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Updated: Monday, July 13, 2020

How To Support Anti-racism With Your Home Buying Or Homeowner Dollars

In that vein, were posting a list of companies who have been outspoken in their support of racial equality. For the purpose of this article, were focusing on those that are in some way >

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, and we invite you to add anyone we missed in the comments.

Look to your lender

Choosing between financial institutions for a purchase or refi? Bank of Americanbsp;pledged 1 billion over four years to help communities across the country address economic and racial inequality and said the commitment will include programs such as virus testing and other health services, especially focusing on communities of color, support to minority-owned small businesses, and partnerships with historically black and Hispanic educational institutions, said Forbes.

Buy some appliances or new flooring at Lowesnbsp;

The home improvement store has given 25 million in grants to help minority businesses reopen, said CNBC. The companys CEO has also challenged other executives to do our part.

Change your cellular carrier

When it comes to cellular companies, so far its Verizonnbsp;leading the way. The company has committed 10 million, which will be split betweennbsp;The National Urban League,nbsp;NAACP,nbsp;National Action Network,nbsp;Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights,nbsp;Rainbow Push Coalition,nbsp;National Coalition on Black Civic Participationnbsp;and the nbsp;NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Get your sweat on

Since its not super safe to be in the gym right now, anyway, get a piece of home equipment for your new place instead. Pelotons 500,000 donation to thenbsp;NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund makes this an easier decision.

Order some dinner

Get a meal delivered from your fave new restaurant by DoorDash, who has announced theyre donating 1 million to the cause, including 500,000 tonbsp;Black Lives Matter.

Support your favorite million-dollar lister

You may not be in New York or in the multi-million-dollar price range to use super-agent Ryan Serhants services, but you can support him from afar and perhaps youll learn a few things about negotiating by watching his show, Million Dollar Listing New York. Serhant has pledged to personally [match] any individual donations up to 5,000 per person, adding that hes listening when it comes to any other ideas in which he can help.nbsp;nbsp;

Book an Airbnb

Once its safe to travel again, keep in mind that Airbnb is donating 500,000 to be split between the NAACP and Black Lives Matter.nbsp;

Get some new sheets

Brooklinen already has some of the most coveted sheets out there, and the company has now announced plans to donate an undisclosed amount of money to the right partners as the needs of the movement change, said Yahoo.

Get some custom dcor

Etsy donated 1 million, which will go to the Equal Justice Initiative and Borealis Philanthropys Black-Led Movement Fund.nbsp;

Carefully consider your agent or real estate partner

Some agents and real estate companies are being loud about their feelings and their plans to better support racial equality. CEOs at Compass and Keller Williamsamong others, detailed steps their companies are taking to address racism in the real estate industry and inside their offices, said Inman.nbsp;

The Real Deal notes that, Major landlords including Brookfield Property Partners and Empire State Realty Trust say the destruction of property and looting pales in comparison to the social issues driving the protests. In the context of the larger movement thats afoot right now, we think its a small consideration,nbsp;Brian Kingston, Brookfields CEO, told them. In the sense that these protests and this movement is about fair and equal treatment for all Americans, we support that wholeheartedly.

Los Angeles-based brokerage Ashby amp; Graff silenced their social media accounts so that we may lift up and amplify the voices of organizations working on racial equality, challenged businesses across America to stand in solidarity with minorities in our country who are fighting for survival, and announced they will be making a donation to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fundnbsp;to assist in their fight for racial justice.

Pam Liebman, CEO of the Corcoran Group, wrote in an email to agents, I can no longer be silent, according to The Real Deal. The murder of George Floyd is an abomination. Its more unwelcome evidence as if we needed it of a specter thats haunted this country for four hundred years. Today, you have my word that we are taking a microscope to this company and we are redoubling our commitment to inclusion and justice.

Nest Realty wrote a blog post in which they proclaimed their outrage and promised to stand with the black community against racial injustice, and the hatred that feeds it. We strive to be inclusive and respectful. Open hearts and minds lead to big ideas, better >

Buy some Legos

The Denmark-basednbsp;Lego Groupnbsp;said it will donate 4 million to organizations dedicated to supporting black children and educating all children about racial equality, said Forbes.nbsp;

Keep reading Architectural Digest

The magazines online portal has been using its platform to highlight and showcase black-owned design and dcor businesses. If youre looking for more ways to support black-owned businesses, shopping with them is a direct way to make an impact. Weve compiled this listwhich is by no means exhaustiveof some of our favorite black-owned brands and new finds.

Keep watching HGTV

You likely werent going to stop anyway, but you can feel even better about watching shows like Property Brothers with star Jonathan Scotts proclamation that he will use my voice, my platform and my vote to affect lasting change, said House Beautiful. He also vowed to donate to four nonprofits working nationwide: the NAACP,nbsp;Fair Fight,nbsp;The Conscious Kid, andnbsp;the ACLU. His brother and co-star, Drew, commented that he believes, We can use this rage to fuel change and justice, peacefully. Its hard to find words... but I have a duty to learn all that I can to help. Donate if you are able, have conversations that might be uncomfortable, help the helpers.

Celebrate with some ice cream

If youre looking to celebrate your accepted offer, or drown your sorrows because you cant find the right house, for that matter, how about some Ben amp; Jerrys? The companys public statement about Floyds death is some of the strongest messaging out there.

Four years ago, we publicly stated our support for thenbsp;Black Lives Matternbsp;movement, they said in a manifesto that begins: We must dismantle white supremacy. Today, we want to be even more clear about the urgent need to take concrete steps to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms.

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Is It Safe To Use Your Community Pool?

Can you get coronavirus from swimming pools?

First, thenbsp;growing consensusnbsp;among experts is that the possibility of catching the coronavirus outdoors is much lower than indoors. But it is not zero, said the New York Times.

The latest research indicates that the water itself doesnt pose a danger. Theres nothing inherent about ocean water or especially pool water that is risky, Dr. Ebb Lautenbach, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Pennsylvanias Pe>

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC confirmed in its recent guidelines for operating swimming pools during the coronavirus pandemic that, There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas, said USA Today.nbsp;

So, the problem isnt in the water. But that doesnt mean its safe to run to the pool in droves. In fact, the droves are precisely the issue.

CDC concerns

The CDCs concern is about spread through close proximity and unhygienic areas. Among their recommendations are:

Keep your distance"Many homeowners associations are already limiting the number of people allowed in common areas at one time so that everyone can stay at least 6 feet apart, said HOA RESOURCES. But if there are more than six people at your pool, youll have to be even more aware of social distancing techniques. Avoid group events, gatherings, or meetings both in and out of the water if social distancing of at least 6 feet between people who dont live together cannot be maintained, said the CDC.

Keep cleanMake sure to wash hands often and cover sneezes and coughs. It also helps to be aware of frequently touched surfaces at the pool, like door handles, handrails, lounge chairs, and tabletops.

Bring your own disinfectantEspecially now, community pools should be well-stocked with cleaning supplies and should have advanced procedures for keeping common areas disinfected. But it doesnt hurt to be prepared. Stock your swim bag with soap, hand sanitizer, and wipes so you can help everyone stay safe.

Wear a mask, when appropriateThe CDC encourages the use ofnbsp;cloth face coveringsnbsp;as feasible. Face coverings arenbsp;mostnbsp;essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. However, masks shouldnt be worn in the water because they can make it hard to breathe.nbsp;

Know when to stay homeStay home if you havenbsp;symptomsnbsp;of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days.

Dont share objectsIf you plan to bring accessories like balls, goggles, or pool noodles, be sure theyre not being shared with other people. Discourage people from sharing items that are difficult to clean, sanitize, or disinfect or that are meant to come in contact with the face for example, goggles, nose clips, and snorkels, said the Community Associations Institute. Discourage sharing of items such as food, equipment, toys, and supplies with those they dont live with.nbsp;

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Surviving Each Other in an HOA

The term "communication" should have a warm connotation. It denotes a form of fellowship. However, if you believe the media, HOAs are police states with warlord boards. While there is always an element of truth in the stories, they are selected because they arent the norm like "Elderly Owner Has Condo Foreclosed", but the stories give the impression of the opposite.

Often as not, homeowners with a "my-home-is-my-castle" mentality disregard rules and regulations to challenge the HOA. Boards that are confronted by these challenges can react with defiance. Anger begets defensiveness, which invites retreat or counter attack.

Few boards have the ability to communicate "artfully." This art includes reining in outspoken directors, negotiating with vendors, soothing the ruffled feathers of feuding neighbors and enacting rules that invite compliance rather than evoke defiance.

What is communication? According to Websters, "communication" is "to have or hold intercourse or interchange of thoughts; to give, or give and receive, information, signals or messages in any way, as by talk, gestures, writing, etc." Here are some tips to improve HOA communications:

Take a >

Learn "active listening," which is actually listening and paying attention when a person is talking to you. This technique doesnt mean that you agree or disagree with what is being said; it simply lets them know that you hear them.

Learn how to >

Dont form assumptions about right or wrong. If you already have your mind made up, compromise is more difficult.

