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Updated: Thursday, July 31, 2014


Decrease In Break-ins Lowers Canadas Crime Rate

Wheres the worst place in Canada to be a home alarm salesperson? Perhaps surprisingly, if you said Toronto, youd be right. Statistics Canada reports that break-ins in Toronto dropped by 20 per cent in 2013 compared to the year before, to a rate of 227 per 100,000 population. Thats the best rate in the country and well below the national average of 445 per 100,000 population. Barrie, Ont. tied with Toronto for the best rate.

Vancouver has the worst break-in rate, at 689. However, the city improved by three per cent compared to a year ago.

There were about 156,000 break-ins recorded by police in Canada in 2013, which was about 20,000 fewer than 2012. During the past decade, Statistics Canada says the breaking and entering rate has decreased by 51 per cent.

After Toronto and Barrie, the cities with the lowest break-in rates were Ottawa, Guelph, Ont. and Saint John, N.B. The city with the biggest decrease was Moncton, N.B., which saw its rate go down by 29 per cent.

Like Vancouver, even the cities with the worst break-in numbers had some reason for optimism as their rates declined. Regina had the second-worst break-in rate but it was six per cent better than the year before. Kelowna, B.C. was third-worst but improved by 12 per cent. The worst Ontario city, Brantford, saw an 18-per-cent improvement.

The only city in the country where the break-in rate went up was Sherbrooke, Que., which saw a five-per-cent increase.

The big drop in break-ins across the country helped bring down Canadas overall crime rate, reports Statistics Canada. Its Crime Severity Index CSI measures the volume and severity of crime. Each offence is assigned a weight based on the average sentence handed down by criminal courts for the offence. Data comes from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, as reported by the police across the country. The survey does not include crimes that are not reported to police.

In 2013, the CSI declined by nine per cent compared to 2012. The index has gone down every year for the last decade. In 2013 it was 36 per cent lower than 2003.

"The decline in the CSI was specifically attributable to declines in breaking and entering and robbery," says the Statistics Canada report. "Decreases in some of the less serious but very frequent offences, such as theft of 5,000 or under and mischief, also contributed to the drop in the CSI."

However, police reported that there were more crimes of extortion, child pornography, aggravated sexual assault level 3, sexual violations against children and identity fraud than in 2012.

Canadas traditional crime rate, which is simply a total of all crimes committed regardless of severity, dropped to its lowest level since 1969. It fell by eight per cent compared to the year before.

When all crimes are taken into consideration, Toronto is still near the top of the list of safest cities. Guelph and Barrie take top spot, followed by Quebec and then Toronto.

The highest CSI rate is in Regina, followed by Saskatoon, Kelowna and Vancouver.

"For the first time since 1998, the first year for which the CSA was calculated, none of Canadas census metropolitan areas recorded an increase," says Statistics Canada. It says the CSI was unchanged in Edmonton, while it declined in all other cities. The largest decrease compared to 2012 was Victoria, which was down 17 per cent.

Canada had 505 homicides in 2013, down 38 from 2012. The homicide rate of 1.44 victims per 100,000 population was the lowest since 1966. There were also 642 attempted murders in 2013, down 23 from 2012.

Violent incidents dropped by 10 per cent in 2013.

Four out of five crimes reported in Canada are non-violent. Of the 1.4 million non-violent crimes reported, 1.1 million were property crimes, including breaking and entering, possessing stolen property, theft of a motor vehicle, theft over 5,000, fraud, identity theft, mischief and arson. The non-violent CSI decreased by eight per cent.

Theres also a Youth CSI, which measures the volume and severity of crimes where the accused is 12- to 17-years-old. This index fell by 16 per cent in 2013 -- the fourth year in a row that it has declined. The decline was mostly because fewer youths were charged with robbery, breaking and entering or theft of 5,000 or under.


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California Agents Need Not Keep Ephemeral Documents. WOW

Both the law and good risk management practices require that real estate brokerages maintain records of contracts, documents, inspections, reports, requests, demands, etc. that are generated during the course of a real estate transaction. While there may be a core list of items that just about every company requires, organizations will differ with respect to various particulars.

