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Updated: Thursday, October 21, 2021

Tips for Selling a Fixer-Upper

Selling a house that needs work as-is is a challenge, but certainly not impossible. What helps when youre selling a house thats perhaps less-than-perfect is to research and understand your target market.

Be Realistic About the Situation

If youre debating whether or not to sell your home as-is, you need to be realistic about your specific situation. A fixer-upper can be a house thats generally in great shape but needs cosmetic updates to modernize it. On the opposite end of that spectrum, a home may have serious issues. For example, it might have plumbing, electrical, or foundation issues.

You can start by pricing out the repairs to improve your home. You might do some but not all of them before putting your house on the market. By knowing how much needed repairs might cost, youre putting yourself in a better position to know the best way to move forward.

Is it worth your time to make some of the repairs? A real estate agent can help you here. Theyre going to be able to assess the needed repairs and give you a better idea of what changes might bring the most value.

Understand Your Potential Pool of Buyers

If youre selling a house that needs work, you can give yourself an advantage by managing your expectations. Part of that is understanding your pool of potential buyers.

Investors or flippers are one option. A flipper or investor buys a home at a low price, and renovates the property and sells higher. An investor can see through problems and theyre going to focus on potential.

Another pool of possible buyers are people who are looking for a deal. This can be an especially important pool if youre in a very desirable neighborhood. Someone whos a deal-hunter might be otherwise priced out of the neighborhood without buying the house that needs work.

Then, theres a group of buyers who wants a project. They want to buy an existing home and put money into it to make it perfect for them.

Choose the Right Agent

Whether you make some or none of the needed repairs, the best thing you can do for yourself is to work with a great agent.

You want a real estate agent who understands your neighborhood and understands how to market a house that needs work. Not every real estate agent will excel at selling a fixer-upper, but some will specialize in it.

Make Small, Impactful Changes

Maybe you dont want to spend the money to do a full remodel, but you can make a fixer-upper more marketable with small, less expensive changes.

For example, focus on curb appeal. Maybe you clean up your yard and get rid of clutter. Trim the bushes and limbs, and do some small projects that will give a better first impression. A home with good landscaping can be worth anywhere from 1 to 10 more than a poorly landscaped home.

Cleaning and decluttering inside is also important. Maybe your home isnt modern, but if its clean and feels fresh, that goes a long way.

Other inexpensive repairs or upgrades you could make include recalking, fixing pipes that leak, and patching holes.

Focus on Renovation Loans

Either you or your real estate agent should plant the seeds of renovation loans. Renovation loans mean that the projected costs of a renovation are included in the total loan amount. The advantage for the buyer is that they dont have to pay for upgrades separately. They can instead get approved for a higher upfront loan amount. Then, they receive that money in phases to cover the costs of renovations.

If you already have your home listed, ask your Realtor if theyve included any renovation loan language in the listing. It starts buyers thinking in this direction.

Again, selling a fixer-upper is certainly challenging, but its also doable.


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Commission-Based Salespeople and Mortgages

Lenders evaluate a loan application submitted by someone who gets paid by commission gets treated a bit differently during the underwriting process. As one might expect, a commission check will likely vary each pay period. Commissions are paid based upon the amount of total sales for that period. Commission amounts vary but due to the nature of the paycheck calculation, employees and employers come to an agreement on the amount of the commission per each paycheck and how often it is paid. If someone gets a 50 commission which is paid at the end of the month and the total sales eligible for commission is 10,000, the commission to the employee is then 5,000.

As it >

The last two years tax return income information will be averaged. If in year one the income shown on the return is 100,000 and year two is 125,000, lenders will add those together to arrive at 225,000 and divide by 24 months to arrive at a qualifying amount. In this instance, the qualifying amount is then 9,375 per month. Lenders also want to see some consistency from years one and two. If year one shows 100,000 and year two is 125,000, this is >

It also points to an increasing income instead of the other way around. 125,000 back down to 100,000 isnt that much of a drop so the lender wont pay much attention to it and move forward with averaging. However, 125,000 to 85,000 will give a lender pause. So much so that the lender will need some convincing to explain the reason for such a drop and also some convincing that the drop was temporary and unlikely to continue. An extended illness, marital issues or a temporary furlough would be some reasonable explanations.

One other very important thing lenders look for with commission-based income. Salespeople can often have unreimbursed business expenses. These expenses will need to be deducted from qualifying income. For example, a sales rep has several accounts serviced each month. This can mean deductions such as entertainment expenses, a common deduction. Such expenses include those for meals, golf outings and mileage deductions when the car is used for work. Are there any dues or subscriptions the sales rep must pay directly >

There are a few more steps to take when underwriting a loan application for someone who gets paid on commission. If youre not sure how to calculate your qualifying income, your loan officer will do that for you. This is something you want to know before you get too much further in the approval process.


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Cost-Saving Tips For Your Bathroom Renovation

Bathrooms are one of the most popular renovation spots under normal circumstances. With everyone spending so much time at home, updating and upgrading their space, adding value, and also making it more conducive for quarantining, its more popular than ever.nbsp;

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;

Craigslistnbsp;

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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Ask the HOA Expert: Proxies Are Not Appropriate For Board Meetings

Question: Our board dealt with a contentious issue recently. When it came time to vote, one of the directors pulled out a proxy from an absent director authorizing her to vote on his behalf. Is that proper?

Answer: Proxies are not appropriate for board meetings since directors are elected to perform HOA business. Elected officials are not entitled to have others stand in for them. Proxies, of course, are appropriate for votes that involve the general members who are having someone represent their personal interests.

Question: A couple of our condominium building roofs are beginning to fail. We recently performed a reserve study and discovered we do not have enough in reserves to do all the roofs let alone the other components for which the HOA is responsible. In order to avoid a special assessment and/or increase in maintenance fee to catch-up, some directors are suggesting doing one building at a time. Another is suggesting we let the residents in each building pay for their own roof replacement. Do you have a good response?

Answer: Replacing roofs one building at a time is a bad idea. It complicates the maintenance and warranty issues and provides some unit owners with an improvement that all do not enjoy. Units with new roofs sell for more than those with old roofs. The HOA cannot circumvent its maintenance responsibility by passing it off to owners. Besides contradicting the governing documents, individual owners simply will not do it properly.

If money is lacking, a special assessment is called for and the board has a fiduciary duty to move forward with it. And reserves require an adequate funding plan so this problem doesnt continue.

Question: My HOA recently passed a Transfer Fee of 2 of a condos sale price. Many of the unit owners are up in arms about this fee. Do you have any advice?

Answer: All HOA governing documents define how expenses are to be allocated to the members. The norm is either equally or according to square footage where footage varies significantly.

Charging a Transfer Fee changes the prescribed allocation formula and blackmails buyers to pay if they want to "join the club". Some HOAs justify the charge as newcomers contributing to the reserve fund just like current owners have. The problem is, newcomers dont owe the reserve fund a penny since they havent benefitted from the assets. Proper reserve funding requires that money is set aside as the assets deteriorate. That way, each members pays for assets they directly benefit from, no more, no less. Charging a future owner for reserves is wrong and improper.

The general rule and often described in the HOAs governing documents or state statute is that changing the expense allocation structure requires approval from 100 of the owners or the owners being affected and often their lenders since the fee structure directly impacts the lenders collateral. This will never happen because who will vote to pay more?

From a practical standpoint, transfer fees inhibit sales by reducing the pool of buyers that are willing to pay them. Reducing the pool of buyers has an adverse affect on market values. Maybe your HOA is one of a select few that can charge with impunity but during a buyers market, this policy will cause values to fall and sales to fail.

Question: When I purchased my condo, I bought loss assessment insurance coverage. My HOA recently filed a lawsuit against the builder for construction defects. To pay for the legal fees, the board levied a special assessment of 2000 per unit. When I made a claim against my insurance for this assessment, I was told that costs of litigation were not included under the protection. Help

Answer: Loss assessment coverage only kicks in as the result of a covered claim. That means that if the HOAs insurance doesnt cover a claim in full and the HOA needs to special assess the members for the balance, loss assessment coverage would cover an owners share up to the limits of the coverage which is usually 1000 unless the owner has purchased extended coverage. Legal fees are generally not a covered claim. Bit insurance policies vary from company to company. Press your agent to explain your coverage in detail.

Question: I made an offer to purchase a condo recently and was advised to review the reserve study. Basically, the HOA has almost no money set aside and is planning to special assess each member 1,000 to cover painting. I really love this condo but my gut instinct told me to steer clear of it because of the lack of reserve money. Did I make the right decision?

Answer: You did the right thing and would do the board a big favor by passing on your reasons for backing out. More and more, informed real estate agents and buyers look closely at HOA reserve funding because lack of it always means special and unpredictable assessments and usually mean the property isnt being maintained consistently. When reserves arent adequate, smart buyers move on to another property where they are adequate and often pay more money for a similar property. HOAs that lack adequate reserves will lose buyers and market value.


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Why Millennial Buyers Are Swiping Left On Your Home

They want it fast, they want it easy, and it better be perfect. That pretty much sums up the typical millennial homebuyer today. So, if thats your target and your house isnt pristine, theyre going to move on to one that is. So how do you make your home swipeable? Its easy, really.

Clean it up

"Whether or not we admit it, weve all seen at least a few of the home reality shows on channels such as TLC and HGTV. Those shows can be fun and informative, but they also do a lot to shape buyer expectations," said Bankrate.

That means millennial buyers - maybe more than any other demographic since they grew up in the age of House Hunters and flipping show marathons - will be expecting a house to be spic-n-span and well-staged. Award-winning home stager Torinbsp;Toth, author of the best-selling book,nbsp;FEEL AT HOME: Homenbsp;Stagingnbsp;Secrets for a Quick and Easy Sell, has some ideas that can be easily implemented to help a home sparkle, including staging your kitchen or your bathroom for under 1,000.

Consider the color

Are the walls of your home beige, gold, or something else in the Mediterranean family? Go gray, instead. As weve seen countless times, most buyers have little vision when it comes to overlooking design issues, and may get hung up on something like a paint color, which keeps them from being able to really see the home. An outdated color may also give them the impression that the rest of the house is outdated.

"The new grays that have gained wide appeal have become a standard base for the millennial palette, along with more whitewashed gray variations, other soft neutrals and cooler whites influenced by Scandinavian dcor," said the Chicago Tribune.

Dont be afraid to throw some modern wallpaper up in a space that needs a pop. It can make the buyer feel like time, effort, and care was taken to make the home stand out.

Focus on kitchens and baths

Weve been told for decades that kitchens and baths sell homes, and those spaces are top of mind for millennial buyers, too. But, while they may have ideas about what theyd like these spaces to look like, they may not have the patience, or the funds, to pay for them to be redone.

"The primary reason younger buyers seek updated kitchens and baths is because they have limited budgets," Jack Curtis, a Keller Williams real estate agent in Dublin, Ohio, told Bankrate. "Most of their savings will go toward the down payment and furnishings. Kitchens and bathrooms are also the most expensive parts of a home to update, and young homeowners cannot afford to sink a lot of money into those areas."

If youre going for a big renovation in the kitchen, taking down walls to open it up to the living space will reap rewards. Think: A large island with seating, stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops, and new fixtures, "which are especially important for todays young, budget-conscious buyers," said Curtis.

Go for luxury-ish

When considering options and materials, muse on this: "Anbsp;Monitoring the Futurenbsp;study by the University of Michigan showed a dramatic increase resulting in 75 of millennials noting that wealth was a very important life attribute," said Freshome. "Since millennials seem to value money and success, it only seems natural for them to flock to high-tech jobs that lead to wealth and success. nbsp;This life>

The takeaway is that millennials want a space to look rich. But that doesnt mean it has to put you in the poorhouse. Decluttering the space is one of the top tips of home stagers, and this will help create a minimalistic appearance that helps communicate luxury. A few inexpensive, high-end-looking details - a faux fur pillow on the couch, a gilded accessory, a marble-topped side table you pick up at Home Goods for 50 - can take it a step further:

Incorporate easy-care materials

Millennials may want the look of luxury, but they may not want the upkeep. "Most millennials want a turnkey home that needs little or no work. They spend long hours on the job and have many interests, and prefer materials and that require minimal care," said Mary Cook of national, award-winning commercial interior design firm Mary Cook Associates. "That means wood or tile floors, easy-care countertops and gas fireplaces. New products that reflect this are ever-more-functional engineered stones and tiles that mimic more luxurious surfaces, from marble to exotic wood. The model home interiors we create embrace furnishings that reflect these preferences."

