Real Estate News

Updated: Friday, August 14, 2020

Don’t Want To Go To A Hotel: Bring The Hotel Bed Home With You


If youve slept in a Westin hotel room, you know how comfy their Heavenly Bed is. You can order the mattress and box spring, and all the accessories, to create this wonderland at home.nbsp;

Bed: 995 for a twin to 2,395 for California King

Details: 13-inch mattress with plush, pillow-top construction; choice of standard or low-profile box springnbsp;

Extras: Mattress pad, feather pillows, white stripe sheets sets, and a variety of other accoutrements also available.


Get thenbsp;Sheraton Sleep Experiencenbsp;for "a whole new level of comfort."nbsp;

Bed: 995 for a twin to 2,295 for California King

Details: The 13-inch plush mattress has pillow-top construction and is available in your choice of standard or low-profile box spring.nbsp;

Extras: Upgrade to the Signature Bed and Bedding Set to deck out the bed, priced from 2,826 to 3,8 or the Deluxe Bed and Bedding Set, which includes cotton sateen sheets and pillowcases and is curated with everything you need for luxurious sleeptop off your bed with four hotel pillows, a down alternative comforter and duvet cover, and our signature diamond down blanket, for 2,916 to 3,891.

Four Seasons

Everything about a stay at the Four Seasons is luxurious, and you can bring the experience home with you.nbsp;

Bed: Priced from 1,949 to 3,999.

Details: Available in three >

Extras: You can also purchase a replacement zippered firm mattress topper, priced from 549 to 649.


Bring home the Serta bed that puts you right to sleep when you stay at Hilton hotels.nbsp;nbsp;

Bed: The Hilton Mattress and Box Spring is priced from 1,195 to 1,995.nbsp;

Details: Manufactured by Serta, this bed offers extra coil support and a plush top on both sides.

Extras: Upgrade to the Hotel Stripe Bed and Bedding Set for 2,698 to 3,446 or Cotton Bed and Bedding Set for 3,046 to 3,566.


Marriots innerspring bed is a travelers favorite. And you can live it up every night.nbsp;

Bed: Mattress and box spring sets ranges from 1,3450 to 1,825.

Details: This 12-inch mattress comes with either a standard or low-profile box spring. Extras: Five different bedding sets are available, which can raise the price to as much as 2,937.

W Hotel

Bring the luxurious slumber of the W Hotel into your bedroom.

Bed: Choose the plush Pillowtop mattress or firmer Euro Top mattress for 1,299 to 2,120.

Details: Each mattress measures 13 with a standard of low-profile box spring.

Extras: Add a luxe bedding set, which brings the price to 3,066 to 3,797. The W Hotel bed collection also includes several platform beds to house your new mattress.

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Your Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Backsplash Materials


You have a few options when it comes to the type of tile you choose, ceramic, glass, or natural stone. Tile is a popular choice because its impermeable and does a great job of protecting the wall. Its also easy to keep clean.

To know what type of tile you should use, you need to consider the >

White ceramic tile can look great in both modern and retro-inspired kitchens.nbsp;Natural stone in marble can give your kitchen a luxurious feel. Glass can add a bright and funky feel.nbsp;


Instead of using glass tile, you could use a large sheet of tempered glass. This works great for adding protected lighting above your stove. It also allows you to use any wallpaper or paint you wish behind the glass.nbsp;

Chalkboard Paintnbsp;

A low cost and creative option is to paint your backsplash area with chalkboard paint. You can do this yourself as an easy DIY project. You can write notes, menu ideas, or create a shopping list thats easily seen.nbsp;

When youre ready for a clean slate, all you have to do is wipe it clean. One downside, though, is that the black paint may close your kitchen in and make it feel smaller.nbsp;


If your kitchen is on the smaller side, then using a mirror as a backsplash can open up the space. They will reflect the light and make it bounce around the room. The more light, the more inviting the space.nbsp;

The surface of the mirror will be easy to clean, though it will end up taking more effort to keep clean as any little bit of grease or dirt will show.nbsp;


This material provides you with a fast any easy option but not the greatest amount of protection. You also need to think about how moisture will affect the wallpaper and cause it to peel.nbsp;

Stainless Steelnbsp;

Lining your backsplash with stainless steel will give it a modern feel and tie all of your stainless steel appliances together. Its ideal because its durable, easy to clean, and resistant to high temperatures.nbsp;

Just be careful with acidic foods. The acid will ruin the finish if not immediately cleaned.nbsp;

Choose From These Backsplash Materials

Consider one of thesenbsp;backsplash materials for your kitchen. Think about the amount of cooking you do and the level of durability and protection you need.nbsp;

Some materials such as chalkboard paint or wallpaper you can apply yourself. Others, such as tile, marble, and stainless steel are best left to the professionals.nbsp;

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What Rooms to Focus on When Flipping a House For Cheap

Create a Multifunctional Spare Room

Many homes today have a spare room that tends to be slightly smaller than the others. In older homes, this room might have once been used as a sitting room to visit with guests. Newer homes often advertise this room as an office. Since the room is smaller, it is easy to do a fast renovation such as adding a fresh coat of paint. You can also upgrade the windows and add a decorative door that allows it to be used for anything from a home office to a kids playroom.

Cook Up a Sale with a Gorgeous Kitchen

Todays modern open floor plans make it impossible to hide a poorly designed kitchen. In most cases, you can expect that the kitchen will be one of the first things that buyers will ask to see. Even when a kitchen is hidden from public view, buyers want to know that theyll have a comfortable place to prepare meals and gather with their friends. Kitchen remodeling is a must for any time that you are flipping a house. Upgraded countertops, cabinets and floors go a long way toward getting people interested in your house.

Dazzle Buyers with a Stunning Master Bathroom

The master bathroom falls close to the kitchen when it comes to areas that people notice. Check out the hottest bathroom trends before you plan a remodel, and try to incorporate a few into your plans. Adding double sinks or a soaking tub will have buyers imagining themselves >

There is an art to making money as a house flipper. Learning where to save on costs and when to invest is as simple as understanding the preferences of the average buyer. When you think about it, it just makes sense to spruce up the areas of a house where people spend the most time. Choosing to upgrade a kitchen or bathroom may require a little extra work, but it can pay off by giving you a much higher profit margin in the end.

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Thinking of a Remodel? Here Are Your Financing Options

The obvious way is to pay cash. Its quick, interest-free and you can tap into a checking or savings account pretty much anytime you need it. You get a bid, decide whether or not to move forward and write a check. On the flip-side however, pulling money out of an account can put a dent in the balance and in any interest-bearing account, money out no longer pays interest. The bigger the project, the more thats pulled out. And, once those funds are used to upgrade the kitchen, the asset is no longer liquid, its in the cabinets, appliances and flooring.

You can get a home improvement loan to pay for a remodel. With a home improvement loan, your loan goes directly toward the improvements. Depending upon the size of the home improvement loan, the funds might be delivered straight to your bank account at your settlement or if you have a larger project in mind, the bank might deliver the funds in stages as the work is completed.

Say for example youd like to add on a third bedroom instead of selling your home and buying an existing three bedroom house. This would be considered a major remodel while at the same time increasing the value of your home by adding a third bedroom. This entails hiring an architect and a builder and paying for inspections and final appraisal as part of the process. With such a loan, it is phased in like most any other construction loan. The bank reviews your plans and specs, comes to an appraised value based upon what the final three bedroom project would be worth once complete. When the third bedroom is added on and finished out, one final inspection is performed to confirm completion. At the end of the project, the construction loan becomes due and a permanent mortgage is needed to replace the temporary construction funds.

A home equitynbsp;loan can also be a solution. A home equity loan is a loan taken out with some of the equity in your home as collateral. There are two basic types of equity loans, a standard equity loan and a home equity line of credit, or HELOC. A standard equity loan is issued as a lump sum payment. a HELOC acts much like a credit card. Youre issued a line of credit based upon the as-completed value. If you want to pull out 10,000 for new appliances, you can do so but you also have the option of paying some or all of that 10,000 back based upon the terms of the loan, freeing up the equity to be used once again at some point in the future.

Another option is to utilize a cash-out refinance. During the process of refinancing an existing loan, homeowners may elect to pull out a little extra after paying off the outstanding principal balance and closing costs. If the loan balance is 200,000 and closing costs are 3,000, the new loan could also include some extra money in the bank account by tapping into the available equity in the home. However, exploring a cash-out refinance should only make sense if a non-cash out refinance lowers the interest rate on a low, changing loan terms, avoiding a balloon payment on its own, then pulling a little extra out in the form of cash might be an option for you.

All of these financing options have their advantages. Your loan officer can break down all the options, compare monthly payments, costs, etc. and help you choose the right financing tool for your individual project.

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Preparing Your Home for Sale During the Pandemic

By now, youre probably getting pretty good at making adjustments in your everyday life to protect the health and safety of yourself and those around you. Along the same lines, there are steps you can take to show your home to potential buyers without risking your health or hurting your chances of a sale. Here are some tips to prepare your home for sale in the coronavirus eranbsp;

Get Help with Staging

According to The Mortgage Reports, staged homes sell an average of 73 faster than non-staged homes. Staging involves eliminating clutter, incorporating decorative elements, and adjusting the layout of your furniture to improve the flow of your home. The overall goal is to make your home appear bigger, brighter, and more inviting to potential buyers. Fortunately, some staging steps are easy to tackle on your own, such as cleaning, decluttering, and depersonalizing. These steps will help buyers picture themselves living in your home instead of feeling like intruders in someone elses space.nbsp;

When it comes to dcor, however, its best to hire a professional. An interior designer can help you stage your home to effectively show off key aesthetic elements as well as the features that make your space functional. You can easily find freelance interior designers on job boards like Upwork. To keep yourself and your designer safe, make sure they have adopted special procedures to conform with CDC recommendations for COVID-19.

Dont Neglect Your Curb Appeal

Dont let your home preparations stop at your front door Even if buyers arent visiting your home in person, they will still want to see your home exterior. In fact, a picture of your home exterior will likely serve as the bait that draws potential buyers to your online listing. Dont neglect your curb appeal

Tool Review Lab recommends several ways to boost your curb appealeven if youre on a tight budget. For example, you could power wash your front porch and siding, install a new mailbox, hang modern house numbers, and do some basic lawn maintenance.nbsp;

When it comes to your front yard, make sure your lawn is lush, freshly mowed, and free of weeds and dead spots. Consider planting new flowers and remember to weed and mulch the beds to keep everything looking neat. You may even want to hire a professional to give the trees and shrubs around your yard a good trim.

Consider Safer Showing Alternatives

While its clear that hosting an open house is off the table, you may also want to limit in-person showings. Offer your buyers no-contact alternatives Shoot a video walkthrough of your home and upload it to your online listing so buyers can tour your home virtually. You could even schedule live video-chat showings with interested buyers so they can ask questions about your home or request specific shots of rooms or features.nbsp;

Since buyers will form a first impression of your home based on your listing, make sure it does your home justice. Write a strong listing title, include a detailed and exciting description, and post plenty of high-quality photos. A great real estate agent can help you craft your listing so that it properly showcases your homes best features. Your real estate agent can also help you navigate virtual showings Take the time to find a professional who is well-versed in using online tools to connect with buyers.

Selling a home in the age of the coronavirus is bound to be a bit of a challenge. Thankfully, the real estate industry has been quick to adopt virtual alternatives to open houses and buyers are happy to continue their housing hunt online. With some special attention to staging and a solid virtual presence, youll have no problem closing a sale during the pandemic

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Should You Refinance From An FHA Loan To A Conventional Loan?

However, the ongoing private mortgage insurance PMI you have to pay when you have an FHA loan makes your monthly payments more expensive. And, unlike a conventional loan, which allows you to remove your PMI at a certain point, you can never get rid of it with an FHA loaneven when you have tons of equity in your home. So, with rates at historic lows, should you refi out of your FHA loan to a conventional loan? Were looking at the pros and cons.

Pro: You can get rid of private mortgage insurance PMI

FHA loans require certain provisions which sometimes place a heavy burden on a homeowners budget, often in the form of premiums paid for mortgage insurance, said PennyMac.nbsp;

That mortgage insurance on an FHA loan ranges from .451.05 of your home loan amount every year. On a 285,000 home, families could be spending more like 3,420 per year on the insurance, said Investopedia. Thats as much as a small car payment

That money is literally insurance for the lender in case you default on your loan. And, unfortunately, they continue to collect that insurance regardless of how far you pay down your mortgage balance or how much your home appreciates.nbsp;

To stop paying PMI on annbsp;FHA loan younbsp;will need tonbsp;refinancenbsp;into a conventionalnbsp;mortgage, said The Lenders Network.nbsp;

The solution: refinance to a conventional loan. Assuming you have enough equity in your home, you wont have to pay mortgage insurance on the new loan. Combined with a lower rate, your monthly payment will drop. Ifnbsp;younbsp;have paid down thenbsp;loannbsp;to 78 of the value of the homenbsp;younbsp;cannbsp;refinancenbsp;into a conventionalnbsp;mortgagenbsp;without having to pay PMI.

Pro: Mortgage insurance for conventional loans may be less expensive

If you refi to a conventional loan and still have to pay mortgage insurance because you dont yet have enough equity in your home, you may be able to benefit from the lower payments.nbsp;

The mortgage insurance fee on a conventional loan is lower than it is with FHA. FHA MIP rates are 0.80 1.00, said The Lenders Network. Many conventional mortgages have an annual PMI fee of 0.50. On a 200,000 home that is savings of almost 80 per month. While it is not a huge savings, the PMI will drop off once the LTV reaches 78. After dropping PMI, the savings is almost 2,000 per year. You can generally refinance out of FHA into a conventional mortgagenbsp;after 6 months.


With any refi, youre going to pay closing costs. When youre refinancing out of an FHA loan into a conventional loan, you can count on those costs ranging from about 1.5 to as much as 3. So, on a 300,000 mortgage, youre looking at about 9,000. There may be a few out-of-pocket costs involved in the process; Typically, youll be responsible for paying for an appraisal. The rest of the closing costs will come from your equity.nbsp;

When youre trying to decide whether or not to refinance, look at the cost to you, and determine how long it will take to recoup the money with your lower payment. If you wont break even for seven years and youre planning on moving in three, perhaps its time to reconsider whether you should refinance at all.nbsp;

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Financing a Vacation Home vs. an Investment Property

There are distinctions and rates and terms can be different as it >

The primary requirement is the property needs to be occupied by the owners for 30 or more days out of the year. The home should also be a single family home and cannot be a duplex or 2-4 unit property and the property must be suitable in which to live year-round. Think for example a cabin in the mountains where it gets heavy snowfall in the winter making it difficult to access the cabin. How would a lender know if a prospective property will qualify as a vacation home instead of a rental? Simply put, the prospective buyers let the lender know of their intentions. They do so by checking a box on the loan application. On the application, there are three options in which to check: Primary Residence, Secondary Residence and Investment. Its the secondary residence that qualifies as a vacation home.nbsp;

On the other hand, an investment property will typically command a down payment of 20 or more. Interest rates for an investment property compared to a vacation home can be anywhere from 0.25 to 0.50 higher. That means higher rates and more cash needed at the settlement table. As it >

There are some tax implications as it >
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Do You Need Perfect Credit For A Refi?

Minimum credit score

A score above 700 is generally considered to be excellent and will open up your refinance options. But, contrary to what you may think, you can have a lower credit score and still qualify.

Credit requirements vary by lender and type of mortgage. In general, youll need a credit score of 620 or higher for a conventional mortgage refinance, said Experian. Certain government programs require a credit score of 580, however, or have no minimum at all. As is true for other types of loans, the higher your credit score, the more likely anbsp;mortgage refinancenbsp;lender will be to work with you. Not only are your chances of approval higher, but youll typically receive a lower interest rate and more favorable loan terms than qualifying borrowers with lower scores.

Going with a higher rate

Even if you dont qualify for the lowest available rate, any drop will save you money on a monthly basis, and also over time. This refinance calculator shows how a .25 reduction in rate can save you almost 100 a month on your mortgage. Of course, youll want to weigh those savings against the cost of that refi and also consider how long it will take you to recoup those costs.

Buying down your rate

If you dont qualify for the lowest rate and you want to go lower, you can buy down the rate. Mortgage points are one way for homeowners to lower their interest rate, said Bankrate. When you pay for points on a mortgage, you are actually paying interest right now for the loan. In return, the homeowner can lock in a lower and discounted rate. The rate depends on how many points are purchased. Your mortgage rate will drop more if you purchase more points.

Typically, one point means a .25 discount in the mortgage rate, and this will cost you 1 of the total mortgage loan amount. If you were looking at a 300,000 mortgage, it would cost you 3,000 to lower your rate by a quarter point. Homeowners can buy more than one point, depending on their financial situation.

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Is It Time to Retire the Master Bedroom?

The Houston Association of REALTORS HAR has announced it will no longer sanction the use of master bedroom or master bathroom in its MLS descriptions.

The decision to remove the term comes after a group of real estate professionals said the term master on property description represents a potential stigma, said Realtor Magazine.nbsp;

The association sent out a statement to its members in which they spelled out the change but fell short of mandating a ban on the terminology. You may still use the term Master Bedroom or Master Bath as you feel appropriate in your marketing materials and in the Public Remarks, Agent Remarks, and photo descriptions, per the statement.

Term being dropped

In addition to the HAR, Chicago realtors including the brokerage firm, GetBurbed, and builders like David Weekly have announced they will also refrain from using terminology like master bedroom and master suite.nbsp;

The push to phase out this term is not new. Back in the mid-90s thenbsp;Department of Housing and Urban Developmentnbsp;issued proposed guidelines for bringing enforcement actions for violations of section 804c of the federalnbsp;Fair Housing Act, said YoChicago. The proposed guidelines, which were met with a firestorm of ridicule, suggested that the use of terms such as master bedroom, views, family room, walking distance and walk-in closet, among others, in advertising was evidence of discriminatory intent against various groups that might result in HUD taking action.

A 2013 report in the Baltimore Business Journal showed that, The master suite is being phased out not from our homes, but from our lexicon. A survey of 10 major Washington, D.C.-area homebuilders found that six no longer use the term master in their floor plans to describe the largest bedroom in the house. They have replaced it with owners suite or owners bedroom or, in one case, mastre bedroom.

History of master bedroom

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the first mention of master bedroom came in 1925. The following year, the term was used in a description of a 1926 Sears Modern Home.

While many have argued that the term has no actual >
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HOA Ordinance or Law Insurance

One example is the current standard of six inch versus four inch exterior walls to improve insulation performance. There are many other examples. The older the structure is, the more out of code it becomes.

While the building code generally doesnt require older buildings to meet current code, if an out-of-code structure experiences fire, flood, wind or earthquake that does substantial damage, the code issue is likely to raise its ugly head. This means that even though the original structure wasnt required to comply, the rebuilt structure will be, or at least the part of it that requires reconstruction. While this is logical why rebuild to an outdated standard?, basic fire and hazard insurance only pays for rebuilding what is there, not what could be. So, if you insure four inch walls, the insurance will only pay the cost to rebuild four inch walls, not six inch walls. You pay the difference.

Fortunately, the insurance industry provides supplemental insurance coverage for older buildings called, "Ordinance or Law Coverage," which is specifically designed to pay the increased cost of reconstruction. However, this coverage must be requested. It doesnt automatically kick in simply because of building age.

If your HOA buildings are ten years old or older, contact your insurance agent to discuss the merits and costs of Building or Ordinance coverage. It is usually very reasonably priced.

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Easy Home Office Design Ideas To Boost Your Productivity

As a Realtor, I spend a lot of my time working from home. Though I do take clients around, most of the "magic" happens over the internet. This is where I build >

Declutter Your Desk

Your work desk is where all the work happens and lets be honest, its always in a mess. With our busy schedules, we normally dont have time to declutter. We tend to pile more stuff onto it, that the moment we need something specific to get a task done... we can no longer recall where we placed it.

Now, the problem with decluttering is we dont even know where to start. Theres just too much on your work desk that you might as well throw the entire thing out. I know how tempting that is, but dont. Start by throwing pens that arent working anymore, files or papers that you no longer need, as well as any fixture or electronic device thats already broken. The trick here is to simply get the momentum going. Once youve already started, youd be surprised at how much trash youve already taken out.

