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Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Affording a Home Requires Compromises - but Families Are Okay with That

In a perfect world, the overwhelming majority of young urban Canadian families would purchase a single-family home in move-in condition with a nice yard and a garage. In the real world, affordability issues require families to make compromises when they purchase real estate -but theyrsquo;re okay with that.

A survey of urban families where the adults are ages 20 to 45, conducted in Canadarsquo;s four largest cities, found that although 83 per cent of young families still aspire to own that singe-family dream home, only 56 of those surveyed actually purchased one. The others bought attached homes, a duplex/triplex/multiplex unit or a condominium. Despite making compromises to get into home ownership, 93 per cent of families are satisfied with their purchase and 78 per cent believe their investment will outperform or match their financial investments during the next five years.

The survey was conducted by market research firm Mustel Group on behalf of Sothebys International Realty Canada.

ldquo;Young families are much more influential in Canadarsquo;s metropolitan real estate markets than many realize. With 9.1 million Canadian millennials now entering the partnership, marriage and parenting stages of the family life cycle, the ranks of these modern families are swelling,rdquo; says Brad Henderson, president and CEO of Sothebyrsquo;s International Realty Canada. ldquo;Our research dispels several urban myths about the housing preferences of this group. It suggests that the wave of demand for single-family home ownership will continue to rise in spite of mounting affordability challenges. Moreover, it highlights the fact that cities will continue to face significant pressure to overcome these challenges with solutions that go beyond the addition of higher-density housing.rdquo;

The survey found that 43 per cent of families that have already purchased real estate have abandoned the idea of buying a single-detached home because of affordability issues, while 39 per cent still plan on purchasing one in the future.

RBCrsquo;s December 2018 affordability report says that rising interest rates in 2019 will ldquo;keep upward pressure on ownership costs. Softening prices in key markets and rising household income increases will provide some offset, however.rdquo;

RBC says the mortgage stress test, which requires borrowers to qualify at a higher rate than their offered rate, has added almost 36,000 to the qualifying income needed to buy an averaged priced home in Vancouver. In Toronto it has added 27,000.

The impact of the stress test has been felt across the country, but outside of the major cities, RBC says owning a home remains affordable in most other markets.

The Sothebys survey asked what modern buyers are looking for when buying a home. Value per square foot was the No. 1 answer, followed by the home being move-in ready and requiring little renovation, and having the desired number of bedrooms. Twenty-six per cent of respondents were looking for a newer home five years or less, while having an open-concept kitchen/dining/family room layout was important for 14 percent of those surveyed.

In Vancouver, having an existing or potential rental suite in the home was important to 11 per cent of respondents, but that was less important in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. Buying a home with smart home technology such as an electric car charger was cited by only one per cent of respondents.

Just 18 per cent of families said they didnrsquo;t have to make any comprises when they purchased their home. The compromise cited most often was going over budget. An equal number said the home required more renovation work than they would have preferred, and the property was older than desired. Some buyers got less square footage and yard space than hoped for, and 17 per cent decided on a location that was farther from downtown than they wanted.

But 95 per cent of Toronto families and 94 per cent of Montreal families said they are either ldquo;veryrdquo; or ldquo;somewhatrdquo; satisfied with their purchase. Ninety-one per cent of families in Calgary report some satisfaction and 90 per cent of Vancouver families are satisfied.

The survey was conducted from August 9 to September 9. Despite flattening real estate prices, most buyers are confident with the investment value of their purchase. Seventy-eight per cent of respondents say they think their home will outperform or match the performance of their financial investments in the next five years. Forty-eight per cent say real estate will outperform other financial investments.

One-third of the properties purchased by respondents were over 2,000 sq. ft., with 24 per cent between 1,000 and 1,499 sq. ft; 22 per cent between 1,500 and 1,999 sq. ft.; and 21 per cent with less than 1,000 sq. ft. Three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes were the most commonly purchased home. Eighty-three per cent had two or more bathrooms.

Full Story >

Payroll Numbers, Wage Gains Much Stronger Than Expected: Higher Rates Ahead?

Well, this was certainly a surprise. The first business Friday of each month is when the Labor Department >

The more important number from the Labor Department report is how many new jobs were created in December. Analysts were expecting a solid number but something closer to 177,000 new jobs. Instead, the number of new jobs hit 312,000. Thatrsquo;s a lot. Further, wage gains increased by 3.2 percent which is the fastest pace in nearly nine years. With more money in consumerrsquo;s pockets that can help keep an economy rolling as consumers feel more confident about their jobs and their financial position.

Okay, so does all this tell us about the future of mortgage rates? The Federal Reserve hiked the Federal Funds rate by 0.25 percent in December. In November, Fed Chair Powell reaffirmed there could be two more such hikes in 2019 but didnrsquo;t make as strong of a commitment to the move as with previous comments. And on January 4 of this year, Powell said the Fed lsquo;will be patientrsquo; with monetary policy as it sits back and watches how the overall economy performs.

While the Federal Reserve doesnrsquo;t affect your standard 30 year fixed rate it does provide investors with guidance on what the economy may do in the future. That standard 30 year fixed rate is tied to a specific bond and just like any other bond, when there is a greater demand for a bond, the yield falls. Investors donrsquo;t buy bonds for a large return but instead is a safety channel from uncertain equity markets. When the economy is buzzing right along, investors will tend to sell bonds and allocate more money into stocks.

This tells us that if this trend continues, we will in fact see higher mortgage rates ahead. There are those that are pointing out this strong jobs report is unsustainable and there are other recent economic reports that show some weakness in the economy and the stock boom will be short lived. If thatrsquo;s the case, while rates might be higher soon, they wonrsquo;t be as high as the December jobs numbers would indicate.

Full Story >

Learn to Laugh at Yourself

Maybe you said something in a sales meeting that was misunderstood that got a big laugh. Maybe you dropped a dessert in your lap at the company party and everyone laughed while you sat mortified, or you forgot how to open an MLS-locked door, with just your prospects watching.

How you respond when something happens to you can make or break the sale.

The two most embarrassing incidents of my career happened on the same day in front of the same prospect, the Chairman and CEO of the largest lender in the southeastern United States and four members of his senior management team.

I had been asked to make a presentation to become the exclusive marketing consultant for an unknown number of real estate developments they could or would soon own through foreclosure.

This was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I knew I was the man for the job. By the end of the day, I wanted to foreclose on my own career.

In one day, I spilled a cup of coffee on my new white shirt right before my presentation, and my suede coat caught on fire at the lenderrsquo;s Christmas party while talking to the chairman.

This opportunity was a huge one for a 43-year-old Realtor trying to survive in a world with fixed mortgage rates at 20 percent. I was dressed to the nines and poised to make a great first impression.

There was no doubt in my mind that I was the man for the job, and that I would get the business. I had the experience, track record, and wearing a new shirt with cuff links. lsquo;Confidentrsquo; does not begin to describe how I felt. At first.

I was seated on one side of the conference table drinking a cup of coffee waiting on the chairmanrsquo;s arrival through the door facing me. As he walked in, I stood, leaned across the table, shook his hand and sat down.

Before everyone was seated, I happened to notice a huge coffee stain on my shirt, which from my vantage point seem to spread from my shirt pocket to my belt and across my stomach.

I had dragged my tie through my coffee when I leaned across the table to shake the chairmanrsquo;s hand

Now, instead of listening to what he was saying, I was thinking to myself ldquo;How can I prove that I am not a complete and total slob?rdquo;

What would you have done?

Here is what I did.

I fakednbsp; an upset stomach and hurriedly excused myself as if going to the menrsquo;s room. What I really did was run across the street to a menrsquo;s store, purchase a new shirt and tie, put them on and run back to the meeting. It didnrsquo;t take five minutes.

I apologized but explained I was feeling better, trying hard not to breathe too heavily. The meeting went well, but I was a wreck. The CEO and other executives couldnrsquo;t stop grinning at me during the meeting, which I assumed was their overwhelming approval of my presentation.

At the end of the meeting, the chairman asked if anyone had any questions. No one did, but he said he had one.

Turning to me he said, ldquo;Fletcher, how did you do that?rdquo;

ldquo;Do what?rdquo; I asked.

ldquo;How did you get the coffee stain off of your shirt?rdquo;

By this time the room was rolling with laughter, as I haltingly explained what I had done. It was by far the most embarrassing thing to ever happened to me in a business meeting. But that claim was about to be negated by what was about to happen in front of 400 people later that same day.

I had been invited by one of the lenderrsquo;s board members to the lenderrsquo;s Christmas party that same night, which I haltingly attended because I did not want to replay the coffee saga with the CEO and his management team.

As we were standing around the buffet table enjoying our food and replaying the coffee stain saga, the executive vice president commented that he smelled smoke.

All of a sudden, the chairman said, ldquo;Hey, Fletch, your coat is on fire.rdquo; It seems that I had my elbow in a candle flame as I held my food plate. My coat was not on fire, but it was seriously scorched.

They started laughing so hard tears were coming down their faces. Irsquo;m thinking, ldquo;There has got to be cave I can crawl into and never come out of around here somewhere.rdquo; The only thing I knew to do was smile sheepishly and go along with their fun as the other 400 people at the party joined the CEO and his staff wondering, then discovering what happened. The words ldquo; crowd uproarrdquo; comes to mind.

On the way home I thought about quitting real estate altogether. When I got home I told my wife I had lost the business. There was no way they would hire someone who spilled coffee on their shirt and stuck his arm in a lighted candle. I was done.

I knew I would never get their business. I was wrong. One of the officers called the next day with the good news.

The result: I became the exclusive marketing consultant/or broker of record fornbsp; 27 lender properties over the next 3 years and the source of laughter with the client every time we talked.

Looking back, I believe it was the very day I felt the most like quitting that my career took off.

The Lesson: Moments such as these that show the real you and how you respond to the unexpected. Laughing it off works in most cases.

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Why You Should Buy an Investment Property First and a Home Second

If yoursquo;ve come to a point in life where you have saved up enough cash to put down on a house, it is the smarter financial move to buy an investment property and not a home. You are better off investing your money in a rental property, which will make more money for you while continuing renting. In a few yearsrsquo; time, you will have enough cash to not only buy the home of your dreams, but to also grow your real estate investment portfolio with another rental property.

Letrsquo;s have a look at the reasons why you should buy an investment property first and only then buy your own home:

1. Financing the Purchase

Most people have to take a mortgage loan when buying a home. Very few are lucky to have enough money in the bank to pay in all cash. Moreover, the majority of lenders other than traditional banks and a few government programs are hesitant to lend money to homebuyers as they donrsquo;t have a guarantee.

The situation is different with real estate investors. When buying a rental property, you are not limited to a conventional loan, but can also finance your property purchase through hard money lenders, private money lenders, crowdfunding, syndication, and other forms of partnerships. You have more options to get creative with financing as the rental income yoursquo;ll make from the property will help you pay off your loan faster and more efficiently.

In a sense, when you invest in real estate, it is your tenants ndash; and not you ndash; who make the monthly loan payments. So, month after month, you grow equity in your property without paying from your own pocket. Actually, your renters pay for all other recurring expenses such as property tax, insurance, maintenance, utilities, etc. as well. Thatrsquo;s one of the most important reasons to go for an investment property before purchasing a home, where you will be the one making all the payments.

2. Making Money in the Short Run

As a real estate investor, you should only buy positive cash flow properties. For this purpose, you have to conduct careful investment property analysis before deciding on a property. With positive cash flow properties, tenants not only make the monthly mortgage payments to the bank, but also make you money. Any part of the rent which doesnrsquo;t go towards the ongoing rental property expenses comes straight to your pocket in the form of profit. Indeed, as long as you buy a profitable property in the right market and manage it reasonably, rent is the most stable source of income out there. Moreover, you can start making money right away ndash; all you need is a property in a condition which allows to rent it out.

If you decide to buy a home instead, you donrsquo;t get to make money. Of course, you can say that if you continue to rent the place where you live, you will have to pay rent to the landlord, so you are losing money. The trick is to buy an investment property which brings you more cash than your own rent. You can do that by finding a profitable property type in a strong investment market.

3. Making Money in the Long Term

As a real estate investor, your goal is to make money. A rental property helps you achieve this goal not only in the short term but also in the long run. Once your housing market has experienced enough real estate appreciation, you can sell your investment property. The price you receive for it will be much higher than what you paid for it a few years ago.

Natural appreciation is one of the most important benefits of real estate investing. Thanks to it, you get to make money without putting any efforts into your property. All you have to do is to assure that you maintain it well.

This is different from selling your home. While you can easily sell your investment property to buy a bigger one or to buy two rental properties instead, selling your own home is a very emotional decision, which few will take upon.

4. Having No Limits on the Market

If you are buying a home, you obviously have to choose a property in your local housing market or within a few miles from it. This doesnrsquo;t make much sense in a high price to rent ratio market, where property prices are too high compared to monthly rental rates. For example, the price to rent ratio in Miami is really high at 29. The average monthly rent is 1,740, while the average property price is 616,000. Such a property price is not something which everyone can afford. In such a housing market, speaking from a pu>

At the same time though, if you are buying an investment property, you are not limited to any particular market. With the advancement of professional property management companies, out of state real estate investing is becoming an ever more popular option among property investors. With real estate investments, the sky is the limit. You can find a housing market with high rental demand and >

5. Facing No Restrictions on the Property Type

When you buy a home, you have to take care to choose a property which will serve your needs for decades to come. If you have a family or are thinking of starting one, you better go for a single-family home which will have enough rooms and space for your growing family. This limits the type and number of properties you can purchase in the local market. Not to mention that single-family homes cost significantly more than apartments or condos, letrsquo;s say.

If you are buying an investment property, however, you can choose any property type, as long as you can afford the down payment. This gives you significantly more options and opportunities to find a property within your budget.

6. Benefiting from Tax Deductions

When you buy a home, you have to start paying property taxes. This is not to say that you donrsquo;t have to pay taxes if you buy real estate for investment purposes. To the contrary, you have to pay property tax and income tax as well, but you can get tax deductions on many of your business expenses such as travel, office space, utilities, and others. As a real estate investor, you should utilize every opportunity to increase your cash flow and return on investment, so make sure to study all available tax deductions carefully as they apply to your particular situation.

Even if yoursquo;ve spent all your life to this point hearing how important it is to buy a home, you should keep your mind open and realize that this is not necessarily the best decision from a financial point of view. As a matter of fact, buying an investment property makes more sense. If you do your market research and property search well to land a positive cash flow property, you can start making and saving money from month one while growing your equity in your rental property. In this way, your investment property will help you save up enough money soon to buy the home of your dreams.

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

Full Story >

Making Your Home More Energy-Efficient

Replace or Weatherize All Windows

Windows are one of the biggest sources of heat gain and heat loss in a home. Both heat gain and heat loss rob you of comfort and keep your energy bills higher than they have to be, whether during the summer or winter months.

Windows rank high on the list because of air leakage around the frame and the heat that transfers through windowpanes. Old single-pane windows provide little protection against heat transference. If you replace these windows with energy-efficient windows you should see immediate savings and improved climate control in your home.

When choosing windows, consider the frame and not just glass. Frame material and frame design matters. Hinged windows allow less air leakage than sliding, single-hung or double-hung do. Avoid metal because these conduct heat. Choose insulated vinyl frames or insulated fiberglass frames for the most efficiency and durability.

Pay attention to glass efficiency ratings such as the U-factor and the solar heat gain coefficient. The right windows to choose depend largely upon regional climate. If you live in an area with hot summers and mild winters, you want glass that blocks out as much solar heat gain as possible.

Low-emissivity coatings on windowpanes reduce heat conduction through the glass, which benefits you by keeping hot air inside in winter and hot air outside in summer. There are other coatings and tints available, but you should still look for the Energy Star label. Only products that have met strict requirements by the EPA qualify for this special certification.

Seal the Homes Thermal Envelope

Air leakage through your homes exterior is another source of energy waste. Air infiltration makes your heating and cooling system work harder to maintain climate control. In order to find all of the hidden leaks, schedule an energy audit with an HVAC company. Until you do, seal the noticeable leaks. These can usually be found in the following areas:

  • bull; Around window frames and doors
  • bull; Beneath baseboards
  • bull; Around flues and chimneys

When sealing leaks in most areas, you can use caulk, weather-stripping or expandable spray foam insulation. Another method to control air leaks is to replace poorly fitting doors or other features and to use hardware with a type that creates a better seal. One example is barn door hardware. This kind of hardware can create a better air seal in some cases because the door slides into place instead of swinging open. This creates fewer opportunities for gaps between the door and the frame.

Upgrade Your Home HVAC System

If your homes HVAC system is older than ten years, consider replacing it with a new energy-efficient system that is Energy Star certified. Improvements in design make these systems far more energy-efficient than any in the past. If they are sized correctly and installed correctly, you should see lower bills and improved comfort and improved air quality.

Upgrade Insulation

Most homes have only the minimum required insulation. Older homes might even fall far short of the minimum simply because the insulation has become too wet, or it has become compressed or it has shifted.

Adding insulation to the attic will have the largest effects. It doesnt matter which kind of insulation you use as much as it matters that it is properly installed, with no gaps, and that you use the recommended quantity for your region.

Adding insulation to exterior walls doesnt have to be a big remodeling project. Much of the time, it can be blown into walls by a contractor.

Use a Programmable Thermostat

These thermostats make a home more energy efficient in the following ways:

  • You wont have to remember to set the temperature lower or higher before you run out of the house each the morning, because you can program the thermostat to do it for you each day.
  • You can program different energy-saving temperature settings for special occasions, such as vacations, and you can still come home to a comfortable house.
  • Some new thermostats even allow you to check them remotely, sparing you from worrying about whether the home is getting too hot or cold while you are away.

By implementing these ideas, you have little to lose and a lot to gain in terms of comfort and savings. If it feels overwhelming or it is hard on your budget to make all of these changes at once, try to do them in steps. Each time you take even one step towards more energy efficiency, you will start saving money on energy bills.

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Clever Tips to Make Painting Your Home Easier

Wrap it up

One of the most painful tasks associated with the painting is having to clean up at the end of the day. If you hate cleaning your brushes, this tip is for you. The best way to preserve your brush if youre done for the day or the time being but not done with the job, is to wrap it in plastic wrap and throw it in the freezer overnight. But, it does require about 15 minutes of thawing out the following day before you can begin again. We found that putting the brush in a Ziploc bag and making it as airtight as possible does a fine job of keeping the brush pliable for the next day, and you can just pick it up and go without the wait.

Line it

Paint tray liners are helpful in extending the life of your paint tray and minimizing clean up, but if you dont want to spend the money, head to your kitchen, instead. Aluminum foil or plastic wrap wrapped around your paint tray will keep it clean.

Keep that foil handy

Readers Digest notes that aluminum foil is also great when painting a door. "When youre painting a door, aluminum foil is great for wrapping doorknobs to keep paint off them. Overlap the foil onto the door when you wrap the knob, then run a sharp utility knife around the base of the knob to trim the foil. That way you can paint right up to the edge of the knob. In addition to wrapping knobs on the doors that youll paint, wrap all the doorknobs that are along the route to where you will clean your hands and brushes."

Dust those walls

Prepping is key to a successful paint job, but if youre doing a quick cleanup of your walls before painting, you may not want to spray cleaner on them for fear that the paint wont adhere well. Use a Swiffer duster instead. Dust will cling to it and youll have a clean surface to paint on. nbsp;A dryer sheet is another good option for getting the dust off your surfaces - especially baseboards - before you begin.

Take out the smell

If youre using a VOC paint, any odor should be minor. But if you want to ensure the smell is pleasant, add some vanilla. "To neutralize the strong smell of any type of paint, add one tablespoon of vanilla extract a natural deodorizer per gallon. It wont affect the color of the paint," said HGTV.


Use a quality paintbrush

You can spend about 1 on a paint brush or you can spend the equivalent of a good lunch, and the difference will be obvious when the cheaper version leaves brush marks and bristles on your wall. Get a decent brush for a better finish, and choose an angled version for cutting in. The better the brush and paint, the better the chance you can do without all that pesky taping.

Buy the right amount of paint from the start

"Oh, I just need one gallon," said everyone, everywhere. But how much do you really need? Knowing ahead of time will keep you from having to make a return trip to the store, and help ensure your color is consistent. Color matching is better than ever at paint stores and places like Home Depot and Lowes. But there still might be a slight variation in the color if you have to go back to purchase more paint. Measure your space and you wont have to worry about it.

"The general rule is one gallon for every 350 square feet of surface area," said Real Simple. "All you have to do is measure walls roughly, then go tonbsp;Sherwin-Williams.comnbsp;and type the dimensions into the easy online paint calculator. This tool will also ask for measurements of windows, doors, and trim so it can come up with a more precise total. Whatever the number, buy an extra quart for touch-ups."

Wipe it up

Have a few drips to clean up on tile or wood floors? An alcohol wipe or wet rag will do the trick. Or, grab a cleansing facial wipe that contains alcohol. Youd be surprised how well these work.

Add a rubber band

Wrap one around your paint can so you have an easy way to wipe your paint brush and avoid drips.

Combat humidity

"Humidity means drips and slow drying, so avoid painting on a rainy day," said DIY Network. "If you must paint when its humid, take your time - and take advantage of slow-drying paint to correct your errors before moving on to the next coat."

You can reduce the amount of humidity in your home by flipping on your air-conditioning as well as any vent and exhaust fans you have in the home, in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry areas.

Put some holes in it

"When you pour the paint, it can go everywhere," said The Bold Abode.nbsp;"It drips all over the sides and then dries hard as a rock on the edges. Whennbsp;that happens, not even King Kong himself could pound that lid down hard enough to close it secu>

Get creative with plastic bags

For awkward spaces where a drop cloth might not be the right choice, heed this tip from Family Handyman and raid your plastic bag stash. Itll keep your stuff drip-free and wont cost a thing.

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Housing Counsel Public Condo Law vs. Private Condo Law

Question: I am the President of a mid-size condominium in Washington.

Our Bylaws specifically prohibit short-term rentals of any kind. The board ndash; and most of our members ndash; agree that cutting out short term rentals and subleases of less than a year helps cut down on the move in and out traffic that creates maintenance distress, having renters that donrsquo;t care about the building and administrative tracking of who resides in the building.

One of our board members called to my attention that the Council of the District of Columbia recently enacted legislation that will allow ndash; under certain conditions ndash; using an ownerrsquo;s primary residence for such short term rentals as AirBnb.

Our question: are our current Bylaws, rules and regs unlawful in DC? We donrsquo;t really want to change this for reasons above, but we certainly want to be compliant with DC law.

Answer: First, assuming that the Mayor does not veto the Act, and assuming Congress stays out of the Districtrsquo;s business ndash; the law will take effect October 1, 2019.

The simple answer to your question is no, your Bylaws ndash; assuming they are recorded among the District land records ndash; are perfectly legal and enforceable. The community association attorneys here in Washington arrange to have the following language included in the new law: ldquo;if the short-term rental is on property within a condominium, cooperative, or homeowner association, the host shall provide proof that the ...association permits the operation of a short-term rental..rdquo;

If the host ndash; the owner who wants to use the unit for short term rentals ndash; finds language in the associationrsquo;s governing documents prohibiting such rentals ndash; but nevertheless proceeds with such rentals, there are strict civil penalties. For the first violation, 500; 2000 for the second, and 6,000 for the third and revocation of the business license. These are fined levied by the City.

Let us assume, however, that such additional language was not included in the new law. If the associationrsquo;s Bylaws prohibited short-term rentals, that would still be enforceable by the condo board. There is what I call ldquo;private zoning vs. public zoningrdquo;. Example: DC zoning is commercial, including medical clinics but the condo bylaws specifically disallows such clinics

Since the condo bylaws are more restrictive than the public law, it is valid. However, if the zoning is residential, the condo cannot allow commercial use unless the owner obtains a ldquo;home occupancy permitrdquo; from the District.

The condo board can also fine the owner who is violating the By-laws. However, District of Columbia law requires that the owner must first be provided a notice and an opportunity to be heard, before any fine can be imposed. This is not a formal court hearing; it is a meeting between the alleged violator and either the board or a committee appointed by the board. It gives the owner due process rights to try to explain why there was no violation.

This same due process opportunity for a hearing is also in the Maryland and Virginia condominium acts.

As you can see, it all depends on the zoning laws, the condo law in your jurisdiction, and your governing documents.

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Whats the Real Impact of the Government Shutdown on Real Estate?

ldquo;An NAR survey of 2,211 members found 75 percent had no impact to their contract signings or closings. However, 11 percent did report an impact on current clients and 11 percent on potential clients,rdquo; said the National Association of Realtors. Among those impacted by the shutdown, 17 percent had a closing delay because of a USDA loan.rdquo;

The most impacted areas of the market surround:

Buyer uncertainty

Consumer confidence is always a topic of conversation when it comes to real estate, and with rising interest rates and a roller coaster stock market, a government shutdown only makes the issues that much stickier. According to the NAR study, ldquo;The most common impact, at 25 percent, was the buyer decided not to buy due to general economic uncertainty, though they were not a federal government employee.rdquo;

Loan approvals/Closing delays

Whether or not your loan and/or closing is impacted by the government shutdown largely depends on the type of loan you are getting. ldquo;If youre getting a Federal Housing Administration or Department of Veterans Affairs loan, its likely you can expect delays in the underwriting process, and its possible your closing date will be pushed back as well,rdquo; said the Dallas Morning News.

HUD has said that while new FHA loans will be endorsed during the shutdown, ldquo;Some delays with FHA processing may occur due to short staffing.rdquo; In addition, new Home Equity Conversion Mortgages HECM, more commonly referred to as reverse mortgages, are on hold for now.

While the White House has insisted that the Internal Revenue Service IRS process tax refunds during the shutdown, itrsquo;s made no such mandate in regards to helping consumers who need info because theyrsquo;re buying a home. That means that buyers wonrsquo;t be able to requests tax return transcripts, which may be required by lenders, thereby delaying the purchasing process.