Fashion a home office

Have an extra room thats serving as a guest space or a catch-all? Pick up an inexpensive desk, position the guest chair in front, and now you have a home office. Today, millennials might reject your home altogether and fail to even come for a tour if they dont have a place to work from home. The words "home office" have to be in your listing.

Upgrade your tech

"One defining characteristic of the Millennial generation is that they grew up with technology," said Better Homes and Gardens.nbsp;"Many were plugged in from the day they were born. To these individuals, technology is not just a luxury, but its a necessity. Your home needs to be technologically friendly in order to appeal to these buyers."

Making a few easy changes to add tech features to your home could go a long way toward making it irresistible to a millennial buyer. "Install a simple home automation system like a programmable thermostat that can be linked to your smart phone," they said.

Dont ignore the curb appeal

Making sure your home looks good from the street is universally important. But dont forget about the backyard. An annual Better Homes and Gardens survey monitoring "attitude and behavior trends of homeowners in the U.S." took a look at millennials and found that "more than three-quarters 77 say they want their outdoor living space to feel like a >

Take good pictures

Millennials are visual people. You only need to return to the Tinder analogy to understand that. Its more important than ever to make sure the pictures of the home are stellar. A baby boomer or Gen-Xer may be able to look past photos to come see a home that matches their needs. You may not have the same shot with a millennial.

Think carefully about how you promote the location

How far is the local Trader Joes Whole Foods, and Target? Is there a popular shopping area or group of restaurants nearby? Walkability is key for many millennials. Playing up these details in the home listing and marketing materials can go a long way toward attracting this target.

Play up energy efficiency

"With energy costs on the rise and growing interest in protecting the environment, young buyers are conscious of buying homes that are green," said Bankrate.

While many energy-efficient items may not necessarily be seen by the naked eye, expect millennials to "ask about the sustainability of your building materials and practices," said Pacesetter Homes. "They are committed to eco-friendly, energy-efficient homes - with ENERGY STAR appliances, programmable lighting and thermostats, and other high-tech, low-carbon-footprint amenities. Not only can they spell LEED, but they want this building certification."

Got a fixer-upper? Market it that way

Millennials may be turned off by a junky or outdated home masquerading as move-in ready, but if you have a true fixer-upper thats being sold as is, well, Hello challenge A millennial might be turned on by the idea of having a project, especially if they think theyre getting a deal.


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5 Things You Need to Know About Your Paycheck Stub

When lenders verify and validate information included in your mortgage loan application, with all due respect, they dont simply take your word for it. While you may enter your monthly income on the application, they will use that amount initially to preapprove you but will eventually contact your employer directly to verify what you make each month. Part of that process also asks you to provide them with copies of your most recent paycheck stubs covering a 30 day period. In this way, lenders verify your monthly income used for a final approval. But your monthly income is only part of the validation process.

The first of course is to look at the monthly gross pay for each month. If you get paid on the 1st and 15th, lenders add those amounts together for use in qualifying. Note, this is the gross or before withholding amount. If you get paid every other week, lenders will multiply each paycheck amount by 26 weeks then divide by 12 months. If you get paid once per month, theres obviously little arithmetic needed.

Lenders will also look at your year-to-date earnings. This amount needs to match up with your current gross monthly income divided by the number of months in the year paid so far. If a lender reviews an application submitted in October the lender will use the gross amount divided by 9, or January through September. If theres a discrepancy and the gross year-to-date amount is lower than what it should be, there needs to be a reason why.nbsp;

Most often this gap in employment is due to an extended illness or just some personal time off. In this instance, lenders will want you to literally write the reason down and forward it to them. Something like, I had a baby and took some maternity leave or something similar. If for medical leave, you might need to also provide some verification that you were in the hospital or your doctor ordered you to stay at home until you recover.

Lenders will also look for any deductions that wouldnt appear on your credit report. Such deductions might be for child or spousal support payments. Maybe theres an outstanding loan in repayment from the employer. The presence of wage garnishments will also appear on a paycheck stub.

Finally, paycheck stubs are considered credit documents in the file. All credit documents should be no more than 30 days old. This makes sense because a lot can happen going into two or three months after the submission of a loan application. Perhaps someone gets laid off or otherwise furloughed after the initial 30 day period. When the loan application gets closer to the final settlement date, its possibly and likely the lender will want to see an updated paycheck stub to cover the most recent 30 day period.

One final note here, when your lender asks for any type of documentation, dont wait around and get the requested material to the lender as soon as possible. In many cases, your loan application approval process stops dead in its tracks until the information is received, reviewed and approved.


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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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7 Signs It’s Time to Downsize

Downsizing a home is almost inevitable for many older people. Once your children are out of the house, you dont need and probably dont want as much space as you once had. Downsizing can be smart financially and give you a new lease on life, but it can also be an emotional decision to leave your home behind.

The following are seven signs that it might be time to consider downsizing, even if youre a bit hesitant.

1. Your Neighborhood No Longer Suits Your Life>

The location of your home can be as important to your life>

Those things might still be true of the neighborhood, but that doesnt mean its the right fit for you anymore.

You might feel a bit out of place in your neighborhood, and maybe youd like to move somewhere with more people your age so there are more accessible opportunities for socializing.

2. You Have Multiple Unused Rooms

If you have many rooms in your home that are regularly unused, it could be a good time to downsize. There was probably a time when toys took over every room, and it seemed like you were bursting at the seams. Now, maybe you only use a few rooms in your home, in which case you could make do with a little less space.

3. Youre Struggling to Maintain Your Home

Homes involve a lot of work and upkeep. There might have been a time when you were proud and happy to spend every weekend working on your home, but maybe you have different goals now.

Perhaps youd rather be traveling or spending time on hobbies.

You might also have some physical limitations that make it harder for you to do certain chores.

A smaller, more manageable home will free up your time so you can do things you love instead of keeping up your home all the time.

4. The Features of Your Home Arent Well-Suited to Aging in Place

Someone whos in their 70s today seems a lot different than they might have a few decades ago. Were living longer and staying more active, and with that, rather than moving in with >

When you age in place, you maintain your independence and freedom, but your home has to have certain features to make that possible.

If you have a multi-story home, narrow doorways, or high-maintenance outdoor areas, these arent well-suited to aging in place, in which case you might think about downsizing.

5. Youd Like a Change of Scenery

If youre dreaming of moving to the beach or the mountains, the homes might be more expensive than where you are currently. If you downsize and accept less space, however, you can make those dreams a reality. You can wake up in a beautiful, vacation-like dream every day.

If youre not tied to a physical location and you can live anywhere you want in the country or the world, why not take advantage of that fantastic opportunity?

6. Your Housing Expenses Are Greater Than 30

Sometimes downsizing isnt just about a life>

When youre deciding how much of your budget to spend on housing costs each month, financial experts recommend no more than 30.

Thats the standard used by the U.S. government as well. Any household that pays more than 30 of their income on housing is, by this standard, considered financially burdened.

If youre still working, then this might not be an issue, but if you were to retire, you could quickly enter the financially burdened bracket. The cost of housing burdens goes up as expenses rise, and then your income tends to go down in retirement.

If youre putting more than 30 of your monthly budget into housing, its a perfect time to think about downsizing.

You may be learning to live on a fixed income, meaning you need a smaller home with anbsp; lower monthly mortgage payment.

7. You Want to Put Your Home Equity to Use

Finally, another good reason to think about downsizing is to put your home equity to use as income.

You can use the equity in your home once you retire, and coverage of everyday costs is the number one reason retirees often give for wanting to utilize their equity. Its understandable whyequity may be your most valuable asset.


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Here Are All the Tools You Need for Laying Tile Like a Pro

Tiling might seem like an impossible DIY project, but it doesnt have to be. In fact, beginners can even take on a tiling project, as long as they have the right tools DIY tiling can save you a lot of money, so before you hire a pro, give some serious thought to whether you can take it on yourself.nbsp;

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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6 Tips For Staging When Selling Real Estate

Real Estate agents and owners alike take many factors into consideration when wishing to sell a home, including where to advertise, whether to list with multiple agents, what and how much are similar homes priced in your area, setting a reasonable sales price, and enhancing the curb appeal of a house by getting rid of clutter and perhaps planting a few flowers or resodding part of the lawn.

One area that both agents and private sellers alike often overlook is house staging. Have you ever watch an episode of Million Dollar Listingnbsp;where top real estate agents sell million dollar properties? The agents never show a home naked; they are willing to spend top dollar to private staging agents to ensure the home looks inviting.

Its not necessary to spend thousands of dollars to decorate a house before selling, but keep in mind that statistics show the selling price of a house increases by as much as 6-20 percent, me>

Tips to look for when staging

Real estate agents report that women, overwhelmingly influence whether a couple buys or not. So a few things to have when staging include:

1. Having a nice looking refrigerator in the kitchen. If there is an old fridge or no fridge at all, the kitchen just looks naked. You can rent one for a few dollars per week.

2. Have an area rug, a nice couch, a couple of ferns and lamps, and perhaps a >

3. Have a bed with a >

4. Decorate the bathrooms. It typically takes less than 25 to decorate a bathroom, and the impact plays big on certain clients sensibilities.

5. If there is a swimming pool or backyard barbecue, stage it as well. A barbecue set and a decorated table with chairs, or a pool surrounded by a couple of umb>

6. Consider removing any inessential furniture. You may love that >

Home staging makes good sense. It can attract more offers, and at a higher average price. So consider it when selling a house. For more information about how staging can increase your homes sales price, contact your local trusted Realtor today.


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How to Get Your First Real Estate Client

When youre a new real estate agent, its a competitive environment. Theres no shortage of great agents in pretty much any location in the country, but you need that first break with a new client to start establishing your career and reputation.

What can you do?

How can you secure your first client as a new agent?

Use Google Ads

Most people who want to buy a home go straight to the internet first and foremost. That means theyre most likely to find a real estate agent there. You need to go where your potential audience is, and according to The Digital House Hunt, 90 of home buyers use Google to begin their search.

Its estimated that searches >

The competition in organic results is tough, especially if youre a new agent, but you can put yourself front and center with Google Ads. Using Google Ads is great for a new agent because youll then be in the first part of the search results for your local area.

If youve never used Google Ads before, it may be worth working with a freelancer or agency to get started.

Create Videos

An excellent way to set yourself apart from other agents is to add a face and personality to your website and social media pages.

If youre a new agent, start your branding with the use of videos. You can include videos of yourself so that people get to know you and your personality.

Make your introductory video something that reflects what you hope to build your brand into, even if youre not all the way there yet.

Use Who You Know

One of the easiest ways to get your first client as a new agent is to tap into your existing network of people you already know. These may not be people you know in a business sense. It can be anyone.

This could include your friends, family, past coworkers, neighbors, or people you know casually.

The more you can gain clients through people you know, the larger your professional network will ultimately grow.

Once you get that first coveted client, ask them to refer you as well.

Get Out and About

Sometimes, to get clients as a new real estate agent, youre going to have quite literally to hit the pavement. Be involved in your community and let people know you are a real estate agent looking for clients.

Maybe you join professional organizations or start volunteering in your community to get your name out there.

Approach People Who Are Selling By Owner

When youre a new agent, it can be tough to connect with people because theyre not as likely to come to you.

Instead, you might end up going to them.

For example, find homes that the owner is currently selling and approach them about working with you.

You can also go over expired listings and see if you can get in touch with those people, convincing them to >

Find Your Farm

Your real estate farm is your location-based niche where you specialize. Not every agent will have a neighborhood or particular location they work in, but if youre a new agent, its a good way to set yourself apart.

You can start to build your brand as the leading expert for a particular neighborhood, and then youll have a niche. That niche will mean less competition for you, and you can build your name that way, focusing on a smaller and more manageable area. Yes, you might be limiting your clients, but youre also increasing your chances of successfully connecting with them.


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What Are the Differences in Mortgage Pre-Qualification and Pre-Approval?

When youre considering buying a home, there are two terms youll hear, both of which are >

Understanding these terms is critical because theyre going to help you know what you can afford as you search for a home, and theyre also how youre going to demonstrate youre a serious buyer to a seller.

Both are similar in that they are steps along the way to get a mortgage, but if you have a preapproval, you dont necessarily need a prequalification.

What is Prequalification?

A mortgage prequalification means that you provide a lender with some general financial information. The goal is to help provide you an estimate of how much you can afford when youre buying a home.

The information you provide for prequalification is usually self-reported. Most of the time, it doesnt include verification of your credit report. You can get a prequalification without dinging your credit report with a hard pull.

