National Real Estate News Articles

Updated: Saturday, May 27, 2017
Five Have-To-Have-It Summer Home Decor Trends

When summer rolls around, its not usual to walk into your favorite home goods store and be bombarded by beachy items. Its shells, and sand, and coral galore. But, this year, summer deacute;cor trends have veered in a few fun, new directions. If you havent yet started feeling like you HAVE TO HAVE PALM PRINT EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW, you will soon. Its just one of the hot trends that will turn your home into a summer showplace.

Palm prints

The aforementioned palm prints are everywhere right now, from clothes to walls to window deacute;cor - part of the overall tropical print trend that Vogue says were going to see more "in wallpaper and designer fabrics." These drapes make a serious impact, especially against the black-and-white-striped rug. If you like the look but not in such a bold placement, try scattering a few palm print throw pillows or hit Hamp;M for what is sure to be one of the hottest tropical collections of the summer.

Or, you can go full "jungalow," embracing the trend that The Telegraph describes as, "exotic prints patterned with large-fronded ferns, and whimsical wallpapers bursting with big cats, crocodiles and mischievous monkeys, this season its all about Palm Springs-meets-Ibiza eclectism -- perfect for those looking for some exotic escapism."


Also hot for spring: flamingos. But were not talking about the hot lawn ornaments. No, the wading bird is showing up this season in some other surprising places, like on the walls. "While flamingo-themednbsp;partiesnbsp;are technically what has Pinterest tickled pink, we also expect to see the unabashedly fun motif have legs in the coastal design world, like in this fabulous wallpaper," said Coastal Living.


Rattan is, not surprisingly, part of the tropical trend, but the lsquo;70s throwback has a fresh new look. "Remember rattan? You saw it everywhere in the 70s: rattan chairs, rattan baskets, rattan patio furniture, and other wicker items," said Country Living. "Most often, rattan was confined to porches and the outdoors itnbsp;doesnbsp;make great weather-resistant furniture, but today, the trend is popping up inside, too. Also known as manila, manau, or malacca, the natural material and beautiful woven technique adds texture and richness to rooms and can suit many >


Florals are nothing new, especially at this time of the year. But the way theyre being presented is. Two hot trends to follow include:
  • lsquo;60s throwback prints. "Along with midcentury furniture and >
  • Bold floral prints, taking cues from runway looks from Prada and Chloe, like on this 3,352 Marcel Wanders Nest sofa by Moooi.

Paint colors

Summer is the ideal time to introduce a new color or two to your home and freshen up your space. Two of the most popular options every year at this time are pastel hues and citrus infusions, and that holds true for this year as well. A few of HGTVs recommendations include exotic orange, seaworthy coral, refreshing lime, and waters edge blue, a favorite choice because, "Nothing is as inviting as a cool body of water on a summer day," they said. "Get the same feeling in your living areas by immersing the room in this cool shade. For a dramatic effect, use the color on upholstered pieces, drapery panels and accessories."

Coastal Living

But its not only about vibrant citrus colors and soft, beachy vibes this summer. One of the hottest colors out there right now is navy blue, and when it comes to summer deacute;cor, this dramatic hue provides a worthy pop. "Though black has long been a decorating darling, designers are now enlisting Navy blue for their go-to dramatic hue. "When paired with pops of white, red, or yellow it has an especially beachy vibe," said Coastal Living.

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The End Of The All-White Kitchen? The Case For Natural Wood

A funny thing happened while everyone was obsessing over white kitchens: Natural wood snuck back in, creating some of the chicest spaces around.

For many, natural wood evokes a country feel. Or perhaps something ultra-traditional. But todays natural wood kitchens are modern showplaces that mimic the newest trends weve been seeing in wood floors.

"We predicted that natural materials and warmer finishes would rule the kitchen in 2017. One way were seeing this natural-material trend play out, thanks in part to the popularity of minimalism, is with unpainted, unfinished wooden cabinets," said Apartment Therapy. "The casual look combines the sleek >

Sound hard to pull off and still get the sleek look you desire? You might be surprised...

You know when youre watching House Hunters Renovations and the couple looking for a home to buy and redo always has diametrically opposed >

Is that... pine? With the right design, any type of natural wood cabinetry can look fresh and new.


With the stone walls, this kitchen could go full Tuscan, or full country French. But, the use of materials, with the natural wood, quartz, and stainless steel, and the clean lines everywhere else, keeps the kitchen looking fresh.


For a minimalist, modern look, why not run the wood right up the backsplash?


Like the integrated look but want a splash of natural materials? The color palette and materials here look amazing with the indoor-outdoor appeal of this space, and wrapping the island with a waterfall edge provides some contrast so the kitchen doesnt read "all wood."


The mismatched look has been hot for some time, and this kitchen shows you how to do it with natural wood. The texture on the bottom cabinets is the perfect way to show them off.

Natural wood in a mid-tone brown is also a great counterpoint to an all-white kitchen if youre not ready to take the plunge all over. Notice how the island has more traditional lines, juxtaposed against the modern white cabinetry.

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Arbitration Clause Removed From California Listing Agreement

A few weeks from now the California Association of REALTORSreg; CAR will >

Among those to be >Why would CAR remove the optional arbitration agreement? The official explanation is this: "The arbitration clause was removed from the listing agreements because some attorneys for sellers were using it to draw listing agents into contract disputes between buyers and sellers."

To understand this explanation fully, we need to realize an important difference between the optional arbitration agreements in the CAR listing agreements and the ones in the CAR purchase contracts. The difference is this: the arbitration agreements in the purchase contracts are between the principals -- buyers and sellers -- whereas the agreement in the listing agreement is between the agent and the principal -- the listing office and the seller.

If both principals buyer and seller have signed the optional arbitration agreement in the purchase contract, then, if a dispute arises between them and should mediation fail, they will be required to submit to arbitration. Going to court is not an option. Not being a party to the contract, neither broker would be required to join that arbitration proceeding; though either could if they so choose.

One can see, then, why an attorney might want to use the listing arbitration agreement "to draw listing agents into contract disputes between buyers and sellers."

There is, however, another reason that many listing brokers will be pleased to see the optional arbitration agreement removed from the listing agreement.

When arbitration agreements were first introduced into the various CAR contracts, many -- probably most -- California brokers welcomed that as one of the greatest cultural improvements since the catchers mitt, or sliced bread. They welcomed the notion of having disputes settled outside of the judicial process with all of its time-consuming frustrations and expenses.

But, over the years, brokers came to discover how badly they can fare in arbitration which can often be, well, arbitrary. Arbitrators do not have to follow the law. They can choose an outcome that they may perceive to be fair, even if it is not the one the law would provide. Many brokers have reached the conclusion that they are more likely to obtain a just decision in a court of law rather than in an arbitration. Moreover, an arbitrators decision is not subject to appeal, except in extreme cases of bias.

In short, over the years, many brokers have come to the conclusion that, should they become involved in a dispute with a principal, they are far more likely to get a fair shake in court than at the hands of an arbitrator.

But, some might ask, why remove the arbitration clause from the listing agreement? After all, its optional. Yes, it is optional; but, remember, the overwhelming majority of listing agreements are negotiated between sellers and individual agents who are representatives of the broker. Few agents have the faintest idea where their broker stands on arbitration and shame on the broker for that. Fewer still, even if they did know the broker doesnt want to commit to arbitration, would be comfortable telling their client that the broker doesnt want to sign the arbitration clause. Better to take it out, and leave that conversation for another day. Or no day at all.

Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .
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Three Things Home Buyers Should Never Do

Talk to a home buyer who just lost out in yet another bidding war and youll hear genuine disappointment and frustration.

Listen to a buyer who found the perfect starter home, then asked probing questions only to discover undisclosed deal-breaker problems like UFFI, a significant foundation crack or both. Youll learn how anger and discouragement can go hand in hand.

Youll never hear me respond to these buyers with platitudes like "It wasnt meant to be." I encourage buyers to understand exactly why things didnt work out in their favor. Buyers determined to act in their own best interest must understand whats going on so they can make confident decisions.

Misunderstandings, problems, or shortcomings in the buying process many need correction to end negative results. This is not about blame, but learning how to proceed constructively:

  • Buyers who begin homeownership out of their financial depth are not on the path to success or happiness. Sticking to your budget is not losing out, but progressing sanely.
  • Research-savvy buyers, who ask questions and uncover deal-breaker property weaknesses will not end up as extremely-disappointed property owners faced with expensive problems to correct or law suits to fight.

Home buyers will be rewarded by remembering that there are three things never to forget when buying real estate:

1: Never quit: Real estate values continue to rise mdash; ra>

  • Most sellers care about who buys their home and will make new memories there. Personalize your offer with a video or unique offer. One enterprising chef offered to come and cook dinner for the owners once the offer was accepted. A couples short, punchy video showed what they had gone through to find that house and what they dreamed about doing there... all with magazine pictures cut out by their kids. You may not be creative, but be sincere with a letter or short video less than a minute or two that your real estate professional can use to introduce you and your offer to purchase.
  • The real estate market may change as you continue shopping. If prices rise, you may end up in the wrong price range. Explore other locations and types of housing. Buying a two- or three-unit income property may give you the financial leverage you need for the area you prefer.
  • Your >

2: Never >: Verbal assurances from sellers, home inspectors, or real estate professionals are worth the paper they are printed on In real estate, its whats on paper that counts[amp;mdash]what you can rove indisputably in a disagreement or in court.

  • Sellers may say theyll leave all the appliances, playground equipment, or anything else. If you really want something, include it in the offer with a description that precludes substitution with lesser models.
  • The real estate professional may assure you about many things the sellers will do or not do before closing. If something matters to you, make sure it is written into the offer, so there is no doubt what will be done, to what standards, when, and at whos cost. Repairing the roof, finishing the bathroom renovation, cutting deadwood out of tall treeshellip;all in writing in the offer.
  • If theres something of specific value to you on the property, make sure it will remain intact. For instance, a stand of trees was assumed by one buyer to be a permanent fixture. The sellers thought that, since theyd grown the trees, they could harvest the trees as firewood as part of packing to move. What did the offer say on the subject?
  • The builders sales staff want to expedite your new home sale, but they may not have the power to make binding promises, warranties, or guarantees. Be sure you get the home you expect, by having details that matter to you written into the offer. Read the entire offer[mdash;]yes all the small print. If you cant follow the clauses, ask your real estate professional. Translating legalese for clients is a prime function for these professionals. Check important issues and clauses with your real estate lawyer. If you only want the house if it has a three-car garage, not a two-car, its vital to get that commitment from the builder into the offer in the correct way to overcome any sidestepping made allowable by the small print.

3: Never think the work is over once the offer is accepted: Having your offer to purchase accepted is terrific Hurrah However, until closing, the house belongs to the seller and a lot can happen.

  • The seller is responsible for insuring the property and keeping it in good repair until closing.
  • Will the lender have all the mortgage funds ready for you on closing?
  • Both sides of the transaction need their lawyers tidying up loose ends. Youll be busy with movers and perhaps school transfers.

Things can go wrong. Im not trying to stress you out, but keep in touch with your real estate professional to be sure they are in touch with those finalizing the many details that must be resolved before closing. Thats not calling everyday in a panic. Clarify what details must be taken care of before closing. Then check off that list with your real estate professional, so nothing is left to the last minute. Once you get the keys and move in there may be carryover issues. Remain calm. Document the issues. Never quit until issues are completely resolved. Never >
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Real Estate Professional Dana Roberts Continues Giving Spirit with Another Generous Donation to the St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital on Behalf of Her Client with the Agent with Heart Program

Las Vegas, NV May 22th, 2017 PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Dana Roberts of Coldwell Banker Residential in Irvine, California recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to the St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital on behalf of her client, Mikki Tran.

"Dana is proving to be an incredible asset within her community as she makes her fifth donation with the Agent with Heart Program," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. The Agent with Heart Program is aimed to connect local realtors to nonprofits within the community with hopes of aiding in the growth of local communities nation-wide.

"We are grateful for the continued giving spirit Dana Roberts demonstrates with each donation, and look forward to seeing how her incredible generosity will continue to assist her community going forward. I would personally like to thank Dana for being a valued member of our Agent with Heart Program and for exemplifying the spirit in which our program was created," concludes Mr.Giaimo.

About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Dana Roberts who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Dana Roberts, please call 949-433-6694 or visit her website
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Ask the HOA Expert: Conflicts Of Interest On The Board

Question: Concerning the possible conflict of interest that develops with managers who are hired by HOA developers: In our HOA, the manager is the developer. We now have a number of construction >

Answer: This developer has an indisputable conflict of interest in serving as manager. The good news is the board has the authority to hire and fire management. Considering the likelihood of continued conflicts of interest, the sooner management is changed, the better. While its fairly common for developers to manage the HOA during the marketing phase of the development, once the authority is turned over to a board of homeowners, it is time to get an independent management company to do the work. Even a developer with the best of intentions cannot fairly serve two masters.

Question: If the governing documents state that maintenance of the common area is the responsibility of the homeowner association, can the board enact a policy that allows homeowners to plant flowers around their unit and mandate that homeowners maintain that area?

Answer: The board has no authority to enact a policy that contradicts the governing documents. Amending the governing documents requires an appropriate vote of the members "appropriate" means the percentage of members required in the governing documents.

Question: What are my options as an owner if the board and management company refuse to enforce one of the rules. Ive filed an official complaint and they refuse to act. Its a board member in violation.

Answer: "One of the rules" is a bit vague. Not all rules are created equal nor carry the same importance of enforcement. But assuming the rule in question is a flagrant violation like parking an illegal vehicle, harboring a killer pitbull or adding an unapproved addition to his house or condo, then you indeed have the right to question what is going on. A board member who thinks that rules only apply to others should not remain on the board for obvious reasons. Foxes guarding the henhouse seldom serve the chickens.

Your next move might include a petition signed by a significant number of owners 5-10 who agree with you. The petition should describe the specific violation and the need to correct or cease and desist. If that does not have the desired effect, a letter from an attorney might do the trick. Board members have personal liability for their HOA actions and some have been subject to sizeable fines for failure to heed that fact. Lastly, you have the right to run for the board to start making a difference. Its often easier to make changes from within than without.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to
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Buyers Remourse: The Legal Ties That Bind

Question: We are both in our upper sixties and retired. Last October, we put money down on a condominium apartment that is to be completed around September of this year. We put down ten percent of the price in cash and the money is earning a modest amount of interest until settlement. We have some savings, but the balance would be paid in cash from the proceeds of the sale of our present home.

Although we believe the price of the condominium has gone up slightly since we signed the contract, we now have serious thoughts about apartment living and about putting most of our resources into this transaction because of some new and serious health concerns.

Is there any way we can cancel our agreement and not lose the down payment?

Answer: The lawyer in me says that a contract is a legally binding document that must be upheld. The humanitarian in me suggests that, at the very least, you should try to get out of the contract, especially with the facts you have described.

First, review the terms of the contract very carefully to determine your rights and responsibilities. Are there any contingencies in that contract, such as your ability to obtain financing or the necessity to sell your house? If any of these contingencies legitimately cannot be met, it is possible you have the legal right to declare the contract null and void.

Next, determine whether the contract can be assigned. Although most developer contracts are not assignable, it may very well be that you have the right to sell your contract to someone else. And even if you do not have that right, it never hurts to ask the developer.

For example, if the contract is for 100,000 and the market value now is 110,000, if you have the right to assign that contract, you may find someone who would purchase your contract for the contract price -- or even a few thousand dollars above the contract price.

The person who buys your contract would be obligated to follow through on all of the terms of your contract. In effect, the buyer would be stepping into your shoes, assuming all the rights and responsibilities you presently have.

As I have indicated, although most developer contracts do not permit such assignment, it is worth looking at this aspect of your contract.

Next, do not hesitate to discuss this matter with both the real estate firm representing the seller and try to speak directly with the seller. Explain your situation. They may be sympathetic. If the market for your condominium is anticipated to be strong, the seller-developer may be able to make more money by reselling the property to someone else.

Finally, you may want to consider buying the property and then trying to sell it yourself. Unfortunately, this is risky because there never is any guarantee you will find a buyer quickly and the duplicate settlement costs, financing charges and other settlement->You may also have to pay a real estate commission for that second sale. Realize that until the developer has sold most, if not all of the condominium units, you are competing against the house. And as we know, the dealer always wins.

You indicated you have put down a deposit of ten percent and you do not want to lose the money. However, there are times when a buyer would prefer to walk away from a transaction, lose the money and avoid subsequent aggravation.

Peace of mind sometimes cannot be measured in terms of dollars and cents. Although I cannot recommend forfeiting your deposit, if this is an option you are willing to consider, make sure you discuss the situation with the seller before deciding. Sign a >Basically, if a buyer defaults on a real estate contract, the seller has three options available:

o Suing for specific performance, in effect, asking the court to require you go ahead with the transaction.

o Suing for damages if there are substantial monetary damages involved as a result of your failure to live up to your part of the contract. For example, if the seller has to resell the property at a lower price than your contract price, this would be the measure of damages.

o Electing to retain the deposit as the only remedy. Remember, if you decide to forfeit, make sure the seller agrees, in writing, that the only remedy will be the forfeiture of the deposit. This may also be spelled out in the form contract you signed.

Although I recognize that conditions often change and new circumstances often arise after a contract is entered into, it must be pointed out that, in most cases, the time to decide whether you want to purchase property is before you sign a contract.

After your signature is on the contract and you have given some money down as a deposit, you are legally bound to comply with all the terms and conditions of that document. Your fate basically depends on how the developer reacts to your situation.
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Landscaping to Improve Resale: 9 Projects That Fit Within Your Desired Price Point

As the weather starts to heat up each Spring, so too does the housing market. Spring is an optimal time to get your house ready to sell. The first thing that potential buyers will see of your home is the landscaping, so make a great first impression with beautiful outdoor spaces. An investment in landscaping can help sell your home faster and for more money. There are simple projects at every price point that can help you achieve great curb-appeal.


1. Keep the Lawn Well-Manicured

The easiest and most obvious landscape project when hoping to sell your home is to get your lawn looking its best. Spring is a great season to try to sell because your lawn is helped by Mother Nature. Wet, mild Spring weather will help the lawn stay green with less effort. To show off that green lawn, make sure to mow and edge it often.

2. Keep Your Yard Weed Free

It may not cost much, but it will require some time and effort to control the weeds around your property. Spray or pull weeds in flowerbeds, on property borders, and along the driveway. A weed-free yard will help potential buyers feel confident that the home is well cared for, which can create an overall positive impression of your home.

3. Add Flower Pots Near Your Front Door

A splash of color in the yard is a great way to highlight your home. If you are looking to sell quickly, it might be too late to do major yard improvements since new flowers and plants will not have adequate time to grow and mature, but a few beautiful pots of flowers strategically placed near your front door can have a similar effect without requiring a lot of time and maintenance.


4. Add Outdoor lighting

Outdoor lighting has become a trendy feature that buyers have embraced. Lighting can add interest to your yard, highlight areas of beautiful landscaping, and make your home stand out at all times of the day. Solar lights are particularly easy to use because they will recharge during the day and automatically come on in the evening to illuminate your home.

5. Install Curbing/Edging

If you have a little extra money to spend, consider adding curbing or edging around your yard. It helps the landscaping appear crisp and clean, and makes the lawn easier to mow and trim. Savvy buyers will appreciate the ease of maintenance and the defined spaces that curbing creates.

6. Hire a Lawn or Pest Control Company

It is important when selling a home to make sure that their arent any obvious problems. If your lawn is dead or patchy or you have pest problems like spiders, mice, etc, you will need to get those under control. Some of these projects are beyond the scope of what an individual without training can quickly achieve and should be left to professionals. Lawn care companies and exterminators can assess the issues you may have and recommend treatments. This may even be limited to a one time visit that can quickly improve the chances of selling your home.


7. Create Outdoor Living Areas

If you have money to invest in your home, high-end landscaping projects can increase your bottom-line and draw attention from buyers looking for upgrades. Extra living area outside of your home is a huge attention grabber that attracts buyers. This could range from simple patios staged with outdoor furniture, to screened in porches, to full outdoor kitchen areas. Depending on your location, these upgrades may or may not be worth the investment, so do your research before proceeding.

8. Replace or Update Fencing

Fences provide a safe place for children and pets and also give homeowners a feeling of privacy, so they are highly sought after. Fencing is also one of the first things people see when coming to your home. If your fence is an eyesore, it will be worth it to make the effort to have it replaced or fixed up. A new fence is quite an investment, so first determine if your fence can be spruced up with some nails and a new coat of paint.

9. Hire a Professional Landscaper

If you are serious about creating a stunning yard, a professional landscaper can add massive amounts of curb appeal to make your home one of a kind. A landscaper can help you add impressive things like paving stone walkways, decorative retaining walls, and water features. Outdoor improvements definitely increase house values, but it is always good to know what the market will support in your area before moving forward.

No matter how much money you have to invest in your homes landscaping, there are projects you can do this Spring to improve your homes curb appeal and get it noticed by buyers.
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How To Buy A House Without Going House Poor

How much house can you really afford? Is it the amount the bank tells you when preapproving your loan? Thats what most people go by, oftentimes spending up to their max approval amount to get as much house as possible - or to be able to afford something at all in tight markets.

