture for your kitchen.nbsp;

So, without further ado, lets take a look at the list of cabinets recommended for the various types of kitchen:

  • Shakernbsp;
  • Shaker cabinets are recommended for kitchens that are square and quite smaller in size. It is known for its simplicity with its basic hardware and recessed panel doors positioned like a frame. The material for most shaker cabinets are made from hardwood and are painted with a distressed finish for a traditional vintage look.nbsp;

  • Insetnbsp;
  • Inset cabinets are composed of an inset->

  • Flat-panel
  • Flat-panel cabinets are best for people who prefer a minimalist kitchen design. These cabinets make use of hard lines and are frameless in structure. This type of design fits most modern kitchens, especially white ones. This is also preferable for kitchens with smaller spaces as they are built in a simple but stylish way.


  • Louvered
  • Louvered kitchen cabinets are usually made up of wooden horizontal slats. This is commonly used for windows and laundry areas but is now being adapted into kitchen cabinet designs as it offers enough ventilation for utensils and items being stored in a cabinet. This type of design is most suitable for kitchens with large spaces for a more stylish look.nbsp;


  • Custom
  • For home-owners that are unsure of what type of cabinets suit their kitchen, there is always an option to have them customized. You may contact local interior designers or anbsp; craftsperson to help you ideate and implement the design suitable for your taste, kitchen space, budget, and overall home design.nbsp;

    Choosing a type of cabinet for your kitchen is highly dependent on the size of your kitchen, home design, and your spending budget. Other factors to consider would be the durability and material of your cabinets.nbsp;

    While it may seem to be a less priority, taking time to think about your kitchen cabinet designs will su>


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    Four HOA Reserve Fund Investment Hurdles

    Hurdle 1: Failure to use the Reserve Study or not having one in the first place. Homeowner association boards have the duty to conduct long range planning to identify common elements, their current condition, their useful lives and current cost of repair or replacement. This exercise is called a Reserve Study. Some boards believe that a reserve study provides little benefit except to point out the obvious.

    These same boards either elect not to pay the cost of one or put the one they have in a file to gather dust. Both approaches are foolish because without a clear road map to follow, the board is bound to get lost in the maze. Properly funding reserves for the standard 30 year projection period could amount to many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Larger HOAs with extensive common elements should reserve millions.

    Failure to fund reserves adequately results in unfair and sometimes uncollectible special assessments. Prudent investment of reserve funds could partially offset member contributions and reduce the risk of special assessments.

    Hurdle 2: Failure to understand investment choices. Some boards are under the impression that FDIC insured money market accounts or CDs are the only alternatives for reserve fund investments. There are a number of alternatives. State laws vary but in Oregon, for example, HOAs are limited to direct investment in issues of the federal Government and/or FDIC bank accounts or CDs. HOAs are not permitted to invest in municipalities, mutual funds or indirect investments investments to which the investor does not directly hold title, such as mutual funds, limited partnerships and Real Estate Investment Trusts. Non-FDIC insured money market accounts are not to be used for homeowner association reserve investments by law. This creates an opportunity to invest in longer term federal bonds. As of the writing of this article, the going rate of a10 year government bond is around 2.91compared with bank checking accounts that average around 0.5. This increased yield could go a long way to reducing the need for a special assessment. The challenge with investing in 10 year bonds is determining how much should be invested in them. Fortunately, the Reserve Study is very useful in determining the short and long term reserve cash needs.

    Hurdle 3: Failure to utilize the Reserve Study when selecting investments. The first step in considering higher yielding investment opportunities is to put that Reserve Study to work. The Reserve Study can be used to match the repair schedule with the investments. This allows combining shorter term/lower yield CDs with longer term/higher yield Treasury Bills. This type of investment strategy is called a Duration Study. Even though a Duration Study costs money to perform, the extra interest return that can be earned by matching the investment duration to your specific HOA is well worth it. Duration studies and the investment mix need to be redone every time a Reserve Study is updated.

    Hurdle 4: Not hiring a fiduciary. Regardless of how the board chooses to invest the HOAs Reserve Funds, time, expertise and professional ability are needed to manage them properly. It is in the boards interest to find someone that has the HOAs well being at heart, such as an investment advisory company that is a fiduciary to the board. By better managing your reserve funds, you avoid the hurdles described and improve reserve investment yields. Leave the hurdling to the track stars. Use a trained financial consultant to optimize your reserve fund investments.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see

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    How to Buy a House Right Now

    These are uncertain times, to be sure. But those same low rates that are driving refis are also attracting homebuyers. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate hovers above 3 percent, the lowest that it has been in nearly 50 years, Andrina Valdes, executive sales leader and CEO ofnbsp;Cornerstone Home Lending, Inc., told Apartment Therapy. The lower the mortgage rate, the lower a monthly mortgage payment is likely to be. So, anyone whos on the fence and thinking about buying a home could really benefit right now by purchasing at a record-low rate.

    The truth is, there are still homes on the market. There are still people who need to sell. And there are still people who need or want to buy. If youre one of them, youre probably wondering how to go about it. iBuyers have largely shut down enti>

    So how can you buy something you cant see? Its time for technology to take over. This time the use of technology may have a significant part to play in how the housing market can try and continue in a normal fashion, said Bindi Norwell, chief executive of thenbsp;Real Estate Institute of New Zealand on One Roof.

    That means that your house tour will probably be virtual. Agents are embracing the tech available to them to bring homes to buyers since they cant bring buyers to homes.nbsp;nbsp;

    As an alternative to in-person viewings, some agents are turning to tech, offering buyers virtual tours, said the New York Times. The NYC-based Ideal Properties Group launched a virtual listing viewer called Showings on Demand.nbsp;

    Individual real estate agents have followed suit. Kendyl Young, Broker/Owner at Glendalenbsp;DIGGS, just held a Facebook Live Open House for her new restored Post and Beam, mid-century modern listing near Brand Park in Glendale, with plans to do more. Ill show you around the space and take your direction, she said on Facebook. Want me to show you a particular room? I will. Missed the part where I showed off the family room? Tell meIll go back. A close up of the super cool family room fireplace wall? Illnbsp;get closer. You are the PUPPET MASTER and I am at your direction.

    Its all part of being able to adapt to clients needs during this time.nbsp;

    Buying a home will always be a very human experience, but we need to adapt to this crisis, she told us. Physical showings are not safe, and we can marry technologies like 3-D scans, Webb meetings, and video conferencing to provide a pretty reasonable virtual experience. We must find ways to serve our clients while staying safe.nbsp;

    Elle Jones of Keller Williams Harma Real Estate team is showing her new San Fernando Valley, CA listing, among others, via FaceTime. If youd like to view a house, Im happy to go by and do a FaceTime walk through for you, she posted on Facebook. If youd like to see my Newlisting in ShermanOaksnbsp;even better Lets get through this together

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    March Real Estate Roundup

    Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "The Federal Reserves swift and significant efforts to stabilize the market were much needed and helped mortgage rates drop for the first time in three weeks. Similar to other segments of the economy, real estate demand is softening. However, the combination of the Feds actions and pending economic stimulus will provide substantial support to the mortgage markets."

    30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.5 percent with an average 0.7 points for the week ending March 26, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 3.51 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.06 percent.

    15-year FRM this week averaged 2.92 percent with an average 0.6 points, down from last month when it also averaged 3.00 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.57 percent.

    5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 3.34 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, up from last month when it averaged 3.24 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.75 percent.

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    Private Lending During the Coronavirus

    Varying government agencies have taken similar steps to those during 1918s pandemic to quell the spread of the coronavirus; isolation, quarantine, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings. These measures seem to be the fastest way to rid the general population of this kind of virus. During these times, the economic effects are dramatic.

    An article by Thomas Garrett, Assistant Vice President and Economist for the Federal Bank of St. Louis, written in 2007 examining the economic effects of the 1918 influenza pandemic, indicated an eerie parallel to todays world. Merchants in Little Rock stated their business had declined 40. Others estimated a decrease of 70. The only business in which there had been an increase in activity was the drug store.

    One difference in the two pandemics seems to be that the one in 1918 was reactive, whereas the current one appears to be proactive. In 1918, not only were businesses hit hard by the isolations/quarantines of people, thus, few people to enter an establishment to conduct business, but the number of workers affected with the illness were tremendous; thus, the labor force and the income derived by them had decreased substantially. The current pandemic has, potentially, some advantages over the 1918 pandemic; countries around the world have taken the above mentioned steps in the early stages of todays pandemic. With todays internet, not available in 1918, many workers can work at home. Companies such as Amazon still make home and office deliveries. The proactive measures that the world is taking will, hopefully, curtail the coronavirus so that it is short lived and we all can get back to a >

    Garrett points out that most of the evidence indicates that the economic effects of the 1918 influenza pandemic were short-term. Many businesses, especially those in the service and entertainment industries, suffered double-digit losses in revenue. Other businesses that specialized in health care products experienced an increase in revenues. Some academic research suggests that the 1918 influenza pandemic caused a shortage of labor that resulted in higher wages at least temporarily for workers.

    How does this affect the private lending sector? In early February 2020, prior to the US Government implemented guidelines of ways to help eradicate the virus such as no public gatherings of more than 250 [since lowered to 100 and in some cases, 10], there was an ample supply of money flowing into private lending. In addition, the capital markets were healthy and hungry looking to place money in loans. The stock market was at an all time high of over 29,500. By March 20, 2020, the stock market dipped below 19,000, a loss of more than 35. Investors, as well as bankers, pulled back their appetite to place funds, as fear and concern pushed these would be providers of capital to sit on the sidelines, as most tumultuous markets make investors anemic.

    In addition, although Federal Funds Rates are at near zero, many large banks have, for the most part, stopped accepting loan applications. Most banks will honor their commitments to fund loans that were already approved, but, until things settle down, they do not want to take what they consider, undue risk.nbsp;

    The capital markets [those buying loans] have all but dried up. They did not slow down. They just stopped least for now.

    Private lenders are lowering LTVs and charging higher points and interest as the supply of money has shrunk. Private lending companies derive most of their capital from individual investors. Many of these investors are skittish during uncertain times. When the supply of money seemed to be endless, especially in California, rates and points charged were at historic lows [in the private lending community]. The demand for loans, however, has not been dramatically affected yet. The reason for this is that the supply of money provided by conventional lenders has diminished. Since conventional lending makes up the majority of capital available to lend, this factor has more than made up for the slower demand of loans needed. Although some borrowers have cancelled their applications for loans due to uncertainty, there always seems to be a need to serve the borrowing community. People still move, loans come due, refinances as rates drop still occur and these loan requests need a home.nbsp;

    Individual investors are demanding an increase in yield even at historically low rates. This could be due to these investors attempting to take advantage of the low supply of money available for loans. It also could be that these investors remember when they were able to command a higher yield during uncertain times such as the Great Recession starting just 12 years earlier; however, the predominant reason is most likely due to the unknown of how this virus will play out in the real estate market in an almost certain recession that will occur. These investors will demand a lower loan to value on the loans they are making in addition to a higher interest rate. Private lending companies that previously sold to the capital markets will also have to pay their investors a higher rate to attract money; thus, they will have to charge the borrower a higher rate. They will most likely also increase their spread at what they charge the borrowers as compared to what they pay their investors. Quality loans will be in demand for these companies. Loans that may have been marginal from a risk/reward standpoint just a few months ago will be turned down by many lenders.

    If Garrett is right about a short lived economic impact due to a pandemic, there is a window of opportunity for those investors willing to lend. Due diligence will be very important, and investors should not presume that a recession is not prolonged. Conservative underwriting will be the law of the land and lower loan to values will be the benchmark. As one private lending company pointed out, there is always money to be made in real estate; one just needs to be prudent. So far, the number of illnesses and deaths worldwide have been >

    Edwardnbsp;Brownnbsp;is in the Investor >
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    Effective Communication with Sellers

    Too many agents make the mistake of rushing to present all their research and show all their marketing that they forget how important it is to communicate. They forget to ask questions, make eye contact, and slow down when providing information. And this is absolutely critical in building rapport and helping the sellers understand how you work.

    There is nothing worse than being on the other side of the table and being talked at by a salesperson determined to get through his or her presentation. I am sure you can think of a situation in your life where a salesperson talked over you, did not pick up on your body language, or directed all of his/her statements and questions to your spouse/partner.

    My advice? Do a better job of tuning in

    Tune in to the clues that the seller is leaving you. If you walk into the presentation and they immediately ask about where you are recommending the house be priced, dont avoid the question and spend 45 minutes talking about your marketing. While some real estate coaches encourage avoiding the sellers objections and sticking to the script, I find this approach distasteful on behalf of the seller. I encourage everyone I coach to employ my special whack-a-mole technique when it comes to seller questions and objections.

    Imagine a Conversation

    Imagine this conversation between a listing agent who is following a script and their client:

    Agent your home listing will be syndicated on 30 websites including Yahoo Real Estate, HGTVs Frontdoor, Zillow, Trulia, and And of course, it will also be picked up on every companys website that displays the information from the MLS. It will also be featured prominently on my website.

    Seller Are you going to do open houses every weekend?

    Agent I will cover that in just a second when I discuss your personal property marketing plan.

    The seller wants an answer to his question. He doesnt want to be put off. Here is how that conversation would look whack-a-mole >

    Agent your home listing will be syndicated on 30 websites including Yahoo Real Estate, HGTVs Frontdoor, Zillow, Trulia, and And of course, it will also be picked up on every companys website that displays the information from the MLS. It will also be featured prominently on my website.

    Seller Are you going to do open houses every weekend?

    Agent I do find open houses to be an effective way to market properties when they are in a great location and are priced at the market. We havent had a chance to discuss price yet, but I will tell you that your home is in a great location and feel that it would receive a lot of traffic. Have you had success in selling your home in the past as a result of open houses?

    By my whacking the mole instead of avoiding the question, this has given the agent an opportunity to dig a bit deeper about the sellers past open house experience and leave a hint that price may be a factor in having open houses.

    Now, the seller could have answered the agents question with:

    Seller: Bah The last agent that tried to sell my house insisted on open houses every weekend We were constantly cleaning the house and had to leave every Sunday. I missed the entire football season People tromping through my house, moving my stuff and leaving dirt on the rug. And in the end you know who wound up buying my house? Some family from out of town that never even came to the open house What a waste of time

    The seller has just raised another objection this time around the effectiveness of open houses. And this is not a mild objection. The seller not only feels very strongly open houses, he has left a few clues that the agent needs to pick up on:

    • He finds keeping the house clean a bother. This might be a problem in keeping it clean for regular showings. Make a note to address that before the listing is signed you should have a document for seller expectations so there are no surprises.
    • He doesnt like having his stuff moved around.
    • The last agent didnt do a good job of returning the house to the condition he or she found it in.
    • The house was likely overpriced if it sat on the market for weeks and weeks.
    • He values his time. Especially time on Sundays during football season.

    An agent following a script would find themselves completely derailed by his comments. However, a communication-savvy agent sees an opportunity and armed with new clues, proceeds:

    Agent Wow the agent needs to match the intensity of the sellers statement and acknowledge his feelings It sounds like open houses werent effective in getting your home sold to that particular buyer. Did your agent share any ideas as to why your home wasnt garnering any offers as a result of the open houses? That does sound like a lot of weeks to have an open house without a result.

    Seller No idea. I had to constantly call for updates from the agent. It was like pulling teeth And he wasnt even the one holding the open houses. Frankly, I didnt hear from the agent until we had an offer from the buyer

    Look at how many clues the agent picked up from that one additional question

    • The last agent didnt do a good job of communicating with the seller and that frustrated him.
    • The last agent didnt hold the home open himself and that frustrated the seller especially that the house was not left in good condition.
    • This seller did not have a good experience from his last agent.

    This is a great time to acknowledge this last point.

    Agent It sounds like you didnt have a great experience with your last agent. And I want to assure you that I operate completely differently. First of all, I have a system for communication that is based on how you like to be communicated with whether that is in person, by phone, or by email. I also provide a weekly report to my sellers which outlines the activity we have seen in the past week. I also include what marketing we have on the agenda for the upcoming week. Open houses may or may not be part of that plan, but that is something we can address together. Would you like to go ahead and discuss our communication plan in more detail now?

    By whacking the mole and asking questions of the seller, you have the opportunity to learn more about the issues they really care about and perhaps their expectations and concerns from previous experiences. Also, when you address their concerns directly, it shows that you are listening and care about having them be part of the process.

    Practice Silence

    Sometimes you have to utilize the skill of silence, especially when speaking your truth. When we tell someone something they may not want to hear, they sometimes need space to absorb it. But what are we naturally inclined to do? Talk faster and throw a whole lot of information at the person, trying to justify your position.

    Like in the following example:

    Agent I know you want to get 400,000 for your house, but that is 75,000 over where my research has shown us your house should be. In fact, no home in this neighborhood has sold for over 375,000 ever Your neighbors house sold for 369,000 and it has 500 more square feet than yours. Not to mention you have the retaining pond 50 feet from your back door. You are also not taking into account

    Too much babble The seller needs time for the first statement to sink in. This is how it should look:

    Agent in a very calm and quiet voice. Very slowly I know you want to get 400,000 for your house, but the market is showing us 325,000.

    Then silence It will be very difficult to sit there and not say anything. In fact, it will be downright painful. Especially for agents with supporter personalities who want to soften the blow of what they just said.

    However, there is strength in silence.

    Shhhh The seller will speak. Just sit there calmly and make eye contact. Not aggressively, but calmly. You may want to practice with another agent or even a family member first if the thought of not saying anything is making your skin crawl.

    Remember to use silence, a quiet, calm, and slow voice, and space in the conversation when you are making a point.

    Five Skills Worth Mastering

    In addition to silence and space, the five other communication skills I recommend every agent work on include:

    1 Reading Body Language
    Get tuned into reading body language. If you dont know where to start, you can either do a little research online. Understanding body language is absolutely critical at a listing presentation. You must understand what someones body language is asking for. Are they confused? Are they resisting your recommendations? Do they distrust the information you are giving them? Did you lose them 10 minutes ago when talking about price? Have they already heard enough and are ready to sign?Sometimes you might need to stop talking and ask, Would you like to hear more about what I am going to be doing to market your home online or are you ready to move onto our communication plan? If they sigh and indicate that perhaps we can move on dont just ignore the comment. Whack that mole We certainly dont need to cover everything that is on this agenda if you are short on time. What are the topics you are most concerned about? And once they tell you what they want to hear about, be sure to add, I want to be respectful of your time. How much time do we have?

    2 Engaging Everyone
    Make sure you engage with all parties, not just one person. Time and time again I hear agents say, Well, the husband really liked me and wanted to work with me but the wife obviously didnt warm up to me at all. Thats probably because you focused all your attention on the husband Learning to engage equally with two or more individuals live is a skill you can and must learn. Be very conscious of this when youre meeting someone live.