Improve Your Lighting

Several studies have shown, time and again, that certain lighting conditions have a profound effect on our level of productivity. Apparently, its in our DNA to work better when under a cooler light. However, warmer lighting also has positive benefits on our physical and mental well-being, especially on workers who remain cooped inside an office the entire day. Heres another surprising fact too... natural light emitted both during the day and night can actually reduce depression, and improve mood, energy, alertness andnbsp;productivity.

Besides adjusting the temperature of your lighting fixture from a warmer to a cooler shade, move your desk near a window where you can enjoy some sunshine Dont be afraid to rearrange your furniture, but be careful. Some electronic devices may be sensitive to heat, so you may want to keep them away from sunlight.

Add A Natural Touch

This age old tip never fails. You see, in order to be productive, you mustnbsp; feel "free" and unconfined in your workspace... and since you cannot bring your home office outdoors, why not bring a little touch of nature into into your home? Well, the common way to go about this is to bring in a potted plant that you can easily place on your desk. But there are so many other natural elements that you can introduce into your workspace. Instead of using furniture made of artificial materials, why dont you use ones that are made of wood? Theyre easy on the eyes, and are much durable too.nbsp;You may also opt for netural tones when choosing various design elements, and then try to use the least amount of technology when working.

Get More Home Office Design Tips

nbsp;These are only a few of the home office design tips that Ive tested and proven throughout the years. As a retired military wife, weve moved a lot around the country and had different home office spaces to work with. That means, Ive so much to share... Luckily, you can find them all in the latest blog post I published on my site. I highly recommend that you go and have a look at it, especially when youre already feeling burnt out with working from home. Remember that sometimes, all it takes is just a simple fix to become more productive

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5 Ways a Home Garden Can Boost the Aesthetic Value of Your House

A well-spruced and aesthetically-pleasing garden enhances the value of your property, especially if you plan to sell it anytime soon. Here are some things you can do to boost the value of your property with a well-maintained home garden.

De-clutter and maintain

Just like the interiors of your house, your garden also has to be de-cluttered and maintained. Winters can be harsh on your gardens, especially if you live in a place that is cold and snowy. In particular, it can affect the fences and t>

Make it colorful

Humans are genetically predisposed to colors and this is why it plays a big role in triggering emotions in us. To make your garden attractive and also a great place to >

For example, a blooming purple flower not only adds elegance to your garden but also soothes and calms your mind, especially when youve had a bad day. Likewise, pink flowers are known to induce romance and kindness while red is sure to excite you. Depending on the kind of impact you need in your life, choose the right flowering plants. You can, in fact, combine many colors to add to the synergy of emotions and vibrations.

Add a focus area

When someone walks into your garden, what is the first thing they see? The answer to this question cannbsp; determine the chances of selling your house. For example, if a beautiful fountain is the focus area of your garden, it is sure to boost your property value and the chances for it to sell. Thats why its important to have a clear focus area that is stunning and attractive for even passers-by.

Paint the fences

When you paint the cabinets and walls of your home, they look bright and fresh, right? The same applies to your fences and garden walls too. It can, in fact, be a cheap way to spruce up your garden and make it more inviting for you and your guests. The best part is you can do it by yourself too, as a hobby

Consider some furniture

Imagine youre a buyer. Youre walking into a house full of furniture and another one that is completely empty. Which of the two would appeal to you?

Most people would like to see a house with the furniture as it can give them a perspective of the layout and different rooms. Similarly, when you add some garden furniture, it is sure to spruce up the entire place and make it more inviting to your guests. It can also double-up as a cozy place for you to >
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Things You Can Do to Help Your Property Appraise

First, the property must be in good condition with no deferred maintenance. While the appraiser does not perform a full physical inspection, thats the job for a licensed property inspector, but can make note of any noticeable issues with the home. A sagging roof or foundation cracks come to mind. That said, the current property value must also be in line with the rest of the neighborhood. When a full appraisal is needed, the appraiser first does a little homework at the office before visiting the property. A bit of research is performed identifying homes in the area that have recently sold, primarily within the past six to twelve months. The appraisal is important to the lender because in essence the home is the lenders collateral.

Most conventional loan programs allow for the loan-to-value, or LTV, with a refinance be as high as 90 of the current market value of the property for an owner-occupied home. If the value exceeds this 90, the loan might not make it through the approval process. If for example the LTV is 92, the borrowers must decide whether or not to move forward. Moving forward means paying the current loan balance down to the 90 level or requesting a second opinion from another appraiser.

With a purchase transaction, the appraiser has a head-start. The value of the property is the lowest the sellers were willing to accept meeting the highest price the buyers were willing to pay. The appraiser then begins the process with this information. With a refinance however, there is no such sales price. The appraiser must begin with recent sales in the area. What is the value the appraiser must look for?

On a mortgage loan application there is a space where the owners opinion what the current value should be. This is based upon knowledge of similar homes that have recently sold in the neighborhood. Thats a starting point. But if value may be a concern, there are some things homeowners can do to boost the value.

The first is to pay attention to curb appeal. How does the property look from the street? This first impression can play a key role in helping the property appraise. Is the lawn trimmed? Trees cared for? Is the property clean? Maintaining the landscaping and physically cleaning the exterior will help the property shine.

Next, the interior needs some treatment. The floors should be scrubbed and polished. New paint will help. Do the appliances sparkle or do they need a little love? You can give the interior of your home a thorough cleansing, but many choose to hire a professional team to give the inside a fresh, new look.

Finally, let the appraiser know of any recent for sale by owner transactions. Such sales wont be listed in the local multiple listing service. Appraisers count on this sales data to help arrive at a final value. A private sale could help boost the value of your home, so if this is the case, its important to point out that property to the appraiser.

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Strategic Trigger Questions

My attention was drawn to three cleverly-insightful questions a designer used to qualify a prospective client and deliver a stunning, on-point life>

The Heart and Sole interview with celebrity red-sole-shoe designer Christian Louboutin shared a behind-the-scenes perspective on the renovation of his Paris rooftop apartment with its Eiffel Tower views. Louboutin gave credit for the amazing space to much-in-demand Jacques Grange who Louboutin described as at the pinnacle of French decorating.

That decorating skill appears to be matched by Granges communication prowess.

Jacques [Grange] said, Im going to ask you three questions, the shoemaker to the stars told [the ED writer]. If you answer them truthfully, Ill do your apartment.

First, Louboutin continues, Grange asks me: Are you messy? Second: Do you like to host? And third: Do you want an extra bedroom?

The article goes on to reveal how Louboutins short answers influenced the clever interior design. Based on Louboutins responses, the loft apartment was deliberately designed to make overnight guests uncomfortable enough not to stay for long.

That designed-in reaction may or may not make sense to you. Whats important is that this is exactly what Louboutin wantedhe just didnt realize it himself.

Do the qualifying and interview questionswhat I call strategic trigger questionsyou ask prospective buyers provide the degree of insight necessary for you to hit the life>

This knowledge gap is common with first-time and first-time-in-a-long-time buyers who may have little recent real estate buying experience to call on and little knowledge of interior design.

You are not a do you want fries with that order taker, peppering prospects with just-the-facts, closed questions. Your intent is not to me>

Time is money for you and your prospects, so showing the right enticing properties will generate offers more effectively than showing every listing thats in their price range.

Which questions do you ask prospective buyers to reveal the type of decision-maker youll be working with?

For example:

Are you good at compromising or do you definitely know what you want?nbsp;
A conversation starter like this will help you evaluate how clearly prospects know what they want and how well they know their own buying habits.

How do you feel most comfortable when making a significant decision?
The resulting discussion will reveal which information or decision-making techniques buyers may >

What do you feel you need to understand about prospects before you show them a house or even online listings?

Your key function is helping prospective buyers transform their thinking about a property that is someone elses house into an emotional connection with their future home, even if the decor does not match their taste. The challenge lies in nurturing this bond without pressure or trickery and without buyers spending time lounging around the house or trying it out in a sleepover.

How do you assist prospects in moving >

What questions do you ask to help prospects move through this visualization when they spent only a short time walking or video-traveling through a house or condominium unit. How do you help them put the process in perspective?
Real estate professionals must help already-stressed buyers quickly generate enough genuine emotional attachment to welcome creation of an offer to purchase and signing on the dotted line. Which questions help transform the desire to buy a house into the commitment to buy a home, kindling love in the process?
During the offer process, which questions do you use to help buyers strengthen their perspective during the shift from thinking about a strangers house to this is my next home? How do your questions help reduce stress-levels during offer preparation and signing?
You cant take buyer descriptors like I like character for granted. Make no assumptions. What do you ask about to clarify their preferences and how they want to feel about their new living spaces?
Are you more sure about what you dont like or want than what you do?

You know which features and levels of update most properties in a buyers price range and location will exhibit. How do you use strategic trigger questions to assess their potential reactions and prepare them for what lies ahead?

If you dont understand the value of answers to the questions above, youre wasting your time and probably that of prospects, too.

Depending on the market and price range you work in and how affordable that real estate is for the prospects you target, youll have honed a set of key strategic trigger questions that enables you to cut to the heart of the project on hand and help buyers feel comfortable and confident with their >

Real estate professionals have earned a reputation for selling real estate. The problem is that some prospects are nervous that professionals are so good at what they do that theyll sell a buyer a property the buyer wont like, cant afford, or that will cause them nothing but disappointmentjust to earn commission.

How can you dispel this lingering stereotype and build credibility?

The empathy and integrity you display as you ask conversation-triggering, open-ended questions and actively listen to buyers answers will build credibility and earn loyalty.

Demonstrate that the importance of their life> Explain why this is an important perspective for identifying the best property match for them.
Your questioning should revolve around the real estate benefits, not features, that prospects will value in the selected neighborhoods and the range of properties found there.

Louboutins designer wanted to understand how the celebrity shoemaker intended to live in the space with his possessions, including 50 pairs of shoes. His answers I can host. I dont want a guest the designers initial questions, led the designer to create an open loft space for entertaining, a master bedroom that could hide mess, and a second bedroom without a door and no ensuite.

Louboutin reportedly warned a potential guest that she could visit but that she might be uncomfortable. When she asked why, he answered Well, thats the idea.


1. Whats Your Point? Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark amp; Stick By PJ Wade - publication 2021
2. The whole ED story:nbsp; Heart and Sole Elle Decor May 2020, page 102-5
3. More at PJs Decisions amp; Communities: Earning Client Trust: The 3 Rs of Respect
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Open Shelving in the Kitchen—Yay or Nay?

Does it have staying power or will it wither away once people come to terms with its lack of function? Will you love it or regret it if you rip out all your upper cabinets? Those are the questions were posing today as we examine the pros and cons of open shelving.

Rise in popularity

If it seems like open shelving is everywhere, thats because it is. Open shelving is one the most popularand also thenbsp;most controversialkitchen trends of recent years, said Apartment Therapy.nbsp;

Some kitchens, in an effort to look updated and open, have eliminated upper cabinets enti>

Another way to get your feet wet is to simply remove the front of your cabinets instead of taking them down all together. This way, you can get the look without a major change, and you can always put the doors back on when the fad eventually passes.

Light, airy, and open

Thats what a lot of people are looking for when they make the decision to go with open shelving. And it workssometimes too well. Getting rid of all the typical upper cabinets can sometimes make a space look too minimalist. Open shelving can also look a bit unfinished, said Apartment Therapy.

Showcasing the goodsnbsp;

Then again, its a great way to highlight china, nice dishes, or dcor items.nbsp;

Highlighting a mess

Of course, that requires you to have china, nice dishes, or dcor items, and to be able to display them in some kind of orderly fashioninstead of like a typical home where bowls may be mismatched, or at least stacked unevenly.nbsp;

But, if youre seeking a way to get motivated to have a clean and orderly kitchen, this could help. If youre looking for a built-in, training-wheel kitchen setup to help ensure that you stay organized, then open shelving might be a good idea, said HGTV. The trick is: you have to commit to keeping things neat so you can avoid having your kitchen look like a hot-mess yard sale.

Its dusty in here

Regardless of what your dishes look like, theyre likely to get dusty without the benefit of being behind closed doors. While we love looking at neatly arranged dishware on an open shelf, the reality can be a bit frustrating. Namely, due to all the dust and grease that end up on the carefully-arranged plates, bowls, mugsnbsp;and glassware, said House Beautiful. In fact, the site is so adamant about its stance on open shelving that the trend made it list of 9 Trendy Home Features That Are Secretly a Pain.

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The Mortgage Secret That Could Save You Thousands

So whats the big secret? Paying your mortgage twice per month.nbsp;

We know what youre thinking: How does paying double save me money? Let us explain. Paying twice per month doesnt mean making the entire monthly payment twice. It means paying half of the total every two weeks.nbsp;

The practice is called bi-weekly mortgage payments, a strategy where mortgage loan customers pay their mortgage loan every two weeks, instead of once a month, said Experian. The idea is to chop down your mortgage payment more quickly, and in the process, lower the amount of interest you pay on your mortgage overall.

So how does paying every two weeks cut down on your total amount and save you big time? When you pay monthly, you make 12 payments per year. Pay every two weeks, and you actually end up making 13 full payments. And that one extra payment is directed toward the loans principal.nbsp;

Since the homeowner is reducing the amount of the loan balance quicker, they are also reducing the amount of interest charged over the life of the loan, said

What to ask your lender

Before you start making that extra payment, youll want to make sure its allowed. Some lenders either dont facilitate the process or dont credit the payment more than one time per month. Many lenders decide to hold partial payments in an account until the rest of it is received, said

Other companies may allow bi-weekly payments but charge a fee. Ra>

How much can you save?

This scenario illustrates the type of long-term savings that make bi-weekly payments attractive. Say you have anbsp;30-year fixed-rate mortgagenbsp;for 250,000 with a 4 percent interest rate. Your monthly payment would be about 1,194, and the total interest paid over the life of the loan would be 179,673, said Bankrate. In the same scenario, using anbsp;biweekly mortgage calculator, your total interest paid over the life of the loan on a biweekly plan is 150,450.40. That means youd save more than 29,000, and pay off your loan in 25 years instead of 30.

Another alternative

If making a payment every two weeks isnt feasible, consider a lump sum payment once a year. Maybe you get a Christmas bonus, a merit bonus, or a tax refund. Using this windfall and allocating the equivalent of one mortgage payment would make a huge dent in your principal. By paying one extra payment of 1,285.33 each year on a 25-year loan of 250,000 with interest at 3.75...the loan amortization schedule with extra payments shows that you would repay the loan 2 years and 11 months earlier and save 17,381.35 in interest, said

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Ask the HOA Expert: Does Our Association Have The Right To Restrict Home Security System Signs?

Answer: The HOA has the right to limit signs in the common area and sometimes what is placed in home windows. The main concern is curb appeal. Uncontrolled signage creates a cluttered look and reduces property values. Small security stickers on the window can and should be allowed.

Question: Should we include landscape items in our Reserve Study? How about insuring trees?

Answer: Its wise to include "Landscape Renovation" and "Treework" in the Reserve Study. All bushes and trees have a limited life. Bushes die and outgrow their location. While trees usually have a long life, they require corrective pruning that should be done every 3 - 5 years and is expensive. Hiring an arborist to do a comprehensive inventory and report of the trees also makes a lot of sense. If each tree is tagged and referenced in the report, maintenance can be easily tracked. Consistent corrective pruning will extend the lives of the trees and keep them looking good.

Insurance for non-income producing trees provides limited coverage for claims >

To avoid the possibility of insect infestation, use native trees that are hardy and pest resistant. If you already have those prone to insects, consult with an arborist for the proper preventive maintenance or cut them down and replacement them.

Question: Our board often spends money outside of the scope of our governing documents. What can we do to control this?

Answer: Why is the board spending money outside of its authority? Are the documents vague on what the homeowner association is responsible for? If this is the case and it often is, the board needs to establish clear guidelines on what the HOA will, or wont, spend money for. Its called "A Budget". If one isnt adopted each year, any expense is fair game.

Question: I dont feel the board spends money in our best interests. I protest by withholding payment until year end. Recently, I received a notice saying if I didnt pay, they would put a lien on my home. Can they do this? Am I wrong to protest this way?

Answer: I assume your concerns are for the HOA as a whole and not for personal issues. Withholding assessments in protest is not the way to get your point across and, yes, the board has both the right and duty to process collection on delinquencies. Your points should be made in writing to the board. Whether they act on them or not is another question. If they dont and you feel strongly that they should, I encourage you to run for election so that you can have a direct affect on the outcome. Its every owners duty to serve.

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Also See:

  • Smoking Bans Being Enacted In Condominium Associations
  • Secret Tax Breaks In Community Associations
  • What Is a Reserve Study In Your HOA?

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Should You Do Your Own Plumbing And Electrical?

But while many of these homeowners had DIY skills long before the pandemic hit, or have improved upon and expanded those skills with more time to focus on home, there are still plumbing and electrical, most people say you should leave those jobs to the experts.

Gauging the danger

You could fall off a ladder while painting or put a nail through your thumb from a hammering mishap. But the potential danger >

An electrical malfunction is listed by the U.S. Fire Administration as one of thenbsp;top causes of house fires, said Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling amp; Electrical.nbsp;

When you attempt to complete electrical rewires on your own you put your health, the health of others, and your property at risk. Completing electrical work is dangerous business. When completing electrical rewires electrocution, shock and fires could result. Items in your home also have higher voltages. The higher the voltage, the more dangerous the project.

Faulty wiring can also cause firesa particularly dangerous situation since they can also go undetected for years leaving the homeowner to feel like it was a DIY job well done until a fire occurs. In the U.S. alonenbsp;51,000 house firesnbsp;are caused by electrical components and systems. These fires cost a total of 1.3 billion dollars in property damage per year.

While you might be able to learn how to lay flooring or tile a backsplash by watching a video, a licensed electrician is required to complete 600 hours of instruction covering safety, electrical circuits, and blueprint reading, followed by supervised, on-the-job training.

Similar problems can arise from DIY plumbing situations.

One of the biggest risks of doing your own plumbing repairs is the possibility of compounding the problem and making the problem much worse, said Marietta, GA-based Plumb Doctor. Even simple repairs done incorrectly can cause serious problems. The problem may be something minor like a leaking pipe that eventually causes water damage to your home, or it could be something more serious like a burst pipe. Either way, you run the risk of not only failing to take care of the original plumbing issue, but causing more problems that youre unable to address properly.nbsp;

Is it legal?

If you do want to tackle your plumbing or electrical, youll want to make sure you know whats required first. In both cases, you may need to obtain a permit.nbsp;

The legality of do-it-yourselfnbsp;electrical worknbsp;varies from state to state, and from one municipality to another, said The Spruce. Always call your local permit office for the answer that pertains to you.

While it may seem tempting to skip the permit process to save time and money"Some municipalities charge 1 of the total construction costs to issue the permit and may take up to six weeks to complete the inspections, said Investopediadoing so could backfire.nbsp;

For the do-it-yourself remodeler, obtaining permits is expensive, time-consuming, and sometimes frustrating, but for many home renovations its necessary and required. Many homeowners sidestep the permit process as a result. According to thenbsp;National Association of Realtors, failing to obtain the proper permits may complicate or cancel the sale of your home. During thenbsp;home inspectionnbsp;or appraisal process, homeowners may have to show that the proper permits are on file. If the lending bank learns that remodeling work was done without securing permits, it will likely not make the loan.

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What to Know About Buying or Selling A Home During the Pandemic

This is because many people are looking for more space. Many are choosing to move from urban areas to suburban and rural locations. Due to changes in their financial circumstances, others are looking to sell their homes or even downsize. Furthermore, with the growing number of people who are working remotely, prospective homebuyers are able to widen their search a little bit. The pandemic has changed thoughts around how people can work.

Regardless of whether someone is looking to buy or sell a home, it is critical to be aware of how the market has changed. This will allow everyone to find the best option for their specific situation. Heres what anyone considering buying or selling during the pandemic should keep in mind.

Know the Local Real Estate Market

One of the most important things that both buyers and sellers have to keep in mind is that local markets can vary from place to place. In many parts of the country, the inventory is tight. This means that those who are looking to sell a home might receive a massive influx of offers in a short period of time. Consider the offers carefully, look for buyers who are pre-approved, and dont be afraid to wait for the best offer possible.

On the other hand, those looking to buy a home might need to widen their search radius a little bit. Even reaching out an extra five miles can provide dozens of additional prospects. Finally, buyers should also not shy away from building their own home. This allows prospective homeowners to customize the house to meet their exact needs. The builder market is growing quickly and this opens the door to a number of new opportunities.