The debt-to-income DTI ratio, along with your credit score, is what is used by lenders to determine your loan approval and amount. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureaus CFPB efforts to keep this number low notwithstanding, it has been rising to levels that are concerning to industry insiders who fear a widespread wave of homebuyers overextending themselves and becoming unable to support their mortgage payment and other obligations.

The CFPBs Qualified Mortgage QM Rule went into effect in 2014, intended to curb overleveraging by capping a borrowers debt-to-income DTI ratio at 43 percent. "This means that a borrowers total debt expense including total mortgage payment does not exceed 43 of their gross income before taxes are withheld," said the National Association of REALTORS NAR. The rub: Many loans Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration FHA, are exempt from the 43 percent DTI limit.

The impact higher DTIs are having on the market is clear; a new WalletHub report "analyzed data from 2,533 U.S. cities and ranked all of them on the basis of a lsquo;WalletHub Home Overleverage Score," said 24/7 Wall St, finding that, in many cities, overleveraging is becoming the norm. "The score was derived from a citys median mortgage debt, median house value, median income, mortgage debt-to-income ratio and mortgage debt-to-house value ratio." The top 10 are all well over the 43 percent threshold, with the top three - San Luis Obispo, California at 59.62; Williamsburg, Virginia at 58.76; and Brooksville, Florida at 57.44 pushing 60 percent.

Getting in over your head with a house, either from the get-go when first purchasing, or later on with a home equity line that increases your monthly payments, is a dangerous scenario for homeowners and for the market in general. So how do you keep yourself in check to make sure the house youre buying is one you can actually afford and that youre not in danger of becoming house poor?

Do your own calculations

The bank may be telling you that a 350,000 house is within your means, but are you OK with the monthly payment attached to that price? No one is more familiar with your spending habits than you. Are you really going to be able to cut 500 a month in discretionary spending eating out, movies, clothes shopping, morning lattes to comfortably make your new house payment?

Dont forget about the extra expenses

If youre buying your first home, you may not be estimating your new monthly expenses accurately. Did you include the HOA fee, if the community in which youre looking to buy has one? What about any special assessments, if there are any? And private mortgage insurance PMI if you have an FHA loan and are putting less than 20 percent down on your home. That couple hundred dollars could put you over the top.

Have you also considered your utilities? You may not be accustomed to paying gas and electricity and water and trash if youve been living in an apartment. There could also be an increase in the cost of electricity if you have more square footage to heat and cool.

Watch out for HELOCS

A home equity line of credit HELOC can seem harmless. I mean, its your money, right? And youre using it improve your home, which will only raise its value, right? But what seems like a great idea can also get you in trouble when you tap your home equity. You may be calculating the additional payment for now, but what happens later?

Thats the conundrum thousands are facing right now, as "HELOCs are resetting higher rates and overleveraging homeowners," said Inman. "An analysis bynbsp;Black Knight Financialnbsp;shows that 1.5 million home equity lines of credit will see interest-only draw periods end this year with outstanding unpaid principal balances that average 62,500 per HELOC. The data reveals that average borrowers whose lines of credit reset will face an additional cost of 250 per month, more than double the current average payment."

Keep an open mind

Finding a house you can afford may be challenging - especially for first-time buyers and those in competitive markets that push the affordability index. If you have tight parameters for your house hunt that are making it hard to find something within your budget, consider:

  • Extending your area search. You may not be aware of but your Realtor probably is adjacent cities or communities that offer a similar life>
  • Buying a condo or townhome instead of a single-family home. Some buyers have an automatic aversion to condos and townhomes because they dont like the idea of living attached. But your real estate agent may know of properties that are end units, that have private yards, and that are two-story units with no one above or below you. It may be that this is your best bet for homeownership you can really afford at this point, and you may find you like it far more than you expected - especially because so many of these communities come with great amenities like a pool and gym, plus front-yard landscaping that is taken care of, saving you time and money.
  • Looking at fixer-uppers. A little-known loan called an FHA 203k mortgage may be your "in" to a home you can afford and make your own. The bonus is that its also great for borrowers who may not have the credit and/or down payment to qualify for conventional loans. "The FHA requires a credit score of at least 580 if you want to make the minimum down payment; if you have 10 down, your score can be as low as 500," said "You can borrow more than the home is worth, as long as the repairs will increase its appraised value. The most you can borrow is 110 of what an appraiser estimates it will be worth after renovations, or the cost of the home plus the estimated renovation cost, whichever is less, minus your down payment. The minimum down payment on an FHA loan is 3.5."

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4 Common Homeowner Association Security Errors to Avoid

Homeowners associations HOAs are more popular than ever. In 2015, 66.7 million Americans were members of a homeowners association, equivalent to 20 percent of the population, a Community Associations Institute study found. Unfortunately, the growth of homeowners associations has made them a more attractive target for burglars. Why? Seventy percent of HOAs are managed by elected volunteers, says, meaning that most HOA managers are amateurs at security. Here are four of the most common security mistakes homeowners associations make, and some tips on how to avoid them.

Failing to Conduct a Security Review

Many HOAs start off on the wrong foot by failing to conduct a security review, says Without taking this basic step, you donrsquo;t know what vulnerabilities you have, so itrsquo;s impossible to take adequate counter-measures.

A thorough security review should begin with considering where you live mdash; different locations have different needs. For example, if your HOA occupies a high-rise or is spread out over a large area, you should probably have a professional conduct your review. A full review should be conducted at least every three years, but once a year is better. If you live in a high-crime area, you may need to do it as often as every six months, says Your HOArsquo;s security company will often give you a free review if theyrsquo;re your current provider.

Taking the Wrong Measures

Failing to conduct a security review can easily lead to taking the wrong security measures. After a high-profile crime incident, a common reaction is to panic and take measures that calm resident fears but donrsquo;t necessarily solve the problem. For instance, hiring a guard is a common response, but a guard only provides security in the particular area theyrsquo;re covering, which may leave other vulnerabilities unsecured.

A good rule of thumb is to use guards for situations where a human response is required to solve a security issue and to deploy technology where a human response is not required. When deploying technology, make sure to choose equipment thatrsquo;s up to the task. For instance, a cheap security camera may not be effective at capturing suspectsrsquo; identifying features, such as hair and eye color in low lighting. Be sure to choose a high-tech HD security camera system that can capture high-resolution detail even in low lighting.

Failing to Remove Landscaping Concealment Opportunities

Burglars depend on concealment, and allowing them opportunities to hide is another common mistake. Most homeowners associations remember to provide lighting, which is an important deterrent, but they often forget to remove bushes, hedges and low-hanging foliage that criminals can use for concealment, says Spectrum Association Management.

Make your landscaping less friendly to burglars by planting thorny shrub barriers at your HOArsquo;s main entrance and exit points, including the perimeters of parking lots and boundaries between neighboring communities. Keep shrubs narrow and low, and keep tree canopies trimmed. Flatten any vegetation that obstructs views of your HOArsquo;s parking lot.

Forgetting to Conduct Periodic Maintenance Checks

The best security equipment wonrsquo;t help you if itrsquo;s not working. Failing to establish a routine maintenance check procedure is another mistake HOAs often make. Assign responsibility for periodic maintenance checks to your HOA manager. Schedule regular checks of gates, lights, motion detectors, alarms, cameras, video recorders and any other security equipment. Lastly, its important to create an accountability mechanism to make sure these checks are conducted on schedule.

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To Toss or Not to Toss - Your Guide to Organizing Your Keepsakes

Do you know how much space your keepsakes take up? If you had to leave your home quickly, could you locate your most treasured nonliving possessions within a few minutes? And what about the family members who will one day inherit all of this stuff: Will it feel like a blessing to them or a burden?

If you have a basement, a garage or an attic and perhaps a storage unit, too filled with boxes of stuff, you are not alone. Its easier to hold on to something than let it go. But the reality is, things have to go sometime mdash; why not start making those decisions now, before a fire, a flood or future >

Here youll learn how to confidently decide what is worth keeping for all time and what is not.

Begin box by box. Its emotionally draining work sorting through keepsakes, so dont push yourself to take on more than you can handle. This is not the same thing as going on a clutter-busting spree - some of the items you will be looking at may call up memories of people and experiences you havent thought about for many years. You may cry, get angry or get the urge to call up an old friend. In other words, dont march down to your storage unit bright and early on Saturday morning and expect to go through the entire thing by the end of the weekend. Pick up one box and go through it piece by piece, at your leisure. When its done and only then, go get another.

I find it helps to pick several categories of stuff that you can commit to completely doing away with. This saves a lot of painful, piece-by-piece decision making that can really bog you down. Following are a few categories to consider tossing.

What to Let Go

Other peoples memories

. The program from your sisters high school graduation, favors from your friends wedding, a pressed flower from your nieces baptism. >

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Short-term saves. Some things, like birthday cards, event programs and invitations, are nice to keep around for a while. Looking at your cards lined up on the mantel or pinned to your bulletin board after a birthday dinner can be a pleasant reminder of the people who love you, and a friends pretty wedding invite can look lovely on your bulletin board. But you dont need to keep them all forever.

Freebies. Swag from conferences, wedding favors and workplace giveaways have no business taking up valuable space alongside true keepsakes. Make a mental note to kindly turn down freebies the next time they are offered to you, unless you really want them. So often we take something just because it is free

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Once you move beyond these first categories of stuff other peoples memories, short-term saves, freebies, it gets a little more complicated. At any point in the process, if you are really having a hard time letting go of something that you want to let go of, put it in a separate bin or pile.

Dont worry too much about how big this pile gets; these are tough decisions to make, and you cant get something back once its gone. The goal is not just to get rid of stuff but to feel good about your decisions. You will be dealing with this pile, so its not a cop-out; its just buying you some time.

What to Consider Letting Go Next

Oversize mementos

. Sports trophies and giant school projects come to mind, but perhaps you have some other bulky items taking up space in your storage area. If something is too big to fit in a file box, give some serious thought as to whether it is worth keeping. A photograph of the sports event, awards ceremony or science fair will take up far less room, and will probably feel more meaningful down the road anyway.

Negative keepsakes. Some journal writing is really just venting - its the process of doing it thats important; you dont need to keep the work itself for posterity. As the author and editor of your life story, you get to make the call on what is included. This goes for photos as well as diaries: If looking at pictures of that old boyfriend who dumped you makes you feel crummy all over again, toss it out, for goodness sake

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Inherited stuff. Oh, this one is tough. I think it can help to think of the loved one whose belongings you now have as they were mdash; in other words, as a person struggling with editing their own possessions, just as you are right now.

Grams certainly wouldnt want you feeling weighed down by her china set, would she? Be honest about your feelings about the stuff you have inherited. Are you ever going to use it? Do you love it for what it is, or do you love it and hold on to it only because you loved the person who gave it to you?

My advice is to honor your feelings but respect your space. This might mean keeping a single soup tureen the one you remember from all those Sunday dinners and passing the rest along to another >

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Things that have not, or will not, age well. Some objects are just not meant to last. Give crumbling flowers, ancient pasta sculptures and badly damaged photos the heave-ho, and be aware of an items potential longevity before you save it the next time.

For instance, consider taking a photo of your son holding that Thanksgiving centerpiece mdash; you can still save the piece itself for a few years, and enjoy bringing it out as a table decoration, but when it begins to fall apart you can let it go without feeling bad.

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Remember, the fewer things you keep, the more special they will become to you mdash; and to those you love. Begin to think of yourself as the editor of your life story. When someone peeks into your boxes of treasures, what story will the photos, papers and objects tell? It is up to you to define the arc of your lifes tale. To highlight the best times, the things that have been most meaningful to you, and to let the less important details fall out of focus.

What to Keep

Reminders of triumph over adversity

. Remember how I said to toss photos of your no-good ex-boyfriend? Well, do that if you havent yet. But if you have a photo of you on that awesome postbreakup road trip with your best friend, put that puppy in a frame The most compelling stories include hardship; the key is to focus on how you have grown because of your challenging experiences.

Reminders of positive experiences. Your wedding day, a fabulous birthday party, a special trip with your mom - one of the main reasons we keep mementos is for their ability to bring up memories we enjoy >

The best representative example. You may cherish the memory of your wedding day, but you do not need to keep all 50 extra programs, every outtake the photographer sent you and an uneaten favor bag of Jordan almonds. Your favorite photographs and a few key mementos will hold more emotional power over the years than a giant boxful of wedding stuff. If you took 50 photos at a single birthday party, whittle them down to a handful that best capture the crowd and a few key moments.

The most loved. The teddy bear that went with your child everywhere, the little corduroy overalls that turned velvety from being worn and washed so many times, the toy with the most teeth marks - these are the sorts of things worth saving.

And this applies to grown-up stuff, too If there is a special piece of clothing that instantly brings to mind a delicious time in your life, go ahead and keep it, even if you know you will never wear it again.

One of my own most treasured keepsakes is my grandfathers hat. In so many of my memories of him, he is wearing this hat. I have a picture of myself as a little girl wearing the hat. And it still smells like his pipe tobacco - thats something a photograph just cant do.

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Finishing up and moving forward. As you get further into the process of editing your keepsakes, choose a special container to house the keepers. This container should be small enough for you to carry easily and sturdy enough to protect its treasured contents from mildew and critters. Keep your special box in the main part of your house, somewhere it can be quickly and easily located if you ever needed to evacuate.

As you work your way through all of your stuff, ask yourself of each item, Does this deserve a spot in The Box?

I urge you not to wiggle on this point. Dont make it two or three boxes. Just one box. Go ahead and keep a larger bunch of not-quite-so-important keepsakes in a different location, if you must, but when it comes to The Box, be ruthless. Over time you may come to realize that the stuff not in the box doesnt really need to be taking up all of that valuable real estate, and when you are ready, you can move on from it.

But having a single box of most treasured belongings is something wonderful in itself. If the rest of it disappeared, you would know it would be OK - that if this one box were left, it would be enough to be your legacy.

Also See

  • Display Some of Your Favorite Memories Up On a Shelf
  • Repurpose a Toy Organizer to Be Your Box of Keepsakes
  • Feeling Motivated? Tackle the Bathroom Next With Bathroom Sets

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The Top Car-Friendly Cities to Consider When Looking For A New Home

What constitutes a car-friendly city may differ from person to person. For instance, if youre in the market for a new home and collision frequency is a concern, you might peruse the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations Fatality Accident Reporting System. If youre more worried about vandalism, the National Insurance Crime Bureaus vehicle theft rate list is worth a look.

If, however, youre keen on studies that use more texturized data, or youre mostly apprehensive about finding a parking spot in a big city, then youre in luck.

Best Cities for Drivers Based on a Variety of Flavors

Two lists from NerdWallet and WalletHub weave together a rich tabulation of metrics, digging deeper than the most obvious driving headaches - such as long commutes and delays, both of which figure prominently among the worst cities. But while the two indices metrics are >

NerdWallets list focuses on major cities, comparing them across seven key metrics. Delays and accident rate are weighted heaviest, followed evenly by congestion, weather, parking availability, insurance premiums and gas prices. Its top 10 best driving cities are as follows:

  • Omaha, NE
  • Kansas City, MO
  • El Paso, TX
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Richmond, VA
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Even more texturized is WalletHubs roster, which compares the 100 most populated cities along 21 metrics. Like NerdWallet, delays are weighted toward the top, but the heaviest attribute is gas prices. On top of aforementioned factors like weather, commute time, parking and accident rate, WalletHub also computes accident fatality, larceny rates, DUI law stringency, quality of roads and bridges, and number of dealerships per capita, to name a few. Its list of top cities include:

  • Scottsdale, AZ
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Corpus Christi, TX
  • Gilbert, AZ
  • Mesa, AZ
  • Chandler, AZ
  • Reno, NV
  • Laredo, TX
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Tampa, FL
  • Although more elaborate, WalletHubs list may be a tad skewed by the slew of less weighted variables, like dealership availability and DUI "harshness" - especially if you already own a car and have a contingency plan for nights on the town. It does, however, break its list down into sub-categories lowest accident likelihood, lowest car-theft rate, etc.. This allows you to pinpoint criteria that are of highest priority.

    How Metrics Come Hand-in-Hand

    As denoted by an asterisk , you may have noticed that Tucson ranks on both lists. In fact, the top cities on both lists are predominantly in the Southwest, where climates are drier and roads more forgiving. Its therefore not so surprising that an Arizona city appeared multiple times. This also alludes to other important cor>

    Take, for example, the list of cities with the longest commute times by Inrix, a transportation analytics firm. Of its top seven cities, three appeared on WalletHubs "Highest Accident Likelihood" sub-category, from which three cities, in turn, earned top 14 spots on another NerdWallet study - most expensive cities for car insurance. In fact, between WalletHub and NerdWallets lists, theres another cor>

    How commute times sync up with accident rates may not be a shocker. More interesting, perhaps, are the ways in which high auto accident and car theft rates cor>

    Individual insurance premiums are determined, in part, by accident rates and vandalism in the policyholders region. This is why cities with higher rates of auto theft or collisions may also have higher premiums for those who live there. Likewise, poor highway infrastructure and/or high population density are more apt to have longer commute times and thus greater incidents of collisions. So, if a city has, say, high population density and a substandard highway system, theres a decent chance other variables will be impacted, such as driving safety and insurance.

    If Big City Parking is the Biggest Concern

    Is your next move to the big city? Commuting and traffic accidents aside, one of the biggest travails of moving to a bustling metro is parking - not only finding it, but also having to pay for it. And for potential buyers, scarce parking and high parking prices can be a deal-breaker.

    Thats why if youre moving to a major city like San Francisco or one of New Yorks five boroughs, the app Parknav may prove hugely beneficial. Using a color-coded system much like Google Maps does for traffic, this app allows drivers to find parking-friendly streets. Plus, their website allows users to search real-time parking conditions in over 70 cities in the U.S. and Germany to get a gauge of parking conditions in a given neighborhood.

    Additionally, back in the beginning of 2016, ParkNav partnered with Trulia to identify the best and worst places to park in seven major cities, including New York Manhattan and Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Portland Oregon and Washington, D.C. Parking scores ranged from 0 to 100. Although the study was mainly focused on renters, prospective homeowners can also benefit from their list of ample-parking neighborhoods and hone in on promising new digs.

    While there may be no exhaustive register of car-friendly cities, these lists do offer a starting point, whether based on your personal concerns or those you may not have considered beforemdash;like the number of auto repair shops, or the average cost of new cars, in the area. If driving is your passion, it may be best to steer clear of densely populated cities and head for the suburbs. At least there you can be close to the excitement and bustle without always being deadlocked in the thicket of it.

    Jeffrey Ill is the Vice President of Product at Esurance where he leads the homeowner insurance program.

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    Hey Millennial, Go Buy a House 9 Reasons to Stop Paying Rent Today

    Still unsure about whether or not you should buy a house? Its a big commitment, obviously, and not just from a financial standpoint. But the rewards generally far outweigh any potential downsides for those who take the plunge. Need more convincing? How about the fact that:

    Youre already paying a mortgage

    That money that comes out of your account every month? Its going right into someone elses account. Doesnt that make you just a little bit mad?

    To be clear, that someone else is making money off you

    How about now, when you think about the fact that real estate continues to appreciate and youre not getting to appreciate that appreciation. "The national median existing single-family home price in the first quarter was 232,100, which is up 6.9 percent from the first quarter of 2016 217,200 and the fastest growth since the second quarter of 2015 8.2 percent," said the National Association of REALTORS NAR.Arent you tired of watching someone else make money while you sit in the place they own and try to figure out how to get ahead?

    You need to express yourself

    Not being able to put a coat of paint on the walls or hang some wallpaper or enjoy the countertops, cabinets, or flooring you picked out because your landlord wont let you make any changes is not cool. Sure, there are some temporary solutions to make your place look better, but nothing compares to having the freedom to do what you want, when you want, with your space.

    It doesnt cost as much as you think it does

    In fact, you may be paying more in rent right now than you would be for a house payment. A new NerdWallet analysis "showed that a majority of millennials would prefer owning to renting, but they appear to be postponing homeownership because of real and perceived difficulties in affording it." But, a report from Investors Business Daily shows that, "Paying a mortgage is cheaper than renting in 42 states." Is yours one of them?

    Hardly anyone pays a 20 percent down payment anymore

    Were you under the impression that you had to come up with a huge stack of cash to buy a house? Federal Housing Administration FHA loans are among the most popular options for all homebuyers, and for first-timers, they make a lot of sense. First, because the credit requirements are less stringent than other loans - in many cases, you can have as low as a 620 score. Also, you can qualify with as low as 3.5 percent down. On a 250,000 house, thats only 8,750.

    "For home buyers, FHA mortgages require a 3.5 percent down payment with the fewest strings attached," said The Mortgage Reports. "This makes the FHA mortgage one of the most lenient mortgage types available nationwide. There are very few credit restrictions with the FHA loan and the agency allows your 3.5 down payment to comes as a gift from a family member, employer, charitable organization or government home-buyer program."

    Rates are still ear their lowest point ever

    Yes, theyve gone up a bit recently and are currently sitting a bit above four percent. But when you think about the fact that a decade ago they were over six percent and in the 1980s they were almost 18 percent, four percent looks a lot better, no?

    Dogs are cool

    Living in an apartment that doesnt allow animals? Thats pretty common. Trying to find a rental with a generous pet policy is near impossible. If you do find one, you can usually expect to pay a hefty pet deposit and monthly pet rent.