When youre prequalified, you receive a letter that will show you can afford to buy. You can show it to your agent and sellers, and it may be helpful in the process, but not as much as a preapproval.

What is Preapproval?

A preapproval carries a lot more weight in the buying process. When youre preapproved, youve submitted your financial history and the lender has verified the information you provide by checking your credit report, your employment and income, and your assets and debts.

For a preapproval, youll have to submit information like your total monthly expenses, W2s, pay stubs, and if you already own property, your mortgage statement.

Once you submit all the necessary documents, you receive a preapproval letter. This letter will outline the amount youre approved for, and the type of mortgage a lender will give you as well as the terms.

A preapproval serves as an offer by the lender to you, and there is usually an expiration of the offer. For example, you might have 90 days to buy a home based on your preapproval.

How Do You Get a Mortgage Preapproval?

The following are steps to follow to get a mortgage preapproval:

Get your own credit score. The higher your score, not only the more likely you are to be approved but the better the terms youre likely to be offered. With most lenders, if you have at least a 740 credit score, youre likely to qualify for the most favorable terms.
When you check your credit score, go over your report and make sure there arent errors that need to be addressed.
Calculate your debt-to-income ratio. To buy a home, you should aim to have a ratio of 36 or less. Your DTI is a ratio of your gross monthly income that goes toward paying debt.
Gather the documents youre likely to need to submit, such as your tax forms, employment details, and banking and account information. If youre self-employed anticipate showing at least two years of income tax returns.

Finally, when youre applying for preapprovals, shop around and talk to multiple lenders. This will help you find the lender thats right for you so you increase your chances of getting approved, but also so that you can save money on interest with better terms.nbsp;


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Demolition Day Realities

Demo Day is cast as the fun part of renovation and construction thanks to HGTV.

Trashing and slashing. Kicking down drywall. Tearing kitchen cupboards off the wall, ripping out toilets. Owners and celebrity reno stars wielding sledge hammers and power tools, trying to outdo each other. That carefree assault on a dated home makes demolition look easy and lots of fun.

Whether you are considering demo to save money before the contractor comes in, or in preparation of tackling the whole reno yourself, stop, think, and get ready.

Treat demolition as the separate job that it is. There are companies that ONLY do demolition, so why do you think you can take a one-time shot at this and have everything go smoothly and professionally?

Safety is the number one goal and approach for professional demolition.

Old buildings may be full of toxic chemicals and hidden dangers. Lead in paints and pipes. Asbestos in tiles, in wallboard, and wrapped around pipes. Once ignored during demolition, asbestos contamination has given rise to a pre-demo abatement industry, which minimizes the impact of this major respiratory threat.

If youre going to DIY-demo a kitchen, bathroom, garage, fireplace, or the whole house, make safety your first concern:

1. Lurking Hazzards:

Is there asbestos or lead in the materials to be disturbed and removed? The age of the building and its renovations are the first clues. When in doubt, test flooring, walls, ceilings, and pipe wrappings. The risks from asbestos arise when it is damaged or disturbed, so that asbestos fibers become airborne and can be inhaled. How will you dispose of any toxic waste?

2. Work Smart:

Does everyone involved know how to be safe around power equipment and heavy tools like crowbars and sledge hammers? Dont take for granted that each helper knows how to be aware of what is happening around them when demolishing floors or walls.

3. Safety First:

Is there enough properly-fitting safety equipmentsteel-toed work boots, safety glasses, masks, work glovesfor everyone? Flip-flops and shorts are not advisable. Full coverage, snug-fitting shirts and pants provide protection from gouges and rusty-nail scratches.

4. Secure The Site:

Is the site safe? Is the power turned off? Are No Trespassing signs posted? Is the site fenced and secure to keep kids, pets, thieves, and the curious out? Theft on work sites is an expensive problem in some areas.

5. In Control:

Is everyone sober? Intoxication or having a buzz on compounds danger and the risk of personal injury. Whos in charge? Who will catch mistakes before they happen and anticipate accidents to prevent them?

6. Plan For Success:

Take the time to do this properly. Undoing construction work is not as easy as smashing it to pieces. Take a close look at the structure and materials to be demolished before you start anything physical. Which way do the joists run? Which walls are structural? What are the walls composed oflathe and plaster, shiplap, drywall? What could cause problems? What could go wrong? Is there anything you want to protect and preserve? Check with your insurance broker to confirm you are covered for all liabilities before you begin.

Note of Caution: If you have a mortgage, you promise to keep the property in good repair until the mortgage is repaid. This protects the lenders investment in your property. Will your demo mean your mortgage could go into default?

7. Be prepared:

Do you have a first-aid kit on hand? Are you or at least one of your crew trained in CPR and basic first aid? Is your phone always fully charged in case an emergency arises?

Yes, safety first, but make sure you are working on the right project before you begin. Are you demolishing enough or too much?

You decide you want a new bathroom, but since you have to upgrade all the plumbing to and in that room, perhaps it makes sense to renovate the bathroom above it, too. Or, even to expand demo and include the adjoining kitchen as well. Or, are you getting carried away and losing sight of your original goals and budget?

Sometimes a larger job may be more cost effective, so invest time talking to contractors, architects, interior designers, and real estate professionals theyve seen it allthe good, the bad, and the ugly to learn what should and could be done before you start Saving money takes forethought. Savings and safety are both important to successful demolition.

Before demolition begins, study your budget, including contingencies, time constraints, and available help. Finalize your project design and have plans drawn up. Everything from ordering material, arranging permits, and getting buy-in from neighbors should be in place before demo begins.

Dont be fooled into thinking demolition is easy. Poorly executed, this crucial construction phase can demolish your dreams and your budget


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Pulling Off Granny Chic DĂ©cor Style

Granny chic dcor >

Its sometimes a tricky design >

The following are some tips and things to know about this particular >

The Core Features

When you want a grandmillennial or granny chic home, think about that unique juxtaposition that can happen between old and new.

Some of the things to remember are patterns, light, texture, and memories. That might mean stacks of old books, family photos or vacation photos in mismatched frames, or floral prints on the wall.

Chintz fabric, cane and rattan furniture, pink tile, and fringe are all some favorites.

Use Wallpaper

Wallpaper is making a comeback in a significant way. With peel and stick options, its easy to apply and change out if you want to. Wallpaper is one of the best ways to create granny chic >

Combining Patterns

In the past few years, interior design was very simple. It was more inspired by Scandinavian elements, with minimal color or patterns involved.

Granny chic turns that all on its head.

Patterns are perfect here. You can use plaid, again florals, and toile. Dont be afraid to mix and match patterns, but if youre worried about it being too busy, then maybe you coordinate the color palette to avoid that.

Go All Out With the Accessories

Again, granny chic certainly doesnt borrow from minimalism design. Instead, your surfaces, like tabletops and shelves, should be covered with knick-knacks, accessories, vases, and fresh flowers. You might use candles, silver or brass frames, and plenty of art too.

If you have heirlooms that have meaning to you from your family or your life, even better.

Vintage Pieces

One of the many compelling things that you can enjoy with a granny chic design >

Re-using items rather than buying new isnt just going to make your grandma design dreams come trueits also more sustainable.

Theres a spirit to grandma chic design that can separate it from other types of vintage design. For example, some people feel that having their home reflect this >

A grandma design >
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Getting Started with Urban Gardening

When we talk about urban gardening, it can broadly mean one of two things. The first might be a community garden. Many nonprofits and neighborhood organizations will launch community gardens in urban areas where people can work and share in the produce that grows there.

For our purposes, were talking about something more like container gardening. If you live in an urban area, such as in an apartment, you can still benefit from having a garden, even if its on a smaller scale. You can grow vegetables, herbs and more, and enjoy getting fresh air. Container gardening is also good for your mental health and can give you a sense of accomplishment.

The following are some of the general things to know as you get started.

Available Space

If youre in an urban area, youll need some space for a container garden.

You have some different options.

If you have a townhouse or condo, you might have some outdoor space thats in-ground. Youll need to check with your board or HOA to make sure you can plant a small garden.

Flower pots or hanging baskets are another option, and theyre portable, so you can put them on a balcony or patio, and if you need, move them inside, at least temporarily.

Theres also something trendy right now for urban dwellers, which is hydroponic gardening.

Some creative companies offer self-fertilizing stands so you can grow food, and theyre self-watering, so its the ultimate convenience.

If you go with this option, youll need to add water to the reservoir weekly and add nutrients. Youll also need to make sure the pH stays appropriately adjusted.

Since these gardens go upward instead of out, youre saving valuable floor space, which in an apartment or condo can be crucial.

Decide What Youll Grow

Some things are better suited to container and urban gardening than others. For example, herbs are great, like mint, basil and sage.

Different types of lettuce and tomatoes can also be well-suited to containers.

If you buy a hydroponic gardening kit, some companies offer hundreds of pre-sprouted seedlings, so you might find that you can grow cucumbers, eggplants and even strawberries.

Peppers grow well in limited spaces, including bell peppers, jalapenos and habaneros. Zucchini and squash are suitable for a balcony garden but dont overplant because they can end up producing pounds of vegetables. Cumbers spread, and the vines will grow around your balcony, which you might like the look of.

If youre not using a hydroponic kit, be careful about how much you plant in any one container. If you plant too much, then it may stunt the growth of your plants.

A pot thats anywhere from 10-12 inches can usually hold three to four plants. A pot thats 14 to 16 inches can hold five to seven, and a 16-to-20-inch pot can hold six to nine plants.

When youre choosing what to grow, you want to make sure each of the plants you choose will be a good neighbor with the others. For example, if you combine plants that have different sunlight needs in the same pot, then some will suffer.

Make Sure Your Containers Have Drainage

If youre growing plants in pots, make sure you drill holes for drainage if they dont already have that. Youll also have to put something below the container to catch the excess drainage water.

Light

Finally, when youre planning your urban or container garden, youll have to think about sunlight. Most plants need anywhere from 7 to 12 hours of sun a day and thats especially true of herbs and fruiting vegetables. If you dont think youre going to be able to get that much light, then you might want to grow something like chard or spinach, both of which tolerate shade well.

Carefully read your seed packets or tags, and save them if you forget and need to refer back.

If the label says a plant needs full sun, that means between 6 and 8 hours of sun a day.

Partial sun is between 4 and 6 hours of sun a day, and shade usually means less than four hours of direct sunlight a day and filtered sun the rest of the time.

If youre going to move your containers inside during the winter, you can use plant grow lights, which simulate the effects of the sun and are excellent in an urban environment.


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It’s Your Loan Officer, Not the Lender

When someone begins to think about financing a home, many will simply choose their own bank while others will seek out referrals from family, coworkers and friends. Maybe the last go-round didnt go so well and a new financing source is wanted. Or, its a first time buyer situation who has never financed a home in the past. Whatever the scenario, going out to find a home loan needs a starting point.nbsp;

Getting a mortgage can be a confusing process, although it shouldnt have to be. Mortgage loan officers do loans every single day whereas a homeowner can end up counting how many times theyve needed a mortgage on one hand. When getting quotes for a mortgage, there are so many different things to consider way beyond what type of mortgage is best.

Do you want a shorter term or a longer term? A longer term will lower your monthly payments but youll end up paying much more in mortgage interest over the life of the loan. Thats what a shorter term addresses but in return the monthly payments are higher. And what about the interest rate? 30 year? 15? 20? Closing costs. Discount points. All of these numbers are thrown at you and its very easy to get a bit discouraged or even think youre being railroaded into getting a loan you really dont need.

Mortgage companies and banks spend a lot of money on marketing. Advertising dollars are spent online, cable tv, print media, radio and more. You hear the name of the lender, not the name of a loan officer. Such widespread advertising isnt in the budget for an individual loan officer. Such media buys cost too much. Instead, its the mortgage company that seeks to make an impression. But heres the kicker: mortgage companies and banks can spend jillions of dollars on ads but its the loan officer that handles the transaction. A bad loan officer can cause all those ad dollars to fly out the window.nbsp;

Or, you can apply with a major national lender and your loan application is farmed out to centralized processing center two or three times zones away. Not your best situation, in my opinion. You want a face and a name from someone you can work with. Someone with a solid track record whos been in the lending business for a long time.

Heres where the referral process comes into significant play. When seeking referrals, dont ask for some lenders. Instead, ask for some loan officers. Get two or three. Ask your real estate agent for some names. Your agent will have a list of several loan officers the agent has worked with in the past. When an agent gives you a referral, its because that track record is there. A loan officer whose name and/or business card is handed out has earned the trust from the agent to not just give you a solid loan program but will hand-walk the loan application from start to finish. You want an advisor whose fiduciary responsibility is to you. Its the loan officer, not the lender that matters.


