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Updated: Friday, September 25, 2020

Tips to Break Up with Your Real Estate Agent

No one likes a breakup, but what if you want to end things with your real estate agent? There are legal considerations to keep in mind, plus if you want to change agents there could be some emotions involved. You want to ensure youre covering your bases in terms of both.

Signs You Should Consider a New Real Estate Agent

Buying or selling a home can be a challenging time. You may be going through other changes in your life, and there are a lot of considerations in either situation. That means you might unfairly take some of those emotions out on your agent, or perhaps blame them for things that really arent their fault.

In other situations, there may be a real issue that can only be adequately addressed by finding a new agent.

Signs you should consider a new agent include:

Your agent doesnt convey the idea that theyre working for you. Some agents may have a bit more of an ego than youd like, and you may feel more like youre working for that person.
If youre selling your home and other properties in the neighborhood have sold much faster than yours, you might think about whether or not it has something to do with the agent or the advice theyre providing you.
When you go online, you cant find your home there. If you do find it, the images, videos, and other content used to market your home dont seem to be the same quality as other similar properties.
You spend a lot of time waiting for your agent to respond to you. Of course, everyone is busy, but your agent should have good, consistent communication with you. Thats a big part of what they do.
As a buyer, you might want to find someone new if your agent doesnt seem to take the initiative or offer you any real guidance.

In some cases, even if you cant pinpoint any particular thing your agent is or isnt doing, but youre not seeing activity, then you might want to make a switch as well.

Can You Change Agents?

First and foremost, if youre a seller and you havent yet signed a brokers agreement, you can legally change agents when you want. If you have signed an agreement, there may be a few steps you have to take before you can change.

Go over your contract.

Some will include a cancellation clause, which outlines how you can legally break up with your agent before the expiration of the contract.

There may be additional terms that you have to meet if you want to do that, so read the fine print.

Sometimes these additional terms can be pretty simple. As an example, your agreement may say that you need to give 48 hours notice.

If your broker failed to uphold their duties and you can show that, then it may be easier to get out of even a fairly tight contract.

Regardless of the specifics, you should plan to send a letter of termination to your agent.

Be aware that an agent may be entitled to a commission if theyve done work on your behalf as the seller. This could include marketing the home, preparing it, or contacting potential buyers. The whole concept of listing agreements is based on agents being compensated for the work they do before they sell a home.

The sooner you can let an agent know, the better for them and also for you.

How Can You Navigate It Tactfully?

Unless youre in a full-blown war with your current agent, you want to handle things as tactfully as you can.

Try to be honest with the issues youre having, but remain professional.

You may find that your agent agrees with you, and depending on the specifics, your old agent may have a list of other professionals they can recommend to you.

Again, you will need to write a formal letter because this can help protect you financially and legally if any issues come up later on.

You dont have to explain why you want to part waysits not required, but you might want to anyway.

If theres any chance you can salvage your >

If thats not the case and you dont feel comfortable moving forward, try to be as kind as you can during the break-up, while also considering any possible legal implications.

Once you find a new agent, go over the cancellation clause, particularly if you feel that you werent in a great position with the previous one. Your agent needs to protect themselves, of course, but be clear on the situations under your new contract in which they may be entitled to a commission.

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The Best Places to Buy Rental Properties Right Now

If youre considering buying an investment property, some locations are faring better than others right now. Of course, were in an unprecedented time because of coronavirus, but people who are still financially secure may be looking for investment opportunities.

Big cities and metropolitan areas arent ideal to buy rental properties right now. Many of these areas were hit hard by the pandemic, and a lot of residents are considering leaving. There was a sense during pandemic lockdowns that urban dwellers started to want more space and outdoor areas, as they were spending more time at home. nbsp;

Beyond that, certain factors can make one city better than another in terms of investing in a rental property.

First, you want to think about the home value index.

You have to be able to afford whatever rental property youre considering, and as an investor, you may be priced out of locations like New York or San Francisco.

Youll want to think about how home values are increasing in areas youre considering, and then you can think about the rent index and year-over-year rent growth. Unemployment rate, job growth rate, and median age are all other factors to eye as an investor.

Right now, some of the cities you might want to look at if youre an investor include:

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte is known as one of the most business-friendly cities in the country. From an investment standpoint, a lot of young professionals move there for jobs in banking and finance, as well as to start their own businesses.

The gross rent multiplier has gone up in the city, as home prices have as well.

Charlotte is a >

Orlando, Florida

While the Sunbelt states have seen headwinds in terms of coronavirus infection numbers throughout July, these states still remain high on many peoples >

Orlandos home values were rising significantly before the pandemic, but there is an expected drop in home prices in Orlando in the coming months which may make it affordable to buy in.

A lot of Orlandos residents choose to rent for one reason or another, and PwC and Forbes have both ranked the city as one of the best places to buy a rental property over the past few years.

Dallas, Texas

The Dallas real estate market is appealing for homebuyers and investors because the prices tend to be somewhat lower than what you find in other cities that have similar job prospects. Dallas and Texas as a whole are considered highly business-friendly, and there are a low cost of living and taxes.

Popular areas of Dallas for investors to look in if they plan on renting out a property include the West End Historic District and the Arts District.

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is a culturally diverse city that has a lot to offer investors. Atlanta has seen quite a bit of growth in both employment and population, both of which tend to signify a strong real estate market.

Georgia is considered one of the most productive states in the country when looking at contributions to GDP, and you can find good investment properties for as low as 70,000. Theres a lot of opportunities to purchase older properties and rehab them for renters.

The median rent per month in Atlanta is 1,500, and 500 people move to the city every day.

Denver, Colorado

Finally, Denver is one of the best places to invest, according to many analysts because there are a strong economy and good job creation. Tourism is also a big industry in Denver, and jobs are the main reason people move to the city.

The population has been consistently growing in Denver, and a third of people in the metro area are renters.

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Ask The HOA Expert: What Is The Difference Between The CC&R's And The Rules And Regulations?

Question: What is the difference between the CCamp;Rs and the rules and regulations? Even if the rules and regulations were never filed on the public record, would they hold up in a court of law?

Answer: CCamp;Rs stands for "Covenants, Conditions amp; Restrictions." CCamp;Rs include the Declaration, Bylaws, Rules, Regulations, Policies and Resolutions.

As far as standing up in court, no one can predict the outcome of a judge or jury decision. But the HOA has a responsibility to make sure all rules, regulations and policies are in writing, distributed to all owners and residents and easily accessible when needed website recommended for 24/7 access. If the HOAs rules are fair and uniformly enforced, most judges will rule for the Board.

Question: I am an HOA Treasurer and have been attempting to implement spending controls. We have two Board members who regularly purchase items for the HOA and want to be reimbursed. My concern is that expenditures are unpredictable and hard to track. What do you think is a reasonable policy?

Answer: Your HOA sounds like it has had a long history of directors spending money as they saw fit. The first question that comes to mind is: Has the old routine caused budget overruns? If yes, you have a sound basis for your controls. If no, you may be making much ado about nothing.

That said, it is not common for random directors to routinely spend the HOAs money. In self managed HOAs, the President and Treasurer generally handle payments, occasionally reimbursing a director for an HOA expense that cant wait for the normal payment process. Ideally, if you have a hired manager, all expenditures should be routed through the manager. It is much easier to hold an employee or contract manager accountable than a fellow director.

Your biggest obstacle doesnt seem to be opposition to good financial management practices, but perception that such is not needed. Getting a barge to change course takes time. Continue to press for change. The Board has a fiduciary duty to run HOA business in a business-like way.

Question: I recently took over professional management of an HOA which, I just discovered, has over 70,000 of unpaid water bills. The water department has threatened to shut off service within 48 hours. The Board directed me to impose a special assessment of 1000 per unit without a meeting or member vote. Can an emergency special assessment be imposed without member approval?

Answer: You need to read the governing documents to see what authority the Board has to raise special assessments. Even if the Board has authority to do so, proper and reasonable notice must be given to the members and time to raise the cash.

If a special assessment requires approval of the members, a member meeting needs to be called with advanced written notice. The meeting must have a legal quorum and a legal majority vote as defined by the governing documents. You may be able to pull this off by mail in ballot if your governing documents allow it. But none of this could possibly take place within 48 hours.

The Board needs to make immediate and adequate payment arrangements for the water bill, perhaps by getting a short term loan from the bank and quick. Or, you might be able to get the water department to leave the water on if money is on the way special assessment or loan. But they will, no doubt, want to see the written evidence letter from bank, copy of special assessment notice, etc..

The bigger question is, if this HOA has allowed things to get so bad that basic utilities cant get paid, what other fires are you going to find that they want you to put out? This crisis didnt happen overnight and the Board likely has others waiting in the wings. Unless you are getting paid extra to deal with these special circumstances, you need to seriously evaluate whether this is an account worth your time.

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The Rising Popularity of “Wellness Architecture”

The idea of wellness architecture or wellness-centric home design isnt enti>

What Is Wellness Architecture?

Wellness architecture is an approach to home design centered on improving healththis can include mental and physical health. Millennials tend to be health-conscious and, in some cases, even obsessed, and Baby Boomers are also driving the trend.

Baby Boomers are considering their own goals to age-in-place, and they want to ensure their homes are going to facilitate this.

With wellness architecture, you design your home with the idea in mind that it influences your health on a holistic level.

You might include things in your home that help you stay physically healthierfor example, adding a home gym.

You might set aside a bathroom thats geared toward >

It sounds like an expensive trend, but that doesnt necessarily have to be the case.

There are simple things you can do to ensure your home promotes your wellness and the wellness of your family.

Design Utilitarian Spaces

If you want a home centered on wellness, think about how youre most going to use spaces. In the past, the goal was to have as many bedrooms as possible in a home, and thats often what buyers were most looking for.

Now, families are having fewer children and spending more time at home, so they want spaces that reflect that.

If youre buying a new home or youre redesigning your current one, think about what youll realistically use.

For example, will you use a home gym or a yoga studio?

Maybe youre most likely to use a spa-like bathroom, or perhaps a large kitchen where you can prepare healthy foods.

Mood Boosters

If youre like most Americans you may be working from home right now, educating your children there, and doing most of your leisure activities at home. What you surround yourself with during these times can have a significant effect on your mood, so keep that in mind.

Things that you can improve your mood in your home include live plants and natural light.

Integrate dcor that you find aesthetically pleasing, whether thats art, or rich, textured fabrics as examples.

Give yourself time to reflect on what makes you feel your best when youre designing your home. Theres no one right answer as to what will work for everyone.

Removing Toxicity

Another way to design your home for wellness involves reducing your exposure to toxins.

Some of the ways to do this include:

Use an air-purifying system to remove pollens and dust particles.
If youre renovating your home, try to use low-VOC products.
Remove carpet and replace it with hard flooring.
Consider using color temperature light bulbs as part of your smart home system. You can program them to match your bodys natural circadian rhythm, which can help your mood and productivity, and also help you wind down each night and sleep better.

Take It Outdoors

Finally, if you have outdoor space, maximize it. Getting outside, even if just for a few minutes a day can have positive effects on your mental health as well as your physical health. For example, were increasingly finding out about the importance of vitamin D to prevent chronic illnesses.

Create an outdoor space thats going to be usable for you and meets the needs of your family. Maybe you focus your outdoor area on dining or entertaining, or perhaps its a place where your children can play while you soak up the sunlight.

Furnish your outdoor area as you would the indoors of your home in terms of comfort and functionality, to encourage you to get outside as much as possible.

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August Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "This year has been anything but normal and as the uncertainty lingers, mortgage rates remain near record lows. These rates continue to incentivize potential buyers and the home buying season, which shifted from spring to summer, will likely continue into the fall."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 2.91 percent with an average 0.8 points for the week ending August 27, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 2.99 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.58 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.46 percent with an average 0.7 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.51 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.06 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.91 percent this week with an average 0.2 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.94 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.31 percent.

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UBTI and Mortgage Debt Funds

According to Investopedia, Un>

UBTI greater than 1,000 is subject to taxation. For 2019, the highest tax rate was 37.

Most forms of passive income, such as dividends, interest income, and capital gains from the sale of capital assets, are not treated as UBTI.

Many investors use their IRAs to invest in Mortgage Debt Funds [MDF]. MDF lend money similar to a bank where they take a deed of trust as collateral for the loans they make to borrowers. Typically, income derived from MDF are not subject to UBTI even though the income derived at the MDF level is not passive in and by itself. The IRA investor, however, is a passive investor; consequently, it is not usually subject to UBTI. There are times, however, when this is not so.

Ways that UBTI can be triggered for the investor in a MDF can involve a few different scenarios; if the IRA borrows on margin to purchase the MDF; if the MDF borrows within itself to generate income [called a leveraged MDF], or if the MDF ends up foreclosing on too many assets and the IRS treats the MDF as a dealer in real estate. [This last risk is >

Most MDFs that use leverage usually center around attempting to enhance its yield to investors. If the MDF can borrow from a bank at 5 and lend it out at 8, there is a 3 arbitrage in favor of the MDF; however, this may possibly put undue risk in its portfolio - depending on how much leverage is used and the bank covenants required to obtain this leverage. In addition, for those investors in the MDF who use their IRAs [or 401ks, pension, or profit-sharing plans], this leverage may subject the income derived to create UBTI.

Certain key factors for the investors IRA are; how much the IRA has invested in the MDF [because the first 1,000 of UBTI is not taxable to the IRA, the income derived by the MDF, and how much leverage was used to produce that income. In addition, it is important the length of time that leverage was used, as the UBTI will be calculated using a formula.

For example, Chart 1 shows an IRA investor having 100,000 in a MDF generating a rate of return of 6.5 [without leverage] will not have its 6,500 income subject to UBTI as no leverage was used. If the MDF chooses to leverage the Fund 50 [50 investor funds and 50 bank funds] for the entire year and can borrow at 5 and invest that portion at 8, the net income to the IRA [after subtracting the bank interest expense and UBTI tax ] would be 8,760.

Many IRA investors may not feel that the extra 2,760 earned in this example is worth the risk. When a real estate syndication goes bad, it is usually only for one reason leverage. If no leverage is used, then, usually, the only way for a real estate investor to lose substantially most or all of his/her investment in these types of investments [be they REITS, Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies, etc.] is if the real estate taxes associated with the underlying real estate are not paid. When leverage is used, the banks have first priority over the assets. Simply, the more leverage that is used, the riskier the investment.nbsp;

It is important for those investors using their retirement savings to invest in assets that can produce UBTI to ask the manager how much debt/leverage is used in the investment. A small amount of leverage is not usually taking on undue risk, especially if that leverage is used sparingly. Mark Hanf, president of Pacific Private Money, says that he likes to use a small amount of leverage, and on a very short term basis for his MDF for specific reasons; mostly, to help fund short term loans in his Fund when he is expecting payoffs on other loans or anticipated investor money flowing in. As soon as payoffs or investor money comes in, he immediately pays down line of credit [leverage]. This creates the benefit of having the ability to close deals that he might not otherwise have been able. The short-term nature of this leverage does not usually create enough UBTI income to concern the retirement investor. In addition, the short duration of the leverage puts his Fund at minimal risk; however, since the rate of interest to obtain the leverage is less than the income derived from it, his Fund still benefits from a small amount of positive arbitrage.

The retirement investor would be wise to look for Funds that conservatively use leverage in their MDF to avoid UBTI as well as undue risk. In addition, the investor should calculate the anticipated UBTI ahead of time to determine how much should be invested, as only the first 1,000 of UBTI income is tax free; The investor can then decide the risk reward of investing in a MDF that uses leverage.

nbsp;Edwardnbsp;Brownnbsp;is in the Investor >
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10 Easy Ways To Make You Love Your Home Again

We all fall into a rut sometimes. When that rut is otherwise known as our ugly living room, our cluttered kitchen, or our outdated everything, it can make us cranky. And lazy. And possibly looking to move.

But before you throw in the ugly, old, and outdated towel on you home, take a step back and consider some easy changes that might help change more than your homes mojo. They might also change the way you feel about living there. Here are 10 easy ways to make you love your home again.

1. Rearrange your furniture.

Seems simple, right? And it is, but the impact can be huge. Sometimes, all a tired living room needs is a little refresher, and that can often be achieved without spending a dime. Check out HGTV for some tips.

2. Clear up the clutter.

Home organizers the world over not to mention quite a few therapists will tell you that de-cluttering your home can make a huge differencenot just in how you feel about your home, but also how you feel about your life. Organizing can help to bring order to your space and your mind, reducing messes and stresses.

3. Get a new TV.

If youre still sporting the big back, its timefor a flat screen. Hanging one over your fireplace or orienting your room around a new entertainment hub will make you love the space all over again. And a good-size screen can be found today for not much more than youll pay for your electric bill this summer. Check out these affordable options.

4. Pick one room to overhaul per quarter.

Then, schedule a weekend scrubbing, swapping out linens, painting, changing light bulbs or whatever else is needed for an easy and cheap update. Making and sticking to a plan will give you a new resolve, and a fresh new home.

5. Use your spare change.

Change out your throw rug, window coverings, or accessories. Designating a special spot to collect leftover coins at the end of the day will give your family purpose, and before you know it youll have a "Freshen Up Fund."

6. Change out your art.

Dont have the funds to start that Monet collection? Frame some black and white pictures or employ your kids to create a few masterpieces for a unique collection with a personal touch.

7. Clean it up.

Organize the gang on a Saturday morning to clean the baseboards, light fixtures, and ceiling fans. Sprucing up these often-dusty and grimy areas can really freshen up a space. A little tip: Were not above using ice cream bribes for kids who dont want to participate.

8. Take care of little issues that youve been ignoring.

Fix little issues like toilet paper holders that have come out of the wall and crooked pictures that raise your ire every time you walk by them. Take a good look at your whole house and make a list of the things youve been overlooking we see your giveaway box in the corner

9. Paint your old kitchen cabinets.

Is it time intensive? Yes. Is it something youll regret halfway through when you have a panic attack about how many more cabinet doors are left? Su>

10. Call a REALTOR

Nothing will make you want to stick it out in your lived-in and well-loved home than hearing an honest assessment from a professional who knows you have a good 50k in updates to do if you want to get any money out of your house.

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What Do I Need to Know about the Plumbing?

As a home inspector I am often asked, "What do I need to know about the plumbing?" The answer can be rather long and rather complex, but in the simplest of terms, the plumbing of a home consists of two major parts:


Supply System - the plumbing that brings fresh water into the home, a connection of sealed pipe sections and valves under pressure, which are intended to bring a continuous flow upon demand


Drainage System - the plumbing that safely removes used water and waste products from within the home through a series of vented pipe sections which flow downward to allow discharge via gravity


Well, that is about as simple as the explanation gets, water in, and waste out. But there is much more to the story, such as the types of piping used, "are the pipes made of plastic, copper, or galvanized steel"?

And, "what types of connectors are used, brass fittings, soldered connectors, or adhesive materials?" And then, "what other types of fixtures or accessories are found within the system; are there well pumps, storage tanks, pressure regulators, treatment systems, water heaters, and so on?"

And, "what types of traps or clean-outs are provided for the toilets, sinks, and tub/showers"? Wow, so many things to cover, and so many locations for possible leaks. After all, plumbing systems in good service are those that deliver the inbound potable water upon demand, and then take the contaminated waste water outbound, and without any leakage along the way

Lets talk about the supply piping first. Prior to the early 1960s, most homes built in the last century used inbound water pipes made of galvanized steel, galvanizing being a process of coating raw steel pipes through a corrosion resistant chemical process. Galvanizing worked well, but typically this coating material began to breakdown over time, which then left the steel piping exposed to water which in turn began the process of decay.

Usually galvanized piping had a life expectancy of approximately 40 years, maybe a bit longer depending upon their use, maintenance, or original installation methods. If the home you are purchasing has galvanized piping, it may be getting up in age and therefore this system may need to be replaced at some future point in time. Signs of corrosion or visible signs of rust detected during an inspection may suggest that the system has areas of decay, and that further evaluation may be advised.

Some other older supply systems to watch out for are various forms of flexible plastics. Only a few types of plastic piping are recommended for use within supply systems by the International Residential Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code, and these uses are very specific in nature. If you have any plastic supply piping, this should be given special attention as these are not common, and some plastic systems have been prone to have problems. Expert advice should be sought under these conditions.

Now fast forward in time just a bit. After the 1960s construction methods began using copper piping almost exclusively. With the exception of some weaker versions of the first copper pipes there are various grades K,L,M, extruded copper plumbing has become the gold standard. Almost all supply piping installed today in residential construction is made of copper. This type of material is largely resistant to corrosion from water, is easier to install and/or repair than steel products, and in most cases copper has become the most cost effective material overall.

The only concerns with copper piping are with respect to its softer material which is subject to puncture if struck, by a nail for example, or it may rupture if bent by accident or not supported properly. Copper piping is also subject to galvanic oxidization if connected to galvanized steel piping. Meaning that if a steel connector or section of galvanized steel pipe is attached to a copper pipe, a corrosive reaction develops slowly, usually at the point where the two sections meet.

And remember, corrosion then ultimately leads to decay and leakage. If you have copper piping, keep the entire system made of copper and all will be fine brass fittings may also be used with copper piping as an alternative material. There are special dielectric connectors that may also be used if a steel pipe is to be connected to a copper pipe.