Respond to communications in a business like way and without anger. Ignoring communications from an owner who has an ax to grind often leads to more and stronger demands, and possibly personal attacks.nbsp;

Count to ten. Take a walk, a break or a breather before you react. Answers given in anger ra>

The art of surviving each other in an HOA environment has long term benefits which can help grow neighbors and friendships. This is an art worth perfecting, especially if you are in a position of leadership and authority. Excerpts from an article by Beth A. Grimm, Esq.

For more on Living in Harmony, see

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Hello, Suburbs! Homebuyers Rethink Densely Populated Areas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Multitasker

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

A Strategic Marketer

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

A Smart Sales Rep

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

A Courteous Customer Service Representative

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

Possesses A Winning Personality

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

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

Choose Between an In-Ground or Above-Ground Model

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

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

Limit the Special Features of Your New Pool

In addition to the >

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

Maintain Your Pool Yourself

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

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

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

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


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From Frustration to Lasting Success

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

Carols story is, unfortunately a common one.nbsp;

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

There is a Way Out of the Real Estate Production Plateau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winning Ugly is Still Winning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Achieve Your Income Breakthrough as a Real Estate Agent

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

Carol Doesnt Cry Anymore

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

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

Its Possible for You

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

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

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

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

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Thinking of Investing in Rentals With Others?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7 Video Conferencing Tips: Easy But Not Simple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Success Tip 2: Be Prepared for the Meeting

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

Success Tip 3: Time Is Of The Essence

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

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

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

Success Tip 4: Practice to Perfect

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

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

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

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

Success Tip 5: Professional Polish Counts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Success Tip 6: Interaction Spikes Attention

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

Success Step 7: Follow-up

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

Treat each video conference meeting seriously to be taken seriously

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

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

The newly >

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

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

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

Impact on local markets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How To Choose The Best Refi: It’s Not Just About The Rates

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

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

How much is it going to cost you?

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

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

Think about the terms

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

Hows the service?

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

A conventional loan isnt your only option.nbsp;

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

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

Did you get a second opinion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more Ask the HOA Expert, see .

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Affordable Alternatives To A Standard In-ground Pool

Whats a swimmer to do? We have ideas.


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

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

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

Shipping container

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

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

Stock tank

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

Backyard pond

Want a more natural look for your water feature? If youve got some decent DIY skills, you can build your own backyard pond for as little as 2,000. Ask most American swimming-pool contractors to build a backyard pool and chances are theyll roll out a long list of goods, including rebar, gunite, fiberglass, chlorine and an energy-sapping filtration system. But in recent years, a few builders and a growing number of homeowners have learned how to build pools without >
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Here Are All the Tools You Need for Laying Tile Like a Pro

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

1. Rubber Buckets

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

2. Mortar Mixer

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

3. Trowels

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

4. Manual Tile Cutter

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

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

5. Tile Saw

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

6. Tile Spacers

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

7. Tile Levelingnbsp;Kit

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

8. Grout Floats

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

Laying Tile Like a Pro

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


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Why Two-Toned Kitchens Are a Growing Design Trend

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

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

Whats a Two-Toned Kitchen?nbsp;

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

Sometimes, the two-toned >

Why Should I Paint My Cabinets This Way?nbsp;

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

Two Tones Create Contrast

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

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

Two Tones Draw the Eye to a Design Highlight

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

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

Two Tones Exude a Modern but >

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

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

The Two-Toned Cabinet Effect

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

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

According to Justin Daily of Daily
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Forbearance: Tread Lightly

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

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

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

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

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What You Need To Do About Refinancing Today

It might take a while

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

Rates may fluctuate

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

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

You might not get the lowest ratenbsp;

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

You might need an appraisal

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

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

You might get money back

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

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Buyer Beware: What You Need To Know About Warranty Companies

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

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

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

Welcome to the world of home warranties.nbsp;

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

The cost

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

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

The coverage

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

The rules

Your ba>

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

Other options

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

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

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HOA Powder Problem

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

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

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

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

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

For more on Maintenance Issues, see .

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

Dont expect to be in an out in a week

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

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

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

Make sure you have enough money

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

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

Take down that wall at your own risk

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

Consider bringing in a partner

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

Start small

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

Learn some trades

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

Put together a team in advance

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

Dont overpay

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

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

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

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Unique Ways To Finance Your Home And Save Money

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

Ask Family For Helpnbsp;

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

Seller Financing

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


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

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

FHA Financing

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

Solar Loansnbsp;

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

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Why Lenders Sell Loans

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

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

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

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

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June Real Estate Roundup

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

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

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

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

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Solutions Solutions Solutions

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

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

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

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

1. Safety and Convenience:

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

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

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

2. Buyer Life>

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

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

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

3. Seller Future Solutions:

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

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

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

4. Mortgage Solutions:

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

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

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

5. Environmental Solutions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will consider your real estate solutions valuable?

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

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

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

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

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

The purpose

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

The history

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

Youll get to tap into that Under the Tuscan Sun fantasy

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

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

It wont cost a lot

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

The beauty

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

Its remote

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

The town

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

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

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

The food

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

Duh, its. Italy.nbsp;

Need we say more?

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When It Comes To Real Estate, Does Size Matter?

Think in terms of usable space, not square footage

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

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

Then again

Think about the future

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

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

Ask yourself what you really want

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

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

Speaking of

How much money is too much?

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

Consider the state of the world

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

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Frequency of Recency in HOAs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on Policy Making, see .

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Four Seasons

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

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

Details: Available in three >

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

W Hotel

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

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

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

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

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Your Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Backsplash Materials


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

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

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


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

Chalkboard Paintnbsp;

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

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


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

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


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

Stainless Steelnbsp;

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

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

Choose From These Backsplash Materials

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

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

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What Rooms to Focus on When Flipping a House For Cheap

Create a Multifunctional Spare Room

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

Cook Up a Sale with a Gorgeous Kitchen

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

Dazzle Buyers with a Stunning Master Bathroom

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

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

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Thinking of a Remodel? Here Are Your Financing Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Preparing Your Home for Sale During the Pandemic

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

Get Help with Staging

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

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

Dont Neglect Your Curb Appeal

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

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

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

Consider Safer Showing Alternatives

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

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

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

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

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

Pro: You can get rid of private mortgage insurance PMI

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

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

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

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

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

Pro: Mortgage insurance for conventional loans may be less expensive

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

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


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

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

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Financing a Vacation Home vs. an Investment Property

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

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

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

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

Minimum credit score

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

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

Going with a higher rate

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

Buying down your rate

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

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

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Is It Time to Retire the Master Bedroom?

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

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

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

Term being dropped

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

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

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

History of master bedroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Easy Home Office Design Ideas To Boost Your Productivity

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

Declutter Your Desk

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

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

Improve Your Lighting

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

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

Add A Natural Touch

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

Get More Home Office Design Tips

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

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

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

De-clutter and maintain

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

Make it colorful

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

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

Add a focus area

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

Paint the fences

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

Consider some furniture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Creative Ideas For Small Outdoor Spaces

And fixing up that space is worthwhile in more ways than one. In addition to extending your living space, its a way to put your creativity to work, both in designing the area and making or repurposing items to decorate it. It will help pass the time while working toward the goal of having a beautiful oasis in which to >

Whether your small outdoor space is a balcony or urban garden, start by measuring your space and sketch out a floor plan.

Small spaces have benefits they feel cosy and thats a good thing, says interior designer Sabrina Bitton of Toronto, who offers the following helpful tips and ideas to consider when creating an outdoor oasis.

You need to feel cosy, especially during these times when people arent getting hugs. A cosy space feels like a hug, she says.

Next is the fun part deciding what to add. To create a Zen space, white, green, sand, cream and blue are colours that will create a calming effect. Think about feng shui principles and ways to incorporate wood, metal, earth, water and fire.nbsp;nbsp;

There are a lot of ways to add those elements. Straw mats, mounted to a wall or backyard fence, add a touch of nature and soften the space, as do white canvas drapes. Both the mats and drapes can be placed strategically on a common balcony wall or to create a partial wall along the balcony railing for example to create privacy.


In these times, people are home and have nothing to do but look in your windows. Its important to create privacy, she says.

Floors can be covered with carpets in soft colours light blue can represent the water element or a touch of wood can be added with square wood tiles that clip together.

Incorporate metal with accessories planters, for example. Fill those pots with flowers in pale colours, such as baby pink and white for a fresh clean ambiance. Pair flowers in white or soft colours with a spark of red for energy, Bitton says.

A waterfall is always a welcome addition the sound of water is soothing. If you cant add a water feature, a clear bowl filled with soft blue sea glass will represent water. Or if you can paint or draw, she suggests adding a sketch or a painting of a waterfall.

Candles, even if they are just tea lights, are a great addition to a space. Again, the key is to use white or soft colours. However, bright colours will add energy to the space. For a touch of shabby chic, add soft lavenders and pinks. Put tea lights on vintage plates or a cup and saucer.

To add clarity, choose white candles or white washed pottery. Use statues, like a Buddha statue, to add a touch of serenity. Pillows and carpets provide seating on the ground or floor.

Sand or a rock garden in a bowl are other ways to add natural elements.

For pure joy, add a swing. Bitton says, It will make you feel like youre in a park. Strings of LED lights are also magical.