    Your student loan debt isnt as much of a big deal as you think

    Yeah, it stinks to have to be saddled with that debt just because you decided you should expand your education, get a degree, and make yourself more hirable. But jut because its a reality doesnt mean you cant improve your standing.

    If you have student debt, mortgage investor Fannie Mays new rule changes "should make it easier for you to purchase a first home," said the Chicago Tribune. The rules include:

    • A change in how student loan affects debt-to-income DTI ratio calculations if you had payments reduced through an "income-based repayment" plan. "If your payments were originally supposed to be 500 a month but youve had them reduced to 100, only the 100 will be added to your monthly debts for DTI purposes," they said. "Previously lenders were required to factor in 1 percent of your student loan balance as your monthly payment on the student loan, even though you were actually paying a fraction of that. As a result, many borrowers debt ratios were pushed beyond most lenders underwriting limits."
    • Debt ratios can also improve if you have other outstanding debts that are being paid by someone else. "Say, your parents pay your monthly credit card balances - these no longer will be included in your DTI computation, provided the payments have been made steadily for 12 months. This should improve the debt ratios of young buyers who are still getting a little help on their cash flows from Mom and Dad."

    Everyones doing it

    Are your millennial friends starting to buy houses? Theyre part of a sweeping national trend. "Get ready to see more first-time home buyer clients. In the first quarter of 2017, the number of new-owner households was double the number of new-renter households," said the National Association of Realtors NAR in the most recent edition of their Realtor magazine.

    There were about 854,000 "new-owner households" during the first three months of this year, which is more than double the 365,000 "new-renter households in that period, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Whats more, its the first time in a decade that new buyers outpaced new renters."

    First-time buyers also account for 42 percent of homebuyers this year, up dramatically from 31 percent in 2011, which was the lowest point recorded by Fannie Mae.
    Full Story >

    Defining Domicile

    Question: Can you please explain "domicile"? I plan to move from one state to another, and want to make sure I dont have to pay any tax in the state from which I moved? Harry.

    Answer: The dictionary definition is easy: "a persons fixed, permanent and principal home for legal purposes". But interpreting this is not at all easy.

    You can have numerous residences, but only one domicile. Many people live in the North during the summer and go South in the winter. The southerners call them "snowbirds". They own two or more houses residences, but where is their domicile?

    State taxing officials like to find domicile, since then the homeowner will have to pay tax in that state. So even if I own real estate in New York -- where I would have to pay income tax -- my preference is to claim my domicile in Florida or Texas, where there is no such income tax requirement. Other states with no requirement are Alaska, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.

    How do I prove my domicile? There are many ways, but the best evidence: show where you vote, where your drivers license is, where you pay your utilities and what address you use when you file your federal income tax return.

    A novel approach, recently approved by the New York Tax Appeal court, involves your dog. Mr. Blatt moved from New York to Texas to get a new job. He had an apartment in New York, which he kept even after the move. The New York taxing authority claimed he lived in their state for more than 183 days per year, and thus had to pay a sizable amount of state tax.

    On appeal, Mr. Blatt presented a lot of evidence and documents to show that his intent ws to >humidity of Dallas.

    Petitioner waited until the timing was appropriate. In reviewing the factors of a change in domicile, historically, the move of items near and dear tend to demonstrate a persons intention. As borne out by the evidence in this case, petitioners dog was his near and dear item which reflected his ultimate change in domicile to Dallas."

    So, Harry, keep that in mind when you move. A dog might just be the answer; not sure about your pet goldfish, however.
    Full Story >

    Through the Agent with Heart Program, Real Estate Professional Dertrez Pressley Donates to Support Our Kids Foundation on Behalf of His Clients

    Las Vegas, NV May 16th, 2017 -- PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Dertrez Pressley of Simply Vegas Real Estate in Las Vegas, Nevada recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to the Support Our Kids Foundation on behalf of their clients, Todd and Gia Schultz.

    "We are excited to announce Dertrez Pressleys first donation with the Agent with Heart Program," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. "Dertrezs eagerness to assist his community by giving back to the nonprofit of his clients choice with each transaction is inspiring, and we thank him for his generosity."

    "Efforts to assist local communities like those from agents like Dertrez are incredibly valued by all of us at PinRaise as well as, Im sure, by the communities themselves. We appreciate Dertrezs dedication to giving back and look forward to seeing his generosity continue to help his community in the future," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Dertrez Pressley who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Dertrez Pressley, please call 702-963-6424.

    Full Story >

    Future Proofing Canadian Cities

    Self-driving cars. Automated driverless buses. HOV lanes with hundreds of vehicles speeding down them just one foot apart. Warehouses that are several storeys high, with access to tractor trailers on all levels. Empty parking garages being converted into self- storage facilities.

    These are just some of the things that are coming -- and soon -- to Canadian cities, according to speakers at the recent Urban Land Institute Toronto Symposium.

    Huge changes like this will happen within the next 10 to 20 years and "most jurisdictions have not thought through these ideas yet, even though we keep developing them," Wes Guckert, president of The Traffic Group in Baltimore, told the gathering. He says changing transportation issues are "not included in 95 per cent" of citys plans.

    "Dubai is an oil-rich nation that expects in the next 15 years or so that 25 per cent of their transit will be autonomous." But the vehicles will run on electricity, despite the abundance of oil.

    Guckert said, "We as a real estate industry really have to begin to talk about what the future is going to be like, when you can take as many self-driving and 12-passenger vehicles as you want and have them drive back and forth on HOV lanes like an accordion, with one-foot headways between them."

    In some cities, "the impact of the new mobility is being felt even without self-driving cars," Guckert said. For example, in Las Vegas, "taxi rides are down 60 per cent, bus rides are down by 15 per cent and parking lot revenues are flat" because of ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. "The Ubers and Lyfts of the world, from a transportation point of view, may result in more congestion, not less."

    What are some other significant changes we may see in our cities?

    Guckert said that ultimately most people wont own their own cars. "Youll untether the car from the driver," he said. "The car doesnt have to drive you somewhere and sit there all day in a suburban parking lot." Instead it will drive itself to pick up someone else and take them to work or on a shopping trip.

    With electric vehicles replacing gasoline-powered cars and trucks, gas stations may become obsolete, or they may be transitioned into charging stations. On-street parking will be eliminated so there are more places for rider pick-ups and drop-offs.

    Parking garages are already being built with an eye to the future, says Guckert. Instead of building garages with eight to 10-foot height clearances, some parking structures are getting 18-foot clearances on the first floor. In future these spaces can be redeveloped to house retail or self-storage spaces.

    Self-driving cars will also be able to park more efficiently than humans, allowing for parking spaces to be as little as seven feet wide, rather than the nine to 10 foot spaces common today. That will create room for more cars or for other uses.

    In the warehousing industry, there are already stacked warehouses being built that can accommodate tractor trailer units on multiple floors, said Guckert.

    Changes will also be needed in the way streets are designed.

    "Think about this," he said. Currently, pedestrians step out in front of traffic because they know chances are that cars will stop for them. But if all of the vehicles are self-driving, "you know they are all going to stop. What are we going to do about the geometry of sidewalks and streets for every time a pedestrian walks out into the middle of the road?"

    Cities are also not designed for people to be dropped off and picked up all along the streets. John MacKenzie, deputy city manager for the City of Vaughan, a suburb just north of Toronto, spoke about his frustration with developers who refuse to provide enough room for public right of way spaces.

    He said if you go to any large condo project on a Friday night, youll see long lines of Uber drivers trying to pick someone up or drop them off. "I have seen 50 Uber drivers trying to get around a little roundabout that somebody argued with me was too wide. The developers said it met the standards for circulation. But it just doesnt work."

    And if there are 50 Uber drivers lined up now, think about what its going to be like when self-driving cars are added to the mix.

    "We have to do more to future proof cities. Were not doing it," said MacKenzie. "We need much more robust transportation management built in."

    As a start he pointed to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, the largest mixed-use development in Canada, which is now under construction. On a 179 hectare site 442 acres it will include more than 1.5 million square feet of commercial office space, 750,000 square feet of retail space, 12,000 homes, cultural spaces, hotels and entertainment venues. Its expected to house 25,000 residents and be a workplace for 11,000 jobs.

    Construction has begun on an intermodal transit hub in the development, which will connect regional bus rapid transit with the Toronto subway system.

    Scott Corwin, managing director at Deloitte Consulting, was asked what transportation will look like in 2031.

    "In a perfect world, you would have this seamless intermodal mobility system that would allow you to have lots of different choices. Its clean, its safe, its fastit would use clean energyand it would be very human centred and very friendly."

    But as much as cities try to plan for the future, "the unknowables are still tremendous," Corwin said. "A decade ago when people thought about self-driving cars, we thought that we would have to put sensors embedded in the roadway with lasers to read the sensors. The cost of that was unbelievably prohibitive. Who would have imagined that the gang at Google would figure out that you can use mapping and GPS and build a set of algorithms and machine learning to teach the vehicle to travel on open roads without any connectivity from vehicle to vehicle? That was unknowable."

    Nonetheless, cities must keep up to speed with the latest developments, said Guckert.

    "Uber yourself before you get Kodaked," he said.
    Full Story >

    Associate Broker: A Term Searching For A Definition

    I suspect that most California consumers know that, as in many other states, there is a difference between real estate agents who are licensed as brokers and those who are licensed as salespersons. Brokers may generally be thought to have more knowledge and/or experience though it doesnt take much effort to think of some salespersons who have tons of experience and knowledge -- often more than some brokers.

    Also, to some, the term broker connotes a position of authority. Thus, if my card said "Bob Hunt, Broker" and then spelled out the name and address of a real estate company, some might infer that I was, as it were, the broker of the company -- the person who is ultimately responsible for the actions of the agents. But that would not necessarily be correct. It is true that every real estate company does need to have a particular broker who is the responsible broker for the company. But also, many companies employ brokers who have no such responsibility. They are simply persons with a brokers license who have contracted with the company to act as a sales associate. The responsible broker is responsible for supervising them. But they have no supervisory responsibility with regard to anyone else. Such persons are often referred to as "associate brokers". However, that term has no specific legal meaning.

    Where confusion has arisen, or could arise, is that when a broker is acting as an associate licensee -- essentially as a salesperson -- there is nothing in the Bureau of Real Estate BRE records that indicates or records that fact.

    I, for example, have a brokers license, but I am not currently the responsible broker for any company. I am, by contract, a sales associate with a real estate company. I have no supervisory responsibility. However, if a consumer were to visit the BRE website, they would not find my name on the list of the companys sales personnel. Nor, if they were to look up my name directly, would they find that I am a sales associate for the company with which I am affiliated.

    However this came about historically, it is out of synch in the age of transparency when everyone should be able to find out everything about everyone else immediately. More >Thus it is that California Assembly Bill 2330 was signed into law by the Governor on September 25, 2016. The bill becomes effective January 1, 2018. Some time will be needed to effect its implementation.

    The bill requires that, if a broker is acting as a sales associate for another broker, then that information will be provided on the BRE website. It also requires that, whenever a broker acting as a salesperson enters or leaves the employ of a responsible broker, then the responsible broker shall immediately notify the commissioner of that fact in writing.

    AB 2330 is not going to change the real estate industry. Actually, it does not even give a new legal meaning to the term "associate broker". But it does provide a little more clarity to the fact that a broker may in fact be an "associate licensee" -- that is, a licensee who "has entered into a written contract with a broker to act as the brokers agent and to function under the brokers supervision Civil Code 2079.13.

    That, and it will enable a consumer to determine, by using the BRE website, whether a broker is acting as an agent for another broker. More information available; always a good thing. Right?
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    Ask The HOA Expert: Reviewing And Approving Annual Budgets

    Question: Our budget process takes place in the fall so we will have an approved budget at least 30 days prior to the start of our fiscal year which begins in January. As it turns out, we hold our annual meeting in January and a new board will be elected then. All of our contracts expire next year. Should the current board review, renew and/or secure new bids for our contracted services as part of the budget process or wait for the new board to build its own budget?

    Answer: Since the new budget will likely increase fees to owners, the current board should review and approve the next years budget so that the new fee structure will go into effect January 1. If the new board decides to amend the budget in some way, thats its prerogative.

    Question: Our board is negotiating a management agreement with a local property management company. Can you give me a idea of what the average cost per door is for HOA management? Wed also like to review a menu of services so we can customize our agreement to our needs.

    Answer: There is no "average" cost per door. Cost of HOA management service is directly >Question: Can a director of the board give his proxy to someone else to vote at a board meeting?

    Answer: No. Proxies can and should be used for the annual owner meeting for elections and other business brought before the group for a vote but directors of the board cannot proxy their authority to someone else.

    Question: A unit owner has requested that the HOA repair damage to his unit deck that was caused by a prior owner. It looks like burn marks from a barbecue. This owner claims the HOA should inspect units for sale so this kind of damage is repaired prior to sale closing.

    Answer: This damage is not normal wear and tear and damage caused by a resident is not the responsibility of the HOA. And, no, the board or management is not responsible to inspect units that are for sale. Presumably this owner did not buy the unit sight unseen and likely knew of the damage before closing the deal. If it was a deal breaker, he should have made sure the seller fixed it, not the HOA.

    While HOAs are often responsible to repair and replace things like decks, it should maintain all units in a consistent and cost effective manner, and not to increase a particular units value or marketability.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to
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    Clever Ways To Give Your Small Bathroom Some Pop And Make It Look Larger

    Small bathroom? It doesnt have to be short on >

    Cover those walls

    The old-school wallcovering is back in a big way, and you dont need a big space to make it work. In fact, the right print and some complementary details can make a small bathroom the most impactful room in the home.

    Consider the vanity

    The floating vanity trend looks great in any type of space, but it was tailor-made for a small bathroom. Because it doesnt extend all the way to the floor, there is an airiness you wouldnt get with a traditional vanity. You can find versions with built-in storage, because who doesnt need a place to put a hair dryer?

    Or, go for the vintage look one of the hottest trends in bathrooms today. This version mounts to the wall, taking up the least amount of space possible, but still offers a clean and crisp look.

    Keep the color consistent

    And, keep it light and bright. This bathroom packs a lot into a compact space, but the color palette keeps it feeling airy. And the upscale materials, with marble tiles used in contrasting shapes, add a glam feel.

    Get artsy

    Who says you can only display "bathroom->

    Focus on the details

    Keeping the palette bright white makes this space feel breezy and allows the snazzy details to stand out. A herringbone shape on the floor adds interest, and the modern brass fixtures would look amazing in any size bathroom.

    Dont forget about storage

    Creating a sleek and stylish bathroom in a small space is enough of a challenge without having to think about where youre going to put everything. But, if your bathroom isnt just a space for occasional guests or even if you just need a place to store the extra toilet paper, storage has to be a consideration. Whether its a vanity with drawers, baskets you put on open shelving, or a custom cabinet, there are a lot of options. Apartment Therapy has some great ideas here.

    Make tile your friend

    There are a number of tricks you can use with tile to make your bathroom feel more expansive. "Set floor tiles diagonally to increase the perceived size of the floor," said SF Gate. "Choose rectangular wall tiles and set them horizontally on the walls to increase the perceived width of the space. Use the same color of tiles on the floor and walls to reduce the difference between wall and floor. If possible, carry the floor tile up the wall behind the fixtures, right to the ceiling. This visually expands the wall height."

    In thisnbsp;New York City bathroom, zig-zag tile runs "straight into the shower stall," said House Beautiful. The lack of interruption creates a larger feel.

    The horizontal bands of mosaic tile in this shower dont only add interest, but also elongate the back wall, making the space look larger. The glass surround also creates a more open feel and unique touches like the countertop sink, distinctive mirror, and light fixtures add more jewelry to the room.

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    Real Estate Professional Dana Roberts Makes Another Successful Donation with the Agent with Heart Program, This Time to Her Clients Preferred Nonprofit, Desert AIDS Project

    Las Vegas, NV May 15th, 2017 - PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today Dana Roberts of Coldwell Banker Residential in Irvine, California recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to Desert AIDS Project on behalf of her clients, Bob McClean and Steve King.

    "We are so grateful to have Realtors like Dana Roberts in our program who truly understand and believe in the giving spirit our Agent with Heart Program was based upon. Danas incredible impact on the community grows with each of her donations, and we are extremely proud to have a realtor like her in our program," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. The Agent with Heart Program was created to connect local realtors to nonprofits within the community with the hope of assisting the growth of local communities nation-wide.

    "Id like to personally thank Dana for her continued generosity; she has proven to be an incredible asset to her community, and we are extremely grateful to have a realtor like her in our program," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Dana Roberts who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Dana Roberts, please call 949-433-6694 or visit her website

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    Why You Need To Add Millennial Pink To Your Home Right Now

    The hottest color in home decor right now is something that might surprise you: Millennial Pink. But dont be put off by the name. Just because it has a generation right there in the name doesnt mean its not for everyone.

    In fact, Millennial Pink isnt even one color. You cant go to Sherwin Williams and ask for it by the name. Apartment Therapys Nancy Mitchell wrote a cheeky story about the color or non-color, noting, "I wouldve called this article Millennial Pink is Not a Color and left it at that, but Heather Schwedel at Slatealready wrote that article, pointing out, rightfully, that the wildly different shades of pink being lumped together under the banner of millennial pink are wildly different shades of pink. You cant say that youve identified a new color and then provide examples of things ranging frompale, pale pastel pink to a robust salmon. That is just not how colors work."

    But that hasnt stopped Millennial Pink from catching fire and continuing to smolder, despite its apparent range of shades, and also in spite of "normal" color trends.

    "Even if you havent heard ofMillennial Pink, or didnt know that it went by this name its also known as Tumblr Pink and Scandi Pink,youve seen it," said New York magazine in a story thats aptly titled, "Why Millennial Pink Refuses to Go Away." They note its introduction in 2012 "as a toned-down version of its foil, Barbie Pink, a softer shade that looks as if all the blue notes have been taken out," and its stronghold in 2016 when "everyone started calling it Millennial Pink," and how, at that time, "the color had mutated and expanded to include a range of shades from beige with just a touch of blush to a peach-salmon hybrid."

    A broad reach

    But their most interesting point is about how this color keeps invading the fashion and home dcor worlds, expanding its reach well beyond a Millennial crowd. "Colors always come in and out of fashion, and as our fashion editor-at-large, Amy Larocca, points out, often when Pantone declares Marsala Red or Radiant Orchid to be the next color to watch, we shrug knowingly, fully expecting to see that shade on shelves but not expecting it to invade our consciousness," they said. "This pink is different. Even now, just when it seemed like we had hit a peak and it was finally on the wane, there it appeared again inFentys spring look bookand on army jackets atMadewell."

    Sure, there was former One Direction singer Harry >

    Fabiana Faria of the boutiqueComing Soon, told NY Mag that, "Weve upholstered things in this emerald green that were excited about, but it sits there for months. The second I show a pink thing - anything - it leaves so quickly."

    It gets in your head

    In addition to being a color that can create a fun and chic atmosphere, it turns out that Millennial Pink may also have a psychological superpower.

    "A study from 1982 digging into the effects different colors have on upset children cited bubble gum pink as the hue that could take kids from kicking and screaming to silently snoozing in as little as 10 minutes," said Travel and Leisure. "In an interview withThe New York Timesin October 1982, clinical psychologist Paul E. Boccumini shared a few words on the discovery: We used to have to literally sit on them, he said. Now we put them in the pink room. It works.

    If you were looking for a great excuse to go pink, millennial or not, that may just be it. So how do you pull it off in your home? In so many ways.

    The bathroom

    If you choose to deck out your shower in the hue like in this pic from Lonny, remember this: You can keep your space from looking like a 50s throwback with modern fixtures.

    The dining room

    Youre probably not going to create a restaurant dining room in your home, but what if you applied this luxe idea to your homes dining area? Keeping the space monochromatic with pink on pretty much every surface makes it that much more luxe.

    Overkill? Try this instead. The modern shape of the chairs keeps them from looking too "girly."

    The living room

    The blush on the lower part of the walls and the couch make this living space serene and stylish. The accessories in the room show how many different colors play nicely with Millennial Pink.

    Its all about texture in this living room, and the pink patterned wallpaper that backs the bookcases gives the space depth and interest.


    Not ready to take the full Millennial Pink plunge? You only need one great piece to dip a toe.

    This light from Anthropologie gets in on the Millennial Pink act while showcasing another trend: metallic finishes.

    Full Story >

    Three Simple Ways to Increase Your Homes Value

    We all want to make sure that our home not only holds its value, but increases it as well. That way if needs were to change or a move were in order, the home could be sold for a profit, making the move that much easier. Here are a few very simple, quick, ways to make sure that this happens.

    Get Handy

    Homeowners often get into a lull with maintaining and fixing broken or worn items in their houses. One thing leads to another, which eventually leads to repairs costing thousands of dollars. Instead of waiting, take action the moment you realize something is wearing out and fix it or call a handyman -- it will save you money in the future and help maintain the value of your home.