The Loan Market Has Changed

Right now, loans are taking a bit longer than they usually do. This is because some parts of the home loan market are not operating at full capacity. The pandemic has impacted them as well, causing a backlog in their ability to process home loans. Furthermore, traditional lenders such as banks and credit unions, are busy trying to process SBA loans under the Payroll Protection Program PPP, which has placed home loans lower on the priority list right now.

Regardless, buyers and sellers need to be patient. Interest rates are still at historic lows right now. Those who are looking to buy a home that they plan to live in for the next few decades could end up saving hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. When new home loans are competing against those looking to refinance, it is easy to see how this can place a drain on the bandwidth and resources of loan advisors.

Questions About Employment Are Common

Finally, buyers should anticipate a lot of questions about the status of their employment. While tens of millions of people have filed for unemployment since the pandemic started, lenders are just as strict as ever when it comes to making sure their borrowers have the capacity to pay back their loans.

Therefore, expect the loan officer to ask whether the applicants employment is stable. Buyers might even be asked to submit pay stubs every two weeks instead of the traditional six weeks. Buyers must be prepared to verify their employment.

Final Word: The Real Estate Market Is Strong

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed how people look at the process of buying and selling homes. Right now, everyone needs to expect the unexpected. The good news is that for both buyers and sellers, there are still significant opportunities.

About Chad Jampedro:

Chad Jampedro is an established leader in the mortgage industry with more than 20 years of lending experience. As president of bothnbsp;GSF Mortgagenbsp;andnbsp;GO Mortgage, Jampedro oversees and directs the companies activities throughout the United States. Chad has managed and been a mentor to thousands of sales professionals during his mortgage career, and has successfully developed and sold more than 20 companies.

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How Lenders Set Mortgage Rates

First, note that mortgage lenders set their rates on the same basic set of indices. There are some exceptions, primarily mortgage lenders who issue their own loan programs that intend to keep the loans internally and collect interest on the loan rather than selling the note.

Adjustable rate mortgages and fixed rate mortgages are priced a bit differently. An adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, is tied to a specific, universally tradeable index, such as the 1-Year Constant Maturity Treasury. Each morning, the secondary departments of these mortgage companies look up the current price of an ARM index and then add a margin to it. If, for example, the index came in at 1.75 and the margin was set at 2.00, the new rate for that specific program would come in at 3.75 and stay there until the next adjustment.

Fixed rate mortgages, at least for most of them, are set in another manner but also use a specific index. Currently, the index used for most fixed rate conforming loans is the Universal Mortgage Backed Security, or UMBS. This is the index lenders use when setting fixed mortgage rates scheduled to be sold to either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Okay, so if most lenders use the same index when setting fixed rates, why are they sometimes different? That can depend upon different factors. Lenders compete for mortgage business in different ways, but they all want to compete based upon a competitive rate. The rate doesnt always have to be the lowest rate but should be in the ballpark.nbsp;

Maybe a customer has a long-lasting banking >

On the flip side, for mortgage companies that dont have such an established >

Sometimes a mortgage lender has taken an aggressive approach and priced their loans very low and suddenly their pipeline is full. Theyre overbooked and overworked. Their marketing campaign is working but now their loan processing times have slowed to a crawl. Its not unheard of for a mortgage company to raise rates temporarily to turn off the spigot. It happens. Lenders certainly want to make a profit, otherwise the mortgage market would dry up, but they want to be smart about it.nbsp;

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From Shunning to Stunning: 4 Chic Bathroom Renovation Ideas You’ll Love

Add Some Waterproof Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl is a great flooring material to put in your bathroom because of its versatility. You just want to make sure that your selection is waterproof in order to keep everyone safe. For an extra stunning look, go for some vinyl that looks like dark wood. Not only is this easy to install, but it will also look great to everyone who passes by the bathroom.

Fun Tile

Tile is another popular choice for the bathroom, and for a good reason. However, many people seem to shy away from the decorative pieces because of the perceived difficulty in being shaped around the many bathroom fixtures that you have. This is why you need a masonry saw. When you use a wet tile saw, you can easily shape the tiles of your choice to have them placed around your tub, sink, toilet, and other fixtures. This is how you can get custom tile fit your space perfectly.

Put in a Chandelier

Move away from boring light fixtures and dare to be different. There is no reason why a chandelier cannot look great in your bathroom. It will shine a great deal of light over your bathroom fixtures, in addition to accenting those new tile or vinyl floors that you have just put in. This is really a way to impress visitors to your home as well.

Add a Claw Tub

If you really want to make a statement in your country bathroom, go for an old school look. The claw tub is making a comeback. Not only is it very functional, but it also provides a great look to nearly any size of bathroom that you might have.

These four ideas will have your bathroom looking country chic in no time at all. The stunning look that results will really make each bathroom a centerpiece of your home. While still remaining a place of privacy, it will also become a place of refuge for all who step inside.

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7 Reasons Quartz Counters Are The Answer For Your Kitchen

1. Endless options

Whether youre looking for something super sleek or want to replicate the look of natural stone without the maintenance, you can find it in quartz.

"One of the main reasons quartz has exploded in popularity is due to appearance," said HGTV. "Quartz has the look of stone while also allowing homeowners to customize the design. While granite offers many options in terms of appearance, you may have to search for the right piece that matches your color scheme. With quartz, the selection process is much easier."

2. May be better for larger surfaces

The prevailing trend in kitchens today is an open kitchen with a large island. But large slabs of granite to cover an entire surface in one piece are hard to come by, sometimes even nonexistent depending on the size, and are expensive if they are found. More likely, more than one granite slab will need to be used for a large island or expansive countertops. Because quartz is engineered, it can be created in larger slabs. And if more than one slab is needed, seaming them together looks, well, seamless because there is no need to carefully color match natural pieces together as you would do with granite.

3. Easy maintenance

Granite needs to be resealed one a year, which is no big deal for most people. But the daily care required of granite can push them toward toward a solid surface like quartz. "With quartz, cleaning the counter is easy. The quartz washes off with soap and water and looks as good as new. You dont have to use special bacteria-preventing soaps," said Leeza Surfaces.

4. No staining

A main consideration for many people when choosing countertops is warding off stains. Juice, wine, or other food and drinks can permanently stain granite. According to HGTV, "Some oils and acids can stain" as well.

5. Scratches and burns

Granite can also scratch and burn, ruining the look. Quartz is scratch resistant and able to handle hot pots without burning or discoloring, although its not recommended you put anything super hot directly down on either surface.

6. Cost

Granite can be less expensive than quartz depending on the grade of the stone, but, when it comes to exotic granite, "Quartz is less expensive," said Leeza Surfaces.

7. Eco-friendliness

"The only way granite ends up in your kitchen is if its quarried and that uses a lot of energy. If you opt for a high-end slab from Italy, for example, there will be considerable transportation involved. Try using indigenous stone when possible or visit salvage shops for pieces that can be cut to fit your needs," said HGTV. "Since quartz is engineered, it can be more environmentally-friendly than granite if you use regionally manufactured stone and local fabricators. This cuts down on the distance the material needs to be transported."

If thats not enough to convince you, maybe these quartz kitchens will do the trick.

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How To Deal With A Neighbor From Hell

You can read cautionary tale after cautionary tale, and get in a few laughs at the same time, on the Neighbors from Hell Instagram pagewhich is, frankly, our newest obsession. The reality is that you may not be able to avoid every neighborhood grouch when you buy a house, but you can prepare by doing your research in the areas youre considering TODAY has some good tips for that here..

And if you do end up with a neighbor whos concerning, here are some steps to take to diffuse or mend a tense or problematic situation.

Lend an ear

It may just be that your neighbor grumpiness is a call for help. Sometimes, all it takes to tame a grouch is to show a little kindness to someone who needs someeven if they dont deserve it.nbsp;

Lend a hand

Does your neighbor have an overgrown lawn, shutters with peeling paint, or siding that needs to be power washed? You might assume that theyre neglectful, but there might be a bigger problem that youre not aware of, said The Spruce. The family may be dealing with sickness, or their lawnmower broke down and they cant afford a new one.

Dont be afraid to stand up for yourself

Then again, sometimes you need to show strength to someone who isnt used to having a viable foe. While it may be easier to take the highroad, you might have to get in the muck to get the results you want.

Get support

Its always easier to achieve desired goals through joint efforts, said Rentberry. If its likely that youre not the only one unhappy about your neighbors behavior, you should check if someone else is ready to side you. This point is especially important if you decide to contact local precinct or file a complaint in court. In this case, quantity matters. The more people share your opinion, the more chances to win you have.

Get the authorities involved

If were talking about breaking laws or dealing with intimidation or harassment, you may have to escalate the situation.

Steer clear of danger

Sad but true, some neighbors are not worth getting to know wellbut its still good to know something about their dislikes and boundaries, so you dont cross them, said HGTV. In 2006, for instance, headlines were made when Charles Martin, an elderly man living in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, shot a 15-year-old boy to death because he had apparently made the error of walking across his meticulously manicured lawn.

How to handle them: Martinwho is in jailmay have been destined to snap no matter what his neighbors did or didnt do, but he was well known for the care he lavished on his lawn, and in theory, if that 15-year-old had been more aware of the kooks devotion to his lawn, it might have kept him from going anywhere near the home.

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Creative Ways To Carve Out A Home Office In Your Place

Closet conversion

Have a closet thats filled with off-season clothes, giveaway stuff, and ra>

In a closet office, well, theres not a plethora of space even for your must-have items, said FlexJobs.nbsp;Youll have to be creative about storage. Running shelves up the back of the closet is an easy and obvious solution. While youre at it, though, consider adding a rail for hooks so you can hang pencil holders, pictures, or other items up and off your desk. Pegboards are another fun and creative way to create more space. You can add these boards on walls and doors to create flexible storage space for whatever you need.

Backyard bonanza

Homeowners who want to stay put are turning to their backyard to make space, said REALTOR Magazine. Several companies are touting backyard solutions, like Kanga Room Systems units start at about 5,000 for an 80-square-foot kit the buyer can assemble and Modern Shed. These companies can ship standalone structures that can be assembled by homeowners to keep their home offices separated from their living spaces. Studio Shed officials say theyve doubled their sales over the last year. In April alone, their sales were four times it was a year prior. The companys units start at 10,000.

Double duty

You dont need to lose your guest room to incorporate a home office. You just need to be creative. We love these Murphy beds that give you both a decked-out desk and a comfortable overnight space for visitors, without the typically cluttered look of a double-duty room.


You dont even have to have an entire room to dedicate to a home office. In fact, its not even necessary to have enough room for a desk. If youre tight on space, consider a wall-mounted desk that folds down when you need it and disappears when you dont.

A new zip code

If your current space just cant accommodate your work-from-home needs, maybe its time to move. Space-constrained homeowners are looking for solutions for a workspace, said Realtor. For some, its even been motivation to move.nbsp;A recent survey of real estate agents conducted by HomeLightnbsp;says that a designated home office will likely be the most desirable or important feature to home buyers in a post-pandemic era.

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Ask The HOA Expert: Pool Accessibility To The Handicapped?

Answer: Homeowner associations are not required to provide handicap access, however, they must make "reasonable accommodations" for those residents that require such. That means if a resident requires a ramp to a unit entry, the board should approve the installation with the resident paying for it. The board can require reasonable aesthetic considerations be included with such installations. Reassigning HOA owned parking places to allow a disabled resident to be closer to their unit is another reasonable accommodation.

But considering that you are a seniors only community, it might make sense to install handicap access to the pool as it is likely that many of the members could benefit. Gather support from members who are in favor of spending the money. If the required majority endorse the idea, why not do it?

Question: Our HOA is trying to get on track after years of self management and neglect. Lots of people were well intended but hadnt a clue of what being a board member really meant. Any advice on getting pointed in the right direction?

Answer: Seriously consider hiring a management company that specializes in homeowner associations to handle your business. There is simply too much going for unpaid and untrained volunteers, even if they have the best of intentions. And no one should have to enforce rules on or collect money from their neighbors.

Above all, be patient but persistent. Change comes slowly to some. Years of management by neglect is a hard mind set to change. Encourage more flexible minds to run for the board.

Question: We have a homeowner that has boxes and papers stacked against the patio door and windows. They are very unsightly from the outside and mildewed which is a health concern for the neighbors. It also poses a possible fire hazard. Can the board require the homeowner to clean up the inside of their unit?

Answer: The board indeed can require clean up of a unit or home that is a health, fire or safety hazard. Ask the adjacent neighbors to first broach the subject with the offender. If this doesnt prompt action, ask them to write the board a letter describing the problem and what they tried to do about it.

With those letters, the board can turn up the heat by giving the offender a ten day deadline to clean up. After ten days, say "other legal remedies will be explored if necessary". This usually will do the trick. If all else fails, get the HOAs lawyer involved. One way or another, the easy or the hard way, the job will get done.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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Working From Home? Why Not Move to Barbados?

But theres one more importantand brand-newreason to move to Barbados: You can now get a 12-month visa to work in a place thats just SLIGHTLY more inviting than your hastily-thrown-together home office.nbsp;

Yes, now you can trade cramped city apartments for the islands white sandy beaches, blue sea and year-round sunshine, as NBC News puts it. Let us explain.

But even as the pandemic continues to rage, the government of Barbados, a country in the eastern Caribbean, is sending a very different message: Come here, not just for a holiday, but for up to a year. Bring your laptop, said the Washington Post. Soak up the sun, the sea, the sand and forget about thenbsp;coronavirus.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley made the announcement during a recent event, introducing the 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp to allow visitors the option to work remotely from Barbados for a year at a time, said Government Information Service.nbsp; The stamp concept, now being refined for promotion, would allow persons to come and work from here overseas, digitally so, so that persons dont need to remain in the countries in which they are.

Speaking during the official reopening of Primo Bar and Bistro, St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, last night, the Prime Minister said one of the things the pandemic has shown is that it made short-term travel more difficult because of the testing and the requirements for rapid testing, which were not >

According to NBCDFW, the Barbados Welcome Stamp, is set to launch in August and will be open to anyone earning more than 50,000. The scheme is designed to provide a much-needed boost to the islands tourist-dependent economy, while capitalizing on the shift in work patterns driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

The aim is to attract remote workers, with a bill to be introduced in Parliament by the government that will remove the local income taxes that normally kick in after six months.

The program has unsurprisingly sparked global interest. Considered from a cramped apartment in London or New York, working remotely on a beach has an appeal even to those who know little about Barbados.

Though the coronavirus has disrupted many aspects of our work lives, it may accelerate some trends. Gallupnbsp;polling of Americansnbsp;conducted this spring found that 62 percent said they had worked remotely at some point by April, an increase from 31 percent in mid-March.

Between 2005 to 2017, there was a 159 increase in remote work. In 2015,nbsp;3.9 millionnbsp;U.S. workers were working remotely. Today that number is at 4.7 million, or 3.4 of the population.

More than two-thirds of people around the world work away from the office at least once every week, according to researchers.

A study >

The ability to work from home and the emergence of digital office rental services has led to changing attitudes around where people should work and whether they should stick to the traditional nine-to-five working hours.

For instance, WeWork a competitor of IWG, which owns Regus and Spaces provides shared workspaces for companies and freelancers.

IWG said the study >

The biggest driver is digital changing every industry in the world, Dixon told CNBC in a phone interview. On the one hand, its changing how real estate needs to be offered, but its also companies wanting something different in the digital world.

Dixon said that firms are less inclined to invest in real estate and were looking to digital services instead to hire out office spaces. He added that the idea of remote working allowed employees to be more flexible.

If you offer workers the chance to work where they need to be, and not where they are told to go to, it completely transforms their view of the company, they are more productive, Dixon said. If they can work at an office near to where they live or near to where they need to be, its totally transformational.

IWG surveyed 18,000 business professionals across 96 international companies for the study. Dixon said established corporates were leading the charge into remote working, to boost productivity and job satisfaction.

HSBC, for example,nbsp;rented out more than 300 hot desksnbsp;in a space run by WeWork in Hong Kong last year. WeWork,nbsp;reportedly worth 20 billionnbsp;after an investment led by Japans SoftBank, counts Microsoft, Salesforce and Spotify among its enterprise clients.

Last year, anbsp;reportnbsp;by U.S. market research firm Gallup found that the number of American employees working remotely rose to 43 percent in 2016 from 39 percent in 2012. Anothernbsp;study, by telecommuting research firm Global Workplace Analytics and recruitment firm FlexJobs, found that 3.9 million American workers said they telecommuted at least half of the time in 2015, representing an increase of 115 percent from the 1.8 million U.S. employees that said the same in 2005.

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Selling Your House? Here are the Renovations that Pay Off (and The Ones that Don’t)

Homeownership is great in a lot of waysyou get your own space that you can customize as you please, you can have as many people over as you want, you can have pets without paying extra fees, you get space to fit more belongings, etc. But homeownership can also be a big burdenyou are responsible for any and all necessary repairs, you have to buy tools and equipment to help with maintenance for things like the lawn, you have to pay the cost of all utilities, and so on.

Owning a home has both its pros and cons but even despite the pros, after a while, many people find themselves needing to move. Whether it be because the home is too small, its time for an upgrade, theres a new job is in another location, its not worth the cost of maintaining, or its simply a good market and the right time to sell, there are a number of reasons that homeowners part ways with their houses. No matter the reason, though, many want to get the most out of it that they can, and that often means making updates and/or doing renovations to boost the value of their home before it goes on the market.

If youre getting ready to sell your own home and are deciding which renovation projects to take on, you may be having a hard time figuring out whats worth it and whats not some renovations are worth more than others, but it can be hard to tell since the potential buyers personal preference will come into play as well.

Luckily, there are a few renovations that will generally pay off, and a few that generally dont. If youre considering renovations for your house, here are the ones you should move forward with and the ones you should avoid:

Renos That Will Make You Money


If youre considering remodeling your kitchen before listing your home for sale, stop considering and start doing. While you dont need to do a full-on kitchen remodel, doing minor upgrades and updates to make it look current and fresh will have a positive impact on your homes overall value, helping you get more bang for your buck.

Energy Savings

Doing renovations or upgrades that result in energy savings is a good idea when youre planning to sell your home. Things like replacing insulation, upgrading windows, replacing appliances, etc. will add value to your home and help you get more money out of it when you go to sell it to new owners.


Curb appeal is big for many buyers, and if you have old, outdated, faded siding that youre considering replacing, you should. New siding can give your house a totally fresh new look and will attract more buyers than you might think.

Front Door

Again, curb appeal has a big impact on buyers and the front door plays a big role in that for such a seemingly small aspect of the house. Replacing the front door is >


If you have an unfinished basement or a basement that needs some upgrades, then doing those before you list your house on the market is a great way to go. While some people love the potential of unfinished space, many would prefer a space that has potential but is finished so that they can move in, customize it, and start using it right away.

Renos That Arent Worth What They Cost


You might want to consider adding a fresh coat of paint, but in general, a full bathroom remodel or the addition of a bathroom isnt worth what it costs. The average ROI for a bathroom addition is only about 56 percent, meaning that you wont be able to recoup much at the time of resell.


Having a deck is great and gives you the chance to get outside and enjoy the summer evenings. Its not something buyers are really looking for, though, so if youre considering adding a deck as a way to add value, you may want to think twice about it. The money you would spend on the deck could be put towards a more valuable renovation instead.

Master Suite

Everyone seems to think that everyone wants a luxurious master suite, and while that may be true to a degree, when it comes down to it, people would rather pay a good price for a house they like than pay a lot more for just a master suite. On average, adding a master suite costs over 100,000 and only results in a 64 percent ROI, so its not a renovation thats worth it if you want to add resell value to your home.

In Conclusionnbsp;

When it comes time to sell your home, there are a number of renovations that you might want to consider doing in order to increase its value and get more money when its time to close. Not all renovations are worth the cost, though, so although you may want to remodel the kitchen a bit, adding a bathroom or deck wont add the same value and isnt worth the money or time.

Which renovations are you considering doing before you sell your home?

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Do You Have A Zoom Room? If You’re Getting Ready To Sell Your Home, You Better Make Sure You Do

A bougienbsp;4.9 million listingnbsp;tucked behind San Franciscos Buena Vista Park has a lot to offer, but the "impressive Zoom Room" gets a higher billing than the wine cellar and hot tub in the realtors blurb, said SFGate. Anothernbsp;recent listing in Oaklandnbsp;suggests that a third unfinished bedroom would be "perfect for a private home office, zoom room or au-pair suite."