Not long ago the California Bureau of Real Estate introduced a generally unwelcome concept into the mix. As we have noted before Record Keeping In The Digital Age Is Not Just A Technological Issue, the Bureau put forward an interpretation that the law Business and Professions Code 10148 which requires retention of all documents obtained by an agent "in connection with" a real estate transaction includes all electronic documents. Not just emails; but texts, tweets, and probably even posts.

This interpretation did not sit well with members of the California Association of REALTORSCAR. If implemented, it would have required a good deal more time and effort to compile a compliant file. Hence, the CAR Board of Directors authorized a motion that CAR "sponsor legislation to prohibit short-lived communication like tweets or text messages from being considered transactional documents that must be retained in a brokers file."

That legislative effort has been successful. Assembly Bill 2136 Daly passed both houses and was signed into law by the Governor on July 9, 2014. AB 2136 amends both Business and Professions Code 10148 and also Civil Code 1624 Statute of Frauds, which controls which contracts must be in writing. It adds to 10148 that "this subdivision shall not be construed to require a licensed real estate broker to retain electronic messages of an ephemeral nature"as described in 1624.

This piece of legislation had no registered opposition. It sailed through both houses without a single no vote in either committee or on the floor. Tellingly, the authors of the legislative bill analyses found it necessary to explain that ephemeral means "short-lived", and/or they put the word in scare quotes throughout their analyses. One just has to wonder how many legislators who voted for this bill know what "ephemeral" means. But I digress.

The legislation unfortunately focuses on the form of a communication rather than its content. Moreover, the legislations sponsors, as did the analysts, seem to take for granted that text messages are unlikely ever to be the vehicles of serious conversations about serious topics.

Yes, it is unreasonable to say that all text messages should be retained. But, it is equally unreasonable to suggest that none of them should be.

For many years it has been and still is considered a good risk management practice to keep logs of telephone conversations. Nowadays, for a sizeable portion of the population, text messages have replaced phone conversations. Thus the advice of a CAR legal department recently up-dated Qamp;A is apt.

Q 4. Are there reasons a licensee might want to maintain "ephemeral" text or instant messages?

A. Yes. While not mandatory, a broker could decide that maintaining such communications could be useful to the transaction record. Similar to keeping a phone log of communications with a client, a broker may wish to keep a log of all texts to show the client was regularly communicated with regarding the transaction and to keep a record generally of the agents communications with other agents and third parties.

Be that as it may, it is nonetheless good news that there is not a requirement to keep all electronic communications. Moreover, it was a thoughtful gesture of the Real Estate Commissioner, Wayne Bell, to let it be known that, even though the law is not effective until January 1, 2015, as of now,the Bureau will not be requiring the retention of the ephemeral records referred to in the bill.

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


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Tax Returns Are Not Sacred

Question: Last week, I went to settlement on my first house The settlement clerk at the title company had me sign a number of papers -- most of which I did not understand. However, one document was an IRS Form that appeared to give carte blanche authority to the holder to access my income tax returns. When I questioned why I had to sign this form, I was told "the lender wants it". I was also told not to fill in the date after my signature.

Is it customary in real estate closings to require such a form, and if so, why does the lender want it?

Answer: When I first started practicing law, homebuyers only had to sign three legal documents when they went to settlement: a promissory note, the deed of trust the mortgage and a settlement statement now called a HUD-1.

Nowadays, every time there is a lawsuit involving mortgage lending, or whenever a regulatory body issues a new rule, lenders add new forms to their arsenal. And the new regulatory body that has issued a number of new rules requiring new documents is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau CFPB. So when buyers go to closing today, in addition to the note and deed of trust, here is a sample of the other documents they have to sign or already signed: loan application, authorization to obtain a credit report, drivers license information, certificate that they will personally reside in the house, power of attorney to lender to correct typographical mistakes, proof that they are American citizens, an affidavit that there are no liens or lawsuits pending against them, and an IRS form stating that they do not owe any back taxes and are not subject to "withholding" requirements.

In addition, lenders insist that borrowers sign IRS Form 4506, entitled "Request for Copy of Tax Return". In my opinion, this is the most objectionable documents required at settlement. By signing this form, you are giving a blank check to the holder of the document to have complete access to your Federal Income tax returns. It is a virtual invitation to pry into what you thought are your private tax returns.