Recycle elements by taking no-longer-wanted indoor items outdoors. Change their look by repainting them or use them for something other than what they were intended. Create signs of positivity by adding inspirational words, such as joy and happiness, to old pieces of wood, plates or rocks.

Upcycle old clothes into pillow covers. Decorate your pillows with fabric paint. Sew fringe onto a blanket for a boho touch. Use candle holders as planters. The list is limited only by your imagination. However, keep your space uncluttered.

Dollar stores are a great source of inexpensive decorating items, from rocks to marbles to lanterns and craft supplies.nbsp;

If youre decorating an urban backyard, you have a little more space if allowed, you may want to add a real fire pit. On the other hand, if your condo doesnt have a balcony, create outdoor space in your solarium by following the same principles and adding lots of plants. If the space is too bright, add an inexpensive roller blind.

For those who prefer bright colours for a livelier space, Bitton says to combine them with white, cream and sand so there isnt too much colour.

Neutral items can be painted in bright colours, or items such as cotton canvas drapes can be dyed. Those white drapes can be dyed green to add a feeling of nature for those who are allergic to plants.

During these times, creating a multi-functional Zen oasis is a great-feel good project from start to finish. Your brain is ready to create, Bitton says.

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Rates Drop During Your Lock Period? Here’s What to Do

Lower rates mean lower monthly payments which means more people can qualify for a home loan. But you cant get these low rates just by calling up your mortgage company and telling them you want a lower rate. Youll have to submit a loan application, document the file, get credit pulled and other actions on your part before you get to a position where your loan can be locked. Your loan officer can provide you with when its okay for you to lock with a Lock In Agreement. These agreements can vary somewhat from lender to lender but in general they spell out the lock procedures, when youre eligible to lock and what happens when your lock expires before you close on your transaction.

Lenders take rate locks very seriously, just as consumers do. When someone locks in a mortgage, lenders, in essence, reserve that rate for you and assigns it to your loan amount. Your rate lock protects you from interest rate swings up until your closing. The lock agreement will also tell you what happens if your lock period expires before you close. A common lock period might be for 30 days with some as short as 10 or 15 days. The longer the lock period, the more expensive it will be. But the lock needs to be at least as long as it takes to close your transaction.nbsp;

What if rates fall during your lock period? Many might first think just to wait it out, let the lock expire and re-lock at the new, lower rate. But thats not likely to happen. Most agreements state that in the instance of a locked rate, the borrower will be awarded the higher of the expired rate or the new rate. But theres another way that just might work in your situation.

If rates fall just a little bit, the lender wont be very inclined to make any sort of an adjustment, especially if youre getting closer to your settlement date. If rates fall by say 0.125, dont expect very much love from your lender. But if rates fall by 0.25 or more, the lender might take your request a bit more seriously.

Lenders know there really is no agreement that says if you submit a loan application that means you cant cancel your loan and go somewhere else. You certainly can. And thats where you start to have an upper hand. You really want to get the new lower rate, but you also are thinking about resubmitting all your loan documents yet again to a new lender. New pay stubs, new tax returns, bank statementseverything. But you can if you want.

If your locked rate is 0.25 higher or more than whats currently available, your lender will, or should, listen. Lenders would rather make some sort of rate adjustment at this stage instead of losing the deal altogether. Youve certainly spent time submitting documents but so too has the lender shed out no small amount of overhead during the process, as well.nbsp;

When making a request for a rate drop, dont expect to get the absolute lowest rate available but one very close to it. You may also need to pay a small fee to get the new, lower rate. The numbers will pretty much mesh all this out and tell you whether or not its a good idea. But if it is, there is a process. You just first have to ask.

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4 Easy Ways to Fix Your Yard Before Selling Your Home

Unfortunately, this is often the case. The money runs out before landscaping is ever completed or the landscaping already in place is just too hard to maintain. Not everyone has a green thumb, right? It may not seem like that big of a deal since you dont live in your yard. Maybe youll just let the next owner deal with it But is that really the best solution? nbsp;Your real estate agent informs you that even with an amazing interior, your house--if it sells--will come in at a much lower price than you had hoped. First impressions are very important, and the curb appeal of your home will be the difference between someone taking a look or driving by. So the bottom line is if youre serious about getting top dollar, you may have to spend a few dollars first.

When sprucing up your yard to appeal to prospective buyers, what are the most important areas to concentrate on?

1. Your lawn.

Prospective buyers will overlook a lot of landscaping issues if your yard is well-maintained. If its summer, they are looking for a well-maintained, freshly mowed, lush, green lawn free of dandelions and other weeds. If there are large dead spots, youll need to plant grass seed or sod to fill them in.

If you dont have a green thumb, this is the time to call a professional lawn care service to get your lawn in parade-of-homes condition. A lawn service will be able to deal with your trouble spots and make sure that it makes a great first impression to those potential buyers.

2. Your flower beds.

When sprucing up flower beds, a little dirt under the nails is required--whether its your own nails or the teenaged neighbors nails--someone is going to need to get dirty. Weeding comes first. Next, comes fresh mulch, wood chips, or colored rock to spread across the flower beds for a clean, fresh look that will provide contrast to your main flower bed attraction: the flowers. nbsp;

When choosing flowers, pick flowers that will bloom or stay bloomed throughout your projected timeframe for selling your home. Annuals are generally cheapest and stay bright and cheery through most of the growing season. nbsp;If you already have annuals that have bloomed and dried up, replace them if possible.The splash of color that the flowers bring will go a long way in bringing beauty to your yard.nbsp;

3. Your trees and shrubs.

Trees and shrubs are additional areas where professional lawn care services can help. If you dont think you can safely climb a ladder and handle a chainsaw in one hand while holding a branch in the other, you shouldnt attempt to cut down dead or stray branches or shape scraggly bushes yourself. Instead, you should spend the money to stay safe and have the job done properly.

Beautifully shaped shrubs and well-trimmed trees add an extra pizzazz and show prospective buyers that you care about your yard.

4. Special yard features.

You may have special features in your yard such as planters, waterfalls, and ponds. If these features dont add much to your overall landscape design, you may want to consider removing them altogether. If they were hard for you to keep up, they may be hard for future owners as well. In fact, these types of features sometimes turn future owners away for fear of future upkeep.

If these features add beauty and personality to your yard, refill planters with fresh plants after cleaning out the dead material, make sure waterfalls are clean and functioning properly, and be sure that ponds are clean and stocked with fish if desired.

You may also have playground equipment in your backyard. Ask your real estate agent on advice concerning whether or not playground equipment should stay or go; it may be that future owners will welcome it, but there is also a chance they wont. The final decision will most likely depend on its condition. If it is rundown or detracts from the home and the rest of your yard, consider taking it down and moving it to your new house where your own kids can continue to enjoy it for years to come.

Getting your lawn professionally taken care of, sprucing up your flower beds, trimming your trees and shrubs, and taking a hard look at any special features in your yard are great places to focus your attention when trying to sell your home. None of these fixes require major changes nor are they too expensive, but taking the time and money to focus on them will go a long way toward increasing your curb appeal and helping you sell your home faster and at a more competitive price.


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6 Things You Can Do to Prepare for a Home Appraisal

Start Small with a Little Spackle

If youve lived in your home for any length of time, youve probably hung things on the walls, put up shelves, or simply had accidents that resulted in minor damage. Now is the time to repair those blemishes. By filling these holes and crevices with a little spackle and painting over the area, you can leave your walls looking like new. While this may not boost the value of your home, it will keep the appraiser from deducting for the damage.

As Long as Youre Painting...

After youve touched up your walls, you might want to consider freshening up the paint in other areas. For instance repainting worn borders and moldings around the home can give it a newer look. Additionally, take the paint outside and touch up the trim around the windows and doors. This will boost curb appeal and help you add value to the home. Any area where the paint is peeling, chipping, or simply has lost its luster should be retouched with a fresh coat.

Update Your Crawl Spaces

Something thats receiving more attention in home updates is crawl space encapsulation. Crawl spaces are essential for providing homeowners and contractors with access to the deepest recesses of the home. However, these spaces are vulnerable to moisture and water damage caused by humidity, warmer temperatures, and harsh weather conditions. To protect crawl spaces, homeowners have started encapsulating, or sealing, the spaces in moisture-resistant materials. Similar to a swimming pool liner, a polyethylene barrier is added to keep the crawl space dry.

Do a Deep Clean

This is also the time to really clean your home from top to bottom. Especially if you have young children and pets, there may be odors and damage that you might not be noticeable to you. Yet, a strong pet odor, or your childs scuff marks on a hard wood floor will be the first things your appraiser notices. Consider hiring a professional cleaning crew to wax the floors, shampoo the carpets, and conduct an intensive cleaning of the entire home.

Conduct Other Repairs

At some point, you should tour your home with the mindset of a home buyer. This will open your eyes to problems that you live with every day, and just dont notice anymore. Look for things that need to be repaired, such as a loose handrail, dripping faucet, or shorted electrical outlet. Repairing these problems ahead of time will ensure you wont lose money on the appraisal.