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5 Reasons to Buy a Fixer-Upper Instead of a Perfect Place

.It costs less

ldquo;Fixer-uppers list for an average of 8 below market value,rdquo; said LearnVest. If yoursquo;re on a budget or are being priced out in your market, this is a way to get a literal foot in the door. How much depends greatly on the location. ldquo;Fixer-uppers in Phoenix have the smallest cash discount, saving buyers just 1,000 off list price. But you can save a lot of money in expensive markets like San Francisco, where fixer-uppers are discounted an average of 10mdash;giving homebuyers 54,000 in upfront savings for renovations on the median home.rdquo;

You may be able to finance your renovation

One of the major drawbacks of buying a home that needs to be fixed up is having to come up with the cashmdash;especially after yoursquo;ve just put so much money into your down payment and closing costs. There are a few different types of loans that package the mortgage with funds for renovations, and they often come as a surprise to buyers who have only focused on FHA and 30-year conventional loans.

ldquo;Whether you need a new roof or your kitchen is outdated, there is a mortgage thatrsquo;s right for your fixer-upper,rdquo; said Bankrate. Fannie Maersquo;s Home>

It gives you the opportunity to build value

With an already-updated home, ldquo;If a seller has redecorated or improved the whole place, that seller is reaping the benefit,rdquo; said Forbes. ldquo;If the homes value has been raised, the buyer is paying for it. Also, consider this reality: A seller who re-does a whole house in order to sell is not likely putting in the highest-quality materials. Theyre cutting costs to maximize profit. But if you buy a fixer-upper, you might be able to secure an undervalued property, improve it and get the benefit of the extra equity. Its a core real estate concept. If you can find the right property, this could mean thousands of dollars almost immediately.rdquo;

You can do renovations over time

There may be a few things you canrsquo;t live with in a fixer-upper, like the grungy carpet and cruddy plumbing fixtures, but no one other than design shows says your place has to be perfect the day you move in. Taking your time to make updates as yoursquo;re able gives you the opportunity to save money and recover from all the expenses of buying the home and moving in.

It allows you to put your stamp on it

When you buy a home that was lived in and fixed up by someone else, it reflects their taste and >

ldquo;One of the primary reasons people buy fixer-upper properties is for the opportunity to make the space their own,rdquo; said Green Residential. ldquo;Instead of purchasing a home in which someone else designed the layout, chose the materials, and dictated where different elements were placed, you can buy a basic structure and then take charge. Itrsquo;s like building your own home without having to go through the lengthy process of drawing plans and constructing it from the ground up.rdquo;

Full Story >

What You Dont Know About Real Estate Could Cost You

Itrsquo;s what you donrsquo;t know about real estate that could cost younbsp;when buying or selling.

bull; First-time buyers usually havenrsquo;t seen enough houses or condominium units to fully understand where real estate value lies.

They may not have been caretaker of a house and, therefore, donrsquo;t notice subtle signs of damage, sloppy construction, poor maintenance, or worn-out elements. Those who have visited friendsrsquo; houses will ra>

bull; First-time-in-a-longtime buyers may not realize that they are out of touch with advances in materials, modern design approaches, or evolving life>

This can lead them to under- or over-value new houses or condominium units.nbsp;For example, quartz kitchen countersnbsp;have gained popularity over marble and granite for several reasons. Open-concept design is preferred by those with small children or those who live to entertain, but not by those who are untidy, >

bull; First-time sellers who base resale value on their total costnbsp;of acquiring and maintaining real estate ownership, plus expectednbsp;profit, have missed the point.

Emotions, including pride of ownership, can get in the way and prove expensive. Sellers may believe that their cost of buying and transforming the property into their home, plus money spent on maintenance and upgrades, plus profit and the cost of selling, including commission, add up to their actual ldquo;bottom linerdquo; for resale value. Problems arise for sellers when this must-have sale price is not in line with market value, which is value determined by the real estate market - current buyers and previous sales. When the seller expects more than market value, this ldquo;over-priced listingrdquo; may take longer to sell, may eventually sell for less, or may fail to find a buyer. First-time sellers may lack experience evaluating how their property compares with local property values and appraising their property from the perspective of current active buyers.

Value determination and marketing - or communicating action-enticing value to potential buyers - represent two different professional real estate selling-skill sets, neither of which are usually possessed by sellers.

bull; Empty-nester and downsizing sellers may decide, in theory, that smaller and cheaper are the characteristics they desire in their next property, but some discover itrsquo;s a different story in practice.

When faced with the actual move to a smaller house in a cheaper location, they may find the mental leap too great. Downsizing is often wrongly considered me>

Many faced with wanting a change find they lack the real estate knowledge and planning expertise to make the shift gracefully acceptable and financially successfully.

bull; Newbie real estate investors may believe that crunching numbers to determine how much profit they want and what it will cost to achieve this profit is all it takes.

Creating an offer to purchase, which entices a property owner to sell for the buyerrsquo;s desired price, requires special professional expertise. Then, offering the property for profit-generating rent that will attract qualified prospective renters involves a different set of professional skills. Many new investors possess neither skill set, which are both common in real estate professionals.

The emotional element regarding what sellers will sell for and what renters will pay to live in the resulting investment property can influence financial gain and bottom-line projections. Skill and experience is essential to investors taking all this into account to create profit.

What you donrsquo;t know about property ownership and real estate transactions can cost you when buying or selling, wherever you fit in on the list of buyers and sellers above. Do you have experience with contracts, financing, interior design, renovation, conflict resolutionhellip;? Then, therersquo;s marketing - both using it to persuade others and personally fending off its effects when yoursquo;re making decisions.

What you donrsquo;t know about real estate, real estate professionals do. They are committed to studying and keeping up to date on what matters. Most have spent years on the job perfecting their expertise and learning local markets.

Would you surgically operate on yourself or drill your own teeth? Itrsquo;s that extreme an issue when you donrsquo;t engage available professional skill and knowledge to work for and with you.

Concentrate on learning what the right real estate professional cannbsp;help you achieve.

Not the least of which is discovering what you donrsquo;t know about buying and selling. When you think, my goal is ldquo;buy my dream homerdquo; or ldquo;sell at my dream price,rdquo; understand what will have to happen and what you must do to achieve the desired outcome.

If you donrsquo;t know where to start, no problem.

Real estate professionals are trained to know what needs to be done for prospects and clients every day, every offer, every transactionhellip;. Do you know what yoursquo;ll gain with professional help? How determined are you to achieve real estate goals and exceed your expectations, as quickly and hassle-free as possible?

To continue learning about buying and selling real estate, checkout more Realty Times articles by PJ Wadenbsp;The Catalyst:

bull; 4 "Big Regrets" to Avoid When Buying a Homenbsp;
bull; Trends Cost Sellers Money
bull; Ready to Talk About Real Estate?

Full Story >

Time to Move to Los Angeles: City Unveils Early Earthquake Alert System

In a >

Those who have avoided Los Angeles for fear of an impending earthquakemdash;or simply lived with the fear of overstressed faults and grinding tectonic platesmdash;may be able to make those plans to move, or breathe a little easier from their So Cal home.

ldquo;Los Angeles has unveiled its long-anticipated earthquake early warning app for Android and Apple smartphones, which is now available for download,rdquo; said the Los Angeles Times. ldquo;ShakeAlertLA, an app created under the oversight of Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city, is designed to work with the U.S. Geological Surveyrsquo;s earthquake early warning system, which has been under development for years. Itrsquo;s designed to give users secondsmdash;perhaps even tens of secondsmdash;before shaking from a distant earthquake arrives at a userrsquo;s location.rdquo;

According to the app, a 5.0 or greater earthquake in Los Angeles County triggers an early warning, ldquo;often before you feel shaking,rdquo; that is sent out to smartphones. These ldquo;precious secondsrdquo; are critical, said Garcetti, allowing people to ldquo;stop elevators, to pull to the side of the road, to drop, cover and hold on.rdquo;

ShakeAlert makes Los Angeles the first city in the country with a public early warning system; more widespread use across California is in the works through Early Warning Labs, a Santa Monica-based company developing an app called QuakeAlert. In addition, ldquo;Hunter Owens, the cityrsquo;s data scientist, noted on Twitter that the apprsquo;s code has been made open-source for other cities or states to use,rdquo; saidnbsp;Curbed.

ldquo;For more than a decade, the USGS has worked with a group of universities and research institutions to secure funding and build out the sensor network for the ShakeAlert program, which distributes the seismic data to the City of L.A.rsquo;s app. The initial goal of the ShakeAlert system was to create an early warning system for the entire West Coast, but federal dollars to pay for development were repeatedly zeroed out during budgeting,rdquo;

The L.A. Times notes that, while not perfect, early warning systems ldquo;helped prevent deadly derailments of high-speed trains in Japan before shaking arrived from the magnitude 9.1 earthquake of 2011, for instance, signaling the trains to slow down. Memorably, the national Japanese broadcaster NHK aired an earthquake warning about 90 seconds before the strongest shaking arrived in Tokyo. Warnings that buzzed in >

According to one study, people in the epicenter of the Japan quake had a 15- to 20-second head start to find safety before the heaviest shaking occurred.

Full Story >

Written Contracts are Important in an HOA?

Answer: Yes, I have a number of suggestions and recommendations.

The first thing you should remember is that the Board is -- or must be -- in charge of the operations of your Association. You >

Furthermore, the fact that you have been using the same contractors each and every year does not mean you should continue the status quo.

Ask your property manager to prepare a list of all existing contracts. It can be in a form, which would look something like this:

Contractornbsp; nbsp; Brief Summary of Servicesnbsp; nbsp; Costnbsp; nbsp; Termination Date

This list should be updated at least quarterly. Furthermore, the manager or your association attorney should review each contract to determine how these contracts can be terminated, and whether these contracts will automatically continue unless advance notice is given to the contractor.

Then, at least two months before a particular contract is about to expire, the manager should solicit at least three bids from potential contractors. The manager should prepare a brief summary of each bid, and make a recommendation to the Board. But the Board -- and only the Board -- should make the ultimate decision. And make sure you currently have the right to cancel the existing contract should you opt for a new one.

This highlights perhaps the most important point of this article: you must have a written contract for every contractor that your Association uses.

Why? Because you want to know -- in advance -- exactly what services the contractor will provide, what the cost will be, and how you resolve disputes should they arise.

This is not a hypothetical situation. Our office has handled hundreds of contractor disputes, ranging from dissatisfaction with services, arguments over the scope or quality of the work to be performed, to questions of how much the contractor should be paid.

Why take a chance and >

l. Dispute resolution procedures. Should you agree to arbitrate any disputes or do you want to go to Court? My personal belief is that although arbitration is clearly faster and usually less expensive than litigation, the arbitration process is not in the best interest of most associations. Often, the arbitrator "splits the baby in half", without regard to the merits of the case. Usually, the arbitrator does not allow either side to obtain discovery prior to the hearing. In any event, if you decide that arbitration is the best route for your Association, the following clauses should be included in the contract:

a. The arbitrator will issue a written opinion;
b. The arbitrator shall award attorneys fees and costs to the prevailing party.

2. Payment schedule. You want to spell out in writing exactly when the contractor will be paid, and under what circumstances you have the right to withhold payment.

3. Provisions for final payment. Make sure that a professional has inspected the work when the job is finished, and that the Association obtains a >

4. If you are doing a big job, you should consider hiring a project engineer or architect. This person will be a buffer between the Association and the contractor, and will have to approve the work before payments are made.

5. Make sure you limit the hours of the contractor. You do not want to have concrete blasted at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning, but you do want to make sure that a heavy snowfall is plowed early in the morning. Also, all contracts should require the contractor maintain appropriate licenses and insurance.

This article cannot cover all of the important legal aspects, which must be included in any contract. You should review your procedures with your attorney and your property manager.

Full Story >

This Anti-Theft Device for Homes Could Be a Game Changer

While whatever security measures you had in place to keep the burglars out may have failed here, you now have a better chance than ever of getting your things back, thanks to a cool new product from ProTech DNA called DNA for Property.

And, the best part is: Itrsquo;s free, courtesy of the insurance industry, who was smart enough to see the advantage of underwriting the product instead of having to pay to replace their customersrsquo; stolen stuff. After all, according to safewise, ldquo;More than five million thefts occur nationally each yearrdquo; Thatrsquo;s a lot of money out of pocket for you, if yoursquo;re a victim of theft, and for the insurance company who has to pay out a claim.

National investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen profiled the product on TODAY, demonstrating how it can greatly increase the chances that burglary victims will get their stolen items back. ldquo;In many cases, once police have recovered the items, its difficult for them to determine the rightful owner,rdquo; they said.

This anti-theft kit is poised to put an end to that problem; the product is a game changer that uses DNA to ldquo;tagrdquo; your things. According to the company, DNA for Property is a ldquo;forensic marking solution that will put your unique identifier on all your valuables. Each Dot is made of nickel, and has a unique PIN Personal Identification Number. The glue/adhesive contains a UV trace that will glow under a black light.rdquo;

So far, more than 5,000 police departments across the country have partnered with the company, with another 1,000 being added each month, creating a widespread national anti-theft system.

Each kit comes with enough gel to tag about 100 items, so you donrsquo;t have to play Sophiersquo;s Choice with your possessions. Safewise has a good rundown of the most likely items to get stolen in a home burglary to assist you in choosing what to include. Their No. 1: Cash. While yoursquo;re probably not going to mark every dollar bill that comes through your home, this is a great reminder to tag your stash of emergency cash or any bundles you keep in a safe or other presumably secure place in your home while yoursquo;re marking your laptops, TV, and art pieces.

You can get your free DNA kit from their website.

Full Story >

How To Keep From Going House Poor

A few smart strategies can help you avoid becoming house poor.

Think hard about that preapproval amount

Just because the bank tells you that you can buy a 400,000 home doesnt mean you have to spend all 400,000. It might be that youre not comfortable with a payment that high if it means you wont have a cushion and cant continue to contribute to your savings.

Things youll want to consider:

Can you continue to invest the way you want to?

Will you be able to keep up or build your emergency fund - "A savings account stuffed with six months expenses or more is a vital part of financial stability," said Money Under 30.

Are you going to have enough money left over to establish a bank account buffer? "Whether youre 15, 25 or 65, if youre having trouble with your money and want to improve, the very first step you should take is to build a bank account buffer," said Money Under 30. "A bank account buffer is my name for what other people may call a cash cushion, mini emergency fund, rainy day fund or back-up savings. When you have a bank account buffer in place, you dont have to worry that a poorly timed Starbucks break you charged to your debit card will overdraw your account and trigger a 35 overdraft fee."

Calculate your ENTIRE payment

Principle and interest will only tell you part of the story. Same with principle, interest, taxes, and insurance. If youre not also taking into account any Private Mortgage Insurance you need to pay, your Homeowners Association fee, and any special assessments, youre not looking at the whole picture.

Budget for additional expenses

This is not the place for that buffer referenced above, but, rather, a way to make sure you can really handle the home you want without living paycheck to paycheck or, even worse, going into even more debt just so you dont sink. If you dont currently have a yard or are renting, you may not be accustomed to paying landscaping fees. If your new home has a pool, dont forget to budget for that pool cleaner. If youre moving to a larger home, you may also have an increase in costs for your house cleaning service and utilities, and if your commute is longer, you may be paying more in gas and tolls. They are the little things that can creep up and affect your bottom line.

Dont do improvements right away

You might want to wait a few months to see how your expenses pan out before you empty your savings on a new kitchen. Ditto for buying a houseful of new furniture. The desire to fix up the house to your standards or pack it with all-new everything is strong. But a little patience can go a long way. Spreading out your purchases while you increase your savings and waiting for sales and zero interest credit offers can help keep your budget in check.

Be careful with an equity line

Having equity in your home is great if it means you made a smart investment. But using it irresponsibly can quickly make your budget spin out of control. The good news is that, according to Co>

Get a home warranty

Experts are on the fence about thismdash;some say you absolutely have to have one while others find it a waste of money. But if youre the type for whom coming up with thousands of dollars to replace the faulty air conditioner thats no longer conditioning anything or a refrigerator thats stopped refrigerating will be a hardship, the minimal monthly output is far outweighed by the peace of mind of knowing most of your large repairs will be covered.

Claim a homestead exemption

In some states, you can file a homestead exemption to lower your property taxes. Savings can add up to hundreds of dollars per year or more. You can get more information and learn whos eligible here.

Change your tax withholding

One of the great benefits of homeownership is the tax writeoff. If you leave your withholdings alone, you may expect to get a big chunk of money back at the end of the year, as long as nothing else has changed. But by adjusting your withholdings, you can hold on to more of your money every month to help offset higher expenses.

After you buy a home, "payroll withholdings should also be reexamined and, perhaps, reduced to account for the reduction in net tax liability," said HGTV. "Talk to your tax preparer or use the IRS withholding calculator, to get the numbers right."

Full Story >

Is It Time to Go Green in 2019?

Not just millennials

ldquo;This year, we saw an even greater interest from homebuyers to seek out a potential home that offered green sustainable features,rdquo; said Green Home Builder. ldquo;These potential homebuyers included not just your typical lsquo;younger generation millennialrsquo; type buyer, but spanned across a multitude of generations. They ranged from millennials, to Gen-X-ers, up to seniors, and even Baby Boomers.rdquo;

Expanding on that idea, a nationwide MIT AgeLab survey that looked at the difference between the environmental attitudes and behaviors of Millennials and older generations found two interesting trends:

bull; Volunteeringmdash;ldquo;According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, older Gen X and Baby Boomers perform a significant portion of volunteer work, which means at the atomic level of environmental actionmdash;cleaning riverbanks, scrubbing bird feathers, rescuing sea turtlesmdash;is often in the hands of older adults,rdquo; said Forbes.

bull; Investmentsmdash;ldquo;The AgeLab findings may help explain the fast-growing level of interest in ESG investments, which have grown by more than 97 in the last 20 years. ESG investments are those that take into account the environmental and social impact of companies in the process of investing.rdquo;

More thoughtful investments

In fact, eco->

Most-wanted features

ldquo;The features most desired by this wide range of potential buyers included ENERGY-STAR rated appliances, more energy-efficient windows and more water-conserving features,rdquo; according to Green Home Builder. None of this comes as a big surprise, but the next one is interesting because it takes into account not just energy-efficiency for use today, but also at how eco-friendliness is a saleable feature that provides good return of investment down the line.

ldquo;Some even asked for insulation that exceeded the current code to take into account future changes or upgrades,rdquo; they said. ldquo;This more conscious buyer was looking to purchase a home that would not only save them money in terms of efficiency but also make them money on future resale by having a greener, more sustainable, and more energy-efficient home, thus making it more desirable to future buyers.rdquo;

Asked and answered

A growing desire for energy-efficient featuresmdash;ldquo;According to an NAHB report, a whopping 70 percent of potential buyers expressed the desire to purchase a home with these features in mind,rdquo; said Green Home Buildermdash;is being noticed, and addressed, by homebuilders. They ldquo;responded in kind by more than a quarter of their new construction being built that meets Bronze-level certification,rdquo; they said.

Some builders are going beyond a basic, or even advanced, array of included green features in their homes. De Young Properties has built several communities of net zero new homes in Fresno and Clovis, CA. Red Fox Crossing, Wisconsinrsquo;s first net zero Community, is now selling, while Living Zenithrsquo;s net zero homes in Salt Lake City, Utahrsquo;s first net zero community, are sold out.

Full Story >

Fixer Upper Properties: What You Really Need to Know

I. Definitions -- There are different degrees of fixing.

A. Cosmetic repair -- Paint, landscaping, carpets, clean-up, minor repairs. refurbishing
B. Rehabilitating -- Making livable again, habitable.
C. Renovating -- To make new, restoring
D. Remodeling -- Room additions, balcony, changing floor plan.

These are listed in order of expense, work required and expertise. They represent four "sub" Wealth Traks of Fixers.

II. Personality Profile -- Some of the characteristics of a Fixer/investor include:

A. Knowing how to fix and repair property -- while this is not an absolute requirement, it is a plus.
B. Above average patience -- you are dealing with many different human beings in this process.
C. A spirit of adventure -- who knows what youll find when you tear into that wall.
D. Sense of humor - prerequisite for living
E. Perseverance and commitment
F. Enthusiasm
G. Management and organizational skills -- you will be leading a team.
H. Recordkeeping skills -- critical for tax purposes.
I. Negotiating skills -- you may be dealing with vendors.
J. Creative mind -- How can you change the undesirable into desirable?

If you are weak in more than a few of the above areas, maybe you should consider another Wealth Trak. It takes more time and expertise than other Wealth Traks. In the beginning, try to select properties that need only cosmetic improvement such as paint, landscaping, paneling, etc.

III. Objectives

A. Cash flow -- Buy low - fix - increase income value - hold

bull; Rent for positive cash flow. To make this work, you need to buy it right which will probably mean a pretty abused property.
bull; This is best accomplished in a slow market. In a slow market, properties remain on the market longer, and sellers become more motivated to be flexible both in price and terms. Additionally, if fewer people are buying, more are renting, and this increases the demand and thus the income of the rental property.
bull; Before you write the offer, you must determine the value and rent of the property after the fix-up, what it will take cash to acquire the property, how long it will take to improve it so you can rent it out. When the market turns, you may decide to sell it for a profit and move on to your next project.
bull; Can you structure the seller portion of the financing so that the first payment is not due until the property is rented?

B. Capital Gain -- Buy - fix - increase income value --sell

bull; This requires an active or "hot" market. The seller will probably be less flexible, but you dont expect to remain on the property any longer than required to fix it up. Youve got two things working for you, the added value from your work, and the increase in value typical in an active market.
IV. Finding the Property

A. Find the neighborhood -- Choose an area where the "Four Great Forces" and general principles of value work to your advantage.

1. Close to higher price/new construction

a. principle of integration -- life cycles of properties

1 integration
2 equilibrium
3 disintegration

b. principle of progression -- value tends toward a median

2. Scattered fix up occurring -- fixing up is contagious if one owner fixes up and increases rent, others will follow. Try not to be a "pioneer."

3. In an area that is generally well kept and stable in which the investment property is one of few that needs work. Principle of progression

4. Well known, high-quality school system - Physical forces

5. Small home mixed with larger homes -- Possible room additions progression

6. Rehab government loans and rebates available -- Political forces

7. Jobs -- Increasing or decreasing in the area; wages, going up? Economic forces

8. Transportation corridors -- Physical forces

9. Stay away from properties on busy streets or too close to schools or playgrounds.

B. Where do I get this kind of information?

1. City Council Person or staff
2. County Board of Supervisors
3. Caltrans or appropriate state Dept. of Highways
4. Chamber of Commerce
5. Lenders
6. Community Planning groups
7. Realtors
8. Local contractors
9. Residents

C. Some things can be fixed; some cant.

1. Physical deterioration - Wear and tear due to lack of care; deferred maintenance. This is usually "curable." Sometimes it is not. Be aware of the following:

a. Are there any suspicious cracks or breaks?
b. Is basement free of evidence of water problems musty smell, mold, puddling, moisture where walls and floors meet, stains?
c. Is it copper plumbed?
d. Is heating and air conditioning in good working order?
e. Is electrical wiring up to code and adequate?
f. Is roof in good condition?

2. Functional obsolescence -- Outdated fixtures, old-fashioned design -- usually curable, may take permits, will municipality allow it? No room for lot/height restrictions, is property up to code, is there adequate parking?

3. Economic or social obsolescence -- Declining area, you cant do anything about this; incurable.

What you are looking for are the properties with minor, cosmetic needs. These can be corrected >

D. Find a "Dont Wanter" or a "Wanter" where the owner does not have the information and expertise you have:

1. Look for the rundown properties.

a. tall grass, weeds, needs landscaping
b. Peeling paint
c. abandoned vehicles on the property
d. Broken, boarded up windows
e. fire damage
f. water or wind damage
g. Signs of mismanagement, cars on the lawn
h. vacant

2. Look for under-improved properties.

a. two bedroom house in a three bedroom neighborhood
b. zoned for more units that exist on the property

3. Buy and hold or buy and sell? Depends on market conditions.

4. If buy and hold - What are fair market rents for fixed up properties? Do a rent survey and keep up with your market. Structure the purchase:

Down Payment ____________
First Loan ____________ Pymt___________
Second Loan ___________Pymt___________
Third Loan ____________ Pymt___________
Monthly Outflow

Loan Payments ___________
Prop taxes ___________
Insurance ___________

Total Monthly outflow ___________
Income Amt ____________
Cash Flow Amt ____________
Cost to rehab ____________
Purchase and Acquisition Costs ____________
Disposition Expenses ____________
Monthly Cash Flow negative X Time ____________

Total into project ____________

Value at completion of project ____________

Be sure to negotiate a subordination agreement into the purchase if you plan to refinance to do remodeling.

Is there enough profit in here for the risk you are taking?

V. Structural Analysis

A. Desirable features

1. At least one bathroom on each floor
2. Large kitchens room for table and chairs
3. Entrance foyer
4. Family room
5. Garage
6. Pitched roof
7. Gas vs. electrical utilities - depends on location
8. Room for RV parking/pool
9. Hardwood floors under the old carpets
10. Can you think of any?

B. Undesirable features

1. Walk through bedrooms
2. Dark
3. No window in the kitchen
4. Narrow hallways
5. No windows in bathrooms
6. Small room size
7. Not enough cupboard or closet space
8. Flat roof
9. Can you think of any?