    3 Asking Everyone
    Ask >

    4 Making a Great First Impression
    Leave a phenomenal first impression and final impression. If you come into the listing presentation with your portfolio case of tools and trust me, showing up with a simple portfolio case already has the seller wondering what you have in there, with a great smile, handshake, and introduction, this leaves a memorable impression. What is the last thing you say to somebody before you leave that intrigues and engages them? If you dont have that figured out, think about what that looks like and what materials you are leaving with the seller at the end of the presentation that will make them want to pick the phone back up and call you if they arent ready to sign the listing agreement at that first meeting.

    5 Following-Up
    Appropriate and timely follow-up is critical. So many agents who start out well with the first four points fall down miserably here. Theyre great in front of the potential seller, but if the listing agreement isnt signed there and then, there must be a plan for ongoing follow-up. With most agents, it is out of sight out of mind. But it is the agent who puts together great material to send whether it is for days or weeks after the listing presentation who will likely put up the for sale sign in the sellers front yard. Make the time or energy for stellar follow-up or all the time and energy you put into your pricing research for the initial presentation will be for naught.


    Source: The Real Estate Zebra Blog

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    Don’t Try to Outsmart the Markets

    Conventional mortgages, both fixed and adjustable, are tied to specific indices. A traditional 30 year fixed rate might be tied to either the Fannie Mae 30yr 3.0 mortgage bond. Freddie has its own bond as well. Adjustable rates can follow the Constant Maturity Treasury index or others. When investors, both individual and institutional decide where to allocate their funds, they do so by evaluating current economic data and try to predict the future.nbsp;

    Mortgage bonds, like any bond, provide the investor a fixed rate of return. Stocks on the other hand do not. Stock prices in general take a nod to recent and current economic data. When investors are bullish on the economy, more money will flow into stocks and out of bonds. Conversely, when investors think the economy is headed for a slowdown, the opposite can happen. Money leaves stocks and into bonds. Bonds wont yield very much but thats not the attraction. The attraction of a bond is safety, not hitting the jackpot on an investment bet.nbsp;

    So, heres where it can get a little dicey for individuals waiting to squeeze just a little more out of rates. Your loan officer will tell you that it takes quite a bit for interest rates to move lower. After a series of extended negative economic reports, rates will drift lower. For a rate to drop 1/8 or 1/2 percent lower, that might take some time. A single economic report >

    On the other hand, after rates have drifted lower or even remaining stagnant, it doesnt take much for rates to rebound. And when they do rebound, the change in available rates occurs much faster compared to falling lower. Inflation news not good? Thats bad news for bonds and many investors will see an immediate response in the prices of bonds, including mortgage bonds.

    This all means that if youre waiting on rates to fall just a little bit more, you run the risk of the opposite happening and when it does, rates could move higher and never look back. When you ask your loan officer what he or she thinks rates might do, the experienced loan officers know not to answer that question directly. They can tell you where rates have been and why, but they cant tell the future. Can you imagine how upset you would be if your loan officer suggested you hold off another week and wait for a particular economic report only to ultimately find out the loan officer was wrong and your refinance opportunity is now firmly in your rear view mirror?

    The point is this: if youve got an attractive rate now and it makes sense to refinance, or youre got an accepted offer on a home and trying to time the markets, take what you have. The chances of rates moving up is higher compared to rates moving lower in our current environment. Dont try to outsmart the markets.

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    The 3 Areas of Successful Landlord Practice

    1. The Place

    The place you are renting is your product, so you need to present it right. Move-in and move-out inspections and standards are a must If the value of your product deteriorates, it will become harder and harder to find takers. You cant control the market, but you can set up a system that will keep up the quality of your rental space.

    Know the value of the space. Begin by understanding what similarly-sized places nearby cost to rent, then youll have an idea of what you can expect to charge, and what you are competing against. What features nearby make your space a desirable place to live? What kind of neighborhood is it? nbsp;The better you know the space, the more confidence your potential tenants will have in your price estimation.

    Choose the best features to highlight in your advertisements. It could be the newly done bathrooms, the schools nearby, or the low rent If possible, include photographs of those same features to include in your postings. However, dont get so caught up in one or two great details that you forget to describe the place as a whole. They are looking for an apartment, not just a bathroom or a school. Any lease-targeting you do can and should be tied to the way you advertise to potential tenants. The better you know the space, the better you will be able to predict challenges and nip them in the bud.

    2. You, the Landlord

    Before you are ready to meet any tenants, you need to have your own system in place. You will be in a business >

    Decide beforehand your office hours/availability, which maintenance issues you will take on most landlords will get the plumbing fixed for their tenants, but wont pay for their lawn decorations, all of your lease conditions, what points are non-negotiable, and which are more flexible. Part of being professional is knowing the rules. Be familiar with the Fair Housing Act as well as any local, regional, or state housing laws. All the research may be tedious at first, but you will protect your business by getting off on the right legal foot.

    3. The Tenants

    Once you are committed to your standards as a landlord, for the maintenance of the property and your landlord-tenant interactions, you can avoid difficulties by making everything clear for new tenants from the start, what you expect from them and what they can expect from you, thus avoiding the chargeback process and all kinds of drama. Your consistency will turn a difficult tenant into a great one.

    Pre-screening is always a good idea. In your initial interactions, let them know about you and the deal, but learn what you can about them. If you find out they have small children you can point out the parks nearby. If they are vague about their previous housing arrangements or irresponsible in considering the lease, you can dodge the bullet, or at least be prepared for their time with you. What you want most is a good tenant, who will stay and pay you consistently for a long time. Good pre-screening, a positive business >
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    Creative Ideas to Design Small Bathrooms

    Here are some creative ideas to design your small bathroom:

    Add Storage

    Storage is of the utmost importance in the bathrooms as you need to keep many items such as your towels, bathroom supplies and other essential things. You can opt for floating shelves as they add a fashionable look along with storage. You can also go with storage ladders,, as they are a great way to showcase personality. Sink skirts add flair and hide cleaning products or go with wooden crates drilled into the walls or placed on the ground for accessible storage.

    Control Clutter

    Small bathrooms can easily lead to unwanted clutter, so ensure you are adding only design elements that are functional. You can store cotton balls and swabs in glass jars on floating shelves, minimise counter space by storing personal products in cabinets, or install a hamper under the sink, or you can use vanity tray for a sweet display of your favourite accessories.

    Add Pops of Colour

    A most straightforward way to add a pop of colour in the bathroom is to paint the walls, better yet you can showcase colourful hand towels, bathroom tiles, rugs or even robes to create the ambience. Hang bold, vibrant colour towels or robes, display stylish soap dishes and other bathroom accessories for a designer touch or paint your mirror frame in an accent colour.nbsp;

    Invest in Quality Faucets

    One significant aspect of small bathrooms is the fact that a smaller room requires few furnishings. For this reason, small bathrooms and powder rooms are perfect places to splurge on high-end pieces, like the chrome finished bathroom shower taps and copper vessel sink. These features will accentuate your bathroom look and give a feeling of luxury.

    Add Sliding Door

    Small bathroom designing is all about getting creative and rethinking the standard-issue features. Replace a standard door with sliding pocket door to utilise the floor space. You can add an opaque door, but a sliding door with frosted glass panel is better as it allows the natural light to filter while providing privacy. Bifold doors, doors that fold up like a screen are also great if you want to save space.

    Install Big Mirror

    A large mirror will help double the size of your small bathroom. Invest in a large mirror with a beautiful frame or go wall-to-wall with a custom sized piece. The effect will be so powerful that you need little else to make the room look perfectly finished.

    Those mentioned above are few of the ideas to design your small bathroom to be more functional and space-savvy. You can get more creative and think of other elements to add, but remember to add elements that have a purpose.

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    How to Create the Ideal Study Space at Home

    Dedicate your Space

    If you only do one thing in a particular space, youll start to associate that space with that task. This can be very helpful when it comes to settling down for a productive study session. If you have the luxury of choosing a spot in your home that can be a dedicated study space, then by all means do so. If youre unable to choose a dedicated space at home, look beyond your front door. Check out a local library, caf, or bookstore to see if they have a space that might accommodate your needs, but only if these are not places you associate with recreation. You might even see if a local business would be willing to cater to students. This may have the benefit of reducing distractions further with no loads of laundry to switch and no trips to the kitchen to stare aimlessly into the refrigerator. Whether inside or outside the home, you need to find a space thats just for studying. Try to be consistent.

    Ample Lighting

    Studying involves both reading and writing. Without ample light, these tasks can be difficult and cause eyestrain and fatigue. Try to choose a space with good natural light for daytime studying, and be sure there is adequate lighting for nighttime sessions as well. Lamps are preferable to overhead lighting. They can be adjusted to avoid shadows on your work space. Soft lighting is easier on the eyes than harsh white fluorescent bulbs. For long, intense sessions, this will help maintain your studying stamina.

    Desk and Chair Choices

    Size and comfort are crucial factors when choosing a desk and chair. Your desk must be large enough to accommodate all of your study materials; if you cant spread out your books, notebooks, pens/pencils, and potentially your laptop or tablet, then you need a bigger workspace. Trying to juggle these items on a small desk and stack things on top of one another makes for wasted time and quite a bit of frustration. As for a chair, you will be spending quite a bit of time in it, so choose something comfortable and ergonomically correct. If you choosing a chair that promotes good posture, your back will thank you after long study sessions.

    Ditch the Distractions

    Distractions are the bane of any productive study session. If possible, remove your mobile phone from your study space completely. If you need to be able to be reached, compromise by putting your phone on vibrate and disabling the cellular data. Removing the temptation to check social media is a good first step.

    Background noise can also be distracting. Research has shown that background noise has a negative effect on concentration and may cause an increase in stress hormones, which may affect your ability to retain information. For this reason, a quiet place to study is essential for optimal studying. Absolute silence can be just as distracting for some people, though, so if silence isnt for you, choose quiet white noise, or perhaps >

    It doesnt take much to set up an adequate study space, and the benefits can be huge. Dont underestimate the power a study space has to make or break your success. Carefully choosing the location, lighting, organization, and minimizing distraction can have a major impact on the quality of your study and can make it more pleasant, too. Now, get studying

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    5 Tips for Picking a Great Real Estate Agent

    Working with a buyers specialist real estate agent isnbsp;a smart ideanbsp;becausenbsp;they understand the ins and outs of the real estate market and how to get your offer accepted. A good Realtor can help make the process smooth and stress-free for you.nbsp;

    However, with so many real estate agents each claiming to give the best quality service and all of them claim to be 1 agents, you can easily get confused about which one to choose. Luckily, today you have landed in the right place. In this article, we are going to give you proven tips for picking a great real estate agent. Here we go

    Conduct your own extensive research

    Most people prefer to >

    Remember that buying or selling a home is a big investment. You, therefore, need to take your time and research to know more about the role of a buyers specialist real estate agent and what you should expect when you hire one. Also, research to know the credentials that a good real estate agent should have. Once you have the right information at hand, then finding a good real agent will fall into place.

    Interview Realtorsnbsp;

    Create a short list of at least three Realtors. Research them online at and Take phone interviews with them. An interview is very important because it will help you know the qualifications, experience, and values of the Realtor. Ask straight questions then listen keenly how the agent answers. If you realize that the agent is taking you in circles, then that is a clear red flag that you should avoid that particular agent. Only hire an agent who answers all your questions clearly and precisely. Here are a few questions to ask:

    How many homes have you sold in the past three months?
    How many escrows are you currently in?
    Do you have recent clients I may speak with?
    If the agent hasnt recently sold at least five homes, isnt currently in escrow, or doesnt have current or past clients for you to chat with, thats a red flag.

    Check if the realtor is licensed

    This is a very important factor that many people usually overlook. If you want to be on the safe side, then you need to hire a real estate agent who has a current license. Dont just stop there, take necessary steps to check if indeed the license is valid and the agent doesnt have any disciplinary actions. You need to be very careful because some agents can present fake licenses. Only choose an agent who has a valid license and is in good standing with the board of Realtors.nbsp;

    Talk current or recent clients of the Agent

    I mentioned this above but its important to bring back up. Talking to genuine current or past clients of the Realtor will help you get a real picture of what to expect when you choose to work with that particular agent. For instance, if you are looking for a house for sale, look for past clients who had a similar situation to yours. Find out from them the quality of service that they received and whether they were satisfied with the agents performance. If the answer is YES, then you should consider hiring that agent. However, if past clients are or werent impressed with the quality of service that the agent delivered, then you should not even think of hiring that particular agent because you too could be disappointed. Only hire a real estate agent who has good reviews and ratings from his/her past clients. Period.

    Gauge the Realtors understanding of the local marketnbsp;nbsp;

    You will only get quality service that you are looking for if you hire a neighborhood expert agent who understands the local market. A good agent needs to understand what is happening locally. The best way to know if the agent understands the local market thoroughly is by asking him/her specific questions. For instance, you can mention a house within your neighborhood that was recently sold. If the Realtor knows about that particular property and can even go ahead to give you a few details, then that is a good indication that the agent knows whats up in the local market. A good agent needs to understand the local real estate market and should be well updated on what is happening in the real estate industry as a whole.

    Glenn Shelhamer is a Real Estatenbsp;Advisornbsp;andnbsp;team lead of The Shelhamer Real Estate Group
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    What Are the Differences Between an Appraisal and an Inspection?

    A property appraisal can be completed at a desktop or it can be a full appraisal requiring a licensed appraiser to research recent sales in the area and make a physical inspection of the property. How does the lender decide which one is appropriate? When a loan application is submitted through an automatic underwriting system, the results indicate the degree of a needed appraisal. A transaction where there is a good amount of equity in the purchase, say 10 percent or more, its possible that a limited appraisal will be needed. Other times, a full appraisal is needed.

    Before the appraiser visits the subject property, research is performed to identify at least three recent sales in the area where the property is located. The sales need to be similar in nature to the subject property, the sales should have occurred within the previous 12 months and be located less than one mile from the subject. After the initial research is done, the appraiser will visit the home. The appraiser will take pictures, both inside and out and provide an overall description of the property. The appraiser will also take pictures of the comparable sales discovered via research.nbsp;

    Then, the appraiser will make certain adjustments to the final value. These adjustments attempt to make up for slight differences in the various properties listed in the appraisal report. For example, a neighborhood is made up predominantly of four bedroom, 2 bath homes. Both the subject property and at least three recent sales might show up as all have four bedrooms and 2 baths. But two of the homes have an outdoor pool and a guest house while the subject property does not.nbsp;

    The appraiser will then make an adjustment by subtracting some value from the subject due to the lack of a pool and guest house. The subject property however has a three car garage while the others only have a two car garage. The appraiser will make an adjustment in value due to the larger garage. There are appraisal standards issued that provide an approximate markup or markdown of values due to included or missing amenities or features. Once the appraisal is complete, it is ultimately delivered to the making the appraisal request.nbsp;

    What if the appraisal doesnt match the price listed on the sales contract? In case of a price contradiction, the lender will use the lower of the two values. If the value is higher, the buyers do not get to access that equity during the transaction, however. Its just becomes an added perk for the buyers. On the other hand, if the appraised value is lower than the sales price, the lender will use the lower value which means the buyers must decide whether to walk away from the transaction or come to the closing table with the additional down payment, making up for the difference.

    With an inspection, its not a lender requirement but its certainly recommended for buyers. An inspector will make a physical inspection of the home flipping light switches, turning on faucets and making sure the appliances are in good working order. The inspection is rather thorough, and the result is a multi-page report showing all the items reviewed and if theyre in good working order, could use a little work or do not work at all. Smaller items such as a leaky faucet can be repaired after purchase but something larger such as the hot water heater is out or there are cracks around door jambs that could indicate a problem with the foundation. The sellers can then take the inspection report and if there are enough items that need some serious attention, it may very well be time to go back to the bargaining table. That, or if the problem is big enough, to walk away from the offer and find another home.

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    Ask the HOA Expert: An Owner Demanding Board Meeting Minutes For The Past Five Years

    Answer: What you describe is a common tactic to gain control. The logic goes something like this: All owners have a right to most HOA information and records. So, an owner that is unhappy for some reason initiates a series of demands with the message that "I want it now or else"

    Getting the requested information is secondary to keeping the board off balance. Intimidation tactics are highly effective when they get the board worrying about the "consequences" or else. Usually, though, when the board complies, it triggers another demand letter. Its a game of serve and volley, a game the board cant win.

    While its true that members are entitled to most information, the board is not obligated to provide it at no cost. Charge a reasonable cost for requested records in advance. When a price is put on the demands, they usually go away. Or better, post rules, policies, governing documents, budgets, financial statements, minutes and newsletters on an HOA website so all members can self-help.

    Question: We have members who would like to volunteer to do minor repair work on such things as our clubhouse, trails and pool. The board is concerned about the liability factor.

    Answer: As long as the work is not precarious ladder work, on the roof, etc. there is nothing wrong with allowing volunteers to do certain task. In fact, the board should encourage volunteerism and find outlets for those that are so inclined.

    Question: Our governing documents prohibit homeowners from having above ground pools in their yard. The board has decided that kiddie pools are included in this prohibition stating that the HOA could be sued if a child drowns. Is this correct?

    Answer: The governing document prohibition on above ground pools likely has to do with curb appeal and not safety. As long as the wading pools are not visible from the street or an attractive nuisance to area children, the HOA should allow them. Since the pools are on private property, the HOA cannot insure against events that happen there.

    Question: The board has announced that collection and rule violation hearings will be held in public. Is this advisable?

    Answer: All collection and rule violation issues should have an established process which includes notifying violators in writing, stating the specific details, the correction needed, the penalties for failure to comply and the right of appeal. If an appeal is requested, a private hearing should be held at a convenient time and place where the board and accused can discuss the issue.

    It is not appropriate to hold public meetings since the accused may not be guilty or there may be extenuating circumstances. The board should never engage in public humiliation of its members. Besides a legal challenge from an offended owner that could embroil the HOA in a lawsuit, it just makes practical sense when neighbors are governing neighbors.

    Question: Our HOA has only one bank account for both operating and reserve funds. This frequently gives the board the impression that there is more spendable cash then there really is. If we run short, money that was intended for reserves gets tapped.

    Answer: Operating and reserve funds should be kept in separate bank accounts for exactly the reason you point out. States like Oregon require it. Reserve funds are intended for specific major renovation scheduled to take place in the future, some times funds arent protected from operating budget shortfalls, the money wont be there in the future when its needed and the HOA will be forced into unfair and unpopular special assessments.

    Question: I read somewhere that the cost of a reserve study should be paid for out of reserve funds rather than the Operating Budget.