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Earmarking Reserves In Your HOA

Most homeowner associations are entrusted with substantial common elements which must be maintained, replaced or renewed. All of this costs a lot of money. Borrowing said money is a very bad idea because it comes at a very high price in the way of interest and fees which must be repaid along with the principal. The cheapest and fairest way to pay for these expenses is to earmark a portion of the monthly, quarterly or annual fees and hold this money in reserve for future expenses. A properly done reserve study will inform the board how much the earmark should be so that all pay a fair share of a 30 year plan. If this is done, special assessments are never needed and the board has the money when needed.

But keep in mind that even the best reserve study has its limitations. While it predicts likely useful life spans and replacement costs, it cant guarantee either one. A reserve study is based on assumptions that change over time. The climate, weather, soil conditions, maintenance, design and construction quality play a role in the aging process, causing some components to age differently than expected. The financial climate is also variable. Investment earnings and the inflation change. To keep the reserve study accurate, industry experts recommend and state statutes often require that the reserve study be updated annually.

How Much Do You Need?

The reserve study will estimate how much money is needed for future projects and when the funds will be needed. For the typical garden >

Communicate with Owners.

For HOAs that are not currently contributing enough to reserves, the solution is to start contributing more by increasing the monthly fees. Lenders shy away from HOAs which have little or no reserves but it negatively impacts a lenders collateral. Once the reserve study is completed, provide owners with a copy and encourage them to read it. Hold a special meeting and invite the reserve study provider to explain it. Make sure owners understand the reserve funding schedule and emphasize the >

Dont Commingle Funds.

Reserves should not be used to pay for ongoing preventive maintenance and repairs. Those should be paid out of the operating budget. Reserve funds should be segregated in a special bank account apart from operating funds. Typically, the portion of HOA fees earmarked for reserves is swept into this separate account monthly. Only reserve >

Borrow Reserves Funds Carefully.

Borrow from reserves only in an emergency or because of seasonal high expenses like an insurance premium that comes due early in the year and not enough fees have accumulated yet to pay it. If you must borrow, document the board vote approving that decision, establish a reasonable repayment plan and stick to the plan.

Develop a Reserve Investment Plan.

Reserve funds are typically placed in FDIC insured savings accounts, money market accounts and Certificates of Deposit. Most state laws dont have specific reserve investment standards for homeowner associations. The governing documents usually give the board investment discretion. Boards should develop a written investment policy that defines the investment goals, establishes the objectives against which the investment performance will be measured, and identifies the boundaries within which investment selections will be made.

The investment policy should include:

Keep the reserves safe dont risk the principal.
Preserve earning power by choosing investments that match or exceed the inflation rate when possible.
Ensure that the funds are available when they are needed.

Other issues to consider include:

Consider working with an investment professional. This is particularly important when the reserve fund is large.
Remember that this is OPM Other Peoples Money. Tread carefully.
Document the investment decisions in meeting minutes.
Diversify the investments savings, CDs, etc.
Focus on liquidity. Industry experts recommend holding 5 of reserves in cash for emergencies, another 10-15 in short term six months or less securities and the rest spread among varied investments with varied maturities. The reserve study provides the schedule for work and projected cost for investment planning.
Review your investment strategies annually to make sure they still match near and long term goals. Dont let cyclical changes in the market alter the investment strategy which should remain long term.

Maintaining adequate reserves is a fundamental part of the boards fiduciary duty. Make sure to earmark the budget for reserves.


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The Smartest Fall Renovations to Make if You’re Planning to Sell Your Home

There are a lot of fall renovation tips centered on bring cozy warmth into the home. In fact, we just took a look at some hot trends last week. This week, were looking at renovations you can make with equity building in mind, courtesy of Scott McGillivray from HGTVs Income Property and Moving the McGillivrays.

While some trends carryover, there is some great info here for those who are looking to make some updates to enjoy now, while being able to reap the potential future financial benefits.

Matte appliances

These are a hot trend of the moment, said McGillivray. And while he says that he likes how they lend a luxurious look to the kitchen, and how they look great when paired with neutral colored cabinets, he still thinks stainless steel is your best bet if youre looking to sell anytime soon. Its the best choice for a long-term return on investment, he said. While these matte finishes are great of-the-moment looks, I expect theyll look dated a few years down the road.

Quartz counters in warm colors

We may be moving away from all that white or counters that look like Carrara marble only easier to care for. While quartz isnt going anywhere, McGillivray is seeing a trend toward warmer shades. Countertops that look like marble will always be in demand because theyre >

Light floors

Along with the light and airy trend comes a desire for lighter floors, he said. Dark walnut and cherry finishes are out, and lighter, blonder woods are in. Similar to kitchen counters, I think the trend will be toward warmer colors rather than cooler colors. But light is definitely the way to go trend-wise.

Hands-free technology

Smart homes arent the way of the future. Theyre here, now, and the smarter the home, the more attractive it may be to buyers. This may seem like old news to the early adopters, but more and more people are starting to embrace hands-free and SMART technology, he said. This means that anything in your home that you can command with your voice is going to be super popular.

Less Serious and More Fun Spaces

Its time to go a little wild with your homebut within reason. I predict that people are going to stop taking their homes too seriously and have a little bit more fun, he said. This means more colors, more patterns and less concern over whats proper. While smart return on investment design decisions should still be made for fixed items in your home, lets all >
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Five Chic Fall Home Trends

Yes, a menagerie of pumpkins and autumn leaves gathered about speak to the time of year. But that doesnt mean you have to turn your home into what could pass for a fall festival in order to capture the spirit of the season. Leave the gourds behind and embrace these fall interior design trends for a chic home that oozes fall coziness.nbsp;nbsp;

Natural materials

Were all about different textures when the weather takes a cooler turn, but this years natural materials takeover has us excited. Woven textures in all their forms add softness to any space and are having a moment in fall decor, said Jane at Home. Think baskets of all shapes and sizes, interesting textiles, woven pendant lights, natural rugs, and cane and rattan furniture.

Velvet

This luxe material continues its dominance into yet another season. Expect to see the deep, rich jewel tones you love, and some more unexpected choices. Soft, plush, and gorgeous velvet is a fantastic addition to your home decorating, said The Turquoise Home. Velvet is HOT this fall. You are going to see so many different velvet items that you wont be able to prevent yourself from tossing a few into your cart.nbsp;

Pink

Speaking of pink, its super hot for fall. Blush is no longer making an appearance just during the spring and summer months, Abbe Fenimore of Dallas-basednbsp;interior desighn firm Studio Ten 25 told MyDomaine. This versatile hue will be taking over fall color palettes with its subtle undertones and ability to make any space instantly chic.

Benjamin Moores just-announced 2020 Color of the Year is First Light, a soft, not-too-sweet pink that is flattering and fun, said Architectural Digest, so incorporating this hue into your home is as easy as a trip to the paint store.

Ochre

Yes, this goldish-brownish yellow is a bold color choice. But, its one that instantly reads fall, and it offers a wide range of options when it comes to color pairings. Use it with dark blue or gray for a modern look.nbsp;

Optimistic, earthy, bold and rich, ochre isnt all that newin fact, theres something nostalgic about this burnt-yellow, all-natural hue, said HGTV. And now its back in a bigger way. Literally. Were talking couches, duvet covers and throw blankets.

Plinth >

This minimal, slab->
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How to Buy Your First Real Estate Investment

Being a real estate investor sounds like a lofty goal, but it may be more within your reach than you realize. Real estate investing doesnt have to mean you have a massive portfolio, although maybe someday thats the goal.

Buying your first investment property is enormous and likely pretty intimidating as well.

The following are general things to keep in mind that can apply universally regardless of your budget.

Determine Your Goal

The first step in buying your first real estate investment is to know what your goal is. Do you want to generate capital fast, or do you want passive income? Both are reasonable goals, but you have to decide which is right for you.

Until you know what your goals are, even the best real estate agent isnt going to be able to provide you much help as far as finding the perfect property.

Most new investors decide to buy a property theyll then rent out.

Ideally, the rent you earn covers your mortgage and expenses.

Are you cut out to be a landlord, though? How handy are you? If you arent handy at all, you need to factor in the cost of things like maintenance and repairs that youll have to pay someone else to manage.

You should pay down any personal debt before you invest in real estate too. For example, student loans, medical bills, and credit card debt need to be paid off before you can realistically be a real estate investor. You want to give yourself financial breathing room.

As you decide on your goals, its critical that you understand all the risks.

For example, a real estate investment can end up staying vacant for longer than you planned, but you have to pay the bills regardless.

You might also run into very large, unexpected maintenance bills. For example, you could have to replace an air conditioner or get a new roof.

Another downside to plan for is what you would do if you have a tenant who stops paying the rent. It takes time to evict someone, and you may never get the months of unpaid rent back.

Were talking primarily in this guide about investing in a rental property, but buying a property flip also comes with its own set of challenges. For example, its almost always the case that the work you do to a flip will cost more than you expect. Theres also the chance the home could stay on the market for much longer than you plan for, meaning youre going to have higher costs to carry your investments.

Save a Down Payment

If youre going to buy an investment property, youll typically need to put down more money than you would if you were buying a home as your primary residence.

Youre likely to need at least 20 for a down payment, and mortgage insurance isnt an option on a rental property.

While youre saving your down payment, you should have two other financial goals. First, build your other cash reserves in case something doesnt go according to plan. Also, work on raising your personal credit score because youll need it to be as high as possible to get a mortgage with favorable terms.

The Mortgage Process for an Investment Property

If youre going to buy a property as an investment rather than a primary residence, you need to do some calculations to see what your rates and monthly payments might look like. Then, from there, you can get preapproved, so youll know precisely how much money you can spend.

Working with a home loan expert with experience in investment properties is beneficial since the rules are different from buying a primary residence.

One of the biggest mistakes new investors make is not securing financing before looking for a property.

Get preapproved so that you can move quickly if you find a property, and avoid being upset if you find a house you want and then realize you dont qualify for enough financing to buy it.

Other than a down payment, if youre buying a rental property, youll need to provide at least two years of tax returns, two years of your W-2s, and two months of bank statements. Theyre also going to verify your assets.

A lender will also want to ensure you have at least six months of mortgage payments set aside if you face any unexpected challenges.

The biggest takeaway from all of this is that you need to do your research and be prepared. Investing in property can be the best thing you do, but it can also be the worst in terms of financial mistakes if youre not ready to go into the situation.


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How to Give Your DĂ©cor a Sustainable Makeover

Sustainability and being more eco-friendly are top priorities for many of us right now. Luckily, you dont have to spend a fortune to make your life more sustainable, including your home dcor.

The following are simple, practical ways you can cultivate a more sustainable interior design concept in your home for a greener and often healthier life>

Choose the Right Materials

The materials you choose for flooring, furniture, rugs, and other key items in your home can make for more sustainable design.

For example, reclaimed wood is lovely for flooring or making furniture. When you use reclaimed wood, youre breathing new life into old materials and recycling them.

Bamboo is an excellent material to use in home design because its more sustainable than traditional wood. Its one of the fastest-growing plants we have access to, and it doesnt require the use of a lot of fertilizers or pesticides.

Cork is a sustainable material that can be made to feel and look just like hardwood and is increasingly being used for flooring.

When it comes to fabrics and upholstery, natural options like jute are eco-friendly. Jute is a strong material that grows quickly and is renewable.

Healthy Paints

If youre going to be painting or varnishing anything in your home, choose products that have low levels of what are called volatile organic compounds or VOCs. VOCs can evaporate when theyre at room temperature and create harmful gas for your health and pollute the environment.

As you choose paints and finishes, look for products that specifically say theyre low VOC or non-toxic. Milk paint and water-based paints can also be sustainable solutions.

Swap Your Light Bulbs

One of the easiest and quickest updates you can make to your home thatll make it more eco-friendly is to switch out your light bulbs. Get rid of your old bulbs for LED bulbs that use at a minimum 75 less energy than incandescent bulbs. They also last much longer.

You can typically still keep your original lighting source and get the benefits of the new bulbs, so its not a major project.

Buy Vintage

We all tend to like finding a good deal on cheap, new furniture, but there are some advantages to shopping for vintage or antique options. First, its fun to find treasures, and you may actually save money over the cost of new items.

Old furniture tends to be well-made and stand the test of time, and youre giving these items new life.