Lenders claim they need this form in case they subsequently discover irregularities, fraud or misrepresentations on the part of their borrowers. If shortly after settlement the borrower stops making the mortgage payments, the lender wants the right to investigate whether the borrower was telling the truth when they applied for the loan. And according to the lending community, reviewing past and future income tax returns will assist them in this determination.

As we all know, mortgage lenders ra>

Why did your lender ask you not to date the form? According to the instructions that accompany Form 4506, the IRS advises they will reject the request unless it is received within 60 days of the date signed by the taxpayer. Since the lender does not know when it will ask the IRS for a copy of your tax return, they want you to leave the form undated. Presumably, the lender will fill in the date at a later time.

But this is contrary to the clear instructions provided by the IRS on the top of the form:

"Do not sign this form unless all applicable lines have been completed"

"Request may be rejected if the form is incomplete, illegible or any required line was blank at the time of signature."

A careful reading of the form indicates that the holder can request more than one tax year income tax return. If you review this form which is available on the IRS web site at www.irs.gov paragraph 7 is entitled "tax year requested", and has blanks for up to 8 tax years. In fact, the IRS specifically states on the form that "if you are requesting more than eight years or periods, you must attach another Form 4506."

The answer to your question is yes; it is customary in the industry that this form is required.

But the bottom line is that if you want that mortgage loan, you have to comply with all of the lenders requirements -- reasonable or not.

Conversely, how do you get your own information from the IRS. According to the IRS, in Summer Tax Tip 2014-11, if you cant find your copies, you can get a transcript of the information you need, free online. "A tax account transcript includes your marital status, the type of return you filed, your adjusted gross income and taxable income." Use the IRS "Get Transcript Tool".

And if you really need an earlier tax return, you can use Form 4506T-EZ.


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Constructive Conflict In Your Homeowners Association

While conflict is inevitable in a homeowner association, there are choices about how its dealt with. When handled constructively, conflict can create a healthier awareness and better >

Conflict ra>

Speak Directly. Speaking directly with the person with whom you have the problem, assuming that there is no threat of violence, will usually resolve the issue. Meet in person or talk over the phone to explain your concern in a positive, respectful way. Anonymous letters, banging on the wall or complaining to your neighbors does not qualify.

Plan Your Approach. Think about what you want to say in advance. Talk about the problem as you see it and how it affects you. Help the other party understand that a problem exists and invite them to help you find a solution that you can both live with.

Choose a Good Time. Consider a time when you think the other person will be most receptive. A quiet place where you wont be easily disturbed, perhaps with a cup of coffee, can make it easier to talk and listen. Avoid cocktail hour.

Communicate Openly and Honestly. Express a positive attitude about working together to find solutions. Blaming the other person makes it harder for him to hear and understand your concerns. Remain open to a different perspective than your own and try to understand it.

Listen. Give the other person a chance to explain their view, concerns and feelings. Summarize what you hear and ask questions to clarify your understanding. Understanding doesnt mean that you agree. But just echoing anothers thoughts goes along way toward compromise.

Open Up. Get the issues and feelings out in the open. Dont ignore the part that seems too "difficult" or "minor". Your resolution will be durable if the issues are considered and addressed.

Consider Options. Be creative and offer solutions that you both think might work. Cooperating to find a solution is much more effective than one person demanding that the other change.

Be SMART. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. For example, "Beginning tomorrow, Ill turn down my music by 9:30. If I forget, call me and let me know."

Keep the Door Open. Agree to revisit the issue to make sure your agreement is working. Communicate immediately if the solutions are not having the desired effect. Congratulate yourselves on working together to resolve the problem.

Building a lasting resolution from conflict can not only solve an immediate problem, but opens the door to better understanding and even, possibly, a lasting friendship. Dont preclude the latter. Build on your success and miracles can happen.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net.


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10 Easy Ways To Make You Love Your Home Again

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

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

1. Rearrange your furniture.

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

2. Clear up the clutter.

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

3. Get a new TV.

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

4. Pick one room to overhaul per quarter.

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

5. Use your spare change.

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

6. Change out your art.

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

7. Clean it up.

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

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

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

9. Paint your old kitchen cabinets.

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

10. Call a REALTOR

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


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How To Deal With A Pest Nightmare: Termite Infestation

The summertime sun is shining, birds are chirping and ... the termites are chomping away at your house. Just as you begin your cleaning routine, you rub-a-dub your way to uncovering a termite infested home. Dont beat yourself up, youre not alone. According to the National Pest Management Association, when temperatures reach about 70 degrees, the young adult male and female swarmers emerge from their nests in large groups, making the hot summer season a prime opportunity to spot these otherwise hidden pests. Consider this discovery the first step in recovery and take action immediately.