Get an Early Home Inspection

Even after you think you have done everything that can be done to boost your homes appraised value, consulting an expert is wise. Getting a home inspection at this time will help you uncover issues that you may not have the expertise to notice. This gives you the time to get these items fixed ahead of putting the home on the market, while also ensuring you can ask a more competitive selling price. Its better to uncover these problems now than to have them affect the sale of the home in the future. nbsp;

In selling your home, you want to ensure you get close to its value, including the money and time you invested in updating its features. By taking the time to spruce up the home ahead of the appraisal, you may be able to increase the value by thousands of dollars. The suggestions offered here can give you a start, and your real estate agent may be able to offer more tips to help you get the most out of your home.

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Is Multi Generational Living for You?

Dont be surprised Multi generational living is a rising housing trend in the nbsp;U.S. these days, and almost one out of five Americans have been living in a multigenerational household since 2014.

Records show that 64 million Americans have adopted the multi generational life>

-What is multi generational living?
-Why live in a multi generational home?
-Pros and Cons
-What to know before buying a multi generational home?
-How to finance a multi generational home?
-Kinds of homes best suited for multi generational living
-Property features to make multi generational living easy
-How to make multi generational living work

What is multi generational living?

If youre asked to picture multi generational household, youll probably imagine a set of parents with children and an older couple who are most likely the grandparents. If this is how you imagine multi-generational living is, youre right.

Multi generational living is when two or three generations come together and live under the same or in the same property."

There are many reasons why this happens and why many people choose this type of living situation.

There are different kinds of multigenerational household. Theres two generations, three generations, and more than three generations.

The two generation household is something youre familiar with. It happens when people from two generations live under one roof. This is a scenario you know about. For example, a couple from one generation living with children from another generation.

Typically, when you grow up, you move out and get your own place. Right? Well, in this kind of household, the child who is now an adult does not move out of the house but opted to stay and live with the parents. Or he or she could have moved out of the house, but came back and started sharing one roof with the parents.

The three-generation household is the one youve imagined. It consists of grandparents, parents, and children living under one or one property but under different roofs in some cases.

More than three generations refer to a family unit that has different generations living together. This could mean having children, the parents, the grandparents, and some other >

Whatever the reasons are, the fact remains that multi generational living is increasingly becoming popularnbsp;

Its like the 1940s again where three generations living was the norm for many families. In this period, about 25 of U.S. population lived with three or more generations in one home. The American household started moving towards the two generation >

Why live in a multi generational home?

Youre probably wondering why any adult would want to live with their parents. Or why would someone want to live with a >

There are some reasons why some people choose multi generational or next generation homes. Let us explore the reasons belownbsp;

Financial benefits. This is primarily the reason why many people are starting to prefer living in multi gen homes.

Living is costly these days Buying or renting a home can cause a serious dent in someones pocket. Some college and fresh college graduates who have student loans and car loans opt to stay in their parents home to be able to pay off their loans, or save money when the time comes they have to move out.

Different family structures also make owning a multigenerational home practical. If you are a single parent supporting two or three children, moving back to the family home or buying a multi generational homenbsp;with your parents is a significant advantage.

Not to mention the savings on childcare because now that there are grandparents who can look after the children when the parent is away.

There are also families who opted to live with the grandparents because one or both the grandparents need financial help.


Another good reason why many people love living with their extended family is because of >

The opportunity for grandparents and grandchildren to interact and develop a closer bond is another reason why some people opt to build an in-law wing. Aside from the close bond and >

Pros and Cons of multi generational living

There are always two sides to a coin. Different family structures have different pros and cons. In this section, we will learn the advantages and disadvantages of living in a next generation home.nbsp;

The Pros

Saving money. Living in a multi gen home with extended members of the family can actually save you money because you share living expenses.nbsp;

If your previous monthly rent was 1000, when you rent or buy a home with your extended family members, you cut down your expenses because you are sharing the rent with someone. nbsp;The same is true with utility bills. This can help you save more.

If you decide to live with your parents and they are still paying the mortgage of the house, you can pay a rental fee at an amount that is convenient to your budget.

Shared responsibilities. Leaps and bounds in medical technology enhanced lifespan. Now that people are living longer, the challenge becomes "how do we take care of the home?" The answer is in next generation homes.nbsp;

When different-age people live together, distributing age-appropriate responsibilities is the way to go. Younger people in the household can take care of more challenging physical work like mowing the lawn, cleaning, repairs jobs, paint jobs, lifting boxes, etc. Older generation can then take the less physically demanding tasks like cooking, washing the dishes, looking after the children, and other less strenuous tasks.nbsp;

Improved family >

Living under one roof gives family members, especially grandparents, more time to interact with their grandchildren, giving them plenty of time for emotional bonding and in the process developing more closeness among themselves.

With a multi generational household, theres no need for a special occasion to gather and have fun. It can be done weekly.

Improved security. nbsp;Grandparents benefit from the social >

A multi generational household offers significant advantages to children whose parents are absentee or suffering from divorce. Grandparents are an instant source of love, support, attention, and affection. Whether thats providing assistance in doing homework or just being there to listen or help when the children need someone to talk with is already a big helpnbsp;

The constant attention of a loved one when one or both parents are busy or away at work can be a source of assurance for the children. nbsp;

The cons

While there are many advantages to living in a homenbsp;with your extended family, there are also disadvantages. Check out the following cons:

Personality conflicts. One of the major disadvantages of living with other people are conflicts in habits and behavior. If youre a parent, you may not be used to being given unsolicited advice on how to raise your kids.nbsp;

If youre a grandparent, you may have conflict with your children regarding parenting >

Limited space and privacy. Another disadvantage of multi generational living is the limited space and privacy. Traditional homes are designed and built for only a few people. Squeezing in more family members can limit the space for everyone and cause discomfort unless you get a home designed to accommodate everyones needs.

How to finance a multi generational home

Buying a home can be a challenging and tedious process. Buying a multi generation home makes it even more challenging. Not only do you have to consider more peoples needs and must-haves, you also have to deal with more employment issues, credit scores, financial stability, and more.

Before buying a multi generational home, you need to have a clear discussion with everyone involved. You need to get things in writing, with everyones signature. This is a precautionary measure for those times when some people have forgotten what theyve agreed to and start making things difficult.

Individual mortgage or joint loan?

A custom-built multi generation home, or even one that is big enough for you and has an attached suite for your in-laws, can be expensive. Fortunately for you, you have the option of getting an individual loan, or if the house is too expensive, a joint mortgage.

An individual loan is when you get a mortgage and you pay for it by yourself. A joint mortgage is when you and your parents or your grandparents apply for a mortgage together.

In a joint mortgage, the lender will evaluate all the applicants incomes and assets and consider it as a cumulative number. There are pros and cons to getting a joint loan.

There are pros and cons to getting a joint loan.

For one, if your income is not high enough and your parents or extended family members have better-paying jobs, the salary amount on your application paper will look good. If your credit history is a little rocky, partnering with someone who has excellent credit history can really help.

A joint loan also allows you to save some money on the property tax, and you and your parents will also get an income tax rebatenbsp;

However, while it may look great because you can qualify for a larger loan, there are also several downsidesnbsp;

One downside is if you have a good credit history and your parents have a bad credit history, it will harm the chance of getting a mortgage. In this case, you are better off getting an individual mortgage.

Another disadvantage is everyone who took a mortgage is responsible for paying it on time or risk getting penalized. This can be difficult especially in situations where one might have lost his or her job, so others have to carry an additional burden.

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HOA Pool Kick Off

1. Fill the pool to the middle of the skimmer opening to make cover removal easier.

2. Brush debris off the pool cover and rinse it well with a hose. When you remove the cover, try to keep rainwater that has collected on the cover from spilling into the pool. Apply a good cover treatment product to the cover in order to keep it in good condition while in storage.

3.nbsp;Remove all plugs from filling and return lines. Reinstall pumps, motors, drain plugs, filters and any equipment dismantled for the winter. Turn on the pump.

4. Check ground wires for proper connection. After you have started the pump, turn on the heater and reset the thermostat.

5. Clean your filter with a good filter cleaner/degreaser. This is very important to ensure peak pool operation. The filter should be cleaned now, as youre opening the pool, during six week intervals during the season, and when you close the pool for winter.

6. Circulate the water and vacuum the pool.

7. If the water is clear, circulate it for 24 hours. If your water is cloudy or green, add shock and run the filter 24 to 48 hours.

8. Test your water to ensure it is properly balanced. Before doing so, replace your test kit reagents or test strips. Or, bring a quart sample of water to our store for a free computerized water analysis.

By following these basic steps or having a qualified pool care professional open your pool properly, youll enjoy a great pool season.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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It’s A ‘50s Flashback: Get Ready For Boldly Colored Appliances

But, you know what they say: If you hang on to something long enough, itll come back into >

This time around, its Avocado Cream and Yellow Pepper, but you get the idea.nbsp;

Introduced at the end of May in a news >

The colors were carefully selected by the same color and design experts behind the brands iconic Stand Mixers and other countertop appliances, they said. From muted blues and >

If youre in the throes of revamping your kitchen or looking for a reason to do so, heres something to get excited about: A more colorful kitchen can inspire you and greatly lift your moodin a room where you cook for and entertain friends and family, having a space that causes inspiration and motivation is of the utmost importance, said Twenty 5 Design.