Consider Your Color Scheme

The colors you use in your dcor can make a difference in your environmental impact.

If you use light colors, your home will reflect more light. That will help you need to use less artificial lighting compared to darker colors.

Plus, it may be easier to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home using excess energy if your color palette focuses on lighter options.

Use Window Treatments

Adding window coverings lets you control both heating and lighting.

Most of your heat is going to escape through your windows, and you may not have the money in your budget to upgrade your windows right now, so coverings can do the trick. You can keep the cold air out and the sun in by opening and shutting your coverings as needed.

Use Home Automation

If you use a home automation system like Nest, you can control your lighting and heating anywhere, improving your homes efficiency.

Decorate with Plants

Having greenery in your home comes with a plethora of benefits. Plants and greenery can boost your mood and productivity. They can improve your immune system, and theyre good for the environment because they provide oxygen while filtering out harmful chemicals.

Your overall goals for sustainable design should be having a healthy environment for your family, reducing your >
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Instagram for Real Estate Agents: What to Know

Instagram is probably one of the best social media platforms for real estate professionals, even beyond Facebook. Instagram is very visually driven, which is integral to real estate. You cant do everything at once, so if youre trying to decide where to focus your social media efforts as an agent, Instagram might be the place where youre going to get the best return on your investment.

Instagram is where people hang out, and even beyond showing homes, theres so much you can do thats going to be visually appealing to potential clients. Ultimately, that might lead them to work with you when the time comes.

The following are general things to know and tips for Instagram if youre a real estate professional.

Instagram Is Where the Buyers Are

Instagram tends to be the social network preferred by Millennials and Generation Z. These are also the generations most likely to be buying homes right now.

Facebook tends to have an older audience, and of course, that doesnt mean they arent buying houses too, but younger generations are in that prime time in their lives where theyre either looking for starter homes or maybe theyre ready to upgrade to their forever home.

Selling Homes is Visualand So Is Instagram

When youre browsing social media, everything is visually driven. The same is true of selling homes. Its all about beautiful real estate photography and evoking the idea of a dream home. Take this aspirational element of real estate and tie it in with your Instagram account.

Curate a space on your Instagram where people want to come to feel inspired, and then subtly tie that in with your marketing.

Use a Business Account

One specific tip to keep in mind when it comes to Instagram for real estate agents is to use a business account. You can change from a personal account to a Professional Business Account quickly and easily, or you can create a completely separate account from your personal one.

When you have a business account, you can create and publish ads without accessing Facebook ad tools.

Youll also have access to advanced analytics so you can see how your posts and content are performing.

The analytics tools are beneficial on Instagram.

Using Instagram Analytics or Insights, you can see which posts are getting the most impressions and engagement. You can also learn more about your audience when theyre most active and demographics like where theyre located, their age, and their gender. You can use all of this data and information to build out your marketing.

Make Sure Your Profile is Complete

It sounds simple, and it is, but its also something a lot of agents dont domake sure your Instagram profile is completely filled out and lets people know how to get in touch with you.

Use a professional photo and add your website or blog as well as your phone number.

In your Instagram bio, include what you do, your niche, and your location. Also, consider using your bio as a place for a call-to-action.

Keep Your Branding Consistent

You want to keep your branding consistent across all of your channels, and Instagram is no exception. One way to create consistently branded content is to use the same filter on all of your photos. It will give your Instagram profile a professionally curated feel, and itll be something that people start to associate with you.

Use Stories and Live

Instagram is a great way to connect with your audience. Dont forget to use Stories and Live to communicate in other ways, outside of just adding photos to your profile.

When you use Stories and Live, youre giving people a chance to get to know you, and its a form of video marketing that feels authentic. Plus, people tend to engage more with Stories even than static photos you post on your profile.

Consider Spending On Ads

Finally, Instagram is an excellent place to spend money on ads. You can set a budget, and then you can share a single image, or you can use multiple photos in a carousel.

When you create a sponsored ad, you can directly target a specific audience, and as always, dont forget the call to action.


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

Data over the last several years shows that millennials are largely driven in their real estate purchase not necessarily by proximity to work or readiness for marriage and kids, but, instead, by their desire to provide a nice environment for their dogs.

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 Homes.com: 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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Will You Finance? How to Answer This Question

Okay so you recently listed your home and have begun to receive offers. So far, the offers have been lower than what you want so you decide to wait a little longer to see if the current list price is accepted. Pretty soon, not only did someone match your list price with their offer but also bumped it up a little bit. Thats hard to ignore, isnt it? But theres a caveat: the proposal asks that you finance the transaction. A >

The first thing to find out is why the potential buyers are wanting you to carry the note on the property. Many times its because the buyers have had their credit damaged and cant seem to find a competitive mortgage program. Before you get too much further, you need to ask the potential buyers why they need seller financing in the first place. If they tell you its due to their low credit scores, the next question is to ask why the scores are too low. If youre still interested in this full-price offer, youll next need to pull a credit report. Dont accept a credit report supplied by the buyers, instead get one of your own.

Low credit scores typically represent a marginal credit history over time. Some late payments, recent ones, are showing up on the credit report along with various late pays stretching out over the past couple of years. This clearly indicates a >

First, youll need a down payment. Not just 3 or 5, but one closer to 20 or even more. This reduces the risk at the outset and leaves you some equity in the transaction should you ever need to foreclose due to non-payment. Next, decide on what the terms of your personal note will be. A short term note of say two to three years is ideal because it gives the buyers time for their credit scores to repair to the point of being able to refinance into a conventional mortgage later on. And amortize your note over 30 years to lower the payments.

Finally, make sure they can afford your new terms. Use the same debt ratio that mortgage companies use. Including the property taxes and insurance, calculate the total monthly payment. This number should be around 30 of the buyers gross monthly income. Get copies of their paycheck stubs to make that comparison. If youve been satisfied, you should get with an attorney to put a legal note together.

If youve decided to say yes to this proposal, youve got some upfront cash to the tune of 20 of the sales price or more, youve gotten a full price offer plus a little more and you have some secured monthly income for the next two to three years.


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Halloween Decorating and Marketing Tips For Selling Your House

Planning to deck your house out with ghosts and skeletons and every last one of the pumpkins and gourds in your supermarkets produce department? If youre also planning to sell your home, you might want to rethink that strategy.

There are mixed opinions on how much to decorate for Halloweenor if you should at allwhen selling your home. Can it actually help you sell a home if you turn the holiday into a marketing opportunity? Possibly. We took the temperate of the industry for some guidance.

When should you put up your decorations?

You may want to keep an eye on your neighbors for this one. If youre the first house on the block to decorate, your home may stand out for the wrong reasons. If youre still worried that your Halloween dcor may distract from the home, follow Mass Realtys advice. Overall, you wont want to put up spooky Halloween decorations until the night of Halloween and make sure to take them down the next morning, they said. Instead, its alright to put up seasonal decorations, such as pumpkins, bright leaves, or colorful corn cobs. That way, no one gets offended and you can keep them up for weeks to feel the spirit of the season.

Should you continue your annual spooky theme?

You may be known for your elaborate displays that have a different theme Friday the 13th, Carrie each year, but perhaps its best to forgo that when trying to sell your home. If Halloween is your holiday, it is best to take a break this year, said Shorewest Realtors. Over decorating will hide your home and turn off potential buyers. Instead think of how you will decorate your new home

If you do want to add some Halloween-specific decorations, use common sense. Experts say keep Halloween decorations neutral, said Lyst House. So what Halloween decorations should you avoid? Well for startersclowns, dead children, blood and gore, and rotten pumpkins.

Time your listing photos right

Be careful with your listing photos if you do decorate for Halloween. If your home is still for sale come Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years and even Valentines Day, your photos will look extremely dated. This will likely turn off buyers, who may wonder whats wrong with you home because its been on the market a while. A good tip is to use spring photos, if possible, said Fortune Builders. If you can, try to take property photos when the sun is shining and you can take advantage of all the great natural light that spring has to offer. It will help your property stand out in a cold and gloomy market.

Dont miss a marketing opportunity

If you must decorate for the holiday, hold a Halloween open house to attract buyers with children or those young at heart, said Mass Realty. Set the date for the weekend before the spooky holiday to bring in more potential buyers. Offer homemade cookies and a 10 gift certificate to an ice cream shop for the adult with the best costume who registers at the door. Take photos to compare costumes after the open house. Have your real estate agent contact the winner to pick up the prize, giving the agent time to discuss the home with all who registered.

Turn it into a party

We love this idea from Opendoor, who threw Halloween Open Houses in three Arizona cities on Halloween night last year. We greeted trick-or-treaters at three Opendoor houses in Glendale, Gilbert, and in North Central Phoenix, they said. We gave out more than 1,000 candy barsas well as other tasty treats. We had games and activities for the whole family, including a fun real estate trivia game. The big hit, though, was the haunted GIF photo booth to capture the fabulous costumes of our visitorswe had lines at every house The event was a huge success. We saw more than 1,200 guests across all three homes and, more importantly, we brought our neighbors across the valley together on Halloween night.


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

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

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

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

What is a home renovation loan?

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

But maybe they should be.

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

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

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

Fannie Maesnbsp;Home>

The Fannie Mae Home>

FHA 203kSimilar to the Home>

There are two different FHA 203k loan options:

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

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


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The Best Benefits of Houseplants

Having greenery in your home isnt just aesthetically pleasing. There are a lot of great health benefits as well.

Even if you dont have a natural green thumb, a plant here or there can still deliver the following benefits.

Reduce Stress

Who among us couldnt do with a little less stress in our lives? This is especially true since many people are still working from home and dealing with the effects of the pandemic.

A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that if you have plants in your home or office, which may be the same for you these days, it can help you feel calmer and more comfortable.

Indoor gardening lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and plants might reduce both psychological and physiological stress.

There are a lot of different theories researchers have as to why plants might help reduce stress. For example, you might think about outdoor spaces when you see them, making you feel more patient. Admiring your plants can also make you more mindful.

Immune System Boosters

Plants can boost your immune system in multiple ways. First, if they make you feel more >

Plants also have airborne chemicals and phytoncides that are >

A 2002 research review found that people recovering from various types of surgery needed less pain medication and had shorter stays in the hospital than people not surrounded by greenery during their recovery.

Better Productivity

When you have plants in your home and your office, you can be more productive. This may be because plants give you something beautiful and vibrant to look at, making you feel more creative and focused.

You add color and liveliness to your workspace, giving you a mental boost.

In 2004, a study was conducted where researchers asked participants to make creative word associations. The study participants with plants in the room with them performed better.

There was a study in 2007 showing that people with plants in their work area were more productive and took fewer sick days.

Air Quality Improvements

Houseplants are excellent at absorbing toxic substances that might be floating around your home, like formaldehyde and benzene. These are artificial materials that produce gas pollutants. Researchers from Virginia Tech found houseplants can also reduce dust indoors by up to 20.

NASA researchers have looked at these air-clearing benefits, and they recommend that you have anywhere from 15 to 18 houseplants for a house thats 1800 square feet. Even if you dont have that many, just one or two plants can benefit the quality of your air.

Also, plants >

Plants increase the amount of oxygen in the air by absorbing carbon dioxide. They >

When you have more oxygen, your energy, focus, and mood are all likely to benefit.

As humans, we have a deep connection to nature. When you bring nature indoors to surround you in your daily life, its going to help reconnect you to that. There are physical and psychological benefits to houseplants that are worth exploring.


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What Real Estate Agents Should Know About Lightroom Presets

If youre a real estate professional, your photography is a top priority. Youre facing a lot of competition when it comes to beautiful real estate photos, but using Lightroom presets might help you stay distinctive.

Well cover what you should know about Lightroom presets and how they work to help you figure out if you should integrate them into your marketing.

What is Lightroom?

If youre enti>

Adobe Lightroom is a photo editor. Lightroom has some of the same features as Photoshop, but its more than just a software solution to edit photos. You can also import, manage and organize your photos.

Lightroom is described as a non-destructive photo editor. You dont have to worry about the save button as you do with Adobe Photoshop because all of your edits are automatically saved in your catalog. The catalog is a database of your history and edits.

If you shoot any of your own raw photos, its a good idea to import them into Lightroom. You can do your basic editing here, like cropping, exposure, and white balance.

What Are Presets?

Presets are a set of instructions that come in a file. When you use them, your photos are automatically adjusted based on those instructions. Its kind of like a high-end Instagram filter.

This way, youre saving time because you dont have to spend hours tweaking the perfect photos.