VI. Improvements to the Property

A. Low cost, high return items

1. Yard clean -up and landscaping
2. Paint
3. Wallpaper and paneling
4. New kitchen flooring
5. Refinishing hardwood floors in appropriate rooms
6. Facia
7. New front door
8. Light switch plates, door knobs, light fixtures
9. Mailbox
10. Scrape acoustic ceiling - plaster
11. French doors
12. Tile/linoleum
13. Appliances - used or bruised
14. House numbers

B. High cost, high return items

1. Kitchen and bathroom remodeling
2. Addition of bathrooms and bedrooms
3. Enclosing patio for use as a family room
4. Addition of garage/decks/skylights/whirlpools/

C. High cost, little or no return

1. Bracing, buttressing, rebuilding the foundation
2. Roof
3. New plumbing
4. Termite work
5. Chimney repairs
6. Driveway repairs
7. Repair wet basement
8. Deteriorated bone structure

VII. Having a Plan

Never buy a property in poor condition unless you have the capital, know how can be hiredand mental toughness to improve the property.

Do not over improve the property.

Use neutral colors whites and beiges.

A. Putting your plan together -- The complexity of this task will depend upon the complexity of the project.


Will I act as my own general or hire one?
Will I do some or all of the work?
Will I pick-up and deliver materials?
Schedule the time to check up on workers frequently.
Meeting inspectors and service people is time-consuming.
Can I show the property to potential renters or buyers during the renovation?

What about Workers Compensation requirements and proof of insurance?

1. Specify the tasks to accomplish the job and information required

a. Existing floor plans and drawings
b. CC amp; Rs - should examine with contingency before purchase see example.
c. Soils information
d. zoning restrictions

2. Determine what supplies will be needed.
3. Determine the time required, build in a fudge factor.
4. Determine suppliers.
5. Prepare a milestone calendar or PERT chart.
6. Assign tasks.
7. Monitor results daily.
8. Prepare for marketing before completion, prepare flyers.
9. Be ready to sell in process.

B. Implementing the plan -- after you acquire the property, begin at once before closing on the no-cost items.

Full Story >

How To Score A Deal On Home Appliances

Buy at the right time

You cant go a week without seeing some kind of sale on appliances at one of the big box stores. But if you havent been researching for a while, you might not know when a deal is really a deal. Turns out, there are certain times of the year when you can get a better value on appliances.

"When it comes to landing bargains on major appliances, timing is everything. And the best time to buy home appliances is when stores need you more than you need a new home appliance," said Houselogic. "September, October, and Januarynbsp;when manufacturers roll out new home appliance models, and retailers are eager to move last years inventory. Refrigeratorsnbsp;are the exception. New models come out in the spring."

Also note these times: The last days of the month,nbsp;"when stores are desperate to meet quotas and are more likely to dicker over prices; and certain holidays, like "Labor Day, Memorial Day, Presidents Day, Black Thursday Friday, Saturday - when stores take advantage of your day off and slash prices."


Ask about price matching

This is a service provided by many stores, and one that many of use fail to take advantage of. Retailers like Sears,nbsp;Best Buy,nbsp;Lowesnbsp;andnbsp;Home Depotnbsp;will match the price for similar items - embrace the challenging of matching up identical product numbers. If its off by one number or letter, its a no-go. Even better is Home Depot offering 10 percent off competitor prices.nbsp;"Best Buynbsp;also matches online prices with competitors likenbsp;Amazon," they said.

Check outlet stores

Best Buy and Sears have outlet stores where discounted merchandise is available, and Designer Home Surplus is the official outlet for Elite Appliance, offering appliances at discounted prices. You can get a great deal on a refurbished or open-box item at these stores. If youre not stuck on something brand-new or thats never been used or even looked at, this might be a great option for you.

Scratch and Dent

The idea of a "scratch and dent" product may sound rather unattractive, but its actually a great way to get a brand-new appliance that might have a little blemish at a big savings. Google the term and see what comes up in your local market. We did and found Oliver Dyers Appliance, which has a "14,000 square foot scratch and dent warehouse packed full of savings," including "FIVE TRUCKLOADS of near-perfect stainless steel French-door refrigerators with savings of 50 or more," and a dare: "Well give you an extra 100 off if you can find the imperfection"

Many of these items have a small scratch or dent in a place you cant even see - like on the side, which wont show once the appliance is installed.

Shop Pre-Owned

Who says your appliances have to be new? Youd be surprised how many ideal items are out there being rehomed by people who just renovated their kitchen and got rid of a perfectly good refrigerator or bought a new home and gutted everything even though it was all brand new because they hadnt picked it out themselves. Their loss is your gain.

The obvious place to start these days is Craigslist. "Craigslistnbsp;is one of the best sources for finding local private sellers who are looking to quickly offload equipment they no longer need," said Remodelista. "DIY remodelers Ada Egloff and Rick Banister bought their Viking range from a Craigslist seller near them for 500."

Ebay is another good option; be sure to search locally since you probably dont want to pay to have a front-loading washer shipped across the country from a private seller. Have you joined Nextdoor yet? You might be surprised what your neighbors are getting rid of, and because youre buying within your local community, theres an added sense of security.

There are a number of great spots for pre-owned luxury appliances, but they tend to be tied to local markets Green Demolitions in New Jersey, Earthwise Architectural Salvage in Seattle. Check in your local area.

Some appliance repair shops may also have inventory to sell. North Dallas Appliance Repair buys and sells "a good selection of gently used refrigerators, washers, dryers, and cooking products" and specifies that they only deal with appliances in excellent condition - we dont buy junk."


Consider what you really need

Its easy to walk into the appliance section of Best Buy and be seduced by the 4,000 French door refrigerator-freezer with the mood lighting and the ability to make - not just water - but sparkling water from the door. But, lets be serious. Do you really need all that?

In our household, no one but the dogs ever drank from the water in the doormdash;because, apparently, they dont think it "tastes funny." So, when it was time for a new refrigerator, we saved several hundreds of dollars by going without the in-door water and ice. Problem solved, money saved.

Full Story >

Trend Alert: Convert a Dresser or Vintage Desk Into a Unique Bathroom Vanity

"If youre having trouble finding the right premanufactured vanity for your home, try thinking outside the cabinet box," said Houzz. "Many savvy homeowners are finding chests of drawers, old file cabinets, vintage consoles and more, and converting them into one-of-a-kind vanities.

This vintage dresser brings some richness to this bathroom, and it didnt even need a vanity top. A drop-in sink, a mirror in a similar tone, and some fancy light fixtures finishes the look.

Looking to DIY this project? Get step-by-step instructions here.

"Thinking outside the square can turn up a one-of-a-kind vanity with character and function to boot," said Forbes. A garage sale discard can be turned into something spectacular with a little ingenuity and elbow grease, plus a scrap piece of marble cut to size.

A simple sink placed on top of this antique table allows all the character of the piece to stand out.

Or, you can make the sink a focal point. This commercial version brings the right amount of contrast to the rustic table and helps show off all the antique touches in the space.

The idea works just as beautifully with a more modern piece. "This mirrored console table was beautiful as a dining room accent, but its absolutely stunning when recycled for the bath," said DIY Network. "The top was sealed with polyurethane - an important step when repurposing furniture to accommodate plumbing - and the square vessel sinks were sealed with caulk around their edges. Hardware was added in varying shades of brown and a mix of finishes to preserve the vintage vibe."

The piece youre converting doesnt even have to have a pristine finish. A coat of paint makes any bathroom vanity look fresh while still imparting a distinct feel.

Mid-century modern has been hot for the past few years, and repurposing a piece that has been passed down, or one that youre lucky enough to find at a flea market or antique store, can completely transform your bathroom. "The project required cutting out holes for items such as the marble countertop, sink and faucet, and switching out drawers," said DIY Network.

Full Story >

Agent with Heart Program Closes 2018 with Generous Donations Thanks to Giving Agents

Dana Roberts of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Irvine, CA has made a generous donation to the Halo trust on behalf of her client, Jess Dyrenforth.

James Potenza of Texas Buyer Realty LLC in Pearland, TX generously donated to the Houston Food Bank on behalf of his client, Vy Le.

Terri Repetto of Realty OneGroup in San Diego, CA CalDRE: 01938376 has made a generous donation to Lions, Tigers, and Bears on behalf of her client, Shane Copher.

Quinlan Realty in Creve Coeur, MO has generously made 4 donations as a brokerage through the Broker with Hearttrade; program. Read more about their donations and generosity here.

ldquo;We are always so proud to be partnered with amazing real estate agents with such kind hearts, however during this holiday season we are especially grateful for the incredible donations our agents give to nonprofits in need,rdquo; said Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise.

ldquo;I would like to thank Dana, James, Terri and Quinlan Realty for their incredible donations this month, and from the entire year. It is thanks to agents like them that the Agent with Heart program is able to assist so many nonprofits across the nation, and we are honored that they have chosen our program to partner with. All of us at PinRaise are grateful for their immense generosity and kindness,rdquo; concludes Mr. John Giaimo.

About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the Agent with Heart program, real estate agents agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their commission from a home sale or purchase to the nonprofit of their clientrsquo;s choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit

To contact Dana Roberts, please call 949-433-6694 or visit

To contact James Potenza, please call 832-372-6388 or visit

To contact Terri Repetto, please call 619-348-5122 or visit

To contact Quinlan Realty, please call 314-401-9286 or visit

Full Story >

Quinlan Realty Rounds out 2018 with More Generous Donations, Totaling 49 for 2018.

Quinlan Realty in Creve Coeur, MO has generously made 4 donations thanks to Agent with Heart Tayler Karhliker and distinguished Broker with Heart, Craig Carr.

Tayler Karhliker has generously donated to Backstoppers Inc. on behalf of her client, Becky Murch.

Craig Carr has has made 3 generous donations. One to St. Jude Childrenrsquo;s Research Hospital on behalf of his client, Becky Murch, a second to Bridgeway Behavioral Health on behalf of his clients, Jason and Chrissy Hagan, and a final donation to the Buddy Fund, made on behalf of his clients, Harold Osorio and Mauren E. Carvajal Becerra.

ldquo;We are very proud to be partnered with such an incredible brokerage as Quinlan Realty,rdquo; says Mr. John Giaimo, president of PinRaise. ldquo;Throughout the year Quinlan Realty has made 49 donations to many nonprofits, and for that we are incredibly grateful. That is an astounding amount of donations to local nonprofits that can use the assistance, and we couldnrsquo;t be more honored to have Quinlan Realty as our partner in giving.rdquo;

ldquo;I would like to thank Craig and Tayler for rounding out 2018 with their generous donations, and for their continued dedication to paying it forward within their community. Without agents like them our program wouldnrsquo;t succeed in assisting nonprofits nation-wide, and all of us at PinRaise thank them for their kindheartedness and compassion, and look forward to seeing the continued good they will do in the coming year,rdquo; concludes Mr. Giaimo.

About the Broker with Heart Program: Through the Broker with Heart program, brokerages agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their commission from a home sale or purchase to the nonprofit of their clientrsquo;s choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit

To contact Craig Carr, please call 314-401-9286 or visit

To contact Tayler Karhliker, please call 314-401-9889 or visit

Full Story >

Understanding Adverse Possession

The theory behind adverse possession is that a person who holds or uses property adversely against the rightful owner should ultimately be entitled to clear title. But not every possession of land will turn into fee simple ownership. As the name of the doctrine implies, the possession must be adverse, hostile, actual, notorious, exclusive, continuous and under claim of right.

Needless to say, these sound like highly complex legal concepts, and to some extent they are. However, in the words of one judge, "the person claiming the property by adverse possession must unfurl his flag on the land and keep it flying so that the owner may see, if he wishes, that an enemy has invaded his domain and planted the flag of conquest."

Thus, the person claiming by adverse possession must do something to alert the true owner that a stranger has taken occupancy.

The first thing any property owner concerned about losing or gaining property because of adverse possession is to talk to a lawyer. Although the legal concepts for adverse possession are fairly universal throughout the country, different states have different time requirements before adverse possession will kick in. For example, in the District of Columbia, the elements of adverse possession i.e. open, notorious and hostile use of real property must have been in existence for a period of 15 years. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the period of adversity is also 15 years, while in Maryland the law requires 20 years for a successful claim.

It should be noted that these time limitations do not require the same owner to hold the property for the entire length of time. If, for example, owner A has owned the property for 8 years and then sold to owner B, the courts will allow the times to be added together. So long as the current owner of the property can claim that for the statutory period, he or she has met the elements of adverse possession, the Courts will grant title to that portion of property to the adverse claimant. This is called ldquo;tackingrdquo;. It must be pointed out, however, that a couple of years ago, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals significantly limited the ability to claim ldquo;tackingrdquo; when involved in an adverse possession case. Itrsquo;s complicated; seek legal advice for an explanation.

Keep in mind that the burden of proof is on the claimant to meet the tests for adverse possession. In order to actually get title to the land in question, the claimant will have to file "an action for quiet title" in the local court where the property is located. Needless to say, this is both time-consuming and expensive, and many homeowners -- especially neighbors -- will be >

The Courts are generally >

Thus, if you are a property owner and are concerned that your neighbor may be in the process of claiming a portion of your property, there is one easy way to stop this.

You can avoid your neighbors successful claim of adverse possession by removing ndash; before that statutory period has run ndash; one of the legal elements required for this claim -- namely adversity. Send your neighbor a letter, certified, return receipt requested, telling them you recognize they are on your land and for a limited period of time you are going to permit them to keep the shed on your property or whatever it is they are doing on your land..

According to one judge, "If the use by me of my neighbors land is, on its face, permitted by my neighbor as a matter of neighborly accommodation, the use is not adverse or hostile."

Put a copy of the letter and the return receipt among your valuable papers, and periodically -- perhaps every five years -- you may want to renew the permission to your neighbor.

And dont forget to inform your buyers of this arrangement if you ever sell your house.

Full Story >

Not Asking for Referrals is a Costly Bad Habit

If you donrsquo;t ask, you will not get. This principle is so old itrsquo;s biblical.

I watched this principle in action by the most professional, service-oriented real estate sales agent ever to sell real estate. Her name is Doria, now retired.

She always had something good going for her, no matter what. She just got a listing, made a sale, was going to a closing, meeting a prospect. Doria was always willing to help other agents and share her knowledge. There wasnrsquo;t a greedy bone in her body, but competitive? Thatrsquo;s another story.

I asked her one day what her secret was. She said, ldquo;No matter where I am, I always ask the people I meet if they happen to know someone who is thinking of buying or selling a home.rdquo;

Then she proceeded to tell me about the prospect she had just sold a 300,000 condominium to. She met them while at dinner the day after she listed it. While at dinner she engaged the couple at the next table in conversation then told them she had just listed a 3-bedroom condominium that day and wondered if they may know someone who might be interested in buying one.

As it turns out, they did not know anyone, but they themselves were interested and bought it.

When I commented on how impressed I was with her focus on asking people for their business, she said, ldquo;Do you have any idea what lsquo;not askingrsquo; would cost me? By not asking this couple I would have lost a commission of around 8,000. Not asking can be very expensive.rdquo;

ldquo;We have not, because we ask not,rdquo; she added. ldquo;This condo sale is a perfect example of the principle. Most of the agents donrsquo;t believe this to be true, but I do. Thatrsquo;s why I ask.rdquo;

The Lesson: Ask for the business, then expect to get it.

By the way, do you know someone who might benefit from learning how to build a new homes niche? Thank you in advance for the referral.

Full Story >

Resolutions Drive 2019 Success

Real estate professionals who are determined to make 2019 an outstanding business year should start by taking control of how they think about and use their time, money, energy, and other limited resources.

Those who have unlimited time, deep-pocket financial support, and endless physical energy have fewer excuses for not achieving goals. However, they still react to factors - many of them >attitude, beliefs, and bias - that limit results and outcomes.

Limiting factors can sometimes seem insurmountable if they are tied to unconscious barriers. Identify what you believe holds you back and then the resolutions you create to overcome these barriers will describe conscious effort essential to working over, under, or around these distractions.

Resolutions become executable directions for success when they are linked to overcoming your top limiting factors. Exercise: What are the top five limiting factors that affect your bottom line? Start by listing barriers and ldquo;yeah butsrdquo; that come to mind when you think ldquo;I can do better regarding ______, yeah but _____.rdquo; Then, prioritize the list by searching out key items, which when resolved, remove other barriers as well.

Avoid 2019 Progress Interrupters

ldquo;Navigating a World in Disruptionrdquo; was the theme of The International Economic Forum of the Americasrsquo; recent three-day Global Forum [ href= target=rdquo;_blankrdquo;gt;Global
Forum ] which brought more than 3500 delegates - dignitaries, CEOs, government leaders, politicians, industry experts, NGOs, business owners, students, and media - from around the world together with more than 170 international speakers. Big topics, big discussions, and networking galore.

Amid all this big ldquo;disruptionrdquo; thinking, three powerful, seemingly-simple suggestions surfaced and resurfaced and I share them with you here. No matter which resolutions you set for 2019, if the three interrupters, if not disruptions, below are not addressed, you may unexpectedly be sent off course:

1. One Password Per Account

Shuman Ghosemajumder, Chief Tech Officer ofnbsp;cyber-crime-fighting Shape Security, shared security insights from many perspectives, but he was most passionate about >

2. Turn Off GPS For Privacy

John Chen, Executive Chairman and CEO of Blackberry,nbsp;manufacturer of security-conscious smartphones, shared that he does not turn on his phonersquo;s GPS: "I dont want to know where the closest gas station is and give up my private data to get this information." Other Global Forum tech-savvy entrepreneurs and experts echoed this caution. Chen: ldquo;We want to let people control their own privacy, so when you decide you want to share, it is your explicit [consent] to share." Nothing is free. Paying for very-low-value perks - which you may not really need - by sharing private data that you can never ldquo;unsharerdquo; may be a bad bargain in the long haul. In addition, shift your thinking from wandering the internet just to shop or ldquo;Googlerdquo; something and start thinking about the permanent trail you left in 2018 and will leave in 2019. Ghosemajumder stressed, ldquo;People do not navigate [the internet] with long-term perspectives that [include] more holistic societal perspectives.rdquo; For instance, Alexa is not your friend, just a conduit for Googlersquo;s data collection.

3. Tech Problems Vaporize Hard-Earned Trust

Earning trust from prospects and clients takes time and a lot of effort. Expose them to a data breach, unnecessary inconvenience from site failure, or other cyber problems and trust will be lost much more quickly than it was gained. Cyber-security no longer involves building a digital moat around your computer system. Authorized users of the system can present as much risk as hackers. For instance, after logging in, these welcomed users may click on contaminated sites, links, or emails that load malware into your system. It can take minutes to infect a computer and months to completely undo the damage.

Disruption was a positive concept in 2018, representing transformative shifts from old paradigms to modern technology-driven re-imaginings in a wide range of industries.

Use open-minded ldquo;why notrdquo; disruptive analysis to take a close look at what you do. Search for better ways to work, better systems to help clients, better opportunities to cut costs, and better approaches to engaging new business and retaining clients.

Experiment with the ldquo;Think Bigger and Act Soonerrdquo; philosophy. Train yourself to embrace fresh thinking and innovation by exposing yourself to new ideas and approaches in technology and communication in your profession and >

If your 2018 marketing approaches and client service processes remain
the same in 2019, how can you expect dramatically different 2019 outcomes?

Additional Resource:

For more from "Navigating a World in Disruption," visit PJ Wades blog"Whats Your Point?"nbsp;

Full Story >

10 Skips That Will Help You Save for a Down Payment

What constitutes ldquo;discretional incomerdquo; varies from person to person and situation to situationmdash;what you have to play with today might be far more than last year, thanks to that raise. When yoursquo;re saving for a big-ticket item like a house, discretionary income can really take a hit. Maybe your weekly outing to your favorite sushi spot doesnrsquo;t seem so necessary anymore Or, maybe you just need to come during Happy Hour. This is just one of the adjustments you can make to your life>

Skips the Starbucks

Your grande latter costs 3.65, and if you get it five days a week, every weekhellip;well, you really should go out and buy some Starbucks stock. You only order a grande coffee, you say? OK, 2.10 per day, five days a week, every week is over 500 a year. Even if you bought yourself a machine to make lattes at home and you have several options here, some for under 200, yoursquo;d still save a bundle overall.

Skip the lunch out

Itrsquo;s just lunch, and itrsquo;s not like yoursquo;re going anywhere fancy, but all those meals can take a chunk out of your bank account and leave you scrambling for ways to make up the money. ldquo;If you go out for lunch Monday through Friday for a year, you might spend 10 a mealmdash;a pretty good deal at most dining establishments. This adds up to 50 weekly,rdquo; said Money Under 30. ldquo;Spend 50 a week on restaurant food, and in total yoursquo;re spending 2,500 per year, near the national average.rdquo;

Spend 50 on dinner a couple times a week, and thatrsquo;s another 5,200. Now consider that you only need a minimum of 3.5 percent for a down payment and the current median home value in the United States is 222,800. That means you need under 8,000 for your down payment, buthellip;ooooops You just spent it on sandwiches and pasta.

Skip the commute

You probably think mainly in terms of gas and tolls when you consider how much yoursquo;re spending on your commute, and that certainly adds up. Can you negotiate a work from home scenario a few days a week? It can save you a bunchmdash;and save the wear and tear on your car and your nerves, too. But therersquo;s more to the commuting calculation. ldquo;The true cost of car commuting not only goes beyond what we spend to maintain a car each year, but what we could have done with that money to ensure a better future,rdquo; said Strong Towns. Check out this sobering infographic that will have you marching into your bossrsquo; office to discuss remote opportunities ASAP.

Skip the dry cleaner

Want to save about 500 a year? Take New York Magazinersquo;s Ask the Strategistrsquo;s advice and use one of their 19 alternatives to dry cleaning, including using mesh laundry bags and specially formulated soap.

Skip the car wash

The average price of a car wash is about 7. Is just cutting out this activity and washing your car at home going to get you that down payment? Of course not. But every little bit helps, and the 364 yoursquo;ll save after a year of weekly washes can put you over the top or give you a cushion should moving expenses exceed your budget.

Skip the gym

You could save 54 per month thatrsquo;s the average monthly payment of a gym membership across the country, not to mention the cost of your cute workout clothes and fancy shoes, by cancelling your gym membership. Instead, do these 25 great at-home exercises.

Skip the cable

Cut the cord and save about 1,200 in a year. Of course, yoursquo;ll have to replace the cable with something, so yoursquo;ll likely be adding back some costs. ldquo;Assuming youre one of the 83 percent of consumers who pays for both TV and internet, switching to a web-based service shouldnt be too expensive,rdquo; said Mental Floss. ldquo;An Amazon Prime plan costs 99 a year, a basic Netflix subscription costs 132, and Hulu costs 96. Even if you spring for all three choices, youll still only be paying 327 annually, saving you about 875 if youre a former cable subscriber.rdquo;

Skip the movies

The average cost of a movie ticket went up again last yearmdash;by 3.96 to 8.97. Of course, the ticket is just the beginning of the expense. A family of four can easily hit 100 when you add in popcorn and drinks and Red Vines. Since a trip to the movies is our familyrsquo;s favorite outing, we would never tell anyone to stop going. But, there are some ways to save. Money Crashers has a great rundown, including going to matinees, which are less expensive than evening shows, and buying at the box office instead of online so you save on the convenience fees. Another great tip is going with another family. If you buy a large popcorn, it usually comes with a free refill, which the concession stand will give you right away. Now you have two tubs of popcorn for half the cost.

Full Story >

The Smartest Smart Home: Five Things to Buy Now that Will Help Sell your Home

Not only do smart home features make your place seem updated and well-taken-care-of, but they can also make your home sell quicker and fetch you a higher sales price. ldquo;According to a 2017 survey conducted by t3 sixty, a brokerage consulting firm for residential real estate, 40 percent of realtors believe smart homes sell faster, regardless of price,rdquo; said Cornerstone Home Lending. ldquo;This smart home selling potential has increased 33 percent in the past year.rdquo;

If yoursquo;re ready to invest a few bucks into some Smart Home features, here are the ones that should give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Home security

T3 Sixty research confirms that home security and video ldquo;is the fastest growing sector in smart home technology,rdquo; said Coldwell Banker in its Smart Home Study. ldquo;The T3 Sixty survey shows that 36.4 percent of homebuyers ask most often about smart home security. Video feeds allow homeowners to easily check in on their home, pets and family while traveling or at work. It is also the Smart Home feature that consumers respond to most in marketing.

This exploding segment of the Smart Home market accounted for just under 2.6 billion in sales in 2015, according to Statista, and more than 6.7 billion as of 2017. ldquo;It is expected to surpass 20 billion by 2021.rdquo;

Smart appliances

ldquo;Smart appliances win big in the ROI game, expected to bump the average ROI up 11 percent more than standard appliances,rdquo; they said. ldquo;In the 2017 Concept Community study conducted by MFE, 18.2 percent of people listed appliances as the smart home feature with the highest ROI.rdquo;

Smart lighting

Automated lighting was noted by more than eight percent of participants in the survey as having high ROI when it comes to smart home features. This feature is especially salient when real estate agents point out not just the ease of use of the lighting system, but also the potential savings. says that ldquo;LED lights use at least 75 less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting.rdquo;

Smart thermostats

This is an easy ldquo;entry pointrdquo; into smart tech for home, and one that can have a great ROI. It is also another item that real estate agents should be pointing out to buyers,rdquo; said New York magazinersquo;s Intelligencer. ldquo;The core of the smart home is about the service, right? So you can show how it will change and affect your life and how you interact with your house. If I walk into four houses in the same neighborhood, and one has a Nest thermostat and the agent has educated me that it could save 10 to 12 percent in my heating and cooling, thatrsquo;s going to stick out in my mind. While the other houses maybe Irsquo;m going to forget about. The thing with having a smart home is, you have to work with a listing agent that can convey those benefits because if you donrsquo;t, it might as well not even be there mdash; it just doesnrsquo;t matter.rdquo;

According to a Nest study, the companyrsquo;s smart thermostat saved consumers on average 10 to 12 on heating and 15 on cooling,rdquo; said Security Sales and Integration. ldquo;Based on typical energy costs, that translates to an average savings of 131 to 145 a year.rdquo;

Full Story >

Thinking of Carrying Back a Mortgage For Your Buyers?

