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Updated: Tuesday, November 24, 2020

What to Consider Before Starting a Kitchen Remodel

Your kitchen may be the place where your family spends the vast majority of their time. Thats common, and as such, we often want our kitchens to reflect our >

With that being said, a kitchen remodel is a huge undertaking, financially, and just in terms of logistics. Rather than jumping in, you need to prepare yourself for what to expect and make sure its something your family is ready for.

Can You Live Without a Kitchen?

Before you make any plans, think about your life>

There are minor upgrades you can make to your kitchen to refresh the >

If you have young kids at home and youre going through renovations, safety becomes an issue.

Many people are also working from home right now, so will you be able to continue doing that with construction going on around you?

Are You Prepared for the Costs?

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a kitchen remodel is just over 25,300, which comes out to around 150 per square foot. The total cost varies depending on the size of your kitchen, whether or not you change the layout and the materials you choose.

You could do a minor remodel including refacing cabinets, upgrading your sink and adding a new backsplash for around 10,000. A much larger renovation costing upwards of 30,000 may include custom cabinetry, new flooring and countertops and high-end appliances.

Do you have the money to spend, and if so, is this how you want to spend it? If youd have to finance the project, how will those added monthly debt payments affect your budget and life?

If youre planning to sell your home soon, the project could pay for itself but you need to ensure you design a kitchen that will appeal to a wide set of tastes and dont make it too personal to your family.

Inevitably if you set a budget for a kitchen remodel, youre going to go over, so give yourself padding with that in mind.

Do You Need to Change the Layout?

If the layout of your kitchen isnt functional and you think it needs to be changed, its going to be more time-consuming and expensive than primarily aesthetic changes. You will need to work with a contractor, even if you plan to do some of the work independently.

Its important to understand which walls are load-bearing.

You will also need to talk to a professional to understand how to move plumbing, venting, and electrical components if youre changing the layout.

If you think you can do all the work in your kitchen on your own to save money, what can ultimately happen is that you make mistakes along the way. Then, you pay more to fix them. Sometimes its a better option to find a >

You might also want to hire a designer or at least consult with one if youre changing the layout. A designer can help you understand how layout changes will impact the flow of the kitchen, and they can help you with an optimal placement that will work for not just your family but potential buyers if you sell in the future.

A kitchen remodel is a huge undertaking. If youre considering it, prepare yourself for how itll affect your day to day life and finances.

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Ask the HOA Expert: Governing Documents, Common Property Signs, Disputed Policy Decisions

Question: Our governing documents contain this provision: "No dwelling shall be used for any purpose other than for a single family residence." A board member has been housing a teenage nephew and his friend. No rent is being charged. Does this constitute something more than a single family residence? The situation is causing problems among the neighbors due to complaints of late night parties and traffic.

Answer: Extended family is generally accepted under the "single family residence" definition as long as no rent is being charged. The friend issue is pushing the definition envelope.

However, late night activity that disturbs the neighbors, whether by family or guests, is a violation of HOA rules. This particular homeowner is a board member so the duty to comply with basic rules is even more important.

The real issue is the disturbance, not the rental arrangement. The issue needs to be framed plainly: Either the kids abide by the rules or there will be ramifications assuming that the HOA has established fines and penalties.

Question: We are having an issue regarding allowing signs on the common property. Our governing documents requires board approval for all signs. In the past, the board has given approval for For Sale signs only -- but not For Rent signs or any other sign. Recently, there were three For Sale signs up at once, all with board approval. Several homeowners complained that the signs were detracting from the appearance of the property and the Board adopted a policy to not allow any signs on the property. Thoughts?

Answer: If the Board has the authority to approve signs, the Board has the authority to enact a Sign Policy. However, the Board cannot enact a policy that prohibits signs since the governing documents imply that signs are allowable. Only an appropriate majority of members as defined by the governing documents can vote to amend the governing documents to eliminate signs altogether.

But such an amendment is not recommended. For Rent and For Sale signs are standard fare in every part of the country with the exception of a few elite communities. These signs are temporary and designed to assist members in a legitimate business enterprise which all will undertake at some point in time. It is, however, appropriate to control the size, look, number, longevity and topic of signs.

Political signs, for example, can only be displayed for, say, 30 days before an election and then be removed within 48 hours of the event.

Question: One of our homeowners sued the board over a disputed policy decision. Our board did not purchase Directors amp; Officers insurance, even though the governing documents required it, so attorney fees were paid for from the HOA operating funds. Some of us think thats not right. What should be done?

Answer: If the governing documents require the HOA to have Directors amp; Officers insurance, thats what it means. Damp;O is specifically designed to provide legal defense for the Board in situations like you describe. There are many HOA Boards that havent a clue what Damp;O insurance is and have never read the governing documents to even know there is a requirement for it. As long as the HOA doesnt get sued, they look like heroes because they saved the HOA premium expense. But now that your Board has been sued and there was no Damp;O, they dont look so smart.

So, was the oversight out of ignorance or deliberate defiance of the requirement? If the board made a conscious decision not to spend the money for this insurance, to quote Ricky Ricardo, "You The Board got some splaining to do." Since Damp;O is usually inexpensive, there is no good reason not to have it.

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What’s the Process to Buy a Foreclosure?

Some analysts are predicting the number of foreclosures will go up as we near the end of 2020. While the housing market is strong, coronavirus shutdowns have significantly impacted the economy, and unemployment remains high.

If youre waiting to see if you can find a deal in the form of a foreclosure, its important to be prepared for the process. Many of the elements of buying a foreclosure are similar to buying any other home, but if youre clear on what to expect, you can streamline the process.

Types of Foreclosures

There are two general types of foreclosed homes. There are bank-owned homes and real estate-owned properties REO. The lender owns the homes in both scenarios. The primary difference between the two is the stage of the foreclosure.

Bank-owned homes are in the midst of foreclosure, so the homeowner has quit making payments, and their lender is taking steps to remove them from the home. Foreclosed homes are bank-owned properties that go to auction. If the home doesnt sell at auction, its still owned by the bank, but its an REO. REO properties have been in an auction and still arent sold. The lender will often try to sell through them REO agents.

Foreclosures tend to be cheaper and sometimes significantly less expensive than similar properties in the area. Many foreclosures are sold well below market value. You might also get other benefits of buying a foreclosed home, such as lower interest rates, reduced down payments, and you may avoid appraisal fees and some closing costs.

There are situations where you can find a deal on a distressed property, but its not bank-owned.

For example, theres the pre-foreclosure phase. This means the lender has let the borrower know they are in default, but if the homeowner can sell the property, they might avoid foreclosure proceedings. Short sales are when a lender takes less for a property than whats owed on a mortgage. You dont have to be in default for a lender to approve a short sale.

There are also government-owned properties. When a property bought with a government-backed loan goes into default, the federal government owns it.

Buying a Foreclosed Home

If you want to buy a foreclosure, the following are the steps to expect:

Mortgage Preapproval

Its a good idea to have a preapproval for a mortgage from a lender before you start looking for foreclosed properties. Preapprovals will show youre serious about buying, and it will guide your search.

Find an Agent Experienced in Foreclosures

Its important to have an agent on your side whos experienced in dealing with foreclosures. If you dont have a specific property in mind, they can help you find options in your area.

Make a Competitive Offer

Just because youve found a property in foreclosure doesnt necessarily mean you dont have to be competitive in your offer. Youre probably already going to be getting a substantial deal, but if you make an offer too low it can be rejected.

Get an Inspection

You buy foreclosed homes as-is. Whoever is on the seller side isnt going to make any repairs. Whatever is needed becomes your responsibility if you buy the property. That means you need to know what youre heading into when you make an offer. If you do an inspection and the problems are too much for you, you should pass on the property. The inspection is only to help you make a decisionwhatevers found isnt going to be much in the way of a negotiation tool.

If you buy a home at auction, you dont have the opportunity to do an inspection.

Usually, if you buy a home at an auction, you cant even go inside beforehand.

The Risk for Buyers

There are a lot of risks that come with buying a foreclosed home. There are often problems and hidden costs that you may not even discover in inspection. Its also a slow process.

Theres a lot of paperwork when buying a foreclosure. Banks tend to be slow on their response times with these properties, and if a bank has a backlog of foreclosures, it can take months for them to respond to an offer.

None of this automatically means buying a foreclosure isnt a good option for you. It just means that you need to prepare yourself for these hurdles.

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October Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "The record low mortgage rate environment is providing tangible support to the economy at a critical time, as housing continues to propel growth. Strong purchase demand is helping to lift the construction, manufacturing and transportation industries that build new homes and it is also leading to more consumer spending for owners, who are selling or improving their homes. On the refinance front, many consumers are smartly taking advantage of the ability to lower their monthly payment, which means they can spend, save or pay down debt more so than they have in the past."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 2.81 percent with an average 0.7 points for the week ending October 29, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 2.90 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.78 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.32 percent with an average 0.6 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.40 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.19 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.88 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.90 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.43 percent.

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The Home Improvement Decisions that You will Never Regret

What to Avoid

While some home remodeling options may look trendy on the surface, they may not be ideal for a long term engagement.nbsp; For instance, one of the trends you would not want to get involved in is specialty finishes on hardware. While most homeowners find specialty finishes on the bathroom or kitchen trendy, their >

In most cases, homeowners would try to do all they can to improve the overall outlook of their bathroom. However, some of these additions may be unnecessary. For instance, while adding a veined marble wall to your bathroom is a beautiful endeavor, going overboard can prove overwhelming since, in a few years, it will look outdated. The same applies to graphic tiling that seems trendy at the moment. At this age, Pinterest and Instagram, soon everybody will be going for it, and it will not be desirable in a few years to come.

What to Focus on in Home Remodeling

So you have everything figured out and are set up to make your investment in home renovation. Before starting your renovation project, make sure to budget all your expenses. With a detailed budget, you will know, whether is it better to consider a personal loan for home improvement or to use your savings and pay with cash.nbsp;

Where do you start? With funds ready, you ought to go for priority aspects of your home remodeling. The following are some of the notable areas to lay your emphasis.


Come to think of it; a building is essentially meant for storage apart from being home. This fact explains why one will go to great lengths to create several rooms of various storage purposes.nbsp; Over time, we accumulate a lot of stuff, and it only makes sense to create enough space for the same. Consider both your current and future storage needs when creating these spaces. This applies to both the interior and exterior storage.


Apart from location, the homes infrastructure can become a make or break point for your home remodeling design. By building a custom home, you have the autonomy to decide where each of the main features will be located. This is in addition to the assurance that whatever is used under the floor and behind the walls is high quality. Some of the notable infrastructural considerations in home remodeling include electrical systems, cooling systems, siding, plumbing, insulation, and windows. Work hand in hand with your architect or designer to ensure each of these works to improve the overall performance

The Kitchen

Kitchen remodeling is a worthy endeavor, but this comes at a price. However, there are changes you can make that will not only cost you less but also stand the test of time. For instance, you may see the need to stick to white in your kitchen. Apart from reflecting light, white makes small kitchen spaces seem larger. For flooring, hardwood takes the day. This is because hardwood can blend well with any kitchen >


Lighting is often overlooked when it comes to home renovation in place of other design aspects. It shouldnt be the case as lighting makes a strong statement about the overall look of your property. This is especially so for interior design, as it affects every detail in the room. In this case, take your time to study each room in terms of its components and how best to accentuate them. Use accent lighting to highlight some of the aesthetically pleasing fixtures in the room. While at it, consider the need to have sufficient sources of natural light into space.

Home remodeling doesnt have to be a complicated process; the simpler, the better. The rule of thumb, in this case, is to go for options that stand the test of time. You do not want to incorporate features that will lose value or appeal in a few years.


My name is Lidia Staron.nbsp;Im a passionate creative writer and marketing manager atnbsp;;As a financial advisor and certified financial planner, I know that life is full of major events and crossroads. Im enjoying to help people navigate through important financial decisions while avoiding common mistakes.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

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How to Prepare Your Roof For Winter

As cold winter months approach for many places in the United States, many homeowners are thinking about all the projects they need to do to prepare their homes. Your roof takes the brunt of the winter ice and snow, and youll want to make sure that it is in good condition and free from leaks before the cold wet months approach. We are going to cover a few easy things you can do to make sure your roof is prepared for winter.

Remove Debris From Roof amp; Gutters

According to Redwood Roofing Repair, one easy thing homeowners can do is to remove debris from their roof. When branches or leaves from trees fall on your roof it can cause water to pool as leaves will often clog drains for flat roofs and prevent your gutters from draining. As water sits on your roof surface it increases the chances of a leak occurring. Also, on membrane roofs sharp branches can even puncture the material. If you have a flat membrane roof you might want to check and make sure fallen branches havent made any holes in the roof.

Check the Flashing Around The Chimney

One major issues seen by Pioneer Roofing is leaks occurring around chimneys. Your chimney can act like a dam that traps snow and ice and causes it to build up rather than slide off the roof. If the flashing around the chimney isnt secured and sealed properly this snow and ice can run down the side of the chimney into your home. If necessary you might want to reseal around chimney flashing with silicone caulking. If the flashing isnt laying flat against the chimney you might need to drill into the chimney and secure the flashing with fasteners.

Inspect Vents amp; Pipe Flashings

On older roofs vents might be made of plastic which can crack or break over time. Its a good time to check your vents to make sure they arent cracked or damaged. If you do see any breaks you should remove the vent and replace it with a new aluminum vent. These can be bought at any roofing supply store or Home Depot and Lowes.

For pipe flashings, make sure the flashing fits snugly around the pipe. If you see any kind of gap or break you can probably fill it with silicone caulking. If the break is big enough, you might need to remove the flashing and replace it. Again, these can be purchased at any home repair store.

Add Heat Cables to Problem Areas

We mentioned how snow and ice build up can cause roofs to leak. A roof is meant to direct water off of your home but it isnt meant to be 100 waterproof. Ice and snow build up can cause water to flow underneath shingles and other roofing material causing leaks. If you have an area of your roof that has problem with ice building, you might want to add heat cables.

Heat cables are thin cables that you can run along the eaves and valleys of your roof, along with anywhere else that ice builds. These cables keep the temperature warm enough to prevent ice from building up on top of your roof. Installation is fairly simple, but you may want to hire a roofing contractor to install them.

These are a few easy things you can do to make sure your home is protected this winter. If you have already had leaks you might want to call a roofing professional to fix leaks before cold wet months cause further damage to your home.

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The Best Advice For First-time Home Buyers

Before you start seriously shopping for a home, theres some groundwork you should do to put yourself in the best position to buy a home.

Start early, a couple of months before you talk to a lender or hire a real estate professional.

Check and repair your credit

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the three nationwide consumer credit report companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to provide you with a free copy of your credit report and FICO scores upon request once a year. You can order the reports by visiting, or call 1-877-322-8228.

Each credit report company has its own criteria for scoring your credit report. A lender will usually use the middle FICO score. All three scores need to be as high as possible for you to receive the best interest rates.

If you can, order the reports at least three months before applying for your home loan. If you find a mistake you need to correct, or you want to improve your score by paying down an account, youll need at least two months before the credit score improves.

You can dispute an inaccurate item on the report by contacting the consumer reporting company and the information provider in writing. Be sure to include copies of your proof.

Dont accidentally raise your scores

Lenders not only look at how much credit youre using, they consider how much credit you have available. However, now is not the time to be opening any new accounts or closing existing accounts.

Dont purchase furniture or a new car or any other big ticket item before buying a home. Lenders are very careful about the amount of debt you have and how much you pay down every month on the debt payments you have.

Get Loan Pre-approval

Dont start house hunting without knowing how much home you can buy. To find out, you have to apply for a loan, which means youre sharing financial information with the lender such as income and work history, student loans, child support or alimony, and credit card balances.

Contact your lender for a preapproval letter. The letter shows that the lender has taken a 1003 loan application, studied your debt ratios to your income, and helped you select a loan program such as fixed rate, ARMs adjustable rate mortgages, FHA or VA government-backed loans, etc.

Your lender will confirm your down payment source, interest rate, type of loan thats best for your circumstances, and the terms of your loan. The lender will give you a loan commitment based on your qualifications. The home you select must meet appraisal, and the underwriting department must approve the loan.

A preapproval letter will open doors for you, pardon the pun. Sellers will be impressed because youre prepared to buy and that a lender has agreed to process your loan. Your real estate agent will have to know the terms of your loan in order to write your offer.

Find out about federal, state, and local government incentives

Get help with your loan rate, closing costs and/or down payments through federal and state housing authority programs. For example, there are also incentives for workforce personnel police, fire fighters/emergency services personnel and teachers.

Each community is different, so click on HUDs Housing Authorities to find out whats being offered in your community. Your city may be offering tax incentives to revitalize a designated public improvement area.

Narrow the choices

Think about how you want to live. One story or two? Low-maintenance condo or big yard for the kids? New or older home?

Drive through the neighborhoods youre interested in and look at homes. Visit a few open houses in the neighborhoods you will consider. They will usually be listed in your local newspaper with the hours hosted. Be sure to tell the real estate professional hosting the open house that you are already working with a buyers agent.

With Google maps, video, virtual tours, multiple photos, school reports, neighborhood reports and more available online or on phone apps, you can get a good idea of what neighborhoods, home >

Find an Experienced Real Estate Broker or Agent

Buying a first home is a complex process. An experienced real estate broker or agent will assist you all through the process: the home search, comparable homes sold, making an offer, inspection, repairs, and the appraisal, as well as help you find the best value, neighborhood, and quality home for your budget and requirements.

The sellers real estate broker pays your broker or agent out of your loan proceeds. If you dont use your own agent, the sellers broker keeps the commission, so you might as well avail yourself of professional advice. Your real estate broker or agent works in your best interest.

Dont expect perfection

Theres no perfect home. You may want all the latest amenities of a new home, but even new homes come at a price, including longer commutes, higher community fees, and bigger pricetags.

Homes that need updating are priced below homes that are up to the minute and move-in ready. That could be to your financial advantage, so try to look beyond outdated fixtures and focus instead on the floorplan and dimensions. Ignore the sellers tastes and imagine each room clean and clear of clutter and with your own things in them.

Most cosmetic changes are >

Think long-term investment

Buying a home can be a wise financial investment, if you buy right and hold your home for long-term gain. Because of closing and moving costs, its nearly impossible to buy a home and sell it immediately for a large gain, but it is possible to sell after a couple of years with no capital gains tax should you make a profit.

According to the National Association of REALTORS, home equity growth beats inflation by about one to two percent annually, not to mention government subsidies for home ownership in the form of tax >

However, if you look at owning a home strictly as an investment, youll miss many pleasures. Look at your home as a home, rather than part of your portfolio. Buying a home allows you to live in the neighborhood you want for as long as you want, without having to worry that the landlord is going to sell out from under you. Your stake in a home makes you part of the community, committed to making it a better place to live.

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No, You Can’t Have Your Rescission Period Waived: Here’s Why

Refinance mortgages are pretty much the same as with a loan used to buy the house. With a few minor details, a mortgage loan for a refinance acts like a purchase money loan. Both loans need a loan application. Both loans have approval guidelines lenders must follow and other similar features. But with a refinance, there is a rescission period for most refinanced loans. Purchase money loans do not have a rescission period. What is a rescission period?

A rescission period is sort of a cooling off period where the borrowers sign their closing papers at the settlement table but the loan doesnt officially fund and record until three business days after papers are signed. This provision has been in place since the federal Truth in Lending Act, or TILA, was implemented years ago.nbsp;

The goal was to provide a degree of consumer protection against lenders who didnt exactly shoot straight when it came to counseling, processing and approving a loan. When someone rescinds a mortgage loan, all lender fees and third party fees collected at the settlement table paid for by the borrowers will be returned.nbsp;

A rescission can be for most any reason at all. Perhaps the borrowers ultimately decided the refinance wasnt in their best financial interest after all. Or, they could rescind the newly refinanced loan because they just didnt like the color of the settlement agents office. This rescission is made in writing and included with the original loan package. Lenders are also required to provide borrowers with guidelines on how to rescind should they so choose.nbsp;

Borrowers are also obligated to provide evidence the notice to rescind was made within the three business day period. This is why the rescission request should be made in writing. If push came to shove, a verbal request cant be proven it was made within the required time frame.nbsp;

Lenders are very aware of the rescission period and take it very seriously. They know that after all the work performed to process and approve the loan can go straight out the window of the borrowers pull the switch and send a written notice by email, fax or hand delivery.nbsp;

Say for example someone locks in an interest rate when refinancing an existing home loan. They sign their loan papers and wait. But during that period, interest rates have fallen to the point where it makes sense to start looking around for a better interest rate. Knowing this, lenders can be in a position to offer the new lower market rates in hopes of keeping the loan in-house.

Yet when time is of the essence and the lock will soon expire, borrowers should be aware that if the existing lender does not lower interest rates to current market levels, cancelling a loan at one lender and resubmitting to another risks interest rate moves while the newly applied for refinance is waiting on getting the transferred loan into a position where interest rates can be locked per the lenders internal policy.

This is a guideline that really cant be waived. Its hard-coded in the industry. Whether or not someone thinks a cooling off period is even needed, the three-day period still applies.

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Moving Forward With “No Regrets”

Many of our regrets arise from what we havent done and later wish we had.

When this is true for real estate professionals, it can mean unmet responsibilities, undermined career development, and missed opportunityfor themselves and clients.

Are you compounding the uncertainty and stress of these unusual times by leaving key things undone?

Dont wait until the pandemic is over to begin strategizing the future growth of your practice or deciding which new real estate niches or fields youd like to explore. The Real Estate Industry offers a wealth of fulfilling career opportunities.

The roots of a new and dynamic future may exist around you.

Here are three examples of what might be left undone or overlooked during these stressful days, but that also hold potential for your future and your clients:

1. Keep Context in Context

If you act as if the pandemic is a brief, temporary interruption, youre more likely to invest your time and energy holding on to past normalcy no matter how hard or unprofitable that is. Youll be looking backward, not forward.

If this is the context you work within, how long do you expect the pandemic interruption to last? After almost 10 months, theres no clear end in sight.

For many people, for many reasons, the pandemic may represent a permanent break with much that was normal. There are already signs that new real-estate-buying patterns are evolving.

When the pandemic endshowever and whenever that iswhat will have irreversibly changed about the way real estate professionals and their clients do business?

Answers to this and >

How much of what has gone online and virtual will remain so?

What more could be done to benefit buyers and sellers? How much of what has shifted to buyer-initiated action will continue to be buyer-directed? Will working from home continue even though work fatigue and career burn-out at 32 may already be on the rise?

How will real estate professionals adapt to climate change?

Climate-change effects like flooding and wildfires already influence real estate investment. For growing numbers of real estate investors, climate-change risk assessment has shifted from individual property assessments to city-wide assessment. According to a recent report titled Climate Risk and Real Estate, one investor ceased operations in Houston after Hurricane Harvey; another cut investments in Boston due to rising sea levels. The report also explores how investors and civic leaders are partnering to protect communitiesenvironmentally and economicallywith projects like Miamis proposed 35 million waterfront undertaking to protect residential towers.

If you dont maintain an open, inquiring mind, you may miss opportunity when new markets and niches open up as context shifts.

2. Keep Security The Prime Concern

Personal Covid-19 safety and physical distancing are so top-of-mind that digital security is often forgotten. Your greatest professional vulnerability is your passwords. You may have anywhere from one to several hundred of them, especially with all the new accounts opened for pandemic online shopping and entertainment.

Is your technology helping you or holding you back? Do you have online security on your mind as much as you should?

A few security-conscious tips

nbsp; nbsp; Avoid using the same password for multiple accountsone per account.

nbsp; nbsp; Reset older passwords to random characters.

nbsp; nbsp; Resetting often is a solid approach as long as you always create strong versions.

nbsp; nbsp; Avoid accessing accounts through Facebook or Google since this is not as secure. Plus, if you delete Facebook later you may not be able to access those accounts.

nbsp; nbsp; Its worth using a password manager, your browsers system, or a pen and notebook to keep track of passwords rather than making them simple and easy to remember and, therefore, probably easier to hack.

nbsp; nbsp; Online attacks are on the rise so check out plug-in and software vulnerability and how secure your hosting provider is?

nbsp; nbsp; Are your phone contact list, your blog, and anything you value online safely and frequently backed up? What plan do you have in place to assure you continue serving clients without interruption if you lose or break your cell phone?

3. Keep Strengthening Prospecting Potential

Stay at least a step ahead of the market. When the current market is a buyers market, start putting strategies in place to reach out to sellers, and vice versa. Your goal is to be ready at the early signs of a market shift. What is the weak link in the inventory in your trading areas? Thats where opportunity may lie.

With low mortgage rates promising to continue, real estate may remain strong in many areas. However, future employment and financial challenges may remove purchasing power for many. Where does that leave your target market?

When The CARES Act moratorium on foreclosures ends and mortgage forbearance programs expire, millions of homeowners could be faced with financial crisis. Consumers who accepted forbearance of student loans or credit cards as well may face significant financial pressure.

Where do you believe your most effective and appreciated contributions will lie in anticipation of this financial end for homeowners and once financial reality hits home? How might your target buyers be affected by post-Covid financial pressures? For those more financially secure, the end of the pandemic may signal their entry into the market. Are you prepared?

What are you leaving undone?nbsp;

Have you considered the cost to your career of this downtime?

What opportunity are you overlooking?

Let go of the past. Start thinking ahead to visualize where emerging patterns may take you with no regrets.

For more by PJ Wade The Catalyst, visit and Whats Your Point?

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Casa Blanca: The Dating App for Real Estate

Theres been a lot of shifts in real estate in 2020. Some of the trends and evolution were already on their way in, such as buying a home primarily online, but COVID-19 inevitably sped up what was already happening.

The Casa Blanca real estate app is new to the scene, and its capitalizing on some of these unique evolutions in the real estate world. Its like a dating app for real estate, and much as you do on apps like Bumble, you swipe right to choose the home of your dreams.

What Is Casa Blanca?

Casa Blanca just launched, and both renters and buyers can use it for their home search. You create a profile and then outline your preferences. Potential homes meeting your preferences appear, and you swipe right or left. The listings are sorted based on your criteria initially, but based on your swipes, the app gets smarter about what youre interested in and what you like.

Another similar component to dating apps is the fact that your listings are organized based on location. Then, your swipe-rights are saved, and the rest are hidden.

Co-Founder and CEO Hanna Bomze said the goal was to create something fun and engaging. She said customization was key, so the company created a proprietary algorithm that takes users beyond budget and square footage.

Bomze, who is a veteran of the New York City real estate scene, said she noticed throughout the years it was becoming increasingly tech-driven. There was a move away from traditional brokerages and toward online marketplaces.

She says that by eliminating the things that arent a good fit, it makes for a more engaging experience.

What Factors are Considered?

Some of the factors that the app takes into consideration when matching you with homes are day-to-day life>

What Happens When You Match With a Home?

If you swipe right, youre then matched with a Casa Blanca agent. The agent will do all the things a real estate agent traditionally does, including scheduling showings and walking you through the rental or buying process.

Casa Blanca has what they describe as a non-traditional commission structure, so they say as a result, they can offer app users as much as 1 cash back at closing.

COVID-Friendly Home Searches

Bomze said Casa Blanca is well-suited to the current pandemic and its effects. She said that the process of house hunting is streamlined and is more efficient with the app. You can do things like scheduling viewings and talk to agents within the app.

Currently, Casa Blanca is only available in New York City, but Bomze said they would soon expand into other markets. According to the company, the app in beta made more than 100 million in sales. They project theyll reach 250 million by 2021.

The company along with being women-owned, is also women-operated, and most of the staff is female.

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Tips for Creating Virtual Tours That Standout

If youre a real estate professional, virtual tours are something you should be focusing on quite a bit right now. These are an immersive, engaging way to draw in prospective buyers. Theyre especially important in the age of social distancing when clients might not be as comfortable with in-person showings.

Even if you have a potential buyer thats fine with eventually seeing the house in person when they have a virtual tour they can narrow their shortlist of properties and it will streamline the process. Virtual tours help provide a sense of context for potential buyers, and they can get more of a feel of how the rooms >

There are different options as far as how youll present a virtual tour. There are interactive, self-guided 3D tours that are very popular right now. You can also do a video walkthrough thats pre-recorded with you. Another interesting option is sometimes referred to as a showing by proxy. This means the agent is showing a house live and answering questions on-demand.

As far as self-guided virtual 3D tours, the following are some things to keep in mind to ensure yours are informative and stand out.

Know the Core Components of a Good Virtual Tour

There are a few things that, regardless of the specifics of your showing, need to happen. You need to be showing a real view of the home. You need smooth navigation as you move from room-to-room, and the tours need to pan 360 degrees.

You want a high-def picture thats sharp and clear.

When youre filming, the house should be free of clutter, and you want to make sure each time youre capturing a visual its showing a room in its entirety.

