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Real Estate News

Updated: Wednesday, May 22, 2019

May Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Surveyreg; shows that "despite the recent rise in mortgage rates, both existing and new home sales continue to show strength ndash; indicating the lagged effect of lower rates on housing demand. This, along with improved affordability, should push housing activity higher in the coming months."

bull; 30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 4.2 percent with an average 0.5 points for the week ending April 25, 2019, up from last month when it averaged 4.06 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.58 percent.

bull; 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.64 percent with an average 0.5 points, up from last month when it also averaged 3.57 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.02 percent.

bull; 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 3.77 percent this week with an average 0.4 points, up from last month when it averaged 3.75 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.74 percent.


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To Roommate or Not to Roommate? Things to Consider Before Bringing Another Person Under Your Roof

Defraying the cost of a mortgage is great, and, in some cases, taking in tenants can be lucrative, more than covering your entire payment and putting money in your pocket every month. But, inviting roommates into your home also comes with its share of potential downsides. Here are a few things you may want to weigh before you hand over the keys.

Say goodbye to your privacy

Having someone else in your home probably means you canrsquo;t walk around naked unless yoursquo;re in that type of thing. It also may mean there will be people making noise in the living room when you want peace and quiet or making a mess in the kitchen when you just want to make a sandwich.

About that messhellip;

Speaking of messes, how another person lives should be a consideration before you invite them to live in your home. Have you seen their current place? Did it lookhellip;normal?

If yoursquo;re a neat freak and your potential roommate like to leave behind items of clothing like breadcrumbs, you could have an Odd Couple situation. On the other hand, if yoursquo;re a little more casual about how you keep the house and your potential roommate likes things just so, you might end up feeling out of place in your own home.

Someone elsersquo;s romantic life

Arenrsquo;t you a little old to be living by the ldquo;sock on the doorrdquo; rule? Bringing in a roommate may mean compromising your privacy in even more egregious ways, or having to tiptoe around in order to avoid an uncomfortable run-in.

Financial issues

Ultimately, itrsquo;s your finances and credit at risk no matter who you invite into your home because itrsquo;s your name on the mortgage. If yoursquo;re taking in a roommate to help make your mortgage payment, you need to know you can depend on this person to pay his or her share. No matter how well you think you know this potential roommate, itrsquo;s imperative that you do a background check and check their credit. What you donrsquo;t know could hurt you.


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Garage Organization: A Chore No More In 5 Easy Steps

1. Plan of Attack

Dont enter alone. And use the buddy systemmdash;if for no other reason than you may get overwhelmed and lost in your own sea of debris. Friends, family, and the kids can all lend a hand to get the job done quicker and to help keep you on track: its easy to get distracted rooting through the objects of your past.

The first goal of any garage organization is to create more floor space, so thats where you should begin as well. Get all the knick-knacks, the holiday decorations, and any other indoor->

2. Divide and Conquer

Give each helper a section to cover. This should help the garage organization run smoother. And dont be clingy. If you havent used something in over a year, or if you forgot it even existed, its time to say goodbye. Give your stuff to charities, thrift stores, or maybe even make a trip to the dump. Or, better yet, make a separate pile for a future garage sale, allowing you to reap all the awards of your excavation. However, dont procrastinate on this chore either. Its easy to say youll have a garage sale and not follow through so as to keep putting off the inevitable. Then, divide up the remaining possessions into categoriesmdash;sports items, seasonal deacute;cor, gardening tools, car maintenance, etc.mdash;to help with the next step.

3. Get Vertical

Once everything is cleaned and categorized, now its time to rearrange. The best way to store your things is to make use of your vertical space.

  • Get a pegboard for your tools.
  • Put up some shelves for boxes.
  • Heavy-duty hooks are great for shovels and rakes.
  • Buy a magnetic strip for stray metal items, such as steel rulers or chisels.

If you have bikes, skis, or ladders, put them overhead in the rafters or if you have a drywall ceiling, once again, heavy-duty hooks are great for hanging these heavy-duty items.

Remember that a garage is mainly used to store or work on your car or other vehicles so make sure you clear enough space to make this possible. Garage car lifts provide a great way for you to store a vehicle whilst still giving you floor space to move around in. You can get 2 post lifts which make it easy to work on your car and 4 post lifts which allow you to store 2 vehicles in one space.

4. Compartmentalize

Once you have as much as you can off the floor, its now time to find additional storage. The easiest answer to this dilemma is a garage organizer.

  • A multiple tier shelving unit is great for storing paint or varnishes.
  • A cabinetry system for miscellaneous items is always handy.
  • Maybe buy several Rubbermaid baskets to hang on the wall to help separate the recycling.
  • Buy a crank to roll up that hose.
  • Use garbage ties or bungee cords to keep your extension cords in line.

Whatever the need, investing in some form of garage organizer helps to maintain the floor space youve just created.

5. Items Big and Small Dont forget the little things.

If you save glass baby-food jars, clear film canisters, or milk cartons to be cut in half, youll now be able to store smaller items, such as nails, screws, or tacks. If these small containers arent see through, they can also be easily labeled with masking tape. Another alternative garage organizer is an inexpensive tackle box to help contain the confusion. But what if its your bigger items that are getting in the way? What if its the necessary tools, such as snow blowers, lawn mowers, or edgers creating the clutter? Then consider building an extra shed in the backyard or a lean-to against the outside of the garage in order to produce additional square footage.

Donrsquo;t Let It Happen Again

The main thing to keep in mind is never let it get to this point again. If you take these steps, you should be able to keep up with your garage organization in the future. This is not to say that you wont have some occasional maintenancemdash;some sweeping, scrubbing, or washing. But by simply taking the time to arrange the space, at least youll no longer dread entering into it.


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9 Practical Tips in Handling Plumbing Emergencies

Plumbing affects several areas in your home from the bathroom to the kitchen. Plumbing problems can arise suddenly, without warning. While some minor issues are easily fixed, some difficulties can quickly escalate into a major crisis that causes damage to your home. If this isnt taken care of immediately, you can suffer thousands of dollars in loss, with lasting consequences.

How can you potentially limit a plumbing disaster? Here are some helpful tips that you can apply to protect your home:

Shut off the Water

As soon as emergency strikes, turn off the source of water immediately. It can be as simple as turning off the valve at the base of your commode. However, if larger emergencies like flooding occur, turn off the main valve in your home. Most water valves usually have to be turned off clockwise.

Turn Off the Electricity

Electricity and water will always make a deadly combination. If there is any chance that the flooded water does come into contact with any electrical circuit, then, stay away from the leaking or flooded water. If you can reach for the main switch without touching any of the water, the better. The next thing you can do is to turn off the power switch and disable the circuits.

Check Your Water Heater

After youve stopped the flooding and flow of water into your home using the main switch, you will have to turn off your water heater as well. Its crucial to note that once the all the water in your home is shut off, there is a tendency that the pressure and the water levels inside your water heater will start to rise. This situation is potentially dangerous once the pressure increases above the heaters limit, the unit can burst, making the whole situation even more hazardous.

Wear Protective Rubber Gloves

For your safety and protection, wear rubber boots and gloves if the leak is contaminated by the sewage or is in a drain line. Even after the whole area is cleaned and dried, you still need to disinfect it after thoroughly.

Assess the Damage

Before you call a professional, try to asses the damage first. Providing the plumber with sufficient information over the phone gives them a good idea of the problem at hand. As a result, they can quickly fix the problem.

Open Drains and Spigots

You have to understand that there will still be water in the pipes even after youve turned off the main valve. To move this water away from your home, turn on spigots and open drains. Also, give the hose in your garden a few extra squirts to ensure that you clear out the water as well. If youre experiencing a small clog, open the drain using >

Avoid Using Chemicals on Pipes

Try not to use chemical cleaners in your pipes as it can make the situation worse. If youre experiencing a backed-up drain, avoid using a bottle of drain cleaner. Drain cleaners will erode the pipes, and if your home is older, this can cause lasting devastating effects. While these chemicals can usually wash away debris and dirt, they still cause significant problems. As an alternative, try using a plunger. If it still doesnt work out, its time to call an expert.

Handle Small Leaks

Small leaks are quite easy to identify. The best thing that you can do about it is to stop them as soon as possible. You can try stuffing rags and towels around the pipes. Also putting buckets under those dripping leaks can help as well. Let your plumber know about these leaks the moment they arrive so that they can be addressed in the safest order.

Call a Plumber

When youre facing a plumbing crisis, its essential to call a plumbing professional or a plumbing company. Doing so gives you peace of mind that your safety and the overall condition of your home is well-taken care. Call a plumbing company that offers 24-hour, emergency service. Try to give the plumber as much information as you can about what fixtures are affected and what you have done to fix or stop the problem.


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Preparing Your Home For Long Term Travel

Set Your Thermostat

If you will be leaving your house unattended during the winter months, make sure your thermostat is set to 55 degrees. This will keep your house warm enough to prevent freezing and bursting water pipes, which can cause severe flooding and water damage. If your travels take you away from home during warmer weather, you should leave the AC unit on in order to prevent mold, mildew, and other conditions caused by heat and humidity. Adjust your thermostat to 85 degrees or less to regulate usage of the air conditioning. If you can, invest in a smart thermostat, which can be controlled via a handy smartphone app wherever you are. This is a great, convenient way to make sure your home is always protected from weather->

Turn Water Off

When you are going to be away for an extended period of time, its a good idea to turn off your main water line. This can prevent plumbing leaks from occurring in your absence, which can result in significant water damage and costly repairs.nbsp;After shutting off the main water valve, let your kitchen and bathroom faucets run dry, ensuring that no water is left in the pipes.

If you have a sprinkler system that needs to run while you are away, or if your heating system works with steam radiators or hot water, it is not a good idea to shut your water off at the main valve. However, anyone who doesnt have these special considerations should turn it off to avoid future problems upon your return. By turning off the water before you leave, you are saving yourself a potential headache when you get back

Wrap Toilet Bowls With Plastic Wrap

No, this isnt an elaborate prank for your family and friends By wrapping your toilet bowls, you are preventing sewer fumes from entering your home. Leaving your toilets unwrapped can result in a less-than-pleasant "welcome home" when you walk in the door. Just be sure to mark the cling wrap with a big black "X" or other warning symbol to prevent anyone from accidentally using the toilet with the wrap in place.

Empty the Fridge

Apart from the main reason of not wanting the food in your refrigerator to turn into a moldy, stinky science experiment while youre away, its also a good idea to empty the fridge of all perishables in order to completely defrost and unplug it if youre going to be gone for a very long time. This will save energy and not force the fridge to keep running when its not in use.

Travel is one of the most enriching things we can do in life- an ideal opportunity to meet new friends, share new experiences, and learn new things. By knowing how to properly take care of your home in your absence, you can have one less thing on your mind while you are away from home having adventures


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10 Reasons Why Your Home Isnt Selling

Here are the top 10 reasons why your home isnrsquo;t selling and donrsquo;t worry, most of them are fixable.

1. You Lack Marketing

ldquo;If we build it, they will come.rdquo; This doesnrsquo;t prove true for many new and sometimes, useful products. And same goes for when you put your home up for sale. Just putting it up on the market isnrsquo;t enough. You need to post your listing in as many places as possible. Most of these places are online. Online is the first place potential buyers check out.

Real estate agents can also be great resources for this. If you havenrsquo;t hire one, think about it. If you have, make sure they are doing their job. Ask questions regarding where your house is listed. And if they arenrsquo;t doing a good job, it might prove best to switch agents - Find someone that knows what they are doing and has ample experience.

2. Your House is Priced Too High

This is a common mistake. Too high of a price wonrsquo;t exactly woe any buyers. It can deter people from even viewing your home - Itrsquo;s not in their budget. And it may be obvious that the home isnrsquo;t worth the price tag. You should do your market research before determining a price for your home. Compare your home to others currently on the market. Again, a real estate agent can help you out with this

3. Your Home is In Serious Need of Repairs

A lot of people donrsquo;t want to buy a home that needs work. It isnrsquo;t ideal. So, what can you do? You could have someone come in and do a pre-listing inspection. From there, fix the problems. It will help you sell your house faster.

4. Your Home Isnrsquo;t Prepared For Showings

That first impression matters If you havenrsquo;t done it yet, get an expert to set up or make suggestions to switch things up so your house shows better. You might have to move furniture around. But it is enti>

Other ways to make your house show worthy? Make sure it is tidy and clean. If you have pets, clean up after them. Pay attention to the temperature. If itrsquo;s winter, make sure it feels warm and inviting. If itrsquo;s summer, make sure you have the A/C on and working.

5. Your Location is Anything But Ideal

This is a tough one to fix. If the location isnrsquo;t exactly sought-after, be prepared to play the waiting game. It might just take more time to find that perfect buyer.

6. It Smells

We get used to the smell of our own home. And unfortunately, it can be hard to detect. Some of the most common odors that throw buyers off include cigarettes, pets, food, and moisture. Do a smell test. Have a friend or neighbour come by to make sure you are good to go.

7. Bad Timing

In real estate, there is a good time to sell and a bad time to sell. If the market isnrsquo;t looking good to sell, it may be best to wait and there are tons of reasons that this may be the case. Do your research. Ask your local real estate agent. Find the right time for your area and location.

8. The Local Market is Working Against You

Itrsquo;s not just timing you have to worry about. Are a lot of people selling around you? Is it a buyers market in your area? That might be why your home isnrsquo;t selling. Again, your real estate agent should be able to point you in the right direction for this one. The time of year plus the number of houses on sale play a huge role in whether your house sells or not.

9. You Hired The Wrong Real Estate Agent

This can be a major problem. You want someone with experience, who is >

10. You Arenrsquo;t Flexible

You stand your ground on your asking price. But everyone is putting in offers that are lower. You donrsquo;t bother with repairs even though itrsquo;s the main reason your home inspection fell through. These could potentially be reasons why your home isnrsquo;t selling. Get those repairs done. Be flexible and realistic when it comes to pricing and offers. Or else yes, it will take a lot more time for your house to sell.

Go through the above reasons and be honest with yourself. Determine why your home isnrsquo;t selling - then, find ways to fix the problem. Or at least come to terms with it. Donrsquo;t make selling your home more of a hassle or process than it has to be.


Kurtis Forster is a real estate agent for Team Forster in London, Ontario. He brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise about buying and selling real estate.nbsp;

Resources:

https://www.rochesterrealestateblog.com/reasons-why-your-home-isnt-selling/

https://www.thebalance.com/why-isn-t-my-home-selling-1799029


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Top Pros and Cons of Real Estate Investing

The Positives:

Direct Control ndash; When investing in real estate, you have direct control over your asset. You select the property ndash; value, size, neighborhood. You decide what repairs to make. You select your contractors. You choose to flip or choose suitable tenants. hellip;. You get the picture? Itrsquo;s in your hands to control and not up to the fickle markets or what some talking head or politician said in a news conference yesterday.

Insurance ndash; You can insure your property. In fact, if you take out a mortgage, your lender will most likely require that you have property insurance. This easily mitigates potential losses from fire, theft, etc. Although the FDIC insures your money sitting in banks, there is no comparable insurance for monies invested in your employerrsquo;s 401k or other investment accounts. If your investment property goes up in flames, yoursquo;re covered. If the market and your 401k tank, your money is gone. You can even get insurance against loss of rents if you find yourself without a tenant for whatever reason.

No ups and downs ndash; Traditional stocks are known to shoot up one day and plummet the next, leaving your nest egg empty and your nerves fried. And to the first point, you have no control over what will happen next. Real estate tends to be steadier and more predictable. As long as yoursquo;ve done your research, you will know what to expect in your market. Property values do not usually plummet overnight; you see it coming as the market slows and can change course as needed. If your market is slowing, you can speed up your current projects and start making lower offers on new properties you are reviewing. If your market is growing, you can ramp up purchases at higher prices knowing yoursquo;ll be able to sell or rent at higher prices as well.

Tax Deferral ndash; When you sell a property, you have to pay taxes. However, using the 1031 Exchange program, you can sell one property and purchase another of equal or greater value and defer the tax liability. Think about the power in that If all you can afford today is a small house that generates 100 per month cash flow, buy it. It will probably appreciate over time. Sell it for more than you bought it, and buy a nicer house that generates 200 per month cash flow. Repeat, repeat, repeat increasing your cash flow and equity as you go.

Rentals have some special pros to highlight, specifically dealing with your income and wealth.

bull; You can increase your monthly income. As long as your rent covers PITI principal, interest, taxes, insurance plus a little for maintenance, the rest goes into your pocket. Use it how you want, but I suggest investing in more rentals.
bull; Your wealth increases via equity build up / principal paydown. A portion of each rent check goes towards principal which increases the equity you have in the house. You donrsquo;t pay your mortgage; the tenant does.
bull; You can decrease your taxes. You can spend a little or a lot to repair a house. The losses on paper that you make while renovating a property can be used to reduce your tax liability. Check with an experienced accountant who is familiar with real estate to find out exactly how this can be done.

The Negatives:

Time/Research ndash; Unlike your 401k or the stock market, you canrsquo;t just review a brochure of curated investments and buy something todayhellip; and you shouldnrsquo;t. Not to say you canrsquo;t get started quickly, but real estate investing takes a little time and research to get up to speed. You donrsquo;t need to know it all, but you should think about where you want to purchase property, what are the values doing going up or down, do you want to flip or rent, how big of a renovation are you willing to do? On the bright side, there are lots of books, blogs, and websites to peruse. An even better place to get started is your local real estate investing groups that can be found on-line. Just do a google search and go meet people who are already investing.

Contractors ndash; The saying lsquo;herding catsrsquo; is absolutely appropriate here. A fast, affordable, quality contractor can be difficult to find. Donrsquo;t get discouraged, but do prepare to go through several contractors before you find the right fit for you and your goals. Once you find them, be clear with what you want done, treat them well, pay them on time. You need them for your next job, too

Not liquid ndash; Real estate is, again, not like a 401k or stock. You canrsquo;t just click a button or sign a piece of paper to get your money out. You have to prepare it and then list it either for sale or renthellip; and wait. So, if you anticipate needing your money for something else at any given moment, real estate might not be for you.

To summarize, while real estate investing takes some work, the pros outweigh the cons. If you decide to dive in, do your homework, be patient, and watch your income and net worth grow. When you have questions or run into problems, network Someone else has already been through it and can help you along.


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What to Expect When Applying for a Jumbo Loan

A jumbo loan is one where the loan amount exceeds current conforming loan limits. Conforming loans are those that conform to standards issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One of the many requirements for a conforming loan is the loan limit which is currently 484,350 in most parts of the country. In higher cost areas where home values are much greater compared to the rest of the country, the conforming limit can be as high as 726,525. Beyond that is jumbo territory. When applying for financing to purchase a higher end home, jumbo approvals are issued in much the same manner as other types of loans, itrsquo;s just a bit more difficult to qualify for one.

Conforming loans can ask for a down payment for as little as 5.0 percent of the sales price. With a down payment of less than 20 percent however, private mortgage insurance, or PMI, will be needed. PMI insures the difference between 20 percent down and the actual amount of down payment. with a 5.0 percent down payment, the insurance would cover 15 percent. With jumbo loans however there is no PMI available. That means the loan amount for a jumbo loan should be no greater than 80 percent of the sales price. This equates to a 20 percent down payment, but slightly better terms are offered with a down payment of 25 percent or more. There are some niche portfolio products that ask for a lower down payment but in general this is what you can expect.

Credit score minimums are also higher for most jumbo loans. Conforming loan programs can go as low as 600 or so but jumbo loans need higher scores. Minimum scores can vary from one lender to the next but not by very much. Many jumbo loans ask for a minimum credit score of 700 while a few programs need a score of 680. Better rates and terms are typically available with a credit score of 740. If there are two borrowers on the same application, the lender will use the lower of the two qualifying scores.

Finally, jumbo loans typically require a bit more documentation both from the borrower as well as third parties. For example, a jumbo loan program might need two appraisals instead of just one. Again, if there are two appraisals, the lender will use the lower value for approval purposes. Jumbo loan applications are also fully documented. There are no ldquo;statedrdquo; type loans where income or employment is not verified via third parties. There are a couple of programs out there that review 12 months of bank statements in lieu of paycheck stubs or W2s, but the bank statements must show regular monthly deposits from a verified source.

On these statements, there needs to be sufficient cash to close for the down payment, closing costs and cash reserves. Lenders can separately mail a Verification of Deposit to the financial institution asking the bank to verify how much cash is in the bank as well as an average of recent balances.

Jumbo lenders can set their own guidelines because theyrsquo;re not bound to conforming rules which means qualifying at one lender may be easier or more difficult compared to another. Your loan officer will tell you what types of documentation yoursquo;ll need to provide, but once submitted, your jumbo loan application will be processed just like any other.


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Dont Judge a House by its Photo

If you spend hours on the internet trying to find your dream home by searching through photos or video of properties, you may be overlooking important flaws in this superficial approach to evaluating real estate.

The big question is: What percentage of time are you incorrect in your decision to discard a property based on a photograph?

Judging a property by its photograph may prove expensive when you discard poor photos without knowing if they represent excellent real estate opportunity for you. Just ask yourself, how many selfies does it take to achieve a great and, therefore, accurate picture of you?