The trend isnt limited to single-family homes. According to the Montreal Gazette, The next big thing in the condo market might well be the Zoom room. Many believe that one of the potential long-term impacts of the pandemic is there are going to be more people working from home, and folks in the condo business in Montreal say it means people are going to need some extra space in their condo for a home office.

Now, if were being honest, a Zoom room is really a home office, right? But while you might concern yourself with your surroundings in a home office for your own peace of mind and productivity, Zoom calls make your space on public. Thankfully, the trend has spawned at least one online business that provides design services for those who need some help with that.

When quarantine began, Kiera Kushlan and Jessica Centella, founders of DC interior design firmnbsp;Residents Understood, started hearing from past clients with an only-in-2020 kind of problem: They needed help making their home workspaces more efficient, but they also wanted to know how to make them look better on camera, said Washingtonian. The inquiries were frequent enough that Kushlan and Centella were inspired to launch a whole new service: a virtual design package wherein, for 350, theyll take a video tour of your home, give you a 30- to 60-minute consultation, and follow up with a checklist of ways you can improve your space. People who want even more help can opt for a next-level package that costs 1,500, and comes with a much more comprehensive design plan, plus a Pinterest board full of products and furnishings selected just for you.

According to the pair, you can easily make your background look more interesting by adding wallpaper or artwork. These tips will also help you create a visually appealing and functional space:

Take advantage of natural light"The most ideal setup is facing a window.
Paint the walls. Painting is the quickest and most budget-friendly way to instantly change the way a room looks and feels.
Declutter Having less stuff around you will make you feel better, and also make you look much more professional and put-together on camera.
Layer, layer, layer Not only do layered interiors look more finished, but adding items like area rugs, throw pillows, or window treatments can also help dampen sound.nbsp;

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Four Actionable Steps to Recover Your Financial Future

The less you have, the more expensive ignorance, financial mistakes, and poor choices become. Higher fees, higher interest rates, overlooked discounts, and missed supportive measures reduce what you get for your money and the amount of your income that you keep.

Your bank balance and credit card debt may be whats on your mind, but the financial world wants the convenience of one number that tells them a lot more than that about you. Lenders, financial organizations, and retailers want to know about your financial behavior which they apply as a predictor of your future actions.

Their chief concern? How likely are you to repay debt? That is, make them hassle-free profit.

The financial world uses a three-digit credit score which encapsulates a borrowers potential credit risk to the lender, based on past financial behavior, and indicates the borrowers ability to repay debt. Credit scores range from 300 to 800; higher is better. Each consumer has more than one score.

Credit scores were not created for you, just about you and your financial behavior, so they are not meant to be simple to understand or manipulate. However, to attract good interest rates and terms, credit scores can and should be raised by managing your financial behavior according to lender criteria.

At least one-quarter of low-income consumers lack the knowledge to help them raise low credit scores, said the Consumer Federation of Americas CFA Stephen Brobeck, a CFA Senior Fellow. This lack of awareness could limit their access to credit or subject them to higher costs. Low income households can least afford to pay higher interest rates and fees associated with low credit scores.

The good news is you dont have to tackle this credit quicksand alone. In fact, dont waste time figuring this out alone when smart people like those at CFA and its grassroots network want to help you get free of financial disadvantages.

As you dig in, youll learn about the two credit scoring systemsFICO and VantageScoreand which of your financial patterns cause problems and which could help you raise your score. Each system calculates credit scores differently, even though they use similar data like repayment and debt history. The three credit reporting companies CRCsExperian, Equifax and Transunioncollect financial data, including your spending data, and >

VantageScore, a predictive generic credit scoring model created by the three CRCs, now allows lenders to score 40 million more Americans, including many African- and Hispanic-Americans and credit-invisible Millennials and GenZers, who were previously considered unscorable. This has enabled millions to join the ranks of creditworthy borrowers. VantageScore and other credit score model developers may now have an opportunity to bring more predictive and inclusive credit scores to the mortgage marketplace.

The financial services, retail, and service industries drive consumers using >

A low credit score identifies you as a target to be taken advantage of because of your lack of financial knowledge. Learn more and youll save more.

The Consumer Federation of America CFA; concentrates on sharing behind-the-scenes insight on how money works so that consumers, especially low-income individuals and families, will not be taken advantage of. CFA is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy.

For example, CFA reports that only 22 percent of low income participants in their recent credit survey knew that on a 20,000, 60-month auto loan, a borrower with a low credit score would likely pay more than 5,000 extra in interest than a high-credit-score borrower. Low scores may only qualify borrowers for subprime auto loans with annual interest rates frequently exceeding 20 percent

These observations involve many complexities beyond the scope of this article, but they do demonstrate that spending patterns require attention when income is the issue.

To launch yourself onto solid financial footing, follow thesenbsp;

Four Actionable Steps to Recover Your Financial Future:

Step 1. Take a few minutes and complete the Credit Score Quiz

What you dont know you dont know could cost you a lotperhaps everything. CFA and VantageScore Solutions developed and co-sponsor the interactive website,, that consumers can use to test their knowledge of credit scores using a 12-question quiz, available in English and Spanish.

Step 2. Pace yourself and become >

Do you think that instant gratification takes too long? If you want to make dramatic or lasting transformational change in your life, be prepared for an evolving life>

1. Heres a credit-score overview for those who want to see how all the parts are in play before they dig into details: VantageScore amp; CNBC What is a good credit score and how to get onenbsp;
2. Then, unravel the credit details at for clarity:

nbsp;Explore credit scoring
nbsp;Understand your score
nbsp;Learn tips about credit
nbsp;Free score providers
nbsp;About VantageScore


Step 3. >

The grassroots network of Consumer Action [ ] CA, another CFA partner, is a good starting point to learn how you can find help with your learning adventure. CA concentrates on consumer credit, and the >

The Consumer Services Guide is a searchable directory of resources which can help you with consumer problems and questions. The multiple Guide editions deal with specific issues such as housing or credit. The full directory, the Consumer Service Guide Edition, provides access to all the resources collected by Consumer Action.
The Take Action Center provides advocacy tools that make it easier for you to reach out about issues that matter.

Step 4. Replace FOMO with POMO

Dont let Fear Of Missing Out FOMO and keeping up with the Jones->

Redefine your wealth and status in non-monetary terms like experiences, family, friendships, pursuit of passions, contributing to community etc. Emphasize must-haves that are free or nearly so to create a rich life full of variety and adventure. This will leave your income and spending free to concentrate on housing, feeding, and keeping you secure now and into the years ahead.

Additional Articles by PJ Wade...

nbsp;Confident Decisions in Uncertain Timesnbsp;
nbsp;When Youre Forced to Move...nbsp;nbsp;

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July Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "Rates continue to remain near historic lows, driving purchase demand over 20 percent above a year ago. Real estate is one of the bright spots in the economy, with strong demand and modest slowdown in home prices heading into the late summer. Home sales should remain strong the next few months into the early fall."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 2.99 percent with an average 0.8 points for the week ending July 30, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 3.13 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.20 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.51 percent with an average 0.7 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.59 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.16 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.94 percent this week with an average 0.4 points, down from last month when it averaged 3.08 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.46 percent.

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What Exactly is a ‘Drive-by’ Appraisal?

Lenders establish a required loan to value or LTV for each loan program, even loans that do not require a down payment. The property is the lenders collateral in the transaction and an independent appraisal will help support the value of the subject property. Private mortgage insurance, or PMI, can be waived if the loan amount reaches a certain LTV. For instance, a conventional loan might require PMI with a 10 down payment but waive the requirement with a down payment of 20 or more. Value is determined by an appraisal.

There are different levels of a property appraisal. A standard, or full appraisal is one where the licensed appraiser does some initial in-office research to identify recent sales of similar properties in the neighborhood. The appraiser will first identify similar properties and record the sales price of each home. After performing this initial research, the appraiser will then make a physical inspection of the home, both on the outside, or the exterior, and the inside of the home. The selected loan amount may set the guidelines for the type of appraisal required or the type of appraisal required will be identified in the results of an automated approval.

A full appraisal will require photos of the outside and inside of the home and include these in the report. The appraiser will also take exterior photos of the similar homes chosen by the appraiser. The photos will support the final value of the home. An interior inspection can also impact the final value. Both the interior and exterior of the home must be in good condition and the photos will support that.nbsp;

On the interior however, two homes that look very similar from the outside might look very different on the inside. One home might have an upgraded kitchen with granite countertops and high end appliances while the other does not. These adjustments will be noted in the report. The home with the high end kitchen will have its value adjusted upward due to these improvements.

Another type of appraisal is a desk review. A desk review computes the value of the home by online research only. No physical visit to the property is necessary and all research is done in-house. A desk review typically is the result of a high-equity transaction. For instance, the loan amount requested is 200,000 and recent home sales in the area suggest a 500,000 value. When a loan application is run through an automated underwriting system, the results, or findings will indicate the level of an appraisal needed.

A drive-by appraisal includes in-house research as a starting point and then a physical visit to the subject property. A drive-by means the appraiser visits the home, makes note of the condition of the property and takes exterior photos. The appraiser can also take photos of the comparable sales used in the report.

When the findings indicate the type of appraisal needed, an individual lender can make its own guidelines. For instance, even though the findings ask for only a drive-by appraisal, the lender might override that decision and request a full appraisal. On the other hand, a lender cant do the reverse and only do a drive-by or desk review when the findings ask for a full appraisal. And finally, because there is less work performed with a drive-by, the appraisal fee will be lower than a full appraisal.

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How To Choose The Right Home For You…and Your Dog

Sometimes, people are awesome.nbsp;

If youre one of those people that are looking to move in order to create a welcoming home environment for your dog, or a dog you plan to bring in, here are a few things to look for.

A workable floorplan

Do you have an older dog? Getting up and down the stairs might not be so easy. Perhaps a ranch->

A safe yard

When youre looking at houses, youre going to want to pay close attention to the outdoor space. Is there enough room for your pooch to run? Is the yard fenced? Is the fence in decent shape?nbsp;

Other doggie friends

While you may not be keen to meet up with other humans and their pets during this time of social distancing, this too shall passright? And, when it does, you may want to make sure youre positioned in an area thats dog friendly.nbsp;

Barking dogs

Then again, the neighbors dogs might be nightmares. Having mega-barkers around you is never fun, but it can be especially painful if that barking also gets your dogs going.

A park nearby

Even if you dont have acres for your dog to explore, having a park nearby can be a great substitute.nbsp;

The wildlife situation

Are you looking at areas where there are coyotes or other predators? You not only have to think about the danger factor but also what life will be like if you cant put in as doggie door and have to leave your dog alone while youre gone for large stretches of time.nbsp;

Is it a busy street?

Dogs get out. It happens. Being in a high-traffic area could increase the possibility that your dog will be injured or worse by a car. Said You may always have your dog on a leash, but what about those times they escape out the front door when youre distracted or when a child or visitor or service man leaves the door open? Will they rush into a quiet cul-de-sac or a busy street?

Nooks and crannies

If you do buy a two-story home, that unused space under the stairs would make a great dog hangout area

Community rules

If you have or are considering a breed like a pit bull or German shepherd, youll want to make sure there are no restrictions in the communities youre considering. Some condo and townhome communities may also have size restrictions, and there also may be limitations on how many pets you can have.

Even if you own a piece of property, its not guaranteed that your pets will be welcome there, said the American Kennel Club AKC. Depending on the number and the breed, there can be restrictions within an Homeowners Association HOA,nbsp;condonbsp;development, or even the city or state, at large.

The right flooring

If youre buying new construction or plan to renovate, you may also want to think carefully about dog-friendly-materials. One of todays most popular options is luxury vinyl tile, which gives you the look of wood but with a much easier-to-care-for, pet-friendly material. Luxury vinyl tilenbsp;is an excellent choice for homes with furry companions, said Armstrong Flooring, for its long-lasting durability, easy cleaning and 100 waterproof planks.

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Doctoring The HOA Budget

Financial statements can be prepared according to three methods: Cash, Accrual, or Modified Cash. You must know and understand which method is being used in order to understand the financial statement. Which method is used has a huge impact on the numbers that appear in the financial report. The methods differ as follows:


Cash method accounting is like a personal checkbook which tracks when cash is received or paid out. Income is recorded when a deposit is made. Expenses are recorded when a check is written. Cash method financial statements are easy to understand and to prepare. However, they dont give the full picture since they omit information on unpaid bills or uncollected assessments.


Accrual accounting tracks all transactions, even if cash is not received or paid out. Income is recorded when the assessments are due instead of when collected. The same is true for expenses. Expenses are recorded when they are incurred. For example, if the HOA buys new equipment, the purchase is recorded even if the bill has not been paid. Because it tracks all income and expenses, accrual method accounting more accurately records the financial activity of a particular time period.

Modified Cash

Most HOAs use modified cash method for record keeping. It is a blend of cash and accrual methods. With this method, most transactions are recorded on the cash method, but some are logged on an accrual method. For example, accounts receivable amounts owners owe the HOA are recorded as they are billed accrual method. Expenses are recorded as the bills are paid cash method. Other accrual adjustments, such as prepaid expenses and income tax accruals, are not made. The modified cash method is less complex than accrual method but during an audit, a CPA often must convert the financial statements to accrual method since it more accurately groups income and expenses in the fiscal year to which they apply.

There are two basic types of financial statements: the Balance Sheet and Income amp; Expense Statement. A Balance Sheet is sometimes called an Assets amp; Liabilities Statement. The Board should receive both statements usually monthly, or at least quarterly, shortly after the end of the reporting period. Reviewing the financial status will inform the Board of needed corrections early.

Income amp; Expense Statement

The purpose of this report is to keep you abreast of income and expense status over a period of time; for example, "for eight months ended August 31, 2003." The income statement generally shows the current period - either the month or quarter - as well as a year to date totals. At the end of each fiscal accounting year, this statement "closes out" and starts again with the beginning of the new fiscal year.

An important feature of the Income amp; Expense statement is the Budget to Actual comparison which shows if a particular budget item is over or under budget. If there is a significant variance, it will easier to spot. The accounting method used, cash or accrual, impacts the report. If cash method is used, income is recorded as assessments are paid and deposited. With accrual method, the income is recorded as it is "earned." For this reason, an accrual report will typically show a much greater income figure than a cash report unless all assessments have been paid on time. Same scenario for paying bills. With accrual accounting, that electricity bill which applies to December but not received until January, is still reflected in the December report. Not so with a cash method report. These differences can greatly distort an HOAs financial position if the Board is not aware of them.

Balance Sheet

The balance sheet takes a "picture" of the HOAs financial status on a particular date. It is comprised of Assets, Liabilities, and Equity.


These are items the HOA owns. Cash method financial statements generally list only cash as an asset. An accrual method financial statement may list cash, assessments receivable, prepaid expenses, and deposits money held by the HOA, which will be returned.

Capital assets like furniture, vehicles, tools, equipment and depreciation may appear on either a cash method or accrual method financial statement. Capital assets can also be items that the HOA holds title to and generate considerable cash flow like a golf course or parking garage. However, most common area property is not included on an HOAs balance sheet.


These are amounts owed by the HOA, whether for products, services, or taxes. Cash method financial statements generally do not contain liabilities. Liabilities may appear on a modified cash method statement, but they are only updated at the end of the year, since the expenses are not accrued monthly or quarterly.


This is also known as Retained Earnings and generally states the current balance in the reserve and operating funds. However, some accountants prefer to list reserves as a liability item. The sum of the Assets must equal the sum of the Liabilities and Equity. Thus, the term "balance" sheet.

Reserves is money budgeted for future repairs and replacements of the common areas. It is often the amount of cash the HOA has set aside but may also be the amount the HOA projects it will have in its replacement fund by a particular date. The presentation of amounts allocated to reserves varies greatly. The HOA should discuss this with a CPA knowledgeable in HOA operations and the financial statements should be adjusted at year end to show the amounts budgeted for reserves, spent from reserves, and any transfers between operating and reserve funds.

Interpreting Financial Statements

The board is responsible for the HOAs financial stability. It is a fiduciary duty to understand them. Some questions the board should ask:

Is there enough cash to cover operating expenses?

Is operating cash increasing or decreasing since the previous report?
If it is increasing, should the excess is transferred to reserves?
Are reserves being properly invested at the highest rate with the lowest risk?
Are the HOAs reserves on target with projections?
Are reserve expenditures being paid out of reserves?
Has the HOA borrowed from reserves to meet monthly expenses? If so, is there a plan to repay the amount?
Are the amounts members owe the HOA increasing or decreasing? If increasing, does the board needs to increase its collection actions? Does it need to "write off" bad debts or set up allowances for them?
Are there miscellaneous income items? If so, do you know what they represent?
Are collections keeping up with the budget?
Are you over or under budget? If the HOA is seve>

There, that wasnt so bad was it? Didnt hurt a bit. Now review the article one more time. The>
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Cost-Saving Tips For Your Bathroom Renovation

But, it can be extremely expensive. According to HomeAdvisor, The averagenbsp;bathroom remodel costs 10,528. Most homeowners spend between 6,016 and 15,044. On a large or master bath, you could spendnbsp;25,000nbsp;or more.

But you can do it on a budget. Heres how.

Watch your footprint

You may be envisioning a large, lavish bathroom, but do you have as large, lavish budget? You can keep costs down by going with a smaller footprint. Less square footage means less materials to purchase means less money going out the door. A larger bathroom will likely need a larger vanity, which can be pricier. Additional boxed of flooring, tile, and any other materials you need will also cost you more. Keeping it small may also mean you can find leftover materials at a steep discount.nbsp;

Buy whats on sale

When youre trying to do your bathroom on a budget, an open mind is your best tool. The Carrera marble you have your heart set on might be a huge budget-buster, but you can approximate the look with the Carrera-look porcelain tile thats on sale.nbsp;

Or, maybe, you end up with something else altogether because you didnt anticipate that great subway tile on clearance. Material costs can cause your bottom line to swell, but you can keep your budget in line by making smart purchases.

Keep your plumbing where it is

If you can renovate your bathroom without moving the toilet, shower/bath, or sink, youll save a lot of monyand hassle. The cost to move a toilet or sinks can be 2,500-3,500 per fixture, said Torrance, CA-based Bay Cities Construction. Plumbing can be a significant cost factor in a remodel when a bathroom floor plan is altered. The toilet is the most expensive to move. Connecting the toilet to the existing sewer line can be a bit tricky for your plumber. The sewer-line depends on a slope. The sewer line pipes keep a specific slope to drain well. Another layer of complexity exists if the house is built on a concrete slab versus a raised foundation. Houses with a concrete slab foundation require concrete cutting to >

Go prefab

If you need a custom vanity, your costs can climb into the thousands. But with so many prefab options available, you may not need to consider that type of expense.nbsp;

Check the big box stores

Holiday sales several times a year can mean tremendous savings on everything from vanities to bathtubs to faucets.

Dont be afraid to DIY

When it comes to bathroom vanities, one of the best deals youll find will likely be on unfinished products. We found this unfinished, 60-inch double, shaker->

Be on the lookout in your neighborhood

There have been workmen at the house around the corner that just sold. And theres a trash bin in the driveway of the one across the street. That might mean people around you are renovating. And its also possible that theyre getting rid of some stuff youd be happy to have in your home. You know what they say about one mans trash

Check Amazonnbsp;

Yes, the same place you buy your underwear and your light bulbs may also be a great source for bathroom items. We found this Delta tub and faucet marked down from 124 to 48 and this Westinghouse brushed nickel, three-light fixture on sale from 78 to 53.nbsp;

Think outside of the box

That antique dresser thats collecting dust in the garage or attic might make a gorgeous vanity, and it may even be something you can do yourself.nbsp;


Go ahead and enter vanity or clawfoot tub into the search field of your local Craigslist. You may find nothing, or you may find all manner of cool stuff. Just be sure to abide by some Craigslist best practices to keep yourself, and your money, safe.nbsp;nbsp;

Check surplus stores

If you dont know where one is, Google is your friend. These warehouses have some great bulk deals as well as small-scale bargains you wont find elsewhere.nbsp;

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Different Types of Pet Doors and What Is Right for Your Home

Installed-in type

An installed pet door is usually installed in a wall in a homes exterior door leading to where your pet needs to go. The door allows your pet to get in and out of your house. It can either be a flap, frame or a tunnel if the wall is very deep. The flapped pet door comprises either an aluminum or plastic frame with one, two or even three flaps that your pet can pass through. But, when using one made of plastic frames, understand that plastic can break easily. Aluminum, on the other hand, can expand and contract when the temperatures change and can even get warped.nbsp;

But, you can buy the replacement flaps. Some companies even sell pet doors with pass-throughs that are already built-in. The installation, friendly cost, and adaptability of this pet door making it ideal. Its also a great door type if you live in a rental house. nbsp;

If you want the tunnel type, use the services of a carpenter or handyman to drill the door tunnel into your wall to avoid damaging anything packed into the walls like plumbing or electricals. Its a better option if you need to limit your pets access to some of the rooms or are a permanent homeowner who doesnt mind drilling holes into your walls.nbsp;nbsp;

Custom-made type

This pet door is one of the best standard types. Its the best pet door whenever you want to make changes in the near future as your pet grows.nbsp;If you have a pet, you can choose one with a shorter door which helps to prevent any injuries.