Okay, we are getting a bit beyond the simple explanations we promised. Just remember:


copper = good, this is the most common material used today


galvanized steel = fine, but regular inspection advised due to older materials


plastic = okay, but for specific uses only in supply systems


Now before we leave the supply piping discussion we need to revisit "what does corrosion on piping really mean?" Corrosion is a process whereby external materials or very small amounts of water are making their way to the surface. Put another way, this could mean that the threads or connections where two sections of piping come together are not completely sealed tight, and therefore tiny amounts of water can get through any small gaps, thus making their way to the outside of the connection. Remember these supply water pipes are under pressure, so any weakness will give water a place to escape.

Now in this example of threaded piping, if the threads are not damaged, cleaning them with a wire brush and then adding Teflon-tape or other piping compounds to the threads might be all that is required to stop further corrosion or leakage. Repairs are not always this simple, but the point here is that corrosion is the first indication that something is not right, so any mention of corrosion on pipes/connectors or fixtures should be taken seriously as this is the plumbing systems "early warning" that repairs are needed. Left unattended, corrosion becomes a leak, and although this process may take months or weeks before a leak appears, it WILL lead to a leak at some point in time. So like most things, the sooner the problem is addressed the better

Now let us talk about the waste or outbound drainage plumbing systems. Before the 1960s most residential applications were of clay tiles or cast iron piping and a few less common uses of lead, brass, etc. Clay tiles didnt last very long, only 25-40 years typically, so any clay piping still in use would be suspect to cracks and leakage. Cast iron on the other hand could last up to 80-100 years by some estimates, but also noting that there have been reports of cast piping failures as early as 40-60 years of use.

Since most of a homes waste plumbing may be buried under a floor/slab or within the soil, it is hard to really know the true condition of the entire waste system. That being said, an inspection of the visible sections is a great placed to start, and this visual inspection can provide an indication of how the rest of the system may be functioning. Additionally, in the case of concealed areas within the soil for example, visual inspections for wet areas can also be an indication of an active leak.

Or if the water flow out from toilets/tub/showers appears to be slower than usual, this could be an indication of a break or blockages within the waste lines. If problems such as these are evident, further evaluation by a licensed plumber might be recommended, whereby these professionals could send a camera scope through the waste lines to visually inspect then from the inside out. As previously stated, the aim of any initial inspection is to detect possible warning signs, to give a general assessments, and then to recommend next steps accordingly.

If we look beyond early waste systems of clay tiles and cast iron, we move to todays almost exclusive use of ABS plastic piping Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene schedule 40, typically black in color. Okay, that was a mouthful, but one word to remember: "Plastics."

Unlike supply systems, for waste systems the use of plastics has appeared to have been a huge success ABS plastic is smooth unlike the sand-paper texture of cast iron so clogs due paper getting caught inside the waste lines have been drastically reduced. Plastic is also rigid, meaning that unlike clay pipes that crack if struck or squeezed by tree roots, plastic piping is more likely to withstand these external forces. And did we mention that installing or repairing ABS plastic waste lines is much easier and less costly than the other materials.

Now no discussion of waste systems would be complete without a brief mention of the many connections and fixtures used. Remember that every connecting point is an opportunity for leaks. Every toilet, sink, shower, and water-using appliance should be thoroughly checked. This starts with a visual inspection to determine if the parts were assembled properly. Then further assessments are taken to look for corrosion, stains, and leaks these steps all begin the process of "early warning" and detection And then of course, running water through the system can be a final measure of the waste systems current condition.

A standard inspection process may look at literally hundreds of connection points in an average home. And in addition to determining the types of materials installed, the inspection process will try to weed-out any potential problem areas. Remember, no matter what type of system you have, the key is to keep a watch out for the signs of corrosion or leakage Plumbing system problems can be serious and costly concerns, but the home inspection can help make the process of detection and analysis a little less of a concern.

And that completes todays course of Plumbing 101.

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Why Car Lease Payments Are Treated Differently

Affordability is one of the key elements in the mortgage loan approval process. If lenders want to approve a marketable loan, making sure the new mortgage payments fall into a comfort zone for the borrowers. This is accomplished by comparing monthly debt payments to qualifying gross monthly income. Qualifying debt payments are those associated with a credit account such as credit card payments or a monthly payment for a car loan.nbsp;

Other monthly payments counted include spousal or child support. Monthly installments for property taxes and insurance are in the mix as well. When the comparison is made, the result is a percentage, or a ratio. Other debt not included in this ratio are things such as daily living expenses, utilities, health insurance, groceries, etc.

If monthly debt is 3,000 and gross monthly income is 10,000, the debt ratio is then 30. This ratio is for the principal and interest payment, taxes, insurance and monthly mortgage insurance when needed. Common qualifying housing ratios for most loan programs are around 30-33. Note, these are guidelines only. A loan might be approved for someone whose debt ratios are closer to 40. Higher acceptable debt ratios are typically the result of other positive factors in the loan file. Higher credit scores or a larger down payment are such factors.

In addition to the housing payment calculation, there is a secondary ratio that includes the house payment along with other monthly qualifying credit obligations. Most debt falls into either an installment or revolving category. An example of revolving debt is a credit card. Each month, the card holder charges on the card and also makes a monthly payment against those charges. There is a credit limit assigned but the balance will rise and fall during the course of use.nbsp;

Installment debt is counted but with most loan programs when the loan is nearing the end of its term, lenders will ignore the debt. Typically the timeline for not counting an installment payment is when the end of term is less than 10 months away. If a car loan payment is 500 but the credit report shows the debt has only eight payments remaining, the 500 amount is ignored when establishing affordability. The lender knows the payment will soon be gone and wont affect long term affordability.

But not if the car is leased.nbsp;

Why, you ask? When someone buys a car and finances it with a traditional car loan, at the end of the loan term, the owners keep the asset the car. Someone might have a car loan that lasts for three years but after three years the car is paid for and owned outright. With a lease, thats a different story.

A lease is likened to anbsp; rental payment. When renting a car, a daily rate accumulates and at the end of the rental period the car is turned back in. The rental agency owns the car, not the renter. Similar with a lease. A lease means the borrowers dont own the car. The leasing company does. So, at the end of the lease period, there needs to be some decisions made.

One, is it better to return the car once the lease is over? If so, a mortgage lender will want to know what your plans are. After all, you need a car to get to work or go to school or to take you wherever you want to go. But if the car is turned in, how do you get to work, school, or wherever? The lender assumes youll take out another lease or make arrangements to buynbsp; the car outright at the end of the lease period. Buying the car with cash is an option but many decide to finance the car instead with an installment loan. This is the information the lender will want to know. If there is a lease and it is soon to expire, what are the plans for transportation? This is why lenders treat a lease differently compared to an outright purchase.

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Creating an Optimal Virtual Learning Space

Children around the U.S. are learning virtually this school year. Some districts are enti>

Parents are wondering how they can facilitate the best possible experience for their kids when theyre learning virtually. A lot of that has to do with creating a good environment thats conducive to learning.

Choose a Space Separate From Living Areas

One of the most important things to keep in mind when creating a learning space is that it needs to be quiet and separate from the main living and traffic areas of the home. You want your kids to not only be able to focus but also to be able to separate the time theyre learning from the time theyre doing other things.

Transforming a guestroom can be an ideal option, but you may not have the space for that.

Look at creative options.

You may be able to design a learning space in your garage, in a nook under a set of stairs, or even in a closet. You could also think about designing a learning space in a separate shed or building if you have one. Thats also something a lot of people are doing for their home office.

You want a separate space not only so its quiet, but also so that kids know when they go to that space, its time to get in the mindset of learning.

Organize It

Clutter is not conducive to learning, and it can be confusing and distracting for kids.

Start brainstorming about the different things youll have to organize throughout the semester and give everything its own space with a label.

This might include items like pencils and markers in one area, homework papers in another, and books that can be organized on a shelf.

Provide a checklist your child can follow when the school day is done to make sure everything gets back to its designated area.

Implement an Ergonomic Setup

Your child shouldnt be participating in school lying on their bed or the sofa.

They need a place where they can sit upright to maintain good habits and also to help with their writing skills.

Choose a size-appropriate desk or table where your child can sit, and the desk will be just at their elbow height or slightly below. Kids feet should be planted on the floor as well.

Keep the Design Simple

In the learning space, keep the colors and the dcor simple. You dont want the space to be too distracting. The focus needs to be primarily on learning.

Its easy to get carried away with the aesthetics when youre carving out a learning area, but the real focus should be on what your child needs and its utilitarian purpose.

When youre choosing colors, bright colors tend to work well for younger kids. Bright colors are stimulating. For older kids, you might want cooler colors that are calming and can help boost focus.


A learning area needs to be well-lit, and natural light is best. If the lighting is too dim, it can impact sleep cycles and your childs attention. Natural light can, on the other hand, improve achievement and overall health.

Add a mirror across from the windows to reflect more natural light into the room or space where your child is learning.

Ask For Your Childs Input

Every child is different and learns in their own way. If your child is old enough, ask for their input and what they prefer and would like to see in their learning area.

Finally, at the end of each school day, after organizing and putting away supplies, your child should completely leave their learning space. They shouldnt play games there or chat with friends. It should be exclusively dedicated to education.

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Canadian Homebuyers Not Deterred By The Pandemic – Yet

After the shock of COVID-19 wiped out the traditionally busy spring real estate market across Canada, buyers made up for it during the summer months. July saw record sales as buyers made up for lost time, but the question of whether the sales boom is sustainable is a hot topic.

On the one side is the real estate industry, which has produced several studies and surveys to prove that consumers wont let the pandemic slow down their real estate dreams. On the other side is Canada Mortgage Housing and Corporation CMHC and specifically its president and CEO Evan Siddall, who has taken a combative stance ra>

Siddall has been critical of rosy forecasts and outlooks from the real estate and mortgage industries. In a letter to lenders, he wrote, We continue to believe house prices will fall, even in the face of recent activity, which appears to be the result of very low interest rates and a sharp reduction in new listings/supply vs underlying demand. Our projections always anticipated a delayed impact: weakening in late 2020 and 2021 once government income supports unwind, bankruptcies increase and unemployment starts to bite. Weakness in oil-producing regions and sharp reductions in immigration will add further pressure. The economic cost of COVID-19 has been postponed by effective government intervention; it has not been avoided.

Not surprisingly, the real estate industry doesnt agree with that assessment. The outlook for the B.C. housing market is much brighter following a surprisingly strong recovery, says Brendon Ogmundson, chief economist for the British Columbia Real Estate Association. We expect home sales will sustain this momentum into 2021, aided by record-low mortgage rates and a recovering economy.

The association is forecasting that prices in the province will finish this year up by 7.7 per cent and increase a further 3.7 per cent in 2021.nbsp;

A recent report by Re/Max is also calling for a strong finish to 2020 across the country, with sale prices increasing by 4.6 per cent. Looking ahead, government financial aid programs may be coming to an end in September, which could potentially impact future activity, says Christopher Alexander, EVP of Re/Max of Ontario-Atlantic Canada.

However, the pent-up demand and low inventory dynamic may keep prices steady and bolster activity for the remainder of 2020. Overall, we are very confident in the long-term durability of the market.

Robert Hogue, senior economist with RBC Economics, says that pent-up demand will keep the market humming in August and possibly September.

We see little that can stop the appreciation in property values near term. If anything, many markets are likely to experience further acceleration, says Hogue. That said, we continue to believe the eventual shift to a lower demand baseline later this year will have a cooling effect on prices most likely by the early stages of 2021. We expect lower immigration and increased condo supply in core urban areas to concentrate any weakness on the high-rise condo segment.

Shaun Cathcart, senior economist for the Canadian Real Estate Association, says: Recall that before the lockdown, we were heading into the tightest spring market in almost 20 years. Things may have gone quiet for a few months, but ultimately the market were seeing right now is mostly the same one we were heading into back in March. That said, there are some new factors at play as well. There are listings that will come to the market because of COVID-19, but many properties are also not being listed right now due to the virus, as evidenced by inventories that are currently at a 16-year low. Some purchases will no doubt be delayed, but the new-found importance of home, lack of a daily commute for many, a desire for more outdoor and personal space, room for a home office, etc. will certainly also spur activity that otherwise would not have happened in a non-COVID-19 world.

That desire for more space is reflected in a survey conducted for the Ontario Real Estate Association by Nano Research, which found that close to 60 per cent of those who are active in the real estate market say that living in a rural area is now more appealing to them than it was before the pandemic. More say the same about living in the suburbs.

The survey also says that more renters are interested in buying a home than they were pre-pandemic.

Similar results were reported in a survey by Mortgage Professionals Canada. We were surprised by responses that show higher expectations about buying homes in the near future, says Will Dunning, the associations chief economist. Among non-homeowners, the expectation of buying in the next year has doubled from seven per cent at the end of last year to the current 14 per cent. There has also been a rise in expectations about buying for people who already own their home.

The report also found that homeowners have not become more worried about their ability to weather a downturn in the housing market, and that there is still a high degree of confidence that real estate is a good long-term investment.

But Siddall is still concerned. Responding to a story recently that quoted several industry sources, Siddall tweeted: Do I detect another cor>

Siddall is due to leave his post at CMHC at the end of the year, and by then we may have a better idea which side had a more accurate forecast.

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How to Destress Downsizing

There are a lot of reasons you might feel like its time to downsize and move into a smaller home.

If youre now an empty-nester, thats one good reason. Even families who still have children at home often opt to downsize to save money on their mortgage and to have less upkeep and maintenance.

If you spend all of your free time maintaining a larger home than what you need, you have less time to enjoy your life.

When you downsize to a smaller home, you can declutter and enjoy lower utility bills.

Living in a smaller home requires you to think about your priorities and get rid of things that arent needed.

If you plan to downsize, decluttering and preparing can be intimidating, and the following are some tips to take some of the stress out of it.

Be Strategic

Youll probably start thinking about the big items in your current home first, as you plan to downsize.

With furniture and large items, dont waste your time trying to guess what will fit and what wont.

Instead, create a floor chart of your new home, and then you can map out a grid of your furnishings to figure out what will fit and how it will fit.

There are apps that you can use that will make it incredibly easy to do this.

Youll feel more confident in your decisions as far as what you keep and throw away if you measure first.

If there are rooms in your current home that you wont have at all in your new home, get rid of everything from those if you can. For example, if youre not going to have a guestroom, start eliminating the items in your current guestroom first.

Take Inventory

If youre moving to a smaller home, youre inevitably going to have to get rid of things. This is one of the benefits of downsizingreducing clutter and simplifying your living space.

Start by taking inventory of what you have versus what you need.

You can begin weeding out the things youre certain you want to get rid of, such as duplicate items.

Start Small

Create a downsizing plan, and start small. Dont overwhelm yourself with the most challenging parts of your house first.

For example, begin with your laundry room or perhaps a small closet. Dont start with your garage or your basement firstthose can be the biggest projects to take on.

Start Clearing Things Out

Once you have a general idea of how much space you have in your new home and your possessions, begin the process of clearing things out.

Create four piles. There should be no maybe piledont give yourself the option.

The first pile will be giveaways. These are the things youre going to give to family and friends but dont save too many items in these piles. You may be overestimating how useful or valuable loved ones might find many of the things you plan to give them.

The next pile will be donations. If something is in bad shape, dont put it in the donate pile because it probably wont be accepted.

Your third pile can be more valuable items that you plan to sell.

Finally, your fourth pile heads to the dump.

Find Help

You should look for someone to help you with the process who doesnt have the emotional attachment to the things that you do. You have to take the emotionality out of downsizing, and a third-party can guide you in that direction.

If youre struggling with getting rid of things, perhaps you have someone help you. If so, resist the urge to micromanage what they give away or throw away.

Finally, try to make downsizing as fast a process as you can. You dont want to give yourself too much time to think on things because you might come up with some reason for keeping items that you really shouldnt.

Get it done and move the items out as soon as possible.

Downsizing can be very emotional for many reasons, but create a plan for yourself and stick to it. Change is hard for most people but can bring wonderful benefits at the same time so focus on that rather than focusing on the feeling of giving something up.

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Ask the HOA Expert: Collection Policies, Financial Statements, Board Member Responsibilities

Question: Our collection policy states that if an owner is 30 days past due, the management company sends a pre-lien notice letter. Several board members think the board members should be notified when these letters are sent.

Answer: When a collection process is implemented, the board should be kept apprised of the progress. It is easily and cheaply done by email to all board members. It is standard procedure for the management company to keep the client informed of significant events like this.

Question: We are having a difficult time with our management company providing accurate, complete and timely financial statements. Month after month, the same problems. Weve written them letters and met with them in person yet no improvement. Weve had it and want to terminate the contract but fear they wont >

Answer: Providing accurate and timely financial reports is an HOA management companys highest priority since money is an essential component of the HOAs operation. An occasional error is to be expected but ongoing errors is another matter. Either the management company is doing it correctly or not. Numbers dont lie except at Enron.

Management contracts cut both ways. If one party is not living up to its end of the bargain, it has no right to continue. The board or HOAs attorney should advise the management company of the specific breaches that are the basis for termination. If the facts are true, there should be no argument.

Question: Our board of directors recently passed the following resolutions. Be it resolved that:nbsp;

Board members shall be on signature cards of all bank accounts.
Management company may not sign any checks without the approval of the board.
Management company shall produce true and accurate financial statements.
The HOA will not be responsible for any late fees incurred due to failure by management company to make timely payments.
Management company must develop a system to pay HOA bills on time and correctly.

Answer: Clearly the board has many issues with the current management company which need to be resolved, and soon. Observations based on your numbered resolutions:

Both the President and Treasurer are usually signers on the HOAs bank accounts. This should be done as soon as possible. If the management company interferes, get a new management company.
The management company should be authorized to pay itself for normal monthly charges authorized by the management agreement. Special billings should receive prior approval from the Board President. It should only be necessary to get the whole board to approve a payment when its outside the approved budget.
The management company should normally produce a monthly income and expense statement and reconciled bank statements by no later than the 15th of the following month.
This is reasonable. The HOA should not pay for late fees caused by the management company.
Many HOA management companies pay bills twice a month to avoid unnecessarily delaying payment or incurring late fees. The HOA, of course, must have the money available to pay the bills.

Question: Do board members have a legal responsibility to follow the reserve study recommendations?

Answer: The board should be careful about deviating from reserve study recommendations. Most reserve studies recommend a funding plan that steers the HOA away from special assessments. If the board decides to fund reserves less, the risk of special assessment grows.

If a special assessment is called for due to under funding, a case could be made that the board did not fulfill its fiduciary duty and be held personally liable. And just as importantly, past owners who have sold will not have paid their fair share. Unless there is a compelling reason to deviate, the board should follow the recommendations.

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2020s Most Tax-Friendly States

Retirees are often who we think of as moving from higher-tax states to states considered tax-friendly. For example, its common to see retirees moving from the Northeast, which is an expensive region not just in terms of taxes but also things like real estate and general cost-of-living, to the more affordable areas of Florida and the Southeast.

Now, the coronavirus pandemic has led younger people, many of whom are in their prime career years, to also look for low-cost places to >

The following are some of the countrys most tax-friendly states right now, regardless of why youre >


Wyoming has a strong mineral and energy extraction industry, and thats one of the reasons the state can keep taxes low for residents.

Theres no state income tax in Wyoming, and the average state and local sales tax is just over 5.3. The average property taxes are 635 per 100,000 in home value.

The gas tax is also well below the national average.


There is no income tax in Nevada, and the average property tax in the state is 693 per 100,000 in home value. The tax-friendly nature of Nevada may be one reason theres an influx of California residents into the state and particular into the Lake Tahoe area.

The average state and local sales tax in Nevada is a bit on the higher side, at 8.14.

Nevada receives over a billion dollars each year thanks to the casino and tourism industry, which helps them avoid a state income tax, although the coronavirus pandemic is likely to impact this.


In Tennessee, theres a limited state income tax, which is 2 on interest and dividends.

The first 1,250 for individual filers of their taxable income is also exempt. The tax will be enti>

Property taxes are pretty low too. You would pay around 3,072 per year for a home with a value of 400,000.

With that being said, the state and local sales tax rate is one of the highest in the country at nearly 9.47, and Texas also has one of the highest beer taxes in the U.S. too.


Floridas another state with no state income tax, but property taxes tend to hover around the national average.

The state and local sales tax rate is also somewhere around average for the country at 7.05 combined.

The gas tax is high too, but for the nearly year-round sunshine and warm weather, many people find it worth it, plus overall Florida is still considered pretty tax-friendly.


Alaska may not provide you with sunshine and beaches, but it could be an economically sound decision.

Alaska residents pay neither state income taxes nor state sales tax. Certain municipalities in Alaska might impose sales taxes that are as high as 7.5, but even so the average sales tax hovers around 1.76.

Theres also something in Alaska called the Permanent Fund Dividend, which is paid to every resident of the state whos lived there for a full year.

South Dakota

Finally, another tax-friendly option is South Dakota, with no state income tax and an average state and local combined sales tax of only 6.4. Food and prescription drugs are also exempt from sales tax. Property taxes, however, are above average compared to the rest of the country.

What about the least tax-friendly states?

California has the highest individual state income tax rate in the nation. Other high-tax states include Oregon, Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey.