You also need virtual 3D tours that are compatible with multiple devices.

What Are the Best Tools?

Some of the best tools for creating 360 virtual tours include:

The Zillow Virtual Tour 3D Home app is a great option. You can make the tours for free, and you can use an iPhone. You can usually make an entire tour in anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour with your iPhone. If you use a 360-degree camera, you can make a full tour in just a few minutes.
A 360-degree camera is one like the Ricoh Theta, which offers panoramic shots if you dont want to use your iPhone.
Another tool to consider is the Spark Camera. You dont need additional tools to create tours on your phone and you can add narration and music and easily upload your tours to websites and social media.
The Filmic Pro is an app that lets you create and produce video tours on your phone easily.

Remember Decision-Making Factors

When youre creating a virtual tour, you want to use your real estate expertise to hone in on what buyers care most about when theyre making decisions.

For example, you want to help them understand the quality of materials, ceiling height, and room dimensions. You also want them to be able to understand the flow of the home. You can then go into more detail with your voiceovers after the fact.

Know What Not to Show

Just like you want to focus on the most important aspects of the property, you similarly want to avoid those features that might be distracting or even a bit of a turn-off.

Avoid things like disorganized closets or personal items.

Make it Easy to Navigate

Remember, when youre doing a virtual 3D tour, your viewers will be navigating on their own.

You want to make it easy for them.

You have two main navigation options. You can do floorplan or visual navigation.

With floorplan navigation, viewers use the floorplan to click on the areas of the home theyre interested in seeing. This is a fast way to access the areas a potential buyer prioritizes. With visual navigation, the viewer clicks on images to move throughout the home incrementally. Its similar to what you do with Google Street view. This can be more engaging, but its a slower process because you cant go straight to what you want to see. There are more clicks required to get from room to room.

Finally, be available and make it easy for people to find out how to contact you right after they view a virtual tour. Yes, the coronavirus pandemic has shifted how people buy homes, but for most people, the online tour isnt enough. Theyll still want to see a property in person before making a decision.

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Steps for Getting an Ex-Spouse Off the Mortgage

Woops. Looks like the til death do us part thing didnt exactly go as planned. When a union is dissolved, there are a lot more things to consider other than whos keeping the house and whos moving out. Debt, support payments, attorney feesthe wheels really begin to spin when a couple decides its not going to work out. But when a couple buys a home and gets a home loan together, there are some important matters to address.

First, note that when two people apply for a mortgage on the same loan application, the lender uses the total gross monthly income along with joint monthly credit obligations to determine affordability. If the union decides to take different paths, the mortgage company holding the note still has a say in the matter. When a couple applies for a mortgage, theyre both going to be listed as interested parties on the title report as well as the mortgage showing up on both of their individual credit reports. But just because a couple decides to split, that doesnt automatically mean the mortgage company agrees to let one party off the hook for the existing monthly payment.

Lets say a couple do decide to get a divorce. They agree who will continue to occupy the property, who will continue to own it and who is responsible for making the monthly mortgage payments. They get their lawyers together, work out an agreement, its signed by a judge and they both go along their merry way. But the mortgage company didnt agree with the split. Both are still on the note and both are responsible, regardless of what any agreement states. But during a split, there are ways to get one spouse off the note, leaving it to the responsibility of the other.

A judge signs the final divorce decree awarding one party sole ownership of the property while at the same time determining who will be making the monthly mortgage payments going forward. Lets also consider the non-occupying spouse who leaves the home. That individual will still have the mortgage payments on his or her own credit report, even if the agreement states that person isnt responsible for the mortgage. The mortgage company didnt agree. How do you get an ex-spouse off the mortgage?

Lenders can have different guidelines but in general if the mortgage payments are made on time for the next 12 months, one ex-spouse can petition to remove the other off the note. Doing so frees up credit lines for the other party to purchase or rent another home. Until that person is off the mortgage completely, it will still affect debt-to-income ratios. If the divorce decree states who is responsible for the mortgage payments, as long as the payments are made on time for the next year, that person can be removed.

Another way to get an ex-spouse off the mortgage is to refinance the existing note. In this fashion, the person keeping the house and the responsibility for making the mortgage payments must qualify for a refinance without the benefit of the ex-spouses income. Sometimes this can be a challenge if debt ratios are an issue but paying off the existing note enti>
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HOA Trips & Slips

Tripping and slipping can involve both embarrassment and serious injury. The ubiquitous banana peel slip always gets a chuckle, but too often the gravity both the law and seriousness of the situation can cause real and lasting injury.

In most of the world, the policy of Always Look Down ALD is essential to avoid injury. In the Third World, if you trip or slip, you have no one to blame but yourself by UN Resolution, I believe. But in the Land O Plenty of lawyers and insurance, the blame often gets hung on the homeowner association.

HOAs have the duty to maintain trip and slip-free conditions in the common area. These conditions can be triggered by a number of causes:


Weather snow and ice


Landscape >


Poor Construction lack of handrails, improper material and design


Mechanical Failures car oil leaks


Normal wear and tear raised or sunken slabs, potholes, etc.


These conditions create conditions ripe for trip and slip such as:


Raised edges over 3/8 inches. Driveways, patios, sidewalks and parking lots crack and move, sometime up and sometimes down. Tree roots or inadequate compaction are usually the culprits. Raised concrete can often be ground down without having to replace it. Sometimes it requires removal and replacement.


Step of unusual height, like 3-4 inches. Normal steps are 6-8 inches tall. These kind of steps benefit from yellow edges which can be easily seen.


Walkway slopes that are slippery when wet, icy or mossy. Consider installing nonskid surfaces.


Inadequate lighting too dim, too few fixtures, improper placement. Increase lumen output, add or move fixtures.


Overgrown landscaping that conceals or overshadows hazards. Prune bushes and trees to allow light through.


Lack of stairway handrails. Install on both sides.


Oil spots in the parking areas. Pressure wash or use oil absorbing material to remove.


Potholes. Fill them to level.


Naturally slick surfaces like polished marble in entry foyers


Lack of nonskid surfaces where appropriate stairs, entries, slopes. Add skid resistance runners, carpet or adhesive strips. Replace slick material with skid resistant materials like wood stair treads with concrete.


Regardless of the cause, the HOA should have a budget and plan to deal with slip and trip hazards before someone and his lawyer discover them and the HOAs liability insurance policy. The plan to detect and correct should be consistent and adequate. The program should be even more aggressive in HOAs with senior residents whose injuries are likely to be more serious.

So the next time you hear, Have a nice trip or See you next fall, make sure they refer to holiday travel plans and not a trip or slip.

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What Should You Know About IKEA Kitchens?

Kitchen remodels are a popular but pricey project for many homeowners. With people spending more time at home right now because of COVID-19, undoubtedly, many are considering remodels.

To save money on kitchen projects, some homeowners go the IKEA kitchen route.

You can ultimately save thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars, but is it worth it? Thats a decision thats up to the individual, but there are certain things to know about an IKEA kitchen.

Designing an IKEA Kitchen

One of the big challenges with the IKEA kitchen is the initial design process. You can go to a store location and have someone help you with the design. If you live near an IKEA, that can simplify things, and you avoid the potential of your mistakes derailing your project.

Not everyone lives near an IKEA, however. You may be planning to get your kitchen shipped.

If so, there is an online planning tool available.

The concept of an IKEA kitchen is similar to their furniture. Along with being budget-friendly, things are packed and shipped in a way thats ready to put together. You may be able to do it on your own, without a contractor.

As you start planning and using the design planner, one of the most important things to remember is to measure, measure, and measure again.

You need to account for things like outlets, window openings, and door swings.

Once you have measurements, you can start thinking about your kitchen zones, which just means where youll put everything and how it will flow.

Are the Cabinets High-Quality?

Cabinets, particularly if you go the custom route, are incredibly expensive. IKEA cabinets are significantly less expensive.

The thing about IKEA cabinets is that they are made from particleboard and then covered in laminate. Some people do prefer solid wood. Again, thats a personal decision.

Since the cabinets from IKEA dont come in custom sizes, if you have an odd space or something doesnt work out just right, you might have to use a filler piece.

The 3D planner tool again is a critical component of planning your kitchen. Its somewhat like a puzzle.

You can add features like internal organizers to your cabinets, and there are available features like drawer dampeners that give you a soft close.

There are base cabinets, which are your lower cabinets under the counter. Theyre available in two depths, and the standard depth is 24 inches.

Then, wall cabinets go above the countertops. Most wall cabinets are 15 inches, which is a standard depth.

If you want additional storage, which is somewhat like a free-standing pantry, there are tall cabinets. They sit on the floor and are available in two heights80 or 90 inches.

You can decide between exposed legs and toe kicks for your base cabinets.

What About the Countertop?

IKEA does have countertops, but you might want to go elsewhere even if you get your cabinets from there.

The countertop options are either laminate or veneer.

Putting it Together

Again, all of the different pieces and components of your IKEA kitchen wont be assembled when they arrive. You can put them together yourself or hire a contractor. You should have your kitchen delivered instead of picking it up, and you may find that if you have a larger kitchen, you have more than 100 boxes.

Putting everything together and installing the components correctly plays a big role in the durability and quality of your IKEA kitchen. If youre unsure of your skills, you should think about having someone help you.

Finally, if you have an odd-shaped kitchen or layout and you dont plan on changing it, you could be limited in your options for an IKEA kitchen. This is simply because IKEA kitchens are modular and theres not a lot of room for customization. A straight-line kitchen is a best-case scenario if youre going with IKEA.

Whether or not an IKEA kitchen is worth the cost savings depends on your preferences, the layout of your kitchen, how handy you are, and what your budget is.

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How To Win a Bidding Battle

Welcome to bidding battles for resales, where the sales price is not the price, and the commission may not be the commission.

Home shoppers find themselves in a battle with an unseen enemy located somewhere between their will and their wallet.nbsp;

There are three ways to win a bidding battle

1. As a listing agent, think circus ringmaster.
2. As a buyers agent, think cattle stampede.
3. As a bid- resistant buyers agent, think fixed price, no bids.

Lets be real.nbsp;

Your chances of listing the home are slim to none. Competition for saleable inventory being what it is.nbsp;

Your chances of your buyer winning the bidding battle are slim and none.nbsp;

There are exceptions.nbsp; Realtors who are making those exceptions are exceptional professionals.nbsp;

When you hear their stories, you sense that if you were buying a home in this agents market, you would want this agent to represent you.nbsp;

Here are two of the best in Orlando based on their listing and sales production.nbsp;

Orlando Realtor Mary Carpousis does not enjoy the bid battles, but does not run from one.nbsp;

"Recently, I was bidding against 18 other offers on one property. Yes, 18 We lost the bid.nbsp;Later, I won the bid but had to pin the listing agent down to accept an offer for a different property that included 10,000 over the asking price. We closed," Carpousis said.nbsp;

Realtors find themselves negotiating on behalf of their clients for higher than listed prices in a world that trains them to negotiate lower than than listed prices offered by their home shoppers.nbsp;nbsp;

High demand for marketable inventory is driven not so much by traditional reasons such as a need for more bedrooms for growing families, but the need for a home office for work and a study area for home schooling.

Home shoppers find themselves in a paradoxical bidding battle with an unseen enemy - the fear of paying too much and the fear of losing the bid.nbsp;nbsp;

The winner must pay the highest price and/or offer the best terms, and in some cases, hope the home appraises.nbsp;

What then is the best way to prepare your buyer for a bidding battle?nbsp;

Orlando Realtor and broker principal Pat Taylor of TTT Realty suggests the following steps when dealing with resales.nbsp;nbsp;

"My first recommendation to buyers is to have preapproval, not pre-qualification letters ready. nbsp;My lender will pre-underwrite the loan without a contract to provide additional assurance to the seller that our loan will close.

"Second, buyers need to be prepared to offer full price or more on a property they want.

"Third, if the buyer is committed to a particular property, I suggest adding an escalation clause stating that the buyer will go 5,000 over the next bonafide offer.nbsp;

"Fourth, I have buyers write a love letter to the sellers about why they want the home, and I find these can help the seller decide in favor of my buyer," Taylor said.

According to, an escalation clause is a real estate contract, sometimes called an escalator. When a home buyer says: "I will paynbsp;xnbsp;price for this home, but if the seller receives another offer thats higher than mine, Im willing to increase my offer tonbsp;ynbsp;price."

Carpousis says she recommends that her buyers original offer be a few thousand over the asking price if they are first to make the offer and be willing to close as fast as the mortgage lender permits.nbsp;

Question: if bidding is so stressful, why not offer a no-bid option?

Both Carpousis and Taylor do precisely that. Both show new construction, with its fixed base price, every chance they get.nbsp;

Resale agents need to add new homes inventory to their showing schedule.nbsp;nbsp;

"New home construction is the easiest sale in real estate," Carpousis said, "Even if a prospect wants to see resales, I always suggest they at look at new homes selling at the price the prospect plans to pay for a resale, so they can at least see what they can get for their money.nbsp;

"This not only helps me close more resales, but many of my prospects purchase the new home. Either way, I win, and sometimes list their home if they are local."

If you are in general real estate, should you be showing new homes?

Is there any doubt? Afraid you will make a mistake?

Someone once said that doubt destroys more dreams than failure ever could.

In our next piece, we will examine why a new home buy is a no-bid transaction and how to find new homes inventory and why they are willing to pay broker commissions in one of the hottest new home market ever.nbsp;

After all, with new homes, the base price is the price, and the commission is the commission, a refreshing strategy and policy in todays uncertain resale world.

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10 Tips for Creating a Calmer, More Peaceful Home

Add some greenery

Studies have shown that plants can make your home feel calmer and ease anxiety. Plants like jasmine and English ivy can improve sleep, lavender and rosemary can lower stress, and several other plants have been shown to improve air quality so you breathe easier.

Hide the electronics

Nobody wants to stare at a tangle of cords, said Houzz. Thankfully, we have more options than ever for keeping our tech devices hidden away. When possible, choose smaller, wi>

Get a dog

Or a cat, a bird, or a turtle, for that matter. Yes, having a pet can mean more noise and more mess. But, there are all kinds of studies that show that having a pet lowers stress. Researchers found that pet-owning patients with high blood pressure could keep their blood pressure lower during times of mental stress than patients without pets, said Another study showsnbsp;that pet owners may also have increased odds of surviving for at least a year after having a heart attack.

Clear the clutter

Going all Marie Kondo on your home can have surprising effects on your mental state. Clutternbsp;can playnbsp;a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves, said psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter innbsp;Psychology Today. Messy homes andnbsp;work spacesnbsp;leave us feelingnbsp;anxious,nbsp;helpless, and overwhelmed.

Tone down the harsh colors

Theres something to be said for going bold, but soft colors can bring on a calming feeling. If you want a deeper color, consider shades of blues and greenstwo colors that are known to be more serene than, say bright yellow, orange, or red.

Clean up your entryway

Its the first place guests see, and while you probably dont pass by or through your front entry all that often if you park in the garage, it may not feel as welcoming as youd like when you do.

Soften the lighting

Harsh overhead lighting can make you feel like youre being interrogated, and can also be hard on your eyes. If you need to keep it because the space will be too dark otherwise, a dimmer can at least give you some control over just how bright it is, and allow you to create a mood with lower lighting as needed.

Limit the patterns

Opt for solids and subtle patterns, said Houzz.nbsp;Busy patterns have their place, but if youre aiming for calm, then solid fabrics are your friends. Dont be afraid to include subtle patterns, though: herringbone, tone-on-tone stripes, and tiny dots can add textural interest without competing for attention.

Buy some fresh flowers

According to a study by Rutgers, The presence of flowers trigger happy emotions, heightens feelings of life satisfaction and affects social behavior in a positive way far beyond what was originally believed.

Make your master bedroom a zen zone

Getting good rest is key, and there are several ways you can create a soothing space. Keeping the colors serene is key, and so is a good mattress. Loading the bed up with soft textures can also help. The sensation of touch is often overlooked, but a powerful way to unwind, said

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Should You Fix Up Your House Before Listing Or Sell It As A Fixer Upper?

If youre thinking of selling your home, this is probably a question youve been asking yourself - and your real estate agent. There is no hard and fast answer; the route you go will depend on numerous factors, the most important of which are: the condition of your home, the strength of the market in your area, and the potential profit to be made both with and without updates. These tips will help you decide whether to sell now or later.

Consider your buyer

The words "fixer upper" might actually be a selling point for some buyers who perceive theyre getting a deal, who are specifically looking for something they can put their stamp on, or who just cant afford to buy something turnkey. The marketing your agent does is key here so you dont end up with nothing but unacceptable offers.

"In any marketing communications surrounding a fixer-upper, its important to remain focused on value," said ExtraSpace. "Prospective homebuyers know that a fixer-upper will sell at a lower price point than newer or more modern homes on the market. But that doesnt mean you need to accept a lowball offer. Instead, emphasize the homes investment potential by reminding buyers of the future sale opportunities after the home has been remodeled."

If your home needs A LOT of work and you cant, or dont want to, put the time, money, and effort into getting it in top condition, targeting investors could get it sold quickly. "A few years ago, a past client called to say her next-door neighbors needed to immediately sell their home. To say it needed work was an understatement," said Sacramento-based real estate broker Elizabeth Weintraub on The Balance. "The home appeared inhabitable. It had holes in the walls all the way to the exterior and urine-soaked wood floors; most of the electrical didnt work and the bathroom tub had fallen through the joists. All the faucets leaked and, in one bedroom, I found a pile of dead rats swept into a pile in the center of the floor. This was not a home that could be easily fixed up. Not even a coat of paint would have helped sell this place. We priced it low enough that it attractednbsp;multiple offers and sold with zero days on market. Only contractors and flippers made offers on this home."

Since flipping is more popular than ever, a home that needs work - especially certain kinds of work - may be attractive enough to investors that you dont have to do any work at all. "A good rule of thumb: If your home needs kitchen or bath remodels, a new roof, or foundation repairs, theres an 80-plus chance your buyer is going to be an investor," Bruce Ailion, a broker and REALTOR in Atlanta, said on

Get an honest assessment - and be able to hear it

If youve lived in your home for quite some time and/or havent kept up with updates and repairs, your real estate agents assessment of its condition and the recommendations he or she makes to get it market-ready may be eye-opening. They may also make you angry. Try to listen and keep an open mind, even if you feel offended. In the end, you share the same goal, which is to get your home sold for the best possible price.

Be realistic on pricing

"Finding out your homes value isnt as simple as subtracting the costnbsp;of repairs from your home. You also need to factor in aggravation costs, said Ailion. "In other words, turnkey homes often sell at a premium to traditional buyers because they dont have to do any work. If your home needs some sprucing up, youre likely going to have to incentivize buyers to dig in and get their hands dirty."

It may be that fixing your home up makes the most sense because of the financial upside. In presenting you with comparables, your real estate agent should be able to show you other properties in your area in varying conditions depending on the number of active listings or recently sold homes near you. This will help inform the pricing for your home and also give you some idea of how much youd have to put into it to get top dollar. Now all you have to do is come up with the money

Choose your updates wisely

A 30,000 kitchen renovation may not be in the budget and may not give you the return on investment youre looking for, but there are smaller updates you can do to your kitchen to make it look fresh and, you can use the same principles in other important areas, like bathrooms. Better Homes and Gardens has a great list of updates you can make for under 2,000, including hanging a pendant that "illuminates the sink area" and swapping out a tired sink for a "farmhouse sink that adds character to the space." Also think about painting cabinets and installing new hardware, and, if youre up to the task, adding an eye-catching backsplash.

Make necessary repairs

Investors arent expecting perfection, and their offers will be based on the condition of your home and the potential profit they can make once its fixed up. Non-investor types looking for a deal may not necessarily be scared off by a few cosmetic issues, but major repairs that are needed are another story. If youre looking for the smartest place to put your pre-sale renovation dollars, this may be it.

"It might not be glamorous, but buyers are looking atnbsp;big-ticket itemsnbsp;like the age and condition of the roof,nbsp;air conditioning and heating systems, water heater, electrical panel and pipes," said Inman. "If any of these components are on their last leg, you might seriously need to consider replacing them as these items could factor into the kind of financing the buyer is able to obtain as well asnbsp;insurability of the property."

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The Ultimate Contractors: Real Estate Agents as Independent Contractors

It is this tenacity that warrants our attentionand deserves our praisebecause each agent is an icon unto him- or herself. Each agent is responsible for how he represents himself to the public, regardless of his association with a firm of solid repute or a strong foundation.

Pardon the construction metaphors, as they constitute a descriptionthey are a construct, pun intendedfor the many ways in which real estate agents try to appeal to clients. This attempt is, first and foremost, an exercise in building an identity. It includes symbols that speak for themselves without the need for a single word, in addition to collateral materials that complement a message by their appearance alone. All of these things, and more, are the building blocks of success.

What, then, does success look like? As the image that accompanies this column shows, it looks customizable; which is to say it looks familiarit is familiarbecause familiarity breeds comfort, not contempt. It breeds confidence, not concern.

According to Janil Jean, Director of Overseas Operations for, real estate agents should embrace the familiar. She says: Familiar is not a synonym for generic. For example: A house may have a particular >

I agree with that statement, based on my exposure to failed marketing experiments in which >

I also agree that real estate agents can inspire us to be better marketers in general. Their work is a study in perseverance and a profile in the steadfastness necessary to succeed. They work by staging homes and taking clients on tours of various homes. They home in on the things that make a home, so to speak; the accoutrements and accessories; the decorations and designs; the symbols and signposts that adorn the streets and sidewalks along the byways of America.

Let us celebrate their work ethicand emulate it, too.

Let us put real estate agents at the forefront of a movement, whose progress advances our common interests.

Let us do so with passion and integrity, in tribute to a profession defined by excellence and driven by exceptional people.

Let us transform the real estate industry.

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The Relevance of Non-QM Loans

To understand the importance of non-QM lending, we first need to be clear on exactly what a QM is. QM stands for Qualified Mortgage and is a type of home loan that meets certain specific standards. When someone finances a home with a QM loan, there are some inherent consumer protections when compared to other types of loans.nbsp;

If a loan meets these standards, lenders are protected against any future lawsuits from legal challenges from borrowers during foreclosure proceedings and other financing->

A non-QM loan is simply one that does not mee QM status. But that doesnt mean non-QM loans are a bad thingtheyre not. Theyre just in a different category. For example, lets say someone is self-employed and doesnt get a regular monthly paycheck on the 1st and 15th. Instead, income is received on a more sporadic basis when customers pay their bills.nbsp;

A non-QM loan program such as a bank statement loan can be an answer. A bank statement loan is one where income is derived by reviewing personal and business bank statements. By looking at various deposits over the previous 12 months, lenders can arrive at a qualifying income amount by averaging those deposits. This is a non-QM loan.

Another type of non-QM loan is an interest-only loan. As the name implies, consumers have the option of paying just the interest on the loan, interest plus principal or an interest plus a partial payment toward the outstanding loan balance.nbsp;

The Ability to Repay rule, or ATR, is a guideline whereby lenders determine affordability by arriving at an acceptable amount of monthly debt compared to gross monthly income. This comparison comes in the form of a debt ratio. A loan can fall into the QM category as long as this ratio does not exceed 43, or 43 of gross monthly income. But getting someone approved with a higher debt ratio, even as high as 50 with a non-QM mortgage, can be achieved with a non-QM mortgage.

Non-QM loans can have a balloon payment. A balloon payment is one where after a predetermined period of time has elapsed, the entire loan balance comes due. In return, borrowers can get a lower than market rate during the initial fixed period. A 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage featuring a balloon payment after five years is a non-QM loan.nbsp;

This can be an attractive option for those seeking a lower interest rate knowing that in five years or less, the property will be sold or the mortgage otherwise retired. And slowly coming back into the market are stated or no doc loans. These loans have limited documentation requirements as it >

One final note, non-QM loans are not directly cor>
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Tips for Designing Your Dream Kitchen Island

With coronavirus continuing to be an issue this winter, the only island you might see is in your kitchen, so why not make it great?

A spacious, functional kitchen island is the centerpiece of any space, and its something you might be dreaming of. So, if youre in the process of designing or just playing around with the idea in your head, the following are tips for island design.

Which Appliances Should Go in Your Island?

You probably want to put at least a few of the more functional things in your kitchen in your island. It will save space, and it just makes things easier as youre designing the rest of the kitchen.

Adding your sink to your island is probably where you should start. Its not exactly an appliance, but its certainly something you use, probably every time youre in your kitchen. If youre using your island for a lot of food prep, you want your sink right there.

With that in mind, its always a good idea to have your sink next to your dishwasher, so you might also include that in your island.

Two optional but nice-to-have items in your island are a wine or beverage cooler and a microwave. Some islands even have pull-out refrigerator drawers.

You can add your cooktop to your island, but you might need to think about venting, which is why some people dont prefer that.

How Much Storage Do You Want?

When you have an idea of the appliances that will go in your island, then you can move on to start thinking about storage. At a minimum, if youre using the island for food prep, you want to have at least a few pullout drawers and a place to put things like cutting boards.

Counter Height

To determine your counter height, you want to think about who will be sitting there and how theyll sit. If youre going to have barstools, youll either likely have them be 36 or 42 inches. You can also design an island so that its two levels. One level might be higher for barstools, and the other might be lower so you can do prep.

If you have a 36-inch bar, its seating thats somewhere between a typical barstool and a table.

Island Size

When youre deciding on a size for the island, you have to think about not only what you want it to achieve but also the open area around it. You need at least three feet of floor space on the ends of the island. For your working and seating sides, you need at least 42 inches.

If you have enough room, the ideal width for an island is usually three feet.

Proportion is really important when you design an island.

You want to make sure that it works well with the rest of your kitchen and maintains a good sense of flow.

Finally, once you have all the basics above taken care of you, you can start deciding on the more fun elements. For example, what countertop material will you use? One of the most beautiful island design options is a waterfall countertop, with stone or another solid surface cascading seamlessly to each side.

You can also start thinking about lighting. Pendant lights are always a good way to make a statement above your island.

If you have an open-concept layout, your island design is even more important because its likely the focal point of your entire living space. Focus on function, but then have fun with your design as well.

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Renovating Your Home During the Pandemic

Canadians spent an estimated 80.1 billion updating and repairing their homes in 2019, according to a recent report by Altus Group. This year, with the pandemic putting the squeeze on homeowners pocketbooks, spending is expected to decline but not as much as the overall economy.

So far real estate market activity during the pandemic has exceeded expectations. Usually after someone buys a home, renovations and repairs soon follow. Certainly, the home improvement stores seem to be booming as many people who now have more time at home are using it to take care of home improvements.

A survey by TD says that 24 per cent of working Canadians say their living space isnt designed for them to work at home on a regular basis. Twenty-nine per cent say they dont have enough room in their homes to exercise. As a result, more than a third of those surveyed say they plan to complete significant home renovations or repairs to help them cope with the pandemic at home.

The Altus report says the pandemic caused a sharp decline in interest rates for home equity lines of credit and five-year mortgage rates. With the Bank of Canada announcing that rates are likely to remain low, that is giving renovation spending a boost. Altus says that although spending this year will not match 2019, its likely to rebound next year. Home renovation spending has increased every year but two during the last 20 years, and it is a bigger segment of the economy than new homebuilding.

Another survey, by CIBC, says the average project will cost 10,211, according to those who say they will renovate within the next 12 months. It says 58 per cent plan to fund the job with cash and savings, while 34 per cent will borrow the money.nbsp;nbsp;

Among those who say they completed their projects already, 39 per cent said they went over budget. CIBC says millennials are the most likely to put a budget for their renovation in place but are also the most likely to exceed that budget.

The top three renovation projects planned: basic home maintenance, landscaping and bathroom renovations, according to the CIBC survey.

The Canadian Home Builders Association CHBA has introduced guidelines for its renovation members to follow when working on residential projects.

The guidelines suggest that contractors stagger shifts, coffee and lunch breaks to keep the number of people in one area to a minimum. It says workers should take their breaks alone in their personal vehicles.

For residential jobs where the homeowners are still living in the home, CHBA recommends that clear space boundaries be established so the crew would not enter most parts of the house and the homeowners would stay out of the workspace, even after hours. If a client must come into the work zone, they must wear a mask and physical distancing is required. Clients are asked to communicate only with the site supervisor and avoid contact with others.

An Ontario Home Builders Association OHBA guideline says that for projects that last longer than two days, portable toilets and designated wash stations should be made available to workers. Or, if possible, a washroom designated by the client could be used exclusively by the crew.

OHBA guidelines say that daily cleaning is required and should be documented in a cleaning log. Communal areas must be cleaned regularly.nbsp;

The guidelines suggest that on weekends, it should the be homeowners responsibility to clean these areas.

Shipments and deliveries should be dropped off, avoiding personal contact. If a signature is needed, the person signing for it should use their own pen.

OHBA also suggests that contractors provide schedules of when trades will be in the home and at what time, so that no workers show up unexpectedly.