That can be accomplished with a rich paint color on the walls and if youre looking for the best color for your kitchen, check out these tips from HGTV or a boldy patterned backsplash. But in a world where it seems like every kitchen is white on white on white, a return to color and excitement in a creativw way is most welcome.nbsp;

White and gray may be holding steady as thenbsp;most popular colors for kitchens, but Im noticing a definite uptick in interest in adding touches of more vibrant hues into the mix, said BlueStar. One way homeowners are seeking to introduce color is through appliances in unexpected shades, such as magenta, lime green and coral. Of course, colorful appliances have been around a long time, almost as long as appliances have been available for purchase by homeowners. But the vast array of colors now available is unlike before, when a limited palette would move in and then out of fashion.

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What Will Homes Look Like In A Post-pandemic World?

The truth is that being stuck at homein a home you dont necessarily lovestinks. So, we dont blame you if, while youve been sheltering, youve been dreaming of what you would change and where you would move given the choice.nbsp;

The good news is that this pandemic is already having an impact on how builders operate, and the very things that are frustrating you about your existing home will likely drive changes to design and architecture in the future.

While the coronavirus still rages on, its hard to predict what post-pandemic abodes might look like, said Barrons. Yet, developers around the U.S. are already rethinking projects, anticipating residents needs and preferences that Covid-19 would spur. In doing so, they are re-evaluating current in-unit aesthetics and in-demand amenities.nbsp;

That means a new consumer might have different priorities from now on regarding health, technology and socialization, Marcelo Kingston managing director of Multiplan, the developer behind 57 Ocean in Miami Beach, told them.nbsp;

Home size

Homes had been trending smaller. But that may be over. With uncertainty about the future around spending more time in the home, which likely includes some form of work-from-home scenario, homeowners are likely looking for more space. Expect homes to grow in size accordingly.

A greater dependence on the home office

More attention will be given to the arrangement of the workplace at home, said Dezeen.nbsp;Spatial organization will change, with the place to work at home no longer a desk with a parody of an office chair and a lamp, slotted somewhere in the corner of the living room or under the stairs. Now it will be a completely separate room with large windows, blackout curtains and comfortable furniture. It will be technically equipped and sound-insulated.

An increased emphasis on health and hygiene

This covers a wide variety of amenities.

Joel Sanders ofnbsp;JSAnbsp;Architectsnbsp;predicts that the pandemic, "like 9/11, will have an enormous impact on public space because of social distancing and fear of contamination," said Dwell. He foresees these concerns finding their way into the home, impacting space in more subtle ways, like the distancing of furniture arrangements and domestic footprints shifting to include "safe" rooms to isolate contagious occupants.

In addition, architects and designers foresee a compartmentalization of spaces including entries, foyers, and mudrooms, incorporating sanitation stations to wash, disinfect, and remove contaminated clothing. This attention to sanitation, however, wont necessarily give rise to sterile-looking environments. According to Bryan Young, principal ofnbsp;Young Projects, "Fundamental qualities of wellness are even more meaningful for adapting to a post-coronavirus environment, incorporating natural light, natural ventilation, connection to green spaces and landscape.

This type of design will bleed into technology, as well. We already have much of the technology we need to replace human contact with smart sensors, said Stambol. And in a post-pandemic world, nobody wants to touch anything unnecessarily. So, the low-hanging-fruit of design upgrades will be the first to change.nbsp;Think of more touchless faucets and sensor-operated doors.nbsp;Every doorknob, light switch, thermostat, and the high-traffic button will be swept away, replaced by motion activation or voice command. And every previous objection based on cost can be easily countered with memories of a global economic catastrophe.nbsp;nbsp;

Smart technology

This is already one of the most pervasive trends in home design, but Manufacturers of smart home systems will go one step further, said Dezeen. Their programs will not only control the temperature of the air in the house, but also its quality and, if necessary, they will automatically clean it. Air from the outside will of course be filtered.

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Home Equity Lines Of Credit On The Rise…But Can You Qualify?

A new report from LendingTree found that, While the total number of home equity loan applications has fallen since Januarythose who do apply for a home equity loan are more likely to use it to pay for home improvements than they mightve been at the start of the year.

Across the nations 50 largest metro areas, An average of 45.9 of home equity loans are being used to make home improvements, they said. Thats up from 37.3 in January. Milwaukee, Louisville, and Columbus are the metros with the largest share of home equity loans meant for home improvements.

What you need to know about qualifying

Even if you have plenty of equity in your home and decent credit, it might not be so easy to qualify for that HELOC. Some lenders have increased their qualification requirements while others have halted their HELOCs for the time being.

Chase, for instance, announced last month that it would be freezing new HELOC applications and requiring almost all new mortgage applicants to have 20 percent down and at least a 700 FICO credit score, said Bankrate. Bank of America alsonbsp;raised its credit score requirementsnbsp;for home equity products from 660 to 720. As of May 1, Wells Fargo has stopped accepting HELOC applications altogether.

You can still find a HELOC with several other lenders. NerdWallet has an updated list organized by interest rate and max loan to value LTV.nbsp;

HELOC alternatives

If a HELOC isnt going to work for you, there are other options.nbsp;

In press >

A personal loan might also be an option, although personal loans generally have higher interest rates than home loans, said Investopedia. Bankrate reported that personal loan rates ranged from 5 to 36 as of May 2020.

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Value Factors for Real Estate Buyers

How will the Pandemic affect real estate values?

Buyers hope it will lead to lower purchase prices.
Sellers hope their property values will remain at pre-virus levels or even increase.
Hoping has nothing to do with how real estate values rise or fall.

Unless you are buying a property in each and every state, whats happening in real estate markets across the country is less important to you than whats going on in the neighborhood at the top of your preferred-purchase list.

If you plan to buy one, two, or three properties over the next few yearsperhaps one home, one recreational, and one investmentthat may spread your attention across one, two, or three real estate markets. The value situations for each location you consider may be dramatically different for you and will be specific to each local market.

Buyers benefit from understanding the value factors in play for a real estate market they want to buy into. The Covid epidemic upheaval of social and economic norms and patterns may alter local market value patterns. As months roll on, the ways in which value is affected will become evident. How will you know where location value lies in your preferred real estate market?

Property value in residential real estate markets has traditionally been linked to four key location value factors:

1.nbsp; Proximity to schools:nbsp;

This has long been a significant location value factor. As part of the stay-at-home strategy to fight Covid 19, education at all levels has moved onlineperhaps irreversibly. Will that mean a student may qualify for virtual attendance to a favored school without moving into that schools catchment area? Or, will homeschooling gather significant momentum, so that proximity to great schools is no longer a key factor?

The Traditional Element: Is School Improvement Part of Your Ownership Strategy?

2.nbsp; Proximity to a popular shopping mall or business district:

Hot shopping areas can add value to nearby properties. If the Covid depression replaces that shopping with home-delivery online ordering or compromises or closes stores, property values may decline.

Those in isolation often reminisce online about local restaurants, bars, and other entertainment favorites. At the same time, owners of those beloved bars and restaurants are lamenting heavy financial loss with many expecting not to survive. If an area becomes economically depressed and loses the ambiance of its entertainment businesses, fewer buyers may be attracted to the area, lowering prices further.

Well-known neighborhoods may change dramatically post-Covid, so buyers will benefit from investigating the new future for locations they can love.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

3.nbsp; Proximity to employment opportunities:

Ease of employment guarantees steady, predictable income to make home, life>

On the other hand, a recent Kung Group survey of 500 Silicon Valley CEOs indicated that, when Covid restrictions lift, more than 70 of participating CEOs may allow 70 of their workforce to continue working from home. Almost the same percentage of surveyed CEOs said they were reconsidering their investment in physical office space. This scale of change in Silicon Valley commercial real estate alone could have significant repercussions in other local real estate markets. Even if these two economic shifts occur and result in lower property values, that may not be enough to bring buyers into these areas.

In contrast, in locations where buying demand does increase, prices can climb, especially if the supply of modern housing is low. Real estate buyers will benefit from keeping an eye on how different locations respond to economic shifts ahead.

4.nbsp; Proximity to valued local amenities:

As a result of the pandemic, proximity to progressive, state-of-the-art, and fully-funded healthcare facilities may become an important value factor. Experts forecast a return of this virus and another pandemic in the near future. Will healthcare access become a significant location value factor?

In contrast, waterfront properties are a category of preferred real estate that demonstrates how climate change can negatively shift value. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA forecasts an above-normal hurricane season for 2020.nbsp;


Right now buyers are faced with more questions than answers:

How will the pandemic affect the neighborhood you favor?

Guessing or assuming are poor approaches to value determination for buyers. Experienced local real estate professionals and mortgage brokers are excellent sources for >

The Covid 19 pandemic has had serious economic ramifications around the globe.

That impact may be less significant to you than how the pandemic has played out in the neighborhood you want to buy into. Will changes to your chosen neighborhood make it less or more attractive to you? Will affordability be negatively affected or improved?

The Pandemic has not changed the way real estate value is determined, just the context of value.