Helping buyers buy and finance a home can be a way for you to earn some interest on the loan, much greater than what you can find at your local bank or credit union. Plus, the note you issue is secured by the real estate so if your buyers begin to default, you can begin the process of foreclosing and recovering your asset. For instance, buyers come to you and ask if yoursquo;d be willing to carry the mortgage for them. You agree and charge say 6.00 or 7.00 percent. You can make an interest only note or a fully amortized one. Itrsquo;s your call.

Before we get too far into this discussion, depending upon the location of the property and local rules and regulations, yoursquo;ll want to work with a local real estate attorney to properly execute the note while retaining your interest. Further, should you decide you want to get into real estate investing full time and finance multiple notes, at some point yoursquo;ll be considered a lender and must follow additional guidelines. In other words, know before you go.

So why would someone ask you to finance all or part of the purchase? Typically because theyrsquo;ve applied for a traditional mortgage and couldnrsquo;t qualify. That said, if a bank turned them down why would you approve the very same application?

If you are considering carrying back a mortgage, yoursquo;ll want to review the buyers much as a traditional lender would. You certainly want to get a credit report a report that you pull, not one provided by the buyers. You wonrsquo;t have access to the very same credit report a lender would see but itrsquo;s close enough to decide.

Yoursquo;re looking for current credit accounts that shows activity. Look at the balance compared to the credit line. Lenders like to see balances be about one-third of credit limits. An occasional late payment on a credit account is not that big of a deal but multiple ldquo;late paysrdquo; can be an issue, especially if theyrsquo;re recent. Late payments on a credit report only show payments made more than 30, 60, 90 days and beyond past the due date.

Ask for verification of employment and pay. Get copies of recent pay check stubs that cover a one-month period. If someone is self-employed, look at personal and business tax returns. Mortgage companies like to see the total mortgage payment, which includes property taxes and insurance, be around 33-38 percent of gross monthly income. If credit and income are in line, then you might have a good candidate.

But you need to ask why the potential buyers are asking in the first place. Why are they asking for a higher priced mortgage in the first place? Many times itrsquo;s because someone is newly self-employed. Traditional mortgage guidelines ask there be at least two years of self-employment verified by filed federal income tax returns. For example, an individual has been working as a plumber for 10 years and decides to go out on his own but has only been self-employed for a few months. A bank might have a problem with that but if the guy has clients, bank statements show some cash flow from the business and everything else is in order, that might be a good candidate.

Remember, carrying back any mortgage, be it a first or second lien, is completely up to you. People find out they can carry a mortgage for their buyers and get better returns than they can get at their bank, plus the loan is secured by the asset.

Full Story >

When Is A Listing Commission Earned?

But a 2012 California Appellate Court ruling RealPro, Inc. v. Smith Residual Company, Fourth Appellate District Court changed that understanding in the Golden State. In the RealPro situation, a buyer had made a full-price, per the listing, 17 million offer on terms that the seller found acceptable. However, the seller then increased the listing price to 19.5 million. The buyer declined the price increase; but, subsequently, the buyers broker, as a third-party beneficiary, sued for his commission.

The trial court focused on the portion of the listing that set forth price and terms, which said "17,000,000 cash or such other price and terms acceptable to Sellers..." The courts view was that it would be a mistake to say that the listing was for 17 million. Rather, it "was for 17 million cash or such other price, plus terms acceptable to Sellers."

The Appellate Court said, "we, like the trial court, conclude that the 17 million price was me>

You cant fight them; so you might as well join them. The California Association of Realtors CAR changed its Residential Listing Agreement RLA the next year. It currently reads that a commission is due if anyone "hellip;procures a ready, willing, and able buyers whose offer to purchase the Property on any price and terms is accepted by Seller, provided the Buyer completes the transaction or is prevented from doing so by the Seller." [my emphasis]

But wait Now a different California Appellate Court has come forth with an opinion Carol Gilbert, Inc. v. City of San Francisco Ellis-OFar>

Carol Gilbert, Inc. CGI entered into a listing agreement with Ellis Parking to find a tenant for restaurant space in a parking garage that has retail space on the ground floor. The City of San Francisco owns the building and Ellis Parking has a master lease. The listing agreement said that "If a lease is entered into during the Term of this Agreement, or any extensions hereof, [Ellis Parking] will pay [CGI] a sum based on [a complex schedule in the agreement]... When Commission Due: Commissions shall be deemed one half due and payable upon the later Lease Execution or Removal of Contingencies, and one half on the earlier of Tenants Opening for Business or Commencement of Rent..."

CGI procured an offer on behalf of Loris Diner, and in October of 2012, Ellis Parking signed a lease agreement with Loris Diner for a twenty-year sublease of the space. The sublease contained language saying that it was subject to the master lease which, among other things, required that the city of San Francisco would not unreasonably withhold consent.

Whether reasonable or not, the city did withhold consent. Instead it renewed a lease with the existing tenant. Ellis parking declined to pay CGI any commission, so CGI sued for breach of contract. The frac12; commission owed, by the way, was 245,717.38

The trial court held that "Because there was nothing in the Exclusive Listing and Sale Agreement which mentioned or referenced the Citys approval as being a contingency that needed to be removed in order for CGI to receive the commission, [CGI] is entitled to one half the commission."

The Appellate Court agreed. Quoting an earlier case, they wrote "The brokers right to compensation lsquo;must be found within the four corners of the listing agreement, which will be lsquo;strictly enforced according to the lawful terms." The court acknowledged that, of course, some condition or contingency could limit or void the brokers right to a commission. But such language would have to be clearly stated within the listing agreement. In this case, it was not.

The court wrote, "The only condition precedent to CGIs right to a commission under the listing agreement was that a lease be lsquo;entered into. A lease was lsquo;entered into when Ellis Parking and Loris Diner signed the sublease..."

This case, and much of the reasoning in the opinion, could lend weight to the idea that maybe the "old way" -- in which a sale did not have to be completed for a commission to be earned -- could be revived. Right now, though, that would be premature. CGI v. Ellis Parking has not been published, and cannot be cited as law. That would have to be changed. There is a time period during which the court can be asked to publish its opinion. You can bet that there are interested parties working on such requests.

Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .

Full Story >

Six Ways to Make Yourself Happier at Home

Get some houseplants

Put your green thumb to good use and surround yourself with houseplants. Not only will they add a fresh element to your deacute;cor literally, but they can also make your home healthier, and improve your mood.

ldquo;Houseplants are good for your healthmdash;and not just for their visual beauty,rdquo; said NBC News. ldquo;Why? They essentially do the opposite of what we do when we breathe: >

Put your stuff away

ldquo;A lived-in home is a loved home, right? But when your stuff starts to take over, it can create chaosmdash;in your home, and your mind. ldquo;Pursuing a state of harmony between yourself and your homehellip;confers a range of psychological benefits for reasons that are rooted in science,rdquo; said Thrive Global. ldquo;Studies have identified a direct link between the stress hormone cortisol and clutter. Cortisol is not just linked to stress. At elevated levels, it also causes depression.rdquo; In addition, decluttering ldquo;leads to eating betterrdquo; and improves air quality.rdquo;
Paint something

Choose a wall, an old piece of furniture, or an entire room. Itrsquo;s a manageable project you can do yourself and one that can totally change the energy of a space. Or, buy a canvas and create an art piece you can then hang in your home. ldquo;Creating art teaches you to be attuned with aesthetic of the visual world around you and makes you appreciate the beauty in and of life,rdquo; said Health Fitness Revolution. ldquo;You gain a new appreciation for the texture of a treersquo;s bark or the fur of a dog, of the various highlights and shadows playing on even the more bare of white walls. Embracing the beauty around you gives you a more positive outlook of the world and can even decrease the risk of mental illness.rdquo;

Make those little fixes

The burned-out light bulb 20 feet up in the living room. The broken drawer pull in the kitchen. All those little annoyances are stealing your happy. Pick a Sunday and attack them one by one or make a list and check it twice for your handyman so you can replace the long sighs with wide smiles.

Invest in a house cleaner

All that time taking care of your home leaves you little time to enjoy your home. If you can swing it, finding someone to help you with housework can be liberating in more ways than one. Not only will it free up some of your time, but a good, solid deep cleaning can make your home healthier, too.

Build a garden

Wouldnrsquo;t it be nice to grow your own veggies, or at least fresh herbs? Perhaps the best news about gardening is how it can make you feel, and not just when yoursquo;re eating what you have managed to grow. ldquo;Getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levelsmdash;contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the >
Full Story >

Why Winter is Actually a Great Time to Build a Home

1. Shorter Build Times

The average custom home takes about nine months to build, from start to finish. But starting in the winter can cut down significantly on this time frame, for several reasons:

bull; The volume of homes is much lower, so construction teams are able to devote more time to individual homes and complete many of them faster.
bull; The many professionals involved in a home buildmdash;including engineers, subcontractors, designers and trim carpentersmdash;are not as busy in the winter.
bull; Building permits take less time because fewer people are applying during the winter.

2. Personal Attention

Starting a build in the winter also offers customers much more personal attention than they might receive during busier months. Because subcontractors, construction crews, engineers, designers and everyone in between are less busy during the winter, they can more readily devote time to each customer, walking them through the process and answering their questions without feeling the usual time crunch.

3. Help from Nature

You might find that Mother Nature is more cooperative during the winter than you originally perceived. In fact, a few environmental aspects of starting a build in the winter actually help ensure a high-quality home, such as:

bull; In the dry summer months, it can be challenging to know how a piece of property behaves in precipitation, but during the rainy season, itrsquo;s easier to understand the ldquo;lay of the landrdquo; by evaluating circumstances such as where water tends to gather.
bull; Water from rain or snow helps compact newly laid gravel, which creates an ideal base for concrete work.
bull; Saturated dirt encourages more thorough work from excavators, which helps avoid the dreaded ldquo;settling spotsrdquo; that often emerge after summer builds.

4. Benefits to the Buyer

Finally, winter building offers buyers big benefits during the shopping and moving processes, such as:

bull; Searching for and buying property during the winter can be beneficial, because a lack of tree foliage and undergrowth gives people a better idea of the land itself. Plus, any wetland and drainage issues are more obvious during wetter months.
bull; Fewer people are looking to buy during the winter, so buyers will encounter less competition and may find that sellers are more willing to negotiate.
bull; Once a home is completed during the spring, the buyers will get to enjoy a warm weather movemdash;instead of building during the summer and moving during the winter.

Other Considerations

Although the benefits listed above can make winter a great time to build, itrsquo;s also important to plan carefully for the season. For example, at Adair Homes, we follow a process to ensure every new home has a chance to dry out before application of interior finishesmdash;even during the winter. This helps avoid any possibility of moldmdash;a major concern for winter buildersmdash;and prevents drywall nail pops and stud warping.

When building in winter, use weather-appropriate materials we like kiln-dried lumber, and work efficiently to ensure exposure is limited. Top all of this off with safety measures, such as moisture readings and inspections, to ensure a healthy home.

Year-Round Success

As you see, the old thinking about wintertime homebuilding no longer applies. As an industry, we should work to ensure year-round success by planning effectively for the winter months and educating buyers about building in the so-called ldquo;off season.rdquo; And we can put processes in place to ensure each and every home is built correctly and with the same quality standardsmdash;regardless of the season.

About Lynn:nbsp;Lynn Tribon is the Director of Market Development at Adair Homes and has worked for the custom home builder for nearly two decades. She has a deep background in construction, administration, and home planning and is passionate about Adairs mission to help families improve their quality of life and financial futures.

Full Story >

To Know and Not to Do Is Not to Know

Obviously ldquo;ablerdquo; means ldquo;can afford it and can prove it." It also means they can make the buying decision without third party approval. If they need someone else, say a parent, to approve their buying decision, there are in fact, not able to buy. This is the easiest of the three lsquo;mustsrdquo; to determine. They either qualify for a home in the price range they can pay or they donrsquo;t.

What does ldquo;Readyrdquo; mean? This means they are motivated to make a decision to buy now. They are not looking for something to purchase in 6 months. They are ready now.

"Willing" means they are willing to make a purchase decision if they see what they want and can afford it. These prospects ask questions, have objections, and need your help. They are willing to spend time looking at homes, and may find some they like, but are not willing to make an offer because there is no urgency to make one This is the group that can afford the home, will spend weeks looking at homes, then decide to wait.nbsp;nbsp;Just because they are approved for a mortgage does not mean they will buy.

These are important lessons, not just to know, but to understand how they apply. Here is how I learned them, then learned how to apply them.

Just out of college, I needed a job but I wanted one that would teach me how to sell. I knew I would need this skill somewhere along the line and I did not have the sales experience I needed. For 30 months Inbsp; Baby Butler, a safety feeding table and safety crib.

It did not take me long to learn what ldquo;not ready" meant.

My prospects were expectant first- time mothers who used a self-addressed stamped postcard to request a free Dr. Spock baby book. I set up an appointment to deliver the book and show a baby safety film. The film showed the danger of high chairs and the safety features of my products.

When I made an in-home presentation to a couple who could afford the product, needed baby furniture, but were not willing to purchase it from me, I learned what ldquo;willingrsquo; meant. I also learned that of the three: ready, willing, and able, lsquo;willingrsquo; was the one qualification I could control and that if the spouse was only in early pregnancy, they were not quite lsquo;readyrsquo; to buy yet.nbsp;

The lesson: Itrsquo;s easy to determine if they are financially able and if you are a good qualifier you can easily take their lsquo;readyrsquo; temperature. But for them to be willing to make a buying decision today or soon, requires careful attention to the homes you show. Even then, urgency plays an important role. Maybe they are ready but are not ready to buy something they dont like.nbsp;

For those of you who quickly run out of saleable inventory, I have a suggestion. Put your resistance aside, if its there, and show them a new construction home in the price range they are shopping. You will be surprised how many of your resale shoppers would prefer a new home and make adjustments to live in one,nbsp;

Next time you have a minute to look in the mirror,nbsp; ask yourself honestly how you are doing when it comes to understanding and applying the ready, willing and able conditions that so impact your commissions.

Then ask for the help you know you need. You will be glad you did. Rember, to know and not to do, is not to know.

Full Story >

A Guide to Home Insulation Materials

There are a number of insulation products you can use to prevent energy loss. However, it is important to realize that insulation is only one part of a two-prong approach to energy efficiency. The other arm of the plan involves sealing all of the holes, cracks or openings caused by pipes, wires, chimneys or anything that creates an opening in a wall, ceiling, or most importantly, attic floor.

These openings allow interior air to escape to the unconditioned not heated or cooled space that surrounds your home. The sealing process is called "air sealing," and requires silicone caulk and expanding foam that comes in a can. It isnt exciting work, and while easy, it requires attention to detail. It is extremely important because the openings are escape routes for heated and cooled air and because many insulation products do not stop moving air. If you plan on insulating, be sure to attend to air sealing as well.

Where to Insulate

Basically, insulation should be placed in any area that separates your heated and cooled living spaces from areas that are not heated and cooled. These areas include:

  • bull; Attics
  • bull; Cathedral ceilings
  • bull; Sidewalls
  • bull; Walls between the living area and an attached garage
  • bull; Floors over unheated basements
  • bull; Floors over crawl spaces
  • bull; Foundation walls

Insulation Materials

The effectiveness of insulation is measured by its R-value - "R" stands for resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better. It is important to match the insulation to the application as well. For example, fiberglass insulation has an R-value of about 2.8 to four per inch. Some foam panels have R-values of seven or eight. But you can easily find fiberglass batts or blankets that are 12 inches thick and designed for use as attic insulation, providing over an R-40. Standard foam panels only come in one-half to two inch thicknesses.

Some products are easier to install than others. Fiberglass batts simply roll into place. They are manufactured to fit snugly between ceiling joists and wall studs. When installing any insulation, it is important that the product be placed flat against the surface you are insulating. Any air space under the insulation or gaps around the edges will limit the effectiveness of the product.

Heres a look at some common insulation products:

Type of Insulation
R-Value per Inch
Where Itrsquo;s Installed

Mineral Wool

Available in batts, blankets and as a loose fill material
2.8 to 4
  • Attics
  • Open wall stud cavities
  • Floors over unheated spaces
  • Batts and blankets are DIY projects
  • Loose fill is a professional installation
  • Compressing the insulation or getting it wet reduces R-value
Cellulose3 to 3.7
  • Attics
  • Open wall
  • cavities
  • Closed wall cavities
  • Hard-to-reach areas
  • Cellulose is ground- up paper treated with fire retardants
  • Blown-in with special equipment
  • Can be poured in place
  • Even distribution is necessary for effectiveness
Foam Boards
  • Polystyrene: 4 to 5
  • Polyisocyanurate / polyurethane: 6 to 8
  • Foundation walls
  • Interior basement walls
  • Floors
  • Ceilings
  • Interior applications must be covered with drywall for fire safety
  • Used for air sealing large openings
  • Some types are used under exterior siding to enhance the R value of the wall and prevent heat transfer through framing members
Spray-On Polyurethane
  • Open-cell: 3.6 to 4.3
  • Closed-cell: 5.6 to 6.8
  • Open and enclosed wall cavities
  • Between rafters on cathedral ceilings
  • Hard to reach areas
  • Irregularly shaped areas
  • Requires special application equipment
  • Closed-cell material is denser and acts as a vapor barrier
  • Both act as an air barrier

Use this chart as a reference point when insulating your home. Proper insulation will help lower your energy bills and keep your home at a comfortable temperature.

Fran Donegan is a DIY-for-the-home authority and writes on energy-saving tips for The Home Depot. Franrsquo;s insulation tips are geared to provide you with numerous options for your home during the winter months. To research a variety of insulation types, you can visit the Home Depot website here.

Full Story >

How to Create a Great Accent Wall

"An accent wallnbsp;can be a perfect way to break up a large room, to emphasize a particularly great architectural feature, or to instill a sense of the extraordinary in an otherwise completely ordinary space," said homedit.

So how do you choose a color? And how do you know where to put it? Will it go with your existing stuff, or do you need to redecorate?

"To change only one wall in your room, a good first step is to choose a color that will pair well with your existing wall color," said Behr. "For instance, if you have soft mocha walls, paint an accent wall in chocolate brown. If your room is painted a neutral color, add a bold color to highlight that area. Opposing colors in the color spectrum work well together, for example a >

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

The color: A strong jewel tone, like peacock blue.

Where to paint it: Looks great on a wall that draws the eye across the room

Goes with: Bright white for contrast, and layered with other strong colors as pops

Additional considerations: Dark colors will suck up the light in a space, which is why an accent wall is sometimes preferable to painting all the walls in a space. If youre doing it yourself, you may need several coats to create an even finish. Be sure to use sufficient light when painting so you can see all the imperfections.

Painting the wall right next to the dining table might make it feel like the wall is closing in. Using the dark blue paint across the room creates a focal wall against the white chest and collection of mirrors.

Exotic and exquisite, this room comes to life with the peacock blue accent wall.

The bright pink desk and red chairs shine against the bright blue wall - a great way to bring in primary colors and unexpected pops in a unique way.

The color: Something soothing, like cornflower blue

Where to paint it: The bedroom, and, more specifically, the bed wall - the natural place for an accent color because it will draw attention to the preferred focal point in the room. A bedroom that has a fireplace or another unique feature could be another option.

Goes with: White, yellow, browns, and neutrals, like the bedroom below.

Additional considerations: Blue tends to be a restful color, so it naturally works well in a bedroom. And, cool colors like blue can also make "a small bedroom appear larger," said The Spruce.

In this bedroom, the blue provides a resting point for the eye against neutral Earth tones. The patterned bedding and bright orange accents give the space additional interest.

The color: gray. Its been the hottest paint color for several years running, but if youre worried that gray will make your space look dreary, starting with one wall makes sense.

Where to paint it: Anywhere you want. Gray looks great in living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms.

Goes with: Just about anything. Depending on the shade, gray can be a neutral or it can be a standout.

Additional considerations: Gray also looks great when you layer tones. The darker accent wall behind the bed below provides drama, while the lighter shades create a luxurious feel.

A room with a unique layout can be perplexing, but the short wall in this living space is the perfect spot for an accent.

The color: Black

Where to paint it: On your built-ins

Goes with: Black can be a striking contrast to pretty much any color you want, but for >

Additional considerations: "Black built-insnbsp;are poppingnbsp;up everywhere lately, like in this study by Carmel Greer," said House Beautiful.nbsp;"This gray-black reminds me of shadows - for me, thats a good thing," she says. "With the gold overhead light and leather chair, its tailored and masculine, not cave-like."

The color: Unexpected

Where to paint it: On the wall where the eye would naturally go, or to train the eye to land somewhere else.

Goes with: As long as youre thinking outside of the can, you can make unexpected choices here, too. Remember that you can make colors go together, if you so choose, by weaving in patterns with colors in common.

Additional considerations: When youre using a surprising color, especially if its bold, carefully consider how many other colors you bring in. Too many, and you can end up with a circus room.

A teal-turquoise wall behind the bed? Set against dark gray walls everywhere else? Why not? The combination is super chic, especially with the layered textures. This room proves that breaking the rules can create a sumptuous space.

Acid green on the wall? Its reminiscent of Greenery, the Pantone Color of the Year, and brings high impact >

Pink on the wall is surprising stylish in this dining room, offsetting >
Full Story >

Are You Cut Out for an Older Home?

And while someone with enough cash to purchase a 13 million manse presumably has enough cash left over to fix anything that goes awry in the years to come, what about the rest of us? Yes, theres something exceedingly charming and special about a home built 100 years ago or more, even if it doesnrsquo;t have nearly 9,000 square feet and a houseful of designer details. But could you maintain a home that was constructed according to standards that donrsquo;t exist anymore? Is it worth it to even try? What if something happens during a renovationmdash;or just everyday livingmdash;and yoursquo;re on the hook for a major expense?

Itrsquo;s important to be aware of the things that can go wrong so yoursquo;re prepared for what could be a potentially costly reality check.

Your plumbing may need to be replaced

Unless itrsquo;s been totally renovated, an older home likely has outdated plumbing. ldquo;These houses often conceal a number of problems behind their fancy crown molding and plaster walls,rdquo; said Express Sewer amp; Drain. ldquo;While some of these issues are >

They can include lead, which is ldquo;highly toxic,rdquo; galvanized materials, which are ldquo;susceptible to corrosion and breakage; and polybutylene. ldquo;Heralded as the lsquo;pipe of the futurersquo; when it appeared in the 1970s, polybutylene pipe was introduced as a replacement for copper lines and saw widespread use throughout the 1980s,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Unfortunately, the manufacturer was forced to pay out millions of dollars after a >

Pipes that have been installed underneath homes, failing viewer lines, outdated fixtures and connections, and poorly done ldquo;DIY repairs made by either the homeowner or a handyman rather than a professional plumberrdquo; can cause additional problems with plumbing in older homes.

Same goes for your electrical

If you have an older home, you could very well also have major issues with your electrical system. ldquo;It takes an experienced professional to properly assess the condition of old wiring and its ability to handle the electrical loads of your home,rdquo; said The Spruce. A professional will be looking for a few things in particular:

bull; Old wiring like knob-and-tube. ldquo;Knob-and-tube Kamp;T wiring was an early standardized method of electrical wiring in buildings, in common use in North America from about 1880 to the 1940s. The system is considered obsolete and can be a safety hazard, although some of the fear associated with it is undeserved,rdquo; said the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors InterNACHI. ldquo;The dangers from this system arise from its age, improper modifications, and situations where building insulation envelops the wires. It is not permitted in any new construction.rdquo;
bull; Ungrounded outlets. Older wiring systems may not be grounded, which may make the home unsafe. This means ldquo;theres no ground to protect appliances and sensitive electronics, leaving them vulnerable to damage from power surges,rdquo; said The Spruce.

You may have lead paint

ldquo;In 1978, the federal government banned the use of lead-based paint in homes after long-term studies showed that lead causes severe health problems, especially in children under 6, damaging their nervous systems even before birth,rdquo; said the Washington Post. ldquo;Although lead-based paint is off the market, millions of homes still have it.rdquo;

In fact, This Old House says that, ldquo;If your house was built before 1978, theres a 75 percent chance that theres a layer of lead lurking in the paint.rdquo; The good news is that, if you plan to live with the house as is and never change the paint, yoursquo;re fine. ldquo;As long as the old paint is well adhered, you can keep it safely encapsulated under a latex primer like Peel Bond and well maintained top coat,rdquo; they said.

ldquo;Preventing paint failure is the best, and cheapest defense against exposure. But, the time will come, inevitably, when that old paint will be disturbed as part of prepping your house for painting.rdquo; This Old House outlined the detailed DIY steps to take if yoursquo;re planning to paint, but this is one case where you probably want to bring in an expert.

You may also have asbestos

Asbestos is another substance that is commonly found in older homes and one that requires professional abatement because of the dangers the barbed fibers can present. If inhaled, they can potentially lead to a deadly form of cancer. Asbestos in building materials were banned by the EPA in 1989, so if your home was built earlier than that, a test is in order.

ldquo;Itrsquo;s possible to find asbestos in almost any area of a home, and the older a home, the higher the risk that asbestos lurks somewhere. You canrsquo;t see or smell asbestos, but exposure to loose fibers can cause lung disease such as mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer,rdquo; said Angiersquo;s List. ldquo;The naturally occurring, flame-retardant mineral fibers are too small to identify without a microscope, so donrsquo;t believe anyone who claims you have asbestos but hasnrsquo;t done testing. Inspection and testing costs range from 100 to 750, depending on how many areas you want an inspector to check and how easy it is to collect samples.rdquo;

There may be foundation issues

ldquo;The foundation on older homes can be cracked, leaning, sunken or otherwise damaged and in need of repair,rdquo; said RE/MAX Realtor Bill Gasset on Massachusetts Real Estate Exposure. ldquo;Everything else in the house sits on the foundation, which is why foundation issues must be addressed for safety and to keep the home livable. Of course, all foundation problems are not equal. A few settlement cracks may be normal and safe, but you need an inspector to tell you one way or the other. Foundation repair can be expensive, something to keep in mind when you consider the price of the home.rdquo;

Full Story >

Nontraditional Places to Use Pendant Lights

The first place you thought of was the kitchen island, right? Youre not alone. For many people kitchen islands and pendant lighting go hand in hand, and while they wouldnt be wrong, I would say think bigger Pendant lights are much more versatile than you may realize. Lets take a look around the house at some places to hang them.