Frequent handwashing is required, and everyone is expected to wear personal protective equipment and gloves when possible. Sharing of tools and equipment should be limited.

The TD survey says the pandemic is also changing Canadians lives in other ways that could result in renovations. For example, they are cooking more and watching tv more, which could lead to kitchen renovation and media room projects.

It says >
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What Happens When An Unhappy Principal Simply Refuses To Sign Documents?

Many of us have experienced clients who were so upset about something gone wrong in a transaction that they no longer wanted to have anything to do with it. Really -- just a refusal to participate in any way. Back is turned. Arms are folded. Fists are clenched. They wont sign cancellation instructions, wont sign for return of deposit, wont sign a grant deed, nothing. Whatever needs to be done, they are not going to do it.

Well, what happens then? Can a court, make them sign a document? Not really. The court might punish someone for not signing; but that is a different issue. It doesnt get the document signed. But what the court can do is to appoint someone else to sign on their behalf. The case of Blueberry Properties v. Esther Khoe Chow California Second Appellate District, Oct. 22, 2014 is instructive.

In June of 2011, Ms. Chow entered into an agreement to sell her apartment complex in Los Angeles. However, as sometimes happens, she subsequently changed her mind. She even returned the deposit money that Blueberry had placed into escrow. But Blueberry was not in agreement with her change of heart. Blueberry went to court and sued for specific performance. In July of 2012, the parties entered into a settlement whereby Chow agreed to sell the property to Blueberry in accordance with the terms of their original agreement. Unfortunately, Chow failed to comply with the settlement. She withheld her signatures from the documents necessary to reopen and complete the sale.

Back to court. This time the court issued a judgment which, among other things, said "Esther Chow [is] ordered to do all things necessary and to execute all documents necessary to consummate the sale by Defendant, Esther Chow to Plaintiff, BLUEBERRY PROPERTIES" Alas, Ms. Chow again refused to sign the escrow documents..

This time Blueberry went back to the court and asked for an order appointing an elisor. An elisor is someone the court appoints to sign and/or act on behalf of some other person. The court issued such an order. So Ms. Chow appealed the appointment of an elisor.

The Second Appellate District Court didnt think much of Ms. Chows arguments and/or behavior. They upheld the order appointing an elisor. Ms. Chows signatures are no longer needed.

Commenting on this case in the California Real Estate Law newsletter, attorney Julia Wei says: "The Buyers right to specific performance is nearly absolute and though the remedy may take a number of litigation efforts to enforce, the Seller does not actually need to sign any of the documents in order for the transfer of the property to occur."

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Architect, Designer or Contractor: Who To Hire for a Renovation?

If youre going to do a home renovation or remodeling project, you may want to work with professionals for several reasons. Working with a professional in the remodeling industry can help you avoid costly mistakes, can help you get organized, and can bring your vision to life.

There are three main types of professionals you might consider working with on a renovation.

There are an architect, a designer and a contractor.

Knowing what differentiates them from one another can help you make the right decision for your project.

The Role of a Designer

A designer can help you by coming up with ideas, creating plans and steering you in a direction based on your wants and needs. Of those, for many people, drawing the plans can be the most important role of a designer. A basic design plan might include a floor plan and built-in features, such as cabinets in your kitchen. A full-service designer might take the worker beyond that and help with fixtures and finishes. Designers arent typically project managers, however.

Designers can be costly. They can charge hundreds of dollars an hour, and they usually have a minimum project fee of anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000. Some estimates say that you should plan to budget from 8 to 12 of your total project cost for a designer.

If you have an idea of what you like and what you want, you might not need to hire a designer.

The Role of an Architect

An architect will come to your home and go over what you want from your renovation and budget. They will create a plan that will bring that to life. You may work with an architect only for the plan. Some people hire architects for full project management. In that case, the architect will choose contractors and will track their progress.

An architects services can cost anywhere from 50 to 200 an hour, or if theyre managing the project, it may be 5-20 of the total project cost.

If youre doing a renovation that involves taking out walls and changing your layout, you may need an architect.

The Role of a Contractor

A contractor is someone who serves as a project manager when you bring them on for a renovation. They will work with you on your expectations and then make sure those are met. Contractors can give you a complete budget breakdown for the project, and they can also design your project if you want them to.

Something valuable about hiring a contractor is that theyll then find your subcontractors such as electricians and plumbers. This makes your life easier because finding trustworthy subcontractors and then managing them can be a challenge.

Youll need a licensed contractor so they can pull the necessary permits for your project. Contractors usually charge on a cost-plus basis. That means they take the total amount they anticipate the project will cost and they add a markup.

Who Do You Need?

A contractor with experience is likely to be able to deal with a simple renovation as well as an architect, and you can save money. If your budget is tight, you might want to collaborate with your contractor on your design. If you want a bit of help and guidance, you might hire a designer who will offer a consultation.

Finally, if youre doing something like moving major walls for creating an open-concept layout, you might want to consult with an architect because of safety.

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Ask the HOA Expert: ADA Compliance, Cracked Windows, Rules Violation Policies

Question: I have a question regarding HOA regulations in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act ADA. Are HOAs required to provide a sign language interpreter for a deaf HOA member at meetings?

Answer: ADA requires HOAs to make "reasonable accommodations." That means that the HOA would not prohibit a resident from using disability >

However, the HOA can voluntarily provide such services and a deaf member should be allowed to bring a sign language interpreter to the meeting.

Question: I am an ex-Treasurer of our HOA. The current President and Treasurer are an engaged couple. Each is a homeowner. Should they both be allowed to be signers on the HOA bank accounts? What accounting records am I entitled to see?

Answer: As long as both the Treasurer and President each own a unit, they are both entitled to serve on the Board. Its up to the Board to decide who serves in what office. It is common practice for the President and Treasurer to be signers on the HOA bank accounts. You are free to express your concerns about this arrangement but barring convincing evidence of wrongdoing, raising this issue is bound to imply wrongdoing and cause hard feelings. Tread carefully. As a matter of good management practice, the HOA should carry fidelity insurance to help safeguard against fraud and embezzlement.

As an HOA member, you have the right to review all financial records with exception of confidential ones like collection activity on members. Requesting a special delivery of financial records is not reasonable unless you are willing to pay for staff time and copy costs. You do have the right to arrange an appointment and go to the place where records are kept and review them. You should expect to pay for reasonable copying costs.

Question: In an HOA, who typically pays for a cracked window called a "stress crack" by the window repair company? Our CCamp;Rs require the HOA to cover repairs and maintenance of "exterior finishes" but windows are not specifically mentioned.

Answer: Usually, window repair is an owner responsibility unless the governing documents indicate otherwise or the problem is >

Question: We are trying to formulate our rules violation policies. Who should receive complaints from residents about rule violations, the Board or the paid manager?

Answer: The manager should process complaints. However, the Board must adopt policies and procedures so the manager knows how to respond. If those policies are in place, the manager simply executes them the policies, not the rule violators.

Neither the Board nor manager should automatically accept a complaint. If this is a first time complaint about a neighbor, the complainer should be required to first take the matter directly to that neighbor both in person and in writing rather than expect the HOA to do the dirty work. That way, the manager knows that reasonable action was taken to resolve the issue before it was presented for resolution to the HOA.

If this has been done, the manager should accept the complaint in writing with precise details which include the time and events together with copies of correspondence between the neighbors. That way, the manager knows that the complainer took personal action to resolve the issue.

If the complainer is not willing to put the matter in writing to both the offender and the manager, the manager can assume its not important enough for the HOA to deal with. Of course, there can be extenuating circumstances, like a aggressive or violent neighbor. The manager can make the judgment whether to intercede or not.

The manager may have a question from time to time on how to proceed with a complaint. Specific direction should be provided by the Board President. Aside from this, the manager should have authority to handle most matters. This is one of the great advantages of having professional management ... not having to enforce rules on neighbors.

Finally, not all complaints are the HOAs responsibility to do something about. For example, if spouses are having violent altercations, its a matter for the police and the complainer should be directed that way.

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What Might the Spring Housing Market Bring?

This year has been nonstop uncertainty. The coronavirus pandemic led to shutdowns and changes in everyones way of life. Thats continuing as we head into winter. Cities have been hard-hit not only in terms of public health but also economically.

There has been a move away from urban areas as many people are packing up to find homes with more space, less proximity to others, and perhaps more peace of mind.

Were also approaching a presidential election that could be potentially contested due to mail-in ballots.

Despite all of those factors, the housing market is one thing thats had a consistently rosy picture this year. So, what do experts think next year will bring? Will that positivity hold steady, or are we in for a bust?

Rising Prices

If inventory remains low into early 2021, its possible that home prices could continue to go up. The median asking price for properties in September 2020, according to, was 350,000. That was up more than 11 compared to last year. Again, if there continues to be a lot of buyer competition and a significant shortage of properties, and little new inventory coming onto the market, this trend could maintain.

The inventory has declined 39 year-over-year. There was a quick burst of new listings in August, but then it went down again shortly after.

Suburbs Reign Supreme

While places like New York City have managed to consistently keep their COVID case numbers low since they suffered a massive outbreak in spring, it might not be enough to bring people back to it and other densely populated urban areas.

Some feel that 2021 could see more of an exodus from urban areas to suburbs.

Some of the most popular places in 2020 have included Colorado Springs, CO; Reynoldsburg, OH; and Rochester, NY. Certainly not the places you think of when you think of a bustling real estate market.

Builder Confidence

Despite all of the headwinds and the seeming barrage of negative information, it does seem that there is optimism among many. Consumer confidence was high in September, and builder sentiment similarly seems to be at an all-time high.

Could There Be Downsides?

While there are some indicators of positivity, there are also possible negatives that could come into play. One is the fact that the unemployment rate is still high. If there are more localized rolling lockdowns throughout the winter, that could go even higher. Some predict that foreclosures will rise in 2021.

Also, we might not have seen the worst of the unemployment yet. We dont really know. Some companies tried to avoid layoffs and they were using federal funding like SBA loans and PPP loans to keep their businesses afloat. Now, in the absence of a new stimulus deal to this point, we dont know if those businesses will have to succumb to financial pressure and start laying off employees.

Many are hopeful that following the election, whichever side wins will prioritize more government help and support going into 20201.

Some states have had moratoriums on rent as well, and that could lead to landlords being delinquent. This could be especially true in places like New York and possibly California.

When things are uncertain, or theres a high-anxiety environment, theres a tendency among consumers and would-be homebuyers to want to hoard their cash. Personal savings rates have gone up recently, surprisingly, but that means there may be less spending going on, particularly on bigger items like houses.

Finally, while there are some unnerving indicators, we do know with almost certainty that record-low mortgage rates will hold. The fed has signaled their intention to keep rates low for the foreseeable future.

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Qualifying Income You Might Not Know About

Lenders want to make sure borrowers can comfortably repay their loans. Doing so allows the lender to make even more home loans. Affordability is primarily determined by comparing monthly income with monthly debt. Income is >

Support Income

Either in the form of spousal support or child support, this type of income can be used to help qualify under certain guidelines. First, there needs to be a history of timely payment. This is accomplished by providing copies of bank statements showing the monthly deposits being made and when. It is also assumed spousal support will continue into the future barring the ex-spouse receiving the income has not married. Child support payments typically continue until the child turns 18. These conditions of who pays what and when as well as when and if the payments will cease are spelled out in the signed divorce decree.

Investment Income

Dividends and interest from investments may also be used to supplement qualifying income. The income must be shown to be consistent over the previous two years and the borrowers name must appear on the statement. Any other names on the statement will cause the lender to divide up the income among all who appear on the investment account. Income is averaged over the previous 24 months in order to arrive at a qualifying amount.nbsp;

Disability Income

When someone is injured while on the job, they may be eligible to file for disability payments. This can be verified by reviewing a copy of the disability policy benefit statement. This income may also be used as long as the lender makes the determination the income will likely continue well into the future, for a minimum of three years. It can sometimes be the case that the disability is shorter term in nature, or the lender needs more information about the nature of the disability filing. However, its important to note that individual doctors may be >

Social Security Income

This is fairly straightforward but social security income can also be used. In order for the lender to use social security income, all that is needed is a copy of the social security awards letter. A request for this letter is made directly to the Social Security Administration either by the borrower or the lender.

Bonus Income

Like other forms of income, bonus income can be counted as long as there is a regular history of having received it. Bonus income should be both consistent and at regular intervals. Bonus income is averaged and should be paid monthly or sometimes quarterly. An annual bonus most often wont be used. Its thought that a holiday bonus in December may not be readily available in say July. Verification of the terms of the bonus can be obtained directly from the employer.

Part Time/Seasonal Income

With a two year history of receiving part time income as well as seasonal work such as during the holidays or during the summer, this income can also be counted when adding up qualifying income. The part time income should also be >
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A Guide To Creating A Profitable Rental Property

If youre looking to invest in residential real estate to rent out a property, there are many things you can do to contribute to its profitability. Some of them cost more than others, but keeping these things in mind when buying, renovating and decorating your property could make you a lot more money in the long run. Your priorities when it comes to the property will differ depending on your target market, yet these are pretty standard ways to help you get started


Before you jump into buying a property, it is essential that you research the area you are wanting to purchase a house in. You must consider potential deterrents such as high crime rates, loud areas and a generally messy environment. Equally, you should look out for selling points, such as good school districts, public transport and close amenities. The things that you prioritise will differ depending on your target audience, for example if you are wanting to target young professionals with a city flat, you would look out for public transport and amenities rather than good school districts. Decide who you want to attract to the property, consider what they would look for and research areas in depth accordingly.nbsp;

Make It Energy Efficient

Now that youve decided on a location, renovations are likely to begin. One thing that can dramatically increase the profitability of a rental property is if it is energy efficient. Prospective renters are sure to ask for the energy efficiency rating, perhaps because they are eco-friendly or more likely because they want to keep the cost of their bills to a minimum. Having double glazed windows, loft insulation and low pressure taps and shower heads will make a massive difference when it comes to the monthly cost of bills. The best thing to do is to upgrade the boiler to one that is A-rated, as heating accounts for about half of the average energy bill. Being able to tell potential renters about the implementation of various energy-saving elements during renovation will impress them. Best of all, your monthly yield will increase as you are able to charge more monthly rent for a property that will save the tenants money.nbsp;

Neutral Colour Palette

After any main renovations have taken place, you may start to consider decorating. There are no strict rules here, however in order to make your property as profitable as possible, it is advisable to keep the colour palette neutral. If the walls, floors and fixtures are mismatched throughout the house, it will completely put off most potential renters. So, going for cream walls and wooden floors throughout the house is your best option. When it comes to fixtures such as your bathroom suite and kitchen, keep things simple again. A white bathroom suite with grey tiles and cream kitchen cupboards with a wooden countertop is the best way to go. Not only will the property look bright and clean, but it will also enable your tenants to make the place feel like home as they can bring in their own sense of >

Cohesive Furniture

Not everyone decides to, but furnishing your property is a great option for many rental properties. Again, it is important to consider who you are targeting here. If you are wanting a family to rent the property, it is likely they will have already built up a collection of their own furniture. However, for city centre flats, opting for a furnished finish will be extremely popular. There is no need to buy designer furniture or expensive soft furnishings, you just need to buy items that complement the existing colour palette and look neat. Choose a colour scheme, either white or light wood works well, and choose furniture that all matches. Something as simple as having a dining table, tv stand and coffee table that all match can completely change the overall look of a room. Dont opt for a cream sofa, instead a mushroom brown sofa or soft grey will look great and will be easier to maintain.nbsp;


Considering the wants and needs of your potential renters should definitely not be an afterthought when it comes to buying a property. Instead, you should take time to consider what they might be looking for, and what they will find appealing, throughout the entire process. The smallest decisions could make your property much more profitable, so investing a bit more from the beginning is a good idea in order to increase your monthly yield.nbsp;

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The Best Celebrity Recipes for an Easy and Impressive Thanksgiving Dinner

So you dont have a degree from Le Cordon Bleu. Or a Michelin star. Or a 47,000 stove yes, they actually make a 47,000 stove. You can still cook Thanksgiving like a James Beard chef.

No, really, you can.

All you need is a little time, a lot of patience, and a menu that includes the best Thanksgiving dishes from the best celebrity chefs. These dishes also happen to be on the easy side of gourmet chef-ery. You can thank us later we only accept bribes that are pumpkin flavored.

Main Dish

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast

Why bother with a whole turkey when youre just going to end up with two-thirds of it left over? Instead, order a whole turkey breast from your grocer. Its much more easy to manage the cooking, and it wont end up packed to go for your guests and overflowing you dogs bowl at the end of the night.

Chef Ina Gartens herb-roasted turkey breast layers on the fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme for a tasty - and fragrant - main dish.

Side Dishes

Emeril Lagasses Spicy Sausage Dressing

When chef Emeril Lagasse spends years trying to "trying to replicate" his mothers dressing recipe and finally gives up and asks for it, you know it must be good. "It might be the best thing Ive ever eaten," he said. His version of stuffing uses Portuguese linguica or hot Italian sausage and milk-soaked bread. Sign us up.

Chef Michael Symons Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

Mix potatoes with browned butter and crme frache and you have chef Michael Symons four-ingredient potatoesnbsp;that take the normal spud fare to a whole level of Thanksgiving yumminess.

Rachel Rays Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

As long as youre going to eat a meal packed with as many calories as youve had in the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, you might as well throw in some bacon. This Rachel Ray recipe also adds in a fall veggie: brussel sprouts. If you just crinkled your face up at the thought of eating brussel sprouts at all, let alone on Thanksgiving, trust us. Bacon makes ANTHING better. And it does amazing things to brussel sprouts.

Chef Robert Irvines Sweet Potato Bread Pudding

Save the marshmallows for roasting by the fire. This from chef Robert Irvine impresses in a whole new way. And, frankly, when the recommended toppings include caramel or bourbon sauce, were in.

Paula Deens Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

She had us at pumpkin. And gooey. This decadent southern desert uses boxed cake, so you know its easy, and it has Deens trademark butter party, so you know its good.

So which recipes are you going to try your hand at this Thanksgiving?

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Top 6 Home Selling Tips In The Winter

1 Keep the house warm.

While you dont have to keep the heat on all the time, keep the house warm during showings. You dont want people shivering while they look through the house. Set the thermostat to at least 70 degrees -- whether youll be in the house or not.

2 Trim the outdoor foliage.

Remove snow from shrubs and trees so that potential buyers dont get wet as they walk up the sidewalk to your home. Brush off snow, prune the tree limbs and trim the hedges as needed. You can even hire a tree service to do this for you if youre strapped for time.

While your lawn is dormant this time of year, you can at the very least make it look well maintained to give buyers a sense of what it looks like during the spring and summer. You can also display photos in your entryway of how your home looks outside during the greener months.

3 Handle winter conditions.

If you have ice and snow on your driveway and sidewalk, you need to take care of it way in advance of showings. Clear ice and snow with shovels and salt, so that your exterior looks nice and safe to buyers. It will also increase the aesthetic quality of your home to buyers and keep you from getting sued by a buyer who falls or slips. If you have particular trouble with ice and snow, you can call a snow removal service to do it for you.

4 Show off the fireplace.

If you have a fireplace, you should showcase it as part of your homes aesthetic appeal. A gas fireplace is easy to turn on before a showing, and it adds natural beauty to your home -- not to mention warmth. A wood-burning fireplace is a bit harder to maintain, because you can run out of firewood. So you need to time the lighting just right before the showing. You also need to make sure the chimney is in good condition, so have it cleaned and checked by a fireplace professional ahead of a showing to avoid any problems.

5 Add comfort to your home.

There are other steps you can take to make your home more comfortable and inviting during the winter months. Focus on small improvements to your home like:

Adding blankets to your couch
Turning back the comforter on the bed
Baking a pie or cookies for the smell
Lighting some candles
Turning on some >

6 Make sure your home is well lit.

Since winter takes away a lot of sunshine, you need to utilize light bulbs and other forms of lighting. Outside lights, security lights, candles, LED lighting -- every bit of lighting is crucial in the interior and exterior. You want all lights on when buyers are walking through your home -- dont focus on your electricity bill right now. You also want to make as much use of natural lighting as possible. Open your window treatments during the day showings.

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.


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

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

Measure thrice, cut once

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

Buy more materials than you actually need

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

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

Invest in some quality tools

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

Try it before you install it

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

Buy the right ladder, and use it properly

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

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

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

Glove up, glasses on

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

Hanging art

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

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

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

Keep the mess away

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

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Using Income from Tips to Help Qualify

For those in the service industry, getting additional income from tips for many accounts for quite a bit of an employees take-home pay. In fact, its not unusual for someone working in a restaurant to get the majority of the income from tips as the employer pays a minimum wage. Tip income is a big deal. But when it comes to getting approved for a home loan, while tip income can be rather significant, borrowers need to be aware of how that tip income can be used to help qualify.

First, there needs to be a history of receiving it. Borrowers must be able to show receiving income over the previous two years. In addition, this income must also be consistent. Providing a two-year history helps lenders make the determination the income will continue into the future. But how the borrower treats the income is significant. Tips can come in the form of a few dollars left at the table or nightstand or included on the credit card slip. What the employee does next is critical.

Tip income must be logged. When an employer sends out W2 forms, the wages shown will typically be the minimum wage paid. Employers dont keep track of an employees tips, its up to the borrower to track it. There can be a manual log kept that keeps track of how much tip income was received and when. In addition, the tip income deposits must be verified.nbsp;

This is accomplished by reviewing past bank statements. For instance, an employee can collect tips on a daily basis but deposit the tip income weekly. These deposits must show up on these past bank accounts.

Further, the tip income must be reported to the IRS for the past two years. The income reported is the income lenders will use when qualifying, regardless of how much tip income has actually been received. For some, all the tip income might not make it to any bank account at all but instead spent on everyday expenses. Here again, while the tip income is in fact received, there is no third party record of having received it. Unless the income is deposited on a regular, consistent basis, it might not matter how much tip income is being received if there is no third party verification.

In general, lenders treat tip income just like any other in the way it can be verified and used for qualification. Lenders want to see a two year history of employment while showing the income is likely to continue. The income needs to come from a qualified source. The income must be received at >

If this sounds like you or someone you know and buying a home is definitely on the radar screen, its important to know ahead of time how to use this additional income. Lenders, employers and employees all know its there and available, but how its documented is important. If you dont really need tip income to help qualify, then theres no issue. But if tip income must be used, its crucial to properly document the receipt and keep an eye on reporting requirements.

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What Are the Pros and Cons of Open-Concept?

If youve ever watched a real estate show, youve likely heard the number one thing buyers want is an open floorplan. Open-concept design has its perks certainly, but its not right for everyone and their needs. Despite it being so in demand, its important you think about those downsides you might not have considered.

What is Open-Concept?

An open-concept floorplan indicates a layout where there are large, open rooms and multiple functions within a single space. If you dont have a lot of square footage to work with, an open floorplan works well. If you have a large home, you might not need an open-concept plan because each individual room itself is so big.

Homes built before the 1990s tended to have a lot of separation between rooms. By the 2000s, the open floorplan was definitely the more popular option.

nbsp;The Pros of Open-Concept

The following are some of the upsides of a wide-open living area.

If you have a family, particularly with young kids, open-concept can make it easier for everyone to be together and for you to keep an eye on the kids even while youre doing other things like cooking. You get a sense of togetherness with an open floorplan.
Open floorplans help you make better use of space that would otherwise be unusable. For example, if you have a formal dining room, you may not use it often. With an open floorplan, youre more likely to use all of the space available to you.
If you entertain, open floorplans are undoubtedly ideal for you.
Taking out walls or having a design with limited interior walls allows for more natural light, and you can get outdoor views.

The Cons of Open-Concept

Again, while people rave about open-concept living, its not right for everyone. Downsides include:

If you have older children or multiple generations in your household, you might want the privacy that smaller rooms can bring to your home. If you have, lets say a nanny who lives with you or something similar, open-concept can bring you all together in a way that maybe you dont prefer.
If youre someone who loves to display items on your walls, youre going to have limited space to do so with open-concept. For art collectors, as an example, you might want more rooms and thus more walls.
If your kids regularly make a mess, have enclosed rooms can help you contain it to one room more easily, so it doesnt spill into other living areas.
Noise travels a great deal in open-concept plans.
You may want rooms that are dedicated to specific, individual uses. For example, maybe you want a home office, a workout room, or a crafts room.

If youre deciding on a new home or thinking about renovations, it doesnt have to be all-or-nothing with open-concept.

There is a middle ground. For example, maybe your living area and kitchen are open to one another, but your dining area is separate. There might also be designs where you put partial walls to provide some delineation between spaces without full closure.

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Buyers: Reset Your “Must-Haves”

Home buyers who had their real estate plans interrupted by the pandemic may benefit from a reset before they plunge into the current real estate market.

Buyers whose real-estate buying efforts stalled in March 2020 may benefit from reviewing their must-have list and how they created it.

Buyers whose pandemic experience triggered a work-from-home must-have list may benefit from adopting a long-term view of how they need home to function for them and their family.

How much have your experiences during the pandemic changed your lists of real estate must-haves, dont-wants, and ready-to-splurge-ons?

Real estate buyers want a new homean invigorating space to spread out in, an affordable celebration of what theyve achieved, a comfortable shelter to share, somewhere to play, a place to belong.

Over the last few months, a lot has changed. The old normal has been replaced in ways that are only now becoming apparent.

Pre-covid, open conceptwhich is commonly created by tearing down interior wallswas a sought-after life>

Opening lines of sight and combining three, four, or more functional roomskitchen, dining room, livingroom, rec room, hobby room, studycreates an enviable airy living environment. Parents can see what children are up to; the family cook is part of the action instead of being shackled to the stove; entertaining is enhanced for guests who can scatter across welcoming spaces without missing out on anything.

After more than nine months of families isolating together in open-concept spaces 24-7, this unstructured environment hasnt provided the perfect life>

What makes looking after pre-school and small children easier may not work as well when your children are a few years older or in high school. For instance, teens value personal space and privacy so you may be sitting in the open space alone.

Working and schooling from home requires privacy and quiet for concentration. High ceilings, hardwood floors, and hard tile surfaces can become noisy nightmares. Balancing hard and soft surfaces with acoustical panels is an often-overlooked solution.

Cost can also be a factor. When you are only using one corner of your high-ceiling, open space, you will still have to heat or cool the entire volume 24-7.

Buyers, stop and think why you want what you want and what youll need over the next two or three yearsthat is, during and after the pandemic:

1. Where did your wants come from?

Do many of your must-haves reflect pre-covid working-away-from-home life>

2. Whats typical?

Talk to your real estate professional about the age, construction quality, common defects, and dated-design features of homes in your preferred area and price range. What will you getfeatures and building qualityfor your money and what might be beyond your price range or not readily available in those neighborhoods?

Know in advance what to expect, so you recognize realistic compromises and a deal you can enjoy living with.

3. How can you stretch buying dollars?

In view of your must-haves, where does value lie and how can you stretch your buying dollars? Will you buy a move-in-ready home, pay for extensive renovations, or tackle do-it-yourself make-overs of specific areas? Covid->

If renovation is part of your plan, dont jump into a home purchase without researching costs, wait-times for professional contractors, and completion times. Understand what youre getting into.

4. What does feels like home mean to you?

Ill know it when I see it and it must feel like home are common buyer strategies that dont always serve buyers well. Change paint color and furnishings and any room takes on a completely different feel. There may be more value in a house that is poorly decorated but that has good bones than a house cleverly staged to camouflage flaws and shortcomings, if not outright problems.

Invest time looking in magazines, at TV series, and online at before and after room make-overs to learn what it is about a room that designers see before they set to work transforming.

Measure your current rooms and larger furniture pieces to establish an understanding of how much space you really need to live comfortably.

5. Do you understand that What You Dont Know About Real Estate Could Cost You?

Its what you dont know about real estate that could cost you when buying or selling. What you dont know about real estate, real estate professionals do. Learn about significant knowledge gaps for buyers and sellers, and how professionals fill those gapswhen askedRead on

As always, a prepared buyer/seller is a confident buyer/seller

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The Pitfalls of Fractionalized Deeds of Trust

Many investors like the alternative lending space where they can invest in mortgages, otherwise known as, Trust Deed investing, whereby they become the lender on real estate. The two major ways to invest in these mortgages is either in some kind of pooled investment [a Fund], similar to a mutual fund or owning the deed of trust on a specific piece of real estate, similar to owning an individual stock.

In the case of investing in a Fund, the investor invests in the Fund, and the manager chooses which loans to make to borrowers. In the situation of owning an individual deed of trust, the investor chooses which specific loan to invest in and is recorded on title. It is the latter that is the focus of this article, and specifically fractionalized deeds of trust where the investor shares ownership in the investment with on or more other parties.