    Answer: It depends. Its reasonable to pay for the initial reserve study with reserve funds. Afterwards, some states require annual reserve study updates. Whether mandated by state law or not, it makes good sense to update the reserve study annually to keep it accurate, just like the Operating Budget. So the cost of an annual update should be included in the Operating Budget. If the reserve study is only being updated every few years, it makes sense to plan for it in the reserve study.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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    Dining Rooms Are Back! Here’s How to Create One You Love

    But that may be changing. The American dining room has lost its footing over the years to expanded kitchen eateries and admonished for its lack of use, but the formal dining room is making a strong comeback, said BCC Builders.

    Use these tips to make your dining room pop.

    Pick the right table

    Scale matters. A table that is too bigor too smallcan throw the whole room off. When choosing a dining table shape, consider your rooms dimensions, how many people youll typically want to seat, and your entertaining >

    Show your true colors

    The dining room is the perfect place to show some personality. Dont be afraid to drench those walls in a deep, rich, bright, vibrant, or saturated color. Or, put up some dramatic wallpaper.nbsp; The wallpaper trend has been. going strong for some time now, and the dining room makes a great foundation for a pretty pattern.

    Have some fun

    Todays dining rooms still have a touch of stuffiness, but it is subdued by integrating eclectic furniture and lighting to make the room feel more fun and quirky, said BCC Builders.

    Light the way

    Go all out with a chandelier. If not in the dining room, then where? But thats just the starting point.nbsp;

    Ideally, you should choose bulbs and fixtures that produce between 200 and 400 watts, but the real key is layering: make sure to use a mix of lighting sources includingnbsp;floor lamps, wall fixtures, candles and windows Yes, natural lighting counts too, said Pottery Barn. The shape of your light fixture is also important. Choose a shape that complements your dining table. For example, hang a rounded fixture above a round table and choose an oval or linear fixture to hang above longer and rectangular tables.nbsp;Finally, consider the size of your space. If you have a large dining room, go big and bold with an extravagant chandelier. If your space is smaller, smaller hanging pendants will achieve a similar effect without taking up too much space.

    Add the right seating

    Go for a combination of comfort and >

    But, the type of fabric you use is also important. If you have young kids, you might want to consider the porosity of the fabric. You can expect a lot of spillsduring the life of your dining chair, said Brosa. Try as you might, you wont be able to prevent these mishaps. But you can, at least, choose a fabric that wont hold onto a stain. Thankfully, there are a few of them out there.

    Leather and microfiber are top choices. Busy patterns can also work well because they wont show the inevitable stains.nbsp;

    Add a rug

    Round out your dining room design with vibrantnbsp;area rugs, said Better Homes and Gardens. Anchor your dining set with a colorful area rug that harmonizes with your palette and decorating >
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    Live Like a Celebrity With These Budget Baller Home Features

    The one thing most of their homes have in common: incredible features you have to be incredibly rich to pay for. But you can get some baller features without spending big bucks. Heres how.

    Gourmet kitchen

    Get a look that seems like it came right out of the pages of a shelter magazine without busting your budget. The trick: a little ingenuity and a little elbow grease. For a couple hundred bucks, you can paint those dingy, dated cabinets. No one who has ever done this will tell you its not an easy job, but the results are well worth the effort. Add another couple hundred for sparkly pulls and knobs, and maybe a few pendants over the island or peninsula to totally transform your kitchen.nbsp;

    Watch a tutorial and you can easily learn how to do your own backsplash. Or, for a super quick and easy transformation, try peel-and-stick backsplash tiles, which come in tons of options now and looks like the real deal.

    Custom basketball court

    Michael Jordans indoor basketball court at his Chicago home listed for sale for just under 15 million, if youre interested, is as fancy as you would expect from one of the all-time NBA legends. In addition to a regulation size court, its got motorized backboards and the Jumpman logo at center court. And its done up in Chicago Bulls colors. Of course.

    You dont need a hangar-sized structure to create a baller basketball court. Take it outside and you have tons of options. Companies like Versacourt offer pre-designed kits of snap-together tiles for small courts, half courts, and full courts. The tiles are durable and shock-absorbing, and the install is DIY, saving on costs. Also, they can be placed over any flat surface.nbsp;

    Versacourt estimates that the cost for a typical multi-sport game court will run aboutnbsp;3.50nbsp;tonbsp;4.50nbsp;per square foot for a fully designed, painted and prepared for easy assembly. This may run higher if additional game lines or custom logos are specified.

    Pre-designed kits come in a variety of colors, including Bulls red and black and Lakers purple and gold, and they also offer custom options. You can also get a custom look without the cost of kits with a stencil. For under 200, you can turn a patch of concrete into a championship spot.nbsp;

    Wine storage

    Were not all blessed to have the square footage for Oprah Winfreys wine cave. Her Telluride, CO home, which she purchased for 14 million in 2015, includes a wine cellar built to mimic a mining tunnel, said Architectural Digest. The cellar spans 56 feet and holds up to 1,600 bottles of vino; it even features piped-in sounds of creaking wood and dripping water to add to the cave-like atmosphere. An antique ore cart lends further authenticity to the space.

    Heres a significantly less expensive option: Turn a closet into a wine room all by yourself. Mind you, this does not look like an easy process, but the whole thing only ran about 500.

    Backyard putting green

    The 5.8 million Franklin, TN home that Miley Cyrus purchased in 2017 has a slew of dazzling features, including a mini-golf course.nbsp;Putting greens of various sizes and shapes are a popular feature among celebs and execs and golf-lovers, but they can get pricey. You can go the super custom route, but if youre not Tiger Woods, a more mid-range version may do.

    A Tour Greens synthetic putting green generally costs between 15 and 40 per square foot which includes design, materials and installation, said Tour Greens. These costs, however can vary significantly based on the size of the green, features and other site-specific factors. In general, the larger the space, the lower the per-square-foot price.

    You can also get one of these portable putting greens for under 1,400, or do it yourself to get the exact specs and look you want.nbsp;

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    February Real Estate Roundup

    Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "This weeks mortgage rates were the second lowest in three years, supporting homebuyer demand and leading to higher refinancing activity. Borrowers who take advantage of these low rates can improve their cash flow by lowering their monthly mortgage payments, giving them more money to spend or save."

    30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.51 percent with an average 0.7 points for the week ending January 30, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 3.74 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.35 percent.

    15-year FRM this week averaged 3.00 percent with an average 0.7 points, down from last month when it also averaged 3.19 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.77 percent.

    5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 3.24 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, down from last month when it averaged 3.45 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.84 percent.

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    How Google Chrome Plugins Have Become the New Best Friends of Realtors

    What if we were to tell you that theres an easier way to improve your productivity and operational efficiency as a realtor,nbsp;andnbsp;ba>

    Efficiently handling emails

    This is one of the biggest bugbears in real estate. Unorganized email inboxes can be the difference between closing or losing a sale. Its not worth losing track of email conversations with prospects. Businesses that operate with Gmail accounts are increasingly looking at integrated plugins and extensions within Google Chrome that simplify email communications between real estate teams. A plugin called Hive is becoming increasingly popular due to its ability to segment emails into shared mailboxes but manage them from individuals personal inboxes. Specific email threads can also be assigned to colleagues and internal communications can also be attributed to email threads without the need for email forwarding, CCs or BCCs to confuse matters.

    Staying up to date with feeds

    In the real estate industry, keeping up-to-date with industry trends and developments is vital for any realtor. Whether its policy changes or government announcements, its vital that you are kept abreast of these situations. Google Chrome has accepted plugins such as Feedly that allow realtors to select the kind of content they need to consume on a daily basis. With bespoke curated news feeds, its possible to get >

    Support for B2B lead generation

    Realtors looking to improve their teams and recruit proven sales talent often struggle when it comes to headhunting. Many people find themselves at something of a dead-end when it comes to getting contact details for prospective leads. When it comes to establishing quick and genuine connections with potential candidates, its important that you can not only provide your own contact details but access other B2B contacts at the touch of a button. Plugins like the Lusha for LinkedIn extension simplify the process, with enriched and verified B2B profiles, compatible with LinkedIn accounts that so many real estate professionals use for finding work and building contacts.

    Automating signatures

    Another major bugbear for realtors that can decelerate the process of sale completions is signatures. All too often, real estate teams have to scramble to download PDF documents, email them to clients, ask them to sign them and either rescan or mail them back to their offices. Its not only a time-drain but a data protection risk too. The Google Chrome DocuSign plugin makes it possible for individuals to electronically sign documents, allowing realtors to collect all the signatures they need in a quick and secure manner. The extension fires out reminders to those who are yet to sign their documentation and notifies realtors when a document has been digitally signed and is ready to go.

    Getting accounting assistance

    As any real estate business will testify, its not easy to keep track of expenses, particularly when it comes to monitoring cash flow and filing year-end accounts. As real estate agents spend a lot of time out on the road, its becoming increasingly common for expenses to rack up. Whether its food, fuel or accommodation, managing these expenses and keeping on top of them isnt easy when there are deals to be completed looming in the background. The Fyle Chrome extension is another handy piece of kit that makes it possible to capture expense data directly within email confirmations in Gmail. Lets say for example that a hotel room had been booked. Fyle would capture the hotel name, resort fees and store it in the background, ready for when you need to generate monthly or annual expense reports.

    There are so many Chrome plugins that could benefit your real estate agencys productivity. Google Chrome is one of the best web browsers out there, capable of enhancing your social media marketing and communications at the touch of a button.

    Full Story >

    Moving Down: Eight Things You Need to Know

    You might need to downsize your furniture, too.

    Whats one of the first things we say when we tour a new home: Our furniture would fit perfectly in here. But if youre downsizing, that might not be the case. You may have fewer rooms to furnish, and the proportions of the rooms you do have may be smaller.nbsp;

    If youre looking for a smaller place for financial reasons, youre probably not keen on spending money on new furniture. Be sure to measure your large pieces and take those measurements with you when touring homes. If it comes down to a couple of homes youre considering, maybe the one with the larger living room that can accommodate your sectional gets the edge.

    You may have to compromise less with new construction.

    New homes today are built to feel more open and maximize storage. If youre worried about going smaller, look to new construction.nbsp;

    Your bills may go down.

    If youre trying to save money, the fact that a smaller home will presumably not only cost you less for your mortgage but also your ongoing bills is great news. If you can get a handle on how much your utilities will be This is a good thing to ask your real estate agent, who can then reach out to the sellers agent, you might even be able to use the presumed savings to boost your buying poweror to sock money away every month.

    You may also save time.

    Less square footage means less to clean and maintain If you also have a smaller outdoor area, mowing and yard work will also be easier, allowing you to spend that leftover time pursuing other activities and interests.nbsp;

    You may have some tough decisions to make.

    City or suburbs. Attached or single-family. Long commute or not. When your homebuying plans are dictated by budget, the decision-making process can be challenging. Written pro-con lists can be tremendously helpful in helping you sort out your feelings. But make sure to be brutally honest with yourself. If youre leaning toward a move to the suburbs and youve written off how grueling a long commute can be, you may be in for a rude awakening.

    Other people may have to compromise, too.

    No room for guests: Hosting a huge holiday dinner might be out of the question in a smaller home, said The Balance. Out-of-town guests might need to stay at a hotel when they come to visit.

    There may be a mourning period.

    People often tend to embrace the IDEA of moving down before they really embrace the reality. The idea of less square footage might be acceptable if it saves you moneybut the reality of less space often feels like a loss.

    Its OK to see it that way. Anytime theres a big life change, we need time to adjust. Give yourself time to mourn the loss of the home youre leaving. It may make the transition easier.

    See the upside.nbsp;nbsp;

    While your home life>
    Full Story >

    Five Valuable Think-Ahead Home Projects

    Buyer tip: If youre shopping for a home now, consider a realistic time frame for must have changes and required maintenance.

    The best time to make plans for a season is during that season in the previous year or at least two seasons ahead of that season.

    That is, this winter decide what has to be up-dated or renovated to make your home safe, fun, and comfortable next winter.
    Now is the time to think about how you want to enjoy the yard and house or recreational property during the coming summer or next fall.

    If you wait until youre in a season to arrange improvements, you may spend more on materials and labor because youll be in peak season. Youll probably also discover all the best professionals are completely booked

    Here are Five Valuable Think-Ahead Home Projects That Can Add To Your Enjoyment of Your Real Estate:

    1: Add a Pool

    Pool time may be a distant dream right now, but the warm months will be on you and over all too quickly if you arent ready for construction action as soon as winter weather breaks. Pools dont always add value to real estate, but build on-trend and with quality products so youve got a better chance of improving your enjoyment of the property and its eventual saleability. Fortunately, costly elaborate excessive creations and large rectangular pools, which dominate the yard, have fallen out of favor. Elegant, simple designs are in. Longer, narrower pools set in retreat->

    2. Upgrade Landscaping

    Garden overhauls should begin while snow covers the ground. Then theres time to carefully consider which trees, shrubs, and plants will thrive in your climate and in your yards sunlight levels. Is it your intent to shift to a native-plant garden which will attract bees and butterflies or do you have a different end-point in mind? Talk to suppliers to be sure where to find what you want and at the best prices. How should your budget be allocated for the greatest impact? Dont be satisfied with only what you can conjure up; landscapers and landscape architects have a wealth of knowledge to impart.

    Buying larger tree specimens can be transformative, but you have to commit to a consistent-care regime to ensure they thrive. What effect do you want to create?
    In wildfire areas, landscaping must also be considered for the danger it represents and that it can address. For instance, trees and shrubs set away from the house present less threat of spreading flames.
    Where drought is an issue, drought-tolerant plants, or those able to thrive with limited amounts of water, provide greenery that is self-sustaining. This environment-friendly landscaping can take a wide range of intriguing forms. At least 30 states experience droughtranging from abnormally dry conditions in Florida and Massachusetts to the exceptional drought present in California and Nevada. To check on your state, use the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA Drought Monitor.
    When youre intent on increasing accessibility, introduce raised flower beds, increased seating, and removal of trip hazards, but dont compromise aesthetics or viewpoints.
    If your condominium unit is in a high rise, you may decide to reduce preventable bird deaths by advocating bird-friendly design and lighting. Ornithologists estimate that up to one billion birdsoften including threatened species from the annual four billion bird migrationdie in preventable building collisions in the United States.

    3. Drainage Matters

    Flooding is a growing threat in many areas. How vulnerable is your home? How far away is the nearest river, stream, or lake? Is your property graded or leveled, so that rainwater and run-off are guided away from your home and out-buildings? Gutters, foundation-weeping tiles, and other drainage systems need regular inspection, maintenance, and upgrading, especially since many areas are experiencing greater rainfall than ever before. Excessive rain may cause persistent settling and flooding, which in turn damages buildings and decking. Get outside in bad weather to discover exactly whats happening to the water around your house.

    4. Improve Heating/Cooling

    If you dont have your heating and cooling systems inspected and maintained each year, youre setting yourself up for a heating or cooling failure during the season warmth is wanted or disliked. What was the recommended life of the heating and cooling systems you installed or inherited? If a twenty-year limit is fast approaching, time to start researching what type of heating or cooling system will best suit your home and your needs now versus why that system was chosen years ago. You may decide to supplement existing systems with solar- or wind-powered equipment. Which fuel types do you have to choose from? How much renovation or improvement to the ducts, insulation, or wiring will be required to improve efficiency? Decide whether renting or owning the new equipment is the best financial move. Are there any subsidies, grants, or payment plans available to manage costs?

    5. Minimize Construction Impact

    If a house will be built near yours or a major construction project is planned in your neighborhood, youd be wise to take videos of your house and garage, inside and out, floor and ceiling shots, so you can prove your buildings were crack-free before the heavy work began. This documentation is a good idea if weather conditions are becoming extreme and theres more damage done with each storm.

    Suggestion: Think ahead a few years to consider how easy it will be to buy parts for any equipment or systems you buy.

    Think-ahead projects, like the five above, also allow you time to be creative or innovative with your solutions, rather than making do with what you can pull together in an emergency repair:

    Visit home shows and > Inspiration abounds online and in social media, but dont be too gullible. If solutions or suggestions sound too good to be true, they probably are. Watch out for scams and fraud among the you wont believe how easy this is pitches.
    Ask friends and family what theyve done and which suppliers and installers theyve used. Theyll often volunteer if wed started differently... or if only wed known... advice.

    Full Story >

    How to Save Time, Ease Workload with Online CRE Management Platforms

    Kladok is one of the newer online management platforms looking to shift this trend. Having one centralized platform tailor-made specifically for CRE professionals including brokers, property owners, lenders, investors, and insurers -- saves time and makes it easier for real estate professionals to juggle details on assets and deals.

    Portfolio and asset management are key parts of CRE companies workload. Organizing financial information along with various property details can be challenging to keep in a simple format. For instance, with various spreadsheets within one Excel document, it can be easy to place a number in the wrong location.nbsp;

    Further, various versions of the same Excel spreadsheet are often necessary, which can be confusing. With multiple people typically working on each CRE project, all users must be well-versed on how items are being labeled in order to keep the spreadsheets accurate.

    New online management platforms created for CRE professionals make their work more efficient, provide seamless communication across team members and reduce the chances of inaccuracies.

    Further, innovative online management systems such as Kladok are easy to operate, while understanding the most advanced versions of Excel might require taking a course on the topic to master the tools.

    Kladok is a CRE-specific online management platform that can consolidate several disconnected spreadsheets into one cloud-based location accessible from anywhere. This organized unit gives companies the ability to conduct portfolio-wide analysis or rapidly garner individual property details.

    Moving portfolio details onto a technologically advanced management platform can allow a team of CRE executives to view real-time data, eliminating the need to schedule meetings for specific updates on a project which can be frequent. It also can prevent possible project delays due to factors such as a lag in inputting information, incomplete data or details placed in the wrong spreadsheet location.

    Along with speeding the workflow, allowing rapid input of data into a central platform can boost transparency, allowing managers to rapidly access all information.

    Additionally, some online management platforms offer a task manager. This can ease any uncertainty among team members about when a specific job should be done and who is assigned to handle it.

    Accessing financing and commercial insurance products also are available via portfolio and asset data input into CRE management platform Kladok.

    Beyond managing data, Kladok is also a platform that offers a network of CRE professionals who can share information, benefiting from each others expertise.

    Collaborating with colleagues, organizing data, better managing information and easing workflow are just some of the benefits of an online management platform for CRE executives. Kladok is an easy-to-use platform that creates a centralized workspace. This can save time by consolidating information and removing the need to manually input data in various spreadsheet locations.

    Ryan Letzeiser is the Co-Founder and CEO of Obie, a portfolio management platform for commercial and multi-family real estate recently named a Top 100 Finalist for the 2019 Chicago Innovation Awards. Obie also offers tailored and competitive property insurance products.nbsp;nbsp;

    Full Story >

    “Mattress Money” and Mortgages

    One of the more important things lenders look at when evaluating a home loan application is how much money is available for the transaction. There needs to be funds showing enough money for the required down payment, if any, closing costs and some extra funds left over after closing called cash reserves. Cash reserves are counted as the number of months worth of house payments that are left after the loan has closed. If the total mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, is 2,000 and the cash reserve requirement is three months, there should be an additional 6,000 available. This is on top of the down payment and closing costs. But these funds have to be verified as yours.