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Mortgages, Divorce and Separation

Okay, so lets say a couple meet, start dating and later on down the road they decide its best to tie the knot and live happily ever after. Yet unfortunately, many such unions dont make it all the way. Sometimes the couple decides to maybe take a breather from the partnership and live separately. Just to think things through with a clear head. When this decision is made, many times they decide to separate before nulling the marriage enti>

First, note here there is a legal definition of a separation. A couple who independently decide to take up different residences doesnt let one party off the hook for the mortgage payment. After all, if it took two incomes to qualify for the existing mortgage, a lender will want to know if anything substantial changes. They both signed the note at the outset and they both obligate themselves to pay the mortgage each and every month. Many such situations have one spouse staying in the purchased home while the other moves out and finds another place to live. It may also be that one party declares responsibility for the mortgage payment. So far, this is nothing more than an agreed-to arrangement.nbsp;

But that can present a problem for the individual moving out of the home and looking to buy another. Its quite possible that when trying to qualify for a mortgage to buy another property, that person cant qualify because of the outstanding mortgage payment. Even if the couple decides between themselves who is paying for the mortgage and who is not, the lender is not involved in those discussions. An in-person agreement does not remove one partys responsibility for making the mortgage payment each month.nbsp;

A legal separation might carry a bit more weight. A legal separation spells out in the court documents who is responsible for what. The document is signed by a judge and recorded in public records. If the document states one party is going to be making the payments, that might help offset the debt. But probably not. The lender doesnt really care if the marriage is on the rocks. It cares that its mortgage might be on the rocks. The obligation will typically still remain on both parties credit report, even if the separation agreement spells out who is paying for what.

A divorce works in a similar manner. The divorce decree also spells out who gets what asset and who is responsible for a variety of matters accumulated over time. If one party assumes the mortgage, the lender can remove the monthly debt from one party but in order to completely remove one party from the transaction, not only will the occupying spouse need to refinance the existing mortgage into his or her name, but also to quit claim ownership from one party to the next. Both the mortgage and title need to be taken into consideration. Still, the lender will have a say.

Some lenders want to see the monthly payments be made in a timely manner over a specific period, say for twelve months. Once its been demonstrated the payments have been made, there can be a case for removing the non-occupying person from any future obligation.nbsp;

If a marriage doesnt work out, getting one party off the note legally is a process, not just a marital agreement.

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Low Commissions: Don't Give Up

One hundred percent of people who go into the real estate business have good intentions and high expectations. It is easy to see why. Real estate is a lucrative profession offering great rewards to those agents that know what they are doing.

The problem though is that not every agent is good at it. Here is a sobering thought. Roughly seventy percent of all real estate agents quit during their first year in business. They dont always leave right away, though. Sometimes they hang around in a state of "quit" for years before they finally clean out their desk and walk out the door. Some people even get part time jobs before they leave real estate for good.

But will quitting solve your problems? You didnt get into real estate sales to fail. My guess is that you got into real estate sales as a means to an end, to make your and your familys life better. If your commissions arent paying your bills, dont get out of the real estate business, get into it

My first year in real estate I sold five homes -- and two of those fell through. I wanted to succeed so much that I worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. At the end of this first year I looked back and realized that whatever it was that I was doing wasnt working.

After a year under a broker who gave little instruction -- I found another broker to work under and learn from. This guy told me what to do and I did it. The result? I sold 91 homes my second year in real estate and averaged 86 homes a year for seven consecutive years. As a manager, my office of nine collectively listed one house a day for four straight years.

I was not more talented than the next real estate agent and not more educated either. The only thing I did differently was to follow the direction of my teacher. We dont need to reinvent the wheel folks, just do what successful agents already do.

When you are starting out: copy, mimic, imitate. Those are the keys. The top producers I know are more than happy to share their knowledge because they know, just like I know, the secret to true success. You get by giving. I dont know of a successful real estate agent today that wouldnt give you the shirt off their back.
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Five Tips for Indoor-Outdoor Living

Indoor/outdoor living used to be the kind of thing we expected to see in luxury resorts, where ocean breezes and views could trickle into open-air huts, with nary a door or window to keep the tropical beauty out. Then we thought of them as strictly a west coast thing, with living areas that could transform through sliding doors that disappeared into a wall or folded away, literally erasing the separation between the house and the ocean view. Today, the idea of indoor-outdoor living is not just for beach-dwellers anymore. And its not just for the moneyed either.

Want to create an indoor-outdoor experience or a more resort->

1. Let the light in

And if you have a view, by all means, let that in too. If you keep your blinds drawn for privacy reasons or because you dont want to let the heat in, there are ways to deal with this. Try solar shades, which can help with both of those problems. These are exterior screens that are custom fitted to your window and that can filter out the harsh rays. They are also said to save you as much as 30 percent on your electric bills

Other ways to bring in the light without the heat:

Add a pergola or an outdoor patio. Not only will these give you a private covered area - very resort living - but if positioned correctly, they can also deflect sunlight away from your home. Pre-fabricated structures in a variety of materials at stores like Target, Lowes, and Costco can also do the trick for those who want a quick fix without a big expense.

You can also consider building a taller fence or planting tall trees to block out some sun.

2. Erase the barriers

Go beyond open drapes and even open windows. If you really want to take full advantage of the indoor-outdoor living, break down the walls. Its easier than you think. "You might incorporate French doors or large accordion doors into your home. This allows you to really open up your space and let the warm breezes blow in," said Kohler.nbsp;

2. Create an inviting space that brings the eye - and the rest of the body - out.

Sometimes making sure the yard is well used is all about making a few small changes. Like a hanging swing, said This Old House. "Have a humdrum porch? A basic patio or a neglected deck? Some simple additions - a hanging swing, mood lighting, a vintage find or two - are all it takes to transform an ordinary outdoor space into an open-air living room that adds value and comfort to your home year-round."

3. Make it useful

Why cook in the kitchen all the time? If you have the space and the climate to support it, build an outdoor kitchen. "In parts of the country where its sunny year round, outdoor kitchens... are quite popular," said Kohler. "If youre limited with outdoor living spaces to certain months of the year, you might opt for something like a screened porch with a fireplace or a covered outdoor kitchen."

4. Make it fanciful

Why just stick to "normal" spaces. If you love the indoor-outdoor life>

5. Cheat your environment

Dont live on the ocean but want to make it seem like you do? Some well-thought-out landscaping can help. Bring in some palm trees and make sure you place them where they can be seen from inside too. A well-placed fountain can also give the impression of a tranquil, tropical environment while helping to drown out traffic noise.

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Financing a Rental Property: What to Know

With interest rates flirting again with historic lows over the past couple of months, many are looking to invest in real estate. Rates are low and as such the situation offers the opportunity for monthly cash flow as well as long term appreciation. If youre looking to expand your portfolio and get beyond stocks, bonds and mutual funds, adding real estate might be an option. When financing a rental, there are some things you need to know about before moving much further along.

The first is how much cash youll need at the closing table. Conventional loan programs ask for a minimum of 20 for a down payment and can offer slightly better terms with a 25 down payment. Owner-occupied loan programs can ask for a minimum down payment of 5, with certain targeted areas qualifying for a 3 down option. One of the drivers behind the difference in down payment requirements for the same type of property is private mortgage insurance, or PMI. Down payments of less than 20 of the sales price require PMI but PMI is not available for rental properties.

Next, interest rates for non-owner occupied homes will be slightly higher compared to owner-occupied properties. How much higher? It depends upon the program you can expect a traditional 30 year fixed loan for a rental to be anywhere from 0.375 to 1.00 higher. This obviously impacts qualifying because higher rates equate to higher monthly payments.

Another important item to note is the income generated from the unit. Lenders will factor in a vacancy rate of around 25. This means the property will be unoccupied and not generating any income as tenants come and go. When someone moves out of a rental, the landlord will begin preparing the property for the next round of renters. Repairs are made, paint, maybe updating the appliancesall take a bit of time. As well, it can take some time to properly market the property for rent. Depending upon the area and the real estate market, it might take a couple of months to find and qualify new tenants.

And speaking of income, savvy real estate investors typically only look at properties that provide a positive cash flow each month. Otherwise, the asset turns into a monthly expense instead of monthly income. Its >

And finally, in order to use that income, there needs to be a record of at least two years of owning investment real estate. Lenders want to make sure the new owners can responsibly manage the rental property over an extended period of time. Even though the unit may be generating cash each and every month, while the lender recognizes the cash coming in, it cant be used to help qualify for the new home. This obviously means qualifying with at least two mortgage payments along with associated property taxes, insurance and maintenance.nbsp;

However, once that two year milestone has been reached, subsequent purchases can use the generated income each month to offset the new monthly payments. For this reason, its not uncommon for real estate investors to own multiple properties and not just one or two. The new mortgage payments are no longer an expense, but an asset that appreciates over time and pays the owner a monthly salary.

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Improving Home Appeal: Herb Gardens

Having an herb garden can help demonstrate to potential buyers that your home is one in which to put down "roots." Though an herb garden may be a >

When beginning the planning of your herb garden it is important to consider two things:


What are your needs when it comes to cooking, displaying, and your general usage of herbs?


What is the condition of your soil sandy, clay, dry, shady, sunny?


Choosing your herbs

So consider for a moment what you use and would use herbs for. If you mostly use herbs for cooking, consider planting rosemary for use in chicken dishes, dill for use in seafood dishes, parsley for garnishing, and mint for use in iced teas.

If you are interested in using herbs for home remedies you may consider planting:


Clary sage salvia sclarea -- can be dried and used in teas for aiding in >


nbsp; Comfrey symphytum officinale -- effective for use on animals. May help in arthritis and rheumatism in dogs. Also good as a salve on bruises.


Oreganonbsp;origanum vulgare -- can be used to ease respiratory issues.


Chamomile matricaria chamomilla -- another great herb to dry and use in teas. You can also used the dried white flowers in a bath to calm irritated skin.


Dont limit yourself when it comes to using the herbs you grow in your garden. They may be used fresh to flavor foods and garnish dishes. You can dry them to use as seasonings year round. Many herbs can be made into salves or all natural medicinal treatments.

Soil Condition

There are several factors to consider when analyzing your soil. The most important of these is drainage. You do not want water to stand, or pool, around your plants. This can cause mold to begin growing on your plants or may even kill them.

Another important factor is the amount of sunlight your herbs will receive. Most herbs enjoy full sunlight, though they will require regular watering if they are in direct sun for the entire day.

If you think that even after preparing the soil for planting that it still wont be sufficient for growing your herbs, then I recommend buying some good potting soil and planting your herbs in 12" or 18" pots. This would also be ideal for individuals who live in condos or residences where digging in the yard is not an option. By having your herbs in pots, you will be able to have them inside during winter months. Herbs all year round

You should find that cultivating an herb garden is >

There are simple ways that you can increase the appeal of your home, whether you are planning to sell or planning to stay for years to come. By including an herb garden in the plans for your backyard landscaping you can ensure that certain touches of "home" will go further than just the dinner plate.

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How Much House Can You Reasonably Afford?

Theres a term called house poor, and its something you absolutely want to avoid.

When you hear someone saying theyre house poor, it means theyre spending a significant portion of their income on all-things >

Being smart when you buy a home and knowing what you can realistically afford can help you avoid being house poor.

There are a few mistakes people commonly make in their home search that increases the likelihood they may feel house poor. One is simply being overly ambitious during the homebuying process and taking on a loan thats too big. Another big mistake is thinking only about mortgage payments and not anticipating the other expenses that go into homeownership.

The following are ways to get a home you can reasonably afford and lower your risk of being house poor.

Crunch the Numbers

Before you ever start the actual process of shopping for homes, look at the numbers.

Youll need to take into account how much you earn every month, and also at your partners earnings if applicable.

Then, outline all of the housing costs, which include:

The down payment
Property taxes
Homeowners insurance
Utilities and maintenance

Tally up all of the expenses that you currently have and have to pay out each month. Then, look at your discretionary spending and include that as well. Including that discretionary spending is important and sometimes overlooked. Its those extras that you want to be able to continue to pay for, even when you buy a home.

Follow the 28/36 Rule

Many financial professionals advise that you spend no more than 28 of your gross monthly income on your housing expenses. You should also plan to spend no more than 36 on your total debt, including not just your home loan but your credit cards, car loan, and student loans.

Affordability Considerations

Some of the things that you should think about beyond your income and expenses include:

How much savings do you have set aside? You want to have a reserve of cash in case something happens, and if your down payment or mortgage costs are going to dip into your savings, its problematic. Your mortgage may also affect how much you can set aside in savings or retirement, so this is something to think about.
How much of a down payment can you afford? The traditional wisdom is that you put 20 down, but there are loans with options to put as little as 3 down. Thats going to raise your payment, however.
Is there a different type of mortgage outside of a traditional bank loan that you might qualify for? For example, FHA loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration and you may qualify with a lower credit score and down payment compared to a traditional loan.

Take Steps to Get a Competitive Interest Rates

Interest rates are historically low right now, which is likely why the real estate market has been strong despite the economic fallout of the coronavirus. Even with rates low, you should take the time to put yourself in a position to get the most competitive possible rate.

Your credit score is going to either help you or hurt you as far as getting a low interest rate.

Before you buy a home, look at your credit report, and clean it up if necessary.

Try to minimize how much debt you have compared to your income. You want to get the ratio of credit utilized to credit available low too. nbsp;

Err on the Side of Caution

When you start looking at homes, you should always err on the side of caution. Keep your house hunt focused on the lower end of what you can technically afford.

If youre a first-time buyer, it can be tempting to want to go all-in with the belief that youre buying your forever home. Your life can change over the years, and your first home is probably not your forever home.

Focus on a starter home that works for your current needs to protect yourself from being house poor.

You cant just think about your current income either. Think about what might happen if you lost your job or your partner lost their income. How would that change the equation?

Finally, one option that can help you better stay within your budget is buying a fixer-upper. You can find a great deal, and then you have the option to gradually create the home of your dreams as your budget allows, rather than having to go all-in right away.

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How Can You Get a Mortgage If You’re a Freelancer?

Being a freelancer, contract worker, gig worker, or anyone self-employed is more common and popular than ever right now. There are downsides, such as the lack of benefits like health insurance. At the same time, there are more upsides for many professionals who choose to work this way.

Upsides include freedom and flexibility to make your own schedule, unlimited earning potential, and the ability to have the work-life balance that allows you to create your own life>

There is an issue that can arise if youre a freelancer or contractor, though.

How do you get a mortgage?

When you apply for a mortgage as a traditional employee, youll probably show your proof of income through your job, but it can be a bit trickier if you dont have a traditional employer. Youre also going to face more scrutiny from lenders.

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Over the years, its easy to be disorganized as far as how you keep up with your earnings and expenditures, but come time to apply for a mortgage that can be problematic.

As a freelancer or anyone whos self-employed, its normal that your income is going to fluctuate, and youll have up and down periods.

What you want to be able to show a lender is your long-term earning average.

You should be able to calm the fears of your lender by showing them at least several years worth of documents highlighting your earnings.

You need to be able to demonstrate a pattern of earning. If you arent able to do that just yet, you might have to hold off on buying a home.

Even better than showing steady earnings is being able to show upward trends.

Another noteif youre self-employed, you likely try to write off as many of your business expenses as you can at tax time. This is understandable, but you also want to show as high an income as possible, so if youre thinking about buying a home anytime in the future, keep that in mind with your deductions.

Be prepared to show at least two years of tax returns, which will likely be your 1099s instead of your W2s.

Beyond your tax returns, you may want to be able to show your bank statements, and any profit and loss statements. You can also provide letters from clients showing that you have a stable >

Income Calculation

Your income is calculated differently if youre a freelancer. Your lender will calculate an average monthly income by dividing the past two years of your adjusted gross income by 24.

Save As Much As You Can

You should aim to save at least 20 of the purchase price of a home because this will let you avoid paying for private mortgage insurance. You also want to be able to show your >

Clean Up Your Finances

You can face more headwinds if youre trying to buy a home and youre self-employed in any capacity. You are inevitably going to be held to a higher financial standard, so prepare yourself for that.

You should aim to get your credit score up to at least 740, and the higher, the better.

Start working toward paying off debt, including your credit cards. Credit utilization is a big component of your score and also the willingness of a lender to offer you a mortgage. Try to have the amount of credit youre using below 30.

Before you ever start trying to apply for a home loan, look at your credit report.

This will allow you to see where you need to make improvements, and also spot any potential errors. There are errors on credit reports more often than we think.

Dont open any new accounts or lines of credit before youre going to start applying for home loans, because thats going to impact your credit score negatively.

Finally, before you start the mortgage application process, separate your business and personal bank accounts. You shouldnt use a personal bank account for anything >

As a freelancer, getting a mortgage is certainly possible but also more challenging. The more you can prepare yourself for that, the better off youre likely to be in the process.

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Ask the HOA Expert: Conservative Board, Emailing Board Members, Past Due Protocol

Question: Our Board is considering hiring a resident member to be a resident manager. The candidate is retired and needs extra income. Is this a good idea?

Answer: It is generally a very bad idea to hire a member to act as manager. It has been tried many times and I have never seen it work well. There are a number of reasons:


  • They ra>nbsp;

  • The board may be doing this to avoid paying taxes and other required withholding. This exposes all members to significant penalties from state and federal authorities.


  • If the member does not pay taxes as required, again, the members have personal exposure.


  • There is an undeniable conflict of interest. How can a member/employee be impartial when getting maintenance work done?


  • A resident manager is basically on call 24/7 and compensation ra>nbsp;

  • Hiring someone because "he needs the money" should never drive a boards decision; getting quality work at a reasonable price should be the goal.


  • If things dont work out often the case, the board will have to fire a neighbor who will likely be resentful and antagonistic.


To avoid obvious pitfalls, the board should look outside the community for a professional that carries the proper credentials.

Question: Our board is conservative and slow to change. One area where this is particularly true is with architectural and design requests. The committee the board appointed denies many applications simply because they dont conform to color, roof and siding standards that have been in place for over twenty years. There is nothing particularly outrageous about the requests, they just reflect modern standards. Opinion?

Answer: While maintaining standards is important, over time those standards should consider new, improved or contemporary materials, designs and colors. To stay stuck in the past causes home values to fall. The committee is not appointed to block change, but to guide the process to a reasonable outcome. The board should appoint committee members with a balanced views. Committee decisions should always allow for appeal to the board who also should represent a balanced view.

Question: We have always had the management company count the votes for the election of officers. To prevent any hint of conflict of interest, we are having the count audited by our accountant. How do other HOAs do it?

Answer: Have several HOA members that are not running for office do the vote count. Retain the proxies, ballots and tally sheet until the next election. The accountant is overkill.

Question: I serve on the board and have been informed we should not communicate with each other directly via e-mail because it potentially constitutes a board meeting. Is this true?

Answer: The issue of the board using email generally involves how it is being used. Communicating by email on routine HOA business and settled policy is not prohibited any more than picking up the phone or exchanging information in the parking lot. The board needs to communicate to direct normal business.

Such communications, however, may sometimes wander into topics that should be discussed in open meetings. The board needs to be aware when that line has been crossed. This is particularly true of controversial issues like spending significant money outside the approved operating budget or reserve study. The members have the right to audit such discussions and it simply isnt possible outside a physical meeting. That said, email is a terrific way to communicate meeting minutes, newsletters and other information to the members. It speeds up communications, their frequency and reduces costs. Win-win-win.

Question: At the last board meeting, some members requested the names of people who have not yet paid their HOA fees. The board announced the names of past due accounts. Is this correct protocol?

Answer: No. Besides the humiliation and libel aspect, there may be extenuating circumstances like a death, disability or unemployment. Not all delinquencies are created equal. At the end of the day, HOAs are made up of neighbors and the board should be sensitive and careful whose names it smears. To be safe, discuss amounts owing, but not the names of those that owe them.

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The Real Estate Market: Not “It” But “Them”

The real estate market is not an it but a them.

Nation-wide or state-wide reports and forecasts along with pundit projections about the real estate market make this it sound homogeneous and large-scale. In reality, the wide-horizon perspective does not tell you exactly what is happening and will happen in your neighborhood or to your real estate.

To begin with, each real estate property is unique.

What happens locally around and to each property uniquely defines its market value as well as the buying and selling trends > Each property has its own market just as each neighborhood has.
This means the real estate market is a mosaic of individual property-value projections overlaid with neighborhood markets and countless layers that reflect each state and the country. Thats the them finesse of the real estate market.

Where do you and your real estate dreams fit in?

Sweeping national financial and social events like the Covid-19 Pandemic can have widespread influence on real estate across the country. How each property is affected may be dramatically different.

For instance, the working-from-home pandemic trend applies to some properties as if they were designed for the stay home life>

Covid infection varies greatly across each state and over time. During outbreaks, real estate activity may temporarily slow or effectively stop to respect isolation and social distancing requirements. This pattern may not always be predictable.

Buyers and sellers make good decisions regarding their present and future real estate plans when they are aware of what is happening and could happen in their preferred neighborhoods.

The professionals, services, and organizations involved in real estate are also unique in their own right:

Each real estate agent in the United States is licensed to help buyers and sellers purchase, sell, or lease commercial or residential real estate. Each state sets requirements, including education standards, for becoming a licensed real estate salesperson in that state and for maintaining this privilege.

The designation Realtor is a registered trademark referring to a professional who is an active member of the National Association of Realtors NAR, Americas largest trade association, representing 1.4 million members. Not all Realtors are real estate agents. Home appraisers, property managers, real estate counselors, and real estate brokers are also NAR members entitled to work as Realtors.

Each of the about 600 Multiple Listing Services MLS is unique and intensely local. A MLS is a database of real estate listings and the software real estate professionals and brokerages use to access it. MLS are organizations offering professional services, which >

Invest time and effort to locate the local, experienced real estate professional who will be the best match for your real estate project.