Your sink area can sometimes be dark, boring or both. Staggered pendant lighting in this spot gives you light where you need it and a nice spot to get creative with >

Dining Room

Illuminating your dining table with pendants can put a modern spin on the old centered chandelier more commonly seen in dining areas, bringing illumination closer to the table itself.


Grouping the pendants and using varying lengths will shake up the more conventional bar installation over a dining room area, which can be especially dramatic when coupled with an unusually shaped table such as an oval or square. A focused, downward-facing glow from a drum->



The entryway of a home is the place for a first impression. Larger, statement-piece pendant lighting fits perfectly in this area of the home. Experiment with textures, colors, size and even groupings in this type of space. Go wild

Reading Corner/Small Desk

Curl up with a good book and some great task lighting in a reading corner or small desk area. A nice opportunity to add mini pendants, you can also give the space a cozy feel with warmer-colored, vintage-inspired light bulbs.


Placed directly above the mirror, pendant lighting adds a unique decorative element to the bathroom, while bringing extra, more natural lighting to the face. Theyre great for utility and beauty - both the bathrooms and yours.



A row of identical fixtures down a hallway is an elegant solution to lighting this space in a home. Be certain your lights are hung high enough through this high-traffic area and check to make sure the lights clear any doors that open into the hallway.

A pendant can add much-needed lighting and >


Hang pendants on either side of the bed instead of using table lamps on nightstands. This can be a great space-saving idea if your bedroom is small and you have limited floor space to work with. In fact, it looks wonderful even if you do have plenty of space Colored glass or metal shades look fantastic in this setting, especially if your >

Area Accent Lighting

Hang pendant near shelves with artwork or photographs on them to accent the area without taking up valuable space like table lamps can. Table lamps and sconces arent your only option for accent lighting


Nursery/Childrens Rooms

Over the rocking chair or changing table, a pendant light can give your infants room some artistic flair. By hanging a small, low-wattage pendant over the rocking chair, you can see what youre doing for those middle-of-the-night feedings and changes, but keep the light dim enough so the baby will stay quiet and sleepy.

One of my favorite looks is a shaded pendant with cut-out shapes. The shadows it casts on the wall are magical. A pendant light with a changeable shade can grow with your little one and makes great lighting for a reading or play corner once your baby grows into a busy toddler.

Keep Height in Mind

As I mentioned above, there are a few things to keep in mind when installing pendant lights, the most important being height. No one wants to get up out of their comfy reading spot and bang their head directly into a light fixture. A good guideline is to leave a space of 18 to 24 inches above the tallest person in the house. Your guests will appreciate your attention to sparing their foreheads from pain.

For a table, the recommended height is 28 to 32 inches over the surface. You have a little leeway with this, depending on the height of the ceiling, the size of the pendant lights and your preference.

Use these tips to add a unique flair to your home. Think outside of the kitchen island pendant light box

Kim Six is a DIY home improvement blogger living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kim writes on DIY decor topics for The Home Depot. She is a stay-at-home mom of three young kids and likes to focus on budget-friendly and easily doable projects. To review pendant lighting, including >
Full Story >

Should You Finance Your Renovation?

If yoursquo;re looking to finance your renovation, yoursquo;ve got options there, too. Sure, you can take out a home equity line against your home once it appreciates in value, but yoursquo;ll have to pay interest. What if there was another option?

There is: zero interest credit at Home Depot and Lowersquo;s.

Move into a new home and hate your floors, your fridge, or your kitchen countertops? With credit from Home Depot or Lowersquo;s, you can finance your updates, breaking the cost into more doable monthly payments. So is it for you? Letrsquo;s find out by examining the pros and cons also, you can check out the different Home Depot programs here and compare the offerings at Home Depot and Lowersquo;s here.

Pro: A new kitchen

Or new floors or a new bathroom or anything your home is dying for. If you donrsquo;t have another viable option for doing the renovations you need, this could be the answer. The amount of credit you are offered, the length of the term, and the corresponding monthly payments will obviously vary.

Pro: No interest

Interest makes what you purchase more expensive, which can make it take longer to pay offmdash;especially if yoursquo;re only make the minimum payment every month. Remove the interest and you havehellip;

Pro: More manageable payments

You may not want to shell out several thousand dollars for Quartz countertops, but a 200 monthly paymenthellip;that doesnrsquo;t sound so bad, right?

Con: More money going out

Of course, yoursquo;re probably not thrilled about committing to more money going out every monthmdash;especially since you may not be totally sure yet whether or not yoursquo;ll have discretionary funds left over at the end of the monthmdash;but are you more or less thrilled about those horrid countertops?

Pro: No need to save

If yoursquo;re the type that hates to wait and loves instant gratification, this will definitely be exciting.

Con: Delayed gratification feels good, too

Then again, it does feel good to set a goal and achieve it.

Con: Heavy-duty interest if you make a mistake

The biggest downside to no-interest credit offerings like these is the punishment involved if you donrsquo;t make good on your responsibilities. Miss one payment or make it late, and yoursquo;re busted. Not only will you immediately incur interest at whatever rate they pre-warned you about when you opened your account and it can be obnoxiously high, but interest will also now be owed back to the initial credit amount. Your monthly payment will jump dramatically, making it challenging to even get the balance paid off.

Full Story >

In Praise of the Townhouse

The first townhouses to appear in Canada popped up in the 19th century, when they were the most common form of urban housing, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. It says they were reminiscent of the Georgian and Victorian townhouses of Great Britain, but less formal.

ldquo;The width, size and appointment of the townhouse reflected the wealth of its occupants,rdquo; says the site.

In 1967, the first condominium village to be registered in Canada was a townhouse development - Brentwood Village in Edmonton. Since then, both freehold and condominium townhouses, and more recently, stacked townhouses, have been popular housing choices for Canadians.

A report by Altus Group in Toronto says that in the 1950s, townhouses accounted for only one per cent of housing starts. Since then the market share has gradually increased, with a sharp bump in the 1970s as the baby boomers started having families and government programs encouraged home ownership. In 2017, townhouses represented 24 per cent of all single-family housing starts, but only 13 per cent of all starts as condo apartments took away market share.

Altus Group says that townhouses are an attractive product for younger families because they are more affordable than single-family and semi-detached homes, but more family-oriented than condo apartments.

ldquo;This, along with policies aimed at increasing densities for greenfield areas and the growing number of baby boomer retirees looking for move-down product, suggest new townhouse sales are poised for growth in the years ahead,rdquo; says the report.

It notes that compared to buyers of single-detached homes and semis, ldquo;new townhouse buyers are less likely to be under 50 years of age with children although this was still the largest buyer group, and more likely to be younger singles.rdquo;

Townhouses in Calgary and Edmonton are more suitable for first-time buyers because they are smaller than in Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area GTA. The average Calgary unit is 1,300 sq. ft., while in Edmonton the townhouses average 1,400 sq. ft. The average new condo price in Calgary is 275 per sq. ft.; in Edmonton itrsquo;s 225 per sq. ft.

In Vancouver, the average new townhouse is 1,600 sq. ft and sells for 575 per sq. ft., while in the GTA, the average unit is 2,100 sq. ft., selling for 400 per sq. ft.

A typical Canadian single-family home has about 2,500 sq. ft.

The report says stacked townhouses ldquo;provide a more affordable option often to single-family product, given higher densities, with many of the attractive aspects of condominium tenure - but without living in a high-rise environment. However, they still play a >

The report adds: ldquo;Part of the market challenges with stacked townhouses versus row townhouses are those similar to condominium apartments - longer planning and construction timelines.rdquo;

Despite the long-term growth of the townhouse as a great alternative to expensive single-family housing or condo apartments, and despite pent-up demand, Altus Group says new townhouse sales in Calgary and Edmonton have been flat during the last year, down in Vancouver and ldquo;plummetingrdquo; in Toronto, due to a lack of product that has driven up prices and impacted affordability.

Frank Clayton, senior research fellow at the Centre for Urban Research CUR and Land Development, Ryerson University in Toronto, says affordability problems in the GTA are largely due to local and provincial government policies.

ldquo;The Ontario government and municipalities inflate housing prices - both existing and new - by imposing direct costs on the development of land for new housing in order to achieve planning goals,rdquo; says Clayton. ldquo;These direct development costs include local and regional development charges, planning review fees, building permits, engineering and servicing fees and parkland dedication.rdquo;

Another issue is the lack of serviced land available for development, resulting in a rapid increase in land values.

A 2014 CUR study ldquo;concluded that a major component of development charges - the financing of growth->

Clayton studied the development charges for townhouses in the City of Toronto and surrounding municipalities and found that ldquo;the serviced land component of new townhouses is inordinately high, not only in the GTA but in other parts of the Greater Golden Horseshoe as well. Oakville and the southern York Region Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan in particular, have unusually high townhouse costs.rdquo;

Clayton says the lowest charges in the GTA are in Ajax and Bradford West Gwillimbury.

He says the keys to enhancing townhouse affordability are to increase the supply of serviced sites for both greenfield and intensification development; and to reduce the government-imposed costs of new housing.

Builders have been pleading for a break on these charges for years. The provincial government, elected this fall, has promised to help cut regulation and the time it takes to get building permits issued.

Full Story >

Is There Really a No Closing Cost Mortgage?

This loan estimate is a three-page form that provides important information about a potential mortgage such as a note rate, the annual percentage rate, how much interest you would pay over the life of the loan and other data points. The loan estimate will also itemize potential closing costs associated with getting a mortgage. But wherersquo;s the No Closing Cost mortgage?

The truth is there really is no such thing. There are costs associated with all mortgages, itrsquo;s just a matter of how and who pays for them. Sellers can pay for some or all of your closing costs on most loans and lenders can also help out with a lender credit. Itrsquo;s with this credit that the phrase ldquo;no closing costrdquo; comes into play.

Herersquo;s how it works. You know that with each loan program lenders provide multiple rates from which to choose. If you want a lower rate yoursquo;ll be asked to pay discount points. A discount point, or simply a ldquo;pointrdquo; is expressed as a percentage of the loan amount and lowers, or discounts, the note rate on your mortgage. As an example, consider a 30 year fixed rate quote of 4.25 percent with no points at all. But you might want to pay one point on a 200,000 loan to lower your rate to 3.75 percent. One point equals 2,000 and is in essence a form of prepaid interest to the lender.

Conversely, you might be able to choose a 4.50 percent rate and suddenly therersquo;s a lender credit available to you for 2,000. This credit will be applied toward your closing costs when you attend your closing. This credit has multiple variables but primarily the main consideration is the adjustment in rate and the amount of your closing costs. On a 50,000 mortgage for instance, one point is just 500 which wonrsquo;t make much of a dent. But a 300,000 mortgage and a 3,000 credit can. So much so that the lender credit pays for all of your closing costs.

Note here there are two types of costs, recurring and non-recurring. Non-recurring costs are those yoursquo;ll see at your closing and never again. Costs such as lender fees or escrow charges. Recurring costs are those yoursquo;ll pay for over and over throughout the life of the loan and include interest, taxes and insurance. No-closing cost loans typically refer to non-recurring costs, not recurring ones.

Most any mortgage loan can be constructed to provide some sort of lender credit and all lenders can offer one. A no-closing cost mortgage can sound attractive but in reality there is a closing cost to you- higher monthly payments.

Full Story >

How to Upkeep Your Home So Neighbors Are In Awe

Install a Fence

The curb appeal of your home is one of the most important features of the property and determines how much it stands out in the neighborhood. A fence can enclose your yard and prevent animals or those passing by from walking on the grass. The fence is also considered to be an extra security measure that can deter intruders from accessing the building if they are planning a break-in.

To enhance the design of your home, choose a cast iron fence to create a contemporary design that looks high-end and increases the value of your home with a regal touch. You can also add a white picket fence that is >

Add a New Mailbox

The mailbox is one of the first features of the home that is noticed by your neighbors and should be updated. If your mailbox is worn or the letters have faded, consider installing a new box that has fresh paint and is visible for the mailman to see while passing by your home. Choose a mailbox that matches the >

Paint the Exterior

The color of your home will determine the appearance of your property, making it important to paint the exterior with a fresh coat of paint that allows the home to look updated. Consider choosing a neutral color that blends in with the rest of the houses on the block to ensure that it doesnt stand out or look awkward. Using a bold color can cause it to lose its value. The trim or paint on the shutters should complement the main shade of the home.

Purchase the Required Backings

There are many features of your home that may become damaged due to natural disasters or water damage on the property. You can protect your pocketbook by obtaining a home warranty. This will cover the cost of repairs when theyre needed. The service contract can replace your wooden floors if pipes burst or appliances that have worn out, to ensure that you save money over time and still maintain the quality of your home.

Remove Clutter

Keeping your yard tidy will allow it to stand out by removing toys, equipment, or lawn decorations that can detract from the appeal of the property. Make it a point to remove clutter that develops during the week, which will create an appealing environment that makes it look like the home is maintained well.

Increase Your Landscaping

The landscaping is the first impression that is made on your guests and neighbors. Knowing this makes it important to mow the lawn every week or two and pull weeds that can damage the yard over time. You can also add extra color to the property with flower pots on and around the porch and shrubs that fill in bare spots near the siding of the home. Add fertilizer to the lawn to increase the color of the grass and water it in longer increments to allow the soil to soak in more moisture, which will penetrate the roots and will allow it to grow more in the spring and summer seasons.

Full Story >

Wishing Our Readers a Very Merry Christmas

Best wishes to you and yours this Christmas from all of the editors, writers and staff at Realty Times.

Full Story >

Yes, You Can Have a Christmas and a Pet Smart Solutions to Keep Everyone Safe and Happy

nbsp;Go faux

One of the problems with ldquo;realrdquo; trees is that ldquo;many have sharp needles that can scratch and puncture your pets skin,rdquo; said Balsam Hill. ldquo;Natural pine needles are also mildly toxic to animals; they can be dangerous if your dog or cat gobbles them up. Felines also tend to think the tree trunk is a natural scratching post. These pets are often tempted to climb the whole tree when they feel playful, which not only damages the tree and ornaments, but also increases the chance that your whole holiday setup will topple over unexpectedly.rdquo;

An artificial tree should also, presumably, be less attractive to dogs who might think you brought the tree inside just for themhellip;to pee on. We say presumably because it didnt stop our guy from lifting his leg.

Go small

As lovely as it might be to have a big, lush tree in front of the big picture window in your living room, you might just have to scrap that idea if therersquo;s no way to properly secure it and/or keep your dogs out of harmrsquo;s way.

ldquo;Christmas movies use tipped-over trees as a comedic device, but therersquo;s nothing funny about a falling tree indoors,rdquo; said Rover. ldquo;Invest in a quality stand to secure the base of the tree. To prevent possible injury to curious pets, place the Christmas tree in a corner and secu>

A tabletop tree or, in our case, a countertop tree since one of the three dogs in this house CAN LEAP UP ONTO THE KITCHEN TABLE, may be your answer. Yes, it will be smaller, and yes, it might not feel quite as festive. But a smaller tree is better than no tree, and it certainly beats a 2,000 vet bill for surgical ornament removal from your dogrsquo;s stomach.

Go upside down

This has become a trend over the last few years, and Ariana Grandersquo;s upside-down tree will probably cause a further spike in popularity. Mind you, her explanation was, ldquo;Sometimes life just be upside down,rdquo; but it would still make for a good pet-safe solutionmdash;and a conversation piece.

Go halfsies

This half-tree would probably be a no-go in our household as Irsquo;m pretty sure the above-mentioned pee-er would still find this an attractive urination spot. But, for those households for whom keeping the dogs and cats away from the branches and ornaments is the main issue, this may be a winner.

Go with smart deacute;cor

Keeping your important ornaments towards the top will help ensure that, even if your pets do mess around with the tree, your cherished items will stay safe. ldquo;Hang expensive and precious adornments in the upper two-thirds section of the tree,rdquo; said Balsam Hill. ldquo;Use the lower one-third section for shatter-proof pieces or for those pieces you can easily dispose of and replace, should an accident happen.rdquo;

Go food-free

ldquo;Although this tip for cat-proofing a Christmas tree may seem obvious, there are actually lots of food->

Go with a cage

Now, this is a novel suggestion for keeping the tree safe from pets, and vice versa. If you have dogs and dont need to worry about them scaling such a tall tree, you can go with something a bit more modest, like this. This also apparently keeps kids out, so bonus

Full Story >

A Homeowners Guide to Water Filtration

Why Would I Need a Water Filtration System?

As water flows in lakes, rivers, streams and underground wells, it picks up a little bit of everything it touches. Some of it is good, some of it is bad and some of it is just unpleasant. A home water filtration system is sometimes the only way to counteract waters ability to act as a solvent. A filtration system can provide many benefits:

1. A filtration system removes harmful contaminants. In enforcing the provisions of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency EPA requires that water utilities limit the amount of 90 different contaminants that can lead to increased health risks. The list includes well-known dangers like arsenic and lead, but it also includes bacteria and organic and inorganic compounds that are less well known but nonetheless dangerous.nbsp;

It is up to the company that supplies your drinking water to remove these contaminants or at least get them down to what are considered safe levels. The majority do a good job, but sometimes a certain contaminant may spike and get through. There are also situations where some individuals may have a sensitivity to a contaminant at the EPA-approved level. In other words, the level that is considered safe for the general population may not be safe for certain people.nbsp;

In addition, once water leaves the water treatment facility, it must flow through pipes that could leach harmful contaminants, such as lead. A water filtration system acts as a second safeguard once the water reaches your home.nbsp;

2. A filtration system removes the material that sometimes makes drinking tap water unpleasant. In addition to harmful contaminants that may be in water, the EPA has developed a list of "Secondary Standards."nbsp; These are contaminants that will not make you sick, but they affect the look, taste and smell of water. These contaminants can give water a chlorine or rotten egg smell or turn it cloudy or off-color. Some, while not harmful to humans, are corrosive and can damage pipes and appliances. Your water utility is not required to test for these contaminants.

3. Home filtration is more environmentally friendly and cheaper than >. Plastic water bottles are petroleum-based products that >

How Do I Find Out Whats in My Water?

If you have traveled around the country, youve probably noticed that tap water in other places can taste different than water at home. The contaminants and materials water comes in contact with can affect the way it tastes, and the contaminants in your water can depend on where you live and where you get your water supply. If you are considering a water filtration system, it is best to find out what is in your water and what you want to filter out.nbsp;

Refer to the water quality report. Begin by consulting the "Consumer Confidence Report" CCR issued by your water utility. The report is sometimes called the "Water Quality Report." Part of the Clean Water Act requires municipal water facilities to test the water they supply to the public. The utility must then mail a copy of the report to its customers once a year, and it is a requirement for any water company that serves more than 25 people or 15 households.

The report is tailored to each water company, but they all contain:

  • bull; An explanation of where the company obtains its water.
  • bull; Information on the level of contaminants in the water.
  • bull; What the EPA considers to be safe levels of contaminants.
  • bull; Other >

If the CCR is one of those pieces of mail you transfer to the "circular file" as soon as you receive it, or if you live in an apartment building that is owned by someone else, you can get a copy from your water supplier. A list of contacts for municipal water suppliers can be found on the EPAs website.

Hire a company to test your water. If you get your water from a private well, you can have your water tested by a company that is certified to test water. Mortgage companies may require well testing when you buy a house, and if you build your own home, building officials may require a clean bill of health for the well before issuing a Certificate of Occupancy. Other than that, most regulations on well testing are fairly lax. The EPA recommends annual testing.

"It is a good idea to have well water tested every couple of years," says Joe Truini, a home improvement expert and writer. "The tests should check for bacteria but also identify the mineral and metal content of the water. The tests are also a good way to stay up-to-date with state regulations. For example, a test from 2012 showed the sodium level in my well to be borderline high, but a 2015 test showed the sodium level to be way below state limits, even though the actual sodium content had not changed that much. What had changed was the regulation. Thats important, because I was considering buying a filter to remove what I thought were high levels of sodium. Now I dont need to."

At a minimum, the EPA recommends annual tests for the following:

  • bull; Nitrates -- These can interfere with red blood cells ability to transport oxygen.
  • bull; Coliform bacteria -- These are pathogens caused by fecal contamination.
  • bull; Total dissolved solids -- High levels of minerals, salts, metals, cations or anions can make water unfit for consumption.
  • bull; pH levels -- Imbalance can cause a variety of health issues like cardiovascular disease and bone fragility.

Test the water more frequently if a test turns up a problem or if you suspect the well has been contaminated for some reason. "We had our well tested because there was local concern about crop dusting contaminating the ground water," points out home improvement expert Steve Willson.

What Kind of Systems Are Available?

If youve had your water tested or you have reviewed the CCR and you are concerned about the results, you have a few options. You can treat only the water you drink, or you can treat all the water that enters your house.nbsp;

Point-of-Use POU Systems

These systems treat the water where it is used, usually in the kitchen. They include countertop products that treat the water one pitcher-full at a time, filters that attach directly to the faucet and under-sink units that hook into the cold-water line. Some units have a dedicated faucet that is installed in the sink deck.

POU systems >

Carbon Filters. Activated carbon filters are used in many filtering systems, including pitcher filters, countertop and under-sink products. Carbon does a good job of filtering out the byproducts of the water treatment process that can affect the taste of water. Some filters can remove harmful contaminants like lead and pesticides, but not all filters perform the same. In general, solid block carbon filters remove more contaminants than granular activated charcoal. Some under-sink systems use two or more filters in a series to increase the number of contaminants the system can remove. These systems often contain another filtering medium in addition to the carbon.nbsp;nbsp;

Reverse Osmosis RO. These systems force water through a semi-permeable membrane that filters out a variety of contaminants, including certain metals and nitrates. RO systems usually consist of the membrane as well as carbon pre-filters to remove sediment and some contaminants, and they also contain post-filters that finish the job and remove the chlorine taste from water. These systems are effective, but the whole process takes some time, so RO systems usually include a storage tank so that clean water is ready when it is needed.

Distillers. These systems heat water until it turns into a vapor and then condenses the vapor back into a liquid. Distillation can remove many contaminants, but they produce very little clean water in a day. They are often used in combination with carbon filters.

Ultraviolet Light. Although not as popular as carbon filters and RO systems, under-sink units that use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms are available. Most cannot remove gases, heavy metals or particulates. Systems may work in conjunction with carbon filters.

Point-of-Entry POE Systems

These systems treat all the water that flows into your house. They are usually installed where the water line enters the house or near the pressurized tank if you draw water from a private well. They >

Many POE systems include a water softener, which is a good choice if you live in an area with hard water. For more on water softeners see the, "Do I Need a Water Softener?" sidebar.

How Do I Choose the Right System?

There are several options when it comes time to select a filtration system. After identifying the contaminants you want to eliminate from your water, you probably have an idea of whether you want a POU system or a POE system. Here are some points to consider when making a purchasing decision.

System Effectiveness. The system should extract the contaminants you want removed. The manufacturers literature may make statements like, "Removes 99 percent of lead," or, "Removes 100 percent of bacteria," but the average shopper has no way to verify such claims. Fortunately, NSF International, an independent testing and certification company, and the Water Quality Association certify water treatment products. You can visit the Water Quality Association at to search for certified products. At the NSF site, you can match a water treatment technology with specific contaminants to find certified products. For example, if you want a reverse osmosis system that removes lead, you can find a list of companies and products here.

Flow Rates. Water treatment systems take time to clean the water. Each product will list its flow rate in gallons per minute GPM. For POU systems, such as one installed in the kitchen cabinet, you will find rates that range from about .5 GPM to 1.5 GPM and higher. Because reverse osmosis systems use storage tanks, they are rated in the number of gallons they produce in a day. The flow rate is more important when deciding on a POE system. These systems must be able to handle enough water to provide drinking water, as well as wash clothes, supply showers and tubs, and flush toilets. They typically supply water at the rate of 15 to 40 GPM. Discuss your needs with an installer or a dealer to find the size that is best for your households needs.nbsp;

Ease of Maintenance. Water treatment systems require some maintenance, so examine the manufacturers literature to see what needs to be done and how often. Some POU carbon filters can last about six months before they need to be changed. Larger POE systems may only require annual replacement.nbsp;

Accessories. The dedicated faucet on POU systems should fit in with the rest of the kitchen design. Companies offer the faucets in a variety of >

Costs. What you will pay depends on several factors. Here are some ranges for different types of systems

  • Countertop pitcher: About 30
  • Filter attached to a faucet: 20ndash;50
  • Under-sink systems: 100ndash;600 uninstalled
  • Whole-house systems: 400ndash;2,500 uninstalled

What Should I Know about Installation and Maintenance?

A reasonably handy homeowner can install most POU systems. For under-sink systems, however, the space is very cramped. The systems contain everything you will need to complete the installation, and there is no soldering as the systems use compression fittings. Basically, you will turn off the cold-water supply at the sink.

  • Disconnect the supply line that runs from the shutoff valve to the faucet, and install a fitting that diverts water to the filtration system.
  • From there, connect tubing that runs to the inlet side of the filtration system and then tubing that runs from the outlet side to the dedicated faucet.
  • Place the faucet in the sink deck.
  • The filter or group of filters usually attaches to the inside wall of the cabinet. For a reverse osmosis system, the outlet tubing runs to a storage tank. There is also a drain line that removes impurities captured by the reverse osmosis membrane. The line connects to your sink drain.