    There is an obvious cor>Think Outside the Box

    The inside of your home may be the top priority for you, but dont forget to do basic maintenance on your lawn and surrounding areas. Remember, this is the first thing that potential buyers and renters see when they pull up. In fact, the looks matter so much that a recent study said that simply raking, aerating, mowing, and maintaining a basic lawn yields over a 300 ROI when it comes to selling
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    Spring Home Maintenance List: Five Things to Check Off Your List

    Just as you prepare your home for the winter by covering outside pipes, making sure your heater is working well and removing all of the old leaves and branches from your property, there are also a number of things homeowners should do to ready their homes for warmer weather. With spring in full swing, check out the following list of home->

    Check For Pests

    As plants, flowers and bushes began to come back to life with the warmer weather, so did a variety of pests. Every spring, walk the perimeter of your home checking for signs of infestations. Look for evidence of termites in the wood mdash; either by seeing the insects with your own eyes or by seeing damage to the wood or their droppings; also watch for ant hills, bees swarming in trees and places where four-legged critters like squir>

    Examine Your Sprinklers

    You may not have run your underground sprinkler system all winter, but now that the weather is heating up yoursquo;ll want to be sure your grass and other outdoor plants are getting plenty of water. Turn on the sprinkler zone by zone and check to be sure the sprinkler heads are rising from the ground properly and spraying in the right direction. If you spot any that will not budge or have broken off and are shooting water into the air, you can call a local landscaper to come fix them, or DIY-minded folks can fix these themselves.

    Examine the Roof

    Another important task to complete in the spring is giving the roof a thorough check up. Depending on how pitched or large your roof is, and how comfortable you are with heights, you can carefully do this inspection yourself or hire a roofing company. If you do this job on your own, examine the roof shingles or tiles to see if any were damaged or blew off during the winter, and check the flashing around skylights and chimneys to be sure it is tight and not allowing water to seep into the house.

    Ready Your Air Conditioner

    Before it gets too hot, give your A/C unit a thorough inspection to be sure it will keep the home and your family cool during the upcoming warm months. Change the filter, check all hose connections for any leaks and make sure the drain pans are not clogged. Vacuum the unit to remove any dust that can prevent it from working at full efficiency, and if you spot any issues along the way, call in a professional to fix them before summer arrives.

    Trim Away Overgrown Branches

    As the DIY Network notes, spring is a great time to remove branches from trees and bushes that are touching up against your house. In general, try to keep the branches about 5 or 6 feet away from the sides and roof of the house to prevent critters from having a highway to hop onto your roof and prevent spring rains from getting onto the roof and sides of the home.

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    Want To Own Your Home Free And Clear? 7 Ways To Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

    There was a time when taking out a mortgage on a house meant you actually planned to stay there long enough to pay it off and own it outright. In many cases, people bought homes, raised their families, retired, and then passed this valuable asset down to their kids. But, largely, this is not the case anymore. The most recentNational Association of REALTORSreg;2016 Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers shows that homeowners stay in their houses an average of 10 years - which seems like a lot when you consider how many people move up to a larger home as their family grows, move away for job transfers or other employment issues, or take the equity and run to something better after just a few years.

    But that doesnt mean it doesnt make great sense to pay off your mortgage early, which can save you many thousands of dollars. "Topping the list for most folks in the Pro category is peace of mind," said The Balance. "Plain and simple, you dont have to worry about a mortgage payment, and you know youll always have a roof over your head if, for example, you lose your job. For a lot of folks, knowing theyre not paying their hard earned money to the bank in the form of interest is also a plus. But freeing yourself from a big mortgage payment also gives you more financial flexibility to do other things."

    Here are seven ways to go about it.

    1. Make an extra payment per year

    Making 13 payments instead of 12 in a year can save you thousands and shorten your loan. "One way to pull off this tactic is to save 1/12 of a payment every month, and then make an extra payment after every 12 months," said Bankrate. "Lets say you do this starting the first month after getting a 30-year mortgage for 200,000 at 4.5 percent. That would save more than 27,000 interest, and you would pay off the mortgage four years and three months earlier."

    You can accomplish the same thing by changing when you pay your mortgage. Instead of making one mortgage payment per month, split it up into two. "A bi-weekly mortgage payment program is meant to short-circuit your loans amortization schedule," said The Mortgage Reports. Instead of taking 12 payments per year, the bi-weekly payment plan asks for one payment every two weeks, which adds up to 13 payments per year. Witheach 13th payment, your loan balance is reduced by the entire amount of the payment. You reach your loans payoff date sooner."

    2. Make an extra payment each quarter

    Want to be a little more aggressive than that about getting your mortgage paid off early? "Make an extra house payment each quarter, and youll save 65,000 in interest and pay off your loan 11 years early," said Dave Ramsey - an example thats based on "the average 220,000, 30-year mortgage with a 4 interest rate.

    3. Refinance

    It may sound counterproductive to add to your mortgage balance while your goal is to lower it, but, depending on your existing interest rate and the new one you could get, it might be a great move, especially if your closing costs are low. Remember, though, that, while your monthly payments will drop and you will save money on all that interest you dont have to pay, "It wont accelerate your pay-off date," said Forbes. "In fact, it may extend that date even further out into the future. Refinance into a 30-year mortgage with a lower rate, andthen continue making the same monthly paymentthat you were previously making. This extra money the gap between your new, lower monthly payment and your original monthly payment will get applied to the loan as an extra principal payment. And this will accelerate your payoff date."



    4. Refinance to a 15-year loan

    As long as youre refinancing with the goal of paying your mortgage off sooner, switch from a 30-year to a 15-year loan. By refinancing that same 200,000 loan at 4.5 percent into a 15-year loan at 4 percent, you can pay off the mortgage "10 years earlier and save more than 60,000," said Bankrate.

    5. Get rid of PMI

    Refinancing is also a good idea if youre looking to lower your payment - and apply the savings toward your mortgage balance - by removing your PMI. "If a home was purchased with less than a 20 down payment, the bank is probably charging PMI," said Mortgage Calculator. "However, once the borrower owns 20 of the home, this charge could be eliminated."

    6. Apply any windfalls

    Get a raise? A bonus? A surprise cash gift? Instead of taking that vacation or putting it into your savings, apply it to your mortgage balance. "A 10,000 lump sum payment on that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage for 200,000 at 4.5 percent "pays off the mortgage two years and four months earlier, and saves more than 19,000 interest," said Bankrate.

    7. Save those pennies

    They do add up, especially if by "pennies" you mean dollars. If you apply the same saving techniques toward paying off your mortgage as you did to get your down payment together, you should be able to carve away at the total owed. Even an extra

    100 a month toward your principal can save you more than 30,000 in interest over the life of your loan - or more, depending on your interest rate and mortgage total.

    One of the easiest ways to chip away at your mortgage is to simply "round up your payments so youre paying at least a few extra dollars a month," said Dave Ramsey.
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    Real Estate Professional Michelle Ratajczak Makes A Very Generous Donation To A Cause Close To Her Clients Hearts With The Agent with Heart Program

    Las Vegas, NV May 8th, 2017 - PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Michelle Ratajczak of All/Pros in Virginia Beach, Virginia recently closed a transaction and made a large donation to the Arthritis Foundation of Virginia on behalf of their clients, Martin and Lindsey Mitchell.

    "For her first donation with our program, Michelles client chose to send the donation to the Arthritis Foundation of Virginia on behalf of their daughter who suffers from juvenile arthritis. Donations like this are why our program was created; to be able to assist the community that clients are a part of by giving back to the causes that mean the most to them," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise.

    "We celebrate Michelles incredible generosity as she pays it forward to a cause that is so important to her client. Michelles dedication to give back to the community is very much appreciated by our program as well as, I am sure, by the community she is helping with each transaction. Thank you, Michelle, for your kindness and generosity," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Michelle Ratajczak who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Michelle Ratajczak, please call 757-472-0944.
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    Early Planning For Retirement And Inheritance

    Question: We are nearing retirement, and are becoming concerned about our future, and the future of our children.

    Going through our books and records in preparation of our 2016 tax returns, we began to wonder what we should be doing now to make sure that there will be no surprises that can affect our future or the inheritance of our children.

    Do you have any comments?

    Answer: I could write a book on this subject. Too many of us live active lives, do not concern ourselves with future problems and basically are living on a "day-to-day" basis.

    But if we take the time to think about these matters, and if we look around our house, we begin to realize that some careful planning is needed for the future.

    Here are but a few ideas for you to consider. Clearly, you should discuss all of these matters with your family and your legal, tax and financial advisers.

    Do you have adequate life insurance coverage? Many of us took out insurance policies years ago, and often have not reviewed the coverage to make sure it is adequate for the needs of our survivors.

    More importantly, where beneficiaries change because of divorce or death the policy must be corrected to reflect the appropriate beneficiary. In recent years, insurance policies have changed, and the tax laws have changed. What you have obtained ten or fifteen years ago may not fit your current needs.

    Indeed, some people begin to realize that as they get older, and their children become self-sufficient, the level of insurance can in fact be reduced. You should discuss all of these matters with your insurance adviser.

    Is your house insurance adequate? Many insurance policies have automatic increase provisions to periodically boost the coverage.

    Make sure the replacement value of your house meets industry standards, so you will not suffer a financial loss if your house is destroyed.

    Do you have a Last Will and Testament? If not, you are strongly advised to give serious consideration to preparing one now.

    And even if you have a Will, if it was written years ago, your legal and tax advisers must be consulted to make sure that the new tax laws will not adversely affect your Estate. With the new adminstration -- and talk of serious tax reform -- I recognize it is difficult to make decisions. However, dont put your planning off; there is no guarantee that the tax laws will be changed in the foreseable future.

    Additionally, you should consider signing Living Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney to cover situations where you may be in an accident and not able to handle your own affairs.

    Indeed, the Supreme Court of the United States has made it clear that if you are medically diagnosed as totally "brain dead," and you want the doctor to "pull the plug," you must make your intentions quite clear -- preferably in writing -- so as to give guidance to the doctors. This is known as a "Living Will" or a "Declaration," and will be necessary if you have to go into a hospital.

    If you do not want to be artificially maintained by life-support equipment in the event of an accident, you should prepare a Living Will declaring your intentions while you are able to do so.

    Are titles to the family assets in a form acceptable to you for inheritance and tax purposes? You should explore with your advisers the pros and cons of such things as 1 creating a revocable trust, or 2 preparing a "deed on death". Many states have now adopted laws that allow you to prepare and file a deed that does not take effect until you die; but you have the abolute right to cancel the deed at any time during your lifetime.

    You must also consider what will happen when your spouse dies. For every document that you enter into, always have an alternative person designated, just in case the person you do authorize to take certain actions is not able nor willing to assume that obligation.

    Finally, if you die or are seriously incapacitated, will your family be able to find all of your legal documents and papers? Often, one party in the household handles the books and records. The other spouse has no idea whatsoever where things are.

    Both of you should sit down one weekend and make a comprehensive list of your assets and liabilities. If you have stock certificates, certificates of deposit, life insurance policies, or other valuable documents, make a list where they are, so your family will not have to suffer more under the circumstances. You should also make a list of people who should be contacted in the event of a problem.

    This list should include at the very least the names and addresses of your attorney, accountant, insurance adviser, executor of your Will and administrators of any pension plans.

    Life has become quite complex. If you do not put your own "house in order," the courts and the tax authorities will make decisions on your behalf or on behalf of the Estate which may not be in anyones best interest. Careful planning now can save considerable aggravation and frustration for your family in the long run.
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    Simple DIY Projects That Will Increase the Value of Your Home

    Looking to boost the value of your home without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars? You can Making changes in certain rooms, like the kitchen and bathroom, is more beneficial than in others. These simple DIY projects will help increase your homes value the most.

    Modernize Fixtures

    Replacing outlet covers can cost less than a dollar each, but if they have paint or other things on it, its a good change. While youre at it, consider updating the outlets themselves. For about 25-30 you can buy an outlet that also includes two USB charging ports. With all the smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices lying around, just a few of those, well-placed, can make a big difference. Think about the rooms in your home that dont have enough outlets and the rooms that are most used for charging.

    A less expensive upgrade? Doorknobs. Mismatched, broken, and dingy doorknobs can be a major deterrent. For a small amount of money per knob, you can update the look and make the whole house more visually appealing.

    Lighten It Up

    The more light you can add to your home, the better. Freshening up or removing curtains can brighten your home and make it more inviting.

    Replacing windows is also a great way to add value to your home, particularly true if you live in an older home that has a lot of windows that stick or that let in the heat or cold. Installing energy efficient windows can also get you a nice tax break. However, poorly-installed windows can let in water, which can lead to mold and cracked foundations, so this isnt for everyone.

    Old light fixtures, or light fixtures that are dim or unappealing should be replaced to brighten the house.

    Makeover the Bathroom

    Bathrooms consistently get a high return on the investment. If you have a small budget and youre DIYing, start small. A new vanity. New sink. A nice ceiling light. A spa-like shower head. A nice towel bar. None of these things have to cost over 100, but they all add value to your home by freshening it up, providing simple conveniences, and making it nicer. Who doesnt want one of those fancy shower heads?

    If your bathroom floor is falling apart, suffering from water damage or is just outdated, you can restore it yourself pretty inexpensively. Many home improvement stores offer a >

    Freshen Up the Kitchen

    The kitchen is one of the biggest things that will turn potential buyers on or off to a house. Its also one of the places where you can get the most money back for your investment. Whats the single best DIY change to make in the kitchen? A fresh coat of white paint on the cabinets. Go ahead and change out the knobs, too.

    Storage is another change to consider. Add more shelves, possibly with space underneath to hang coffee mugs. Kitchen islands are in demand now and building one with storage will add value.

    Keeping Up on Maintenance

    A home in good repair is always going to be more valuable than one with a leaky roof. If the siding is old or falling apart, replace it. Consider getting a home warranty, to ensure the value of your appliances. Also make sure to maintain the appearance outside, sweep up the leaves, trim the bushes, and keep fences in good repair.

    Adding value to your home doesnt have to be expensive or difficult. Sometimes, the simplest DIY can be the best place to start. Start by considering your budget and your homes most pressing needs, and update from there.

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    Conflicting Interests Lead To Disputes That Erupt At HOA Meetings

    "O brave new world that has such people in it" These immortal words from Shakespeares The Tempest aptly describe homeowner associations. Conflicting interests can lead to disputes that erupt at meetings. To control such outlandish behavior, HOA meetings are well served by using a parliamentary procedure such as Roberts Rules of Order which allow a presiding officer to turn a long and confrontational meeting into a short and less painful one.

    Parliamentary procedure is the code of rules and ethics for working together in groups. Without rules, there would be confusion. Parliamentary procedure is the means by which organizations make decisions. It is not synonymous with Roberts Rules of Order. There are several major parliamentary books including Sturgis Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure. However, Roberts Rules of Order is by far the most widely used and is considered an authority. It includes sections on presiding, the duties of officers, running elections, making proper motions, and holding board and committee meetings.

    The conduct of business in an assembly often varies by size. Annual meetings of homeowner associations are typically formal in procedure. Business conducted in a board of more than a dozen members follows the same formal procedure. Some characteristics of formal parliamentary procedure are as follows:

    • Members must be recognized by the presiding officer before speaking;
    • A motion to take action must precede any discussion of an issue;
    • Motions must be seconded;
    • Members may only speak to a specific issue twice;
    • The presiding officer does not participate in discussion; and
    • Formal votes are taken by voice or ballot.

    Formal procedure in a meeting of fewer than a dozen may actually hinder business. Some recommendations from Roberts Rules for smaller groups include:

    • Members are not required to obtain the floor and can make motions or speak while seated;
    • Motions need not be seconded;
    • There is no limit to the number of times a member can speak to a question
    • Motions to close or limit debate generally should not be entertained unless the group has adopted a rule to the contrary; and
    • Subject to rule or custom, the chair usually can make motions and usually votes on all questions.

    While smaller boards can operate more informally, there are times that more formal procedure may be warranted. If a particular issue is hotly contested or likely to subject the board to publicity or a lawsuit, more formal procedure can ensure that procedural safeguards have been observed.

    A basic rule is no meeting should be called to order until a "quorum" is established. A quorum is the number of the members that must be present in order to transact any business. This number or percentage is typically found in the HOAs governing documents or state statute. In the absence of a provision regarding quorum, common law provides that a majority of members constitutes a quorum. Once a quorum is present, the meeting and business may proceed. Quorum refers to the number of members present, not to the number of members voting. If a quorum is present, a vote is valid even though fewer than the quorum vote unless there is a rule to the contrary.

    What is the standard Order of Business? The order of business is the blueprint for meetings and provides a systematic plan for the orderly conduct of business. If the rules of procedure do not include a standard order of business, parliamentary law has established the following pattern after the Call to Order by the chair:

    I. Reading and Approval of Minutes. If copies of the minutes are made available, the actual reading may be waived. Following any corrections or additions, the minutes should be approved. Approval of the minutes is usually handled by unanimous consent.

    II. Reports of Officers and Standing Committees. The chair usually calls on only those members who have reports. A motion arising out of one of these reports is taken up immediately, since the object of the order of business is to give priority to business in the order listed.

    III. Reports of Special Committees. Special committees do not have continual existence, but exist solely for the purposes of a specific project.

    IV. Unfinished Business. Unfinished business sometimes incorrectly referred to as "old business" refers to questions that have carried over from the previous meeting as a result of that meeting having adjourned without completing its order of business. The following items are considered under unfinished business:a The question that was pending when the previous meeting adjourned;
    b Any questions not reached at the previous meeting before adjournment;
    c Any questions postponed to the present meeting.

    VI. New Business. Following any unfinished business, the chair asks, "Is there is any new business?" Members can introduce new items of business or move to take from the table any matter that is on the table.

    Using basic parliamentary procedure provides a systematic way to get business done and allowing members to be heard. If your board has not adopted and use something like what has just been described, you live in a Brave New World. Brush up your Shakespeare because youll need it. Heres one for your Pet Policy: "Out, damnd Spot Out I say"

    Excerpts from an article by attorney Jim Slaughter. For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to
    Full Story >

    Saying Goodbye to Your Garden

    You can make parting easier by taking ideas and plants with you

    Moving is a fact of life for most Americans. About 12 percent of us, or 1 in 9 - will move in any given year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Leaving the gardens we have lovingly designed and tended is a difficult part of any >

    1. Make a record of the garden youre leaving. You can use a loose-leaf notebook, a bound garden journal or an online filing system that accepts notes, digital images and other information. Pick whichever form of record keeping appeals to you; you want an easy system that you will use.

    Collect whatever details you have about what youve planted: how it succeeded or didnt, which plants or combinations you loved best, hardscape materials and any designs youve made. Gather seed packages, plant catalogs add notes, plant labels, seed stakes, garden journals and photographs. If youre using a digital filing system, scan the papers and file them with notes attached. If youre using a notebook or bound journal, file them in pockets in the notebook or tape them to the pages of the journal.

    By Susan J Tweit Salida - See more Home Design Photos

    2. Take photos, videos or both. If you havent been shooting photos or video of your garden all along, start before you leave. Dont forget to capture plant combinations that worked particularly well, such as this Pikes Peak Purple penstemon Penstemon x mexicali, still blooming in southern Colorado in October, backed by the upright form and lovely fall color of little bluestem grass Schizachyrium scoparium.

    By Susan J Tweit Salida - See more Home Design Photos

    3. Gather images from all seasons and from various times of day. Youll want to remember how plants looked at different times in their lives and different times of the year. For example, the orange-scarlet autumn color of the skunkbush sumac Rhus trilobata in this photo is lovely paired with the golden blossoms of rubber rabbitbrush Ericameria nauseosa.

    Take photos at different times of day to show what was blooming at what hours, how the light fell, those great shadow patterns at sunset and the pools of shade at midday.

    By Susan J Tweit Salida - See more Home Design Photos

    4. Describe design elements and hardscape. Make sure to note things that youre really pleased with, including design elements and hardscape. Did a patio come out especially well, both the materials used and the shape? Did you build raised garden beds you really loved? Take photos and make notes of a particularly successful or unsuccessful design elements materials, dimensions and >

    By Susan J Tweit Salida - See more Home Design Photos

    5. Document projects in progress. Didnt finish a project? You can record it anyway. What did you like about it? What would you change? What was the process of planting and construction? Is the project specific to that particular site or are there elements you could use again?

    Those details of how the project flowed and how it fit your expectations and what you can take away from it will influence what you do in your new garden, so make sure you record as much information as you can.

    By Susan J Tweit Salida - See more Home Design Photos

    6. Note >. Which plants attracted the most butterflies? What was the late-blooming flower that the migrating hummingbirds focused on every year, returning to sip its nectar? What about the bulbs that were always full of tiny native bees in early spring? Which plants did the cottontails munch to the ground? What did the deer avoid?

    Blossoms of the native bractless blazingstar Mentzelia nuda var. stricta in this photo, for instance, open in the evening and attract bumblebees to gather their pollen. Bumblebees are larger and heavier-bodied than most native bees and, thus, are more chill-tolerant and able to be active in the cooler hours of early morning and late evening. Planting flowers that attract certain pollinators is one way to ensure those species survival.

    By Susan J Tweit Salida - See more Home Design Photos

    These common sunflowers Helianthus annuus are another example of a plant that is critical to a certain kind of wildlife. They never fail to attract goldfinches, called "wild canaries" for their chiming, bell-like calls and sweetly melodic songs. Goldfinches clamber over the flower heads and pry out the fat-rich sunflower seeds with their pointed beaks. The seeds provide critical calories and vitamins for goldfinches in their migration.