All this uniqueness adds up to a lot of transactions every month and each year. As of August 27:

nbsp;Pending home sales in July 2020 achieved another month of positive contract activity, marking three consecutive months of growth, according to the National Association of Realtors.

nbsp;Each of the four major regions reported gains in both month-over-month and year-over-year pending home sales transactions.

Where do you fit in?

Conversations with real estate professionals will enlighten you as to how the Pandemic is influencing real estate values and transactions locally. Real estate professionals monitor local Public Health requirements and Pandemic patterns to ensure safe delivery of their services and minimize disruption of real estate transactions. These discussions should center on what is >

What real estate and other professionals observe can provide valuable insight if their observations are >

Interest rates are not absolute.

The borrowing power of buyers is reflected in the interest rates they qualify for. This in turn is a reflection of their income, debt management, employment history, and the appraised value of their unique real estate. Real estate professionals are expert at matching buyers and their real estate purchase with the most receptive local lenders.

The actions and inaction of other buyers and sellers influence your real estate choices.

For instance, NARs chief economist Lawrence Yun recently said, Anecdotally, Realtors are telling me there is no shortage of clients or home seekers, but that scarce inventory remains a problem. If 20 more homes were on the market, we would have 20 more sales, because demand is that high.

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All About Lender Fees

During a phone conversation with a mortgage loan officer for the first time, invariably the question of fees comes up. Yes, rates are at the top of the curious list but so too are lender fees. In addition to the interest rate, lenders can charge loan fees to help offset the cost of origination, processing and other items. But lets take a closer look at these fees, what they are and what you can do to help minimize or otherwise offset lender fees altogether.

First, not all lenders charge the same set of fees. There are no guidelines that lenders must follow with regard to the type of fee charged. Lenders come up with their own. Yet there are some common ones that lenders do charge on each and every mortgage loan. Further, lenders arent allowed to charge one borrower one type of fee and not charge it to another. That is in the same set of circumstances. Doing so could be considered discrimination by giving one client a break and not the other, or all for that matter.

One of the more common fees is called the Processing Fee. This fee is collected to pay for the overhead generated when processing the mortgage application. From the initial submission to ordering closing papers, all loans go through a process which can include several steps. Processing is performed by the Loan Processor within the mortgage company. Mortgage brokers also have loan processors and they too can charge fees. As long as the fees are universal and not selective. Once youve submitted your application, its the loan processor who youll interact with the most.

Origination fee is also a common one. An origination fee is listed as a percentage of the loan amount. If the loan amount is 200,000 and the origination fee is 1, that works out to 2,000. Origination fees are also charged to offset the costs of originating, or finding and bringing the loan in-house, the application.nbsp;

Another nearly universal charge is a Document Preparation fee. As the name implies, the amount is used to offset the personnel cost of preparing and delivering your closing papers to the settlement agent. Documents are drawn after the loan has been completely approved by the lenders underwriter.

An appraisal fee is typically collected upfront when the loan application is first submitted. This fee is collected by the lender but is not paid to the lender. Instead, the lender uses this amount to order the property appraisal from an Appraisal Management Company, or AMC. Appraisal charges can vary based upon different factors but primarily due to the property type, proximity and sales price.

The underwriter is the individual within the mortgage company that makes sure the documented loan file meets the guidelines for the selected loan program. An underwriting fee is often charged to pay for the lenders underwriter. Loan documents cannot be ordered without them being completely approved by the underwriter.

A Funding Fee is a fee reserved for VA loans. A funding fee is also expressed as a percentage of the loan amount and is used to finance the VAs loan guarantee. With a VA loan, should the loan ever go into default, the lender is compensated for the loss. This compensation is financed with the funding fee.

With a purchase transaction, these fees must be paid for at settlement and out of pocket with the exception of the funding fee. When refinancing, these same fees can be present but given sufficient equity they can be rolled into the loan amount instead of paying at the settlement table.

Finally, one quick note about how to offset some of these fees. A no closing cost loan doesnt literally mean there are no loan costs, but the lender adjusts the interest rate upward and provides a lender credit at your closing.nbsp;

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Smart Home Improvement Tips To Save You Time, Money, And Aggravation

Fixing up your house can bring great joy, and also personal satisfaction when you pitch in and DIY some of the tasks. But proper preparation is key to getting things done right. Take a short cut and youll likely end up with a project that that takes longer, costs more, looks like it was DIYd and hurts more than your bank balance along the way.

Measure thrice, cut once

Its the oldest tip in the book when it comes to renovation and its every bit as important as you think it is to make sure you have the right measurements before you start up that power saw. In fairness, the rule is typically, "Measure twice." But lets face it: Some of us need a little more assurance. If youre not super skilled at using power tools, if you have tricky cuts to make, or if youre doing anything with mitered corners or involving angles, do yourself a favor and take one more look before you slice away.

Buy more materials than you actually need

It can be incredibly tempting to buy only what you think you need when it comes to flooring materials, backsplash tile, or wall coverings, in an effort to save money. But problems can arise for a variety of reasons - some of the tiles are cracked, you cut some of the wallpaper incorrectly, some of the wood for the floors is warped, you didnt account for all the cuts you have to make when measuring the space - and soon you dont have enough materials to finish the job.

You can always order more, but now youre behind schedule. And, you may run into additional problems with your flooring if the new pieces dont precisely match the existing ones because theyre not from the same batch. Thats why experts recommend that when you purchase your materials, you add 20 to the actual measurements. It may add a few bucks to your bottom line, but it will save your butt in the long run.

Invest in some quality tools

Youre an adult now. You can have a real hammer and a drill and a pair of needle nose pliers. If youre just setting out on your own or its time to do a little tool upgrade, This Old House has some good tips for what tools to buy.

Try it before you install it

The well-meaning contractor who installed this faucet forgot about one thing: The space needed to actually wash your hands. Installing the faucet too close to the sink left insufficient space, so hand-washing is reduced to an awkward placement and cupping/pouring exercise. Before you drill those holes, give it a test run

Buy the right ladder, and use it properly

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors InterNACHI, there are "more than 164,000 emergency room-treated injuries and 300 deaths in the U.S. that are caused by falls from ladders." In addition, "Falls from laddersnbsp;are the leading cause of deaths on construction sites, and, "The number of people who have died from fallsnbsp;from ladders has tripled" over the last decade.

If youre thinking those falls must have been from a roof or tall commercial building site, heres more sobering news: "Most ladder deaths are from falls of 10 feet or less."

You can check the InterNACHI site for basic ladder safety tips, but the most important thing to remember is this: Use your common sense. Use the ladder properly, dont balance on the paint tray, dont overextend the weight limit, make sure its in proper working order - you know, the basics.

Glove up, glasses on

While were talking safety, there are other measures youll want to take to protect yourself. The last thing you need is a nail through your hand or your eye or anywhere else, for that matter. Gloves and goggles are basic go-tos. And if youre doing your floors, think like a soccer player and get out those knee pads.

Hanging art

Between picture hangers and specialty nails and screws and laser levels, there are so many tools available to help you hang art that we should all have it nailed pun intended, right? Yet picture hanging remains one of the most frustrating tasks.

There are numerous tricks and tips that aim to help, but these are a few of our faves:

"Use a little bit of toothpaste yes, toothpaste," said Quick and Dirty Tips. "Place a dab of toothpaste on the back of the frame on the hook or string whatever will touch the nail. Then hold the frame up to the wall, position it carefully, and press it against the wall. The toothpaste will leave a mark that you can hammer a nail through, then wipe away."
"Instead of moving the photos up and down, place the photos on the floor and line up some tape from hanging point to hanging point," said "Then mark each point with a dot. Next, put the tape on the wall and use a level to make sure its straight. Then use those dots to put in your screws, and hang"nbsp;

Keep the mess away

We love this easy tip for keeping the site clean when hanging photos or drilling/hammering into walls for any other reason. If you hate having to clean up afterwardsdont. A sticky note is all you need.

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10 Things That Will Absolutely Kill Your Home Sale

When youre selling your home, you need every advantage you can get. And there are few homes that are magically market ready without a little help. If your home needs a touch more than a little help, its time to get focused. After all, listing your home when its not in the right condition to sell will probably only end in frustration. And, in this case, frustration means: your home sitting on the market for months with no offers or the errant, offensive, lowball.

If you want to make sure you get home sold quickly and for the right price, youll want to avoid listing it with the following:

1. Excessive damage

Maybe the home youre selling was used as a rental and trashed by frat boy tenants, or maybe you just havent kept it up as you should. Either way, those holes in the wall that look like the living room was used as a boxing gym, the scratched-up wood floors on which dinosaurs have clearly been racing, and the yard thats barren except for those two-foot-tall patches of weeds are not what buyers are looking for. Unless youre planning to offer your house for a price that will make buyers emphasize the good and ignore the bad and the ugly, its going to need some attention.

2. Carpet in the bathroom

Its just gross. And everyone who walks into that bathroom is thinking one of two things: 1 Theres gotta be mold under there; 2 Theres gotta be pee on the floor around that toilet. This is one update youll want to do before you list. Or, if youre already listed and your homes not selling.

3. Big, nasty stains

A buyer shouldnt know where your dog likes to mark or where your kids spilled the entire bowl of holiday punch. If the stains on your carpet are that bad, potential buyers will stroll in and run right back out. No one wants to buy a pigsty. Invest a few bucks in new carpet. Youll make the money back since you wont have to drop your sales price.

4. Pet smells

Speaking of petsthey smell. You probably dont notice since you live with them everyday, but buyers will, and it might be enough to turn them off. Deep clean the carpets and the upholstery, invest in some air fresheners, and remove cat boxes from the house for showings. The last thing you want is a potential buyer referring to your house as "the stinky one."

5. Loud dogs who bark every time someone approaches the home

One last word on pets. Barking happens, whether its your dog or one that belongs to a neighbor. But you dont need that on the day of your open house. Offering to pay for doggie day care for a neighbors pooch can eliminate the issue and help create the serene setting buyers want.

6. Your dead lawn

Lack of curb appeal wont necessarily kill a deal. In many cases, you wont even get potential buyers to get out of the car. If the front yard is a mess, buyers will naturally think the mess continues inside.

7. A bad agent

Face it. Not all of them are winners. If your agent is: rude, uninformed, lazy, uncommunicative, belligerent, or unwilling to take your opinions into consideration, get a new one. An agent who isnt giving their client the right type of attention probably isnt going to get the job done.

8. Your sloppiness

Those drawers and cabinets you shoved everything into when you cleaned off your kitchen and bathroom cabinets could be a deal breaker for picky buyers. We all know buyers open stuff. They look in drawers, they open cabinets, they examine closets. If these spaces are messy and overstuffed, they may assume theres not enough storage space.

9. Unreasonable sellers

Big problems in your house can be deal killers, but they can also be deal sealers, if you are reasonable. If your inspection uncovers plumbing, electrical, or roofing problems or all three and youre unwilling to negotiate, you can kiss that sale goodbye.

10. Bad Taste

Your poor decorating choices and failure to keep up with trends from this yearor centurymay haunt you when its time to sell. If its true that many buyers have no visionand all you have to do is watch House Hunters and observe a buyer getting hung up on a paint color to know thats truethen you are really in for it with your crowded house full of ugly, outdated crap. A few simple updates can help it to look fresh and give buyers something to fall in love with.nbsp;

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What’s an AKA Letter?

An AKA, or Also Known As letter is one where the individual confirms a name variation has been used in the past. Lenders need to know exactly who theyre providing a loan for and during the course of receiving a loan application and reviewing a credit report, there can be more than one name listed on the report. How is that so? Its really very simple. Over the years, someone who has applied for credit somewhere signs the application. An authorization form is also signed which gives the lender permission to do some research about the background of the applicant.

A credit reports contains a surprising amount of information collected over the years. Besides the payment history, balances and a list of accounts, there is more information. Where the person has lived will be included in the report. This can mean a first apartment rental. Later, a first house. Still later, another home. Each time the individual applies for credit, the address at the time of application is included in the credit file.

Heres how it works. Robert Smith filled out a lease application while in school. Upon delivering the application, the landlord pulls a credit report using the name Robert Smith. That would be the first name entry in the credit report. Later, when Robert graduated, he applied for a new car loan when he got his first job. His application read Bob Smith, because thats the name he goes by. Robert is too formal, he thinks. At this stage, the report has two names listed, Robert Smith and Bob Smith. After a few months, he applies for his first credit card and when doing so he lists his full name, Robert James Smith. Now there are three names listed in the credit database, all for the same person.

Women who marry and take on their husbands name can also have more than one name listed in a credit report. Jane Smith marries John Doe and takes on the husbands last name. She now goes by Jane Doe. This is a little different than Bob Smiths situation. Bob keeps the same last name and is consistent throughout. Jane however, takes Doe for her last name and now her credit report shows Jane Smith and Jane Doe. Sometimes she applies for a credit account and uses her full name before and after marriage. You can already tell it can be a bit confusing making sure the applicant listed on the loan application is the real one.nbsp;

When there is more than one name variant on a credit report, the mortgage lender will ask for an AKA letter. The letter is fairly straightforward. Bob will state that he has gone by other names in the past, those that are listed on the credit report. Jane will fill out a similar letter. This is nothing more than validating the identity of the applicant.

Finally, there can also be names on the report that do not belong to the applicant. This happens more often with more common names, such as Robert and Jane. Perhaps the name Bob Jones appears on Bob Smiths report. If thats not our Bob, the letter will state that he has no idea who Bob Jones is and thats not him. The letter will identify the right Bob. An AKA letter is nothing more than the lender making sure the thousands of dollars about to be wired to fund the mortgage is going to the right person.

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Building a Backyard Hockey Rink

Homeowners are looking for ways to keep fit and keep their kids busy this winter, so its not surprising that thoughts are already turning to the backyard hockey rink.

The nice thing is that there are options regardless of budget, from the handyman lumber frame rink, to easy-to-assemble kits, to full-blown NHL-size rinks and synthetic ice rinks.

Twelve years ago, two dads were talking about backyard rinks, and before long they decided to manufacture a product that would make building a rink easy. They were pleasantly surprised when hundreds of people bought their rink kit.

Business has grown significantly since. But this year, Guelph, Ont.-based RinkMaster is busier than ever, earlier in the year than ever before, says president Chas Birkett. He says he expects sales to double compared to last year. People are focussing on their backyards for recreation with COVID issues, including limited minor hockey this year.

Ice time is limited and hockey parents want to ensure their kids keep skating despite COVID. Other parents just want to keep their kids busy this winter.

RinkMasters kit is an easy way to do that. It includes everything you need. A 15x26-foot kit can be assembled in 30 minutes by an adult and child, Birkett says.

We advise people to set up the rink and fill it with water only when they see a cold spell of at least a few days, with nighttime temperatures well below -5 C and daytime highs at freezing or below, he says.

The bulk of RinkMasters business is liners regardless of the type of rink, you need a new liner every year. They sell thousands each year. The liners, which are six mil thick durable yet not too heavy for shipping come in 100 sizes.

Other products include a 12-inch-high pond hockey net made of one piece of welded steel. Its a beautiful thing, Birkett says, because they encourage players not to shoot pucks high.

To create a smooth ice surface, the company developed FloodMaster, an aluminium tool with a cloth spreader.

Kits are available in 17 sizes, starting at 250. RinkMaster, which sells across Canada and the U.S., can usually ship in a day or two, he says.

Those with bigger budgets may want to extend the skating season by purchasing a rink with a refrigeration unit.

Custom Ice in Burlington, Ont. offers a 24x50-foot portable DIY rink that comes with a refrigeration unit, a wood frame, a liner and cooler pipe for about 30,000 says Glenn Winder, vice president, sales and marketing.

The company manufactures portable and permanent concrete rinks.

An NHL-size concrete rink will set you back about 1 million. Custom Ice also has combination tennis court/rinks, as well as full sports courts that offer a variety of action-packed uses year-round.

The newest product is a combination ice rink/splash pad with a computer-controlled spray jet. Its popular with people who want a water feature but not a pool, Winder says.

For those with backyard space issues, a flat level structure can be built on top of an inground pool, and a portable rink placed on top.

But if you have a permanent spot, 350,000 will buy you a concrete package with a 50x120-foot rink with refrigeration pipes embedded in concrete. In summer, a sports floor can be added on top.

Concrete rinks require site preparation. Keep in mind that concrete work stops with the first frost, so for this year, youre looking at planning/design now and work to begin in spring.

Winder says its important to make sure you have enough power to run a chiller in the backyard. The system is hard-wired and requires 100 amps.

The cost to operate a 24x50-foot rink is about 35 to 55 cents per square foot per month. Rinks are thermostat controlled, so when the weather is cold, the system doesnt run and theres no cost.

When he arrives at a home, Winder says dads are usually on board and excited about a backyard rink. Usually, moms not so much. Winder tells them, In the spring youll thank me. The kids will have been outside, active, off the computer and healthier for it.

In spring, he says moms call and tell him, Youre right. Its the best thing.

Another option is a synthetic ice rink, which can be used inside and out.nbsp;

Many people use the surface in their basements in winter then move it to the deck in summer so kids can get some fresh air. Others set them up permanently in an extra garage bay, says Synthetic Ice Solutions of Canada owner Wayman Harten.

The Brampton, Ont. company recently shipped one of the largest residential synthetic ice rinks 55.5 by 111 feet to be installed on top of a tennis court in Nashville, Tenn.

After erecting arena panels around the inside perimeter of the tennis court, the owner and friends installed the click-in-place surface in five days. For more typical residential basement projects, the polyethylene arena panels are mounted over drywall, then the half-inch-thick synthetic surface is clicked into place on the floor. The nice thing is that Harten designed his product so that its easy to add to. You can increase the rinks size as children grow.

Harten has been in the plastics industry for 35 years and developed his own brand of synthetic ice, which is not available anywhere else. The half-inch-thick sheets weigh about 75 to 80 pounds and are double-sided. They last between 10 to 15 years per side.

Maintenance includes damp mopping and sweeping.

The systems are not designed to be placed on soft surfaces such as lawns, but are ideal for regular deck systems, patios or a bed of pea gravel thats level and doesnt allow water to pool on top or underneath.

A 12x16 rink costs 1,900 plus HST. It takes four to five business days to create the surface and rinks are shipped worldwide.

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Should You Go Solar at Home?

Installing roof solar panels has become an increasingly popular option among homeowners in the United States. Solar panels will convert sunlight into energy, and then you can use that energy to power your home.

While the cost of solar panels has gone down over the years, and increasingly people are installing them, its still a significant investment. Theres a lot to consider and both pros and cons to weigh.

Is Your Home a Good Fit for Solar Panels?

Solar panels can work in any climate, but your roof may not be suitable for installation. Tree coverage or age could be two factors making your roof unsuitable.

For example, if trees shade your roof too much, rooftop panels may not be optimal.

In most cases, solar panels work best on south-facing roofs, with a slope up to 40 degrees.

If your roof is old and nearing the time for replacement, this may also make your home unsuitable for solar.

There are alternatives if your roof doesnt make you a viable candidate for solar panels, including ground-mounted panels or a community solar garden.

When Do You Plan to Move?

If you plan to move in the near-term, solar panels are probably not a good investment.

First, since they are an investment, it can take time to see a return. It usually takes around seven to eight years to pay off the cost of solar panels. If youre going to move any time soon, not only will this investment not yet have paid itself off, but you may limit your pool of interested buyers when you hit the market.

When your solar system is installed, it is almost impossible to move it to a new location.

How Much Do You Pay for Electricity?

If you dont pay a lot for electricity each month, then youre not going to save much with solar panels.

Residents of some states pay more than others for electricity and therefore may find solar panels have more financial benefits for them.

Whats the Weather Like Where You Live?

Weather and, in particular, the sun are the most important things with solar panels. If you live somewhere theres a lot of cloudy weather or rain, youre not going to get as many benefits from going solar. If you have long or harsh winters, your solar system is also going to be less productive.

Will You Qualify For Financing?

There are flexible options to help consumers afford the initial, upfront costs of solar panels.

There are financing options, and there are also state and federal tax credits and incentives available.

You should explore what you qualify for. Otherwise, youre going to pay a lot out-of-pocket upfront and you may not have the cash sitting aside to do that.

Many of the solar financing programs are state-based loans. There are also power purchase agreements and leases available.

Are There Quality Installers Where You Live?

If you live in a bigger city or near a metro, finding solar panel installation professionals may not be a challenge.

However, finding a reputable company can be more challenging in certain parts of the country.

Youll have to do the research and find a company with a strong background, and also one thats not going to try pushy sales tactics to lock you into a long-term contract that you might not want.

The Benefits of Solar Panels

While the above are questions to ask yourself, there are benefits of solar panels including:

Reduced electric bills are one of the biggest reasons homeowners opt to install solar panels. Over 20 years, you could save anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000, depending on where you live and the size of your home.
Solar panels allow you to be energy independent.
You can reduce your carbon footprint when you go solar.
Solar panels are almost enti>

Solar panels certainly have pros and cons. While they dont work for every family or home, they can have big advantages in some cases, making them a worthwhile consideration.

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Must-Know Real Estate Photography Tips

When youre trying to sell a home, whether youre an owner, or youre a Realtor, the imagery you convey is one of the most important aspects of marketing. People are inherently visual, and if your photos online arent high-quality and visually appealing, youre not likely to garner interest in your property.

Even if youre a photographer who wants to branch into real estate photos, there can be a learning curve, and its different from some other genres.