    POE systems involve cutting into the main water line that enters the home. These installations are best left to a professional plumber.

    The fine points of maintenance will vary from product to product, so it is important to consult the product literature. All filters will eventually need to be changed. Manufacturers have made this process easier. Some filters on POU systems >


    Armed with the information in this guide, you now have the tools to determine if you need home water treatment and choose the filtration system that works best for you. Whether you decide on a faucet-mounted point-of-use system or a whole-house system, the right water treatment ensures the health and drinkability of your home water supply for you and those you love.

    Do I Need a Water Softener?

    You do need a water softener if your water has a high mineral content, especially high levels of calcium and magnesium. Water with high dissolved mineral content is called hard water. Its not unhealthy, but hard water can lead to problems:

    • bull; Soaps dont lather as they should, so you end up using more. Rinsing also takes longer. Hard water can affect personal grooming and the washing of clothes.
    • bull; Scale caused by hard water can clog pipes and force some appliances, like water heaters, to work harder, making them less energy efficient. Scale can also cause staining on faucets.
    • bull; Hard water can lead to stains in sinks as well as on dishes and glasses.

    It is estimated that about 85 percent of the country has some level of hard water. The water treatment industry measures hard water in grains per gallon GPG. Here are some established guidelines.

    Consult the Consumer Confidence Report or Water Quality Report from your municipal water utility to determine the level of hardness in your water. You can also test your water. Hard water tests are >

    There is no reason to use a certified testing company unless you are testing for other contaminants. Some companies in the water treatment business will send you test strips for free.

    Softening the Water

    Water softeners remove the minerals from the water before the water circulates throughout your house. Heres the process in broad strokes: Incoming water flows into a tank containing a softening resin, which resemble plastic beads. The beads have a negative charge which attracts the positive ions in the minerals. This causes the minerals to attach themselves to the beads. Eventually, the beads cannot hold additional minerals and must be regenerated. Next to the tank holding the beads is a tank containing a salt brine. The brine flows over the beads, removing the minerals and flushing them into a drain. The beads are ready to start the softening process again.

    The regenerating process is automatic. Some softeners use a timer to regenerate the resin, but other models use sensors to determine when regeneration should take place.

    Water softeners come in a variety of sizes. To match the softener to your needs, multiply the number of people in the house by 75 gallons per day by the water hardness number you determined from testing. For example, four people times; 75 gallons per day times; 8 as an example of water hardness = 2,400 grains per day.

    A water treatment professional can help you match the system to your needs, but the sample equation is a good place to start.

    About Fran Donegan

    Fran Donegan writes on home and plumbing >
    Full Story >

    Home Insurance 101: The Fundamentals of Home Quality

    The U.S. Census Bureau reported 614,000 homes were sold in the United States last year. Furthermore, the U.S. economy continues to rebound from the Great Recession. This means the number of homebuyers may increase nationwide over the next few years, leading to increased competition among homebuyers.

    Ultimately, an informed homebuyer is better equipped to make the right decision about a residence and whether this house will fulfill his or her personal needs. With the right information at his or her disposal, a homebuyer should have no trouble insuring his or her residence as well.

    Home insurance likely is a requirement if you want to obtain a mortgage. However, there are numerous factors that may impact your ability to receive a favorable premium for your home insurance, along with your ability to insure your house altogether.

    The key factors that may impact your home insurance premium and/or your ability to insure your house include:

    1. A Homes Location

    Location represents an important consideration as you explore the housing market and will affect your home insurance premium.

    For example, home insurance premiums will vary for homeowners in Florida and California, respectively, due to the fact the climates in these states create different risks for homeowners.

    Sperlings Best Places ranks several Florida regions among the most likely to be affected by a major hurricane in the near future. Comparatively, wildfires are problematic in California, and the State of California reported these incidents have impacted more than 150,000 acres of land in the Golden State thus far in 2016.

    Home insurance safeguards your house, personal property and more. Therefore, if you live in a region that is susceptible to hurricanes, wildfires or other risks, you may be forced to pay a higher premium to insure your housemdash;or you may need to conduct a broad search to find an insurer for your residence.

    2. Construction of Your Home

    How your home is built might affect your home insurance premium. In fact, if your house consists of older materials, you may need to update your residence so you can insure it.

    In addition, many factors may impact the home insurance premium for an older residence, including:

    • Outdated Wiring -- Knob-and-tube wiring may be more exposed than wiring that is used in modern homes, creating additional fire dangers.
    • Galvanized Steel Pipes for Plumbing -- Older homes often feature galvanized steel pipes that could rust, which may lead to leaks and flooding.
    • Storm-Sensitive Roof -- An older roof will consist of older materials, which may make the roof more susceptible to hail, wind or other damage.

    Take a close look at a residences construction before you make your purchase decision. By doing so, youll be able to determine whether home updates are needed, along with how the homes construction could affect your home insurance premium and/or your ability to insure the residence.

    3. Home Replacement Costs

    If you buy a home today, the value of your residence may change over the next month, year or decade.

    The real estate market fluctuates constantly, and as such, what your home is worth now is likely to change soon. As a result, using the price that you paid for your house to determine the costs to replace your residence is insufficient.

    Instead, youll need a professional home appraisal to determine what it would cost to replace your residence. After this appraisal is completed, youll be able to determine the proper home replacement costs and insure your house accordingly.

    4. Flood Insurance

    Believe it or not, a standard home insurance policy does not cover the damage associated with floods. On the other hand, youll need flood insurance to supplement your home insurance if your house is located in a flood zone.

    Also, it is important to note that your home does not necessarily need to be located in a flood zone to suffer damage due to a flood.

    Even a few inches of water can cause long-lasting mold problems and flood damage in a home. If you purchase flood insurance - even if youre outside of a flood zone - youll be protected if flooding occurs.

    5. Potential Liability Hazards

    Your home may have potential liability hazards that can raise your home insurance premium or make it difficult for you to insure your residence.

    Some of the most common potential liability hazards include:

    • Animals -- If you own a large dog or other types of animals, youll need to account for each pet when you evaluate your home insurance options.
    • Swimming Pool -- A swimming pool is a must for many homebuyers, but a pool could impact your home insurance premium.
    • Trampoline -- Jumping on a trampoline offers a fun, exciting activity for kids and adults alike, but a trampoline may require you to pay more for your home insurance premium.

    Consider your home insurance options as you search for the perfect residence, and you may be able to improve your chances of finding the ideal house in no time at all.

    Ryan Hanley is the Vice President of Marketing at and the Managing Editor of Agency Nation. He is also a speaker, podcaster and author of the Amazon best-seller, Content Warfare. Ryan has over 10 years of insurance expertise and blogs frequently to help consumers understand complicated insurance topics.

    Full Story >

    We Default to the Level of Our Training

    Many real estate companies know this, and it is why they provide, or send their agents to, all sorts of training.

    For the most part, the training programs available to agents are likely to have to do with what we call "sales skills". They learn what to say and how to say it with respect to first contacts -- telephone calls, people met at open houses, etc. Agents learn scripts to use in different situations. They learn what to say when they encounter objections of one sort or another. Some agents -- some very good agents -- will practice their scripts and dialogues over and over again.

    The scripts become not canned verbiage, but ingrained habits of thinking and responding to different kinds of situations. And, when the situation arises -- when the buyer raises concerns about the interest rate, or when the seller says that there is another neighborhood agent who will list for a lower commission rate, the well-trained agent wont have to rise to the occasion -- to think of something on the spot -- he will default to his training. And thats a good thing.

    So far, so good. Real estate agents are sales people. The California license is for a real estate salesperson, and it is good for them to perfect their craft.

    But they are also agents. And, as agents, they have duties to their clients. Those duties include providing competent representation in often complex transactions. In short, it is all well and good that agents may be trained in the arts of contacting people, working with them, and, ultimately, getting them into contract. But those agents should also be trained to be equally or more adept at constructing and completing transactions that are beneficial to their clients.

    It is my observation -- not a scientific study, to be sure -- that, on the whole, real estate companies tend to fall somewhat short when it comes to providing training to their agents when it comes to the business of training them in actually conducting the business of real estate.

    This is not to say that no such training occurs. Most companies will see to it that they either provide a session on how to complete a standard purchase contract or they will encourage their agents to attend such a course. But this pales in comparison to the training that is designed to show agents how to get someone to make an appointment, agree to a listing contract, or sign a purchase contract.

    Agents need to be good at those things, to be sure. But there are other competencies they should have as well. They should be able to understand a title report, to explain an escrow closing statement, to determine whether their client has received required disclosures, etc. etc.

    When situations get sticky in a real estate transaction, when questions arise regarding contract interpretation or legal requirements, one cant expect that agents will rise to the occasion. They will default to the level of their training. Regrettably, that training may all too often be insufficient to the occasion.

    Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way.nbsp;

    Full Story >

    Remember Your Sales Objective

    My first boss, Mr. Clarence McKee deceased, taught me a sales lesson within 15 minutes of my first day on my first sales job, as a part-time shoe clerk in a family shoe store that I never forgot.

    "Son, I want to teach you something about selling, and I dont want you ever to forget it. Are you listening to me?"

    "Yes, sir" He gave me a choice: I could choose to learn and implement what he taught me or not work for him.

    It was the shortest sales lesson ever taught. I knew within a few sentences what my purpose and expectations were, and what would happen if I did not meet them. It was horrifying for a high school junior

    With his bald head reflecting the glare from a bare, dangling light bulb in the storeroom, his steely eyes peering over his glasses and his boney index finger pointed at me, Mr. McKee simply said, ldquo;Get their money.rdquo;

    Now that might be a little strong for todayrsquo;s sales training, but it is a lesson I never forgot. Mr.McKee did not say put pressure on the customer; he did not tell me to lsquo;win.rsquo; He did not teach me how to close the sale. He just wanted me to understand my purpose.

    ldquo;You are not here to show shoes. You are here to sell shoes, and if they do not see the the shoes they like, they will not buy them.rdquo;

    Then he clearly and precisely told me how to do it.

    "If you cannot find the inventory shoe the customer intends to buy in the size they need, turn them over to me. Do you understand?" If you cannot do this, I will have to send you home.rdquo;

    Even as a 16-year-old, I understood. I was not expected to know the inventory on my first day. In addition, I better turn my prospects over to Mr. McKee or face a one-man firing squad.

    Fortunately, it was a retail operation, so I did not have to worry about prospecting. I just focused on meeting the needs of the prospects who wanted to buy shoes that fit.

    Or turn them over to Mr. McKee. Over the two years I spent my Saturdays and summers selling shoes, I learned the inventory and mostly learned that Mr. McKee was willing to train me and over time, his promise of my making more money selling shoes on commission than my grocery bagging friends down the street were making by the hour.

    At first, I thought my job was to sell shoes because that is what Mr. McKee so clearly explained to me the first day. However, I came to learn that yes, if I am in commission sales, my income is going to be based on my ability to provide services that meet the shopperrsquo;s needs.

    Later when I found myself training my onsite sales teams for major condominium communities and subdivisions, I had some fun remembering the get their moneyrsquo; challenge, because it is at the same time clear and hard.

    However, I like what Marshall Field believed when he opened the famous Marshall Fieldrsquo;s department store years ago when he had the motto, ldquo;give the lady what she wantsrdquo; and installed a babysitting service and a soda fountain in his stores.

    So, maybe learning how to prospect and close a sale is not the first thing we need to learn in sales. The first thing we need to learn, especially in real estate, is that we are in business to help find homes our home shoppers are willing to purchase, which brings us back to knowing how to find and show lsquo;what fits the wants and needs of the homeshopper.

    Next: Do you know how to tell if you are working with a ready, willing and able prospect?

    Full Story >

    8 Amazingly Easy Tips For A Pet-Friendly Home

    Avoid Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

    If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, your guests are bound to note from the moment they enter your home even if pets arent present that you live with animals. In spite of routine cleaning, carpeting harbors pet odors and allergens. If you cant live without carpeting, opt for a low pile thats easy to clean. You might also consider adding easy-to-clean area rugs in your home -- just be sure to add slip proofing beneath these rugs to keep them secu>

    Durable Flooring

    A hallmark of a pet-friendly home is durable flooring. While hardwood and eco-friendly bamboo are durable, they may show wear and tear i.e. scratching sooner than a concrete or tile floor will. Your pets likely spend considerable time on the floor, so it makes sense to install flooring that is ideal for them. You may also want to consider other pet-friendly types of flooring like vinyl and linoleum. Be sure to research your flooring in order to choose the best type for your home and your particular pet.

    Install a Dog Door

    Many homeowners love the convenience of a dog door, which allows dogs and even cats to let themselves in and out of the home as they need. With a dog door, you dont have to rush home from work to ensure that your dog gets out on time and you dont have to worry about forgetting to let your pets in and out. You can also opt to install a custom door that includes pet-friendly access within its design.

    Stain-Resistant Fabrics

    Even if you have strict rules about no pets on the furniture, there comes a time when your pet is bound to leave a mess on your fabric. By choosing stain-resistant materials, you can take the headache out of pet messes. Similarly, easy-to-clean fabrics like microfiber will also hold up to pet wear and tear better than many other types of fabric. Leather is quite easy to clean, but if you have large dogs youll need to take extra care with their nails to ensure that your leather upholstery isnt punctured or scratched.

    Built-In Feeding Station

    Do you ever wish you could fill your pets water bowl in place? When you create a custom feeding station, you can install a faucet that allows you to fill up your dog or cats water bowl right in its place. You can also install attractive cabinetry where you can store your pets food and treats. This type of station is easy to integrate into a kitchen, mud room, laundry room or wherever you choose to feed your pets.

    Designer Bed

    Although many people dont mind snuggling with their pets, others may dislike the wear and tear four-legged creatures impart on bedding. If you dont allow your pets to bed with you, you can still enhance their comfort by getting them a deluxe bed that brims with comfort. With so many >

    Outdoor Hardscaping

    Pet urine can lead to unsightly patches on your lawn. To keep your landscape looking its best, consider installing an outdoor area behind your home where pets can take care of their basic needs. You can also install hardscaping, which makes cleaning up after pets a breeze. Concrete is not only effective as a hardscaping material, its also an affordable option.

    Pet Apparatus

    To keep your pets from becoming bored when youre working or busy with household chores, add a pet apparatus to your home. Cats love to climb and look out of windows, while dogs often enjoy dog housing where they can >


    Naturally, youll want to make any changes to your home with your pets in mind. With these general tips, youll be able to create a pet-friendly environment that youll love as much as they will.

    Andrea Davis is the editor for HomeAdvisor, which helps homeowners find home improvement professionals in their area at no charge to ensure the best service in the shortest amount of time.

    Full Story >

    10 New Years Resolutions for Your Home in 2019


    Not only will it look great to have cleaned-out those closets and cleared-off those counters, but it will feel great, too. ldquo;It turns out that your well-being could also become victim to what we might call the lsquo;clutter effect,rsquo;rdquo; said Psychology Today. ldquo;A collection of recent studies on stress, life satisfaction, physical health, and cognition all speak to the value of streamlining.rdquo;

    Donate, donate donate

    There are so many worthy organizations out there who are desperate for clothes, shoes, linens, and housewares. Let The Pinnacle List help you decide what to let go of. ldquo;Employ the 6-month rule,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Itrsquo;s undeniably hard to get rid of things you have fond memories of, but if you need to reevaluate your space needs, itrsquo;s time to start donating or throwing out some of your stuff. If you have clothing, odds and ends, or even appliances that you havenrsquo;t used in the past six months, odds are thatrsquo;s not going to change out of the blue. If itrsquo;s hit the half-year mark and those items are gathering dust, put them in the donation bin.rdquo;

    Get your credit in check

    Do you check your credit report every year? You can do so for free, and keeping up with your credit report frequently will ensure that you can quickly take care of anything thatrsquo;s incorrect. Make this the year that you also take care of legitimate issues on your credit. Whether yoursquo;re already a homeowner and arenrsquo;t intending to move anytime soon or are looking to buy this year, getting your credit in order and improving your score can leave you better prepared for anything that pops up.

    Clear out the entry

    You donrsquo;t notice the pile of shoes and tangle of jackets and umb>

    Invest in a good mattress

    We donrsquo;t want to invoke the selling proposition of mattress companies, because, frankly, that whole seven-year rule and the reason they say to replace your mattress every seven years is disgusting. So, wersquo;ll just leave it at this: You deserve to be more comfortable. And, you can do that these days rather inexpensively. Business Insiderrsquo;s most recommended option is the Leese Sapira Mattress for 1,360, while the much-loved Nectar is just 699.

    Clean your showerhead

    Your shower could be SO. MUCH. BETTER. And donrsquo;t you deserve a better shower in 2019? Chances are, the flow is being compromised. Thankfully, the fix is easy. ldquo;If the flow from your showerhead is growing weaker, the cause is probably mineral buildup,rdquo; said Family Handyman. ldquo;Many manufacturers recommend that you remove the showerhead and soak it in a half-and-half mixture of warm water and vinegar any type. But therersquo;s really no need to remove the head. Just pour the mix into a heavy-duty plastic bag and attach it to the shower arm with a rubber band. The acid in the vinegar dissolves minerals, but prolonged contact can harm some plastics and metal finishes, so remove the bag every 15 minutes and check the shower flow.rdquo;

    Make your money make money

    This is a great time to review your bank accounts and credit cards to see if yoursquo;re getting thenbsp;best yield and interest rates. There are some great high-yield bank accounts offered by online-only banks, while zero-interest credit cards are a great option for those who want to transfer a balance so they can pay it off more quickly.

    Pump up your emergency fund

    If you already have one, it may be time to up the amount you contribute. If you donrsquo;t have one and think yoursquo;re too strapped for cash to start putting away money for a rainy day, even the couple bucks you save here and there from skipping Starbucks can help. An ldquo;emergency savings fund provides a financial safety net, and your new home is the perfect reason to start one,rdquo; said NerdWallet. ldquo;Remember, if the furnace quits on a cold night, therersquo;s no landlord to call. Laid off unexpectedly or surprised by major car repairs? Mortgage payments are still expected on time and in full. Without an emergency fund, these expenses could force you into credit card debt or worse.
    Ideally, your emergency fund should cover several months of expenses, but itrsquo;s OK to start small. Set aside a portion of every paycheck with the goal of saving 500 as quickly as possible, and then contribute as much as you can moving forward.rdquo;

    Take a look at your insurance

    Are your homeownerrsquo;s insurance and car insurance policies handled by separate companies? You could be missing out on big discounts. Ask friends and family for a referral to an insurance broker who can review your current insurance, make recommendations, and hopefully find you better options. Depending on where you live, you may also want to ask about insurance for things like earthquakes, floods, and fires, which may not be required but would give you greater peace of mind.

    Become more water-wise

    A few simple changes can reduce the amount of water you use at home and save you money ldquo;Our houses are thirsty,rdquo; said Houselogic. ldquo;The average household uses about 400 gallons of water each day, or almost 700 per year in water and sewer costs. Making a few simple changes, such as installing EPA-certified WaterSense products, could trim up to 200 from your annual water bill. Add to that energy savings from reduced costs to heat water, and your yearly savings could reach 300 or more per year. Replacing your pre-1994, water-guzzling toilet with a low-flow toilet prevents 90 worth of water costs from being flushed away. HE high-efficiency toilets use compressed air and electric water pumps to flush with less than 1 gallon of water; older models required up to 8 gallons.rdquo;nbsp;

    Full Story >

    Pro-Active or Reactive Architectural Review

    Answer: Several years ago, I wrote a column and made reference to an Architectural Control committee which was called the "KGB" by its members. I was deluged by letters all over the country, asking me how I knew about their association.

    I am opposed to the "pro-active" approach to architectural review. I have visions of men and women walking around the Association with their binoculars and clip-boards, marking down every real -- and sometimes imagined -- violation.

    In my opinion -- whether legal or not -- it is not the way to treat your fellow homeowner. The Architectural Review committee serves a valuable function -- namely to assure compliance with the association documents, and to try to insure that all new structures or installations will comply with the guidelines within the association.

    Additional, the committee should investigate complaints by neighbors, to determine if there are deviations from the standards.

    However, in my opinion, the "pro-active" approach encourages neighbors to spy on one another. This is not the American way. Architectural committees have enough to do; they must establish -- with the Boards consent -- standards to be adopted within the community. They must review -- impartially -- all applications submitted by homeowners. And they must take or recommend action against owners who flaunt the rules.

    But to wander unfettered through the community looking for rule infractions is, in my opinion, beyond the pale. If your association takes a "pro-active" approach, you may want to call a special meeting of the membership to determine if this is really the will of the majority. It is to be noted that in many situations, the committee is appointed -- not elected -- by the Board.

    Architectural committees must be responsive to the owners; they should not be antagonistic to those owners.

    Full Story >

    The Trouble with Concrete

    Done right, concrete and cement excel at everything from foundations, building blocks, and exterior cladding to polished interior floors and amazing kitchen counter tops.

    The ldquo;done rightrdquo; part means that when you hire a contractor for an addition, a renovation, or a new build, their commitment to ldquo;getting concrete rightrdquo; will determine how your love-hate >

    ldquo;Done rightrdquo; means no leaks, no function-destroying cracks, sustainable longevity, and composition that creates the properties that your project needs and that you paid for. All concrete cracks, even if its just micro-cracks which are common in new construction and young concrete. Water, aningredient in concrete, can also cause problems; adding too much water can result in shrinkage and cracking, which may cause leaks.

    What matters is that you hire contractors who understand that deciding to cut construction and concrete costs by working to minimum building codes may undermine your construction priorities and result in functional compromises and trade-offs for the building.

    Owners and developers often decide to build to minimum building codes to save on cost. This may lead to unforeseen problems and to structures without longevity. For instance, modern glass-wall, high-rise condominiums are frequently built to minimum-allowable local construction standards to cut costs. This tight budgeting can result in low-thermal-comfort buildings where construction inefficiency must be offset with high-efficiency heating-cooling, or HVAC, systems. Owners of these massive-window condominium units soon discover their living space is too hot in summer and too cold in winter. The over-worked HVAC system will eventually fail to offset temperature deficiencies and condominium owners will incur additional maintenance or replacement costs on top of discomfort.

    Whatrsquo;s the difference between cement and concrete?

    I recently spent a fascinating day at Informarsquo;s 30th-annual The Buildings Shownbsp;talking about both with exhibitors, speakers, and attendees from across North America. I noticed that the two terms were not always used consistently and often seemed interchangeable, so if yoursquo;re confused donrsquo;t be surprised. Variations also occur in different industries, locations, applications, and just the way people talk. This sometimes distracting word usage is in marked contrast to concrete technology which must be dead-on precise to obtain desired results.

    Portland cementnbsp;is a finely-ground binding agent which, when mixed with water, aggregates like sand and gravel, and additives called admixtures, creates concrete.

    ldquo;Concrete is the foundation of modern construction,rdquo; says Rick Yelton, editor at large for World of Concrete, the annual trade show attended by more than 50,000 concrete professionals.

    ldquo;In its simplest form, concrete is a mixture of a paste of Portland cement and water that coats the surface of the fine and coarse aggregates. The mixing action takes place in the concrete trucks seen lined up at construction sites. In about 2 hours [after pouring], the fresh concrete hardens to hold a shape. Then, over the next few days, the concrete gains strength through a chemical process called hydration.rdquo;

    Concrete is not just one construction material with just one application, but a versatile building ldquo;toolrdquo; which exists in many forms from ready mixed to precast. Concrete exhibits as wide a range of properties as the uses that this versatile building material is put to.

    At The Buildings Show, Concrete Experts from BASF, which ldquo;creates chemistry for advanced construction,rdquo; shared valuable insight into technical advances in concrete. Advancement for construction concentrates on improvements to the performance of Portland Cement and other additives like macrofibers.

    The BASF Experts agreed: ldquo;Concrete must be of good designrdquo; and this includes attention to water, as an ingredient and a destructive force. The following concrete details reveal the range of considerations involved in using concrete and cement:

    bull; Concrete on the exterior of buildings is designed to keep water out, which, in turn, prevents mold - often a significant health hazard - from forming. Membranes and sealants may be added to reinforce waterproofing, a common approach with building foundations.
    bull; Variations in admixture produce specific properties of waterproofing, strength, temperature flexibility, shrinkage, and other characteristics. For instance, improper admixture may result in foundation shrinkage and cracks, which means water will eventually enter the home.
    bull; Technological advances have created ldquo;ultra-high-performance concrete,rdquo; which is high-strength concrete that does not require steel reinforcement. This concrete offers great application flexibility when strength is required but weight is an issue like in bridge or wind turbine repairs.
    bull; Read about an amazing specialty-concrete application: ldquo;This House Can Be 3D-Printed For 4,000"
    bull; On a smaller scale...When choosing an under-floor heating system look for those designed to use more thin set cement - a better heat conductor than plastic - to fill spaces between heating wires. The extra cost of this additional cement is negligible measured against improved heat efficiency, comfort, and heating savings.

    ldquo;A surprising statistic was shared with me recently at The ACI Concrete Convention and Exposition,rdquo; postednbsp;American Concrete Institutenbsp;ACI President David A. Lange. ldquo;There are now over 15,000 ACI student members. That is such a huge number ACI had less than 1000 student members as recently as 2005hellip;. The rapid growth of student membership speaks to the value that ACI offers the next generation of professionals who will lead ACI and the concrete industry over the coming decadeshellip;. At ACI, we often say that our students are our future. I can assure you that our future is in good hands.ldquo;

    Two alternatives to building with concrete are steel constructionnbsp;and wood frame construction.

    Ultimately, consumers drive the quality of construction. The more residential owners and condominium buyers understand about construction priorities, materials, pitfalls, and objectives, the easier it is for them to ignore marketing hype and make decisions based on facts and genuine value.

    Full Story >

    Should You Buy a Home Warranty?