Most note brokers [in California; other states may vary] are licensed to fractionalize a deed of trust [notes] with up to 10 owners [beneficiaries]. Other brokers have licenses from the Department of Corporations to have more than 10 beneficiaries. The reason brokers fractionalize notes isnbsp;usually because they are too big for one investor. A 40,000 note may be able to find a home with one investor, but a 700,000 note may need more than one investor in order to be funded. Each investor receives a recorded deed of trust [for their protection as evidence for their loan]. When the borrower pays the loan off, each investor is required to reconvey their interest in the loan [notarized signature] in a timely manner [California requires this be done within 21 days of the request]. The reconveyances are deposited in escrow, and each lender is paid off in escrow as well.

If everything goes smoothly, no one complains; however, what happens if things dont go according to plan? What if a lender is unavailable to sign off in a timely manner? What if a lender refuses to sign? What happens if the borrower defaults on a fractionalized loan? What happens if you have a minority interest [less than 50 ownership] in a fractionalized loan? These are just a few instances where a fractionalized lender faces challenges, and these challenges can be monumental.

First, lets look at a simple situation where a 900,000 loan has been fractionalized into 9 different lenders [each having 100,000 ownership in the loan] and 8 of the 9 lenders signs the reconveyance paperwork in a timely manner but one chooses not to sign [in time, or not at all]. Why would the lone lender choose not sign? What if the loan was very well secured and the note was yielding a higher than market rate of interest? A nave lender may think that they can enjoy the higher interest for longer than allowed [not signing in a timely manner]. This situation is not as far fetched as one might think. In the 1990s, first deed of trust notes yielding 12 were not uncommon. When rates dropped dramatically, borrowers were quick to refinance. One investor tells the story of how a 12, 1.2M loan was trying to be refinanced by the borrower at 9 with a new lender. The fractionalized note had 5 owners. 4 of the 5 had their reconveyances notarized and delivered to the escrow company in a timely manner. The last investor had 500,000 in the note and did not want to lose his 12 rate; he was under the misconception that he could just keep coming up with excuses as to why he was not able to get to a notary [he was a busy surgeon]. After more than a month went by, the borrower sued all of the lenders for the difference in the rates [3] plus attorney fees. Although thenbsp;lone holdout was ultimately responsible, all of the other lenders had to defend themselves, which put undue burdens upon the innocent 4 lenders.

Next, lets look at a situation where a majority [over 50] lender chooses to extend a loan when it matures, and a minority lender does not. Unless the minority lender requests a partition action so as to separate himself from the majority lender, the majority lender is in control of the fate of that loan.

Dealing with foreclosures by the lenders introduces an enti>

Thus, foreclosing may not even be possible if the note holders cannot agree to their destiny or come up with the funds needed to file the paperwork to foreclose [which can be many thousands, depending on the size of the loan].

Other issues arise even if foreclosure has been started; one lender tells the story of how the borrower stopped making payments to both the 1st and 2nd mortgage. This particular lender was one of many in the 2nd mortgage. The 1st started the foreclosure process. Nobody in the 2nd mortgage wanted to cure the 1st. There was an offer by an independent 3rd party to purchase the property for the 100,000 over the1st mortgage, which would have been given to the 2nd [which would have paid its loan down but not off]. There were 25 beneficiaries on the 2nd DOT. 24 of them chose to allow the salenbsp;and take the 100,000, which would have amounted to a short sale; however, the one lone holdout, who represented only 4 of the 2nd, refused to sign off on the sale. His reasoning? He stated that he believed that, at the foreclosure sale, someone would bid the property up more than 100,000 over the 1st. Not only was this illogical [based upon the value of the property], but it went against his previously signed documents stating that he would go along with the majority, opening himself up to a lawsuit by the other lenders. The title company refused to give title insurance to the potential buyer, and the sale never went through. At the trustee sale, one bidder bid just over the 1sts credit bid, and the 2nd walked away with zero.nbsp;

Many individual trust deed investors believe they are protected from many perils if they own over 50 of the note, as most states have a rule that the majority holder makes the rules; however, title companies are not bound by such laws. If they refuse to give title insurance, any prudent would-be buyer of the property will walk away.

Another issue is that an investor in a note does not have to come up with his fair share of the money it takes to file foreclosure, and there is no provision that states that other investors who come up with more money get a preference, so it is difficult to maneuver a foreclosure unless each person comes up with his percentage required.

Other not infrequent situations come up where the borrower wants to do a loan workout or re-write the note. Unless all parties agree, everything is at a standstill. Some unethical fractionalize note holders will sometimes hold this over on the rest of the note holders by demanding a larger share than they are entitled to or demand that the other investors buy them out.

For these reasons, many investors have turned to Funds where the Fund manager handles the foreclosure paperwork, pays the fees, and sees the entire process through.

The takeaway here is that one needs to be extremely careful if one wants to invest in a fractionalized note not only do you want to own more than 50 of the note, but make sure you know every other owner and have like minds, which, in todays world, is more than a daunting task.

nbsp;nbsp;Edwardnbsp;Brownnbsp;is in the Investor >
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Should You Move Out During a Remodel?

Maybe youve been planning a remodel for quite some time, and youre finally getting started. You might be doing a large-scale remodel to make your home more functional for your family, or perhaps the plan is to get it ready to sell.

Regardless of why youre remodeling, theres a big question that will arise: should you stay, or should you go? Meaning, should you move out while the work is being done?

The following are some of the things to think about as you decide.

Is Moving Out a Realistic Option?

If you have family or friends that are willing to take you in for a period of time, this may not be a concern, but otherwise, can you realistically afford to move out? If youre paying several months of rent, for example, think about how much this will add to your total renovation costs.

It could be thousands or tens of thousands. Thats even if you can find a short-term rental for the window of time youll need.

Even if you technically have the money to move out and into temporary housing, could that money be put to better use in the remodel itself?

Do You Work From Home?

A lot of people work from home for the foreseeable future because of coronavirus. If youre one of them, and perhaps your spouse is as well, you may need at a minimum a >

Working in a construction zone can be even tougher than trying to live your day-to-day life in one.

Maybe staying throughout your renovation would cause your productivity to take such a hit that you just cant manage it, in which case you might move out.

Staying Could Extend the Timeline

If you stay during a remodel, the contractor is going to have to work around you. Theyre not going to be able to work hours that are as flexible such as in the evenings. Theyre going to be building their schedule around yours, which might mean that it takes longer to finish things.

Plus, youre taking up space, and your personal items are as well. That can slow down the process.

What Part of Your Home Are You Renovating?

Whether or not you move out can depend on your budget and timeline and what the project is. If youre renovating something like a kitchen or bathroom, it can make more sense to move out. Otherwise, you may have to set up a temporary area of your home for essential functions like preparing snacks and meals.

Of course, if youre doing a gut renovation you probably dont have any choice. Youll have to move out. Otherwise, in addition to the obvious downsides, you might also be exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes.

If youre renovating something like a basement or a living area, you might not have to move. It could be that you can stay out of that area easily enough during the renovation. You just need to think about your needs and life>

Some homes have layouts that are more conducive to staying put during a renovation too. For example, maybe you have a multi-level house so you can confine most of your activities to one level or the other during renovations.

If you do stay in your home, but you restrict yourself to an area where work isnt being done, you can rent a storage pod so you can completely empty the work area. This will keep your furniture and other items protected, and it will also make it easier for the people who are working.


Safety is another issue that is likely to sway you in one direction or the other. If you dont have kids or pets, or your kids are older, this might not be a concern. If you do have kids or pets, staying in your home during renovations can be a safety concern.

The contractor and subcontractors should make an effort to keep their work areas sectioned off, but worksites are inherently risky.

If youre trying to decide whether or not to move out during a remodel, theres not one right answer that works for everyone. It depends a lot on how much you can tolerate in terms of inconvenience, your family and life>
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HOA Group Think

Homeowner associations are often portrayed as the detached governed by thankless volunteers. Its the blind leading the blind or rather the clueless in charge of those that could care less. So how should this union of the unwilling go about acquiring the wisdom it needs?

James Surowiecki makes the case that a group is smarter than the smartest individual in his book "Wisdom of Crowds." Surowiekis research indicates that the wisdom of answers from those with only general life experience exceeds the wisdom of world experts. Here are some excerpts from an interview:

How did you discover the wisdom of crowds?

"The idea really came out of my writing on how markets work. Markets are made up of diverse people with different levels of information and intelligence, and yet when you put all those people together and they start buying and selling, they come up with generally intelligent decisions. I realized that it wasnt just markets that were smart."

Could you define "the crowd"?

"A "crowd" is any group which can act collectively to make decisions and solve problems. So, big organizations like a company count as crowds and so do small groups, like a team of scientists working on a problem. But so are groups that arent really aware of themselves as groups, like investors in the stock market. They make up crowds, too, because theyre collectively producing a solution to a complicated problem: the choices of investors determine stock prices."

Under what circumstances is the crowd smarter?

"There are four qualities that make a crowd smart:


Diversity. Group members are bringing different pieces of information to the table.

Decentralized. No one at the top is dictating the crowds answer.

Summarizes Answers. Combines all member answers into one collective verdict.

Independent. Individual answers are independently arrived at without worrying about what others think."


And what circumstances can lead the crowd to make bad decisions?

"Bad answers are more likely when most of the group are biased in the same direction. When diverse opinions are squelched, groups tend to be dumb. It usually spells disaster when too much attention is paid to what others think. Stock market bubbles are a >

What kind of problems are crowds good at solving and what kind are they not good at solving?

"Crowds are best when theres a "right" answer to a problem. If there is a factual question, groups consistently provide the correct answer. Groups arent good at problems of skill -- for instance, dont ask a group to perform surgery or fly a plane."

Why are we not better off finding an expert to make all the hard decisions?

"Experts, no matter how smart, only have limited amounts of information. They also have biases. Its very rare that one person can know more than a large group of people, and almost never does that same person know more about a whole series of questions. Its actually hard to identify true experts."

How can the crowds collective wisdom help an individual?

"The principle works for individuals as long as the groups are diverse and individuals try to be as independent as possible."

Is the wisdom of crowds about consensus?

"No. The wisdom of crowds emerges from disagreement. Its the "average" opinion of the group, but not an opinion that every one in the group can agree on. Collective wisdom does not result from compromise."

In the final analysis, while its common to >
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Should You Add a REIT To Your Investment Portfolio?

A lot of people want to invest in real estate, but theyre not ready to flip properties or be a landlord. There are other ways to invest in real estate without having the responsibility of holding physical property. One way is a Real Estate Investment Trust or REIT.

The purpose of a REIT is to help individuals invest in income-producing real estate. A REIT will own and usually operate real estate or >

The REIT isnt a developer who aims to resell. Instead, they buy and develop properties to operate them as part of their portfolio.

Again, one of the big benefits of a REIT is that as an individual retailer investor, you can own a share of real estate income without going and buying commercial real estate.

How to Invest in REITs

There are a few different ways to invest in REITs. In general, you buy shares listed on stock exchanges. You can also purchase shares in a REIT ETF or mutual fund. An estimated 87 million Americans invest in REITS through their financial funds and retirement.

The price of REIT shares fluctuates throughout the trading day, like companies with publicly-traded stocks.

The four types of REITs are:

  • Equity REITs: Most REITs that are publicly-traded are equity REITs. Equity REITs own or operate real estate that produces income.
  • mREITs: These are also called mortgage REITs, and they produce income by having mortgages or originating them and mortgage-backed securities.
  • Public non-listed REITs: These are SEC-registered REITs that dont trade on the national stock exchange.
  • Private REITs: These are SEC registration-exempt and dont trade on the national stock exchange. Usually, theyre only available to institutional investors.

If you want to buy shares of a REIT listed on a major stock exchange, the process is the same as buying shares of another public company. If you buy an ETF or mutual fund, you may find more liquidity than buying traditional shares.

Buying private REITs is more complex, with them being limited to accredited and institutional investors.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Investing in REITs?

Some of the benefits of adding a REIT to your portfolio include:

The biggest advantage is exposure to real estate. You dont have to acquire properties directly, and you can still take advantage of the upside of the real estate market. Owning real estate directly can be lucrative but also risky and time-consuming.
REIT companies must payout at least 90 of their taxable income to their shareholders, so theyre a good option for dividends. You could use REITs as a source of income.
Theres diversification with REITs. Real estate is an asset >

The downsides of REITs include:

The dividends earned on REITs are usually taxed at a higher rate than the dividends of traditional stocks.
Theres a high level of risk and volatility that comes with REIT investment, even though they dont always follow the market. There can be big swings in the real estate market and the economic market in general that have a massive impact on the volatility of REITs.

Whether or not to invest in a REIT depends on a few factors. First, how risk-averse or tolerant are you? Second, are you interested in adding something to your portfolio that tracks the real estate market? Is this a better option for you than a traditional real estate investment?

Theyre all things to ask yourself about REITs, which do have the advantage of beingnbsp;income producers.

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How To Create Year-Round Home Curb Appeal

Exceptional curb appeal will add to the enjoyment and value of your property and home. Maintaining your curb appeal throughout each season may pose its challenges, but with these tips, you can ensure that your home and landscaping will look their very best throughout the year.

1 Clean It Up

A thorough power wash is essential for maintaining the cleanliness of your home, driveway and walkways. Many homeowners prefer to do this in the spring, but you might consider an additional wash in the fall as well. By keeping your landscape free of debris like broken branches and dead trees, you can better maintain the appearance of your property.

2 Planting for Seasonal Interest

Its helpful to plant with each season in mind to ensure that your landscape looks great year-round. Spring bulbs and flowering trees add visual interest to your landscape at the start of the growing season. A lush lawn and pots of colorful annuals can provide eye-catching appeal in the summer. Think about late summer perennials and deciduous trees or shrubs that boast spectacular fall colors. Evergreens are >

3 Vertical Interest

To avoid flat looking landscaping, be sure to include vertical interest. Arches, even when bare during the winter season, will add visual interest to your front yard. Hanging plants, vines, climbing plants, t>

4 Hardscaping

Plants arent the only method of achieving excellent curb appeal. Consider replacing a worn-out front walkway with elegant cobblestone or brick pavers. Replace mulch with stone or encircle trees and shrubs to achieve a more formal look for your property. Boulders can be strategically placed to draw the eye and provide further visual interest for your setting.

5 Tackle Problem Areas

If you have a slope thats difficult to mow or a sunken section of landscaping that always seems to flood, consider a solution. A low-maintenance, terraced garden is ideal for sloping sections of land that are difficult to mow. On the other hand, there are no-mow grasses that can replace a traditional lawn. Installing adequate drainage for low-lying areas of your landscape can help reduce the flooding that occurs during stormy seasons.

6 House Appeal

You can increase the year-round curb appeal of your home by maintaining its outward appearance. A pleasing door, elegant fixtures, contemporary railings, eye-catching shutters and stylized window boxes will go a long way to boost your curb appeal. For an additional wow factor, consider expanding your porch or replacing worn siding to improve the appearance of your home.


Great curb appeal begins with assessing your current setting. When you do install new features, its important to consider how they will appear during each season.

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.

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5 Surprising Ways to Invest in Your House

Expanded Driveway

One area that many people never think about changing is their driveway. Over the years, a lot of people have learned that they can expand their driveway to hold more cars. This is especially useful if you have multiple vehicles that members of your family drive.

In the average neighborhood, there is simply not enough space for more than a few cars. It is a small investment to expand the driveway of your home, and the potential future buyers will love this feature.

New Cabinets

The kitchen is one of the most important areas of the home when it comes to selling. Cabinets are a central point of any kitchen. If you want to improve or replace your cabinets, it is vital to work with a company that has experience in the field. Look for cabinet refinishing companies near you through online sources.

The cabinets in your kitchen should flow with the rest of your home. With such a large investment of both time and money, make sure that you have conducted research on the best cabinets for your current home.

Tile in Bathroom

Another vital room in your home is the master bathroom. You will spend a lot of your time in this room, so it is important to make it as inviting as possible.

Upgrading the floors in your bathroom is a great choice. Tile is the most common piece of material to use. Not only does it last longer, but it looks much better than other options as well.

Heated tile is another feature that many people enjoy. In the cold mornings of the winter, heated tile can be a nice luxury. As soon as you walk on the tile, your feet will be heated and you will enjoy the bathroom experience much more. This is new technology that a lot of people are upgrading to.

Smart HVAC System

Everyone knows that a new HVAC system is not cheap. However, there are new HVAC systems that focus on reducing your total energy consumption. Although these units are still expensive, you will save some money every month on lower electricity bills.

With so many options on the market today, it is vital to spend some time finding the right model for your home. If you live in a cold area, make sure the heating unit is large enough to heat your entire home. In many areas, the upstairs part of the home is difficult to heat in the winter without a large unit.

New Paint

Perhaps the easiest way to improve the value of your home is to simply paint the walls. New paint on the walls can really improve the look and feel of your home. Although you can do the painting yourself, it makes sense to hire someone who has experience painting.

Painting an entire house is a long process. Although it will not be cheap, it will improve the value of your home greatly. This is one of the best things to do right before you list a home on the market.

Investing in your home is one of the best financial decisions that you can make. As the housing market continues to improve in value, investing in your home will help you financially. You can even use the equity in your home to pay for the new upgrades that you want.

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When Is the Best Day of the Month to Close?

Maybe youve heard this and maybe you havent, but when someone asks when the best time is to close on a contract its typically at or near the end of the month. Why? Because its how mortgage interest is accrued. When someone makes a mortgage payment on the first of the month, the payment doesnt apply to the month about to be lived in but instead its for the interest that accrued for the previous month. But at the settlement table when a purchase mortgage is taken out there are no previous occupied days, yet interest is still collected.

Its called prepaid interest and its an amount that includes interest on the first day of the new note up until the first of the following month. If a closing takes place on the 20th of the month, the lender will collect interest up to the first of the following month. In this example that would be 10 days. If on the last day of the month, there will only be one days worth of interest collected.nbsp;

Then, there would be no mortgage payment on the first of the following month because its already been paid. So, with a purchase transaction, it makes sense to close as close to the end of the month as possible. Some like to give a little breathing room and close on the next to last day of the month just in case something happens to cause a delay.nbsp;

The closing date on a purchase is clearly laid out on the first page of the contract. Closing must take place on or before that date. Any extension must be agreed to by both parties. Theres really no wiggle room about that. If the buyers cant close on the specified date, they run into the possibility of losing their earnest money deposit.

On the other hand, theres a bit of a difference as it >

When refinancing, there will be interest in arrears for the number of days for the old mortgage plus prepaid interest collected up to the first of the following month. Again, because the interest has been prepaid, there will be no mortgage payment on the first day of the next month because its already been paid.

During a purchase transaction the closing date is established upon execution of the contract. When refinancing, its completely up to the homeowners not just whether or not it makes sense to refinance but setting a closing date.

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Should You Use a HELOC for a Renovation?

A lot of people, thanks to low interest rates, are thinking about home renovations right now. You have different options to pay for these projects if youre not going to pay in cash. One option is a Home Equity Line of Credit or HELOC.

A HELOC is a way to borrow against your homes equity, and it provides flexibility. With that being said, because of that flexibility, you need to be careful to stay on budget when you use funds.

The following are some things to know about a HELOC, particularly if youre thinking about using it for a renovation.

How Does a HELOC Work?

With a HELOC, youre spending in a way thats similar to a credit card. You borrow up to a certain limit as defined by your lender. Then, you pay back whatever you borrow with interest. You can withdraw and make payments on whatever basis works best for you.

A lender gives you a draw period, which is the time you can withdraw money. When your draw period is ended, you may be able to renew the credit line.

If you dont or cant renew, you pay the outstanding balance either all at one time, or you do so over a repayment period.

HELOC lengths can run as long as 30 years.

The benefits of a HELOC and flexible repayment include the fact that you only borrow what you need, and many have no fees. The interest on a HELOC might be deductible if you use your funds for home improvements.

What Are the Risks?

While HELOCs can work well for funding a renovation, there are possible risks to be aware of before you borrow.

Since your home is your collateral, if you dont make the payments, you could lose your home. Typically a lender will try to protect against this by limiting borrowing amounts, but its still a big consideration.

A lender can also freeze a credit line or reduce it. Youll only see this usually if you havent made your payments or your homes equity changes, but its something to think about.

The interest rates on a HELOC are variable, and theyre tied to the prime rate. If there are changes in the market, you may end up paying more so that uncertainty may not be ideal.

How Does a HELOC Compare to a Home Equity Loan?

A home equity loan is another financial product often used to fund renovations and home projects.

A home equity loan also involves borrowing against the equity in your home, which is used as collateral. A home equity loan differs from a HELOC because its a lump-sum loan rather than a revolving line of credit. You pay the loan back over its life plus interest, and you make those payments based on a set schedule. Most home equity loans have a fixed interest rate, which alleviates the worry of fluctuating market conditions impacting interest rates.

When is a HELOC the Right Choice?

If youre deciding between a HELOC and a home equity loan, the loan might be better if youre certain of the cost of your project. If youre comfortable with a fixed monthly payment, a home equity loan could be the better option.

On the other hand, a HELOC might be right if you want a lot of flexibility in how much you borrow. Maybe youre not sure about the scope of your project or what your budget will be.

The biggest differentiators between the two will come down to first, flexibility, and second, certainty. If you want flexibility, consider a HELOC. If you want certainty, think about a home equity loan.

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3 Things to Know About Investing In Real Estate During A Pandemic

Covid-19 has ambushed economies all over the world, with leaders and businesses desperately trying to find a healthy balance between protecting people and protecting the economy. So many industries have been left in an unpredictable state, including the real estate market. Lets have a look at 5 important things you should know before taking the leap and investing in real estate.

1. Compared To Other Industries, Real Estate Is a >

Historically, real estate has been a >

2. Select The Best Possible Location

When investing in a property, whether that be to renovate and sell or to rent out, choosing a location with sustainable demand is essential in order to make a reasonable return on your investment. With the financial uncertainty that comes with a pandemic of this scale, people are looking for the best possible value for money and they want to be sure that if they are taking a substantial financial risk, it will fulfil all of their needs. If youre looking at investing in a flat, the younger generation are looking for amenities when they are renting, so there are a few things you should look out for. Local bars and restaurants, gyms and proximity to public transport, to name a few. If youre looking for a suburban property with the hopes of targeting a family, aim for areas close to large parks, countryside public footpaths, good schools and supermarkets. Consider who you are wanting to target and what they will be looking for before making the important decision of where to invest.nbsp;

3. Prepare For Substantial Upfront Costs

For the first time in a long time, many mortgage lenders are demanding 15-20 deposits as a result of Covid-19. If you are a cash buyer, this wont be a concern, but if you are >


To summarise, residential real estate seems to be the safest investment at the minute. With the financial difficulties facing many potential buyers and renters, make sure you select a property in a great location that people cant refuse. Finally, if youre >
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Why Lenders Use Gross Monthly Income vs. Take-Home Pay

It might seem curious to some why mortgage companies use gross monthly income when determining affordability instead of take-home pay. After all, its the take-home pay that consumers use to pay bills including the mortgage but also other monthly expenses as well. Credit card debt and auto loans are paid each month but so are things like mobile phone bills, food, gas and other expenses. But there are a few good reasons why lenders use the gross amount instead of net pay.

First, its a universal application. Everyone is qualified using the very same guidelines. Lender A uses gross monthly income and so does Lender B and Lender C. When calculating debt-to-income ratios to evaluate affordability, the debt ratio guidelines use gross monthly income. There are a few loans that do take into consideration monthly expenses and residual income, but most every other program uses gross monthly income.

Second, lenders arent aware of individual deductions. One person might have a monthly deduction for health care while someone else would have their health care paid for by their employee as a company benefit. Someone else might have a cable bill while another party cut the cord a long time ago. Child support payments, student loans and other monthly expenses can vary from one person to the next. Its almost impossible for those in the secondary markets to individually adjust a single loan program based upon individual choices. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for example have debt ratio guidelines but these are also based upon gross monthly income. Net income is flexible whereas gross monthly income is not.

When employers report income each year to the IRS, the amount reported is gross income, not net. When consumers are asked to document their loan application as it >

Another reason is how consumers view their own income. Sure, they will know what the amount will be on each individual paycheck, but when asked how much they make each month or even each year, they know the gross amount automatically. I make 100,000 per year is the gross amount, for example. Consumers who try and figure out their annual pay using net income would be difficult to discern. It can be done, but its the gross income they remember. When employers advertise for a new employee and the subject of pay comes up, its the gross amount. Theres no way an employer would know the financial situation of an individuals deductions and expenses to explain how much they pay each month.

If youre thinking of buying your first home and want to know what you might qualify for, theres no shortage of online prequalification calculators to get started. Sometimes though, consumers can enter their take-home pay instead of gross monthly income not realizing theyre short-changing themselves when they do so. Lenders, believe it or not, want to keep it simple. They use gross income, not net.

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7 Scary Things to Avoid If You’re Trying to Sell Your Home at Halloween

It may sound surprising, but doing Halloween dcor right may actually help you sell your home. Doing it wrongwell, were terrified just thinking about it. Heres what not to do when decking out your house for the spooky holiday.

Dont overdo the exterior

Your home is strung with witch lights, gravestone markers dot your front yard and Casper the Ghost greets visitors at the door, said MassRealty. How will potential buyers take your home seriously when your kids insisted on decorating for the holiday.

Dont go crazy with blood and gore

You may pride yourself on your intricate displays of horror and mayhem, but its best to save that for your new place. Sure, your very realistic zombie playground may be a hit with the neighbors every year, but selling your home will require you to keep your professionalismafter all, youre trying to sell your house, not spook people away from your front lawn, said DreamCasa. Avoid any cringe-worthy Halloween dcor like bloody handprints, tombstones, or morbid scenes.

Dont lack self-control with the pumpkins

You dont need your front porch to look like a grocery store display. A tasteful mix of pumpkins and gourds can be inviting. Keep the tasteful thing in mind when youre carving, as well. The last thing you want is to attract attention to your Richard Nixon pumpkin instead of your newly painted front door.

Keep an eye on the kids carved pumpkins, too. If you dont want to offend them by hiding the less-than-perfect pumpkins during an open house, you can simply turn the faces toward the wall for showings.

Dont pack every inch of your interior with Halloween-themed dcor

If buyers cant take their eyes off your admittedly impressive skeleton collection, theyre not paying enough attention to your floorplan and features. You want buyers to notice the home, not whats in it.

Dont fail to decorate

If youre in a neighborhood in which every home decorates for Halloween, you dont want to be the one party pooperthis could make your home stick out for the wrong reason. Save the hanging witches and inflatable Dracula for another time and go for something elegant that speaks to the design sense buyers might find inside. We love these luminary pumpkins that are carved with repeating geometric patterns.

Dont let your yard go

Its fall and, in many areas, lawns will be dormant soon and yards wont be in their best spring shape. But that doesnt mean you shouldnt make an effort, especially if youre trying to get your home sold. A simple clean up, new mulch, and a couple of baskets of fall flowers near the door can be all it takes to look fresh and new.

Dont price your home too high

This is problematic regardless of the time of year, but fall can be eye-opening for buyers who incorrectly assume that they may be able to command spring or summer home prices without the same competitive conditions. Your agents competitive market analysis should serve as a guide.

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Why Fall Is the Best Time for Planting

Spring is often thought of as the best time for planting, but do you know that plating in fall offers some significant advantages for your garden? In fact, marketing ploys aside, fall is the best time for planting and starting a garden

Below are some reasons why fall is the best time for planting perennials, trees, and shrubs in your garden:

The Weather is Perfect for Planting

The cooler weather in fall is easier for the plants and gardeners alike. The ground isnt semi frozen and not too dry and the weather isnt too warm or cold. The plants wont get too stressed because they wont be subjected to extremes in weather and hence can recover faster after planting.

You Wont Have to Plant Right After Buying Plants

There is no need to plant right away because you wont have to worry about plants drying up or the ground being too hot. As for trees, planting them when theyve lost their leaves is actually better because they wont have to exert energy growing leaves and can focus on growing roots. This is the biggest fall advantage, helping the plant grow better roots so that theyll have energy to display gorgeous foliage and blooms come spring time. The fall to spring transition is quicker than waiting for a full year before getting to see the results of your handiwork.

Lower Maintenance Effort

You wont have to water as much in fall, so thats less maintenance effort from your part. You will also not have to baby sit new plants and fret about whether they will survive or not because of the overall milder weather.

A good tip for planting in fall is to water the plants in their pots a few hours before you transport them to their new homes. This lets them soak up water and be better prepared for planting. Water the hole theyll be placed in too before planting.

It is Easier to See Where to Plant Best

Fall allows you to see sparse areas of your garden that need more plants. It is the best time to plan out next years garden and start planting it. Youll know exactly how the other plants look like and how much space they take when they got foliage and blooms, allowing you to add pops of colour where you know you need it.