Patio panel type

A patio panel door has a pre-cut opening and is a good option if you live in a rental or an area with harsh weather conditions. Unlike the installed in tunnel type, patio panel pet door doesnt cause any damage to the walls since you dont have to drill your walls.nbsp;

Electronic type

Electronic or magnetic pet doors have sensor tags connecting to your pets collar that allow an automatic entry or exit. Only a pet with a sensor tag can enter or exit through them. Others can even be programmed to open during certain times of the day. Although expensive, an electric pet door, especially one with sensors protects your pet from unwanted animals like raccoons from entering through it. But, you will need to train your pet before they get used to it.

Getting the right type of pet door will prevent you from having to regularly get up to let your pet out every time they need to go outside. Simply determine which is the best and where you would like to install it.nbsp;

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How Deferment of Mortgage Payments May Affect Borrowers in the Long Run

According to Mark Hanf, president of Pacific Private Money, Section 4021 of the CARES Act contained a regulation that loan servicers shall report the credit obligation or account for those participating in forbearance as current.nbsp; In other words, those participating in a forbearance program should not see their credit scores drop. However, there is a loophole that allows lenders to discover whether or not a borrower is actually making payments. It is the comments section of a credit report. nbsp;The CARES Act does not mention the comments section of credit reports, and thats where forbearance notations are going.nbsp; What borrowers are not being told is that any reference in a credit report to forbearance can be a Scarlet Letter for an applicant seeking a new mortgage, according to Kathleen Howley in an article she wrote in early May 2020.

According to Hanf, within a week of Howleys article, his company received a loan request from a home buyer who was denied credit from a major bank for just this very situation. Although the bank sees the existing mortgage as current the forbearance has let the world know via the comment section that this borrower has requested a deferment. The major bank involved would most likely not deny the loan on its face due to the deferment, as this would violate the law; however, banks are notorious for coming up with a myriad of reasons for denying a loan and still stay within the guidelines set out for them.

Conventional lenders desire to have plain vanilla borrowers who pay back loans in a timely manner. When a borrower changes terms of the loan by requesting principal forgiveness or other aspects of thenbsp;

loan, the lenders generally do not usually extend credit again to these borrowers and can negatively affect the borrowers ability to borrow again from un>

In one case, back in 2009, during the heart of the Greta Recession, one banker tells a story of how a wealthy borrower first asked for a principal loan reduction of 500,000 because his collateralized real estate had decreased and his request was granted. But, when this borrower was faced with the prospects of having this reduction reported on his credit report or the fact that he would have to inform any new lender that he requested a principal reduction [as this question is usually on bank applications], he voluntarily requested that the 500,000 abatement be reinstated. He decided his ability to borrow in the future was worth more than the 500,000 principal reduction.

Borrowers will have to decide if requesting deferments is worth the risk of potential future lending restrictions based upon the lender desire to lend to borrowers who choose to defer mortgage payments when the opportunity arises. Whoever said, theres no free lunch must have been talking about these very situations.

Edwardnbsp;Brownnbsp;is in the Investor >
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Building A Backyard Studio To Expand Living Space

Everybody I know rich and not so rich are climbing over each other at home. They need space to decompress, the homeowner says. Everyone I talk to says, I need a studio right now.

The homeowner, who lives in a semi-detached home, says he and his wife began thinking about studios when their son took up drumming. They wanted to respect their neighbours, so their thoughts turned to creating a stylish but practical, fully sound-proofed studio. It maxes out the template of the lot but we werent using the backyard, he says.

They knew exactly what they wanted space to accommodate the equipment needed by a full band, interior walls finished with drywall, good lighting, insulation and soundproofing.nbsp; The homeowners had seen elegant studios in design magazines and wanted something that was also esthetically pleasing, specifically mid-century modern, cool, >

But they didnt know who could do the job. A Google search led them to Sebastian Kellner and Backyard Escape Studios. The London, Ont.-based company creates fully insulated studios that are comfortable enough for year-round use.

After eliminating other contractors and opting for Kellner, design work on the 12x20-foot studio began. It was a fairly quick process because the homeowners knew what they wanted everything from the layout to where the switches and plugs would go and even where a table and drum kit would be placed.

Dealing with noise was their No. 1 consideration, and Kellner solved the problem. The homeowner says you can go in and scream your head off but not be heard, or enjoy doing yoga in peace and quiet.

Large windows on two sides, and a glass door, ensure the space is bright.nbsp;

The design took a couple of weeks to perfect all done virtually, then Kellner prepared a package for the homeowners to take to the building department for a permit. It was a simple process, the homeowner says.

The studio was prefabricated in London and transported to Toronto to be installed on a concrete pad the homeowner hired a separate company to install.nbsp;

The homeowners chose a clear cedar exterior, an expensive but pretty option, and chose high-end finishes, including pot lights and a combination heating/air conditioning system. For someone on a budget, the homeowner says a properly insulated and built studio could use a simple space heater and fan to heat and cool.

For someone looking for a work pod, an eight-by-eight-foot unit would suffice, says Kellner, who builds studios and sheds throughout Ontario. The beauty of keeping it under 108 square feet is that in most municipalities, no building permit is required. There are regional differences so check with your local municipality.nbsp;

He says its important to think about how you will use your studio. Will it be for summer use only, or will you be enjoying it 24/7 year-round?

Proper insulation is key for a four-season experience. Although a prefab unit such as Kellners may seem expensive starting at around 15,000, avoid the temptation to simply add insulation to a home improvement store garden shed. Its not a solution you will end up using because it will be cold in winter and hot in summer. It will be a waste of money, says Kellner.

He suggests R-20 insulation, the same level that is code for a house. Anything less, he says, and its considered a two or three-season building.

Also consider how many people will use the space at once. The 108-square-foot unit is plenty for one.

Think about where you will place the structure on the property. If its too close, the building department may see it as an extension to the house. However, placing it too far from the main power source will add to the cost because running electricity between the buildings can be expensive.

Consider the type of foundation. Concrete is becoming more expensive, so ask about other options, such as earth screws, Kellner says.

The size, type and placement of windows and doors is another consideration.nbsp; Windows add natural light, visually expand the space and offer a view outside.

Another consideration is interior and exterior finishes. For this studio, the homeowner chose wood instead of metal for its warm look.

Also factor in the cost to hire someone to finish the interior. The homeowner says it could be a DIY project for a handy person. To ensure the job goes smoothly, its important to have everyone electrician, drywall installer, painter lined up so theres no delay between jobs.

Get quotes, and more importantly check references for the studio builder, as well as the other trades. Make sure you know what things cost so you dont get ripped off, the homeowner says. One company quoted 20,000 for a concrete pad, but when the homeowner asked Kellner and other professionals, they told him the job should only cost around 3,000.

Think about timing. The design can take a month or two, depending on whether the homeowners know what they want. Add another four to six weeks for prefab construction and another three or four days to erect the building plus the time for interior finishing.

As people tire of working at the kitchen table and long for a quiet place to call their own, the solution could be as close as their own backyard.

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Can You Use Unemployment Income to Help Qualify?

Fortunately, most unemployed are covered by unemployment insurance. While the unemployment insurance is certainly a welcome amount, its typically much less than regular pay. Still however, its there. That said, for those thinking of buying a home while being recently laid off, what to do with that unemployment income? Can it help someone qualify? Can a lender use that income to boost overall monthly income?

In short, no. At least in most cases. Why not? Primarily because its how lenders calculate and verify income. First, lenders ask for a two year history of receiving income from a job. When lenders begin documenting a loan file, borrowers can expect to provide the last two years of W2 forms or if self-employed, the last two years of income tax returns. These two years fulfill a lending requirement of having at least two years of verifiable income from a steady source. Second, the lender must make the determination that the income is likely to continue into the future, sometimes as long as three years.

For those newly unemployed, that two year history wont be there. Thats a good thing, though. Consumers would rather be working and earning. At the same time, a lender wont be able to make the determination that someone will be unemployed well into the future for as much as three years. In most states, the maximum number of weeks people can be eligible for unemployment benefits is 26 weeks. Thats six months, not three years. For these two main reasons, unemployment income can be used for everyday expenses but not counted when qualifying for a new mortgage.

On the other hand, some jobs are seasonal, and a business can have a history of hire/fire cycles. Construction workers come to mind. They can work a job, the job is completed and theyre laid off. When a new project comes up, theyre rehired. Unemployment income can be used in this instance but again it must adhere to the two year history rule. Being able to verify a two year history of working seasonal jobs can help contribute to overall monthly income in order to help qualify for a mortgage. In fact, unemployment income from consistent, seasonal work is much the same for any seasonal or part time job. Show a two year history of receiving seasonal income and it can typically be used to help qualify.

If youre not sure if you can use your unemployment income in order to qualify for a mortgage, have a phone call with your loan officer and get your questions answered to fit your individual scenario.

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Tips for Landlords During COVID-19

The CARES Act also established a federal eviction moratorium, but now thats come to an end, for the time being, leaving around 40 of renters in America at risk of losing their homes.

Eviction notices can now legally go forward, but as a landlord, you probably realize the situation isnt cut and dry.

What can you do as a landlord to help your renters, even if youre worried about how to pay your own bills?

Know Local Regulations

If youre a landlord, you may already be aware of what your local regulations are under normal circumstances as far as evictions, but theyve likely changed in recent months.

In California, for example, more than 80 local governments have put temporary holds on evictions beyond what the federal government had in place.

Your state or city should have information on their website.

With that being said, even if you can evict a tenant that doesnt necessarily mean you should for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is the fact that it could be nearly impossible to find a new renter right now.

Regardless of the specifics of your situation, empower yourself with knowledge as a landlord during this time.

Communicate Transparently with Tenants

Many tenants are facing serious stress and uncertainty right now, and the idea of being evicted is only going to add to that.

Of course, they may not be thinking that as a landlord, youre facing the same things.

Try to communicate as much as you can with your tenants now and as long as were in the pandemic.

Let your tenants know what youre thinking, what your plans are, and also let them know they arent alone during this time.

If you have several tenants or more, consider communicating by setting up an online portal.


If a tenant is telling you they cant pay your rent, you may need to verify what theyre saying. This can be uncomfortable, but if a tenant is simply nervous about the future but still has their job, then they have a responsibility to pay their rent.

By verifying information, you will send a message to your tenants that while youre willing to work with them, you also take rent collection seriously. There has to be a balance between compassion and potentially being taken advantage of.

There may be local laws dictating what you can and cant ask of tenants right now, so again, youll need to check in on local laws and regulations.

Work with Your Tenants

If your tenants truly are facing financial challenges, the best thing you can do is work with them.

You might talk to them about partial payments, for example. One option would be to prorate how much they owe over a certain period and then add that to their monthly rent when things normalize.

If your city allows it, you may be able to work out some other type of payment plan as well. In some cities in the U.S., you can ask tenants to sign payment plans, so youll have to check that first.

Talk to Your Lender

Finally, if your tenants are having financial problems, then you as a landlord may be as well. Just as there has been >

Contact your lender, and when you do, be prepared to show them how much rent youre losing and also outline your monthly expenses.

If youre honest and proactive, theyre more likely to work with you to lower monthly payments or help you find another solution to avoid default.

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Tips To Make Your HOA Newsletter Pure Gold

Focus on Building Community. Get HOA members to become participants rather than observers. Offer opportunities to do that on committees and social events.

Understand Your Audience. How old are they? What is their financial status? How do they like to spend their time? Find out by getting feedback from your readers with a questionnaire.

Inspire Your Readers. Make sure events, activities and volunteer opportunities are well publicized. Create headlines to grab the readers attention.

Be Consistent in Layout and Content. If you have a "Rules amp; Regs Corner" which highlights a particular HOA rule or policy, publish it in every issue. Always include current board and management contact information mail, email and phone.

Dash the Draft. Write the rough draft as quickly as possible and then go back to polish and flesh out the details.

Archive Your Newsletters and Articles. Many articles bear repeating and as time passes will have new eyes that see them for the first time. Repeat seasonal reminders. Create folders on your computer for the months you publish your newsletter and put article files in the months they fit best. In time, you can build a reservoir of content to draw upon that will make newsletter writing much simpler and quicker.

Lead With Your Strong Suit. Put the most important information up front. Organize the strongest points of an article before you write it.

Keep Articles Short. If an article is long or complicated, readers will move on. If there is simply too much good content to abbreviate, break the article into several articles.

Give Credit amp; Contact Information. Include the newsletter committee, writer and editor names and contact information. This rewards volunteers and encourages others to step up.

Be Positive amp; Uplifting. While criticism has its place, too much of it is a downer and chases most readers away. Strive for the positive. Be upbeat.

Proofread. Editing is a rewording experience. Carefully review your work for grammatical and spelling mistakes or get a detailed oriented person to do it for you. Make sure your facts are straight.

Reprint with Permission. Search the internet for content that would be of interest to your readers. If you find an article that includes author and contact information, be sure to get permission before reprinting and give credit where credit is due.

Have Fun With It. Give them a giggle or two. The internet is full of jokes, puns and cartoons.

Publish Pictures. Folks love to see themselves in the paper. Share event pictures, photos of board members, the manager, committee members and other volunteers.

PDF It. Programs like Adobe Acrobat make it possible to convert word processing and newsletter programs into Portable Document Format PDF which can be posted on the HOA website or emailed to those that do email. PDF was designed with HOAs in mind. Using it can save thousands of dollars in printing, supplies and postage each year plus countless processing hours each year required of paper newsletters. Get Advertisers. If your HOA is large enough and newsletter regular, it may attract advertisers like real estate agents, insurance agents, painters and remodelers and help pay for itself.

Newsletters are a wonderful way to bind your community together in a custom way. Keep your homeowner association in the know with timely and >
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What Should You Know About Virtual Home Tours?

The pandemic is still going on, despite most states being in some phase of their reopening plan, and people are doing more things virtually than ever before. nbsp;

For example, some employers are saying theyll keep their employees working remotely for the foreseeable future.

A Changing Real Estate Market?

Inevitably, these changes have impacted the real estate market. The market has been surprisingly strong through this, with mortgage rates historically low, but that doesnt mean buyers and sellers arent doing things differently.

The virtual tour is one example. Increasingly homebuyers are going through the entire process online, meaning realtors are showing them homes virtually.

A survey that came out in January, before the pandemic affected America, found that prospective homebuyers preferred to work with agents offering virtual tours. The National Association of Realtors 2019 report called Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends, found that 48 of buyers between the ages of 39 and 63 said they found virtual tours very useful as they searched for homes.

The following are things buyers, sellers, and real estate agents should know about virtual home tours.

Agents Can Go in the Home to Do the Tour

The term virtual tour is somewhat generalized, and it can refer to a few different scenarios.

In one scenario, theres a virtual tour thats prerecorded, and then anyone can look at it on demand.

There are also instances, particularly now, where real estate agents representing buyers will go into the home and then walk them through it live, but still virtually using something like Zoom or FaceTime.

For some buyers, this represents a better option because their agent can help them understand the nuanced details of the home that they wouldnt have access to otherwise. If you have a real estate agent whos doing a tour for you, its a much more dynamic experience.

You can ask your agent to show you closets, or provide different angles. You can also ask them to look in the backyard or to examine certain components of the house like the foundation.

What are the Pros of Virtual Tours?

Since were still dealing with the effects of the pandemic, one of the perks of virtual tours for buyers is that it provides them with inherent social distancing.

Some people who might be planning a move far from their current location may not even have the option to travel right now, so virtual tours are the only way for them to conduct their search.

Its also convenient, and theres a lot to be said for that.

When you take a virtual tour, you dont want to spend time traveling to the property if its something youre not interested in.

Even if you dont buy your home completely sight unseen, virtual tours can save you time in the overall process.

Virtual tours can help you get a handle on what you like and dont like as well.

What Are the Cons of Virtual Tours?

There are downsides to virtual tours. First, you dont get the full sensory experience of a home. It sounds silly, but homes have a vibe and you may feel one way or another about a space when youre there in person. You dont feel what the ceiling heights are as an example, or what the finishes feel like.

Youre also not getting a feel for the location if you buy a home without seeing it first. You can ask your real estate agent to provide you with information and perhaps even a virtual tour of the neighborhood, but still, its not the same as seeing it for yourself.

Tips for Virtual Tours

If youre a buyer, there are some things to know going into virtual tours.

First, know what to ask your real estate agent if youre doing a live tour. For example, remember to ask about the fundamentals like the laundry room, the garage, and the storage spaces. Have your agent show you the roof and the foundation, as well as the less glamorous parts of the house like the water heater and the furnace.

If possible, even if you arent going to go to the home, but you live >

Finally if at all possible think of virtual tours as one part of your home buying process rather than a complete replacement. They can supplement your experience and save you time, but if you have the chance to go into the home it can help you visualize yourself there.

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When It Comes To Real Estate, Does Size Matter?

Think in terms of usable space, not square footage

You may have 3,000 square feet in your mind as your desired space. But whats really important is how that space is used. It might turn out that 3,000 square feet is too expensive. But even if its not, whats the layout like? Are there a bunch of unusable rooms? Maybe there are too many bedrooms at the expense of the living space. And you probably dont want to spend all your time cleaning rooms you dont even use?

You might be surprised to discover that the 1,800-square-foot new build is planned far better than the 2,600-square-foot older home, and that the open layout and use of space makes the house feel even bigger.

Then again

Think about the future

Are you just married? You might think a starter home with just a couple of bedrooms is all you need. But are you planning on having kids soon: It might behoove you to get a house thats ready for babies instead of thinking that you can move up in a couple of years.

Maybe youre an established family with a couple of kids who think a three-bedroom place would be perfect. But are you getting to the stage where you might have grandparents moving in or an older child returning to the roost? Perhaps an extra room is worth paying for.

Ask yourself what you really want

Its time to ask yourself some hard questions. Do you ever need alone time? Want a room you can go into and close the door to read a book? Do you need a man cave or a room you can use as a home theater?nbsp;

How about a dedicated home office or a guestroom? Determining your must-haves can help you decide how much house you want. Now its just a matter of seeing if you can afford it.

Speaking of

How much money is too much?

Its human nature to want as much as we can get. But can you really pay for it? Before you commit yourself to a larger home that comes with a larger payment, do some hard thinking about what you can comfortably afford. You dont want to bite off more than you can chew.

Consider the state of the world

For the past several years, the trend among many luxury homebuyers in the U.S. has been clear: bigger isnt necessarily better, said As with so many other aspects of day-to-day life, the coronavirus pandemic has turned all that on its head. Preferences vary by price range and region, but buyers in every market are eyeing extra space. Versions of this trend are playing out in markets all over the U.S., making it an opportune moment for sellers looking to unload extra acreage, and a time for interested buyers to move quickly.

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Frequency of Recency in HOAs

This kind of thinking can be pervasive in the homeowner association environment.

In the heat of discussion, the most recent hot topic can loom large and perspective can be lost. Recency causes skewed decision making driven by passion. How does this phenomena manifest itself?

Consider the enactment of a rule designed to control the scofflaws. An example is the guy that has five vehicles and only one parking place. After repeated notices to thin out his car collection, the board decides to take radical action, enact a no-nonsense tow on sight rule. This approach, however, also applies to occasional offenders and guests. The towing policy is not necessarily a bad one, but needs to be approached with reason.

When it comes to rule making, rules need to be widely applicable. They should never be enacted to control the few. The few, frankly, could care less. When a narrow rule is enacted, the many that generally live in harmony with their neighbors are netted with the few that dont. This is a bad mix and is bound to create ill will or inconsistent enforcement of the rule.