    Verification is done by reviewing recent copies of bank statements. If your savings account shows 20,000 and the checking account statements show regular deposits on the 1st and 15th, the lender will begin to tally the total amount available and when enough funds are verified, the loan application continues through the approval process.nbsp;

    But in this scenario, the funds are short by 5,000. The down payment, closing costs and reserves needed add up to 30,000. Thats okay though, because at home in the vault, there is 7,000 in cash ready for you to use any way you wish. You take out the 7,000 and deposit it in your checking account. Yet theres still a problem. Even though youve saved up those funds over the past year or so, you may not be able to use them. At least, the lender wont count them as yours. This is called mattress money. Loosely meaning the cash is stuffed in your mattress at home. Its frustrating because you know the funds are yours and yours alone, but the lender is ignoring them.

    The issue here is there is no way to source where those funds came from. Are the funds a personal loan? If so, at some point the loan will need to be paid back. Will there monthly be monthly payments and if so, how much? In both instances it can affect the ability to repay the mortgage.

    If its cash saved up and you know youre going to buy a home in the future, pull the cash out of the vault and into your bank account. This will let the funds season over time and the lender will not question where the funds came from. How long does it take to season funds? Theres no universal guideline but in general funds may be considered yours after two or three months.

    If the funds are from the sale of a car, provide a copy of the bill of sale, copy of the check and copy of the deposit into your bank account. If the funds are a gift from a family member or qualified donor, again provide a paper trail. But if its cash at home, mattress money, put it in the bank as soon as able.nbsp;

    Full Story >

    7 Affordable Decorating Ideas for A Lovely Patio

    Try Vertical Gardening

    There is no such rule that you can only use the grounds surface for planting. Why not add a t>

    Use Fabric

    The right use of fabric can give you privacy, sun protection, and soothing ambiance as well as the right amount of softness and drama. There are many choices of outdoor fabric available today ranging from flowy curtain types and drapery that is more structured.

    Soothing Background Sounds

    It can take some time before some birds call your garden their home so a small water feature can be a great addition for some soothing nature sounds. The water will also attract small creatures. If a water feature isnt your cup of tea, a wind chime can serve the same purpose and is particularly recommended for urban areas.

    Inject Your Personality in Your Dcor

    Are you a fan of stripes? Of tribal patterns? Or are you simply in love with pink? Go with what your heart desires. Personalize your outdoor space however you want. The key is to not go overboard and use your personal touch for accent only.

    Take Advantage of String Lights

    String lights range from whimsy firefly-like ones to bigger ones reminiscent of an outdoor summer fair. Whatever design you choose, adding some to your patio will su>

    Switch Table Shapes

    Rectangular and other angular table shapes can make your patio look a bit too stuffed. Go for a smaller round table or tables to add interest to your space as well as make your patio appear roomier.

    Shop Your Stash

    There is no need to head on to stores to shop for new additions to your outdoor space. Use what you already have by shopping your stash. Go over each room and see what unused item you have can have a new life outdoors. An old chair from a set you used to have can make a good accent chair in your patio. An unused candle holder can be the centerpiece of your outdoor table. Be creative

    Full Story >

    Tips for Updating Your House in an Up-and-Coming Neighborhood

    Exterior paint can also help your home stand out in the neighborhood, offering more foot traffic and curb appeal should you decide to list your house. Especially considering how inexpensive a few buckets of paint are, repainting parts of your home can give you a huge return on investment.

    Remodel your bathroom

    One of the most popular areas to remodel in any home is the bathroom, and for good reason. Its important to create a bathroom that feels nice and clean. Depending on the current state of your bathroom, a remodel could be as simple as changing the bathroom tile or purchasing a new vanity or medicine cabinet. You may also want to consider refinishing your bathtub or upgrading your shower head, too, as these can give your bathroom the allure of luxury at a >

    Replace windows to increase cost savings

    Replacing the windows in your home is both a functional and stylish choice. Window replacement can translate to energy savings in the cold and hot months of the year, which will benefit you if youre planning to stay in your home. Even if you are intending on selling your house, though, having new windows will be an attractive feature for any interested parties.

    Make sure your sewage is up-to-code

    As a homeowner, one of the least appealing tasks is to keep your sewage system up-to-code. That said, when you dont properly care for your sewage lines, you can be barking up a very costly tree. If you find a >

    Remodel your kitchen

    While sometimes expensive, remodeling your kitchen is a surefire way to increase your homes value. Adding new hardware and cabinetry can go a long way in improving your kitchens looks, especially when paired with a refinished floor in tile or hardwood. Another option for updating your kitchen is to upgrade its appliances. A brand-new, stainless steel refrigerator and updated oven and range with induction burners will appeal to the wannabe chef in every prospective buyer. Plus, if you dont plan on selling for a few years, you can enjoy these features, too

    Dont forget the yard

    Landscaping is another important feature of any home that often gets overlooked when renovators are too focused on the houses interior. Think about how often a well-designed rock wall, fire pit, or flower bed has contributed to the curb appeal of a home. Installing a porch or deck is a quick and easy way to add functionality and excitement to your yard and help make your home a little more special. While pu>
    Full Story >

    4 Home Security Features to Increase Safety and Peace of Mind

    There are a million scenarios like this each year--in fact, 3.7 million of them. Of these 3.7 million homes with break-ins in the United States, only 17 had some sort of security system in place. How safe are you in your home? Do you have any security features in place to protect you and your family in case of a break-in or other emergency?

    If you dont feel safe, and if you dont have any security features in your home, these are some features you might want to consider:

    1. A security system.

    Its been shown that as the number of home security systems increase in an area, the number of home invasions decrease--and not just for homes with systems, but for the whole neighborhood.

    When you choose your security system, there are several types to choose from. But its best to purchase a state-of-the-art home security system service where the latest technology is used to allow you to monitor and control your home security from the convenience of your smartphone. A security system not only protects you when there are break-ins, but it also protects your family if there is a fire or medical emergency.

    2. Smart locks.

    Smart locks allow you keyless entry into your home, allowing you, your family members, and guests easy access when needed. With a phone or other authorized device such as a key fob, smart locks can be unlocked or locked remotely; and using smart home technology, access can be granted or denied for specific time periods.

    This is a great security feature since smart locks take away the need to hide spare keys outside or leave a key with a neighbor. You can always look for a home security service that comes with a smart lock option and wholl install it for you. Youll love the convenience and added security of smart locks.

    3. Smart lights.

    Smart lights, same as with smart locks, can be managed virtually using similar smart home technology. There are several ways you can use your smart lights. One of the most important ways is to take advantage of the feature allowing lights to be turned on or off even when youre away, giving you added security when you cant be there.

    Most break-ins occur when youre away from home, so being able to trick would-be-burglars into believing youre home by randomly turning on different lights and turning off others via your phone is a great way to keep your home safer. Its great when you can piggyback smart lights in with a security system that has this feature.

    4. Security cameras.

    Security cameras are important for several reasons: they help police solve crimes, they actually deter crimes, and they give you peace of mind.

    Through smart home technology, you can strategically place security cameras to remotely view areas in and around your home and make sure everything is as it should be; you can even review old video footage when needed.

    Security cameras are great features to add to any home, and security system services often have cameras available as part of their home security packages.

    You probably know at least one person who has experienced a home invasion of some sort. It may have even been you. When these traumas hit close to home, we realize how important it is to make sure our homes are as secure and protected as they can be. Its better not to wait until something happens to our home, or worse, someone we know and love, before we take precautions. By getting a home security system, smart locks, smart lights, and security cameras, youll have that added peace of mind that youre doing all you can do to ensure the safety of your household.

    Full Story >

    Growing Wealth in the Vacation Rental Market: Advice for First-Time Investors

    The Right Spot

    First, think like a vacationer. You want a place in a beautiful and easily accessible natural setting, with lots to do and see. For many people, that means the beach. For others, it could be a mountainside cabin. Remember, people are looking for an unforgettable experience, a vacation theyll reminisce about for years. That makes the location an important factor.nbsp;

    Do your research, as buying in an area where demand is low could leave you with high vacancy rates, which will certainly cut into your profits. When you find a place you like, consider spending a few days there to assess what the place has to offer. Youll want to be able to tell potential guests that theres lots to do and plenty of good places to eat.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

    If youre located far away from your vacation home, you may not be able to handle routine maintenance and guest support. In this case, youll likely need to hire a property manager. Many property management companies offer online booking, hire maid services to clean your home in between guests, and provide 24/7 support.nbsp;

    Assess Your Financial Situationnbsp;nbsp;

    Review your financial picture, paying special attention to your income, debt-to-income DTI ratio, and credit score. Youre basically taking on a second mortgage, and that can be an overwhelming prospect for someone whos not well-positioned financially. Your credit and debt picture will have a lot to do with the kind of loan youre able to secure. A disadvantageous loan will ultimately work against your profit potential. And youll need an adequate cash reserve on hand in case you lose income due to job loss, illness or injury.

    Best Loan Options

    Conventional loans are often the best option for an investment property because theyre >

    Show Lenders an Appealing Financial Picture

    Having a plentiful supply of cash is one of the best ways to show lenders youre a good candidate for a loan. As with any real estate purchase, the more you can put down up front, the better the terms you can expect on your loan. An investment property mortgage will require at least a 20 percent down payment approximately half of all vacation property buyers made a down payment of at least 30 percent in 2017. Its an option well worth considering because paying at least 20 percent up front means youll avoid paying private mortgage insurance.nbsp;nbsp;

    The Tax Factor

    Even an inexperienced investor understands about property taxes and knows to factor it into expenses. However, if youre a first-timer, you may not be familiar with lodging taxes, which are required in many places. In such locations, its the landlords responsibility to collect lodging taxes on the rents they charge. As a landlord, you dont pay lodging tax yourself, but you do have to account for taxes from your guests, so be sure youre charging enough to account for it. A busy landlord may find it difficult to monitor and account for lodging taxes from each guest. Fortunately, there are tax management services that can help.nbsp;

    A vacation rental property can be an excellent investment for a novice looking for ways to generate wealth. Growth in the short-term rental market and the desirability of a temporary vacation home rather than a hotel room make it a profitable investment.

    Full Story >

    Jeff Bezos Didn’t Use an Agent to Buy His $165 Million Estate. Here’s Eight Reasons Not to Be Like Jeff

    The property is, admittedly, stunning. Geffen reportedly auctioned off about 11 million worth of original furnishings, which he deemed too musty and museum-like, after he purchased the property, said The Los Angeles Times. But he did keep an imported wood floor"said to be the one upon which Napoleon proposed to Josephineas well as the paneled walls supposedly carved by a Chippendale.

    Other impressive features, according to Architectural Digest, include a George III>

    But 165 million isA LOT. Some real estate leaders have wondered aloud whether he overpaid. Others have mused that you cant put a price on a veritable museum. But what stands out for us is that Bezos and Geffen made the deal without involving real estate agents on either side. Before you start thinking, Well if its good enough for one of the worlds richest men, its good enough for me, check out these xx reasons you should definitely use an agent on your next purchase.

    Because you dont have Bezos money

    Part of what a good buyers agent does in advising clients is: Find you a home you love, but also one you can comfortably live in and afford. No one wants to be house poor.nbsp;

    Theres no worry of that with Bezos, despite the exorbitant price tag. The 165 million is approximately one-eighth of one percent of his 130 billion net worth. A measly little 165 million isnt going to break him. Asnbsp;The Vergenbsp;pointed out, If you make 60,000 a year, thats like spending 75 on a house.

    Also, its not the only property he has purchased recently. In addition to the Warner Estate, Bezos recently purchased a 90 million plot of undeveloped Los Angeles land, which he is considering an investment, a source told thenbsp;Wall Street Journal. And last summer, the Amazon chief made headlines when henbsp;purchasednbsp;not one but three Manhattan apartments overlooking Madison Square Park for some 80 million.

    Bezos also reportedly owns several condos that overlook NYCs Madison Square Park, a 30,000-acre estate in Medina, WA, a huge ranch in west Texas, and two additional properties in Washington, D.C.

    But what happens if you buy too much house? When you dont have billions of dollars as a safety net, you need to know youre in good hands with a professional who has your best interest at heart.

    Because you dont have that 165 million in cash

    There hasnt been any word on whether Bezos intends to mortgage his new manse, but we doubt it. Not surprisingly, his past purchases have been rumored to be all-cash deals.nbsp;

    But it reminds us of a story we love. After L.A.s 924 Bel Air Road sold for 94 million in October 2019a huge cut from the original 250 millionnbsp;list pricethe anonymous buyer turned around and took out anbsp;58.2 million, 10-year loan from HSBC Bank USA, according to property records, said The Business Times. That would make the monthly mortgage payment about 650,000

    Carry the nine, multiply that by xand, yeah, the possible mortgage payment on a 165 million home makes our collective heads hurt.

    All-cash deals are on the rise among luxury homes, which is hard to comprehend for us regular folks who are just doing the best we can to cobble together a minimum down payment. When your money is on the line, you want to do everything you can to protect yourself. A real estate agent acts as a fiduciary of sorts, with training and expertise that can help give you peace of mind, whether youre spending 165,000 or 165 million.nbsp;

    Because you dont have a yacht

    I mean, arent all real estate deals made on a 590 million superyacht? Jeff Bezos and David Geffen hammered out the Amazon chiefs record-setting 165 million purchase of Geffens Beverly Hills estate while socializing on the former music moguls famous yacht, the Rising Sun, said The Real Deal.nbsp;

    Because you dont want to do your own negotiating

    Really, you dont. Check out this article from Inc. that called Bezos and Amazons search for its new HQ2 a master >

    Bezos competitiveness and business savvy are legendary. Not that were saying yours dont comparebut, lets be honest. Unless youre a real estate agent or an attorneyor some other type of professional who gets paid to negotiate and/or argue for a living, its just best to leave this to the professionals.nbsp;

    Because you dont know what you dont know

    You might be far out of your element when it comes to reviewing and understanding the multiple documents involved in a real estate deal, and you should have a thorough understanding of what youre getting into regardless of whether youre buying or selling, said The Balance. Purchase agreements alone can top 10 pages in 2019, not to mention federal, state, and local document requirements.nbsp;

    Home buyers may be tempted to purchase without using their own agent in certain circumstances, like if they happen into an open house and talk to the sellers agent or if they are buying new construction. But there are important reasons to work with your own agent in either case.nbsp;

    Yes, a sellers agent might be able to work both sides of a deal, but having your own agent better ensures that you have someone in your corner whose priority is getting you the deal you want.nbsp;

    Buyers are sometimes unaware that they can work with their own real estate agent when buying a new home. Each development has its own rules, but, in general, the agent must accompany you on your first visit to the community or they will forfeit any available commission. That commission may also be lower than what the agent is accustomed to; this will generally be advertised as a broker co-op or broker participation, with a percentage set by the builder or development.nbsp;

    Working with a real estate agent on a new construction home may not yield you a better price; builders are typically >

    Because thats just too much house

    Seriously, who needs 13,600 square feet on nine acres, with expansive terraces and gardens, two guesthouses, nursery and three hothouses, tennis court, swimming pool, nine-hole golf course and motor court complete with its own service garage and gas pumps, as Architectural Digest puts it. No one. No one NEEDS this. But, clearly, this purchase wasnt about need.

    A good real estate agent will su>
    Full Story >

    Ask The HOA Expert: Can The Board Modify Architectural Design Policy?

    Answer: This kind of policy is generally amendable by the board when its in resolution form a separate document outside the recorded governing documents. If the policy is part of the governing documents, a vote of the members is needed. But even if the board has the authority to amend, it is strongly recommended that proposed amendments be circulated to the members for comment prior to voting to enact them. A 30 day review is not going to make much difference in the long run and members will be more likely to comply when theyve had a chance to be heard.

    Question: Does a director of the board have the authority to give a power of attorney to another person to act on his/her behalf?

    Answer: No. Directors are elected by the members and cannot give that authority to another person.

    Question: We have a board member who argues that damage done to the interior of a condo unit from a roof leak is the responsibility of the homeowner association. I have been telling the board that the HOA is not responsible for the interior damage unless the board does not address the roof leak in a timely manner. Whos right?

    Answer: Technically, this board member is correct. When HOAs purchase insurance for the structures, that insurance extends to the units themselves. However, the governing documents often has or the board can establish a requirement for unit owners to carry insurance for their individual units and be the primary insurance in the event of a claim, regardless of the source of the problem kitchen fire, toilet overflowing, flooding from the upstairs unit, sprinkler system leaks leaks through foundation, etc..

    This kind of policy is necessary to protect the HOAs insurability. If every unit owner was allowed to file claims against the HOAs insurance, it would not be long before the HOAs insurance would be cancelled due to excessive claims or the premium increased beyond affordability. Spreading the risk out to unit owners keeps the HOAs insurability viable.

    Question: What can be done about a board member that slanders another board member? He not only does it at meetings but spreads his accusations around the neighborhood.

    Answer: It is inappropriate and divisive for a board member to engage in character assassination. The remaining directors should take action to rein him in in a diplomatic but firm way. The director with the best rapport with him should have a heart to heart with him and explain the damage that is being done. Insist that he keep such personal opinions to himself.

    While the board doesnt have the authority to remove a rogue director from the board only the members do, the board can remove a director from his office President, Treasurer, Secretary if he has one. That may be necessary to make the point.

    Question: Our HOA has many residents that leave trash receptacles out long after trash pick-up day. It makes the HOA look shoddy. What can we do?

    Answer: Most HOAs have a requirement that trash receptacles are only allowed out on pick up day and need to be stored out of sight within 24 hours. This is both reasonable and desirable from a curb appeal standpoint.

    Question: Our HOA has a member that is a chronic offender of rules. How should the board deal with this?

    Answer: Three special "scofflaw" penalties come to mind: caning, tarring and feathering, and the stock and pillary. But seriously, rules that carry no penalties are useless. If you need a rule, it needs an effective enforcement mechanism in the form of a fine significant enough to get noticed. Scofflaws often refuse to pay fines so failure to pay them must be treated the same way as failure to pay regular HOA fees. Process them through the normal collection process. Eventually, even the most persistent scofflaw will come to understand the price of being a jerk.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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    Promoting Safety and Preventing Property Damage

    Regardless of what the law requires, the real estate industry needs to be at the forefront of safety.

    Regardless of what the law says about assumption of risk, real estate agents owe it to themselves to do what is right.

    They owe it to themselves to maintain the trust they enjoy, the honor they possess, and the referrals they continue to receive. Because all of these things can collapse, because all of these things will collapsewith the speed and finality of a controlled demolitionunless real estate agents and property owners make safety their top priority.