Bargains in Gardening Supplies

Gardening supplies are typically at their peak prices in spring but are cheaper in fall when some shops even close their business for the winter. Shop for non-perishable supplies, seeds, and maybe some bulbs in fall. You can probably get gardening tools at discounted prices and perhaps some fertilizers, netting, pebbles, and similar things. Watch out for sale in pots too

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

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

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

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

What is Prequalification?

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

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

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

What is Preapproval?

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

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

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

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

How Do You Get a Mortgage Preapproval?

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

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

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

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The Differences Between Financing New Construction and an Existing Home

Financing for new construction as well as financing an existing home both involve getting a loan with real estate as the collateral. Theyre both the same in that manner but clearly different in others. Lets look at the differences between financing new construction and financing an existing property.

When someone decides to buy an existing home and take out a new mortgage, the options are nearly unlimited. First, there are fixed rate and adjustable rate mortgage options. Fixed rate programs simply mean the selected interest rate remains the same throughout the life of the loan. This provides easier financial planning for those who intend to keep the property for the long term, knowing what their mortgage payment will be in say year 28. The payment will be exactly the same as in year 1. These loans can have terms ranging anywhere from 10 to 30 years, with some portfolio type mortgages being as long as 40 years.

An adjustable rate mortgage as the name implies can adjust but to do so the loan must follow very specific rules laid out in the note. An adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, can adjust based upon a selected index and then adding a margin to that index to arrive at the new mortgage rate until the next adjustment period. There are also consumer protections called caps that limit not only how much the rate can move at the new adjustment period but also how much the rate can adjust over the life of the loan. ARMs also can have various terms. In general, for both types of loans, the shorter the term, the higher the monthly payment but at the same time there is less overall interest paid over the life of the loan.

A construction loan is used to finance new construction. Mortgages used to finance an existing property cannot be used to finance new construction. Construction loans are issued only for as long as it takes to build the home. Once the home is completed, the construction lender sends out an inspector for one last inspection to make sure the home is finished and is ready for occupancy. When this determination is made, the construction loan must be replaced by a permanent mortgage, the same types of home loans used to finance an existing property.

When a construction lender provides financing for a new home, the loan amount is based upon the plans and specifications laid out by the builder. All the costs, both hard and soft are added up. These loans also typically ask for more initial equity from the borrower. While a home for an existing property can have very low down payments, sometimes zero, a construction loan might ask for a down payment of something like 20. If the borrowers already own the lot on which to build, the lot typically accounts for the initial 20 equity required. A loan for an existing home can be found at a mortgage company or through a buyers own bank, while a construction loan is usually provided only by a bank.

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9 Ways Becoming A Homeowner Can Change Your Life

Homeownership. It shifts so many things. If youre coming from an apartment, you may experience conveniences like direct-access garages and walls that arent shared for the first time. If youve been renting a home, you will probably feel a new sense of security and peace of mind once the mortgage is in our name. Not to mention the itch to repaint, re-imagine, and redo at least a few dozen things.

Want to know just how becoming a homeowner can change your life? Read on.

1. Financial Security

"The largest measurable financial benefit to homeownership is price appreciation," said Investopedia. "Price appreciation helps build home equity." Added Real Estate ABC: "The principle you pay on the mortgage is like putting money in the bank, in the form of equity."

2. Peace of mind

If you worry every time your lease comes up for renewal, those days are gladly over. Unless you refinance or take cash out once you have enough equity, your house payment is your house payment.

3. Pride of ownership

The feeling you get when you come home to your place - the place you scrimped and saved for and the place that represents a lifelong dream - well, theres just no substitute.

4. Stake in your neighborhood

Pride of ownership extends to the homes and area around your house as well. Whether or not you move to a neighborhood with a homeowners association, buying a house will undoubtedly make you more invested in whats going on around you. And that can mean increased property values if neighbors band together for common improvements.

5. Increased interest in HGTV. And DIY channel. And weekends at Home Depot.

Dont be surprised if you start quoting Drew and Jonathan Scott or using terms like "mitered corners" and "refaced cabinets." Which is good news, because the changes you make to your home wont just mean greater enjoyment while you live there, but also potentially greater profit when you go to sell.

"Home ownership means you have free rein in the aesthetics of the home. When renting, you do not have the advantage of changing your environment to please you," said Real Estate ABC. "You may be able to paint a room, but need to repaint back to the original color scheme when you move. Owning your own home means you can do whatever you please to make your environment both personalized and, in the process, add value to the home."

6. Your honey do list may increase

But so will your satisfaction.

7. Tax breaks

"The second largest financial benefit of owning a home is tax savings," said Investopedia. "The biggest of these is the ability to deduct the annual interest paid on a mortgage from income. Private mortgage insurance may also be a write off, on addition to fees paid at closing. If you have paid points, either discount or origination, you can deduct these as well."

8. Expert knowledge of interest rates, neighborhood home prices, and area sales trends

When youre in the process of buying and after you close escrow, youre more likely to be tuned into whats going on in the market and in your neighborhood. This can help you to make smart decisions about updates, upgrades, and refinancing, and can also make you a trusted resource among your friends who want to buy.

9. More financial responsibility in other parts of your life

With a home to take care of, you may be more clued in to other long-term investments and less wiling to spend frivolously.

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Enforcing "Nuisance" Provisions

"Nuisance" has been defined as "something that causes harm" and "a bit of a bother." Nuisances are a pretty common occurrence in homeowner associations since living in close proximity is bound to create friction from time to time. Most HOA governing documents include language like: "No resident shall engage in offensive activities which are a nuisance, or interfere with the quiet enjoyment of other residents."

These "nuisance" provisions trigger the need for the HOA to control certain resident behavior. The problem is there is a growing belief in the legal community that these provisions themselves may be a nuisance for the boards responsible for enforcing them.

One problem is simply defining the term "nuisance." The obvious goal of nuisance provisions is to prevent residents from making other residents miserable. But the broad wording of typical nuisance provisions leads to arguments of whether such provisions apply to almost any activity, or none of them. This ambiguity causes board members charged with enforcing them to echo former Supreme Court Justice Stewarts statement about the difficulty of defining obscenity: "[I cant define it], but I know it when I see it."

In the same vein, many HOA boards would agree that they recognize a nuisance when they see it. However, this approach has mixed results. Behavior that infuriates one person might go unnoticed or overlooked by another. Hyper-sensitive residents may deem all sounds as offensive, while others may refuse to recognize how their neighbors could find the most offensive behavior unacceptable.

The typical nuisance language in HOA documents doesnt offer much guidance to the boards who must mediate these disputes. One option is to list the activities or behaviors that will constitute a nuisance. Generally, the board has the authority to adopt resolutions "to clarify" the governing documents. A nuisance resolution could include:


Barking dogs at any time
Unsupervised pets in the common areas
Loud music, TV, singing. etc. between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Obnoxious odors
Use of chemicals or equipment that cause life or fire safety concerns
Tobacco or barbecue smoke that migrates between units
Housekeeping that causes fire safety or health conditions overly cluttered, attracts vermin, mold, etc.
Other activities that the Board deems to be a nuisance catch all provision


Is a nuisance a bit of a bother or something that causes harm? Good question. But this is an area in which the board needs to establish a policy that works most of the time and then focus on those special cases that require more thought or mediation.

Excerpts used with permission from an article from

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What Should You Know About Buying Real Estate Overseas?

Owning real estate overseas is often a lifelong dream. It can look different for everyone. For example, maybe your goal is to retire in Tuscany, or perhaps you want to buy a second home but keep your primary residence in the U.S. You might want to purchase property now where youll live later, or you could want to move overseas full-time.

Regardless of your situation, many specifics vary depending on where you want to buy, but the following are some general considerations to keep in mind.

Buying Property Overseas Is Complex

No matter where you want to buy or when, you should go into it with an understanding that its complex. There are legal and financial issues, as well as travel->

To help streamline it, you should work with local professionals. First, a local lawyer can be extremely helpful when youre buying property as a foreigner. You should also use a buyers agent who specializes in international transactions.

There are very specific rules dictating who can buy what in most countries. For example, theres a rule in Mexico that if youre a foreigner, you cant own property on the coast, but there are ways to go around this by using a Mexican bank trust.

Some places wont let foreigners buy property altogether. For example, Switzerland has very strict restrictions on foreigners buying property. You can only buy property if youre an EU or EFTA national who has a Swiss residence permit and lives in Switzerland, or have a Swiss C permit.

Financing Foreign Property

In many cases, mortgages overseas arent available to U.S. buyers, and U.S. banks typically wont lend you money to buy something internationally. Even if you can find a location where you might be eligible for mortgage lending, youre probably going to have to make a down payment of anywhere from 30 to 50 and your terms arent going to be very favorable.

You may also have to get a life insurance policy that totals your mortgage, and the bank lending you money will have to be named the beneficiary. At the same time, depending on your age you may not be eligible for life insurance in some countries.

What this means is that you should have cash if you plan to buy overseas. You might be able to get developer financing, or you can use the proceeds of a self-directed IRA if you plan to use the property as a rental or investment only.

Tax Liability

If you buy property in a foreign country, you may be taxed both when you buy it and sell it. You may also have to make payments throughout the year, similar to property taxes in the U.S.

Finally, before you buy anything overseas you need to have an exit strategy you can turn to if necessary. You may think youll never sell, but unexpected life and financial situations can arise. What taxes would you owe if you did sell? Would you even be able to sell? What is the market like where youre buying and what is it likely to look like in the future?

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What is an FHA Loan and Is It Right for You?

The Federal Housing Administration insures what are called FHA loans. These mortgage loans provide opportunities for buyers with less-than-perfect credit or limited down payments to purchase homes, but they arent without potential pitfalls.

FHA loans are available to borrowers with a credit score of at least 580, and you have to make a minimum 3.5 down payment. Theyre a popular option for first-time home buyers.

Lenders such as banks and credit unions issue the mortgages, which are insured by the FHA. That protects the lender if the borrower defaults, which is why the terms are more favorable than a traditional mortgage.

Around eight million single-family homes have loans insured by the FHA.

What Can an FHA Loan be Used For?

You can use an FHA loan to refinance single-family houses, to buy a single-family home, to buy some multifamily homes and condos and certain mobile and manufactured homes. There are particular types of FHA loans that can be used to renovate an existing property or for new construction.

How is an FHA Loan Different from a Conventional Mortgage Loan?

The biggest differentiator between an FHA loan and a conventional mortgage is that its easier to qualify for an FHA loan. You may get a loan with a lower credit score than you would otherwise, and your mortgage insurance payments may be lower too.

There are also fewer restrictions as far as using gifts from family or donations for your down payment.

If you have a FICO score of at least 580, you have to make a 3.5 down payment. With a FICO score between 500 and 579, youre required to make a 10 down payment, and mortgage insurance is required. Your debt-to-income ratio needs to be less than 43 whereas with a conventional loan its usually 36. You do need to have proof of income and steady employment, as you would need with a conventional loan.

Are There FHA Loan Limits?

There are limits on the mortgage amount you can get with an FHA-guaranteed loan. The limits vary based on your county, and in 2020 these ranged from 331,760 to 765,600. The limit amounts are updated by the FHA each year based on fluctuations in home prices.

The Benefits of the FHA Loan

The primary benefits of an FHA loan are that buyers who wouldnt otherwise qualify may be able to own a home and for a lower down payment. Sometimes the FHA will help facilitate coverage of closing costs. If you have problems making payments on an FHA loan you may be eligible for a forbearance period if you qualify.

What Are the Downsides of an FHA Loan?

You will have to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium with an FHA loan to protect the lender. The fee is due when you close and its 1.75 of your loan. You will also have to pay an annual mortgage insurance premium for the life of your loan. The amount can range between 0.45 and 1.05.

When you buy a home with an FHA loan, it has to meet strict standards in terms of health and safety.

Also, while there are set standards from the FHA, approved lenders can create their own requirements.

Applying for an FHA Loan

Youll have to first find an FHA-approved lender to get one of these home loans. Youll need some documents, including proof of U.S. citizenship, legal permanent residency, or eligibility to work in America. Youll need bank statements for at least the past 30 days, and youll probably need to show pay stubs.

Some of the information your lender may be able to obtain on your behalf, such as your credit reports, tax returns and employment records.

There are advantages to an FHA loan because it expands homeownership to more people than conventional loans. Its just important that if youre considering this loan you understand the costs and that youre not taking on more than youre financially prepared for because of the less stringent approval requirements.

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ULI & 3 Adaptability-Booster Perspectives

As the pandemic evolves, real estate professionals continue to adapt to changeboth for themselves and their clients.

Over the past months, I have been struck by repeated situations in the media and on social media that reminded me that professionals in all fields often overlook opportunities to improve adaptability while in the midst of change.

With more shifts on the pandemic horizon, why not take proactive steps to increase your adaptability by building up your powers of resourcefulness, flexibility, and resilience?

The pandemic is a health crisis not an economic crisis nor a global-scale natural disaster, so capital will be available when the crisis abates and the necessity for massive rebuilding will not delay recovery. Pandemic impact will be lessened, counterbalanced, and eventually ended by well-founded, improved, and sustained personal and societal confidence.

Once we are confident as individuals, families, and organizations that we will be safe from catching or spreading Covid-19, stand back. Individuals, businesses, communities, and countries will forge ahead when not constrained by fears of contagion.

Speakers and panelists at the virtual 2020 Urban Land Institute ULI Fall Meeting agree that the pandemic will not continue forever. Varying estimates of when it will end are linked to how quickly an effective vaccine can be developed and distributed. Uncertainty at the timing prevailed with some voicing certainty for next spring, others predicting next fall, and still others forecasting at least another year or so.

As you stay safe and keep others safe, consider reinforcing your professional expertise by incorporating:

Three Adaptability-Booster Perspectives

1. Not Unconscious But Conscious Effort

Widespread agreement that Covid has been an accelerator of trends leaves us with the knowledge that some pre-Covid hindsight may be useful in projecting into our post-Ccvid futures. The more conscious you are of what was really going on before the pandemic, the better youll be at predicting details and identifying opportunities associated with amplification of real estate trends >

Example: 18-hour cities, defined by ULI as less intense version[s] of some of the biggest global centers while still maintaining an international character and a vibrant urban core, continue to dominate The Top 10 Markets [list below] powered by strong growth, homebuilding outlook, affordability, and job prospects.

ULI and PwC US >

The Top 10 Markets in Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2021

1. Raleigh/Durham, N.C.
2. Austin, Texas
3. Nashville, Tenn.
4. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
5. Charlotte, N.C.
6. Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.
7. Salt Lake City, Utah
8. Washington D.C./North Va.
9. Boston, Mass.
10. Long Island, N.Y.

2. Not Perpetuate But Shed

Progress involves risk and letting go. You cant achieve change while you cling to the way its always been. We cant embrace technology the way we have during the pandemic and hold on to the way weve always thought. Work and education are just two areas that technology has rapidly redesigned under social-distancing pressures. For digital transformation to be effective, the way we define work, learning, and, therefore, productivity must be transformed too. Until you shed bias and out-dated standards and reach out for fresh perspectives, progress is just talk.

Example: Our love affair with online tools and toys has led to consistently elevated expectations for technology. In a ULI session about the Networked Economy, Lisa Picard, CEO of EQ Office, said technology has heightened the speed at which we expect what we want: Everything. Everywhere. All the timeNot Work From Home but Work From Anywherenbsp; What is missing is that our standards and language lag behind. The pandemic has changed the nature of work and where we do it, but definitions of productivity must change as well. For example, instead of expressing intent as get the most out of workers think bring the best out in individuals.

3. Not Chance But Choice

The decisions you make, large and small, determine the present and shape the future. Even deciding not to decide is a decision. The more you leave to chance, the less certain the present and future. The more often you dig in to uncover choices for clients and yourself, the more often confident decisions emerge.

According to ULI: Social unrest and protests in cities across the country have also played a role in the reevaluation of presence in urban cores. 70 of respondents agree that the real estate industry can address and help end systemic racismfrom promoting diversity, equity and inclusion within the sector, to looking for ways to develop underserved communities. On a rating scale of social issues in real estate, income and racial inequality moved from little to moderate importance last year, to moderate to great importance.

Example: Onay Payne, Managing Director, Clarion Partners LLC shared a statistic to illustrate social inequity that also emphasizes that inequity will not be resolved by chance but by choice. Payne, an Emerging Trends general-session panelist, told reportedly 4,000 virtually-attending real estate professionals that, on the financial scale, the top 50 individual Americans possess as much net worth as the bottom 165 million Americans.

Has the dazzling speed at which Covid-19 changed everything proven to you that nothing is beyond change?nbsp;

Simply, commit to conscious effort, search for choice, and shed accumulated crap to achieve progress.

For more by PJ Wade, visit PJs blog: Whats Your Point?nbsp;

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5 Tips for Staging Your Home

If youre in a tough sellers market or just looking to get top dollar for your home, you want to do any little thing you can to make your house stand out in a potential buyers mind. Staging is one of those things that can make the difference between a sold sign and a house that lingers on the market.

The National Association of Realtors suggests that staging has a real impact on home sales. In fact, a majority of realtors report that staging increases the sales price of a home anywhere between 1 and 10 percent. However, the real impact of staging seems to be how quickly a home is sold, with 39 percent of Realtors stating that it greatly decreases the time spent on the market. Buyers agents confirm the positive impact of staging, stating that 77 percent of buyers were better able to picture a home as their own when it was staged.

Of course, there is an art to staging a home, and a poorly staged home can have a negative impact on a potential sale. Here are five tips for staging your house that will have you putting up that SOLD sign in no time.

1. Declutter and Clean

Before thinking about decorations or furniture placement, the No. 1 suggestion of realtors is to declutter and deep clean. Clear countertops and other surfaces, and pack away anything that is not essential. Your goal is to remove anything that will distract buyers from seeing the positive aspects of your house, which is why realtors often suggest removing family photos and overly personalized decorations like your giant bobble head collection. Remember, decluttering includes removing excess furniture, which help make your rooms feel bigger.

2. Group Furniture

Once youve removed furniture that is unnecessary or too large for the space, group furniture into conversational groups away from the wall, instead of pushing sofas and chairs to the corners. You want there to be a flow to each room, and keeping the walls clear of big furniture will actually make the room feel bigger, says HGTV.

3. Accessories in Odd Numbers

Although youll need to declutter, you still want your space to feel like a lived-in home. Do this by decorating with groups of accessories like vases, books or plants. Staging professionals often recommend grouping similarly hued objects in odd number pairings of varying heights and shapes.

4. Add 1 or 2 Bold Accents

While you want to keep your staging dcor fairly neutral, adding one or two bold accent pieces will help highlight a particularly great feature of your home. Adding a dramatic chandelier that matches the >

5. Use Mirrors

Mirrors can help brighten a dark hallway, bring light into a room and make a room seem larger, says Forbes. For a big impact, get a cheap mirror and add a decorative frame, or group a lot of small mirrors in differing shapes and sizes. In a room with a window, place mirrors across from the window to reflect the sunlight.

Staging is all about helping potential buyers create an emotional connection with your home. Help buyers picture themselves living in the house by decluttering, grouping furniture and accessories, adding one or two bold accents and using mirrors. Now get ready for the offers to roll in.

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Rate Locks: What You Need to Know

If youre a homeowner and thinking of maybe refinancing or youre out shopping for a new home, certainly interest rates are part of the picture. Rates determine your monthly mortgage payment as well as determine affordability. In either case, its important to know that any rate you see advertised on the internet or a rate you get from your loan officer arent immediately available for you. Mortgage interest rates can change daily and, in some instances, when the markets are somewhat volatile, rates can even change from the morning to later in the day. Regardless, whatever rate you see isnt any good until you lock that rate in. How do you lock in a mortgage rate and what is the process?

First and perhaps foremost, dont expect to pick up the phone and call a mortgage company and request a rate lock. Lenders take rate locks just as seriously as you and wont lock in a rate from someone whos just placed a phone call. Lenders want a bit more commitment than that. To get to this important first step, it means you must at minimum submit a loan application and provide the requested documentation.nbsp;

Lenders can quote rates over the phone to give you a general idea of what the rate market is doing but there are different factors involved when lenders quote a specific rate to a client. FICO scores, occupancy, equity in the transaction matter. Some of this information wont be known until you apply for the mortgage and send in copies of your paycheck stubs, W2s and other requested documentation.

Once youve reached this stage, you might be in a position to lock. But maybe not. There are no universal guidelines lenders must adhere to as it >

Rate lock periods can vary but most rate locks can range from 10 to 60 days or more. The longer the rate lock period the higher the rate and/or fees will be. The strategy is to lock in your rate for the shortest period possible while still meeting your settlement date or to give the lender enough time to approve your loan, deliver your loan papers to the settlement agent, sign the papers and return them to the lender for a final review.

Finally, if your rate lock expires while your loan is still in process, most lenders will >
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Buyer vs. Seller’s Agent: How Do They Compare?

Sometimes we dont focus on distinguishing between a buyers agent and a sellers agent, but understanding the differences is important when youre choosing someone to work with. The terminology can also get a bit confusing.

A buyers agent is also called a selling agent because they help buyers find properties. A sellers agent is referred to a listing agent.

For purposes of comparing the two, well call them a buyer and sellers agent, because this references who they work for. A buyers agent represents buyers, and a sellers agent represents sellers.

If youre weighing whether or not you need an agent, when it comes to selling a home you can do it as an owner, but unless youre a great marketer and negotiator, you might not do as well as you could with a sellers agent. As a buyer, it can be even more important to have an agent representing you. Some sellers agents wont accept offers from buyers directly.

Beyond working out the terminology, the following are some differences between the two.


When youre selling a home and you hire an agent, you usually have an exclusive representation listing. Thats an agreement between your agent and you as the seller. Then, once you sign this agreement, only the listing agent is entitled to receive a commission when your home sells. More specifically, the brokerage the sellers agent works for receives a commission and of that, the agent gets a percentage.

A buyers agent is compensated when they work with the sellers brokerage and theres a deal for their clients to buy a home.

Representing Different Interests

The primary difference between a buyer and a sellers agent is that theyre representing different interests. The buyers agent wants to make sure their client is getting the lowest possible price and most favorable deal when they decide to purchase a home. The sellers agent wants to make sure their client gets the most money for their home.

In some cases, the sellers agent can also represent the buyer, but this is illegal in some states.

Can An Agent Be Both?

Theres no reason an agent cant sometimes work for sellers and others for buyers. In fact, many agents do this. On the other hand, some agents find they just like dealing with one side of the transaction better, so they may specialize.


A sellers agents responsibilities can include:

A sellers agent will see a property and do an initial walkthrough. During this time they might provide tips on how the seller can make the home more appealing to potential buyers.
The sellers agent might provide referrals for professionals who can make needed updates to a home, and they can help a seller stage the property.
Sellers agents work on marketing, which can include having professional photos taken.
Sellers agents work with the homeowner to price their home accordingly. There has to be a balance between getting the highest possible price and selling the property in a reasonable amount of time.
Other things sellers agents do include hosting tours and open houses, negotiating issues including inspection issues with the buyers agent, and helping with the closing process.

A buyers agents responsibilities include:

Helping buyers with the preapproval process if theyre getting a mortgage loan.
Finding properties they think will meet the criteria of their clients.
Taking buyers on appointments to view potential properties.
Helping buyers understand the value of a home as they work toward making an offer.
Coordination of communication between the mortgage lender, seller, buyer, and title officer.
Helping with the closing process.

Overall, while their roles are different, a buyer and a sellers agent have the same overall objectives. They want to represent their clients to the best of their ability and negotiate successful deals to closing.

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What Online Dating Can Teach You About Selling Your Home

Online dating is a big business; according to eharmony, forty percent of Americans use online dating and twenty percent of all committed >

Be smart

When you create a dating profile, youre trying to capture the essence of your beauty and personality. Apply the same principle to your home for sale. If youre not certain what your homes best features are, your agent will su>

Spruce it up

You wouldnt go on a date wearing tattered or stained clothes, so dont show your house with tattered or stained furnishings. If your couch has seen better days, a throw rug and a few pillows may be all you need to disguise the damage.

Stained carpets? Try steam cleaning first. If that doesnt work, get an inexpensive area rug. Worn tables? Cover them with a stylish tablecloth.

Be a little coy

Dont be afraid to go for it with a bit of flirtation. Just like a dating profile that insists on lifelong celibacy or is aggressively chaste may not attract the right attention and the same certainly goes for those that go waaaaay beyond flirtation, a home that shows blah and boring probably wont garner much notice.

"Popular wisdom says that when you put your home up for sale, it should be made to appear as bland and beige as possible," said The Kansan. "Well, like a lot of popular wisdom, this idea is only partially true. A low-key look helps potential buyers to envision how their own possessions will fit into the house, but a dash of zest will help your property to stand out from the a good way.

Take a sexy pool shot with the fountain going. Transform your boring bed into a hotel masterpiece with pillows and turned-down bedding. Add a little sparkle to your dining room table, your fireplace, your sideboard. And for open houses, appeal to the senses with a sparkling clean home, soothing music in the background, and chocolate chip cookies freshly made in the oven.

Dont let them judge a book by its cover

You know the old saying: You only get one chance to make a first impression. Its true whether youre meeting a date for the first time or touring a home. If the first impression of your home is one of patchy grass, piles of leaves, overgrown greenery, and chipping paint, there probably wont be an opportunity for a second impression. A little attention to curb appeal could pay big rewards.

Strut your stuff

You dont hide great hair under a hat or muscled arms under an oversized sweatshirtnot if you want to show your best assets. Use this same idea in your home. If your granite counters are hiding under cutting boards and bills and blenders and magazines and scented candles and vessels full of stirrers and wooden spoons and spatulas, well, then how can anyone see what youre working with? Clean up your stuff so people can fall in love with your homes best features.

Show yourself in your best light

In other words, take great pictures. You never want to misrepresent the condition of the home, but rather showcase the best bits. Dating profile pics focus in on key features: pretty eyes or a great smile. Pictures of your house should do the same. If your kitchen is updated, show it off. Same for a nice master bath or well-designed master bedroom. Large yard? By all means, add a few photos of this desirable space.

Clean yourself up

Youd hardly put pictures of yourself online surrounded by dirty clothes. It would seem like a given that sellers would apply the same logic when listing their home. But in some cases, you would be wrong.

Put on a happy face

On your dating profile, that means smile big. As it translates to your house, it means open up those blinds and let the light in. And it wouldnt hurt if you put out a vase of flowers or two.

Update your look

Old-fashioned hair and out of >

Be a good listener

Online dating is all about communication, so those who are participating are bound to get feedbackunwanted or not. Home sellers can also expect to get feedback. But if your agent, other agents who viewed the home, and everyone who came to tour it during an open house are all telling you the house is unkempt, in need of obvious repairs, or is way too pricey for the condition or neighborhood, you may want to listen. Just like a man whose profile is offensive to women will likely not get him dates, a home that is turning buyers away instead of turning them on is not likely to sell.

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Can You Get a Mortgage with Bad Credit?

The real estate market remains hot right now, despite economic headwinds. Many people want to jump in and buy a home or upgrade their current home to a new one for good reason. Interest rates are incredibly low, so now could still be a buying opportunity, despite limited inventory and high prices in some locations.

If your credit isnt perfect, you may wonder if anyone will approve you for a mortgage. The short answer is maybe.

You arent alone if you dont have great credit. Around 15 of Americans have a credit score from 500 to 599, which is considered poor. Around 10 of people have credit in the range of 600 to 649, which is considered fair.

When youre applying for a mortgage, youre most likely to be approved with a score of at least 650, although even anywhere in the 600s can make it challenging. If your score is below 500, youre almost certainly not going to be approved for a mortgage, and beyond that, the following are key things to know.

Conventional Mortgages

Conventional mortgages tend to have the strictest requirements as far as your credit score. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are two companies offering conventional mortgages. Freddie Macs minimum credit score requirement is 660, with a down payment of 3. Fannie Maes minimum score for a 3 down payment is 620. If you make a down payment of at least 25, you may be eligible for a Freddie Mac conventional mortgage with a credit score as low as 620.

The majority of lenders follow similar requirements, because usually after your loan is closed, the lender will sell it to Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.

You should be aware that in the eyes of your lender, theres a difference between having a low score because you dont have much credit history and having a low score because of bad credit history. Youre likely to be viewed more favorably with limited credit than with bad credit.

If youre close to the lending cut-off, you should be able to show that you have a debt-to-income ratio of no more than 36. You will probably also need to show that you have at least two months of cash reserves on hand.

What About an FHA Loan?

An FHA loan may be an option for someone with a very low credit score. You can be approved for these loans with a score as low as 500, but youll have to plan to put at least 10 down.

If you have a higher score, you may be able to put as little as 3.5 down.

Aside from VA loans, FHA loans have the least stringent approval guidelines.

As such, FHA loans are often used by people after a foreclosure or bankruptcy.

FHA lenders dont have to follow the above credit score requirements. They can require that your credit score is higher for approval. Many FHA borrowers have a score somewhere between 650 and 699.