In the past, proximity to work held value for many buyers. Now, working from home has come into its own. Its working If the major employers in your community embrace working from home as their post pandemic work model, will buyers still place extra value on living near their employer?


On the other hand, if economic hardship bankrupts large employers like factories, employment opportunities will be seriously reduced and local property values may decline. How will your preferred neighborhood be valued?

Timing is significant when considering real estate statistics or data.

Pre-Covid data may not be >

The recent HPI >

What value does location hold for you and your family?

What do you want to be near? What do you want to be distant from? If what you want proximity to is what others value too, that location will carry more value and higher prices. Often in really hot spots, condominiums rule as they maximize density and location with a small building footprint and lower purchase prices.

Or, your ideal location may be a less-dense or even a rural environment where social distancing from neighbors is a year-round life>

Before Covid hit, what were your real estate location priorities?

Has the pandemic permanently changed your values and your sense of where?

More from PJ Wade on buying...

  • Are You Buying for the Right Reasons?nbsp;
  • Home Builders: Do They Get Buyers?
  • Buyers: Hesitant or Decisive?

4 "Big Regrets" to Avoid When Buying a Home

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How to Create a Budget Garden

So, how exactly do you create a wondrous garden space on a limited budget? Here are a few quick tips to do just that:

Grow Your Own nbsp;

Surprisingly, you can save a lot of money in your gardening efforts from simply buying seeds rather than their later-in-life counterparts. Where a full-grown plant will cost you anything between 10-50, the seeds could cost you a fraction of the price between 1-5. nbsp;

Inevitably, you will have to wait longer for fruiting and flowering when taking this path. But, the satisfaction from growing your own plants couldnt be higher.

Rock Up nbsp;

So, if there is one thing that is absolute abundance in your garden that is rocks. From little to large, you can find an assortment of these sometimes beautiful, sometimes a nuisance, garden accessories. Meaning you can collect enough to build yourself a small border that looks natural and stylish, at almost no cost

If your garden is lacking in rocks, then you may have to buy some. Opt for >

Fairy Lights

Sometimes adding a little light to space can make it feel like a whole new garden. The >

Upcycle Furniture

Rather than buying a host of new garden furniture, why not simply breathe new life into what you already have? For old, rotting, wooden benches you could simply sand down or replace some of the slats. Rusting metal can be removed from outdoor furniture easily, simply use acidic ingredients such as baking soda or coca cola to help remove it with a rag. You could also try and make some of your contemporary furniture >

Fill with Pots

Plant pots can come in inexpensive bundles, perfect for filling with your seedlings and growing your own colourful garden with. You may not want to overwhelm a small space with too many pots, but creating a dedicated area of your garden for them can be the best way to bring a little colour to space on a budget.

Grow Upwardsnbsp;

A t>

Gravel Itnbsp;

Dont bother buying expensive paving stones or high-end gravel. You can create a chic garden with the help of a bag of this durable and inexpensive product, which looks modern and minimalistic in all the on-trend ways right now. nbsp;

Buy a few slabs of paving, if desired, to create a floating path through the gravel if desired.

And there you have it All of the best ways that you can help to create a beautiful garden space, without blowing your budget Its all about having the right plan and knowing your limitation before you get started. Theres no reason you shouldnt be able to have a garden worthy of a queen, even if you dont have the budget of one.

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Forbearance vs. Loan Modification

Forbearance simply means holding off the monthly mortgage payments for a time. A forbearance is something you and your lender would agree to. Just stopping payments without the lender understanding whats going on would most likely trigger the foreclosure process. Different states may have different rules lenders must follow when foreclosing but most will allow for two payments in a row to be skipped but once the second payment goes missing the lender may issue a Notice of Default, explaining what may happen if the missed payments arent made.nbsp;

Lenders are loathe to foreclose. Its expensive for them and theyll end up holding real estate they never intended to own. Foreclosing on a home and selling it at an auction can be not only lengthy but costly. They would much rather work something out and a forbearance is one way to accomplish that. At the end of the agreed upon term of the forbearance its time to pay the piper. Those missed mortgage payments dont go away, they have to be paid. And that can mean a large balloon payment looming in the near future.

Instead, a loan modification might be an easier choice. Of course, any such decisions should be made with the assistance and advice of a professional. With a loan modification, the note is legally modified, or changed. The terms of a note cant be altered without a modification or a refinance. But with a refinance, often the new interest rate cant be lowered enough in order to qualify. With a loan modification, its different.

The lender will counsel with the homeowner in an attempt to change the note into something more affordable and there are a few options.

A principal reduction which literally lowers the outstanding mortgage balance providing lower monthly payments. This is the least likely the lender will agree to.
Getting a lower rate is also a possibility. That seems obvious but in many instances its not a forever thing but just for a short term.
Lenders might also agree to extend the term of the mortgage which will also lower the monthly payment. This also means more interest will be paid over the life of the loan.
A modification can mean switching from an adjustable rate mortgage to the stability of a fixed rate loan.

A loan modification means the homeowner must complete an application to modify and provide certain financial information. The biggest consideration is making sure the homeowner can afford the newly modified loan. This means verification of income. If the modified loan comes up with say 1,500 per month mortgage payment as a qualifying figure, there will need to be somewhere around 4,500 per month in gross income.nbsp;

Other modification plans will be in the form of a trial modification which means making sure the homeowner makes the new monthly payments for a specific period, say three months. If those payments are made on time, the existing note will be modified to a program the homeowners can afford.

If you have the choice, a modification might be the better option. But again, in such a situation, professional counsel should be on your plate.

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May Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has again hit the lowest level in our surveys nearly 50-year history, breaking the record for the third time in just the last few months. These unprecedented rates have certainly made an impact as purchase demand rebounded from a 35 percent year-over-year decline in mid-April to an 8 percent increase as of last weeka remarkable turnaround given the sharp contraction in economic activity. Additionally, refinance activity remains elevated and low mortgage rates have been accompanied by a 70,000 decline in the average loan size of refinance borrowers this year. This means a broader base of borrowers are taking advantage of the record low rate environment, which will benefit the economy."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.15 percent with an average 0.8 points for the week ending May 28, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 3.33 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.99 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.62 percent with an average 0.7 points, down from last month when it also averaged 2.86 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.46 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 3.13 percent this week with an average 0.4 points, down from last month when it averaged 3.28 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.60 percent.

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7 Ways to Control Pests in Summer

If youve spotted pests such as ants, flies, hornets, mosquitoes, termites, wasps, bed bugs, cockroaches or ticks, call in a professional pest controller. Technicians are trained to discover the source of the infestation and will offer a long-lasting solution, rather than just dealing with the bugs at the moment.nbsp;nbsp;

Theres plenty you can do as a homeowner to help prevent pests inhabiting your property. Here are some tips you can put in place to help keep pests away.

1. Repair your roof

Damaged roof tiles or cracks can give pests easy access to your home. Fill in cracks with roofing cement or replace broken tiles. Check your drainpipes too. Debris can cause water to accumulate providing breeding grounds for numerous types of insects, especially mosquitoes. You can also check the overhang of the roof and in between roof tiles for signs of nests.

2. Clean your air vents

Air vents can give termites a swift entry point to your home. Thats because when the climate changes in spring and summer, termites begin to swarm to establish new colonies. To prevent your home from being vulnerable to a termite swarm, install mesh airbrick ventilation covers. A pest control expert will advise you on other ways you can prevent termites from entering your home, such as baiting systems.nbsp;

3. Keep an eye on your attic

Roof voids and attics are popular for all types of pests to establish nests. The exposed wood beams can be a good source of food for termites and items stored in cardboard boxes can nourish cockroaches and rodents, for example.nbsp;

To reduce the risk, store items in plastic boxes. Also regularly check beams for termite damage. Press your thumb on the timber to test if it is soft and spongy.

4. Rethink your bedroom

Bedrooms are notorious zones for pest activity. For some pests, like bed bugs, it can be a source of food and refuge. To prevent and kill bed buds, wash bed linen at a high temperature 60 degrees Celsius regularly. You can check beds, pillows, mattresses, bed frames, and carpet for signs of bugs. Check skirting boards and ensuite bathrooms for signs of termite activity, such as damp patches on the walls. Keep furniture away from the walls and shut doors and windows at night.

5. Maintain your garden

Gardens are ideal for pests because they provide many sources of food, places to live, and breeding areas. To make yours less hospitable to termites, remove unwanted tree stumps, and dont store piles of wood near the foundations of your home. Use mulch made from plastic, rubber, and gravel instead of wood and seal compost in a container that has a tight lid. Also, remove standing water from buckets and containers and keep shrubbery to a minimum.

6. Dont forget your garage

Garages are a great place to keep your car, but they also provide pests with a place to nest. Dont ignore basic maintenance in your garage. This means ensuring is damp-free, seal entrances, and repair any damages to the infrastructure. Store items in plastic boxes, and ideally off the floor and check corners for wasps and hornet nests.