    By Susan J Tweit Salida - See more Home Design Photos

    7. Research your new planting zone and garden site. Before you move, get an idea of how different your new location will be from your current one. Is it in the same USDA plant hardiness zone? To learn more detail about climate, substrate and ecological conditions, look up what ecoregion youll be in on the Environmental Protection Agencys maps. An ecoregion map is a map of an areas natural communities, including their biological, geologic, soil and climate attributes - all useful information for gardeners.

    To find your ecoregion on the EPAs general map of the U.S., click on the region that includes your state, and then find your ecoregion from the more detailed map. Level III ecoregions are probably the most useful for gardeners.

    By Susan J Tweit Salida - See more Home Design Photos

    8. Identify favorite plants in your existing garden. Once you have an idea of the conditions in your new site, decide which favorite plants in your current garden will thrive in your new place. Then do some research. Familiarize yourself with any restrictions on transporting plants from one region to another the National Plant Board is a place to start. Next, learn the best way to bring them to your new place: as whole plants dug up and potted, as cuttings to root, as bulbs or tubers, or as seeds. If you have time to prepare, make a spreadsheet, a list or a calendar with times of the year that are best for preparing each plant for the move.

    For tough English irises, like the ones in this photo, its best to dig their tubers in the fall after the leaves have turned brown. If youre not moving right away, store the tubers in breathable bags in a cool, moist place so that they wont dry out or sprout.

    By Susan J Tweit Salida - See more Home Design Photos

    9. Label your selections. This seems self-evident, but in the rush of preparing for a move, you may assume that youll remember what those seeds are in the pill bottle or envelope. You think that youll remember whats in that pot with a dormant plant and no identifying characteristics, or the zip-close bag containing cuttings wrapped in a wet paper towel, or the paper bag full of papery bulbs. Maybe you will, and maybe you wont.

    To be sure, note the name, species or variety and the date collected on a label or right on the container with a permanent marker. That way youll be sure youre planting what you intended to.

    By Susan J Tweit Salida - See more Home Design Photos

    10. Take care of your selections before and during the move. If youre bringing plants in pots, keep them watered and comfortable - not too hot or too cold. Most moving companies wont take live plants, but they will move pots with dormant plants, so make sure your plants have what they need to survive the trip.

    If youre moving seeds, cuttings, bare-root plants, bulbs, corms or tubers, package them appropriately for their journey. Cuttings, bare-root plants, bulbs, corms or tubers need to stay moist and in the dark. Dont allow them to freeze or broil. You dont want them to sprout or break dormancy before you get them into the ground, and you also dont want them to dry out. Seeds come in their own natural packaging in the form of a seed coat. But even these embryonic plants need cool and dark conditions to stay alive.

    Good luck with your move and your new garden.

    Also See:

    • 6 Plants That Beat Butterfly Bush for the Wildlife Draw
    • Add a Birdhouse or Two in Your New Garden
    • Find Landscaping Companies Near Your New Home

    Full Story >

    9 Outdoor Trends You Need To Know

    Its time to get outdoors. But if your outdoor area isnt looking its best, its time to fix it up. Weve got the trends youll want to focus on to give you the best yard on the block.

    Indoor/outdoor living

    Outdoor living isnt just about being outside. Today, its about bringing all the comfort of the indoors out. "The number one trend this year is a seamless transition from your home to your outdoor space using outdoor rugs, ottomans and side tables, and layered blankets and throw pillows," said Country Living. "The backyard/porch has truly become an extension of your indoor space," MelissaSimon, Public >Patio covers

    Patio covers that are an extension of the house are more popular than ever. These spaces allow you to incorporate similar architectural details to what you already have on your home and also add features like heating and fans or misters. With the indoor-outdoor trend showing no signs of slowing, having a covered area for lounging or dining can be a valuable addition to your home. But if you cant afford the many thousands of dollars for this item, you can get a similar feeling with a pergola or gazebo. A sunsail or umb>Lighting

    "According to a report from the National Hardware Show, lighting is becoming an important feature of outdoor spaces," said Enlightenment Magazine. "Whether its illuminating key architectural or landscaping accents, adding a level of security or safety, or providing ambience for entertaining areas, outdoor lighting is now high on the list for many consumers."

    Among the most current lighting trends for outdoors, eco-friendly options top the list. "According to a survey of 4,500 users, 7 in 10 homeowners are illuminating their hardscaping," they said. "The survey also found that the majority are making eco-friendly choices for their yards, noting, Of the two-thirds of homeowners who are updating the lighting in their yard 65 percent, a majority is going green with LED 58 percent and solar-powered lights 56 percent. Homeowners in rural neighborhoods are most likely to choose solar-powered lighting."

    Low-maintenance plantings

    If youre getting ready to plant, keep in mind that, "Low-maintenance gardens, drought-tolerant plants and less turf grass have become the norm in landscape design," said HGTV. "Homeowners now assume sustainable design will be a major part of the plan - both for economic and environmental reasons."

    Edible gardens

    Another hot trend in todays gardens: farm-to-table. "Edible gardens may have been overlooked and forgotten over the past couple of years, but they are making a comeback to the landscaping scene," said Evergreen Genes. "Use this trend to help your healthy eating resolution for the new year if you have one. Fresh fruit and vegetable gardens are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they provide healthy food options that you and your family can enjoy. An edible garden will also help maintain or jumpstart a vegetarian diet."

    Urban gardens

    Suburban homes havent cornered the market on outdoor enjoyment. Some of todays city dwellers are increasingly going to great lengths to create inviting and show-stopping spaces. Have a condo with a small outdoor space? Youll appreciate urban outdoor trends including container gardens to make your patio shine.

    Outdoor kitchens

    Its time to look beyond the "typical" outdoor kitchen. That doesnt mean giving up your grill. But maybe you add something new this year. "Wood-fired or hearth-baked pizzas are no longer just a restaurant order," said Turf Magazine. "Homeowners who want this unique, artisan flavor on their pizzas are purchasing stand-alone outdoor pizza ovens, as well as portable units that utilize grills for their heat source, which means they also make nice tailgating accessories."

    Smart tech

    Smart tech isnt just for indoors. Integrating your outdoor living area can make your life easier. "Your smart phone has the capability to manage many pieces of your daily routine and outdoor living is no exception; great technology doesnt have to stop at the door," said Masterplan Landscape Design."Integrating Wi-Fi controls to your outdoor audio-video packages lets you enjoy your party without having to leave to control the volume or channelThere are also specific outdoor lighting systems, fire feature, irrigation and water features that can be controlled by a smart phone with the opening of an app. While most needs can be taken care of with timers, you can go one step further and have the controls at your fingertips from anywhere in the world."

    Water features

    Water features continue to be a top trend for outdoors. But that doesnt mean you have to build a pool. Add a fountain, which not only looks great but also adds a peaceful element to your outdoor space that can help lower stress. Aquascape has some great ideas for small-space water features. Prefer to go the pond route, which is also popular? Check out Family Handyman for some DIY ideas.
    Full Story >

    Three Powerhouse Posts To Inspire Unique Approaches

    Real estate professionals complete the same tasks over and over again. At the same time, they must always treat each client, each customer, each listing, and each sale as truly unique mdash; which they each are. Inspiration for the next listing presentation, yet another marketing plan, and the eventual offer presentation is essential to keep each fresh, engaging, and successful.

    Real estate, like all industries and professions, has its own way of doing things. When professionals me>

    Step resolutely "outside the box" of past experience and "weve always done it that way" approaches. The internet offers a wealth of perspectives and techniques that will help professionals successfully make their point and stand out from the crowd in the process.

    Major internet sites and blogs like Buffer and Contently provide a continuous flow of blog "listicles" that collect ideas from across the internet. If you follow these mainstream sites, youll be joining others along the same communication path instead of striking out on your own.

    When its time to prepare a listing presentation, a marketing plan, or to "sell" a buyers offer to purchase, look beyond the mainstream for unique resources that will fire up your imagination.

    Here are suggestions from several categories of online resources mdash; sites that share distinctly different perspectives on business techniques in free tutorial->

    Explore these Three Powerhouse Resources to see if they ignite your imagination:

    1. Presentation: How to Engage Your Presentation Audience - Without PowerPoint

    This post is part of a series called "Presentation Fundamentals" which includes "How to Add Videos to Your PowerPoint Presentations" and explores alternatives to PowerPoint.

    Dont expect to tackle and master content like this the day before a presentation. Instead, well in advance of a deadline, wander through the interconnecting tutorial posts to get a feel for the scope.

    • A comparison of PowerPoint and alternatives like Keynote may be all you need for a fresh start.
    • Youll also discover introductions to the blogs of amazing apps like non-linear Prezi and online do-it-yourself animation tools like GoAnimate.
    • Non-technical techniques can also refresh a stale presentation or shift its perspective to reach a different target audience. For instance, "10 Creative Presentation Ideas: That Will Inspire Your Audience to Action" should contain an idea or two to expand your presentation repertoire.

    2. Marketing Campaigns: Adopt Product Sales Techniques

    Online resources that provide images, templates, and graphics like infographics often share a lot of tremendous content to prove their worth. is a great example of this category. Its blog is Maybe youll eventually buy images or subscribe, but there is a lot available at no charge. Take a brief wander through the range of content available on the blog. You may be intrigued enough to sign up for a free account and access free content at As with most resource sites like this, there is more content and inspiration than you could use in a lifetime.

    Heres one post that is a great example of the breadth of Canva suggestions to stimulate your creative thinking. 10 tactics for launching on social media and generating buzz, inspired by companies whove done it with free templates provides a wealth of product launch ideas that transform readily into concepts for selling houses, condominiums, recreation properties, or commercial sites.

    Real estate professionals do not sell product. They sell dreams, life>

    3. Offer Presentation: Language simplifies and clarifies

    Offer presentations commonly require buyers and sellers mdash; who have little or no formal training in real estate finance or law mdash; to make rapid, complex, far-reaching decisions in contexts that are completely unfamiliar to them. Real estate professionals elevate their value to all concerned when they set the stage for offer presentation and creation of a binding contract based on full understanding and confident decision making.

    At the core of this professional contribution is language. When buyers or sellers are not working in their primary language, they may be at a disadvantage.

    The internet provides many language translation services. Education website categories include resources intent on open-source sharing of techniques and technologies. For example, the Center for Open Educational Resources amp; Language Learning COERLL at the University of Texas at Austin, one of 16 National Foreign Language Resource Centers, is intent on producing and freely disseminating Open Educational Resources OER for the Internet public e.g., online language courses, reference grammars, assessment tools, etc.. Heres a summarizing COERILL infographic.

    Sample any one of these three resources. This exploration alone could fuel creativity for the full range of communication tasks and projects youre called on every day to carry out for clients and customers. Sample these resources to open your thinking. Stop short of trying to remember and absorb everything presented. Thats the confusing path to information overload.

    One or two fresh ideas can transform existing work. Try a communication approach or strategy others are not using to clarify complexities for clients and customers and youll differentiate yourself quickly.

    Full Story >

    Trivium Preparatory Academy Receives Donation From Real Estate Professional Brittany Howe With The Agent With Heart Program

    Las Vegas, NV May 5th, 2017 -- PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Ms. Brittany Howe of Realty ONE Group in Goodyear, Arizona, recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to the Trivium Preparatory Academy.

    "We are proud that Brittany is making her first donation with the Agent with Heart movement. Through Agent with Heart, Brittany has agreed to donate a specific amount to the cause of her clients choice at closing," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise.

    "Agents like Brittany who generously give back through our program are the reason we are able to successfully assist nonprofits in communities nation-wide. We appreciate Brittany and thank her for being an agent who is actively making a difference within her Goodyear community," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Brittany Howe who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Brittany Howe, please call 623-302-4542.
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    Easy Decluttering Tips To Give You Your Life Back

    Clutter doesnt just make your space feel cramped and crowded and chaotic. It can also have a negative effect on your mental state and make you less productive. A cluttered space has been shown to raise stress levels, create anxiety, and be a contributing factor to sleepless nights.

    Clutternbsp;can playnbsp;a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves," said Psychology Today. A few reasons why: "Clutter bombards our mindsnbsp;withnbsp;excessivenbsp;stimuli visual, olfactory, tactile, causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that arent necessary or important. Clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on. Clutter makes it more difficult to >

    Whether youre looking to move and need to pare down your stuff before you list your house or are just looking to streamline your environment, these tips will help you get it done with the least amount of pain.

    Phone a friend

    So youre sitting in your closet, surrounded by clothes you havent worn for years and you just cant seem to make a move to get rid of anything. Its time to call a good friend. Or three Cue the scene from Sex and the City when Carrie et al hold an impromptu fashion show while cleaning out her closet.. A good friend will be honest with you about clothes that just dont do it for you, which should make it easier to make headway.

    Research shelters in your area

    If youre finding it hard to get rid of clothing and shoes or ra>

    Consider sizing

    The average woman has a range of sizes of clothing in her closet, some for those inevitable times when a few pounds creep on, and some that were purchased as incentive to lose a few. If you cant get rid of anything in your current size, maybe there are a few outdated items in the far upper and lower range that can hit the box.

    Hit the linen closet

    Have any hole-filled towels and sheets back in that linen closet? Tell yourself this: If theyre not good enough for guests, theyre not good enough for you. Shred a few of the towels into cleaning rags and dump the rest. Imagine how much better youll feel when theres space for the stuff you do use.

    Now, take a look at any blankets that have rips, tears, and holes. Maybe its time to upgrade? Beyond those obvious imperfections, whats going on with the texture? Do you have blankets in there that arent soft enough for you or that you consistently overlook because you dont like the way they feel? Donate them and treat yourself to something new as a reward for your decluttering efforts. Feel better?

    Pilfer the pantry

    When your pantry gets to be a cluttered mess, it can become an overwhelming task to get it cleaned out. Start small and take one thing at a time, like your canned goods. Chances are you have at least a few cans that are expired; those are easy enough to toss, which will make you feel better by creating space on a crowded shelf. Now, check for things that you know youll never eat, like those four cans of sweet peas you bought on sale. As long as theyre still good, these would be great to donate to a local food pantry. Good deed done, and youre on your way to a nice, clean pantry.

    Tackle those drawers

    Out of sight, out of mind is the mantra many of us when it comes to clutter. If its in a drawer, you dont have to worry about it, right? Until you do. Lets be honest: How many of us have not just one junk drawer in the kitchen, but several. Guilty And how many of us go to clean them out, only to create a much larger mess because we were trying to do too much in too little time and got overwhelmed and gave up. Guilty again. Starting small here, too, is the key. Theres no need to organize every once at once. Have expired coupons in one of those junk drawers? Get rid of them. Youre eating away at the mess. Do you have a bunch of nails and screws and thumbtacks just kind of strewn about in one or more of the drawers? Take them out and organize them into their own little box. Thats progress.

    Get your papers in check

    For many of us, the main clutter culprit is paper. Having stacks of papers in your kitchen or office or both, or, even worse, stacked in multiple areas of your house, can be a stress-producer. Start by designating "a spot for incoming papers," said Zen Habits. "Papers often account for a lot of our clutter. This is because we put them in different spots - on the counter, on the table, on our desk, in a drawer, on top of our dresser, in our car. No wonder we cant find anything Designate an in-box tray or spot in your home or at your office, for that matter and dont put down papers anywhere but that spot. Got mail? Put it in the inbox. Got school papers? Put it in the inbox. Receipts, warranties, manuals, notices, flyers? In the inbox This one little change can really transform your paperwork."

    You can also decrease the amount of mail you receive by setting up email-only correspondence with your creditors. Ecocycle also has some great tips for getting rid of a lot of that junk mail.

    Give it a few minutes

    Trying to attack the clutter from a macro perspective is what many people find overwhelming. If it seems like a massive project, that could be enough to cause frustration, increase anxiety, and cause you to quit. If you set aside a couple of minutes on any given day, you can make an impact without taxing yourself.

    "When your home is filled with clutter, trying to tackle a mountain of stuff can be quite overwhelming," said Zen Habits. "So heres my advice:nbsp;start with just five minutes. Baby steps are important. Sure, five minutes wont ba>

    If you dont like the five-minute tip, try the five-thing tip. "Pick up 5 things, and find places for them," they said. "These should be things that you actually use, but that you just seem to put anywhere, because they dont have good places. If you dont know exactly where things belong, you have to designate a good spot. Take a minute to think it through mdash; where would be a good spot? Then always put those things in those spots when youre done using them. Do this for everything in your home, a few things at a time."

    Full Story >

    Youre Not Too Young To Incorporate Universal Design Features Into Your Renovation

    The idea of growing old have you freaked out? Youre in good company. But when it comes to renovating and updating our homes, maybe we all need to get over ourselves a little. Thats what some proponents of universal design say, anyway.

    What is universal design and where is it being applied?

    Universal design is "a principle aimed at making buildings, environments and products accessible to the broadest possible population," said "It can be applied to everything fromnbsp;kitchen productsnbsp;tonbsp;home design. The term was coined in the early 1980s by Ronald L. Mace, a wheelchair-bound architect, as: "The design of products and environments to be usable by all people to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design."

    Ironically enough, in the decades since that famous term coining, the principle has been largely >

    Overcoming reservations

    Universal design has to overcome the most obvious objection: It forces a mortality check. If youre a baby boomer or younger whos renovating, you may want pretty new floors in your living room and quartz countertops in your kitchen. But thinking about features that will help you live comfortably when your mobility is challenged... maybe not.

    But thats exactly why its smart to think about universal design, especially as it >

    "Why are most interior doorways only 30 inches wide? Why are so many doorknobs hard to grip? And why do so many homes have a long stairway between the front door and the bedrooms? Two typical answers to these questions would be, lsquo;because thats the way weve always built houses and lsquo;because these houses meet code," said Green Building Advisor. "Those two reasons happen to be pretty weak, by the way.

    Were all getting older, and many of us have family members with special needs. Ideally, the homes we build today will work well for people with a wide range of abilities."

    Advantages of Universal Design

    The good news, outside of the obvious gain in accessibility: Adding in some universal design features may actually raise the value of your home and make it more marketable. "Modifying a home to make it more accessible can also make it easier to sell when the time comes to move," said the Chicago Tribune. "Simple changes such as new lighting can enhance the safety of the home for current and future residents. Big changes, such as a complete kitchen redo, can make it easier for anyone - young or old - to navigate the space which can boost a homes appeal."

    But how is that possible, you ask? Arent universal design features, well, ugly? Thats a long-held impression that is, thankfully, no longer true. "For most of us, even a mention of universal design is apt to conjure up a vision of hospital-like grab bars," said New Home Source, "but proponents say universal design is simply good design that is well thought out and visually pleasing."

    Photo by Imperial Homes Qld Pty Ltd - Search Asian entryway design ideas

    Indeed, many of the features associated with universal design are also on the forefront of todays overall design trends. "New products are available such as attractive grab bars, appliances that sit in a drawer, and touchless water faucets," said the Chicago Tribune. "Sleek, modern lighting fixtures can be connected to motion detectors that turn the lights on when someone enters the room or starts down a stairway."

    Some of the essential features of universal design that you may want to consider include:

    Wider doors.nbsp;"A 30- or 32-inch-wide interior door is considered standard, but universal access requires 32 inches of clear space when the door is open, which usually means specifying a 36-inch-wide door," said Houselogic.

    Kitchens. When remodeling your kitchen, there are a few considerations that can take it from amazing to amazing and accessible. "A simple change is to move the microwave oven," said the Chicago Tribune. "Many homes have the microwave installed over the stove which makes it hard to reach. As an alternative, the microwave can be built into a lower cabinet so it sits at waist level.nbsp;Also think about cabinets with roll-out drawers and "cut-outs underneath for wheelchairs."

    This Old House

    A curbless shower.nbsp;Walk-in showers are the trend today, anyway. So if youre renovating your bathroom and your shower is on the list, this is a great place to start. A wide opening with a door that swings out will allow for wheelchair access in the future, and a bench is great for shaving your legs now, and being able to rest while showering later.

    Grab bars. You dont have to install a grab bar for your shower, tub, and toilet before youre ready. But if youre redoing your bathroom, consider doing the prep work now so the installation is easy once you do want to move forward.nbsp;"Cover the framing of the entire tub, shower, and toilet surround with 1/2-inch pressure-treated plywood so that you can install grab bars anywhere on the wall, either immediately or at any time in the future," said Houselogic.

    Lever handles instead of knobs. Not only do these handles make it easier for those with dexterity problems to access doors, drawers, and the like, but they also look great, too.

    Hand-held shower.nbsp;This is another area where smart renovations meet todays desirability.

    Tall toilets with no-slam seats and lids.nbsp;Its easy enough to replace a toilet down the line, but if youre getting a new one now, consider a taller option that can ease the pain of bending. A soft-close lid is always a great feature.

    Wall-mounted sinks.nbsp;One of the hottest looks in bathroom vanities today: Floating vanities. From a practical standpoint, the floating vanity is also a great buy because it creates easy access for those in wheelchairs.


    Wheelchair clearance.nbsp;"Wheelchair-accessible bathroom dimensions require clear space of at least 5 feet 60 inches in diameter to allow a 180-degree turn," said Houselogic. "If space is at a premium, consider keeping the room open rather than compartmentalizing the toilet so that a wheelchairs turning radius can be accommodated."