VA Loans

For a VA loan, there is no minimum credit score, but you can only get this type of home loan if youre an eligible service member in the military, a veteran, or the surviving spouse of a veteran. While theres no set minimum score, individual lenders can create their own guidelines.

Should You Focus on Improving Your Score?

If you have less-than-perfect credit right now, you might want to focus on building your score. It can take several months, but its very unlikely interest rates will go up anytime soon based on what the Fed has said so far. The Fed says they expect rates will stay around zero through 2021 and maybe 2022, although theres no guarantee.

If you can make even modest improvements in your credit score, not only are you likely to be approved, but you may also get better terms. Focus on paying down your high-balance credit cards, cleaning up any errors, and in the meantime, also try to save for a down payment. If you have at least 10 for a down payment, a lender will see you as less risky.

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Ask the HOA Expert: Shared Expenses, HOA Newsletters, Swayed Managers

Question: Our By-laws indicate that expenses are shared equally. We have one and two bedroom units that vary significantly in size. Dividing expenses equally seems unfair. Can we simply vote to change it? If so, how many need to vote in favor of it?

Answer: Occasionally, developers propose an expense allocation like the one you describe. Its easier to calculate but clearly overlooks disparity in size and value. When there is substantial difference in square footage, the norm is to allocate expenses according to a units square footage as a percentage of the total units square footage.

When developers ignore the unit size and value issue, the inequity usually becomes apparent after turnover when the new board focuses on the budget process. Members that feel they are carrying a bigger share than they should lobby to "fix it." The problem is, all members agreed to pay what the developer indicated was their share of HOA expenses, fair or not.

If a majority of the owners were allowed to change the expense allocation formula, theoretically 51 percent of the owners could pass an amendment that would force 49 percent of the owners to pay 100 percent of the expenses.

This cant possibly be right or equitable. So changing the expense allocation should be based on receiving the consent of those affected. However, since people are people, this is unlikely to happen.

Bottom line listen up developers, the expense allocation formula needs to be fair from the get-go. Dont set up the HOA for conflict that inevitably will be blamed on the developer.

Question: One of our homeowners wants to start an HOA newsletter. A few Board members object to this because people dont read the minutes as it is, the Board would need to review it and finding someone to do it consistently may be difficult. What say you?

Answer: Having a regular newsletter is not just a good idea, its a basic good management practice. To encourage readership, the newsletter should be worth reading and provide information that all members need to know. If certain members dont choose to read it, thats up to them. The HOA should not withhold information because of it.

The Board Secretary generally previews the newsletter for content and accuracy. This doesnt take much time for a two to four page newsletter more than ample for most HOAs.

Newsletters do not need to be long and involved, just timely and >

Question: I just read your article on sex offenders in HOAs. My experience with paroled sex offenders is that they ra>

Answer: While the answer to that question varies from location to location, national statistics do bear out that recidivism is a big problem with sex offenders. And statistics to the contrary are small consolation when you, or someone you know especially a child, is the victim of this crime.

However, in fairness, all sex offenses are not created equal. Some involve underage consent while others committed unspeakable acts. The Board should investigate the facts before unduly impugning a residents character.

That said, for the Board to keep silent about a known sex offender could be viewed as complicity. State laws allow disclosure and the Board should do so along state prescribed guidelines.

Question: Our professional manager is pandering to certain Board members and ignoring policies passed by the Board majority. How do you keep a manager from getting involved with Board politics?

Answer: The Board President should speak to the manager directly and plainly about this problem. Most managers are only trying to please or do their job. It may be a simple misunderstanding. If, however, there is conscious subterfuge and unwillingness to change, the matter should be addressed directly with the management company owner. If change isnt forthcoming, the President should recommend to the Board that there be a change in management company.

On the other hand, if the manager is kowtowing to the Board President, the remaining directors need to have a heart to heart with the President. All officers serve at the pleasure of the Board. If an officer is exceeding authority, the Board can remove and replace that person with another director who wont.

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How To Use Color To Boost Emotion And Well Being In Your Home

Having trouble sleeping? Or staying awake? Feeling down? Or stressed? Maybe you just need a new paint color.

Turns out that the colors you use in your home can impact more than just the way it looks.

"Home decor is often viewed as simply a matter of aesthetics - what looks attractive. But proponents of color psychology believe that the colors you use to decorate your home can have a profound effect on the emotional well-being of you and your family," said WebMD.

So how does it work?

"While perceptions of color are somewhat subjective, there are some color effects that have universal meaning," said verywell. "Colors in the red area of the color spectrum are known as warm colors and include red, orange and yellow. These warm colors evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility. Colors on the blue side of the spectrum are known as cool colors and include blue, purple and green. These colors are often described as calm, but can also call to mind feelings of sadness or indifference."

Which color is right for you?

Think a sunny, yellow room may brighten up your spirit? Give it careful consideration. Yes, "Yellow captures the joy of sunshine and communicates happiness. It is an excellent choice for kitchens, dining rooms and bathrooms, where it is energizing and uplifting. In halls, entries and small spaces, yellow can feel expansive and welcoming," said Freshome.

But, "Even though yellow although is a cheery color, it is not a good choice for main color schemes. Studies show that people are more likely to lose their temper in a yellow interior. Babies also seem to cry more in yellow rooms. In large amounts, this color tends to create feelings of frustration and anger."

And, of course, theres also a matter of personal taste. Its not important that a splash of yellow brightens up a dark bathroom if you despise the color so much it makes you irate every time you enter.

If you have a busy life and manage a lot of stress, blue might be a good answer for you. This color symbolizes serenity and "is said to bring down blood pressure and slow respiration and heart rate," said Freshome. "It is often recommended for bedrooms and bathrooms."

Other colors that work well in the bedroom: green, which also tends to have a >white, which keeps everything clean and calm.

White "conveys peace, simplicity, and spaciousness," said Debbie Zimmer, color expert at the Paint Quality Institute, on Professional Builder. Not to mention that, "used throughout a room, it can give the illusion that the space is bigger than its physical dimensions."

While red is a color that denotes passion, its not recommended for a bedroom because it can raise the blood pressure, heart rate, and energy level, and keep you awake. Instead, use it in a dining room, where it can help stimulate the appetite - and the conversation.

"Warm tones like reds, yellows, and oranges, and earth tones like brown and beige often work well in both the living room and foyer, because theyre though to stimulate conversation," said WebMD.

Use orange in a game room or especially a home gym, and it may inspire just the right emotion and increase well-being. "This color is great for an exercise room; it will bring out all the emotions that you need >

Deep, rich like colors like purple, black, and emerald can impart a sense of luxury and sophistication, but, especially with black, you want to use a light hand. "Dont get carried away with it," said Zimmer. "Too much black can be depressing."

Choose the right hue

When considering the colors for different rooms, its also important to remember what certain hues can do to a space. "Light colors are expansive and airy, making rooms seem larger and brighter," said Freshome. "Dark colors are sophisticated and warm; they give large rooms a more intimate appearance."

"Bright yellowcan quickly move from cheerful to abrasive," said HGTV. "Rather than painting an entire room the color of McDonalds golden arches, choose a toned-down shade or use that vivid yellow as an accent against a neutral backdrop, like gray." Likewise, "A pastel blue that looks pretty on the paint chip can come across as unpleasantly chilly on the walls and furnishingsespecially in a room that receives little natural light," said Freshome.

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What is a Short Sale?

The idea of purchasing a home at a deeply discounted price is appealing to most people, but these situations can come with strings attached. One way to get a deal on a property is to buy a short sale, but the transactions are complex and risky.

Short sales are transactions where a home is sold for a lower price than the debt thats owed. When a homeowner realizes they cant afford their mortgage anymore, they can start the short sale process with the lender. The owner has to apply, and the goal is to avoid foreclosure.

Lenders will often approve a short sale if the home is worth less than whats owed, and the seller has to demonstrate financial hardship. Short sales were incredibly common following the Great Recession in 2008, but have since become less so.

Short Sale vs. a Foreclosure

Sometimes buyers think a short sale and a foreclosure are the same, which theyre not. During a foreclosure, the bank repossesses the property. Then, the bank tries to sell it, often at a price well below market value, to cover their costs.

In both situations, financial hardships lead to the loss of the property for the homeowner, but the specifics vary.

In a short sale, the seller is voluntarily entering the process. A foreclosure is not voluntary for the seller.

For the seller, a foreclosure is much more damaging to their credit history, and they may end up having to file bankruptcy.

What Are the Benefits of a Short Sale?

For buyers, there are a few big benefits of buying a property in a short sale. The first is the lower price. A lender is very motivated to sell the property and cut their losses. Short sales may be less complex than traditional sales because there is likely to be less competition from other buyers. Your offer has a greater chance of being approved with less competition.

For sellers, the benefits of a short sale include preventing foreclosure and possible debt forgiveness. For a seller who goes through a short sale, they may qualify for a new mortgage after two years. Its much harder to get another mortgage after a foreclosure.

Are There Downsides of a Short Sale?

For buyers, one of the primary downsides of a short sale is that its time-consuming. These transactions can take much longer than a traditional transaction. Theres also an increased level of risk for buyers because theyre buying the home as-is.

Theres also the possibility the transaction wont go through, and the time will be wasted for the buyer.

Since the owners in a short sale are experiencing financial hardship, their homes may be in significantly worse condition than similar properties.

For sellers, there are quite a few pitfalls of a short sale too. Sellers dont have any power to negotiate the priceonly the lender can. The seller isnt going to receive any profits when they sell the home because its owed to the lender, and short sales damage the owners credit scores.

Short Sale Tips

If you understand the possible risks and still want to look for a property thats a short sale, make sure that you go into it prepared. While the property is sold as-is, you still need an inspection so you can figure out how much youll have to spend in repairs. Youll also have more negotiating power with the lender if you can prove significant repairs are needed.

Even though short sales are a way to get a deal, you still need to be realistic with your offer. Your offer can be turned down if its too low.

Its also a good idea to provide as much cash as you can because the lender will want to reduce their risk.

Finally, work with a real estate agent experienced in short sales because theyre complex transactions.

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What’s a ‘Drive-By’ Appraisal?

One of the more important documents a lender reviews when a loan application is first submitted is the property appraisal. In reality, once a loan application is turned in, there will actually be two separate approvals- one for the applicant and one for the property. The application is documented with a combination of borrower-provided paperwork along with various third party documentation such as title insurance and an appraisal. What many may not know however is the old-fashioned way of ordering a property appraisal is long gone. Instead, the lender is alerted to the type of appraisal needed based upon the results of an automated underwriting system report.

A full appraisal is one where the appraiser first performs some internal research based upon recent sales in the area of similar properties along with a copy of the subject propertys sales contract. The sales price is a starting point for the appraiser. These recent sales are listed in the local multiple listing service, or MLS. When an appraiser receives an appraisal order, the first thing that is done is perform this research.nbsp;

The appraiser will identify recent sales and then make a physical visit to the subject property. The appraiser does both an interior and exterior inspection of the property. Note, this is separate from a buyer-paid property inspection. The appraiser will make a general determination of the propertys condition based upon a visual inspection.nbsp; The appraiser will visit the property, make the inspections and take photos of the interior as well as exterior of the property. After gathering this information about the property, the appraiser will then provide a final value.nbsp;

There are however different degrees of an appraisal. A full appraisal with interior and exterior photos is the most thorough. But the AUS findings might indicate that a full appraisal with photos is unnecessary. The AUS might only need an appraisal with exterior photos. The appraiser completes the appraisal order but does not take interior photos.nbsp;

A drive by appraisal is actually very descriptive. The appraiser performs the initial research including recent sales of similar properties in the area. Yet the physical visit to the property is limited. There wont be any interior or exterior photos, much less an inspection of the general condition of the property. Instead, the appraiser will literally drive by the home and make a general comment about the condition of the home.

There is even a desk review which means the lenders underwriter will review a completed appraisal as a secondary approval requirement.

One final note, even though the AUS does not mention a full appraisal but instead just a drive-by, a lender can still override that condition and request an upgraded appraisal from a drive-by to a complete appraisal report. Its just the lender cant do the reverse and downgrade an appraisal requirement from a full report to a drive-by. Its okay to require more documentation but not okay to dismiss requested documents or downgrade an existing approval. The degree of appraisal is clearly marked on the AUS findings and must be followed.

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Want To Cut Down A Tree In Toronto? Good Luck With That

Recently the Arbor Day Foundation, one of the largest conservation foundations in the world, presented its Champion of Trees Award to the City of Toronto.

The award recognizes exemplary leadership to develop and implement new policies and practices for municipal tree planting and care, natural area stewardship or arboriculture.

Toronto has planted more than one million trees since 2005, investing 605.6 million in its urban forest.nbsp; A 2018 study by the city estimated that the citys tree canopy the area of the tree population as viewed from above at 28.4 to 31 per cent. The goal is to increase that canopy to 40 per cent.

In addition to planting new trees, the city has tough bylaws to protect existing ones including those on private property. Residents who want to cut down a tree on their land are often shocked to find out they cant do it. The city takes tree cutting so seriously that decisions on whether an individual tree can be cut down are often decided by the entire city council.

In a typical recent case, a homeowner wanted a Norway maple on his property removed because he said it could cause damage to his foundation wall, and because there was risk to an elderly neighbour who could slip on fallen leaves in autumn.

The citys Urban Forestry staff examined the tree and determined that it is botanically and structurally healthy. They also said there was no evidence the tree is associated with any leaking through or beneath the foundation wall. Tree roots are not physically capable of exerting the force required to lift or crack properly constructed and maintained foundation walls, said the Urban Forestry staff in a report. However, if property drainage has not been provided, heaving may occur as a result of freezing and thawing, creating space that tree roots may grow into.Waterproofing of the foundation, if not already done, would prevent roots from growing in any existing cracks or other openings in the foundation. The problem described here can typically be repaired without requiring tree removal.

As far as the slippery leaves were concerned, the report recommended that the homeowner rake them up. City council denied the request to remove the tree.

Another tricky application came from a family that wanted to remove a black walnut tree because the walnuts posed a risk of anaphylactic allergic reaction to the four-year-old child who lived there. A doctors note confirmed the seriousness of the allergy.

But the Urban Forestry staff denied the request, suggesting that physically collecting and removing the walnuts and educating those at risk would reduce the likelihood of exposure.

The decision was appealed and at city council, a motion was made to approve the removal despite the staff report. That vote resulted in an 11-11 tie, but since a majority was required, the motion failed. Council then voted to support the staff report and the walnut tree is still there.

Even when a request to cut down a tree is granted, its a costly process for the homeowners. Council recently agreed to let a homeowner cut down a city-owned tree on a city right of way to accommodate a new driveway entrance, but the property owner had to pay the city for the appraised value of the tree 3,809; pay the costs of removing the tree; and plant five replacement trees on the property, or pay cash-in-lieu of planting.

Why is Toronto so fixated on saving individual trees, when the city has more than 11.5 million of them? Despite the planting programs over the last decade, the 2018 report found that impervious land cover such as concrete or buildings increased by 1.4 per cent over the last decade.

The citys tree population has also taken some hits. An ice storm in 2013 took out many of them, and infections of the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer have also decimated the tree population in some areas.

Trees improve the quality of urban life and contribute greatly to our sense of community, says Urban Forestry in its reports. They help soften the hard lines of built form and surfaces in an urban setting.

Trees contribute to the overall character and quality of neighbourhoods. Studies suggest that social benefits such as crime reduction and neighbourhood cohesion can be attributed to the presence of trees.

From an economic standpoint, trees enhance property values. Mature trees can reduce the energy consumption of a home by lowering air conditioning costs in summer and protecting homes from the wind in winter.

The environmental benefits of trees include cleansing of air, noise and wind reduction and protection from ultraviolet radiation, says Urban Forestry. Trees reduce rainwater runoff thereby reducing soil erosion and lowering storm water management costs. They also contribute to moderation of temperature extremes and reduction of the urban heat island effect by providing shade during summer.

These benefits are worth an estimated 55 million per year.

Unlike grey infrastructure, the urban forest is always changing, growing, maturing and dying, says the report. Canopy cover and population size are not the whole story. Urban forest size, condition and distribution are factors in the canopy cover story; pest threats, natural mortality, invasive species impacts, development activities and climate change are realities effecting urban forest sustainability.

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What To Expect When Visiting Chip And Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Market

Chip and Joanna Gaines havent just taken over the airwaves on their uber-popular HGTV program, Fixer Upper. Theyre taken over the city of Waco with their Magnolia Market at the Silos. Those of us who live in Texas within a few hours drive of Waco can get in the car and be at Magnolia easily to shop and soak in a little of that Gaines magic. But if youre planning a trip from farther away - and so many are - preparation is key. Knowing what to expect and heeding a few tips can help ensure your trip is a good one.

Bring your patience

Youre going to wait in line. Just accept it on arrival so youre not disappointed to see that you might have to wait awhile to get inside the store, or the super-busy Silos Baking Co, for that matter. But, there are some ways around it. According to the stores helpdesk, Magnolia "is busiest during the hoursnbsp;around lunch; particularlynbsp;on Saturdays, when we see thousands of people come through our doors. We suggest coming near opening or closingnbsp;hoursnbsp;to have the most peaceful shopping experience."

We got lucky on our visit, arriving in mid-afternoon and strolling right in, but these people did not.

Bring your wallet

If youre a fan of Chip and Joannas French country >

At the very least, youll probably have orders from friends and family to buy a bunch of Magnolia t-shirts and sweatshirts. If youre thinking you can just buy everything you like online, Popsugar cleared up that, "About 40 percent of the goods in their Magnolia Market store are available in their online shop, the other 60 percent can only be purchased at the physical location."

Bring your appetite, too

In addition to the Silos Baking Co, there is a rotating drove of food trucks lining the lawn where you can grab everything from mac n cheese to hot dogs to crepes to cold-pressed juice. After all that shopping, youll definitely want a snack. Bonus tip: Stake your claim on one of the covered tables for some shelter from the sun. Waco is HOT in the summer. Were not above a little table stalking when necessary.

Its ok to bring the kids

In fact, theyll probably have a blast, playing cornhole, kicking a ball around, and swinging on the swings. In the back of the property, where Magnolia Seed Supply, the Gaines outdoor mecca, is located, theres even a teepee.

Keep in mind, though, that the breakability factor inside the store is high.

Check the calendar ahead of time

Many disappointed families have arrived in Waco all set to shop, eat, and play, only to find out that Magnolia Market and the Silos Baking Co. are closed on Sunday. This may affect your trip. Youll also want to pay attention to their Facebook page, which lists upcoming events like ongoing Movie Nights at The Silos.

Make "just in case" plans for the rest of the day

One of the things that stood out to us is how different our expectations were from the reality of Magnolia in terms of the time we would spend there. We were done in a couple of hours, and that was with some food truck and lawn-lounging time. If you want to continue along the Fixer Upper Tour, head to Harp and Co Design. This is woodworking master Clint Harps nearby shop, where you can browse and buy before heading to JDH Iron Designs, Fixer Upper metal art designer Jimmy Dons shop, which is about a 25-minute drive through the countryside.

Stay in a Fixer Upper House

The Harps home that was fixed up on the show is right next door to their shop, and is now available as a vacation rental - and its not the only one. The historic Magnolia House is also available starting at at 795 a night, along with the stunning Hillcrest Estate, prices starting at 995 a night.

Get there in >

While parking is easy and free at Magnolia, you can add to the fun especially for the kids by taking the Silos District Trolley, which runs runs every 1520nbsp;minutes throughout the day and will stop anywhere along the route so you can hop on or off to browse the downtown area.

Document your trip

Youll undoubtedly go to great lengths to do so, because social media and friends demand it Your family may look mostly ridiculous, but you wont care because you got a picture in front of the Magnolia sign. The strong sun can wreak havoc with your outdoor photos, but dont leave without snapping a pic under the MilestoMagnolia sign and uploading it to Instagram.

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Gifts Of Real Estate To Children – Not A Good Idea

Question: My husband and I own our house free and clear. We purchased it in the l960s for 30,000, and have added approximately 50,000 of improvements over the years. We are at the stage in our life when we can no longer take care of the house, and are planning to give the property to our only son, and then move into a retirement home.

We believe the property is worth 500,000. How do we go about transferring title to the house?

Answer: Transferring title is easy; the real question is whether you want to do it.

In order to transfer title, you -- or your attorney -- should prepare a deed, which would reflect that you and your husband conveyed the property to your son, for love and affection -- in other words, no consideration. You will have to include the legal description of the property in the deed, and in order to avoid any transfer and recordation tax, you will need an affidavit stating that this is a transfer to your son.

Generally speaking, and you need to review the specific rules in your jurisdiction, there will be no transfer and recordation tax owed when you transfer property to a son or a daughter. These documents must be notarized and recorded in the jurisdiction where your property is located. If you do not have an attorney, the local Recorder of Deeds office should be able to assist you in making the transfer valid.

However, before you take such action, you should give serious thought to the tax consequences of your proposed action. Although your property is worth approximately 500,000 today, for tax purposes your basis in the property is 80,000 the initial price of 30,000 plus the 50,000 in improvements.

The Internal Revenue Service computes capital gain on the following formula: Sales Price less certain selling expenses minus the original cost of the property plus improvements. The latter i.e. the cost of the property plus improvements is known as the "basis" of the property for tax purposes. It should be noted that if your property had been rented out, and you took depreciation over the years, your basis would be reduced by the amount of the depreciation.

In our example, your basis is 80,000. If you sell the property now for 500,000, and ignoring for the moment any real estate commissions or other selling expenses which would reduce the selling price, you will have made a profit of 420,000. Under current tax law, since you are married and most likely file a joint return, and have lived in the house for at least two years in the last five years before a sale, you can exclude up to 500,000 in profit and not pay any tax. Since your profit would be less than 500,000, you can walk away from a sale and keep all of the sales proceeds.

Now, lets consider the gift to your son.

Although the property is worth 500,000, tax law requires that the tax basis of the donor the person giving the gift becomes the tax basis of the donee the person receiving the gift. Thus, while in your mind you are giving your son a house which is worth 500,000, in reality you are giving him a house with a tax basis of 80,000.

Now you have moved out of the house into the retirement home. The first question to consider is whether you will have enough money to continue your life >

The second question is whether you are really doing your son a favor. When he receives the house, his basis will be only 80,000. If he should decide to sell the property -- and if he has not lived in the house for two out of the last five years before the sale -- he will have to pay a hefty capital gains tax. Under current tax laws, even if he only can sell the property for 500,000, he will owe the government 84,000 20 percent of the gain of 420,000.

Of course, there are two ways in which your son could avoid or postpone the tax.

First, he could move into the house and live there for two years. If he is not married, however, he will only be able to shelter 250,000 of gain. And this, of course, assumes that Congress will not change the favorable homeowner tax laws in the years to come.

Second, if your son treated the property as an investment, he can do a "like-kind" exchange under section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code. This is a subject for another column.

However, for many reasons, I cannot recommend that you give the house to your son unless you thoroughly discuss all of the various issues with your attorney and your tax advisor. You should also understand that there is a tax concept called the "stepped up" basis. This means that upon your death, your son will inherit the property at the value of the property on the date of your death.

Lets explore this a little more. Obviously, while no one wants to discuss death, it is unfortunately a fact of life. If, for example, on the date of your death and assuming that your husband died before you the house is worth 500,000, your sons basis in the property for tax purposes will be 500,000. If he should immediately sell the property for that price, he will not have to pay any capital gains tax at all. Note: under the new tax law, this stepped up basis at death will be eliminated after year 2009, and clearly there will be different matters to consider after that year.

Thus, another factor which you and your financial advisor must consider is the difference between any estate tax which your estate may have to pay as compared to the capital gain savings based on this stepped up basis.

And finally, and most importantly, you should also understand that your gift to your son will trigger a gift-tax consequence. You and your husband are entitled to gift your son, each and every year, 10,000 per person or 20,000 in your case. If you give the house to your son, you will have to file a gift-tax return.

However, everyone has a lifetime gift and estate tax-exemption, and this year that amount is 675,000. The gift of 500,000 to your son will reduce your and your husbands exemption by this amount less the 20,000 allowable gift, and may impact on your ability to make additional gifts in the years to come.

As you can see, although this sounds simple, in reality it is a very complex issue -- which requires a lot of thought and examination before you sign over the deed to your son. What you consider to be a generous parental gesture may, in fact, become a financial nightmare for you, your husband and your son.

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Use Construction Loans to Adapt Your Business to the New Normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has modified the way businesses serve their clients. Drive-thru windows and delivery services are emerging as feasible solutions to comply with quarantine measures while avoiding a complete shutdown of the business activities.

But adapting to the new normal may require some renovations to comply with safety protocols. Thats when construction loans can help in securing the funding needed to perform them. Think about it A business that offers safety measures will attract more customers in, and thus, increase sales.

Which Renovations Do Businesses Require Under the New Normal?

It is still difficult to say for how long we will have to deal with the virus as a potentially life-threatening disease. The timeline provided by experts in terms of how long it will take to get a long-term solution varies from six months to as long as two or three years, so renovations as the following are very much needed.

Social distancing

According to the Centers for Disease Control, social distancing protocols can reduce the number of virus->

Given the impact of this prevention method, businesses should focus most of their efforts on redesigning their premises to enforce social distancing. This may include >

Meanwhile, stores and retail establishments may have to rethink their layouts so that customers follow a specific predefined path when shopping to prevent them from getting too close to each other.

Temperature checks and sanitization areas

Businesses can set up sanitization booths and checkpoints at the entrance of their establishment to prompt customers to soak their shoes in an antibacterial solution while getting their temperature checked and their hands cleaned with hand sanitizer.

It is essential to follow the guidelines provided by health authorities to set up these checkpoints adequately. If you need financing for these expanses, construction loans can help you in building and equipping these booths.

Production-area modifications

Whether it is a restaurant or an industrial facility, the premises in which workers produce the goods offered by the business have to be redesigned, at least temporarily, with social distancing in mind.

For example, specific machinery may have to be moved, and tables, shared spaces, and assembly lines may have to be >

Office space

Encouraging employees to get back to the office is perhaps one of the biggest challenges, as many still fear that the office space is an unsafe place to be.

In this regard, if working from home is not an alternative for the employer, the office space must be redesigned to comply with social distancing protocols by reducing the number of work stations. Offices will also have to set up sanitization booths and temperature checkpoints at the entrance, and all the equipment shared by the staff will have to be cleaned more regularly. It would be a good idea to buy additional printers and copiers.

Construction loans can finance these investments as part of a larger project to get offices ready to receive workers once again.

How Much Do These Renovations Cost?

The cost of renovating a business or a workspace varies depending on the extent of the project. Small changes made to a store may cost a few thousand dollars while renovating a factory could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Regardless of how much the cost of the project is, construction loans can provide the funds required to complete them.

Certain construction loans, such as those secured by the Small Business Administration SBA in the United States, can finance up to 5 million, with a repayment period of between 20 to 25 years. Others provided by financial services firms, such as Camino Financial, can provide up to 400,000, with the repayment period up to 18 months.

A helping handnbsp;

Now more than ever, creating a safe environment and ensuring peoples safeness when they visit, shop, or work at the companys premises has to be a priority for business owners. This has to be part of their strategy to survive the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus.nbsp;

But entrepreneurs are not alone. Construction loans can provide the funds needed to perform renovations at an affordable interest rate and with long-enough repayment periods to ensure these investments can result in higher sales and foot traffic.

If you are looking to acquire one of these loans, do your homework Investigate at least three institutions and compare their offerings before accepting one, taking into consideration the loan amount, interest rate, fees, time to pay, terms, and requirements.

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Marketing Tips for Agents During a Pandemic

Were many months into the coronavirus pandemic, and while its perhaps not something we expected to be still dealing with, thats the reality we have. As a real estate agent during this time, you want your marketing to be both sensitive and >

The real estate market is thriving despite the pandemic, and you want to be part of that.

How do you achieve each of these distinctive objectives?

Pivot How You Do BusinessAnd Advertise It

There are a lot of creative ways to work right now as an agent. Many of the new offerings real estate agents provide their clients are actually in line with buyer preferences, pandemic or not. For example, the use of virtual tours is becoming increasingly popular. Some buyers are doing everything digitally from start-to-finish.

Theres the social distancing contributing to these trends, but also the desire for convenience.

Think about how you can offer safe practices that allow for social distancing, and then use those to build your marketing campaigns.

With that being said, what you should never do is create marketing that makes it sound like coronavirus is a unique opportunity.nbsp; You could damage your brand by making the situation about making money when so many have gotten sick and died. Instead, focus on your understanding of the gravity of the situation and how youre willing to make the appropriate changes. It shows your potential clients that youre in the situation with them.

Be specific in how you plan to meet the changing needs of your clients, and how youll keep yourself and the community safe.