7. Keep your kitchen clean

Avoid your kitchen turning into a buffet for pests. You need to keep on top of this as pests in your kitchen can contaminate your food and make you ill. Empty bins daily and keep work surfaces clean. Always store food in airtight containers and dont leave pet food out in hot weather. Finally, check pipes for leakage, and repair if them if you need to.nbsp;


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The Hot Trend Of The Summer: Stock Tank Pools

For many of us, summer means poolsnbsp;time. But if you live in an area wherenbsp;you depend on being able to use a community pool or recreation center, that might be questionable at this time. And building a pool is so expensive and time-consuming.nbsp;

Thats why were loving stock tank pools right now.

What is a stock tank pool?

Heres an idea: Instead of dropping a ton of cash just to stay cool for a few hours at a time this summer, you may want to consider the humble, yet far more affordable, galvanized stock tank swimming pool also known as a water trough pool,said Country Living. These inexpensive farm staples were originally designed as water troughs for livestock, its true. But thats part of their country-chic appeal. Nowadays, stock tank swimming pools have been popping up in backyards across the country.

Whatever stigmanbsp;stillnbsp;remains aroundnbsp;traditional above-groundnbsp;pools, stock tank pools have managednbsp;to sidestep itnbsp;by embracingnbsp;their farmhouse cache. Its not lost on us that you can order your stock tank from a tractor supplyif you can even find one.nbsp;

Heres how to make a splash with a stock tank pool in yournbsp;own backyard.

Pick your size

You can find common galvanized stock tanks with a round, 10-foot diameter size, but theyre hard to come by. More common are eight-foot versions, but, as their popularity grows, theyre also challenging to secure.nbsp;

There are also six-foot tanks and oval options, but they dont necessarily provide the same kind of swimming experience.

Pick your spot

Where youre going to put your stock tank pool is just as important as the pool itself. Without a level foundation, youll have leaks.nbsp;

Job one is obviously selecting the site for your stock tank pool. Youll need to prepare the area by creating a solid, level base, said Tractor Supply. You could use compacted sand, or even crushed granite. But, its very important to ensure that its a smooth surface, free of any rocks or sharp edges. The same is true whether you plan to use the stock tank for an above-ground pool, or want to dig out enough soil to create an in-ground version. If digging a hole for an in-ground pool, remember to allow enough space behind the pool to accommodate the pump and hoses.

Add your accessories

And by accessories, we mean two things: design and function.

First, lets talk about function. A stock tank pool isnt as easy to set up as a kiddie pool. You could just fill it with water and call it a day, but youll end up swimming in gunk. And standing water can also attract mosquitos, which is probably not one of your goals.nbsp;

Take a cue from the Hey Wanderer blog, which can walk you through the pump and the chlorine and all the supplies youll need and steps youll want to take to get the pool up and running.

Now that youve got your stock tank set up, its time to make it fancy. While the tank alone has its own distinct vibe, it can be dressed up in any number of ways.nbsp;

Paint the metal, build deck seating around it, hang lights and incorporate tikis to create a tropical getaway feelthe skys the limit. We love this rattan surround, which gives you bench seating and a shelf to hold your drinks Were intonbsp; the whole setup here with the umb>
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The DIY Help You Need, From A Heartwarming Place

Its called, Dad, How Do I? The site has only been up since April 1, 2020 and it has nearly nine million subscribers at last check.nbsp;

Nine million

We love being able to spotlight good people doingnbsp;good things, especiallynbsp;with pandemic-driven stay-at-home orders that that have left us cranky, at best, but also eager to fix up our houses. So, heres the story behind Dad, How Do I?

From wholesome idea to online fame

Its the ultimate viral Internet moment. An Arizona woman discovered a YouTube channel called Dad, How Do I hosted by a man who grew up without a fatherand teaches basic skills, like tying a tie or fixing a toiletinnbsp;a tweetnbsp;thats become the most-liked on Twitter this week, according to data compiled by the social media tracking firm NewsWhip, said Forbes.nbsp;

The specific tweet, shared by user Mother Moon, read, His father left when he was 12, now he has a YT channel called Dad, how do I? to help kids whore growing up without dads. teaching them basic tasks that youd usually ask your dad for help on. this is the purest thing.

It only took a few days for that tweet to reach more than 2.3 million likesnbsp;and be shared 600,000 times. No one was more surprised than Kenney himself.

I never wanted to be wealthy. I never wanted to be necessarily successful, henbsp;toldnbsp;Shattered magazine. My goal in life was to raise good adultsnot good children but good adultsbecause I had a fractured childhood.

Kenney started the channel to be of service, offering thoughtful tutorials for those who, like him, didnt have a father to turn to. So far, the page boasts videos on how to fix a toilet, how to unclog a sink, how to iron a dress shirt, and even how to shave your face.

I will do my best to provide useful, practical content to many basic tasks that everyone should know how to do, he said on the site. I will >

At a time when people or sites go viral for far less, shall we say, wholesome reasons, it sure is nice to see bona fide success happen for someone whos just trying to help people.

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What Happens If Your Spouse Has Bad Credit?

These three digit scores are provided by all three of the main credit repositories of Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. While all three use the very same algorithm ra>

And, businesses wont report credit payments all at the same time. But they will be similar. For instance, a credit report might show three scores of 690, 730 and 725. Of these, lenders will throw out the highest and the lowest score using the middle score for qualifying, or 725 in this example. But what if there are two people on the same application?

In that scenario, the lender pulls credit for both applicants along with their credit scores. Again, using the same example, one applicant has a qualifying score of 725. The other applicants scores read 710, 724 and 760. The middle score of these is then 724. Now we have two qualifying scores, 724 and 725. The lender will then use the lower of the two for qualifying. But next is where some problems can pop up.

Lets say the second spouse has credit scores of 550, 570 and 515. Of these three, the qualifying score is 550, too low for most programs. So, what to do? For one, the process of repairing the credit should commence. But what about the house they want to buy? Should they stop everything and wait a few months for credit to improve? Not exactly.

Theres a term in the mortgage industry referred to as a non-purchasing spouse. This means one spouse will be on the mortgage application and the other left off. Doing so removes the damaged credit from the application altogether. But the non-purchasing spouse can still be on the title showing evidence of an ownership interest in the property just not on the mortgage.

The tricky part is making sure there is enough income for the purchasing spouse to qualify for the new mortgage. If both incomes were needed in order to qualify for the home they want, thats going to be a challenge. However, if the purchasing spouse can qualify using his or her own income, theres no need to put the other spouse on the loan application. Or, perhaps putting more money down in order to lower the loan amount to the level where the purchasing spouse can now qualify.

Damaged credit in this scenario doesnt have to scuttle the purchase. As long as affordability is not an issue with the remaining spouse, the deal can still go through.

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Change For The Better In Your HOA

"What prevents human beings from successfully managing the natural environment and other complex systems? Dietrich Drner, a cognitive psychologist, performed experiments and found out. Using computer simulations of complex environments, he invited intellectuals to improve the situation. They often made it worse. Those who did well gathered information before acting, thought systemically, reviewed progress, and corrected their course often. Those who did badly clung to their theories, acted too quickly, did not correct course, and blamed others when things went wrong. Drner concludes that our failures in managing complex systems do not represent any inherent lack of human capability. Rather they reflect bad habits of thought and lazy procedures." State of Fear by Michael Crichton

These observations point to several courses of action an HOA board might consider when endeavoring to make changes:

1. Do Your Research.

If the board wants to change long standing policy, lack thereof or tradition, its important to truly understand why it stood so long. Dont automatically assume that previous boards just failed to do their job. Homeowner associations have the ability to establish norms that vary if the members want it that way. So, failing to enforce rules may be the way most of the members may like it. Your HOA may have too many rules that need to be weeded out instead of enforced. So, rather than charge in to smite the offenders, consider polling the community to see just how important a new "get tough" policy is.

2. Organize Your Plan.

Repointing the board takes careful planning since not every issue has the same priority. Even if the board and members are generally agreed on, say, correcting architectural violations, those violations come in large and small size, visible and not so visible. Prioritizing the plan of attack and laying out a time frame that doesnt require the board to deal with everything all at once makes sense.

3. Do Progress Reports.

As the board attacks individual issues, some will resolve quickly while others fester. Resolution is great because that reduces the number of issues. Progress reports will allow the board to celebrate its successes and refocus on remaining issues.

4. Rethink Solutions.

The board has the authority to make judgment calls. Not all issues are black and white. In the case of an architectural violation, the board can compromise if its in the best interests of the HOA. For example, if an owner has illegally expanded a deck into the common area, the boards order would normally be to remove it. However, if the owner has spent considerable money and a previous board granted permission even though it had no authority to do so, the owner might mount a legal defense and be willing to go to court over the matter.

The board could expend thousands of dollars of HOA funds in legal costs and possibly lose the case or compromise by getting the owner to agree to remove the deck upon sale of the property. The compromise allows the owner to save face, the HOA to save money and ultimately get the deck just will take a bit longer than anticipated. The lesson is to not get too entrenched in one solution. Circumstances may warrant creative thinking and the board has the authority to be creative.

The board usually steers the HOA ship across calm seas with business per usual. But from time to time squalls and shallow rocks dictate a change of course. While governing documents and state laws point a direction that often works, be prepared to deviate when circumstances dictate.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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The One Thing You Absolutely Positively Have To Do Today: Check Your Credit

Let me explain.