    Slip-resistant tile.nbsp;This may already be on your radar if you have kids or dogs or both, or tend to be clumsy. But if new floors are on your radar, keep the COF, coefficient of friction, in mind. That measures how slippery the tile is when wet. Shoot for a COF of .60 or above for bathrooms and kitchens.

    An accessible entry. A wheelchair-accessible ramp may not be something you want to think about during a renovation, especially if youre healthy and mobile. After all, you have no way of knowing whether youll ever need one. And, "installing a ramp for wheelchairs at the front of the house can be a turn off to potential buyers," according to the Chicago Tribune. But if you do want to make it easier to access the entry to your your home now or years from now, think about "making another entrance accessible," they said. "An attached garage might have room for a simple lift. A back entrance can sometimes be reconfigured. New American Homes in suburban Antioch has a model ranch home with a stepless entry. Instead of a ramp, the house has a sloped brick pathway hidden behind the front porch that blends into the landscaping."

    Full Story >

    Ask the HOA Expert: How Susceptible Are HOAs To Embezzlement?

    Question: How susceptible are HOAs to embezzlement? What are common safeguards and how effective they are?

    Answer: Embezzlement in the past has not been common in HOAs because most had little money to embezzle. However, as more states enact mandatory reserve fund requirements, more HOAs are accumulating substantial funds for future repairs which will entice embezzlers.

    To safeguard these funds, they should be deposited in a separate bank account apart from regular operating funds and should only be accessible by a few designated parties, like the board president and treasurer, who have specific authority to sign checks. A property management company typically would not have authority to write checks for the reserve account. Its a good policy to require two signatures on reserve account checks although the bank typically will not reject checks that carry only one authorized signature.

    Its also a great idea to provide all board members with monthly email copies of the bank statement. Embezzlement usually happens when only one person is getting this information. When others have regular access to it, the odds of embezzlement drop.

    Another form of embezzlement involves reimbursements. A board officer could easily steal money by submitting bogus or inflated requests for reimbursements. The board should have strict policies on reimbursements which include type and amount. No board member should be paying for HOA expenses from their personal account. Its just too easy to manipulate the invoice and embezzle. All invoices should be payable by the HOA and go through the normal payment system.

    Embezzlement typically doesnt happen over night. The embezzler is one that usually is entrusted with substantial funds with no one else overseeing them. After a period of time, the temptation just gets too great. The theft often happens because of an urgent personal debt payment or a gambling, drug or alcohol addiction. The thief typically intends to repay but ra>

    Question: Our HOA currently has a board member who is insisting that unit owners who choose to, should be allowed to clean their own units vinyl siding. A former board regrettably had granted him permission to clean a small area on two units which had an accumulation of algae and the cleaning left a noticeable shadow.

    The board has scheduled cleaning for the entire building siding next year but this board member is insisting that we allow individuals to wash their own to save money. The board has denied his request however, I dont think he is going to give up. Can you provide me with some solid arguments toward why homeowners should not be allowed to perform their own maintenance?

    Answer: If the board decrees unit owners should not maintain building exteriors, that is the way it is. The common elements belong to ALL unit owners jointly so the HOA has the responsibility to do maintenance and repairs, not individual unit owners. In addition, there are both risk and quality control issues when individual owners are involved.

    Whether he is convinced or not, bottom line, the board majority has spoken and he needs to respect that decision. Part of serving on the board is respecting "majority rules". If he continues to undermine the board, he will be ostracized from the process by the other board members and lose his ability to make a difference.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

    Full Story >

    3 Big Things Home Buyers Are Looking For In Their New Home

    As a seller, you have a lot more control in pleasing buyers than you think. If you start the selling process by learning what buyers really want, you can prepare your home to come as close to their dreams as possible.

    Here are the five biggest turn-ons for homebuyers and what you can do to please buyers.

    Curb Appeal

    You only get one chance to make a first impression. Your home should sell to the buyer from the curb. Thats how important curb appeal is. Your buyer should be so impressed, so charmed, so delighted that they want to leap out of the car and run inside.

    How do you create curb appeal? Show attention to detail. Your home has to be prettier, cleaner and in better condition than its neighbors.

    Start with sweeping the drive, walkway, and porch or entry of dirt and debris. Get rid of leggy bushes, wilted flowers and broken tree limbs. Plant fresh flowers in the front garden or in containers at the entry.

    Power-wash the exterior and hand-wash the windows. Touch up paint around the windows, if needed. Paint the front door a fresh, modern color. Replace the door hardware and porch sconces.


    The number one reason why people buy homes is to have more room. Whether theyre moving from an apartment or moving up from the home they have, they want to have plenty of space to do the things they enjoy.

    If you have a large home, youre golden, but that doesnt mean youve got it made. You can ruin a buyers first impression with too much clutter, so make sure to keep your home picked up so your buyer can see your homes features clearly and easily.

    What if you dont have a lot of space? Plan to do some storing and staging. Rent a storage unit and put away all out of season clothes, toys, and home decorations and accessories. Clean off all tables and countertops so you have only the minimum of things your need to operate your home. Empty closets of anything that is "stored" and move it to the storage unit. The small expense youll pay in storage fees youll more than make back from your buyers offer.


    Theres a reason why first-time buyers and singles tend to buy older homes - theyre more affordable than buying new. So unless your buyer is a building contractor, chances are they want a home thats as updated as possible.

    You may not be interested in putting in a new kitchen in order to sell your home, but you can do a few things to make buyers happy. Replace the most dated features - countertops, cabinet pulls, or appliances.

    Bathrooms are so personal that they can easily turn buyers off. Invest in new towels, bathmats and a shower curtain. Throw out slimey soaps and limp ragged bath sponges. Replace with liquid shower and bath products. You can take all the new stuff with you to the next home.

    Painting is expected by buyers, but dont repaint the same colors that you chose 10 years ago. Pick an updated neutral like a warm grey instead of beige. Be sure to choose a color that will complement the architecture and flooring in your home.

    Keep in mind that homebuyers arent expecting your home to be a mansion, nor do they expect it to be new, but they do expect to see pride of ownership. The more tweaks, updates and repairs that you perform, the more confident your buyers will be that theyre choosing the right home.
    Full Story >

    Hope For Justice Receives Donation From Real Estate Professional Terri Repetto With The Agent With Heart Program

    Las Vegas, NV May3, 2017 -- PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Ms. Terri Repetto, of Realty ONE Group in San Diego, California, recently closed a transaction and made a special donation as directed by her client to Hope for Justice.

    "This is Terri Repettos first donation with the Agent with Hearttrade; movement after being one of our newest realtors to join the program. It is encouraging to see agents like Terri who are eager to make a difference in their communities with our program," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. Through Agent with Heart, each participating realtor in the program has agreed to donate a specific amount to the cause of his or her clients choice.

    "Empowering communities by assisting local nonprofits is the reason our program was created, and I would like to personally thank Teri for being a contributing factor in moving our cause forward," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Terri Repetto who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Terri Repetto, please call 619-348-5122.

    Full Story >

    Escrow For Taxes And Insurance: A Thorny Issue

    I have received a large number of questions dealing with various aspects of the escrow for taxes and insurance issue. This column will attempt to highlight what lenders can do and what they cannot do in this area.

    Lenders like to escrow funds for future payment of real estate taxes and insurance. If, for example, your real estate taxes are 1,200 a year, the lender will charge you 100 per month over and above your regular mortgage payment, and this 100 per month will be held by the lender. The theory is that at the end of the year, the lender will have accumulated, on a monthly basis, 1,200, and will then be able to pay your real estate taxes out of these escrowed funds.

    State laws differ dramatically, and you should check with your own attorney to determine what your local law permits. For example, in some states, a lender is required to pay interest on these escrowed funds. In many states, however, there are no such requirements, and the lender keeps your escrow interest-free

    The theory behind the escrow makes sense. Lenders are concerned that if you do not pay your annual real estate taxes or if you do not pay your annual insurance premium, the lenders security will be affected. Indeed the lender could lose the property if it burns down to the ground without insurance, or if the local government sells the property at a tax sale for non-payment of those real estate taxes. Thus, in theory, lenders want to make sure the real estate taxes and the insurance are paid, and thus they establish an escrow.

    We often hear a lender refer to P-I-T-I. This stands for payments of principal, interest, taxes and insurance.

    In the District of Columbia, for example, if you put down 20 or more cash equity, and the lenders loan is 80 or less of the market value of the property, the lender must give you an election. You can pay your own taxes and insurance, or the lender will escrow and pay these items for you.

    Unfortunately, while the theory makes sense, in my opinion the primary reason for wanting these escrow accounts is that lenders accumulate huge sums of money which they can use for their own benefit, without paying interest to the consumer.

    Lets face it. Most people will pay their real estate taxes and their insurance premiums, since they do not want to lose their house, or have the house uninsured in the event of a calamity. And for those borrowers who stop making their mortgage payments, the escrows also stop.

    Many years ago, the Congress of the United States adopted the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which, among other things, regulates these escrow accounts.

    Here is a summary of the law:

    It should be pointed out this law applies to all "federally >Under the law, at the initial settlement, a lender has the right to require a borrower to deposit in any escrow account to be established for the payment of taxes or insurance a sum not to exceed the amount of these actual charges, plus one-sixth of the estimated total amount of these taxes or insurance premiums.

    In our example, if the taxes come due in January, and you are settling in August, your first months payment will not become due until October. For the months of October, November and December you will make three months escrow payments. Since the lender will require a full years payment in January, it has the right to escrow nine months at settlement, plus one-sixth of the total amount, or in other words, an additional two months worth of escrow. These funds are to be held by the lender and paid when the taxes come due.

    Basically, the same rules apply for escrow requirements after the settlement takes place on a continuing yearly basis. In other words, the lender has the right to hold two additional months escrow, on the theory that if you are delinquent in one or two of your monthly payments, the lender will still have sufficient funds by tapping into this two months surplus.

    If there is a deficiency in the escrow account, caused, for example, by an increase in the taxes, the bank can, of course, ask you to make up that deficit.

    On an annual basis, whoever services your loan must send you a statement clearly itemizing "the amount of the borrowers current monthly payment, the portion of the monthly payment being placed in the escrow account, the total amount paid into the escrow account during the period, the total amount paid out of the escrow account during the period for taxes, insurance premiums . . . as separately identified and the balance in the escrow account at the conclusion of the period." This statement must be submitted to each borrower not less than once a year.

    There are penalties associated with a lenders failure to comply with this law, but the courts are divided as to whether a consumer has the right to take the lender to court for violation of this law. One court has indicated the only remedy is to go to the appropriate governmental agency, and another court has indicated that the consumer has an individual private remedy in court.

    Once you receive the annual statement, you must review it carefully. Confirm with your taxing authority and with your insurance company exactly when the payment is due, and the amount of that payment. Sit down with a calculator and determine whether the lender has properly calculated the amount of the escrow. Congressional testimony has uncovered many errors made by mortgage lenders, some in favor of the borrower and others in favor of the lender.

    Here is a suggestion you should follow. When your real estate taxes and your insurance premiums are due, and if your lender is paying these items for you, write the lender and ask them for confirmation that your taxes and insurance have in fact been paid. I have been involved in too many cases where a lender, usually inadvertently, has failed to make the annual real estate tax payment, or pay the annual insurance premium, causing significant aggravation and heartache to the consumer. While the lender is legally obligated to make payments out of the escrow account, you, the consumer, are the one who will be affected, and the burden should be on you to assure yourself that these payments are, in fact, made.
    Full Story >

    Buyers: Are Surveys Right About You?

    Homebuyer Surveys and Polls are a sure sign of spring, but are they a sure sign of what buyers should do?

    Surveys dont include interviews with every buyer in every state across the country. The sample of hundreds or thousands chosen to represent the total number of homebuyers out there may or may not include buyers with a lot in common with you.

    Polls usually involve phone calls or online responses from small numbers. We all know how accurate polls have proven to be.

    This means some surveys or polls will sound "right" because they reflect what you plan; others will seem "off" because they dont fit your point of view:

    • When a survey matches your plans, dont take this as proof youve made the right choice. If the results are accurate, what they may indicate is that there will be competition for what or where you want to buy. Forewarned is forearmed.
    • If the survey or poll does not reflect your buying plans, dig deeper to learn which questions were asked and what these new ideas involve. This disconnect may offer fresh buying perspectives that may be worth considering or the whole thing could be me>

    Surveys, polls, and studies mdash; only a small percentage of them scientific mdash; are at the core of much of the content, online and off, that we consume as news, research, and entertainment.

    When these fact-waving snippets declare what a majority of people are doing about buying a house or condominium or arranging a mortgage, do you have these results in perspective?

    • The bias of a survey or poll is important to consider since they have become less about science and more about powerful sales content. Who benefits from the slant of the survey or the poll results? Who is trying to persuade buyers to do what? If it is the same company or organization that is paying for the survey or sponsoring the poll, how >
    • How the target group is defined matters. For instance, millennials are popular targets of lenders and real estate brokerages since this buying segment is considered the prime real estate market. Yet, millennial definitions vary and are essentially centered on age, like age 18 to 34. Do you act the same and want the same things as everyone else with your chronological age?
    • Dont > Go directly to key real estate market players to learn what their research reveals. This insider view of buying and selling can provide valuable insight. For instance:
      • Fannie Mae annually produces the National Housing Survey NHS and Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey. The NHS explores the Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Indexreg; HPSI, which is based on six components including job security, that reflect buyer attitudes and activity within the context of the economy. As you read this Survey, consider how the six components would influence your finances and decision making.
      • The National Association of REALTORS provides useful publications like the Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report. This report contributes insight into differences and similarities across generations of home buyers and home sellers. Articles exploring seller issues like "More Ultra-Luxury Sellers Face lsquo;Stale Listings" can also provide useful perspectives for buyers.
      • Content directed at real estate professionals can prove enlightening for buyers and sellers. For instance, the second annual Homebuyer Insights Report HIR from Bank of America was recently >
      • The HIR describes first-time buyers as "juggling a variety of financial responsibilities: paying off debts/bills 61, improving credit scores 47, saving for a new home 45 and paying off student loans 32 are major priorities."
      • In the Report, current owners advice for purchasing includes: "start saving sooner 60, consider the maintenance costs and unexpected expenses 42, create and stick to a budget 35 and buy early to build equity 21."
      • Highlights from the report include: gt; 68 of millennial homeowners surveyed say their current home is a "stepping stone" to their forever home gt; 86 of millennial homeowners believe owning a home is more affordable than renting gt; 35 of prospective homebuyers have already started to plan for a down payment; only 21 think they can currently make one gt; 47 of prospective buyers think they would qualify for a down payment assistance program; of those, 87 say they would take advantage of these programs.

    However exciting a survey or poll is, dont >

    • Ask a lot of questions and listen to the answers. Investigate what friends, colleagues, and locals have learned the hard way about buying or selling real estate in your preferred neighborhoods.
    • Question real estate professionals who are active in those areas to learn about the reality of how buyers choose and what they are missing out on. Many of these professionals share their expertise on

    Hindsight is often the clearest vision buyers and sellers possess. Make sure your hindsight is a pat on the back not a kick in the pants. Learn from the experience of others.

    Youre not searching for reasons to avoid buying or selling, but for observations and details on how to be successful with your real estate transaction.

    Full Story >

    New Designs In Cabinet Refacing

    You may be one of the fortunate homeowners whose kitchen just needs an update instead of a full remodel. Cabinet refacing is an economical option that can give your kitchen a quick makeover in no time. Rather than gutting your cabinets and replacing them with new ones, cabinet refacing allows you to update the exterior of the cabinets you already have. Its also a fabulous way to add contemporary design elements to your space, both with cabinet doors, colors and hardware. Lets take a look at the latest designs in cabinet refacing.

    Beginning Steps

    Before starting a project, determine if cabinet refacing is the best fit for your existing space, budget and long term plans. Refacing is an economical option for updating your kitchens aesthetic, but it >

    If there is extensive damage or signs of wear that could impact the longevity of the cabinets, a full remodel with new cabinetry may be a more sensible option. The cabinetry body should be able to withstand the refacing project and last at least 10 years. If your cabinetry was built with less durable materials or outdated craftsmanship, it may be better to look into a full upgrade instead.

    A Modern Approach

    Utilize sleek designs and contemporary finishes when refacing your cabinetry to bring a modern touch to the heart of your home. Glossy cabinets can be paired with angular polished nickel pulls for a unique balance of sophistication and subtlety.

    When it comes to modern >Add contrast with a spectrum of colors or finishes, and dont be afraid to take advantage of pre-painted or repurposed options that give your kitchen space a little oomph. In homes where existing kitchens seem overtly traditional, contemporary cabinet >To finish the look, keep the accessories and added accents to a minimum - mirrored glass, smooth textures and organic materials are the perfect complements to this kitchen >Totally Transitional

    The key to creating a transitional oasis is to play up crispness and natural surfaces. When refacing your cabinetry, look for >

    Another >Wrap up your refacing project by paying attention to extra details that show off your new cabinets. A clean, neutral color palette is very characteristic of a transitional space, and typically features a monochromatic yet warm look with just a few bold punches of colors through accessories, dishes and upholstered furnishings like chairs or stools.

    Time for Traditional

    Take your traditional kitchen to the next level with >

    Other ways to create a >All of the >Kerrie Kelly is a Sacramento, California based interior designer who heads up Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. Kerrie provides design tips on topics such as updating your kitchen. She advises readers on everything from the color of the cabinets to the overall
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    How Design Rules Our Homes And Our Lives

    Humans are naturally drawn to certain shapes, curves, and colors. We can see design trends as far back as human history goes. In modern-speak, this innate desire creates a need for creative individuals and companies to give us what we want. Our tastes, however, change dramatically over time.

    Take homes for example, the easiest trends to spot over the centuries. There was a time when we made gigantic stone castles that would serve Royalty for generations.

    There was a time when we switched to lumber for our building needs. Paint, plaster, brick, and other materials were switched to as tastes evolved. There was even an unfortunate time when we thought that fake wood paneling would look great all around our homes. Weve wised up a lot since then, but it begs the question: what will our design tastes be like in another hundred years?

    Great looking homes arent the only thing that we cant live without-- we also require a certain look and feel in our household and electronic products. In fact, product design is one of the biggest industries out there. Estimates of the top companies dictate that over 30 is dedicated to the sole purpose of design.Take Apple, for instance. Their world >lacking in every quantifiable way. Dont make this same mistake when looking for the place in which you will choose to live.

    When youre looking for a home, there are a few things that you need to take into consideration, knowing how much we value design. First off, the general look has to be tolerable. You are going to live there for heavens sake After it passes the initial look test, one has to consider how the flow of the home will fit into your daily life.Does it have a space for a home office? How many rooms are there compared to your needs this year and 3-5 years down the road? After the inside is checked off, you can make plans for how you want to change the look and feel of it. Remember, the way it looks now can be easily changed, especially easy things like colors, appliances, and decor. As any REALTORreg; can tell you, these small elements can drastically change the atmosphere of a home.

    Take note of how your homes design makes you feel. Does it have a friendly, open floor plan, or is it smaller boxy rooms? People prefer different things of course, but its always important to realize this before you move in than six months down the road.
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    Real Estate Professionals The Adams Team With Jennifer Thomas Pay It Forward With Another Special Donation To Ocean Connectors

    Las Vegas, NV April 24, 2017 -- PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Linda and Robby Adams, of Realty One Group in Carlsbad, California, along with Jennifer Thomas made their second special donation to Ocean Connectors on behalf of their client. They were the first Realty One Group agents to make a donation under a new initiative with the Realty One Charitable Foundation.

    "Agents like the Adams Team and Jennifer Thomas are commited to the Agent with Heartmovement, and are making a big difference in their community," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. Agents in the program agree to donate to the nonprofit of her clients choice after closing so everyone benefits from a new real estate transaction.

    "Its really great to see real estate professionals like Linda and Robby Adams, and Jennifer Thomas continue to make an impact with donations like this. Agents like this are the real superstars in the Agent with Heart program," Mr. Giaimo concludes.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like the Adams Team and Jennifer Thomas who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with The Adams Team, please call 760-445-8685.
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    Toronto Has A Lot Of Building But Not Much Architecture

    Award-winning architect Brigitte Shim says Torontos condo and office tower builders could step up and contribute to the public realm by taking more care when designing their projects.

    In 1954, architect Phyllis Lambert wrote a letter to her father Sam Bronfman, who was about to embark on a major commercial building development in Montreal. As reported by Marian Scott in the Montreal Gazette, Lambert told her father that he could build "another vaguely modernized skyscraper office building like so many others" or "a building which expresses the best of the society in which you live, and at the same time your hopes for the betterment of society."

    Lamberts quote was front and centre recently at the Urban Land Institute URL Toronto Symposium, where a panel discussion evolved into a critique of Torontos tall buildings.

    One of the fastest growing cities in North America, Toronto already ranks fourth on the world list of cities with the most tall buildings. At the beginning of 2017, there were 1,411 new residential projects in the pipeline, representing 311,350 residential units, as well as 1,313 non-commercial projects. Every year about 10,000 new residents are moving into the citys downtown core.

    "Toronto is seeing a lot of building," architect Brigitte Shim told the ULI gathering, "but not a lot of architecture."

    Shim is a principal at Shim-Sutcliffe Architects in Toronto and a professor at the University of Toronto John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. Along with partner Howard Sutcliffe, she has received 14 Governor General Awards for Architecture and many other accolades, including the Order of Canada.