Even when you eventually find photogenic real estate to visit, how many better choices or better bargains did you miss out on because you did not approve their visuals?

bull; Have you studied photography and earned the advantage of knowing how to evaluate second-rate equipment or poor photographic technique that results in failure to present a homersquo;s good bones or reveal a hidden gem worth a closer look? Even a good photo may present poorly as an online image through bad decisions regarding lighting, resolution, cropping, coloration....

bull; What percentage of properties are discarded because the photo is unappealing? Listing photos are not intended as works of art. Was this a drive-by photo where the photographer did not get out the car because they had so many photos to take? Was it raining or snowing that day? Just like people, houses have a ldquo;good siderdquo; and a ldquo;bad side.rdquo; Which side is in the photo?

bull; Do you have a magazine or Instagram pic in mind that you are intent on matching? Houses that are beautiful from the curb earn high-value ratings >

bull; You canrsquo;t live in a photograph or even a video. Ideally, a photograph or short video of a property should reveal all the benefits of the buildings and the land. In reality, most photographic representations fall short of this goal. Some are more successful that others, but none are a substitute for experiencing ldquo;the big picturerdquo; first-hand: the feeling of being there, the volume of rooms, the acoustics of the building, the effects of daylight, the flow through the buildinghellip;the reality of inspecting the property yourself. In addition, street-face photos cannot reveal interiors that are in marked contrast to facades: a house with a renovated, ultra-modern interior may maintain its historic exterior.

bull; What percentage of the time are you attracted by a great photo of a house, which you later discover has ldquo;a lot of uglyrdquo; going on outside the photo i.e. beside the house is a high-rise building, auto body shop, shopping mall, night clubhellip;? Or, did you discard a property which, invisible to you, had wonderful green space around it? Since location is the most important value factor in real estate, how
can a photo of a property in isolation enable you to fully evaluate its location value without knowing context?

The above list of flawed reasons for discarding properties based on photographic representations explains how you may allow your lack of knowledge, on many levels, to limit your ultimate success identifying desirable real estate. Select only the ldquo;pretty picturesrdquo; and you may inadvertently eliminate properties that would be ideal and perhaps less expensive purchases for you and your family.

The Smart Approach

Wersquo;re not advising that you view every listed property. Instead, work with experienced real estate professionals whorsquo;ll process listings, visit properties using your criteria, and, therefore, save you time by selecting the best prospects for you to view.

Describe what yoursquo;ll want in a new home and the professional will converse with you to clarify that description for you and for them. Buyers are often surprised when these conversations reveal how much they had not realized about what they thought they wanted and needed.

Search out a professional who makes it their business to know area product from the outside in. Theyrsquo;ll share their insider view, so you wonrsquo;t miss out on what could be your dream home. This informed culling of properties will save you from having to view too many properties that are a poor fit for your needs and dreams.

ldquo;This house was a big surprise inside; from the outside, it looked much smaller,rdquo; is a common buyer observation. Most buyers, particularly first-timers or first-time-in-a-long-time buyers, are not experts at architecture or construction, nor have they inspected as many properties as experienced real estate professionals.

Your secret weapon is your real estate professional who makes it their business to keep up-to-date viewing area listings. They understand the advantages of knowing the whole property and its entire potential, not just its street face. They appreciate the difference between a real estate dream and a home thatrsquo;s a dream to live in.

Professionals are also aware of smart buying strategies based on poor photos or less inspiring facades. For instance, if yoursquo;d like to invest in the best location your budget will allow, there may be advantages to viewing properties in choice neighborhoods with less attractive street faces. When there is value in the location, interior, and backyard, over time the curb view can be improved on, increasing property value in the process.

Online buyers of clothing who >
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What Happens When Tariffs Hit Home?

ldquo;Tariffs on goods traded between the U.S. and China have already increased in several stages since early 2018,rdquo; said CNBC. ldquo;Now, President Donald Trump has added a 25 tariff up from his original proposal of 10 on another 200 billion worth of Chinese imports, and China hit back with 5 to 10 percent duties on another 60 billion worth of U.S. goods.rdquo;

Experts say we could be seeing higher prices as a result of this escalation as early as this summer, and that has economists yelling, ldquo;Buy, buy, buy nowrdquo; in order to avoid what a report from Oxford Economics estimates will be an 800 hit to every U.S. household.

There is some question as to how the tariffs will play outmdash;after all, Trump said that China will suffer most of the economic impact. ldquo;Yet experts say the burden will land squa>

So what can you do? Ramp up future spending now, if possible.

ldquo;To get ahead of the next waves of tariffs, University of California, Davis, professor of economics and specialist in international trade Katheryn Russ recommends buying some items now, if possible mdash; such as backpacks and other back-to-school supplies mdash; rather than holding off until later in the year,rdquo; said CNBC. Ditto for things like iPhones; ldquo;The price for an iPhone XS would rise to 1,142, up from 1,000, if the White House implements a 25 tariff on the rest of China imports, J.P. Morgan said in a note to clients.rdquo; Expect a ldquo;similar impact on TVs and everyday purchases, ldquo;where consumers will be harder hit, such as frozen food and paper goods, including diapers and paper towels.rdquo;

Phil Crone, Executive Officer of the Dallas Builders Association, warns of the effect on the housing market. ldquo;From tile to countertops, laminates, lighting, and furnishing, about 450 products commonly found in new homes and remodeling projects are seeing tariffs rise from 10 percent to 25 percent,rdquo; he said. ldquo;According to the National Association of Home Builders NAHB, homeowners and homebuilders nationwide will be paying an additional 2.5 billion.rdquo;


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How Transit-Supported Development Could Solve Affordability Issues

A recent survey of young urban families in Canada found that proximity to public transit is one of their top considerations when purchasing a home. The survey found that 28 per cent of families rank transit-friendly neighbourhoods as a priority, while 17 per cent considered car-friendliness is a priority. Four per cent cited cycling-friendly neighbourhoods.

ldquo;Transportation and housing have always been inextricably linked. Investments into any transportation infrastructure, whether rapid transit, bus lines, roads or bike lanes, not only have a direct impact on a communityrsquo;s quality of life, but often, real estate values,rdquo; says Brad Henderson, president and CEO of Sothebyrsquo;s International Realty Canada, which conducted the survey with Mustel Group.

ldquo;The importance that many of todayrsquo;s young families are placing on neighbourhood public transit access when home buying reflects changing attitudes and values, the strains of cost of living, as well as improvements to transit infrastructure made to date,rdquo; says Henderson.

ldquo;These priorities also point to what this influential group of buyers will deem prime real estate locations in the future.rdquo;

The young families cited safety as the No. 1 priority for their neighbourhoods. Transit-friendly neighbourhoods were a priority for 30 per cent of respondents in Vancouver, 29 per cent in Toronto and Montreal and 21 per cent in Calgary. Having a location that was car-friendly was most important to Calgary residents at 20 per cent, followed by 19 per cent of Montreal families, 17 per cent of Toronto families and 13 per cent of Vancouver respondents.

Montrealrsquo;s families were most interested in cycling-friendly neighbourhoods at seven per cent, followed by Vancouver and Calgary at five per cent and Toronto at two per cent.

A shortage of housing options in Toronto and Vancouver, in particular, continue to price young families out of the downtown real estate markets and push them further to the suburbs. Several recent studies suggest that building more transit-supported development ntilde; homes within a 10-minute walk of public transit ntilde; could help provide more affordable housing options and >

A report from the Pembina Institute says that the population in the Greater Toronto Horseshoe Area is expected to grow by 110,000 people every year, to more than 10 million by 2041. The City of Toronto will get about 20 per cent of this growth, but the outlining suburbs will grow the most dramatically.

The Pembina report has three examples of how people living in transit-supported developments could save significant money.

A young professional making 75,000, which includes most first-time home buyers, could lower housing and transportation costs by 10 per cent to 11 per cent by getting rid of their car and taking transit instead, says the Pembina report. Families with a 120,000 yearly income could save 40 per cent to 45 per cent by moving from a detached home to a two-bedroom condo and from two cars to one, replacing that car with transit use. A retiree with a 25,000 income could go from a detached home to a one-bedroom condo and get rid of their car, resulting in a saving of 50 to 56 per cent.

A study by the Centre for Urban Research amp; Land Development CUR identified almost 200 existing or under-development major transit modes across Ontario. It says there is almost 1,500 square km of land within 800 metres of a major transit mode that could support more development.

ldquo;Outdated city bylaws protect much of it from higher transit-supported density development,rdquo; says CUR. ldquo;Carefully implementing as-of-right zoning along transit corridors is likely to be an effective action governments in Ontario can take to make room for additional housing supply.rdquo;

The study says, ldquo;A conservative estimate would suggest that re-zoning could encourage yearly construction around under-zoned transit nodes and lines by up to 25 housing units per square km at a minimum. That could translate into a minimum of 20,000 more units per year along transit corridors in Ontario,rdquo; says the CUR report.

The CUR and Pembina report both recommend that municipal bylaws and zoning be reviewed to allow for transit-supportive zoning.

ldquo;Public policy interventions are needed to ensure equitable transit-supported development, which means ensuring there are housing options to meet the needs of low-and moderate-income households,rdquo; says the Pembina report, adding that providing mixed-income housing near transit stations ldquo;can give families with low and moderate household incomes an equal opportunity to live near work or commute by transit, thereby saving money on both housing and transportation.rdquo;

Recently the Ontario government introduced a housing action plan that includes ldquo;making it easier to transform commuter parking lots at transit stations into places with homes and businesses.rdquo;

It says it has already introduced development plans for two Toronto transit hubs ldquo;and this is just the startrdquo;. But there has already been opposition to the governmentrsquo;s plan from municipal councillors, who say the plan is just a way for developers to make more money and wonrsquo;t provide more affordable housing.


Full Story >


Are You Grown Up Enough to Be a Homeowner?

Do you know the true costs of homeownership?

Yes, you have a handle on what your principal, interest, taxes, and insurance are going to cost. But have you factored in the other costs? Homeownerrsquo;s association fees, tolls, gas, and other commuter costs, landscaping help, and increased utility costs could all add to your monthly expenses and push the affordability factor out of reach.

Are you aware of closing costs?

Many first-time buyers arenrsquo;t prepared to pay thousands of dollars on top of their down payment. Getting an estimate upfront is key to making sure you have what you need to close.

Are you being realistic about home appreciation?

Homebuyers love to look at home appreciation over a period of time and then use those numbers to project how much their home value will increase in the next few years. Itrsquo;s human nature. But it can also be dangerous if yoursquo;re counting on that appreciation to move up or on in a few yearsrsquo; time.

Itrsquo;s important to remember that the real estate market is cyclical, and, while short-term gains are great, historical long-term gains also make real estate one of the safest and most successful investment strategies. ldquo;Housing was the worldrsquo;s best investment over the last 150 years,rdquo; said Quartz.

If your home does increase in value, what will you do with the equity?

Hope your answer wasnrsquo;t, ldquo;Go shoppingrdquo; or ldquo;Buy a new carrdquo; That kind of thinking can get you in troublemdash;in fact, it did get a lot of people in trouble during the last downturn. Responsible use of home equity is key to remaining financially stable. When you use your equity for things other than home improvement, yoursquo;re increasing your monthly costs but not your home value. Now it costs more to live in your home, and itrsquo;s at risk if you get in over your head and default on your loan.

Are you planning to run out and furnish every inch of the home right away?

Doing so could put you several thousand dollars in additional debt just as yoursquo;re transitioning to homeownership. Financial experts recommend easing into your new home and making sure the monthly output is what you expect and can manage before taking on too much additional debt.

Do you pay your bills on time?

There are those of us who like to pay bills right when we receive them and those of us who pay them when we get a notification that wersquo;re about to incur a late fee. Wersquo;ve been both of those people. If yoursquo;re not used tomdash;or fond of or good atmdash;managing your bills, you may find yourself with no water or electricity. Investopedia has some great tools to help you get more organized.

How good are you at facing your issues?

We can procrastinate with the best of lsquo;em and we have. We can put off fixing a problemmdash;personal, professional, or otherwise and we have. We can wait too long to take care of a little problem in the house and turn it into a big, huge, much more expensive problem and we have. Being a homeowner means stepping up when the house needs you. And it will need you at some point. Are you ready to make it a priority?

Would you rather take a bucket list vacation or fix up your kitchen?

A trip to the see the Northern Lights would be amazinghellip;but would it be better than being able to run your hands over your new Quartz countertops every day? You may need to make some hard decisions as a homeowner. Whether or not itrsquo;s worth depends on how important the goal of buying a home is.

Do you have a solid support system?

Sometimes you just need someone you can vent to, sometimes you need someone to come fix a smoke detector 20 feet up thatrsquo;s going off in the middle of the night. If yoursquo;re used to living at home, where parents take care of everything, or in an apartment where you can call the manager, the realization that this is all your responsibility now can be a shock to the system. There are a few things you can do to make sure yoursquo;re prepared for whatever comes your way:

bull; Mine Nextdoor ahead of time for resources plumber, electrician, garage door expert you can reach out to when needed
bull; Find a good handyman as soon as you move in
bull; Meet and exchange contact information with your neighbors
bull; Consider getting a home warranty, especially if your home is older and yoursquo;re concerned about the large expense of a new hot water heater or air conditioning unit


Full Story >


Bitcoin vs. Property Investment: The Risks

However, if you are looking to invest some money but either have enough property already, or just fancy something a bit different, could Bitcoin be the answer yoursquo;ve been waiting for?

Investing in Bitcoin comes with a mighty element of risk, but then this could be true of investing in anything as you can never guarantee a positive return on that investment, no matter what yoursquo;re buying into or how calculated you think yoursquo;ve been with weighing up the pros and cons.

External factors in all investments

Bitcoin has been compared to commodities such as gold, but how does it compare to property? Is it really riskier that buying property?

All investments, whether it be cryptocurrencies, property or almost anything else you can think of, come with a whole plethora of external factors which cannot be controlled or predicted by you as the investor. Whilst you have some control over your investment, e.g. by deciding how much money you want to invest, and what you want to invest in, the truth of the matter is that no matter what you decide to invest in, there will always be factors that dictate changes that may affect your investment which you will not be able to prevent. In terms of property, such factors can include fluctuating prices of the property market, consumer demand and other costs associated with buying and letting property taxes, stamp duty etc.

So, with this in mind, is it less risky to invest in Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin?

Bitcoin: the additional risks

Unlike the physical commodity of property, the online based cryptocurrencies are far more exposed to fraud through hacking issues. Unfortunately, too many hackers are able to commit crimes when it comes to the theft of cryptocurrency, as letrsquo;s be honest, it is far easier for someone to steal Bitcoin off of you than it is for someone to steal an entire property from you, especially as a lot of the time you will not know that you have been stolen from until you next login.

With this is mind, many people would argue that investing in Bitcoin poses a far higher risk than property, although it must be bared in mind that with Bitcoin you do not have the other risks that come with investing in property, especially if you intend to rent this property out to tenants.

So, what should I invest in, Bitcoin or Property?

Ultimately, all investments carry potential risks, and there is not a clear answer to this question. In terms of both, ensure never to invest when the price is high, keep an eye on fluctuations and make your move when the time is right. Regardless of what you choose to invest in, remember that your security and the safety of your assets and investments should be the top priority. Carry out your own research and you will soon find that investment in property and bitcoin are just as risky as each other, it is simply down to the choice of the investor.


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One Story or Two Story? The Advantagesand Disadvantagesof Each.

Are you open to either? Do you feel like the right home will ldquo;speakrdquo; to you regardless of the number of floors? Letrsquo;s take a look at some of the realities of living of both, with a few things you may not have thought of.

Cost-per-square-foot

A one-story home may seem more expensive if itrsquo;s priced against a larger two-story home, but you have to take the price-per-square-footage into account to see the value. They typically ldquo;cost less per square foot to build,rdquo; said Bensonwood. ldquo;Thatrsquo;s because the most expensive elements of home-buildingmdash;excavation/foundation and rafters/roof installationmdash;are being built on a smaller footprint. Plus, yoursquo;ll have less roof area to maintain.rdquo;

Containing the mess

Kids may be more likely to keep their mess contained to the second level, where guests wonrsquo;t see it. When their rooms are on the main level, their stuff has a way of migrating into main living areas.

Stairs are dangerous

Yes, people do fall down the stairs. In fact, the National Safety Council ranks stairway falls ldquo;second only to motor vehicle accidents as a leading cause of accidental injury,rdquo; according to USClaims. Injuries can include bruises, sprains, and bone breaks, as well as more serious traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries leading to paralysis.

If the potential for injury is of concern, especially with young children, there are precautions you can take to make stairs safer, including carpeting the surface and making sure the area is well-lit.

The health benefits

Stairs give you a built-in butt workout, but theyrsquo;re actually good for the whole body. ldquo;Climbing stairs is a great form of cardio exercise,rdquo; said Truweight. ldquo;While climbing stairs, you work against gravity lifting your entire body. This activity strengthens your leg muscles making it a rather strenuous exercise.rdquo; It can also ldquo;improve your heart rate and healthrdquo; as well as strengthen joints and muscles.

Let the fresh air in

If you have a one-story home, you likely keep the windows locked up tight, especially at night. But therersquo;s a sense of security that comes from being upstairs. And, as Shayan Jalali, a sales associate for Keller Williams in Boston, said on Realtor.com, ldquo;A thief is unlikely to shimmy up your drain pipe just to check out your goods, and far less likely to shimmy down it with your flat-screen TV.rdquo;

You may be safer in an emergency

You should have an evacuation plan for everyone in the household to follow regardless of what type of home you live in. But, some buyers prefer to have a single-story because it can be easier to evacuate in an emergency.

ldquo;Unfortunately, natural disastersmdash;and some manmade disasters such as firesmdash;do happen,rdquo; said The Balance. ldquo;This can be a primary consideration depending on your location. You might have to think about the possibility of tornadoes in the Midwest, tidal flooding on the Eastern seaboard, or earthquakes in California. In any case, youll want to be able to evacuate your home quickly and efficiently under the worst circumstances, maybe even while youre still half asleep. This tends to be easier in a one-story dwelling.rdquo;

Defined spaces

Bedrooms upstairs, gathering spaces downstairs. Thats the way it should be, right? Thatrsquo;s what many families lean towardmdash;hence the enduring popularity of these plans.

Mobility issues

Young families arenrsquo;t the only ones who prefer single-story homes. If yoursquo;re approaching retirement age, you may be thinking about whether or not itrsquo;s smart to buy a home with stairs. The truth is mobility issues may be many years away or they may never affect you at all. There are also ways you can adapt a two-story home, like adding a chairlift or elevator. Or, you can choose a single story for your forever home and forgo the hassle or expensive renovations.


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How Much Does a Pool Add to the Sale Price of a House

Thatrsquo;s because whilst homes can appreciate in value, pools do not. A pool is like a motor vehicle ndash; once it has been used, its value starts depreciating, and a pool that is more than 10 years old would have almost no value at all in a real estate transaction.

Of course, there are exceptions to that general rule. A well-constructed concrete pool using high-quality materials in a high-end property, and which has been well maintained throughout its life, is still going to have value after 10 years.

Mr Pool Man, a leading supplier of high-quality pool pumps and filtration equipment, says the condition and quality of the pool fixtures and fittings that have been used also has a big impact on whether an older pool can hold its value. But the average quality pool in a suburban home is likely to depreciate at around the same rate as a motor vehicle ndash; a large drop in value the first year, and then steadily decreasing until there is not much resale value left at the end of a decade.

So the answer to the question as to whether the cost of installing a pool can be recouped in a property sale is almost certainly no.

As to the question of how much can be added to the sale price to reflect the value of the pool depends on a range of other factors aside from age:

Type of pool

Only professionally constructed in-ground pools with a shotcrete, gunite or tiled finish are capable of holding much value beyond 10 years. Even then, the value is going to be largely dependent on its condition and the quality of fixtures and fittings.

Any noticeable cracks in the surface of the pool - even without any evidence of leakage - is going to reduce its value.nbsp;

Many manufacturers of fiberglass pools claim their pools can hold their value as long as concrete pools. Technically that is true at least for the first 10 years, but in practice most homeowners donrsquo;t keep the water quality at an optimum level throughout the year, and this often results in premature discoloring of the gel coat finish on the fiberglass.

Any discoloring of the surface of the pool is going to result in the pool looking older than it might really be, thus having some impact on the amount that can be added to the selling price of the property.

Pools that have a vinyl liner are the cheapest to install and this is reflected in the fact that they have the lowest resale value. Vinyl liners have to be replaced every five years or so, so unless the liner has been fairly recently replaced, it is unlikely that the value that a buyer would place on this type of pool would be anything close to its installation cost.

Buyerrsquo;s needs

After the age and the type of the pool, the factor that has the most influence on the extent to which the selling price of the property can be inflated to recoup some of the installation costs of the pool is whether the buyer is actively seeking to buy a property with a pool.

This is where the issue of how much to add to the selling price becomes very subjective because whilst some buyers ndash; families with children for example ndash; may be actively seeking a house with a pool, others may be ambivalent about whether the property has a pool or not.

In fact having a pool may even turn away some buyers who do not want a pool because whilst a pool may enhance the look of a house and garden, if the new homeowners have no intention of using it, they will need to still spend money on keeping it maintained to avoid it becoming unsightly with green algae.

Rule of Thumb

So with one of those factors being so subjective, how is it possible to estimate a figure to add to the sale price of the house to account for the value of the pool? A good rule of thumb is to work out what the cost of installing the pool represents as a percentage of the cost of building or buying the house. Generally that figure is around 10-15 percent. Then take half that figure and apply that percentage to what would have been the sale price of the house. So, for example, if the cost of building the pool was 12 percent of the cost of building the house, then increase the selling price of the house by 6 percent.

Of course, that price needs to be compared with the market price of similar properties that may have been sold in the same area, and for older houses with older pools, that figure may end up only being a starting point from which you will have to negotiate, but at least you will have a figure that represents the maximum likely return from a house and pool sale.