Last week, I got an alert that one of my credit limits had been lowered on one of my accounts. Turns out that one of my creditorsa creditor with whom I have a perfect payment history on my 0 interest promotion, to be clearhad lowered my available credit.nbsp;

I didnt skip a payment, I wasnt late, and my credit utilizationboth with this creditor and overallwas pretty good. Ive been aggressively paying off debts to improve my footing so I can refinance my mortgage and get rid of my private mortgage insurance, which is costing me about 180 a month.

This available credit lowering thing is apparently not an altogether uncommon event, and it can happen to you through no fault of your own. Yes, if you miss a payment, you may trigger a peek at your credit and a reevaluation of your terms. The reasons can vary, but most are based on the fact that the creditor suddenly views you as an increased credit risk or a high risk of defaulting on the card, said Business Insider.

But, thanks to the Coronavirus and its impact on the economy and employment numbers, creditors are feeling panicky. And you could find yourself being affected by their anxiety for doing nothing wrong.nbsp;

As financial conditions worsen for millions of Americans, credit card companies are tightening the purse strings, said CNBC.nbsp;In fact, some card issuers have already begun lowering credit limitssometimes without noticeand more are expected to follow.

Heres the problem. This kind of action by a creditor can have a negative impact on your credit score. If youre trying to boost your credit to take advantage of some of the lowest interest rates in history, this hit to your score is a big bummer.

Regardless, you need to check your credit right now. If you dont have one of those credit monitoring services that makes you aware of every little change to your report, this is especially important.

How much will this hurt you?

If a creditor has lowered your available credit, it will hurt. Youre cruising along with yournbsp;favorite credit cardnbsp;when you get a notification that your credit limits been lowered. Say what?nbsp;The above scenario happened to a friend of mine who had enjoyed the use of his credit card, made regular payments, was not over the limit, or ever late with a payment, said Business Insider. Hisnbsp;credit scorenbsp;dropped 30 points.

It isnt so much the lowered available credit that affects you, but what it does to your credit utilization. Lowering yournbsp;credit limitnbsp;can actually hurt your credit scores. The reason is that doing so increases your overall balance to limit ratio, ornbsp;utilization rate, said Experian. The lower your utilization rate, the less risk you represent to lenders. An increase in your utilization rate is a sign of risk because analysis has shown that consumers with high utilization are often using credit to spend more than they make and are more likely to default if they take on even more debt.

Will you recoversure. Will you recover in time to refinance while rates are below 3? Maybe not.

Do you have recourse?

Not really. You can call your creditor for an explanation and to ask if theyll return the limit to where it was, but dont be surprised to hear, No. Also, while this practice can feel punitive, itsunfortunatelyperfectly legal.nbsp;

We knew the purge was going to come at some point, but it looks like it may have started, Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree, told CNBC. With most major changes to your credit card terms, issuers need to give advanced notice, but thats not the case with credit limits, Schulz said. For the most part, they are free to change those credit limits as they please.

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Could The Corona Virus Provide The Next Boon For Private Mortgage Lending?

This situation may provide a boon to the private lending industry as it has done at times over the past 30 years; however, a cautionary tale might ensue should the perceived lockdown last for a few more months. The main reason is that a prolonged economic decline can produce long lasting effects that may take years to recover, especially in certain markets such as restaurants, retail, and any place where people gather. Different economic interruptions have occurred over the past 30 years that, for the private lender, with foresight, fared better than just before the downturn in the market.

In the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, the Savings and Loan crisis shuttered many real estate lending institutions. Almost one out of three Savings and Loans failed from 1986 to 1995. It was the most significant collapse since the Great Depression. According to author, Kimberly Amadeo, In the 1970s,nbsp;stagflationnbsp;combined low economic growth with highnbsp;inflation. Thenbsp;Federal Reservenbsp;raised interest rates to end double-digit inflation. That caused a recession in 1980.

Stagflation and slow growth devastated Samp;Ls. Their enabling legislation set caps on the interest rates for deposits and loans. Depositors found highernbsp;returns in other banks. At the same time, slow growth and the recession reduced the number of families applying for mortgages. The Samp;Ls were stuck with a dwindling portfolio ofnbsp;low-interest mortgages as their only income source.nbsp;

The situation worsened in the 1980s.nbsp;Money market accountsnbsp;became popular. They offered higher interest rates on savings without the insurance. When depositors switched, it depleted the banks source of funds. Samp;L banks asked Congress to remove thenbsp;low-interestnbsp;rate restrictions. The Carter administration allowed Samp;Ls to raisenbsp;interest ratesnbsp;on savings deposits. It also increased the insurance level from 40,000 to 100,000 per depositor.

By 1982, Samp;Ls were losing 4 billion a year. It was a significant reversal of the industrys profit of 781 million in 1980.

Between 1982 and 1985, Samp;Lnbsp;assets increased by 56. Legislators in California,nbsp;Texas, and Florida passed laws allowing their Samp;Ls to invest innbsp;speculative real estate.

Amongst scandalous activity such as putting pressure on the Federal Home Loan Banking Board to overlook suspicious activity, the crisis pushed states like Texas into a recession. When bad land investments were auctioned off, real estate prices collapsed.

In addition to the simple laws of supply and demand where the supply of money available for real estate purchases decreased due to the number of Samp;Ls closing, other conventional lending institutions became skittish and backed off; even for the more conservative loans.

Enter the private real estate lender. For those who could think outside the box and use some creative thinking, loans were made that, in one persons opinion was like shooting fish in a bar>

Then, in the late 1990s, we experienced the Dot Com bubble and burst. During the 1990s, more people were getting use to the World Wide Web. At the same time, a decline in interest rates increased the availability of capital. Add to that the Taxpayer >

In early 2000, the Fed raised interest rates, leading to stock market volatility. At the same time, Japan entered a recession. In April 2000, a judge ruled that Microsoft was guilty of monopolization and violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. This led to a 15 decline in the shares of Microsoft. On the same day of the judges ruling, Bloomberg News published a widely read article that stated, Its time, at last, to pay attention to the numbers. Within two weeks of that article,nbsp;the NASDAQ had dropped 25. Many investors sold stocks just before April 15th in order to pay for gains they had realized from sales in 1999. This compounded the decline of the NASDAQ. In addition, investor confidence was further eroded by several accounting scandals and the resulting bankruptcies that ensued. This spiral downward turned Dot Dom to Dot Bomb as it was known.nbsp;

Although the Dot Bomb era was not real estate >

Again, enter the private real estate lender. During this period, real estate had not seve>

The next time the banks curtailed lending occurred during the Great Recession in 2008. This time, real estate was specifically cited as a major contributor due to the credit bubble and subsequent mortgage meltdown. Real estate prices fell precipitously, and although real estate declined in value, there were ample opportunities for private real estate lenders. Many private lenders were curtailing their guidelines regarding LTVs, but they were making loans based on the then new, lower values and making a good living. For example, Mark Hanf, president of Pacific Private Money, started his business in 2008. Normally, one would have thought starting a lending business in 2008 was the wrong time, but Pacific Private Money flourished, as they made loans to borrowers in need at conservative, newer, LTVs, and no client lost money during the continued decline through 2012 due to conservative underwriting.

Up next, the Corona Virus; although the pandemic has substantially hurt the economy regarding sales/profits, the underlying economic picture was strong prior to the virus, and there is compelling reason to think that it can be strong again after restrictions are lifted, as the various restrictions were created by governments rather than economic forces and can be undone when governments decide to disseminate them; especially if a lockdown is only for a few months rather than years. So far, real estate has not shown signs of collapsing. Sellers are unwilling to unload their properties at depressed prices.nbsp;

Buyers still exist. Transactions are still being completed even if they are hampered by social distancing and more people working remotely. However, the banks are doing what they always seem to do during unsettling times; they pull back. They have less manpower via closed offices and less employees able to accomplish what is takes to make loans. This, again, gives the private lender the ability to provide the oft needed financing for borrowers. Interest rates have gone up for these borrowers even when the Fed has reduced interest rates. Less capital in the markets to lend means the demand for capital will raise the price for that capital. As long as the conventional lenders have basically stepped aside from real estate lending, the private lender should have the same opportunities that existed during the Samp;L Crises, the Dot Bomb Crisis, and the Great Recession.nbsp;

Of course, nobody knows how long the virus will be around and how long governments will intervene rather than let the virus run its course on its own. A long, protracted shutdown would seve>

Edwardnbsp;Brownnbsp;is in the Investor >
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Updated: Monday, July 13, 2020

Things You Can Do to Help Your Property Appraise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

De-clutter and maintain

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

Make it colorful

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

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

Add a focus area

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

Paint the fences

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

Consider some furniture

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

Most people would like to see a house with the furniture as it can give them a perspective of the layout and different rooms. Similarly, when you add some garden furniture, it is sure to spruce up the entire place and make it more inviting to your guests. It can also double-up as a cozy place for you to >
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Easy Home Office Design Ideas To Boost Your Productivity

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

Declutter Your Desk

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

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

Improve Your Lighting

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

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

Add A Natural Touch

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

Get More Home Office Design Tips

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

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