    According to Howard P. Lesnik, an injury law expert and member of the New Jersey Association of Justice, the real estate industry can set an example or be an example.nbsp;

    That is to say, the industry can lead a campaign for safety or isolate itself as a holdout amidst a campaign to improve safety.

    That the choice is obvious does not mean every industry will choose wisely. But I know and work with enough real estate professionals to know this: Real estate agents and developers and property owners are too smart not to take Mr. Lesniks advice. They are too savvy not to listen to a lawyer whose counsel is sound, whose reputation is strong, whose record is solid.

    I write these words with the benefit of personal experience, as I also have a law degree.

    I write these words with the hope that the real estate industry will advance the cause of safety.

    The rewards of this effort would exceed the cost of retrofitting this building or renovating that property, because an industry that protects its clients is an industry that attracts more clients.

    People value businesses that defend certain values, despite the lowering of expectations, the erosion of expectations, or a lack of expectations on behalf of the pubic.

    If cynicism plagues the public, if the public is cynical about how businesses behave, if businesses do nothing to change the publics attitude toward business in general, safety will worsen and distrust will harden into bedrock.

    Such will be the foundation that governs society.

    The real estate industry cannot afford to do business in such a society. No business can survive in such a society, where accidents are commonplace and leadership is so uncommon as to seem accidental; an aberration rather than an act of assurance.

    Let the real estate industry do the right thing.nbsp;

    Let it embrace safety, thereby proving that common sense has more currency than dollars and cents.

    Let it put morals ahead of money, and succeed beyond what any accountant can calculate or any chief financial officer can tabulate.

    Full Story >

    The Sneaky, Costly Little Secret of FHA Loans

    First, a little primer on mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance protects lenders from losing money if you default on the loan, said NerdWallet. Most lenders require private mortgage insurance PMI for conventional loansnbsp;when the home buyer makes a down payment of less than 20. All FHA loans have mortgage insurance, regardless of down payment amount.

    Mortgage insurance can cost homebuyers hundreds of dollars per month. The average annual PMI premium typically ranges from .55 percent to 2.25 percent of the original loan amount each year, according to data from Ginnie Mae and the Urban Institute, said Bankrate. With these rates, it means that for a 200,000 mortgage, your PMI can cost between 1,100 and 4,500 each year, or around 91.66 to 375 per month.

    In addition, PMI can be cancelled once the home appreciates to a certain level. But FHA mortgage insurance usually remains for the life of the loan.

    Getting rid of PMI

    So, here youve been paying down your mortgage every month, and you also happen to live in an area where homes are appreciating nicely. Sure would be nice if you could get rid of that PMI. But, short of refinancing to another loan, thats not going to happen.nbsp;

    Alternative loans

    There are a number of different ways to borrow money without mortgage insurance. The first and most obvious answer is to make a 20 down payment on whatever loan you get. Many loans allow you to use gift or grant funds for your down payment, which could be a solution to getting that 20 together if need be.

    Short of a generous benefactor, look into these other loans, which allow you to make a small down payment without paying monthly mortgage insurance.

    Bank of Americas Affordable Loan Solution mortgage

    This home loan requires just a 3 down payment with no mortgage insurance. Other features include:

    Income and loan amount limits, which vary depending on the location of the home
    Up to 97 loan-to-value
    Loan amounts capped at 510,400 with 3 down payment; You can also make a 5 down payment for a loan amount up to 765,600 with 5 in high-cost areas
    Homebuyer education may be required

    Flagstar Banks Professional Loan

    These loans are for individuals who are very likely to have high earning potential, but have just started in their careers, said The Mortgage Reports. Think doctors, dentists, and lawyers with their own practices. The loan requires no PMI, and very low down payments. As a bonus, student loans could be excluded from debt ratios.nbsp;

    In addition to low down payments and no mortgage insurance, details include:

    Loan amounts up to 1.5 million
    Fixed and adjustable rate options

    Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America NACA Best in America Mortgage

    The NACA loan is for low-to-moderate income individuals or buyers in underserved communities. In addition to no mortgage interest, this loan offers:

    No down payment
    No closing costs
    Below-market rates
    Flexible credit score requirement
    Homeownership program required

    SoFi 10 down loan

    Dont have 20 for a down payment but think you might be able to cobble together 10? This loan might be the answer. SoFis 10 down loan offers:

    Loan amounts up to 3 million
    PMI required on conforming home loans with a loan-to-value LTV greater than 80, but not on any jumbo home loans
    Great credit required

    Citis HomeRun Mortgage

    This mortgage requires just 3 down and no mortgage insurance, with flexible credit guidelines. In addition, loans are available up to 510,400, and 765,600 in high-cost areas.

    Other features of these loans include:

    Fixed rates
    Interest rates comparable to conventional loan rates
    Homeownership education and counseling required

    Full Story >

    Divorce, Separation and Home Loans

    When two or more people apply for a mortgage to buy a home, each person who will live in the home and on the application agree to be responsible for the mortgage payments. The legal documents signed at the closing table have language that obligates each individual and what can happen if they stop paying. Essentially, non-payment means the lender has the right to take back the home via foreclosure and sell the property to settle the outstanding balance.

    Lets look at a scenario where a couple gets married, applies for a mortgage and takes title as joint tenants. They live there, happily, for a few years and then later on the marriage begins to crumble. There are two types of crumbling, a separation and a divorce. There are also two types of separation, a legal and a verbal agreement. Lets consider the verbal agreement first.

    As it >

    In the meantime, the husband wants to buy another home and get financing on his own. Yet because theres an outstanding mortgage on the first home, his debt ratios are too high to qualify. He explains to the lender that he and his wife are separated and have agreed to split the mortgage payment. Unfortunately for him, that doesnt matter. The mortgage appears on his credit report and he originally agreed to pay it. There are also other debts jointly owned such as a car loan and some credit card debt. Those debts are also legally his. Not just half of them, but all of them.

    Now lets look at a legal separation. This is a legal document signed by a judge that lays out who pays for what. Within the document, it clearly states that the wife is responsible for the entire mortgage payment while they will split the additional consumer debt. The husband applies for a mortgage and is told there are some other debts on the credit report that push his debt ratios too high. He provides a copy of his legal separation agreement that states the wife is responsible for the mortgage, not him. But the lender wasnt consulted about such an arrangement and wont let him off the note.nbsp;

    A divorce runs much the same manner in most cases. The lender doesnt have any control about someones love life but does have some interest in getting paid each month. The divorce decree clearly states the wife is solely responsible for the mortgage payment, even though the mortgage still appears on his credit report. He is still not >

    The wife agrees to pay the entire mortgage each month, but after a while shes having trouble keeping up with the payments. Soon, one of the payments is listed as more than 30 days past the due date. This late payment will also appear on the husbands credit report, even though their agreement states hes not responsible for the mortgage. Again, the lender isnt concerned about the marriage, just getting paid back. The only way to remove the husband from this responsibility is to get him off the note enti>

    With real estate and marriage troubles, obviously legal counsel is involved. Just know that unless one party is completely removed from the existing note via a sale or refinance, theres still an obligation to pay.

    Full Story >

    How Much Will New Home Upgrades Cost?

    If youre thinking of buying a new home, understanding and considering these extra costs is important. Many buyers fall in love with a model home and are disappointed to see that the real home they are buying is full of builder basics, like unimpressive flooring and countertops, and no fancy backsplash or tiled shower. There may not be any grass or landscaping in the backyard or window coverings at all either.nbsp;

    Heres what you need to know.

    What is included in the base price?

    Whats the first thing you do when you get to a new-home community? You tour the model homes, right? And now youre all in love and imagining your furniture sitting atop the wide-plank wood floors in the living room and your kids cozying up to the quartz-covered breakfast bar. Thats when you get hit with a big shock of reality: The model costs 200,000 more than the base price of the house.nbsp;

    Can you upgrade for less?

    Of course. You may want to replicate that model down to the very last knob and pull, but picking and choosing where to put your money can help you stay within a reasonable budget.

    So how much are we talking?

    Could be a little, could be a lot. It enti>

    In general, everything you add or change will cost you. Individual prices will vary depending on the builder, the home, and the specific finishes they offer, but here are some examples of what to expect:

    Wood flooring throughout the entire house could cost between 20,000 and 40,000, depending on the brand and quality.
    Upgrading a kitchen could bust your budget. Depending on the builder and community, you could add better appliances, more expensive countertops, a fancy backsplash, and a nicer grade of cabinets. Before you know it, youre looking at the cost of a luxury car.
    Adding another bedroom could cost 15,000.
    Raising the ceilings? This could be a 10,000 upgrade.
    Bathroom upgrades can get also get costly quickly. Want an expanded shower, freestanding tub, and upgraded flooring? Youre likely well over five figures.

    Where should I start with my upgrades?

    In the kitchen. The kitchen is the heart of the home, the spot where you will spend the majority of your time and make the most memories, said New Home Source. It can never be overly well equipped. Pay special attention to cabinets and appliances, as this is what future buyers will focus on, as well as the tools you will use every day.

    Do any builders include upgrades in the base price?

    Some do. For example, Lennars Everythings Included EI program includes some of the most popular amenities, such as GE or Electrolux stainless steel, energy-efficient appliances, upgraded polished granite or quartz countertops, and upgraded cabinets and flooring, in the price of the home.nbsp;

    Other things you need to know about new-home upgrades:

    Youre going to have decisions to make.

    Many, many, MANY decisions. Youll need to choose products and colors and finishes for every room and nearly every surface. Sometimes, there will be multiple decisions that need to be made at once. Just selecting your cabinets from among the standard options and colors can be an adventure.nbsp;

    Thankfully, many new-home builders today have design centers that are staffed with professionals who can provide guidance.

    Upgrades can often be rolled into your mortgage.nbsp;

    This makes them seem painless since you dont have to come out of pocket for those wood floors. But it will raise your monthly payment. And, if youre already at the limit of what youre qualified for, or what you feel you can afford, that increase may be problematic.

    Its important to consider the value.nbsp;

    Are you making smart upgrades that will add value to your home? Obviously, you have to weigh the importance of your personal wants and needs against what the general public might want when its time to sell. Your real estate agent should be able to provide important insight into items that willor will notmake the home attractive to future buyers.

    You also want to think about whether you are over-improving for the neighborhood. If you put 100,000 in upgrades into the home, will you ever be able to get that money back out of the home? If your improvements make the home more expensive than any of the other homes in the neighborhood, you may end up losing money down the line.nbsp;

    Full Story >

    Home Restoration vs Home Renovation: Their Stark Differences and Their Best Uses

    Well, the words home restoration and home renovation are kind of like that in terms of how easy it is to mistake one for the other and even worse, interchange them when you really mean the other word.

    In the real estate sector, its common knowledge that different homes require different types of work. There are many aspects that work encompasses. Age, the type of materials to be used, the colors of the house, and even the personal preferences of whomever is getting work done on the house are all factors to consider.

    But, as part of common sense, you need to know what you want, and you need to know how to communicate what you want as accurately as possible. Now, when should you ask for a home restoration and when should you ask for a home renovation? Here are some of the key differences:

    Home Restoration

    To restore a home means to return it to its original state or condition at a particular time period. This is often preferred by homeowners who have a love for the houses history and who seek to retain the original design as much as possible, whether its to pay homage to a time long past, or out of respect for traditions. This is strict in the sense that whichever materials, paints and designs were incorporated in the original structure are going to be used.

    Some examples of home restoration projects include, but are not limited to:

    Door and window repair

    Cabinet restoration

    Floor refinishing

    Repainting with original color

    Home Renovation

    On the other hand, a home renovation is performed with the purpose of making the home feel like new. This often means that the existing materials and fixtures are often replaced with new ones, without the restriction that they stick to the houses original design. One may even have a home updated to modern trends if one so chooses.

    Some examples of home renovation projects include:

    Door and window replacement

    Floor redesign or refinishing with different color or texture

    Updating or even replacing old rooms

    Repainting with a different color

    When A Dilemma Isnt Even a Dilemma

    Now, you may be wondering which between these two options suits your needs better. Well, Im glad to tell you that theres no dilemma to be had here. It really depends on what you or your house, rather needs. Old houses often need renovations to keep up-to-date with modern trends, while houses that arent exactly in bad shape may only need a restoration. The point here is that it all depends on what the house really needs.

    Full Story >

    3 Tips for Buying a House That Will Support Your Lifestyle

    You need a home that will conveniently fit your routines, hobbies, and expectations. Whether thats a ranch in the country or a small city townhouse, its up to you to decide if the home will support your life>

    Here are three important aspects to consider when determining if a house is a good fit for the life you and your loved ones lead.nbsp;

    1. Consider How Your Daily Routine Will Worknbsp;

    When you first tour a house thats for sale, what are you thinking about? Are you dreaming of the house parties you could throw and the furniture that would fit perfectly, even if you cant afford it?nbsp;

    Try flipping your mindset to a more realistic setting. The majority of the time youre in that house, youll be going about life normally: getting up for work, taking care of kids or pets, cooking, cleaning, and just living.nbsp;

    Therefore, the visions you have when preparing to buy a new home should really be about how your average routine will function inside this particular house.nbsp;

    Is the house close to the businesses, doctors, offices, and schools youll frequently be visiting? Research has shown that people with short-distance commutes are more >

    Do you hate getting up at the crack of dawn to take your lovable pup outside? Make sure your dream house has a fence and perhaps a doggy door - this will make an impact on your everyday life and enjoyment.nbsp;

    What about the kids? What do they do on an average day, and how will their activities and necessities be met in the house youre considering? Will they be closed to the things that they do every day, like parks, schools, and friends houses?nbsp;

    A house can be beautiful, spacious, and a good price, but if it doesnt have features that will contribute to the ease of your everyday life, it might not be a good overall fit for your family.nbsp;

    2. Think About Incorporating Your Hobbiesnbsp;

    Speaking of daily activities, it never hurts to think about how your most important hobbies will fit into a new house. Many hobbies take up space, so before you make any commitments, think about where your workshop, exercise room, or arts and crafts area could fit.nbsp;

    If youre into woodworking, youll need a safe area with great ventilation and lockable doors if you plan on using sharp tools for your projects. Consult a woodworking guide to get all the details on the tools, process and safety practices you need to know before starting with woodworking.nbsp;

    Similarly, if you like to paint, work on cars, or create a real mess, where will your hobby fit into this new house? These arent hobbies you can do just anywhere.nbsp;

    Maybe youll decide you need a separate room or shed for your hobby, or perhaps you want to convert half of the garage into a workshop. Regardless, these are things you need to think about while home shopping - not after youve already made the move.nbsp;

    Hobbies should be just as much of a priority as the number of bathrooms or the color of the carpet.nbsp;

    In the rise of workaholism in America, its more important than ever to actively search for ways to keep hobbies involved in your home life. Hobbies exercise a part of our brain we dont typically use and improve our cognitive functions - dont brush them off when thinking about how a house fits your life>

    3. Remember: Your Happiness Doesnt Come from a Homenbsp;

    The American Dream would often have us believe that a good job, a content family, and a house with a white picket fence are the necessary ingredients for a happy life - but thats not always true. Owning a McMansion you cant really afford or living in a cramped space to be in a cool city isnt always the right path to a happy life>

    Know what the real ingredients to a happy life>

    A sense of community and frequent community celebrations
    Close friends and family, especially for children
    Access and commitment to frequent exercise
    Less emphasis on consumerism a big happiness suppressant
    The chance to actively help people for about 100 hours a yearnbsp;

    Notice that none of those ingredients have anything to do with the size of the house. However, many of them do influence where you live and how you can access support groups, community, activity, and charity.nbsp;

    Want to know what actually detracts from your happiness?nbsp;

    Paying too much for your living accommodations
    Isolation from friends and family
    Feeling out of control when it comes to your life> Making choices to impress others, not yourselfnbsp;

    As you shop for your dream house, think about aesthetics and design. Consider what you feel about the actual building. Then, before you pull any triggers, ask yourself:

    Will this house bring me happiness?
    Does it pair well with the real ingredients that will make me and my family feel satisfied?

    To Wrap It Upnbsp;

    Many Americans about 40 percent say that buying a new home is THE most stressful event in modern life. There are so many aspects to consider - the entire process can be overwhelming and confusing.nbsp;

    To make the process easier, focus less on the specifics of the houses youre evaluating and more on the life youll be able to lead once you move into the home you choose. Everything from your commute to your space for hobbies and proximity to friends, family, and community can seriously impact your happiness - dont let those factors be overshadowed by a pretty exterior or five awesome bedrooms.nbsp;


    Riley Swanson is a life>
    Full Story >

    Easy Curb Appeal Updates For 2020

    Tidy Up The Yard

    You may not have the time or the money to invest in brand new landscaping, but that doesnt mean that you cant make the yard look clean. You can buy mulch in bulk at Home Depot for cheap. Having mulch is the easiest way to transform your yard and make it look neat and fresh. Plant some new flowers in pots placed near your front door, and add a new welcome mat. Finally, Mow the lawn and trim branches.

    Clear The Pathways

    Its simple enough to get out the hose and spray away all leaves from sidewalks and walkways. Large piles of leaves in the backyard and front can be a turnoff to potential homebuyers because it may make them think that the yard is hard to take care of or that the home is unkempt.

    Paint or Power Wash?

    Take a walk around your home and inspect the exterior. Do you notice any peeling or chipped paint? It may be time to consider repainting the exterior. Check the walkways, windows, and smaller details that are looking drab. A fast power wash can help transform these areas without costing a fortune. You can easilynbsp;rent a power washernbsp;if you dont have one.

    Add Color

    Consider updating your front door for a fresh, new look. Add a pop of color by painting your front door if you dont have the funds to update the whole house with a fresh paint. A new entry can return between 75100 of your investment. Follow the above tips for some easy curb appeal fixes tonbsp;sell your home quicklynbsp;in 2020. Good luck

    Full Story >

    Save Big by Going Green With These Sustainability Tips

    Practicing Sustainable Laundry Habits

    When it comes to trimming the electric bills or finding more effective ways to minimize the utility costs, the laundry room is the perfect place to start. Washing with cold water, hanging clothes up to dry rather than using a dryer and making other small changes can often make a big difference. Households that are constantly doing laundry have much to gain by adjusting their habits and finding more sustainable ways to wash their next load.

    Upgrading Older Appliances

    Curbing utility costs is all about finding devices that are using more power than may be needed in order to get the job done. Outdated appliances are frequently some of the biggest sources of wasted electricity. Swapping out existing appliances for high-efficiency models or replacing older equipment that may be suffering from impaired performance can be well worth the time, effort or cost involved. The installation of roof solar panels or a rainwater collection system may also be beneficial and is an option that those planning an energy audit or home renovation would be wise to consider.