Full Story >


Requirement Differences Between Conforming and Jumbo Loans

Yet while both are approved in much the same manner, there are some approval differences that need to be pointed out. This can be especially important if the sales price on a home is very close to either choice. Perhaps a home is listed at 600,000. With a 20 down payment the loan would be 480,000. With a 10 down payment, it would fall into the jumbo category.

One of the requirements >

It used to be, up until the late 1950s, that mortgage lenders would cap the loan amount at 80 or lower. This extra equity cushion was needed should the loan go into default. Foreclosing on a property is costly for the lender and without this cushion lenders could be automatically ldquo;upside downrdquo; with a property, losing money upon sale. This meant home buyers had to come up with more money for a down payment, meaning buying later after saving more or being kept out of the home buying process altogether.

PMI on the other hand offered a solution. PMI would compensate the lender the difference between the buyerrsquo;s down payment and 80 of the value. If the buyers put down 10, PMI would cover an amount that would compensate the lender the difference. Remember, PMI is indeed an insurance policy.

But there are no PMI policies available for jumbo loans, only conforming ones. This is a big requirement difference between the two.

This translates into a jumbo down payment of at least 20 of the sales price and borrowers with a 25 down payment get slightly better terms. There are programs where lower down payments are accepted but must be accompanied by secondary financing to keep the primary mortgage at 80 of the propertyrsquo;s value.

Another >

Debt ratios, the percentage of debt compared to gross monthly income, are also a bit more restrictive with a jumbo loan. Conforming loans can accept debt ratios approaching 50, which means total monthly credit obligations approach nearly half of qualifying monthly income. Note however, when a lender approves a loan with such ratios, there will be other compensating factors in the file such as high credit scores, a large down payment, significant cash reserves and other positive features. Jumbo loans on the other hand will ra>There can be other differences as individual jumbo lenders have the ability to require more documentation of income, employment and assets, but in general, these are the main difference you need to know about.


Full Story >


Creating a Home Workout Space Without Sacrificing Style

The Workout Space

Maybe you have already thought about or tried a temporary workout space. This would be a multifunctional space like a yoga mat that can be set up in the living room then put away. Itrsquo;s quick and easy and there are plenty of workout routines that can be done in a fairly small space including lifting weights or doing squats and lunges. Afterward you can roll up the mat and put it away. Yoga mats have the added benefits of providing cushion on wood or tile floors and muffling the sound of your feet. If your mat or area rug slips, use rug grippers under them to keep them in place.

If you are able to set aside a space that can always be used as your gym, you can decorate it in a way that inspires a good workout. First, pick an open space such as an extra bedroom, loft, or patio that is low-traffic and uncluttered. Avoid putting objects here that are breakable or hazardous because you could run into sharp table corners or knock over vases during active exercises like jumping and dancing. Make sure that your area is light and well ventilated. Natural light is ideal but you can add other lighting to brighten it up. Keep a fan nearby or make sure your space has AC or windows so you wonrsquo;t overheat. If you want large exercise equipment, measure your space first to make sure you have room for it.

Stocking Your Home Gym

You will want to make sure you have everything you need but you can still add >

Give It A Theme

Try finding a theme to compliment your workout. For a bohemian yoga sanctuary, use a large tapestry in warm tones and add a few crystals, an oil diffuser, a salt lamp, or perhaps wicker storage units. You could create a more organic space with plants and a small, calming fountain or a few flowers. Conversely, you might not want this room to stand out so much. Make it flow with the rest of house more and still hint at its purpose with ballerina art by Degas, inspirational quotes, a cork board to post your goals, progress, and workout schedule, or even a bookcase if yoursquo;ve created a space that is >

nbsp;However you express your >
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4 Best Reasons Why a Power-Loomed Rug is the Smart Choice for Your New Place

THEYrsquo;RE GORGEOUS

Todayrsquo;s power-loomed rugs are designed with the same, intricately detailed patterns that yoursquo;ll find in fine hand-knotted rugs. Rug-makers have come a long way in developing power-looming technology, using computer-driven looms that control every aspect of the weaving process. Modern looms can incorporate many more colors and types of yarns than ever before, resulting in beautifully detailed patterns and a wide range of textures and finishes. From washed hues and distressed finishes to raised motifs and soft close-cut piles, power loomed rugs offer a treasure trove of decorative choices.

FAMILY AND PET FRIENDLY ndash; YES, A RUG YOUR DOG OR CHILDREN WONrsquo;T RUIN

One of the many benefits of a power-loomed rug is that theyrsquo;re durable; able to withstand the wear and tear of everyday family living within reason. Whether its dirty shoes, spilt juice or an overly-enthusiastic puppy, power loomed rugs made with synthetic yarns are easy-care and easy-clean. And, should your new rug become the victim of a mess of unspeakable magnitude, power loomed rugs are the most reasonably priced area rugs on the market, so itrsquo;s not like a ldquo;thousand-yearrdquo; spill will be ruining a costly family heirloom.

VARIETY AT A MODEST COST

Whether you want a rug that looks like a >

VERSATILE ndash; A RUG FOR EVERY ROOM

Power-loomed rugs are also made in a variety of designs, >

nbsp;


nbsp;Photos provided bynbsp;Safavieh. View additional rugs in this collection.


Full Story >


Find The Right Agent For You

Finding the right Realtorreg; to help you with buying or selling a home can seem daunting. Your best friends sisters cousin may be an agent referral but does that mean that theyre the right agent to fulfill your needs? Getting referrals from friends and family is great but sometimes those referrals dont work out and can lead to strains in >

Credentials Matter

Your family doctor or kids teacher required education to do their jobs. A good agent requires specialized training and knowledge for their job as well. Agents may have acronyms after their name on the business card which can represent a few different specialties or areas of expertise:

  • SRES Seniors Real Estate Specialist - trained to assist buyers ages 50 and older to buy and sell a home.
  • CRS Certified Residential Specialist - trained to help buyers in the home buying and selling markets
  • ABR Accredited Buyers Representative - trained to represent buyers in transactions
  • GRI Graduate, Realtorreg; Institute - the National Association of Realtorsreg; most comprehensive training on a broad range of subjects, including all the ones mentioned above

The right credentials will ensure that the agent has received proper training in the field to help you.

Experience and Referrals

A seasoned agent with an excellent track record is the type of agent that you would want to represent your sale. Someone who has been actively and successfully working in the local market for at least 5 years is a good suggestion. Also getting the detailed information on the agentrsquo;s experience and track record can be a key indicator to the type of success that you can expect. You can request a list of recent sales and client contact information from the agent to find out about past customer experiences. Finding out how long the properties were on the market is a great question to ask as well.

Passion For The Job

Finding an agent that loves what they do can make or break a sale. Their passion in the field and the reason for working in real estate can be a motivating factor to go above and beyond to help a client with the sale of their property. Ask your agent why they decided to enter this field to see if their values align with your own. If the agent is only concerned with walking away with money at the end of the day, then you know their love is not in what they do but the paycheck for their wallet.

Communication

One of the biggest things that anyone in the customer service industry can do is provide outstanding communication. This applies to buying home as well. The agent should communicate promptly whether its by phone, e-mail or mail. If a phone message is left with the agent, a return call should be expected within 24 hours or less. E-mails should receive the same turn-around time. Dont be afraid to ask the agent how promptly they return communication requests to set expectations from the beginning. If the agent does not meet the expectations, dont be afraid to discuss this with your agent and request improvements.

Customer Service

In line with communication, customer service is huge when it comes to buy a home. If youre selling a property and your agent is having an open house, find out what theyre doing to prepare for it. Do they advertise? Do they give you tips to help stage the house properly? Anticipating the needs of the buyer and seller and being attuned to their individual situation can show the difference between just a mediocre agent and an outstanding agent.


Full Story >


Trespassers May Be Easier to Forgive than to Forget

Just Try to Keep Them Out

You can generally keep others from entering and using your property - but not always. In rural areas, trespass is usually someone either taking a shortcut over someone else or using anotherrsquo;s property for recreation, like hunting or ATVing.

Country-property owners normally find one of three types of trespassers:

1 Those who feel they have a right to be on your land even though they know they donrsquo;t;

2 Those who know better but trespass anyway;

3 and those who actually do have a legal right to be there.

Every State is Different

Each state defines trespass. Itrsquo;s generally understood to mean entering on or using land without the ownerrsquo;s consent.

But some states allow hunters to retrieve hunting dogs or pursue wounded game even if the landowner objects. And some states allow others to be on your land if you donrsquo;t do exactly what yoursquo;re supposed to do to keep them off.

Hunting seasons - like November for deer - bring a lot of people into Americarsquo;s woods and fields. Hunters are generally much better about seeking landowner permission than the casual city-visitor out for a country weekend. Hunters make a point of finding out who owns what, which lands are open and which owners will agree to hunting.

Trespass can be either a civil or criminal offense, usually a misdemeanor. When a landowner asks a law-enforcement officer to make an arrest, criminal law is being invoked. Civil trespass involves a landowner suing for damages arising from a trespasserrsquo;s acts.

Herersquo;s What a Landowner Should do to Control Trespass:

bull; Research your state law. Find out what a landownerrsquo;s rights are and what notice is required to place land off-limits.

bull; Provide notice. Landowners need to meet a statersquo;s notice rules for informing the public that uninvited visitors are unwelcome. This usually involves an oral or written request, public announcement and/or posting signs on the land.

bull; Written notice should state that the landowner wants no trespassing and describe the property covered.

bull; Put the word out locally. Ask your neighbors to help you get the word around, particularly if the property had been open. Take an ad out in the local newspaper just before hunting season.

bull; Post your boundary lines. Tack up ldquo;No-Trespassingrdquo; signs. Twenty-two states allow trespassing if land isnrsquo;t posted. Some demand that a landowner comply with fiendishly detailed posting rules, which may specify the size of the sign and its letters, spacing along boundary lines, sign height and colors.

bull; Say exactly what you mean. ldquo;No Trespassingrdquo; bars everyone; ldquo;No Huntingrdquo; only prohibits hunters; ldquo;Private Propertyrdquo; says nothing about keeping anyone off.

bull; Alaska insists that a posted sign state explicitly the specific prohibitions the landowner wants to prevent. Up there, if you donrsquo;t post against trespassers engaging in consensual >

bull; Consider something like: ldquo;No admittance is permitted to the property of ____ [include address and phone] by anyone without written authorization, except for fire suppression, law enforcement and emergency protection of life or property.rdquo;

bull; Trespassing and hunting. Hunters do not have the right to hunt on your land if you do whatever might be required to prevent it.

bull; Arizona, for example, allows hunters to enter private land for hunting unless itrsquo;s lawfully posted.

bull; Kansas allows trespassing by licensed hunters to pursue wounded game, except when the landowner instructs the hunter to leave.

bull; Michigan and Louisiana allow trespass to retrieve a hunting dog as long as the trespasser is unarmed. Virginia allows fox hunters and coon hunters to follow their dogs on prohibited land if the chase begins on other lands.

Plan ahead. What should you do when you catch trespassers in the act?

bull; First, ask them to leave and explain why. Call the sheriff if they refuse.

bull; Second, consider giving the trespasser a face-saving out. Suggest, perhaps, he didnrsquo;t know that your land was posted even though hersquo;s standing an inch away from your blinking, neon ldquo;No-Trespassingrdquo; sign thatrsquo;s larger than Andre, the Giant.

bull; Third, keep trespass in perspective. Trespassing doesnrsquo;t harm a landowner or his property most of the time.

What not to do. Landowners ra>

bull; Donrsquo;t manhandle a trespasser or ram his vehicle. Reasonable force might be justified if a trespasser physically threatens a landowner.

bull; Avoid fights with drunks and armed men in bad moods. If yoursquo;re threatened, walk away - after establishing that yoursquo;ve asked them to leave and getting their names or license-plate numbers.

bull; ldquo;Citizen arrestrdquo; does not generally apply since it prevents the trespasser from undoing his trespass by leaving. West Virginia, however, allows a landowner to assume the powers and rights of a game warden and personally arrest a hunter-trespasser and take him before a justice of the peace for trial.

bull; Donrsquo;t call a trespasser a liar to his face, especially in front of his fellow Trespassers. People caught at wrongdoing donrsquo;t like their integrity challenged.

bull; Donrsquo;t dig Burmese tiger traps to catch chronic trespassers unless you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Burmese tigers are now fairly common on your farm near Altoona, Pennsylvania.

bull; Never sic your dog on trespassers, particularly one who likes his belly rubbed by strangers.

bull; Be consistent. Landowners should not allow themselves to be argued into granting access to their property. Exceptions establish precedents.

bull; Attractive nuisance. If you have a pond that has been the neighborhood swimming hole since before Columbus, you may have to install extra keep-out measuresmdash;like a fence and a locked gate. If a trespasser drowns in your attractive nuisance, you can be held liable.

bull; Donrsquo;t humor wise guys. Woody Guthriersquo;s ldquo;This Land is Your Landrdquo; contains an oft-unsung verse in which he rambles up to a ldquo;No-Trespassingrdquo; sign. Woody believed that its other side, which is blank, is the one made for you and me.

bull; Anyone who quotes this line is a trespasser who knows better. Inform him that yoursquo;ve written ldquo;No Trespassingrdquo; on the blank side as well hellip; with invisible ink, and kick him off.

bull; Trespass is always annoying but only occasionally dangerous. Most of us do it sooner or later, which is why forgiveness should be both accepted and extended.


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


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Planting Milkweed This Spring Could Help Save Monarch Butterflies

According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, ldquo;Californiarsquo;s monarch butterfly numbers are at an all-time low, having declined more than 85 percent from 2017,rdquo; said Newsweek. ldquo;This sudden drop comes after years of steady decline: A massive 97 percent of monarch butterflies have already disappeared since the 1980s. Back then, 10 million monarchs wintered in California. This year, the Xerces Society counted just 28,429.rdquo;

Experts say we could be looking at extinction of the species within the next two decades, largely because of diminishing landscapes and pesticidesmdash;if nothing is done. And thatrsquo;s where humans come in. If yoursquo;re already looking to do some planting in your garden this spring, consider milkweed.

ldquo;Monarch butterflies making their way back to North America from their winter habitat in Mexico follow a well-marked trail,rdquo; said Gardenerrsquo;s Supply Company. ldquo;These striking orange-and-black butterflies are looking for one thing: milkweed asclepias. And when you plant milkweed in your garden, its like rolling out a welcome mat for monarchs.rdquo;

There are plenty of plants that provide nectar for monarchs and hummingbirds, such as:

bull; Zinnias
bull; Agastache lsquo;Avarsquo;
bull; Mexican Sunflowers
bull; Brazilian Verbena
bull; Dwarf Butterfly Bushes
bull; Bottlebrush

But the key difference that makes milkweed so crucial to monarchs is that its leaves ldquo;are the only food monarch caterpillars eat,rdquo; said Gardenerrsquo;s Supply Company. ldquo;Monarchs butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants so the tiny caterpillars will have access to food the moment they hatch. The milkweed plant provides all the nourishment the monarch needs to transform the Monarch caterpillar into the adult butterfly.rdquo;

You can find milkweed that thrive in nearly any climate and sun conditions. But its critical to choose the right type depending on your setting, and your goals.

ldquo;When planting milkweed in your garden, itrsquo;s important to choose a species of milkweed thatrsquo;s native to your region whenever possible,rdquo; said Savvy Gardening. ldquo;Thankfully, there are several milkweed species that have a broad native range and are suitable for planting across much of North America.rdquo;

Savvy Gardening has a good overview of preferred species of milkweed for different settings, including:

bull; Swamp Milkweedmdash;It grows in saturated soils, but also ldquo;grows just fine in well-drained garden soil. Itrsquo;s clump forming, so unlike some other milkweed species, it doesnrsquo;t take over the garden with spreading roots.rdquo;
bull; Common Milkweedmdash;What used to be everywhere is less common today as a result of pesticides. ldquo;The large, round globes of common milkweed flowers are a favorite of many pollinators. But, this plant comes with a warning: It is an extremely aggressive spreader, forming large colonies that spread not just by seed, but also by underground roots called rhizomes. Yoursquo;ll want to give common milkweed plenty of room.rdquo;
bull; Purple Milkweedmdash;This can be harder to find, and also attracts bees.
bull; Butterfly Weedmdash;Unique for its orange flowers, ldquo;Butterfly weed doesnrsquo;t like to be transplanted, so starting from seed may prove more fruitful, though it can take years for a plant to go from seed to flower.rdquo;
bull; Showy Milkweedmdash;So named because ldquo;the flower clusters of showy milkweed look like groups of pointed starsrdquo; and has ldquo;spiky, pinky-purple blooms.rdquo;
bull; Whorled Milkweedmdash;This species of milkweed ldquo;has a soft, feathery appearance, and since it tops out at about 3 feet in height, it makes a great addition to a perennial border. The flowers of this species are a soft white with just a hint of pink at their centers.rdquo;


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7 Tips To Help Your Family Survive A Summer Renovation Project

The following tips will help you and your family survive a summer renovation project.

Decide What You Will Keep

Before the start of a renovation project, take a close look at the belongings in the area that will be renovated. Decide which of these belongings you and your family would like to keep. Indecision on these matters can cause delays with your project. Anything you do not intend to use in the new place should be discarded or donated.

Find A New Parking Space

The contractor working in your home will need to come and go throughout the day. Your contractor will need to bring workers and materials to your home. You should make sure contractors and workers have easy access to your home. It may be necessary for you to park further away from your home so your contractor can have access to your home.

Protect Adjoining Rooms

Your remodeling project may affect rooms other than the room where the work is being completed. For instance, repair work and drilling in one room can cause items in adjoining rooms to become dislodged and suffer damage. You should declutter these adjoining rooms and place fragile items in a location they will be safe.

Provide Alternative Entryways

You should provide one point of entry to your home for your family and another for workers. You should make sure the entryway used for workers is free of toys, bicycles, and other things that will block the pathway of workers. Make sure the path available to workers provides them with access to the main electrical panel and shut-off valve for the water.

Remember To Enjoy The Summer

There will be times during the remodeling project that the best thing for you and your family to do is leave the home. The noise of repair work and the odors created by things like paint and floor finish will at times seem unbearable.

This would be a great time to enjoy the many great places to visit in your city or a nearby town. Home renovators in Utah can search for hotels in Utah to provide them with a place for their family to have fun and >

Minimize Dust Spread

There is a risk of dust spread throughout your home during a home renovation project. Your contractor will try to contain dust in the area where he or she is working but this will not always be possible. There are a number of ways you can help with this goal:

bull; Keep interior doors closed.

bull; Seal doors with painting tape or plastic sheeting.

bull; Protect stairs with runners or plastic sheeting.

bull; Replace HVAC filters both during and after the renovation project.

Protect Kids And Pets

Children are naturally curious and will be drawn to the site of the renovation project. Do not allow them in an area where work is being done. They should also not be allowed in a room where a renovation project is underway during non-work hours without supervision. The noise and new faces in your home will also cause your pets to become excited. They will also need to be kept away from the worksite.

Many families choose the summertime to schedule home renovation projects. While there are definite advantages to completing renovation projects during the summer months, there are also a few reasons for concern. The seven tips mentioned above will make a summer renovation project more manageable for your family.


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Why Social Media Should Be Your Best Friend When House Hunting

Get to know your neighbors

You can learn a lot by spending time in the neighborhood where you are considering buying a home. But if you can get access to the neighborhood Nextdoor, yoursquo;ll get a behind-the-scenes peek at who lives there.

Keep in mind that every arearsquo;s Nextdoor is filled with the requisite wild animal sightings, landscaping gripes, and grumps who want everyone to slow down while driving and wait until after 10am to mow the lawn on Saturdays. But if therersquo;s something that stands out as a red flag, you might want to do a little more research into the place yoursquo;re looking to call home.

To know what happened in your house

Is it invasive to read through the timeline of sellers on Facebook or look through their Instagram feed? If they donrsquo;t have their social media pages set to private, you might be able to get some background on the house. Maybe they posted pictures of before-and-after renovations. Maybe the house had a flood or fire or some other issue that they havenrsquo;t disclosed. Maybe those countertops that you thought were real marble are really a 90 DIY paint-over-laminate situation. The more information you can gather about the house and its condition and its history, the more confident you may feel making an offer, or walking away.

To keep up with mortgage rates

Mortgage rates have been all over the place this year, rising one week and taking a surprising dip the next. Following a site like Bankrate or Nerdwallet on Facebook or Twitter can ensure that you know whatrsquo;s happening, so you can save money wherever possible when buying a home.

To learn more about real estate in your neighborhood

Nextdoor is also a great place to learn about homes for sale that may not be on the MLS and rentals. Both can potentially affect your decision to purchase a home there.

Homebuyers are going to look at Zillow, Redfin, and Truliamdash;itrsquo;s inevitable. But do so with an understanding of what yoursquo;re looking at. You can review actual home sales to compare prices in different areas. But trusting estimates on these sites that are typically many thousands of dollars off and not reflective of actual, current sales can be dangerous. Itrsquo;s best to trust the comparative analysis your real estate agent provides to you.


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Heres the Thing About TV Niches, and Five Ways to Transform Them into Something Better

We can personally attest to dealing with more like enduring a TV niche that was both poorly located and improperly sized. Shoved into the corner of the living room, it suffered from extreme glare coming through floor-to-ceiling, west-facing windows and created an unfortunate scenario in which there was only one good seat in the room: the one directly in front of the TV.

The massive sizemdash;and uneven measurements from front to backmdash;also made TV and furniture selection challenging. Nothing ever looked right in there, and it became a constant source of frustrationmdash;so much so that we found ourselves not using the room.