Consider collections when they involve a habitual trouble maker. The board may react with "last straw" will and enact an iron clad collection policy punctuated by a foreclosure option. The manifestation of "recency" thinking again affects all members, including those that have a legitimate excuse for their delinquency job loss, disability, etc.. Bottom line: The board needs to be careful in its "one size fits all" rules and policies.

Consider reacting to a members bullying at a board meeting. One of the great advantages of a meeting agenda composed in advance is that the board is given the opportunity to reflect on upcoming discussions, even if theyre controversial. If member concerns are required to be on the agenda to get board action, impromptu tirades can be deflected to a future board meeting. In truth, tirade passion usually dwindles over time and the board ra>

Consider reaction to rumors. This is the most insidious recency of all because it is accomplished by stealth. If the accuser is confronted, they simply deny they said it or claim what was said was distorted or exaggerated. Trying to defend against rumors is like trying to catch the wind. Its at its worst when the rumor mill is churned by a board member who is privy to board discussions and philosophy. While the best approach is to try to ignore such undermining, its also good to confront directly and demand change.

When recent events stir the body politic, its usually time to put the matter on the slow track. Time heals all wounds and moderates hysteria of the moment. If the discussion takes on a personal aspect like, "You worthless ... ", its time to adjourn to another time and place so that reason, and not recency, prevails. There are few issues in an HOA that require immediate board action. When the effects of recency begin to taint board thinking, shake them off and slow down.

For more on Policy Making, see .

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Solutions Solutions Solutions

Widespread acceptance of the value and practicality of working from home may have diluted the power of the long-standing real estate value mantra: location, location, location.

Significant societal change and moral reckoningnecessities for a long timeare gaining momentum and will work toward resolution. In the meantime, many real estate owners and wannabes need solutions now for weathering the pandemic and >

In these unsettling and unprecedented times, solutions matter. Homeowners, home buyers, and real estate investors value real estate solutionssolutions to real estate issues and real-estate-based solutions to a variety of other problems.nbsp;nbsp;

Effective forward thinking hinges on ingenious, individualized real estate solutions:

1. Safety and Convenience:

During the pandemic, consumers isolate at home. Home substitutes for the workplace and everything else. Visiting malls and grocery stores was transformed into online shopping, coupled with home delivery or curbside pickup. Post-pandemic, many will continue to let their fingers do the tapping from home rather than returning to retail aisles or work cubicles. How many aspects of real estate will remain online?

The variety of pandemic online shopping options has blossomed. Competition is stiff. Consumers abandon online shopping carts and head to the e-competition whenever a purchasing process is confusing, slow, tedious, or boring. With more real estate buying and selling processes finding their way online, consumers will expect the same degree of convenience, accuracy, and speed they experience with their other online activitiesor theyll move to the competition.

Your solutions: As a real estate professional, how have you redesigned your and your brokerage buyer-and-seller experiences to remove hassles and distractions? How do you ensure social distancing, video touring, virtual meetings, and other safety measures are efficient and effective without compromising speed and convenience?

2. Buyer Life>

Shift your marketing and promotion from dream home to home solution to weather these and future uncertain times. You know the types of financial and life>

A multiple-unit income property may provide a buyer with financial security if their employment becomes unstable or ends.
An income-generating home could provide top-up income or emergency financial backup if it were practical to take in boarders, operate an airbnb, or rent out a self-contained suite as needed.
A work-live space may provide security for small business owners or entrepreneurs.
A secondary suite or second home could also allow homeowners life>

Your solutions: What real estate solutions would properties in your area offer buyers who want to be prepared for uncertainties ahead and to benefit from a more secure life>

3. Seller Future Solutions:

Isolation issues that have arisen during the pandemic have revealed how practical multigenerational living can be. Separate living areas for different generations with communal areas for recreation and dining can make it easy to pool resources so real estate is more affordable for all:

If a suite or second house cannot be added to the current real estate, property owners may welcome the option of moving up to a larger home or property that can be shared with parents or grown children.
Some sellers may consider a move to a more natural settingperhaps in a less-expensive urban areawhich would incorporate recreational life> The persistence of virus infections in densely-inhabited urban areas may entice some city dwellers to >

Your solutions: How might the pandemic or the threat of new viral epidemics change location preferences for your target markets or within your selling territory?nbsp;nbsp;

4. Mortgage Solutions:

Mortgage rates are at historic lows, so mortgage renewal can make good financial sense and theres more

Low rates also make life> Your network of mortgage brokers and investors may also offer flexibility in arranging mortgages, especially for qualified buyers who lack traditional employment histories or who are self-employed.

Your solutions: Encouraging buyers and sellers to build flexibility into their real estate and financial plans will help them embrace solutions for future emergencies that resolve many of the problems people have faced and will during this pandemic.

5. Environmental Solutions:

Climate issues have slipped out of the headlines during the pandemic, but questions regarding environmental issues like flooding and wildfires are still significant concerns in many areas.

Your solutions: Your local knowledge will reveal areas that are less prone to natural disaster and that may offer attractive solutions for nature-conscious families. Can you impact local buying patterns by revealing value in previously-overlooked areas?

Real estate markets will be tied to the pandemic until a vaccine removes life-threatening danger:

Many with cash on-hand and/or purchasing power will take on the investor role, particularly where foreclosures climb.
Others are searching for solutions to preserve their real estate holdings in the face of economic uncertainty.
Many buyers and sellers who were intent on a real estate transaction before the pandemic hit are still keen to act, but to proceed they need solutions to the financial and life>

Is it time to reconsider the target market and selling territory you concentrated on pre-pandemic?nbsp;

Significant changes in buying power may shift who will act in spite of global uncertainty.
Some previously-preferred neighborhoods may face long-term or permanent down-grading.
How will the real estate value mantra evolve as technology and digital transformation progresses?
What dramatic changes do you see based on your local knowledge and experience?

Yesterday has disappeared. How are you redesigning your tomorrows and those of your clients?

Who will consider your real estate solutions valuable?

For more on strategic communication, visit PJs blog: Whats Your Point?nbsp;

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You Can Buy A Home For $1, And 9 Other Reasons To Chuck It All And Move To Cinquefrondi, Italy

For just about 1, you can buy a home in the Italian town, located in the rural southern region of Calabria. We know what youre thinkingisnt Italy dangerous right now?nbsp;

Actually, the country has done a great job of getting a handle on the coronavirus. And Cinquefrondi has had zero reported cases. In fact, The rural southern region of Calabria as a whole was one of the regions least affected by the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, with a >

So why should you consider a move? Let us count the ways.

The purpose

The mayor of Cinquefrondi, Michele Conia, is committed to repopulating his town. The project is so important that he named it Operation Beauty, said Departures. In fact, he remarked, "Finding new owners for the many abandoned houses we have is a key part of the Operation Beauty [mission] that I have launched to recover degraded, lost parts of town."nbsp;nbsp;

The history

Cinquefrondi carries a rich history, dating back to Ancient Greece, said Greek Reporter. Its residents call themselves the Last Greeks and one can hear Ancient Greek words in their regional dialect. The town was a strategic outpost during the Greek expansion in the 8th and 7th centuries BC. Ruins of Greek fortresses and a strategic ancient Greek road built to connect the two seas are a remaining testament to that fact. One of the area landmarks, thenbsp;Aspromonte National Park, with its trekking paths across dry riverbeds, has its name from both Greek and Italian, literally meaning white mountain aspro in Greek and monte in Italian.

Youll get to tap into that Under the Tuscan Sun fantasy

Come onhavent you secretly wanted to move to Italy and restore a forgotten old space? You can buy one here for less than a cup of coffee.nbsp;

The houses currently being offered once belonged to farmers, shepherds, artisans and tanners, said Il Globo. Theres currently about a dozen available, but there are potentially more than 50 empty dwellings that Conia plans to hand over to new owners.

It wont cost a lot

Beyond the almost-nonexistent purchase price, there are, of course, those renovation costs. And when you see the pics of the available properties, with their crumbling facades, you might shudder. But the Mayor predicts that, with the small size of the available homes, the reno costs will be low.nbsp;Renovations shouldnt cost too much, though, as the homes on offer are quite small, at around 40 square meters about 430 square feet, said Greek Reporter. The mayor estimates that the costs will be between 10,000 and 20,000.

The beauty

The town is ensconced in rolling hills and surrounded by the picturesque Aspromonte National Park. And did we mention it looks out over both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian coasts and is just 15 minutes to the beach. Check out the towns Instagram for more beauty shots.

Its remote

Real estate searches in remote locales are way up as a social distance tool. Now this is the way to do remote

The town

Cinquefrondi is a charming old town in the toe of Italys boot, full of olive groves and arched alleys and ruins of Greek fortresses and pastel-hued homes. The town has recently undergone several infrastructure improvements. Roads, piazzas, old fountains, public parks and even a church have been neatly restored and painted in rainbow colors, said CNN. One renovated district known as the Future Hamlet now hosts social and cultural events, while a symbolic staircase of rights is there to remind visitors that locals have embraced the rule of law in a land often plagued by criminality and banditry.

However, despite the scenic natural surroundings, Cinquefrondis urban scenery is scarred by ramshackle dwellings, he told them. "We rise between the refreshing hills and two warm seas, a pristine river runs nearby and the beaches are just 15 minutes away by car. But a whole district of my town lies abandoned, with empty houses that are also unstable and risky."

You can see the properties that are currently available here.nbsp;

The food

The pizza. The pasta. The passion. You can; go wrong with Italian food no matter where you are. The Calabrian area of Italy is known for its great produce, fresh seafood, and abundant. Red wine. CNN calls is a foodie paradise. Among Cinquefrondis top gourmet specialties are spicy, reddish nduja salami made with tonnes of chili pepper, soppressata cold dry sausage with huge bits of lard and a special kind of pasta called struncatura made with the leftovers of wheat and flour served with olives, grated bread and anchovies. Desserts incude zeppole doughnuts made with potatoes and sugar, and handmade twisted nacatole biscuits. Mangia Mangia

Duh, its. Italy.nbsp;

Need we say more?

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June Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "After the Great Recession, it took more than ten years for purchase demand to rebound to pre-recession levels, but in this crisis, it took less than ten weeks. The rebound in purchase demand partly reflects deferred sales as well as continued interest from prospective buyers looking to take advantage of the low mortgage rate environment."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.13 percent with an average 0.8 points for the week ending June 25, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 3.15 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.73 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.59 percent with an average 0.8 points, down from last month when it also averaged 2.62 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.16 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 3.08 percent this week with an average 0.5 points, down from last month when it averaged 3.13 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.39 percent.

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Why Lenders Sell Loans

Without having the ability to sell mortgages, the lending industry would essentially shrivel up and die. Why? Think of it this way- say a bank had 10 million in the vault dedicated to home loans. If after making 10 1 million dollar loans, the bank has no more money to lend. Instead of selling the loan, the bank would recover its money by collecting principal interest payments each month, but that can take a long, long time to recover the issued funds.nbsp;

Instead, banks and mortgage companies in general operate from a standing line of credit. This process keeps the lender in the lending business and provides much needed liquidity in the secondary markets. The secondary market is where mortgages are bought and sold among various entities. Most conventional loans are sold and ultimately end up in the hands of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. That still doesnt mean youll send your mortgage payments to Fannie or Freddie; they just own the note. If someone sends a mortgage company to the bank, the bank acts as a servicer and collects a fee for managing the home loan for the owner of the note.

When lenders first accept a home loan application there is a fair amount of paperwork exchanged. Beyond the loan application and supporting documents such as tax returns and paycheck stubs, multiple disclosures are provided to the borrower explaining various parts of the loan process. One such part is whether the lender intends to sell the loan and provide historical information how many loans have been sold. This document is titled the Mortgage Servicing Disclosure Statement and there are different boxes to be checked stating the lender has sold 0-25, or 25-50 or even 100. Most conventional mortgages will show that most all loans generated are sold. Loans that arent sold fall into the portfolio category, so-called because the issuing lender does not intend to sell the loan but keep it in-house, or in its portfolio.nbsp;

Selling a loan doesnt affect the homeowner whatsoever, other than the monthly payments will likely be sent to a new servicer. Nothing in the loan changes and the party that buys the mortgage cannot change any aspect of the note. The terms are still hard-wired into the note, the only difference is where the monthly payments go to each month. So, when someone receives a goodbye letter, it just means someone else bought the outstanding mortgage.

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Unique Ways To Finance Your Home And Save Money

With some due diligence and research, you may find you have other ways of helping pay for your home that you would have never thought of before. There are companies who offer customers flexible financing options that will work for your budget. Below are some alternative ways to finance your home and save money on utilities.

Ask Family For Helpnbsp;

If you are not wanting to ask a bank for a loan, maybe you have family who could help you out instead. Many first-time home buyers choose to ask their parents for a loan when purchasing their first home. If your parents are financially in a position to offer you money, it should be considered. Be sure to have all of the agreed-upon terms written down and signed.nbsp;

Seller Financing

In some cases, it may make more sense to find a home where the seller is offering to finance the buyer. This typically happens when the seller is having trouble getting their home sold. While this is not typically the best deal for sellers, it can offer a lot of benefits to a buyer. You may find yourself able to close much faster than with a mortgage from a traditional bank. Typically, the downside to this type of deal is having to pay higher interest rates. This will allow the seller to make up for the risk of financing the mortgage themselves.nbsp;


Another popular option for financing a new home is a rent-to-own program. These programs are very straightforward and allow prospective home buyers to rent a home theyre interested in for a specified amount of time. Once your time is up, you will be able to choose whether or not you want to buy the home. The downside to this type of program is that the payment is often higher than typical home prices in the area.

If you choose not to buy the home, the money you paid will not be given back. However, if you choose to buy the home after the rental time is over, the money you spent on rent will be applied toward the final purchase price of the home. This deal works best for someone looking to buy a home within the next few years and they are unable to come up with a down payment at the time. It is also perfect for people who are working on raising their credit score to get approved for a low-interest mortgage.

FHA Financing

An FHA loan is insured through the Federal Housing Administration. This allows lenders the ability to offer home buyers better deals with low down payments, easy credit qualifications and lower closing costs. If youre looking to buy a home when are low on cash and have a bad credit score, an FHA loan is a good option to consider, especially if you are a first-time home buyer. If you consider this type of loan, you will be limited to purchasing properties that are FHA approved and will be required to purchase mortgage insurance.

Solar Loansnbsp;

Once you purchase your home and find a way to finance it, you should always be on the lookout for ways to save money and afford your rent. A solar loan is a great option to consider if you are interested in solar energy. These types of loans can be secured against your home. Once the solar panels are installed, the money you save on your electricity can be used towards your mortgage payment.

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Looking To Flip? Don’t Do It Without These Tips

Dont expect to be in an out in a week

According to the recent ATTOM Data Solutions first-quarter 2020 U.S.nbsp;Home Flipping Report, Home flippers who sold homes in the first quarter of 2020 took an average of 174 days to complete a flip, up from an average of 169 in the fourth quarter of 2019 but down from 180 days in the first quarter of last year.

Will it take you that long? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on a whole lot of factors, like the condition of your home, how much work needs to get done, and how fast you can make it all happen. You may think you can turn it around in a month, and you may be right. Then again, that 174 days may look like nothing by the time youre done. The trick is to be realistic, and even to overestimate the time it will take to get any permits, do any needed repairs, get your inspections, and get the home soldespecially if you have an investor who is expecting to be paid back quickly.

And keep in mind that, The longer it takes you to flip a house, the more youll pay in carrying costs, which include utilities, financing, and property taxes, said Lending Home.

Make sure you have enough money

According to Fit Small Business, Costs vary based on where the home is located, property type, and the extent of the renovations needed, but the total cost to flip a house is usually around 10 of the purchase price.

But that doesnt mean your flip will come in right at 10. If you dont have a proper contingency fund, anything that goes wrong could put you over budget and sink any potential profit.nbsp;

Take down that wall at your own risk

Yes, it will open up the space and make it look lighter, brighter, and larger. And yes, youll probably also find horrible plumbing issues or faulty electricity or the need for a 10,000 beam to support the structure as soon as you do. Opening up the floorplan of an older home to make it more attractive to todays homebuyers is a great idea, as long as youre prepared for the potential problems.

Consider bringing in a partner

Want to flip homes but dont have the money for a down paymentor the credit to swing a loan? Many a flipper starts out in a partnership with someone who puts up the cash and splits the profit after the property sells. This is especially useful if you plan to buy homes at auction and need a lot of money upfront.

Start small

Buying a homenbsp;that just needs some cosmetic repairs and some TLC can drastically improve your return on investment, said Lending Home. New investors can learn as they go by starting with a home that just needs a little love, and work their way up to homes that need significant repairs.

Learn some trades

Is your intention to do all the repair and renovation work yourself on your flips? Be sure to prepare ahead of time. You dont want to be learning on the job with money on the line.nbsp;

Put together a team in advance

If youre planning to have others make the fixes, locate and hire them before you close escrow. Time is money.

Dont overpay

If youre eager to start your first flip, you might jump at a listing that costs more than it shouldat least where your profit margin is concerned. This can be especially true if you go to an auction and get caught up in the frenzy. Its important to set a limitand stick to itbased on what you can legitimately afford, and your expectations for your profit margin.

If youre not sure how to set your profit margin, consider the 70 percent rule.

The 70 percent rule states that an investor should pay 70 percent of the ARV of a property minus the repairs needed, said Invest Four More. The ARV is the after repaired value and is what a home is worth after it is fully repaired.

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Buyer Beware: What You Need To Know About Warranty Companies

We were, frankly, pleasantly surprised by how easy the process was and also chalked it up to financial karma for having paid 60 every month for the last six years just to have the peace of mind of a warranty, plus 75 for each service call.nbsp;

Those calls were few and far between, save for an annual air-conditioning issue and the occasional other appliance/plumbing concern. To our very unpleasant surprise, the company canceled our existing deal when our contract ended. Apparently, we had made too many service calls. This was, of course, code for We had to replace your refrigerator and we need our 2,000 back.

We were invited to reinstate our coveragefor 2 times what we had been paying per month.

Welcome to the world of home warranties.nbsp;

The truth is, we had minimal problems in the six years leading up to our refrigerator replacement. The tradespeople were generally fine, the service was as expected, and the fixes were typically timely. Being dumped by our company and having to scramble for new coverage wasnt fun, but it definitely wasnt the worst that can happen with home warranties. If youve bought a new home and are considering whether you should renew your warranty after your initial period is over, or are buying/have bought an older home and are mulling a warranty, here are a few things to think about.

The cost

For many people, the fact that they can pay a small amount every month that protects them against a potentially huge expense like an air conditioning issue, provides peace of mind. But ask yourself this: Are you better off putting that 60 or so in an interest-bearing account and saving for a what-if?

Also, just because you have coverage doesnt mean everything will be taken care of by the company. Some problems wont be covered by the warranty, whether because the homeowner didnt purchase coverage for that item or because the warranty company doesnt offer coverage for that item, said Investopedia. Also, home warranties usually dont cover components that havent been properly maintained. Furthermore, if the warranty company denies a claim, the homeowner will still have to pay the service fee and will also be responsible for repair costs. In addition, warranties have numerous exclusions, as well as dollar limits per repair and per year.

The coverage

Many companies have tiered offerings and the lowest tier is just basic coverage. The cost of a home warranty ranges from 350 to 600 a yearmore if you want enhanced coverage for such things as washers and dryers, pools and septic systems, said Bankrate. In addition to the annual premium, expect to pay a fee for service callsanywhere from 50 to 125, depending on the type of contract you purchase.

The rules

Your ba>

Most major home warranty providers include air conditioning as one of their covered systems. In most cases, a home warranty company is going to do everything it can to repair an AC system before replacing it, said Consumer Affairs. Be sure to check your contract for fine print on what AC components may or may not be covered. Also check for the maximum coverage limit listed in your contract for AC units. Remember, you will be responsible for paying for any cost above this dollar amount if your AC needs to be replaced. If you know your home is at risk of needing repairs or replacement of costly items like an AC unit, its worth it to look for a provider that has a generous per item coverage limit.

Other options

Ask a friend, or give it a Google search and youll find lots of tales about frustrated and irritated homeowners ranging to horror stories about their home warranties. Ultimately, the choice is yours when it comes to opting for oneor not.