    Tracking Down Water Leaks

    Tracking down and fixing any leaks within the homes plumbing system is another way that homeowners may be able to reduce their bills. The slow drip of a facet, toilet tanks that constantly refill themselves and other minor issues could all result in water bills that are placing undue stress on the household budget. While extensive repairs and costly installation purchases and installation services may be required to deal with major problems, many minor issues can be resolved using nothing more complicated than a simple screwdriver and a wrench.

    Gardening and Growing Fresh Produce

    A backyard great way to save on grocery costs while ensuring that fresh produce is never in short supply. Lessening the environmental impact caused by industrial agricultural operations or the emissions created when bringing fresh foods to market may be as simple as setting up an area to garden within the backyard. In addition to being thrifty, gardening can be an enjoyable hobby in its own right, one that can make it much easier for households to enjoy fresh foods without having to worry about the use of pesticides or other chemicals that might otherwise be used during the growing process. Other landscaping additions that may produce some much-needed savings may include xeriscaping to help minimize irrigation or using shrubs and trees to shade the home in order to reduce cooling costs.

    Creating a More Sustainable and Cost-effective Home

    Unlike other home upgrades that may require no more than an installation, sustainability is an ongoing effort. Homeowners should keep an eye out for any new resources that may allow them to curb their water and energy usage as well as the new technologies and products that can be used to create a more sustainable home without requiring major changes to an established life>
    Full Story >

    Is It a Trend or a Fad? How to Know the Difference When Updating Your Home

    In a macro sense, Anbsp;fadnbsp;is a short-lived phenomenon, fading in a >

    As it >

    How can you tell between a fad and a trend?

    Take the barn door. It started out looking like a fad, merged into a trend, and then became so oversaturated Try finding a flip or renovation on HGTV that didnt have one over the last couple of years that people became tired of them.nbsp;

    If youre making changes to your home with the intent of selling, knowing the difference between fads and trends can help inform your design choices.

    Paint color

    Gray has been the color dujour for, well, more than a jour. If your home needs a fresh coat before you list it, a neutral is the way to go. You just want to make sure you dont go overboard.nbsp;nbsp;

    Gray floors, gray walls, gray kitchen cabinets Treating gray as a neutral is something thats starting to feel predictable, Samira Tapia, a Los Angeles-based Realtor with Compass, told Apartment Therapy.nbsp; I specifically have buyers asking me not to send them any all-gray listings.

    You also want to be careful about going too bold. You may love blood red or a shade of yellow thats brighter than the sun, but unusual or unpredictable shades may make your home memorable for the wrong reason.nbsp;


    Thanks to Instagram and Pinterest, busy, bold wallpaper is back in a big way, said HomeLight. Online searches for bold print wallpaper have increased bynbsp;401 in the past year. But heres the thing about wallpaper, dont add it to your home. It can add visual clutter, Janice Rosenberg, anbsp;top performing real estate agent in Raleigh, NC, told them. Buyers are doing their searches on the Internet, and theyre looking at the photos and when they see wallpaper that they dont like in their minds, theyre thinking its going to cost a lot of money and time to get rid of it.


    If you are replacing your flooring prior to listing your home, think carefully about what to use. Hardwood can actually help you sell your home, and for a higher price than other materials, but you still wont get every dollar you spend back in most cases. Before you commit to spending thousands of dollars, its a good idea to consult your real estate agent. An experienced agent should be able to guide you to the best options for your flooring and then counsel you on the best colors, plank width, and brands of you do choose to add hardwood.nbsp;

    Kitchen finishes

    Watch HGTV for more than a few minutes these days and youre probably going to see some fancy gold or brass finishes in the kitchen, and possibly the bathrooms as well. Were filing this under fad, because, even though this type of finish has grown in popularity, youre still unlikely to find them in the majority of homesespecially in more suburban areas. If you live in a hip city with a large, design-savvy millennial buyer base, going with the latest finishes could be a good move. For everyone else, sticking to finishes with more widespread appeal is smart.nbsp;

    Kitchen shelving is another important feature to consider. In recent years, open shelving has become quite popular on design shows. But, in real life, it can lack function and create clutterespecially when there is too much of it. Open shelving looks great when done right, but too many open shelves can look unorganized, said Family Handyman.nbsp;Stick to a couple well-organized open shelves mixed in with cabinets.


    Outside of finishes, its important to consider the main features of your bathroom. Are you fixing up an outdated space? You might be seeing a number of owners renovating their master bathrooms to include a large walk-in shower, which requires them to ditch the bath. Is this a fad or a trend? Either way, it can be a move that hurts the homes value.nbsp;

    Consider your potential buyer before making such a drastic change. If there are a lot of young families in the neighborhood and thats your target buyer, removing the tub in the master bath may end up costing you a sale.

    Full Story >

    DIY Management In A Homeowner Association

    According to The Owners and Managers Guide to Condominium Management: "For self-management to be successful, unit owners must have plenty of time and experience, and a professional attitude toward their work for the association. For example, the treasurer must understand accounting and be willing to devote a significant amount of time to the maintenance of proper financial records and timely collections. The chair of the landscape committee should have gardening experience so that either a landscape contractor or a gardener can be properly supervised. If the association is fortunate enough to have members who have the three main attributes--talent, time and concern--self-management may be the best choice."

    Size of the development is an important factor. Although it should not be the ultimate factor in deciding to self-manage, a sound case can be made for limiting self-management to HOAs of fewer than 10 units with limited common area space and no recreational facilities.

    The main advantage of self-management is cost. However, if the motivation for adopting self-management is pu>

    From a volunteers point of few, the cost savings only comes because volunteers are doing the work for free. Volunteerism often has a problem with continuity. Todays "house-afire" is tomorrows "burn-out".

    The board must consider the legal implications of self-management, since the board itself is liable for its decisions or indecision. The boards responsibility is to both fellow unit owners and the general public. Although many governing documents contain a hold harmless clause that seeks to protect board members from legal repercussions for their actions, this does not prevent their being sued for mismanagement.

    Member enthusiasm may be high enough to make self management successful. However, that enthusiasm usually decreases as the demands on volunteers increase. A breakdown in the system can spell disaster for the entire community. Consider the nasty aspects like having to enforce rules or collection on your neighbors. This situation will happen in every HOA at some point. No volunteer should be put in the position of lording over neighbors.

    Self managing a homeowner association can work under the right set of circumstances as long as the approach is professional. If it isnt clicking, consider the alternatives that professionals can offer.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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    How Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Mentality Can Help You Achieve Your Goals and Prioritize Your Life

    The emotions raw. And the Mamba Mentality, a persona he created for himself that epitomized his killer instinct on the court, has been brought into fresh focus.nbsp;nbsp;

    Kobes un>

    But you dont have to be a fan of Kobe or basketball or even sports to appreciate the Mamba Mentality. As ESPN sports personality, Stephen. A Smith, noted during NBA Countdown, it isnt something thats reserved for just basketball players. Or athletes. Its for any human being out there who has a dream.nbsp;

    Kobes off-the-court pursuitsin particular his dedication to his four daughters and his many philanthropic efforts that have come to light since his passing, like granting more than 200 Make a Wish requests and making countless unscheduled and unpublicized visits to sick childrenhave resonated with people all over the world. Weve seen a terrific display of anguish and mourning even among those who never knew him and who cant comprehend the audacity of an 81-point game or the willfulness to insist on always being the one to take the last shot, and always assume hed make it. And not because he had the skillwhich he obviously didbut because he had >

    If his shocking and untimely death along with eight othersKobes 13-year-old daughter, Gianna; John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli; Sarah and Payton Chester; Christina Mauser; and Ara Zobayanhas made you personally reflect on your own life and reevaluate or reprioritize your goals, youre not alone. While the loss is profound, it can inspire change. The Mamba Mentality is something we can all apply to our lives, whether youre looking to become a real estate tycoon, want to safe place for your kids to play and good schools to learn in, are ready to commit to saving more money so you can meet those financial goals, want to climb the ladder in your career or perhaps change careers altogether to something that provides you with more fulfillment, or simply desire to be more present for your family.nbsp;

    Put in the work

    You dont have to be an elite athlete to bring the Mamba Mentality into your world. Want to buy your first home but dont have the down payment? Work your butt off to get there. Get a second job or a side gig, or stop eating lunch out every day.nbsp;

    Not getting your offers accepted? What more could you be doing? Is your agent searching for off-market properties? Have you thought about writing a heartfelt letter to the seller of a home you really want? Do you need to refocus your goals on earning more money or tightening your belt to buy a bigger house? Maybe you need to lower your expectations and buy something smaller.nbsp;

    Brett Hagler, the CEO and co-founder of New Story, a San Francisco-based non-profit seeking to end global homelessness, recently re-sharednbsp;a piece he wrote on LinkedIn in 2016 about Kobe, which he titled, Because of 4AM.

    The crux of the piece was that Kobe famously made sacrifices for his craft, getting to the gym at an ungodly hour to work on his game while others were sleeping. Because of 4AM came from Kobe when he was on stage accepting the Icon Award at the ESPYS, he wrote. He was addressing fellow athletes:nbsp;Were not on this stage just because of talent or ability, Bryant said. Were up herenbsp;because of 4 a.m. Were up here because of two-a-days or five-a-days. Were up here because we had a dream and let nothing stand in our way. If anything tried to bring us down, we used it to make us stronger.

    There are thousands of athletes that had similar or even better talent than Kobe, Hagler continued. Just like there are thousands of executives, leaders, sales managers, artists, musicians, writers, etc. that have the same and more talent than you and me.nbsp;But at the end of the day, it doesnt come down to who has the most talent or intelligence. It comes down to who is willing to make the choices that others are not willing to make.nbsp;Who is willing to shoot baskets in the dark when everyone else is sleeping? Who is willing to prepare more for an interview? Who is willing to practice their speech 10X more than anyone else? All are choices we make. The 4AMs and two-a-days become intentional choices. The hard things over the easy, uncomfortable things become routine. The discipline to put off instant gratification is the standard process.

    That was the core of the Mamba Mentality: Simply work harder than everyone else. As Kobe once said, When we are saying this cannot be accomplished, this cannot be done, then we are short-changing ourselves. My brain, it cannot process failure. It will not process failure.

    Ask yourself what youre willing to sacrifice to get there

    How long of a drive to and from work we can endure is often a question we ask ourselves when we are buying a home. In some areas, a commute is inevitable simply because more affordable homes are sparse closer to work centers. But how much is too much?nbsp;

    A big home with a yard in the suburbs that comes with a three-hour daily commute may not be preferable to a smaller place closer in that allows you to be home for dinner and tuck-ins every night in light of Kobes death. Its hard not to see the sad irony in the fact that Kobe had made the choice to ride by helicopter to maximize the time he could spend with his family, recounting a time when he had missed a school play because he was stuck in notoriously bad L.A traffic.nbsp;

    Focus on small goals

    When you have the impetus to make a life change, you can feel compelled to change everything at once. If youre newly focused on saving money for a down payment, perhaps, you can set yourself up for failure by setting an unreasonable goal. Want to be the CEO of your company instead of an assistant? Expecting that to happen in six months can ultimately create disappointment and frustration. Instead, set smaller goals and work hard to meet them.nbsp;

    Kobe once said about his return to the game after an injury, Its a long journey but if you focus on the mini milestones along the way you will find beauty in the struggle of doing simple things thatwere taken for granted. This will also mean that when you return you will have a new perspective. You will be so appreciative of being able to stand, walk, run that you will train harder than you ever have. You see the belief within you grow with each mini milestone and you will come back a better player for it.nbsp;

    Dont be afraid of missteps

    Whatever it is were pursuing, whether were spotlighting our objectives at work, our financial independence, or raising kids, the goal isnt perfection. Its making choices, pivoting when necessary, refining our processes, and always keeping the end goal in mind.nbsp;

    If I wanted to implement something new into my game, Id see it and try incorporating it immediately, Kobe said in The Mamba Mentality: How I Play. I wasnt scared of missing, looking bad, or being embarrassed. Thats because I always kept the end result, the long game, in my mind. I always focused on the fact that I had to try something to get it, and once I got it, Id have another tool in my arsenal. If the price was a lot of work and a few missed shots, I was OK with that.

    Keep learning

    Kobe was notoriously curious and a voracious learner. On his first show back after Kobes death, Jimmy Kimmel told a story about having gifted Kobe with a book; Kobe contacted Jimmy after finishing the book, and had so many questions that Jimmy ended up putting him in touch with the author. Kobe also taught himself how to play Beethovens Moonlight Sonata by ear because he thought it would be nice for his wife. Already fluent in three languages, he was also in the process of learning Cantonese.nbsp;

    You dont have to go out and learn a new language, or perfect a masterpiece on the piano. But what can you add to your life, or what can help reach your goals, by employing a learning mentality? Would picking up a new skill make you a more valuable employee at your current job or open you up to more lucrative opportunities elsewhere? Would learning to paint or garden or tile your kitchen backsplash add enjoyment to your life or value to your home? Would learning about different types of loans and programs for things like down payment assistance make it more likely that you could buy your first home? The more you know, the more you can advocate for yourself, the more prepared you are to meet your goals. The more Mamba your Mentality, the more likely your success.

    Be a leader

    Even those of us who love basketball and are lifetime Laker fans underestimated the impact Kobe had on the game and on other players. The outpouring of grief has been tangible. Turns out that perhaps his greatest legacy is not what he did on the court, but how he inspired others to do and be their best through his example.

    Since Kobes retirement, he was fulfilling that role for others, mentoring and acting as a support system to a wide range of people, including the children of his former teammates; Shaquille ONeals son, Shareef, called Kobe Unc and received a text from Kobe the morning of his death. Kobe was also notably promoting womens and girls basketball to the extent that many felt this would be his most important legacy, surpassing even his unbelievable exploits on the court.nbsp;nbsp;

    "The most important thing is to try andnbsp;inspire people so that they can be great at whatever they want to do," he said.nbsp;

    With your coworkers, your friends, your family, being more and doing more is a choice.nbsp;

    Give back

    If Kobes untimely death has made you think about what you were putting back into the world, youre not alone. That seems to be a common response, especially in light of all the information coming out about the selfless deeds that he did. If youre looking for a way to channel your grief, or simply achieve more personal fulfillment, think about how to give back.nbsp;

    What is it in life that drives you? Are you motivated by making lots of money at your job? Do you enjoy being recognized for your accomplishments? Thats a good start, but think deeper, said author and self-help guru Tony Robbins. Why do you enjoy making money? Is it so you can provide for your family and feel secure? Perhaps you >

    A loss can be a turning point, if you channel that grief properly. And it doesnt have to be the loss of someone you knew personally.

    Theres a huge sense of loss when people who are young and really excelling in life are stripped away from us out of the blue, Lauren Cook, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Pepperdine University, told NBC News. Its really triggering as its a stark reminder of lifes unpredictability. We tend to go through our days with a sense of normalcy that we can take it for granted. A loss like this is something that humans, who crave homeostasis, find tragically alarming.

    The sites recommendation, which is widely shared by experts in grief and loss: The next best thing you can do to cope with this loss once you have fully processed it, is to use it to make you a better person.

    Figure out your priorities and make your time count

    Kobes dedication to his four daughters and his pride in being a girl dad was increasingly on display after his retirement from the NBA in 2016. Few of us have the financial wherewithal to retire at age 34, but his post-NBA life is a good reminder to focus on whats important.

    Kobe was once asked how he wanted to be remembered. His answer: "Ive always said that I wanted to be remembered as a player that didnt waste a moment...didnt waste a day. I felt extremely blessed by the God-given talent but, at the same time, I didnt take it for granted. So if I could be remembered as a person who was born with a lot of talent but did everything he could to try to overachieve and lived every day as if he was the 12th guy on the benchthats a very powerful message to have.

    But, he also knew that his time as a player was limited, and that his life goals were much larger than what he could do with a ball. If basketball is the best thing Ive done in my life, then Ive failed, he said.

    Thats a lesson for us all.

    Full Story >

    Looking to Buy a Home This Year? Credit Score Changes Could Make It More Challenging.

    What is the new scoring system?

    Fair Isaac Corp., commonly known as FICO, has built anbsp;new suitenbsp;of scoring models that will be available from all three credit reporting agencies Experian, TransUnion and Equifax to lenders by the end of 2020, said Experian. The new models will treat late payments and debt more seve>

    Just how could this impact borrowers? Consumers with high FICO scores who continue to manage their finances well may actually see an increase in their scores. This change will create greater separation in the 600s, said Forbes. If you are in the lower 600s and struggling to make payments on time, there is a chance your score can go down further. If you are in the high 600s and making payments on time and trending toward lower debt levels, your score could actually increase.

    Joanne Gaskin, vice president of scores and analytics at FICO, told NPR that, About 40 million Americans are likely to see their credit scores drop by 20 points or more, and an equal number should go up by as much.

    Whats NOT changing

    The fivenbsp;main factorsnbsp;that FICO has long used in its scoring models will remain. They are: payment history, dollar amount owed, age of credit history, credit mix and new credit accounts. However, the new FICO scoring systemnbsp;expands into new territory, with the goal of giving lenders a more precise assessment of your credit risk, said Experian. It considers your trended data.

    What is trended data?

    Trended data offers a closer look at your financial picture over the last 24 months, specifically focusing on how you have managed your existing accounts. Trended data has not typically been shown to lenders for the purpose of qualifying home buyersuntil now.nbsp;

    How will this change impact your score

    Those with scores below 600 who continue to miss payments or have blemishes on their credit will see even larger declines in their scores, said REALTOR Magazine. FICOwill soon start more harshly penalizing the scores of consumers who have rising debt levels or who fall behind on loan payments. The company will also flag certain consumers who sign up for personal loans, which is a growing area of debt.

    With these new changes, its more important than ever to be diligent about protecting your credit. Would-be homebuyers will want to:

    Pay your bills on timeThis has always been important but is even more critical now. Late payments have always been a red flag for lenders, but they may be even more harshly penalized once the new program is in place. Delinquencies will hurt scores more now, said Experian. The impact of late payments is more pronounced than with prior FICOnbsp;Score versions. This means consumers who miss payments are likely to experience a more severe drop in their credit scores under this new model.nbsp;

    Pay down credit card balancesAccording to FICO, borrowers should keep revolving debt below 30 of their available credit so that they dont see a larger impact to their credit score, said REALTOR.nbsp;

    Get currentPull yournbsp;credit reports and make sure that nothing has fallen through the cracks like a small medical bill, said Forbes.nbsp;Catching up on those payments may show a positive trend.

    Avoid personal loans"The scores will weigh personal loans more heavily, the Wall Street Journal reported, in order to penalize borrowers whonbsp;consolidate debt with personal loansnbsp;and then go on to rack up more debt, said MarketWatch.