Our solution: >

Of course, this is just one idea for how to transform an odd, awkward, or unusable TV niche into something decidedly better.

Home office

A TV niche is the perfect spot to tuck in a home office. We love these table tops from IKEA from just 8.99 that you can attach to the wall for a built-in look. Pick your favorite finish, add a comfy chair, some cute accessories, and a shelf or two plus a dynamic piece of art above, and yoursquo;ve got a usablemdash;and attractivemdash;space.

Bookcase

The same shelf you used above the desk can be multiplied to create an area for books, photos, art, and knick-knacks. Whether you want a sleek look with hidden brackets or you like to be able to see the hardware, yoursquo;ll find an abundance of super-affordable options at IKEA. We also love these rustic floating shelves from Wayfair that have a lip so the end so your stuff will stay put.

Gallery

Donrsquo;t have good wall space where you can display some favorite art or framed family photos? Now you do You can use these tips to help you with the layout, and, for added punch, paint or wallpaper the back wall of the niche to really make the art stand out.

Play area

DJ booth. Hair salon. Spaceship. Kitchen. Art studio. There are so many ways you can turn an unused or underappreciated space into a masterpiece for kids and inspire their creativity. Of course, it helps if you donrsquo;t mind it being the centerpiece of your living space If you do, a pair of curtains you can close or a couple of sliding doors will help keep everything under wraps.


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Sellers: Adopting a Buyer Frame of Mind

Your real estate professional will help with this mental transition and ultimately yoursquo;ll benefit from embracing this shift. The sooner you let go of obsessing about ldquo;your homerdquo; and start concentrating on what buyers in this market and this price range will spend their money on, the easier and more lucrative selling your home will be.

Embrace The Buyer Perspective

You probably selected your listing professional and brokerage based on what you believe they know about getting you the best deal. During the listing presentation, they brought you up-to-date on current local buyer patterns. This was intended to demonstrate their understanding of local market trends and their knowledge of how to connect with qualified buyers.

Donrsquo;t be shy about returning to that conversation. Learn more about those shopping in your neighborhood for homes like yours. What exactly do they want and what donrsquo;t they want.

Whether your experts use the National Association of REALTORSreg;NAR annual Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report to illustrate selling points or statistics provided by their brokerage or Real Estate Board, you will learn a lot when you are introduced to the substance behind their marketing plan.

For instance, millennials represent a significant segment of buyers in many markets. If your real estate is already a millennial magnet, you and your professional team have a good chance of reinforcing this ldquo;hotrdquo; vibe. This marketing activity may materialize as an even great selling price with seller-favoring terms.

What can you do to help with Step One, which is getting buyers inside your real estate, so they can fall in love with the property?

The majority of todayrsquo;s buyers shop the internet before they contact a real estate professional. This means a stellar online presencendash;photos, videos, accurate informationndash;is essential to gaining buyer attention and enticing them inside your real estate:

bull; Videos and photos are only as good as the subject, so your help preparing your real estate to shine is vital. Curb appeal has to be there for a photo to capture this allure. A must-get-inside street face has to exist to have buyers click or swipe for more details on your real estate treasure. Think ahead if possible since some curbside beautification takes time. For instance, if you expect to sell in the spring, planting a lot of spring bulbs during the previous fall will be a great investment.
bull; No one knows your real estate as well as you do, so you may see linkages that wouldnrsquo;t occur to someone looking on. Suggesting benefits evident in other seasons may be useful content in marketing literature or during home tours. For instance, as the summer sun shifts between buildings, I can watch the sunrise from my front deckndash;one of my favorite ways to start the day. Whatrsquo;s special about living in your real estate?
bull; Most buyers would like a brand-new home, but they can only afford or find a resale. How can you make your home seem brand-new to buyers? Thorough cleanups, freshening up with paint, and repair of the unsightly all add up to a good first impression, inside and out. Yoursquo;ve gotten used to building defects, but friends and your real estate team will help you see the flaws if you have an open mindndash;buyerrsquo;s mindset.
bull; Most buyers are moving to get more space. Empty closets, storage areas, and the garage, so it is evident there is room to spare. Remove extra furniture and ldquo;stuffrdquo; so rooms are visibly larger. Listen to your real estate professional. Yoursquo;re going to move anyway, so get an early start.
bull; Staging of interiors translates interior potential into visual proof that this is exactly what buyers are looking for. Generating ldquo;Thatrsquo;s our >bull; Get used to the idea that you and your family will be inconvenienced. This starts before the house goes on the market and lasts until itrsquo;s sold. Everything is about selling the ldquo;buyers new homerdquo; to them.

Power-Up Negotiation

Sellers benefit from understanding that negotiations for the sale of their real estate begin as soon as the listing is signed, not when an offer to purchase is presented.

bull; Your real estate professionalndash;your negotiatorndash;is steadily working toward negotiations. Generating offers to purchase is an important step along the way. Ask about their strategies for doing this.

bull; Because you are not a trained real estate professional, any conversation or email exchange you have directly with buyers could undermine your professionalrsquo;s selling strategies. Your casual ldquo;oh, sure, no problemrdquo; response to a buyerrsquo;s request for something or question concerning closing date or what yoursquo;ll include in the sale, may cut into your negotiating position on the big day. Usually, direct contact between buyers and sellers is kept to a minimum for that reason.

bull; Remove any ldquo;must keeprdquo; items like dining room fixtures, family heirlooms, or big screen TVs before the home is shown. Help buyers concentrate on what theyrsquo;ll receive, not get fixated on what they wonrsquo;t.

bull; During a showing or an open house, your attempts to ldquo;sellrdquo; a buyer on the attributes of your yard or living room may put-off the buyer. Since buying connections are emotional, it takes an expert at reading the signs to know what to say and how to say it. Get out of the housendash;you, your family, and petsndash;when your property is shown to buyers. How can they feel free to voice their feelings and visualize this as their home when yoursquo;re sitting right there? Or worse, if yoursquo;re along for the house tour?

bull; Prepare for offer presentation by working out what you could do to move quickly if the right price appeared. What dates, if any, are essential to you? Find out what moving after those deadlines would cost you. That knowledge may help keep closing date in perspective during negotiations.

If you are concerned that your real estate professional is not doing everything they said they would, when they said they would, call them on this. ldquo;Time on marketrdquo; is a crucial factor for achieving the best sale price. Wasting time means wasting your money.


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Why Are Rates Still So Low?

And thatrsquo;s certainly good news for the economy as more and more people are finding jobs and employers are having a bit of a difficult time in recruiting new employees. Another interesting statistic is the four-week moving average of jobless claims dropped to the lowest levels not seen since 1969. Yep, you read that right.

But what about mortgage rates? With all the positive economic data >

Recently however, after a round of FOMC meetings, Powell stated there is no definite rate increase at sometime in 2019, after all. The change in tone has many thinking the Fed knows something we donrsquo;t but everyone, at least those who follow the markets, read the same data the Fed does. The fact is the economy is doing very, very well.

So then, why are rates still low? Historically, when the economy is doing well, investors will pull their money out of those boring, low-yielding mortgage bonds and put more money into stocks in hopes of greater gains. When demand for bonds, including mortgage bonds, increases, the yield on those bonds has to fall. That low yield translates into lower rates overall. But mortgage rates have been in a >

One answer might be that rates are currently in the ldquo;Goldilocksrdquo; zone, meaning that rates arenrsquo;t too low nor are they too high. Theyrsquo;re just right. The Fed is currently on a ldquo;steady as she goesrdquo; tack and investors are taking note. Stocks are doing well and bonds are doing pretty good, too. Historically when stocks are strong, bonds take a breather. But right now, wersquo;re sort of in the best of both worlds.

How long will it last? Who knows? But if yoursquo;re in the house buying mode itrsquo;s probably good advice to take advantage of where rates are today and not keeping your fingers crossed theyrsquo;ll continue to remain where they are today. There doesnrsquo;t seem to be any evidence the economy is on a tear so strong the Fed has to step in but on the other hand there doesnrsquo;t seem to be anything to indicate the economy is slowing down. Interesting times.


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Protect Your Biggest Investment From Renovation Mistakes

Budget breakers include choosing expensive materials or changing project scope but also unexpected complications during construction ndash; complications which can easily be avoided. A home inspection, though usually thought of as only a step when buying a home, can come in handy. A home inspection by a professional can reveal qualities of your home that you yourself may not even know, including what kind of work and changes can be done. Architect and structural engineers can go a little further by recommending which walls can and canrsquo;t be moved and even help you draw up detailed plans and guidelines for a general contractor to follow. As nearly two in three homeowners plan on doing at least some of the work themselves, be realistic with your own capabilities; even if you have experience in renovations yourself, it never hurts to consult with a professional.

Ready to finally begin that project? Plan ahead and donrsquo;t go it alone. Herersquo;s how to get the job done right and keep it within budget while protecting your biggest investment no matter the scale, detailed in this infographic below.


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Should You Wait to Renovate?

Think it Through

One of the reasons you should consider waiting on a renovation project is to make sure that its actually something you want. A lot of people are very impulsive when it comes to wanting new things, and that extends to home projects. Things like pools, new furniture, different flooring, creating new additions to the home, should take a lot of planning and thought before deciding. For example, the process of pool constructionnbsp;should not be taken lightly. Theres no reason to get one during the fall and winter months, as you wont be able to use it until it warms up again. Even if you move in with plans to change something, you might want to consider giving it some time to see if you really like the deacute;cor you already have. A lot of homeowners recommend setting up a grace period so that you have time to get used to your new environment before making any big decisions.

Money

Another reason that you might want to consider waiting on your plans is because of the financing it takes. Depending on the home renovation project you want to take on, it can cost you a lot of money just to start. Some projects such as getting new furniture may be fairly inexpensive, but larger projects that require contractors or changing a big part of the home will take some investment on your part. Youll need to either save money over time or be prepared to pay off the debts bit by bit. Similar to how you wait and think about whether you want to buy clothing or electronics, you should wait and think about whether youre ready to invest in the project, or whether its even worth the money youll spend. You dont want to finish a project and find out that it feels like money wasted.

Time

Time is yet another reason home renovations should take a backseat in your life. Its easy to look at an area of your home and be amazed by its potential, but that kind of change doesnt happen overnight. You have to be willing to put in the time for the project. For example, if you want to put in new flooring, then you have to be willing to work around that room of your home for a while. That means moving all the furniture and probably avoiding the whole room while the work is being done. Some projects only take weeks, but others may take months. You have to be ready to invest that time for the renovation you want in order to get it like you want. And if its not the way you imagined it the first time, you may have to invest even more into it.nbsp;

Ultimately, home renovation projects can be a great investment if youre unhappy with some part of your home. However, home makeover shows have romanticized the idea into making it seem like you can create something gorgeous with some basic imagination and desire to fix up a part of the house. Not everything in your home needs to be changed or fixed and not everyone is aware of how much effort it takes to finish the projects you start. Thats why you should wait before you renovate. It may save you a lot of headaches down the road.


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4 Reasons to Hire Professionals Movers for Your Next Move

Health

Whether health conditions are a concern or not, moving carries a risk of getting seriously injured. If you decide to move and opt to use professional movers, you are inherently protecting yourself from getting injured while moving. Professionals have countless experiences moving, and in-turn have a great understanding of their limits, something the average mover may not have. Not only can you aggravate a pre-existing injury, but you can acquire new injuries which can linger and become chronic. Strained backs and broken fingers or toes are just a few of the most common injuries people get while moving; hiring professional movers will nearly eliminate the likelihood of getting these types of injuries.

Save Time

The obvious advantage to getting professional movers is how much time you will save. Movers commonly have large enough trucks that the process of moving is usually completed in one trip, baring the amount of things you have. Whereas if a person with little to no experience moving could take countless trips, especially without a large moving truck. Not only will it only cost one trip with professional movers, but if there is a deadline on when to move out, the efficiency of the movers will ensure you get out by that time. Many people struggle with the logistics and sheer act of moving out, which causes delays and potential conflicts with new and existing landlords. If planning ahead isnrsquo;t your thing, invest in professional movers for a day and rest easy knowing time wonrsquo;t be an issue.

Potentially Save Money

The cost of hiring movers is different per area, so depending on where you live, your costs may be slightly higher than usual. With that being said, some moving costs can be incredibly low and wind up costing less than if you moved yourself. Gas costs, and general opportunity cost, can result in a hefty bill for your entire moving experience. Professional movers have an hourly rate and donrsquo;t require any supervision; so, rather than taking off work and moving yourself, you can have them move while you work and bring in a paycheck, resulting in a lower overall cost. Additionally, professional movers have all the equipment necessary for moving, something the average mover does not have. Renting dollies or trucks can cost a lot, and it isnrsquo;t always a given that everything will work. Save yourself the money and energy and hire professionals.

Ease of Mind

Moving isnrsquo;t just stressful because of the physical moving, but the entire process altogether. Coordinating friends to help you, dealing with busy traffic, and wasting tens of minutes trying to fit furniture through a door all add up to one of the most stressful events a human can go through. Professional movers help with so much more than just moving heavy objects. They are the ones who coordinate with each other, deal with traffic and the troubles of fitting furniture. They also, almost always, have insurance policies which protect your items in case they get damaged, something that isnrsquo;t the case when you move by yourself. For a slight cost, it only makes sense to invest in something that benefits you so much.

nbsp;


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4 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Renting Out a Vacation Home

Have a comprehensive rental agreement

Itrsquo;s tempting to want to be a landlord that has the fewest rules, but it may come back to haunt you if anything goes wrong. If yoursquo;re not familiar with rental and housing legal jargon, consider having your agreement looked at by a legal professional. If you use a service like Airbnb or VRBO, you may be covered by some of their legal guarantees, but be aware that most of these agreements protect the renter and not the landlord more often than not.

Hire a property manager

If you donrsquo;t live close to your rental property, consider hiring a property manager. One mistake that landlords make is trying to do everything themselves. In this area, it can really help to hire a professional property manager who understands housing laws and rules for vacation properties. If the property manager lives close by to your second home, they can be close by if tenants need anything during their stay, without the awkwardness of the owner having to show up at the property.

Keep immaculate records

Most everything is online these days, which can be a blessing or a curse when it comes to rental properties. On one hand, having online records means you can search for and find specific property information immediatelymdash;unfortunately, it also means that things can go missing. To protect yourself, and for tax purposes, keep records of repairs in addition to transactions when money was spent and earnedmdash;this can really help if you ever need to recall information.

Keep things clean and prepared for guests

Therersquo;s no faster way to get a bad rating on a vacation rental website than having a dirty or unprepared home. Consider using professional cleaning services after each rental most websites will allow you to include a cleaning fee. Yoursquo;ll also want to be clear about allowances for babies and pets on your property.

Additionally, make sure bedrooms and bathrooms are spotless. According to House Method, a great way to prepare guest bedrooms is by laying out fresh linens, stocking the cabinets with extra towels and blankets, and making sure the bathrooms whether connected or not are scrubbed down, sanitized, and in proper working condition. Some minor things to check include the water pressure and shower temperature.

Vacation rentals bring so much joy to families and couples who want a more home-like atmosphere for their next getaway. With these tips, you can be a part of that happiness while also protecting yourself and your interests.


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What is a VA Guaranteed Loan?

The VA loan is reserved for veterans, active duty soldiers with at least 181 days of service, certain National Guard and Reserve members with at least 181 days of service and unremarried surviving spouses of those who died while serving or as a result of a service->

If a VA approved lender gives the ldquo;thumbs uprdquo; to a loan application, the lender is granted a guarantee. Should the loan ever go into default the guarantee is in place as long as the lender used proper VA approved protocol while underwriting the loan. In case of default, which is extremely rare for a VA loan by the way, the lender is compensated at 25 percent of the loss.

This compensation is financed with a form of mortgage insurance the VA refers to as the Funding Fee. The funding fee can vary based upon various factors but for someone using the VA loan benefit for the first time, zero down and a 30-year fixed rate loan selection, the funding fee is 2.15 of the sales price. This mortgage insurance policy does not have to be paid for out of pocket but is typically rolled into the final loan amount.

The VA guarantees the 25 percent because it >

In response, the VA changed the limits several years ago that if the sales price of the home was greater than the 144,000 figure, the maximum home loan amount would match the current limit of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Today, that maximum for most parts of the country is 484,350.

Borrowers still have to qualify based upon verified income, employment, credit and other factors just as with other loan types, but with a VA loan, if there is a default, there is some compensation coming directly from the VA, paid for by a policy purchased by the buyer.


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What Is a Joy Score and Why Could It Be Even More Important Than ROI?

The ldquo;Joy Scorerdquo; measures value in a whole new way, determining which renovations make people the happiest. More money in your pocket notwithstanding, some renovations may put an even bigger smile on your face.

The National Association of Realtors NAR first added the Joy Score to their 2017 Survey of Consumers Whorsquo;ve Completed Remodeling Projects, based on a survey of 2,287 homeowners conducted by HouseLogic.

ldquo;The Joy Score was calculated by combining the share who were happy and those who were satisfied when seeing their completed project and dividing the share by 10 to create a ranking between 1 and 10,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Higher Joy Scores indicate greater joy from the project.rdquo;

The 2019 report found that, ldquo;For home projects done by a hired professional, consumers reported a Joy Score of 9.6 and those who did the project themselves reported a Joy Score of 9.9.rdquo;

Individual interior renovation projects reporting high ldquo;Joy Scoresrdquo; included:

bull; Kitchen renovations: 10 for both projects with hired professionals and done via DIY
bull; Bathroom renovations: 9.6 for both projects with hired professionals and done via DIY
bull; Kitchen upgrades: 10 DIY; 9.2: hired professionals

The report also focused on home renovation projects for pets. Of the consumers who undertook those remodeling projects, ldquo;Those who hired someone to complete a project reported a Joy Score of 9.3 and those who did the project themselves reported a Joy Score of 9.4.rdquo;

Some of the most popular pet renovations included:

bull; Putting in a fence: 9.4 Joy Score for projects with professional installation, 9.5 for DIY
bull; Adding laminate floors: 9.3 for projects with professional installation, 9.5 for DIY
bull; Building in a doggie door: 9.1 for projects with professional installation, 9.2 for DIY


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How to Upsize Your Home When Growing Your Home Business

Get off the ground before your move

After >

A space that works for you

Itrsquo;s important to feel good about your home office. It has a lot to do with how effectively your business will function, so pick out a room with plenty of space for all the equipment yoursquo;ll need to be effective. Yoursquo;ll need a desk large enough to accommodate a computer and space for a copier, printer, fax machine and anything else yoursquo;ll need. Ergonomics matter, so make sure your office chair and keyboard are comfortable for you.

Think productivity

Itrsquo;s all about productivity; think carefully about whether you could be productive there before deciding on a new home. If itrsquo;s a dimly lit space that doesnrsquo;t get much natural light, you might need to add a lot of internal lighting, which might not be conducive to the kind of >

Room with a view

Creating your own work environment is one of the great advantages of working from your home. Think back to all those jobs where you had to stare at a cubicle partition, a plain, beige wall or a filing cabinet all day. Now that you have your own gig, look for a house that offers a nice view of some trees or your beautifully landscaped lawn. Itrsquo;ll help you manage stress and maintain a positive outlook when things get hectic. As yoursquo;re checking out a room that might work for your office, imagine positioning your desk so you can see out the window just by looking up.

Efficient use of space

Chances are, you may find a home you love, even though it may lack an office room with lots of square footage. As long as yoursquo;re happy with the house, you can still make it work for a home-based business by making efficient use of the space. Consider installing floating shelves to keep your desk and workspace clear of papers and office equipment. A decluttered work area is essential for clear thinking, so make sure you take the time to organize everything carefully.nbsp;Get some plastic trays so that paper clutter doesnrsquo;t run rampant.

Take your time when upsizing to a new house. This will be your office as well as your residence; it should be comfortable in both regards. Bear in mind that it should also be large enough to accommodate your business as it grows and expands


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Canadas Mortgage Stress Test: An Attack on Home Ownership?

Before the recent provincial election in Alberta, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney said that Canadarsquo;s mortgage stress test regulations are ldquo;an unfair attack on home ownership.rdquo;

He said, ldquo;One of the reasons why homes are less affordable in Alberta today is because of unfair rules imposed by Ottawa to deal with the overheated real estate markets in Toronto and Vancouver.rdquo; He said Albertarsquo;s markets were not at risk of overheating, and the government ldquo;has taken out a bazooka rather than a fly swatter to deal with this problem.rdquo;

Kenney, who was elected premier, is one of many critics who are alarmed at the impact that the mortgage underwriting guidelines, known as B-20, had on the real estate market. Sales and mortgage originations are down across the country.

CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal says in a report that the value of new mortgages fell by 25 billion, or eight per cent, in 2018. He estimates that B-20 accounted for 13 billion to 15 billion of that total.

ldquo;B-20 was designed to improve the overall credit quality in the market,rdquo; Tal says. ldquo;And indeed, the share of high-quality mortgages in originations is currently at a record high of more than 52 per cent.rdquo; But he says the trend to improved quality was already underway by the time the guidelines were introduced.

ldquo;The 21 policy changes >

The stress test requires borrowers to qualify at a rate two percentage points higher than the rate being offered by their lender.

ldquo;The stress tests are concerned with mortgage borrowersrsquo; ability to make payments once they renew their mortgages which will usually occur in five years,rdquo; says economic consultant Will Dunning . ldquo;The tests include a low-probability event that in five years interest rates will be two points higher but ignore a high-probability event that the borrowerrsquo;s income will be at least 10 per cent higher. If future interest rates are indeed two points higher, that would be because the economy is very strong. In that case, it is extremely likely that there will be income growth, which will somewhat offset the higher future mortgage payments.rdquo;

Dunning says reduced housing activity creates a ldquo;negative housing wealth effectrdquo; that will have negative economic consequences. He says the stress tests ldquo;will cause employment in Canada to be at least 200,000 lower than it would otherwise be, once adjustments have fully occurred.rdquo;

Improving overall credit quality is a good thing, Tal says, but thatrsquo;s not the whole story. The guidelines only apply to federally regulated lenders. Many borrowers who canrsquo;t pass the stress test are now turning to private lenders, who may be charging higher interest rates.