    Who knew people were so fervent about home warranties Everyone has their own experience; expect to hear a few people call them ldquo;a scamrdquo; or at the very least a waste of money. Others will regale you with their tale of how having a warranty saved them from a freeing winter because they couldnrsquo;t afford to fix their furnace without it.

    In the end, the decision is personal and largely based on how comfortable you are coming out of pocket if one of the more expensive items in your home, like the air conditioning unit or hot water heater, should malfunction and need to be replaced. Wersquo;re breaking down three important particulars so you can make an education decision.

    Know the cost

    ldquo;A basic home warranty costs about 350 to 500 a year or more,rdquo; said Money Talks News. ldquo;A warranty typically covers kitchen appliances, plumbing, water heater, heating and electrical system components, sump pump, whirlpool tub, and ceiling and exhaust fans, according to Angiersquo;s List. ldquo;lsquo;Enhancedrsquo; plans, purchased for another 100 to 300, provide added coverage for such things as a washer and dryer, air conditioning system, refrigerator and garage door opener. Optional coverage can be added, including for pools and septic systems.rdquo;

    You can typically break down the annual cost into monthly payments if thatrsquo;s more comfortable for you, but the cost of the warranty itself isnt the only thing yoursquo;re responsible for paying. Service calls will typically also cost you; put in a work order for a broken microwave or a tub that wonrsquo;t drain and yoursquo;ll be responsible for paying for the privilege of having a professional come check it out, andmdash;hopefullymdash;fix it.

    ldquo;Home warranty deductible, or service call fees, is an important concept to master if you want to understand how to find the cheapest home warranty plans for your needs,rdquo; said Review Home Warranties. With most home warranties, a deductible or service call fee will be required, ldquo;with an industry average of approximately 75 per visit. Some companies, like American Home Shield or TotalProtect Home Warranty, let their customers choose the amount of a deductible, which depends on the amount of premium. The higher the premium, the lower the deductible.rdquo;

    Consider your peace of mind

    Many homeowners opt for a home warranty for major ldquo;just-in-caserdquo; scenarios. Just in the case the air conditioning unit crashes and burns. Just in case the hot water heater dies. Just in case therersquo;s some other expensive repair that pops up, without the ability to comfortably pay for it. With the cost of some of these items running into the thousandsmdash;the average for a new air conditioning unit and installation, per HomeAdvisor, is 5,413mdash;the peace of mind factor is huge.

    ldquo;For a homeowner who doesnt have an emergency fund or who wants to protect their emergency fund, a home warranty can act as a buffer,rdquo; said Investopedia. ldquo;Home warranties also make sense for people who arent handy or who dont want to worry about tracking down a contractor when they have a problem. Warranties can also make sense for people with expensive taste in appliances.rdquo;

    Buthellip;understand that not everything is covered

    Therersquo;s always a chance that the item you need repaired is not covered under your warranty for one reason or another. ldquo;Having a home warranty doesnt mean the homeowner will never have to spend a penny on home repairs,rdquo; said Investopedia. ldquo;Some problems wont be covered by the warranty, whether because the homeowner didnt purchase coverage for that item or because the warranty company doesnt offer coverage for that item. Also, home warranties usually dont cover components that havent been properly maintained. Furthermore, if the warranty company denies a claim, the homeowner will still have to pay the service fee and will also be responsible for repair costs.rdquo;

    In our case, limitations spelled out in our home warranty contract regarding the replacement of outdated parts and refrigerant costs for our broken air conditioning unit meant we had to come out of pocket for 1,500. The lesson here: Read the fine print so yoursquo;re prepared.

    Full Story >

    Wishing Our Readers a Very Merry Christmas

    Best wishes to you and yours this Christmas from all of the editors, writers and staff at Realty Times.

    Full Story >

    Real Estate Referrals, Again

    Wersquo;ve had enough queries and responses regarding the difference between state and federal law on this matter that it appeared worthwhile to examine the issues a bit more.

    Of all people, Californians who live in a self-proclaimed sanctuary state, should be aware of the fact that state and federal laws may conflict with one another. Think marijuana legislation. Sometimes these conflicts may require resolution through a court decision; other times they just go on. In the present case the differences in the laws have not led to the kind or size of conflict that would have merited extensive and expensive litigation.

    Moreover, itrsquo;s important to remember that, for a significant number of transactions, the issue doesnrsquo;t even arise. The RESPA rules and prohibitions cover what is probably a majority of real estate transactions. Those are residential real estate of less than five units in which federal or federally->

    It is also worth noting that California law regarding referral sometimes called ldquo;finderrdquo; fees came about from a court ruling. It is case law, as opposed to the result of specific legislation aimed at referral fees. The landmark case Shaffer v. Beinhorn went before the California Supreme Court in 1923. The plaintiffs in the case had sued a California real estate broker for not paying them a finder fee as he had promised to do. The brokerrsquo;s defense was that he could not pay them because they didnrsquo;t have a real estate license.

    The California Business and Professions Code Currently Business and Professions Code sect;10131 spells out those activities that require having a real estate license. Simply referring, or ldquo;findingrdquo;, a buyer or seller is not among them. The court noted this, and thus noted that the plaintiffsrsquo; lack of a license was not sufficient reason not to pay them. The logic of that ruling prevails today.

    Recently, I was pointed to a very thorough and detailed discussion of the referral rules for both RESPA and California law. It appears in the 2016 Winter Bulletin of the California BRE/DRE, and it is available on the departmentrsquo;s website. The article was written by Wayne Bell and Summer Goralik ndash; two very smart and very nice people. Mr. Bell is the former California Real Estate Commissioner and Ms. Goralik is a former Special Investigator for the BRE/DRE. I commend this article to anyone further interested in this topic.

    While the article reference above is detailed, comprehensive, and very useful, it includes something that, for me, requires further analysis. The authors say:

    hellip;Bamp;P Section 10137 provides that a real estate salesperson can only be compensated for real estate acts through his or her employing or responsible broker. That prohibits a real estate salesperson from receiving pay, a commission or a lawful referral fee directly from another person. If a lawful referral fee will be paid to any salesperson, including a broker acting as a salesperson, an any real estate transaction, then it must be paid first through the responsible broker.

    What the authors say would be true only if simply giving a referral were a real estate act. But it isnrsquo;t. That was settled in 1923. Giving a referral is not an act that requires a real estate license. In California, payment to a real estate agent for simply giving a referral should not be required to go through a broker. QED


    Full Story >

    Are You Ready to Be a Landlord?

    ldquo;One of the biggest shifts in the housing market since the financial crisis has been the growth of the single-family rental market,rdquo; said Investopedia. ldquo;Single-family rentals are developing faster than any other segment of the housing market, outpacing both single-family home purchases and apartment->

    Yes, smart investments can pay off in a steady stream of passive income, and provide a nice chunk of change when you go to sell. But that doesnrsquo;t mean you should run and buy a property without learning a thing or two first. Buy wrong or go in unprepared, and you could make a financial mess of things. ldquo;Becoming a landlord might sound like an easy way to make money: Buy a property, find tenants and watch the rent checks roll in,rdquo; said CBS News. ldquo;But it can be a costly undertaking that requires a lot of time and shouldnt be taken on without consideration and research, said Lucas Hall, a Washington, D.C.-area landlord and founder of;

    Ask yourself these questions and answer honestly to determine if yoursquo;re ready to be a landlord.

    Do you have the time?

    Being a landlord is a job. A part-time job, hopefully, but a job nonetheless. If yoursquo;re already overscheduled, it can be hard to keep up with all the must-dorsquo;s. ldquo;People need to understand that this is a business, not a hobby," said East Meadow, New York-based landlord, real estate broker and president of the Landlord Protection Agency, John Nuzzolese, on CBS News. "You need to take it seriously. The people who make it a hobby usually run into problems because its not their top priority."

    Keep in mind, also, that being able to landlord effectively means having some flexibility in your schedule. ldquo;Most days are more spontaneous than structured,rdquo; said The Balance. ldquo;It is not the type of life where you get to work at 9am, go to lunch at noon and leave at 5pm. One day you may have one hour of work to do, while the next, you may have fifteen hours of work.rdquo; And you can bet that a fair amount of that work is going to happen at 4am when a tenant emergency interrupts your precious sleep.

    Do you have the money?

    If yoursquo;ve made a good investment in your chosen property, the amount of rent yoursquo;re collecting each month will exceed your financial obligation. But what if you have a hard time renting a few of the apartments in the building you bought or one of your tenants skips out? Remember that, no matter whatrsquo;s happening with the property, yoursquo;re still responsible for making your payment to the bank. ldquo;You will be responsible for meeting your monthly mortgage payment even if the property is vacant or if your tenant has not paid his or her rent,rdquo; said Investopedia. ldquo;In addition, you may have unexpected expenses >

    Hiring a property management company to do some some of the ongoing work for you will also cost moneymdash;count on about 10 percent of the rent each month, and yoursquo;ll also have to pay them a finders fee for securing new tenants. But many landlords find itrsquo;s well worth the money to be able to offset some of the more painful or time-consuming duties involved.

    Do you know what the smartest investments are?

    Not every property is a winner when it comes to investment potential, and you need to think like an investor to become one. Forbes has some great tips, including:

    bull; Keep your emotions at bay. ldquo;Think of it as pu>bull; Research, research, research. ldquo;Make sure that the property is situated in a location that will attract the type of clients you hope to sell or rent to, that it will reach to the returns you are expecting and that it will appeal to the market.rdquo;
    bull; Get your down payment together. ldquo;Unlike the 3 down payment on the house you are currently living in, you are going to require at least 20 down payment for buying your first investment property. This is because mortgage insurance is not applicable for investment properties. Moreover, investment properties require greater down payments than your regular building and have strict approval requirements.rdquo;
    bull; Figure out your expenses and profits before you buy. You want to make sure you have a good handle on current funds, cost to purchase and renovate if needed, operation costs, ongoing expenses, and what you could legitimately list the house for when you decided to sell.
    bull; Donrsquo;t overspend on your first investment property. ldquo;Even if you are ready to invest up to a million dollars in your first investment property, it is always a good idea to go for properties that lie in the lower- to mid-range price brackets.rdquo;
    bull; Go in debt-free. ldquo;As a new investor buying their first investment property, you might need to consider the investment loan options mdash; one shouldnt be carrying debts as their investment portfolio. You must clear all of your debts, student loans, medical bills, etc., before starting out in real estate.rdquo;

    Full Story >

    Economic Reports and Mortgage Rates

    Did you know that economic reports can impact mortgage rates? And that some economic reports have a greater impact than others? Each month and each quarter, various government agencies >Inflation is another key element that investors pay attention to and one of the key reports the Federal Reserve reviews when the Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, meets every six weeks. One of the Fedrsquo;s responsibilities is to control the cost of funds and attempts to do so by raising or lowering the Federal Funds rate. Inflation is measured on the wholesale level, the Producer Price Index and at the consumer level, or the Consumer Price Index.

    These various reports give us a look back at recent economic activity and can provide clues as to what might occur in the future. Investors can then allocate their portfolios to make adjustments based upon expectations. For instance, if an investor sees a solid jobs report indicating a growing economy, the investor might allocate more funds toward stocks and less so in bonds. Stocks have the potential to provide greater returns compared to bonds. Bonds do provide a return, but the yield is >

    Mortgage rates? Your typical 30 year fixed rate for a conforming loan tracks either the 30-yr FNMA bond or the FHLMC 30-yr bond. As the prices of either move, so too will interest rates. If an economic report is >

    When mortgage lenders set their rates each day they do so after a review of various indices. There really is a process lenders practice when setting daily mortgage rates and tracking mortgage bonds and Treasury prices is the primary method. When you get a quote today from your loan officer for a 30 year rate and then get another quote tomorrow and the rates are a little different, you can bet there was some economic data >
    Full Story >

    7 Tricks Hotels Use That Can Make Your Home Look and Work Better

    "Whether you actually travel the world by getting on those planes, trains and automobiles or mainly explore from your sofa with an iPad in hand, youll know that hotel designers are full of clever ideas on how to make bedrooms comfortable, visually interesting and small space smart," said Apartment Therapy.

    Economy of space

    For the most part, hotel rooms are small spaces that have to pack a lot of function and >

    Originally designed under the Tommie brand, the rooms were designed as "micro scale." Niki Leondakis, the chief executive of Commune Hotels and Resorts, told the New York Times that, building hotels in "urban markets where real estate is at a premium and hotel rooms are notoriously small" requires "an approach to design that maximizes every square foot" - an idea that can translate to home.


    Make it interesting

    Small doesnt have to be boring. Look how this Great Gatsby-themed hotel room uses pattern and textured panels to create interest.

    Luxury linens

    You know how hotel room sheets are always so soft? They dont scrimp on thread count. Or the number of sheets they use. "To design your own hotel bed, "start with very clean, white, high thread count sheets," Sybil Pool, a spokesperson for Park Hyatt, told Huffington Post. "Three-hundred thread count seems to be the general rule - thats the standard at Park Hyatt Sydney, and Arizonas award-winning Miraval Resort uses 300 thread count as well. The Westin Heavenly Bed, likewise, gets its oomph from 300 thread count Egyptian cotton, along with a special twist: There are three sheets, says Hoover. That way, youre always touching a sheet. Its a really plush bed."

    Huffington Post has a few more tips to make the bed at home and feel like youre in a plush resort.

    A great mattress = a great nights sleep

    Hotels buy great mattresses. So much so that many have become available to the general public over the years. Theres the aforementioned Westin Heavenly Bed, or you can grab a Four Seasons Bed, the luxe bed youll sleep in if you stay at the W Hotel, and a few more you can see here.

    If cost is an issue, think about it this way: a good nights sleep can affect more than just your coffee consumption in the morning. It may be that buying a great mattress ends up being a small price to pay for better health, clarity, and an improved mood all day long.

    Accentuate the positive

    This tiny, budget room in Copenhagen puts the view front and center. And even though the space is limited REALLY limited, they still found room for a desk and chair, as well as another accent chair. The wall-mounted nightstand is a great way to include a little convenience without a lot of space and the colorful drapes bring the eye out toward the city view.

    Wake Up Copenhagen

    Concentrate on lighting

    Good lighting can make or break a space, and this is something that good hotels do particularly well. The trick: layer it in with overhead, ambient, and task lighting, making sure to illuminate key spaces, like in this Las Vegas room.


    Full Story >

    What if There is No Board?

    Answer: If the boat sinks, its owner may be able to look to his insurance carrier for recovery. However, if the Association sinks, perhaps the only recourse to the owners is to look to the board members for recovery of any loss. Each board member runs the risk they will be sued personally, where there probably may not be any insurance coverage. However, presumably the board carried Directors and Officers insurance check with management if they are still around and file claims immediately. You should be able to find some lawyer to assist.

    Members of a Board are governed by one standard: l fiduciary duty. But many states have protected boards who make mistakes by enacting the business judgment rule but that still require boards not to violate their fiduciary duty. The law in your state will dictate whether the business judgement rule is applicable. However, even if it is, a board member must understand that he/she has been elected by the owners to govern their association. You cannot just ldquo;cop outrdquo; when the going gets tough by resigning your elected position. And resigning is clearly not good business judgment.

    Letrsquo;s look at some of the possible consequences should there be no board. Who will pay the bills -- insurance, management, utilities? Who will enforce the rules -- collections, architectural, safety and health? And who will give direction to management for the day-to-day operations of the Association? After all, the property manager -- regardless of how competent -- cannot and should not take on the responsibilities reserved exclusively in the association documents for the board of directors.

    As one can quickly understand, a headless association is an invitation to disaster -- and the burden of creating or avoiding that disaster rests solely on the shoulders of the entire board of directors.
    You should also consider filing for bankruptcy >
    Full Story >

    Is It Worth Taking Out a Loan for Home Improvements?

    Reasons to Consider a Loan

    There are many reasons a homeowner may decide to get a loan to finance their improvements. Sometimes taking out a loan can help you get to the next level in your home improvement process faster and better than you may be able to otherwise. Think of it this way: businesses take out loans all the time, and they are often a necessary part of turning ideas into reality. The same is true in your home; a loan could be an investment in your future in the space.

    bull; Some projects are too expensive to realistically pay for upfront. Certain renovations are more expensive than others by nature; for example, the average kitchen remodelnbsp;costs 22,932. For many homeowners, it may not be possible to have that much on hand, and building that large of savings could take years. A loan can get you there faster.

    bull; Completing multiple projects at once can help avoid never-ending renovations. Many people who try to work a project at a time find that they never seem to finish nbsp;their houses. For each project finished, another awaits, and over time this can become discouraging. One possibility is to complete all your necessary projects at once, but since that will likely take a lot of upfront capital, a loan can help you afford to tackle all your projects without delays.

    bull; Getting rentals move-in ready quickly allows more time to collect rent. If yoursquo;re looking to rent out your property, it may be a good idea to complete necessary projects before trying to find renters. Landlords can collect higher rent for properties featuring finished basements or up-to-date kitchens and bathrooms. On top of this, if you try to slowly work through projects as you can pay for them out-of-pocket it could be months or even years before the property is ready for renters, but a loan can make sure you have enough to build out improvements quickly.

    Reasons Not to Consider a Loan

    Conventional wisdom says you shouldnbsp;avoid debt whenever possible, and many homeowners take this advice to heart, only making home improvements when they can afford them out-of-pocket. Itrsquo;s fair that taking out a loan can be risky, and itrsquo;s important to consider challenges of loans before committing.

    bull; Itrsquo;s easy to bite off more than you can chew. Many loan types are easy to qualify for and will give you large amounts of money with even average credit scores. However, you should be cautious and always read the fine print; loans can end up being expensive to pay back, especially if theyrsquo;re spread over time.

    bull; Projects often take more time and money than planned. Most people who have renovated their homes will say the same thing mdash; their improvements were more time-intensive and expensive nbsp;than they planned for. If you do end up doing a project large enough you need a loan, you may find you quickly hit the maximum amount and are left scrambling for additional funding.


    At the end of the day, itrsquo;s up to you as a homeowner to determine whether or not a loan is right for you. If you end up deciding to take one out, make sure to do plenty of research to determine the right loan type and lender for your situation. From there, yoursquo;ll be able to make improvements toward the home of your dreams.

    Full Story >

    7 Simple amp; Smart Basement Repairs to Consider

    But, if your basement is unfinished or has other lingering issues, it can be a downright scary place to spend any amount of time. Here are a few simple tips to help you fix your basement:

    1 Gutter Extensions

    Believe it or not, one of the easiest and smartest things you can do to fix your basement takes place outside. By adding extensions to your gutters downspouts, you can avoid a lot of the issues that commonly plague basements, from foundation issues to leaking walls, mold and mildew buildup. Gutter extensions carry water away from the foundation of your house, helping to prevent seepage and long-term damage from soil erosion. Average gutter extensions cost no more than 10 per foot.

    2 Outer Foundation Work

    There are two big steps you can take on the outside of your home that will protect your basement and improve your foundation. Your home ideally sits on a crown of soil that slopes six inches over the first 10 feet in all directions away from your foundation. If the soil around your foundation has settled, build it back up with a shovel and some dirt to ensure water does not build up against the foundation wall.

    Second, reshape your landscape by creating a berm beyond the eaves of your home. This will prevent rot, termites and water from getting too close to your foundation. The minimum suggested distance for a dirt berm is six inches away from your homes foundation. You can complete both of these steps in a weekend and help prevent water from pooling against your foundation and leaking into your basement.

    3 Plug Visible Gaps

    A number of pipes and vents have to exit the basement of your home through the foundation walls. Examples include the water pipes leading to outdoor faucets, bathroom fan vents and dryer vents. The holes drilled into the foundation to allow for pipes and vents to escape can lead to water issues in your basement through seepage and general rain intrusion. You can easily seal these cracks and holes yourself by using hydraulic cement or polyurethane caulk, both of which retail for about 20.

    4 Repair Leaky Pipes

    Insulate any pipes collecting condensation. Insulation will prevent the buildup of condensation on the outside of pipes carrying hot water in the winter months and cold water in the summer months.

    Always call a plumber to tackle larger jobs like major leaks or cracks. Many times these pipes run to other parts of your home and require a professional to properly address the problem.

    5 Insulate Your Walls

    You can also prevent foundation damage by insulating your walls. As the environment inside your home heats and cools, condensation can build up on exposed foundation walls.

    As the condensation builds over time, cold water can expand and crack your foundation, while warm water in the summer can lead to mold and mildew. Insulating your walls establishes a barrier between the internal environment of your home and the temperature outside.

    6 Install Drywall

    If you want to improve your basement further, consider installing drywall over the insulation. This can help to dampen the temperature swings in your basement, holding in cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter.

    7 Window Repairs and Replacement

    Basement windows are another source of leaks in your basement. Replace your old, faulty weather stripping or apply a polyurethane caulk around the edges to insulate your window frames. For windows that are outdated, upgrading to energy efficient windows will drastically improve the conditions in your basement and prevent seepage of both air and water.


    There are many smart, simple ways to fix up your basement in order to create a safe, enjoyable space for friends and family.

    Andrea Davis is the editor for HomeAdvisor, which helps homeowners find home improvement professionals in their area at no charge to ensure the best service in the shortest amount of time.

    Full Story >

    The Tell Tale Signs it is Time to Sell Your Residential Property

    Insufficient Living Space - A growing family, for example, would require more living space as the children grow and if one of your kids doesnrsquo;t have a room they can study in, perhaps it is time to upgrade. This would typically arise for a newly married couple around 10-12 years in the future, and this time is enough to ensure that their financial status supports the upgrade.If you are looking to upgrade, be sure to find a suitable contractor who will offer a fair rate.

    Canrsquo;t Afford The Mortgage Repayments - If you made the mistake of buying a property out of your budget limit, the best thing might be to put it on the market. If the house is in a prime location and is in good order, you might be lucky and make a profit on the deal, although your objective should be to downsize to a comfortable level.

    The Long Daily Commute - If you are spending more than one hour travelling to or from your place of work, this could be the time to look at >

    Looking To Start Your Own Business - If you have a great business idea, yet do not have access to startup capital, selling your home will >

    A Career Promotion - If you suddenly are offered a promotion that would mean >

    Whatever the reason for selling, it is essential that you engage the services of an experienced conveyancing lawyer, who will facilitate the legalities and can help you to calculate your total costs.

    Full Story >

    Why Do Lenders Sell Loans?

    When you first work with your loan officer very early on in the process, yoursquo;ll soon establish a trusting >

    Soon thereafter, yoursquo;ll receive payment information indicating where you need to make your payments. And for most funded loans, yoursquo;ll also receive another letter informing you the lender you originally worked with has just sold your loan to someone else. Someone yoursquo;ve never worked with before and even to a company yoursquo;ve never heard of. What happened to that >

    Among the many initial documents you signed when you first applied was a Mortgage Servicing Disclosure. This form tells you what percentage of the lenderrsquo;s loans are sold and more often than not the form indicates most if not all of the loans approved and funded by that particular mortgage company will be sold to someone else. But why? Why go through all the effort of originating, approving and funding a loan and forgo all the interest that new loan provides? Good question and an easy one to answer- if not for selling the loan, the lender would soon run out of money to lend.

    Mortgage companies today work with a line of credit. Itrsquo;s not as if the mortgage company approves a loan and then opens up a vault full of money to fund your mortgage. Instead, when itrsquo;s time to fund your loan the lender taps into the line of credit for the needed amount to fund the new mortgage. In order to replenish this line of credit the lender then sells the loan to a third party. Once the loan is sold, the lender now has more funds to make still more loans. Who is the loan sold to? Many times, itrsquo;s to other mortgage companies but ultimately the loan is sold either to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

    The marketplace for all this buying and selling is called the secondary market for mortgages. This secondary market is robust and active and keeps the mortgage market liquid. Without a secondary market, there would be fewer loans issued and still fewer choice. When your loan is sold itrsquo;s not because your original lender isnrsquo;t loyal to you or doesnrsquo;t appreciate your businesshellip;itrsquo;s to stay in business so the lender can make even more loans.

    Full Story >

    17 Ways to Increase Your Storage Space

    1. Between the studs

    Put the space between studs to work by tucking open display shelves into walls. They donrsquo;t have to be outdated arched niches. Create clean rectangles or squares. To keep things looking tidy, add doors on the front. Or use piano hinges to mount artwork so it can swing open to reveal hidden storage space. You can even recess narrow drawers into the space.

    2. Nothing wasted, something gained

    Use space that otherwise would be wasted. Under the stairs is a perfect example. For smaller budgets, add a door to the side and use it like a crawl space, says interior designer Vanja Stepanek of Barbini Design Build in Toronto. Finish the space with shelves and hooks. For those who have more cash, each riser can house a drawer. It is a more expensive project because yoursquo;re working with the structure of the stairs, she says.

    If you have a staircase thatrsquo;s open underneath, turn that unused space into a home office by tucking a desk and some cubbies, shelves or file cabinets underneath.

    Put the space beside the fridge or between the washer and dryer to good use by building narrow shelves on wheels.

    Build a headboard that includes storage space, add a long floating shelf above the headboard or use rows of floating shelves above bedside tables to create extra display space.

    3. Look up

    Install shelves above doorways to store stuff without using up floor space. Continue the shelving around the room, including above windows and doors to create a loft library.

    4. Over or behind

    Use over-the-door hooks for extra hanging space. Or add a shoe storage system behind the door. Build floor-to-ceiling shelves in unused spaces, such as behind the toilet or on a wall behind a door.

    5. Functional into fab

    Stepanek says her friend lives in a typical small downtown condo. It has a long narrow hallway with a bathroom and bedroom doors on one side and the living/dining room at the end of the hall, with large windows beyond. The loft has high ceilings, so Stepanek installed two rows of floating shelves along the full length of the hallway the side without doors. Stepanekrsquo;s friend loves shoes and purses, so the shelves give her the perfect display space for her wearable treasures. It looks cool but provides practical storage space, she says. Art depicting different periods of shoes hang under the shelves to create an art wall. Antique lighting completes the stylish look.