Develop Educational Videos

Many buyers are jumping into the market for the first time right now because the interest rates are low. You want to position yourself as someone who can help guide them through the process, so to facilitate that, consider developing educational videos.

Tech-savvy buyers and sellers will be able to learn from your expertise, and theyre more likely to consider you when hiring an agent.

Along with educational videos, now is just a good time, in general, to focus on your creative content because people are spending more time at home and potentially looking for information along the way.

When you create content, you position yourself as a trusted resource, and that can feel incredibly valuable to people right now.


Whether its prospects, former clients, or just people you know in the community, take time to check-in and see how everyone is holding up. Even if someone isnt ready right now to buy or sell a home, knowing that you thought about them at a difficult time will stick with them.

Consider Whether or Not Your Website and Social Media Profiles Need a Revamp

Again, people are >

Your clients are more likely than ever before to connect with you on these platforms, so make your website and profiles great.

Think about your search engine optimization and whether or not youre using the right local keywords.

What do your website and social media convey about you?

Its challenging to market in an emotionally heightened time when people are sensitive and even afraid. Your marketing has to be aware of these factors, and your focus as a real estate agent right now should be on positioning yourself as an expert and a source of information and assurance. People do want to buy homes right now. The market has shown that. They, at the same time, want safety and a real estate agent whos cognizant of the environment were in. nbsp;

Now is a great time to perhaps rethink your digital marketing too, to be in line with what modern clients not just want but expect. nbsp;

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Why Are People Obsessed with Mid-Century Modern Design?

Mid-century modern design is one of the most popular design >

So, what exactly is mid-century modern design, and how can you make it work in your home?

Mid-Century Modern Basics

Mid-century modern design is based on architects work who moved from Germany to the U.S. after World War Two. These architects led the way in mid-century modern design, which emphasizes functionality and simplicity.

The period, while there is some disagreement on specifics, generally is considered to have lasted from the 1940s to the 1960s, but much of what we think of as mid-century modern now is from the 60s.

Mid-century modern design grew from the changes that were occurring post-war, and it reflected a sense of optimism.

These design concepts are focused on limited accessories, functionality and form, and sleek lines. In mid-century modern design, there is the use of different types of materials, including both traditional and non-traditional. For example, wood is often mixed with Lucite or metal.

Theres a lot of contrast in mid-century design, not just in materials but in other ways. For example, you might seek the very sleek lines that characterize the design >

The general idea behind mid-century design, above all else, is that pieces of furniture are like art in and of themselves, but they should take up as little space as possible. Theres nothing unnecessary in mid-century design.

There are many similarities between mid-century and Scandinavian design. Scandinavian design became more popular around the same time as mid-century in the 1950s. The two inevitably influenced one another as a result.

If youve ever been to Palm Springs or youve seen photos, its perhaps the capital of mid-century modern. The desert oasis became a resort town for celebrities from L.A. in the 1950s, and the homes and >


Mid-century impacted architecture, as well. There were architects like Philip Johnson and Richard Neutra who ran with the >

Stone fireplaces, planked ceilings, and natural light were key in mid-century architecture and design.

Color Palettes

While mid-century is primarily about simplicity, there is one area where things get especially interesting which are the color palettes. nbsp;For example, the use of bold colors like orange or emerald green is common. In current, updated versions of mid-century >

How Can You Create a Mid-Century Space?

One of the first things you can do to capture the simple >

While you might want to stick with the clean lines and minimalism of mid-century consistently, that doesnt mean you cant also intermix other >

If you have large windows, keep them uncovered if possible, to ensure unobstructed natural light.

If you do need to use curtains, choose lightweight fabrics like linen that allow for the natural light to flow into a space.

Sculptural chandeliers can be a focal point in a mid-century modern room, and avoid oversized furniture. The idea is to appreciate negative space rather than trying to fill every square inch with furniture, which is common in more traditional design concepts. Along with making sure your furniture isnt too big, look for low profiles. nbsp;

Integrate elements of nature, whether thats natural wood furniture or potted plants.

As far as the actual furniture and other items you purchase, one option is to splurge for authentic pieces. If youre not ready to do that, you can still find replicas at a more budget-friendly price. Even much of what Ikea offers could be easily integrated into a mid-century design concept. There are also retailers with pricing thats considered middle-of-the-road such as Crate and Bar>
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What to Know Before You Buy in a Hurricane Zone

Weve already had a pretty tumultuous hurricane season in 2020, and its certainly not over yet. Hurricanes can be scary for vacationers who have to flee when they approach, but even more so for property owners in these areas.

While living in a hurricane zone can, at times, be stressful, these areas are also often some of the most beautiful in the country. Hurricane zones are where many people purchase second homes, investment properties and retirement residences.

If youre thinking about buying in a hurricane zone, what should you know?

Hurricane Zones Are Expensive

When youre in an area thats likely to be affected by hurricanes, its expensive year-round and not just when youre dealing with damage. You have to pay for storm protection, flood insurance, and other types of insurance coverage.

When youre getting insurance in a hurricane-prone area, you can shop around and compare prices. Before you ever buy a property, you should probably start doing that. If your home is within anbsp; certain number of miles from the beach, you may pay more or less in insurance than a home very nearby. The closer to the beach a home is, the more expensive insurance will be.

While the oceanfront property might be ideal for you, if you go a bit more inland you can save a lot of money.

Your insurance prices are primarily based on the flood hazard locations outlined by the National Flood Insurance Programs Flood Insurance Rate Map.

A big mistake people make is thinking their homeowners insurance covers flooding. You will need separate flood insurance. You might also need a separate wind damage policy, depending on what your homeowners policy excludes.

The most important thing to do if you live in a home by the coast is to ensure that youre fully and appropriately covered in terms of insurance. You should talk to your insurance company before you buy a property and make sure you have everything in order.

How Much Will Insurance Cost?

The average cost of a homeowners insurance policy is around 2,000, and flood insurance can cost another 640. Rates can be well above this in hurricane-prone areas.

How Old Is the House?

If you have a house youre looking at buying, ask when it was built. Theres a reason for this. Building codes were significantly updated in the early 2000s in Florida, for example. Newer homes are built to higher standards as a result.

The Florida Building Code is also routinely updated every three years, as is often the case in other states.

When youre looking at property, you can have a licensed inspector work with you because theyll know what the home needs to reduce the damage that might occur if there is a hurricane.

Along with the general age of the home, ask about the age of the roof.

Look for specific safety upgrades that might be present in a property. Metal straps or clips in the attic can help a home stay stronger against storms because they connect the roof to the walls. Look for storm shutters and panels, and if they arent present, ask your insurance company if theyll provide you a discount for adding them.

Annual Maintenance Costs

Hurricane season in Florida and other states that get storms means that youre going to be spending more not just on insurance but also potentially maintenance. For example, youll want to make sure that your trees and trimmed, and your gutters are regularly cleaned.

You might also want to tack the price of a generator onto your home buying and maintenance costs, and youll need gasoline or propane to fuel a generator.

Living somewhere like Florida or anywhere on the coast can be an amazing life>
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The HOA Rule Game

The issue of rules in homeowner associations is one that can trigger a wide range of responses. While most HOAs require little rule enforcement, there are some that seem rule driven or inhabited by I-eat-rules-for-lunch residents. This combination is a formula for trouble. That said, there are some recommended approaches to effective rules compliance that every HOA should consider. Jim Comin of CDC Management in Seattle has come up with some examples of Good vs. Bad when it comes to rules compliance:

Good: Please contact me to discuss this matter and find a way to reconcile this.

Bad: Please contact me immediately to avoid a 100 fine.

Good: I realize that you are a new homeowner and that you may not be aware of the rules. For your convenience, I have enclosed a copy.

Bad: I recognize that you are a new homeowner, but you received a copy of the rules when you closed the sale of your unit so you should have known that this is against the rules.

And here are some indicators that your HOA rules are too strict:


Its easier to list all of the things that arent against the rules, rather than to list those things that are.


Your rules do allow for garage sales but only on the "Community Garage Sale Day" which is the 5th Saturday in every Leap Year.


Everyone at Acme Towing knows your first name.


The fine schedule is as follows: First Offense = 10 fine, Second Offense = 25 fine, Third Offense = 30 days in jail.


The HOAs speed limit is exactly the same as your limit on number of dogs per household.


A unit sale fails because the potential buyer has a goldfish.


Page 243 of your rules states that well, you get the picture.


You have 43 rules >


Instead of a "due process," the HOA has a "dont process."


Okay, you get the gist. The rules in a homeowner associations should be few and absolutely necessary. Tread respectfully when engaged in enforcement to gain cooperation and respect. A brutal approach only begets a brutal response.

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Different Terms and Different Results

Your monthly payment is calculated using three different factors- the interest rate, the loan amount and the term of the loan. While were all familiar with the idea that the interest rate is responsible for the monthly payment, so too is the term of the loan. The most common loan term among residential mortgages is the standard 30 year fixed rate. The interest rate and loan amount are amortized over 30 years, or more precisely 360 months. As each monthly payment is made a portion is applied to the interest that is due and the other toward the outstanding loan balance. What many may not realize however is the term of the loan is also just as important when arriving at a monthly payment.

While the 30 year term is the most popular, the next most popular loan term is 15 years, or 180 months. Why choose a different loan term? The 30 year will provide the lowest monthly payment, and, in this example, the 15 year is the next most common choice. The 15 year loan term will result a higher monthly payment, but the amount of interest paid to the lender is dramatically reduced.nbsp;

For example, taking a 300,000 loan amount amortized over 30 years at 3.00 yields a monthly payment of 1,264. A 15 year term using the same loan amount and rate gives a monthly payment of 2,071. Over the life of each loan, there is about 82,000 less interest paid with the 15 year term. The shorter the term, the higher the payment but lower overall interest. Same loan amount, same rate but different results by switching loan terms.

Most consumers might generally agree that the sooner a loan is paid of the better. However, due to the somewhat market increase in monthly payment with a 15 year compared to a 30 year term, sometimes borrowers who want the 15 year term cant qualify because the monthly payments are too high. Yet there are tweeners that should be considered in such a situation.

Most lenders who advertise their rates will quote a 30 and 15 year term. What many may not know is there are other terms from which to select. These two are the 20 and 25 year terms. If a 15 year loan payment is too high but the amount of interest paid with a 30 year term is too much, a 20 or 25 year term might be the better option. When getting interest rate quotes from your lender and youre exploring your options, know that beyond the traditional 15 and 30 year terms are other options that might be an optimal choice. You should also compare the 20 and 25. Further, many loan programs can be amortized over 10 years, although the monthly payments will be higher still.nbsp;

When you call your loan officer and ask the ubiquitous question, What are your rates today? youll most likely hear about the 30 year loan term. Further query could result in the 15 year term but if you ask for the other available terms, youll get those too upon request. Your lender doesnt really care which loan term you decide to take as long as you can still fall into the affordability category.nbsp;

Because a 30 year loan is indeed amortized over 360 months, most of the initial payments will go toward interest, with very little left over to pay down the loan balance. With a 15 year loan, less goes toward interest early on compared to the 30. However, the 20 and 25 should not be overlooked. They can provide the balance between the desire to pay less interest over time along with getting a favorable and affordable monthly payment.

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Six Strategic Client Fresh-Starts

In these uncertain times, real estate professionals carry the compounded emotional load of their own concerns and fears plus those of prospects, clients, past clients, and colleagues. That means a lot of hoping things turn out which with, all the medical and social distractions swirling around, may lead to disappointment.

Human nature adds hope when uncertainties weigh heavy. Disappointment settles in when hope doesnt prove enough to transform wishes into reality,

Clients, communities, and those you work with will remember how you made them feel during the pandemic.

Hope has gotten many through the first six months of the pandemic. Now as the Covid-19 horizon stretches into 2021, hope may need to be bolstered by thoughtful fine-tuning and concrete improvements. Where you begin and what suits the individuals or families you work with may differ, but here are six suggestions which can be adapted to a variety of real estate goals and dreams.

Six Strategic Client Fresh-Starts

1. Renew Resolutions

When January 2020 began, most of us were full of positive resolutions for the months ahead. Now we need to let go of that past to start fresh with simple, super-achievable resolutions for the remainder of 2020.nbsp;

This shift to positive thinking, highly-actionable goal setting, and effective strategizing will help many visualize future certainty and check off a few went well 2020 achievements in spite of everything. Encourage a loose-grip on goal specifics since flexibility and resilience remain the 2020 operative words.

2. Unlearn to Rethink

Mastering life during the pandemic revolves around quickly unlearning and rethinking things taken for granted before Covid-19. Theres no longer a back to normal, but there is full steam ahead For instance, Covid opened many eyes to how impractical and exhausting living beyond financial means is. Pandemic realities have many of us embracing benefits tied to shifting from compulsive consumption and debt accumulation to flourishing through saving and investingexciting steps toward a future of choice.

Sharing professional knowledge and expertiseonline and offwill encourage those intent on reviving real estate dreams, on discovering how to keep more of what they earn, and on saving to achieve homeownership goals. Attract business by making it easy for buyers and sellers to fully understand how money and investment can work to their advantage. As well as grasping how this knowledge is a launching pad, theyll thank you for revealing how it feeds life>

3. WHY Your Way Out of Mental Roadblocks

By asking and answering a series of 5 WHY questions, mental barriers for prospects, buyers, or sellersor yourselfmay be removed. The 5 piercing queries dig deep, layer after layer, into a belief or standard that is holding thinking back, undermining decision making, or stalling enthusiasm.nbsp;

Select a specific intrusive belief or standard and ask WHYwhy is it clung to? Then dig into that answer by asking WHY number 2. This chain continues until the pared-down fourth iteration is dug into with the fifth WHY. By then, if not before, the mental roadblock should be dissected and cleared for action. Peeling back layers of habit, misunderstanding, bias, and dated values creates the resilience and flexibility necessary to thrive in times of change. Take the time to create 5-WHY examples specifically >

4. Be Unreasonable About Design

Society often describes a person who adapts to an inefficient or uncomfortable environment as a reasonable person. Instead of making the best of a bad situation by adapting to a less-than-productive environment, like a poor workspace, encourage prospects and clients to be unreasonable. Make it clear that they have two choices:

1 The unreasonable environmenttheir homecan be adapted to suit their needs and enhance their productivitythat is, redecorated or renovated. A professional interior designers eye on a residential space will usually reveal stylish, functional,nbsp; cost-effective adjustments to interiors to make living, working, and playing easier and more rewarding. Or,

2 Find a new reasonable spacemove to a new property. Our homes are not meant as containers for humans who must contend with inconvenient spaces. Real estate professionals know that homeowners often live with inconveniences, which are often >

Enlighten prospective buyers and sellers to the value of becoming unreasonable. Demonstrateperhaps case-study->

5. The Reality: Working From Home Is Work

Ask a commercial real estate professional what goes into designing productive work environments and youll learn about the required blending of architectural and interior-design expertise.

Plunking client business files and a notebook down on the dining-room table falls very short of creating a nurturing work environment. Even if theres a client cloud interface and a designated home office, the home itself is probably full of non-office distractions like children, pets, a spouse, pools, screens, and refrigerators.

Staying focused and engaged at home requires training in self-discipline and concentration combined with the cooperation of everyone else who lives and works there. Sharing approaches for adapting and clarifying office routines and work systems in uncertain times [ limk to rt ] and a new environment is a job in itselfone that many employees receive little help with or credit for from their employer. How can you support or encourage those braving this new home frontier and juggling it with educating children and caring for family? When is a move to gain productive workspace the right reason to move?

6. Happiness Course, Of Course

The internet is awash with courses and education programs, many of them free, so sharing a learning experience with prospects or past clients may strengthen >

Well-being topics include misconceptions about happiness, overcoming biases, and putting strategies into practice. Theres no heavy required reading, just conversation->

According to Yale News, enrollment for the first year of the >

Sign up for free here.nbsp;

Prospecting during a pandemic requires a fresh approach. The more in touch with clients and peers you are, the more they will appreciate your attempts to reach out and help them improve their situation.

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Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

With autumn here it is time to get your house in shape for the cooler months ahead. Fall is a great time to take care of the little things that can make a big difference for you and your home. Getting ready for colder weather means checking, repairing, and prepping your home to withstand the upcoming rain, wind, and snow.

Here are some helpful tips that every homeowner should do before hibernating this winter.

1. Stow Your Mower

With the cooler months ahead, its time to start thinking about how you are going to stow your lawn mower. Before saying goodbye to your lawn mower for the winter season, there are a few things you should consider. First, it will be a good idea to sharpen the blade of your lawn mower to ensure that it is in tip-top shape for the spring. Youll also want to empty your gas tank before putting your lawn mower to rest. Taking simple steps like these before putting your lawn mower into storage will help increase the longevity of your equipment.

2. Perform an energy audit

Performing an energy audit is really important because it will tell you where heat is escaping, so you can correct the problem and save money on utilities. If you are doing an energy audit yourself, first make a list of all air leaks in your home by seeing where there are drafts. You can learn how to detect air leaks by following these simple steps. Seal the air leaks that you have identified by applying caulk or weatherstripping. Potential energy savings by detecting and fixing drafts can range from 5 to 30 and will make your home much more comfortable.

3. Replace Your Storm Windows

Before it gets too cold, replace your screen windows and doors with energy-efficient storm windows. Consider a proper storage space for your screen windows so they do not get damaged over the winter months. Youll want to give them a good cleaning, along with your storm windows, so that they are ready for the upcoming colder months

4. Check your Furnace

Home heating systems that arent properly maintained may be less than 50 percent efficient. A dirty filter will increase your heating costs and reduce the life of your equipment. For these reasons, it is important to check your filter once a month and replace or clean if necessary. Have a professional take a look and perform any adjustments to your furnace during this time if needed.

5. Install Gutter Guards

Homeowners often overlook the importance of gutters, but they protect your home by diverting rain water safely away from your home. Gutter cleaning is a temporary solution to a permanent problem, but it is important to keep your gutters clear and clean in order to prevent home issues like foundation and structural issues.

If neglected long enough, these types of concerns can be serious and costly. One way to combat clogged gutters and eliminate gutter cleaning is to have gutter guards professionally installed to your home. Installing a micromesh gutter protection system, will help save you the time and hassle of cleaning your gutters when the leaves begin to fall.

6. Maintain your Homes Exterior

Trim back trees and branches that are hanging too close to your home. Fall and winter are known for unexpected weather conditions, so it is important to prevent any type of debris from falling on your home and producing serious damage. Seal driveways, brick patios, and wood decks. For long term care of your home exterior, it is important to apply a layer of sealant to prevent weed growth, repel stains, and increase the longevity of these areas.

7. Chimney and Fireplace

Youll want to call in a professional to inspect and clean your chimney. Annual cleaning of your chimney is important to prevent dangerous chimney fires. Test your fireplace flue to ensure that it is tightly sealed when closed.

8. Test smoke/carbon dioxide detectors

This is a simple task for homeowners, but it is often forgotten about. Detectors should have a "test" button. If the alarm sounds -- youre good to go If not, try replacing the batteries and test again. If the alarm still doesnt fire, you may need a new detector. Testing these systems is a quick, but very important quarterly test to perform.

Taking these steps will not only lower your utility costs, but they will protect your largest investment, your home, from the unexpected weather conditions ahead.

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From The Abnormal To The Paranormal: Dealing With An Unusual Home

Thinking of buying a home with a story to tell? Or maybe your home is so unique youre worried it might be a hard sell. The average buyer may not embrace the idea of shacking up with a ghost or owning a home that is so out there it becomes a sideshow, but, you know what they sayit only takes one.

Something bad happened there

A house where someone died might make you quickly nix it from your list. And heres a sobering thought for the squeamish: "Many states do not require realtors to disclose whether or not a violent crime occurred on the property, which is whyif this type of thing matters to youyou should always do your own research," said Jezebel.

If the home was the scene of a grisly or famous murder, and the price is right, buyers may be able to overlook what happened there. In some cases, the homes past might actually make it more saleable, although looky-loos can make it hard to live in.

The LaBianca house, scene of some of the Manson murders, Nicole Brown Simpsons L.A. condo andnbsp;Jeffrey Dahmers childhoom home in Ohio where he killed his first victim and scattered the remains around the house as a teenager were all purchased post notoriety. Even by the standards of those who are fascinated by the murder genre, this one may be over the line.

The location is terrible

Were not talking about a house in a semi-iffy neighborhood. How about one that features a glorious viewof the freeway. You might think that would be a turnoff. But not to everyone.

The Houston home of University of Houston architecture professor Ronnie Self, "perched on the edge of 288with 20 lanes just belowsits as close to the freeway as Self could get it," said Swamplot.

It features a view of downtown in the background and one more obvious advantage: you can always tell what the traffic is like.

Location, part 2

What if the view out the window isnt so much about cars, but, rather, headstones.

Actually, people who can get past the whole "dead people out my window" thing might actually enjoy living close to a cemetery "because of the unobstructed views, the ease of parking and the, well, peace and quiet," said the Wall Street Journal.

If you can deal with the location and its the view thats getting to you, you can always disguise it using some of these creative solutions from Apartment Therapy and Houzz.


Are you seeing dead people?

"Nestled within sunny San Diegos Old Town is one of the worlds most enduring haunted house legends. Built in 1857 by Thomas Whaley, the brick house occupies the spot where Yankee Jim Robinson was publicly hanged years earlier," said Oddee. "Add to that the suicide of Violet Whaley in 1885 and other Whaley family deaths over the last century, and youve got a house so crowded with ghosts that it regularly appears on Most Haunted lists."

A real live haunted house might be interesting to tour, but do you want to live in it? And if you decide to sell your haunted house, do you have to disclose your ghost?

"Haunted properties fall within the category of stigmatized properties, or real estate that is not defective in any physical manner, but due to psychological or emotional factors may have a reduced value," said REALTOR Magazine. "About half of U.S. states have laws that deal with stigmatized properties, but most dont require sellers to disclose if they have a ghost."

In some cases, ghosts and ghouls may make the house more valuable, they added. "Some customers look for homes with an interesting history, as they feel it adds to a propertys character. Not everyone is bothered by the possibility of spirits hanging around."

The house is just plain weird

Unique is a >

"We noticed right away that there were hooks in the walls in this grand foyer and all kinds of bicycle parts everywhere. Also, the first floor was pretty much gutted. Hanging from the ceiling in the dining room was a swing made out of a plank of wood and white nylon rope. The only lighting in the room appeared to be icicle->

Turns out the house was not a meth lab, as the agent feared, but was rather in the process of being converted to run on vegetable oil. Really.

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Understanding the Annual Percentage Rate

The Annual Percentage Rate, or APR, is a tool consumers can use to compare rates from one lender to the next. While the note rate on a mortgage, the rate used to calculate the monthly payment, is certainly important, just as important is the APR. Unfortunately, its a misunderstood number by many and even individual loan officers have trouble explaining what the APR is and what it isnt.nbsp;

The APR is prominently displayed with a lenders Cost Estimate, so much so that consumers who first review the loan disclosures think the APR is the note rate. Unless the loan officer clearly explains what the APR is at the outset, confusion can set in and its also very possible the consumer thinks its a bait and switch strategy. Someone can get a rate quote for, say, 3.00 and after disclosures are provided to the consumers, the APR might read 3.15. Its the note rate that determines the monthly payment, along with the loan term and loan amount. The APR is designed to let consumers easily compare loan offerings from one lender to the next.

Yet the APR sometimes confuses more than explains. Simply put, the APR is the cost of money borrowed expressed as an annual rate. Used properly, consumers can properly compare. A lender with higher loan costs will show a larger disparity between the note rate and APR. For instance, three lenders show a note rate of 3.00. Lender A also shows an APR of 3.10. Lender B 3.15 and Lender C 3.19. In this example, Lender A appears to have the better offering because the difference between the note rate and APR is >

The APR includes different loan fees, but the APR can also change based upon which day of the month the loan closes. How so? The APR also includes prepaid interest charges. Prepaid interest is the per diem amount from the day the loan closes to the first of the following month. If the loan closes on the 20th of the month, that would then mean 10 days of prepaid interest. Lenders will collect this amount along with other loan fees at the settlement table.nbsp;

If the loan closes on the 30th of the month, there would be just one day of prepaid interest. This is in essence the very first mortgage payment. Interest on mortgage loans is calculated in arrears. Its the opposite of rent. A rental payment is made to pay for the month youre about to live in whereas a mortgage payment calculates accumulated interest from the previous month. The mortgage payment on the 1st of the month is for accumulated interest from the previous month. Closing on the last day of the month the APR will be lower with just one day of interest included compared to 10.nbsp;

When comparing lenders, the closing costs are just as important as the rate. Someone can offer a 30 year fixed rate at 3.00 and 1,000 in fees. Another lender might also offer a 30 year fixed rate at 3.00 but with 5,000 in fees. In this way, its pretty clear which lender is quoting the more competitive loan terms. When explained in this manner, the differences in note rate and APR are made clear.nbsp;

Dont let a loan officer tell you that the APR isnt important. And as far as the monthly payment is concerned, that would be correct. What is important is to get a snapshot of lender fees along with the note rate. The APR does just that.

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4 Fundamentals of Creating Successful Customer Relationships

If businesses exist, as the father of Business Management Peter Drucker proposed, "to create and keep a customer," then success is defined by the >

Give Undivided Attention

Attentive time is among the most limited of all resources. As we split time and attention in more ways than ever before, the amount available per person gets smaller and smaller. Reduce the likelihood that the other person feels youre not really "present" by putting away your devices and giving them your undivided attention. Not only does this demonstrate your professionalism, it shows you value their time as much as they value yours. Dont worry; those messages, texts, or tweets will all be there later.

Prioritize Face-Time

Think for a moment about the variety of ways we communicate with others today: in-person, phone calls, text messages, email, social networking platforms, video-conferencing. The list goes on. While its true that some of these methods give us more communicative context than others, nothing is a true replacement for meeting face-to-face. Spending time together in-person allows both parties to make the most intense emotional connection with each other. Fewer distractions. Fewer misunderstandings. Better communication.

Reciprocate in Kind

With the shift from one-to-one communication to the one-to-many stream of social networking, its no surprise that society as a whole has shifted to a "me-centric" one-way thinking. Lost is the common courtesy of reciprocating the considerate gestures of others. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have lessened expectations of responding to broadcasted messages. But the type of reciprocity that characterizes strong >

Consider the Need for Extra Consideration

As we connect in more distant ways - online or through mobile devices - we may find ourselves becoming less considerate of others without even realizing it. The scarcity of our available time also affects our ability to be considerate, in the sense that consideration means considering the needs, desires, or challenges of others. Considering their situation might take a little extra time, but it can save you a lot of time if youre focused on what you think they want or need rather than their actual want or need. Consideration is one gift that we dont necessarily know how to describe, but we recognize when we receive it. And most importantly, we know when we dont.

The success of any business comes from the ability to create and maintain meaningful >

CRM pioneer Mike Muhney, the co-creator of ACT software credited as the catalyst for the "customer >
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HOA Project Roll-Out

Winter and spring is the time of year that the Board should be arranging and reviewing proposals for fair weather renovation projects. Painting, fencing, pool replastering and roofing are but a few of the major items that fit the profile. There are several practical reasons for starting the process early:

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

Better pricing.

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

Scheduling preference.

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

Arranging for money.

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

Coordination with residents.

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

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

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

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

Make progress payments.

Do not make advance payments on the project work. This is often the sign of a contractor on a "shoe string" that may be using your money to pay other jobs labor or supply bills.

You could be left high and dry with uncompleted work. Instead, use progress payments that pay for work actually completed. Usually, make no more than one per month and be sure to inspect the work to verify completion.

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

Get Lien Waivers.

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

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

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

There is much planning involved in rolling out a successful renovation project. Forget the leap of faith on this one. The safety net just may not be there when you land. Get a jump on your renovation projects and get a quality job done on schedule and at the best price.

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A Short and Succinct Guide to Boosting Your Curb Appeal

Make no mistake; curb appeal can be a deal-breaker. The first glance at the exterior sets the foundations for someones feelings towards a property. People will often write a place off based on its immediate appearance, without even setting foot inside and rightly so, as more often than not, the exterior says a lot about what to expect from the interior.nbsp;nbsp;

Dont judge a book by its cover just isnt applicable in the property market which is why curb appeal is essential whatever the size, shape, or >

Whether youre putting your property on the market, sprucing up a home to show off to the neighbors, or looking to give a new lease of life to a long-neglected exterior, you will find the best ways to create a good first impression in our short but succinct guide on boosting curb appeal.

The First Impressionnbsp;

The importance of that first glance at a property cannot be overstated. If well kept, the exterior will entice potential buyers, make visiting friends and family feel comfortable, and even add value to your home. Before the external features are scrutinized, the general feel is absorbed in those first seconds: the design, the layout, the boundaries, the color, and the organization. These are the factors that shape that immediate inspection.nbsp;

The exterior needs to have a picture-perfect postcard look that comes from having a well-maintained and presentable layout. The first thing is setting clear boundaries to the property, so people know exactly what is in the picture. Ensure walls, fences, and surroundings clearly exhibit your propertys exterior space and show-off its organization and security.