The following are specific, must-known photography tips to get beautiful pictures of a home.

Use a Wide-Angle Lens

Choose a high-quality and versatile wide-angle lens for real estate photography. It will provide you with focus and sharpness.

A wide-angle lens is meant to take pictures of large areas or objects, so when you use one in real estate photography, it helps you get the entire structure in your shot.

It can also help make a space look larger or even more luxurious.

You can use a wide-angle lens for both interior and exterior real estate photography.

A wide-angle lens can also help you best capture tighter spaces.

Take Pictures with a Tripod

You can buy an inexpensive tripod, and it can make a world of difference in the quality of your real estate photos.

A tripod helps with shooting long exposures because it provides stability and reduces any blurriness.

Tripods are also good for perspective so you can set it at the same height throughout a home, then youll have images that are the same height. Consistency is important in real estate photography.

Know the Pivotal Shots

Of course, every real estate photo shoot is going to be unique, but there are some standard shots you should plan on taking.

You should have two wide-angle shots of each bedroom, the living room, and the kitchen.

Make sure you have at least one photo of the bathroom, and anywhere from one to three photos of the backyard at a minimum.

Youll need one or two front-of-the-home shots, and one shot of all the other features like the pantry and the closets, if theyre compelling and organized.

If youre a real estate agent doing your own photography, youre likely going to have a better idea of whats most important and what to prioritize in your photos.


Before taking a real estate photo, decluttering is important. Small pieces of clutter that you might not even otherwise notice are going to appear prominent in photos.

All surfaces need to be clean, and if there are any decorative accessories, keep them to a minimum.

Aside from generally clearing clutter from a shot, remember to wipe off the counters, so they look polished, and add something like a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter.

In bathrooms, put the seats down and clear off surfaces.

Consider the Weather

For real estate photos, natural light is a must-have, especially when youre shooting the homes exterior.

Aim for a clear, sunny day or a partly cloudy day.

When you take photos against daytime light, your colors are going to be bright and saturated.

If the weather is too cloudy, its best to reschedule and take your photos at a different time.

You also want the sun to be behind the house.

Since natural light is so important for real estate photography, the blinds and curtains should be open.

Consider Lightroom Presets

Finally, if youre new to real estate photography, or even if youre not, you can save yourself a lot of time in editing with Lightroom presets.

With Lightroom presets, youre using editing presets. You use Adobe Lightroom while editing your photos and then you use controls which are called sliders to change certain settings such as brightness and contrast.

Once you get a combination you like, you can save it, and that then becomes your preset.

You can apply that preset to all of your photos, and then all of your settings are automatically adjusted.

Along with making your own presets, you can also purchase them. When you purchase them, it gives your photos a certain look and sense of consistency.

Having Lightroom presets will speed-up your editing overall, and give you a more polished final product. Buying presets is especially useful if you dont have a lot of photography experience because they can help you with the editing learning curve.

Finally, if you have a large property or a particularly beautiful yard youre working with, think about using drone technology to add something unique to the listing photos.

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HOA Project Roll-Out

Winter is the time of year that a homeowner association board should be soliciting and reviewing proposals for fair weather renovation projects like painting, fencing, pool replastering, asphalt sealing and roofing. There are several practical reasons for starting the process early:

Contractors are more available. Winter is a slow time for many contractors. This means they have the time to thoughtfully consider your work and produce a good proposal.

Better pricing. Sometimes the work you want done can be performed during the winter months, even certain kinds of roofing. If you agree to start the project now, you just may save a significant amount of money. When work is slow, many contractors are willing to offer better pricing to "seal the deal."

Scheduling preference. If you accept a contractors proposal now, you can generally dictate the scheduling. Set the date now. If you wait you may not make the schedule at all.

Arranging for money. If you havent accumulated enough reserve funds, you will need several months to discuss, approve and collect a special assessment.

Coordination with residents. If the project is extensive and disruptive, you will want to warn residents well in advance. This will give them the opportunity to work around or even plan vacations strategically.

Always get references and check them out. It is important to use only contractors that have a good track record. Make sure the references are for work that is comparable in size and complexity to yours. It is not uncommon for small contractors to get in over their head when trying to nail down work. Feel comfortable that they can deliver what they promise.

Always, always, always use contractors that are properly licensed, bonded and insured to do the work they are contracting to perform. If you have any question about requirements, contact the state licensing board. Use it.

Get named on their insurance. Insist on getting a current copy of the contractors liability insurance coverage directly from his insurance agent. If you accept the proposal, require that the HOA be included on this insurance as an "additional insured" and get an appropriate and current insurance certificate from the contractors insurance agent to prove it.

Make progress payments. Do not make advance payments on the project work. This is often the sign of a contractor on a "shoe string" that may be using your money to pay other jobs labor or supply bills. You could be left high and dry with uncompleted work. Instead, use progress payments that pay for work actually completed. Usually, make no more than one per month and be sure to inspect the work to verify completion.

Consider paying for a Performance Bond. For large and expensive projects, requiring a Performance Bond provides assurance that the contractor will perform, or, another contractor can be hired to finish the job. It costs extra but is often worth it.

Get Lien Waivers. When making payments, have the contractor sign a Lien Waiver for the amount tendered. Your attorney can provide the appropriate form or ask the state contractors board for a sample. A Lien Waiver is the contractors promise that he has paid or will pay all labor, material and supply bills >

Its also appropriate to have all materials delivered directly to the job site and to pay for materials directly. You will need someone in charge of ordering the material and making sure its delivered and secured.

For any substantial construction, it is very important to involve an attorney who can draft or review the contract. Dont bypass this important step. Theres a lot riding on what the Board is obligating the HOA to.

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Move Over She-Shed, Make Room for the Backyard Office

March ushered in a new way of life for many people due to the coronavirus pandemic. One of the first things that happened in many states was workers were asked to telecommute from home whenever possible.

Now, even though shutdowns are technically over in many places, it seems to be a trend thats sticking around.

A lot of companies arent calling employees back to the office anytime soon.

Working from home has had big implications for real estate. For example, after spending an increasing amount of time at home, many people are opting to move from cities and into the suburbs where they can have outdoor space and square footage.

Theres also a demand for home offices, but if you dont have space for one, you can get creative.

One option is the backyard office.

Benefits of a Backyard Office

A backyard office can be a shed that you transform into a workspace. The benefits include privacy as well as natural light. You might even have a bit of a view from your outdoor office.

For a lot of people, theyve found working from home leads to no work-life balance, but having a dedicated space separate from their living areas can help with the distinction. Its easier to not only separate work and home life with a differentiated space, but you may find it helps you focus when youre working.

Do You Need a Building Permit?

If youre thinking about an office-shed, one of the first things youll have to determine is whether or not youll need a permit.

Where you live and the size of the structure you plan on building or putting on your property are the main determinants of whether or not youll need a permit.

If applicable, you may also need to check with your Homeowners Association and get their approval.

If you go the prefabricated route, meaning you buy a shed or shed kit from a company, some are marketed as being small enough that youre unlikely to need a permit.


When you scope out your backyard for a location for your office shed, look for somewhere flat with good drainage.

If you arent sure or your backyard needs clearing or cleaning up before you can place your shed, you might want to work with a landscaper who can help you with planning.

Prefab or Custom-Build?

Many companies are now offering prefabricated office sheds. You can find them as kits, meaning all the pieces come to your home and youre responsible for putting them together. You might also find an office shed thats already built and arrives at your home almost ready to go.

When you choose a prefab shed, it may be more expensive than building your own, but also more convenient.

Theyre available in different >

Some kits include doors, windows, insulation and flooring, and others dont, so read the fine print.

Building Your Own Office Shed

There are other options that may be less expensive than a prefeb shed.

One is converting an existing shed into an office. In that case, your focus might be primarily on making an old shed into a comfortable, stylish place to work and perhaps adding power.

You can also find plans online and build your own shed.

Design Tips

Regardless of the route you go, you want your outdoor office to be someplace you feel comfortable and content.

Try to create an office with plenty of natural light.

Add comfortable furnishings, and surround yourself with things you find visually appealing. Add a rug to warm the space up.

Consider whether or not youll have meetings in your office, and if so, how you can have a space where guests feel comfortable.

Youll need to ensure you have electricity in your office, and also Wi-Fi.

Finally, create a landscaped path leading from your home to your office.

A shed-office is one of the biggest trends when it comes to working-from-home design. It can give you a space thats separate from your home and family so you can remain productive and focused, and also maintain a work-life balance.

Creating a separate area thats detached from your home doesnt just work as an office. Its also something homeowners are looking to so they can have a home gym, a guest room, or even a learning area for their kids.

Its one more representation of the move toward spending more time at home thats impacting all of us.

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

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

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

Draw Up A Plan and Budget

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

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

Be Realistic

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

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

Keep Track Of Income and Expenses

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

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

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

Plan For The Best - and The Worst

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

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

Stay On Top Of Taxes

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

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

Prepare For Cycles

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

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

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

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

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Disaster Preparation To Keep You Safe In a Catastrophic Storm

A natural disaster can happen anywhere, at any time. Whether you live in earthquake country, tornado alley, or in a hurricane zone, there are important steps you can take.

Get an inspection

Its a given when buying a house, but you can schedule one in your current home, too. An inspection can turn up items that need fixing or replacing, which can save you money and also eliminate dangers from your home that could prove dangerous in a powerful storm.

Hire an engineer

A Texas-based engineer touring tornado damage found "examples of horrific construction in tornado wreckage," said the Dallas Morning News. Timothy Marshall, "a forensic engineer and meteorologist who volunteered as part of a damage survey team created by the Fort Worth office of the National Weather Service" following deadly Texas tornados, "says he saw rampant irresponsibleness in the way many homes and buildings were constructed."

That included "improper attachment of the walls to the foundations, which just made walls fall either in or out," in numerous structures, including Donald T. Shields Elementary in Glenn Heights, shown below. An engineer can help identify structural issues that could affect your home in a powerful storm.

Get prepared

The Texas tornadoes hit in the middle of the night, when vision was compromised. Earthquakes hit with no warning, whatsoever. No matter what type of storm is likely to hit your area, proper preparation is key.

Develop an emergency plan for your family

Bob Vilas tips for creating an emergency plan at home include:

Have an escape plan - "Decide on reunion spots via foot or car, depending on the type of disaster. If it is an emergency isolated to your house or block, choose a nearby rallying point that will allow a headcount. If the emergency involves a larger area, decide on a destination further away - perhaps a > Learn evacuation routes - Doing a few "practice drills" will get the family familiar with exit routes, when needed.
Establish an emergency place to stay with friends or family - And learn the locations and rules of local public emergency shelters.
Make a plan with neighbors - "If a flood occurs or a tornado hits when you are not at home, have a plan with neighbors, sitters, or > Bone up on first aid skills - Its a good time to take a CPR >

Know your disaster

Its not always easy to predict what kind of storm may hit your area - flooding can happen almost anywhere. But knowing the basics of storms that are common to your city and recommendations for what to do in an emergency can help keep you safe.

In an earthquake:

According to Earthquake Country, "In MOST situations, you will reduce your chance of injury if you:

DROP down onto your hands and knees before the earthquakes knocks you down. This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
COVER your head and neck with both arms, clasping your neck with your hands. If a study desk or table is nearby, crawl beneath it while keeping one arm over your head. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall or next to low-lying furniture that wont fall on you, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
HOLD ON to your shelter or to your head and neck until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around."

Experts warn that the most substantial danger to people in an earthquake is from falling objects. This is a great time to secure bookcases or any other items that could fall or be catapulted off of a wall or shelf. "Secure top heavy furniture to walls with flexible straps. Use earthquake putty or Velcro fasteners for objects on tables, shelves, or other furniture," they said. "Install safety latches on cabinets to keep them closed." Get more info here.

In a tornado:

"The best shelter from a tornado is a basement or storm cellar. If neither one is available, go to an inside room without windows on the lowest level of the building," said News 9. "Cover yourself with something, such as pillows, a mattress or blankets. Place as many walls between you and the outside as possible."

Other tips include:

Avoiding structures like mobile homes if at all possible
Staying away from windows
If a tornado is approaching while youre in a car, "get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. If there is not a building nearby, lie flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands... and do not get under an overpass or bridge" they said.
Use a weather radio or local news station app to keep track of the storm and warnings in your area.

You can get information on safe rooms on the FEMA website and learn about storm shelters in your area on the National Storm Shelter Associations site.

In a hurricane:

In addition to checking your insurance coverage, said MNN, youll want to "protect your property by installing the following items in your home:

Hurricane shutters or keep inch outdoor plywood boards for each window. If using boards, be sure to install anchors and pre-drill holes so you can put them up quickly.
Head and foot bolts on doors for extra protection.
Hurricane straps or clips to help hold the roof to the walls of your home.
A safe room that can withstand high winds and flying debris.
Also, be sure to keep up with your landscaping; diseased and damaged tree limbs can become serious hazards in high-speed storm winds.

An evacuation plan is also key, as is an emergency supply kit with food; water; medications; pet supplies; items like toilet paper, soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste; a basic first-aid kit; flashlights with extra batteries; and blankets and pillows.

In a flood:

Flood waters can rise quickly. According to, you can stay safe during a flood by:

Getting to higher ground and "avoid areas subject to flooding."
Staying away from flowing streams and flooded roadways.
Escaping rising water in your home by gong to the top floor, attic, or roof.
Listening to a battery-operated radio for the latest storm information.
Turning off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if advised to do so.
If youve come in contact with floodwaters, washing your hands with soap and disinfected water."

If youre suffered a flood, learn the steps to take toward recovery here.

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Real Estate Attorneys: A Benefit in Home Purchases

The costs associated with buying or selling a home can add up quickly. Many buyers and sellers opt not to retain an attorney to save the several hundred dollars it costs to have one review the contract, deed and title, respond to inspection issues, and make sure the contract is performed according to its terms.

But the cost of an attorney is one that should not be eliminated in an effort to save money, in the end the lack of legal representation in the sale or purchase of a home could cost you much more than the money you saved.

It is common in some areas not to have an attorney involved in a real estate transaction, but consider the legal education or experience the closing or title agent, real estate agent or brokerage has >


Retain an attorney who specializes in residential real estate.

You might know an attorney who is a friend or >


Acquire a blank copy of the local real estate contract and review before you sign one.

Most local real estate boards have a form contract that has blanks for contract price, terms and conditions. You will feel more confident if you review a real estate contract long before you are asked to sign one. Ask your real estate agent for a blank contract after your first meeting. If you have questions about the contract ask your attorney to review it with you.


Have your attorney review all real estate contracts that you sign.

After both parties have executed a real estate contract, deliver a legible copy to your attorney promptly. Most contracts allow for a attorney review period of at least five business days. During this time your attorney can review and request certain changes to the contract or if need be void the contract.


Request a title insurance policy.

Your attorney will request a title insurance policy from the property seller. This policy insures you against any prior clouds on the title. The chain or history of title will be provided and will be reviewed by both sides attorneys to look for any possible irregularities before the title insurance is delivered. The buyers attorney can request that questionable items be removed or insured over by the title insurance provider.


Confirm and update legal descriptions on your property.

This is one of the most important reasons to retain an attorney. Legal descriptions that are recorded in title and deed government records should accurately state the current and updated legal description of your property. These descriptions are difficult for lay people to read and take an experienced legal eye to catch mistakes which could impact the property your buying or selling.


Review property survey.

Your attorney should receive and review the property survey before closing or escrow to check for encroachments when an adjoining property intrudes on yours, easements the limited right of another to use your property and verify parcel or lot dimensions.


Require your attorney to attend closing or escrow. From contract to closing is a marathon and the closing is the finish line. Your attorney should attend the closing or escrow to verify the smooth transfer of your property. Last minute glitches with possession, final throughs and mortgages need the finesse of an experienced real estate attorney.


Review post-closing documents.

Most attorneys want to review all recorded documents >


Administrate and evaluate problems in contract to closing period.

The time between contract and closing can include some problems that only an experienced real estate attorney can respond to adequately. Unreasonable requests after a property inspection, weak mortgage ability of the buyer, missed earnest money payments and quite a few additional issues can bog down a contract after acceptance. An attorney that has handled and most likely seen it all in real estate contracts, is your best asset when a contract get bogged down.


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How Lenders View Installment vs Revolving Debt

One of the more important functions a mortgage lender performs is determining affordability. Primarily, this is accomplished by comparing monthly credit obligations with gross monthly income. Dividing debt by income results in a percentage, or a ratio. Debt ratios fall into two basic categories, a housing ratio and a total debt ratio. The housing ratio is the total monthly mortgage payment which includes the principal and interest payment and a monthly allotment for property taxes and insurance. Mortgage insurance is also figured into this number when needed.

Debt ratios are typically not hard and fast rules, although some loan programs do prescribe a maximum debt ratio in order to qualify for the loan program. If for example the recommended housing ratio is 33, then a house payment or 3,300 would be 33 of a gross monthly income of 10,000. If a total debt ratio is 43, then the housing payment of 3,300 plus other obligations are included to arrive at that number.nbsp;

What types of debt are included in the total debt ratio? Pretty much anything that appears on a credit report, for starters. These other obligations include credit cards, student loans and auto loans. However, when these debts are paid off to a zero balance, mortgage lenders treat such a move differently depending upon the type of debt.

Most debts fall into either an installment or revolving category. With an installment loan, the monthly payments are set each month and do not change throughout the life of the loan. When the loan is paid off, the monthly amounts are no longer considered in the debt ratio calculation. Further, if there are less than 10 months remaining on an installment account, lenders can ignore the amount when calculating debt ratios knowing the monthly payments will soon vanish. When a car loan is paid off there are no monthly payments and the owner keeps the car.

Revolving debt on the other hand is treated differently. Revolving debt is where the balance can rise and fall when credit is used and when payments are made. Your credit card is a >

Consumers can pay down monthly debt in order to help qualify for most loan programs. However, when the balance is paid down, it might take up to 30 days for the new balance to be reported to the credit agencies. The consumer would have to keep a paper trail of the payments and new balance and work with the lender or credit agency directly to update the report with the new information.nbsp;

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What Should You Know About Homeowners Associations?

If youre thinking about moving, there are a lot of factors to consider aside from the house itself.

Homeowners associations are one example. Living in a community with a homeowners association can have its benefits but also its downsides.

Its important to be well-aware of the implications of living in a community with a homeowners association before you make an offer on a house.

The Basics: What Is An HOA?

An HOA is a governing body in a community, and youll often find theyre present in gated neighborhoods, planned communities, and apartment and condo buildings. An HOA is funded and operated by residents, and theres a board of directors.

HOAs have meetings, create budgets, and are responsible for enforcing regulations and rules. The rules set by an HOA are legally enforceable.

A well-run HOA can improve property values because they work to make sure the community maintains a certain standard as far as how homes and lawns look. Poorly run HOAs can be expensive and make it difficult to own a home in the neighborhood because of the bureaucracy.

If youre a member of an HOA, you might pay dues monthly, quarterly, or yearly.

The dues are meant to go toward keeping up common areas like clubhouses, pools, walkways, and lighting.

Fees vary significantly depending on location and the neighborhood or building itself. HOA fees might be 50 a month to thousands of dollars a month. nbsp;

How Do the Rules of an HOA Work?

HOA rules are referred to as conditions and restrictions, or covenants. If there is an HOA in a community where youre thinking about buying a home, you need to understand them well.

The majority of HOA rules are going to be >

For example, you may be required to maintain your lawn in a certain way. You may only be able to paint your house in particular colors. In condos and apartments, the rules might be >

If you dont follow the rules of HOA, initially, youll be asked to comply. If you dont, you may have to pay fines, and then if it gets beyond that point you may face a lawsuit.

Additionally, if you dont pay HOA fees, the board can put a lien on your home or even require you to foreclose, depending on the state where you live.

What to Find Out About an HOA Before Buying

If youre looking at a home with an HOA, the following are things to find out or ask your real estate agent to find out for you:

Ask if you can attend an HOA meeting, or if thats not possible, request a copy of the most recent minutes. This will give you a feel for the behavior of the board members and whether their top priority is resident well-being.
Your HOA should be in good financial standing. Otherwise, you may be hit with an unexpected assessment that you have to pay if work needs to be done in the community.
Are there are a lot of issues between the board and homeowners?
Youll have to consider how well the HOAs rules will fit with your life> Go over, in detail, what HOA fees will include.

Finally, along with thinking about how HOA fees and rules will affect you now, you have to think about how its going to affect the resell value of a home you buy. There are a lot of buyers who simply dont want an HOA, and if you do want to sell your home, your pool of buyers may be limited.

Over time, as HOA fees go up, it may put living there out of many peoples price ranges, making it tough to sell your home.

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Before You Leap In…

The world may be on pandemic pause but real estate professionals continue to work hard whether they are in a hot real estate market or a very troubled one.

After a careerand, for many, a lifetimeof serving others, its going to take more than a pandemic to keep real estate professionals from finding a way to help home-buying prospects and clients connect with their real estate dreams.

Which of the current real estate trends describes your next dream step?

Less Expense amp; More >

Residents of crowded, expensive cities like New York City and San Francisco move into low-stress, less-costly areas, like a move from California to Idaho.

A recent survey revealed that 39 percent of urban Americans are considering a move to a less crowded, less expensive location as a result of the pandemic. Theres a lot to choose from since the median population density of Americas 324 largest cities with over 100,000 residents is just 3,419 per square mile, about 80 percent less crowded than New York City.