    Dont cancel your credit cards. Closing accounts can actually hurt your score. When it comes to credit cards, it can help to hold on to older accounts for a long time, said NPR. Doing that gives consumers a more established credit history.

    Full Story >

    FHA Cash Out Refinancing in 2020

    At some point however, homeowners could consider refinancing an existing mortgage. Maybe rates have fallen lower than the rate currently on the note. Thats typically the most common reason refinancing can make sense but there are other reasons. Changing loan terms can also be a valid reason to refinance. Different loan terms simply means shortening or lengthening the life of the loan. A 30 year term will have lower payments than say a 10 year loan, for example.nbsp;

    On the flip side, a longer loan term means more interest is paid over the life of the loan. A shorter loan term will mean higher monthly payments over the course of the loan, but the amount of interest paid is significantly less. But once a decision has been made to refinance, there may also be an option to pull out cash as part of the transaction. This is an FHA cash out refinance.

    There have been some changes to the FHA refinance program when pulling out cash occurs. These changes implemented late last year changed the limit on how high the new cash out loan can be compared to the current market of the property. The maximum cash out limit is now 80 percent of the value of the property compared to 85 percent previously.nbsp;

    Other FHA guidelines for a cash out loan include a minimum credit score of 580 when the loan amount is less than 90 percent of the value of the property but can go as low as 500 when there is more equity in the home. With a cash out refinance, there will be a limit at 80 percent. An FHA cash out loan is also fully documented, just as it was when using an FHA loan to purchase and finance a home.nbsp;nbsp;

    Existing FHA loans may also be eligible for a streamline refinance which simply means less documentation is required for an approval. With a cash out FHA loan, there is no such option. Other requirements include verifying there have been zero payments made within the last 12 months more than 30 days past the due date. Owner occupancy is also still required. This requirement can be fulfilled by providing a copy of utility bills going back at least 12 months. Youll need to speak with your individual lender how to comply with this FHA guideline.

    Finally, remember that pulling cash out of a property reduces the amount of equity in your home. With an FHA cash out loan, this is partially addressed by limiting how high the loan can be compared to the current market value of the property. Pulling cash out during an FHA refinance should only be a secondary consideration, not a primary one. If converting equity into cash is the primary focus, a home equity loan is probably the better answer.nbsp;

    Full Story >

    Real Estate to LOVE?

    Sellers who are considering a move from a home they small-L love to somewhere new theyll big L Love and buyers intent on purchasing a home to Love, can all benefit from asking themselves the same question and taking time to answer it.

    What do I want to LOVE about the real estate in my near future? is a great starting question for buyers and sellers.

    1. The answer is not me>2. The answer should go beyond the trite I love it expression applied liberally, and often with little thought, to everything from mid-century-modern decor to a stainless steel or marble finish. This over-used phrase is so much part of everyday speech that it has lost its deeper, discerning meaning.
    3. The answerto be genuinely valuable in your real estate searchshould include deep feelings about how you want to feel while living in your new home and how this emotional state will enhance valued aspects of your life. The answer lies, not in physical features, but in life>

    In short, why have you decided that spending all this money and investing all this time buying real estate is going to be well worth it?

    Scientist Louis Pasteur reaches out with a clear view of possible 21st-Century futures that explains why the Love question above is a great place to start for buyers and sellers contemplating their future home.

    Pasteurs belief that "Chance favors the prepared mind" can be a rock-solid guide for confident real estate decision making:

    Be prepared to act when luck strikes:

    Youll find luck appears more often and is easier to act on when you are prepared with >

    One source of all this be prepared knowledge and more will be the highly-competent, locally-knowledgeable real estate professionalthe matchmakeryou select to help you act in your own best interest regarding every detail of the search, decision making, and the resulting transaction.

    Or, plunge in and tackle the research yourself. Either way, understanding what you are buying and how the >

    Be ready to respond quickly when opportunity knocks:

    This is not encouragement to act in haste or to jump in before you understand what the property or the transaction involves. Respond quickly means having the confidence not to second-guess yourself after each decision. Buying real estate involves a lot of time-pressured decisions, so getting out of your own way by ending second guessing is an important, solid step forward.

    Clarify exactly what life>

    Be decisive when fortune calls:

    Once youve learned how to quickly and thoroughly research essential elements of a property or have engaged with a real estate professional who can help you achieve this, youre on solid ground. Youll be confident you understand what you are getting intogood, bad, and indifferentbefore you act. This represents a productive mix of practical knowledge like window placement and interior traffic flow and acknowledgment of long-term benefits that matter to you and those youll share the home with.

    We are what we think, what we believe. Thats "the box" that can limit our view of what the future might hold. A committed professional can expand your horizon of possibilities. This confidence may lead you to consider a different >

    Because each piece of real estate is unique, separating your deep buying intentions from your must-have shopping list will enable you to fully evaluate the potential of a property that may vary from the usual cookie-cutter offering.

    Is your buying vision based on trending Instagram photos and videos or current superficial Keeping up with the Jones demands? Or, are you guided by Lovehow you feel about home as a place to belong, share experiences, and gain courage to face the outside world?

    The apparent simplicity of using your Love of what the new home will contribute to your life does not mean that identifying emotional connections is necessarily easy for everyone. The level of personal commitment involved in applying the Love criteria to hopes and dreams may require efforts like discussions with family members or some soul searching. Are you prepared to make personal investments like these in your future?

    Doing nothing is a decision, too, perhaps not the best one, but a decision to be lived with none the less. Concentrate buying decisions on features like stainless-steel appliances, kitchen islands, and master bedroom ensuites and the result may not be the long-term Love many want and expect when buying a home.

    Theres more to consider in PJs articles

    Are You Buying For The Right Reasons?

    Move-In: Will I Like What I Bought?nbsp;

    Home Buyer Assumptions Are Expensivenbsp;

    Full Story >

    5 Home Decor Projects That Incorporate Nature Indoors

    Add Plants to Your Home

    You can add beautiful planters to your home for a variety of lush and green houseplants, but today, some homeowners are creating hanging moss walls that create a natural appearance in a room. Instead of hanging paintings or photographs on a wall, you will have a special material where moss or other types of plants can grow.

    Beautiful Water Features

    You can bring artificial water features into your home to create a natural ambience. There are large or small water features available that you can fill with water. These devices may resemble waterfalls or fountains. Some of these water features cover an entire wall while others are easy to place on a tabletop. These water features have pumps that require electricity to help the water flow.

    Natural Window Coverings

    Rather than using flimsy fabric curtains on your homes windows, choose woodennbsp;window blinds instead. You can find blinds that are made from light or dark colors of wood that will match your homes baseboards, doors or furniture. It is possible to select a variety of sizes of blinds for different types of windows. The natural color and grain of these blinds is beautiful, giving each room a special ambience.

    Stone Countertops

    If your home has an ugly old-fashioned vinyl countertop in the kitchen, then have it replaced with stone. Each piece of stone countertop is unique, but you can find different colors to create a special ambience in a room. There are granite, slate and quartz countertop materials available, and a technician can cut the materials to fit precisely in your homes kitchen.

    Skylight Windows

    You can hire a contractor to add skylights to your home in strategic locations. This will give you additional natural sunlight that will help you to feel better. Instead of installing one huge skylight, you can have multiple small skylights installed. These are especially attractive in homes that have vaulted ceilings to add lighting to spaces that include kitchens or living rooms.

    Professional Installation or Do-it-yourself

    In some cases, you can add natural home decor on your own, but there are also professional technicians who you can hire for these installations.If you buy remodeling material from a big hardware store you may qualify for free or discounted installation pricing than finding your own contract worker. However, if you know how to do these installations safely you can save money by using your own time and talent.nbsp;

    Full Story >

    Top 3 Tips for Selling Luxury Real Estate

    Check out these three hot tips for selling luxury real estate so you can sell your gorgeous home for top dollar.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

    Hire for Professional Home Photography and Staging

    According to data from the National Association of Realtors, nearly half of buyers begin their home search online. This means that if you dont have a proper online listing, youre missing out on almost half of your potential buyers. Of those that search online, 89 say that photos are very useful and 50 say that virtual tours are very useful.

    And thats talking about all real estate.

    The key to selling luxury real estate is to take things one step further. Pictures really are worth a thousand words and most people will just scroll on by a listing that has no photos. A listing with a photo of the jaw-droppingly gorgeous entrance to your home, on the other hand, is sure to grab someones attention.nbsp;

    To do that, you need to hire a professional photographer to photograph it. Smartphone photos wont cut it in this case. Your phone may take stunning photos, but professionals know how to use things like angles and lighting to their advantage to showcase the loveliest features of the home.nbsp;

    Before the photographer arrives, its a good idea to hire a home stager. After all, you want to give the photographer the best possible canvas to work with.

    Properly staging a home with neutral furnishings and decor allows buyers to envision themselves living in the home. This is important for the emotional component of buying a home.nbsp;

    When selling luxury real estate you should strongly consider making the extra investment and taking a video as well. The luxury market is smaller and there is a bigger chance that your buyer will be coming from far away. Videos can help them get a better feel for your home and encourage them to come and view it in person. Aerial drone photography is an impressive touch that you should consider for the exterior.

    Hire the Right Agent

    Hiring the right agent is a crucial step to selling luxury real estate. Be extra picky when choosing your agent. Look for one with extensive experience in the luxury market as things work a little differently.nbsp;

    Everything is bigger and bolder in this arena and your agent should understand that. For example, their full-service marketing plan should include a custom website just for your listing. This is where the professional photos and videos will be showcased, showing off the beauty of your home without fighting for attention on the regular MLS.

    Plus, luxury buyers are used to a more...luxurious buying experience. A good luxury real estate agent will know that. Theyre going to have to spend money to close this deal and wining and dining potential buyers within reason should be in their plan.nbsp;

    Luxury real estate agents know theyre not just selling a house, theyre selling a life>

    Agents are also vital to one of the most crucial steps of the sale process determining the list price. Set your list price too high and your home could sit on the market too long. Buyers will become wary, assuming there is something wrong with the home and your listing could expire without an offer.nbsp;

    With normal real estate, you could wait a few months and list again at a lower price and perhaps have better luck. Unfortunately, luxury real estate for its uniqueness often sticks out. A few months may not be long enough for people to forget that no one wanted to buy it the first time.nbsp;

    Obviously, pricing it too low means you wont get the return you deserve on your investment.nbsp;

    An agent will lend their expertise to the process by performing a comparative market analysis to determine the fair market value of your home.nbsp;

    Comparative Market Analysis

    However, comparative market analyses are difficult enough as it is. Agents look at various factors including features of the home, its condition, the neighborhood, and more to determine the list price they think they can sell it for.nbsp;

    The current state of the market also has an effect but remember the luxury niche may not be following the same trend as regular residential real estate. This is another reason that an agent fluent in luxury real estate sales is an invaluable asset.nbsp;

    A big part of this analysis is comparing the home to recent sales of similar properties in the area. As you can imagine, this becomes more complicated with luxury real estate. It is much harder to find comparable properties as luxury homes tend to have unique features that set them apart.nbsp;

    Selling Your Luxury Home

    As you can see, selling luxury real estate is a little different than selling regular real estate. By following the three tips weve outlined here, you can drastically boost your chances of selling your home for the price you deserve.nbsp;

    So, dont skimp on the photography, hire a knowledgeable luxury real estate agent, and price it right for a fast, profitable sale.nbsp;nbsp;

    Full Story >

    5 Ways that Drain Cleaning is Crucial for Your Home’s Routine Maintenance

    Were very fortunate to have teamed up with a drain cleaning services team to help us compile this list of 5 reasons why your regular home maintenance should include drain cleaning, so here they are

    1.nbsp;Lesser likelihood of blockages

    Even the smallest types of clogs like in your sink or shower can slowly become serious home maintenance issues if they arent handled thoroughly with professional-grade cleaning solutions. Theres no denying that serious clogs require professional drain cleaning as quickly as possible, but for the regular homeowner its the buildup of blockages that they need to look out for on a regular basis.

    Letting basic buildup issues persist can sometimes even lead to catastrophic issues like sewer line bursts and leaks, which is always really expensive. Thats why a consistent monitoring of your drains is crucial when it comes to ensuring the overall sanctity of your homes behind the scenes structure.

    2.nbsp;Less Odor Issues

    Clogged drains can many times lead to really foul smells because it essentially can open up the airways from the depths of your homes plumbing system into your bathroom or kitchen. A lot of homeowners have issues when it comes to fully eliminating these smells once they are created, so it makes more sense to always do your due diligence in terms of not letting these smells occur at all.

    One of the best ways to avoid these smelly issues is to regularly clean out your drains to ensure that any chances of bad odors are swept away and are kept where they are supposed to be

    3.nbsp;Maintaining a cleaner home

    There is always a lot of bad bacteria, bugs and other chemicals that you dont want seeping into your home from your sewer lines, which is why clogged drains and any type of overflow is dangerous to your health. When you clean your drains on a consistent basis youll end up preventing these bad particles from entering your home, and subsequently putting your familys overall health at risk.

    4.nbsp;Less Spending

    One of the perks of having your drains professionally cleaned is that you can also ask your technician to take a look at your sewer lines for any type of potential damages or maintenance needs. Sometimes homeowners go through drain issues when their pipes are leaking, rusting or when a tree root has penetrated the line.

    This is why its always good to have a pro come to your home and inspect these potentially costly problems before they get out of hand and cause all sorts of expensive water damages. So in the end, regular drain maintenance can help save you a ton of money if youre taking it seriously and ensuring that your pipes are in good standing.

    5.nbsp;Safer Outdoor Areas

    A bad drainage system is also very detrimental to your front and back yards, including issues like standing water on your lawn, soil erosion, mold, mosquito breeding, and decaying gardens. If you do end up noticing a standing puddle of water in your yard, then this could be the result of a blocked drain or cracked sewer line.

    There is always going to be an entire array of issues that drain cleaning can help resolve, and it is always best to have a professional come do these types of plumbing services instead of making it a DIY project. Professionals will always have the necessary equipment to get the job done right the first time, which can help you out in the long run for all of the above reasons

    Full Story >

    HOA Can't Prohibit Water-Efficiency Measures

    But what happens when the drought is over? We trust that someday it will be over. Will HOAs then be able to revert to the rules they had back in the day when we all thought there was plenty of water? Will they be able, as some had done, to require green lawns and lush, well-watered landscaping?

    This is not a small issue, confined only to those occasional condominium units that may have a small yard where grass and some flowers can be grown. In California, there are more than 50,000 common interest developments [CIDs], comprising over 4.8 million housing units -- all subject to recorded regulations [CCamp;Rs] and HOA oversight. They are not all no-yard condominiums. Many are free-standing homes, some with very large yards, within an association.

    As a result of AB 349 Gonzalez, which was signed into law by the Governor on Sept. 4, 2015, the answer to the question above is "no". AB 349 prohibits "a requirement that an owner of a separate interest remove or reverse water-efficient landscaping measures, installed in response to a declaration of a state of emergency, upon the conclusion of the state of emergency." If you pulled out your lawn and planted cactus because of the drought, then when the drought is over you can leave it that way. If you want to.

    AB 349 does something else as well. It "voids or makes unenforceable, any provision of a CID governing document or architectural or landscaping guidelines or policies that prohibit the use of artificial turf or any other synthetic surface that resembles grass."

    The latter provision was the cause of some controversy, as was expressed in the opposition of ECHO Educational Community for Homeowners. The opposition was two-fold: 1 "environmental and public health concerns >

    As the Senate Legislative Analysis pointed out, two previous Governors had vetoed similar legislation. "In 2010, the Legislature passed AB 1793 Saldaa, 2010, a bill that would have rendered void and unenforceable any provision of the governing documents or architectural or landscaping guidelines or policies of a homeowner association that prohibited the use of artificial turf or any other synthetic surface that resembles grass." Governor Schwarzeneggers veto message said that such decisions should be left to the associations.

    "A year later the Legislature passed SB 759 Lieu, 2011 which was substantially similar to AB 1793 and this bill AB 349. Governor Brown vetoed that bill on essentially the same grounds."

    Be all that as it may, this year the provision -- mandating the approval of synthetic turf -- received gubernatorial approval. An association may be allowed to adopt reasonable restrictions -- for example, as to color -- but it may not prohibit the material outright.

    AB 349 was considered "an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety", so it became effective immediately. It is the law.

    Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtors. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .

    Full Story >

    Credit Inquiries: When They Really Matter and When They Really Don’t

    For most mortgage loan programs, a minimum credit score is required. There are five factors that go into calculating these three digit FICO scores and they are someones payment history, account balances, types of credit, how long someone has used credit and requests for new credit, referred to as an inquiry.

    There are two primary types of inquiries, a hard and a soft inquiry. A hard inquiry will have a direct and almost immediate impact on credit scores whereas a soft inquiry will not. A hard inquiry is one where the individual has made a direct request for new credit. The request can be for a new automobile loan, installment loan or a credit card. A single, somewhat isolated request for new credit will have a marginal impact on credit scores.nbsp;

    However, multiple requests for credit during a compressed period of time will eventually harm scores. The thinking is that immediate and several requests for new credit could indicate the individual is currently or soon will be in some sort of financial straits and the new credit accounts could act as a cushion until the financial issues are resolved. These varied, multiple requests can keep companies from issuing new credit.

    A soft inquiry is >

    Lets take a look at someone whos applied for a new home loan. The application is submitted but after a few days the applicant gets a little worried. Theres been no documentation sent, no phone calls returned and a vacant loan officer. After two weeks the applicant thinks it might be a good idea to apply for a mortgage at another lender but decides not to because an additional inquiry will drive scores down even further. But that thinking is wrong, especially for something as important as a mortgage.

    The guidelines set forth by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, have ruled that multiple requests for the same type of account within a 45 day period count as just one inquiry. Thats the key phrase here, same type of account. The applicant with the non-responsive loan officer makes another application with a new company after two weeks and there is no effect on scores. Remember, same type of account and 45 days.

    Full Story >

    Trend Alert: Grandmillennial Design

    Over the last year some millennials have become disenchanted with the somewhat generic, impersonal aesthetic that dominates so many influencer feeds, said MyDomaine. A new wave of design-savvy, nostalgic-natured, and traditionalist-inspired influencers is on the rise. Pleated lampshades, ruffled linens, needlepoint pillows, blue and white ceramics, and chintz-everything are a few of the items these young traditionalists gravitate towards.nbsp;

    As House Beautiful puts it, grandmillennials, ranging in age from mid-20s to late-30s,nbsp; have an affinity for design trends considered by mainstream culture to be stuffy or outdatedLaura Ashley prints, ruffles, embroidered linens. Unlike that of the late-aughts hipster, their taste for the antiquated isnt ironic; its less twee than timeless.