Look at the appearance of these features. Make sure the paint is up to scratch, the gate is sturdy, and the fences and walls are well kept and easily observed. They may seem separate from your property, but walls or wooden fences cannot be neglected. A lick of paint on metalwork or a new coat of varnish on a fence can make all the difference and show a home is secure and protected from the elements.

The Natural Necessities: Graceful Greenery

In a world that becomes more artificial and digitally dictated with each day, everybody seeks more of a connection with nature. For that reason, greenery has a huge influence on curb appeal and how appealing people find a propertys exterior.

If a property has a front garden, it goes without saying this needs to be presentable. It doesnt take much to mow a lawn or trim a hedge. The greenery in front gardens whatever their size can be hugely influential on curb appeal and property value. But it needs to be inviting and attractive rather than disheveled and disorderly.nbsp;

A balance in external greenery can be one of the hardest things to get right. A verdant exterior adds vigor to the property but too many overflowing plants can present a burden rather than a benefit for potential buyers and can feel unwelcoming for visitors not to mention anybody who lives in the building.

Equally, a home without any greenery can lack vitality. If a property doesnt have a garden or lacks the space for hedges and a lawn, its not the end of the world. Some well-chosen pots and planters bring ample life to an exterior and can be used to organize spaces for those properties that dont have walls, gates, or fences.nbsp;

The Pristine Pathway: The Journey to Your Front Doornbsp;

Once the design, layout, boundaries, and greenery of a property have been absorbed, the journey from the curb to the front door is the focus. For obvious reasons, the pathway or driveway should be clear and void of obstacles, so entering a property is an enjoyable experience.

Garbage cans positioned on the driveway or outside the front of your house arent going to do you any favors. So if they cant be tucked away neatly around the side of your home or somewhere out of sight, it might be that a garbage storage shed is necessary.nbsp;

Ensure the driveway or pathway are deweeded, flat, and look neat. Sweep away leaves and replace cracked paving stones to improve both the look of your path and its safety. The journey to the door is extra important for those people with buggies, wheelchairs, or children, so the path or driveway should be as accessible as possible.nbsp;

If either your pathway or driveway is looking worse for wear due to dirt that cant be removed, a pressure wash can rejuvenate your driveway and breath a new lease of life back into your exterior. It takes a day and has an enormous impact.nbsp;

The driveway is a practical part of your property, but its often overlooked as a great feature in itself. As a feature of the exterior that directs your eyes towards the front door, the driveway must be kept attractive. Curved borders or patterned paving slab designs add a brilliant touch, as do pots or planters that flank the driveway.nbsp;

The Elegant Entryway: A Fresh and Updated Front Door

A front door is the most important part of a homes exterior. After the general details of the property have been absorbed, it is here the focus ends up. The front door speaks of the homes character and expresses more about the property than the rest of the exterior.nbsp;

The front door is also where people will wait, and you will enter and exit every day. So for everybodys benefit, it should be presentable, warm, and welcoming.nbsp;

Giving the door a fresh coat of paint is one of the quickest and easiest ways to improve curb appeal. The gleam of a fresh coat removes any weather-beaten signs. It also gives the exterior a facelift and says a home is clean and comfortable. Black paint looks formal and professional, while blues, greens, reds, and yellows bring a bright and cheerful feel to your entryway. Greys and browns should be avoided for their meaning and mood associations, while whites will easily dirty and are hard to maintain.

Once youre satisfied with the door color and the state of the paintwork, the doors hardware and accessories should be spruced up next. Nobody likes a squeaky door or one that doesnt function properly, so make sure your doors hardware is doing what it is designed to do. Stick with brass, chrome, or another type of metal, get some sturdy door handles, new house numbers, and invest in a door knocker that means business.

As the focal point of the exterior and a feature that buyers will always subconsciously end up over-analyzing, the front door should be customized as best as possible. A canopy above the door adds elegance and stops rainwater falling on the front doorstep while a festive wreath adds charm and comfort.

The Limelight: Important Illumination

Last but not least is the lighting. Garden lighting is essential for those who have one, and the bigger the garden, the more essential it is. A dark, gloomy path up through shrubs and plants is not an inviting sight in the darkness. A property should be approachable day and night.nbsp;

The door should be the most well-illuminated of all with lanterns either above or beside it, so people feel safe and welcomed. A sensor light boosts security and saves on energy and bills. It is a great option in todays market; it makes a home feel functional and safe.

Wall lanterns or fisherman->

Property buyers might inspect a house at any point during their search, so curb appeal after dark must be considered too.nbsp;

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Make the Most of Your Backyard or Patio This Winter

Cooler weather ahead doesnt mean you have to give up your precious outdoor space. In this year like no other, extra space is treasured and you need to enjoy your backyard or balcony as long as possible. Here are some tips to make the most of your space this fall and winter.

Warm it up

In this climate, people dont tend to use their outdoor spaces in winter, says Amedeo Barbini of Barbini Design Build in Toronto. However infrared patio heaters free-standing floor versions or the ones that attach to a wall can extend the season. People also like to sit in front of a fireplace, so buy an outdoor version, grab some blankets and a bottle of wine and enjoy. If you live in a condo, check regulations first.

A good plan

When deciding what to do with your backyard, come up with a plan. Make sure the backyard looks as good from the inside as it does outside so youll be motivated to go out, says Red Barrinuevo, property stylist on HGTV Canadas Hot Market.nbsp;

Use it

Instead of putting it in storage, leave your patio furniture outside. Add some cushions in colours such as yellow and orange to warm the space. For backyards, a fire pit is a must. Theyre not very expensive. Some home improvement stores offer fire pits for 500 or less, Barrinuevo says.

Light it up

Barrinuevo says sometimes it seems like it is dark day and night in the winter, so additional lighting is a must. Garden lighting at ground level will illuminate your landscape. String lights with clear white LED bulbs will add a magical ambiance. Try stringing the lights on trees or put them in planters.A touch of green Everything tends to be dull looking in winter. Greenery will add texture. Try three plants of different heights to add interest to a corner, Barrinuevo says. Boxwoods are a good choice. You can even use artificial plants.

Dress it up

Wrap your tree trunks in yarn stripes to add colour or paint part of the tree trunk with horizontal stripes. Barrinuevo says he once painted part of a tree trunk with red, blue and yellow stripes and it became a piece of art. Pick up the colours from the yarn and mimic them on the pillows to tie the space together.

Food for thought

Keep the barbecue in working order. Grill up some goodies, then enjoy them outside. Or have a winter picnic or enjoy a hot chocolate in front of the fireplace or pit.


Instead of using a cabana for winter storage, insulate and renovate it into a games room or studio, Barbini says.

Get into hot water

Adding a hot tub is another addition that will make going to the backyard in winter worthwhile.

Back to nature

Invite birds to hang out in your backyard by adding plants that will provide shelter and food. Evergreens, such as junipers, provide shelter and berries. At the end of the growing season, dont cut down tall perennials, such as ornamental grasses, says landscaper

Jacqueline White of Raindrop Gardening in East York, Ont. Ornamental grasses are interesting additions to a snowy backdrop and offer seeds for food and grasses for nesting, she says.

Choose plants for colour and interest. Canadian serviceberry has colourful berries. Red osier dogwoods red branches are a pretty pop of colour against the snow. Witch hazel, with its curly branches, adds interest.

Although it may be harder to find plants at the end of the summer, try to stick with native plants, such as black-eyed susans and coneflowers.

While trading plants with neighbours may seem like a good idea, White says, If they have lots of one kind of plant, you may not want to introduce any to your backyard because they may be invasive. Some invasive species include lily of the valley and Boston ivy.

Once your potted summer plants are finished, remove the plants keep the soil to act as an anchor and add evergreen boughs, red osier and pine cones for a pretty arrangement.

Another nice addition is a heated birdbath. Create a safe backyard by keeping cats indoors, White says. Add a bird feeder and a squir>

Inclusive space

Those with mobility challenges will still want to get outside and enjoy a breath of winter air. But, says real estate broker Jeffrey Kerr of Re/Max Unique in Toronto, Wintertime can be very problematic for people who use mobility devices. Ideally you want a backyard space that is easy to keep clear of snow and ice, and minimizes wet wheels coming into your home.

Kerr, who specializes in helping clients buy and sell barrier-free, accessible houses and condominiums and is the author of Barrier Free Real Estate Achieving Freedom at Home, recommends a low-threshold door leading to a covered patio that is sheltered from the wind as a welcome outdoor space in winter. Try to minimize the slope of your pathways and ensure the material is laid flat with a rough finish for better traction, he says.

Im seeing more and more homes installing heated driveways, walkways and patios to ensure there is no build-up of ice and snow.nbsp;

Activities for the whole family Make arrangements, paint flowerpots, paint a tree trunk or wrap something in yarn. Take up bird watching. Bundle up and have dinner outside. Make snow angels, put shrimp on the barbie and marshmallows on the fire pit.

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Who Are Those Behind-the-Scenes People at Your Mortgage Company?

When you first begin thinking about mortgages, more than likely its your loan officer who you will have the most contact with. Your loan officer will prequalify you and quote interest rates and monthly payments along with an estimate of closing costs and the approval process in general. When you submit your loan application, the loan officer takes sort of a back seat as the file is prepared for processing. Not that the loan officer walks away and you never hear back, not in the least. Its just that there are so many other people working in the background that you may never know much less speak to.

Your loan processor however is one person who you will speak to after loan submission. Its the loan processors job to put the loan file together, order out various third party services and collect further documentation from you when needed. The loan officer will give you a list of what needs to be submitted along with your application.nbsp;

This list contains items such as your most recent paycheck stubs covering a 30 day period. The last two years of W2 forms and tax returns if self-employed. Bank statements will also be required to provide evidence there are enough funds to close on the transaction. The processor will order third party services and documents such as title insurance policies and property appraisals. Once the file is fully documented, it is handed over to the underwriter.

Your underwriter is the individual who will make sure the loan package that was submitted meets the guidelines for the selected program. The underwriter will review the initial decision provided by an automated underwriting system. This decision will itemize the things needed for a complete approval. If the list says there needs to be paystubs in the file covering a 30 day period and there is only one paycheck stub covering a 15 day period, the underwriter will send the file back to the processor to gather the additional items. You will not speak with the underwriter at all, but work with your processor to provide what is needed.

After the loan has been approved, the file moves to the closing department. The closing department will prepare the loan file for a digital delivery of the package to the settlement agent. The settlement agent is someone you will not only speak with but meet at your loan closing. Once the loan documents are signed, theyre returned to the lender for one more review.

At this stage, the lender has pulled funds from its credit line in order to fund the newly created mortgage. The individual who reviews the signed papers makes sure the settlement agent followed the lenders instructions properly. Once the determination the settlement agent did follow the instructions properly, the lender will provide the settlement agent a funding number which in essence is a digital key that unlocks the funds needed to create the new mortgage.

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Make the Most of Your Backyard or Patio This Winter

Cooler weather ahead doesnt mean you have to give up your precious outdoor space. In this year like no other, extra space is treasured and you need to enjoy your backyard or balcony as long as possible. Here are some tips to make the most of your space this fall and winter.

Warm it up

In this climate, people dont tend to use their outdoor spaces in winter, says Amedeo Barbini of Barbini Design Build in Toronto. However infrared patio heaters free-standing floor versions or the ones that attach to a wall can extend the season. People also like to sit in front of a fireplace, so buy an outdoor version, grab some blankets and a bottle of wine and enjoy. If you live in a condo, check regulations first.

A good plan

When deciding what to do with your backyard, come up with a plan. Make sure the backyard looks as good from the inside as it does outside so youll be motivated to go out, says Red Barrinuevo, property stylist on HGTV Canadas Hot Market.nbsp;

Use it

Instead of putting it in storage, leave your patio furniture outside. Add some cushions in colours such as yellow and orange to warm the space. For backyards, a fire pit is a must. Theyre not very expensive. Some home improvement stores offer fire pits for 500 or less, Barrinuevo says.

Light it up

Barrinuevo says sometimes it seems like it is dark day and night in the winter, so additional lighting is a must. Garden lighting at ground level will illuminate your landscape. String lights with clear white LED bulbs will add a magical ambiance. Try stringing the lights on trees or put them in planters.A touch of green Everything tends to be dull looking in winter. Greenery will add texture. Try three plants of different heights to add interest to a corner, Barrinuevo says. Boxwoods are a good choice. You can even use artificial plants.

Dress it up

Wrap your tree trunks in yarn stripes to add colour or paint part of the tree trunk with horizontal stripes. Barrinuevo says he once painted part of a tree trunk with red, blue and yellow stripes and it became a piece of art. Pick up the colours from the yarn and mimic them on the pillows to tie the space together.

Food for thought

Keep the barbecue in working order. Grill up some goodies, then enjoy them outside. Or have a winter picnic or enjoy a hot chocolate in front of the fireplace or pit.


Instead of using a cabana for winter storage, insulate and renovate it into a games room or studio, Barbini says.

Get into hot water

Adding a hot tub is another addition that will make going to the backyard in winter worthwhile.

Back to nature

Invite birds to hang out in your backyard by adding plants that will provide shelter and food. Evergreens, such as junipers, provide shelter and berries. At the end of the growing season, dont cut down tall perennials, such as ornamental grasses, says landscaper

Jacqueline White of Raindrop Gardening in East York, Ont. Ornamental grasses are interesting additions to a snowy backdrop and offer seeds for food and grasses for nesting, she says.

Choose plants for colour and interest. Canadian serviceberry has colourful berries. Red osier dogwoods red branches are a pretty pop of colour against the snow. Witch hazel, with its curly branches, adds interest.

Although it may be harder to find plants at the end of the summer, try to stick with native plants, such as black-eyed susans and coneflowers.

While trading plants with neighbours may seem like a good idea, White says, If they have lots of one kind of plant, you may not want to introduce any to your backyard because they may be invasive. Some invasive species include lily of the valley and Boston ivy.

Once your potted summer plants are finished, remove the plants keep the soil to act as an anchor and add evergreen boughs, red osier and pine cones for a pretty arrangement.

Another nice addition is a heated birdbath. Create a safe backyard by keeping cats indoors, White says. Add a bird feeder and a squir>

Inclusive space

Those with mobility challenges will still want to get outside and enjoy a breath of winter air. But, says real estate broker Jeffrey Kerr of Re/Max Unique in Toronto, Wintertime can be very problematic for people who use mobility devices. Ideally you want a backyard space that is easy to keep clear of snow and ice, and minimizes wet wheels coming into your home.

Kerr, who specializes in helping clients buy and sell barrier-free, accessible houses and condominiums and is the author of Barrier Free Real Estate Achieving Freedom at Home, recommends a low-threshold door leading to a covered patio that is sheltered from the wind as a welcome outdoor space in winter. Try to minimize the slope of your pathways and ensure the material is laid flat with a rough finish for better traction, he says.

Im seeing more and more homes installing heated driveways, walkways and patios to ensure there is no build-up of ice and snow.nbsp;

Activities for the whole family Make arrangements, paint flowerpots, paint a tree trunk or wrap something in yarn. Take up bird watching. Bundle up and have dinner outside. Make snow angels, put shrimp on the barbie and marshmallows on the fire pit.

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September Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "Mortgage rates set several record lows over the last few months and have remained low into September. While there is room for rates to decrease even more, higher home prices and low inventory could potentially stifle the high demand that weve been seeing."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 2.90 percent with an average 0.8 points for the week ending September 24, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 2.91 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.64 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.40 percent with an average 0.7 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.46 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.16 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.90 percent this week with an average 0.2 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.91 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.38 percent.

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Important Reasons To Keep Your Gutters Clean

A recent report from Prime Time Window Cleaning gives a clear picture of the damage that can be caused by failing to clean out your gutters each year.

They report that millions of dollar in damage are caused to Chicago area homes. The lesson to be learned can be applied across the nation. When Fall comes calling, homeowners must clean out their gutters.

One Prime Time Windows customer writes, "Naturally you might be thinking that this is one chore you would rather avoid this year especially with the busy holiday season rapidly approaching. Chances are you have ignored this time-consuming but vital home improvement chore in the past but if this winter is even half as destructive as the last, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in damage to your investment."

Whats wrong with clogged gutters?

The risks to skipping out on this task are easy enough to see. As leaves and debris build up in your guttering system there become blockages. Instead of watering flowing easily into downspouts, it backs up onto eaves, the roof, and other parts of your house eventually leading to rot.

This in turn can lead to interior home damage to walls and ceilings. Overly full gutters can also become extremely heavy. This can bend the gutters and their brackets, causing unsightly damage to the exterior of your home.

Fox news reports, "Even flooded basements and cracking foundations are other symptoms of clogged gutters. If water isnt drained away from the house and it pools around the foundation it will expand when frozen and cause cracks which lead to floods in your basement or crawl space."

Thats a lot of damage from some fallen leaves The first order of business is not procrastinating. If you wait until its miserably cold outside you may be tempted to skip this yearly task. If you wait even longer you may miss you opportunity as snow and ice fill your gutter systems.

Thankfully, all it takes is a few simple tools and some elbow grease

As you set out to complete this job, be sure to gather the correct tools. Youll need comfortable gloves, trash cans or bags, a ladder, garden trowel, and a hose.

Begin by scooping out the large debris and depositing it into your bag or can. Next, scrape any remaining deposits with your trowel. Finally, clean out the gutter with a steady stream of water from your home. If you find an area in a downspout, for example, that is clogged and cant be reached simply use a plumbing snake to push the blockage on through.

A little upkeep goes a long ways when it comes to gutters. Now you have a clean system that not only look good, but are also going to save you time and money in the future

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How Much Does Location Really Matter When Buying A Home?

The old saying, "Location, location, location" is more like a mantra when it comes to real estate. Buy in the wrong one and you could be setting yourself up for financial ruin. Or at least an unhappy experience. Right?

In some cases, yes. But also, maybe not so much. Lets get into it.

The argument for buying in the best location you can afford

You can change your home, adding, updating, and renovating down to the last square foot. What you cant change is where its located. Add in an inherent desire to build equity when you buy a home, and its not surprising that real estate experts often recommend buying not only in the best location you can afford, but, if given a choice, buying the worst house in the best neighborhood instead of the other way around.

"A home is an investment - and the best investments have the most room for improvement," said "Ideally, youll be adding to the home during your ownership, building equity in hopes of a payoff when you eventually sell. Brendon DeSimone, author of "Next Generation Real Estate," told them. "You can add value on your own. If youre choosing between an awesome house in a crappy location or an awful house in a great location, I would choose the latter."

Multiple recent studies bolstered the idea of buying in the best location you can, but identified new factors for determining location-worthiness. Namely, you need to buy a home with a Starbucks nearby. Or a Target nearby. Ideally, both.

"Among homeowners who sold in 2015, those near a Target saw an average 27 percent increase in home price since they purchased their home, which equates to an average price gain of 65,569," said the Washington Post.

As for Starbucks, "Between 1997 and 2014, homes within walking distance, or one-quarter mile, of a Starbucks appreciated 96 percent," said Forbes. "Compared to the national average for the same time period, 65 percent, it seems having a barista close by is a smart real estate move."

Buying the house, not the neighborhood

Yes, buying in a neighborhood that seems to offer some cushion when it comes to values makes sense. But what if you fall in love with a house thats not in your preferred neighborhood? What if its not in anyones preferred neighborhood?

The opportunity to buy a more affordable home can tempt people to take a chance on an iffy location. But how iffy is too iffy? The potential for losing money on a home that may not ever appreciate because of the neighborhood is only the beginning. Buying into an area that has higher crime can be dangerous to more than your finances.

Not sure what youre getting yourself into? Here are a few ways to investigate the neighborhood:

Look at sales data - Beyond the safety issues, you want to know what youre in for in terms of your investment. Just because a home in a questionable area is priced low doesnt mean its a good value.
Check crime records - Youll obviously want to pay attention to murder and violent crime rates, but also property crimes including break-ins, home robberies, and car thefts.
Check the sexual predator registry - Thats a given for any move.
Talk to neighbors and area business owners - Sometimes, the people that live and work there can provide the most telling information.
Consider the type of businesses in the neighborhood. Remind yourself about the Starbucks and Target value conversation. Those arent around? Whats in their place?

The quality of the businesses in the area can be one of the main determining factors when considering a neighborhood. A story from attn: asked the question, "Do Certain Businesses Attract Crime?" Their findings: "The prospect of a new liquor store or marijuana dispensary can spark safety concerns in some neighborhoods. But while the idea that particular businesses are crime magnets holds up in some cases, its not always true, and peoples concerns can be based on real evidence or flawed perception."

However, they note that businesses like liquor stores, nightclubs, and pawn shops can be linked to higher crime trends. A careful examination of police reports can either put your mind at ease - or send you in another direction.

Perhaps toward a neighborhood with a strip club. Yes, the establishment once thought to be a neighborhood killer has actually been found to have little or no effect on home values. "A new study found that proximity to strip clubs doesnt put downward pressure on home prices, said Inman. In addition, "The research undercuts legal arguments that municipalities have used to justify placing zoning restrictions on strip clubs."

The new study was conducted in Seattle between 2010 and 2014, analyzing more than 300,000 home sales. "The basis for the study was as follows: The >

The upshot: "The study found no empirical evidence that strip clubs drive down home prices, as property values in Seattle neighborhoods near the opening or closing of an establishment did not change in value per the studys findings."

Buying in a transitional neighborhood

Transitional is code for "might be on its way up" which also translates to "might be a great investment." Many buyers seek out these changing neighborhoods when their ideal neighborhood is out of reach and/or to get more for their money and be on the "ground floor" as the area appreciates.

So how do you know if your neighborhood is transitioning? If theyre building a Whole Foods, a Trader Joes, or a caf on the corner, that a good sign. Forbes offered a few more tips:

Its Accessible, with "proximity to public transportation."
"Hot hoods border it - A neighborhood thats adjacent to a much-desired one is much more likely to gentrify than one thats surrounded by less prime areas."
Days on market are dropping - Your real estate agent will be able to pull data and show you trends.
"It Has an Art Scene. A large population of artists tends to mean galleries and restaurants will soon follow suit - which, in turn, attracts more residents and businesses."
"It Has Historic Architecture - Historically significant > Renovations are being made - "One of the most obvious signs of a turnaround neighborhood is homes that are in the process of renovation. Drive around and see if you spot construction trucks and dumpstersthen you know theres activity in the air."

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Updated: Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Should You Use a HELOC for a Renovation?

A lot of people, thanks to low interest rates, are thinking about home renovations right now. You have different options to pay for these projects if youre not going to pay in cash. One option is a Home Equity Line of Credit or HELOC.

A HELOC is a way to borrow against your homes equity, and it provides flexibility. With that being said, because of that flexibility, you need to be careful to stay on budget when you use funds.

The following are some things to know about a HELOC, particularly if youre thinking about using it for a renovation.

How Does a HELOC Work?

With a HELOC, youre spending in a way thats similar to a credit card. You borrow up to a certain limit as defined by your lender. Then, you pay back whatever you borrow with interest. You can withdraw and make payments on whatever basis works best for you.

A lender gives you a draw period, which is the time you can withdraw money. When your draw period is ended, you may be able to renew the credit line.

If you dont or cant renew, you pay the outstanding balance either all at one time, or you do so over a repayment period.

HELOC lengths can run as long as 30 years.

The benefits of a HELOC and flexible repayment include the fact that you only borrow what you need, and many have no fees. The interest on a HELOC might be deductible if you use your funds for home improvements.

What Are the Risks?

While HELOCs can work well for funding a renovation, there are possible risks to be aware of before you borrow.

Since your home is your collateral, if you dont make the payments, you could lose your home. Typically a lender will try to protect against this by limiting borrowing amounts, but its still a big consideration.

A lender can also freeze a credit line or reduce it. Youll only see this usually if you havent made your payments or your homes equity changes, but its something to think about.

The interest rates on a HELOC are variable, and theyre tied to the prime rate. If there are changes in the market, you may end up paying more so that uncertainty may not be ideal.

How Does a HELOC Compare to a Home Equity Loan?

A home equity loan is another financial product often used to fund renovations and home projects.

A home equity loan also involves borrowing against the equity in your home, which is used as collateral. A home equity loan differs from a HELOC because its a lump-sum loan rather than a revolving line of credit. You pay the loan back over its life plus interest, and you make those payments based on a set schedule. Most home equity loans have a fixed interest rate, which alleviates the worry of fluctuating market conditions impacting interest rates.

When is a HELOC the Right Choice?

If youre deciding between a HELOC and a home equity loan, the loan might be better if youre certain of the cost of your project. If youre comfortable with a fixed monthly payment, a home equity loan could be the better option.

On the other hand, a HELOC might be right if you want a lot of flexibility in how much you borrow. Maybe youre not sure about the scope of your project or what your budget will be.

The biggest differentiators between the two will come down to first, flexibility, and second, certainty. If you want flexibility, consider a HELOC. If you want certainty, think about a home equity loan.

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When Is the Best Day of the Month to Close?

Maybe youve heard this and maybe you havent, but when someone asks when the best time is to close on a contract its typically at or near the end of the month. Why? Because its how mortgage interest is accrued. When someone makes a mortgage payment on the first of the month, the payment doesnt apply to the month about to be lived in but instead its for the interest that accrued for the previous month. But at the settlement table when a purchase mortgage is taken out there are no previous occupied days, yet interest is still collected.

Its called prepaid interest and its an amount that includes interest on the first day of the new note up until the first of the following month. If a closing takes place on the 20th of the month, the lender will collect interest up to the first of the following month. In this example that would be 10 days. If on the last day of the month, there will only be one days worth of interest collected.nbsp;

Then, there would be no mortgage payment on the first of the following month because its already been paid. So, with a purchase transaction, it makes sense to close as close to the end of the month as possible. Some like to give a little breathing room and close on the next to last day of the month just in case something happens to cause a delay.nbsp;

The closing date on a purchase is clearly laid out on the first page of the contract. Closing must take place on or before that date. Any extension must be agreed to by both parties. Theres really no wiggle room about that. If the buyers cant close on the specified date, they run into the possibility of losing their earnest money deposit.

On the other hand, theres a bit of a difference as it >

When refinancing, there will be interest in arrears for the number of days for the old mortgage plus prepaid interest collected up to the first of the following month. Again, because the interest has been prepaid, there will be no mortgage payment on the first day of the next month because its already been paid.

During a purchase transaction the closing date is established upon execution of the contract. When refinancing, its completely up to the homeowners not just whether or not it makes sense to refinance but setting a closing date.

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5 Surprising Ways to Invest in Your House

Expanded Driveway

One area that many people never think about changing is their driveway. Over the years, a lot of people have learned that they can expand their driveway to hold more cars. This is especially useful if you have multiple vehicles that members of your family drive.

In the average neighborhood, there is simply not enough space for more than a few cars. It is a small investment to expand the driveway of your home, and the potential future buyers will love this feature.

New Cabinets

The kitchen is one of the most important areas of the home when it comes to selling. Cabinets are a central point of any kitchen. If you want to improve or replace your cabinets, it is vital to work with a company that has experience in the field. Look for cabinet refinishing companies near you through online sources.

The cabinets in your kitchen should flow with the rest of your home. With such a large investment of both time and money, make sure that you have conducted research on the best cabinets for your current home.

Tile in Bathroom

Another vital room in your home is the master bathroom. You will spend a lot of your time in this room, so it is important to make it as inviting as possible.

Upgrading the floors in your bathroom is a great choice. Tile is the most common piece of material to use. Not only does it last longer, but it looks much better than other options as well.

Heated tile is another feature that many people enjoy. In the cold mornings of the winter, heated tile can be a nice luxury. As soon as you walk on the tile, your feet will be heated and you will enjoy the bathroom experience much more. This is new technology that a lot of people are upgrading to.

Smart HVAC System

Everyone knows that a new HVAC system is not cheap. However, there are new HVAC systems that focus on reducing your total energy consumption. Although these units are still expensive, you will save some money every month on lower electricity bills.

With so many options on the market today, it is vital to spend some time finding the right model for your home. If you live in a cold area, make sure the heating unit is large enough to heat your entire home. In many areas, the upstairs part of the home is difficult to heat in the winter without a large unit.

New Paint

Perhaps the easiest way to improve the value of your home is to simply paint the walls. New paint on the walls can really improve the look and feel of your home. Although you can do the painting yourself, it makes sense to hire someone who has experience painting.

Painting an entire house is a long process. Although it will not be cheap, it will improve the value of your home greatly. This is one of the best things to do right before you list a home on the market.

Investing in your home is one of the best financial decisions that you can make. As the housing market continues to improve in value, investing in your home will help you financially. You can even use the equity in your home to pay for the new upgrades that you want.

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