Less Flu amp; More Sun Trend

Those who fear Covid-19 and the also-dangerous flu during winter months when cold forces people inside together are moving to warm, less confining areas like Florida.

The 2020 Miami Report states that roughly 950 people a day move to Florida and many come from cold Northern cities in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Less Cost amp; More Security Trend

Adult children move in with parents or >

A recent analysis of government data by Zillow stated that there were 32 million adults living with their parents or grandparents in April 2020, the highest number on record. More than 80 percent of those who recently moved back in with their parents are Gen Zers who pay an estimated 726 million in rent each month. Those payments to landlordsabout 1.4 of the total rental marketcould be at risk if moving home becomes permanent.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Less Location amp; More Work Flexibility Trend

Employers have allowed employees to work from home to protect them during the pandemic.

We see an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time, said Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom. About another 33 percent are not workinga testament to the savage impact of the lockdown recession...So, by sheer numbers, the U.S. is a working-from-home economy. Working from anywhere has become a reality. That means no longer paying premiums to live near work. Real estate anywhere would be a great workplace and a hot market

These trends and more are evolving in our change-a-minute pandemic world. Micro-local trends, like moving within a neighborhood to improve access to a pool or other amenities, pop up in local markets. All this creates a whirl of confusion that can distract buyers and sellers from what makes good sense. This frenzy of options superimposed on social-distancing limbo and pandemic-driven stress may catalyze inadvisable decisions and action in some when wait and see or take a long cool look may be better strategies as economic shifts appear.

We are followers not leaders. Trends are reflections of what people are actually doing, not what is best or smart for you to do in the long run. Following friends, social media, or any other group behavior may not always, or perhaps ever, be the best move for youpresent and future.

Buyers and sellers are free to reach out to real estate professionals for answers, even when buyers or sellers are not quite sure what the right questions are.

Originally, people said were all in this together. Now, its clear that we are all experiencing the pandemic, but how varies greatly with individuals and families. For instance, in many areas natural disasters including wildfires and hurricane flooding are exacerbating pandemic effects and ramping up stress for everyone concerned.

Real estate professionals are experiencing extremes, personally and professionally, as much as others. Some are in hot Covid-escape markets while others work in areas hard hit by industry layoffs and shutdowns or even full-on natural disasters. Regardless of market conditions and in spite of continued up-rooting change, real estate professionals remain intent on buyers and sellers making confident decisions they can live with now and once the pandemic subsides.

Before you leap in as a buyer or a seller, your real estate professional has questions theyd like you to consider:

How Solid Is Your Decision?

Solid, confident, well-examined decisions move life forward. Avoid impulsive swings, emotional shifts, or a plunge into panic which can undermine everything you hope to achieve. Learn to control your emotions so you dont jump in before first considering key implications and ramifications.

How Reversible Is Your Decision?

When the driving need for change suddenly ends, would you want to revert to your original life>

How Many Other Options Do You Have?

Dont limit yourself to the options you know. Ask your real estate professional to call on their expertise to help you discover alternatives. Learn how to always be prepared with a new plan when things change unexpectedly.

What Is The Worst That Can Happen?

The Worst must be what you consider devastating, not what others might insist cannot possibly happen. Dig deep to decide what loss would be irreversible and how it could be avoided.

Ask your real estate professional about alternatives that allow you to leap in and restart or refresh your real estate dreams.

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What Should Your Credit Score Be to Buy a House?

What credit score do you need to get a home loan? While specifically, it can vary, there are certain things you should know before you apply for a mortgage to ensure youve put yourself in the best possible financial position.

Factors Impacting Your Credit Score

Before you explore specific loans, pull your credit report. You can look for errors that may need to be corrected and get a better idea of what you can do to improve it.

The factors that play a role in your credit score include:

Payment history: This is the main factor of a credit score, making up about 35 of your score. Your payment history is simply whether you pay your bills on time or not. Any creditors you have will report your activity every month to major credit bureaus. One or two late payments probably wont have a big impact, but a pattern of late payments will.
Debt: The amount of debt you owe across the board makes up around 30 of your score. Debt is also called your credit utilization ratio, and it looks at how much debt youre using versus whats available to you.
Credit age: Making up around 15 of your score is credit age. The longer you have accounts on your credit history the better, as long as theyre in good standing. If you have old accounts, keep them open if possible because this will affect your average credit age.

Other factors that are >

Your credit score is important not only because it determines whether you get financing for a home, but also the interest rate youre offered.

The following are typical ranges for credit scores:

Anything below 580 is considered very poor A fair score is one ranging from 580 to 669
A good credit score might range from 670 to 739
An excellent score is between 740 and 799
Anything 800 and above is considered exceptional

Conventional Loans

If youre applying for a conventional loan from a bank or a similar type of lender, you will usually need at least a 620 to qualify.

Conventional home loans follow Freddie Mac and Fannie Maes standards.

While 620 is the minimum, having that score doesnt mean youll be approved for a home loan. An excellent score is usually considered 740 and above, and with an excellent score youll likely not only qualify for a conventional home loan but youll also get a competitive interest rate and you may have a lower down payment requirement.

VA Loans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs insures VA loans. Theyre available to certain servicemembers and veterans of the U.S. Military, as well as spouses of military members who died while on active duty.

The minimum credit score for a VA loan is likely to be around 620, although this can vary, and theres no set minimum score.

FHA Loans

Insured by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans are less risky for lenders so you may find its easier to qualify. The minimum score for an FHA loan with a down payment of 3.5 is 580. If youre paying at least 10 for your down payment, theres no minimum required credit score.

If you have an FHA loan originated by a private lender, each will have its own minimum requirement for credit scores.

Other Factors Lenders Consider

Yes, your credit score determines whether your quality for a home loan and also what your interest rate will be, but other factors are >

Lenders will look at your income to ensure that you can afford your mortgage payments if you get a loan. Theyll also look at your existing debt in comparison to your income.

The more of a down payment you can make, the more likely youll qualify for a lower interest rate.

Lenders also want to know if you have savings if your income ends for a period of time. You should be able to show that you have enough money saved to cover at least two months of your mortgage payments.

Finally, employment history is >

If you have a low credit score, you could potentially still get a loan, but youre a riskier borrower.nbsp; Youll have to offset that risk, which means youll have to have a larger down payment, and youre also going to pay a higher interest rate.

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Ask the HOA Expert: Counting Ballots, Long-Standing Policies & Club House Remodels

Question: What is the most efficient way to count ballots at an Annual Meeting? Our group has a large membership and vote counting bogs down the meeting.

Answer: With many ballots to count, preparation is essential. The ballots should be preprinted with names of all candidates and a checkbox next to each. A couple of blanks should be left for nominations from the floor at the meeting. After the ballots have been completed, they should be collected by the election tellers none of whom should be running for election and divided into equal parts.

Using several teams of two, one reading the results and the other tallying, ballots can be counted simultaneously by the teams and the final tallies from each team can then be added together for the final results. A Head Teller should check the math, circle the names of the winners and hand the results to the president to announce. Using this technique should allow the process to be completed in 5-10 minutes during which other business can be handled. The counted ballots should then be batched and stapled to the tally sheets and retained in the annual meeting file should questions about the election arise.

Question: Can the board cite a "long-standing policy" to prohibit construction of an enclosed patio beyond a side privacy wall in my own back yard, although there is no written rule or regulation in the documents which would prohibit that?

Answer: In general, it is the HOAs right to dictate the exterior appearance of the homes. So, as a rule, an owner should always get approval of exterior modifications before proceeding. Even though the city may issue a permit, the HOA may have restrictions that override local zoning and building codes.

If the board has enacted broader architectural design restrictions than are found in the governing documents, these need to be documented in writing. It is not reasonable to expect owners to know these things by ESP. Also, such restrictions need to be reasonable. If your proposed enclosure is not visible from the street, what difference should it make to the board or the neighbors? Based on your description, this restriction does not seem reasonable and unless the board can produce an Architectural Design Policy that specifically prohibits it and the reasons for it, you should not be restrained from moving forward.

Question: Is it a problem if we are remodeling our clubhouse and a board member charges the materials to her personal credit card?

Answer: As a rule, HOA expenses should be billed or charged directly to the HOA so the record is clear about what was bought and why. It will also keep the record straight for warranties that are included with the purchases.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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

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

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

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

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

The Basics of For Sale By Owner FSBO

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

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

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

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

What Are the Downsides of FSBO?

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

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

When Does It Make Sense To Sell Your Own Home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keep Calm: How to Answer Lender Questions

The loan approval process is indeed exactly that: a process. From the initial application submission all the way to the settlement table and beyond, there are many different steps that are taken. From the borrowers point of view however, things get pretty quiet after submitting the application and providing the needed documentation. It wouldnt take much to imagine a loan file just sitting on someones desk waiting to be looked at. But thats not whats going on at all. There are different people working on different aspects of the submitted loan. An appraisal is ordered. Credit reports and credit scores are requested. Title insurance policies are generated.nbsp;

Things get pretty quiet for the borrower during this time but in reality, the wheels are turning. Once the file is ready for a review, the completed loan package is delivered to the underwriter. The underwriter is the person making sure the submitted loan meets the guidelines established for the requested loan program. Generally, this mostly means the underwriter goes down the approval checklist and signing off on them one by one.nbsp;

After about two weeks in and a bit of silence on the borrowers end, a voicemail is left. The lender called and has a couple of questions. Uh oh. What now? What did they find? Is there something I dont know about? Are they turning down my application?nbsp;

For the uninitiated, this might cause a bit of consternation. But from the lenders point of view, its perfectly common. When a loan is first submitted it is digitized if is isnt already and electronically submitted through an Automated Underwriting System, or AUS. Within a few moments after the submission, a list of findings is sent back. These findings are sometimes referred to as loan conditions. For example, the findings ask for the most recent paycheck stubs covering a 30 day period. Or maybe some updated bank statements are being asked for. In general, and at this stage, the loan has essentially been preapproved and all that is needed is some follow up paperwork. Credit documents within the file need to be less than 30 days old. Most often these requests are simply to get the loan file in compliance with these findings.nbsp;

The takeaway is essentially that once these findings are produced, the loan begins the documentation process. In other words, the borrowers and the lender know in advance whether or not the loan will make it to the settlement table. Because of the AUS findings, if there are some things that are amiss, theyre taken care of at the beginning of the process. The only time a loan does get a preapproval but is later derailed is due to some things discovered that werent know at the time of application. But in general, most loans do in fact close with few if any problems.

But its the voicemail that the lender left that can bring a bit of pause. The trick to answer lender questions is very simple: answer them. At this point the lender isnt still deciding whether or not to approve your loan application but instead just filling in any paperwork gaps needed to get the closing papers to the settlement table. If there is a recent late payment showing up on a credit report, a lender might want an explanation letter. The response? Just describe what happened. Many times, the response is I dont know how that payment is showing a late or some such response. Theres no need to get creative with a lender question, just answer and move on. In all likelihood, its a harmless request. So, pick up the phone and return the call.

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Are You Ready to Succeed Virtually?

Are you ready to get the listing and do everything requiredvirtually?

To win over a seller and get the listing and then accomplish much more, there is one key question to continue answering successfully:

Can you make your point with clear, fresh >

Pre-Covid, most of your successful listing presentations were probably face to face. You perfected the graphic and collateral tools necessary to make your winning points: why sell now, why my brokerage, why me, how will we succeed.

Those key points must still be made, but how they resonate with sellers may have changed. Online video and virtual presentations are replacing traditional face-to-face around the table meetings.nbsp;nbsp;

Even during the pandemic, things keep changing

There are more issues, more technology advances, more client choices, more controversial views, more distractions, more volatility in pricing. How do you keep on top of our ever-changing world? Updating expertise involves re-examining everything in new and continually-evolving contexts. Me>

How did you build depth and >

1. Unknowing is just as important as acquiring new information and skills.

Unknowing, that is letting go of out-dated techniques and ideas, takes conscious effort, is essential to achieve lasting improvement. Continually-evolving technology has made continuing education even more crucial. Both take place at the speed of digital change, so quick thinking, creative strategizing, and analytic strengths are essential. These skills and >

Too often, the at your fingertips immediacy of the internet and smartphones make continuing education programs seem easy to ignore. Doesnt an online search or two make anyone an expert? Isnt reading up-dates piped onto your phone screen enough to inform you of what is really going on?

Action: Build on your strengths. Which advantages do you have in this market and in dealing with the constraints of the pandemic? Dig into the treasure trove of free and donated education programs offered online by digital experts and professionals to help those determined to come out of this tough time stronger. Open yourself up to new ways of thinking and doing. Embrace this new virtual approach to real estate as an improvement that can overcome the challenges that face those intent on selling their real estate for the best price, in the shortest time, with the minimum of hassles in the midst of a pandemic.

2. Raise your standards and stick to your ethics.

If you present yourself as a real estate professional or a local expert, ensure that you genuinely epitomize the leading edge. Disparaging colleagues or your industry to promote yourself or your brokerage during a listing presentation or any communication with the public may backfire. At best, youll be quoted in this dangerous context, which may undermine your credibility with sellers. At worst, you may find yourself at the center of damaging controversy, online or off.

Surveys reveal that professionals in many industries have concerns about the level of professionalism with which standards and practices are applied in their field. This concern stems from beliefs that the level of professional knowledge and expertise within their industry appears to be slipping below acceptable levels. The uncertain economy ahead will only aggravate these issues. How are you preparing to support seller clients if tough times materialize to challenge seller plans and returns?

Action: Raise your standards. The shift online has brought video and virtual events to the forefront. Aim to ensure your evolving skills and creativity exceed what you achieved when face-to-face was the essential format. A virtual home tour with your direction and visual clues may be more effective than an actual visit. How can you make that happen?

A virtual offer presentation should be as comfortable and productive for the seller as a sitting around the table presentation. Make sellers and prospective buyers as comfortable with video and virtual approaches as possible. Keep asking for feedback and acting on it.

3. Reach out to engage target buyers for the best results.

Engaging through social media does not mean you understand how to effectively communicate your message and that of sellers to qualified, target buyers. Effective targeting is essential to successfully marketing listings. How have you moved this function online to connect with qualified buyers?

If your thinking is unconsciously-grounded in dated stereotypes, biases, and misunderstandings, how can you consciously resolve 21st-Century problems for sellers? For instance, if your out-dated views on too young or too old dictate how you deliver services or advise clients, how >

Action: Engage communication professionals to help you move your marketing and listing efforts online and into virtual territory.

You are a real estate professional, which is a demanding occupation.

If you have only started to fully embrace technology since the pandemic began, dig deep, invest in professional support, and create your powerful path to effective communication
If you are a competent social media and video amateur, engage professional polish to consistently make your point and ensure it stands out.

Search out digital marketers, videographers, and online producers who share your extreme-service-excellence standards and who can contribute the communication expertise necessary to attract qualified buyers to sellers listings.

You know that social media, texting, and online everything can facilitate communication. Do you consciously work to ensure they combine open, easy access with genuine interest in exchanging ideas, information, and almost everything else.

Traditional communication efforts concentrated on getting your name in print in any context. Now, marketing and public >

Your goal is to serve sellers by earning their trust and conviction that you can list their real estate and help them battle their worries and fears to realize their hopes and dreams. To achieve this, adapt to evolving communication patterns and methods without lowering your standardsin fact, keep raising them

Consider these new approaches as improvements and your communication efforts will materialize as better ways to make your point and achieve client goals.

More by PJ Wade

  • 7 Video Conferencing Tips: Easy But Not Simple
  • Should I Sell Now?nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;
  • Seller Intent: Inertia vs Action

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How Buying The Right Rug Can Bring New Life To Your Space

Often, the time we spend searching for the right paint color, couch, window coverings, and accessories cant even be measured by traditional units of time. It can be truly exhausting to put a space together and have it reflect your needs and your taste. But you can add instant drama, warmth, and >

"Theyre practical, providing cushion, comfort and warmth over a concrete, tile or wood floor," said HGTV. "But they also provide artistic value to a rooms design."

Here are a few things that can help you pinpoint the right rug.


Are you looking for subtle color, bold color, or something in the middle? You might not know until you see it. But keep in mind that, "If you already have a lot of color and pattern going on in your space, you might want to stick with a single-color rug, either a neutral or a shade which complements your existing furnishings," said Apartment Therapy. "If you want a patterned rug with many shades, its generally easier to choose it first, and add in furniture and accessories that coordinate afterwards."


Many rug buyers go shopping with a plan to buy the biggest option they can find - and afford. But bigger isnt always better. For dining and living rooms, House Beautiful recommends looking at dimensions of the furniture - take the surface of your dining room table "and add 6 feet to it. So, if your table is 3 x 6, I would start looking at a 9 x 12 carpet," they said. The goal is to be able to pull the dining room chair back from the table and still have the legs be on the rug.

In the living room, "the front legs of all furniture in the seating area" should be on the rug "at a minimum." In the bedroom, three or four feet of exposed rug "on all 3 sides of the bed" is preferred.

Another good way to "determine rug size is to measure the size of the room and then subtract about 1.5 feet," they said. "This will give you a 9-inch border of exposed flooring on each side. With all of these best practices, keep in mind that most rugs on the market come in standard sizes: 6 x 9, 8 x 10, 9 x 12, 10 x 14, and 12 x 15. If youre not having something custom-made, find the one that is closest to the size you need."


A well-designed space is multi-layered, and a rug is an easy way to add a layer of texture that also amps up the rooms design profile.

"This is probably the most overlooked aspect when choosing a rug, but it shouldnt be. A room with a mix of different textures feels rich and layered, and an easy way to set this tone is by paying attention to the texture of your rug," said Apartment Therapy. "Let the finishes of your existing furniture guide you, and aim for contrast. With seating in a soft fabric like velvet, something smooth and hard like a sisal might be the answer, while a sleek leather sofa looks great on something with a longer, fluffier pile."

Wearability and factors like how easy it is to clean should weigh in when making your choice. And you may also want to consider whether you prefer natural or synthetic fibers.

"Natural rugs are woven using a range of fibers extracted from natural products, including cotton, wool, jute, sisal and hemp. They are generally valued for their resistance to heavy wear and are recommended for high traffic areas," said DCOR LOVE. "Synthetic fibers acrylic, polypropylene, nylon, polyester have the advantage of being much cheaper than the natural ones, and now offer a wide range of choices, including rugs that bear close resemblance to wool. Of course they cannot compare to natural fibers in terms of quality and comfort of use, plus they are not sustainable resources, but in certain contexts, they might even be a better choice."


An heirloom rug can cost thousands, but that doesnt mean you have to blow your budget.

Stores like Target, HomeGoods, Lowes, and Home Depot, as well as online stores like Mayfair and Overstock, are great places to turn to for inexpensive rugs that reflect the latest trends as well as some >
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Using “Other” Income to Qualify

Lending guidelines are pretty firm when it comes to validating income. One of the primary duties a lender performs when evaluating a loan application is whether or not the borrowers can comfortably afford the new monthly payments. This is done by way of comparing monthly income with monthly debt to arrive at a debt ratio.nbsp;

Verifying income for most applicants is mostly straightforward. To verify monthly income, applicants simply need to provide copies of the most recent paycheck stubs covering a 30 day period. At the same time, lenders want to see at least two years of this income being paid on a regular basis. This is accomplished by providing the last two years of W2 forms. For those who are self-employed, the last two years of tax returns as well as a year-to-date profit and loss statements are needed.

The loan application has a section that asks for monthly income from a variety of different sources. Is the income from a regular paycheck. This is referred to on the loan application as base income. Is there bonus income that might be used? Bonus income can be used to help qualify but only if the income has been shown to be paid before, has a history and the lender can determine if the income is likely to continue.nbsp;

A quarterly performance bonus comes to mind, for example. An annual bonus, maybe not. The bonus income should be viewed as being able to be used to service monthly debt and expenses. A Christmas bonus may not be around any longer come July. But a bonus received every 90 days might.nbsp;

There is also a space for overtime income. For those paid hourly, overtime income, income beyond a 40 hour week, can be used to help qualify. But again, like bonus income, there needs to be a two year history as well as the expectation overtime income will continue into the future. This is easily verified with paycheck stubs and W2 forms. Commissions can also be counted as income using the same guidelines. A two year history and a determination the additional income is likely to continue. Dividends and interest income can be used as can income from rental property.

But theres another space on the application labeled Other. For any income outside of the above mentioned categories, it falls into the other slot.nbsp; Someone receiving support payments can put this amount in the category if the applicant chooses to use support payments to help qualify. For support payments, a copy of the divorce decree needs to be reviewed showing how much the support payments are to be as well as how long the payments will continue. If it is determined the support payments will last for at least another two years, it can be counted as qualifying income.

Any other income can be listed on the application with supporting documentation. The income must be verified as having a history and the lender determines the income is likely to continue into the future. How far into the future? Most programs dont have a definite time frame but many lenders like to see a three year window. Theres no way to truly make that determination but showing a two year history can make the cased that the income is likely to continue well into the future.nbsp;

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How To Safely Remove Window Glass

Why would you need to remove glass from your window? In most cases, its because the glass is cracked or broken, or it is an insulated pane thats no longer sealed properly. Or maybe its time to upgrade your windows with tinted or smart glass. Professional glass shops can help you choose and size the right glass for the job, but first youll have to remove the window glass and bring in the sash. If there is a break on a stationary window or the sash and it isnt budging, you may need to hire a professional glass installation expert.