First Things First

Getting professional termite treatment is a must. While there are do-it-yourself options for treatment, save yourself the trouble and headache of recurring issues. By hiring a professional, youll receive a full inspection that will clue you in on the situation at hand. A professional will let you know the full extent of the infestation and come up with a game plan to get rid of them fast. When interviewing pest control companies, make sure you inquire about their policies should the infestation return after treatment.

Do Your Research

According to the NPMA, these silent destroyers cause an estimated 5 billion in property damage each year. Even if you dont suspect an infestation, no homeowner is immune to the possibility. Every homeowner should be fully educated in basic pest control methods and common culprits. If you are building a new home or recently moved into a home, now is the time to safeguard against pests before its too late. Check out this guide from beyondpesticides.org for a complete list of termite categories and tips on protecting your home. You will also find different methods of treatment from least toxic to most toxic to help you make the best treatment decisions for your household.

Secure Your Home

Once youve taken control over the infestation, take the necessary steps to prevent future infestations. By knowing what attracts termites hint: wood and how they thrive, youll be better prepared for prevention. Pest control professionals at Termites.com recommend the following preventative methods:

  • Clean your gutters regularly
  • Inspect and seal cracks regularly
  • Fix leaking faucets and A/C units
  • Eliminate food source like wood, lumber and paper by keeping them away from foundation or crawl space
  • Divert water from foundation
  • Get rid of standing water on the roof

Stock Up On Prevention Supplies

Take a quick trip to Lowes or your local home improvement store for essential items that will maintain your home while also fending off critters. Gutter guards help reduce the frequency in which gutters need to be cleaned out by keeping debris from clogging them up. Caulk can be used to seal cracks in walls and windows to deter pests from entering your home. For your outdoor space, try doing away with wood mulch a termite favorite and try rubber mulch. It wont attract nasty pests and its a great non-toxic option for home.


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Three Reasons A Buyer Chooses The Home They Did

There are three reasons a buyer chooses to buy a home:

Location Condition Price

Lets take a look at each:

Price

First, you need to know if your neighborhood and price range is in a buyers market or sellers market. A buyers market is characterized by large inventories of 6 months supply or higher, fewer buyers making offers, low offers, and many seller concessions. A sellers market is characterized by low supply of 6 months on hand or less, heavy buyer traffic, multiple offers, and close to full price or full price offers.

Bankers, buyers agents and buyers all have access to the same information that your agent has given you. If you overprice for the current market, your potential buyers wont get their loans approved.

Condition

Allow your real estate agent to help you market your home by putting it in the best condition possible. Buyers pet peeves may be easy items to fix, but you dont want your house to go to the bottom of their list because you failed to paint, mow, replace the carpet, etc. Sometimes you have to invest a little money to make money.

Location

You cant do much about your homes location, but you can make your home more attractive with lovely landscaping, fences to block out ugly views and sounds, a lower price and immaculate condition. If you do have a great location, dont overprice.

Its hard not to be sentimental about the home youve lived in for years, but to buyers, your home is a commodity. Like you, they simply want to make a good deal on a home they love.

Youll quickly find out what real estate agents and their buyers think of your home. If you get a quick offer, you know you priced it right for the location, condition, and the current market.

If you dont get an offer within a couple of weeks, or whatever period is normal for your area, theres something wrong.


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Updated: Thursday, July 31, 2014

Constructive Conflict In Your Homeowners Association

While conflict is inevitable in a homeowner association, there are choices about how its dea...
> Full Story

10 Easy Ways To Make You Love Your Home Again

We all fall into a rut sometimes. When that rut is otherwise known as our ugly living room, ...
> Full Story

How To Deal With A Pest Nightmare: Termite Infestation

The summertime sun is shining, birds are chirping and ... the termites are chomping away at ...
> Full Story

Copyright © 2014 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved

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