There are some other options you might want to explore before locking yourself into a contract. Before buying a home warranty, learn what coverage you may already have, said Money Talk News. For example, if youre buying a newly built home, know that: The home appliances and systems typically have one-year warranties. Most states require builders to warranty the homes structural elements for up to 10 years. Also, when you buy new furnishings and appliances, use a credit card that extends the products warranty. That can add as much as an extra year of protection.

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HOA Powder Problem

Several conditions must occur for efflorescence to appear. The soluble salts must be present in the bricks, mortar, or transported by water into the masonry from another source. There must be sufficient water to carry the salts in solution to the surface of the masonry. Then, evaporation causes the salts to come out of solution and be left behind as the salt deposits.

Soluble salts come from many elements or minerals found in the materials from which bricks and mortar are made. The sand used in mortar can have significant quantities of soluble salts. To reduce the efflorescence effect in mortar, experienced masons use only washed sand, which reduces the soluble salt content. But even with careful selection of materials, soluble salts can also be present in the soil behind a wall or in the water used to mix the mortar.

Efflorescence will often stop on its own when the supply of soluble salt in the bricks or mortar becomes exhausted. It can also stop if the source of water which dissolves the soluble salts is cut off. The process can also stop if the water in which the salts are dissolved is prevented from getting to the surface of the masonry. However, if a wall is used for retaining purposes, the process is impossible to stop unless the back side of the wall is waterproofed to prevent water intrusion.

There are several options to remove the deposits, which include using a stiff brush followed by flushing with water. However, this process can sometimes dissolve the salts and cause them to soak back into the wall. Using a weak solution of muriatic acid on some types of salts sometimes works, however, acid solutions can cause severe burns to skin and eyes. This should only be attempted by experienced contractors.

Homeowner associations deal with a variety of building maintenance issues. This is one that should be included on the To Do List. For step-by-step instructions how to stop water from getting into and behind brick, block or stone walls, see the Sealing Masonry Ebook .

For more on Maintenance Issues, see .

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Forbearance: Tread Lightly

A forbearance is a formal agreement between the lender and the borrower. Borrowers cant decide to take a mortgage payment holiday on their own. Doing so would start the foreclosure clock ticking. And lenders are loathe to foreclose. Its the very last thing on their list when trying to work with struggling homeowners. Lenders have employees whose sole job is to provide workout solutions for those having problems making the mortgage payment.nbsp;

A forbearance agreement can be arranged if the borrowers meet certain standards such as documenting their situation as well as the lender seeing there is light at the end of the financial tunnel. If both can be met, a forbearance may be an option. Such an agreement will allow the borrowers to suspend the monthly mortgage payment for a specific period. Yet with a forbearance, the payments dont go away, they payments accrue during the forbearance period. If the mortgage payment is 2,500 and the agreed upon period is for six months, that means at the end of six months, not only will payments resume but theres a 15,000 bill that comes due. Thats the tough part. If someone is having difficulty paying 2,500 where will the 15,000 come from? There are other options such as a Loan Modification that can help and recent changes to agency guidelines may arrange for the past due amounts be added back to the existing mortgage.

Another major consideration with a forbearance agreement is the hit credit reports and credit scores take. On the credit report, late payments will be listed. Late payments on a mortgage does most of the damage to credit scores. Further, if a forbearance agreement is executed, that too will be listed on the credit report. While the borrowers get a breather on making the monthly payment, the credit report will list the forbearance filing. And, at the same time, many lenders who see a forbearance listed on a credit report wont approve a new loan, be it for a purchase or a refinance for up to a year. Or even longer, its enti>

Deciding whether or not to ask for a forbearance agreement should be made alongside your loan officer or financial professional. There are consequences of such a filing that many may not know about. Yes, there is a payment reprieve and foreclosure is avoided, but the filing will negatively impact a credit report. There can be other options available for struggling homeowners. This isnt something to do on your own volition. Theres a lot more help out there than you might think.

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What You Need To Do About Refinancing Today

It might take a while

If youve refinanced before, you may have been able to wrap up in 21 or 28 days. And you still might. Or it could take you a bit longer. According to The Mortgage Reports, refis were taking between 35 and 45 days last year, and the glut of new loans is putting a strain on the system, thereby causing delays.nbsp;

Rates may fluctuate

Rates as of this moment we are at historic lows. Could they go lower? Its possible. Could they rise? Thats also within the realm of possibility. Talk to your lender about when and if you should lock your rate.

A lock-in or rate lock on a mortgage loan means that your interest rate wont change between the offer and closing, as long as you close within the specified time frame and there are no changes to your application, said the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau CFPB. Mortgage interest rates can change daily, sometimes hourly. If your interest rate is locked, your rate wont change between when you get the rate lock and closing, as long as you close within the specified time frame and there are no changes to your application. Rate locks are typically available for 30, 45, or 60 days, and sometimes longer. If your rate is not locked, it can change at any time.

You might not get the lowest ratenbsp;

Those sub-3 rates youre hearing about may not be available to you. Theyre reserved for those with the best credit. If you dont have at least a 700 score, dont expect to get that kind of rate without a buydown.

You might need an appraisal

Then again, you might not. It all depends on the type of loan youre getting. If youre refinancing from one FHA loan to another, youll probably only need an exterior appraisal. In this case, an appraiser will come and measure and take pictures of the outside of your home only.nbsp;

But, if youre refinancing out of an FHA loan into a conventional loan, for example, you can expect to have an appraiser td a thorough examination of the interior of your home, too. If youre doing a streamline refi, you likely wont need an appraisal at all.

You might get money back

Doing a cash-out refi isnt the only way to get some money out of your home. Talk to your lender about when to close so you get some money back. With our recent refinance, we closed at the end of the month and were able to skip two payments. We also had our existing escrow account credited back to us. That was about an 8000 swing.

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Why Two-Toned Kitchens Are a Growing Design Trend

Instead, you have a slew of options when it comes to cabinet design and storage. You might swap upper cabinets for open shelving, for instance. You could pop one set of hardware on top cabinets and another unique option for lower cabinets. Or, grab a paintbrush and paint them two different colors.nbsp;

Two-toned cabinetry has become a huge trend, mainly because they look great. Heres why you should consider transforming your kitchen with a few coats of paint on a select few cabinets:nbsp;

Whats a Two-Toned Kitchen?nbsp;

You can probably picture what a two-toned kitchen looks like simply, you paint some cabinets in one color and a handful of others in a different hue. Designers divide up the space in multiple ways. Sometimes, for instance, theyll paint the island a bolder or more saturated color. Then, theyll brush a neutral tone on the rest of the cabinets. Or, you cannbsp;try painting upper cabinetsnbsp;one shade, and lower cabinets in another.nbsp;

Sometimes, the two-toned >

Why Should I Paint My Cabinets This Way?nbsp;

A two-toned kitchen design makes your space stand out, but there are more reasons to choose two different cabinet colors for your space. Here are a few more reasons why its a good idea:nbsp;

Two Tones Create Contrast

You dont want your kitchen blending together. Cabinets, countertops, walls and flooring that all come in similar shades wont make much of a statement. Instead, your homes culinary centerpiece will just appear a bit dull or run-of-the-mill.nbsp;

If you mix it up by, say, painting the island a darker hue than the rest, though, you will create just enough contrast to make your kitchen pop. And, since contrast is one ofnbsp;the biggest trends in kitchen designnbsp;right now, your two-tone cabinets can make things fresh and modern, too.nbsp;

Two Tones Draw the Eye to a Design Highlight

Some designers use two-tone cabinets to draw the eye to a design feature that they want to showcase. For example, lets say youve chosen a different countertop material for your island. It might not stand out enough on its own, but placing it on a lighter or darker cabinet than the rest of the kitchen will say, "Look here." Then, everyone will notice the stunning stone atop the painted wooden base.nbsp;

On that note, painted upper cabinets can draw the eye upward to accentuate the height of the room. Or, if you have a large kitchen, painted cabinets at the back can highlight the depth. Painted uppers can flaunt a unique light fixture, pot rack or skylight, as well.nbsp;

Two Tones Exude a Modern but >

You dont have to change anything about your kitchen except the paint, and youll instantly have a space thats up to date. Thats because the two-tone conceptnbsp;works with any design >

If youre looking for a quick way to breathe new life into your kitchen, then try two-toned cabinets before helming a full reno. It can be a quick weekend overhaul, and it doesnt break the bank. After a few days, youll have a space that feels completely different.nbsp;

The Two-Toned Cabinet Effect

If youre looking for a way to spruce up your kitchen, look no further than your cabinet colors. Sure, a two-toned look is trending, but its a fresh coat of paint is a >
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Resuming Work and Working to a Definite Resolution

The need has added importance as we transition from quarantine to trying to improve the quality of life of our fellow citizens. The need is urgent because lawyers are oftentimes intermediaries between the real estate industry and insurers.

According to Justin Daily of Daily
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Here Are All the Tools You Need for Laying Tile Like a Pro

Laying tile like a pro does require some special equipment though. Youll want to make sure youre prepared with the following tools to make your tiling job look professional.nbsp;

1. Rubber Buckets

Sure, you could use a plastic bucket for your mortar, but a rubber bucket is much easier to clean. Even if the mortar dries, you will get a rubber bucket clean much easier than a plastic bucket.

2. Mortar Mixer

A mortar mixer will properly mix your mortar and ensure that no air is trapped in the mortar, which could decrease its strength. Mixers can also be used to mixnbsp;other adhesives, resins, and paints. Be sure you use the right size paddle for the amount of mortar mix being used.nbsp;nbsp;

3. Trowels

Trowels are used to apply the mortar that will adhere the tiles to your surface.nbsp;Choose the right size of trowel so you get proper coverage and also pay attention to the shape. U-notched and square-notched trowels are two common types, so its important to have both on hand.nbsp;

4. Manual Tile Cutter

A manual tile cutter allows you to cut with just one hand and makes precise and clean cuts. Manual cutters are light and easy to carry and are what you want when you are working with glass mosaic tile in particular, as it wont affect the quality of the glass surface.

Look for a cutter that has different cutting measurements and you should also consider a double guide cutter.nbsp;nbsp;

5. Tile Saw

If you want to make precise cuts on your tile and make sure they all fit together perfectly, an electric tile saw is what you need. This guide has more information on choosing the right workforce tile saw.nbsp;

6. Tile Spacers

Tile spacers allow you to get perfect spacing between each of your tiles. 2mm tile spacers are the most commonly recommended, but the size you need will depend on your tile and what you are tiling. Make sure your spacing is precise and dont >

7. Tile Levelingnbsp;Kit

A tile levelling kit helps ensure that the tiles are all installed at the same height and are level. These kits also include tile nippers, which help you distribute the weight of the tile and make sure that it is level when it adheres to the mortar.nbsp;

8. Grout Floats

Last but not least is a grout float. Without grout, your tile project will appear unfinished. The grout will fill in the spaces between the tiles and locks them together. The grout float is the tool used to apply the grout to your tiles. Some are meant to get to hard to reach areas like corners and others are better for spreading grout on a larger area. Its worth it to have multiple floats for different purposes.

Laying Tile Like a Pro

Once you have all of these tools, youll be laying tile like a pro in no time. The right tools often make all the difference in making the project go smoothly and resulting in satisfaction with your work.nbsp;


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Ask the HOA Expert: Enforcing Old Rules, Landscaping, Neighborhood Watch

Answer: There is no "one answer fits all." There is never any automatic "grandfathering." The board needs to weigh each violation and its importance. The big ones may be worth fighting for, while minor ones are not. The board can compromise when its in the best interest of the HOA and too expensive to litigate.

Question: When our HOA was developed years ago, the board allowed unit owners to customize the landscaping around their units even though the land was common area. Some have done it well, while others not so well or at all. Our current board is debating whether to return all landscape maintenance to the landscape contractor. What are the challenges?

Answer: Having professional landscape maintenance of landscaping installed by owners simply wont work. For the contractor to maintain the new area would require replacing the custom landscaping with a standardized maintenance plan.

One fundamental principle that will help guide your board in the future: No Board has authority to grant exclusive use of the general common area to any owner for any reason. This always must be approved by an appropriate vote of the members which could be 100 percent depending on how your governing documents read.

Question: Our board has been advised to steer clear of Neighborhood Watch type programs due to potential liability. Your opinion?

Answer: While an HOA needs to be careful not to boast of being "secure," the board needs to take reasonable precautions to make sure the common area is not attractive to criminals. This includes making sure there is adequate night light and landscaping and trees are trimmed to allow light to disperse and not conceal criminal activity. If there is entry access control gates, doors, they should be maintained in good repair.

Participating in a criminal watch program not only makes sense, every HOA should encourage it. It does not mean iron clad security, only improved vigilance by the HOA members. Participation in such programs should be broadcast to members and criminals alike by notices and signs. Each year, a special meeting should be held to reacquaint the members with the program and renew heightened awareness.

For more Ask the HOA Expert, see .

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Affordable Alternatives To A Standard In-ground Pool

Whats a swimmer to do? We have ideas.


A normal in-ground pool can be pricey, depending on thenbsp;poolnbsp;type, shape, size of thenbsp;pool, and degree of customization for yournbsp;pool, said HomeGuide.nbsp;

You can save a ton of money by going small. Enter the spool, also known as a cocktail pool. According to HomeAdvisor, The average cost to install an in-ground spool isnbsp;22,650nbsp;including labor, but this can vary depending on the type you choose.nbsp;

Because 20,000 of that 22,650 is in materials, you can cut your cost dramatically by choosing something more affordable. Fiberglass costs 5,000 less than gunite on a typical 350-square-foot spool, and you can cut your materials cost in half by using vinyl.nbsp;

Shipping container

As the shipping container have grown in popularity as a viable housing form, so, too, has it grown in popularity as a pool form. Modpools is a well-known shipping container pool company that offers a variety of solutions with one big benefit. Unlike conventional pools that can take weeks to pour and cure, your Modpool can be up and running the day of its arrival, they said.nbsp;

Prices range from 16,500 for an 8x12 pool to 39,900 for an 8x40 pool.

Stock tank

This is one of the hottest trends in outdoor enjoyment because its a cheap and easy way to create a small swimming area. The stock tank itself will cost you just a few hundred dollars. Add a small filter and chlorine tabs to keep it from becoming a mosquito haven for another hundred or so, and youve got a small pool in a day for what it would cost to you for a couple of runs to Costco.nbsp;

Backyard pond

Want a more natural look for your water feature? If youve got some decent DIY skills, you can build your own backyard pond for as little as 2,000. Ask most American swimming-pool contractors to build a backyard pool and chances are theyll roll out a long list of goods, including rebar, gunite, fiberglass, chlorine and an energy-sapping filtration system. But in recent years, a few builders and a growing number of homeowners have learned how to build pools without >
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How To Choose The Best Refi: It’s Not Just About The Rates

Millions of homeowners could benefit by refinancing their mortgages, even if they bought or refinanced as recently as May 2019, said NerdWallet. A typical refinance could save more than 150 a month.

But the rates are just one of the considerations. If youre thinking about looking into a new loan, here are some other things to consider.nbsp;

How much is it going to cost you?

Yes, refinancing to lower your rate and your payment is typically a good idea. But refinancing isnt free, and the fees you pay can add up. Make sure you take a good look at all of the fees, negotiate where you can, and figure out how long its going to take you to break even.

Estimate your break-even period: the time it takes for the accumulated monthly savings to exceed the loan fees, said NerdWallet. For example, if you pay 3,600 in fees to save 100 a month, it will take 36 months to break even 3,600 divided by 100 equals 36. If you believe youll stay in the house beyond the break-even period, it might be worthwhile to refinance.

Think about the terms

Who says you need to stick with a 30-year loan? With rates this low, it might be time to look at a 15-year term. Maybe you want to consider an adjustable rate. Perhaps its time to refinance out of your FHA loan into a conventional loan to get rid of that private mortgage insurance PMI, which will save you even more money per month. Be sure to look at all of your options, and not just the one that seems the most obvious.

Hows the service?

On the service side, getting your questions answered in a timely and accurate way is an important element of the process, said Investopedia. Getting a loan requires quite a bit of paperwork, as well as the collection and dissemination of a significant amount of personal information. Having a single, >

A conventional loan isnt your only option.nbsp;

One of the lesser known refinancing options is called an FHA streamline. The benefit of this type of refinance is that you dont have to jump through many of the typical lender hoops. If you currently have an FHA mortgage, the FHA Streamline Refinance is the easiest way to get a lower rate and monthly payment, said The Mortgage Reports. The FHA Streamline is a low-doc refinance with limited paperwork required; the lender doesnt have to verify your income or credit, and theres no home appraisal. That means a Streamline Refinance closes faster than other loans and has slightly cheaper closing costs.nbsp;

This type of refi is also available through the VA and USDA.

Did you get a second opinion?

Even if you go back to your current mortgage lender for your refinance, shop at least a couple of other lenders to see hownbsp;interest ratesnbsp;and terms compare, said NerdWallet. You might believe that going to your existing lender will save you time and hassle. They know us, theyve already got all of our paperwork, you may think. If only that were true. Its a new loan for them, just like its a new loan for any lender. The paperwork will be the same. When lenders know youre shopping around, they are more likely to compete.

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Hot Real Estate Alert: Home Flipping Hits 14-Year High

The newly >

The gross profit for home flips across the country also rose over the same time period, to 62,300. That was up slightly from 62,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019 and from 60,675 in the first quarter of last year, they said.

That 62,300 translated to a 36.7 percent return on investment, which is down from 39.5 percent in Q4 2019 and marks the lowest profit margin since the Q3 2011.

Home flipping has gradually taken up a larger portion of the housing market over the last couple of years, said Todd Teta, chief product officer at ATTOM Data Solutions. But profits are down and are lower than theyve been since the dark days following the Great Recession, which is a sign that investors arent keeping up with price increases in the broader market,nbsp;

Impact on local markets

Home flips as a percentage of real estate sales increased from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020 in 122 of the 140 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in the report 87.1 percent, they said. The largest quarterly increases in home flipping rates came in Boston, MA up 80.2 percent; Springfield, MA up 76 percent; Olympia, WA up 73 percent; York, PA up 71.4 percent and Minneapolis, MN up 69.3 percent.

Interestingly, there were only four metros with a population of 1 million that experienced a decrease in annual flipping rates, and three of them were in Texas: San Antonio -12.9 percent; Austin -11.8 percent, and Houston down -0.6 percent. ; Oklahoma City was the fourth city, down 6.1 percent.

If youre looking to get in on the flipping trend, here are a few key pieces of info to consider:

You dont need to buy a million-dollar fixer. Homes flipped in the first quarter of 2020 were sold for a median price of 232,000.

Your profits will be larger where the home prices are higher. The highest first-quarter 2020 profits, measured in dollars, were concentrated in the West and Northeast. Among metro areas with enough data to analyze, 13 of the top 15 were in the those regions, led by San Francisco, CA gross profit of 171,000; San Jose, CA 165,000; Los Angeles, CA 145,000; New York, NY 141,899 and Honolulu, HI 140,190.

The lowest profits were generally in southern metro areas, such as Fort Collins, CO 14,000 profit; Springfield, MO 20,203; Daphne, AL 20,650; Raleigh, NC 21,250 and Durham, NC 25,000.

Dont think you have to turn the home around and sell it in 30 days. The average time to flip nationwide is 174 days.

You dont need to pay cash upfront for the home. Nationally, the percentage of flipped homes purchased with financing dipped in the first quarter of 2020 to 40.5 percent, from 44 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 and 46.4 percent in the first quarter of 2019, to the lowest point since the fourth quarter of 2016. Meanwhile, 59.5 percent of homes flipped in the first quarter of 2020 were bought with all-cash, up from 56 percent in the prior quarter and 53.6 percent a year earlier.

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7 Video Conferencing Tips: Easy But Not Simple

Goofing around with friends or family and spending half the online session with at least one person trying to get audio or video or both is not that big a deal. In fact, thats pretty common.

When you host or attend a business video conference meeting, your presence is a reflection of your professional abilities whether you want to admit this or not.

Success Tip 1: Clarify exactly who youll be talking with and why

Client Meeting: Before you join a clients session, clarify exactly what the client wants to achieve. What outcome are they counting on? What do they expect you to contribute? What point or points is the client expecting to make to others in attendance?

The client may have arranged an online family gathering to discuss listing or buying a multigenerational real estate holding. Or, the client may be a business with shareholders and executives in attendance. Do not assume you know who will attend or why. Ask significant questions before the meeting so you will be fully prepared. Goal: No surprises.