Tal says that in Ontario during the last two years, mortgage originations provided by alternative lenders rose by a cumulative 27 per cent, while originations in the market as a whole fell by 11 per cent.

ldquo;Alternative lending is an integral part of any normally functioning market,rdquo; Tal says. ldquo;But a fast-growing alternative lending market is not. Behind the scenes, there is a transfer of risk from the regulated to the less regulated segment of the market ntilde; from where there is light to where itrsquo;s dark.rdquo;

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada OFSI is responsible for B-20. Recently assistant superintendent Carolyn Rogers addressed some of these issues at a speech in Toronto.

ldquo;The most common criticism is that we implemented a national policy to deal with a localized problem ntilde; that of extreme price escalation in the residential property market that only exists in Toronto and Vancouver,rdquo; she said. ldquo;This criticism assumes that B-20 was designed to target escalating house prices. Which it was not. B-20 was designed to target mortgage underwriting standards. And sound underwritings look the same no matter what city or province you live in; when interest rates rise, they will go up in Calgary and Winnipeg at the same time and by the same amount that they will go up in Vancouver and Toronto.rdquo;

Rogers said that borrowers turning to unregulated lenders to avoid the stress test ldquo;is a legitimate concern; this is a balance that all regulators must grapple with. But it cannot be a reason not to act, or not to do our job.rdquo;

She said, ldquo;The mortgage broker and the real estate industry are well placed to help manage this risk. If you see risks, if you think these options put your borrower in a vulnerable position, you can steer them away. That would be the right thing to do.rdquo;

The stress test does not apply to borrowers who renew their mortgages at the same lender where they have an existing mortgage. Critics say that results in decreased competition. In her speech, Rogers said OFSI has a tracking system in place to monitor rates. ldquo;To date we havenrsquo;t seen any evidence that banks are taking advantage of this situation to the detriment of borrowers.rdquo;

She added: ldquo;The escalating cost of homeownership in Canada, and its knock-on effects to the economy and to society is a problem. And itrsquo;s a problem that is proving very challenging to address. But the answer to this important problem cannot be more debt. Particularly, it cannot be more consumer debt, fuelled by lower underwriting standards.rdquo;

Tal admits that ldquo;the stress test imposed on the market was probably necessary, since there was a need to save some Canadian borrowers from themselves.rdquo;

But he says regulators should revisit B-20. ldquo;We need a more flexible benchmark, potentially a narrower spread over the contract rate when interest rates approach cyclical peak, and perhaps to establish a reasonable floor under which the qualifying rate will never drop below.rdquo;

Back in Alberta, one of Jason Kenneyrsquo;s election promises was that hersquo;ll introduce a motion in the legislature asking the federal government to exempt Alberta from the regulations, and inviting other provincial governments to do the same.


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The 10 Most Affordable Beach Towns

ldquo;To rank the most affordable beach towns in America, we examined four factors,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Specifically, we looked at the median home value, the average number of rooms per house, median property taxes and median housing costs.rdquo; Their methodology took into account ldquo;229 cities located directly on an ocean including bays and sounds, using data from the Census Bureaursquo;s 2017 5-Year American Community Survey.

Among their key findings: ldquo;Every city ranked in the top 10 is in a Gulf Coast State.rdquo; In fact, Mississippi and Florida each had four spots in the top 10, and the other two went to Texas. The list of 25 affordable beach towns is sprinkled with coastal spots from a handful of other states: South Carolina, Alabama, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington. There is also just one California town on the list, the Northern California site of painted lady Victorian homes and soaring redwood trees, Eureka. ldquo;Seven of the 10 least affordable beach towns are in California,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Two of these cities include Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.rdquo;

Pack your swimsuits and flip-flops, and call the movers. Yoursquo;re going to want to move to one of these affordable beach towns.

10. Fort Pierce, FL

Coming in at No. 10 on the SmartAsset list, ldquo;Fort Pierce is located along Floridarsquo;s eastern coast and comes with a median home value of just 91,400.rdquo; Thatrsquo;s not the lowest among their winners; itrsquo;s the third-lowest. ldquo;Low property taxes and housing costs helped boost the cityrsquo;s ranking, but small homes with a limited number of rooms explain why it didnrsquo;t rise higher.rdquo;

9. Fort Walton Beach, FL

ldquo;Fort Walton Beach ranked at least 31st in three out of our four metrics. The cityrsquo;s highest-ranking metrics came in median home value and median annual property taxes. It takes 22nd and 25th in these factors, respectively.rdquo;

8. Melbourne, FL

Melbourne is Southeast of Orlando, and right on the ldquo;Space Coast,rdquo; as the area around Cape Canaveral is called. It attracts tons of families with low home prices. ldquo;The average home is worth just under 140,000 per year,rdquo; said SmartAsset. But homes that are on the small side can be cramped for larger families. ldquo;The typical home here has 5.8 rooms, 129th most according to our analysis of beach towns.rdquo;

7. Freeport, TX

We interrupt this discussion of Florida to present a Texas option for affordable beach living. Located on the Gulf of Mexico and just about an hour from Houston, Freeport has an exceptionally low median home value of just 69,300. ldquo;But median housing costs and property taxes are slightly uprdquo; this year.

6. Ocean Springs, MS

Big homes ldquo;equipped with 6.4 rooms, the most in our top 10rdquo;, low prices, and a location that is beloved as a ldquo;hamlet on the Gulf that is a confluence of Southern charm, thriving new businesses, and a stellar arts scene,rdquo; said Coastal Living, make Ocean Springs an easy choice.

5. Bay St. Louis, MS

Wersquo;re back in Mississippi, but this time its the charming town of Bay St. Louis, located 90 miles east of New Orleans. ldquo;Median housing costs here run just shy of 800 per month, or 9,300 per year. Property taxes here are also not too significant given the median property value in Bay St. Louis. The average property taxpayer pays 1,088 per year for an effective property tax rate of 1.64.rdquo;

4. Port Arthur, TX

Ninety miles east of Houston and home to the largest oil refinery in the country, Port Arthur has a staggeringly low average home value of 64,300 and a monthly housing cost under 600. ldquo;But the >

3. Biloxi, MS

ldquo;The average home in Biloxi costs just 800 per month, fifth lowest in our study. Along with low housing costs, property taxes should not stop the average American from buying a home here. Surveys conducted by the Census Bureau estimate the average annual cost of property taxes is slightly less than 1,100 per year, or less than 100 per month.rdquo;

2. Pensacola, FL

Pensacola has the distinction of being one of the countryrsquo;s earliest European settlements and also ranks on 37 on U.S. News amp; World Reportrsquo;s list of Best Places to Live. The city has ldquo;low home values, affordable housing costs and >

1. Gulfport, MS

The most affordable beach town on SmartAssetrsquo;s nationwide list is the second-largest city in Mississippi and a favorite spot for vacationers as well as full-time residents. You can purchase a home for just over 118,000 and expect to pay a little more than 800 monthly. Expect a small-ish home if yoursquo;re looking to save money, though. ldquo;>

You can check out the rest of the list here.


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How to Keep Your Home Clean When You Have Pets

Spring for the good vacuum

If you have pets that shed, you know the value of a good vacuum. But if yoursquo;ve been getting by on less, and dealing with vacuums that dont have enough suction or just arenrsquo;t intended for pet hair removal, itrsquo;s time to trade up.

Pet Life Today likes the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away TruePet Upright Vacuum, which it calls a ldquo;versatile upright vacuum easily converts into a canister unit to provide a powerful clean for your entire home.rdquo; This one came out on top after their study of dozens of vacuums thanks to its ldquo;power, versatility and efficient removal of pet hair. The ability to convert this vacuum from an upright to a canister or handheld makes it the perfect all-round choice for cleaning every area of your home. The reasonable price and high amount of positive feedback from Amazon users is another reason this vacuum takes our top position.rdquo; This vacuum is available for 263.99.

Personally, wersquo;re partial to the Dyson V8 Animal vacuum. It gets up all the hair, it has tons of attachments and do-dads, and is also cordless, which makes it super versatile. The potential downsides: itrsquo;s pricey, at 399, and it has a small canister, which means you have to dump it out more often.

Stock up on lint rollers

We canrsquo;t decide if this giant-size, pet-themed lint roller is genius or ridiculous, but wersquo;re definitely intrigued. We have regular-sized lint rollers stashed all over our house because theyrsquo;re the greatest for removing dog hair from upholstery, rugs, bedding, and clothes. The 10-inch width of this one is enticing, and the pole sounds like a back-saver, frankly.

But the price seems a bit steep. At 21.99, we predict the 25 sheets will last us a day or two. Refills are as low as 10.49 and come with 50 sheets, but that still doesnt compare to the five-roll 95 sheets each combo pack for 10.79. So the real question is: How much is a pole worth?

Go for indoor-outdoor rugs

ldquo;Theyrsquo;ve come a long way since you last saw them in your grandparentsrsquo; basement. There are lots of stylish versions out there, and theyrsquo;re available in a variety of color schemes,rdquo; said Architectural Digest. ldquo;Put a small one in front of each doormdash;sort of like an indoor doormatmdash;to catch any dirt and water your pet may drag in. I also recommend placing one under the sofa, dining room table, and any other place your pet likes to lounge. These rugs dont let anything soak in, and they wipe clean with a damp rag.

If you donrsquo;t like the look or feel of indoor-outdoor rugs, look for something with a short weave. Hair will be much easier to get up if it canrsquo;t get stuck in the fibers.

Get a black light

If your pet does have an accident here and there or even more often, a black light can help you pinpoint the urine so so you eliminate the stain and odor. ldquo;There could be urine or other waste stains your pet could be leaving around the house that you do not know about,rdquo; said Of Life Lisa. ldquo;Once every week, conduct a sweep through of your rooms with a black light to find and eliminate these hidden stains.rdquo;

So why does this work? ldquo;Urine glows under a black light primarily because it contains the element phosphorus,rdquo; said ThoughtCo. ldquo;Cat urine, in particular, glows very brightly under ultraviolet light.rdquo;

Upgrade your sofa

ldquo;If you cant bear to push your pooch off the couch it might be time to upgrade your current sofa,rdquo; said House Beautiful. ldquo;The wrong material can act like a hair magnet, hold undesirable odors and show up the slightest stain. While scouting your new sofa, look for leather or tightly woven materials, ideally in a similar shade to your pets.rdquo; Microfiber and velvet are two good choices because hair is easy to remove and the materials clean up easily.

Make your shaving cream do double duty

Every dog will have an accident at some point, whether a mistakenly locked doggie door prevents him from getting outside or an upset tummy results in a middle-of-the-night vomit sesh. There are hundreds thousands? of pet stain removal options, but Architectural Digest likes a product intended for another purpose altogether.

Add shaving cream to your cleaning supply kit,rdquo; they said. ldquo;You could spend a ton trying out every last lsquo;miraclersquo; pet stain product, but shaving cream works best, even on the toughest stains such as dog vomit and cat pee. Make sure to use foam, not gelmdash;my favorite is Barbasol. Simply spray the stain, let it sit and foam for a minute, and then wipe with warm water. I recently used this trick to get dog barf out of a very old oriental rug and it worked like a charm.rdquo;


Full Story >


The Top 3 Strategies for a Successful Purchase Season

nbsp;

Learn How Agents Manage Their Time to get the Most Out of the Busy Season

1. Allocate Time

Jennifer Okhovat is a top-producing realtor with Compass in Los Angeles, and she stays on top of the busy season by Time Blocking, a time management strategy. ldquo;I set up my daily calendars in advance,rdquo; said Okhovat. ldquo;I set up certain hours in the morning and evening to show properties. Midday and early morning I time block for administrative tasks such as responding to emails and tackling marketing tasks.rdquo; This helps her effectively manage the extensive demands on her time, but she also advocates blocking out personal time as well. ldquo;As real estate agents, we donrsquo;t necessarily have a set day off or weekends off,rdquo; she said. ldquo;Without a good work and private life balance, agents will get burnt out.rdquo;

2. Delegate Tasks

Tim Orrys is an Agent >

3. Evaluate Results

John Collopy is the owner and broker of RE/MAX Results and its subsequent 36 offices across Minnesota and Wisconsin, and he finds time blocking paired with internal honesty and accountability to be an effective strategy. ldquo;For real estate agents, you have to be clear about the number of contacts you need to make in order to maintain your desired level of productivity,rdquo; said Collopy. Evaluating whatrsquo;s needed in order to meet your goals helps when prioritizing and developing your schedule. Collopy also suggests continually evaluating your results as a way to change your approach as you go through the season. ldquo;You should also set a specific time every week when yoursquo;re going to do your review of what you shouldrsquo;ve done, compare it to what you did do, and be concise about your plans for the following week. The time you take for reflection and planning should be as important as any other appointment or activity throughout the week.rdquo;

nbsp;

Bio:

Kate Bacheller, Copywriter, Quicken Loans

Kate has been writing content for a variety of outlets and on behalf of national brands for over 15 years. A native Michigander, Kate is now transplanted back in the Metro Detroit area after years working and living in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. Her canine counterpart, Maddie, could not be happier about this decision.

nbsp;


Full Story >


10 Hot Kitchen Design Trends Stolen from Restaurant Kitchens

If yoursquo;re planning a residential kitchen remodel, you might take some time to check out commercial kitchens and how theyrsquo;re planned and designed before you decide on your own kitchen renovation details. To help you along, the kitchen design and remodeling experts at San Diego Kitchen Renovation Pros nbsp;have shared ten of the hottest details stolen from restuarant kitchens that are favorites with their remodeling clients. Be sure to work at least a few of these into your upcoming kitchen remodeling plans as well

1. Forget the Island in Your New Kitchen Design

A kitchen island allows for lots of prep space and storage but a solid island can also make even a large space seem cramped and crowded. A work table in place of the kitchen island still provides plenty of room to work as well as shelving underneath for storing what you need at your fingertips, but those open shelves also keep the kitchen more spacious.

If yoursquo;re planning a small kitchen makeover, consider a work table in place of an otherwise oversize island. A metal work table is also an excellent choice in monochrome kitchens or those with lots of wood cabinets, to add some visual appeal and break up the look of all that wood.

2. Add a Stainless Steel Backsplash

Stainless steel doesnrsquo;t absorb germs and microbes and is also very fire-resistant, which is why itrsquo;s long been a popular material for appliances. Its density and durability is also why commercial kitchens often include a stainless steel backsplash Why not consider the same in your upcoming kitchen renovation plans, for a surface thatrsquo;s easy to clean and that coordinates with any kitchen >

3. Hang Utensil Rods

Ra>

4. Install a Magnetic Knife Strip

Along with utensil rods, many commercial kitchens include magnetic strips along walls for holding chefrsquo;s knives. Attaching a knife blade to a magnetic strip on the wall reduces the risk of cutting yourself while rooting around in a drawer for a knife, and also allows you to easily see each knife blade type and size. A magnetic knife strip also opens up space in the drawers and reduces the need for a bulky knife block on the countertop.

5. Use Wire Shelving in Your Kitchen Design

If your kitchen pantry has standard painted wood shelves, itrsquo;s time to get rid of them in favor of wire shelving Wire shelves allow for air circulation around your stored foodstuffs, reducing damaging heat and humidity, and donrsquo;t need cleaning as often as standard wood shelves. Open wire shelves also allow you to see items stacked in the back of the shelves easily, making them an excellent option for your residential kitchen remodel

6. Add Lighting Over the Prep Space

Your residential kitchen remodeling plans should include beautiful overhead lighting, to enhance the look of your new space and give it an upscale >

7. Make Room for a Rolling Prep Cart

Rolling bar carts are popular accessories to add to a dining space, but many commercial kitchens feature rolling prep carts in the kitchen as well. A rolling prep cart allows you to easily move your food ingredients, bulky containers, and other items from one part of the kitchen to the other, without having to carry hot dishes and without the risk of dropping anything. If your upcoming kitchen renovation doesnrsquo;t include a center island or work table, be sure to ask your kitchen remodel contractor about a coordinating rolling prep cart for the space.

8. Install an Open Shelf Over the Stovetop

Many commercial kitchens feature an open shelf or two over the stovetop, for holding pots and pans, spices, timers, and even a recipe or prep instructions if needed Consider asking your kitchen contractor about an open shelf over your new stovetop, for added convenience and to break up the look of a long, large wall behind the stove.

9. Use Chalkboard Paint in Your Residential Kitchen Remodel

Restaurant cooks and other staff need to be informed of so much ever-changing information that they often >

10. Add a Compact Dishwasher

A commercial chef or line cooks often cannot wait for all the dishes in the restaurant to be washed before they need to use a certain knife or cookware. Restaurants also tend to use up all their glassware very quickly, so many commercial kitchens feature small, compact dishwashers near the cooking area, for a quick clean of items needed in a hurry. Your residential kitchen design might also feature such an appliance, for washing small loads or for quickly rinsing and cleaning items such as drinking glasses.


Stephen Jones is the owner of a remodeling company in San Diego, California. He knows design and stays on top of all the latest kitchen trends so that when he offers any advice to his clients, he can bring their vision to life while increasing the value of their hom


Full Story >


April Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Surveyreg; shows that "despite the recent rise in mortgage rates, both existing and new home sales continue to show strength ndash; indicating the lagged effect of lower rates on housing demand. This, along with improved affordability, should push housing activity higher in the coming months."

bull; 30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 4.2 percent with an average 0.5 points for the week ending April 25, 2019, up from last month when it averaged 4.06 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.58 percent.

bull; 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.64 percent with an average 0.5 points, up from last month when it also averaged 3.57 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.02 percent.

bull; 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 3.77 percent this week with an average 0.4 points, up from last month when it averaged 3.75 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.74 percent.


Full Story >


Plan a Move on a Budget That Will Get You Home

Everyone has a lot of stress in their life but, in terms of the pure amount of stress,nbsp;movingnbsp;is right at the top along with death and divorce. This shows that many people consider moving to be one of the most significant, life-changing events.nbsp;Wersquo;re about to show you the ultimate guide to move on a budget.

Moving represents a transition to a new location, new job, and even a way to start over. Because of this, it is important to take steps to minimize the amount of stress that moving creates.

There are a few common tips that everyone thinks about, such as planning ahead to plan out where items should be packed and creating checklists to keep everything organized.

During this process, many people will find things that they can throw away. Common items that people can discard include old magazines, sports equipment, broken luggage, and even out-of-date clothing. This will make the packing process easier.

Finally, without a doubt, one of the biggest things that people worry about during thenbsp;movingnbsp;process is the cost.

How can people make such a large life change without going into bankruptcy in the process? Believe it or not, it can be done.

How Do You Move on a Budget?

Moving on a budget is a challenge; however, there are some steps that everyone can take to make the process cheaper. As mentioned above, it can be helpful to get rid of unnecessary stuff.

One of the ways to do this is to donate it to Goodwill. It can even be claimed as anbsp;tax deduction, which is always nice. Other ways to reduce the cost of moving include:

bull; Move during the offseason, where one article claims the cost of hiring movies is up to ldquo;30 percent cheaperrdquo;
bull; Skip the process of buying boxes and go with free ones instead
bull; Scrap the movers altogether and move with the help of friends and family

Moving on a budget is a challenge but it can be done by getting creative. Try to enlist the help of family and friends to ease the stress of the process.

Talk to other people who have moved recently. They might have other ideas that can reduce the cost of moving.

Unfortunately, moving to another state is a particularly daunting challenge.

What is the Cheapest Way to Move Out of State?

Often, moves involve crossing state lines. This means that making multiple trips with bungee cords and open trunks arenrsquo;t typically feasible. Because of this, people are often left scrambling to find ways to make the move in a single trip.

There are ways to get this done cheaply. One of these involves taking the bus, which has multiple benefits, including:

bull; Bus tickets are inexpensive
bull; People can take up to 250 pounds of luggage with them
bull; The driving is left to someone else

Unfortunately, for those with furniture, this often isnrsquo;t a viable option. That is where renting a small truck can be helpful. Some of the numerous benefits include:

bull; People can load furniture onto the small truck
bull; In some cases, the truck can be upgraded to tow an additional vehicle
bull; The furniture will arrive at the same time as you

So, why is renting a truck so cheap? Yoursquo;ll be doing all of the packing, loading, and unloading yourself, saving the cost of movers. Moving out of state can be a challenge. Furthermore, somenbsp;websitesnbsp;have tools that can help you find a great deal online

How to Pack for a Move Checklist

Moving is already a significant challenge. This challenge only gets tougher when people unpack at their new home and find that theyrsquo;ve lost something.

Which box is it in? Was it left behind? Where did it go? Avoid this problem by using a >

Weeks Ahead of Time:nbsp;In the weeks leading up to the move, make sure to:

bull; Trash or donate items that donrsquo;t need to be moved
bull; Compile a list of businesses and people that need to know about your new address
bull; Make arrangements for movers or trucks, if they are needed
bull; Make sure that expensive items have insurance on them

Days Ahead of Time:nbsp;As the moving date approaches, make sure tonbsp;review tips and survival guides to moving:

bull; Start taking down wall decorations, such as pictures, and pack them up
bull; Carefully package all fragile items together with plenty of padding
bull; Box up electronics with their respective cords to avoid confusion
bull; Pack a separate container of toiletries for the first night

As the process starts to unfold, set small goals. Try to unpack one room per person per day. This will make the process less overwhelming. Lastly, do not make the mistake of packing all of the heavy items together.