A Lightroom preset configures settings within a file, and you dont have to know much about the technical details to take advantage. You can import and then install your file into Lightroom and apply it to your photos, so you get beautiful outcomes with a single click.

You can do it on your phone or your desktop.

If you want to make more changes once youve applied the preset, you can do that as well.

When you use your preset, while youre just making a single click, there might be hundreds of changes in shadows, hues, colors, contrast and grain.

Presets in Real Estate

Theres a lot of benefits to using presets if youre a real estate professional.

When you use presets, you are of course getting the most beautiful photographs. They look more finished than they would otherwise. Youre going to be able to brand yourself as more polished and professional overall.

Youre going to get more clicks on your MLS listings, Redfin and Zillow, meaning more leads.

There are a few other things that make them beneficial.

First, if you always use the same presets, that can in and of itself become a distinctive part of your brand and a way you set yourself apart. Your Instagram feed will look carefully curated and have consistency, which is visually appealing.

When you use presets, you can do bulk editing. If you had 200 photos of a property, for example, you dont have to edit them all individually. Instead, you can apply your Lightroom preset to all of them and sync your settings. Then, from there, you might just need to make a few more minor adjustments.

You can also save money on a professional photographer, which may not be in your budget. Buying presets tends to be affordablewhile the prices can vary depending on the creator, theyre usually around 30-40 each.

If you want consistency, branding, simplicity, and time management in your real estate photos, its hard to argue against presets.


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Dressing Up Your Home

How long ago did you buy that IKEA kitchen because it was cool and affordable?nbsp;

Now, the cupboards look tired and you dont feel like paying a fortune to have someone gut the kitchen which is otherwise fine.

The internet is useful for more than shopping on Amazon and watching Netflix. There are ingenious creative alternatives out there if you just dig a bit and resist the urge to dump the old for something new, but perhaps, to fit your budget, of lesser quality.

If its just the cupboard doors of your IKEA kitchen that need an overhaul, John McDonald is a step ahead of you.

His Seattle-based company, Semihandmade and its site semihandmade.com, address the need to update, upgrade, or even customize IKEA base cabinets with new doors. Backed by inspiring showrooms in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, and Chicago, Semihandmade has contributed cupboard doors to thousands of kitchen do-overs.nbsp;

Now, many people buy brand-new IKEA base cabinets, so they can cost-effectively use Semihandmade.com to create that custom-made cabinet look

Improve one main element in any room and you have a new room

Using the Semihandmade estimator and design support, you can transform your kitchen cabinets from traditional to sleek modern or anything in between.nbsp;

Todays stuck-at-home reality, combined with work-from-home pressures, has gone beyond shining a spotlight on decor and functionality. Now, every corner of home is scrutinized with a magnifying glass What simple-yet-stunning, on-budget transformation have you added to your home recently? Or, do you have something in mind, but are not sure where to start?

Considering a Move?

  • If you are in limbo, for whatever reasons, an extensive and expensive renovation may not be the answer right now. Want more choice for your next home? Homeowners who are waiting until they can find something affordable that theyd love to move into, still want to love where they live now.nbsp;
  • If you are positive selling is just months away, tackle presentation preparation by decluttering and sort-of packing. If youll want your home staged to draw out every purchasing dollar, there may be little value in spending on decor right now. A thorough cleaninggreat prep for listing and stagingcan make your place feel and smell brand new.nbsp;

Heres a few thoughts to get your creativity rolling:

A touch of decor refreshening may be uplifting. Identify the drab, tired rooms and much-used corners that need attention. Select and prioritize your projects. Start and finish one project at a time, so you dont feel overwhelmed by mess and disorganization.

Paint is ingeniousa fast, cheap, and easily adjustable solution to almost anything. I had a white dining room wall that was a backdrop for a large colorful piece of art. I wondered for a while what the wall would look like in the artworks darkest shade of purple which I loved. After I plunged in and painted, all I could say was, Why didnt I do this sooner? If Id hated it, a paint-over would have set things straight quickly. What paint experiments await you? My advice: Go crazy with an accent color you love.

Pinterest.com as a creative resource can be too much Wonderful, but you can end up clicking or swiping for hours. That site has taught us all that a little inspiration goes a long way. Sometimes seeing a lot of ideas at once overloads us, which leads to inaction.

Select the drab-est corner of your home and then visit one site, read one design book, and flip through a few magazines. Let your copying genius roam through the pages. Consider an idea or two to refresh your dullest corner. Then, dont be shy about searching through other books, magazines, or designers sites for that fresh color to apply, a whimsical idea to incorporate, a striking plant to add, cozy carpet to spread, or an easy design effect to adapt. Its just one corner, so take a few chances.

Go shopping in your own home to find the right accessories or new furniture. Whats in the attic, garage, or basement that can be dusted off or repainted to become the perfect centerpiece for your mini-make over? Or, is there something in those unopened boxes from your move-in a few years ago? Youll discover in-home art, furniture, and accessories in other rooms the same way. The prices are unbeatable

Have a perfect blank wall for a large art piece, but only a small budget? Create your own mural. Make it as wild and wonderful as you like. Step back and see what you have. That should have been fun even if it isnt a work of art. Does it improve the room? If not, paint over it and have another go. Large colorful or graphic rugs or blankets are great wall art. They also have sound baffling benefits.

Plants can warm a space, adding color and texture. The cut-leaf philodendronthe mid-century modern emblemis a stunner. Jade plants and other succulents are hardy and beautiful. Whatever you choose, buy as large a plant as possible, but make sure its needs match light levels and humidity in your home. Or, do something eccentric, like suspending a large avocado pit over a dramatic decorative glass jar full of water, so you can watch the pit seed grow into a small tree.

Do-it-yourself is a valuable alternative when youre good at it, you love it, and the small project is a short-term fix. Simple projects can have a big impact if you choose carefully.

Talk to your real estate professional to make sure these minor changes are useful if youll sell soon. Also keep track of real estate markets youd like to move to, so youll be ready to act quickly when the time is right.

Measure twice, cut once remains the best DIY advice.


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Home Seller Tips To Having A Successful Open House

Holding an open house for your soon-to-be-listed or newly on the market home is a lot like being on a game show where edging out the other contestants in a short period of time is key. In TV game shows, such as "Jeopardy," the contestants dont automatically know answers to so many trivia questions; they study and they plan and they make it appear to viewers like they walk around with that body of knowledge every day. Open houses need to be thought of similarly. Once your home is on the market, an open house is your opportunity to plan and strategize how you are going to win over buyers in very short time.

Even in a strong real estate market where houses sell quickly, its still important to ask your agent to hold as many open houses as possible until the home sells. One reason is that even buyers with agents still like to look at homes on their own without feeling the pressure of a home tour. Sometimes their agent is out of town when your house goes on the market. Many buyers are not represented by an agent and the only way for them to tour a home is through an open house. Your agent will plan the open house to include everything from signage to freshly baked cookies. As a seller, you should take the following steps:

Depersonalize

Back to the game show analogy, think of depersonalizing as studying the answers and questions before trying out for "Jeopardy." Your house is lovely for how you live in it, but buyers dont want to see you in your house. In fact, the more your house makes it difficult to guess who lives there age, >

Declutter

While you are depersonalizing its also a good time to declutter as the two go hand in hand. The more simple and understated your home is, the more likely buyers can see the home for what it is and imagine themselves in it. When you have too much stuff cluttering walls and counters and shelves, buyers turn their focus toward those things and sometimes even make the assumption in logic that if you are cluttery, then you are disorganized, which means maybe you dont take care of the house as well or as on time as you should. A good rule of thumb is to box up or store at least half of the smaller items displayed in your home.

For example, how much is on your kitchen counter right now? Now imagine reducing that number to just three things. What would you choose to keep versus store? Some sellers are benefited by going to other open houses in their area and looking at how other people have decluttered and arranged what is left. Online pictures, such as what is found on Pinterest, can help too. Often you can get some good ideas on what works visually just by seeing how others do it. When you are all done decluttering, clean your home like never before because buyers notice dirt and grime. Hire a maid service if you have to.

Lure Them In

The outside of your home is as important as the inside, especially the front entry area. Before an open house, take care of simple yard maintenance such as mowing, edging and weeding flower beds. A fresh layer of mulch adds color especially in winter months when not much is blooming. At your front door, clean off spider webs, blown leaves, and place a large, colorful pot of annuals or anything you can buy in season.

Complete Your Honey-Do List

While you have the yard power tools out, dust of your workbench and take a walk around your house inside and out. Make a list of all maintenance issues such as wiggly door handles, missing fascia, paint that has chipped, etc. and repair them before the open house. Buyers see even the smallest of maintenance issues as an extension of the condition of larger items such as roofs, plumbing and major appliances and assume you havent taken care of the home. You might talk to your realtor about a pre-inspection to deal with all home maintenance and problems upfront, before you get into contract with a buyer.

Be Cautious

Once you have taken the above steps and you are ready for the actual open house, theres one last thing to plan. Protecting your valuables and identity. It might be rare, but criminals do use open houses as a way to case a house or to find collateral to steal identities. Make sure indoor safes are locked and hidden. Store heirlooms, checkbooks, prescriptions, and valuable jewelry away from prying eyes. Utilize a >
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Ask the HOA Expert: Limited Common Elements, Quorum Rules

Question: Does the board have the right to grant exclusive use of common areas to one or a few members? Several of our owners have requested to expand the size of their decks or patios.

Answer: Common elements available to one or several members instead of all are referred to as "limited common elements". This means they are common but limited to exclusive use of one member as in the case of a unit deck or designated members as in the case of a private street.

These limited common elements are typically identified on the legal plat and cannot be expanded without encroaching on common areas which belong to all owners in an undivided interest. So, the board has no authority to allow such requests. Changing this requires a vote of members which may be up to 100.

Question: At our recent annual meeting, an issue was brought up and a motion was made on something that was not on the agenda for the meeting. The president allowed the motion to be made, seconded and voted upon. But, there were not enough members represented to constitute a quorum. Was this an illegal vote?

Answer: The vote was illegal due to lack of quorum even if it had appeared on the Meeting Agenda. Without a legal quorum, no business may be transacted or elections held. You might have a lively discussion but nothing official can take place.

Lack of quorum is an all too common scenario than can be cured by proxies. A proxy is the written authorization by one member given to someone to act on their behalf at the Annual Meeting. Proxies must be distributed well in advance of the meeting and collected before the meeting to ensure a legal quorum. Getting folks to return their proxies can be challenging and multiple requests may have to be made, including going door to door to collect them if necessary. There is a sample Proxy in the Meetings section of www.Regenesis.net

Question: We recently had our unit chimneys cleaned. A board member accompanied the contractor and opened and secured units upon exiting. As a result of this process, it was discovered that one of the units was jammed with stacks of newspapers, garbage, furniture blocking hallways, piles of clothing and cases of cans. The resident is clearly suffering from a hoarding problem.

Should the board get involved in this situation? No neighbors have complained of any noxious smell. The area outside her condo is tidy. She keeps to herself, is pleasant to the staff and not a smoker.

Answer: Turning a blind eye to a hazardous situation is not the way to go. A letter to the resident and landlord if applicable is in order. When garbage isnt being disposed of regularly, it is only a matter of time before there is vermin problem. The fire hazard potential sounds great as well so the letter should include a request to remove or store flammables.

Question: Can the board offer discounts to members that prepay a special assessment rather than participate in a payment plan?

Answer: No discounts should be offered since they would cause a shortfall. It is appropriate, however, to charge late fees to those that dont pay as agreed.

However, it is a bad idea for HOAs to finance special assessments at all because of the increased administrative costs and the likelihood of dealing with delinquent payments. For example, If you have a 30 unit condo and allow 24 monthly special payments, you have 720 payments to track and 720 potential collection problems. Instead, require each member to provide special assessment funds from whatever source they have available. Some have cash, some has an equity line of credit or credit card. The HOA should not finance the special assessment or borrow the money.

Question: Our homeowner association is made up of condominiums built in a townhouse >

Answer: Its a very bad idea to allow individual unit owners to do or pay for this kind of work directly because of:

1. Quality Control. Is the person doing the work experienced? Is the material being used of good or superior quality?
2. Risk Management. Is the person doing the work properly insured for injury and liability?
3. Owner Still Financially Responsible. Doing this kind of work does not >

Question: What kind of expectations or working >

Answer: The board should:

1. Support the managers decisions unless a clear mistake has been made.
2. Not undermine the managers actions in rules enforcement and collections.
3. Carefully consider the managers advice since it comes from experience and training.
4. Be respectful of the managers busy schedule.
5. Allow the manager to execute the terms of the management agreement without micro-managing.
6. Remember that the manager works for the board.