    6. Focal point and fun storage

    A long basement hall, which had numerous doors along its sides and one at the end, had no focal point. The door at the end of the hall was replaced with a bookshelf on hinges. The bookshelf creates visual interest and storage/display space. Plus the kids love having a hidden room behind, Stepanek says.

    7. Lift it up

    Where ceiling height allows, put a bed on top of a custom platform. Or build a stage for children. Drawers within the platforms can house camping gear, seasonal items and other seldom-used items.

    8. Double duty

    An office can do double duty as a guest room by adding a wall-to-wall unit that includes a Murphy bed. Add a desk on the opposite side of the room.

    9. Down under

    Like building niches between the studs, add storage space between the joists in the floor. Build a box or cabinet to stow stuff.

    10. No monsters under the bed

    Use baskets or zippered plastic storage bags to use under the bed. Or buy a bed with drawers built in. Another option is a mattress that lifts up on hinges to make under-bed storage more accessible.

    11. New uses

    In the hallway, switch out a table for a dresser that will provide drawers to store everything from hats and mitts to keys and mail.

    12. Double up

    A chest that doubles as a coffee table, vintage suitcases stacked beside the couch or bed and ottomans all offer storage space within.

    13. Kick off

    Toe-kick drawers in the kitchen are great for storing cookie sheets, cutting boards and wire cooling racks.

    14. Air space

    Floating shelves offer display space. Or hide away items in pretty boxes or baskets for a neater look. Think vertically to find more usable space.

    15. Clutter be gone

    Before you cram your new-found storage space, try decluttering. Keep only what you need and what you really enjoy. Pace yourself and tackle one job at a time. Donrsquo;t expect to do everything in one fell swoop. Mix smaller, easy decluttering projects, like cleaning out your medicine cabinet or makeup drawer, with bigger tasks such as tackling your clothes closet.

    16. Map it out

    Figure out what you want to store, which room to store it in and what kind of storage you need before you knock holes in the walls.

    17. To the garage

    Shelves that hang from the ceiling above the car are one solution. Garage systems, which include tool storage, a place for garbage and recycling and lots of space for plastic storage totes, can make the most of your garage space. Again, think vertical storage.

    Full Story >

    Mortgage Lending amp; Homebuying Trends for 2019

    These are interesting times for mortgage lenders. While there are large-scale economic and socioeconomic reasons for optimism going forward, there are also some complexities and cautionary notes that need to be taken seriously. Understanding these key trendsmdash;and appreciating the significant issues likely to impact the industry in 2019 and beyondmdash;is important for lenders, mortgage banking professionals and real estate professionals across the country.

    Equilibrium on the horizon?

    I expect to see the current imbalance between the number of homes available for sale and the number of buyers in the market to begin to come into greater equilibrium in 2019. That gradual balancing act is unlikely to depress housing prices, but it will slow the rate of increase somewhat. The slowing of home appreciation a product of simple supply and demand dynamics could actually be a positive development. Housing appreciation has been outstripping wage increases for some time now, and as these come into equilibrium, the result will likely be a healthier and more accessible home-buying marketplace.

    Demographic dimensions

    Experienced lenders are well aware of the importance of staying in touch with the preferences and priorities of different demographic groups and generations. Two of the most influential demographics, the baby boomers and the millennials, are likely to play an especially important role in shaping the contours of the housing market throughout 2019 and beyond. More boomers will likely be staying put and holding off on downsizing, as we see a slightly weaker market for larger homes and, consequently, a financial equation that doesnrsquo;t look quite as favorable with regard to downsizing. While much has been made of millennial preferences for urban environments, a recentnbsp;Ernst amp; Young survey of 1,200 adults aged 20-36nbsp;actually reveals that greater numbers of millennials are purchasing homes in the suburbs than in cities. According to the study, 41 percent of millennial homeowners in 2018 are choosing suburban locations over cities, small towns or rural areasmdash;an increase from 36 percent in 2016. Today, 38 percent of millennials live in the suburbs versus 37 percent in urban settings. Whatrsquo;s clear, is that the iconic American dream of homeownership remains durable. As older Millennials begin to raise families and look for more space, they will become an increasingly influential home-buying demographic.

    Peaking your interest

    Regardless of demographics, low interest rates make home ownership accessible. The sticking point for many prospective homeowners is the ability or lack thereof to make a large down payment. Lenders will continue to offer more loan products to credit worthy borrowers that require reduced or minimal down payments, and financing options will continue to be available with less than the traditional 20 percent down payment.

    Another important piece of the puzzle is the impact of what are expected to be rising interest rates in the months and years ahead. While rates currently remain at historically low levels, higher rates inevitably impact affordability. That said, given the low rates and current state of the marketplace, it seems unlikely that marginally higher interest rates would have anything more than a fairly modest-to-minimal impact on home sales.

    Technically speaking

    The continued introduction of innovative technology in the months and years ahead will be an important storyline. Most of that new tech will be designed to facilitate the process on behalf of consumers. That means removing some of the friction from the loan process and ultimately compressing the amount of time it takes to get mortgage applications approved. New platforms will allow lenders to verify income at the time of application with consumer permission. This should alleviate some of the paper trail and the documentation burden, allowing electronic access essentially at the time of application. Consumer trust will be a big part of this. Itrsquo;s incumbent upon lendersmdash;and the tech providers they >

    Wild card factors

    There continue to be rumblings that Amazon is considering putting a toe in the water and getting into the mortgage business. Whether that would be as a facilitator, using their platform and unmatched market reach to connect consumers with mortgage professionals, or as a full-fledged provider offering something like ldquo;Amazon Mortgages,rdquo; is unclear. One thing that is clear, however, is that Amazon will have an impact one way or another. Even if the rumored market entry never materializes, younger homebuyers who grew up with Amazon and are used to the ease and speed with which customized service is delivered will continue to extend those expectations throughout other spheresmdash;including mortgage lending. Amazon has helped set a standard for speedy and efficient service that real estate providers in general, and mortgage lenders specifically, will need to be able to meet if they want to be competitive going forward.

    The big picture

    For all the ebbs and flows and outside factors, home sales increased from 2017 to 2018 while the overall mortgage market is slightly down in 2018, thatrsquo;s largely because of fewer instances of refinancing, not because of a decline in home sales. The consensus among organizations like the Mortgage Bankers Association of America is that they expect that trend to continue in 2019. While you can never discount the possibility of a ldquo;black swanrdquo; event that disrupts national or global markets, the future continues to look bright, with innovation and increasingly efficient service models allowing forward-thinking lenders to continue to evolve and thrive.

    Full Story >

    Holiday Hosting Tips for First-Timers

    Donrsquo;t try to do everything yourself

    The key to successful hosting is knowing when to say ldquo;when,rdquo; and accepting help when its offered. Remember this when you start to worry about delegating too much: just because yoursquo;re hosting doesnrsquo;t mean you shouldnrsquo;t get to have fun, too. Plus, if you spend the whole time in the kitchen, your guests wonrsquo;t get to see youmdash;and that defeats the purpose of them coming over in the first place.

    Do what you can ahead of time

    If everything yoursquo;re serving needs to be made at the last minute, yoursquo;ll likely be a stress ball standing over the stove and cursing the sauce that wonrsquo;t thicken up while your guests are having fun in the other room. When yoursquo;re doing the menu planning, pay attention to items that allow you to do the cooking, or at least the prep, a day or two before. Itrsquo;ll save you timemdash;and save your sanitymdash;on the day of the shindig.

    Donrsquo;t try to be Martha Stewart

    Nobody expects you to be the perfect hostess and chef and interior designer. Your friends and loved ones just want something to eat and drink among good company. If your lack of fancy dishesmdash;or even matching dishesmdash;is giving you a pre-party eye twitch, keep this in mind. ldquo;Use what you already have Say you have a mixture of odd platesmdash;scatter them and try to have a common thread,rdquo; said Domino. ldquo;For example, if the plates are all different, have the same matching napkins. If you have mismatched glassware, try alternating matching ones at each setting. Try to be mindful when yoursquo;re setting a table to find a balance visually for your guests, but things donrsquo;t have to be perfect.rdquo;

    Donrsquo;t be overly ambitious

    Itrsquo;s natural that yoursquo;d want to show off your cooking skills or try something new to impress your guests. But that might not be the best tactic for your first time hosting.

    ldquo;When yoursquo;re hosting at your home, itrsquo;s smart to scale back and stick to what you know,rdquo; Kathleen Schaffer, creative director and culinary chef at Schaffer as well as a celebrity caterer to clients including Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon and George Clooney, told The Knot. ldquo;In other words, this isnrsquo;t the time to attempt the fancy sous-vide or souffleacute; recipe you saw on Facebook. Set yourself up for success by playing to your strengths, and most importantly, planning and preparing in advance.rdquo;

    But keep the food coming

    You never want your guests to start getting grumpy because they arrived hungry and dinner is delayed. Having a spread of appetizers everyone can nosh on buys you time to get the main dishes together and keeps them satiated. This ldquo;cream-cheesy salsa of fresh cranberries, cilantro and a little jalapeno kickrdquo; is one of our favorite holiday apps, and not just because itrsquo;s incredibly easy to make. You can find more ideas here.

    Remember that you can never have too much toilet paper

    This is the kind of thing you might overlook while yoursquo;re shopping, and you definitely donrsquo;t want to have to run out in the middle of your gatheringmdash;or, even worse, bring in the dreaded roll of paper towels. While yoursquo;re buying plenty of TP, do the same with napkins, plastic cups and silverware, and bottled water.

    Donrsquo;t sweat the small stuff

    Someone is going to spill something. Or drop all the crackers on the floor. Or break a chair. Or all of the above. Keep your sense of humor closeby and yoursquo;ll get through it with stories to tell later on. If that fails, consider downing another glass of wine.

    Full Story >

    Should You Decorate with the Color of the Year?

    Staying on trend

    If yoursquo;re getting ready to sell your home, or if you simply love to be on the forefront of trends, using the Color of the Year is a great place to start. Of course, you may not want to splash it all over the walls. As ldquo;animating and life-affirmingrdquo; as this yearrsquo;s winning color may be, coral is still a bold choice for such a broad expanse.

    Wallpaper that features the huemdash;especially in a temporary version like this WallPops NuWallpaper Coral Grove Peel amp; Stick Wallpaper if yoursquo;re selling your home soon, is a great option that can bring new life to a boring space. A few accessories can also make a big impact in a trendy color. Freshen up the living room couch with a few pillows, drape a throw at the foot of the bed in the master, and swap out a few tired tchotchkes for something more current.

    Sticking with >

    The major downside to following trends: ldquo;You need to be prepared for the possible necessity of redesigning your rooms once tastes change, especially if yoursquo;re thinking of putting your home on the market,rdquo; said Freshome.

    Neutral colors and >

    Going with what you love

    Regardless of the trends, itrsquo;s your home. And unless yoursquo;re planning a home sale imminently, you get to take creative license. That could mean embracing every new trend, color->

    Want bright red walls in the living room? A dining room with a poker table instead of a place to eat? When itrsquo;s your house, you get to make the rules. ldquo;Ditch lsquo;safersquo; designs in favor of creative accents and personal touches to make your abode feel one-of-a-kindmdash;just like you,rdquo; said Martha Stewart, for ldquo;home decorating tips to begin adding a healthy dose of personality into your home.rdquo;

    Full Story >

    Perhaps Its Time for Some RESPA Reminders

    In 1974 Congress enacted the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act, commonly known as RESPA. The provisions of RESPA were intended to protect consumers during the home purchase process. Its two main areas of emphasis were 1 the provision of disclosures regarding settlement closing costs, and 2 the prohibition of kickbacks or referral fees that unnecessarily increase closing costs. Section 8 of RESPA makes it illegal, except for limited specified exceptions, to give someone money or any other thing of value for the referral of a real estate settlement service. For example, if I received money, or anything of value, for referring someone to an escrow company, in most every case that would be a violation of section 8 of RESPA.

    While the Department of Housing and Urban Development has for a long time been the chief enforcer of RESPA provisions, that has, since 2011, become the province of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau CFPB. It has become an active enforcer and agents should be aware.

    Fortunately, the National Association of Realtors, keeps track of RESPA activity and of the ever-on-going issues of interpretation. In what follows, we will look at a sample of issues featured on NARrsquo;s web page regarding frequently-asked RESPA questions.

    Question 1

    A real estate agent is sponsoring an open house for other agents. A local title agency reimburses the real estate agent for the cost of a luncheon and the title agency does not market its title services at the open house. Is this a violation of Section 8 of RESPA?

    A: Yes, this is a violation of RESPA. By reimbursing the real estate agent for the cost of the luncheon, the title agency has given the real estate agent a thing of value in consideration for the referral of business. Both the title agency and the real estate agent could be held responsible for the RESPA violation. If, however, the title company attends the open house to make a presentation or to otherwise market its services, such payments may be lawful under RESPA.

    Question 2

    A real estate broker and a mortgage lender agree to jointly place a full-page advertisement in a local newspaper. Each company gets exactly one-half of the page to advertise its services. Each company pays one-half of the cost of the advertisement. Is this a violation of Section 8 of RESPA?

    A: No, this appears to comply with RESPA. As long as the advertising costs paid by each party are reasonably >

    Question 3

    A real estate broker pays its real estate agents 20 for each referral the agents make to the real estate brokerrsquo;s affiliated mortgage company. Is this a violation of Section 8 of RESPA?

    A: Yes, this is a violation of RESPA. Although RESPA provides an exception for payments made from an employer to its employees, payments between a real estate broker and its salespeople do not qualify for this exception. Real estate professionals are considered independent contractors, rather than employees of the real estate broker. As a result, the 20 payments described above constitute payments in return for the referral of business in violation of RESPA.

    As previously mentioned, the NAR website contains a large amount of information, including regular columns, regarding RESPA Moreover, most of these pages are on the ldquo;publicrdquo; side. That is, you donrsquo;t have to log in with a user name and password. Readers are encouraged to take a look for themselves, and to become familiar ndash; if they arenrsquo;t already ndash; with the highly >

    A few of the more accessible and >

    RESPA Quiz


    Window to the Law: RESPA video

    Happy reading

    Full Story >

    How to Choose the Best Kitchen Countertop Based 0n 6 Key Variables

    6 variables to consider

    When planning your kitchen, you need to be aware of certain factors when it comes to the type of your countertop. To streamline the selection process, Fixr created the below two graphics using 6 key variables. The same 6 variables were considered in both graphics, however, the focus changes depending on the graphic which will be explained further in each section.

    Installation is one of the first factors; can the contractor access your house with the delivery vehicle and is there space to work the material on site as necessary?

    Cost refers to the cost implications >

    Maintenance looks at the day to day care that is required to ensure the countertop does not wear excessively or get damaged.

    Durability focuses on how well the countertop stands up to use, including nicks or dents and water or heat damage.

    Options available refers to the range of options in terms of color or finish that are available for that material or counter type.

    Stain resistance is the last variable and it considers the surface resistance of the countertop. A marble material or the grout in a tiled countertop may be more susceptible to staining than other options, especially in a kitchen where various acidic or alkali foodstuffs may spill onto the surface.

    Working with the scores, based on their own countertop installation cost indicator, it is possible to simplify the selection process using a numeric score. The better the product performs with regard to cost, installation, maintenance, stain resistance, durability and options available, the higher the score it has.

    The top choices for the type of countertop

    Here, the focus is on the type of countertop only, without looking at how the material of the countertop affects the outcome.

    Tiling wins with a score of 22, thanks to the range of options available, its durability and stain resistance and fair overall scores for the other variables.

    As the next three options have a shared score of 18, they get second, third and fourth place equally:

    Slab countertops offer a good variety of options, however, have low scores for cost and installation which bring the total score down.

    Cast in place countertops have an even, mid-range score across all factors, so are a good option where all variables are equally important.

    Precast countertops can be costly and tricky to install, however, the other variables, especially durability and the range of available options, help to increase the overall score.


    The top three choices for countertop material

    Material options have improved in recent years and the list includes traditional options like marble, granite and wood as well as more contemporary options like solid surface, concrete, glass slab, stainless steel, recycled glass, ceramic and quartz.

    Using the same numeric scoring system as the first graphic, the focus in the second graphic was on how the material scored without consideration of the countertop type. In this instance, quartz, ceramic and recycled glass come out as the best scoring options for material choice.

    Quartz has most of the aesthetic attractions of natural stone, however, its stain resistance, durability and range of options beat almost all other finishes, leading to a total score of 23. Though cost and installation are >

    Ceramic comes next with a score of 22, it offers the widest range of options of all and has good durability and stain resistance, but installation, cost and maintenance bring its average score down.

    Recycled glass follows in third place matching ceramicrsquo;s 22, but its main strong points are durability, stain resistance and maintenance, so, once again the choice comes down to your priorities.

    Making The Final Choice

    In order to make your final decision, it is best to identify your top three priorities in terms of the six variables used. Then, simply find the countertop type and material that have the highest scores for those three variables and compare them against each other to establish the best choice for your kitchen.

    Of course, there are many other more subtle variables to consider. Environmental implications have become important and even legislated in some countries, so it may be worth considering each material in this light as well. You may find your chosen countertoprsquo;s green rating brings down or improves its final score.

    At the end of the day, you want to feel satisfied with your choice and have a countertop that is both beautiful and durable. Hopefully, this scoring system will make that choice a little easier.

    And remember, beautiful countertops wonrsquo;t necessarily add value but they will make your home more attractive to potential buyers should you want to sell.

    Full Story >

    Copyright© 2004 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved

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    Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2019

    What You Dont Know About Real Estate Could Cost You

    Itrsquo;s what you donrsquo;t know about real estate that could cost younbsp;when buying or selling.

    bull; First-time buyers usually havenrsquo;t seen enough houses or condominium units to fully understand where real estate value lies.

    They may not have been caretaker of a house and, therefore, donrsquo;t notice subtle signs of damage, sloppy construction, poor maintenance, or worn-out elements. Those who have visited friendsrsquo; houses will ra>

    bull; First-time-in-a-longtime buyers may not realize that they are out of touch with advances in materials, modern design approaches, or evolving life>

    This can lead them to under- or over-value new houses or condominium units.nbsp;For example, quartz kitchen countersnbsp;have gained popularity over marble and granite for several reasons. Open-concept design is preferred by those with small children or those who live to entertain, but not by those who are untidy, >

    bull; First-time sellers who base resale value on their total costnbsp;of acquiring and maintaining real estate ownership, plus expectednbsp;profit, have missed the point.

    Emotions, including pride of ownership, can get in the way and prove expensive. Sellers may believe that their cost of buying and transforming the property into their home, plus money spent on maintenance and upgrades, plus profit and the cost of selling, including commission, add up to their actual ldquo;bottom linerdquo; for resale value. Problems arise for sellers when this must-have sale price is not in line with market value, which is value determined by the real estate market - current buyers and previous sales. When the seller expects more than market value, this ldquo;over-priced listingrdquo; may take longer to sell, may eventually sell for less, or may fail to find a buyer. First-time sellers may lack experience evaluating how their property compares with local property values and appraising their property from the perspective of current active buyers.

    Value determination and marketing - or communicating action-enticing value to potential buyers - represent two different professional real estate selling-skill sets, neither of which are usually possessed by sellers.

    bull; Empty-nester and downsizing sellers may decide, in theory, that smaller and cheaper are the characteristics they desire in their next property, but some discover itrsquo;s a different story in practice.

    When faced with the actual move to a smaller house in a cheaper location, they may find the mental leap too great. Downsizing is often wrongly considered me>

    Many faced with wanting a change find they lack the real estate knowledge and planning expertise to make the shift gracefully acceptable and financially successfully.

    bull; Newbie real estate investors may believe that crunching numbers to determine how much profit they want and what it will cost to achieve this profit is all it takes.

    Creating an offer to purchase, which entices a property owner to sell for the buyerrsquo;s desired price, requires special professional expertise. Then, offering the property for profit-generating rent that will attract qualified prospective renters involves a different set of professional skills. Many new investors possess neither skill set, which are both common in real estate professionals.

    The emotional element regarding what sellers will sell for and what renters will pay to live in the resulting investment property can influence financial gain and bottom-line projections. Skill and experience is essential to investors taking all this into account to create profit.

    What you donrsquo;t know about property ownership and real estate transactions can cost you when buying or selling, wherever you fit in on the list of buyers and sellers above. Do you have experience with contracts, financing, interior design, renovation, conflict resolutionhellip;? Then, therersquo;s marketing - both using it to persuade others and personally fending off its effects when yoursquo;re making decisions.

    What you donrsquo;t know about real estate, real estate professionals do. They are committed to studying and keeping up to date on what matters. Most have spent years on the job perfecting their expertise and learning local markets.

    Would you surgically operate on yourself or drill your own teeth? Itrsquo;s that extreme an issue when you donrsquo;t engage available professional skill and knowledge to work for and with you.

    Concentrate on learning what the right real estate professional cannbsp;help you achieve.

    Not the least of which is discovering what you donrsquo;t know about buying and selling. When you think, my goal is ldquo;buy my dream homerdquo; or ldquo;sell at my dream price,rdquo; understand what will have to happen and what you must do to achieve the desired outcome.

    If you donrsquo;t know where to start, no problem.

    Real estate professionals are trained to know what needs to be done for prospects and clients every day, every offer, every transactionhellip;. Do you know what yoursquo;ll gain with professional help? How determined are you to achieve real estate goals and exceed your expectations, as quickly and hassle-free as possible?

    To continue learning about buying and selling real estate, checkout more Realty Times articles by PJ Wadenbsp;The Catalyst:

    bull; 4 "Big Regrets" to Avoid When Buying a Homenbsp;
    bull; Trends Cost Sellers Money
    bull; Ready to Talk About Real Estate?

    > Full Story

    5 Reasons to Buy a Fixer-Upper Instead of a Perfect Place

    .It costs less

    ldquo;Fixer-uppers list for an average of 8 below market value,rdquo; said LearnVest. If yoursquo;re on a budget or are being priced out in your market, this is a way to get a literal foot in the door. How much depends greatly on the location. ldquo;Fixer-uppers in Phoenix have the smallest cash discount, saving buyers just 1,000 off list price. But you can save a lot of money in expensive markets like San Francisco, where fixer-uppers are discounted an average of 10mdash;giving homebuyers 54,000 in upfront savings for renovations on the median home.rdquo;

    You may be able to finance your renovation

    One of the major drawbacks of buying a home that needs to be fixed up is having to come up with the cashmdash;especially after yoursquo;ve just put so much money into your down payment and closing costs. There are a few different types of loans that package the mortgage with funds for renovations, and they often come as a surprise to buyers who have only focused on FHA and 30-year conventional loans.

    ldquo;Whether you need a new roof or your kitchen is outdated, there is a mortgage thatrsquo;s right for your fixer-upper,rdquo; said Bankrate. Fannie Maersquo;s Home>

    It gives you the opportunity to build value

    With an already-updated home, ldquo;If a seller has redecorated or improved the whole place, that seller is reaping the benefit,rdquo; said Forbes. ldquo;If the homes value has been raised, the buyer is paying for it. Also, consider this reality: A seller who re-does a whole house in order to sell is not likely putting in the highest-quality materials. Theyre cutting costs to maximize profit. But if you buy a fixer-upper, you might be able to secure an undervalued property, improve it and get the benefit of the extra equity. Its a core real estate concept. If you can find the right property, this could mean thousands of dollars almost immediately.rdquo;

    You can do renovations over time

    There may be a few things you canrsquo;t live with in a fixer-upper, like the grungy carpet and cruddy plumbing fixtures, but no one other than design shows says your place has to be perfect the day you move in. Taking your time to make updates as yoursquo;re able gives you the opportunity to save money and recover from all the expenses of buying the home and moving in.

    It allows you to put your stamp on it

    When you buy a home that was lived in and fixed up by someone else, it reflects their taste and >

    ldquo;One of the primary reasons people buy fixer-upper properties is for the opportunity to make the space their own,rdquo; said Green Residential. ldquo;Instead of purchasing a home in which someone else designed the layout, chose the materials, and dictated where different elements were placed, you can buy a basic structure and then take charge. Itrsquo;s like building your own home without having to go through the lengthy process of drawing plans and constructing it from the ground up.rdquo;

    > Full Story

    Whats the Real Impact of the Government Shutdown on Real Estate?

    ldquo;An NAR survey of 2,211 members found 75 percent had no impact to their contract signings or closings. However, 11 percent did report an impact on current clients and 11 percent on potential clients,rdquo; said the National Association of Realtors. Among those impacted by the shutdown, 17 percent had a closing delay because of a USDA loan.rdquo;

    The most impacted areas of the market surround:

    Buyer uncertainty

    Consumer confidence is always a topic of conversation when it comes to real estate, and with rising interest rates and a roller coaster stock market, a government shutdown only makes the issues that much stickier. According to the NAR study, ldquo;The most common impact, at 25 percent, was the buyer decided not to buy due to general economic uncertainty, though they were not a federal government employee.rdquo;

    Loan approvals/Closing delays

    Whether or not your loan and/or closing is impacted by the government shutdown largely depends on the type of loan you are getting. ldquo;If youre getting a Federal Housing Administration or Department of Veterans Affairs loan, its likely you can expect delays in the underwriting process, and its possible your closing date will be pushed back as well,rdquo; said the Dallas Morning News.

    HUD has said that while new FHA loans will be endorsed during the shutdown, ldquo;Some delays with FHA processing may occur due to short staffing.rdquo; In addition, new Home Equity Conversion Mortgages HECM, more commonly referred to as reverse mortgages, are on hold for now.

    While the White House has insisted that the Internal Revenue Service IRS process tax refunds during the shutdown, itrsquo;s made no such mandate in regards to helping consumers who need info because theyrsquo;re buying a home. That means that buyers wonrsquo;t be able to requests tax return transcripts, which may be required by lenders, thereby delaying the purchasing process.

    > Full Story

    Copyright © 2004 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved

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