This will make the box almost impossible to move and could lead to seriousnbsp;injuries.

Can I Get a Personal Loan to Move?

Without a doubt, moving is expensive. Even after following all of the advice above, the process may still be costly. This is where locating a personal loan can be helpful.

Yes, people can qualify fornbsp;moving loans Moving loans can cover all forms and >

bull; Moving loans to pay for storage during the moving process
bull; Truck and van loans
bull; A loan to help with the cost of shipping furniture
bull; Loans to cover the cost of incidental moving expenses
bull; Loans for those who need help paying rent when they move or their mortgage

Lastly, there are even ways for people to qualify fornbsp;cash loans online. There are many benefits to investing in a moving loan.

As onenbsp;websitenbsp;puts it, anbsp;moving loannbsp;is an ldquo;unsecured loan, which means you donrsquo;t have to put your property at risk.rdquo;

This can help people spread out the cost of moving over several payments. People donrsquo;t need to stress about losing their car or house if they miss a loan payment. Finally, save some stress by consideringnbsp;cash loans online

Finding a Mover After You Have Funding for Moving

With the money set aside, people can finally figure out the best way to move. Like buying a house, there are many different moving companies available.

Sifting through all of the options can be a challenge. Some factors to consider when looking fornbsp;moversnbsp;include:

bull; Are the movers available for the moving date?
bull; Are the movers able to transport exotic objects such as fragile pictures and pianos?
bull; Do they have the equipment necessary to transport the furniture?
bull; Are they willing to travel the distance to the new home?
bull; Will the movers be willing to help pack, load, and unload?

Conclusion

These are all important questions to ask. Everyone needs to take the time to find the movers who can do the job correctly the first time. Nobody wants to unpack their items only to find them broken or damaged.

Remember, moving loans andnbsp;cash loans onlinenbsp;can help cover the cost of the move. This money can even help people purchase insurance to protect those valuable items during the moving process

Finally, donrsquo;t hesitate to ask for help. Thenbsp;movingnbsp;process is tough and everyone deserves a helping hand during this stressful time.

nbsp;


Full Story >


What is a Portfolio Loan?

Unless yoursquo;re in the mortgage business you probably donrsquo;t know what a portfolio loan actually is. But in reality, portfolio lending has been around for decades, much longer than conventional loans that are approved using Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac guidelines. In the ldquo;oldenrdquo; days, banks would have their own internal mortgage approval guidelines. There wasnrsquo;t any sort of a ldquo;secondaryrdquo; mortgage market where banks could sell loans, replenishing their credit lines, like there is today. For nearly two out of three loans issued in the current marketplace are approved using guidelines issued by Fannie or Freddie. But portfolio is still an important player in the industry and without them therersquo;s little doubt the housing industry in general would slow down.

A portfolio loan is one where there is no intended sale of the approved home loan. Instead, the lender approves the loan and keeps it in itrsquo;s ldquo;portfolio.rdquo; Most portfolio loans are made because the applicant has some sort of issue that currently keeps a conventional approval at bay. Why would a lender make a portfolio loan in the first place? I mean, if a loan canrsquo;t go Fannie or Freddie, then therersquo;s something wrong with the file, right? No, not necessarily. Take for example someone that just started a new business. Maybe someone that worked as a carpenter for five years and was so good and his customers loved him, he started out on his own. A few months later, business was so good that he decided it was time to buy a home. He could certainly afford it with his new income and he had enough money in the bank to close a purchase. And to top it off, his credit score was hovering around 750. But he got turned down when he applied. Why?

Most conventional mortgage loans require someone be self-employed with at least two years of business tax returns filed. If yoursquo;ve only been in business for maybe a year, yoursquo;re not going to meet that requirement. Lenders want to make loans, and have to if they want to continue to be lenders, but they also have to sell loans. But with a portfolio loan, there might be an approval ahead.

A portfolio loan looks at an application that is a ldquo;this makes senserdquo; type of loan. The loan wonrsquo;t be sold but held. The lender makes money on the interest paid each month and not with a sale in the secondary markets, and with an eye on the future.

Portfolio loans ask for a higher down payment, slightly higher rates and maybe fees. The common goal for a portfolio loan, at least in the borrowerrsquo;s mind, is to fix whatever needs fixing that keeps a conventional approval on hold. Once that goal is met, the borrower can refinance out of a portfolio loan and into a conventional one with better rates and terms. But without portfolio lending, buyers would have to wait, or maybe even being shut out of the housing market completely.


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Should You Invest in Short-Term or Long-Term Rental Properties?

What Are Short-Term and Long-Term Rentals?

If you are new to real estate investing, you might be wondering about the meaning of short-term rentals. This is a >

On the other hand, long-term rentals are investment properties which landlords rent out on monthly basis. Most tenants tend to stay in the same property for years before they decide to move to a new city or before they can afford to buy their own home. Long-term rentals are also called traditional rentals as this is the oldest type of rental properties.

Investing in Short-Term Rental Properties: The Advantages

1. Higher Return on Investment

The first and foremost benefit of buying an investment property to rent out on Airbnb or a similar platform rather than the traditional way is that this brings a higher return on investment. Data from Mashvisor, a real estate data analytics company, shows that the capitalization rate for short-term rentals exceeds the cap rate for long-term ones in the majority of big and small US housing markets. This is a very important factor as investors get into real estate to make money from properties, and the more money they can make, the better.

2. Control Over the Pricing Strategy

Vacation rentals are usually marketed on platforms which allow the host ndash; that is, the investor ndash; to set up a unique rental rate for every day. This allows you to customize your pricing schedule to account for the weekend and holidays as well as for the peak season and the off season. In this way you can decrease the daily rate when demand is slower to push your occupancy rate up and increase the rent when the market is hot in order to make more money. Consequently, you can maximize your rental income and return on investment easily and effectively.

3. In Demand

Airbnb rentals are very much in demand right now. Looking for a more welcoming and less pricey alternative to hotels, many business and leisure travelers decide to stay at short-term rentals, pushing the demand for them up. Thatrsquo;s excellent news from the point of view of real estate investors as more demand means that they can raise the nightly rate and still not compromize the occupancy rate. This, in turn, means higher return.

4. For Personal Use

The last major advantage of investing in a short-term rental as opposed to a traditional one is that you can use it for your own purposes. Because vacation rentalsrsquo; availability is marked on daily basis, you can decide when you want to stay at your second home with your friends and family and make those days unavailable for guests. In this way, you not only get to spend your holidays in a home-resembling atmosphere in your favorite location but also save money from expensive hotels.

Investing in Vacation Rentals: The Disadvantages

1. Legal Issues

The main drawback of this rental strategy is that short-term rentals are becoming illegal or at least strictly regulated in more and more markets across the US. The local authorities in many major cities such as San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and others have issued regulations which basically eliminated vacation rentals for investment purposes there. Moreover, even if you invest in a location where Airbnb is legal at the moment, there is no guarantee that the situation will not change for the worse in a few months or years.

2. High Turnover

Unlike traditional rentals, vacation homes experience a very high turnover. Guests change every couple of days, which means that you have to clean, tidy up, and restock all the time. This increases your running costs and requires a lot of time and efforts. Being an Airbnb host can be equivalent to a full-time job. However, professional vacation rental management companies offer an affordable solution to this problem. They would take care of all aspects of your short-term rental business in a cost-efficient way, maintaining your income or even increasing it.

Investing in Long-Term Rentals: The Advantages

1. Stability and Predictability

The most important pro of buying a traditional rental property is that it provides a sense of stability and predictability. You have to put efforts into screening tenants well to find good ones and then you should take good care of your property, of course. But as long as you do that, you can expect your tenants to stay for a few years. This means that you will receive your rental income month after month without worrying about vacancies and turnover. This is an important consideration for real estate investors.

2. Few Legal Restrictions

The laws governing the >

3. Smaller Initial Investment

If you decide to rent out your investment property on long-term basis, you can decide whether to to furnish it or not. Furnishing an entire house or apartment from scratch requires thousands of dollars, no matter how good you might be at finding deals. You have to provide a comfortable and pleasant environment to be able to compete with other investors in the neighborhood. Nonetheless, you save yourself both money and time when you leave your property unfurnished. You donrsquo;t have this option with vacation rentals.

4. Minimal Ongoing Expenses

Similarly, long-term rentals entail lower recurrent expenses than short-term ones. As an Airbnb host, you have to replace the toiletries and water, change the sheets, and clean the property between all guests. Moreover, you have to periodically change any broken pieces of furniture and deal with more frequent damages to your property. Meanwhile, long-term tenants see your rental as their home, so in most cases they cause less damage than short-term guests.

Investing in Traditional Rental Properties: The Disadvantages

1. Difficult Rent Increase

Most states tend to protect tenants and make rent increases very hard. As a landlord, you will most probably face limitations on the frequency of changes in the rental rate as well as the actual size of the increase. This means that you might miss on an opportunity to make more money if demand in your market starts going up.

2. Bad Tenants and Eviction

Even if you apply the most scrutinizing screening process when choosing your tenants, you might still make a mistake and end up with bad tenants. However, most states put significant restrictions on the tools you have at your disposal to deal with them. When your tenants donrsquo;t pay rent, you have to give them a notice before you can take any legal action. If you suspect your renters are causing too much damage to your property, you canrsquo;t just walk in to check on the property; once again you have to notify them. Not to mention that a supposedly simple eviction process can take months in which you cannot make money from your investment property.

3. Suboptimal Return on Investment

As mentioned above, short-term rentals tend to yield higher return on investment than traditional ones. Nevertheless, this doesnrsquo;t mean that you canrsquo;t make good money with long-term rentals. As long as you select your market carefully and analyze your investment property diligently, you can make doubled-digit return with this rental strategy.

One of the best things about real estate investing is the diversity of options including the two main rental strategies. While both short-term and long-term rental properties have clear, objective pros and cons, you have to take into consideration your personal preferences and your own personality as a real estate investor before you can decide which one to pursue.

nbsp;


Daniela Andreevska is Marketing Director at Mashvisor, a real estate analytics tool which helps real estate investors quickly find traditional and Airbnb investment properties. A research process thatrsquo;s usually 3 months now can take 15 minutes. We provide all the real estate information in easy to understand visualizations.


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5 Home Upgrades For Your Vacation Rental Space

The real challenge is creating a space which stands out and offers more than a guest could hope for. Why should they stay in your spare bedroom or pool house when they can simply instant book a hotel around the corner? What does your rental have that a hotel doesnt? Here are a few renovation ideas for turning your rental space into a destination, rather than a basic bedroom for travelers to crash. These renovations and upgrades can boost your feedback, and may even give you an opportunity to raise your rates

1. Make getting in secure and simple.

Traveling already comes with a few frustrations. When your guests finally reach your door, entry should be a breeze to eliminate further irritation. Installing a lockbox is one of the most convenient updates you can make. With a lockbox, they can arrive whenever is convenient for them and they wont be fumbling around your porch looking for "the blue planter" where the key is hidden. They will also feel 100 more safe, knowing that you keep your keys secure rather than taking any risks hiding them.

2. Curate a comfortable place to rest.

It is very important for your paying guests to get a good nights sleep. The bedroom should be a place where they can >

3. Create an oasis in the bathroom.

A luxurious bathroom can be a major selling point when a would-be traveler is flipping through property photos. This type of renovation is a great opportunity to set your space apart from any old hotel room. Create a spa-inspired area that is a getaway, not just an average home bathroom.

bull; Renovate with tile, either in small accent spaces or all-over.
bull; Swap standard shower heads for luxury ones with adjustable pressure.
bull; Install flattering and >bull; Freshen up the paint with a soothing palette, like taupe, light gray and wood.
bull; Give your guests enough counter space to spread out.
bull; Consider convenient extras, like a radio or even heated floors.
bull; Keep the bathroom stocked with fresh towels and toiletries.

4. Build an inviting outdoor retreat.

An attractive outdoor space can do a lot to secure more bookings. Vacations are often the best chance people have of getting some fresh air. When they arent out and about, they will want an area to enjoy a morning coffee or an evening wine outside. You could go all-out and build an outdoor living space, complete with a kitchen and dining area. However, small additions like Adirondack chairs, portable firepits and a thoughtfully planted landscape can significantly improve your propertys appeal. Be sure to highlight these outdoor spaces in your photo gallery.

5. Cook up a new kitchen plan.

It is well worth it to upgrade your kitchen, especially if youre going to have frequent guests. Easy-to-use, modern appliances make for less confusion. Many of todays travelers are used to the convenience of having a dishwasher, a fridge with an icemaker, a toaster oven and an efficient microwave. If they dont know how to use the appliances in your kitchen, theyre going to have a tough time saving money on foodmdash;one of the many benefits of renting a home.

Aside from providing the right appliances, you can increase your appeal by upgrading outdated cabinetry and replacing inexpensive countertops with granite. Granite can be deceptive in its beauty--it is also extremely durable, low-maintenance and resistant to heat. An investment in granite is a lasting one that may benefit both your rental appeal and even resale value.

Any of these improvements can make your property more appealing to vacationers, whether youre renting out a whole house, a single bedroom, or a mother-in-law suite. Spend some time in your rental to see where you could make renovations. Is there a place to >
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Five Is Grass Greener? Challenges in Paradise

Just back from an extended tour of the South Pacific, I am ready to move to almost everywhere I visited.

Travel inspiration may mark the start of a new exhilarating life adventure, but if you jump before you think, paradise may be anything but.

As a quick reality check, consider our Five ldquo;Is Grass Greener?rdquo;nbsp;Challenges for Bringing Paradise into Achievable Focus:

1. Fact or Fantasy?

How much of your strong affinity to this vacation spot is tied to a romantic love interest or a resort-based life>

2. Weather or Not

When you believe the grass is greener somewhere else, you believe that other peoples situations are better or more attractive than your own, but in the few days or weeks of your visit, you may not have experienced typical weather. Check local media to learn whether your vacation coincided with atypical weather or the expected seasonal. During my two weeks in New Zealandrsquo;s summer, even though locals repeatedly referred to unseasonably warm and dry weather, I was taken in by the heat. Instead of cool, windy, rainy days, everyday was a warm, sunny delight that played up the extraordinary scenery and beaches until I was well and truly hooked on New Zealand. Then, for one day, real New Zealand weather hit. Balmy breezes became biting winds, and it rained on and off all daymdash;that was the real New Zealand. Locals noticed nothing; vacationers were in shock and shivering. Yes, New Zealand does have lots of great warm days, but this is not a tropical country as my visit had left me believing.

3. Fabulous or Frustrating

ldquo;Irsquo;d live here in a heartbeatrdquo; places like Sydneyrsquo;s Bondi Beach and Honolulursquo;s Waikiki Beach were highlights of my travels. Yes, I would love to live on or near either beach. However, the reality of living near a world->

When I gushed to locals about how wonderful it must be tonbsp;live in the paradise that is Hawaii, one Waikiki resident told me firmlynbsp;that she was exhausted by the experience. A continuous stream of familynbsp;visitors, kept her so busy that she couldnrsquo;t get out to enjoy Hawaiinbsp;herself. Is having a small family another essential for living out yournbsp;dream of paradise?

4. Consistent or Changed Climate

Southeastern Australia, which includes Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney, is the most populated part of the continent. For a few years now, weeks of 100-degree summer heat waves have taken their toll on crops, animals, residents, and power grids. In parts of southeastern Australia, power outages, wildfires, cyclones, and extensive flooding have become commonplace, expensive realities. Furthermore, floods are sending coral-killing silt out to The Great Barrier Reef. Prolonged heat-waves warm the ocean and cause blooms of potentially-fatal stinging box jellyfish, which keep swimmers in full protective body suits or out of the water. These changing patterns are not unique to Australia. Red algae tides have plagued Floridarsquo;s west coast. California has been besieged by wildfires and the threat will continue. Storms and flooding ravage the Atlantic Coast making waterfront seem a high-risk environment. Whatrsquo;s taking a toll on the paradise you lust after?

5. Economic Wonder or Financial Worries

Successfully financing a new life>

bull; Many of the worldrsquo;s best-places-to-vacation are difficult places to find well-paying, full-time employment. Thatrsquo;s why most of the crew on my American cruise ship were from Indonesia where beaches are beautiful and living-wage jobs are scarce.
bull; Many locals in Honolulu repeated the same story: ldquo;Life is great, but good jobs are scarce, so most people who move here donrsquo;t last long.rdquo; Traditionally, the hospitality and travel industry, that makes our vacations terrific, does not pay high wages and often offers only contract or seasonal work.
bull; If your paradise is offshore, check out government restrictions for working and owning property. Investigate changing politics before you move.
bull; Your savings, pension buy-out, or pension may not last as long as you think. What choices would you have in paradise if you had to supplement your income?
bull; One common global parallel may surprise you: real estate prices have risen sharply in most popular vacation spotsmdash;million-dollar homes are the norm in ldquo;hot spots.rdquo; Local real estate professionals can usually provide up-to-date overviews of housing, foreign ownership regulations, and economic conditions in their corner of paradise, so you can begin to assess the feasibility and practicality of a move.

This list is offered as a practical first step for following up on your passion. Within the United States, there are many variations on paradise, so following your passion may not be a high-risk pursuit, but consider our Five ldquo;Is Grass Greenerrdquo; Challenges first.

An extended stay of one to three months may be an ideal experiment to check out details regarding a longer stay or a permanent move to your paradise.


Whatrsquo;s Coming Next?

Which topic or pending real estate decision would you like PJ to explorenbsp;in a column? Let PJ know:

Additional Resource: For more about Achievable Focus visit PJrsquo;s blog, Whatrsquo;s Your Point?


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Speed Along the Real Estate Transaction with a Pre-Listing Home Inspection

As the real estate market becomes increasingly competitive and consumer confidence rises, buyers and sellers are more motivated to seek opportunities to close deals efficiently. Thats why real estate professionals often suggest a pre-listing home inspection -- an inspection prior to putting the home on the market. Pre-listing inspections provide an added benefit for the buyer, seller and real estate agent, and often allows sales transaction to be completed more quickly.

Here are some key points to remember for your pre-listing inspection:

Involve your Real Estate Agent

When it comes to real estate, agents are pros and they play a key role in moving the home buying transaction along. During a pre-listing inspection, agents know what questions to ask the inspector to be sure they fully understand any issues, and to alleviate client concerns. Good real estate agents take the time to work with their clients post-inspection to go over the inspection report. Their goal is to make sure buyers and sellers fully understand the findings of the inspection report.

Build Trust with the Buyer

For homebuyers, a pre-listing inspection builds confidence. It allows buyers to immediately know all the under-the-surface details within the home. If there are parts of the home that need fixing, the sellers repairs can increase the asking price or be touted in the listing description to help a home stand out. Where repair issues are identified but not repaired, credibility through disclosure is gained and the issue is factored into the pricing upfront. In each case, sellers who disclose the condition of a home upfront gain the trust and faith in a buyer during the initial stages of their purchasing decision.

Spotlight Your Home

A pre-listing home inspection report is a great marketing tool for sellers and agents because it clearly points out the best features of the property. Any recent home renovations will be noted and stand out to buyers. These updates can offer both aesthetic and mechanical value with items such as new flooring, new appliances or a new furnace or air conditioning unit. A home buyer likes to see updates have been made to the home as they are often costly -- and it reassures them the home is properly maintained. This assurance will help to accelerate the transaction.

Planning Can Save Time and Money

For the seller, a pre-listing home inspection allows for time to make repairs before putting the house on the market. They can then make these repairs on their own budget and timeline rather than having to pay for a buyers contractor to quickly complete the work.

Remember, the goal of a home inspection is to provide a true reflection of the issues concerning the home and offer a non-alarmist, practical solution. Leveraging the knowledge and experience of professionalsnbsp;ensures important things arent missed, reports are received in a timely fashion and all parties are enabled to move the home smoothly and successfully through the real estate transaction.

nbsp;


Steve Wadlington, president of WIN Home Inspection, one of the fastest growing franchised home inspection companies in the United States with more than 150 operators in more than 185 locations in 32 states.


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How Much Money Do You Need to Buy a Home?

Your first stop is talking with your loan officer to find out which loan program best suits your needs and qualifications. For instance, if yoursquo;re eligible for a VA loan and you want to come to the closing table with as little cash as possible, the VA loan is likely your best choice. Therersquo;s no down payment required for a VA loan although you can make one if you want and the veteran is restricted from paying certain types of closing costs. If yoursquo;re looking at a higher end home and need jumbo financing, you may be asked to make a down payment of at least 20-25 of the sales price of the home.

Your loan officer will provide the proper loan options and both of you will decide on which loan works best for your situation. Once you decide the type of loan you want, yoursquo;ll need to ask for a Loan Estimate which provides a breakdown on closing costs that yoursquo;ll be responsible for. How much are closing costs? Thatrsquo;s a broad question.

Closing costs will vary based upon the type of loan and where the property is located. But when you make the request for a closing cost estimate, thatrsquo;s your starting point. You can also ask for a lender credit that can be used at the closing table to offset some or all of your closing costs. This can usually be accomplished with a slight upward adjustment with the interest rate selected for your loan program.

There are one-time fees associated with the loan such as money for an appraisal and credit report and title insurance, attorney and escrow fees in addition to various third-party charges. There are also recurring fees that will happen again and again as long as you own your home. Property taxes, home insurance and mortgage interest fall into this category of recurring fees.