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Less Stress – Managing Your Cash Flow As A Real Estate Agent

2020 hasnt been the best year for property sales. The market has experienced its biggest decline in almost a decade, slashing agents earnings dramatically. For many, this has led to cash flow issues as income has dropped or dried up altogether.nbsp;

The role that commission plays in the real estate industry means that you need to prepare for unexpected dips. The best way to do this is to take a proactive stance on money matters so that future downturns dont dent your pocket.nbsp;

Draw Up A Plan and Budget

A cash flow plan and a budget are two essential tools for managing income and expenses. Your plan and budget must cover 12 months, and rather than making it a once-off exercise, revisit those documents regularly, adjusting them as required.

When drawing up your budget, include cash contingency plans that offer some >

Be Realistic

Income, expenditure, and cash flow forecasts are not an exact science, but that doesnt mean you should give in to fantasy. You may be tempted to predict property sales will increase by 70 during the year. Even though this may be possible in theory, its highly unlikely.

Its important to be as realistic as possible about yourself and your real estate agencys current and future positions. The best approach is to be conservative in your predictions and projections. If you find yourself with surplus funds, you can use them for extras that are surplus-dependent or put it toward cash contingency plans.

Keep Track Of Income and Expenses

As a real estate agent, good financial management requires that you keep track of income and expenditure meticulously. Take note of everything, no matter how small or trivial some expenses may seem.

You need to stick to your budget if you want to realize your cash flow plan. If you dont keep an accurate record of how much money comes in and goes out, budgeting correctly will be impossible.

Review your budget monthly, and when doing so, pay close attention to fixed costs and overheads. You may be able to find ways to save money on at least some of them.

Plan For The Best - and The Worst

When forecasting and planning, put the extra time and effort into drawing up plans for best- and worst-case scenarios. This way, you can try to cover all your bases.

Create your best-case and worst-case plans when you have completed your cash flow plan. Using the plan as a guide, take the best case to be approximately 25 higher than the most likely scenario. Calculate the worst case at 25 lower than the main plan.

Stay On Top Of Taxes

Remember to include taxes in your financial plans. This will help you manage your money and ensure you never fall foul of the IRS or incur penalties.nbsp;

A smart business strategy to apply here is to pay tax every three months rather than once a year. Theres less paperwork to deal with, and the tax amounts should be manageable. Another way is to put a percentage of your commission into an account thats dedicated to taxes. Alternatively, you can combine these approaches.

Prepare For Cycles

Like many industries, real estate works in cycles. There are times when the property market is hot, and when its not. While these trends arent always predictable, estate agents need to develop the habit of being ready for them at any time.nbsp;

One way to prepare for a downswing is to purchase a few short-term certificates of deposit. You cannot touch the money you invest until those CDs mature. When theyre ready, youll get more out than would be possible with a regular savings account.nbsp;

Another option would be to set up a savings account that you can access at any time, but you add to monthly. If your commission for a month is higher than usual, you can save a larger amount. This way, youll have extra capital for the leaner times, and your cash flow wont be stunted.nbsp;

As you can see, managing your finances as a real estate agent requires foresight and dedication. By applying those qualities to the tips above, you can put yourself on the path to good cash flow management.


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How To Deal With A Neighbor From Hell

Nothing ruins new-home enjoyment like a neighbor who rules the roost with an iron fist and an intolerance for all things fun. Or the one who causes all the dramaor all the noise. And those are just a few of the types of neighbors you hope to NOT have.nbsp;

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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What Are the Features of an Entertaining House?

If you ever watch real estate shows, youll often see the participants say they want to be able to entertain. What does that mean as far as the features in a home? If youre someone who likes to throw dinner parties or you regularly host gatherings, what features should you look for in a true entertaining house?

An Open Kitchen

Probably the most popular feature of any home where theres going to be a lot of entertaining going on is an open, modern kitchen. Kitchens tend to be the inherent gathering point of any home, plus if you have a lot of parties or dinners, then youre probably cooking a lot too or at least prepping in the kitchen.

If youre in the market for a new home and you love entertaining, look for a kitchen thats wide and open where people can gather.

Having a spacious kitchen island or a bar is a good option too.

In general, an open floorplan is suitable for entertaining because people can move about easily without being trapped in tight spaces where they cant talk with another as easily. You want guests to feel like they can mingle pretty freely in your home.

A complimentary dining area adjacent to the kitchen is also good for entertaining.

Basement or Recreation Room

A basement or rec room area is great for entertaining all ages. For example, if you have teenagers, a lower-level area can quickly become where they migrate.

Theres a lot you can do with these additional spaces, like having a game or media room, a wine room, or a card room.

When you have a lower level, separate space for entertaining, you can also have other things going on in your home at different times without people getting in each others way.

Indoor-Outdoor Continuity

When the weather is nice, its great to bring a party outdoors. If youre an entertainer, look for a home with a nice flow from the indoors to the outdoors. For example, maybe pocket doors open to a deck or patio.

An outdoor kitchen is great for entertainers, and even if your home doesnt already have one, theyre >

Half Bath on the Main Floor

If you host frequently, look for a home with at least a half bath on your main floor and close to the gathering areas.

You dont want your guests to walk upstairs or through a bedroom to go to the bathroom if possible.

Its always nice when you can keep the more private areas of your home separate from your entertaining spaces.

Guest Suite

Finally, if youre a household that likes to entertain, you might also have guests from out of town who come to stay with you.

With that in mind, youll also want to consider the layout of the guest rooms if you buy a new home.

Its best if the guest area can be completely self-contained with its own bathroom, and preferably in a different area of your home from the other bedrooms.

That way, if you do have guests overnight, you all have privacy.


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Earnest Money vs. Down Payment: How Do They Compare?

There are two terms you might hear if youre in the market to buy a houseearnest money and down payment. The two are not interchangeable, but sometimes theres confusion between what they are, what they arent, and how they compare.

Understanding both earnest money and a down payment is critical to buying a home. Too often, buyers will think only about the down payment they have to make up front, but they dont consider other costs.

What is Earnest Money?

Earnest money you might also hear referred to as an escrow deposit. Earnest money or an escrow deposit is an amount of money that you, if youre a buyer, put into an escrow account only after a seller accepts your offer.

The objective of earnest money is to show a seller that youre entering into this transaction in good faith.

Another way to look at earnest money is as if its a security deposit.

An earnest money deposit is not a good faith deposit. Under some circumstances, your earnest money might be refundable. What your earnest money does is allow you a specific amount of time to get your mortgage financing in order and also go through any other steps in the buying process, like inspections and appraisals.

Earnest money is usually calculated as either a fixed amount or a percentage. Which one youd pay depends mainly on the market where youre buying.

In some markets, theres a standard, fixed amount of earnest money no matter the purchase price.

Once your purchase agreement is accepted, you submit that amount of money.

For other markets, its common to do a percentage of the purchase price3 for example.

Your earnest money is deposited into an escrow account where it can earn interest.

If youre in a competitive market, earnest money deposits are a good way to set your offer apart. Youre showing that you genuinely intend to buy, and if you can put forth a bigger earnest money deposit, youre signaling that you might be a safer buyer. If you can put that money up early on, the seller might feel youre more financially stable, so they can worry less about something causing the sale to fall apart at the last minute.

If you make it to loan closing, then your earnest money deposit goes toward your down payment.

Along with making your offer stand out, earnest money can also be a way to compensate a seller for taking the house off the market as you finalize transaction details.

If you dont make it to closing, you may lose your earnest money.

To guarantee you get it back, you should have contingencies in place to protect the deposit, like a home inspection or appraisal contingency.

Whats a Down Payment?

A down payment is something that, as a buyer you can put toward the purchase of a home. The seller receives it, and then the rest of the homes purchase price comes from your mortgage.

Lenders require down payment minimums. The minimum required amount is 3 of the purchase price of a home, but 20 is best. The closer you can get to the 20 down payment, the more likely youll be approved for a mortgage. Also, youll have smaller monthly payments on your mortgage.

If your down payment is less than 20, your lender will probably require you to buy private mortgage insurance or PMI. PMI is a way for your lender to protect itself if you default on your loan.

Key Takeaways

Both earnest money and down payment are essential parts of buying a house. Earnest money can sometimes be returned if the transaction doesnt go through if you have contingencies.

In some cases, a seller will get to keep your earnest money if you dont go through with the purchase.

A buyer and seller can usually negotiate on earnest money, and it can be anywhere from 1 to 2 of the purchase price, up to 10 in very hot markets.

Earnest money can accumulate interest.

A lender requires a down payment as part of your mortgage, and you dont negotiate it with your seller. With that being said, you pay it to the seller and not the lender, and then the rest of the purchase price comes from the mortgage.


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

Make no mistake, real estate is a cut-throat industry, arguably one of the most competitive out there. If you dont act on your opportunities, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone else will. Connecting with prospects is undoubtedly one of the most important tasks for any successful realtor, seizing on opportunities to scratch the backs of both buyers and sellers.

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

Efficiently handling emails

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

Staying up to date with feeds

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

Support for B2B lead generation

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

Automating signatures

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

Getting accounting assistance

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

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


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When Is “For Sale By Owner” The Right Option?

When you put your home on the market, one of the first decisions youll make is whether to hire an agent to represent the property or to go the for sale by owner route.

While a portion of homeowners initially goes into selling their home on their own, they end up ultimately hiring an agent.

Some of the big reasons homeowners decide to try and sell their home on their own are because they think it will save them money and time. Some homeowners also feel like they understand their home better than a real estate agent will.

So when is it the right option to try and sell your home on your own without an agent?

The Basics of For Sale By Owner FSBO

FSBO means that as a homeowner, you list your home for sale without a real estate agent, making you responsible for the process from start-to-finish. Some of the things youll have to do include pricing and listing your home, staging it, negotiating, and closing.

The standard real estate commission fee is around 6, and trying to save that is one of the primary motivators for people to go the FSBO route.

Along with avoiding the listing commission, there are other benefits of FSBO.

Youll have full control over the price at which you list your home.
You can schedule your open houses and showings, so youre not stuck at the last minute trying to leave the house.
Youre going to be motivated to get the highest possible amount for your home.
You know not just your home but also your neighborhood best.

What Are the Downsides of FSBO?

Some of the potential downsides of trying to sell your home on your own, aside from the commission youll pay, include:

A real estate agent understands how to properly price a home to sell based on fair market value. You may be emotionally attached to your home, which can be problematic. You may think your home is worth more than it is, or you might be offended if someone criticizes your home. A real estate agent doesnt have that emotional connection so they can be objective.
Real estate agents have access to local listing portals, the MLS, networks, and other agents.
Some agents wont show a home thats FSBO.
Real estate agents understand how to efficiently manage the procedural aspects of selling a home, such as the paperwork.

When Does It Make Sense To Sell Your Own Home?

In many circumstances, working with an experienced, professional real estate agent is best.

There are a few cases where it can make sense to opt for FSBO, however.

If you already have a qualified buyer whos interested in your home before it goes on the market, you may not need a listing agent. One of the big roles of an agent is marketing, and if you have someone who plans to buy your home, you wont need an agents expertise in that area. It is important to separate interested buyers from qualified buyers in this case.
Is there a lot of demand in your market? If youre in a high-growth market and inventory is limited, you may be able to sell your home quickly and for top-dollar without an agent.
Can you take your time? If youre in no real hurry to sell your house and you can wait, then you might be able to sell it on your own successfully.

If you do the research and think FSBO is best for you, remember to price it accordingly, based on market research rather than emotions.

Create a listing thats high-quality with professional photographs and an optimized description.

Finally, if you arent going to have a real estate agent, you should work with an experienced real estate attorney early on to protect you and help guide you through the process.


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Simple Ways An HOA Can Go Green

While there is continuing debate about global climate change, one >

Homeowner associations often control a variety of systems, processes, equipment, designs and materials. In all HOAs, there are opportunities to improve energy efficiency which often produce economic benefits as well. This is a win-win: doing well by doing good Here are some ways an HOA can go green:

Eco-landscaping.nbsp;

This involves a combination of careful plant and tree selection, turf reduction, chemical fertilizer elimination and water management. The days of broad green spaces are making way for a myriad of options that are more water and earth friendly. Selecting pest resistant and drought tolerant native species saves on maintenance, water and pest control. Fitting sprinkler systems with rain override sensors reduces water. Reducing turf areas reduces mowing and the pollution generated by gas powered equipment.