    Shim said Toronto has "really great planning that sets the table, lays the foundation" for downtown projects. "But to get great architecture you need really great clients. Our development community has done good and competent work, but if they were to really step up, it would make a huge difference to the quality of architecture. We have okay buildings that follow general rules but we could do better."

    As part of the development approval process, Toronto has a Design Review Panel of volunteer design professionals including architects, landscape architects, urban designers and engineers. The panels mandate is "to improve peoples quality of life by promoting design excellence within the public realm, including the pursuit of high quality architecture, landscape architecture, urban design and environmental sustainability."

    Panel vice-chair Michael Leckman, principal with Diamond Schmitt Architects, told the ULI gathering that most of the Design Review Panels time is spent discussing urban design rather than architecture.

    "The projects that come before us are so complex, with so many urban issues to resolve in the 25 or 30 minutes we have to talk about it," that theres little time to talk about the architecture, he said.

    "Truthfully, in the 10 years I have been on the Design Review Panel, there has been a handful, maybe 10 projects we have seen where we can say, lsquo;Thats inspiring. It is a very challenging environment to provide design excellence in."

    Jennifer Keesmaat, Torontos chief planner and executive director said, "We are very much a developer-driven city. Its very different from other cities where you have a much stronger regulatory framework, where the standards are set by the city and theres a requirement to build to those standards. We have a negotiated process. I dont think thats a bad thing. Its a very complex city and we are able to engage in complex negotiations on really specific projects in a short period of time, which is why the city is growing so fast."

    "When design review is working well, its not about telling the architect this colour is better than this, or this opening is betterhellip;its more about how well the project is addressing the urban context, how well it understands the neighbourhood its situated it," said Shim.

    She says where the process "gets stickyhellip;is when they are not very good architects. Then you have to get prescriptive, which is exactly what you dont want to do."

    Keesmaat said building a culture of design excellence starts with the residents of the city. "If you had consumers who werent willing to accept crap -- who had more sophistication about what they were demanding in their buildings -- it would really transform the industry."

    She also pointed blame at the architects. "They come in with bad plans and blame their clients," she said. The industry needs to "stiffen its spine" and recognize that it has an obligation to push back about what they are willing to produce, she said.

    "Education is really key," said Shim. "In Chicago every cab driver has an opinion about every building in the city. They can tell you what they like and dont like."

    Keesmaat said that despite the criticism, Toronto is recognized around the world for the way it has integrated tall buildings into the fabric of the city. "We tend to underestimate how well we have absorbed growth while preserving the character of our areas," she said.

    Heritage conversation regulations and secondary plans for specific neighbourhoods are tools the city can use to negotiate better projects with developers, said Keesmaat.

    "Most of our biggest developers truly care about city building and they work collaboratively with us," she said.

    Full Story >

    Think Your Credit Score Is Too Low To Buy A House? Maybe Not

    When it comes to your credit score, how low is too low? The number you really need to buy a house.

    We all know that when it comes to buying a house, there are a few things we need, like a down payment and a good enough credit score to qualify for a loan. But what does a "good enough credit score" really mean? Does your credit history have to be impeccable? Can you have a couple of boo-boos? And, if you do have issues on your report, how much of a hit will you take?

    Your credit score is "a number, roughly between 300 and 850, that summarizes a consumers creditworthiness," said Bankrate. "The higher the score, the more able and willing a consumer is to repay a loan, lenders believe. The best mortgage rates and terms go to borrowers with credit scores of 740 and higher."

    But most of us cant measure up to that number. Thankfully, we dont have to. Theres room for lower scores - even really low scores - depending on the type of loan youre applying for, with a number of other factors your income and work history, the amount of your down payment, the state of the economy thrown in. Knowing where the bottom is will help you figure out how to proceed.

    FHA loans

    The advantage to a Federal Housing Administration FHA loan for many buyers is the low down payment. You may need only 3.5 down to purchase a home with this type of loan, which is backed by the government. But, youll need a minimum 580 credit score if youre only planning to put 3.5 down. Cant meet that benchmark? Youll need more cash up front.

    "If your credit score is below 580, however, you arent necessarily excluded from FHA loan eligibility," said the FHA. "Applicants with lower credit scores will have to put down a 10 percent down payment if they want to qualify for a loan."

    For FHA loans, your credit score can be as low as 500. But, "Those with credit scores between 500 and 579 are limited to 90 percent LTV," which leaves a lot of people out of luck.

    Non-government-backed loans

    The issue with FHA loans for many buyers: That pesky private mortgage insurance PMI, which can add several hundred dollars to the monthly payment and is "required any time you put less than 20 down on a conventional loan," said My Mortgage Insider.

    If you have a larger down payment, you may be able to avoid paying PMI by going with another type of loan - but only if you have the credit score. "To qualify for a conventional mortgage, a borrower generally needs a minimum credit score of 680 and at least 5 percent down," said Bankrate. "Many lenders require at least 10 percent down."

    There may be more wiggle room in that credit score if you can come up with more money for a higher down payment. But, if its too low, youll likely be pointed right back to FHA loans. On the other end, a higher score will get you the best possible interest rates.

    Subprime mortgages

    Have a credit score below 500? Youre officially in the "bad credit" zone. But, you may still be a candidate for a loan, even if you cant qualify by FHA standards, by going with a subprime mortgage. The word "subprime" still sends shivers down the spines of many people because loans extended to what many industry professionals considered to be unqualified applicants were largely blamed for the last housing crash. Accordingly, many of these opportunities dried up in the aftermath.

    Today, though, subprime mortgages are available. Keep in mind that minimum credit scores will depend on the individual loan and lender, and each borrowers unique set of financial circumstances. And, youll pay for the privilege of being extended a loan with higher rates and/or fees.

    "Subprime mortgage lenders mostly use collateral like equity earned when considering a refinance or a more significant down-payment when talking about a purchase money transaction," said First Time Home Financing.

    Private Money Lenders

    If all other avenues fail, you may still be able to get a loan with your bad credit from a private money lender. These are individuals with money to spend who are looking for investments. Because your low credit score makes you risky, youll be charged more for your loan.

    "Your personal credit is usually a smaller factor in these types of loans. However, you should know that the interest rate on these loans is much higher - in the range of 10-15," said First Time Home Financing. "If you really have bad credit, this could be your only option for the time being."
    Full Story >

    Federal Sentencing Guidelines Contain Insights For Broker Ethics Programs

    Chapter 8 of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual deals with the sentencing of organizations. Its discussion of potentially mitigating factors contains useful food for thought for real estate brokerages. This is not because brokerages are particularly liable to be facing federal sentencing. Rather, it is because the Guidelines provide a structural outline for "the existence of an effective compliance and ethics program". This is of interest to anyone who wishes to promote, in the words of the Guidelines, "an organizational culture that encourages ethical conduct."

    We note here some of the features of an ethics program, as described in the Guidelines.

    • The governing authority of the organization shall be knowledgeable about the content and operation of the program, and shall exercise reasonable oversight with respect to its implementation.
    • High-level personnel of the organization shall ensure that the organization has an effective program, and specific high-level personnel shall be assigned overall responsibility for the program.
    • Specific individuals within the organization shall be delegated day-to-day operational responsibility for the program.

    The Guidelines recognizes that not every organization is so large as to have the layers of management personnel implied by these provisions. Small organizations may meet the requirements "with less formality and fewer resources than would be expected of large organizations." Small organizations might use "available personnel, rather than employing separate staff" to carry out the ethics program.

    Further provisions stipulate that:

    • The organization shall conduct training programs and otherwise "take reasonable steps to communicate periodically and in a practical manner its standards and procedures."
    • The organization will take steps to monitor and evaluate its programs.
    • The organization will have and publicize a system "which may include mechanisms that allow for anonymity or confidentiality, whereby hellip; employees and agents may report or seek guidancehellip; without fear of retaliation."

    Its hard to find a real estate firm that does not claim that ethics is its highest priority. Major firms in all regions of the country proclaim their commitment to ethical conduct. And yet none -- that I know of, at least -- have any sort of program like the one described in the Guidelines. Why?

    A number of possible answers present themselves, but there is one that deserves special consideration. That is, real estate firms dont conduct their own ethics programs because they believe it is the job of the Realtor organizations to teach and promote ethical conduct.

    This is understandable. For years the national, state, and local Realtorreg; organizations have represented themselves both to their members and to the public as, so to speak, the guardians of professional morality for the real estate industry. They have, with great sincerity, taken on the tasks of defining, teaching, and enforcing rules of professional ethics for real estate practitioners.

    Perhaps this worked once. But it doesnt work now. For one thing, it is a plain, albeit regrettable, fact that the activities and priorities of the Realtor organizations are far removed from the consciousness of most agents. Second, the mandatory ethical training required by the National Association of REALTORSreg; is simply too infrequent an occurrence to have a real impact on most members. Finally, and of the greatest importance, questions of ethics are widely perceived to be "the Realtor Boards issues", not those of the agents firm.

    The lesson is clear, and the federal guidelines are right on target. If a company really wants to promote "an organizational culture that encourages ethical conduct", it needs to institute and implement its own ethics program. Certainly, the Realtor associations may be able to help in this regard. Chapter 8 of the sentencing guidelines provides some excellent structural suggestions for an ethics program, but it does not deal with content. That is where the national, state, and local Realtor associations could provide useful resources.

    The Realtor organizations can help individual firms to institute ethics programs that will have an impact on their agents; but they cant do it for them.

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

    Full Story >

    Three Big Things Homebuyers Are On The Look-Out For

    As a seller, you have a lot more control in pleasing buyers than you think. If you start the selling process by learning what buyers really want, you can prepare your home to come as close to their dreams as possible.

    Here are the five biggest turn-ons for homebuyers and what you can do to please buyers.

    Curb Appeal

    You only get one chance to make a first impression. Your home should sell to the buyer from the curb. Thats how important curb appeal is. Your buyer should be so impressed, so charmed, so delighted that they want to leap out of the car and run inside.

    How do you create curb appeal? Show attention to detail. Your home has to be prettier, cleaner and in better condition than its neighbors.

    Start with sweeping the drive, walkway, and porch or entry of dirt and debris. Get rid of leggy bushes, wilted flowers and broken tree limbs. Plant fresh flowers in the front garden or in containers at the entry.

    Power-wash the exterior and hand-wash the windows. Touch up paint around the windows, if needed. Paint the front door a fresh, modern color. Replace the door hardware and porch sconces.


    The number one reason why people buy homes is to have more room. Whether theyre moving from an apartment or moving up from the home they have, they want to have plenty of space to do the things they enjoy.

    If you have a large home, youre golden, but that doesnt mean youve got it made. You can ruin a buyers first impression with too much clutter, so make sure to keep your home picked up so your buyer can see your homes features clearly and easily.

    What if you dont have a lot of space? Plan to do some storing and staging. Rent a storage unit and put away all out of season clothes, toys, and home decorations and accessories. Clean off all tables and countertops so you have only the minimum of things your need to operate your home. Empty closets of anything that is "stored" and move it to the storage unit. The small expense youll pay in storage fees youll more than make back from your buyers offer.


    Theres a reason why first-time buyers and singles tend to buy older homes - theyre more affordable than buying new. So unless your buyer is a building contractor, chances are they want a home thats as updated as possible.

    You may not be interested in putting in a new kitchen in order to sell your home, but you can do a few things to make buyers happy. Replace the most dated features - countertops, cabinet pulls, or appliances.

    Bathrooms are so personal that they can easily turn buyers off. Invest in new towels, bathmats and a shower curtain. Throw out slimey soaps and limp ragged bath sponges. Replace with liquid shower and bath products. You can take all the new stuff with you to the next home.

    Painting is expected by buyers, but dont repaint the same colors that you chose 10 years ago. Pick an updated neutral like a warm grey instead of beige. Be sure to choose a color that will complement the architecture and flooring in your home.

    Keep in mind that the typical home purchased in 2013 was 1,860 square feet and built in 1996, so homebuyers arent expecting your home to be a mansion, nor do they expect it to be new, but they do expect to see pride of ownership. The more tweaks, updates and repairs that you perform, the more confident your buyers will be that theyre choosing the right home.
    Full Story >

    3 Ways To Make Your Tiny Backyard Feel Like A Resort With A Small Pool

    No room for a pool? Thats what you think. The tiny home may be all the rage, but it has nothing on tiny pools. Perfect for yards with less than ample space, a mini pool can give you everything you want, even if you dont have acres of land to build it on.

    "You dont have to have a big backyard to fit in a pool - and if younbsp;donbsp;have a big backyard, the pool doesnt have to take up the entire thing," said Apartment Therapy.

    Choose from these three main types of small pools for inspiration.

    The spool

    "If you are looking to have a luxurious backyard but have a limited space to work with, you might be in the market for a Spool," said Klein Custom Pools. "A Spool, or a Cocktail Pool, is a small swimming pool design created as a solution to having a >

    This spool may be short on size, but certainly not on >

    Trying to figure out how to design a courtyard area that could feel less than hospitable thanks to the tall brick walls? Decking that runs up the walls, lush landscaping, and the cleverly located and shaped spool turn this small yard into a showstopper.

    In this desert backyard, the curved shape of the spool breaks up the straight lines, the extended steps provide a place to >

    A narrow yard gets the tropical treatment. This small pool proves that getting creative with shapes and textures can help overcome a lack of depth in your outdoor area.


    Lap Pool

    This lap pool is beautiful to look at and also provides function for those who want to do more than cool off. Its compact size also leaves plenty of patio space to enjoy.

    This lap pool "runs the length of the house and also functions as a showcase water feature," said HGTV.

    Even a postage stamp of a yard can become an outdoor oasis. Here, the raised platform provides a resort-like spot for enjoying the view onto the lap pool. Tropical landscaping, bamboo fencing, and a dark stain complete the look.


    Plunge Pool

    If youre not looking to actually go for a swim, you may have other options open to you by building a plunge pool.

    "A plunge pool is a small, shallow pool built for the purpose of lounging, wading, and cooling off instead of for swimming and exercising," said The Spruce. "Some homeowners prefer them because of their lower costs, smaller sizes, easier maintenance, andnbsp;reduced water requirements. Since newer homes tend to be built on smaller lots, a plunge pool is a space-saving option."

    While it may look like a hot tub, a plunge pool is typically kept at a lower temperature that makes it a refreshing option in warm climates. And, you an easily build one into a deck, like in this home.

    Photo by blazemakoidarchitecture - Look for beach >

    Think creatively to make great use of space and materials. "What to do when space is tight? The clever folks at Claytonamp;Little Architects in Austin, Texas, took a highway concrete box culvert, cast a PVC insert, plastered the exterior, tiled the waterline andnbsp;voilanbsp;ndash; a compact but dazzling plunge pool," said Ocean Home.

    Full Story >

    Homeowners: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

    Should I stay or should I go. Its not just an anthemic line to a >Its a conundrum. So much so that its even spawned the popular show on HGTV called Love It or List It, where owners of a problem pad fight over whether to remain in their home with the help of a sizable budget and a skilled reno team or move to something else.

    "Families evolve, whether through the birth of children, the acquiring of possessions, or an increase in job rewards. That charming little cottage two lovebirds started out in often becomes an overstuffed matchbox with too few bedrooms and too many toys, tools, and tricycles, with people stumbling over one another in the course of daily life," said Money Crashers. "Privacy is nonexistent, noise and tensions regularly escalate, and stress is a frequent guest at the dinner table. The only solution is more room."

    So how do you know whether to renovate or move?

    CNN Money asked the same question, and has come up with "5 smart fixes" to the stay or go question.

    "Happy with where you live but not so hot on your living space? Now might be the perfect time to address your abodes architectural flaws," they said. "With real estate prices on the rise, its safer than it has been in years to invest in your home."

    Especially when "remodeling away your houses shortcomings can cost tens of thousands less than trading up to an already remodeled house, which commands a major premium now. In addition, you avoid realtor fees, moving costs, and the inevitable expense of making a new place your own, no matter how turnkey it is."

    Here are a few of their "cost-effective solutions to the issues that most commonly force people to move."

    1. Doubling the space in your kitchen

    If your home was built before the 1980s, chances are your kitchen is small and closed off from the rest of the home. Removing a wall between the kitchen and dining room or kitchen and family room is an easy and affordable way to create "a feeling of spaciousness -- and also clears room for an island or peninsula that can become a key workstation or a place for family and guests to congregate," said CNN Money.

    Expect to pay a minimum of 5,000 "to remove the wall and refinish the surrounding floor, ceiling, and walls," and more if you need to add a structural beam or >2. Adding a powder bath on the first floor

    Older homes that dont have a bathroom on the main level are not just difficult to sell -- theyre difficult to live in. CNN Money says you can solve this issue by renovating existing space. "You can squeeze a powder room into a space as small as four feet by four feet or even three feet by five feet," they said. "One option is to repurpose a large coat closet, pantry, or under-stairs cubby. Keep in mind that the closer you put the bathroom to existing plumbing, the less it will cost."

    Expect to pay a minimum of 10,000 if you use what you have and up to 25,000 if youre building a room from scratch.

    3. Turning the master bedroom into a master suite

    If your master bedroom is adjacent to another room, you can take over the space. "A lot of people do this when the kids go off to college," said CNN Money.

    Remember that lowering the number of bedrooms in your home can also lower your home value, so consider the equation carefully. "You always want to keep your bedroom count on par with the neighborhood," they said. "So, in a four-bedroom house area, dropping to three may not be a good idea. But in a predominantly two-bedroom neighborhood, youd still be way ahead of the Joneses."

    Expect the cost to range from 40,000 to 80,000, depending on if you are adding a master bath and exactly how spa-like you intend for it to be.

    4. Converting the attic

    If youre short of bedrooms, youve probably thought of adding on. But home additions can be very costly. A great solution can be moving into the attic.

    "For growing families, the number of bedrooms is often the biggest factor motivating a move to a bigger and more costly home," said CNN Money. "The ideal place to add bedrooms is the square footage you already own up in the attic."

    Expect to pay 20,000 and up depending on the space allotted and whether or not you need to add windows or a staircase.

    Houzz has some great questions to ask yourself if you are trying to decide between moving or remodeling:

  • "How do you feel about your neighborhood?
  • Is there some intangible quality to your house?
  • Does renovating make economic sense?
  • Does the existing house have good bones?
  • How will the latest zoning restrictions affect the project?For more pointed questions that will help you determine if youre willing to stay, or ready to go, see Houzz.
    Full Story >

  • 7 Questions to Ask Before Designing Your New Kitchen

    Addressing these details when planning your kitchen will ensure a smoother project with more personalized >

    Some of the questions you ask when planning a new kitchen are obvious, such as, "Do I want white cabinets or wood?" and "Do I want stainless steel appliances?"

    But there are many design decisions that you might not even know to consider until the project is well underway. To help you avoid surprises and unfortunate mistakes, here are seven questions you should ask yourself before you begin your kitchen design.

    1. What are the rules? Im not talking about design rules for what colors will match or what wood goes with what stone. Im talking about the actual rules that are laid out by your local building code, which can affect many decisions or none at all, depending on your area and project conditions.

    For example, many building codes dictate what type of hood fan you must use to ensure proper ventilation. These rules are especially important to know during a major renovation or new construction, as a surprise inspection that finds violations will leave you with a serious headache.

    See more on building permits

    Photo by TaylorPro Design amp; Remodeling - Look for traditional kitchen pictures

    2. How should my cabinet drawers and doors open? Designers often point out that changing out the knobs on existing cabinets can make a kitchen look new in a snap. Putting knobs and hardware on new cabinets for the first time, however, can take a surprising amount of thought to get right.

    One of the trickiest parts of designing a kitchen well is making the cabinet door and drawer fronts look elegant and consistent while the cabinets themselves serve different practical functions in a variety of shapes.

    Photo by Karr Bick Kitchen and Bath - Browse farmhouse kitchen ideas

    You might find a single handle that works for all your cabinets, but you may need two or even three coordinating >

    Once youve chosen hardware, you should give careful consideration to where to install it to best achieve a sense of visual consistency. Free software can be found online to model your kitchen in 3-D, and you can adjust details such as the directions that doors swing until the hardware lines up in a pleasing way.

    Or you can skip the issue altogether and use knob-free touch-latch cabinets.

    Get the complete guide to planning a kitchen remodel

    Photo by Venegas and Company - Discover traditional kitchen design inspiration

    3. What profile should I use for my countertops? The shape of the edge of the countertop may seem like a mundane detail, but it can make a world of difference to the look and function of your counters, and the kitchen as a whole.

    This kitchen shows an "eased edge" stone counter essentially a crisp rectangle with slightly softened corners on the left and a cove edge wood counter on the right.

    An eased edge is currently a popular choice for contemporary kitchens because it gives a simple, modern appeal. More ornate profiles usually carry a traditional air and a sense of warmth and personality.

    Photo by Formica Group - More kitchen photos

    One of the most popular choices for a counter profile is the "bullnose" or "demi-bullnose" option, which means essentially a half circle or quarter circle. The look is less "sharp" than a minimalist eased edge, but so is the experience of bumping into it by accident. Ultimately its a decision that comes down to personal priorties.

    It should be noted, however, that a very rounded edge like this is not always the best choice for laminates: The edge tends to give away that the material is fake because the curves look unnatural and the pattern does not align at the seam.