Getting the glass out before you visit your glass installation shop can help save money and time, and its not too complicated. The most challenging part is to avoid being injured by broken glass.

Taking the Proper Safety Precautions

The No. 1 rule in working around glass is to wear protective gear. If glass is broken or you accidentally break it, even smaller glass shards can cut deep and cause injuries. Wear heavy gloves with leather palms, thick shoes or boots and safety glasses when youre working around glass. Long sleeves and long pants are also highly recommended.

Safely Removing Broken Glass

Youll want to minimize the spread of glass pieces when you remove broken glass from a window frame, and get those stubborn pieces that dont come out easily without cutting yourself. Heres how:

Step 1: Use tape.

Apply masking tape over the window pane, including the broken area. Dont press hard against the glass, but cover it completely with strips of tape on one side. The tape will keep pieces of glass from flying away from the window as you work. You want to be able to carefully take the glass pieces off the tape, so dont use duct tape or something extra sticky.

Step 2: Protect the area.

Put down a tarp or dropcloth that you can dispose of if glass breaks over it. Its best to do this on both the interior area around the window and the exterior area.

Step 3: Loosen the glass with a hand tool.

Some people use the butt of a hammer, but a pry bar or other heavy hand tool will work effectively. Your goal is to loosen the glass pieces through gentle taps. Then you can remove those larger pieces and dispose of them properly.

Step 4: Remove old glazing from around the frame.

The last bits of glass will be stuck in the window frame. With the help of a chisel or even a stiff putty knife, clear away the glazing that is holding those stragglers in place. If caulk or tape was used to hold the window in place, you may need to use a slightly more flexible putty knife to cut between the frame and the glass. Cautiously pull the glass pieces out of the frame and dispose of them.

Safelynbsp;Removing Intact Glass Panes

Window glass is typically installed in one of three ways: With caulk, with a gasket, or with adhesive tape.


Removable stops, or very thin pieces of wood or vinyl, line the window. Youll have to get these out in order to make a bit of room where you can cut through the caulk seal. Unfortunately, often the stops get caulked a bit and can be hard to remove. Use a thin, flexible putty knife or utility knife to cut through any caulk you see and get the stops out. Then you can flip the window and slip the knife between the window and frame to loosen or cut through the caulk. You may have to break the glass out if this task becomes too difficult.

Adhesive Tape

Instead of caulk, double-faced tape is used to stick the frame and glass together and a removable stop is positioned on the other side. Youll be able to use a flexible putty knife to loosen the stop, starting from the top. Turn the window over and use that putty knife between the frame and the slightly loosened glass panel to cut the tape and >


The glass edges are held by grooves in the window frame and contained in a vinyl or thick plastic gasket. Youll need to disassemble the frame, which is held together with screws on each corner. This is good news because it will be the easiest to take apart; then you can remove the entire pane and replace it before screwing the frame back together.

Any glazing between the glassnbsp;and frame can usually be scraped off or pulled off in small stripsnbsp;if needed.

Cleaning Up Broken Glass

If you have broken glass, be sure to wear safety gear before you try to clean up. Vacuum carefully around the window area and use duct tape or a lint roller to pick up tiny pieces. Put one thick black trash bag inside another so you have two layers, and use that to put your glass pieces into. Label the bagnbsp;with a sticker or tag that says, "Broken Glass for Disposal" so any handlers know to use caution.

If you have any questions about removing glass, or youre simply not comfortable working withnbsp;the glass in your window, call a professional glass installer to take care of the job. A pro can also advise you on the best replacement glass for your window and budget.

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How Buyers Can Navigate a Seller’s Market

Most analysts would say that currently, we are in a sellers market. The summer of 2020 has been an interesting time. While the coronavirus has negatively impacted much of the economy, real estate has been surging.

Much of this is likely due to the low interest rates, hovering below 3. There are other factors too, including pent up demand following strict lockdowns during the spring, and for some people, theres a focus on moving to the suburbs and away from bigger cities.

If you want to buy, there are a lot of factors in your favor right now, but also challenges because it is what you would characterize as a sellers market.

In June, the median home price nationwide rose to 295,300, which was in part not only because of the factors named above but also because of low inventory.

Also, while weve talked a lot about unemployment over the past few months, we have to consider that many people didnt lose their jobs. In households where people stayed employed, they may feel like theyre financially secure enough to buy a home.

Sellers are finding that theyre getting multiple offers and offers well above ask.

So what can buyers do during this time?

Be Decisive

If youre going to jump into a sellers market headfirst, youre going to have to be decisive. Time is critical in these situations, and sometimes getting the home of your dreams is as simple as being first.

If you want to see a home that goes on the market, dont wait until the weekend for a showing. Try to get a showing as soon as you can, or if thats not possible, do a virtual showing.

Along with being decisive and ready for whats coming, choose a great real estate agent. You dont want a real estate agent who youre playing phone tag with during a sellers market, because youre losing precious time. You want someone sharp and responsive.

Submit a Clean Offer

During a sellers market, its not a good idea to give an offer with contingencies. This might actually mean the difference between offers for a seller. A seller might be more interested in finishing things up quickly rather than getting a higher price for their home.

If you can give up some of the traditional contingencies, then a seller might think your offer is more appealing because these provide you with chances to back out.

You can still protect yourself, even without contingencies. For example, maybe you get your loan completely underwritten. This means you go through the full loan process before you make an offer.

Let Go of Perfection

The inventory is really limited right now, and demand is high. This makes it even less likely that youre going to find the perfect home, and thats okay.

Its sometimes better to buy a good home and then make it perfect rather than waiting for perfection to hit the market. Theres a very strong chance that even when inventory expands, there still wont be a perfect home.

Be Disciplined with Your Budget

When bidding wars are possible, and things are competitive among buyers, its easy to get carried away. You may get so emotionally attached to a house that youre willing to go well beyond your budget. Emotions are also heightened when youre buying a home anyway.

Set a budget, and dont let yourself go above it, no matter what the other offers may look like.

Sure, offering too much may get you the house, but its going to create financial stress for you for years to come.

Offer More Earnest Money

Earnest money is something like a deposit and you provide it alongside your bid. Its a way to show the seller youre serious, but if the deal doesnt go through you can get that money back.

Usually, youll see buyers offering around 1, but during a hot market, think about offering more. It shows that youre more invested in the deal and less likely to let it slip through your fingers.

If you have the option to pay with cash, thats almost always going to win you favor. Cash offers take out the element of financing contingencies, and they make for a simpler transaction, which is beneficial for buyers. A cash buyer also tends to be more serious, and when you buy with cash youre not beholden to the lender through the closing process.

Finally, if you do enter the market and find that its not working for you, or maybe youre nervous about the prospects, consider waiting. Its easy to get carried away even in a buyers market. A sellers market can be even more likely to lead you to make a poor financial decision.

Of course, its tough to time the market, but if you do have some flexibility in when you buy, consider holding off.

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Is a Home Office the New Must-Have?

Working from home was a trend that was already picking up significant steam before the coronavirus pandemic. Now, as more people around the world work from home than ever before, it could be impacting everything including real estate.

In just a few months, people have shifted their life>

It was perhaps the tipping point the work-from-home revolution needed.

COVID-19 and The Work-From-Home Shift

The benefits of working from home even outside a global pandemic?

More flexibility for both employees and employers, more work-life balance, and reduced overhead costs for employers. An estimated 40 of all venture capital in Silicon Valley goes to landlords rather than product development, highlighting just how much could be saved if employers were to maintain telecommuting and reduce their physical location requirements.

In fact, with the massive shift to telecommuting thats taken place over the past few months, many employers doubt if theyll ever bring employees back to the office, at least in the traditional sense.

Twitter was one of the first companies saying they were going completely remote. Others have followed or at least said theyre considering it, including Facebook and Barclays.

Garner reported their recent survey found 75 of respondents said they planned to increase their number of permanent remote employees.

Interestingly from the employer perspective, this shift to remote workforces also increases their access to a broader talent pool without geographic limitations.

So what does all this mean for real estate?

The implications are dire for commercial real estate, but in residential real estate, it could mean more people are free to move away from urban areas and to less expensive places. It also means the home office could be one of the more coveted features buyers are searching for.

Houzz Survey

Early on in the pandemic, 55 of homeowners said they have a home office, while a quarter of respondents said they work primarily from their kitchen or dining room table. Eleven percent said they work from their sofa.

The same survey said the biggest challenge they were facing as they started working from home was finding a place in their home that was quiet and private enough to work, away from high-traffic spaces. Twenty-five percent also said creating a comfortable workspace was a big challenge for them.

The National Association of Home Builders NAHB conducted their own preference study, What Home Buyers Really Want. According to their results, both prospective and recent home buyers want a home office. In fact, their most recent survey was in 2018, and even then, before the pandemic, 65 said they wanted a home office.

Having a home office might even be a tax deduction if you have your own business, or if youre an employee who qualifies for said deduction, which is one more reason it might be a must-have on the modern buyers list.

Designing a Home Office

Whether youre hoping to sell your home soon and you want to stage it to appeal to a buyer who wants an office or youre setting up your own office, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Designate a space thats away from the main areas of activity in your home. This might mean a spare bedroom, for example.

Buyers are often flexible with how space is used, and Millennial buyers, in general, are willing to be efficient and maximize their use of space. This means a guestroom can serve multiple purposes as an office space and still be appealing.

If you dont have any obvious space for a home office, you can get a little creative. For example, convert a closet.

Beyond the space itself, comfort and lighting are both critical to a good home office design.

If youre staging or setting up your workspace, you want an ergonomic arrangement. Itll help you stay productive without dealing with pain and injuries.

For lighting, you should try to find a space with as much natural light as you can. Use a layered lighting concept with lamps and overhead light so you can create the appropriate ambiance when you need it.

While most states are easing lockdowns and offices are reopening in some places, that doesnt mean were so willing to give up the convenience of working from home. Itll likely have a significant impact on real estate, from the locations where buyers are moving to the list of priorities they use when selecting a new home.

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Ask the HOA Expert: How Many Meetings Should We Have?

Question: I am an owner in a rather small condominium complex. The Board of Directors is made up of five individuals. We have now learned that two of the officers of the board, the president and vice-president, are planning to rent their units and live elsewhere, one of them to another state. My question is, without living here, can these individuals remain on the Board?

Answer: There are two issues. The board is composed of directors, some who are officers. As directors, they are entitled to remain on the board although doing so may not be practical or fair to those members that voted them in. Not living at or in close proximity to the HOA clearly compromises a directors ability to attend meetings and be directly informed of the physical condition of the property.

A director that also serves as an officer has even a higher responsibility to those that elected them since the officers direct the day to day business of the HOA. Having a local President, in particular, is extremely important. However, officers are selected by the board itself so this can be changed when circumstances dictate. If the two top officers are no longer local, I recommend that other directors assume these duties.

It makes sense that the non-local directors tender their resignations if they are no longer able to attend the board meetings. That said, the board has no authority to remove directors, even for just cause. They were elected by the members and can only be removed from the board by the members.

Question: Our new board is preparing our Annual Calendar. How many board meetings a year should we hold?

Answer: The answer is directly >

Keep in mind that board meetings are for the benefit of the general membership as well who have the right to attend and petition the board. Board meetings should be scheduled a year in advance in a location that is guest friendly. Scheduling months in advance ensures that there will be no scheduling conflicts.

For more Ask the HOA Expert, see .

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Title Insurance Explained

Title insurance is indeed an insurance policy but is only needed when financing a home or refinancing a home loan. For the >

Title is a public record of property ownership. If youre a homeowner now you can look through your title policy and you will see who owned the property and when. Sometimes these records can go back a couple of hundred years. The list of buyers and sellers will be shown in the title report, all the way up to the current owner. However, there are times when ownership was transferred but not done so properly. Thats called a defect. There is also an Owners Policy which protects the buyers equity in the property. Depending upon what is customary for the area, usually its the sellers who pay for this policy. The Owners Policy is in force for as long as the owners own the home. The other type of policy is in force until the mortgage is paid off.

Okay, so lets look at an example. Lets say a happy couple buy their first home. They apply for a mortgage, get approved and soon the movers come. Theyve been in their house for a few months and theres a knock on the door. They answer and its someone delivering a certified letter claiming they new owners dont legally own the home, the person sending the letter does. The letter states that when the previous couple bought the home together, they later divorced. The divorce decree didnt completely remove one of the parties from public record and that individual is still showing as an interested party.nbsp;

Other issues can be other unreported problems associated with past ownership. A simple mistake in filing in public records can contribute to problems. Forgery is another when one party signs off on a sale using the other partys signature. Maybe theres a long lost cousin who was listed as an heir to the property and can claim ownership. In all of these, title insurance protects the lender and the new owners.nbsp;

Sometimes a policy is issued that insures around a particular feature of the property. This can happen when it is discovered that your property is showing the fence is actually one foot into the neighbors.nbsp; nbsp; This is called an encroachment and in the event of such a scenario, title insurance can still be issued by carving out the one foot and leaving that area without title insurance. Typically, this isnt an issue but will need to be addressed.

Title insurance, much like any other type of insurance policies, are a bit on the dry side and make for some rather boring reading. However, within that policy are some very important facts about the propertys history of transfer and ownership. While you may not need to read the entire policy at your settlement, you do need to be alerted when theres a defect.

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How to Design a Home Gym (Even on a Budget)

Theres hardly an aspect of our daily lives that hasnt radically shifted over the past few months, including the way we work out.

Even though most states are in some phase of their reopening following coronavirus shutdowns, gyms are still falling a bit behind in public sentiment. Some locales have also opened and then subsequently re-closed gyms, such as was the case in California.

Some people opt to head outdoors to get their exercise in lieu of the gym, but for other people, home fitness has become part of their routine.

Home fitness isnt necessarily newfor example, consider Jack LaLannes exercise TV show geared toward housewives in the 1950s.

Now, however, home fitness is targeted at all audiences. Millennials in particular seem to be receptive to the advances of home workouts. Seventy-six percent of Millennials recently said they exercise at least once a week.

The trend has created the careers of fitness influencers on Instagram, like Kayla Itsines and Emily Skye. Peloton has become a mega-success with their at-home spinning bike paired with live and interactive content, and Beachbody has an on-demand workout for every need from weight training to Pilates.

Its also leading to certain real estate trendsnamely, more buyers might seek out space for the perfect home gym.

Beyond the current situation, home gyms can, over the long-term help you save money and ensure that you spend more time with your family if youre spending less time commuting to work out. If you have a dedicated work out space, it can also help you stay motivated to keep up with your fitness routine.

nbsp;Whether youre thinking about selling your home or you just want to transform it into a life>


If youre going to add a workout space to your home, you want to find an existing room that has high ceilings if youre going to do certain activities like jumping rope. Youll need enough room to move around, and you want to make sure you dont set up shop in a room thats going to create a noise disturbance for everyone else in your home.

Choosing an area of your home thats private can also be useful because itll block out distractions.

A lot of people choose the basement as the space for their home gym. If you dont have a basement, consider a guestroom or a garage, although youll need to figure out a way to add some climate control if you go with the garage.

You want a space thats well ventilated with windows and fans.


When youre designing your gym, you want it to be convenient so that once you go in there to work out, you have everything you need and you dont have to go back and forth.

Think about a mini-refrigerator for your water, and a place where you can store spare towels.

If youre going to be working out on demand, make sure the space you choose to set up your gym has a strong Wi-Fi signal.


You dont have to spend a fortune on equipment to have a functional, effective home gym. The basics you should have include a yoga mat and some kettlebells. Resistance bands are also great because theyre inexpensive and dont take up any space.

Then, you can gradually work your way up as you figure out your needs and your preference in your workouts and perhaps splurge more on equipment such as a stationary spinning bike, a treadmill, or a dumbbell collection.

Also consider as part of your initial set up a medicine ball, which is also an inexpensive and versatile piece of workout equipment.

As people increasingly spend time at home for one reason or another, its changing the landscape of real estate as well, including the priorities potential buyers might have in their search.

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DĂ©cor Tips To Help You Through Stressful Times

Youve cleaned and disinfected your home and have taken a few trips to the dump with the fruits of your decluttering frenzy. Yet your home feels more cramped and tired than when you started the quarantine. You feel frustrated and stressed.

With cooler weather and more indoor time around the corner, nows the perfect time to plan your attack. There are lots of smaller things you can do to make a big difference. And it doesnt have to cost a lot.

At the end of the day, its all about function, says interior stylist Red Barrinuevo of Redesign4morenbsp;in Toronto.

How has the way you use your home changed during these challenging times? What purpose or purposes do you need each room to serve? Reassess each space to see what works and what needs to be improved. Determining the function is the jumping off point, he says.

What furniture do you need to meet everyones needs? Curate the existing room and remove anything you dont need. You can put items in storage for future use if youre not ready to toss them.

If you need furniture, shop your home first and see if you can repurpose something from another room. For example, a bedroom dresser can serve as a media console in the living room or as a server in the dining room. In the kitchen, it can provide extra storage space maybe a place to stash craft supplies, schoolwork or baking supplies.

Take an extra easy chair, a lamp and a small table and create a quiet place to read or work in the corner of a bedroom, a nook or bay window space.

If its a room used primarily for gathering, do you need to add more seating to accommodate those in your bubble?nbsp;

Think about furniture layout to maximize your space. Before you move the actual furniture, measure larger pieces and tape off the measurements on the floor so you know how much space each item will take. If its a couch, for example, make sure theres enough room for a coffee table or enough room to walk around furniture.

Measuring and taping is especially helpful if youre buying new. Barrinuevo says furniture stores are large so furniture tends to look smaller. If you dont measure, you may find its too large for your home or may not fit through your front door.

When youre looking at your room, also look at its focal point, often an architectural feature such as a fireplace or window. But in these COVID-19 days, it might be the TV. If you dont want it to be, Barrinuevo says, move it to a less prominent place. Or if the TV is on a big wall and the location is practical for everyday use, leave it there but hang artwork around it. This allows you to showcase your art, make the TV less prominent and create a more attractive focal point.

Pull a few colours from the artwork for accessories to tie the space together.

Another way to create a focal point is to gather up family photos from around the house removing small clutter will make a room feel larger and create a gallery wall. Or print travel photos and frame them to create a statement wall.

If you have matching frames, thats great, he says. But the frames dont have to match. Placement and commonality of subject, such as travel, kids, family, makes it work. They dont have to match; they have to go together.

Kids are creating a lot of artwork while at home, so reduce the clutter. Have the kids pick a half dozen of their favourites, frame them and hang them together in their rooms so it doesnt look cluttered or messy. When they have new favourite art, simply change it up.

For an immediate refresh, paint the walls and trim. Neutral wall colours, such as light grey or off white, are a great way to make a room look cleaner and tidier, Barrinuevo says. Paint walls with an eggshell finish. Paint the doors, trim and baseboards glossy white. This frames the wall and makes it more of a feature. White trim can also make windows look bigger.

For anyone who doesnt like neutrals, he says, Choose a colour that makes you happy since youll be seeing it every day.

Paint can also be used to upcycle mismatched furniture and give the space a more polished look. In the bedroom, mismatched night tables they should be the same height can be painted or stained to match.nbsp;

Barrinuevo recently painted his home office walls navy blue and his desk and other furniture white. He added a media console behind his desk to provide storage space and printed black-and-white images and put them in a variety of metallic frames.

Another easy trick: move curtain rods up as close to the ceiling as possible to give the impression of a higher ceiling and a more spacious room.

Tidy up the clutter clutter eats up space, he says. Youll be amazed at how big a room looks when you start editing it.

Consider proportions. Make sure artwork isnt too overwhelming for the space, and that furniture isnt too big or too small. In a condo, he suggests using low-profile furniture, with a maximum 35-inch height on the back of the sofa and chairs so sightlines arent blocked.

The reward a more functional, beautiful and calm space. Your work will be worth it.

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The Effects from Covid on Reverse Mortgages

With the Covid crisis still looming, much attention has been focused on conventional loans where monthly mortgage payments are required. Recently, laws have been passed on both local and national levels to ensure homeowners are not evicted for non-payment on FHA loans.


Under normal circumstances, the borrower on a reverse mortgage does not have to worry about foreclosure by the lender because no monthly payments are required; the loan balance just keeps increasing as interest accrues over time and is only required to be paid back upon the death of the last remaining borrower, move out by the borrower, or death of the non-borrowing spouse if the borrowing spouse predeceased them. The borrowers only requirement for yearly payments are real estate taxes and insurance, HOA dues if applicable, plus maintenance and utilities. If the borrower fails to pay these, technically, they are in default and the loan may be called. This could lead to a foreclosure. In addition, the house may not be left vacant or abandoned.

For those borrowers who take a lump sum reverse mortgage and whose income is estimated to be too low to maintain the real estate taxes and insurance, they may be required to have a Life Expectancy Set Aside [LESA]. LESA is similar to an escrow account that is set aside for future real estate taxes and insurance and is based on the life expectancy of the borrower. These future expenses are deducted from the lump sum provided by the reverse mortgage company and held by them. The funds in the LESA become part of the loan balance once the lender disburses them to pay the property charges on behalf of the borrower. Thus, those borrowers who have LESA, for all intents and purposes, would not typically face foreclosure during their expected lifetime.nbsp;

Many conventional borrowers have requested deferments from their lending institution as they fell on hard times with the loss of income during Covid. The need for deferment requests are all but eliminated for reverse mortgages.