    Want to embrace the Grandmillennial >

    Hit the antique stores

    If youre not lucky enough to inherit a few great antiques, maybe youll be lucky enough to find a couple while out shopping. You can get furniture of greater quality for the same price you might pay at CB2 or West Elm, Robert Khederian said in the New York Post about the >

    Cheer on the chintz

    After a long history filled with many ups and downs, its become clear of late that chintzthat oversize floral symbol of both Granny Chic and 1980s excessis having a major renaissance, said Elle Decor. Whether its the recent rise of grandmillennial >

    Add skirts and ruffles

    Flounces like these help create warmth.

    Swap the geometric prints for brocade, chintz, or florals

    But, be careful not to overdo it. The judicious use of prints and colors is extremely important, said One Kings Lane. One step too far and you can end up with a room thats more granny than grandmillennial.

    Take up a new hobby

    Needlepointone of the granniest of all hobbies, said House Beautifulhas become huge. When youre done with your masterpiece, you have another item to add to your dcor.nbsp;

    Full Story >

    5 Appliance Repairs That You Can Do Yourself (and 2 You Shouldn’t)

    Replace the Thermostat in The Dryer

    If the dryer isnt getting hot, it could be the thermostat. The thermostat often breaks and when it happens, the dryer wont heat up. You can purchase a new thermostat at most hardware stores for under 80, which is a pretty big savings on most dryer repairs, which cost around 180. Follow the manual for your specific brand of dryer to locate the thermostat and purchase the most >

    Clear the Drain in the Dishwasher

    If the dishwasher is no longer draining, it is most likely a clog in the drain. You can clear this yourself in just minutes with the use of a shop vac. Just disconnect the drain and insert the shop vacs hose. Run the hose for a few minutes, then try the dishwasher again. This method can save you on further dishwasher repairs.

    Replace the Fan in the Freezer

    If the freezer is no longer keeping things cold, its probably the freezer fan. The fan is what circulates the cold air through the freezer, and if it shorts out, the cold air wont reach to all areas. A new fan is around 85 at your local hardware store, and you can replace it in a few minutes with a screwdriver. Just remove the cover, unscrew and disconnect the fan, and put in the new one.nbsp;

    Clean Coils in the Refrigerator

    If the fridge is not staying as cool as it should, its probably because the coils are dirty. These are located under or behind the fridge, and are a collection place for a lot of debris, dust, and pet hair. When the dirt builds up, the coils end up freezing, rather than cooling whats inside. To clean them, just unplug the fridge, slide it out and go around the back to where you can see the coils. You can use a vacuum, a duster, or a cloth and get them clean. Then just put your fridge back in place, plug it back in, and give it an hour to get back down to its normal temperature.nbsp;

    Unclog the Burner in the Gas Stove

    Gas stoves that arent lighting and arent giving off a smell of gas may seem to be a big problem, but its usually a small issue thats easily fixed. First just make sure that the electricity and gas lines to the stove are working properly. If the electricity and gas lines are in good order, the burner is probably clogged. Shut off the gas to the stove, then grab a small brush and some cleanser. Clean the burner head well, scrubbing it out. When you turn on the gas and turn the burner, it should light right up.nbsp;

    When to Call a Pro

    While the above fixes can be done yourself with little to no problem, there are definitely fixes that you should call in the professionals for.nbsp;

    Repair the Icemaker Broken on the Fridge

    If your icemaker suddenly dies, and its still connected to the water supply, the problem is most likely the compressor. The cost to repair the icemaker can get up to 300 depending on the brand, which is the costliest part of repairing a refrigerator and necessitates some major work on the refrigerator itself. For this one, you need to call in a professional repairman to take a look and do the work. Its too easy to make things worse in this area, which can lead to a full replacement, so if your icemaker seems to be on the fritz, call in the pros.

    Repair the Microwave

    There are many things that can fail with a microwave, and all of them require professional assistance. Even if you think that the repair is a quick or easy one, microwaves can be dangerous both to work on and to have working when not in proper repair. They can leak microwave radiation into the rest of your home if not properly sealed when working, so before you start poking around in there, call a professional for help.nbsp;

    Take Care of Your Appliances

    Simple fixes are often all thats necessary to avoid a big repair bill. Know when you can DIY and when you need to call a pro to keep things running smoothly.nbsp;

    Full Story >

    How to Save Money on Closing Costs

    Additionally, buyers may not understand that some of the fees under the closing costs umb>

    What are closing costs?

    First, its important to understand the role closing costs play in your mortgageespecially because were not talking about a measly amount. Closing costs can range from 26 of the total cost of your loan. So, on a 250,000 loan, thats 5,00015,000. Having to come up with that amount of money after scrimping and saving for a down payment can be a crushing blow.

    The term closing costs includes a variety of expenses above the purchase price of your property, such as fees for an attorney, a title search, title insurance, taxes, lender costs and some upfront housing expenses such as homeowners insurance, said U.S. News amp; World Report.nbsp;

    Shop around

    There are a number of items on a loan estimate that can vary in cost depending on the lender. It behooves you to reach out to more than one to find the best option. And remember this: You may think the winner is the one who is offering the lowest rate, but thats not always the case. It could be that some of the fees are higher with another lender, making the loan less attractive.

    Compare your loan estimates

    Lenders are required to provide you with an itemized loan estimate within three business days from the date you apply for a mortgage. So now its time to compare and contrast your estimates.nbsp;

    The Loan Estimate lets you comparison shop between companies total costs and also dig into specific fees once youve chosen a lender, said NerdWallet. You need the legally binding Loan Estimate to compare costs, not the closing costs worksheet or a fee itemization that some lenders offer, Erik Martin, president of Total Mortgage, a national mortgage company based in Milford, Connecticut, told them.

    Know what you can negotiate

    Page 2 of the loan estimate has a section called services you can shop for, said Bankrate. It includes the pest inspection, survey, and title fees, like title search, insurance binder, and settlement agent. These are services you can find on your own or use what the lender provides. If you shop around, you might be able to find something cheaper.

    And then there are the lender fees. Lender feesnbsp;arenbsp;feesnbsp;charged by banks and other financial institutions for processing and funding a loan, said LendingTree. They can include applicationnbsp;fees, attorneynbsp;fees, recordingnbsp;fees, underwritingnbsp;feesnbsp;and more. While you may not be able to eliminate these fees, you may be able to negotiate with the lender to lower them.nbsp;

    Close late in the month

    Can you control the date of your closing? This is something to discuss with your lender, because there are potential savings for a late-in-the-month closing. Prepaid interest is one of the fees that come into play when buying or refinancing a home, said HSH. Closing toward thenbsp;end of the monthnbsp;can save on prepaid interest. For example, if you close on July 11, youll have to pay for 20 days of interest. On a 200,000 loan with a 4.5 mortgage rate, thats almost 500. By closing on July 30, youll only pay interest for July 30 and 31. Using the same loan amount and interest rate, two days of interest is only 49.

    Ask for the seller to pay your closing costs

    There is no requirement that states that the buyer has to be the one who pays the closing costs. It may be possible, depending on the type of market youre in, to get the seller to pay at least part of the costs.nbsp;

    Some loans also allow you to roll part or all of the closing costs into your mortgage, which will raise your monthly payment some, but save you from having to come out of pocket.nbsp;

    Other things to look out for

    Certain type of loans will have separate costs involved like an upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1.75 for FHA loans or a VA funding fee as high as 3.6. These are not negotiable fees, but they may help you determine which loan is right for you and how much of a down payment you want to come up with. Remember that, for FHA and most conventional loans, you will also pay a monthly mortgage insurance premium.nbsp;

    All told, you can save hundreds of dollars, even thousands, by understanding how you to save on closing costs, said HSH. That money could be better spent going into your home, as opposed to on your home loan.

    Full Story >

    How to Sleep at Night After Applying For Your First Mortgage

    Your loan officer will ask a series of questions primarily about your job, income, credit and how much money you have available to close on a home. How much is needed adds up a down payment if needed, closing costs and cash reserves.nbsp;

    Cash reserves is simply how much money you have left over after the loan has completely closed.nbsp; This amount is calculated as how many months of house payments are left over in your bank account when all is said and done. If the total amount for principal and interest, taxes and insurance add up to 2,000 and the loan requirement is for six months of cash reserves left over in the bank common then there needs to be at least 12,000 of available funds left over in a bank account you own. Most first time homebuyer mortgages ask for three months of reserves.

    Okay, now lets say youve just submitted your loan application and provided your loan officer with the requested documentation. You can expect to provide your most recent paycheck stubs covering a 30 day period, bank statements showing sufficient funds to close the transaction and the last two years of W2 forms. If youre self-employed, youll need to provide two years worth of personal and business income tax returns. Your loan officer has reviewed your credit as well as your documentation and issued your preapproval letter.nbsp; This letter is key. This letter will state that your application has been reviewed along with your credit report and required documentation. This letter helps you sleep at night. Unless something changes from the time you receive this letter to your closing date, all should be fine. Youve already done the heavy lifting and your loan officer is tying up loose ends and ordering various third party documents such as title insurance and a property appraisal.

    After the loan has been fully documented it is then sent over to the lenders underwriter. The underwrite makes sure the loan complies with the requested loan program. Underwriting a loan doesnt really take very long, but it may take time for the underwriter to get to your file. Your loan officer can update you on current underwriting times. Its during this period that things get a little quiet on your end. Youre just waiting. And you might still be second-guessing yourself and wondering if the underwriter will want still more information. Guess what? The underwriter probably will. But not for anything major. Instead, the underwriter will want some updated information from you. For example, loan files should have all credit documents less than 30 days old. That means youll be asked for an updated paycheck stub or bank statement. Once your loan is signed off, your papers are drawn and youre almost there.nbsp;

    You attend your closing, sign where needed and either bring a cashiers check or wire the necessary funds to the settlement agent. Once complete, the signed documents are returned to the lender for one final review. This review simply makes sure the settlement agent followed the lenders instructions. The settlement agent typically does so, and the lender then >

    Remember, once you receive your preapproval letter youre halfway there. All you need to do next is find that perfect home

    Full Story >

    What We Can Learn About Selling Unsellable Homes From New HGTV Program

    In HGTVsnbsp;Unsellable Houses, sisters Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Daviswho are among the top-selling real estate agents in the Pacific Northwesthelp struggling homeowners sell their seemingly unsellable homes in record time, said HGTV. Lyndsay, an expert in home renovation, design and staging, and Leslie, an expert in budget and negotiations, are so confident they can sellnbsp;anynbsp;home that theyre willing to invest their own money to make the sale.

    HGTV is presenting eight new series in 2020, Unsellable Homes will be the first to premier during the first week of February. According to House Beautiful, the twin sisters will be challenged to sell 10 homes in the Seattle area that have been deemed unsellable by marketplace standards. The sisters, confident in their ability to sell even the most unwanted of properties, will be investing their own money to make the necessary renovations. Their end goal each episode will be to sell the home at a higher price, allowing them to break even, and the family to profit.

    The homes Lamb and Davis will be showcasing on the program have been for sale for as long as 120 daysfar beyond the 30 days it typically takes to sell a home in hot Seattle. In line with the launch of this intriguing new show, were presenting a few top tips for getting your own unsellable home sold.

    Get smart about the listing price

    Your home isnt worth what you think it is or even what youve put into it. Its worth what people will pay for it. And if theyre not paying for it, its overpriced.

    Make sure youre not the problem

    Its tough to hear that you may be the reason your home isnt selling, butnbsp;it is the easiest problem to fix, said Dave Ramsey. Be honest and ask yourself if youre doing anything that could potentially drive buyers away. Are you: At home during showings; Stretching the truth about your homes features; Restricting the times that buyers can view your home?

    Stage it to sell

    According to Davis, one of the top reasons a home doesnt sell quickly in a booming market like Seattle is because [these homes] are not presented right when put out for buyers to see, said House Beautiful. This encompasses everything from the pictures included in the listing, to how the home is staged.

    Concentrate on curb appeal

    Dont underestimate the impact curb appeal can make. If you spend all your time and effort, not to mention money, on the inside and neglect things like an unkempt front yard and a ratty front door, potential buyers may not even get out of the car. For a few hundred dollars, you can layer in some fresh mulch, plant a few seasonal flowers, paint your door, and lay down a welcome mat, giving your home a whole new look.

    Take professional pictures

    For one reason or another, sellers sometimes insist on taking their own listing photos. This doesnt typically pay off. Just how important are those photos? According to the Center for REALTOR Development CRD, Homes with high quality photographynbsp;sell 32 percent faster; Homes withnbsp;more photosnbsp;sell faster, too. A home with one photo spends an average 70 days on the market, but a home with 20 photos spends 32 days on the market; For homes in the 200,000 to 1 million range, those that include high-quality photography in their listingsnbsp;sell for 3,000-11,000 more.

    Tend to the smell

    You might not be able to detect a smell in your home because youre used to it. But that doesnt mean it isnt there.nbsp;

    Several agents cited bad odors as a common reason a home wont sell, said Business Insider. Three agents said that odors from cats in particular are bad news. Residual scents from smoking can also pose a problem, said Jose Laya, who sells homes in Miami for between 800,000 and 2 million.

    Taking steps to remove cat litter boxes or at least keep them really clean and a good cleaning of the carpet and soft surfaces like drapes and couches are good places to start. Investing in some Febreze and air fresheners can help cover up any lingering smells. And, if all else fails, embrace the trick real estate agents have been using for years: Bake some cookies before a showing. That way youre creating a sense memory for all the RIGHT reasons.nbsp;

    Listen to your agent

    Really, this is a repeat of everything above. If youre working with an experienced, knowledgeable agent And if youre not, you should be and he or she tells you to lower your price, its because you need to lower your price. If he or she recommends you declutter your house, give it a good scrubbing, or air it out, its because you need to declutter your house, give it a good scrubbing, or air it out. Maybe all three.

    Full Story >

    5 Tips for Gen X and Gen Y Homebuyers

    But did you also know that the housing market has changed a lot since your parents bought a home so its important to go into it with a plan.Using the internet and apps to do research and price homes is important, but you dont want to get overloaded on information. But remember you dont have to go it alone; when you choose the Goodale Miller Team you get all the tools you need to buy the right home at the right time.

    Whats Your Five Year and Ten Year Plan?

    Before you evennbsp;start looking at luxury homes for sale in Oakvillenbsp;youre going to need to have your five year and ten year plan ready. Did you know that the average Canadian pays off their mortgage 5 years early, and usually by the 12thnbsp;year? Its important to really look at how long the mortgage youre getting will take you to pay off with the minimum payment. What if you paid double that, could you afford to? Are younbsp;planning on getting a second mortgagenbsp;down the line to improve the home? Is this your starter home or are you going to live here for a while? The better a plan you have the better off youll be.

    Use Apps to Do Research

    Using apps and the internet to do some research before you start looking at luxury homes for sale in Oakville is going to really help you form the best plan of action. Youll need to know what kind of home you want to buy, how much you want to spend and what you can expect to get in a certain area. You can even find an app that will help you negotiate, but when you want to price a home dont leave it to chance, work with us as your Oakville luxury realtor.

    Dont Get Overloaded

    Information overload happens Maybe youve been doing so much research that you cant figure out where to start, maybe youve looked at so many homes online that theyre all starting to run together. Whatever it is, the more information you pour into your brain in a short amount of time the worse it can get. You dont have to do it all right now, take your time and really find out what matters to you before you buy a home.

    Full Story >

    4 Tips to Give Your Home a Fresh, Exciting Feel

    After a few years of ordinary living, it might be time to give your house a facelift. Were not talking about a full makeover that will set you back thousands of dollars. These tips are simple, yet effective when it comes to freshening up the space where you spend so many hours of your life.nbsp;

    Lets dive in.

    1. Brighten Up Your Wall Colorsnbsp;

    Natural light is essential if you want to feel calm and refreshed in your own home. If there are certain parts of your house that seem a little dark, it might be that the wall paint isnt reflecting light enough.nbsp;

    Additionally, rooms with fewer windows require paint colors that are bright and add a bit of light to the space. Hallways, bathrooms, and closed-in spaces all require a little extra thought when it comes to paint jobs if you want to give your home an invigorating feel.nbsp;

    If youre looking for some colors that are known for brightening things up, consider:nbsp;

    Lavender matched with white and gray accents
    Yellow for bedrooms or bathroomsnbsp;
    Light, soft gray for calm spaces
    Bright white for areas you want to open up

    2. Do Away with the Clutternbsp;

    Clutter doesnt just make your home feel depressing and old - it affects your brain.nbsp;

    According to psychologist Sherri Bourg Carter in Psychology Today, clutter bombards your brain with excessive stimuli. This causes your brain to process too much at once, leading to fatigue and stress.nbsp;

    In order for your home to feel like a place where you can recharge and enjoy yourself, youll need to clear out some of that junk. It doesnt matter if you use Marie Kondos famous spark joy method or something different - just eliminate the clutter thats keeping you from loving your home.nbsp;

    The top places to start clearing out today:nbsp;

    Your messy entrywaynbsp;
    Kitchen countersnbsp;
    Closets that are jam packednbsp;
    Your eyesore of a garagenbsp;
    Disorganized workspaces and desks
    That one junk drawernbsp;

    Remember: you dont have to declutter your home all at once. Take the process step-by-step and youll find that its not as overwhelming as it seems.nbsp;

    3. Embrace More Hobbies and Fun at Homenbsp;

    A mistake many of us make is creating a practical environment in our home - without the fun. Its hard to be thrilled with a house that doesnt invite guests or align with hobbies you find exciting.nbsp;

    Consider transforming one of your less-used spaces into a versatile recreation room. Look over a pool table buying guide to find just the right accent for the space or research foosball tables for when your friends come over. If youre not into games, consider installing a home theater or something else that can entertain you and your guests.nbsp;

    The key is to welcome fun into your home with open arms. Yes, your home is for cooking, eating, sleeping, and general living, but that doesnt mean it cant have an exciting element of entertainment, too.nbsp;

    4. Dont Shy Away from Personalizationnbsp;

    Many homeowners spend so much time thinking about what will make their home look good that they forget to think about what will make their home theirs.nbsp;

    What makes you feel refreshed and excited?

    If youre an extrovert, maybe you want an environment that charges your senses with photos, decorations, and rich patterns. If youre more introverted, maybe you want something a little more muted and comforting.nbsp;

    Look at spaces in your home where you could add a splash of personality. Choose accents that are meaningful, not just aesthetically pleasing.nbsp;

    Some simple, easy ways to bring a touch of personality into your home:nbsp;

    Display accomplishments that bring you pride
    Add artwork thats special, not just generic
    Put up some memorabilia from past experiencesnbsp;

    To Sum It All Upnbsp;

    Your home should be a safe place where you enjoy spending time and recharging your batteries. If youre no longer excited by what it holds - or even worse - if you feel anxious when youre in your own home, then its certainly time to make some changes.nbsp;

    Riley Swanson is a life>
    Full Story >

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    Updated: Saturday, March 28, 2020

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