Next, yoursquo;ll need to know about your down payment. With a VA loan there are no down payment requirements. There is no down payment needed for a USDA loan. FHA loans ask for a down payment of at least 3.5 of the sales price. For conventional loans, there is a minimum 5.0 down payment. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer special programs that ask for a down payment of just 3.0. Jumbo loans typically ask for a minimum down payment of 20 but there are ways to utilize two mortgages, a first and a second, to finance a jumbo purchase with less than 20 down. Your loan officer will help with that.

So far, wersquo;ve got closing costs, both recurring and non-recurring and down payments. But therersquo;s one more- cash reserves. Cash reserves are funds that will be sitting in your bank account after the closing has taken place. Cash reserves are calculated as the number of months of house payments. If a loan needs six months of reserves and the mortgage payment, including principal and interest, taxes and insurance, is 3,000, there will be 18,000 of reserves identified and verified.


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5 DIY Things You Can Do Now to Lower Your Electric Bills This Summer

This year, wersquo;re concentrating on the DIY aspect of summer energy savings, so not only can you save a few bucks on an ongoing basis, but keep your cost low initially, as well. Here are 5 low-cost, high-impact changes you can make now.

Practice good window covering management

Seems easy enough, right? You can make a big difference in the amount of hot air getting into your home and the cool air escaping, just by choosing the right window coverings.

Cost: Depends on the product chosen, but could be as little as a Starbucks order if you buy on sale
Energy savings: ldquo;Appropriately hung draperies can decrease the discomfort associated with drafty windows,rdquo; said Energy.gov. And those drafty windows can account for as much as 25 of a homersquo;s energy loss.
DIY level: With a ladder, a level, and an electric screwdriver, you should be good to go.

Clean your window sills

A few seasonsrsquo; worth of dirt and soot can interrupt the seal and make it so your windows arenrsquo;t closing all the way. Even a little air getting in can make your AC less efficient and raise your electric bill.

Cost: Nothing if you already have cleaning spray and paper towels. A few bucks for a toothbrush if you need more help with caked-on dirt.
Energy savings: File this one under drafty windows as well. ldquo;Your windows are the top energy leak in a typical home,rdquo; said Panther Heating and Cooling. ldquo;When you are trying to cool your house, they are letting in heat.rdquo;
DIY level: Easy-peasy. You can even make this a chore for the kids

Get a door sweep

More of that cooled air is likely leaking out from underneath your doors. A couple of door sweeps can easily fix that problem, and all it will take is a quick trip to Home Depot.

ldquo;A common place where air leaks occur is under the door leading from the house to the garage because they are often not as well sealed as doors leading directly to the outside,rdquo; said Energy Star. ldquo;Install a door sweep to seal the gap between the bottom of your door and the threshold to prevent cold air from coming in and warm air from escaping from your home. Stopping this air flow will keep heated indoor living space more comfortable and prevent increased energy bills.rdquo;

Cost: 10 and up
Energy savings: Donrsquo;t be surprised to see a difference in your electric bill when yoursquo;re keeping more of your cooled air in, and keeping the hot air out.
DIY level: If you can use a drill to make holes in the door and screen the sweep in, you can install a door sweep.

Check your ducts

ldquo;Ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout houses with forced-air heating and cooling systems,rdquo; said Energy Star. You can check the ducts yourself, looking for
ldquo;holes, tears, and other signs of leaking ducts and seal them using mastic or metal foil tape never use duct tape, as it is not long-lasting. Insulate all the ducts you can access such as those in the attic, crawlspace, unfinished basement, or garage.rdquo;

Cost: As little as 7.82 for a roll of tape
Energy savings: ldquo;In typical houses, about 20 of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts,rdquo; they said. ldquo;The result is an inefficient HVAC system, high utility bills, and difficulty keeping the house comfortable, no matter how the thermostat is set.rdquo;
DIY level: Yoursquo;ll likely be dealing with high places and tight spaces, and may also have to fend off a few creepy-crawlies.

Caulk and weatherstrip

ldquo;Window air leakage can be reduced by applying a continuous bead of caulk around the window trim where it meets the wall, at the mitred joints of the trim, and between the trim and the frame,rdquo; Natural Resources Canada. ldquo;Make sure the caulk is intended for indoor use do not use exterior caulking indoors, can be painted and is of good quality.rdquo;

Cost: Caulking, under 2, just over 2 for weatherstripping
Energy savings: Using Charlotte, NC as an example, the Department of Energy estimated that the average homeowner could ldquo;save 14 on heating and cooling costs each year with proper air sealing and insulation,rdquo; said Panther Heating and Cooling.
DIY level: A rookie can master this one.


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Whats New in Residential Roofing Styles

Knowing your options for residential roofing materials before repairs are needed also allows you to decide on the best choice for your home and then plan and budget for that new residential roof Check out whatrsquo;s new in residential roofing >

Slate Roofing

Slate roofing is valued for its durability and >

Slate roofs are also very attractive, with a natural look that enhances a homersquo;s overall curb appeal. Donrsquo;t believe the myth that slate roofs are noisy as a roofrsquo;s underlayment and other materials absorb sound and keep a slate roof quiet, even in inclement weather.

Flat Roofing Materials

Flat roofing materials are very durable and easy to maintain and offer a unique look for homes. The PVC or TPO materials used to create flat roofs are watertight and very dense so that the roof isnrsquo;t likely to leak or blow away in a storm

Cool Roofs

A cool or white roof is a reflective coating added over roofing materials. The lighter color of a white roof helps to reflect sunlight and keep a home cooler in summertime.

Not only does cool roof lower your air conditioning bills significantly but it can also reduce wear and tear on the roofing materials underneath it. Overexposure to harsh sunlight and heat often cause asphalt shingles and other roofing tiles to become brittle and crumbly, leading to premature cracking, splitting, and otherwise unnecessary repairs, whereas a cool roof helps avoid that damage.

Metal Roofs

Metal roofs are not new, as metal has been a favorite roofing material for centuries; however, metal is quickly becoming a popular option for homeowners versus standard asphalt shingles. A metal roof is far more durable than asphalt and can last for decades, even outlasting the home itself

The experts and local roofing contractors in Boston note that many homeowners mistakenly assume that a metal roof is heavy and might damage a home, but this is not the case. Metal roofing tiles are lighter than shingles and an excellent option for older homes and structures that have weakened with age.

Synthetic Roofing Materials

Synthetic roofing materials, including plastic, rubber, and other polymers, are increasingly popular with homeowners today due to their low cost, lighter weight, and durability. Synthetic roofing materials are shaped and formed to resemble other materials including wood and slate, and are often highly fire-resistant.

If considering synthetic roofing materials, note the reputation of the manufacturer and any warranty offered. Ensure that your roofing contractor has experience installing synthetic materials, and itrsquo;s even helpful to see a sample of these materials side-by-side with asphalt or slate shingles, to compare their >

Solar Shingles

Todayrsquo;s innovations in solar technology have allowed roofing materials manufacturers to incorporate solar wiring into shingles themselves. Opting for solar shingles allows a homeowner to enjoy solar power in the home without the bulky appearance of full solar panels

Solar shingles can be somewhat costly and itrsquo;s good for homeowners to note the pitch and angle of their homersquo;s roof and how much sunlight the shingles might realistically absorb throughout the day. Remember, too, to check for rebates, tax credits, and other incentives that help to offset the cost of solar shingles when deciding on a new roofing material for your home.

Concrete Roof Tiles

Concrete might not sound like an attractive material for a homersquo;s roof, but concrete is a very versatile substance that can be shaped and formed and then painted, stained, and buffed so that it resembles many other architectural materials. Concrete roof tiles often look just like their more expensive slate counterparts or they might resemble wood roof tiles, while being far less expensive than slate and much more fire-resistant than wood

The downside of concrete roof tiles is that they are often heavy and cumbersome to install. Not every home is a good candidate for concrete roof tiles and their installation might require a specialty contractor, so keep those considerations in mind when shopping for a new residential roof.

Green Roofs

A green roof combines soil, compost, and living plants to create an actual ecosystem on a homersquo;s roof Live plants on a homersquo;s roof adds a protective layer of insulation between the house and outside elements, keeping a home cooler in summertime and warmer in winter.

A green roof also improves surrounding air quality since plants clean the air around them naturally. Some homeowners even grow edible vegetation on their homersquo;s roof, reducing their grocery bills as well as their utility costs. While green roofs have many advantages, they are best suited for sloped roofs, to allow proper water runoff and to prevent water pooling on the homersquo;s roof.

Colored Roofs

No matter the residential roofing material you choose, todayrsquo;s homeowners have more options for color than ever before. Roofs in a red tone offer a rustic charm while a dijon yellow roof can add a splash of subtle color above a white home. Roofs in a slight blue tone are an excellent option for homes painted blue, as the color is often difficult to match and complement.

When choosing a new residential roofing material, consider adding a bit of personality to the house exterior with a splash of color. You will then have a roof that is not only durable and strong but which also enhances your homersquo;s appearance and reflects your own personal >


nbsp;Sean King is a leader in the industry and offers full roof replacements using the best materials. His New England based company, Risk Free Roofing Boston has changed the industry by never asking for deposits, installing roofs in a day and giving quotes in 5 minutes or less. He also warranties his roofs for the entire lifetime of the home.


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An Insiders Look at the Reality of Home Staging

But just how do those two contingents break down? The National Association of Realtors NAR 2019 Profile of Home Staging provides some insight. The study separated the study into three categories: Buyersrsquo; Agent Perspective, Sellersrsquo; Agent Perspective, and Buyer Expectations. Wersquo;re taking a closer look at the key points.

Home Staging: Buyersrsquo; Agent Perspective

According to the study, ldquo;40 percent of buyersrsquo; agents cited that home staging had an effect on most buyersrsquo; view of the homerdquo; and ldquo;83 percent of buyersrsquo; agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.rdquo; Buyers agents also noted that, ldquo;Staging the living room was found to be most important for buyers 47 percent, followed by staging the master bedroom 42 percent, and staging the kitchen 35 percent.rdquo;

Home Staging: Sellersrsquo; Agent Perspective

Per the study, ldquo;28 percent of sellersrsquo; agents said they staged all sellersrsquo; homes prior to listing them for sale,rdquo; and ldquo;13 percent noted that they only staged homes that are difficult to sell.rdquo; The living room 93 percent, kitchen 84 percent, master bedroom 78 percent, and the dining room 72 percent were the most commonly staged rooms.

Sellersrsquo; agents offered to do the staging 26 percent of the time, and, ldquo;The median dollar value spent on home staging was 400.rdquo;

Buyer Expectations

Call it the HGTV effect: ldquo;A median of 10 percent of respondents cited that buyers felt homes should look the way they were staged on TV shows,rdquo; while ldquo;38 percent of respondents said that TV shows which displayed the buying process impacted their business.rdquo;

The real effect of staging

Now that we have the buyerrsquo;s agent, sellerrsquo;s agent, and buyerrsquo;s perspective, letrsquo;s look at some real data about staged homes. According to the NAR study, 22 percent of sellersrsquo; agents ldquo;reported an increase of one percent to five percent of the dollar value offered by buyers, in comparison to similar homes,rdquo; and ldquo;17 percent of respondents stated that staging a home increased the dollar value of the home between six and 10 percent. 28 percent of sellersrsquo; agents stated that there were slight decreases in the time on the market when the home is staged, while 25 percent reported that staging a home greatly decreased the amount of time the home was on the market.rdquo;

Of course, time on market and sales prices can range depending on a number of factors, like age of home, location, square footage, and price point. The Real Estate Staging Association has found, overall, that staged homes sell ldquo;73 faster, on average, than their non-staged counterparts,rdquo; said The Mortgage Reports.


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New Program Allows Short-Term Rental Income to Be Used for Refinances

The new program, from Quicken Loans, uses ldquo;rental income earned through VRBO to be used to qualify for a mortgage refinance,rdquo; the lender said in a news >

Typically, investment property income can help a borrowerrsquo;s debt-to-income ratio, but being able to show income from short-term rentals is a sign of the times. "Vrbo helps homeowners use one of their biggest assets as a source of income.nbsp;Now Quicken Loans can accurately review that income and consider it when calculating the debt-to-income ratio ndash; a major data point considers when qualifying for a mortgage," Jay Farner, CEO of Quicken Loans, said in a >

This evolution makes sense when you consider how closely tied the income generated by these short-term rentals is to ongoing living expenses. ldquo;Rental income and mortgage payments are often intertwined,rdquo; said Inman News. ldquo;A June 2018 market report from Vrbo found that more than 50 percent of short-term rental owners utilizing the platform use income generated from their property to cover at least 75 percent of their mortgage payment.rdquo;
The rental income can come from a primary residence or a second home, and primary residences, vacation homes, and investment properties can all be refinanced under the program.

The Vrbo partnership with Quicken comes on the heels of competitor Airbnbrsquo;s announcement last year that itrsquo;s working with both Quicken and Fannie Mae to ldquo;allow anyone who has rented out property on Airbnb for a year or longer to count some or all of that money as incomerdquo; when applying for a refinance, said MarketWatch.


Full Story >


What Is Considered an Official Mortgage Application?

Lenders must also determine affordability. When issuing a preapproval letter, itrsquo;s typically after the borrower and the loan officer have had a conversation about monthly payments, down payments and closing costs. This prequalification is the result of a general conversation between the two regarding current credit status, employment, assets and other items. When these items are reviewed and confirmed, itrsquo;s at that point where a preapproval letter can be issued.

Borrowers can also request a Loan Estimate, formerly known as the Good Faith Estimate, which will itemize various potential costs of obtaining a home loan. Costs both from the lender and third parties. But the loan estimate isnrsquo;t considered binding until the mortgage application is considered a valid loan application according to regulations. There are six things that do turn a prequalification or preapproval into an official loan application which will then trigger a host of required disclosures the borrowers need to review, sign and return to the lender. These six items are:

bull; Name
bull; Income
bull; Social Security Number
bull; Property Address
bull; Estimated Value of Selected Property
bull; Mortgage Loan Amount South

When this information is provided to the lender, either over the phone, in person or in writing, the application becomes an official one and the lender then is required to supply an official Loan Estimate to the applicants within three business days. It is this loan estimate that will be used to compare the initial estimate with the final numbers at the settlement table. For example, lender charges cannot vary from the initial estimate to the final settlement statement. Third party charges can have an aggregate variance of 10 percent from the initial estimate. For required services where the borrowers select the provider, which is rare by the way, there is no regulation limiting changes to the final number. If any one of the required six items is missing, the loan application is not an official one and loan disclosures will not be delivered. Most often this is a property address.

Itrsquo;s important to note here that just because one item is missing doesnrsquo;t mean the lender doesnrsquo;t have to provide you with an estimate of closing costs. Your loan officer certainly will upon request. But when a completed loan application withthe minimum six pieces of information are provided, things get official and various loan disclosures will be issued and the clock begins to tick.


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How to Determine a Sellers Market

What the Heck is a Sellers Market?

There are no better words in the English dictionary that can make a home owner do their infamous happy dance than these four little words: ldquo;itrsquo;s a sellerrsquo;s marketrdquo;.

Sohellip;.you askhellip;.how do you know if it really is a sellerrsquo;s market and what exactly does that mean?

Irsquo;m going to bring you back to ECON 101 for a moment. Remember when your professor spent two weeks explaining the concept of supply and demand? Well, I hope you took notes.

In a sellerrsquo;s market, there are fewer homes for sale with more buyers out there looking to purchase. nbsp;The factors that lead to more buyers in the market could be: nbsp;sustained low interest rates, high employment rate, legislative changes which make it easier to purchase a property ndash; events and conditions that make buyers think it would be a good time to invest in a home.

In my experience, there are some advantages to the sellers in this kind of market. Typically, home prices will rise, buyers will quickly make offers and sometimes, buyers will compete for a property. This can lead to a bidding war, ultimately driving the price of the home up above expectations

Now on to your next question. How do I, as a potential seller, know when it really is a sellerrsquo;s market?

How to Recognize a Sellers Market

There is a thing called "Absorption Rate" that many REALTORS and economists alike will use to determine whether the market is in a buyers or sellers favor. First, a REALTOR will use the MLS to determine the number of homes closed in your market over a specific period. Next, they will divide the number of homes by the number of months in the period. This gives a per month absorption rate. Lastly, they will divide the rate into the number of current listings. This will yield the months supply of homes. A six months supply is considered a balanced market - when the number of listings roughly equals the number of buyers. Numbers over six represent a buyers market and those below, a sellers market.nbsp;

Absorption Rate=nbsp; Current Listings/ of homes closed in a specific period/number of months in the period nbsp;

How to Price a Home for Sale

After a REALTOR determines the absorption rate for a specific area or neighborhood, they will create a Comparative Market Analysis CMA of the subject property. This report will be based on the recent usually within six months comparable homes sold in the neighborhood or surrounding area usually within one mile radius. This analysis will give the REALTOR an idea of what comparable homes are selling for, and how quickly. Using this information, along with the absorption rate, the agent will be able to come up with a listing price that will guarantee that the home sells quickly for top dollar.nbsp;


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The Biggest Hurdles When Renovating Old Homes and Buildings

Developers, home owners, and businesses alike all have a vested interest in purchasing the best properties within their budgets. Especially true in older communities and cities, a variety of high-quality buildings and homes can be found, many of which use more solid building >

Youve probably heard the phrase ldquo;this home has good bones.rdquo; Particularly important when renovating or remodeling an older home, many owners find that the underlying structures allow for great customization and a plethora of new possibilities.

Nevertheless, there are many potential hurdles facing those who want to renovate or change older buildings. Lets take a look at the biggest obstacles here today.

Historical Building Regulations

In many cities and towns, historical societies exist to protect various historical buildings and features in neighborhoods. For those purchasing, or who are planning to purchase an older home or building, the very first thing they should do is verify whether the building has any historical significance.

The consequences of attempting to renovate or remodel an older building can range from public campaign pressure tonbsp;binding legal requirements. In some cases, remodeling an older building ndash; such as one within a designated neighborhood or with certain historical >

Permits

Any major renovation poses a variety of challenges but obtaining the proper permits and permissions can be a nightmare. Especially in the case of older buildings, there may be an enti>

Having the proper understanding of the building in question ndash; and therefore what will be required ndash; may take several trips to your local zoning or building agency. Because of the complexities often faced with renovating older buildings in urban areas, owners may decide to source assistance from qualified compliance officials.nbsp;

Costs

Obviously, a huge roadblock to renovating an older property ndash; or any property, for that matter ndash; is the cost associated with the endeavor. All too often, renovations for older properties can become expensive very quickly, exceeding that of more contemporary projects.

Due to a variety of concerns >

Environmental Issues

In many jurisdictions, older buildings may enjoy exemptions from modern building codes and environmental regulations. From wiring and plumbing to insulation, many raw materials may create environmental hazards once removed during a remodel.

As such, securing the proper permits and disposal situations for components such as lead pipes and asbestos can be a logistical nightmare. Through agencies such as the EPA, owners can determine what requirements and risks exist when renovating older properties.

These hurdles are not insurmountable but are definitely challenging. Because of this, no purchase of an older home or building should be rushed: it is imperative to do your homework and evaluate the conditions of the property and the requirements needed for renovation. This can help minimize the chances of financial ruin, legal action, wasted time and stress.


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Tips For Redecorating While On A Budget

Reuse

Before you start buying new furniture, bedding, and fixtures that will quickly eat through your budget, start by taking an inventory of what you already have. Think about ways that things can be reused. Simple furniture pieces can be painted or even just have the hardware changed out that will change the way a piece looks.

Many types of furniture can serve a different purpose. An unused dining table can become a desk. That old sofa table can be used as a mobile bar if wheels are added. Even a broken dresser can be salvaged and transformed.

Simple Appearances

Bigger is not always better. Sometimes a few simple changes can make a big impact, with minimal expense. Updating paint colors or just adding an accent wall is one way. You can also change out throw rugs and light fixtures. A small thing, like changing lamp shades or the glass covers on your ceiling fans or overhead lighting, can have a big visual impact as well.

Add covers to pillows and duvets to bedspreads. But what is a duvet? Think of the duvet like a pillow case for bedspreads. You can put an existing bedspread inside the duvet and create an enti>

Thrifty Shopping

If you still plan to make some purchases, consider used pieces. Second-hand or thrift stores are often great places to buy deacute;cor items without spending a fortune. Wholesale, liquidation, and salvage places can also help save some money. Remember to consider possible alternate uses for items as well.

Keep your eyes open for things that people are trying to sell, too. Visit yard sales and flea markets. You can find a wide variety of items that people are selling for low prices. Swap meets are also good places to locate what you might need, while giving you the opportunity to get rid of something that no longer suits your tastes or needs.

Artwork

An alternative to pricey reprints, or even more expensive originals, is to create your own artwork to display. Try your skill at painting or decoupage. Frame your childrsquo;s latest art piece. You can even find free artwork to print and use at home. Spruce up some old wooden frames. Things like foiling and sponging can help you turn drab frames into decorative displays.

One at a Time

The most important thing to remember is to take it one step at a time. Try not to redecorate every room at the same time. You may need to divide your budget into chunks for each room that you want to redecorate. If you go room by room, you may find that you have some money left over that can be used for other rooms. By going one room at a time, you can avoid getting overwhelmed because you have taken on too much at once.

There are numerous options for redecorating on a budget, regardless of how small that budget might be. In your redecorating efforts, you can make huge changes just as easily as you can make small ones, both impacting the final result of a room. In the end, your home can be a display of the things you enjoy in an atmosphere that best suits you.