There has been a tremendous push toward applying for reverse mortgages by homeowners. There are many reasons for this; historically low interest rates mean that a borrower can obtain a much larger reverse mortgage, as the interest that gets added to the mortgage every year is less than in a high interest rate environment. Thus, the lower the interest rate, the better it is for the homeowner and, consequently, the less risk for the mortgage company.

In addition, many older homeowners have lost their job during the virus, and their largest retirement asset, by far, is their home equity from which they can draw upon. These same homeowners not only may not qualify for a HELOC [Home Equity Line of Credit], they may not want them after considering the benefits of a reverse mortgage HECM vs. a HELOC. For one, HELOCs require monthly mortgage payments. In addition, unlike reverse mortgage HECM, the bank can freeze [or reduce] the HELOC line and not allow access to it. This puts the homeowner in a precarious position of having debt against their property [as the HELOC is recorded against the property for the maximum potential draw of the line] without any benefit. Such was the case during The Great Recession in the mid-late 2000s when 6 billion of HELOC credit was frozen in June of 2008, and the freezing continued for some time. Why? The answer lies in the fact that the fastest way for a bank to shore up its balance sheet is to freeze HELOCs, so they do not have to set aside reserves. During The Great Recession, banks were facing write downs and write offs of loans as the loans that they had previously written took a downturn when borrowers, during the credit crisis, were unable to pay their mortgage. When a bank makes loans, they use depositors funds. The government requires reserves [loan loss reserves] be set aside to ensure the return of those depositors funds. If a bank has existing loans outstanding, they cannot just call in those loans [unless borrowers default]; however, a HELOC is a potential loan as the loan technically only exists as the borrower draws upon it. In this situation, if they freeze [or reduce] the line, the bank has not lent the money yet and can stop it before the borrower accesses the money that was available to them.

Most major banks have seriously curtailed the issuance of HELOCs during the current Covid crisis, and those that continue to offer HELOCs have imposed stringent qualifications to borrowers.

Many borrowers are realizing reverse mortgages offer advantages over HELOCs in this regard. There are limited income and credit qualifications to obtain a reverse mortgage. Reverse mortgage HECM lines of credit cannot be frozen or reduced, and, since there are no monthly mortgage payments, the risk of foreclosure [even after the moratorium] is slim.

A new situation has arisen due to Covid and that has to do with nursing homes. Once considered an alternative to in-home care [which is usually two to three times the cost of a nursing home], many stories have been published about the increase in deaths surrounding Covid and older Americans in care facilities. Most people would like to be in their own home instead of a care facility given the choice, but, unfortunately, many people cannot afford the [around the clock] care required to stay home and be cared for. Loved ones, especially during the virus, are looking for a way tonbsp;keep their elders in the safety of their own home and receiving the quality and quantity of care they needed. Many are looking toward a reverse mortgage to fill this need. Many people have enough equity in their homes, especially as real estate has tremendously rebounded since The Great Recession, to allow them a large enough reverse mortgage to afford the costs associated with in-home care.

The National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association [NRMLA] reports that there have been significant increases in draws [on the HECM reverse mortgage line of credit]. Those retirees who lost their part time jobs and need to make ends meet, helping family affected by Covid, and those who are just generally concerned about their future finances. NRMLA states there has been a 55 increase in the number of draws and 14 in the size of the draws. In fact, they notice that some borrowers who had never previously drawn on their line of credit are fully drawing the line now.

As Covid gets more impactful on the economy and on peoples lives in general, we should expect reverse mortgages to grow, and now seems to be the most opportune time to obtain one before interest rates increase.nbsp;

Edwardnbsp;Brownnbsp;is in the Investor >

Mary Jo Lafaye is a Home Equity Retirement Specialist with Mutual of Omaha Reverse Mortgage. Since 2003, Mary Jo has assisted financial and legal professionals, and the retirees they serve, to incorporate housing wealth into their retirement income stream as a tool to manage cash-flow and liquidity, and to improve financial outcomes throughout retirement.

Mary Jo is a well-known educator in her field she offers Continuing Education CE credits to Certified Financial Planners CFPs, Realtors, Fiduciaries, CPAs, Attorneys, and other professional groups. She is a noted speaker, having delivered seminars and webinars to professional groups nationally, ranging from NAPFA, NAIFA, CalCPA, FPA, CSEA, MAR, PFAC, and many more. Her talks highlight current academic and scholarly research on enhancing portfolio longevity and living ones best life in retirement.

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What Are America’s Most Affordable Beach Towns?

Theres just one big problemcoastal living is expensive.

With that being said, it doesnt have to be.

Some beach towns are more affordable than others, and you may be able to find a better deal than youd expect.

Venice, Florida

Venice is located between Sarasota and Port Charlotte. Its on Floridas Gulf Coast, and it has beautiful white-sand beaches. Interestingly, its also known as the Shark Tooth Capital of the World.

Venice, Florida has homes at varying price points, and you can even find three-bedroom homes with water views for around 350,000.

Venice was voted as one of the Happiest Seaside Towns 2015 by Coastal Living magazine and the city is home to four main beaches. These include Venice Municipal Beach, which is the most popular, Nokomis Beach, South Broward Beach, and Caspersen Beach.

The city also boasts 12 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Valencia Hotel and Arcade, and Hotel Venice.

Toms River, New Jersey

The Jersey Shore is often talked about on TV and in pop culture, but there are some really beautiful areas along the coast. Toms River is one example that happens to be scenic as well as affordable.

Toms River is set along the Atlantic Ocean as well as the fishing destination of Barnegat Bay. Its a historic city with a charming downtown, and there are one-bedroom homes that are available for around 125,000.

Its even possible to find waterfront property for around 349,000 in Toms River.

Gulfport, Mississippi

Gulfport is the second-largest city in Mississippi, and its a location with a fun, festive and laidback atmosphere. Theres an entertainment district set on the water and plenty of tourist-friendly activities. The median home price also happens to be 127,239.

People in Gulfport also enjoy a generally low cost of living, including low property taxes.

Melbourne, Florida

Melbourne is in Floridas Brevard County, and its often ranked as one of the best places to live in the state because it is so affordable. This is in addition to the fact that Florida has no state income tax.

Melbourne is known for offering an abundance of outdoor activities, most of them involving the water. For example, Melbourne is one of the most popular places for surfers on the Space Coast.

Melbourne is close to the Kennedy Space Center, and the schools are considered among the best in Brevard County.

Pensacola, Florida

Pensacola, Florida is a good beach destination because real estate is >

Located on the Gulf of Mexico, the median sales price for homes in Pensacola was around 157,000 last year.

If youre thinking about an investment property, along with being affordable, Pensacola attracts millions of visitors a year.

The cost of living also happens to be 12.7 lower than the national average.

Morehead City, North Carolina

Finally, North Carolina has beautiful beaches, but some of them can be fairly pricey to buy a home in. One of the more affordable and no less scenic communities is Morehead City. Its a small town with plenty of restaurants and bars. The median home value is around 223,000.

Downtown Morehead City is waterfront, and there are frequent live events that bring the community there, particularly during the summer.

Morehead City is also home to the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament and has an active sportfishing community.

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Top Tips For Buying A Home Sight Unseen

If youre thinking about buying a house right now, youre probably wondering how to go about it. The truth is, you CAN do in-person tours, depending on local regulations in the area in which you are buying. But many people are buying homes right now without stepping foot inside until AFTER the deal is done.nbsp;nbsp;

While sight unseen deals have always existed, mainly among foreign buyers, investors and home shoppers who arenbsp;moving long-distance, such arrangements might spike in popularity, especially as the coronavirus lingers on with predictions for a second wave of infections, said WTOP. According to a survey by home repair company Helitech that outlines the effects the coronavirus has wielded on housing, one in three respondents said they would consider purchasing a residence sight unseen.

A survey from 2018 showed that about 20 percent of homebuyers had made an offer on a home without seeing it first. A more recent, COVID-19-influenced survey found that 45 of homebuyers in the last year had made an offer without seeing the property in person. found that 24 of 1,300 consumers surveyed said theyd be willing to buy a home without first seeing it in person.

If youre considering purchasing a home sight unseen, these tips will help.nbsp;

Hire the right agent

If youre buying a house without touring it first, you have to depend on your agent to be your eyes and ears. Its crucial that you go with a local expert, especially if you arent super familiar with the area.nbsp;

Hire an agent whos well-versed in the area and working with long distance clientele, said HomeLight. Having an excellent agent by your side is critical in any home buying situation. But when you buy sight unseen, youre putting another layer of trust in this person.

Take advantage of technology

Check out a 3D home tour on Zillow lately? Youre not alone; theyre up by more than 600 since the pandemic hit. Listings that have this functionality are likely to rise to the top because they give you more of a feel for the home. But whether youre looking at a carousel of images or a 3D tour, dont forget to ask your agent to go a step further.nbsp; nbsp;

Once you know which homes youre most interested in, have your agent book some showings and take you along on the tour using FaceTime, said HomeLight. Sounds simple, but whats great about FaceTime is that you can get a better idea of the flow of the house and ask your agent questions in real time as they walk through each room to really get a feel for a property.

Ask for a floorplan

Youre more likely to find home listings that include a floorplan image today, given the whole social distanced thing. If you dont see one, it doesnt hurt to ask. Yes, a video tour of the homes youre interested in will give you the best feel for how the homes live,nbsp; but being able to refer to the floorplan to ensure it meets your needs will be invaluable.

The layout of a home is fundamental. For example, having a dining room attached to a kitchen versus on the other side of the house can change things, said Great Colorado Homes. Having a printed floor plan can reveal what the day-to-day activities in a home might look like. If you can get your hands on a floor plan of the home that youre interested in, it will help you understand the house better. The more info you have, the fewer surprises youre likely to experience.

Order an appraisal and a home inspection

Even in cases where theyre not required, you dont want to skip these steps. Especially when you cant or dont want to tour a home yourself, having expert documentation regarding the value and condition of the home is more important than ever.nbsp;

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HOA Meetings That Soar!

Celebrate Your Success.

The annual meeting should be a chance to celebrate successes, hand out recognitions, join members in a common cause and become better acquainted with each other. Use this venue to launch new initiatives or announce good news like awards.

Invest in Success.

If your annual meeting budget is bare bones, only those with a bone to pick show up. Since the event only happens once a year, splurge a bit. To pull this off properly, some money should be invested. If you dont have a clubhouse large enough to accommodate all the members, obtain the best and closest alternative. Local libraries, churches and community centers often have large meeting rooms that are reasonably priced or free. And if the budget permits, reserve a room at a banquet facility.

Cast Your Bread Upon the Water.

While the business of the meeting might be a bit dry, the wrappings do not need to be. Offer food, beverages, door prizes, comfortable seating and a good sound system if its a large room. If the budget is modest, host a potluck and award prizes for the best entree, salad and dessert.

Lay Out the Welcome Mat.

Make the attendees feel welcome and comfortable. Make sure there is adequate heat or air conditioning. Plan periodic breaks if the meeting is long. It will allow the participants to socialize and refresh their perspective on the business at hand.

Let Them Eat Cake.

Serve food and beverages following the meeting so there is a reason to conclude the business meeting and to encourage attendees to stick around. This is a positive way to end the meeting and leave a good taste in their mouths literally.

Draw for a Prize.

Make returning proxies and attending the meeting fun by including a drawing for, say, a Dinner for Two certificate. Add the names of those that return proxies and also those that actually attend the meeting. That way, those that return their proxy get two chances to win if they show up. Either way, youve encouraged members to help satisfy quorum requirements.

Pump it Up.

Cast your annual meeting as the do-not-miss event of the year serves several purposes. You get business done with more members participating and they get to know each other better.

While the business of meetings can be rather somber, the tone need not be. Use these suggestions to at the wings it needs to soar

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5 Tips for Creating the Perfect Zoom Room

Show off your bookcase

If youve been collecting hundreds of books for your bookshelf, now is your time to shine, said Vishion. Show of your collection with a little >

Consider a change of scenery

Perhaps the spot where you currently have your home office set up isnt the best spot for a Zoom call. Theres no reason you cant have one spot to take periodic zoom calls and another to get the rest of your work done during the day.

Or, maybe you need to rethink where you have your home office altogether. Whens the next time anyones going to use that guest room, anyway?nbsp;nbsp;

Change your point of view

Who says you have to have your desk up against a wall, with a wide-open view behind you. Maybe flipping your desk around so the view from your camera is toward the wall of bookcases or the painted, pretty wall is a better option for video calls.

Dont have a great-looking background? No sweat Check out the virtual backgrounds on Zoom. Users can upload their own images Zoom recommends that these images have an aspect ratio of 16:9 and a resolution of 1920 x 1080 px and preview the virtual background to detect any issues before joining the meeting, said Zoom.nbsp;

Get the angle right

Make sure your camera is at the right height and angled properly so you look your best on video calls. You can always raise up your screen or put your laptop on a stack of books, if need be.nbsp;

Have you ever seen someone take a selfie with the camera pointed down at them? It might look weird, but theres a good reason for the technique, said Vishion. If you feel like youre looking a little goofy on your video call, it could be how youre sitting and where your computer is positioned. Having your camera at eye level and positioned farnbsp;enough away, is key for creating the perfect video conference call and eliminating an unwanted double chin.

Make sure youand your spaceare well-lit

The Zoom app doesnt have a low light mode, said TechRepublic. Because of this, you need to be in a room with plenty of lighting, be it natural or artificial.

The Verge recommends you, Open up your shades and let the natural light pour in, but dont let all that light hit your back. The main light source should be either right in front of you or no more than 45 degrees away from directly in front of you. Also be aware that your screen can be a large source of light, so adjust your screen brightness, too, especially if you are taking a call without natural light. A bright screen can blow the highlights on your face out, making you look more like Casper the Ghost than a video calling champion.

You can also avoid half your face being in shadow by adding a lamp close to your face, and keep in mind that if your sit with your back to the window, the camera will expose for the light and make you into a silhouette, said USA Today. Instead, flip it, and face the window, which will give you soft, people-pleasing light.nbsp;

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Can You Buy a House Entirely Online?

So what about buying a new house?

It seems like thats something that we can now do enti>

Demand for Digital Tools

There was a recent report from Zillow that found both buyers and sellers are likely to purchase or sell a home completely online. There is even more motivation to do so it would seem because of the pandemic.

The Zillow survey found 36 of Americans said the COVID-19 pandemic makes them more likely to buy a home enti>

As far as sellers, 43 said they would be more likely to try and sell their home enti>

Jeff Tucker, Zillow economist, said the traditional days of shopping for a home could be over for good. Virtual tours allow buyers to avoid shopping in-person, or at a minimum, they can narrow down their options before they ever leave home. nbsp;

What are the Pros and Cons of Online Homebuying?

As with anything, there are both upsides but also possible downsides to think about if youre considering buying a home online.

The biggest pro is, of course, convenience. When you buy a house online, you can go through videos, virtual tours, and high-quality images that are going to make the experience nearly the same as being there.

There is something to be said about seeing a home in person before you commit to buying, and thats the big drawback of doing everything online. There might be something you cant fully grasp when youre looking online only. With that being said, a great real estate agent can guide you and ensure you make the right decision for you, even if you do everything online.

How Do You Buy a Home Online?

If the idea of an enti>

First, choose a real estate agent. Its overwhelming to start a home search online or in-person without someone to help you and advocate for you. Some people think that buying online means you dont need an agent, but the reality is that having a great agent you can trust may be more important when you buy online.

When youre doing an online home search, your real estate agent should be experienced with remote home viewings, as well as the most advanced sales technology. They should be responsive as well, including if youre in a different time zone.

Youll need to find a mortgage lender, and if you have a real estate agent first, that person may be able to point you in the right direction.

The most efficient way to get a mortgage and ultimately buy a home is to get preapproved.

Once youve been preapproved for a mortgage and selected a real estate agent, you can start touring the homes that make your shortlist. Agents can either do a real-time virtual tour, or they can show you a prerecorded tour. Your agent should go through the home with you, just as they would if you were in person.

Your agent will likely have a preferred platform if youre doing a live walkthrough, such as Zoom.

The agent will be in the home during a live tour, and they will go over things like scale and size to help you gain an understanding.

Once you choose a home, you make an offer. If the seller accepts, the process for buying a home is what it would be like whether you did it all virtually or not. If your seller accepts your offer, you may wire earnest money to an escrow account or title company.

Then, youll go through the inspection and appraisal as well as title research.

The biggest difference if you buy a home enti>
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When Is “For Sale By Owner” The Right Option?

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

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

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

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

The Basics of For Sale By Owner FSBO

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

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

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

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

What Are the Downsides of FSBO?

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

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

When Does It Make Sense To Sell Your Own Home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

> Full Story

Ask the HOA Expert: Counting Ballots, Long-Standing Policies & Club House Remodels

Question: What is the most efficient way to count ballots at an Annual Meeting? Our group has a large membership and vote counting bogs down the meeting.

Answer: With many ballots to count, preparation is essential. The ballots should be preprinted with names of all candidates and a checkbox next to each. A couple of blanks should be left for nominations from the floor at the meeting. After the ballots have been completed, they should be collected by the election tellers none of whom should be running for election and divided into equal parts.

Using several teams of two, one reading the results and the other tallying, ballots can be counted simultaneously by the teams and the final tallies from each team can then be added together for the final results. A Head Teller should check the math, circle the names of the winners and hand the results to the president to announce. Using this technique should allow the process to be completed in 5-10 minutes during which other business can be handled. The counted ballots should then be batched and stapled to the tally sheets and retained in the annual meeting file should questions about the election arise.

Question: Can the board cite a "long-standing policy" to prohibit construction of an enclosed patio beyond a side privacy wall in my own back yard, although there is no written rule or regulation in the documents which would prohibit that?

Answer: In general, it is the HOAs right to dictate the exterior appearance of the homes. So, as a rule, an owner should always get approval of exterior modifications before proceeding. Even though the city may issue a permit, the HOA may have restrictions that override local zoning and building codes.

If the board has enacted broader architectural design restrictions than are found in the governing documents, these need to be documented in writing. It is not reasonable to expect owners to know these things by ESP. Also, such restrictions need to be reasonable. If your proposed enclosure is not visible from the street, what difference should it make to the board or the neighbors? Based on your description, this restriction does not seem reasonable and unless the board can produce an Architectural Design Policy that specifically prohibits it and the reasons for it, you should not be restrained from moving forward.

Question: Is it a problem if we are remodeling our clubhouse and a board member charges the materials to her personal credit card?

Answer: As a rule, HOA expenses should be billed or charged directly to the HOA so the record is clear about what was bought and why. It will also keep the record straight for warranties that are included with the purchases.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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What Should Your Credit Score Be to Buy a House?

What credit score do you need to get a home loan? While specifically, it can vary, there are certain things you should know before you apply for a mortgage to ensure youve put yourself in the best possible financial position.

Factors Impacting Your Credit Score

Before you explore specific loans, pull your credit report. You can look for errors that may need to be corrected and get a better idea of what you can do to improve it.

The factors that play a role in your credit score include:

Payment history: This is the main factor of a credit score, making up about 35 of your score. Your payment history is simply whether you pay your bills on time or not. Any creditors you have will report your activity every month to major credit bureaus. One or two late payments probably wont have a big impact, but a pattern of late payments will.
Debt: The amount of debt you owe across the board makes up around 30 of your score. Debt is also called your credit utilization ratio, and it looks at how much debt youre using versus whats available to you.
Credit age: Making up around 15 of your score is credit age. The longer you have accounts on your credit history the better, as long as theyre in good standing. If you have old accounts, keep them open if possible because this will affect your average credit age.

Other factors that are >

Your credit score is important not only because it determines whether you get financing for a home, but also the interest rate youre offered.

The following are typical ranges for credit scores:

Anything below 580 is considered very poor A fair score is one ranging from 580 to 669
A good credit score might range from 670 to 739
An excellent score is between 740 and 799
Anything 800 and above is considered exceptional

Conventional Loans

If youre applying for a conventional loan from a bank or a similar type of lender, you will usually need at least a 620 to qualify.

Conventional home loans follow Freddie Mac and Fannie Maes standards.

While 620 is the minimum, having that score doesnt mean youll be approved for a home loan. An excellent score is usually considered 740 and above, and with an excellent score youll likely not only qualify for a conventional home loan but youll also get a competitive interest rate and you may have a lower down payment requirement.

VA Loans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs insures VA loans. Theyre available to certain servicemembers and veterans of the U.S. Military, as well as spouses of military members who died while on active duty.

The minimum credit score for a VA loan is likely to be around 620, although this can vary, and theres no set minimum score.

FHA Loans

Insured by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans are less risky for lenders so you may find its easier to qualify. The minimum score for an FHA loan with a down payment of 3.5 is 580. If youre paying at least 10 for your down payment, theres no minimum required credit score.

If you have an FHA loan originated by a private lender, each will have its own minimum requirement for credit scores.

Other Factors Lenders Consider

Yes, your credit score determines whether your quality for a home loan and also what your interest rate will be, but other factors are >

Lenders will look at your income to ensure that you can afford your mortgage payments if you get a loan. Theyll also look at your existing debt in comparison to your income.

The more of a down payment you can make, the more likely youll qualify for a lower interest rate.

Lenders also want to know if you have savings if your income ends for a period of time. You should be able to show that you have enough money saved to cover at least two months of your mortgage payments.

Finally, employment history is >

If you have a low credit score, you could potentially still get a loan, but youre a riskier borrower.nbsp; Youll have to offset that risk, which means youll have to have a larger down payment, and youre also going to pay a higher interest rate.

> Full Story

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