Donate It.

Many areas have building product and material recycling centers which will accept lumber, doors, windows, cabinets, sinks, carpet and appliances. If you are renovating your clubhouse and have an option to donate used material and equipment instead of dumping, do it. Craigslist.com offers a free way to dispose of building materials.

Offer Recycling.

Some jurisdictions have mandated recycling as part of the trash collection process. When recyclables are separated from trash, the trash load is reduced and trash collection costs less. With less trash, the landfill load is reduced as is the contamination of soil and ground water. Even where recycling is provided, compliance lags due to consumer laziness. The HOA can remind residents of their civic duty and the obvious benefit of lower trash collection costs.

Where government recycling requirements are absent, the HOA can create its own system by establishing a centralized recycling station for glass, metal, paper and recyclable plastics that is serviced by a contractor or committee. While individuals can haul their own recycling, the easier and cheaper it is to do, the greater the compliance. Centralize and economize.

Manage Energy Better.

Take full advantage of power and water saving devices. LED Light Emitting Diode use minuscule amount of energy compared to other forms. Add solar activated exterior light controls so lights burn only when needed. Replace high flow plumbing fixtures with low flow models. Insulate water pipes and heat ducts.nbsp;

Recycled Paint.

This option is becoming more prevalent in metropolitan areas. Leftover latex paint is screened and blended into a popular pallette of colors and resold at a reduced price. For options, Google "[your state] recycled paint".

Go Solar.

Many states offer incentives for adding solar power generation or solar hot water systems. If your buildings have flat roofs or good southern exposure, consult with local solar system providers for options. For HOAs with pools, solar water heating can often pay for itself quickly and significantly lower energy consumption. .

Packaging Reduction.

This is an often overlooked strategy in reducing waste. Packaging can range from none like buying food in bulk to Fort Knox like hard shell plastic wrapped around electronics to reduce theft. Consumers generally have a range of packaging choices in many products. Opting for the one with less packaging is a conscious decision to help green the world.

Make it Fun

The intriguing thing about going green is there are so many ways to pull it off. The HOA can encourage the process by offering prizes for effort and creativity. Those that step up are often willing to help recruit and encourage others. The news media loves to run stories about grass root green efforts. Make your HOA a standout and be seen as green.


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Secured vs. Unsecured Debt: How Lenders See Them

A mortgage is a type of loan to finance real estate. The real estate can be a residential property or it can be a commercial one. The terms mortgage and loan arent necessarily interchangeable. Yes, a mortgage is a loan but a loan isnt necessarily a mortgage. One of the primary differences is whether or not the loan is deemed secured. What does the term secured mean? It means the lender has placed a lien on the item being financed. This collateral reduces the amount of risk to the lender. Should the borrower ever default, the lender issuing the secured note and recover the asset via repossession or foreclosure. Someone for example with an automobile loan who goes a few months without making a payment might soon discover their car is no longer in the drivewaythe lender took it back. Further, if the current value of the asset isnt enough to pay off the existing loan balance, the borrower is still on the hook for the remainder.

This leads us to the terms secured and unsecured debt. An automobile loan is an easy way to understand security. If payments are made on time each month, or at least during that month, the automobile stays in the driveway. That said, most notes have language that allows the lender to charge a late fee if the payment is not received by a certain date. A note might have a payment due date on the 1st of the month but if the payment is not made by the 15th, a late penalty fee will be tacked on.nbsp;

And because the automobile loan is secured, if the payments are not made, the lender will take back the car. When the automobile loan is ultimately paid off, the lender will >

Mortgages are also a secured debt. In the same manner, the lender has a legal interest in the property while the mortgage is still in place. Each month as a mortgage payment is made a portion of the payment goes toward the lender for interest due and a portion goes directly to the outstanding loan balance. A mortgage is indeed a loan, but an automobile loan is not a mortgage. The terms are not interchangeable.

An unsecured loan is one where there is no collateral attached to the note. A common unsecured loan can be debt acquired with a credit card. Someone with a credit card can go out and buy a new suit and make monthly payments on the card. Using this example, if someone can longer make the payments on the card and cant make any financial arrangements with the card issuer, the issuer can send the outstanding balance to a collection department or agency and ultimately charge off the balance altogether. With unsecured debt, the lender wont try and recover the business suit. There is no lien attached. This process works with any type of unsecured debt.


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September Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "Mortgage rates rose across all loan types this week as the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield reached its highest point since June. Many factors led to this increase, including the Federal Reserve communicating that it will taper its support of the capital markets, the broadening of inflation and emerging energy supply shortages which compound other labor and materials shortages. We expect mortgage rates to continue to rise modestly which will likely have an impact on home prices, causing them to moderate slightly after increasing over the last year."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.01 percent with an average 0.7 points for the week ending September 30, 2021, up from last month when it averaged 2.87 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 2.88 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.28 percent with an average 0.6 points, up from last month when it averaged 2.17 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.36 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.48 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, up from last month when it averaged 2.42 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.90 percent.


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The Personal Is Professional: A Model of Success

The personal is professional. Or, professionalism is a matter of personalization: the services a real estate professional offers, from the wisdom she dispenses to the results she delivers, in addition to the counsel she provides and the insight she possessesthese things are not only good but necessary.nbsp;

These things are hallmarks of independence and customization, proving what words alone cannot do: that a real estate professional addresses the wants of each client, based on the finances and demands of each client, in accord with the circumstances of each client.nbsp;

Upon these services, a real estate professionals reputation rises or falls. Because of a real estate professionals fulfillment of these services, his reputationher reputationwill rise.

Personalization applies to all real estate markets, as Melodee Rivera of the Rivera Team agrees. Her teams success in Denver is a model all real estate professionals should emulate. I cite the Rivera Team because, like similarly responsive firms elsewhere, Miss Riveras expertise typifies what she does in her region while her skillsthe strengths all real estate professionals can developare not regional.

About the skills that influence success, about the social skills that make success possible, about succeeding by socializing rather than, say, >

Consider what it means to know something; to know a lot about the clients a real estate professional represents.

Consider how a real estate professional can apply what she knows about a location, along with what she knows a client appreciates about the same location, so as to promote long-term appreciation. Put another way, before a client can enjoy the benefits of appreciation, a real estate professional must appreciate a clients situation; she must provide value, thus allowing a client to buy a property with a high probability of increasing in value.

Service of this kind is personal because it is tangible, giving a client the keys to a house or the means to develop a property. So, yes, listening is key to closing a sale.nbsp;

But a true professional is never pu>

The best way to honor these skills is for real estate professionals to perform these skills.

In honor of these skills, with gratitude for the honor to be a professional who has these skills, each individual within the real estate industry can exemplify the merits of personalization.

Seizing the advantage is what defines personalization, showing to clients and colleagues alike what success is.

The advantages of these skills are clear.

Real estate professionals can clarify what they believe, and be true to their beliefs, by believing in the rewards of personalization.


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Updated: Thursday, October 21, 2021


Simple Ways An HOA Can Go Green

While there is continuing debate about global climate change, one >

Homeowner associations often control a variety of systems, processes, equipment, designs and materials. In all HOAs, there are opportunities to improve energy efficiency which often produce economic benefits as well. This is a win-win: doing well by doing good Here are some ways an HOA can go green:

Eco-landscaping.nbsp;

This involves a combination of careful plant and tree selection, turf reduction, chemical fertilizer elimination and water management. The days of broad green spaces are making way for a myriad of options that are more water and earth friendly. Selecting pest resistant and drought tolerant native species saves on maintenance, water and pest control. Fitting sprinkler systems with rain override sensors reduces water. Reducing turf areas reduces mowing and the pollution generated by gas powered equipment.

Donate It.

Many areas have building product and material recycling centers which will accept lumber, doors, windows, cabinets, sinks, carpet and appliances. If you are renovating your clubhouse and have an option to donate used material and equipment instead of dumping, do it. Craigslist.com offers a free way to dispose of building materials.

Offer Recycling.

Some jurisdictions have mandated recycling as part of the trash collection process. When recyclables are separated from trash, the trash load is reduced and trash collection costs less. With less trash, the landfill load is reduced as is the contamination of soil and ground water. Even where recycling is provided, compliance lags due to consumer laziness. The HOA can remind residents of their civic duty and the obvious benefit of lower trash collection costs.

Where government recycling requirements are absent, the HOA can create its own system by establishing a centralized recycling station for glass, metal, paper and recyclable plastics that is serviced by a contractor or committee. While individuals can haul their own recycling, the easier and cheaper it is to do, the greater the compliance. Centralize and economize.

Manage Energy Better.

Take full advantage of power and water saving devices. LED Light Emitting Diode use minuscule amount of energy compared to other forms. Add solar activated exterior light controls so lights burn only when needed. Replace high flow plumbing fixtures with low flow models. Insulate water pipes and heat ducts.nbsp;

Recycled Paint.

This option is becoming more prevalent in metropolitan areas. Leftover latex paint is screened and blended into a popular pallette of colors and resold at a reduced price. For options, Google "[your state] recycled paint".

Go Solar.

Many states offer incentives for adding solar power generation or solar hot water systems. If your buildings have flat roofs or good southern exposure, consult with local solar system providers for options. For HOAs with pools, solar water heating can often pay for itself quickly and significantly lower energy consumption. .

Packaging Reduction.

This is an often overlooked strategy in reducing waste. Packaging can range from none like buying food in bulk to Fort Knox like hard shell plastic wrapped around electronics to reduce theft. Consumers generally have a range of packaging choices in many products. Opting for the one with less packaging is a conscious decision to help green the world.

Make it Fun

The intriguing thing about going green is there are so many ways to pull it off. The HOA can encourage the process by offering prizes for effort and creativity. Those that step up are often willing to help recruit and encourage others. The news media loves to run stories about grass root green efforts. Make your HOA a standout and be seen as green.


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Secured vs. Unsecured Debt: How Lenders See Them

A mortgage is a type of loan to finance real estate. The real estate can be a residential property or it can be a commercial one. The terms mortgage and loan arent necessarily interchangeable. Yes, a mortgage is a loan but a loan isnt necessarily a mortgage. One of the primary differences is whether or not the loan is deemed secured. What does the term secured mean? It means the lender has placed a lien on the item being financed. This collateral reduces the amount of risk to the lender. Should the borrower ever default, the lender issuing the secured note and recover the asset via repossession or foreclosure. Someone for example with an automobile loan who goes a few months without making a payment might soon discover their car is no longer in the drivewaythe lender took it back. Further, if the current value of the asset isnt enough to pay off the existing loan balance, the borrower is still on the hook for the remainder.

This leads us to the terms secured and unsecured debt. An automobile loan is an easy way to understand security. If payments are made on time each month, or at least during that month, the automobile stays in the driveway. That said, most notes have language that allows the lender to charge a late fee if the payment is not received by a certain date. A note might have a payment due date on the 1st of the month but if the payment is not made by the 15th, a late penalty fee will be tacked on.nbsp;

And because the automobile loan is secured, if the payments are not made, the lender will take back the car. When the automobile loan is ultimately paid off, the lender will >

Mortgages are also a secured debt. In the same manner, the lender has a legal interest in the property while the mortgage is still in place. Each month as a mortgage payment is made a portion of the payment goes toward the lender for interest due and a portion goes directly to the outstanding loan balance. A mortgage is indeed a loan, but an automobile loan is not a mortgage. The terms are not interchangeable.

An unsecured loan is one where there is no collateral attached to the note. A common unsecured loan can be debt acquired with a credit card. Someone with a credit card can go out and buy a new suit and make monthly payments on the card. Using this example, if someone can longer make the payments on the card and cant make any financial arrangements with the card issuer, the issuer can send the outstanding balance to a collection department or agency and ultimately charge off the balance altogether. With unsecured debt, the lender wont try and recover the business suit. There is no lien attached. This process works with any type of unsecured debt.


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September Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "Mortgage rates rose across all loan types this week as the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield reached its highest point since June. Many factors led to this increase, including the Federal Reserve communicating that it will taper its support of the capital markets, the broadening of inflation and emerging energy supply shortages which compound other labor and materials shortages. We expect mortgage rates to continue to rise modestly which will likely have an impact on home prices, causing them to moderate slightly after increasing over the last year."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.01 percent with an average 0.7 points for the week ending September 30, 2021, up from last month when it averaged 2.87 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 2.88 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.28 percent with an average 0.6 points, up from last month when it averaged 2.17 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.36 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.48 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, up from last month when it averaged 2.42 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.90 percent.


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