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3 Ways to Reduce Your Closing Costs

Saving up for a down payment is probably the biggest challenge, especially for first time home buyers, but closing costs also need to be addressed. Here are three ways buyers can reduce or eliminate these costs.

The first way is to have your lender quote you an interest rate that provides a lender credit toward your closing costs. When your lender quotes rates and fees to you, yoursquo;ll get a range of rates from lower to higher. Lower rates will require upfront interest in the form of a discount point. One discount point equals one percent of the amount borrowed. On a 300,000 loan, one point is then 3,000.

For example, if your lender offers 4.25 with no points on a 30 year loan you might also be able to get a 4.00 by paying one point upfront. The lender really doesnrsquo;t care if you pay points or not, itrsquo;s completely your call. You have the option of paying interest upfront in the form of a point or you can pay the interest over the term of the loan without paying a point.

If you take that 4.25 rate one step further, say to 4.50, the lender may offer a one point credit. Your monthly payment goes up by a little, but you also saved on closing costs. On that same 300,000 30 year loan, the 4.50 rate gave you a 3,000 credit at the settlement table. There is some math involved to determine which rate is best in your situation and your loan officer will walk you through the process.

Another way to reduce your closing costs is to have the sellers pay them for you. This involves you and your real estate agent making an offer that asks the sellers to pay for all or some of your fees. Your offer might include verbiage that asks the sellers to pay a certain percentage of the sales price, say 1 or 2 of the sales price or you might ask for a specific amount, such as 3,000.

Different loan programs place certain limits on how much the sellers can pay so yoursquo;ll need to check with your loan officer before making the offer. Most such limits are ra>

Finally, if the sellers decide to decline your request, you can adjust the sales price upward. If the sales price is 300,000 and closing costs are 3,000, you can offer 303,000 while then asking the sellers to pay 3,000 of your costs. The sellers net the same amount at the closing table and you donrsquo;t have to come up with an additional 3,000 for closing costs. One potential issue with this method is making sure the property will appraise at the higher amount, but a one percent increase usually wonrsquo;t cause any problems. And yes, when making a higher offer that also means your loan amount will also go up the difference in monthly payment is ba>

Closing costs will need to be addressed just as a down payment needs to be. Your loan officer will provide you with an initial cost estimate that will generally match up with your final settlement, so yoursquo;ll know what to expect. You can adjust your rate upward, have the sellers pay for them as part of your offer, or increase your offer slightly to include an amount reflecting your expected settlement fees.


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Do Energy-Efficient Windows Really Save You Money?

An energy audit of your home is often the best option for evaluating your homersquo;s insulation and the efficiency of your major appliances, and your local utility companies can often arrange such an audit for you. However, note some vital information about new thermal windows and other energy-saving features in the home so that you can make the best decision for your house and your utilities budget

What Are Thermal Windows?

Simply put, thermal windows are windows that have energy-efficient properties. These windows are often made of multiple panes versus a single pane, or they are manufactured with specialty glass designed to offer more insulating features than standard window glass.

Double-glazed and triple-glazed windows are made with two or three panes of glass, attached with a layer of argon gas between them. Argon gas offers excellent insulating properties, keeping heat or cold out of the home while not allowing your own heating and cooling to escape from inside the home
Low-E glass is covered with a thin coating that transmits light but blocks heat. Low-E glass is an excellent option for homes in tropical environments as it allows lots of light into a home but not uncomfortable heat.
Energy-efficient windows often have frames made with dense and durable materials that donrsquo;t conduct heat or cold, also improving their overall insulating materials. Vinyl and PVC are popular choices for frames, adding to the energy efficiency of those windows.

How Much Do Energy Efficiency Windows Save?

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that most homeowners save an average of 126 to 465 per year by choosing thermal or energy savings windows. While this may not seem like much savings, note that upgraded windows also help to create a more comfortable interior environment. When windows are old and outdated and allow drafts into the home, or donrsquo;t block outside heat and humidity, your homersquo;s interior might always feel chilly or hot and stuffy no matter how often you cycle on the furnace or air conditioner.

New windows also improve a homersquo;s overall curb appeal, potentially even increasing your property values. Scratched, nicked, chipped, or otherwise damaged windows often look yellowed and streaky. Upgraded windows look clean and streak-free from both inside and outside the home

Choosing new windows also allows you to opt for an updated window >

Why Do Older Windows Get Drafty?

In addition to considering the benefits of upgraded, thermal residential windows, itrsquo;s also good to note the disadvantages of keeping old windows in your home First note that window glass tends to become thin and brittle over time. This thin glass does a poor job of keeping heat and cold outside the home

A house will also shift and settle on its foundation so that its framework is no longer perfectly level and even. In turn, window frames pull away from the structure itself, leading to cracks and leaks that allow in cold drafts in wintertime and overly hot, humid air in summertime

New double-glazed or triple-glazed windows are without outside nicks, scratches, and other damage, and are strong and thick against exterior temperatures. New thermal windows also typically install with their own frames, closing up those leaks and cutting off resultant, bothersome drafts.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Home Energy-Efficient

Selecting new thermal windows for a home is an excellent means of adding to your overall comfort inside your home and for lowering your utility bills. However, new windows are not your only option for increasing energy efficiency in your home and saving money on your heating and cooling costs. Note five tips for creating a more energy-efficient home environment:

bull; Add window attachments designed for energy efficiency in particular. For example, solar shades are thin enough to allow sunlight into the home while still blocking uncomfortable outside heat. The thermal window experts at EnerPro Window Replacement of Denver note that these window attachments even reduce glare on computer and television screens while blocking unwanted heat
bull; Poorly-fitting doors allow drafts into the home while also letting out your heating and air conditioning. A carpenter can note if your homersquo;s entryway doors are uneven with gaps around its frame and can usually tighten or otherwise rehang the doors to seal up those gaps. Draft guards at the bottom of entryway doors also block lots of outside heat and cold.
bull; Weatherstripping is an easy and affordable means of blocking drafts around movable parts in the home, including doors and windows. A line of weatherstripping over a window sash and around a doorframe will close up gaps and reduce drafts and the loss of heating and cooling in the home.
bull; Water heaters cycle on when the water in the tank reaches a certain temperature. If your homersquo;s water heater is in the basement or a chilly utility room, consider installing an insulating blanket around the tank. This will keep the water warmer and reduce the number of times the heater cycles on.
bull; Ensure that your homersquo;s attic or crawlspace is properly insulated and the roof vents are in good condition and never obstructed. As heat rises in summertime, it tends to get caught in homes with poor insulation and low-quality vents, creating a hot and stuffy home interior. High-quality insulation in the attic or crawlspace also keeps out wintertime cold, especially vital in snowy areas when a homersquo;s roof is often covered with cold snow and ice

Consider all these tips when yoursquo;re in the market for energy-efficient windows. By adding weatherstripping and checking your homersquo;s insulation, along with choosing upgraded windows, yoursquo;re sure to see a reduction in your utility costs and enjoy a more comfortable home environment as well

nbsp;


nbsp;Luis Rios is the owner of EnerPro Window Replacements of Denver and his company as been installing energy efficient windows and doors for over a decade. For new home owners, energy efficient windows and doors are a huge selling point, especially in colder climates and giving his customer the best energy efficient products has saved his customers money on their electricity bills while increasing their home values.


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How to Scam-Proof Your Roof

Wersquo;re talking about those who show up at your door unannounced with an offer to check out your roof or repair/replace it for a price that seems too good to be true, and then run off with your money without fixing anythingmdash;or doing a shoddy job.

ldquo;Some of the most unbelievable home improvement rip-offs come from scam-artists disguised as roofers,rdquo; said Mosby Building Arts. ldquo;Reputable roofing contractors have to deal with an unfairly tarnished reputation because consumers are too often taken in by unlicensed pretenders.rdquo;

We tapped several top roofers to get their advice on what to watch out for and how to protect yourself from costly scams.

Ignore unsolicited offers

ldquo;Even if you really are in need of a new roof, do not work with a roofer who knocked on your door uninvited,rdquo; said Mosby Building Arts. ldquo;Reputable roofers only engage when you have made the first call to request their services.rdquo;

Donrsquo;t sign anything

ldquo;Some roofers, especially the storm chasers, like to use high-pressure tactics to get you to sign a contract,rdquo; said Excel Roofing. ldquo;They may even hand you a document and claim it gives them permission to inspect your roof and contact your insurance company. Bottom line is this: donrsquo;t sign it. Donrsquo;t sign anything a roofer hands you unless you are 110 sure you want this person and his or her company to roof your home.rdquo;

Do your research

ldquo;You want to do your homework before you waste your time talking to a roofing contractor who wonrsquo;t make the cut in the end,rdquo; said Peak Roofing Contractors. ldquo;There are many places you can do research these days including countless sites on the internet. When you look at reviews, remember that you canrsquo;t please all the people all the time so reviews should be looked at in their totality. It may be even more important to see how a company responds to a bad review. Donrsquo;t forget to ask your friends and neighbors about their experiences with local companies and check the Better Business Bureau. When you visit a companyrsquo;s website, make sure they have a local address and talk in detail about the service you need.rdquo;

Never, ever give a roofer any money upfront

ldquo;You donrsquo;t get your paycheck until after yoursquo;ve punched the clock, so why pay a roofer before any work gets done? A roofer has no incentive to follow through with the work once the cash is already in his pocket,rdquo; said Absolute Roofers. ldquo;Make sure you sign a contract first, stating that hersquo;ll get paid once the work is done. If he still tries to get you to pay up front, itrsquo;s time to tell him to hit the highway.rdquo;
Asking the right questions can help you narrow down roofers and choose the best one. A few things to ask, according to Tadlock Roofing, are:

bull; Is the company properly licensed for the job?
bull; Does the company carry liability insurance and workersrsquo; compensation insurance?
bull; Are there more than three testimonials or references you can check?


Full Story >


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    • Combines market statistics with animated charts to deliver exclusive market insights
    • Localized to your market by MLS area, zip code, city, county, and more
    • Automatically updates each month with new metrics

nbsp;

See Premium Features
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Why Is Everyone Moving to Austin?

Migration to Austin has skyrocketed over the last decade; according to MagnifyMoney, ldquo;60 of the cityrsquo;s current residents moved here since 2010.rdquo; That increase in population has put pressure on housing, resulting in diminishing inventory and skyrocketing home prices. Yet, still they come. At a rate of nearly 150 people per day

So what makes Austin so ideal? Wersquo;re breaking it down.

The jobs

Austin has the fastest job growth in the nation 40 since 2006,rdquo; according to MagnifyMoney, along with ldquo;>

The city has been called ldquo;the next Silicon Valleyrdquo; and is even referred to as ldquo;Silicon Hillsrdquo; thanks to the many tech and tech->

bull; Facebook
bull; Apple
bull; Google
bull; eBay
bull; Hewlett-Packard
bull; Dell
bull; IBM
bull; Cisco Systems
bull; 3M
bull; Intel
bull; Samsung

Itrsquo;s weird

The cityrsquo;s motto, ldquo;Keep Austin weird,rdquo; originated as a promotion for the Austin Independent Business Alliancersquo;s small local businesses in the city, and stuck. Today, itrsquo;s representative of a culture that remains a little hippy, a little creative, a little more evolved, and decidedly more liberal than much of the rest of the state of Texas.

Itrsquo;s welcoming

ldquo;The creative, collaborative hub still feels like a small town,rdquo; said Culture Trip. ldquo;Street art, local fashion and jewelry designers, art galleries, and studio walks ndash; Austin is a community that values art and working together. In fact, Austin was ranked the number one place in the U.S. to start a business by CNBC in 2016. Though nearly every chain imaginable is available, Austin runs on small businesses, meaning itrsquo;s possible to eat, shop, and explore for months before stopping by a chain store or restaurant. Food, fitness, and clothing brands join forces most weekends with ample flea markets, farmerrsquo;s markets, and pop-ups to attend.rdquo;

An abundance of events and activities

There is always something to do here, from hanging out in Zilker Park to checking out the live music scene. Events like SXSW in March, the Austin Food amp; Wine Festival in late April, and Austin City Limits in October draw more attentionmdash;and more visitors who then become residentsmdash;to the city.

Great restaurants

ldquo;This ever-expanding city is the epicenter of oak-smoked barbecue and the greasy foothold of Tex-Mex fare,rdquo; said Eater. ldquo;While longtime restaurants keep a close eye on the surprisingly abundant bounty the hot climate provides, new restaurants just keep coming due to Austins >

Plenty of housing

ldquo;There are two things that drive population growthmdash;jobs and affordable housing,rdquo; said Medium. ldquo;Austin has bothhellip;and although housing prices and property values in the city proper continue to rise, cheap land and little regulations in surrounding areas make it easy for developers to build large scale projects quickly. For the past few years, Austinrsquo;s home sales hit a record high according to the Austin Board of Realtors, with little signs of stopping.rdquo;

Home values

Despite the aggressive rise in home prices over the last decade-plusmdash;up 54 since 2006mdash;homebuyers still enjoy appreciation in their homes thanks to the popularity of the city. According to Zillow, Austinrsquo;s current median home value is 365,600. ldquo;Values have gone up 7.6 over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 3.6 within the next year.rdquo;


Full Story >




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Updated: Wednesday, May 22, 2019


What Happens When Tariffs Hit Home?

ldquo;Tariffs on goods traded between the U.S. and China have already increased in several stages since early 2018,rdquo; said CNBC. ldquo;Now, President Donald Trump has added a 25 tariff up from his original proposal of 10 on another 200 billion worth of Chinese imports, and China hit back with 5 to 10 percent duties on another 60 billion worth of U.S. goods.rdquo;

Experts say we could be seeing higher prices as a result of this escalation as early as this summer, and that has economists yelling, ldquo;Buy, buy, buy nowrdquo; in order to avoid what a report from Oxford Economics estimates will be an 800 hit to every U.S. household.

There is some question as to how the tariffs will play outmdash;after all, Trump said that China will suffer most of the economic impact. ldquo;Yet experts say the burden will land squa>

So what can you do? Ramp up future spending now, if possible.

ldquo;To get ahead of the next waves of tariffs, University of California, Davis, professor of economics and specialist in international trade Katheryn Russ recommends buying some items now, if possible mdash; such as backpacks and other back-to-school supplies mdash; rather than holding off until later in the year,rdquo; said CNBC. Ditto for things like iPhones; ldquo;The price for an iPhone XS would rise to 1,142, up from 1,000, if the White House implements a 25 tariff on the rest of China imports, J.P. Morgan said in a note to clients.rdquo; Expect a ldquo;similar impact on TVs and everyday purchases, ldquo;where consumers will be harder hit, such as frozen food and paper goods, including diapers and paper towels.rdquo;

Phil Crone, Executive Officer of the Dallas Builders Association, warns of the effect on the housing market. ldquo;From tile to countertops, laminates, lighting, and furnishing, about 450 products commonly found in new homes and remodeling projects are seeing tariffs rise from 10 percent to 25 percent,rdquo; he said. ldquo;According to the National Association of Home Builders NAHB, homeowners and homebuilders nationwide will be paying an additional 2.5 billion.rdquo;


> Full Story

Dont Judge a House by its Photo

If you spend hours on the internet trying to find your dream home by searching through photos or video of properties, you may be overlooking important flaws in this superficial approach to evaluating real estate.

The big question is: What percentage of time are you incorrect in your decision to discard a property based on a photograph?

Judging a property by its photograph may prove expensive when you discard poor photos without knowing if they represent excellent real estate opportunity for you. Just ask yourself, how many selfies does it take to achieve a great and, therefore, accurate picture of you?

Even when you eventually find photogenic real estate to visit, how many better choices or better bargains did you miss out on because you did not approve their visuals?

bull; Have you studied photography and earned the advantage of knowing how to evaluate second-rate equipment or poor photographic technique that results in failure to present a homersquo;s good bones or reveal a hidden gem worth a closer look? Even a good photo may present poorly as an online image through bad decisions regarding lighting, resolution, cropping, coloration....

bull; What percentage of properties are discarded because the photo is unappealing? Listing photos are not intended as works of art. Was this a drive-by photo where the photographer did not get out the car because they had so many photos to take? Was it raining or snowing that day? Just like people, houses have a ldquo;good siderdquo; and a ldquo;bad side.rdquo; Which side is in the photo?

bull; Do you have a magazine or Instagram pic in mind that you are intent on matching? Houses that are beautiful from the curb earn high-value ratings >

bull; You canrsquo;t live in a photograph or even a video. Ideally, a photograph or short video of a property should reveal all the benefits of the buildings and the land. In reality, most photographic representations fall short of this goal. Some are more successful that others, but none are a substitute for experiencing ldquo;the big picturerdquo; first-hand: the feeling of being there, the volume of rooms, the acoustics of the building, the effects of daylight, the flow through the buildinghellip;the reality of inspecting the property yourself. In addition, street-face photos cannot reveal interiors that are in marked contrast to facades: a house with a renovated, ultra-modern interior may maintain its historic exterior.

bull; What percentage of the time are you attracted by a great photo of a house, which you later discover has ldquo;a lot of uglyrdquo; going on outside the photo i.e. beside the house is a high-rise building, auto body shop, shopping mall, night clubhellip;? Or, did you discard a property which, invisible to you, had wonderful green space around it? Since location is the most important value factor in real estate, how
can a photo of a property in isolation enable you to fully evaluate its location value without knowing context?

The above list of flawed reasons for discarding properties based on photographic representations explains how you may allow your lack of knowledge, on many levels, to limit your ultimate success identifying desirable real estate. Select only the ldquo;pretty picturesrdquo; and you may inadvertently eliminate properties that would be ideal and perhaps less expensive purchases for you and your family.

The Smart Approach

Wersquo;re not advising that you view every listed property. Instead, work with experienced real estate professionals whorsquo;ll process listings, visit properties using your criteria, and, therefore, save you time by selecting the best prospects for you to view.

Describe what yoursquo;ll want in a new home and the professional will converse with you to clarify that description for you and for them. Buyers are often surprised when these conversations reveal how much they had not realized about what they thought they wanted and needed.

Search out a professional who makes it their business to know area product from the outside in. Theyrsquo;ll share their insider view, so you wonrsquo;t miss out on what could be your dream home. This informed culling of properties will save you from having to view too many properties that are a poor fit for your needs and dreams.

ldquo;This house was a big surprise inside; from the outside, it looked much smaller,rdquo; is a common buyer observation. Most buyers, particularly first-timers or first-time-in-a-long-time buyers, are not experts at architecture or construction, nor have they inspected as many properties as experienced real estate professionals.

Your secret weapon is your real estate professional who makes it their business to keep up-to-date viewing area listings. They understand the advantages of knowing the whole property and its entire potential, not just its street face. They appreciate the difference between a real estate dream and a home thatrsquo;s a dream to live in.

Professionals are also aware of smart buying strategies based on poor photos or less inspiring facades. For instance, if yoursquo;d like to invest in the best location your budget will allow, there may be advantages to viewing properties in choice neighborhoods with less attractive street faces. When there is value in the location, interior, and backyard, over time the curb view can be improved on, increasing property value in the process.

Online buyers of clothing who >
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What to Expect When Applying for a Jumbo Loan

A jumbo loan is one where the loan amount exceeds current conforming loan limits. Conforming loans are those that conform to standards issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One of the many requirements for a conforming loan is the loan limit which is currently 484,350 in most parts of the country. In higher cost areas where home values are much greater compared to the rest of the country, the conforming limit can be as high as 726,525. Beyond that is jumbo territory. When applying for financing to purchase a higher end home, jumbo approvals are issued in much the same manner as other types of loans, itrsquo;s just a bit more difficult to qualify for one.

Conforming loans can ask for a down payment for as little as 5.0 percent of the sales price. With a down payment of less than 20 percent however, private mortgage insurance, or PMI, will be needed. PMI insures the difference between 20 percent down and the actual amount of down payment. with a 5.0 percent down payment, the insurance would cover 15 percent. With jumbo loans however there is no PMI available. That means the loan amount for a jumbo loan should be no greater than 80 percent of the sales price. This equates to a 20 percent down payment, but slightly better terms are offered with a down payment of 25 percent or more. There are some niche portfolio products that ask for a lower down payment but in general this is what you can expect.

Credit score minimums are also higher for most jumbo loans. Conforming loan programs can go as low as 600 or so but jumbo loans need higher scores. Minimum scores can vary from one lender to the next but not by very much. Many jumbo loans ask for a minimum credit score of 700 while a few programs need a score of 680. Better rates and terms are typically available with a credit score of 740. If there are two borrowers on the same application, the lender will use the lower of the two qualifying scores.

Finally, jumbo loans typically require a bit more documentation both from the borrower as well as third parties. For example, a jumbo loan program might need two appraisals instead of just one. Again, if there are two appraisals, the lender will use the lower value for approval purposes. Jumbo loan applications are also fully documented. There are no ldquo;statedrdquo; type loans where income or employment is not verified via third parties. There are a couple of programs out there that review 12 months of bank statements in lieu of paycheck stubs or W2s, but the bank statements must show regular monthly deposits from a verified source.

On these statements, there needs to be sufficient cash to close for the down payment, closing costs and cash reserves. Lenders can separately mail a Verification of Deposit to the financial institution asking the bank to verify how much cash is in the bank as well as an average of recent balances.

Jumbo lenders can set their own guidelines because theyrsquo;re not bound to conforming rules which means qualifying at one lender may be easier or more difficult compared to another. Your loan officer will tell you what types of documentation yoursquo;ll need to provide, but once submitted, your jumbo loan application will be processed just like any other.


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