First Meeting: In an initial meeting that brings you screen-to-screen online with a prospect individual, group, or organization youd probably prefer to meet face-to-face, everything matters. The power of first impressions is not to be underestimated. Learn as much as possible, in advance, about the prospect and their expectations so you can anticipate their needs.nbsp;

Why have they chosen you? Or, is this one of two or three interviews they are holding to decide who will represent them in their real estate transaction or transactions? Goal: Successful rapport-building.

Listing or Buyer Agreement: If this online session is a listing presentation or an audition for buyer agency, how will the agreement be signed once they decide you and your brokerage are the right fit for the job? Clarifying this vital detail before the session, will also help you prepare and suggest alternatives to ensure a contract is created.nbsp;

How will you keep the meeting interactive to address objections and clarify details as you go? Be ready to explain succinctlyusing benefits, not featureswhy you and your brokerage are the obvious choice. Goal: Meeting of the minds.

Zoom is a high-profile online meeting platform, but it is far from the only one. Skype, Google Meet, CISCO Webex, FreeConference, and Jitsi are all popular conferencing alternatives and additional >

Master whichever video conferencing platform you chose or you are told to use. Most have tutorials and guidelines to support your efforts. Phone access especially as audio backup and recording capability may be useful features. If you opt for a free version, learn about freebie limitations, Covid-inspired specials, and premium upgrades.

Video conferencing is not the same as being face-to-face with another human, particularly if you are strangers to each other.

Success Tip 2: Be Prepared for the Meeting

Know what the other party or parties expect and how they define a successful meeting. Who will handle the agenda, meeting management, participant muting, and troubleshooting?
Compile a list of common technical problems and how to troubleshoot them. In case problems arise, find out what device each attendee will use. If this is an important business meeting, have a technical person there as back-up and/or an assistant to help monitor attendee chat questions and comments.
Decide what collateral material you want the other parties to have before the meeting, during the meeting, and as takeaways. Deliver that error-free, professional content to them in the manner that best suits them.
Legible, memorable slides aid a presentation, but they are not the presentation. You are. If you intend to illustrate your listing presentation or similar explanation, avoid flashing through high-content slides that leave viewers struggling to play mental catch up and resist flipping through overly-simplified slides that your voice-over me>

Success Tip 3: Time Is Of The Essence

The question is not whether you can fill 40 minutes or an hour, but what is the best use of your precious time together? What point or points must be made? What response is expected? What will the next step be?

Fitting complex content into a 40 minute session may be a challenge. You may decide to run two or three sessions back-to-back. The complex content may need to be introduced beforehand, expanded on during the first session, and then rounded out during the next phase of the meeting. Perhaps a one-on-one call with you will be the best last step.

Any slide presentation must fit the exact time available with time set aside for interaction and discussion. Have plans in place in case time runs out or is cut short, so you can still make your point. What will you do if they are not responsive and there is time to fill?

Success Tip 4: Practice to Perfect

Rehearse your part so that it comes naturally. Practice with interruptions so you are comfortable jumping back in or skipping ahead as time demands. Use a video camera or audio recorder while you rehearse to see and hear how your presentation looks and sounds. Then fine tune.

Practice with the video conferencing software so there are no surprises for you or your audience. If this is your meeting, own it. No whining or excuses. Theres nothing funny or cute about a professional using professional equipment when they dont know what they are doing. What works one day may not the next. Re-check audio and video a day or so before and the day of the event to be sure everything functions perfectly.

What will you do if the internet goes down? What back-up strategy would allow your delivery to continue regardless? If working from home, how will you head-off interruptions like kids and pets?

What extra back-up may help? Would you benefit from a second monitor to display the chat while the other carries your slides? Consider connecting to the Internet with an Ethernet cable, especially if youre using a webcam, since hard-wiring is typically more >

Success Tip 5: Professional Polish Counts

Look your best to make a polished impression. Dress as you would for a face-to-face meeting but make sure you wear clothes you are comfortable sitting in so you dont fidget.

Avoid black and white patterns, black on black, and large patterns or overly-vivid colors. Camera test what you intend to wear. Simple is best. Make-up is essential, but dont overdo it. Again, camera test for a natural, healthy, non-shiny, non-blotchy look. Keep jewelry to a minimum and avoid clanging bracelets or necklaces especially if youll wear a mike.

Good lighting is key. Do not sit in front of a window. Add light from above and other directions as required to lessen or eliminate shadows.

Whether you sit or stand, make sure you elevate the camera/notebook, so you are looking straight into the camera. This will avoid piggy nose where the camera is too low and looks up your nose. Not an attractive angle for anyone.

Transform your 2D-video image into a 3-D live wire by ramping up energy levels. Use warm-up exercises for voice, breathing, and body to ensure vitality and warmth come through the screen. Eye contact and paying attention are vital so dont gaze up, down, and around when you speak or while someone else is.

Background matters too: What Message Is Your Background Sending?nbsp;nbsp;

Success Tip 6: Interaction Spikes Attention

Most video conferencing services have interactive features like chat, poll, or whiteboard. Plan in advance how and when youll incorporate interaction and questions. If attendees cannot see each others chat responses, read some out. Polls can engage individuals and reveal group responses to key ideas. Whiteboards allow you to write on the screen and add immediacy or new >

Success Step 7: Follow-up

The longer the session, the greater the possibility that someone missed something. Follow-up with a value offer like a recording of the session, a summary PDF, an email with additional resource links, or a brief Qamp;A phone call. The goal is to make it easy for everyone attending to get your point and respond favorably to it.

Treat each video conference meeting seriously to be taken seriously

For more on effective communication, visit PJ Wades blog Whats Your Point?nbsp;

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From Frustration to Lasting Success

She was struggling despite making a decent income in Real Estate in addition to the modest salary that her husband earned as a manager of an auto parts store. Four young adult children with tuitions, travel, weddings, showers, enjoyment, and helping them get started; was expensive. His income was fixed. She knew that it was up to her to raise their income.nbsp;

Carols story is, unfortunately a common one.nbsp;

Real Estate Agents learn the basics of the business, begin to enjoy the commissions and the freedom. After just a few years they plateau. They get stuck at an unsatisfactory level of income. Still knowing that there is so much more potential and they are capable of achieving it. Yet, it eludes them.

There is a Way Out of the Real Estate Production Plateau

Maria Sharapova, the Champion Tennis Player and Entrepreneur wrote in her booknbsp;Unstoppable:

Repetition creates discipline. Just repeating a thing, perhaps inconsistently at first, then with more consistency creates a feeling of the repetition that leads to discipline.

Steven was an Agent with a wife, three children with a fourth child on the way. He told me that he wasnt earning enough to afford his life. He said that what stood in his way was a lack of discipline.nbsp;

I explained to Steven that discipline is a learned skill. Discipline is learned through repetition. Everyone can become more disciplined with simple repetition.nbsp;

Three years later Steven had two more children yes, that is six in total and a Real Estate Sales income that provides his family with the life he wishes for them. That learned discipline added hundreds of thousands of dollars to his income each year.

Doing the right things correctly and consistently is the key to income breakthrough for Real Estate Agents. Any Agent can develop discipline, through repetition, by doing the right things, that work, consistently.nbsp;

The things you do consistently have to achieve results in attitude, confidence, and quality of life in addition to significantly more income. The key is to know and do those specific, correct things that quickly produce results.nbsp;

What are those few simple, smart things that Carol, Steven, and many other Agents are doing to quickly produce results?

Four Simple, Uncommon Habits That Quickly Produce Results for Real Estate Agents

Below is the system we refer to atnbsp;Real Estate Grad Schoolnbsp;and you may have heard on our podcast as The Income Breakthrough Daily Routine.

1. Start each workday with 10 minutes of structured planning
2. Set Goals and Track the 4 KPIs Key Performance Indicators for Real Estate Agents
3. Be completely conscientious with lead and past Client follow up using your CRM
4. Create and complete all the items on a simple Marketing Calendar

Winning Ugly is Still Winning

Kevin hired me to coach him when we met at my speaking presentations at the NAR convention in 2007.nbsp;At that point, he was selling between 40 and 50 houses per year with an administrative assistant. We have coached together ever since.

Today, Kevin is an extremely successful Agent in a small city in the Midwest. Last year he sold over 470 properties and a massively successful team.

The first year as he was putting the Income Breakthrough Systems in place, they were far from perfect. Despite thatnbsp;his income increased by more than 50. When an Agent is working on the right discipline and routine, they see significant results from the beginning.nbsp;

That is inspiring and it inspired him to continue to review and apply the Income Breakthrough Routine each day.nbsp;nbsp;

The following year he became more consistent in implementing daily structured planning, tracking progress toward his goals. being very conscientious with his CRM, and following through on his Marketing Calendar.nbsp;

His income increased, again the second year, by more than 50.nbsp;

The following year he sold over 100 homes for the first time.nbsp;He began to build a team and led them to follow the Income Breakthrough Routine.nbsp;

Today, Kevin is the top Agent in his market and one of the best in his State.nbsp;

How to Achieve Your Income Breakthrough as a Real Estate Agent

1. Start every day with 10 minutes of structured planning. If you would like to receive the structure for Daily Planning that is so successful for the Agents thatnbsp;coach with us, justnbsp;contact us and asknbsp;for the Daily Income Breakthrough Checklist.
2. Set goalsannual and monthly goals in Sales Volume Under Contract and Listings Taken. Set weekly goals in New Client Appointments. Watch anticipated and received income monthly and year to date.
3. Conscientiouslynbsp;use your CRMto convert your leads and stay in touch with your Past Clientsnbsp;with the goal of 100 Lead Follow-up. That means that you never lose a desirable lead.
4. Create yoursimplenbsp;Marketing Calendarnbsp;that includes your Sphere, Farm, and Online marketing campaigns. Also,nbsp;ask usnbsp;for a sample Marketing Calendar

Carol Doesnt Cry Anymore

Today, Carol is out of debt, financially stable, and beginning to feel financially secure. She increases her income every year.nbsp;

Carol made this breakthrough by creating discipline through repetition of the four simple and smart things that create discipline and lead to Income Breakthrough.nbsp;

Its Possible for You

Your dreams can come true. Your dreams about the income that you can earn can happen.nbsp;It is possible to have the life that you imagine with your Real Estate career. It is possible for you to live a life you love. Those dreams are within your reach.nbsp;

They are much closer to you than you might possibly imagine.nbsp;

For over 2 decades the Real Estate Agents that coach with Rich have achieved financial stability, wealth, and personal happiness. His work is unique and exceptionally effective.nbsp;

Rich welcomes your comments and questions. If you have any questions about this article or to discuss your business with Rich Levin contact him at or 585-244-2700.

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Thinking of Investing in Rentals With Others?

When just two people buy a rental property, such as a husband and wife, lenders review the income and credit of each. Income and debts are added together to arrive at a proper debt ratio. As it >

Each buyer will complete his or her own application. The lender then documents all parties in the same fashion. The buyers will provide copies of their most recent paycheck stubs covering a 30 day period. The last two years of W2s will be provided along with copies of bank and investment statements providing verification of sufficient cash to close the transaction. If there are five couples buying a rental property, you can already tell thats going to be no small amount of paperwork. Each and every buyer must submit the proper paperwork.

However, the lender cannot proceed until all parties have submitted the necessary documentation. If there are 10 buyers and 9 have properly completed an application, nothing can go forward until that final person complies with the lenders documentation request. Youre going to have to >

Second, and this is just as important if not more so, credit reports and scores will be reviewed for each of the 10 applicants. Just like lenders underwrite a couple and using the lowest middle score of the two, lenders will identify the lowest middle score of the 10 applicants. If 9 people have scores above 740 and 1 has a score of 600, the lender will want to scrutinize the transaction a little further. In such an instance, that one remaining investor might want to pull out of the transaction allowing the purchase to go through. To avoid this possibility, all parties should pull an individual credit score on their own at This website is sponsored by all three credit repositories and allows consumers to get a free credit report each year.

Finally, there should be a person or two to monitor the application and facilitate the process as it moves along. If there is someone that is slow getting documentation in, that individual should be responsible for contacting the others letting that person know theyre slowing things down as well as keep all applicants up to date on the status of the loan.

It can be a good way to expand your portfolio by investing in real estate with others, just a bit more due diligence is required.

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Cost-Effective Tips for Installing and Maintaining a Swimming Pool

Choose Between an In-Ground or Above-Ground Model

The in-ground swimming pool is the most expensive option, partly because it requires digging a hole large enough to accommodate the pool and hauling that debris away. Some options include fiberglass shells of high quality, which has the ability to flex with ground movements. This means the pool walls will bend instead of cracking. The advantage with an in-ground pool is that it can be custom designed to accommodate the characteristics of your property.

The cheaper option is to choose an above-ground pool. These models are pre-made with a reinforced steel shell, while inside consists of a vinyl liner. Since these models are pre-made at a facility and delivered to the customers home, theres no need for on-site construction. This, in itself, can save a significant amount on the installation of the pool. The vinyl liner can be replaced for far less and each liner can be expected to last from 10 to 15 years. In many cases, swimming pool contractors offer above-ground models in addition to custom-designed in-ground pools, so a consultation can help you decide which type of swimming pool is right for you.

Limit the Special Features of Your New Pool

In addition to the >

Adding a deep end to your pool can also drive up the costs, because it requires using more resources to construct the pool. Unless one of your current tenants is a competitive swimmer, you may not really need a pool with a shallow and deep end. Most property managers opt for a pool of modest depth, which can be installed without using excessive resources. You should also limit the features you add, such as colored lights, water jets, slides, and spas. While these additions may be trendy, theyre also expensive. Again, you can upgrade your pool in the future.

Maintain Your Pool Yourself

Learning how to care for the pool yourself isnt just about saving you money. It can also help you learn about a system thats essential to the operation of your property. As you learn how your pool pump operates and what it takes to keep the pool water fresh and circulating, youll become better able to address problems that may arise. This can help you get ahead of repairs that may be needed in the future, while also eliminating the need to hire a pool technician for tasks you can do yourself.

Your pump motor doesnt need to run all day every day. In fact, most experts recommend running the pool for just 8-12 hours daily, which can be divided up between the early morning and late evening hours. This will be enough to keep your pool clean, while keeping your electric bill lower and saving on the pump motors wear and tear.

Finally, buy your pool chemicals in bulk. Buying these products by the pound will be cheaper than buying the smaller containers, which are often marked up to pay for the brand name. Its also very likely that youll use all of the chemicals you do buy, especially if you buy the chemicals at the beginning of the season. This means youll be making fewer trips to the store and youll always have what you need on hand.

Choosing the right pool for your property and looking for ways to maintain it efficiently will help you save money in the present and as time goes by. There are many options available in constructing your swimming pool, so whether your concern is for saving money, going green, or complimenting the >


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Hello, Suburbs! Homebuyers Rethink Densely Populated Areas!

The coronavirus pandemic has many Americans rethinking the kind of life>

Real estate agents and companies across the country are reporting a heightened interest in buying homes in the suburbs. In many cases, buyers are even accelerating their purchases to get out of the city and into a suburban home now.nbsp;

The pandemic has altered how residential property is bought and sold,nbsp;changes that arent likely to disappear any time soon and that could reshapenbsp;the American dream long after the currentnbsp;crisis has passed, said USA Today. A growing number of Americans are considering fleeing cities for the suburbs, to put more distance between themselves and their neighbors.

USA Today reports that searches for real estate in small towns is up exponentially over major metro areas. Also driving this trend: An increase in work-from-home flexibility.nbsp; Remote work will become more prevalent, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtorsnbsp;NAR. "That means there is less need to be close to the job centers. Suburbs and exurbs areas situated beyond the suburbs and in, or adjacent to, rural areas will get a greater interest. In addition, a larger single-family home with extra elbow room will be desired, such as dedicated office space and a personal gym. nbsp;

A new Harris Poll backs up that assertion. It found that almost a third of Americans are thinking about moving to less densely populated areas, said USA Today. And 43 of city dwellers had recently checked a real estate site for a house or apartment to rent or buy as compared to 26 of those in the suburbs, and 21 of those in rural areas.

In places like New York City, known for its density and also for being one of the worlds coronavirus hotspots, Theres a sudden rush on real estate in the suburbs, Alison Farn-Leigh, a sales agent with Berkshire Hathaway, told CBS Local. I would describe it as nothing short of a frenzy. I get a lot of, In one to two years, we knew we were going to do this, but now, we have to do it now.

Despite waning activity in many places, suburban areas around New York are on fire, and its especially prevalent among high-end buyers. New Yorks wealthy are moving their moneyand often their familiesinto surrounding suburbs and exurbs as they look to escape a crowded life>

The numbers are astounding. According to, Compared to March 15 through May 10 of last year, requests for moves within New York City dropped 30, said CBS Local. Meanwhile, moves from the city to Connecticut are up 80, to Long Island up nearly 60, to New Jersey up nearly 43, and to Westchester up 33.

Real estate advisor Owen Berkowitz of the Berkowitz Marrone Team at Douglas Elliman told CNBC that he cant remember the last time we were this busy, while Eighteen people are waiting to see a home in Greenwich, Connecticut, that is renting for 65,000 a month, another broker said.nbsp;

If youre considering a move to the suburbs, here are a few things to consider:

The commuteIf youre within close proximity to work now, youre probably not excited about having to spend an hour or twoor morein the car every day. Then again, more flexibility might mean living farther away wont be an issue. If you will be commuting, its recommended that you do the drive a few times during rush hour so you can make sure you can endure it on a regular basis.nbsp;

The yardif youre coming from an urban area, especially if you live in apartment or a condo, you might not have any outdoor space at all. And while you may be envisioning a great big yard, many single-family homes todayat least in a moderate price rangeare rather short on outdoor space. Still, having a yard of any size will require upkeep. Dont forget to factor in the cost of landscaping and ongoing maintenance when youre creating your homebuying budget.

The amenitiesThe suburbs are loaded with newer construction and master planned communities, many of which have amenities like pools, trails, and clubhouses. Of course, purchasing in one of these communities typically means youll be paying Homeowners Association HOA dues as well as additional fees in some areas. Be sure you know about all the additional costs of specific neighborhoods when house hunting.nbsp;

The stuff to doIts an exaggeration and a generalization to say theres nothing to do in the suburbs. You might be surprised at how good the local restaurants are and how many entertainment and cultural options are nearby, not to mention abundant recreational opportunities. But if you live in the city and, especially, if youre in an area where you can currently walk to your favorite caf, the theater, and museums and galleries, you might be in for a rude awakening. While some suburban communities are veering toward greater walkability, many will require you to drive to your new favorite spots. While youre considering suburban areas, you might also want to take a look at the nightlife, if thats your thing. Eateries and bars might be more likely to close at a decent hour instead of staying open until early morning.nbsp;

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What Does It Take To Become A Stellar Real Estate Agent?

A Multitasker

A real estate agent takes care of all the administrative duties, such as making follow-up calls and sending emails, making copies, keeping up receipts and records of expenses and filing documents. But topping it all, one must have a good educational foundation in business. Such skills can be acquired via an online college that offers business management and accounting courses.

A Strategic Marketer

Marketing also makes up a part of his day to day job, selling not only their capability as agents, but selling their clients properties. Marketing activities would include making schedules for open houses, taking listing photos, jotting down listing descriptions, creating flyers and postcards, connecting with the press and posting properties to MLS.

A Smart Sales Rep

How do you close a multi-million dollar property deal? Only a skillful real estate agent knows, but the basics skills comprise the answer: knowledge of the property specifics, strategic prospecting skills or ability to profile the best buyer, easily creating a >

A Courteous Customer Service Representative

No matter how hard the client is to deal with, no matter how busy the schedules are and seem not to meet at a good time, a sweet smile flashes from your face while answering questions or while sharing information. One must have patience, attentiveness to details, clear communication skills, positive language, be focused, able to handle surprises, persuasive but not pushy, empathetic to clients and open to learning new things.

Possesses A Winning Personality

A real estate agent must show positivity at all times. He is someone who is pleasurable to be with and exhibits integrity no matter how tough things get. Real estate deals are lifetime investments, so clients are likely to be rigid and uncompromising about project details, and would look for real estate agents who they can work comfortably with.

When a real estate agent locks down a billion-dollar deal, some couldve just been luck, but if you look into how the process was carried out by having all these factors, you would definitely say otherwise. A self-motivated entrepreneur with an engaging personality who is fully knowledgeable of the market he serves, and who does not >
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Updated: Friday, August 14, 2020

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