    Photo by Natalie Fuglestveit Interior Design - Discover modern kitchen design ideas

    To simulate the look of a true stone when using a laminate, look to a simple rectangular profile in a dark color so the seams and edges appear natural and subtle.

    Photo by Alair Homes Charlotte - Search transitional kitchen pictures

    4. What finish should my fixtures be? Selecting the material for your kitchen fixtures isnt all about trends and pretty color palettes. Metals come in various finishes, and there can be major practical considerations as well. Try mixing stainless steel with brushed brass for a subtle contrast, as shown here.

    Photo by BedfordBrooks Design Inc. - Look for traditional kitchen pictures

    For instance, brushed finishes tend to hide fingerprints and light water spotting much better than polished ones. Brass and gold-tone finishes tend to be warmer and more dramatic, while stainless steel and silvery-tone finishes tend to blend into the color palette more but add more sparkle.

    There are lots of details to consider, so its best to research the pros and cons of a >

    It can also become even trickier when trying to coordinate multiple metal elements.

    Photo by Elizabeth Lawson Design - Discover transitional kitchen design inspiration

    Its usually recommended to choose appliances from the same manufacturer, if possible, especially if theyre situated very close together, because differing product lines can have subtly different finishes that become more apparent once paired together.

    Tip: Take one sample of a handle youre considering or other metallic element to an appliance showroom to get an idea for how the different finishes will interact. If the pairing seems off, you can exchange the handle for a different finish.

    Photo by - Look for contemporary kitchen pictures

    5. How will I mount my sink? Choosing an undermount sink or a drop-in model, as shown here, affects more than just the look of the sink itself, so its a decision that should be thought through early.

    Undermount sinks, like the one pictured, are generally easier for keeping the surrounding countertop area clean because the neater edge of the counter allows you to sweep crumbs and debris directly into the sink without getting caught on a high lip. However, undermounts cant always be installed in a laminate counter because the counter cutout would leave a raw unfinished edge in the core material.

    Photo by Elizabeth Lawson Design - More transitional home design photos

    Knowing what >

    6. What finish should my stone be? Besides choosing what material you want for your counters, backsplash and flooring, you also need to decide the finish of the material itself.

    Photo by kim scodro interiors - Discover traditional kitchen design ideas

    Popular stone materials such as granite and quartz can take on a polished finish, like the one shown here, which gives a hard face and an almost reflective look. A honed finish appears much more soft and organic.

    Photo by Markay Johnson Construction - Look for traditional kitchen design inspiration

    A honed finish, as seen here, also has the advantage of hiding scratches that can stick out in a gleaming polished stone. However, they can be more easily stained if not well-sealed, as the material tends to be more receptive to absorbing oils. Each has its advantages, so you should research your choice and not make a snap decision when meeting with the supplier.

    When looking at stone samples, be sure to ask what finishes are available and look at each individually, as the finish can greatly affect the appearance, even radically changing the apparent color. Applying sealant can also darken the appearance to a degree, so you should ask to see a sealed sample mdash; it may be extra work for the supplier, but it will save you a potential surprise on installation day.

    Photo by - Browse contemporary kitchen photos

    7. What material should my toe kicks be? You might assume your toe kick has to match the material of your cabinets. But what if your cabinets arent one consistent color? Or what if youve used a sparkling white cabinet, but you dont want the toe kick to get dirty every time it gets, well, kicked?

    If your island is a different material from the rest of the cabinets, you can let its toe kick differ from the main cabinets. Another option is to use a third material that ties all the cabinets together: Stainless steel makes a great toe kick if you have stainless appliances or handles, tying the whole palette together.

    Also See:

    • Inspiration for Your New Kitchen
    • 5 Popular Types of Granite Countertops to Consider
    • Invest in a New Kitchen Island

    Full Story >

    Are Your Pets Soiling Your Chances of Selling Your Home?

    Pets are often so loved by their owners that they are allowed the run of the house. At their worst, doggie and kitty dictators mark their territory with pungent odors and unsightly stains.

    When you love these little furry friends, its hard to realize how much these pets may be hurting your marketing efforts in selling your home. If you are like most pet lovers, you may be a little on the sensitive side.

    If your listing agent is having a hard time communicating with you about your pets and their effect on buyers and other agents, perhaps a look at this neutral third-party list of suggestions may help you understand the problem better:

    1. If it smells, it wont sell. Your pet may be perfectly well mannered, but that doesnt mean your home is odor-free. Most pet odor comes from fur and dander. Pets mark their territory by rubbing their fur on objects. Thats why your kitty rubs your ankles with her sides. Minimize pet odors by not allowing your pets to sleep on couches and carpets. Provide them with a cuddly bed of their own and reward them lavishly whenever they use it. Deodorize often with Febreze, a product found on most grocery store shelves. Keep pets bathed and groomed more often than usual, so as not to add to existing pet odor.

    2. Stains dont have to be permanent. There are many good products to clean pet stains. Just visit your local pet store or key "pet stains" into your favorite search engines. What you will find are companies with advice and products, such as Planet Urine. Pet stores sell a product called Natures Miracle which also works beautifully. Hospital supply companies are also a great source for heavy duty stain and odor control products.

    3. Vacuum daily. While your home is being marketed, vacuum the carpets daily with an odor deodorizer. You can find them in the cleaning supplies section of the grocery store. Remember to change bags more frequently than usual. Treat your home to a professional carpet cleaning. Also, open the windows and let some fresh air in. Pull back the drapes. Open vents. A closed in home will hold more odor than it should.

    4.Keep pets from showings. Many buyers are suggestible. If they dont see a pet, theyll look at the home more objectively. If they spot your dog or cat, they will be alerted to look for stains and odors. Arrange to have your pet off the property for showings, and put their food dishes and toys out of sight, too. Keep cat boxes and backyard doggie loos scooped daily. If you have to board your pet to prevent it from doing further damage or soiling new replacement fixtures, do so. You will be rewarded with a higher selling price for your home. When you are in your new home, you can welcome your pet back from its "holiday" with a favorite treat and lots of snuggles.

    5.Stains and odors may have to be disclosed. In many states, stains and odors that cant be removed must be disclosed to the buyer or you may be held liable. That will automatically put you in a poor bargaining position with the buyer. If you arent sure what the extent of your pets damage is, you can purchase, rent or borrow a hand-held black light to shine on carpets and other fixtures. Some carpet cleaning kits include a black light for this purpose. Viewing your carpet this way will help you decide whether to clean or replace the carpet. Your agent will most likely advise you to replace the carpet. It will cost you much less money than a buyers discount.

    6. Perception is everything. If your home doesnt pass the sniff or stain test, it will adversely affect the way other agents and their buyers perceive your home. Your agent is depending upon other Realtors to show your home to their buyers. Many Realtors insist on showing only pristine homes to their clients. Once word gets around, you may find yourself with few showings which will cause the value of your home to drop.

    7. Be realistic about your homes value. A home is only really worth what a buyer is willing to pay. If your home has suffered damage due to your pets, it may be devalued in the marketplace. The only cure is taking action to eliminate the problem before your home goes on the market. Listen to your Realtor and follow his/her advice about the most cost-effective ways to manage your pets damage to the home. She or he will have suggestions and solutions that will put you right back on the marketing track.

    Full Story >

    The Definitive, No-Fail Way To Pick A Neighborhood Youll Love

    Nothing stinks more than finding a home, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, moving yourself your family your pets and all your stuff, and ending up with buyers remorse. Especially if youre >Check the lists

    Whether youre looking to move across the country, the state, or the city, moving away can be an overwhelming proposition. Local real estate agents and >Google "Best place to live" and youll have pages of options to sift through. Getting more specific, you can find lists outlining the best cities in which to find a job, raise a family, be a successful millennial, retire, live off the gridand thats just the beginning. The great news is that these websites and news outlets have done a lot of the legwork for you, with data, statistics, and other details that can help you quickly see where you might want to concentrate your search. At the very least, itll provide a good starting point that will allow you to do further research.

    Consider the value

    There are countless ways to look at the value of an area. But one of the strongest indicators of growth in neighborhoods today is what can be found around it. Like a popular coffee shop. "Call it the Starbucks Effect: Proximity to a local coffee shop has a very real, and positive, effect on home values, new data shows," said Time. "How much faster? Over 17 yearsleading up to 2014, homes adjacent to the local Starbucks almost doubled in value, up by 96. Those further out appreciated by 65 over the same period."

    And thats not it. "Houses near Targets experience much higher appreciation, according to anew study from RealtyTrac," said CBS News - as much as a 27 percent price appreciation and average property values of 307,286, or 72 percent higher than homes near Walmart locations."

    Whole Foods and Trader Joes also factor in. "A 2015 study by the real estate information company RealtyTrac analyzed this trend," said US News. "The study included 4 million homes located in a ZIP code with either a Whole Foods or Trader Joes location, finding that average property values in a ZIP code with Trader Joes appreciated by about 40 percent since they were purchased, while homes with a Whole Foods in the ZIP code appreciated by nearly 34 percent, which matches the national average increase according to the survey."

    Look at the schools

    Dont yet have kids, never want them, or have an empty nest? It doesnt matter. Living in a good school district still helps to maintain your property values. "Living near a high-scoring school can increase your homes value by over 200,000, according to theBrookings Institution," saidAOL. "Thats not chump change. There are plenty of attractive advantages that come with proximity to a school, including increased police protection, personal use of school facilities and living in a Drug-Free School Zone."

    Make the drive

    Commuting is a big deal for everyone, and if you have a limit to how much time you want to spend in the car, it makes sense to drive from any of the neighborhoods you like to work during rush hour and back as a test run. It might just turn out that the drive is so long it allows you to kick several options off your list.

    Go to Starbucks

    Once you recognize that the neighborhood Starbucks can help stabilize and even raise your property values, go hang out there for a while. Hit the park, one of the popular lunch spots, and the supermarket, while youre at it, paying attention to the type of people who are there. Are they friendly? Rude? Is everyone in a hurry? Is there an interesting mix of people? Do you see families or retirees or whatever type of demographic youre looking for? Spending some time in the area can tell you a lot about what its going to be like to live there.

    Now, take it even more local

    Case the specific neighborhoods youre considering. Not in the "Were going to rob you" way, of course. Spending as much time as possible in the area where you may soon be living will give you a better feel for how youll fit in. Maybe the streets fill with kids in late afternoon and youre looking for a quieter environment. Or maybe theres not a peep on the street at all, even on weekends, and youre looking for a livelier atmosphere.

    Listen to your head and your heart

    Living on the beach would be amazing. Except for the fact that it would mean adding a good hour to your commute - each way. Understanding and accepting your priorities and then using them to establish an action plan is critical when choosing the right neighborhood. If you ditch your plan to find a great family home in a neighborhood with lots of kids and amenities nearby because you fall in love with a remote mountain enclave populated mostly by survivalists, youll probably end up frustrated down the line.

    Dont be blinded by a great house

    Walking into a house and getting that feeling in your gutyou know, that intangible thing that just makes it feel rightis dreamy. We all want that "meant to be" thing. But a great house is only the right house if it actually works for you.

    You dont want to be a few months out and hating your life because you chose the home with the great bones but you dont actually have the money to do the updates needed to bring it into this century. Or because the neighborhood just doesnt meet your needs in terms of schools, commute time, amenities, neighbors, or all of the above.

    Real estate experts often recommend choosing neighborhood over house, because, while you can change your house, its a lot harder to pick it up and move it to a better neighborhood.
    Full Story >

    Real Estate Professional Dana Roberts Makes Second Donation In The Agent With Heart Program To The Hope For Paws Animal Rescue Organization

    Las Vegas, NV April 24th, 2017 -- PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Ms. Dana Roberts, of Coldwell Banker Residential Irvine, recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to the Hope for Paws animal rescue organization on behalf of her client.

    "This is Dana Roberts second donation as part of the Agent with HeartTM movement, dedicated to making a real difference by agreeing to donate to the nonprofit of her clients choice after closing," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. "The Agent with Heart program is designed so everyone benefits from a new real estate transaction," Mr. Giaimo explains.

    "Its great to see real estate agents like Dana make the community a better place since homeowners like to do business with people who care. Please join me in thanking Dana for making her second donation with the Agent with Heart program," Mr. Giaimo concludes.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Dana Roberts who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit To connect with Dana Roberts, please call 949-433-6694.
    Full Story >

    Home Inspection: Yes; Escalation Clause: Maybe

    Question: My wife and I are house hunting. A friend told us that the market is hot, and there are very few house available for a large number of potential buyers. We were advised to consider including an escalator clause in any contract we present to a seller. And if there is an escalation clause, how do we deal with the amount of the loan we plan to get. It was also suggested that we decline having a home inspection. What do you think about these issues? Alvin

    Answer: Maybe for the first and absolutely no for the second.

    Lets look at the inspection contingency. Unless you are a professional engineer or architect, what do you know about houses? Is the electricity up to code? Does the HVAC system work? Are the joists that seem to be holding up the basement ceiling adequate true story? You are investing in what may be the biggest purchase of your life; dont take a chance that something -- possibly major -- will occur soon after you take title. If a seller is not willing to let you have 10-12 days after signing the sales contract to have a professional inspector carefully go over every detail in the property, my advice: go somewhere else.

    I write from experience with some clients, who wanted an expensive house but the seller was not willing to allow a brief inspection period. Against my strong advice, they bought the house without the inspection. Four months later, they called to tell me they should have listened to me; they had serious roof damage which cost them almost 100,000 to correct. Fortunately, they could afford it. And there was no insurance coverage either.

    What about the escalation clause? Lets look at this example. In my experience, in most parts of the country, the potential buyer makes an offer, and the seller has three alternatives: accept, reject or counter-offer. You put in an offer of 450,000. The seller gets another offer with similar terms but with the price of 452,000. Sorry, you lose.

    How do you try to protect yourself? You include in the offer a statement that you will pay 1000 more than the highest offer, subject however to a cap of 456.000.

    When advised that the other offer is 452,000, your escalation clause bumps the contract price up to 453,000 and you will be the winner. But there are important provisions to be included in your escalation. You want proof there is a real offer at the highest price. I have been involved in a case where an unscrupulous agent indicated -- falsely -- there was a higher offer, and my client without seeing any evidence -- increased the offer by 5000. You should review a copy of the other offer; the name and other personal information of that buyer can be removed.

    Incidentally, the agent involved in my case paid my client 5000 plus my legal fees. So when you are about to sign a real estate contract or any contract for that matter try to insert the following language: "The prevailing party in any litigation or arbitration shall be awarded reasonable attorney fees and court cost".

    If you submit the escalation clause, how do you handle the amount of the mortgage loan you plan to get? Typically, your contract offer states you will get a loan of 20 percent -- or 10 percent or even 3 percent of the purchase price. If the original offer is increased, there are three ways to deal with the loan. First, you can pay the difference in cash, and there is no need to change the terms in the contract. Alternatively, you can change the loan amount in the contract to reflect the new price. Or you can partially increase the loan amount and pay the difference in cash.

    Bottom line: I am not a fan of escallation clauses, but if this is really your dream house, make sure you include the necessary protections discussed above. And most real estate agents should have a form escalation clause which should include these protections.
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    The Homeowner Associations Future Forecast

    Preparing for and overseeing a homeowner associations finances are perhaps the most important board responsibilities. It takes money and careful planning to maintain and preserve common area property. One of the best forecasting tools is a "reserve study" is needed to identify common element components, their useful lives and cost of repair or replacement. Unlike the weather, this is one forecast that actually happens pretty much as predicted.

    Reserve plans cover a 30 year projection period so that roofs, decks, fences and other long lived and expensive components can be included. They analyze several aspects of the components:

    Physical Analysis. A site inspection evaluates the current condition of each reserve component with the goal of determining its remaining useful life and useful life when new. The inspection may also reveal improper construction or materials which the board should consider correcting sooner if structural failure, dryrot, etc. is indicated or later if improved materials and designs are now available and it just makes sense to upgrade.

    Financial Analysis. The financial analysis includes taking into account what the HOA currently has in its reserve fund, how much it will cost to fund future repairs and replacements, current rate of area inflation and rate of return on invested reserve funds. The term "Percent Funded" is an important indicator and it works like this: Each reserve component has an ideal amount that should be set aside each year to be 100 Percent Funded. For example, if a roof has a 20 year life and costs 200,000 to install, 10,000 200,000 20 years should be reserved each year to be 100 Funded. So, in the roofs third year of life, 30,000 should be in reserve. If, say, only 15,000 of that 30,000 is reserved, the roof is only 50 Funded at that point in time. Repeating this exercise for all the reserve components will produce an overall Percent Funded.

    The value of being 100 Funded is that there will be no need for special assessments in the future. The 100 Funded approach is fair to all members along the 30 year time line since all are paying their full share as years pass. If the reserve plan indicates the HOA is less than 100 Funded, a contribution plan can increase that level toward 100 over a period of years to close the gap.

    Reserve Fund Investing. One great part of the Financial Analysis is that the board has a clear picture of when reserve funds will need to be spent. This permits an investment strategy to generate interest income. The better job the board does on investments, the less money that needs to be contributed by the members. The board should typically look for the highest returns on Certificates of Deposits. Money market and savings accounts typically yield far less than the rate of inflation so reserve funds will actually lose value. The importance of getting the highest yet safe yields cannot be understated. Interest revenues can yield tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of 30 years.

    Answering the Nay Sayers. Some members are >Be Lender Friendly. Mortgage lenders are paying closer attention to the signs of a well managed HOA when they qualify buyers for loans. The reserve study is routinely found on lender information request forms. Lenders know that the better the HOAs planning is, the more secure their collateral will be.

    Be Buyer Friendly. Most home buyers are stretched to the limit on home purchases. The last thing they need is a special assessment to complicate their finances. With a proper reserve plan, large expenses can be anticipated and funded years ahead of time. When the board advises all owners the plan, surprises and special assessments are eliminated. It just makes sense that homes in HOAs that are well managed sell for more and faster.

    Update Your Forecast Yearly. The key to keeping a 30 year forecast accurate is by making small course corrections along the way. Reserve plans need to be reviewed each year and adjusted as needed. Even if no reserve >There is a great future in forecasting. Dont let your future become your past. For more on reserve planning, see - Reserve Planning

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to
    Full Story >

    Clever Tips To Make Painting Your Home Easier

    Painting is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to transform a space. But it can also be a hassle, what with all that taping and prepping and cleaning up. These clever tips can make it easier. Fun, even. That might be a stretch.

    Wrap it up

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

    Line it

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

    Keep that foil handy

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

    Dust those walls

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

    Take out the smell

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


    Use a quality paintbrush

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

    Buy the right amount of paint from the start

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

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

    Wipe it up

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

    Add a rubber band

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

    Combat humidity

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

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

    Put some holes in it

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

    Get creative with plastic bags

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

    Full Story >

    Federal Sentencing Guidelines Have Relevance To Real Estate Brokers

    Recently we wrote of the fact that many real estate companies who proclaim that ethics is highly important to them, do not in fact show that to be the case. Few companies have a program that seeks to reinforce the values that they proclaim. More than a few Realtors -- both brokers and agents -- have expressed to me that the whole notion of having such a program is completely foreign to them. Hence, over the next few weeks, we will review some thoughts about how a company might put together such a program. We begin with a look at how this issue is important for other industries as well.

    Do Federal Sentencing Guidelines contain valuable lessons for real estate brokers? Simply, without any cynical implications, the answer is "yes". This is not because real estate brokers are especially liable to be candidates for federal sentencing. Rather, it is because the Guidelines lay out procedures that are >

    Chapter VIII of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual enumerates factors that might mitigate the punishment imposed on an offender of corporate federal regulations. It spells out certain organizational programs and procedures that, if present, would be >

    In a word, the guidelines say this: "If you do these things, then that shows that you have been trying to prevent illegal and/or unethical behavior by your employees and/or agents. Your efforts in this regard cannot completely excuse you for such behavior by your employees or agents, but they will count as mitigating factors in determining your punishment."

    The aim of the Guidelines is to provide organizations with, "hellip;a structural foundation from which an organization may self-police its own conduct through an effective compliance and ethics program." The idea behind this is pretty simple. It is this: If an organization wishes its agents and employees to be ethical and compliant with both moral norms and civil regulations, that organization needs to adopt a set of procedures that shows its employees and agents how to behave in such a manner.

    Why/how is this of >

    Secondly, but I truly believe of considerably lower priority overall, brokerages are in fact more and more at risk of facing federal sentencing situations. We have spoken here before of the many ways in which virtually "standard" real estate practices with respect to title, mortgage, and escrow companies may be violative of federal law under the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act RESPA. Moreover, it is not idle to note that the Consumer Financial and Protection Bureau is still in high gear when it comes to pursuing real estate companies and affiliates who are violating these regulations.

    Any broker who is concerned that his or her organization, or its agents and/or employees, might be inclined to violate federal regulations covering "kickbacks" and illegal incentives would do well to consider instituting organizational programs, consistent with the sentencing guidelines, that aim to educate agents as to the "dos" and "donts" of these matters.

    The Guidelines offer some straightforward and practical suggestions that any organization -- including real estate brokerages -- might employ in order both to minimize their risk and also to put into practice their claims that they intend to be ethical and honorable companies. We will look at specific suggestions of the Guidelines in the next column.

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

    Full Story >



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